Note: I originally drafted this post last November, with the intention of publishing it before Thanksgiving. Things came up, and I ended up forgetting I had ever written this. Most of the books are general releases, but there is one Thanksgiving-themed book. I’m not the kind of person who likes to waste my words. So, I’m keeping up the review anyway.
I’m surprised I haven’t done one of these since June. Although, I haven’t posted much since the summer anyway. I’ve been working two new jobs, so it’s difficult to post more often. It’d be nice to do this full time..but, really, very few people blog full time anyway. I just need to learn better time management skills. Heck! I watched like 10 Youtube videos (including Disney Channel wand outtakes) before I finally started typing this.
Y’know, every time I walk into the Youth section of my library, more kids are on the computers than at the couches actually reading. So, y’know, the three white women who work there should be excited that someone is interested in the books. Excited.
Also, uh, parents, you should, of course, be encouraging your kids to read more. They can start with these books…
Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Pena / Christian Robinson) – This book is about a boy and his grandmother and their Sunday bus trip to the soup kitchen where they volunteer. During this trip, the grandmother teaches the boy that even though they’re not wealthy, and they can’t afford to ride in a car and other luxuries, you can still find fun, music, and beauty wherever you go. I related to this book for two reasons. One, as someone who rides the bus to work every morning, I can definitely relate to the sort eccentricities one can find on a bus. And two, even though I certainly didn’t have as disadvantage a life as the characters in the book, we still were far from rich. There were moments my parents struggled to buy groceries. I certainly didn’t have the toys and gadgets that my wealthier friends had (I went from public elementary school to a private prep middle school so that was a tough transition in terms of realizing how “poor” I really was). So I had to use my imagination. I had to run around in my backyard and be creative and see fun in everything. This book is certainly idealistic, but there are enough bits of realism that it doesn’t alienate the readers who live in similar situations. The illustrations are beautifully rich, diverse and taken from the Keats bible. Earlier this year, this book received a Caldecott Honor and (shockeroo!) straight up won the Newbery, an award that’s usually reserved for chapter books. I wouldn’t say this is the best picture I’ve ever read. Sometimes, I think there should be a separate award for picture book writers (Caldecotts are only awarded to the illustrator of a book). But, I still admire this year’s committee for doing something different. It’s a shocking breath of fresh air. From where I am, this book is deserving of the Newbery. Published in 2015.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear (Lindsay Mattick / Sophie Blackall) – I think the title of this book says it all. Apparently, another book about Winnie the Pooh came out the same year. I should’ve checked that one out too so I could compare them. Maybe another time. Anyway, the unique thing about this book is that it was written by a descendant of the army vet who first discovered the little bear that became the inspiration for the character, Winnie-the-Pooh. So it’s a unique perspective, and Mattick certainly takes advantage of that by centering the narration around her telling the story to her son. It’s a pretty big risk Mattick took, and it seemed like it paid off since the book won the Caldecott this year (which technically only went to the illustrator, Blackall, but it’s usually difficult for a book to win a Caldecott without an acclaimed story and/or text behind it). I appreciate the risk, but I think I would have preferred a more straight-forward telling of the book. The little interruptions involving Mattick and her son in the book were a little too cutesy and distracting for me. Otherwise, I’d still certainly recommend this book. The illustrations, although not genre-bending, are certainly big and bright and clear. It’s a very nice book, but I guess I just didn’t feel much reading it. Published in 2015.
Trombone Shorty (Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews / Bryan Collier) – I think it’s very nice that the real Trombone Shorty was the one that told his story. And he does a very nice job of doing it. I kinda wish the story had a little more bite to it, maybe by mentioning Hurricane Katrina or delving deeper into the poverty in the New Orleans area (it’s touched on a little bit, but not much). But I can understand Mr. Andrews’ choice at keeping this book light and positive for the young readers he is trying to reach out to. The illustrations, which were Caldecott Honored earlier this year, are marvelous. Bryan Collier, who seriously needs to actually win a Caldecott at some point, paints beautiful pictures that are one part watercolor mural, and another part collage. It’s the kind of artwork one can spend hours gazing at. And it’s, of course, always great when a book makes you want to listen to the music being referenced after reading about it. Published in 2015.
Follow the Moon Home (Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson / Meilo So) – This book, co-written by environmental activist Philippe Cousteau, is the story of a girl who gets her community to turn off the lights at night so that the baby sea turtles on the beach can easily find their way to the ocean, as opposed to walking the opposite way and dying of dehydration. The book is essentially fiction, but it’s more of a “step by step” guide so kids reading it can get inspired to do the same thing. If anything, this book could also inspire kids to simply find a problem and use to determination to find a solution. I’d certainly recommend the book for the classroom. It’s an interesting way of getting kids inspired, and, of course, it brings to light the issue of sea turtle habitation. But, because it’s so instructional, and there’s very little “story,” it’s just not the sort of book I’d ever read again. But, the book does what it set out to do and that’s what matters the most. I didn’t particularly like the illustrations until the end where we see the sea turtles at night, being guided for the shiny moony. Those pages were as affecting as they were beautiful. But I found the pictures of the actual human beings to be a bit bland (a quick Google search of So’s work shows she’s capable of better). Overall, a good read for a homework assignment. Published in 2016.
A Thanksgiving Wish (Michael J. Rosen / John Thompson) – This book is about a family who attempts to recreate their Bubbe’s infamous Thanksgiving dinner a year after her death. They run into some electrical problems, and rely on the generosity of their new neighbors for help. The story also concerns Amanda, the youngest daughter, who always had a tradition with her Bubbe, which involved breaking wishbone and making a wish if she got the biggest piece. This book is essentially about Amanda coming to terms with her Bubbe’s death. This book, published almost 17 years ago, is pretty much a classic at this point. It’s a nice, heartwarming story about family, community, and the malleability of traditions. The illustrations are the type you’d really only see in picture books from the nineties: very detailed and scarily realistic. Overall, it was great rediscovering this book again. It was actually on display at my library before Thanksgiving, so there must still be relevant today. Published in 1999.