Tap Tap Boom Boom

Tap_Tap_Boom_Boom_cover_photo_2-330Filled with rhythmic, onomatopoeic words, Tap Tap Boom Boom shows a community of people seeking shelter from a storm in the subway. There is something about a shared experience that creates kindness, and in the end, a rainbow.

Written by Elizabeth Bluemle and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, the story invites rereading and a field trip of romping in the rain.

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Slog’s Dad

slogs-dad-coverSlog’s Dad, written by David Almond and illustrated by Dave McKean, is a fascinating story about a boy, Slog, who believes the man on the bench is his dad. Nevermind that his dad died. Or that the man looks nothing like his father.

Narrated by Slog’s unbelieving friend in a North English/Scottish dialect, we hear all of the reasons why it could be Slog’s dad and why it couldn’t be, all while enjoying a fantastical, eerie story and several cool illustrations.

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Jane, The Fox & Me

Jane, The Fox & Me, a beautiful graphic novel looks much like a picture book, both with its size and its style of illustrations.

Hélène, a middle schooler in Montreal, Quebec, is suddenly outcast by her friends, and she believes the graffiti about her on the bathroom stalls. She thinks she looks like a sausage JaneFoxMe-231x300and the one person she feels connected to is Jane Eyre. She imagines parallels between her and Jane Eyre throughout the book. The ultimate humiliation is a two-week class trip to nature camp, where Hélène will be forced to wear a bathing suit and shorts and stay in the tent reserved for outcasts.

But as things change for Jane Eyre, things also get better for Hélène. Yes, there’s a fox that instigates the turning point, and a revealing moment with her mother. There’s also a new friend and an ending with hope.

Find an educator’s guide here.

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Three Books Featuring Emily Dickinson

I have unintentionally read three books about Emily Dickinson, only one of which did I realize was going to feature the late poet. It’s easy to become enamoured with Emily Dickinson, reclusive, poignant word artist. Here they are in order of youngest to oldest readers: picture book, middle grade and young adult.

Jane Yolen has written several sonnets, The Emily Sonnets: The Life of Emily Dickinson, Emily Sonnets Jacket_v7:Layout 1giving us insight into Emily’s family, solitude and faith. She advises us to “inhale the poems beyond her death”. Complemented by Gary Kelley‘s shadowy oil paintings, this is a poetic biography with comprehensive notes in the backmatter.

9780449809877Eileen Spinelli‘s Another Day As Emily is a light-hearted story of a mostly unnoticed tween in the wake of her baby brother’s heroism. As she learns more about Emily Dickinson, she tries to emulate her by wearing a white dress, never leaving the house (even in mid-summer vacation) and trying to correspond with friends via letters in baskets.

Jenny Hubbard‘s And We Stay is more layered, with a lead AND-WE-STAY-cover-198x300character named Emily who writes poems throughout her narrative, trying to overcome her past. She tends to be reclusive, just as Emily Dickinson was, and references to the poet are both obvious (she reads a biography) and more subtle (she hides her poetry and doesn’t care about publication). Like Paper Covers Rock, And We Stay is set at a boarding school, though this time it’s with teenage girls in the Nineties, as opposed to boys in the Eighties. I learned Emily Dickinson didn’t title her poems, she numbered them. I learned she was stronger than she seemed, and I learned that she inspires great contemporary literature.



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I, Too, Am America

9781442420083Bryan Collier has an amazing collection of picture books and this one, which illustrates Langston Hughe’s poem, I, Too, Sing America, is another mixed media beauty. 

It begins on a train, a Pullman porter serving wealthy white passengers and relegated to the kitchen to eat. The porter collects the newspapers, records and books the patrons leave behind and tosses them out to children eager for knowledge. The train takes us from the past to the present, and moving toward the future. 

In his illustrator’s note, Bryan Collier explains his symbolism more fully. This is a picture book for all ages.

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Counting By 7s

UnknownWhat makes a home? Is it a sister? Parents? A brother? A backyard filled with plants, plants you love? This is what I thought about as I read Holly Goldberg Sloan‘s Counting By 7s, a beautifully, thoughtfully written book about twelve-year-old Willow who comes home from school to the devastating news that she’s lost both her parents.

Willow’s grief is heart-wrenchingly internal. She’s already a unique child who acts more adult and has no other family or friends to lean on. And so we meet the people who happen to be there when she finds out the news: Dell, the unlikely school counselor; Mai, a teenager able to talk her way into anything; and Quang-ha, her somewhat delinquent brother. They surround Willow with temporary custody until permanent placement can be found, and it’s a type of living Willow has never experienced: bedrooms with more than one person, a garage that fronts as a home and a school counselor that needs Willow as much as she should need him.

The characters are alive in this book. Willow’s voice is so strong, and it is tempered with grief. Listen: “Mai wants to know if I want to lie down. But I can’t speak. In any language. Pattie makes soup that is cloudy white with curly pieces of green onion floating on top. And there is suddenly a plate with salty pork strips, which appear from nowhere. Dysphagia is the medical term for not being able to swallow, and I know that there are two kinds of dysphagia: oropharyngeal and esophageal. But maybe there is also a third kind of dysphagia that comes when your heart breaks into pieces. I can’t swallow because I have that kind.”

Willow makes it mostly through the grief; the others help her in many ways but the most amazing part is the reader sees how this extraordinary person, Willow, helps them in the midst of her pain. And we find out how to create a home out of nothing.


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Ice Dogs

There’s nothing more refreshing than reading about winter during the dog days of ice-dogs-200summer.  Ice Dogs is about dogs, dogsledding and the incredible bond between humans and dogs that only grows deeper during dangerous adventures.

Fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord lives for racing her dogs in the wilds of Alaska, especially since her father died. When her mom doesn’t understand her need to get stronger lead dogs, Victoria goes out on her own, only to find a city boy with a crashed snowmobile. By rescuing him, Victoria ends up in the midst of a blizzard, struggling for survival and forced to use every outdoor skill her father has taught her, and a few he didn’t. Each dog has a distinctive personality and lend a big paw to the exciting ending.

Terry Lynn Johnson‘s second novel is a winter adventure not to be missed.

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Arthur Geisert‘s Thunderstorm was recommended to me and it did not disappoint. A 9781592701339wordless picture book, or nearly wordless (there are dates and times for some pictures), account of a thunderstorm and tornado through farm country shows the rush to get the hay in the barn before the wetness seeps in, the rescuing of laundry from the line and the safe haven under a bridge from the ensuing tornado. There is destruction that, as soon as the storm ends, is rebuilt.

The detailed illustrations are etched and hand-coloured giving beautiful lines, especially on the full spread page of the dark sky at 3:45 PM.

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The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

+-+8067188_140Paul Goble’s classic picture book retells a Native American legend about a girl who loved wild horses so much, she lived among them and understood them. When her family came looking for her, she had to go back for a time, but eventually they understood she needed to be with the horses.

Beautifully illustrated (it won the 1979 Caldecott), The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses stuns with brilliant colours and details.

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Home of the Brave

Home of the Bravea novel-in-verse by Katherine Applegate, is a moving story about Kek, 9780312367657who as a refugee from Sudan who as seen atrocities never loses hope of seeing his mother again. This story has an authentic and perceptive voice, beautiful language and touching characters who shoulder their resiliency in different ways.

If you loved Inside Out and Back Againthis is a great choice, albeit for slightly older readers (upper middle grade to teen and up).

Posted in Children's novels, Poetry, social issues, strong characters, Teen/Young Adult, Voice, Word choice | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment