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.

2018 Short Story Collections

In honor of Short Story Month, we’re featuring several new collections of stories in various forms – fiction, nonfiction, personal, biographical, historical, and more. Whether told in words, images, or both, short stories have the power to inspire, educate, and entertain in just a few pages. Whatever your fancy, there’s a collection for that!

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If you’re looking for love stories…
Meet Cute
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 2018

With a tagline of “Some people are destined to meet,” this collection of 14 stories takes us to the beginnings of relationships, when love has potential and anything can happen. Experienced YA readers will recognize many of the contributing authors, who bring a diverse cast of characters and a variety of introductions – romantic, funny, tender, and whimsical – to the page.

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If you need a good dose of inspiration…
Hope Nation, edited by Rose Brock
Philomel Books, February 2018

Personal essays from 24 contemporary YA authors show that hope is an action – a decision we each make to hold our heads up in the face of opposition or defeat. Stories of childhood dedication and perseverance, moments of doubt overcome by conviction, and the belief that words have power combine in this collection to show there is strength in hope.

ssvoicesIf you’d like to hear about WWII from people who experienced it firsthand…
Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today
Candlewick Press, March 2018

This collection includes a variety of personal accounts of life before, during, and after World War II from 80 people who lived through it – as child evacuees, service men and women, prisoners of war, survivors of concentration camps and bombings, and resistance fighters. Their stories are presented as they were told to children of today through interviews, letters, and school visits alongside photographs and other historical images that were originally published in association with First News, a weekly newspaper for children.

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If you want to test run some fresh comics…
The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection: Volume One
Scholastic/David Fickling Books, March 2018

Eight artists are featured in this volume, each with unique styles and content. Readers can follow the adventures of Troy Trailblazer, Looshkin, “the maddest cat in the world,” Doug Slugman, P. I. and others. The comics included in this collection were originally published in The Phoenix, a weekly comic magazine for children.

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If feminist historical fiction is your thing…
The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls, edited by Jessica Spotswood
Candlewick Press, March 2018

In stories that range in setting from Savannah, Georgia in 1838 to Los Angeles in 1923 to Boston in 1984, this collection of historical fiction by 12 different authors features characters who refuse to let society define them. They boldly claim their identities and pursue their dreams in defiance of the norms of their communities.

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If feminist historical nonfiction is your thing…
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu
First Second, March 2018

Over 30 historical figures are represented in this collection of “broad-stroke portraits” in both text and illustration. Bagieu pays homage to women from various walks of life, geographic settings, and periods of history with brief biographical comics and detailed drawings that invite readers in to each story.

We’ve been accepted to the Explorer Academy!

nebula secret coverI was fortunate to spend my Wednesday afternoon with a lovely group of fellow book-lovers; professors, lit experts, book-sellers, and publishing industry insiders (oh, my!) at the lunch and launch of the new National Geographic Kids series Explorer Academy. The series will include seven fact-based fiction adventures for middle-grade readers that are inspired by the real scientists and explorers at the National Geographic Society. The first title in the series, The Nebula Secret, follows 12-year old Cruz Coronado and his fellow students as they travel the globe to become the next generation of explorers and possibly solve the mysterious death of Cruz’s mother. The blend of adventure, STEM topics, and world cultures is sure to appeal to a wide audience.

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trueitTrudi Trueit, the series author, is a weather forecaster turned writer that couldn’t help sharing her love for science with young readers. In our brief conversation, she proved to be a passionate advocate for readers, libraries, and scientists! She has tapped the knowledge of National Geographic Explorers (they are like the rock stars of the National Geographic Society) for the series to bring their real life discoveries, research, and innovations into the action-packed plots. Nizar Ibrahim, paleontologist and National Geographic Explorer, joined us to share his experiences with the NGS and a top-secret (sorry!) hint at some new discoveries.

Stop by the BCLC to check out the ARC in our signed books collection (as soon as I finish reading it) and keep your eye out for publication this fall by Under the Stars, the new fiction imprint of National Geographic.

Summer Open Hours

The Butler Children’s Literature Center will be open

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 12-4 p.m.

during the Summer semester.

open access summer owl

Or email us to make an appointment at butler@dom.edu.

A Chat with Chitra Soundar

Last night the Butler Children’s Literature Center was thrilled to host Indian born British author, Chitra Soundar, for a discussion about diversity in publishing, the writing process, and sharing stories with young people.

Soundar with books 1

In a presentation titled Diverse Yet Unique: Confessions of a Global Author, Chitra shared her background in publishing and the differences she has encountered with publishers in India, the United Kingdom, and the US markets; her efforts to promote diversity in the children’s book publishing; her writing process and how she builds and researchers her stories; and how she goes about developing connections with readers, other writers, and publishers alike. It was interesting, yet disheartening, to learn that the UK publishing industry struggles with diversity issues even more than we do here. But as we are seeing in the US, the UK is also experiencing a growing number of authors, librarians, and supporters lending their voices (and social media feeds) to the movement toward more diversity in content and diversity in authors. Chitra recognized We Need Diverse Books and the inspiration the organization has provided to create a similar UK group to spark conversation and change.

After her presentation, Chitra kindly answered our numerous questions, filling in details about why she loves working with young people, who she follows for diverse book resources, and how she moves from her long, long, long list of ideas to a finished product like the newly published You’re Safe With Me (Lantana, 2018). She also gave us a sneak peek at future books in the series (keep your eyes peeled—they look and sound wonderful!).

Soundar groupThanks to all that attended for your curiosity and thoughtful questions. It is always lovely to spend an evening in conversation with those that love children’s books like we do!

Feel free to stop by the Butler Center to see the new additions to our signed books collection or find Chitra Soundar on your own at www.chitrasoundar.com

 

A Review of Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

Neanderthal cover art

by Preston Norton (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)

Life at Happy Valley High School sucks — especially for Cliff Hubbard, a 6’6” 250 lb. outcast, nicknamed “Neanderthal.”

With an abusive and alcoholic father, a passive and over-worked mother, a cast of assorted high school bullies, and a dead brother, Cliff has a lot on his plate (along with his favorite chimichangas)! Add to the list one of his chief tormentors, HVHS golden boy Aaron Zimmerman, who recruits Cliff to help complete his coma-induced to-do-list from god.

Teenage stereotypes abound as Cliff and Aaron attempt to make HVSH a better place by taking on the bullies, drug-dealers, Jesus teens, disgruntled teachers, jocks, computer hackers, and mean girls that most high schoolers will recognize from their own experience. Some of these characters are better developed than others, making for a large and unbalanced ensemble that can detract from the unlikely, yet oddly believable and very funny friendship developing between Cliff and Aaron.

The two effect an unrealistic amount of change in a very short time and tie up their happy-ish ending a bit too neatly. Despite this, you won’t be able to help cheering for sweet, smart, struggling Cliff to begin coming to terms with his brother’s suicide, make friends, find love, and open the door to the universe.

A Review of Mabel and Sam at Home by Linda Urban

Mabel and Sam at Home: One Brave Journey in Three Adventures                                           

Mabal and Sam cover art

By Linda Urban, Illustrated by Hadley Hooper, Chronicle Books  (2018)

It’s moving day for Mabel and Sam! How do two creative kids stay out of the way while the grown-ups work? Why a cardboard box and a vivid imagination, of course. In the grand tradition of bossy big sisters everywhere, Mabel leads little brother Sam on a brave adventure; part sea voyage, part museum tour, part space odyssey, and all fun.

The charming and funny text explores a new house as well as some of the anxieties that can come along with a move. Structured as three mini-chapters, each adventure gently delves into one of the possible causes of moving day jitters: the moving crew, finding your familiar things in a new place, and sleeping in a new bedroom. The printmaking techniques used in the illustrations, and the fluidity of the lines in Hooper’s drawings, create a soft and magical backdrop that complements the sweet relationship between the siblings and the emotion behind their adventure.

A fun and reassuring way to help kids process the emotions and uncertainty that can come with a move to a new house.