Last Night at the Patch: A Review of Pumpkinheads

Pumpkinheads

Pumpkinheads
Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Graphic novel
First Second Books, August 27, 2019
Ages 14-17

It’s the last night of their final pumpkin patch season before Deja and Josiah head off to college. As the weather turns, Deja cajoles her employee-of-the-month pal to leave the confines of the Succotash Hut and give their beloved pumpkin patch an epic sendoff. Author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park) teams up with author/writer Faith Erin Hicks (Comics Will Break Your Heart) to deliver a madcap adventure of two friends navigating their ways through love, friendship, and corn mazes.

Graphic novel Pumpkinheads combines a pithy humor with teenage self-reflection. The quirky pop culture references (there is a John Denver cover band called John Colorado Springs) are delightful, but more delightful is Deja, a pumpkin patch heartbreaker whose love of snacks is only surpassed by her affection for her friend Josiah. Josiah plays the rule-abider to Deja’s social butterfly and the two complement each other well. However, Rowell and Hicks do not let their characters stay stuck in their ways. When the pair’s discussion turns to fate, Josiah says his leave-it-up-to-fate attitude is a perfect match for Deja’s go-getter nature. Deja is quick to reply that his passive nature means that she is the one doing the work to makes things happen.

Rowell and Hicks alternate action sequences with emotional revelations. Despite great dialogue, some of the most powerful moments are close-ups of Deja’s face when her emotions shift. Near the end of their evening together, Deja’s face reacting to a plain but heartfelt admission from Josiah is familiar and priceless to any teenager or former teenager.

[[Following the story is a conversation between collaborators Rowell and Hicks, delving into plot ideas, character development, and the artistic design process.]]

 

Butler Bookshelf

IMG_3223Here are some books that we got in this week that we’re really excited about:

Paper World: Planet Earth illustrated by Bomoboland, published by Big Picture Press

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refuges Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

King of the Mole People by Paul Gilligan, published by Henry Holt and Co.

If Animals Celebrated Christmas by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated  by David Walker, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz, published by Delacorte Press

Best Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, published by First Second

Life is Short and Then You Die: Mystery Writers of America Present First Encounters with Murder edited by Kelley Armstrong, published by Macmillan

Stargazing written and illustrated by Jen Wang, published by First Second

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Sara Palacios, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Arriverderci Crocodile or See You Later Alligator begun by Fred Marcellino and completed by Eric Puybaret, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Remarkables by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by David Litchfield, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Who’s Ready for School to Start?

Back-to-school butterflies? First day jitters? The newest academics among us will appreciate these sweet, silly, and giggle-worthy introductions to just who and what awaits them in the classroom. This brand new class of back-to-school picture books to will ease the way for the little humans in your library, classroom, or living room as all get ready for the first day of school.

 

Bunnys book clubBunny’s Book Club Goes to School
By Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Penguin Random House, June 2019

Josie is worried about making friends at school, but her book-club buddy Bunny can help—he’ll just be her school friend too. As the book club animals search the school for Josie, they’ll introduce kids to all the fun places waiting for them at school. Sweet illustrations complement this gentle story of friendship, empathy, and support.

 

clothes line cluesClothesline Clues to the First Day of School
By Katheryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
Charlesbridge, June 2019

It’s a laundry basket inspired guessing game in this guide to all the new people excited to meet you at school. A silly rhyme will help set expectations and turn anxiety to anticipation about the first day of school.

 

i will be fierceI Will Be Fierce
By Bea Birdsong, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani
MacMillan, April 2019

While not strictly a back-to-school-themed book, it follows this fierce little girl to school and back and through all the adventures in between. Brightly colored and boldly written, this is a great illustration of how a little confidence can go a long way on a big (first) day at school.

 

 

if animals went to schoolIf Animals Went to School
By Ann Whitford Paul, Illustrated by David Walker
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2019

Beaver might not want to go to school, but after a day of music, learning, and his fun with his friends, he doesn’t want to go home. A perfectly inspirational story for the tiny human determined NOT to go to school!

 

king of kindergartenThe King of Kindergarten
By Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Penguin Random House, July 2019

An exuberant and imaginative walkthrough of the first day of school! Barnes’ pacing is just right for introducing a new routine and finding the fun in what could be a scary first day.

 

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils is in the air—Happy Back-to-School season, friends!

 

 

 

 

Woman on the Mountain: A Review of At the Mountain’s Base

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At the Mountain’s Base
By Traci Sorell
Illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre
Kokila September 17, 2019
Ages Pre K-8

In At the Mountain’s Base, Traci Sorell shares the story of a Cherokee family tucked in a cozy cabin, preparing a daily meal as grandmother weaves nearby. As the family works, they sing, focusing their thoughts on a loved one, a US Air Force pilot “protecting and defending” far away. The family’s love and worries unfold in this simple, lyrical poem. Every sentence in the poem starts with a prepositional phrase, “On that stove,” “Around that grandmother,” “Within their song.” This consistent, cohesive pattern draws the reader in and pulls them gently through the family’s actions, those centered around a warm stove and those performed far off in the sky. Weshoyot Alvitre’s realistic illustrations clearly capture the different family members’ emotions, showing their love, worry, and pride. The Cherokee family highlighted in the poem is fictional. However, Sorell’s author’s note provides factual notes on the role of women from American Indian and Alaska Native Nations within the US Armed Forces. She specifically details the role of Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, the only Native woman to serve as a Women Airforce Service Pilot during World War II. As a registered citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Traci Sorell reveals the American Indian experience in a voice as authentic and respectful as in her previous picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga (Charlesbridge, 2018). At the Mountain’s Base is a wonderful homage to Native veterans everywhere.

Many thanks to local author, SCBWI-IL member, and guest reviewer, Michelle Schaub. Schaub is a children’s poet and teacher from Downers Grove, Illinois. Her second poetry collection, FINDING TREASURE: A COLLECTION OF COLLECTIONS (Charlesbridge, 2019), shares a release date with AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE on September 17th. Learn more about Michelle and her books at http://www.michelleschaub.com

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

my life as an ice cream sandwich

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.