After a couple of posts in summery locations, it’s time to get back to books. Scanning my list of new library purchases I realize I’ll have to save at least half for another post, not only because I haven’t had a chance to read many of them, but because they are checked out. At my library we used to have high shelving throughout the children’s area. But then, once upon a time, we realized that not only could young readers not reach the high shelves but those tall bookcases gave the library a darker, more cluttered look. So our trusty handyman proceeded to remove the top layer of shelving. Wow, what a difference. From the main circulation desk we can see straight through to the far colorful walls of the children’s areas. And we get to place all our new book purchases upright on the new shelf tops. Their bright shiny covers are hard to resist, hence the lack of picture books for me to check out—they’re all in the hands of happy readers! The following are new titles with quick reviews on each of them.
May I Have a Word? written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Andy Rash is a very clever book from title to concept. I mean who among us is not familiar with refrigerator magnets? The story begins with an argument between the letters C and K about which one of them should be the star, leading to a fun way to learn the difference between these two letter sounds. Although the type size of the actual story seemed a little small (maybe to keep it from getting mixed up in all the magnetic letters?), this book still has enough humor and cheerful color to keep kids interested.
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Adam Rex is strange, bizarre, crazy, and a LOT of fun. Follow the stories of these three warriors to find out how they went from being on their own to teaming up to be a popular playground game.
Monkey Brother, written and illustrated by Adam Auerbach is a cute book. The story has a good message as well as fun illustrations and a surprise at the end.
Everyone Loves Cupcake is written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Eric Wight. What a sweetheart—everyone knows someone like Cupcake, someone who tries so hard to be perfect and then sometimes goes overboard until those same friends she wants so desperately to gain begin drifting away. This book came out in 2016, but is new to me.
Pandora, written and illustrated by Victoria Turnbull, is about a sweet-faced fox who always makes the best of things. She is patient and kind and a good friend, as well as a lover of nature. A small bird enters her dark, dreary realm and rewards her with a tiny twig of life that rebuilds the world around them. Beautiful soft illustrations of colored pencil and watercolor add much to this important tale.
Home in the Rain, written and illustrated by Bob Graham, is one of those books that takes a small episode and makes it into a special memory. Journeying home through a major rainstorm brings inspiration of the grandest kind. Rather than getting all stressed out about the stormy weather, this super mom and daughter, Francie, stay calm and centered. They even have a picnic and decide on a new name for the upcoming birth of Francie’s baby sister!
The Sheep Who Hatched an Egg, written and illustrated by Gemma Merino,is a fun tale about Lola who learns she can feel proud and happy even when she isn’t perfect or beautiful because kindness and friendship is much more important than having the best hairdo. The animal characters have well-done expressive faces.
I Wrote You a Note is written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd and provides an interesting glimpse at the many places a written note might wander to before arriving at its destination. I love the soft, lively, earth-tone illustrations.
Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall, is such a sweet tale and one that everyone can relate to. Jabari is ready to dive into the pool, but can he do it? With the help of his caring dad and cheering baby sister, Jabari’s road to success is told with warmth and humor.
LIFE, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, is an absolutely beautiful book. Wenzel’s unique layered illustrations can be appreciated over and over again. They are a perfect partner for Rylant’s lyrical prose about the whole essence of what it means to live. I would quickly gift this stunning book to anyone of any age who is feeling overwhelmed.
If I Weren’t with You, written by Rosie J. Pova and illustrated by Philip Martineau, is a reassuring story, perfect for bedtime or story time. It’s hard for young ones to picture their parents as anyone BUT their parents which leads Willie to question his mother’s love as they stroll through the forest. Her reaffirming answers bring comfort, while cute illustrations add to the story.
Deep in the Woods is written and illustrated by Christopher Corr. From the gorgeous colorful endpapers to the bright and dazzling illustrations, this is a beautifully designed book. A gentle tale about a variety of animals who despite being very unlike each other, discover they can not only live together but can overcome a disaster by once again working together in order to not leave anyone out (especially a large bear who caused the house to fall down when he couldn’t fit inside.) Colors are like a brand new box of pastels of many shades.
She Persisted, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, offers wonderful encouragement for young girls with big dreams. I love reading inspirational biographies and found this to be a jackpot with thirteen nuggets in one. The brief stories of these amazing women flow nicely together and show how each woman persisted with her ideas despite running into roadblocks or being told her goal was impossible.
The Secret of Black Rock, written and illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, was another fun find. As soon as I saw the cover for this book, I knew I had to get a copy—seals, puffins, and a girl in a boat could only mean great adventures lie ahead. Very enjoyable tale and illustrations!
The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierr Morgan, is thoroughly enjoyable. The busy happy children in this lyrical story will inspire everyone to want a garden, whether it be a single flower pot or something larger. The cheerful sun-filled illustrations have a beautiful earthy quality, vivid yet at the same time soft and airy. I especially like seeing all the children doing their own work from planting and tending to harvesting. Love the seed packets on the endpapers, too! This delightful book is based on a real community garden in Seattle, WA.
Little Ree (a child version of the author), written by Ree Drummond and illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, is told in first-person monologue style. It can be interesting to see how celebrities are allowed to break traditional rules when dabbling in picture book writing. The colorful pictures fill in some of the spaces in this slice of life episode. For example, I enjoyed how with nary a word, the illustrator adds a whole scene of Ree receiving cowgirl clothes from her grandparents. The many cousins who come to visit Ree are fun to match up from page to page, as well.
So now you know, if you enter the children’s area of your local library and see worn copies of old books on display, it might only be because those were the last books taken out and then the library pages tossed them back on top again. Newer picture book purchases could be sitting tidily on the bottom shelf (in alphabetical order by author) never to see the light of day. Despite what some library patrons might think, all fortunate libraries DO buy new books, you might just have to hunt for them OR better yet, ask your friendly librarian to find you a copy!
For more reviews of 2017 picture books, please clickhereto see my post from several months ago.
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Great Reviews for CALL ME AMY
“Well-drawn, sympathetic characters and the developing spark between Amy and Craig combine to create a pleasant, satisfying read.” –KIRKUS
“Strykowski lovingly captures seaside Maine and the travails of adolescence in her quiet, sweet-natured debut novel.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Strykowski ably depicts Amy’s insecurity and self-doubt, Craig’s bravura and pain, and Miss Cogshell’s wisdom with a deft, convincing touch. In essence, Amy comes of age as she fights to find her voice in the outside world and shed some of her debilitating insecurity. Readers will cheer her on, and her splendid team, too.” –BOOKLIST
"The protagonist grows throughout the story, from a shy loner to having two friends and speaking her mind in front of her adversaries at school as well as to the whole town. …Amy is a reliable narrator and easily relatable.” –SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
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“To do a good deed, we can find friendship in the most curious of locations. “Call Me Amy” is a novel from Marcia Strykowski following the struggles of Amy Henderson, who finds an injured seal and seeks to nurse it, with the help of a scorned aging woman and an unusual youth. Set in the early 70s and exploring the essence of loneliness, “Call Me Amy” is a powerful read that should prove so very hard to put down, highly recommended.”—MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
“This is a wonderful YA tale for the simple fact that it shows one and all that the power and courage to stand up and be heard in this life comes from within. And that no matter who you are, you have that toughness inside your soul. Craig has a lovely heart that hides behind that sarcasm he aims at the world, and he will remind every small town girl about that quiet boy she fell in love with long ago. ‘Old Coot’ brings the fun and humor along with her, and Pup is the sweetest creature in the world. Having all the ingredients of first love, faith, loss and strength makes ‘Amy’ unforgettable.” —FEATHERED QUILL
“For Amy, 1973 has been a lonely year, her only friend moved away and she feels awkward around her classmates. Until one day Amy discovers that Craig, another classmate, has rescued an injured seal pup. Amy agrees to help him and together they hide the pup at Miss Cogshell’s house, the odd old lady most kids call “Old Coot.” Amy learns that people aren’t always what they seem to be, and she forms a friendship with Craig and Miss Cogshell. A great story about friendship and doing what you think is right.” —KIDSBOOKSHELF
“For those ages 8 to 12, Call Me Amy by Marcia Strykowski will resonate with familiar themes of growing up. The year is 1973 and for Amy Henderson, it has been a lonely one with too many awkward moments to count. When she finds an injured seal pup, she rescues him to rehabilitate him. In the process she forms an unlikely alliance with Craig, a boy around her age, and an older woman in town. With their help she discovers that people aren’t always what they seem despite what others may think of them. This is a story filled with many elements that will appeal to younger readers and I highly recommend it.”—BOOKVIEWS.COM
"A wounded seal pup propels 13-year-old Amy Henderson into an unlikely alliance with an unusual older woman and a mysterious boy in a small Maine fishing village. Readers will cheer for Amy as she protects Pup, gains confidence, faces challenges, and comes up with an idea that could change not only the future of her village, but also, her own life. With a skillful hand, Strykowski introduces us to a small town with memorable characters and the girl who could bring them all together." ---Anne Broyles, award-winning author of PRISCILLA AND THE HOLLYHOCKS
"In a small town in Maine in the 1970's, Amy is standing on the brink of becoming a young adult. The events that will force her to discover who she is, what she is made of and how she wants others to perceive her are sweetly told through awkward teenage moments, the triumphs and sadnesses of that age and ultimately, Amy's discovery of her own beliefs, strength and courage." ---Kathleen Benner Duble, acclaimed author of THE SACRIFICE
“Call Me Amy is exactly the type of book I love. The characters are relatable and likeable; they are individuals that the reader enjoys getting to know while watching them change and develop. The setting of the small Maine coastal town is idyllic, and the reader is quickly and completely immersed in this community. Although the novel takes place in the 1970s, it feels timeless. Young readers will readily associate with Amy’s struggles and triumphs with her relationships with family and friends, and mature readers will be gently nudged back to this period in their life. These universal qualities make this novel a perfect choice for many types of readers. As a Youth Services Librarian, I would enthusiastically recommend Call Me Amy to our young patrons as well as to a more adult audience. Because it can be enjoyed on so many levels, this novel would be an ideal source of discussion for an adult/child book group.” ---Patty Falconer, Youth Services Librarian
"I just finished CALL ME AMY and I think it is wonderful with beautiful descriptions. I love the characters and their story. It is like having seen a good play or movie and later, while you are doing other things, it comes back to you and you think about the characters again." ---Peggy Arnold, retired teacher and avid reader.
For 13-year-old Amy Henderson, 1973 has been a lonely and uneventful year in her small Maine fishing village. With the help of a wounded seal pup, she gets to know Craig, who slinks around in an oversized army jacket. A new law against handling wild marine mammals brings suspense to the story. Where can they keep Pup until he heals? Their only hope is to trust Miss Cogshell, an elderly woman keeping to herself amidst jeers from the local kids, who catches them sneaking Pup into her woodshed in the middle of the night. Throughout the book, small challenges prepare Amy for her greatest one of all. A challenge that leads her to discover that everyone, herself included, has a voice worth hearing.