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.]]

 

Save the Date

Mark your calendar for the eighth annual Butler Lecture featuring award winning illustrator Bryan Collier.

When:      March 4, 2020 6 p.m.
Reception and book signing to follow

Where:     Eloise Martin Recital Hall
Dominican University, Fine Arts Building
7900 West Division Street
River Forest, IL 60305

The lecture is free and open to the public with registration required. Registration will open January 2020.

collier photo from website

Bryan Collier is a beloved illustrator known for his unique style combining watercolor and detailed collage. He is a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient for Trombone Shorty, Dave the Potter, Martin’s Big Words, and Rosa. His books have won many other awards as well, including six Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. His recent books include By and By, Thurgood, The Five O’Clock Band, and Between the Lines. He lives in New York with his family.

 

To find out more about Bryan Collier’s art and illustration, visit him at bryancollier.com

 

 

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

Precious Feathers: A Review of Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

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Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers
By Celia C. Perez
September 3, 2019
Grades 3-7
Lane DiSanti comes from one of the most important families in all of Sabal Palms. According to legend, her ancestors brought the winter sun orange to south Florida, but did the DiSanti family really bring the winter sun orange to South Florida? That’s what Aster Douglas’s grandfather wants to find out. Frustrated by her overprotective parents, Ofelia goes to work with her mom at the DiSanti house looking for a story she can use for the Qwerty Sholes Journalism Contest. The winner of the contest goes to New York, and the chance to experience the world without parental supervision.  Meanwhile, Cat Garcia—an avid bird enthusiast—has decided to leave the Floras (a girl scout troupe) in protest of their use of a feathered hat for the Miss Flora pageant.
Rejecting her grandmother’s idea of joining the Floras, Lane forms the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders by leaving secret messages for potential friends to find. When the girls all come together for the first time in the tree-house, things start off a bit rocky. When Cat opens up to the other girls about her disdain for the Floras’ hat because of its use of real bird feathers, the girls rally together to stop the Floras from using the hat in the next Miss Flora pageant. Their plans initially backfire, and the girls must decide whether or not they should give up or escalate their efforts. As their convictions strengthen, so too does their friendship.
The book is phenomenal and effortlessly shifts perspectives between the girls in each chapter. The book focuses heavily on what it means to be an activist, and how often the consequences of activism are not always equal. Ofelia, Cat, and Aster are all people of color and come from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Ofelia and Cat are both Cuban, and Aster is Bahamian. Although each girl enters the group with her own hidden objectives, by the end of the book they all come together with one objective—to return the feathers.