Tuesday, August 27, 2019

HELLO LIGHTHOUSE by Sophie Blackall.  New York:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018.   48p.  ISBN 978-0316362382 hc. $18.99     PreS-Gr. 3      E PIC

Readers in the Great Lakes area, as well as those on the east and west coasts, have always had an affinity for lighthouses, even though they are now mechanically operated with electric lights.  Writing in metered verse, Blackall takes readers back in time to the life of a lighthouse keeper, working alone in a remote tower keeping the Fresnel lighthouse lens clean for ships to see its warning light. The keeper is soon joined by his wife who helps take care of him and assists with the duties of the job throughout the seasons.  Eventually a child arrives, as does a letter telling the keeper and his wife that the conversion to automated lighthouses has begun.  The family moves to the mainland, but stays within sight of their beloved lighthouse.  The illustrations visually depict the constant motion of wind and water, contrasting between gentle waves and the crashing power of a storm surge.  Even the circular vignettes of life inside the lighthouse are surrounded by water currents moving the story along.  It's no surprise that Blackall received the 2019 Caldecott Medal for the beautiful illustrations in soft colors and layers of texture.  She also holds a 2016 Caldecott Medal for illustrating FINDING WINNIE written by Lindsay Mattick.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters.  Illus. by Sean Quals and Selina Alko.  Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 2018.  40p.  ISBN 978-151240442-5 hc. $17.99  Gr. 3-6  JNF 811.6

It all starts when Mrs. Vandenberg assigns "The Poem Project," a classroom activity that pairs Charles with Irene, resulting in an awkward partnership between two students with few shared interests or experiences.  Charles lives in a black community and Irene lives in a white neighborhood (note that these are also the authors' names).  Since they don't have much in common, they decide to write about experiences from their everyday lives.  The separate poems coming from their individual perspectives show how family culture influences the way they see the world and interact with it.  Each two-page spread features a poem from Irene on one side, with Charles' contribution on the other side.  The titles of poems by Charles are printed in black ink, while Irene's are white against a colored background.  When they decide to write about buying new shoes, their experiences under the supervision of very practical parents is similar, as well as their conversations with their supportive families; but their relationships with other students in the classroom are challenging in different ways.  They both want to fit in, no matter what their skin color is or where they live.  As they write about their daily experiences, they begin to understand each other as individuals - and as friends.  Mrs. Vandenberg must be pleased with the results of her assignment.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

STRETCH TO THE SUN: From a Tiny Sprout to the Tallest Tree on Earth by Carrie A. Pearson.  Illus. by Susan Swan.  Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2018.  32p.  ISBN 978-1580897716 hc. $16.99    Gr. K-3    JNF 634.9

New growth sprouts from the trunk of a fallen giant redwood tree.  With rain, sunlight, and nutrients from the forest soil, it grows to its full height of more than two hundred feet.  Over the centuries, the forest remains a home to numerous animals and birds. It faces danger from storms, fire, and in the twentieth century, from loggers with huge metal machinery.  Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and the National Park Service, the Redwood National Park protects 120,000 acres of redwood forest in northern California.  Swan's illustrations, created with digital collage, add color and motion to each page.  There's plenty of action as bright hues accent the trees and plants, while allowing readers to find the muted wildlife half-hidden around the edges.  Pearson, author of A WARM WINTER'S TAIL (2012) and A COOL SUMMER'S TAIL (2014), identifies her books as "informational fiction" because, although they are well researched and full of facts, they are presented in story form.  See the resource pages in the back for even more information.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

SUBSTITUTE TROUBLE by Karen English. Illus. by Laura Freeman. New York: Clarion Books, 2013. 108p. ISBN: 978-054761565-3 hc. $5.99, Gr. 1-4 JUV
Deja is distressed when her teacher has an accident and a substitute teacher takes over. The first substitute teacher struggles with some students who decided to create chaos in the classroom. Deja and her friend Nikki have to decide whether they are going to join in, just sit back and watch, or find a way to help the substitute teacher. They decide to help and it goes awry.  The second substitute teacher is more authoritarian and the chaos is contained.  The book ends abruptly when Deja's teacher returns to school. This is book 6  in a series of books about Nikki and Deja - two African American friends.
Jolene Hetherington, Teacher, Munising School Public Library, Munising, MI