Each month we post an annotated bibliography of books that were rated ‘Outstanding’ and nominated for our Distinguished List at our previous month’s meeting. Members can see full reviews of these books and many more in the January edition of BayViews. Not a member? Join, come to our monthly meetings, and hear about these outstanding books in person!
The Antlered Ship written by Slater, Dashka and illustrated by The Fan Brothers; Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, 2017.
A curious fox Marco sees a ship sailing into port and talks to the animals disembarking, and then joins them as their voyage goes on to other areas in search of adventure, sweet grass, and answers to life’s questions in a story that is somewhat quiet yet sophisticated. The dramatic full color artwork is done with digitally colored graphite and pen. (Preschool-3rd Grade.)
Creepy Pair of Underwear! written by Reynolds, Aaron and illustrated by Brown, Peter; Simon & Schuster, 2017.
The sequel to 2012’s Creepy Carrots (Simon & Schuster) has been worth the wait. Brown’s pencil and digital illustrations feature the same film noir vibe, this time employed with neon green for maximum effect and hilarity. (P-2.)
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars written by Fishman, Seth and illustrated by Greenberg, Isabel; Greenwillow, 2017.
“Can you imagine so many… of anything?” In an engagingly conspiratorial voice, the author explores various examples of huge numbers, starting with stars and moving to fun facts like the number of rabbits on our planet (at least 37 billion). (Kindergarten-3.)
Life on Mars written and illustrated by Agee, Jon; Dial/Penguin Random House, 2017.
An astronaut brings a box of cupcakes to Mars, certain to find life, but fails to observe the giant Martian who is following him in this simple and humorous picture book that successfully engages children’s interest in space exploration, while allowing them to respect and laugh at the clueless astronaut. (P-3.)
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! written by Deedy, Carmen Agra and illustrated by Yelchin, Eugene; Scholastic, 2017.
After the mayor of La Paz outlaws singing, a rooster and family move in and crow each morning: “Kee-kee-ree-KEE!” Structured like a folktale, this story celebrates Latino culture with a few Spanish words mixed into the text, and it contains a positive message on free speech. The quirky illustrations are brightly colored with lots of yellow and orange. (P-3.)
Town is by the Sea written by Schwartz, Joanne and illustrated by Smith, Sydney; Groundwood, 2017.
A white boy guides us through his life in a seaside mining town circa 1950. He thinks about his father, a miner, work that someday the boy expects to do, too. Black ink and watercolor in cool colors pair with unrhymed, rhythmic language to build a mood of timelessness and peace. (1-4.)
Amina’s Voice written by Khan, Helen; Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2017.
Blessed with a beautiful singing voice and challenged with crippling shyness, Amina, a young Muslim-American girl, must overcome her fears to stand up for herself and her community. This relatable, positive middle grand novel reflects the universal challenges of adolescence as well as the difficulties of coming of age in two very different cultures. (4-8.)
Calling My Name written by Tamani, Liara; Greenwillow, 2017.
Taja feels sacred when she listens to her body and listens to the world around her, but she is constantly called out of this experience by family, friends, school, and boys. Tamani’s quick chapters blur the passage of time, capturing moments in Taja’s life in literary, eloquent prose that reads more like poetry. The pacing and poetic language of this story makes it a slow read at first, but an excellent book to savor. (9-12.)
Long Way Down written by Reynolds, Jason; Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2017.
In the sixty seconds it takes for the elevator to go down, Will is joined by those who can help him decide whether to kill the man who he thinks killed his brother. The structure, pacing, and short verses will keep readers turning pages until the end. (9-12.)
The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine written by Twain, Mark, and Stead, Philip and illustrated by Stead, Erin; Doubleday/Penguin Random House, 2017.
This unusual, oversized illustrated short story is quirky by very memorable and inviting; Stead took an incomplete draft of a short story by Mark Twain and expanded it. The story concerns a boy who can converse with animals, and how he uses that talent to stop some royal rulers, and is illustrated with woodblock prints and pencils. (4-8.)
Spirit Hunters written by Oh, Ellen; HarperCollins, 2017.
A truly creepy, middle-grade ghost story follows Korean-American Harper as she discovers lost memories, evil ghosts, and dormant powers that her grandmother, a practitioner of Korean Shamanism, helps her to develop. Pacing fluctuates but diverse and appealing characters and plot will keep readers going. (5-7.)
A Skinful of Shadows written by Hardinge, Frances; Amulet/Abrams, 2017.
Hardinge (The Lie Tree, 2016) creates an extraordinary YA fantasy which marries a 17th century English Civil War setting with her usual dazzling creativity, deliciously deep and complex characterization, and bright, sophisticated writing. Illegitimate Makepeace Lightfoot shares the ability, or curse, of her aristocratic family to be possessed by ghosts. (7-10.)
The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts written by Avi; Algonquin; 2017.
It’s 1724 and 12-year-old Oliver Cromwell Pitts is determined to travel 120 miles to London to find his father and sister. But how can he do this with no money, highway men on all major roadways, and his vulnerability as an abandoned child in 18th century England? Read this action packed, colorful picaresque novel to find out. (5-10.
Nightlights written and illustrated by Alvarez, Lorena; Nobrow, 2016.
Dreamy Sandy usually drawing wild, fanciful scenes instead of doing homework, makes a new and creepy friend. This large format, richly colored graphic novel for late elementary and early middle school has it all – bright, fanciful art, a relatively simple but grabbing story, and beautiful production values. (3-6.)
Real Friends written by Hale, Shannon and illustrated by Pham, LeUyen; First Second/Roaring Brook, 2017.
This memoir presented in a graphic format addresses the triumphs and pitfalls of complicated childhood friendships among girls through expressive cartoon images, well-rounded characters, and an engaging story that celebrates self-confidence, healthy boundaries, and real friendship. (3-7.)
Spill Zone written by Westerfeld, Scott and illustrated by Puvilland, Alex; First Second/Roaring Brook, 2017.
Three years after Poughkeepsie, New York, was shut down because of a devastating “event”, red-headed teenager Addison explores the event zone on her motorcycle, photographing some of the odd phenomenon that remain to sell to a mysterious benefactor. A thoroughly engaging graphic novel which boasts just the right amounts of dystopia, science fiction, and creepy horror. (7-12.)
Thornhill written and illustrated by Smy, Pam; Roaring Brook, 2017.
Diary entries and newspaper clippings are interspersed within an otherwise wordless, entirely b&w graphic novel depicting Mary, a tormented girl in an orphanage in 1982, and Ella, who arrives in 2017 and is drawn into Mary’s ghost’s feverish creation of puppet-dolls and her ambiguous murder/suicide/accidental death. (5-12.)
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups written by Harris, Chris and illustrated by Smith, Lane; Little, Brown, 2017.
Over 100 hilarious rhymes and original cartoon artwork combine for a debut poetry book that will appeal to fans of Shel Silverstein’s work, without being derivative of his classic poetry collections. Smith’s cartoons add to the fun, using ink drawings highlighted with brown wash. (2-6.)
Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation written by Smith, Monique Gray; Orca, 2017.
Smith describes methods to foster reconciliation with Native American/First Nations/Indigenous people, by giving background on Canada’s Residential School System. Filled with color and b&w photos, maps, sidebars, and page decorations, this should compensate for the lack of honesty in many school textbooks. (4-8.)
Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees written by Leatherdale, Mary Beth and illustrated by Shakespeare, Eleanor; Annick, 2017.
An interesting, quotation-filled narrative and an eye-catching magazine-style layout combine to tell five true stories of young refugees who sought a new home by boat in this timely book. Included are stories about young people who fled from Nazi Germany, Vietnam, Cuba, Afghanistan, and the Ivory Coast. (4-8.)
Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories written and illustrated by Gantos, Jack; Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan, 2017.
Jack Gantos will motivate any young writer to refine and pursue his craft in this excellent writing manual, providing practical tools, humor, and inspiration. (4-Adult.)