Monday, December 31, 2012

Secrets & Sharing Soda's Books of the Year (2012)

It's the last day of 2012, so it's time to tally up the books I've read and choose my favorites.

First, the stats:

I read 1516 books this year (16 more than my goal, and 500 more than last year). They break down as follows:

From these books, I have selected my favorites in the categories and genres that I regularly review. My criteria for selecting these books were: literary quality, kid appeal, personal enjoyment of the book, and potential use in story time/library programs. Titles link to my reviews.

Favorite Young Adult Contemporary Novel 

Since You Left Me
by Allen Zadoff
(Egmont USA)

Honorable Mention:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton Books - Penguin Group)
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo (Knopf Books for Young Readers - Random House)
Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach (Sourcebooks Fire)

Favorite Middle Grade Novel 
by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Honorable Mention: 
The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone (Arthur A. Levine Books- Scholastic)
Ruby Redfort: Look into My Eyes by Lauren Child ( HarperCollins Children's Books)
About Average by Andrew Clements (Atheneum Books for Young Readers- Simon & Schuster)

Favorite Chapter Book
Stella Batts: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
by Courtney Sheinmel, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

(Sleeping Bear Press) 

Honorable Mention: 
Hooey Higgins and the Shark by Steve Voake (Candlewick Press)
Ivy and Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows (Chronicle Books)
Calvin Coconut: Rocket Ride by Graham Salisbury (Wendy Lamb Books - Random House)

Favorite Easy Reader 
by Jeff Mack
(Philomel Books - Penguin Group)

Honorable Mention: 
Bink and Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick Press)
Penny and her Doll by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books - Harper Collins)

Favorite Picture Book
by Katie Cleminson

Honorable Mention:
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray- Harper Collins)
Faster! Faster! by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick Press)
Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by G. Brian Karas  (Schwartz & Wade  - Random House)

Favorite Book in Graphic Format
Secret Diary
by Julien Neel
(Lerner Publishing Group)
Honorable Mention:
Her Permanent Record by Jimmy Gownley (Atheneum Books for Young Readers- Simon & Schuster)

What were your favorite books of 2012? Did you nominate them for Cybils? Tomorrow, find out the names of the finalists in each category over on the Cybils blog.

Caldecott Challenge Post #67

Timothy Turtle by Al Graham, illustrated by Tony Palazzo. Published 1946. Caldecott Honor 1947.

This is a well-written rhyming picture book. It plays with repetition and rhythm to create a fun reading experience. Like The Treasure, this is a story about making a journey that changes how you view yourself and your home upon your return. Only when Timothy stops trying to become famous does he succeed; he gains his fame from the humbling experience of being tipped over onto his back and needing to save himself. Al Graham is no Dr. Seuss, but this book uses words not commonly used in picture books - agog, swimmingly, bemoan, , etc. - that make it a great tool for exposing kids to new vocabulary. The words themselves are probably more interesting than the story, but the language was enough to keep me interested.

The Boats on the River by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Jay Hyde Barnum. Published 1946. Caldecott Honor 1947.

The sweet dedication at the start of this book is the first thing that caught my eye: “To Timmy who helped to make this book from his grandmother, who made the words and his father, who made the pictures.” What a nice thing it must be for a child to have relatives who write and illustrate books for him! Kids love to learn about transportation, and this book remains a relevant exploration of the different types of boats that travel by river. The illustrations reminded me of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, and I think the books would pair nicely for preschoolers and early elementary school kids.

Fish for Supper by M.B. Goffstein. Published 1976. Caldecott Honor 1977.

This is a basic, but charming little story about a grandmother’s daily routine. The illustrations are spare, tiny, and colorless, but they have a cartoonish quality that makes Grandma an appealing character. I love how prim and proper she looks in every image, whether she’s handling her boat or cleaning her fish. I’m a little bit surprised that a quiet, simple little book like this was ever given an award, but clearly there is more to it than just the daily activities of a grandmother.

Madeline’s Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans. Published 1953. Caldecott Medal 1954.

I don’t like this one as much as the original Madeline, and it’s surprising to me that this one won the Caldecott Medal while the original only got an Honor. The pages with paintings are very well done, but the line art on the alternating pages looks sloppy to me. The dog aspect of the story - and the cute ending where there are enough puppies to around - is a huge hit with kids, but compared with Madeline, this one seems forgettable.

If All the Seas Were One Sea by Janina Domanska. Published 1971. Caldecott Honor 1972.

I really enjoyed the geometric illustrations that accompany this poem. I find their symmetry very interesting and satisfying. Despite its age, this is a book I can imagine using in story time, especially with babies and toddlers.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #66

The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward. Published 1952. Caldecott Medal 1953.

A great story for animal lovers - and without that stereotypically sad ending. I love Ward’s use of shadow to create atmosphere in his pictures.

Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty. Published 1938. Caldecott Honor 1939.

Andy and the Lion is similar to The Biggest Bear, but a bit more whimsical. I enjoyed that Andy’s entire adventure with the lion originates with a library book, and that there is room in the story to believe that it really happened, or to believe everything happened in Andy’s imagination. I also noted the scene where the lion gets a thorn in his paw as similar to what happens in The Lion and the Mouse - could it be that this is one of the stories Andy read that got him so interested in lions to begin with? I was also interested in the dedication page, which refers to the New York Public Library lions as Lady Astor and Lord Lenox rather than Patience and Fortitude. I didn’t realize they’d ever had other names, but the whole story can be found here.

Five Little Monkeys by Juliet Kepes. Published 1952. Caldecott Honor 1953.

This is a tale about mischievous monkeys who redeem themselves and then become heroes. The illustrations are a bit unusual, and in some places, they seem totally random and disorganized. Random images of fruit and animals appear among the text on black and white pages, and some animals - like the lion and tiger - look real, while others, like the monkeys, look very cartoonish and not especially like themselves. I think the illustrations look like a child created them, and they don’t scream “Caldecott” to me at all.

The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night by Peter Spier. Published 1961. Caldecott Honor 1962.

I am not fond of books where the illustrations alternate between black and white and color. I always tend to gloss over the black and white and gravitate toward the color. This book is no exception. I love the vibrant colors of the paintings and mainly skipped over the less exciting line drawings. Though it might gross out some readers, I was pleased to see a fox acting like a fox. He should be killing birds for food and bringing them home to his babies! I love so many of the pictures it would be hard to choose a favorite, but I think my favorite aspect of each page is the fall foliage. The colors of the leaves do a wonderful job of evoking the chilly night.

Dash and Dart by Mary & Conrad Buff. Published 1942. Caldecott Honor 1943.

I really liked Dash and Dart. It’s written more like an easy reader than a picture book, though I’m not sure it has the controlled vocabulary that true easy readers do. I liked learning about the different stages a baby deer goes through, and though “Old Horny” is kind of an unfortunate name for a handsome buck, I liked the way Dash looked up to him. The scene where Dash does not recognize himself in the pond is kind of a cliche, but otherwise I thought this was a unique way to teach kids the details about how deer grow up.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #65

The Day We Saw the Sun Come Up by Alice E. Goudey. Published 1961. Caldecott Honor 1962.

I love this book because it shows kids exploring the world around them and learning from their mother about the science behind it. A brother and sister start the day by getting up early to greet the sun. At night, they learn what has happened to the sun, and they realize it is daylight somewhere else when it is night for them. The illustrations remind me somewhat of Margaret Bloy Graham’s illustrations for All Falling Down, which won its honor ten years before this book.

Hildilid’s Night by Cheli Duran Ryan, illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Published 1971. Caldecott Honor 1972.

I have always loved Arnold Lobel, but this book was unknown to me. I really like it, despite the fact that most kids I know don’t really engage with black and white illustrations in a story time setting. I think kids would laugh, though, at Hildilid’s efforts to get rid of the night, and the irony of the ending, where she misses out on the day because she is so tired. I think there are a lot of ways to apply this book to real life, and a lot of ways to interpret its message. My favorite of Lobel’s illustrations in this one is the page where the yellow sun begins to creep into the black and white panel were Hildilid and her dog are yawning.

The Angry Moon by William Sleator. Published 1970. Caldecott Honor 1971.

There is no doubt from the image on the front cover that the moon is angry. I’m not crazy about this book as a whole, but that is a great illustration, especially for the front cover. I returned this book to the library before I had a chance to take notes, so for this one, I’m going to have to leave it at that.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #64

The Story of Jumping Mouse by John Steptoe. Published 1984. Caldecott Honor 1985.

I liked everything about this book except the ending, which came completely out of nowhere and made very little sense. Jumping Mouse’s selflessness and desire to do more than just sit around eating berries is inspiring, and I expected the ending to reward him differently than it did. Still, the lifelike illustrations are eye-catching, even only in black-and-white, and it was fun trying to imagine how each animal might speak as I read the book aloud to my husband.

Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse by Leo Lionni. Published 1969. Caldecott Honor 1970.

I like the subtle way that Leo Lionni’s books teach kids life lessons. This story - in which a real mouse wishes to be a toy, while a toy mouse wishes to be real - explains the joys of being oneself, and of using your own good fortune to help others. I like the illustrations, mostly because they portray everyday household objects, but from a mouse’s point of view.

Juanita by Leo Politi. Published 1948. Caldecott Honor 1949. 

This book gives a nice glimpse into the life of one little girl living in Mexico. I didn’t find the story particularly compelling, and I thought the sheet music for the songs Juanita’s family sings would have fit better at the back of the book, rather than stuck in at random throughout the story. I did like the two-page spread where the children line up to have their animals blessed. The entire illustration tells a story all its own, and I can imagine kids spending time with it, making up their own characterizations and dialogue.

Nine Days to Christmas by Marie Hall Ets, illustrated by Aurora Lastabida

This story about a little girl hosting her first posada starts out as a nice slice of life story about a Mexican celebration. I could relate to Ceci’s anticipation and her continual questions to her mother about whether or not she would have a pinata. I even related to her reluctance to hit the pinata and break it. The ending takes a strange, almost supernatural turn, though, and that put me off the entire book.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #63

The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ed Young. Published 1967. Caldecott Honor 1968.

As I read this, I kept thinking about Princess Hyacinth by Florence Parry Heide. Pairing it with this book would make a great kite-themed story time. I love the colors in the artwork and how they seem to bleed seamlessly into one another. I like how we’re able to see each careful stroke of the illustrator’s paintbrush.

Crow Boy by Taro Yashima. Published 1955. Caldecott Honor 1956.

This is a great story for teaching kids about accepting differences. I like this one much better than the other Yashima title I have read, Umbrella. It is much more emotionally satisfying and much more interesting to the intended audience. The illustrations remind me a little bit of Don Freeman’s pictures for Fly High, Fly Low.

The Boy of the Three Year Nap by Dianne Snyder. illustrated by Allen Say. Published 1988. Caldecott Honor 1989.

This is a story not just about laziness, but about how Mom always gets the last word. The illustrations are very expressive, and I love Taro’s ingenuity, which he has clearly inherited from his mother. I also like that things work out for Taro. He gets over his laziness, and ends up with a job, a wife, and according to the last page, a baby of his own. Parents having trouble getting their adolescent kids to leave home might enjoy this one!

Seashore Story by Taro Yashima. Published 1967. Caldecott Honor 1968.

The story within a story approach Yashima uses in this book is interesting, even though I’m not sure I understand it. The softness of the illustrations evokes the seaside very nicely and also serves to make the story seem dream-like as the children reflect upon it. I love the final spread, which shows the ocean’s waves and nothing else, but I can’t claim to understand the note on which the book ends.

Good-Luck Horse by Chih-Yi Chan, illustrated by Plato Chan. Published 1943. Caldecott Honor 1944.

I didn’t connect very much with this story. The illustrations all look really similar to one another, and though the message of the story, that there isn’t really good luck or bad luck in the world, just luck, is interesting, it took way too long to get there. I’m glad we are much more economical with text in picture books nowadays!

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #62

Rumpelstiltskin illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Published 1986. Caldecott Honor 1987. 

This story gives me the creeps, and Zelinsky does a nice job of capturing the creepiness of the weird little man who can spin straw into gold. I like the way Zelinsky depicts faces in this one- his style made more sense to me in this book than in some of his others. I do wonder, though, why the miller’s daughter wants to marry the king - he seems like a jerk!

Duffy and the Devil by Harve & Margot Zemach. Published 1973. Caldecott Medal 1974.

While this is mostly just a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, I loved the way the story was written. There’s lots of fun vocabulary; words like bufflehead, clouts, rummage, plodging, and cock-a-hoop keep the tone fresh, and according to the book jacket, wholly Cornish, as the story is based on a play performed at Christmas by the people of 19th century Cornwall. I liked that the devil was made to look foolish rather than scary and that Jone, who is supposedly too old to effectively do her job is the one who is able to save the day in the end.

Tom Tit Tot by Evaline Ness. Published 1965. Caldecott Honor 1966.

Of the Rumpelstiltskin retellings on the list of Caldecott medalists and honorees, I think this British version is my favorite. It’s the most lively version with the most cartoonish characters, and the illustrations by Evaline Ness, with whom I have a love/hate relationship, actually suit the story quite well.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #61

Little Red Riding Hood. illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Published 1983. Caldecott Honor 1984.

I really am not a fan of fairy tales, but there is some interesting character development in this version of the story. I loved that Red Riding Hood’s mother warns her against “staring ‘round about you” and “sucking your finger.” I also noticed that she is friendly to the wolf after her mother warns her to mind her manners. Maybe her mother should have told her not to talk to strangers instead! My childhood mind didn’t like the scene where the woodcutter cuts the grandmother and Red Riding Hood out of the wolf’s body, and my adult mind still doesn’t get how that would ever be possible. I think I’m too hung up on reality to truly appreciate fairy tales.

The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Published 1992. Caldecott Honor 1993.

This book is really funny, and I love how it plays with the actual format of the book in the telling of the story. I really enjoyed the Little Red Hen’s obnoxious questions placed at various points in the book. She is such a demanding character, and her demise at the end of the book is very satisfying. My favorite of all the tales was probably either “Jack’s Bean Problem” or “The Really Ugly Duckling” but all of them were very good. I kind of want to make the Stinky Cheese Man into a flannel board for a “yucky things” preschool story time.

Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm. illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. Published 1972. Caldecott Honor 1973.

I love the illustrations in this one. I don’t especially like the fact that we alternate between words and images - I like it better when they work together on the same page - but this is an even better retelling of this fairy tale than the one by Wanda Gag!

Cinderella by Marcia Brown. Published 1954. Caldecott Medal 1955. 

Of all the fairy tales I have read and re-read in this challenge, I’m finding that I have a renewed love for Cinderella. I think Disney has actually ruined my impression of the story somewhat; this translation of the original tale seems much less frivolous. I love that Cinderella’s happy ending is extended to her stepsisters. Some people might say it’s fair for them to receive their comeuppance, but I like the thought of teaching kids to be forgiving and generous with the wealth they receive. Cinderella’s much more than a princess in this version. I like her a lot more this way.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #60

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble. Published 1978. Caldecott Medal 1979.

I love the way Paul Goble creates different landscapes in his illustrations, simply by changing the arrangement of his figures on a white background. The story itself freaked me out a little bit, but I have never been fond of horses. Little girls with that particular obsession will undoubtedly relate much better to the girl’s desire to run with the horses, and to become one.

The Mighty Hunter by Berta and Elmer Hader. Published 1943. Caldecott Honor 1944.

I like the layout of this book, the color scheme, and the cumulative structure. I suspect there are probably some cultural inconsistencies in the way Little Brave Heart is portrayed that should keep it out of classrooms and public story times, but the message of the story, that bravery doesn’t come from our ability to kill things, is a valuable one for any time period.

Where the Buffaloes Begin by Olaf Baker. illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Published 1981. Caldecott Honor 1982.

I can definitely understand why these illustrations were recognized by a Caldecott committee. They are full of intriguing shadows, and they have an almost haunting quality. The story, on the other hand, is a bit wordy. This book and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses seem very similar to me. This might be related to the fact that they were published only three years apart.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #59

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.  by Verna Aardema. illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Published 1975. Caldecott Medal 1976.

If I’ve read this one before, I’ve since forgotten it, but I really liked it - both the illustrations and the story. The death of the baby owl would have traumatized me as a kid, which is why I might avoid using it at story time, but I love the way it becomes a cumulative story as the blame is traced back to the mosquito’s words on the very first page of the story. It’s a great lesson in cause and effect and a great warning against telling lies and making assumptions. And the last page, where the mosquito gets smacked, is somehow very satisfying.

Ashanti to Zulu. by Margaret Musgrove, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Published 1976. Caldecott Medal 1977.

This book would make an interesting introduction for an elementary school class studying African culture. I would consider incorporating parts of it myself into a library program, though it might be a bit dry for a read-aloud. The illustrations are by the Dillons, who I recognize as major talents, but I will admit that I focused more on the text than the pictures.

A Story, A Story. by Gail E. Haley. Published 1970. Caldecott Medal 1971.

This picture book is the story of how Ananse the Spiderman managed to get the stories of the world away from the Sky God, making it possible for us to tell our own stories. The repetition of certain phrases - used for emphasis in African story telling - make it a great one for reading aloud. I think kids will especially like the various tricks Ananse performs to outsmart the three creatures who stand between him and the stories.

Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky by Elphinstone Dayrell, illustrated by Blair Lent. Published 1968. Caldecott Honor 1969.

This story is very direct and comes to an abrupt end once all the information has been delivered. I tend to think folk tales that explain natural phenomena like this are silly and far-fetched, and this wasn’t really any exception. I liked the patterns in the costumes on the figures, and the blues of the water people’s outfits in particular. I am also intrigued by the idea of the sun and moon as husband and wife.

Moja Means One by Muriel Feelings, illustrated by Tom Feelings. Published 1971. Caldecott Honor 1972.

This is another informative lesson in African culture and language. Kids always like the opportunity to learn words in a new language, so this book will be likely to grab their attention. The illustrations are similar to the pictures in other similar titles illustrated by Tom Feelings - they’re lovely to look at, but I have a hard time comparing one book to the other.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Preschool Story Time, 12/21/12

At the last minute, I decided on a penguin theme for today, because there are so many penguin books. As it turned out, only seven kids in all came to the story time, only of whom was actually a preschooler, so that was kind of unusual, but because it was such a small calm group we were able to read five stories with no problem at all. This was my last story time of 2012 - we'll be on a break for two weeks, and I'll be back with lots of new programs in January!

Book: Penguins, Penguins Everywhere! by Bob Barner

Book: Tony Baloney by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
I had pretty good luck with this one this time around, though I suspected that the mom of one little girl thought Tony's behavior was negatively influencing her child. Oh well. I love Tony and his stuffed friend Dandelion.

Book: Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
I love Oliver Jeffers, and this story is very sweet.

Song: Five Little Penguins Riding on a Sled (based on Monkeys on the Bed)

Book: Three Cheers for Tacky by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
This was a bit over the heads of the little ones, but I want to keep it in mind for Pre-K class visits in the new year because I think they would love it. Penguins in general would be a great theme to use with them.

Book: One Cool Friend by Tony Buzzeo
I have never been crazy about this book, and as I thought it might, it failed as a read-aloud. One boy had read it in school, and he loved, but the other kids seemed just about done by the end.

Song: These Are My Glasses

I use the same hello and goodbye songs at almost every session. Click here for the tunes and words. For descriptions of each of my story times, click here.

Drop-In Story Time, 12/21/12 (Winter Theme)

Book: Under My Hood I Have a Hat by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka

Song: A Hat Goes On My Head

Book: One Mitten by Kristine O'Connell George, illustrated by Maggie Smith

Song: Five Little Snowmen Riding on a Sled 

Book: Snow Sounds by David A. Johnson
I think this would have worked better with a smaller group and some dedicated grown-ups. It's just too quiet a book for a large group.

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Song: Bumpin' Up and Down on My Little Blue Sled 

Letter of the Day: Letter R

Songs with ukulele: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep  

Song with ukulele:  Jingle Bells

Song: If You're Happy and You Know It
I looked at the clock after we started singing this, and realized story time should have been over already! I was glad to see that we had so much fun, time actually got away from me.

This is my last drop-in story time until January 8. One more to go this afternoon, then break  time!

I use the same hello and goodbye songs at almost every session. Click here for the tunes and words. For descriptions of each of my story times, click here.
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