Comics: Easy As ABC!: The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids by Ivan Brunetti

Published by TOON Books

Image result for easy as abc comics ivan amazon

Image result for easy as abc comics ivan

Summary:  Budding cartoonists will enjoy this drawing book that gives how-to’s on drawing people and animals, as well as creating perspective and communicating emotions through body language and facial expressions.  A few prompts are given to encourage readers to create their own stories. Advice is offered from some heavy-hitters in the comic world, including Roz Chast, Neil Gaiman, Jeff Smith, and Art Spiegelman. There’s a section at the end for parents, teachers, and librarians on reading comics to kids (I believe this is standard in many of the TOON books).  52 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Fun and accessible for many elementary-age kids, this is a good basic introduction to get graphic novel fans busy on their own creations.

Cons:  Each section is pretty brief; serious artists will outgrow this fairly quickly.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

Published by Balzer + Bray

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Image result for important thing about margaret wise brown jacoby

Summary:  “The important thing about Margaret Wise Brown is that she wrote books.”  And some of the important things about this book about Margaret Wise Brown are that it’s 42 pages because she lived 42 years.  That it celebrates the quirkiness of both Brown and her books. That the illustrations pay homage to many of Brown’s works. That critics of her works are humorously but firmly put in their place (Anne Carroll Moore, New York City’s children’s librarian, does not fare well here).  That you may not learn everything there is to know about Margaret Wise Brown, but you will learn interestingly odd facts like that every copy of the first edition of Little Fur Family were covered in fur.  That “sometimes you find a book that feels as strange as life does…Margaret Wise Brown wrote books like this, and she wrote them for children, because she believed children deserve important books.”  42 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  Mac Barnett is not afraid to go way outside the box in this picture book that pays tribute to Margaret Wise Brown, her art, and her books.  It is full of the kinds of details that kids will love, like the fact that, as a child, Brown skinned one of her pet rabbits after it died and wore the pelt around her neck.  Or that she bought every flower on a flower cart after selling her first book, then had a big party in her flower-filled house. Any readers who aren’t familiar with Brown’s books will want to go looking for them after reading this one.

Cons:  Some will definitely find this book odd.  On the other hand, isn’t that kind of the point?

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Image result for important thing about margaret wise brown jacoby

 

Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth

Published by Neal Porter Books

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Image result for birds of a feather susan roth

Summary:  What does collage artist and illustrator Susan Roth have in common with the bowerbirds of Australia?  For starters, they are both collectors who like to use their collections in unusual ways. They both work in small spaces.  No two compositions are the same. And they both hope their finished works are greater than the sum of their parts. The comparisons are, not surprisingly, illustrated with collage art.  The last few pages give more facts about bowerbirds and how they work; how Susan works; and expanded information on how they are the same. Includes a photo of a bowerbird and a bibliography.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The illustrations in this book are gorgeous and unique, and the unusual comparison could be used as an inspiration for kids to find ways they are similar to other animals.

Cons:  It’s a little anthropomorphic to speculate what bowerbirds hope about their finished works.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders with an introduction by Harry Belafonte

Published by Chronicle Books

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Image result for we are the change belafonte amazon

Summary:  “So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy.”  This quote from American Civil Liberties Union founder Roger Baldwin appears on the dedication page (the book is dedicated to the ACLU) and sets the tone for the book.  16 children’s book illustrators have each chosen a quotation to illustrate that captures the spirit of human rights, along with text explaining their choice. The last several pages include brief biographies of each illustrator.  48 pages; grades 2-7.

Pros:  A beautiful collection of inspiring quotes and art that could serve as a springboard for students to choose their own favorite quotations and illustrate them.  This would make a nice graduation gift.

Cons:  Sometimes the text appeared before the illustrations; other times it was after.  I found this format a little confusing.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Two Brothers, Four Hands: The Artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Published by Neal Porter Books

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Image result for two brothers four hands hadley hooper

Summary:  The two brothers in the title are Alberto and Diego Giacometti, and their four hands created two different types of art.  Alberto loved art from an early age, and pursued it with a passion, moving from Switzerland to Paris to become the proverbial starving artist at a young age.  Diego had no such passion, spending much of his time outdoors with animals, and having occasional scrapes with the law until his exasperated mother shipped him off to Paris to join his brother.  There, he learned how to help Alberto by creating models for his sculptures and casting them when they were finished. After World War II, Alberto’s art became well-known, but Diego stayed in the background.  After Alberto died in 1966, Diego dealt with his grief by pouring his energies into his own work, crafting metal sculptures and furniture that incorporated the animals he loved, and built his own following over the next two decades.  Includes an in-depth look at Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture Walking Man, an extensive timeline, photos, and a bibliography.  64 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  A fascinating look at two very different brothers and how they helped each other create their own unique art.  The beautiful paint and ink illustrations help bring the story to life. The authors have received multiple Sibert honors, and may get another one for this book.

Cons:  Reviews I read started the recommended age at kindergarten, but this is definitely a book for older kids.  Nothing inappropriate; it’s just a longer book with subject matter that will be appreciated more by upper elementary and middle school students.

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Operatic by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler

Published by Groundwood Books

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Image result for operatic kyo maclear

Summary:  Charlie is finishing up eighth grade; Mr. K., her favorite teacher, assigns everyone in the class to perform a favorite song for the end of the year.  As Charlie tries to figure out what her song will be, she reflects on changes that have taken place during the year. Specifically, she can’t forget a boy named Luka who refused to conform to middle school expectations, and was bullied until he left school.  Both Luka and Charlie have had crushes on the same boy, Emile. As the weeks go by, Mr. K. introduces the class to different types of music. Nothing resonates with Charlie until they get to opera. She finds herself drawn to Maria Callas, and connects with some of the details of her early life and singing career.  Maria’s ability to always go her own way inspires Charlie to reach out to Luka, and she is able to help him find his way back to school. Charlie, Luka, Emile, and another friend find the courage to perform a band called Freaks of Feeling; at the end the band gives Charlie tickets to the opera as a birthday gift. 160 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  This book really captures adolescence, and the tension between conforming and being yourself.  Music fans will enjoy Charlie’s insights about how kids find connections based on the kind of music they enjoy.

Cons:  I didn’t entirely understand the whole Charlie-Emile-Luka dynamic.

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I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.