From the Shelf
Gift Books for Kids, Tweens & Teens--Plus, Vampires Are Back!
I love this gift book issue because it gives me a chance to design a list for readers of all ages that includes fiction, nonfiction, classics and books that invite engagement through puzzles, journaling and crafting. Even more, I love using this space to tell you about a few more titles that would be great for gift-giving. The theme? Vampires!
Darcie Little Badger's YA debut, Elatsoe (Levine Querido, $18.99), is a supernatural murder mystery that takes place in a United States that has Fairy Ring Transportation Centers, endless fields of scarecrows with human eyes and a rich history of Lipan Apache ghost whisperers. Little Badger excellently balances humor and horror in this inventive mystery/alternate history/fantasy that includes "clans of teenage-bodied vampires, carnivorous mothmen, immortal serial killers, devil cults, cannibal families, and slenderpeople." What's not to love?
Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C. Parker edited the YA collection Vampires Never Get Old (Imprint, $17.99), which features 11 distinctive stories about contemporary vampires. Whether focused on social justice, partnership or wishing for reflections for selfie-taking, anyone with a vampiric thirst should find something fun in this collection that includes tales by Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse and Samira Ahmed.
And, of course, this list would not be complete without the figuratively back-from-the-dead Midnight Sun (Little, Brown, $27.99). Personally speaking, I very much hope Stephenie Meyer writes every single book in the series from Edward's point of view. 600+ pages? BRING IT ON.
In this Issue...
A Christmas Carol Commemorated
The Isle of Man Post Office has issued a commemorative stamp set featuring five of John Leech's illustrations for A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
To celebrate today's release of his new book, Barack Obama shared his A Promised Land playlist."
"Remembering Rebecca: 11 facts about Daphne du Maurier's enduring novel," brought to you by Mental Floss.
Author Ed Douglas picked his top 10 books about the Himalayas for the Guardian.
"Watch the making of Japanese woodblock prints, from start to finish, by a longtime Tokyo printmaker." (via Open Culture)
It's easy to forget that long before Winnie the Pooh became the center of a Disney brand with movies, series, games, clothes, dolls, toys, accessories and much, much more, there were "just" books, set in the Hundred Acre Wood and starring the teddy bear known as Winnie the Pooh. Written by A.A. Milne and illustrated by E.H. Shepard, the first of the books was Winnie-the-Pooh, which appeared in 1926 and introduced Winnie, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo and Christopher Robin, the human based on Milne's son who inspired the stories. In the book's sequel, The House at Pooh Corner, Tigger joined them. Those books were followed by Now We Are Six; in addition, a poem about Winnie the Pooh appeared in Milne's verse collection When We Were Very Young. The Pooh titles quickly were translated and published around the world, delighting generations of readers with their simple, wise, amusing, lyrical tales. A Latin translation of Winnie-the-Pooh, Winnie ille Pu, done by Alexander Lenard, is the only book in Latin to appear on the New York Times bestseller lists. There are, of course, many editions of the Pooh titles available, but Dutton Books for Young Readers offers a replica of the first U.S. edition of Winnie-the-Pooh ($16, 9780525555315) as well as a more modern version ($14.99, 9780525444435), both of which feature Shepard's classic illustrations.
Children's & Young Adult
Child of the Universe
by Ray Jayawardhana , illust. by Raul Colón
"The history of the world is in your fingertips," a father poetically tells his child in astrophysicist and dean of Cornell University's College of Arts and Sciences Ray Jayawardhana's debut. Child of the Universe is a stunning picture book journey through the vast and the infinitesimal corners of the universe, radiantly illustrated by Raul Colón (Imagine!).
The father calls his child part "of starbursts brighter than fireworks," musing that the elements in her body come from long-ago stars. As the brown, curly-haired child flies through his imagination, he lovingly tells her of her connection to the cosmos, his wonder at her precious existence evident in every word. Colón's breathtaking colored-pencil drawings bring to life swirling galaxies, giant atoms and fiery stars in a rainbow of gradient hues. This love letter to the universe's interconnected grandeur and affirmation of a child's place as the center of her parent's world is perfect for bedtime rituals. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library
The Dragon Ark
by Curatoria Draconis , illust. by Tomislav Tomic
Young adventurers and fantasy lovers will surely adore The Dragon Ark, a top-secret look at the world of dragons.
Climb aboard the Dragon Ark with Curatoria Draconis, the world's current Dragon Protector, and join her quest around the world in search of the mysterious celestial dragon. Readers will learn that every region on Earth--including the hottest desert and iciest tundra--is home to dragons of one kind or another. Curatoria and her team offer insight, first-hand accounts and scientific reporting on the various dragons they've encountered. And, in addition to seeking the celestial dragon, Curatoria's diverse team of experts works tirelessly to protect these oft-misunderstood creatures and their habitats. Beautifully complemented by Tomsilav Tomic's art nouveau-style ink and digital drawings, The Dragon Ark is an unforgettable compendium of all things dragon. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer
The Queer Eye Guide: How to Love Yourself the Fab Five Way
by Penguin Workshop , illust. by Dale Edwin Murray
The celebrated and wildly popular Fab Five have been helping their sartorially (and emotionally) challenged "heroes" reinvigorate their lives since the 2018 Netflix reboot of Queer Eye. In this illustrated journal, the food and wine, fashion, culture and lifestyle, design and grooming mentors serve up décor, style and beauty advice. Tweens and teens will likely adore the DIY tips on bedroom makeovers, skincare, makeup and hair trends, all presented with vivid graphics. An affirming and accepting vibe resonates throughout, and areas for journal entry exist alongside short sections dedicated to meditation, dating, coming out and nutrition. As the chic troupe proclaims, "there's beauty in the progress," and those interested in DIY and journaling will undoubtedly find this small volume charming. --Rachel Werner, Hugo House and The Loft Literary Center faculty
Darwin's Rival: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Search for Evolution
by Christiane Dorion , illust. by Harry Tennant
Over a lifetime spent outdoors, including years cataloging specimens throughout the Amazon basin and Malay Archipelago, 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace reached the staggering conclusion that variation within animal species stemmed from adaptive changes that ensured the species' survival. In 1858, Wallace posited his idea to another scientist who, coincidentally, had recently reached the same independent conclusion: Charles Darwin. While the humble naturalist never gained Darwin's renown, Wallace left an impressive legacy as an explorer and specimen collector. Wallace's extensive travels and his life's work are celebrated alongside magnificently detailed and informative digital illustrations in Darwin's Rival, Christiane Dorion (Into the Forest) and Harry Tennant's engrossing oversized picture book for curious young environmentalists. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf
by Lily LaMotte , illust. by Ann Xu
Debut author Lily LaMotte draws on her immigrant experiences--as well as her cooking show obsession--for a toothsome #OwnVoices graphic feast vibrantly illustrated by the Ignatz-nominated Ann Xu.
For 12-year-old Cici, leaving Taiwan means separation from her beloved A-má (grandmother). In Seattle, Cici's classmates accuse her of eating "rotten worms" for lunch; the family mantra ("good grades, good college, good job, good life") adds extra stress; and her overworked parents make her miss A-má even more. Entering a kids' cooking contest with a cash prize provides the promising opportunity Cici needs to bring A-má to Seattle for her 70th birthday. In Measuring Up--as a chef, yes, but also as a friend, daughter, granddaughter--Cici figures out just the right ingredients for satisfying success. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
All the Stars and Teeth
by Adalyn Grace
In the compelling sea adventure All the Stars and Teeth, a princess determined to rule risks everything for her kingdom.
After Princess Amora loses control of her magic during an execution--thus jeopardizing her path to queendom--she bands with a pirate to quash a rebellion and prove herself a worthy heir. The crew sails with an unexpected stowaway and a mermaid who can sway both man and water, through dangers like poisonous sea monsters and paralyzing curses. Though haunted by the monstrous ways she's wielded magic, Amora thinks "a monster is exactly what this kingdom needs"--until she learns a truth that calls into question her family's reign.
Magnificent worldbuilding, an unstoppable female lead and a swoon-worthy romance with a scoundrel pirate make Adalyn Grace's debut a stellar YA high seas fantasy. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer
Who Got Game?: Baseball: Amazing but True Stories!
by Derrick Barnes , illust. by John John Bajet
Young sports fans will cheer for Derrick Barnes's Who Got Game?, a tribute to baseball's overlooked stars. The Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor author of Crown includes in this volume a lineup of stories too impressive to be forgotten.
In its pages, readers will meet amazing players--such as the first major league star with a disability and the first woman to play on a major league team--as well as learn the history behind the first mascot, the details of the longest game and "the dirtiest pitch ever." Baby Shark series illustrator John John Bajet's art gives this rich study of the sport an extra zing with eye-catching color and rib-tickling humor. Barnes and Bajet knock it out of the park. --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Frog and Toad Are Friends: Fiftieth Anniversary Commemorative Edition
by Arnold Lobel
A quintessential 20th-century children's literature duo celebrates its 50th anniversary. Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad Are Friends, the Caldecott Honor Book originally published in easy reader format, has been reissued in a larger picture book edition that is both fetching and easier to share with groups. Aficionados will appreciate the complementary material that includes the first written notes for the story, original sketches and an explanation of the predominant coloration method used in picture books of the time: the pre-separated art process, which limited illustrators to a three-color palette (in this case, black, green and brown). Lobel connoisseurs are not the only ones who will enjoy this new edition--the five simple but heartfelt stories that exemplify how friends help and care deeply for each another will certainly speak to today's kids, too. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer
Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM
by Tonya Bolden
Changing the Equation by Coretta Scott King Honoree Tonya Bolden (Crossing Ebenezer Creek) is a lively collection of profiles about Black women who have "pushed back against stereotype" and pursued careers in STEM industries. She organizes the profiles into three sections that align with important historical moments: "In the Vanguard" (post-Civil War); "Riding the Wave" (the first feminist movement); and "Onward" (the civil rights and Black power movements). Subjects include pioneers such as Ida Gray Nelson Rollins, who became the first U.S. Black woman doctor of dental surgery in 1890, and modern-day rising stars like Lisette Titre-Montgomery, a video game developer. Informative sidebars and images of primary sources bolster the well-researched, accessible text.
This collection of inspiring women's stories is an ideal gift to celebrate young Black girls' interests in science or math and encourage readers to "get busy changing the equations." --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel
by Jason Reynolds , illust. by Danica Novgorodoff
In his YA novel Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds uses the painful past to reveal the difficulty between doing what you are taught is right and doing what is moral.
After 15-year-old Will's older brother, Shawn, is killed, Will has to decide whether he will kill the man he believes murdered Shawn. He grabs his brother's gun and enters the apartment building's elevator, where, on his minutes-long trip from the eighth floor to the first, he is visited by the ghosts of gun violence past.
Danica Novgorodoff's ink-and-watercolor illustrations are a beautiful addition to Reynolds's lyrical text. Using a dark palette and plenty of empty space, Novgorodoff employs the graphic novel format to build suspense and create intense emotion through sweeping double-page spreads, elaborate single-page illustrations, confining panels and un-bordered panels that blend into each other. A gorgeously illustrated reinterpretation of the novel. --Kharissa Kenner, children's librarian, Bank Street School for Children
Sunshine: A Story About the City of New York
by Ludwig Bemelmans
Fans of the inimitable Madeline books will be charmed anew by Ludwig Bemelmans in this 21st-century reissue of Sunshine, his delightfully silly 1950 classic. With instantly recognizable rhymes and elegant illustrations, Bemelmans tells the story of Mr. Sunshine, a cranky landlord seeking a quiet tenant who "pays the rent/ Year in, year out, to the last cent." He is not pleased when the "sweet old lady" to whom he grants a lease opens a music school in the apartment below his. Only a literary master could blend a meeting with a lawyer, a soggy trek past New York's architectural highlights and 2,000 unwanted umbrellas into a children's story with such perfectly logical results. A Christmas carol finale makes Sunshine a most cheerful gift. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor
The Mischief-Maker's Handbook
by Mike Barfield , illust. by Jan Buchczik
In The Mischief-Maker's Handbook, Mike Barfield presents dozens of tricks and practical jokes designed to entertain and, if all goes right, annoy. A majority of the activities, which are bundled into themed chapters ("Sneaky Science," "Make a Fake," etc.), can be attempted with household objects like felt-tip pens, rubber bands, playing cards and coins. Jan Buchczik illustrates this treasure trove of troublemaking with cartoonish art featuring kids hard at work on whoopee cushions, stomp rockets, water bombs ("No one should be allowed to leave school until they know how to make one") and musical instruments guaranteed to emit "a satisfyingly awful sound every time." Expect some readers to prioritize activities that are a double threat: what Barfield calls "rude and stupid at the same time." --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid
by Mikaila Ulmer , Brin Stevens
Entrepreneurship is hot right now, but not everybody wants to run a tech startup. For kids with their eyes on something more tangible, 15-year-old Mikaila Ulmer's life story is just the thing: as a kindergartener in Austin, Tex., Ulmer opened her first lemonade stand, with a goal of donating the proceeds to nonprofits that benefit bees; the lemonade stand grew into bottling, restaurant placements and an appearance on the show Shark Tank. Now, Me & the Bees Lemonade is sold in grocery stores across the country.
Ulmer, a successful Black girl celebrating herself, and co-author Brin Stevens never talk down to young readers nor suggest their entrepreneurial ideas are anything but valid. Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid is an essential library purchase and a great gift. --Sarah Hannah Gómez, freelance reviewer
The Cursed Castle: An Escape Room in a Book
by L.J. Tracosas , illust. by Turine Tran
L.J. Tracosas and Turine Tran's The Cursed Castle invites readers to be heroes as they follow a series of clues to lift the curse on the castle and locate its missing occupants. Each double-page spread represents one of 18 castle rooms: pantry, kitchen, garden, etc. Seekers must use the written and illustrated clues in tandem to determine which of the room's many doors is the correct exit. Puzzle types vary widely (there is a puzzle glossary in back) and pull-tabs offer further hints.
Tracosas's cleverly worded clues combined with Tran's detailed illustrations create an ideal experience for middle-grade readers who welcome a challenge. (And, luckily for caretakers and those less interested in overcoming obstacles, answers are included at the end.) --Kieran Slattery, freelance reviewer, teacher, co-creator of Gender Inclusive Classrooms
Underground: Subway Systems Around the World
by Uijung Kim
Through this brightly colored, information-packed picture book, readers can explore 10 of the world's busiest subway systems.
Uijing Kim devotes two double-page spreads to each country's distinct system. The first spread shows a train's exterior and presents six or seven facts, such as the number of stations or the cumulative length of the tracks in the country. There's also a list with pictures of cultural symbols (such as the London Eye or a kangaroo) for readers to find (on the next page). The page turn reveals the inside of the subway car, packed with riders and the symbols hidden throughout. The blocky, highly stylized art is especially appealing, and a glossary at the end briefly explains the seek-and-find objects. Underground provides an entertaining, highly visual experience that delivers a global context to subway ridership. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI
And the People Stayed Home
by Kitty O'Meara , illust. by Stefano Di Cristofaro , Paul Pereda
And the People Stayed Home is a hopeful picture book about humanity's capacity for growth and healing. Written by retired teacher Kitty O'Meara, the text is an optimistic anthem about the 2020 coronavirus pandemic based on her viral Internet poem originally titled "In the Time of Pandemic." The bright, colorful illustrations by Stefano Di Cristofaro and Paul Pereda depict people of all ages from around the world as they find, through their grief, new paths to art, love and healing and growing together even as they are physically kept apart.
For those seeking solace in difficult times or a hopeful 2020 narrative for young ones, And the People Stayed Home is an uplifting perspective on the resilience of the human spirit and the healing potential we have to change our world for the better. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor