It is that time or year when the colourful leaves are spectacular and when publishers release a bundle of spectacular new books, many by favourite children’s authors. This posting lists some recent releases by some of my(our) favourite authors which provided some very happy, very rich October reading. Some of these titles are sure to be on my end of the year list of favourites. Lets’ hear it for… KATHERINE APPLEGATE. PETER BROWN, GENNIFER CHOLDENKO, KATE DiCAMILLO, NIKKI GRIMES, JON KLASSEN, GRACE LIN, JERRY & BRIAN PINKNEY, JASON REYNOLDS, REBECCA STEAD, KELLY YANG.
Recognition is also given to another rewarding fall tradition… the announcement of the winners of the best in CANADIAN children’s literature, presented by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre on October 23, 2001.
THE BIG BOOK OF DAD JOKES by John D. Moody (Jokes)
OK… John D. Moody may not be considered a favourite children’s author to be included in this posting, but I wanted to include this title because jokes and riddles are quite the favourite genre for many young readers. Can’t get kids in your class to read/ I suggest putting a copy of The Big Book of Dad Jokes (and other similar titles on display and you’ll have students grabbing for the book.. and laughing! Jokes are great for comprehension (kids either get it or they don’t), for vocabulary building and a sure way to have kids read print aloud. Note: I sent a package with a copy of this book to my 10 year old nephew who is a ‘reluctant’ reader and when he phoned me to thank me, he said, “At last a book, that I’m going to read from top to bottom!” (I also included a copy of Jason Reynolds book Miles Morales in the package).
“I don’t like vampire jokes. They suck!”
“I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.”
“I decided to sell our vacuum cleaner. It was gathering dust.”
“Those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.”
CHINESE MENU by Grace Lin (Nonfiction, Myths and Legends)
Award- winning author and illustrator, Grace Lin (A Big Mooncake for Little Star, Where The Mountain Meets the Moon, The Ling & Ting Series) has done a delicious job of telling stories behind popular American Chinese dishes we have come to know and love. Over 40 myths and legends that include such characters as squabbling dragons, hungry monks, vain emperors, kind peasants, magical fruit, rovide historical background and folklore connected to Chinese dishes. The book is arranged like a Chinese menu (e.g. Tea, Appetizers, Soup, Side Orders, Chef Specials and Desert) and readers can choose from the menu to learn about familiar offerings such as Dumplings, Wonton Soup, Hot and Sour Soup, Sweet and Sour Pork, General Tso’s Chicken, and Chop Suey and exotic items such as Bird’s Nest Soup, Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, Beggar’s Chicken, Buddhas Delight and White Hair Silver Needle Tea). And of course readers will learn about the background of chopsticks and fortune cookies. I read the book page by page in chronological story and was fascinated by the myths and legends of each item on the menu. Grace Lin also does a terrific job by providing conversation- like introductions to the food items presenting ingredients and personal anecdotes to each item. Thorough research went provide the ingredients for learning not only aboutfo the stories behind the names of American Chinese dishes, the recipes and ingredients of these items but also learn about the culture of Chinese people who lived in Asia or Immigrated to the United States. This book is a ‘feast of stories” and a culinary banquet of information and narrative.
This book is for anyone, young or old who has been to, or had take-away from, an American Chinese restaurant. This is a scrumptious nonfiction treasure. NOTE: Grace Lin provides information about some Chinese dishes by providing ‘One Minute Myths on YouTube (e.g., Peking Duck, Noodles, Rice, Fortune Cookies)
DOGTOWN by Katherine Applegate,and Gennifer Choldenko; illus. Wallace West
Dogtown is a dog shelter where canines large and small, young and old, real or mechanical (!) await their fates with the hopes of getting rescued. Chance (a real three-legged) and Metal Head (a robot dog) and Mouse (a mouse) are the residents of Dogtown, three friends who are eager to help each other out Chance and Metal Head find themselves outside the walls of Dogtown, they embark on a wild adventure with the hopes of finding forever homes. This is a novel filled with adventures (mean babysitters, being trapped in a car trunk, fun in a furniture store, cheese sandwiches, reading buddies, Green Eggs and Ham) and is sure to be enjoyed by dog lovers, adventure-seekers, anthropromorphic admirers, and book fiends written by two terrific authors. At 341 pages, the novel is presented in 131 chapters, each from 1 to 3 pages (occasionally 4). The large font, the inclusion of comical illustrations by Wallace West spread throughout help to make Dogtown an appealing, quick paced doggone great read for middle readers to enjoy. After all, “a dog’s superpower is LOVE.”
THE LOST LIBRARY by Rebecca Stead & Wendy Mass
The authors present the novel by presenting chapters with three different characters; Al (a ghost librarian), Mortimer (an aging orange cat) and Evan (a very likeable boy who experiences the last days of fifth grade before heading off to Middle School. This book should satisfy middle years’ readers who enjoy books with cat characters and / or mystery stories and/ or books about loving books. The book is centred on the mystery of the town library that was burned down. Who was responsible for this disaster and what part do a cat and a ghost and a borrow-a-book library play in what happened that day? I myself didn’t love this somewhat predictable, hard-to get going, novel but, to quote Evan, “I am not upset when others don’t love the books I love. We each have our own book spaces inside us, and they do not match up perfectly, nor should they.” (page 61
THE PUPPETS OF SPELHORST by Kate DiCamillo; illus. Julie Morstad (a fairy tale novella)
Need a great read aloud for your classroom? Look no further! Need a great drama lesson? Look no further (let’s dramatize a story about…). Need a master storyteller to engage, enrich, entertain your students? Look no further. Master storyteller Kate DiCamillo tells the story of five puppets trapped in a trunk: A king with a beard made of human hair, , a wolf with sharp teeth (of course), a boy, with arrows and a bow a girl with a green cloak, an owl with real feather. Turn on the narrative switch in your brain to discover what these puppets have in common. What is the purpose? dream? fate? of each character. Fate takes them to the home of two little girls who have their own story to tell and puppet play to present. In an article recently written in the New Yorker (Sept 18, 2023), the author says that reading aloud is an important process to creating her work. Listening to the words is important to her. Yes, this book is a treasure for gathering students around you, listening, feeling, and wondering to a a grand story. This is the first title in a projected trio by the author. Bring ’em on!
THE SKULL by Jon Klassen (illustrated folktale)
Award-winning author Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back, This is Not My Hat, The Rock from The Sky) presents his own version of a traditional folktale. Otilla is a runaway girl (we never really know this background story) and when she comes upon a house in the woods she meets up with a Skull and the two become friends. The Skull warns Otilla about a headless skeleton who is desperate to obtain the Skull. This adventurous tale is blends humour, creepiness and friendship to provide an entertaining retelling (told in five parts), accompanied by Klassen’s masterful, rather monochromatic visual interpretations of text. At 101 pages, this title is not presented in a traditional picture book format. Tbis is a terrific read aloud and as I read it, I thought of The Skull as a terrific resource for igniting lessons for a range of comprehension strategies. Just sayin’. (Note; Attended a terrific talk the author at the Lilian Smith Library which the author aptly titled, “Omission and Connection in Picture Books. Jon Klassen one terrific author!
TOP STORY by Kelly Yang
This is the fifth title in the Front Desk series (Front Desk, Three Keys, Room to Dream, Key Player). With a strong female Chinese protagonist, author Kelly Yang has written top-notch stories about the Asian Experience. Top Story is another top-notch novel. In this story, Mia, her mother and her best friend Lupe travel to San Francisco and learn about life in that city’s Chinatown. Mia is attending a journalism camp and hopes to have one of her stories published in the newspaper. Lupe, under the leadership of Mia’s mom, has entered the math championships. The two friends embark on many adventures that include taking tours of the important San Francisco sites, visiting a fortune cookie factory, acquiring a new pet dog, named Comma, presenting an unforgetable Christmas banquetbut most important learning about the people of Chinatown, their history and Anti-Asian racist events, past and presentt. And oh yes, Mia’s the big question of whether Mia will express her romantic interest with her best friend Jason. These novels can be stand-alone reads, but readers who have come to know and understand Mia Tang’s experiences as an immigrant will likely consider her to be a good friend. Kelly Yang’s books need to be read.
THE WILD ROBOT PROTECTS by Peter Brown
“The poison tide is here!” “The poison tide is here!” When Roz and her friends learn that their perfect island is in danger, they are forced to fight over dwindling resources. When she discovers that new body is impervious to the poison tide, she embarks on a mission across the ocean determined to find the source of the poison tide and put an end to it. Along the way she encounters some incredible creatures and when she learns that the toxic waters is causing devastation in the ocean she is fiercely moves forward until she comes upon the deep-sea mining operation that is creating huge clouds of toxic dust that travels through the ocean.
In the notes from the author, Peter Brown writes “I wanted to show the interconnectedness of life in the water and on land and in the air.” Mission accomplished. “I wanted to show a new cast of characters and how they sturggled in different ways with their changing environments.” Mission accomplished. “I wanted to show Roz methodically solving what seems to be an unsolvable problem.” Mission accomplished.” Above all, I wanted to make readers care deeply about everything that was happening, and to do that the story had to be believable.” In the third book in the trilogy (The Wild Robot Escapes;The Wild Robot Protects; Peter Brown brilliantly introduces us to beloved character The Wild Robot, Roz. She has many fans and readers learn of her quest to protect the world, they are sure to fall more in love with her. This novel is so so so so good. Peter Brown’s writing (short chapter help), and unfussy but staggering art work make this a standout 2023 publication. Bravo!
SHOUT OUT! TWO SPECTACULAR PICTURE BOOKS
THERE WAS A PARTY FOR LANGSTON: KING OF LETTERS by Jason Reynolds, illus. Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey
WOW! A new book by Jason Reynolds (his debut picture book). WOW! a book celebrating the brilliance of Langston Hughes, king of letters! WOW!a book celebrating African American writers. WOW A book celebrating Harlem and poetry and words, words words. In a note from the author, Reynolds tells us that the book was Inspired by a photograph of Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka dancing at a party ‘in honor of word maker of all word makers, Langston Hughes”.
Jason Reynolds sends an invitation to readers to join the hoopla in Harlem, a party where everyone is welcome to “a blowout to celebrate th man who wrote wake-up stories and rise and shine rhythms.” This is a story that invites readers to a ‘fancy-foot, get-down, all out bash.” This is a story that should/must inspire readers to further investigate the work and the brilliance of Langston Hughes.
The cut-out letters and lively figures by the brothers Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey groove, bebop, and boogie boogie wiggle wild with their boogie woogie wiggling wild dance partner, the brilliant Jason Reynolds.
A WALK IN THE WOODS by Nikki Grimes; illus. Jerry Pinkney & Brian Pinkney
A young black boy is grieving the death of his father. When he discovers an envelop that his dad had left behind he is surprised to find a map of the woods beyond the house, the woodsi whihc he and his father shared outings together. Reluctant to go on a hike alone (“Why would Dad ask me to go without him?’ the boy decides to take the joureny where he encounters the soft song of a Carolina Wren, the anxious brood of grouse, and an ancinet stone water storage house and ultimately discovers a rusted metal box hidden in a lonely brick fireplace. When he finds a key to open the box, he is surprised to find a sheaf of paper wrapped in plastic, each sheet containing portrait of wildlife left in the woods. A poem accompanies each sketch. A final page reads, “I leave you these drawings, these scribbles and mostly, this forest – the true treasure. Finish my stories, or not.”
In notes from the author we learn that Nikki Grimes and Jerry Pinkney had collaborated on this book during the pandemic (one of the first that feature African American characters engaging with nature) during the Pandemic. Jerry Pinkney died on October 20, 2021. He had prepared sketches for the book after his passing, his son, Brian Pinkney embarked on adding watercolour and gouache to the art work which resulted in expressionistic, abstract images of tone, hue and dancing lines. A son completes the scribble artwork of his father. Like, the boy in the story, Brian Pinkney knew he ‘needed the walk in the woods.” This is a stunning picture book production where words and imagery meld, where poetry and nature is celebrated, where love and legacy shine. It serves as a testimony to the artist Jerry Pinkney. Like Jane Yolen’s “Owl Moon’ (1987), A Walk in the Woods serves as heartwarming narrative of child, parent and nature. This is a stellar publication, that needs to be shared in libraries, in homes and in classrooms, admired, perhaps winning awards.