2016 End of the Year Selections

The semester is coming to an end and so is the calendar year. We’ve read a lot of fascinating books from our 2016 collection and we are happy to present our 2016 End of the Year Selections. This list features Butler Center staff picks from 2016 that would work well for book clubs, gift choices, or personal reading, on a variety of topics. In keeping with our focus on ALSC’s core values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), we’ve intentionally chosen books that exemplify one or more of these values. These books were selected by Diane Foote, Butler Center Curator (informational books), Alena Rivers (picture books and children’s fiction), and Hal Patnott (children’s and teen fiction).

We hope you find something that inspires your reading choices over the coming weeks.

INFORMATIONAL BOOKS 

capital-days

Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital by Tonya Bolden (Abrams, 2016)

The nation’s capital is in the news these days, from the recent presidential election to nuanced issues about how to present (or not present) its history in literature for young people. Here is a factual, welcome volume based on primary source material from the journal of a man born enslaved, who lived through, observed, and wrote about happenings in Washington, DC from 1814 to 1869. Not least remarkable is Shiner’s literacy at a time when it was illegal for slaves to be taught how to read and write. (ALSC Core Values: Inclusiveness, Responsiveness)

circle

Circle by Jeannie Baker (Candlewick, 2016)

Intricately detailed collages bring to life the incredible journey of bar-tailed godwits, a type of shorebird that migrates immense distances. Along the way, various ecosystems are portrayed including the original beach, cities, woodlands, and parklands; subtle environmental messaging appears when a lone bottle mars an otherwise beautiful strand. The tactile look of the collages invite touch, especially on the downy godwit chicks in their nests. (ALSC Core Values: Excellence, Innovation, Inclusiveness)

comics-confidential

Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, and Life Outside the Box edited by Leonard Marcus (Candlewick, 2016)

Graphic novels are often a refuge for reluctant readers, and the best of them offer sophisticated story arcs, fast-paced action, engaging dialogue, and visual elements that help tie these elements together. Now, fans have a compelling reason to dive into informational books: In their own words, graphic novel creators including Kazu Kibuishi, Hope Larson, Gene Luen Yang, and ten more reveal thoughts on their own art and lives, along with an original short graphic piece to keep the visual interest up. (ALSC Core Values: Collaboration, Inclusiveness)

radiant-child

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (Little, Brown, 2016)

At first glance, Basquiat’s energetic, colorful creations seem childlike with their unstructured composition and wild, bold strokes and splashes. Upon closer study they reveal layers of meaning and power that will resonate with young art lovers, along with the compelling story of young Basquiat’s life, put thoughtfully into context here for child readers. (ALSC Core Values: Excellence, Inclusiveness)

we-will-not-be-silent

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolph Hitler by Russell Freedman (Clarion, 2016)

Who better than Newbery and Sibert Medalist Freedman to help readers today understand the climate that first enabled Hitler’s rise to power, then the courage it took on the part of these young people to defy the Nazis? In his trademark factual, non-hyberbolic way, Freedman conveys the terror of these times but doesn’t allow current young readers to become overwhelmed by it. Source notes, an index, clearly captioned archival photos, and picture credits complete the package and make this an example of the very best in nonfiction, for any age. (ALSC Core Values: Leadership, Integrity and Respect)

vietnam

Vietnam: A History of the War by Russell Freedman (Holiday, 2016)

What’s better than one book by Russell Freedman? Two books by Russell Freedman! The Vietnam War marked a turning point in American history; the intertwining issues of domestic policy, foreign policy, geopolitics, and American culture including the maturing antiwar movement, are all effectively addressed here, again, fully supported by clearly captioned and credited photos along with backmatter including a time line, source notes, a glossary, and an index. Now that “fake news” is having an impact on our national discourse, Freedman’s approach is more welcome, and more necessary, than ever. (ALSC Core Values: Inclusiveness, Excellence, Integrity and Respect)

PICTURE BOOKS  

du-iz-tak

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis (Candlewick, 2016)

A group of insects ponders the presence of an unknown plant that continues to grow in front of their home log. An invented language advances the story as readers use context clues from the illustrations to decipher the insects’ conversation. Young children will be enthralled by watching the small yet meaningful changes unfold in the intricately drawn images that carry from page to page in a muted, earth-tone color palette. The insects’ invented argot risks being perceived as “pidgin,” and may distract rather than appeal, but it does present an opportunity for discussions about language and fluency with both children and adults. (ALSC Core Value: Innovation)

maybe-something-beautiful

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

A young girl who loves to draw shares her art with members of her community. She is invited by a muralist to join him in creating a vibrant colored mural on a building in their otherwise gray neighborhood. They are soon joined by their neighbors whose enthusiasm for the project ignites a block party filled with music, dancing and painting the walls, sidewalks, benches and utility boxes. The lively text is complemented by colorful illustrations. Inspired by a true story, Maybe Something Beautiful is a reminder that everyone’s efforts can impact change and that art is a powerful tool for transformation.(ALSC Core Values: Collaboration, Leadership, Responsiveness)

CHILDREN’S FICTION

As Brave As You

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds (Simon and Schuster/Atheneum, 2016)

Twelve-year-old Genie and his older brother Ernie spend a month with their grandparents in North Hill, Virginia while their parents spend time together sorting out their fading marriage. Genie struggles to adapt to an environment unlike his home in Brooklyn and make sense of the growing concerns he has for his parents’ marriage. Readers will laugh and empathize with this coming of age story as Genie deepens his understanding of himself, his family history and his role within the family. (ALSC Core Values: Integrity and Respect)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Alongquin, 2016)

Everyone knows a witch lives in the swamp, because every year the people of the Protectorate sacrifice their youngest child to keep peace with her. What they don’t know is how she transforms the lives of their abandoned children with starlight and magic. A book about the power of stories and the dangers of sorrow, The Girl Who Drank the Moon has enormous heart. (ALSC Core Values: Innovation, Excellence)

snow-white-a-graphic-novel

Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan (Candlewick, 2016)

Samantha, or Snow as she becomes known, is sent away to school as a young girl by her cruel stepmother. While she is gone her father passes away and upon her return her own life is threatened by an assassin hired by her stepmother. Snow runs to safety and finds herself in an alley with a band of seven boys who protect her from the evils of their city and Snow’s stepmother. Set in 1928, New York City, Phelan has created an engaging retelling of a classic fairy tale in a graphic novel format. (ALSC Core Value: Innovation)

 TEEN BOOKS

if-i-was-your-girl

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (Macmillan/Flatiron, 2016)

Amanda moves in with her father after her transition for a fresh start and to escape the prejudice in her old town. She wants to fit in at her new school, but she has to decide how much of her past to share with her friends and the boy she is starting to fall in love with. An important book from an authentic voice, Amanda’s story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. (ALSC Core Value: Integrity and Respect)

Saving Montgomery Sole

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (Macmillan/Roaring Brook, 2016)

Montgomery Sole, a girl with a passion for the unexplained, discovers a dark and mysterious stone with the power to punish her enemies. When a new preacher, hell-bent on saving the “American Family” from “sinners” like her moms, moves to town, she must decide what it means to be a hero and whether to risk her friendships by wielding the stone’s dangerous power. This book has a strong theme of overcoming prejudice and taking the high road.  (ALSC Core Values: Leadership, Responsiveness)

PCP Three of Diamonds: Separate is Never Equal

separate is never equalSeparate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

by Duncan Tonatiuh

Abrams, 2014

In 1943, Sylvia Mendez, her two brothers, and three cousins all go to the local 17th Street Elementary School to register. Sylvia’s light-skinned cousins are accepted, and she and her brothers are told they’ll need to enroll at the inferior Mexican school, father from their home. Sylvia’s parents aren’t having it, and push back, filing file suit, undertaking multiple appeals, and ultimately prevailing. Tonatiuh’s account details the family’s many struggles, from the complexities of the legal process to the personal attacks Sylvia experiences. After rigorous research, and interviews with Sylvia herself, Tonatiuh delivers a story that is both compelling and inspiring. And his archetypal artwork, with its Pre-Columbian influences, connects the contemporary fight with its formidable ancestry. The strong lines, simplified postures, and fixed profiles convey the family’s resolute determination; theirs is a victory that comes from strength, and a strength that comes from family.

Mock CaldeNott – January 15, 2015

memory of an elephantJoin us for our second annual Mock CaldeNott discussion on Thursday, January 15, 2015! Once again we’ll investigate a collection of extraordinary picture books from the previous year, using the Caldecott terms and criteria as our guide to illustrative excellence. The special component of our experience is that we’re looking at books that are ineligible for the actual Caldecott Medal due to their international provenance. It’s extra-informative and super-fun. You should really come.

Beginning at 5:00pm we’ll have an opportunity to review the picture books in contention (with light refreshments). Indeed, all of the books are currently available for preview in the Butler Center at any time (any time we’re open, anyway).

Our formal deliberations will begin at 7:00pm. Woohoo.

Here are the books we’re looking at:

Two Tough Crocs by David Bedford, illustrated by Tom Jellett, Holiday House, 2014

Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam, Enchanted Lion, 2014

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton, Candlewick, 2014

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton, Candlewick, 2014

Anna’s Heaven by Stian Hole, Eerdmans, 2014

Fall Leaves by Loretta Holland, illustrated by Elly MacKay, HMH, 2014

The Dinner that Cooked Itself by J.C. Hsyu and Kenard Pak, Flying Eye Books, 2014

Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat by Ayano Imai, minedition, 2014

Midnight Library by Kazuno Kahara, Roaring Brook Press, 2014

Moví la mano / I Moved My Hand by Jorge Luján, illustrated by Mandana Sadat, Groundwood Books, 2014

Children Growing Up in War by Jenny Matthews, Candlewick, 2014

At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin, Chronicle, 2014

Jim Curious by Matthias Picard, Abrams, 2014

The Mouse Mansion by Karina Schaapman, Dial, 2014

The Memory of an Elephant by Sophie Strady, illustrated by Jean-François Martin, Chronicle, 2014

Rules of Summer by Sean Tan, Scholastic, 2015

Goal! by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Caio Vilela, Henry Holt, 2014

The Big Book of Slumber by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani, Eerdmans, 2014

children growing up with warRSVP/Questions in the form below!

Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays

here is the worldHere is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays

written by Lesléa Newman

illustrated by Susan Gal

Abrams, 2014

Sometimes I love a book on sight. It’s not fair, I know, or smart, really, to offer up my affection before I have really gotten to know the book a little, but sometimes I can’t help it. I had just such a reaction to this book. And I’m happy to report that deeper study and familiarity prove that my instincts were right. It’s splendid. And this, Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish year, seems the perfect day to sing its praises.

My affection began with the images. They are bright and cheerful and immediately arresting, but that basic appeal is just the beginning of their wonder. Susan Gal is a master of composition and shape. Every spread exhibits ordered balance and movement, reinforcing the sense of celebration with steady energy. And her figure work is just exquisite, with impeccable proportion and individual consistency. This seems a small thing, perhaps, but I can think of plenty of illustrators, some of them household names, who don’t approach the skillful grace of this warm, vital portraiture.

The color work enjoys the same sense of energy and balance, with rich, saturated jewel tones humming beside one another, glowing with naturalistic light. Indeed, whether lit by sunlight or stars, every spread elicits a sense of presence, so immediate is the setting.

And Gal employs all of this skill and style to a cumulative visual story that threads the family’s experience through the year. These holidays are not abstract, isolated festivities, but the real and meaningful celebrations of a close family.

For her part, Newman’s rhythmic verse scans beautifully (would that all rhyming text scan this well!), inviting, even imploring to be read aloud. But, just like the pictures, there’s substance behind the style, with family as the central theme.

This wonderful book will find its way to many libraries because of its useful and  accessible treatment of important cultural information, but I sure hope it has a chance to extend beyond its simple utility and has a chance to delight with its profound and handsome charms.

Shanah tovah.

Kinship Project

voice from afarThe Butler Center opened in its permanent space two years ago today on September 11th, 2011, the tenth anniversary of that infamous day in world history. To commemorate that occasion we curated an exhibit called the Kinship Project, a collection of books for children and teens that speak to our human kinship. We created a catalog with notes that speak to each of the 29 books connection to the idea of kinship. I link here to the online version. We have some print copies as well (beautiful, actually) and I’d be happy to send some along to you, too. Just fill out the form below with your name and address and I’ll get them in the mail.

How about you? What do you remember of that day? What do your memories have to say to your work with books and young people? Where do you see kinship among the collections we keep?

My Family Valentine

When I was growing up, Valentine’s Day was the biggest holiday going. The Valentine’s Day Peacock would administer the annual treasure hunt, hiding construction paper hearts around the house, each with a different clue on it, in Latin, and it fell to me and my sisters to hunt them down, translating one to lead to the next, and so on. Each of us was assigned a different color heart (lest they get confused) and as we grew older, the clues became more difficult and more plentiful. The trail invariably ended with particular paydirt: a cellophane-wrapped, heart-shaped box of chocolates and a pair of pink socks. I believe this went on all through our high school years (though my sister swears it was the Valentine’s Day Aardvark, so my memory may not be especially dependable) and was, even as a teen, a sweet, resonant tradition. To me, Valentine’s day will always be a holiday about family, more than romance, and so I offer you a bevy of picture books about family love, in its infinite variety, as my valentine.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown,  illustrated by Sara Palacios, Children’s Book Press, 2011

Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton, Candlewick, 2010

The Dog Who Belonged to No One, by Amy Hest, illustrated by Amy Bates, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2008

All Kinds of Families, by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marc Boutavant, Little, Brown, 2009

My People by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Charles R. Smith, Atheneum, 2009

I’ll See You in the Morning, by Mike Jolley, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, Roaring Brook, 2008

Monday is One Day by Arthur Levine, illustrated by Julian Hector, Scholastic, 2011

A House in the Woods by Inga Moore, Candlewick, 2011

The Family Book by Todd Parr, Little Brown, 2003

In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco, Philomel, 2009

The Schmutzy Family, by Madelyn Rosenberg, illustrated by Paul Meisel, Holiday House, 2012

Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010

marisollittle owl lostdog who belonged to no one all kinds of families     my people ill see you in the morningmonday is one dayhouse in the woodsfamily bookin our mothers houseschmutzy family    mad at mommy

Gifts of Information

Our last stop on the holiday book recommendation train includes some books about real, actual people and things.

Chuck Close: Face Book

Chuck Close

Abrams, 2012

The famous portraitist tells his remarkable story, overcoming severe dyslexia, prosoagnosia (the inability to recognize faces) and paraplegia to become one of the most celebrated artists alive in an interactive book brimming with stunning detail. A class of fifth grade students in Brooklyn asks him questions, and his candid, matter-of-fact responses give us a picture of the artist just as clear and impressive as the portraits he paints of others. Exquisite, tactile and inspirational.

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

Steve Sheinkin

Macmillan, 2012

In this un-put-downable record of the Manhattan Project historian Sheinkin weaves three distinct narratives into an utterly compelling page-turner about spies, science and sabotage with abundant facts and indelible lessons. It’s always a pleasure to follow an enthusiast on a literary exploration, and the velocity of this particular journey makes it is especially exciting. Gripping, informative and scrupulous.

Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac

Anita Silvey

Macmillan, 2012

For the children’s-book-loving adult on your list, this treasure trove by noted critic Anita Silvey makes a different recommendation for every day of the year and comes overflowing with corollary tidbits of fascination. Look for Silvey’s book-a-day for more suggestions and more fun.  Erudite, expert and comprehensive.