Precious Feathers: A Review of Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

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Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers
By Celia C. Perez
September 3, 2019
Grades 3-7
Lane DiSanti comes from one of the most important families in all of Sabal Palms. According to legend, her ancestors brought the winter sun orange to south Florida, but did the DiSanti family really bring the winter sun orange to South Florida? That’s what Aster Douglas’s grandfather wants to find out. Frustrated by her overprotective parents, Ofelia goes to work with her mom at the DiSanti house looking for a story she can use for the Qwerty Sholes Journalism Contest. The winner of the contest goes to New York, and the chance to experience the world without parental supervision.  Meanwhile, Cat Garcia—an avid bird enthusiast—has decided to leave the Floras (a girl scout troupe) in protest of their use of a feathered hat for the Miss Flora pageant.
Rejecting her grandmother’s idea of joining the Floras, Lane forms the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders by leaving secret messages for potential friends to find. When the girls all come together for the first time in the tree-house, things start off a bit rocky. When Cat opens up to the other girls about her disdain for the Floras’ hat because of its use of real bird feathers, the girls rally together to stop the Floras from using the hat in the next Miss Flora pageant. Their plans initially backfire, and the girls must decide whether or not they should give up or escalate their efforts. As their convictions strengthen, so too does their friendship.
The book is phenomenal and effortlessly shifts perspectives between the girls in each chapter. The book focuses heavily on what it means to be an activist, and how often the consequences of activism are not always equal. Ofelia, Cat, and Aster are all people of color and come from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Ofelia and Cat are both Cuban, and Aster is Bahamian. Although each girl enters the group with her own hidden objectives, by the end of the book they all come together with one objective—to return the feathers.

A Cool and Sweet Summer Treat: A Review of My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

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My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich
Ibi Zoboi
Penguin Random House, August 2019
Grades 5 and up

 My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, by National Book Award Finalist Ibi Zoboi, explores the imaginative world of Ebony-Grace Norfleet. While Ebony goes to Harlem to live with her father during the summer of 1984, her mother helps Ebony’s beloved grandfather back home. Her grandfather was a former NASA engineer, one of the first to be integrated into the NASA program in the 1960s. Ebony has followed in his footsteps with her fascination with space, spaceships, and science fiction. As the summer progresses, Ebony tries to adjust to big city life, a totally different world for her, coming from Huntsville, Alabama. From the start, readers will feel pulled into Ebony’s world, the sounds and excitement of New York City, and the 1980s.

Ebony battles the struggles in her life by seeing and experiencing everything as science fiction (Star Trek, Star Wars, and Wonder Woman). She then relates these challenges to the adventures she had with her grandfather (Sonic Boom, Captain Fleet, and many more) back home. It’s a summer of change for Ebony as she learns to make new friends and tries to fit in. She finds a new love and respect for her father and her roots, and she gains more self-awareness. Ebony discovers she can trust others, and most importantly of all, she learns to believe in herself. By summer’s end, Ebony realizes that she has other special people in her life besides her grandfather and that no matter what, his love will always be with her.

Zoboi’s use of space as a metaphor is effective and expertly crafted, drawing the reader more deeply into Ebony’s story. Her voice is exceptional, heartfelt, and stunning. Zoboi paints a setting that is real, palpable, and rich with imagery. She captures what it means to be at crossroads – the time when childhood and young adulthood eclipse, where dreams and reality clash, and when learning to let go is often the hardest thing of all, but a necessary part of growing up. My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich is a beautifully rendered story of identity, family, friendship, loss, and acceptance.

 

Many thanks to local author, SCBWI-IL member, and guest reviewer, Elizabeth Brown. Brown is the author of Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenthaler, illustrated by Aimee Sicuro, (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019) – a Junior Library Guild Selection. She has additional forthcoming picture books to release soon. Ms. Brown holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, and she is represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.

 

 

Frankly Smart: A review of Frankly in Love

Cover Image Frankly in LOve

Frankly in Love
David Yoon
Putnam, September 2019
Grades 9-12

Frank Li is in love (see what they did there?)… with Brit, then with Joy. But it’s complicated by Wu (Joy’s ex), Q (his BFF), his immigrant parents, the Apeys (A.P./smart friends), and the Limbos (Korean friends)—the list is long. Love triangle or love nonagon? Frank would know, he’s studying for the SAT. Everything else is complicated by life as a teenager and his angst over who he is as a Korean, Korean-American, or just American; because people are complex and labels are limiting.

Under the thin veneer of a love story (do teenagers even fall in and out of love that fast?), David Yoon explores the much deeper and more interesting themes of racism, code-switching, and community. Frank is thoughtful, introspective, and nerdy-in-a-good-way, while still authentically awkward and impulsive. His well-rounded character is a much-needed counterpoint to the common teen stereotypes in YA lit. His internal monologue is both funny and perceptive and keeps the book from veering too far light or dark. With the exception of a slightly rushed resolution, the 400+ pages are an easy read that “manages to be a love story, treatise on racism, and welcome to Korean-American culture all at once.” And, yes, that is a quote from the author endorsement on the ARC cover, but Jodi Picoult has it right.


 

 

 

Apples and Ectoplasm: A Review of The Right One for Roderic

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The Right One for Roderic
By Violeta Noy
July 9, 2019
Pre-K to 2nd Grade

Roderic is the smallest ghost in his family and longs to stand out. He often feels like his family doesn’t notice him, which makes him feel smaller than he already is. Everyone in Roderic’s family wears white sheets which makes them all look the same.  Reflecting on what he can do to make himself more noticeable to the other members of his family, Roderic decides to change how he looks. He tries wearing hats, scarves, and even taking off his white sheet and changing his wardrobe entirely, but his family does not approve of his fashion choices. Thinking that people in the city will appreciate his fashion sense, Roderic leaves to the city only to find that they don’t notice him either. When he returns home his family is relieved to see him and cover him in a white sheet. Not wanting to settle, Roderic finally finds the perfect outfit—a white sheet with apples on it. Roderic announces to his family that he does not care if his family wants to wear white sheets, he is going to be different. Roderic is not only accepted by his family, but his family follows his lead and starts to experiment with their fashion too.

The digital illustrations are simple and the use of color helps to highlight the loneliness that Roderic feels in the beginning of the story, and later the acceptance he feels at the end of the story. While the message itself is nothing new, the book is quite touching, once again reminding  readers that is okay to be yourself.

Butler Youth Services Scholarship

Are you interested in becoming part of a diverse and engaged youth-services focused community?

Are you starting your MLIS at Dominican this fall?

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YES — then the Butler Center is looking for you!

Applications are being accepted for the 2019 Butler Youth Services Scholarship until July 24th. Visit our website for requirements and application details.

 

 

At Last I See the Light: A Review of This Was Our Pact

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This Was Our Pact
Ryan Andrews
First Second
June 11, 2019
Grades 6 and up

In Ryan Andrews’s graphic novel, This Was Our Pact, the agreement Ben and his friends made was simple “No one turns for home”(1) and “No one looks back”(2) to follow the lanterns of the night of the Equinox Festival. Despite the arrangement, only Ben stayed along with the outcast Nathaniel as they traveled by following the river. Along the way, they meet a talking bear tasked with bringing back the fish for the feast. After the boys got lost they go on a side quest to obtain a star for the renowned chemist, Madam Majestic. Ben and Nathaniel discover more than they could ever dream on their journey. For now, Andrews leaves it up to his readers to decide where Ben and Nathaniel will wander to next. This graphic novel was illustrated in pen with a watercolor backdrop and layered using Photoshop. Andrews uses shades of blue, red, and yellow to create the whimsical magical realism environment, which brings the story to life and adds to the mood. These illustrations have an enchanting wondrous, effect with an unsettling undertone of creatures and monsters lurking in the pages. It is a relatively fast-paced book, but there is enough development to see the friendship between Nathaniel and Ben grow. Each of their personalities felt well-distinguished, helping the characters come to life and more natural to emphasize with them. This book is a phenomenal addition to any middle-grade collection, exploring themes of friendship all within an astonishing adventure.

ALA Recap–2019 edition

Flipping through the pictures from my weekend in DC for ALA Annual might lead one to think I’d spent all my time watching PowerPoint presentations. I won’t bore you with those pics–snooze! I’d prefer to think I was so present in all the book-ish excitement that I couldn’t be bothered with documentation.

That said, I did snap a few shots of the highlights…

opening session 1This year’s Opening General Session with Jason Reynolds was an awesome example of his ability to take a reader (or listener) down a series of winding paths (or several at once), then surprise you with the way they all converge. His multi-part speech led to a challenge to librarians: To create a generation of “walking, talking libraries” full of the stories and information they and others need. To be the architect that builds a “building that services the world.”

Watch out for his next twisty tale, Look Both Ways (Atheneum, October 8, 2019).

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and ALA spent the weekend celebrating! From the anniversary gala to the awards breakfast, to panel discussions, podcasts, and programming ideas–CSK was everywhere. I was so lucky to participate in several of the sessions, hear from many of the celebrated authors and illustrators, and chat with the dedicated people that helped pull it all together. Stop by the Butler Center for a peek at The Coretta Scott King Book Awards: 50th Anniversary edited by Carole J. McCollough and Adelaide Poniatowski Phelps (American Library Association, 2019).

ALA exhib floor

ALA Exhibit Floor

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fangirl at meeting a few authors in DC, but not quite enough to ask for selfies. You’ll have to take my word for it that I talked to Christopher Myers about Effie Lee Morris and the Butler Center collection. To Don Brown (The Unwanted, HMH) about Brooklyn vs Chicago real estate prices. And Ngozi Ukazu (Check, Please! Book 1: # Hockey, First Second) about how she never has a business card with her when she needs it.

 

It has taken a week to get my books unpacked and my thoughts together on a whirlwind weekend in DC, but it was a wonderful and rewarding trip. Now on to summer vacations with some of those lovely ARC’s!