B3 Butler Book Banter

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 6-7 p.m.

Exploring Farms and Food

From classic picture books such as Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet (Harcourt, 1989) and Growing Vegetable Soup (Harcourt, 1987) and Elisha Cooper’s Farm (Orchard, 2010) to more contemporary middle-grade fiction such as Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez (Knopf, 2009) and informational books including the young readers’ edition of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (Dial, 2015), food and where it comes from has been a perennial topic in children’s lit.

Fall season is harvest time, and for our first B3 of the year we’ll focus on food, farms, and farmers’ markets. There is a full crop of newly-published foodie books this year, and we’ll focus on these:

Board books: Edible Colors and Edible Numbers, both by Jennifer Vogel Bass (Roaring Brook, 2016)
Picture books: Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food by Shelly Rotner (Holiday House, 2016); On the Farm, at the Market by G. Brian Karas (Holt, 2016); and Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle, illus. by Becca Stadtlander (Chronicle, 2016)
Informational: The Story of Seeds by Nancy F. Castaldo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

Whether you’ve read all, some, or none, please join us in the Butler Center to talk about kids books about food, and enjoy some farmers’ market treats. We’ll have the food and, um, books out at 5:30 for perusal and partaking.

Books to Celebrate the 2016 Summer Olympics

By Alena Rivers

The 2016 Summer Olympics have just begun in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the 2016 Summer Paralympics will follow. Watching each athlete compete in the Olympics is only part of their story. These athletes also have amazing stories that highlight the challenges they have had to, and continue to, overcome to rise to top in their sport. Their stories are full of determination, commitment and serve as sources of inspiration for aspiring athletes. This week, the Butler Center pays tribute to the work of all athletes by highlighting two 2016 books inspired by Olympic Gold Medalists.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illus. by Frank Morrison (Chronicle, 2016)

Young Alta is known as the quickest kid in her hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee; the same town that is currently awaiting the arrival of their hometown hero, Wilma Rudolph, the first African American to win three gold medals at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy.

Alta is confident in her ability to run faster than any other kid in Clarksville until a new girl, Charmaine, challenges Alta to a race. Charmaine is quick to point out that she has new shoes, just like the ones Wilma Rudolph wears. Alta’s shoes are worn out and dotted with holes but she knows that shoes don’t make the runner, so she accepts Charmaine’s challenge.  The girls’ race is heated and Alta channels the strength of Wilma Rudolph in her legs as she keeps step to the rhythm of the champion’s name. Though they get off to a rough start, ultimately, the girls pull together to support their hero during a parade in Wilma Rudolph’s honor, which turns out to be an experience uniting not only the girls but their segregated town of Clarksville, as well.

Pat Zietlow Miller creates text that is oftentimes rhythmic and sets the pace for the cadenced pattern of racing feet through the story. Frank Morrison, depicts the movement and mannerisms characteristic of young girls at play and competition. The watercolor images are soft and suggest the tone of the 1960’s. The author’s note contains a photo of Wilma Rudolph in the Clarksville, TN parade and a brief overview of her Olympic achievements and their impact on her hometown and the nation.

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray, illus. by Christine Davenier (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

Nadia Comaneci is an historic Olympic Gold Medalist from Romania, scoring the first perfect 10 in Olympic history, seven perfect 10’s in fact, and winning several medals in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Nadia is an active young girl who is constantly in motion, running, jumping and climbing trees. Her parents see fit to direct her energy into gymnastics lessons. Not long after, while doing cartwheels on her school playground, she is spotted by Bela and Marta Karolyi. At age six, Nadia is recruited to train under the Karolyi’s, and through dedication and commitment, by the age of 14 she makes it to the Olympics, coached by the Karolyi’s.

Nadia’s story is told in easy to follow text that highlights moments of trial and error through her progression to the 1976 Olympic Games.  The ink and colored pencil drawings are full of movement, evocative of that of Nadia herself. The Afterword contains a description of events following Nadia Comaneci’s Olympic wins, citations for quoted text, and a bibliography of articles, books, and websites.

Supporting Early Literacy Practices with Newly-Published Board Books

By Alena Rivers

The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, advocates for early childhood literacy in many ways, including the Babies Need Words Every Day project and the Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) program, which it administers in partnership with the Public Library Association. ECRR stresses the importance of five practices that support early literacy skills in babies and toddlers: talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. Babies and toddlers can learn immense amounts of vocabulary and communication skills when parents and caregivers participate in these activities with their prereaders.

With their sturdy format and exciting visual content, board books support the practice of reading to very young children. Board books offer a wonderful introduction to building a habit of reading together while providing babies and toddlers with a valuable learning experience. Many board books are concept books, or books that present information on ideas such as numbers, colors, shapes or the alphabet. Concepts can be introduced through a variety of subject matter, from the familiar to the novel. The board books below offer three different ways to introduce the concepts of numbers and colors by way of food, animals and trains.

Edible Colors by Jennifer Vogel Bass (Roaring Brook, 2016)

Edible Numbers by Jennifer Vogel Bass (Roaring Brook, 2016)

Jennifer Vogel Bass’ board books provide vibrant, colorful photos of an unusual collection of fruits and vegetables. Babies and adults can find a visual explosion of colorful foods, some common and some unknown varieties, to explore while learning numbers and colors.

Edible Colors features a plethora of fruits and vegetables and provides them in a rainbow of colors. Well-known fruit and vegetable color combinations, such as orange carrots and green cucumbers are followed by a generous selection of additional fruits and vegetables of the same color.

Edible Numbers invites young children to explore numbers from 1-12 while counting the variations on more common fruits and vegetables. A two-page spread at the end of the board book provides a comprehensive view of the numbers and foods used throughout the book.

Picture This: Colors by Marie Vendittelli (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

Picture This: Numbers by Judith Nouvion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

The Picture This board books series explores homes, shapes, colors and numbers through images from nature. The full-color photos are close-up, textured depictions of animals in their natural habitats that babies and toddlers will find compelling.

Picture This: Colors features 14 vibrant photos of animals exhibiting each featured color. The text identifies the animal and its environment in a simple, repeating and predictable pattern.

Picture This: Numbers groups animals by numbers 1-10. Each animal featured is identified with a brief one or two sentence fact about the animal.

Steam Train, Dream Train 1-2-3 by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle, 2016)

Steam Train, Dream Train Colors by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle, 2016)

These board books were inspired by the Steam Train, Dream Train   picture book. The board book counterparts are illustrated with oil pastel drawings that identify the different types of train cars. Rhyming text offers a predictive pattern of language babies and toddlers will enjoy hearing.

Steam Train, Dream Train 1-2-3 uses half of each two-page spread to identify a number from 1-10 along with rhyming text describing the corresponding scenes of animals interacting with objects such as cars and balloons on each train car.

Steam Train, Dream Train Colors features a train in one of 10 different colors accompanied by rhyming text describing the train car and its animal passengers.

To Grandmother’s House We Go!

by Alena Rivers

Not all of our summer excursions can be tropical vacations. Whether taking time for staycations or logging miles and miles on the road to visit family, for children, time spent in a different place, or traveling to it, can spark imaginations and inspire new adventures. Long road trips and quiet summer days provide great opportunities for children to explore their surroundings and give their brains the freedom to daydream. Here are a group of newly-published picture books in the Butler Center that feature children and the imaginative ways they spend time with grandparents or passing the time on warrior-style road trips to visit them.

Are We There Yet? By Nina Laden, illus. by Adam McCauley (Chronicle, 2016)

A boy and his mother take an extended drive to grandmother’s house. Not long before they are on the road, the boy asks his mother, “Are we there yet?”. The mother simply replies, “No.” This familiar-to-adults exchange is repeated across each two-page spread of the book while readers are taken on an illustrated journey through cities, over bridges past farms and deserts until they reach grandmother’s house. The story is a simple reminder for kids and their adult caregivers of the excitement just outside the car window that can be easily overlooked on long road trips.

Are We There Yet? By Dan Santat (Little, Brown, 2016)

Caldecott medalist, Dan Santat creates a larger-than-life visual voyage when a young boy and his parents embark on what feels like the longest car ride ever to his grandmother’s birthday party. The boy’s initial excitement about the road trip is soon stunted by the bland scenery outside his car window. Santat illustrates imaginative scenes and uses minimal but complimentary text to depict what can happen when you let your brain run wild during the most mind-numbing, tiresome treks to the fun waiting at the end of the road.

The Bell in the Bridge by Ted Kooser, illus. by Barry Root (Candlewick, 2016)

Charlie, a young boy, makes annual, two-week summer visits to his grandparents’ farm. Not much happens during these summer visits so Charlie amuses himself by playing near a stream with tadpoles and turtles. Charlie discovers that by using a rock to hit the railing of a bridge over the stream, the result is a bell-like sound with its faint echo following it. One day after banging the bridge, an extra sound, just like his, is returned in the distance. Who or what is causing this additional sound? The mystery adds just the right amount of excitement to speed up the slow summer days that remain before Charlie’s parents come to pick him up. Soft water color and gouache shades of green, yellow and orange enhance the feeling of quiet warmth indicative of summer mornings and late afternoons.

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen, illus. by Irene Luxbacher (Kids Can, 2016)

Young Theodora, or Theo as her grandfather, Poppa, calls her, decides that a trip on a streetcar to a nearby beach is the perfect birthday present for her adventurous grandfather. The journey takes time but there is much to see along the way. When they finally reach the beach, Theo and Poppa spend the day discovering its many treasures and dreaming up big adventures. Their trip ends with a refreshing meal of gazpacho soup and another surprise waiting for Poppa in his apartment. Colorful, mixed-media artwork provides vivid illustrations of the city, beach and all the places in between.

Young Adult Narratives for the Digital Age

Books

by Hal Patnott

More and more we live on the Web, narrating our days in snaps, tweets, IMs, and status updates. It only makes sense then that we can find books on the shelves that reflect our digital lives. Why not? People thousands of miles away from one another connect, form communities around shared passions, and fall in love (or, at least, fall in love with the idea of having someone to love) online.

Novels in texts and emails invite the reader to participate and explore the story. They offer an immediate narrative and pacing as rapid-fire as key strokes. Like in poetry, every word counts. There’s less room for leisurely description. Messages between two characters need to capture voice and carry the plot.

If you’re looking for an energetic, emotional, and suspenseful read to recommend to a teen, try one of these 2016 titles with a nontraditional narrative style. Come check out the advanced reader’s editions at the Butler Center if you want to see them for yourself!

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson (Chronicle, April 2016) 

An entire country separates Gena and Finn. Gena attends a boarding school on the east coast. She looks forward to a future at an Ivy League school. Finn, on the other hand, followed her college boyfriend Charlie out to California, where she struggles to find a job. They have nothing in common except their love for the cop drama Up Below. Through fan fiction and fan art, two young women who might never have met form a bond that starts as shared enthusiasm for a television show and develops into love more complicated than friendship.

Fans of the book Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell will recognize a similar affection for the world of online fandom in Gena/Finn. Like Cath in Fangirl, both Gena and Finn cling to the stability of their fan community when they feel isolated and unsatisfied. Far away from her home with no friends to confide in but Gena, Finn fears taking the next step of commitment in her relationship with Charlie, who knows nothing about her obsession with Up Below. Always private about her past, Gena has her own secrets, a fight with mental illness, and unresponsive parents who left to gallivant around the globe. Told through blog posts, emails, text messages, and journal entries, Gena/Finn invites readers into an intimate and fast-paced story of two fans trying to make sense of the real world.

Girls Like Me by Lola StVil (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2016)

Shay Summers doesn’t “fit into the puzzle of high school” and she doesn’t fit in to her step-mother’s narrow-waist-line expectations (12). In class and in the halls, the head cheerleader Kelly torments Shay at every opportunity, while at home Shay is haunted by the memory of her father who died in a car crash. At least her two best friends Dash and Boots stand by her side on the outskirts of social acceptance. As the anniversary of her father’s death looms over her, Shay seeks a distraction online. She meets a boy called Godot on TrashFire.com, a website where everyone at her school shares the latest gossip. Godot falls for Shay’s wit, and he identifies with her feelings of loneliness at home. As their instant message relationship progresses, Godot urges Shay to meet him in real life. However, Shay fears rejection, especially when she learns Godot’s true identity: Blake Harrison, King of the School.  She must decide whether a chance at real-life love is worth the risk of losing Godot.

Girls Like Me alternates between verse and text messages. Short lines and chatspeak convey the urgency and the longing of Shay’s romance with Blake as the story unfolds. Over text message they use fonts to communicate their feelings. A single post carries enough weight to change the status of their relationship. Ultimately, neither Shay nor Blake is satisfied with digital love, but if they want their love to last in the real world, Shay needs to learn to love herself first.

Gemina: The Illuminae Files_02 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House, October 2016)

The second installment in the Illuminae Files picks up on space station Heimdall. Hanna Donnelly, daughter of the space station’s commander, knows nothing about the BeiTech Corporation’s assault on the illegal mining settlement of Kerenza. Consumed with her social engagements and her perfect love life, she has no idea that in less than two weeks BeiTech will launch a new attack to destroy the Heimdall and all evidence of what happened in Kerenza. When a BeiTech invasion force sneaks on board the Heimdall, Hanna is thrust together with unlikely hero Nik Malikov, a member of a dangerous criminal organization, to save their people before BeiTech destroys the station and a time paradox rips apart the universe.

Like the first book in the series, Gemina unravels through transcripts of video feed, radio transmissions, chat logs, reports, and emails. Kaufman and Kristoff raise the stakes—not only life or death hangs in the balance, but the existence of two entire universes depend on Hanna and Nik for survival. The intricately woven plot takes every detail into account. Frequent shifts in perspective build tension as the story twists and turns in unexpected directions with heart-stopping force. Although Gemina follows a new set of leading characters, readers should start with Illuminae to fully understand the context of the story. For fans of science fiction and thrillers, the Illuminae Files is a series worth exploring.

Cozy Up with a Little One and a Board Book Based on Classic Literature

by Alena Rivers

Busy parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers may not be able to find the time to sit down with a cup of tea and a read a classic piece of literature such as Moby Dick or Pride and Prejudice but there may be another way to share the benefits of reading aloud to young children while also dipping into a literary classic for themselves.

The Butler Center recently received a small collection of Cozy Classics board books by brothers Jack and Holman Wang featuring classic novels told in an abbreviated 12 words and illustrated by hand-crafted felt figures depicting characters from the original stories. The first page in each board book poses felt figures against the backdrop of text from the first chapter of the board book’s original counterpart. The detailed craftwork of the felt figures is admirable and the one-word per two-page spread invites a very selective exploration of themes from the original novels. For example, in the Pride & Prejudice board book, the word “sick” accompanies an image of a character lying in bed with two others kneeling by her bedside.

While there is little doubt babies will miss the connection between many of the featured words and the actions depicted by their corresponding felt images, adults may enjoy the challenge of remembering the context for each literary scene. The unique concept behind these board books could certainly serve as a fun novelty for families that are familiar with the classic stories featured in the Cozy Classics series. These also make great selections for anyone who appreciates a simplified version of a lengthy classic work!

Visit the Butler Center to take a look!

Cozy Classics: Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations by Jack and Holman Wang (Chronicle, 2016).

Cozy Classics: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick by Jack and Holman Wang (Chronicle, 2016).

Cozy Classics: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice by Jack and Holman Wang (Chronicle, 2016).

Cozy Classics: Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace by Jack and Holman Wang (Chronicle, 2016).

CaldeNott Results!

Yesterday evening twelve dutiful children’s book discussers met to consider a selection of picture books of international provenance, applying the Caldecott Medal terms and criteria to picture books ineligible for the actual award, in hopes of learning about some wonderful books, and the Caldecott Medal itself, in the process. We began with 18 very different books (you can find our complete discussion list here) and ended up with one winner and three honor books.

Our honor books are:

tiny creaturesTiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

illustrated by Emily Sutton (England)

written by Nicola Davies (Wales),

Candlewick Press, 2014

A scientific exploration of microbes explains their natural existence and celebrates the intricacies of their ecological function. Our committee appreciated Sutton’s use of scale, visually explaining the size and amount of the microbes around us; the friendly, approachable tone of her watercolor paintings, reinforcing the book’s even, almost enthusiastic approach to its subject; and the repeated presence of two children, not mentioned in the text, who, in their constant dress and curious attitude, serve as a ready point of access for the young reader.

at the same moment around the worldAt the Same Moment Around the World

illustrated and written by Clotilde Perrin (France)

Chronicle, 2014

This magical book circles the globe, exploring different children’s experiences at a single moment in time. We begin at 6:00am in Senegal, and travel east across time zones, to France, to Bulgaria, to Iraq, as kids of all stripes work, play, eat and dream. Each spread moves from one country to the next, connecting otherwise disparate locales and delivering a powerful message of human continuity. We appreciated the tall trim size, reflecting the longitudinal time zones; the attention to detail, with watery endpapers suggesting the surrounding oceans; and the indelible warmth of the culturally specific depictions. The final, fold-out map, that names the children and fixes them on the globe, adds concrete understanding to the sensitive expression of community.

rules of summerRules of Summer

illustrated and written by Shaun Tan (Australia)

Scholastic, 2014.

Two brothers offer fantastical, superstitious interpretations of a collection of seemingly pedestrian rules, brought to bigger-than-life through Tan’s edgy, immersive, dreamlike paintings. While each of the rules comes to individual life in its own spread, Tan links them together in an emotional arc that traces a bumpy, competitive, and ultimately tender relationship between two brothers who appear together, at the story’s end, surrounded by drawings of their imaginative adventures. We appreciated the painterly precision of the drama; the powerfully depicted relationship; the curious, sometimes impenetrable symbolism of birds and crowns; and the way the sinister undercurrent of the imaginings resolves into dependable comfort.

And our CaldeNott Medal goes to:

foxs gardenFox’s Garden

illustrated by Princess Camcam (Germany)

Enchanted Lion, 2014

A fox seeks shelter for herself and her babies and, when chased from a house on a wintry night, takes refuge in the nearby greenhouse. The house’s boy delivers a basket of sustenance, and the fox repays the kindness, decorating his bedroom with flowers as he sleeps. Princess Camcam creates her illustrations in three dimensions, photographing dioramas of intricately cut and painted paper, carefully arranged and lit. The effect is intimate and tranquil, with hushed colors, soft shadows, and an immediate sense of place. The artist’s careful use of sharp and cloudy focus pulls the viewer into the images, and her supreme command of light conveys the chill of the air, the stillness of the snow, and the arrival of the morning. Simply breathtaking.

It was noted that ours is not a “mock” endeavor but is instead, as the only one of its kind, the CaldeNott. Boom. It was also noted that we have chosen a book about a fox two years in a row. Make of that what you will.

This fall we’ll (re)turn our attention to international picture books, to do this all over again in 2016. Feel free to send any candidate titles my way. In the meantime, I’ll be off to the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair with a group of students in March, in search of our own. We’ll keep you posted.