Thursday, November 27, 2014

Picture Book Month: The Great Thanksgiving Escape

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

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About the Book: What's a kid to do when it's another Thanksgiving at Grandma's full of relatives? Try to escape to the back yard and the swing set! Can they do it?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Escaping Thanksgiving family drama can be hard for anyone, especially if you're a kid. There are guard dogs, overly affectionate aunts, zombies, and the great hall of butts! Giving a kids-eye view of family gatherings, Gavin and his cousin Rhonda try to make a break for it through a family filled obstacle course.

These two kids who aren't babies anymore but are too old for the teenager table weave their way through family to find their place at Thanksgiving. It's a humorous take on surviving family gettogethers when you're that pesky in between age and can't seem to fit anywhere. Some of the humor I think will be understood more by adults than the kids but it's a silly book to enjoy together and a funny take on your usual Thanksgiving read.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from library copy

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Picture Book Month: Kids Sheriff and the Terrible Toads

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith

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About the Book: The Terrible Toads are causing havoc all over Drywater Gulch. They are in need of a hero to solve their toad problem. Enter Sheriff Ryan, riding into town on his turtle. He might not know a lot about robbery and roping, but he sure knows a lot about dinosaurs. And that has to come in handy when catching criminals.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: This is a perfect picture book pairing bringing together a hilarious duo. Lane Smith captures the Western-style wonderfully with brown and beige hues makes the reader feel as though they've landed in Drywater Gulch. Bob Shea's text is written to be read aloud. This book just begs to be read aloud with various accents and voices.

The reader will laugh along as the oblivious (or is he really?) Sheriff Ryan makes many observations about dinosaurs along the way. The humor comes from the Toads wanting the credit for their crimes and Sheriff Ryan and the Toads each outdoing each other with what really caused each incident.

Is Sheriff Ryan a smart sheriff who knew who to catch the criminals all along? Or does he just love dinosaurs? The book has such a hilarious twist that readers will be laughing and talking about it long after the book is finished. This is the perfect read aloud for school visits!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from advanced copy sent by publisher for review

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Picture Book Month: Picture Book Biographies

This year we've seen lots of picture book biographies! Here are a few of my favorites:


A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chein

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About the Book: A shy boy who stutters find comfort in talking to animals.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Oh how I have my fingers crossed for a Schneider Award win for this book! (If you don't know about the Schneider Award, it is given to a book that "embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience." I believe that A Boy and A Jaguar does that perfectly. It's a powerful story told in a simple way. Alan Rabinowitz describes how he always had trouble speaking, that no one knew what to do about his stuttering and how he felt most at home when he was with animals. He talked to animals at the zoo and he practiced speaking to his pets at home. His love of animals combines with his desire to give animals a voice. As he studies jaguars and remembers the jaguar he saw and spoke to at the zoo, he becomes a powerful advocate for saving the jaguar. What I love most about this book is that it isn't a story about growing up and getting over a disability. It's a story of living with a disability and not letting it stop you from your dreams. 


Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson


About the Book: The fascinating story of entertainer Josephine Baker.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I was vaguely aware of Josephine Baker before reading this book, but only as someone who was a performer. I learned so much from this book and I was dazzled by the text and the art. It is the perfect tribute to such an eccentric and fabulous star. The text is told in a verse, poetic format that makes you feel the jazz and rhythm of Josephine. The illustrations match this perfectly adding the perfect amount of spark and energy. The illustrations jump off the page and dance before the readers eyes. It's a dazzling picture book biography that is absolutely stunning. I would have put this on my library's Mock Caldecott list if I didn't think the length would deter some of the younger readers (it's a longer picture book biography, coming in at just over 100 pages). But maybe Josephine will surprise us all with an award win this Winter!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

About the Book: The story of Peter Roget, who created Roget's Thesaurus, the most widely used and continuously published thesaurus. 

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I feel like the theme of picture book biographies is sometimes "here's a quirky person and some facts that make them stand out and show that quirky is special." That's not a bad thing at all, but it sometimes gives picture book biographies a feel of simplicity and sameness (which I am sure Roget could have thought of better words!) And while that might be part of the message of The Right Word (Roget prefers to be alone, is shy, and loves to make lists of words), it feels different. The combination of text and illustrations blend together perfectly. Melissa Sweet uses letters, book pages, and a scrapbook style to create a visually stunning biography. Jen Bryant's text give insight into Roget's life without sounding too easy or simplistic. It's the perfect balance of fact and heart and brings readers into Roget's life. The Right Word was a book I finished and immediatly wanted to give to someone else to pour over, read, and enjoy all the illustrations. It's a beautiful package.

Full Disclosure: All titles reviewed from library copies

Monday, November 24, 2014

Picture Book Month: Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett is having a very good 2014! He has three picture book releases this year, all of which are delightful! Be sure to check them out!


Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

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About the Book: Sam and Dave are digging a hole and they won't give up until they find something spectacular.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Mac Barnett teams up with Jon Klassen for another winner. Klassen's illustrations match the text perfectly and gives the feel of an outdoor adventure. Readers will spot the spectacular treasure that is hiding just out of Sam and Dave's reach and are sure to laugh when the get so close but then change directions. They'll also be sure to notice the dog is the only one who seems to have a nose for treasure hunting. A fun tale that is sure to inspire some digging of your own.

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath

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About the Book: President Taft is stuck in the bath! How will he get out?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Mac Barnett takes on a presidential tall tale with humorous results. The president is stuck in the bath and everyone has an idea of how to help. The ideas get more and more ridiculous, from butter to explosions. There are also plenty of textual humor from the secretary of the treasury who responds with "throw money at the problem" to "the answer is inside you" from the secretary of the interior.  Chris Van Dusen's illustrations are cartoonish and add to the humor of the tale. The end of the book provides some historical facts about President Taft and his bathtub. This would pair with King Bidgood's in the Bathtub for a silly bathtime storytime.

Telephone

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About the Book: It's time for Peter to fly home, but his message about dinner gets scrambled along the telephone line.

GreenBeanTeenQueen: Remember the game telephone? Where what you start out saying ends up completely different? Mac Barnett and Jen Corace re-imagine the telephone game with a flock of birds on a telephone wire with hilarious results. Each new message gets more and more mixed up which is sure to leave young readers howling with delight. Each bird hears something new that makes sense to them and matches their own interests and hobbies. The illustrations reflect the each birds interests and helps the reader find clues as to why each bird heard what they did. A hilarious take on a the game of telephone perfect for reading aloud.

Full Disclosure: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and President Taft is Stuck in the Bath reviewed from finished copies sent by the publishers. Telephone reviewed from library copy.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Guest Post: Sarah Fine, author of Of Metal and Wishes

Please welcome Sarah Fine, author of Of Metal and Wishes, to GreenBeanTeenQueen! Sarah Fine is the author of Of Metal and Wishes.

About the Book: Sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic, housed in a slaughterhouse staffed by the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor. Wen often hears the whisper of a ghost in the slaughterhouse, a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. And after one of the Noor humiliates Wen, the ghost grants an impulsive wish of hers—brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including the outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the ghost. As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen is torn between her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. Will she determine whom to trust before the factory explodes, taking her down with it?


The sequel, Of Dreams and Rust will be available in August 2015. You can find Sarah online at http://sarahfinebooks.com/


The Stomach and the Heart

“I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” Those are the words of Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, the book that influenced Of Metal and Wishes. Wait, you might be thinking. Isn’t Of Metal and Wishes a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera? What the heck is this nonsense about The Jungle?
Well. My book is a loose retelling of Phantom. But everything about this book—including the Ghost of the factory himself—was heavily influenced by another novel, which has haunted me from the time I first read it as a teenager.
Upton Sinclair began writing The Jungle at the end of 1904 after spending nearly two months in Chicago, studying the lives and travails of immigrant workers toiling away in the heavily industrialized meat-packing industry. There, he had witnessed how the dream of having one’s hard work repaid with some financial security for one’s family was being completely turned upside-down. Instead of work = fair pay, fair treatment, and a path to success, work = danger, risk, and the inescapable trap of debt and defeat. The system was devouring these people—big business controlled everything, profit was king, and worker’s rights? Virtually nonexistent.
It might be tempting to assume that we don’t have these problems in the United States anymore. In so many ways, we’ve come so far, what with unions to protect workers’ rights, and news media that can report on injustice and distribute it quickly and widely. That assumption would be wrong, however. Meatpacking is one of the more dangerous professions one can have in this country—despite improvements made in the first half of the 20th century, partly due to the response to Upton Sinclair’s work. In the last few decades, the meatpacking industry has consolidated into a few powerful entities. And they have a habit of hiring undocumented workers, who carry all the risks on their back in the hope of earning decent money for their families. These people have little legal or economic leverage, so how can they defend themselves when they’re victimized?
Here’s a clip from Food, Inc., which I was watching the night I decided I needed to write Of Metal and Wishes. It’s less than five minutes long, but it will probably make you shake with rage. It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it:
The Jungle is unflinching in its description of the meatpacking plants, and I did my best to give OMAW the same visceral feel. I didn’t want to shy away from hitting the reader “in the stomach.” I did research into how animals are slaughtered in these places, and it is gut-wrenching and horrific. I won’t link to any videos here, but if you go to Youtube and search for video of slaughterhouse machinery, you’ll find plenty of nightmare fuel.
But like Upton Sinclair, my goal wasn’t to make readers focus only on animal cruelty or the unsanitary way meat is sometimes handled before it enters the food supply. My greatest desire was to get readers thinking about those workers, the ones who come from desperate places, willing to offer their muscles and sweat in exchange for a fair wage and a chance to live and provide for the ones they love. The ones who so often get trampled and ignored. I purposely set the story outside of time and history because these issues existed over a hundred years ago, and they still exist now all over the world, including the US.
Of Metal and Wishes is a love story, yes. A sweet, poignant one, I think. But it’s also a story about people without power who struggle to survive and thrive in a system designed to crush them. I hope it hits readers in the heart.

*There are many organizations involved in the fight for justice for undocumented workers, and one of my favorites is the Southern Poverty Law Center, because they also focus on a number of other important social justice issues. If you go to their site you can get more information, and if you are so inclined, contribute to their efforts.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Picture Book Month: Hooray for Hat by Brian Won

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

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About the Book: Elephant wakes up feeling grumpy. Until a delivery arrives at his door and a new hat cheers him up. Elephant wants to share his hat and along the way cheers up his friends.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I'm a sucker for retro-style illustrations. There's just something about them that make me feel happy. Hooray for Hat! features what could be called some retro-style illustrations and it fits the book perfectly.

Elephant is grumpy but his hat cheers him up. He visits his friends throughout the day and cheering them up with a hat of their own. The text is simple and the illustrations are bright and simple and not distracting making this a great storytime book. There's also a nice repetitive refrain of "Hooray for Hat" that kids can cheer along as the animals become happy.

This is a great story of how a simple act of kindness can make someone's day. This would be a great book to talk to kids about being kind, helping others, and paying it forward.

I've used this one in storytime a few times this year and each time I've read it it's been a bit hit. The kids catch on quickly to saying "hooray for hat" excitedly with each animal. And the joy the animals experience in sharing their gifts expands to the kids. The illustrations catch the expressions of the animals perfectly and the kids can see that and they get just as happy as each animal gets a new hat.

A fun picture book debut that is a great storytime addition.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from final copy borrowed from library

Thursday, November 13, 2014

ALSC Blog: Dinovember

Today I'm over at the ALSC Blog sharing about my library's Dinovember display. Here's a sneak peek:

Photo Credit: Valerie Bogert

 
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