Today is the day Children’s and Young Adult Librarians live for. The winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz and the whole host of lesser known American Library Association Youth Media Awards are announced. Without further ado, some video teasers for the big winners this year.
Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book: This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. Klassen pulled a rare double by also winning a Caldecott Honor for his illustrations for Extra Yarn by Mark Barnett.
Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
A video from Zoo Atlanta of the actual Ivan who died this summer.
Printz Medal for Young Adult Literature: An interview with Nick Lake discusses his inspiration for In Darkness.
From 500,000 years ago to today, Jim Murphy and Alison Blank explore hardy tuberculosis in Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-ending Search for a Cure. In addition to the skeleton of a 500,000 year-old young male in Western Turkey, depictions in art and literature establish its widespread existence throughout human history around the world. Because of the microscopic nature of the disease, it was not until 1880 that its cause was discovered. The result was a long history of cruel and ineffective treatments until some success with sanitoriums in the 1800s and then, finally, in 1943 a sick chicken led to the discovery of streptomycin.
As well as the process of scientific discovery, the social impact of tuberculosis is given extensive treatment by Murphy and Blank. The poor were often denied treatment, but campaigns to improve sanitation conditions in cities were beneficial to the poor. TB even played a role in early battles over Mexican immigration to California and the American Medical Association’s membership restrictions and their mostly successful attempts to close African American medical schools.
Despite the record of progress in the fight against TB, the threat of drug-resistant strains of TB means it continues to threaten today’s world making this an important read for current as well as historical interest. Fortunately, the ongoing fight to treat and diagnose TB is getting help many quarters including the fifteen -pound Gambian pouched rat that can successfully sniff out tuberculosis bacilli!
If you have been following the adventures of the latest Mars rover, Curiosity, pick up the story a little earlier with The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunityby Elizabeth Rusch. Beginning with the determined plans of Steven Squyres (rejected by NASA eight times before being taken on) to send a “geologist” to Mars, Rusch tracks the development of the twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
From their launch in 2003, their many accomplishments as well as the bumps along the way are documented through thrilling photographs and in-depth interviews with Squyres and others on the 4000-strong team that created and managed the rovers. While not the first expeditions to Mars, they were the most successful and certainly the longest, exceeding their expected life span of three months by, well, read and find out how these intrepid little rovers fared. You will find yourself cheering along for them and their human support crew as they encounter and overcome obstacle after obstacle. The book ends with information about the Curiosity rover with clear explanations about what it hopes to accomplish that Spirit and Opportunity could not as well as the many similarities between the rovers.
Opportunity at the Endeavour Rim
The interdisciplinary nature of space exploration means there are a multitude of talents involved. As in Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh the extent of the teamwork and involvement from so many different engineers and scientists from so many places amazes me. “It was so complicated that not a single one of us fully understood what was going on,” said Squyer. I highly recommend The Mighty Mars Rovers to anyone interested in space exploration, teamwork or involved in robotics competitions. It continues the tradition of exposing children to the amazing possibilities of science of earlier titles in the Scientists in the Field series.
It’s hard to beat puffins for cuteness. Cute + informative = a winning combination.
Once again, Ted and Betsy Lewin’s travels bring a fascinating glimpse into a way of life I never knew existed. InPuffling Patrol, the Lewins chronicle eight-year-old twins, Dani and Erna, as they rescue pufflings on the Icelandic island of Heimay. While only 4300 people live on Heimay, their lights are enough to confuse many of the young puffins making their way to sea each August. Children who join the Puffling Patrol stay up late to rescue puffins who land in the town from the dangers of dogs, cats, and vehicles (in the best of times, puffins’ stout bodies make takeoff challenging, the flat streets and weak young wings make takeoff in town impossible). What an awesome experience for the children! The illustrations capture both the joy and seriousness with which they approach their task. See the quarterback throw when the puffins are released and an enthusiastic rescue on the National Geographic Video (3 minutes).
The back matter on Atlantic puffins enhances the already fascinating book. Unfortunately, it was necessary to include information on the threats the puffins face. A shortage of sand eels is threatening the puffin population on Heimay mean that while 1600 pufflings were rescued in 2007, only ten were in 2010.
Puffling Patrol would pair well with The One and Only Ivan, a book that has been inspiring many children to want to do something for animals in need.
While there are exceptions it is generally parents, rather than children, that seek out the math books in our Children’s Room. It is exciting to hand the parents a math book that their children will enjoy as well as learn from. Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy is just such a book.
The text is spare and straightforward working hand in hand with the many illustrations to make the concept clear. A wide variety of examples from nature, art, the alphabet and holidays make the concepts of line and rotational symmetry easy to understand. Step by step, Leedy uses a pinwheel and a trillium to demonstrate the matches involved in rotational symmetry. From its visually striking symmetrical cover to the many examples within, the book makes finding symmetry in our world a fun and interesting activity. The back matter with activities and further explanations is helpful as well. The final page explaining why symmetry is an important math concept will be as helpful for parents (who often equate math with numbers) as children. An excellent book to share as a family before a nature walk or a game of Pac-Man.
In 1937, everybody in Beijing was on edge. Except Pamela Werner. The nineteen-year-old daughter of a former British consul, Pamela had grown up comfortably, but largely unsupervised in Armour Factory Alley, outside the Legation Quarter where most foreigners in Beijing lived at the time. She confidently travelled between both worlds boldly declaring “I am not afraid of anything.” Unfortunately her confidence was misplaced.
and the privileged foreign residents of the Legation Quarter and the fear that both felt with the impending Japanese occupation of the city. The detection work is restricted by the requirement that Col. Han Shih-ching work alongside British Detective Chief Inspector Richard Dennis with Col. Han discouraged from questioning foreigners and DCI Dennis restricted to investigation inside the Legation Quarter. Ultimately, her murder would be declared unsolved as the Japanese occupation took priority. Her father’s relentless quest to solve his daughter’s murder provided many of the resources Paul French calls upon to finally piece the puzzle together.
Fox Tower Where Pamela's Body Was Found
While this book is recommended for any fan of detective fiction or Chinese history, it was especially engaging if you are familiar with or planning a trip to Beijing. Using the the map and audio tour at the book’s website, plan a walk along Pamela’s route from her house, through the Badlands and into the Legation Quarter. Kuijiachang Hutong where Pamela and her widowed father lived on Armour Factor Alley is suitably spooky while the Tartar Wall near the Fox Tower (where her body was found) is magical at night – filled with people dancing in the park and, in spring, the scent of cherry blossoms. The hulking embassy buildings with their distinctive architecture make a striking end to the trek, but don’t stop there. Keep going past the official walk to swanky Capital M (just south of Tiananmen Square) for drinks overlooking Zheng Yang Gate.
African-American History Month in February invariably means that January is a great month for children’s historical fiction releases. This year is no exception. Four different eras/struggles are covered in these strong new releases: Reconstruction, the Depression, School Desegregation and Swimming Pool Desegregation.
Crow by Barbara Wright tells the story of the only coup d’etat in the United States through the eyes of Moses. It’s 1898, the summer between grades five and six. Moses is looking forward to swimming with his friend, Lewis, and dreaming of the day he might own a bicycle. The first part of the book is filled with the everyday joys and sorrows of a young boy growing up in a racist environment. A sense of foreboding is created in the very first sentence so the reader never gets too comfortable even when it is clear that Moses is well loved and African Americans are better off in Wilmington, North Carolina than most cities. Moses’ life is upturned when mob violence by white supremacists burns large sections of town, chases the educated African-Americans out of town and overthrows the city council, including his father. His tragedies mirror that of the larger community. A tragedy based in historical fact that is shocking and shameful.
In The Mighty Miss Malone, Christopher Paul Curtis fleshes out Deza Malone from Bud Not Buddy. Her family is struggling through the Depression in Gary, Indiana, but Deza is smart as a whip and loves life with her amazing family. Things change drastically after her father gets in an accident and moves to Flint for work. After her mother loses her job, Deza, her brother, Jimmie, and her mother set off to Flint as well. It’s a bumpy road filled with heartache, poverty and discrimination, but Deza never loses sight of the fact that the Malones “are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.”
Moving forward to 1958, Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine takes up a friendship impacted by race. Liz is the best friend super-shy Marlee has ever had. Liz has been passing and is forced to change to an African-American school. Marlee is determined to continue their friendship, but in a year when Little Rock closed its high schools rather than integrate, this is not an easy, or, for Liz, safe undertaking. Written in very brief chapters, the history of Little Rock comes alive through Marlee.
Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood takes place in Mississippi in the summer of 1964, beginning just before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. Every year Gloriana has celebrated her birthday with a party at the swimming pool, but this year the swimming pool has been shut down “for maintenance.” Outraged at the injustice of her birthday and summer days at the pool being ruined, Glory comes to understand the deeper injustices in her segregated town. The town’s struggles are mirrored in Glory’s changing relationship with her sister and best friend. Teenage Jesslyn is turning her back on her little sister while her friend Frankie is cowed by his racist father and older brother. Glory’s budding friendship with the Northerner Laura whose mother has come to nurse in the Freedom Clinics just adds to the tension.