Finding Their Way Home: A Review of Refugee by Alan Gratz

Told in three separate yet connected stories, Refugee is a novel of perseverance and commitment to who you are in the face of persecution.

refugeeJosef is fleeing from 1930s Nazi Germany and the threat of concentration camps with his parents and sister. Isabel, her parents, and her neighbors use a makeshift raft to escape Cuba in 1994, during the unrest of Castro’s regime. Mahmoud, along with his parents and younger siblings, leave the violence of war in Syria in 2015, traveling through Europe as they search for a safer place to live. Though the details of their stories are unique, Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud share more similarities than just their situations.

The attention given to creating characters with heart and conviction is engaging, while the conflicts each protagonist faces ensure none of their individual stories get stuck in the emotion of the book as a whole. Refugee tells an important story, and does so without preaching or sensationalizing the experiences of refugees past and present. Maps and an author’s note highlight the reality of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud’s stories and show the readers how they can help with relief efforts.

Mock Belpré Results

The Butler Children’s Literature Center’s Mock Pura Belpré Award results are in!

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The Medal winner for text is The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (Viking, 2017).

Two Honor Books for text were named: Forest World by Margarita Engle (Simon and Schuster/Atheneum, 2017) and Stef Soto Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres (Little, Brown, 2017).

The Medal winner for illustration is Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics, illustrated by Rafael López, written by Margarita Engle (Holt, 2017).

Two Honor Books for illustration were named: Lucía the Luchadora, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez, written by Cynthia Leonor Garza (POW!, 2017) and Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote, illustrated by Raúl Colón, written by Margarita Engle.

Congratulations to tonight’s winners and we look forward to seeing the REAL results on Monday, February 12, 2018 during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

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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.

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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 The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

Just in time for the changing season and upcoming Halloween celebrations comes Lindsay Currie’s first book for middle grades.

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Tessa Woodward is less than thrilled about her family’s move from Florida to Chicago, and their house doesn’t seem to be too pleased either, based on the moving items, flickering lights, and eerie drawings appearing in Tessa’s sketchbook. When Tessa reveals to her classmates that her house is haunted on her first day at her new school, she is afraid her social life is over, but a group of unlikely friends decides to help Tessa solve the mystery of who used to live in her house – and who is making it difficult for the Woodwards to live there now.

Lindsay Currie’s in-depth research on the haunted settings and ghost stories featured in The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street shows in the details of this mystery, and makes for a satisfying read. Tessa is a smart, sensitive, and curious protagonist, and her relationship with her parents and younger brother is genuine. Readers will want to cheer her on as she works to solve her own problems, with the help of her peers, who are proud to explore their interests. The pacing adds to the spook-factor without being too dramatic and makes you want to keep reading (preferably with the lights on!).

Fall 2017 Mock Award Series

Youth media awards give us a unique opportunity to hone our evaluation skills, from literary quality to art appreciation, to figuring out what “outstanding” and “excellence of presentation for an intended child audience” mean. For this fall’s Butler Book Banters, we are kicking off a series of “mock” award programs, in which we’ll apply the real award criteria to books that are really eligible this year, then compare our results when the real ones are announced at ALA’s Youth Media Awards Press Conference during the Midwinter Meeting in January 2018: A Mock Pura Belpré Award on 11/9/17 and a Mock Coretta Scott King Book Award on 12/7/17. Books will be out at 5 p.m., we’ll have discussion from 6:00-8:00, and we’ll vote from 8:00-9:00. Pizza and drinks will be provided and participants may feel free to bring refreshments too!

MOCK PURA BELPRE AWARD: Thurs. 11/9/17, 5:00-9:00 p.m.

The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA: the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.

MOCK CORETTA SCOTT KING BOOK AWARD: Thurs. 12/7/17, 5:00-9:00 p.m.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.  First awarded in 1969, they are administered by the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table of the American Library Association.

A Review of All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

by Hal Patnott

This week’s featured title is a highly anticipated September release by Victoria Jamieson, creator of the Newbery Honor book Roller Girl. In keeping with our theme of selecting titles that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), All’s Faire in Middle School demonstrates excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to check out our advanced reading copy of All’s Faire in Middle School.

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All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson, Penguin Random House/Dial (2017)

Every year, Imogene and her family work at the Florida Renaissance Faire. Her dad plays a villainous knight and her mom runs a shop selling flower crowns. For the first time ever, Imogene has a quest of her own—middle school. As much as she loves her geeky Ren Faire family, she isn’t sure what her new friend group will think. Between mean science teachers and learning the rules of popularity, the year ahead turns out to be a more fearsome challenge than Imogene expected.

Victoria Jamieson returns with another full-color graphic novel about navigating school, friendship, and identity. Not unlike Astrid from Roller Girl, Imogene shows determination throughout the story, even when she must confront her own mistakes. Although Imogene dreams of becoming a knight, she learns to recognize the dragon and the princess inside her heart too. All’s Faire in Middle School fully embraces the Ren Faire aesthetic. Each chapter begins with a page designed like an illuminated manuscript with dragons and jousters in the border art. This upcoming graphic novel is the perfect back-to-school read for tweens.

Groovy Joe Returns

by Hal Patnott

One of my favorite story time dogs is back with a second book. This week, I am excited to share Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown. In keeping with our theme of selecting titles that uphold ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), this week’s featured title represents collaboration and excellence. Stop by the Butler Center to check out our advanced review copy of this September 2017 release.

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Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Scholastic (2017)

Groovy Joe, the ice-cream-loving dog, returns with all new moves—bow wow. He’s dancing and singing at his own disco party when all of a sudden he hears a knock at the door. More dogs show up to join his fun. Although Joe has less room to dance each time, he never gets upset. “Goodness no!” He is happy to share his rocking fun with all his friends. At the end Joe invites the reader to join in on the action.

Fans of Groovy Joe: Ice Cream & Dinosaurs will recognize Joe’s upbeat and welcoming personality. Readers who enjoy Pete the Cat’s go-with-the-flow response to new challenges will discover the same laid-back attitude in this title.The purple and disco patterned backgrounds set the mood for Joe’s party. Rhyming and repetition make Dance Party Countdown an excellent read-aloud for story times. Litwin introduces simple addition skills every time more guests arrive to dance. An invitation at the end of the book presents an opportunity for readers to join the fun with a dance party of their own. Like the last Groovy Joe title, readers can download the “Disco Party Bow Wow” song from Scholastic’s website. Overall, Dance Party Countdown provides a fun story with a positive message about sharing and inclusiveness.