Friday, January 30, 2015

The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Candlewick Press, 2014. Review Copy Provided by Publisher.

Reviewed for the Morris Award Finalists Blog Tour

From YALSA: "The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature."

Ava Lavender is just a girl. A girl with wings. To better understand herself--why she is the way she is, what happens to her--she takes readers back three generations to explore the other women in her family: her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

What I thought: I can honestly say I've never read anything quite like The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. A compelling blend of magical realism and historical fiction, you are drawn into the story of this family. Their triumphs and trials, as it were. Ava is a wonderful narrator. This book is not a happy book, but that doesn't stop Ava from relating episodes from her life or her family's history. I found parts of this book very hard to read. Life for this family isn't always happy or pretty. It's often difficult, ugly, and tragic. Despite that, I couldn't put this book down. Leslye's use of Ava's family history is brilliant. By the time you get to Ava's story (her life as teenager), you are so attached to and invested in this family. No matter how dark the story becomes, you keep reading. I think what I most enjoyed about the book was the ending--satisfyingly happy and filled with hope. I would recommend this to teens looking for something different. The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is not the usual contemporary or paranormal fiction I often find my teens reading. I think adults will also enjoy this book.

To visit more stops on the Morris Award Finalist Blog Tour, visit Cinco Puntos Press Blog

For more information about The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and its author Leslye Walton, visit her website.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Cybils Poetry Finalists Announced!

I had a great time serving as a round 1 panelist in the poetry category for the 2014 Cybils. I got to discuss children's poetry books with a great group of ladies...what could be better? The finalists were announced on January 1. You can see all the finalists here.

Here are the Poetry Finalists along with the blurbs we (the panelists) wrote:

Water Rolls, Water Rises: El Agua Rueda, El Agua Sube by Pat Mora, published by CBP
In a series of free verse poems in English and Spanish, our most precious natural resource takes center stage. Water rolls, rises, slithers, hums, twists, plunges, slumbers and moves across the Earth in varied forms and places. Mora’s three-line poems are filled with imagery and emotion. “Water rises/ into soft fog,/ weaves down the street, strokes and old cat.” (In Spanish: “El agua sube/ formando suave neblina/ que ondula pro la calle, acacia a un gate viejo.”) The lyrical movement of water described in verse is accompanied by Meilo So’s gorgeous mixed media illustrations highlighting 16 landscapes from Iceland, to China, to Mexico, the United States and more. Back matter includes an author’s note and information about the images in the book. A joyous, bilingual celebration, this collection brings water to life.

Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect
http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com

Dear Wandering Wildebeest:and Other Poems from the Waterhole by Irene Latham, illustrated by Anna Washam, published by Millbrook
In Dear Wandering Wildebeest, Irene Latham’s poetry bounces with the impala and peeps like the meerkat.  With childlike illustrations by Anna Wadham, Irene Latham takes us on a journey to the water hole of the African grasslands.  Each poem is accompanied with factual information that will inform even the oldest readers.

To All the Beasts who Enter Here, there is word play with "Saw-scaled viper/ rubs, shrugs,/ sizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzles,"  form experiments in Triptych for a Thirsty Giraffe, humor of "Dung Beetle lays eggs/ in elephant poop,” and even danger, "Siren-howls/ foul the air./ Vultures stick to task." Children and adults alike  will love the language and learning that wanders in this book along with the animals of the watering hole.

Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche
http://reflectionsontheteche.wordpress.com

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, published by Candlewick 
Prolific anthologist Paul B. Janeczko brings the old and the new together in Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. The collection of 36 poems contains poems by classic poets such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. Intermingled with these are poems by well known children's poets including J. Patrick Lewis and X. J. Kennedy. Firefly July takes readers through the seasons beginning in spring and ending with winter. The poems take readers to different locations as well. Both city and country settings appear in the poems. As the subtitle states, the poems are short, but the images they evoke are almost tangible. Melissa Sweet's mixed media illustrations are colorful, playful, imaginative, and whimsical. They draw readers into the poems. Firefly July is a stellar collection that will likely be a family favorite for years to come.

Bridget R. Wilson, What Is Bridget Reading?
whatisbridgetreading.blogspot.com

Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, published by Carolrhoda
Who knew that among his many talents, Santa was an expert at writing haiku? In this collection of 25 poems using the 5-7-5 format, Raczka brings us Santa's many observations, some about his job: "Wishes blowing in/from my overfilled mailbox--/December's first storm" and others about the weather, the time of year, and Christmas preparations: "Clouds of reindeer breath/in the barn, steam rising from/my hot chocolate". A fun read all at once, or one per day in anticipation of Christmas, some of the haiku work for winter in general as well: "Just after moonrise/I meet my tall, skinny twin--/'Good evening, shadow.'"

Kelly Ramsdell Fineman, Writing and Ruminating
http://kellyrfineman.livejournal.com/)

Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963 written by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon (WordSong/Boyds Mills Press, 2014) is a historical novel in verse that focuses specifically on the momentous march on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech. Six fictional characters (young and old, black and white) tell their tales on this historic day in cycles of linked poems alongside the perspectives of historic figures (the “Big Six”) and other march participants for a rich tapestry of multiple points of view. It’s been fifty years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, when discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin became against the law, but as recent events attest, we still have progress to make as a nation. In this powerful work, Lewis and Lyon tackle issues of racial and social justice in 70 lyrical poems that reflect the perspectives of young people and adults struggling with taking action for positive change in peaceful ways. In addition, extensive and helpful back matter includes a guide to the fictional and historical voices, bibliography, index, and list of websites and related books.

Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children
http://poetryforchildren.blogspot.com

Brown Girl Dreaming written by Jacqueline Woodson, published by Penguin Group, Nancy Paulson Books, 2014, is many things in one rich collection – memoir, history, biography – and lyrical, exquisite poetry.  Events of the author’s personal and family history provide the framework for a series of individual poems.  Woven throughout are key events of the Civil Rights journey and also personal effects of racism and discrimination.  In this beautiful and powerful tapestry of verse, one hears the poignant reflections of Jacqueline Woodson, “one of today’s finest writers,” who kept on dreaming through tough times and good times and who keeps on writing in “mesmerizing verse.”

Nancy Bo Flood, The Pirate Tree; Social Justice and Children's Literature
www.thepiratetree.com

Hi Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J Muth, published by Scholastic
Inspired by his twins, Muth wrote a haiku book that doesn't followe the often used three line, 5-7-5 syllable form. This made this title a stand out among other haiku books.
Readers take a seasonal journey from summer through spring by Koo the panda. (Thus the pun in the title: Hi Koo!) Beginning with a simple observation about the wind: found!/ in my Coat pocket a missing button/ the wind's surprise, to the last haiku: becoming quiet/ Zero sound/ only breath, Muth offers to young readers a new way to experience haiku.

The watercolor and ink drawings complement the text. The subtle alphabet theme adds another dimension to the book.

The author's note at the book's beginning sets the tone: "...haiku is like an instant captured in words--using sensory images. At its best, a haiku embodies a moment of emotion that reminds us that our own human nature is not separate from all of nature."

This book of poetry will help readers to slow down to appreciate the small moments of nature and daily happenings.

Jone Rush MacCulloch, Check It Out
http://maclibrary.wordpress.com