The Children's Book Compass

Posts Tagged ‘Candlewick Press

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos.   (2011).  341 pages.  FSG.  Ages 11- 14.

Gantos won the Newbery for 2012 for this humorous, autobiographical novel. In 1962, twelve-year-old  Jack gets in trouble and is grounded for the summer.  His mother only lets him out of his punishment to help an elderly neighbor type obituaries for the local newspaper.  Gantos loads his story with unexpected twists and turns that are zany and sometime mysterious.

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard.  (2011).  183 pages.  Delacorte Press.  Ages 14-adult.  Realistic Fiction.

As sixteen-year-old Alex begins the school year at his boarding school, he is unable to save his roommate from drowning.  That event consumes Alex as the truth of what happened consumes him with guilt.  A supporting English teacher nurtures Alex’s poetic talents and tries to help him come to terms with the drowning.  This novel explores moral issues and the cost of peer pressure in a way that demonstrates the complexity of being a teenager.

 Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor.  (2011).  247 pages.   Putnam.  Ages 11- adult.

Reading this book was a gift.  The story features lovable and intriguing characters that by the end of the book seem like friends.  The Mother of seventh grader, Raine, unexpectedly takes a job for the summer at a small artist retreat, Sparrow Road.  Raine is not happy about having to leave her home in Milwaukee.  It turns out that her mother wants Raine to meet the father she has never known who lives near Sparrow Road.  The summer turns out to be memorable and life changing for Raine.


Bluefish by Pat Schmatz.  (2011)  226 pages.  Candlewick Press.  Ages 12- adult.

Travis has hidden a secret – he can’t read.  When he gets to middle school he encounters a teacher who discovers his secret and offers him a solution.  A new friend, Velvetta, also helps him with his reading.  Both Travis and Velvetta are dealing with grief and loss.  How they learn to trust and support each other as they become friends makes a story that sticks to the heart.

I have been sick for most of the last month, and haven’t been able to post any reviews.  However, I have been reading and found some terrific books to recommend.  Since there are so many, I will just give a brief reviews over the next few days.  Please note that most of these books have a wide age appeal.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Slobhan Dowd.  Illustrated by Jim Kay.  (2011).  204 pages.  Candlewick Press.  Ages 11-adult.

This powerful book enthralled me from the first pages.  I think it is one of the most compelling and honest novels I have ever read.  Colin’s mother is dying of cancer and he is haunted by a monster.  Is the monster part of a nightmare or, is it real?  Will the monster help Colin face the truth of his mother’s situation?  The ending is tremendously moving and brought me to tears.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu.  (2011).  312 pages.  Walden Pond Press.  Ages 9-12.  Fantasy.

Breadcrumbs is an intriguing mix of realistic fiction and fantasy with the theme of the power of friendship.  Eleven-year-old Hazel and Jack are the best of friends in our contemporary world.  They love to read fantasies.  When Jack suddenly disappears, Hazel goes into a magic wood to rescue him from a white witch who has frozen his heart.  The story is enriched by many references to beloved fantasies.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt.  (2011).  360 pages.  Clarion.  Ages 11-15.  Historical/Realistic Fiction.

Eighth grader, Doug Swieteck surmounts difficult challenges in 1968 when his family moves to a new home in upstate New York.  Doug’s perseverance, hard work, discoveries in art and kindness to others blesses himself his family and the people in his new community.  Schmidt tells the story in Doug’s voice which is humorous and endearing.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.  (2011)..  422 pages.  Greenwillow.  Ages 12-adult.  Fantasy.

What a captivating, fantastic romance and adventure.  The heroine is a princess who has always believed that she is nothing compared to her older sister.  How she discovers her own strength, intelligence and ability to lead makes an engrossing  and enchanting story.

Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak.  Illustrated by Philip Hopman.  (2011).  145 pages.  Eerdmans.  Ages 10-adult.

Here is a story based on real events of a troop of Polish soldiers in World War II.  The soldiers discover a small bear cub and adopt him.  The bear travels with the soldiers from Iran to Egypt and finally to Scotland at the end of the war.  In the midst of war, the bear provides a relief from tragedy with his humorous antics.  Maps of the soldiers’ journey and photographs at the end enrich the story.  Winner of the Mildred Batchelder Award which is given to book originally published in another country in a language other than English.

The Lily Pond by Annika Thor.  (2011).  217 pages.  Delacorte Press.  Ages 10-14.

A sequel to A Faraway Island, winner of the Mildred Batchelder Award in 2010.  This book follows thirteen year old Stephie Steiner, as she goes to school on the mainland.  Her Jewish parents have sent Stephie and her sister to Sweden to protect them from the Nazi persecution.  Stephie must please her foster parents, navigate through the difficulties of a new school and the responsibilities of being a scholarship student while she experiences her first love.

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales by Chris Van Allsburg.  (2011).  221 pages.  Houghton Mifflin.  Ages 11-adult.  Short Stories.

When I last taught sixth grade my students were inspired to tell the stories they saw in the gripping pictures of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.  Now fourteen talented authors have created their own stories that are evoked by each the pictures.  The original pictures are included with each short story.  Young people will enjoy the stories and want to compare them with their own versions.  Read the some of the stories aloud to hook listeners who will want to read more who will want to read more on their own.

Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby by Patricia MacLachlan.  Illus. by Elizabeth Zunon.  (2011).  Unpaged.  Candlewick Press.  Ages 1-6.

In Swahili the words, Lala salama, means sleep peacefully.  Reading this lyrical, sweet book will ensure sweet dreams for any child.  An African mother works through the day keeping her baby close on her back, her lap or in her arms.  As the day unfolds the mother croons to her child with words that describes the day i.e.  “LONG AGO, this morning,/ the sun rose/ above the hill/above our house,/ spilling light over the hills of the Congo/and the lake with the beautiful name,/ Tanganyika,/ like a song. Lala salama, little one.”  The day comes full cycle with the mother singing the baby to sleep, “Close your eyes,/my/dear/child.  Lala salama.”  The luscious oil paintings in rich and soothing colors show all the day’s activities in detail with  the landscape in beautiful vistas.

Read aloud these two books about Chinese New Year to celebrate the Year of the Dragon.  This year’s celebration will be on January 23, 2012.

A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong.  Illus. by Zhu Cheng-Liang.  (2011).  ).  Pages not numbered.  Candlewick Press.  Ages 5-8.  Picture Book.

For young Maomao Chinese New Year is particularly special because it means her Papa will be home.  He builds houses “in faraway places,” and only come home once a year.  Together the family celebrates with new clothes for little Maomao and Mama, a haircut for Papa, making and eating sticky rice balls, finding a good luck coin in the sticky rice balls, visiting friends, making repairs on the house, listening to fire crackers, and watching the dragon dance.  The colorful, detailed illustrations expand the story.  The backgrounds show contemporary streets in China and the festive decorations for the New Year’s celebrations.  The use of red and patterns in the character’s clothing sparks the illustrations.  Some illustrations are splashed across two pages with no text to show larger scenes like the dragon dancers animating the vivid dragon.  The illustrator has a special talent for showing the characters’ emotions.  This book was first published in China and received an award for the best Chinese Children’s Picture book.  The illustrations were also recognized by the New York Times as one of the Best Illustrated Books of 2011.

Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine.  Illus. by Yan Nascimbene.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Candlewick Press.  Ages 5-8.  Picture Book.

When his Grandpa visits from China, Vinson is fascinated as he watches him practice tai chi.  Grandpa knows English but he wants to speak in Chinese to his grandson and uses his grandson’s Chinese name, Ming Da.  The boy learns tai chi from Grandpa but is disappointed because he is just learning poses and not the kung fu moves he hoped for.  A small drawing under the text illustrates and names each pose.  The story ends with the Chinese New Year parade when Ming Da gets to participate in leading the lion dancers.  Grandpa compliments his grandson and tells him that he has potential to learn the martial arts beginning with tai chi if he is willing to make a serious commitment and work hard for many years.  An Author’s Note at the end explains more about the two major schools of martial arts and the Chinese New Year holiday.  Large size illustrations using ink and watercolors are opposite each page of text.  This book would be excellent for reading aloud in the classroom because the children can easily see the pictures.

Cuddle up with your children and make Christmas memories by reading aloud these books. The first four tell about Christmas in past times.

The Money We’ll Save by Brock Cole.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  FSG.  Grades K-4.  Picture book.

Cole’s droll, expressive illustrations coupled with his subtle, humorous text make this a book that requires multiple reading to keep savoring the fun of the story.  The setting is a ninetieth century New York City tenement.  The family with four children is stuffed into the three small rooms.  Ma asks Pa to go to the market to purchase two eggs and a half of pound of flour so she can make pancakes for supper.  She instructs him, “Now just buy two eggs and a half pound of flour,  Remember, Christmas is not far off, and we must save every penny.”  Pa also brings home a turkey poult to fatten for Christmas dinner.  Pa tells the family, “It will fatten up into a fine bird, and we can have it for Christmas dinner.  Think of the money we’ll save!”  The children name the turkey Alfred and feed him table scraps.  Alfred quickly out grows out his box by the stove, steals the families’ food and makes messes everywhere.  Pa’s wacky ideas to solve the problem escalate as Alfred grows.  When Alfred is hung from the clothes line with a pulley that runs out over the privies the neighbors protest with umbrellas covering their head to protect them from Alfred’s massive white droppings littering their clothes, their hair and even a dog.  The children object that it would be like eating a friend when Pa is ready to take the bird to the butcher.  The family comes up with a clever solution to save Alfred and restore peace to their home.  They eat oatmeal on Christmas day because all their pennies have been spent.  Pa remarks sadly, that “…it isn’t much of a holiday feast…”  “Ah, but think of the money we saved,” said Ma …”   Allow children plenty of time to relish the fun details in the illustrations.  Some made me laugh out loud.

The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve.  Illus. by Ellen Beier.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Holiday House.  Grades K-4.  Picture book.

This quiet memoir is about sacrificing, giving and caring.  Virginia and her brother grow up on the Sioux reservation where their father is the Episcopal priest of the village.  Virginia longs for a new coat to replace the threadbare, outgrown one she has and to keep her warm in the frigid South Dakota weather.  She hopes for one from the boxes sent by church congregations in New England.  When the boxes arrive there is a coat that Virginia hopes for, but another girl takes it.  A happy ending provides Virginia with a beautiful, new coat and her brother with cowboy boots.  Small details in the illustrations enrich the story:  in school the children write with pens and inkwells; a Christmas pageant in the church guildhall features children as the wise men in feathered headdresses and full regalia; Santa’s pack is filled with dolls, balls and toy cars.   This unusual story captures the spirit of Christmas.

The Carpenter’s Gift:  A Christmas Tale About the Rockerfeller Center Tree by David Rubel.  Illus. by Jim LaMarche.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Random House.  Grades 1-4.  Picture book.

This book that takes place in the Depression of 1931 tells a hopeful story that will resonate with children of today.  Henry’s parents are out of work and his family is barely surviving in a shack with no money for coal for the stove or warm blankets for the beds.  Henry’s dad borrows a truck on Christmas Eve and father and son cut spruce trees to sell in New York City that is an hour from their small home.  They find a good spot to sell their trees close to the construction site for Rockefeller Center.  When they have sold most of the trees they give the tallest and best to the construction workers.  Henry helps decorate the tree and makes a star out of newspaper.  As he hangs the star he wishes for a new home for his family.  He takes home and plants a pinecone from one of the trees.  On Christmas morning, the family is thrilled to find the construction workers who have brought extra wood from the construction site to build a home for the family.  Henry gets to help.  Many years later, when Henry returns to his parent’s home and finds that the pine cone has grown into a gorgeous, tall spruce.  He donates it to the Rockefeller Center for their Christmas display.  The gift of a new home continues when the season is over because the wood from the tree is used to build a home for a family in need.  Notes at the end explains about the history of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and how Habitat for Humanity builds home for families like Henry’s that lack adequate shelter.  LaMarche’s lush, expressive paintings glow and show the compassion to the story.

Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World by Douglas Wood.  Illus. by Barry Moser.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Candlewick Press.  Grades 4-8.  Nonfiction.

In December of 1941, Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, came through a terrible Atlantic storm on a battleship to meet at the White House with President Roosevelt.  Churchill had already led his country in two years of war against Nazi Germany.  “… he and the president would plan how they might save the world.”  Wood describes the important meetings of the two leaders and their aides as well as the events of the Christmas holidays.  At the end of the book the two leaders had forged a relationship that would sustain them over the terrible years of the war.  The book ends with “The two friends did trust each other, through every hardship and difficulty, victory and defeat, over the next years of World War II.  Millions of others trusted them as well, all around the world.  It was a world they helped to save with their courage and their friendship, on that important Christmas of 1941.”  Wood shows the human side of the two leaders.  Churchill insisted on two hot baths a day.  “One day Franklin barged into Winston’s room just as he was getting out of the tub.  “Think nothing of it,” said Winston.  “The prime minister of Great Britain has nothing to conceal from the president of the United States!”  Moser’s painting shows Churchill a cigar clutched in his mouth with a towel draped over his lower body.  The choices of paper, typeface, design elements, and paintings combine to make this a beautifully crafted book.  A note at the end explains that the paintings “were based, in part, on historical photographs, which were freely cropped, modified, and merged into totally new images …”  This excellent book will introduce young readers to a vital part of our history.

A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Philomel.  Grades K-4.  Picture book.

I have read this book aloud several times to appreciative audiences.  Pyn and her father, Oother, live alone on a mountain.  “Oother loved his daughter very much.  But he was a bearlike mountain man who did not soften for anyone.  Not even Pyn.”  Pym is industrious in taking care of their home and providing meals while Oother works in the woods.  Pyn ask for a Christmas tree to help them celebrate Christmas.  Taciturn Oother doesn’t seem interested.  Pyn takes matters into her own hands and decides to surprise Oother with a perfect tree she cuts down herself.  Finding the perfect tree turns out to be hard work as Pyn struggles through the deep snow.   When she becomes buried in the snow Oother finds her and together they discover the perfect tree.  Pyn decorates the tree with a collection of things she has found in the woods and saved.  Oother surprises her with a precious ornament for the top of the tree he made for her mother and saved.  Dunrea’s quiet illustrations in gouache and pencil shows daughter and father in profile and thus captures the contrast in their sizes and natures.  This story is about how steadfast love and the beauty of Christmas can soften a heart.

 

 

A House in the Woods by Inga Moore.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Candlewick Press.  Grades P-3.

A House in the Woods is a fresh and beautiful picture book that will become a classic.  The gentle story tells about two Little Pigs that each make themselves a home in the woods.  One little pig made a den and the other a hut.  Then the two Little Pigs “went out walking together.”  But when they came home they found that a big Bear has moved into the den and a huge Moose has taken over the hut.  Neither Little Pig minds because they liked the Bear and the Moose.  However, the Pigs’ homes were wrecked and they had “nowhere to live – not to mention Moose and Bear.  This was a pickle.  It really was.”   Moose came up with a brilliant solution to their problem.  They will build a big house that will shelter them all.  Since they can’t do it on their own  — “… Moose called the Beavers on the telephone . . .”   Soon a team of Beaver Builders come to help them.  The Beavers, complete with hard hats, arrive in trucks filled with building supplies.  The Beavers request that they “be paid in peanut-butter sandwiches.”   This charming story shows all the stages as the Beavers built the house.   The final pictures show the four friends gathered around their new fire place telling stories and then fast asleep in their new beds.  Moore’s softly colored lush illustrations make this a book to savor over every small detail of the woodland setting, the rapport between the friends and the enterprising, hard working Beavers.

Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys by Matt Phelan.  (2011).  235 pages.   Candlewick Press.   Grades 4-8.  Graphic Novel.

 

Phelan’s graphic novel fictionalizes the around the world journeys of three real people: Thomas Stevens, Joshua Slocum and Nellie Bly.  At the end of the nineteenth century people were inspired by Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days.  The three adventurers in this book decided to circumvent the globe based on the public interest in the feat.  The world travels of Stevens, Slocum and Bly were very different.  Stevens, a miner, made the journey in 1884, on bicycle with a 50-inch wheel.  Bly, a reporter for the newspaper, The World, raced a rival reporter around the world in 1889 on ocean liners and trains.  Bly won!  “Her journey lasted seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds.”  In 1895, Slocum decided to sail around the world on a thirty-six-foot sloop.  He became the first person to sail around the world alone.  Phelan emphasizes why Stevens, Slocum and Bly undertook their journeys.  He writes in his Author’s Note, “The public journeys (a straightforward presentation of events) began to shift to the private journeys (my interpretation of these events).  My journey for Around the World started down one path but reached a different and surprising destination. …  Isn’t that how all good journeys should end?”   Phelan’s varies the colors and frames of the story as it unfolds in the pictures.  The pace of the illustrations and the narrative keeps the reader engaged in the adventures.  A list of books that Phelan found “inspiring, invaluable and engrossing” will allow children to discover more about the adventurers.

 


Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

Contact Marilyn

e-mail: MarilynCaz@aol.com
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