You’ve Got Great Taste!

As Thanksgiving nears and the weather turns colder, we want to highlight what brings us togetherwhat better combination than food and books? Please enjoy this delectable selection of food-inspired reads, many of which include recipes to share!

amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-e1574279420905.jpg

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Written by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Published by Aladdin
Available now
Ages 4-8
Amy Wu loves bao, a filled dumpling with fluffy dough. But for Amy, even though her entire family makes excellent bao—she cannot. The picture book is an energetic run-through of a family coming together and preparing a treasured food. Charlene Chua’s images leap off the page—so much energy! Kat Zhang writes of a kiddo with an affinity for food and a resilient spirit. Zhang also includes pronunciation help for those unfamiliar with how to pronounce the word “bao” plus a recipe for them. Very delicious.

bilal-cooks-daal.jpgBilal Cooks Daal
Written by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Published by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster
Available now
Ages 4-8
This is a charming picture book introducing the South Asian dish daal to Bilal’s friends—and perhaps the reader. Illustrator Anoosha Syed depicts the children’s wide-eyed facial expressions—and her depiction of the pantry is excellent, featuring the traditional names for the types of lentils used in the daal. A very sweet and familiar portion of the picture book comes when Bilal’s two friends, speaking to themselves, confide to each other that daal looks and smells funny—it’s not familiar to them! Bilal overhears and worries. Aisha Saeed’s choice to include this moment is important and telling and helpful for any youngster to hear that those feelings are normal. In the end, though, the daal is delicious. Author Aisha Saeed included a contextual note about daal in South Asian, specifically Pakistani, cuisine—and includes a recipe for Chana Daal.

CookingWithBear.jpgCooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest
Written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Lisa Cinar
Published by Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press
Available now
Ages 4-7
Cooking with Bear is a combination picture book and cookbook populated with Lisa Cinar’s water-color illustrations. The pictures are accessible and curious, much like Bear’s woodland friends who want nothing more than to learn how to cook as Bear does. Deborah Hodge’s cookbook implicitly encourages eating whole, natural foods that are available seasonally. The recipes – a few include nuts and dairy – are nourishing and are a lovely opportunity for child-and-adult cooking. Many recipes call for food processors, chopping or dicing with knives, as well as simmering and sautéing on a stovetop. This cooperative cookbook is a lovely way to introduce children to eating seasonally.

FryBread.jpgFry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Written by Kevin Noble Maillard and Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Published by Roaring Book Press
Available now
Ages 3-6

Fry bread is community, history, and love. The work by Kevin Noble Maillard, with warm illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal, tackles the history of indigenous people in what is now the United States. Fry bread is distilled to its emotional essence—art, time, place. The story invites the reader to learn about the history, both through its lyrical telling and through the author’s note at the book’s end; the note contains often-ignored, vital information about the history of Native Americans. Finally, Fry Bread concludes with an eponymous recipe that readers will be eager to try.

GrandpaCacao.jpgGrandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family
Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now
Ages 3-6
On a little girl’s birthday, a father and daughter bake a cake together, and he tells her the story of Grandpa Cacao, a farmer on the Ivory Coast. Zunon juxtaposes past with present, connecting the child to Grandpa Cacao despite their geographic distances.  After the cake is baked, there is a surprise at the door that truly connects the two. Zunon describes the difficult, community work of harvesting cacao, and her note on the current cacao trade is a thoughtful inclusion.  Also included is a Chocolate Celebration Cake Recipe.

WhatYouEat.jpegWhat You Eat: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind
Written and illustrated by Valorie Fisher
Published by Orchard Books/Scholastic
Available now
Ages 4-7
Creative photography with a mathematical twist details the complexity of what’s in everyday foods (vanilla ice cream, dill pickle, honey, apple, corn, peanut butter and jelly, pizza). Accessible language and photography diagram how basic food comes to fruition. The conclusion of the book uses MyPlate language and features a breakdown of the vitamins and minerals present in many foods. The back of the book also features a “words to know” vocabulary section. This nonfiction picture book is a nice investigation into how we get the foods we know so well.

LittleLunch.jpegLittle Lunch: Triple Treats
Written by Danny Katz and illustrated by Mitch Vane
Published by Candlewick
Available now
Ages 6-9
The latest from the Little Lunch series is a trio of snack-sized tales with jaunty illustrations. Oversized emotions and situation comedy rule these vignettes set during a typical elementary school day. Little Lunch: Triple Treats is an excellent entry into early chapter books, with simple storylines but plenty of action to keep momentum going. The book series is also the inspiration for a mockumentary-style television program now on Netflix.

PieintheSky.hpeg.jpgPie in the Sky
Written by Remy Lai
Published by Henry Holt
Available now
Ages 8-11
Jingwen is 12-year-old stuck in grief following his father’s death and a move to Australia, far away from his grandparents’ bakery. Isolated and lonely in a classroom where he doesn’t speak the language, Jingwen turns his attention to baking cakes, something he and his father did together. Now Jingwen does this alone—or almost alone, he includes his little brother while his mother works nights (it’s their secret). But Jingwen’s confectionery-focused mind ignores two big facts: 1) he’s not allowed to use the oven or stove unsupervised and 2) he has no money for fancy ingredients. What ensues is a bittersweet tale of a kid who’s hungry for something to assuage his sadness—and doesn’t always go in the best way to get it.

HungryHearts.jpgHungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love
Edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond
Published by Simon Pulse
Available now
Ages 12+
These thirteen interconnected stories tell about what happens on Hungry Heart Row, a street chock full of the best restaurants you can imagine. Familiar themes with some occasional supernatural elements populate this tremendous collection. The stories feature a mix of rom-com (a teenage love columnist decides to take her own advice in “The Grand Ishq Adventure” by Sandhya Menon), family and community lore (Charlie’s and his grandmother’s ghost-seeing burden in “The Slender One” by Caroline Tung Richmond), and true terror (Rebecca Roanhorse’s eerie tale “The Missing Ingredient” about a mother, daughter, and a middling restaurant). Whatever you do, don’t read this #OwnVoices anthology hungry—your mouth will soon be watering.

 

Butler Bookshelf

We received some tremendous new books this week, including just-released Parker Looks Up, the story of young Parker Curry and Amy Sherald’s portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery.

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment
Written by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry and illustrated by Brittany Jackson
Published by Aladdin
Available October 15, 2019

An ABC of Equality
Written by Chana Ginelle Ewing and illustrated by Paulina Morgan
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now

A World Full of Spooky Stories: 50 Tales to Make Your Spine Tingle
Written by Angela McAllister and illustrated by Madalina Adronic
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now

My Kindergarten In 100 Words
Illustrated by Sophie Beer
Published by words & pictures
Available now

The Map Challenge: A Book about Dyslexia (SEN Superpowers)
Written by Tracy Packiam Alloway and illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo
Published by QEB Publishing
Available now

Queer Heroes: Meet 53 LGBTQ Heroes From Past & Present
Written by Arabelle Sicardi and illustrated by Sarah Tanat-Jones
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now

Mythologica: An Encyclopedia of Gods, Monsters and Mortals From Ancient Greece
Written by Steve Kershaw and illustrated by Victoria Topping
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now

The Rocking Book of Rocks: An Illustrated Guide to Everything Rocks, Gems, and Minerals
Written by Amy Ball and Florence Bullough and illustrated by Anna Alanko
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now

New Children’s Fiction Alert!: Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight
Torrey Maldonado
Nancy Paulsen Books, September 2018
Ages 8-12/Grades 3-7

If Bryan could be any superhero, he’d be Batman. Or Black Panther. They’re smart, they think 10 steps ahead, and they’re tough. Bryan’s dad and his older sister, Ava, both say he should be tough: “don’t be soft” they tell him, but his mom keeps him cool and level-headed. She also introduces him to Mike, who is in 7th grade – one year older than him in school – and Bryan thinks he’s pretty tight. Mike loves comics and drawing superheroes just like Bryan, and he doesn’t let school get in the way of having fun.

Slowly, Mike starts asking Bryan to take more and more risks: climbing up to the rooftop of a neighborhood building, ducking the subway turnstiles to take the train for free, skipping school to get the newest Luke Cage comic. Bryan doesn’t feel so good about lying to his parents, especially his mom, but he loves the feeling of freedom that comes with hanging out with Mike.

Bryan’s internal struggle to make the right choices is grounded in Tight’s contemporary Brooklyn setting and in his genuine interactions with strong secondary characters. He genuinely wants to do the right thing, while also wanting to give his friend a chance to choose better as well. Maldonado’s dialogues present a variety of perspectives on peer pressure and the difficulties of navigating friendships as a young person, making it easy to empathize with Bryan.

Small & Mighty: A Review of Front Desk by Kelly Yang

front deskFront Desk by Kelly Yang
Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books
May, 2018

Mia and her parents, recent immigrants from China, are managing a California motel in the early 1990s. It’s a family affair, as ten-year-old Mia finds herself responsible for checking in motel guests while her parents tend to the rooms and motel maintenance – though it sometimes feels like it’s Mia against the world. After a rough start including washing machine mishaps, bad grades, and arguments with her mother (who wants Mia to stick to math, something she considers Mia to be a “native” in), Mia hits her stride when she realizes the power of using her ever-improving English to help others, especially the motel guests she considers family.

Adventurous subplots and dynamic secondary characters add to the appeal of this compelling middle grade novel. Mia believes in herself and wants what is best for her friends and family, and though her quick thinking sometimes gets her in trouble, at the end of the day she is a force for good in her community. This book is fun, yet thoughtful, and shows that there’s no age requirement for taking action against injustice.

We’re Not Afraid! Two Not-Too-Scary Stories

In the spirit of Halloween, we’d like to share two new picture books with characters who rethink their requests for scary stories.

i want to be in a scary storyLittle Monster is confident he wants to be in a scary story, until he’s stuck in the middle of one. Witches, ghosts, and spooky houses? “Golly Gosh!” and “Jeepers Creepers!” he says. Little Monster doesn’t want to be scared; he wants to do the scaring! The narrator (indicated on the page with black text, where Little Monster’s words are purple) acquiesces, putting Little Monster in charge of the upcoming frights. Is Little Monster ready to scare? With charming dialogue and just enough forewarning for what the next page holds, I Want to Be in a Scary Story will delight any child who wants to be in a story – on their own terms.

too scary story

Parents who’ve struggled to satisfy competing requests will recognize Papa’s burden in The Too-Scary Story. Grace and Walter settle in for a bedtime story, but they can’t agree on how scary it should be. The dark forest setting is “too scary” for Walter, so Papa introduces the “twinkling lights” of fireflies. But that’s not scary enough for Grace! Back and forth the story goes, scary to safe, until Walter and Grace agree – the story is too scary! Luckily, Grace has her magic wand, and Papa is never too far away to bring the story back to safety. Murguia’s mixed media illustrations follow the alternating moods of the text and complete this bedtime adventure.

A Review of Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say

This is one of the most remarkably affecting books I have ever read. When a baby is born, he or she doesn’t know s/he is deaf, autistic, or any different from anyone else; it is positively heartbreaking to read about this one’s introduction to a world that was almost unfailingly cruel.

Born in in 1899 in rural Idaho, James Castle was deaf, unable to speak, and autistic. Through straightforward narration, his nephew attempts to show the world through baby James’ eyes: “James opened his eyes to the world and saw things that moved and things that were still. Anything that moved seemed to scare him. He cried as his parents bobbed around him with darting eyes and flapping mouths. But James couldn’t hear himself shrieking. For him the world would always be silent.” It is truly the stuff of nightmares, interpreted hauntingly by Say’s mixed-media art, some in smudgy grayscale and some in color. Images of young James engaged by various scraps of paper, charcoal, and other “found” art materials are almost peaceful; they are juxtaposed by harrowing scenes of him holding his arms around his ears while other children scream taunts at him.

SilentDaysSilentDreams

Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2017)

James’ own parents were no doubt as terrified and perplexed by their son as he was by the world; unfortunately, they were ill-equipped, or unable or unwilling, to figure out how best to rear him. At first, they gave him old paper or other throwaway items, since those things seemed to keep him entertained or at least occupied. They sent him to a school where he appears to have found some level of engagement: looking books and printed materials in the library, although he could not read; watching teachers sew books together; and doing “well in shoe repair class.” But the school considered him a failure because he could not learn to speak. There is no judgement made explicit in the text on the principal who advised James’ parents “…not to give James and drawing materials at home. He said James should learn to read and write and not waste time on drawings.” Readers will come to their own conclusions about the humanity, or lack thereof, in this approach.

As an adult, James became extremely isolated, essentially living in a barn where he had his “studio” and a mattress on the floor. Continually tormented by kids stealing his artwork, and called names such as “Dummy” and “Crazy Jimmy,” he nonetheless persisted in doing the only thing that seemed to give him any pleasure: using whatever he could find (soot with spit, charred sticks, and the like) to create art. Say’s portrayal of the type of illustrations James was creating at this time show eerie pictures of people with boxes or blank circles where faces should be, as well as quotidian images of small wooden houses and little puppets of dolls, farm animals and birds. We’ll never really know, but it’s possible James was expressing his wishes, desires, and silent dreams for home and companionship in the only way he knew how.

There is some redemption to James’ story with an art show organized by his nephew’s teacher in art school, and an eventual trailer in which he could live that was a big step up from the shacks he’d inhabited for most of his life. Nowadays, “found” or “naïve” art is a recognized genre, and James Castle is a respected contributor to it. Say’s closing portrait shows James as an adult, standing in front of his “Dream House,” with what might be a hint of a smile. The text reads “I think he was happy.”

An author’s note, bibliography, and photos of some of the found materials Say used to create the art round out this haunting picture book biography for older readers.

Commonalities, Not Competition: Newbery 2014

It gets to be this time of the year in the children’s publishing world and my anxiety starts to bubble to the surface of my being. Blogs are buzzing with reviews of novels, analysis of illustrations, and comparison of genres. Librarians ask each other, “What are your favorites this year?” Patrons ask, “So who do you think is going to win?” And while I love love love the ALSC awards, I want to take a step back and reflect upon what a few of these buzzing books have in common, rather than the spirit of competition that my air bubble is currently filled with. This perfectly fits with The Butler Center’s mission to encourage imagination and wonder through literature.

I generated the following list of books randomly from several sources. This is simply for observation’s sake, so if a book isn’t included, there is no intention or reason behind it (and I have had a chance to READ THESE!) Let’s check out some of the books:

  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
  • The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Center of Everything by Linda Urban
  •  A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
  • Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Okay, so let’s the get obvious ones out of the way– most of these authors are women and they are all fiction choices. But this says more about me as a reader than about the Newbery contenders this year.

But let’s look at what’s underneath. When I take a close look, this is what I see:

1) They all ask important questions. Why are we here? How do I discover my own voice? What is the best way to make decisions? Where do I fit in? Can I change my own destiny, or is it just up to luck? Whether it is Georgie who is trying to navigate her own world amidst feelings of loss and coming-of-age discoveries or Flora going on adventures with a magic squirrel, these characters search, seek, and only sometimes find the answer. In other words, they make us think.

2) They are filled with important relationships. I think we know that humans instinctually want to connect with others, but each of these books explores friendship and family relationships with distinguished and dynamic depth. Cady searches for her long-lost parent. Willow loses everything she has and then finds family in a patchwork quilt of interesting human beings. The ghost of Jacob Grimm protects young Jacob Johnson Johnson, forming a kind of intimate bond between male characters. This level of authenticity is, in my opinion, rare in middle grade/YA novels.

3) They leave us with more questions, rather than answers. These books don’t tell us the way to live. There is no black and white, right or wrong. They explore questions along the way, but they leave the answers up to the reader. And isn’t that what great books are all about? Some of the best books I’ve read, I’ve finished the last page and thought, “Hmmm,” or “….huh….?” But then I think. I talk to other readers. I wait for it to sink in. And all of these books have sunk in because they don’t “fix” or “solve” anything. They explore, ignite, and wonder.

What Newbery buzz books are you excited about this year? What do they have in common with each other? How do the books inform each other when you compare them in the aggregate rather than in direct competition with each other?