Say Hello to my “Little Friends”

The best part of strolling through exhibit floor at the ALA Midwinter meeting is coming across little gems! In Dallas my treasure was Little Friends, a lovely easy reader by debut author/illustrator Onur Tukel, published by Marshall Cavendish.

Three seasons take the reader through the budding friendship of two girls and the boy across the street. Sara and Louisa are established friends. They live next door to each other and do everything together. Barry lives across the street. He likes to play with his puppet, and doesn’t say much to anyone at all. After an argument over a shared love of swinging from their special tree resolves, the three form a friendship based on their fondness of adventure and a gentle tolerance of each other’s differences.

Each of the three chapters gently pushes a different character center stage, and by the end they felt as real as the kids in my neighborhood. The colors change delightfully with the seasons;  Browns shift to blue and white and finally green. Cartoon boxes keep the pace moving along with full page spreads drawing attention to the big moments. Marketed for ages 7-9, this book may be appreciated by readers who prefer kids instead of animals as their main characters. It’s also perfect as a read aloud or for kids who are ready for a little meatier vocabulary.

I hope Tukel has more stories about the Little Friends up his sleeve! If you can’t wait to see more from Tukel, check out what he’s done for grown-ups. Contact Youth Services to borrow the galley today.

Audiobooks on MP3 from Live-brary.com

With the fall publishing boom, the approach of Mock Discussion season, and my attempt to catch up with children’s literature’s back catalog, I’m turning to every format available to read books. There’s the CD in my car, the book in my lunch bag, the e-reader on my night stand, and the MP3 on my phone. This format – MP3 – has the least availability on Overdrive, making it difficult to find something to listen to on my phone. I did some digging on Live-brary.com, however, and found a few things of interest:

The 39 Clues

If you’re trying to keep up with Amy and Dan, try David Pittu’s narration of The 39 Clues series. His stage performance experience lends itself to these dramatic mystery/adventures. Suffolk libraries own the new Cahills vs. Vespers series, too. Even listening to one or two will give you enough sense of the series to discuss it with its fans.

The Hunger Games

If you haven’t read or completed this series by Suzanne Collins, now’s the time; the movie is in post-production and will hit theaters next year. You might recognize narrator Carolyn McCormick’s voice from Law & Order (pictured at left); she does a fine job in her performance of Katniss and the many other characters of Panem.

The Bloody Jack Series

This humorous historical-adventure by L.A. Meyer is narrated by Katherine Kellgren. To quote Audiofile magazine, “Kellgren has recorded well over 100 audiobooks and won four Audie Awards, three ALA Odyssey Honors, eight AudioFile Earphones Awards . . . and the list of honors goes on.” If you’re unfamiliar with this series, give the first one a try and enjoy one of Kellgren’s best performances.

What’s New for Back to School

Are your usual back to school stories all checked out? Are your displays looking picked over? Try directing your patrons to Live-brary for Kids, where the latest school stories will be featured for the next two weeks. Here are some of my favorite school stories this year:

Argus by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Andrea Wesson. This is the kindest, funniest book about inclusion and tolerance I’ve ever seen, and the best part is: it’s not obviously about either. Young readers will be too busy laughing at the zany dragon and the “clueless” teacher to know they’re learning how to be good classroom citizens.

Brave New Pond by Jennifer L. Holm*, illustrated by Matthew Holm. Okay, this one’s not published until September, but it’s never too early to build excitement (and hold queues) for a second volume in a great new graphic novel series. In this installment, Squish is hoping the first day of a new school year will give him a fresh start – no more detention!  

Eddie Gets Ready For School by David Milgrim. Eddie’s got big ideas about what to wear and take to school, but mom has other opinions. This story, told in a running check list, is a hilarious look at how a preschooler and mother can meet in the middle on morning decisions.

What’s your favorite school story?

*Don’t forget to register for Lit-Fest, where you can meet Jennifer Holm in person!

USBBY Program Highlights Noteworthy International Books

At the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) presented a panel discussion called International Children’s Book Publishing: A Small Press Perspective. Representatives from Groundwood, Kane/Miller, Chronicle, and NorthSouth Books spoke about their line of children’s books as well as the history and characteristics of their publishing companies. There are many books I would like to highlight here today, but I’ve chosen two that made it home with me in my suitcase, allowing ample time for reading and relishing: Seasons by Anne Crausaz (Kane/Miller) and 999 Tadpoles (NorthSouth).

Everything is green. It must be springtime. With this simple statement of fact, author/illustrator Anne Crausaz begins her exploration of the seasons through a child’s five senses. Each two-page spread has an exquisite color palette that is never ordinary. The autumn leaves are especially striking in their subdued shades of grey-blue, burnt orange, and mustard. There’s a cool perfection to the images that is warmed by the rosy cheeks and freckled face of the young protagonist as she gathers tomatoes in her skirt or tastes the first blackberries of autumn. This title will make a lovely addition to preschool storytime collections – and your coffee table.

One warm spring day, 999 tadpoles were born. First published in Japan in 2003, this story begins in springtime as well. When the frog family grows too large for their pond, they embark on a journey to find a new home. When Father is grabbed by a hawk, the family grabs on, too, forming a long, froggy chain. The exhausted hawk eventually lets go, leaving the frogs (and the reader) dangling in suspense until a chorus of splashes announces the family’s arrival in their new home. Illustrator Yasunari Murakami’s tiny frogs are expressive in their simplicity and hilarious in their numbers. White space, green frogs, and round yellow eyes dominate the pages, making the appearance of cool blue at the end all the more satisfying.

Both of these titles are available for Suffolk County librarians to borrow from the SCLS Youth Services Review Collection. The 9th IBBY Regional Conference (sponsored by USBBY) is titled Peace the World Together with Children’s Books and takes place in Fresno in October.

Spring Reading Round-up

As children and teens prepare to raid your libraries looking for good books to read, consider adding these titles to your reader’s advisory arsenal:

This morning I finally read Boston Globe–Horn Book honor award-winning Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Vicky White (Candlewick). While the gorgeous tiger on the cover receives the most “page time” and is one of the few animals illustrated with color paint (most are rendered in pencil), Jenkins and White also highlight animals that are already extinct, have been rescued from extinction, or are currently threatened. Written in a conversational tone with accompanying factoids and beautifully illustrated, this book will be appreciated by animal lovers, budding artists, and just about everyone else.

Last night I finished Hidden by Helen Frost (Francis Foster Books). While you’ve probably read a million stories about two fourteen-year-old girls at summer camp, you’ve never read one like this. This is poetry you can sell as a suspenseful-surprising-coming of age-quick-read for the 10 and up set. Thank you, Ms. Frost.

Where Do You Stay? by Andrea Cheng (Boyds Mills Press) has the fewest copies in the county of any of these titles, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. What I admired about Cheng’s 2010 offering Only One Year (Lee and Low) was how she never used an unnecessary word. Just like the way my mother irons, there’s never an extraneous stroke. In Where Do You Stay?, Cheng accomplishes the same while incorporating the repetition of key words and phrases, deftly introducing the themes in a way that is both subtle and shimmering. This is the perfect title to hand those future English majors in your book clubs.

Spinning in my car is Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney, read by Bahni Turpin, S’Von Ringo, and J.B. Adkins (Listening Library). There’s something about Davis Pinkney’s writing that begs to be read aloud. When Turpin read four lines of Hibernia (the somewhat overly dramatic aspiring singer) bawling as she thinks “I’m drenched from my bangs to my toe jam,” I laughed until I was misting too. This is summer road-trip worthy.  

And then there’s Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (First Second, ((where you can read an excerpt and view the book trailer here)). Debut graphic novelist Brosgol was born in Moscow and raised in the U.S. Her protagonist, Anya Borzakovskaya, struggles with many of the issues a reader can presume Brosgol experienced herself. This is a sensitive and entertaining look at how a teen haunted by her past can come to a place of self-acceptance from just about any road – but it always helps to fall down a hole.

What are you reading?

Treasure in the Booth

The word “buzz” is used frequently at BEA; you hear it almost as often as “e-book.” But there is BUZZ, and then there is lowercase buzz. I discovered the latter type browsing in the smaller booths and reading treasures like My Name is Elizabeth! by debut author and illustrator Annika Dunklee and Matthew Forsythe.

As you can see from her unwavering gaze, Elizabeth knows what she wants, and it is NOT a nickname. Don’t call her Betsy or Lizzy or Liz. It’s Elizabeth, thank you very much!

Published by Kids Can Press in September and starred by Kirkus, this gem is already shining.