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.

Two of a Kind: Fiction in Verse

With National Poetry Month coming to an end, here are two new novels in verse featuring young teens navigating difficult situations:

ebbandflow

Ebb & Flow – Heather Smith
Kids Can Press
April, 2018

Jett has not had a great year – after his father goes to jail for his involvement in a drunk driving accident, he and his mother move away for a “fresh start” that doesn’t go the way either of them wanted. Now, Jett is back on the Eastern coast to spend the summer with his Grandma Jo, who speaks in puns and tells him stories about herself at his age, a young Joanna. Slowly, Jett tells his own story, and struggles with wanting things to go back to how they were while also hoping the summer will help him move on from the mistakes of the past year.

As Grandma Jo says:
“…life is like the tides.
In, out.
Back, forth.
Push, pull.
High, low.
You just have to go with the flow, you know?” (p. 177)

Told in verse from Jett’s perspective, Ebb & Flow mimics the tides it refers to – swelling with emotion, pulling back, and surging again as Jett reveals his truths and secrets.

 

knockout

Knockout – K. A. Holt
Chronicle Books
March, 2018

Levi was born prematurely, and as a result he’s smaller than most of his classmates. And while sometimes he needs an inhaler or gets tired easily, he’s still mighty, and wants to prove he’s not as weak as his mom and brother think. When his dad offers to pay for a sport – any sport – he chooses boxing. That will show everyone how strong he is, right?

Shape poetry and Levi’s quick and punchy voice give this novel in verse plenty of heart. Readers will cheer for Levi as he makes his way through seventh grade, trying to avoid drama, keep his friendship with Tam, and impress everyone with his boxing.

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.

2018 Picture Book Poetry

April is National Poetry Month – celebrate with us by checking out new collections and illustrated poems. You can find these titles, novels in verse for older readers, and other lyrical picture books for children here at Butler Children’s Literature Center!

blackgirlmagic

Black Girl Magic (Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press, January 2018)
Written by Mahogany Browne
Illustrated by Jess X. Snow

With a dedication stating “This book is for you,” this spirited poem of strength and finding beauty in yourself despite what the world expects of you lifts up black women, acknowledging their accomplishments and struggles, and gives young black girls an anthem of support. The text is accompanied by striking black, white, and red illustrations that amplify the empowering message of the poem.

 

In the Past (Candlewick Press, March 2018)
inthepastWritten by David Elliott
Illustrated by Matthew Trueman

This collection of poems about ancient creatures ranges from the humble Trilobite to the mighty Quetzacoatlus and proves that anything can be poetic. Perfect for dinosaur fans of any age, In the Past includes a geologic timeline and notes for each ancient creature along with realistic mixed media images. The poetry is light-hearted and informative and plays on the illustrations on each page.

 

martinrisingMartin Rising: Requiem for a King (Scholastic Press, January 2018)
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

In this collection of “docu-poems,” author Andrea Davis Pinkney presents the final months of Dr. King’s life. With a musicality of language and along with Brian Pinkney’s illuminating and spiritual paintings, each poem carries a different emotional tone and honors multiple facets of King’s life – his work, his family, and his ministry. This selection works on its own as a memorial of Dr. King’s life, but would also be a powerful read aloud in a classroom or theater setting, or as a part of a larger program for students at any age.

 

The Horse’s Haiku (Candlewick Press, March 2018)horseshaiku
Written by Michael J. Rosen
Illustrated by Stan Fellows

This collection of haiku about horses is organized into three sections: In the Field, At the Barn, and Under Saddle. Watercolor illustrations on each page allow the reader’s eye to graze while the mind contemplates the sparse verse. A note on haiku concludes the collection and teaches the reader how to enjoy haiku in everyday life. The Horse’s Haiku would be suitable for a read aloud for younger children, or as a read along as part of a larger poetry unit for older elementary students.

 

withmyhandsWith My Hands: Poems About Making Things (HMH/Clarion Books, March 2018)
Written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Illustrated by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

This collection celebrates the “joy of making” with over 20 poems about different creative activities, each written in unique styles. The illustrations are also varied, ranging from crayon and colored pencil sketches to mixed media collages and paintings. With My Hands would pair well with an arts and crafts session, or as inspiration for creative pursuits of all types.

 

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up (Candlewick Press, February 2018)earthverse
Written by Sally M. Walker
Illustrated by William Grill

Geographical concepts and natural events like minerals, fossils, earthquakes, and volcanoes are explored in this collection of haiku, accompanied by impressionistic and muted colored pencil illustrations. Each concept is explained in further detail at the end of the book, and a suggested reading list is also included, making this a perfect poetic tie-in or an added “layer” of a geology curriculum.

 

didyouhear

Did You Hear What I Heard? Poems About School (Penguin Random House/Dial Books, February 2018)
Written by Kay Winters
Illustrated by Patrice Barton

Over 30 poems fill this colorful collection – all about bus rides, fire drills, recess, field trips, tests, and teachers. Stylistically, the poems range from structured stanzas to free verse to singsong rhymes. Bright and playful illustrations make this collection suitable for younger students and perfect for classroom read-alouds or as a starting point for students to write their own school-themed poems.

The Hoot: News from the Butler Children’s Literature Center, April 2018

Welcome to Spring!

Although it still feels like January, springtime is upon us and brave flowers are starting to emerge into the still chilly air (I sure hope my tulips survive). 3 owls


Butler Fun Fact

Did you know that the Butler Children’s Literature Center has already received 593 newly published or soon-to-be published titles in the first three months of 2018?

book shelves

Have you stopped by to see what’s new?


Butler Book Banter

 SCHEDULE CHANGE! We will postpone the April 25th B3 until May 2nd to include a special guest. Join us for an evening with children’s book author Chitra Soundar as we discuss Indian myths and legends, inclusivity in the publishing industry, and her love of cake.Chitra

As always, snacks (and maybe cake) at 5:30 p.m., with lively conversation to follow.

Please RSVP to this special Book Banter by dropping us a note at butler@dom.edu– Thanks!


Sixth Annual Butler Lecture

Last month we were honored to host Andrea Davis Pinkney for the sixth annual Butler Lecture. Her presentation of Behold the Road! The Writer’s Passage, The Reader’s Journey was a dynamic and inspiring look at diversity and inclusion as relate to children’s book creation and selection. Many thanks to all that joined in the evening!


Open Hours

The Butler Center welcomes teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, grandparents, caregivers and anyone interested in literature for young people. We are open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 1-6 p.m., or by appointment with the curator; contact butler@dom.edu.

The Center is a non-lending library but our staff is here to assist you in locating books that address specific themes, age groups, or reading levels.

The Butler Center is located in the Rebecca Crown Library, room 214, on Dominican’s main campus at 7900 W. Division Street in River Forest, Illinois. Directions and a campus map are available here. The Butler Center is administered by Dominican’s School of Information Studies and is generously supported by the Butler Family Foundation. We hope you’ll want to visit us, or join us for an event, and stay tuned for our news and upcoming events. Please contact me with any questions you have. I look forward to seeing you soon!

Jen Clemons

Curator, Butler Children’s Literature Center
Dominican University SOIS
sois.dom.edu
butlerspantry.org
butler@dom.edu

A Review of Cycle City by Alison Farrell

cycle city cover art

Cycle City by Alison Farrell (Chronicle Books, 2018)

Bear on a bike—check! Turtles on a tandem—check, check! Pigs in a parade—you bet!

The Starlight Parade is tonight, but the invitations haven’t all been sent. Can Mayor Snail make it around Cycle City to find all the guests in time?

Fans of Where’s Waldo and the Richard Scarry Busytown books will be thrilled by this delightful ride through Cycle City street scenes in search of some special residents. The simple plot makes this sweet seek-and-find stand apart from the individual, and often unrelated, vignettes of others in the genre. Action-packed illustrations give plenty for kids to explore as well as a bit of humor for big kid readers in the shop names and conversation bubbles. Be sure to check out the “Hay There” food truck if you’re into Real Food for Herbivores!

While the illustrations may be too detailed for a storytime pick, this would be an excellent choice for a rainy-day couch cuddle. (Ages 3-5)

March B3: We Can All Be Brave

Whether it is standing up to spooky monsters in the dark, tackling a big goal or facing real-life fears, we all need to be brave sometimes. Often all it takes to remind us of this is a friend to be brave by our side.

Join us in the Butler Center on March 28, 2018, from 5:30-7:00 p.m. to discuss the following books about bravery in all its forms.

Picture Books:

Nothing Can Frighten a Bear by Elizabeth Dale, illus. by Paula Metcalf (Nosy Crow, 2018)

Nothing Can Frighten a bear

Voices from the Underground Railroad by Kay Winters, illus. by Larry Day (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018)

voices from the underground railroad

Children’s Non-Fiction:

Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! by Marley Dias (Scholastic Press, 2018)

marley dias

Teen Fiction:

All We Can Do is Wait by Richard Lawson (Razorbill/Penguin Random House, 2018)

all we can do is wait