Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko

Published by HarperCollins

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Summary:  “Joni Mitchell painted with words” begins this story of iconic singer Joni Mitchell.  Growing up in Canada, Joni loved art and music, often feeling a bit alienated from her parents who were “cautious and fixed in their ways”.  After surviving polio at age 10 (the same epidemic that sickened Neil Young), Joni began to pursue music in earnest, buying her first guitar in high school.  Moving from Toronto to New York to California, Joni found inspiration wherever she went: the clouds from her window on an airplane to write “Both Sides Now” and the view from her NYC apartment for “Chelsea Morning”.  Missing Woodstock to perform on TV prompted her to write “Woodstock”, and the aforementioned Neil Young’s song about staying young forever inspired “The Circle Game”. “I sing my sorrow, and I paint my joy,” Joni said, and this quote is illustrated by a collage of her albums spanning 1968 to 2007.  Includes an author’s note, discography, and bibliography. 48 pages; grades 1-5.

I looked at this book from both sides now, and:

Pros:  Any Joni Mitchell fan will appreciate this lyrical story of her life.  The illustrations are a gorgeous mix of painting and collage that perfectly capture Joni’s spirit and her music.  I particularly liked the one of her performing to an audience of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger.

Cons:  There are probably few 21st century kids who know who Joni Mitchell is.  

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

 

On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman

Published by Millbrook Press

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Summary:  “On a drip-droppy, slip-sloppy, snow-melting day…squirrels cuddle.  Snakes huddle. Clouds break. Salamanders wake.” The rest of the text of this book takes this format, describing a type of spring day, then showing signs of spring with a subject/verb combination.  The photographs illustrate each phrase, portraying plants and animals in early spring. The final two pages give more information about each of the photos; there’s also a glossary and list of books for further reading.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This would be a great catalyst to start a conversation about looking for signs of spring.  The photos are sure to inspire kids to think of what they’ve noticed in their own neighborhoods.

Cons:  Like my other recent Millbrook Press review (Run, Sea Turtle, Run), this only comes in an expensive library-bound format: $23.88 on Amazon; $21.04 on Follet.

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

Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Part of the Big Words series, this biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg traces her life from her childhood in Brooklyn, New York to her present career as a Supreme Court justice.  From the days when her beloved mother (who died two days before Ruth’s high school graduation) encouraged her to learn and to think for herself to her arguments for gender equality on behalf of women and men, Ruth’s path has prepared her for her role as beloved Supreme Court justice.  Each page has at least one quote from Ginsburg to accompany the text and large, full-color illustrations.  Includes a timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, and a bibliography. 48 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  Another beautiful picture book biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to put on the shelf next to I Dissent by Debbie Levy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of RBG vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter (which I could have sworn I reviewed, but apparently didn’t).  The quotes and illustrations make all the books in this series excellent resources.

Cons:  It would be nice to see some picture books about the other two women on the Supreme Court.  Sonia Sotomayor has written her own, but there’s very little for kids on Elena Kagan.

Happy birthday to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turns 87 today!  Long may you reign.

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

 

 

The blog will go on…at least for the next four weeks

Thank you to everyone who commented or emailed about my post yesterday.  I appreciate the supportive words and news of job openings.  In response to a couple messages, I wanted to clarify that I intend to keep this blog going even if I switch jobs.

For the short term, I am going to do my best to keep the daily reviews going during the coronavirus epidemic.  Like many of you, I’m home for two weeks, possibly longer.  Public libraries in this area are closing, cutting off my usual supply of book.  While others have been hoarding pasta and toilet paper, I’ve been visiting as many libraries as I could to stock up on books to review.  I have 28 at the moment, so the blog will continue for at least another four weeks.  This may the motivation I need to learn how to use the Kindle that’s been sitting on my desk for the last year.

Stay well, everyone, and enjoy a silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud: more time to read.

Three Billy Goats Buenos by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Miguel Ordóñez

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

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Image result for three billy goats buenos

Summary:  The familiar story of the three billy goats gruff is told in rhyming text with a few dozen Spanish words incorporated into the story.  A glossary of the Spanish words appears at the beginning of the book so readers can refer back to it. The story is simple, but includes a twist when the biggest goat discovers the troll has a thorn stuck in her toe.  His sympathy brings a few tears to the troll’s eyes, and the goats work together to remove the thorn and apply some soothing herbs. There’s a happy ending for all four of the new amigos.  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  Susan Middleton Elya has produced another winning retelling of a familiar folktale that incorporates Spanish words and culture.  The rhyming text and simple, geometrical illustrations will make this an appealing choice for even the youngest readers.

Cons:  I didn’t care for the illustrations as much Juana Martinez-Neal’s in La Princesa and the Pea.

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

Friday the 13th

Just a reminder to be sure to wash your hands and sanitize after reading this blog…just kidding.  We’ve all gotten enough of those messages for one week.

All things being equal, I wouldn’t have chosen to lose my job the same week a global pandemic hit, but that’s how things played out for me this week.  I was told that the position of K-8 librarian in our district is being cut for next year, so I’m out of a job as of June 30.

I’m a certified K-12 librarian in Massachusetts with a few decades of experience in school and public libraries, and I’m willing to relocate.  Since I know many of you are in libraries, I thought I’d put the word out.  If you know of any openings, please feel free to email me at jkdawson115@gmail.com.  Thank you!

Oh, and happy Friday the 13th!  Sure hope it’s a lucky day.

Mother Jones and Her Army of Children by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Published by Schwartz & Wade

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Summary:  Mother Jones tells her story, beginning with some of the things that have made her mad: conditions for coal miners in West Virginia, factory workers getting shot at for protesting for fair pay, and young children working ten-hour days in Philadelphia factories.  It was these last that inspired her to set out with 100 children on July 7, 1903, determined to march from Philadelphia to New York City, and then on to Theodore Roosevelt’s “fancy-schmancy” Long Island summer home to speak with the president himself. They traveled 100 miles in the hot summer sun, demonstrating in towns as they went.  By the time they reached New York, many of the kids had given up and gone home, but 37 of them marched in a torchlight parade up Fourth Avenue. After a trip to Coney Island, Mother Jones sent most of the children home, approaching the Roosevelt mansion with just three of the boys and two other men. They were turned away at the gate, but the Children’s Crusade had shone a spotlight on child labor, and laws began to change.  Includes an author’s note, four photos, and a bibliography. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  An inspiring story that will show kids the power of some unlikely people:  a 66-year-old woman and 100 poor children taken from factories. The text does a masterful job of using Mother Jones’s voice and incorporating many of her quotes into the story.  The author’s note gives full credit to Mother Jones for being instrumental in changing labor laws for both children and adults.

Cons:  Theodore Roosevelt certainly doesn’t come off too well in this story.

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