Posts tagged “Candlewick Press

Lizard Radio

bookCovers_lizardRadio

by Pat Schmatz
Candlewick Press, 2015
Young adult, science fiction,
Ages 14 and up
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7635-3
Additional formats: ebook
Honors:
James Tiptree, Jr. Award winner * Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year * TriState YA Review Group Books of Note * CCBC Choices * Rainbow Project List

In a world where the government closely monitors gender, occupation, and emotion, Lizard (so named because she was found as a baby wearing a t-shirt with a lizard on the front) finds herself at a frightening summer agricultural camp. Kivali (that’s her true name) is a bender—meaning that she doesn’t identify as a girl or a boy—and she’s sent to a summer camp for teens in order to prepare for the adult world.

But is the camp, run by Miss Mischetti, really a place to help teens find themselves and help the world? Or is something more sinister at hand? What should Kivali make of the drugs that the campers are given and the strange, vaporizing disappearances? Kivali has to discover the truth behind her origins and why her anti-authority aunt has sent her away.

Pat Schmatz does some solid world-building here, complete with it’s own vocabulary that sci-fi readers will love.


Raymie Nightingale

bookCovers_raymie

by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2016
Middle grade, historical fiction
Ages 8 – 12
ISBN 978-0-7636-8117-3
Additional formats: ebook
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection

In so many ways, this novel, set in Florida in the 1970s, is the perfect middle grade story about friendship. Raymie Clark’s dad has abandoned the family for a romance with a dental hygienist. Her plan to get him back is to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire pageant by twirling a baton. It’s at her baton twirling lessons that she meets Louisiana, an orphan in her grandmother’s care, and Beverly Tapinski, an angry, if pragmatic, girl who seems bent on all manner of sabotage. The three form an unlikely trio and eventually become one another’s lifeline.

I found each girl fascinating and often hilarious, even as they faced the saddest of truths. Ultimately, this is a story of friendship and support, focused on how girls grapple with the big disappointments that life can sometimes offer. Themes of grief, economic poverty, and neglect are handled expertly for the age group.


Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

bookCovers_voiceOfFreedom

by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2015
Picture book, non-fiction, poetry
Ages 9 and up, Grades 4-7
ISBN:
978-0-7636-6531-9
Honors:
Caldecott Honor illustration 2016 * Coretta Scott King New Talent award for Illustration 2016 * Silbert Informational Book Award 2016 * Marion Vannett Ridway Award Honor * NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts * Bank Street College Flora Steiglitz Straus Award * Amelia Bloomer List * CCBC Choices and multiple best books lists of 201

The first-person poetry of Carole Boston Weatherford and tactile collage of Ekua Holmes combine for a perfect-pitch picture book biography of Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

Voice of Freedom transports readers to the Mississippi Delta of Hamer’s childhood and into the heart of Hamer’s own journey, a sometimes harsh journey at the mercy of discriminatory, oppressive policies and practices in America. Hammer quit school at sixth grade to pick cotton with her family. She was later sterilized by a doctor (without her knowledge or consent) while undergoing tumor surgery,  Hamer not only survived, she rose up to become a driving force in the fight for equality.

Often on Girls of Summer, we celebrate stories of those who have changed history as children. This book shows us a woman whose childhood and life unfolded to prepare and strengthen her voice to boom forth, at middle age, in a song of protest and triumph and remembering.


The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

ava

by Leslye Walton
Candlewick Press, 2014
Young adult
Ages 14 and up,
ISBN-10: 0763665665/13: 978-0763665661
Additional formats: Paperback, e-book, audio
Honors: William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist * Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy nominee, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award * Amazon Best Books of 2014 * Hudson Books Best Books of 2014 * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2014

If your family inheritance was not to be found in silver or gold, diamond or sapphire, but in your perfect ruby of a heart, destined by fate and genetics to be drawn to foolish love, would you hide yourself from all things?

Ava’s story begins with deep excursion into the Roux family birthright that will, ultimately, keep her locked away from the world for sixteen years, not only to protect her from the sort of love that has sealed the fortunes of her mother and grandmother, but because Ava is the most vulnerable of the Roux women.

Born with the wings of a bird into a clutch of women who are steeped in the art of protecting the heart from brokenness and brutality, Ava’s family cloisters her from the outside. Brutality is exactly what Ava’s mother and grandmother fear is in store for this child, if the world ever gets its claws in her. The girl’s very winged existence inspires both reverence and persecution from the community where she lives in Seattle in the 1940s.

All Ava wants is to be a girl, so out she goes into the world one summer solstice night with nothing and no one protecting her.

In a swirl of hauntingly realistic prose and magical realism, Ava Lavender explores the depths of beauty and terror and the heart’s capacity to rise above. – Gigi


Zora and Me

zora

By Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon
Candlewick Press, 2010
Middle Grade, Ages 10 and up
ISBN: 978-0763658144
Additional formats: e-book, audio
Honors: Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Award *Junior Library Guild selection * William Allen White Children’s Book Award – Master List * Booklist Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth * National Council of Teachers of English Notable Children’s Book * The Edgar® Awards – Best Juvenile, Nominee * Edgar Award Nominee * Kirkus Reviews – Best Children’s Books of the Year * New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing * SIBA Okra Pick * Kids Indie Next List

Zora and Me, by friends and co-authors, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon is a suspenseful, summertime mystery starring a trio of besties: a young, fictionalized Zora Neale Hurston and her friends Carrie and Teddy. Set in Hurston’s legendary Eatonville, Florida, the story opens with Zora and Carrie witnessing an Eatonville man being dragged into to swamp by an alligator, which leads to some serious storytelling by Zora to her schoolmates.

Later, when a guitar-playing troubadour named Ivory turns up de-capitated near the railroad tracks, Zora conjures up a dark tale involving a shape-shifting gator man with an insatiable desire for souls and songs.

I found it impossible to do anything but read this book cover to cover in one sitting. The easy, rhythmic dialect, the brassy confidence of Zora, and the hot lush, dangerous setting of southern Florida will clamp down on readers tighter than a gator on a chicken. Let it happen is my advice. Zora and Me is a suspense-filled story with endearing characters and unexpected twists and turns. – Gigi


The Kingdom of Little Wounds

kingdom

By Susann Cokal
Candlewick Press, 2013
Young Adult, Ages 16 and up
ISBN:0763666947
Additional formats: e-book, audio
Honors: Michael L. Printz Honor Book * YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2013 * Boston Globe Best of YA 2013

Fleeing a public scandal, young Ava Bingen secures a position as a seamstress in the 16th-century court of King Christian of Skyggehavn. When the nervous Ava accidentally pricks the queen, she draws not only royal blood but also the suspicions of Midi Sorte, a mute, enslaved African nursemaid. The needle incident triggers a dark attempt to seize power by lords and scholars, and the females in the palace find their safety, security, their bodies, and very lives under siege.

I first read The Kingdom of Little Woundsas a manuscript, then in galley form, and again after its hardcover release. Each time, I have been transported—body, mind, and spirit—to the Kingdom of Skyggehavn.

What a magnificent, enchanted, and terrifying kingdom it is.

I’ve heard some readers say they stopped reading The Kingdom because they couldn’t “go there.” Cokal does, indeed, grip her readers by the cheeks and very firmly turn them to face terror, subjugation, and oppression inflicted upon females, as has been done throughout the ages. Yet her lyrical writing, saturated with passion and splendor, makes it hard to turn away because she floods the senses with good and delicate things, too. And in the end, friendship rules the Kingdom.

This is a novel for mature readers who are willing to “go there,” those who realize that avoidance won’t change the past and won’t stop the atrocities that continue to be committed against girls and women all over the globe in the twenty-first century. It is hard to read about rape and violence, but “going there”—being present to the oppression of girls and women whether in non-fiction or fiction or poetry—may help to unlock our voices, our prayers, our power so that we can face down the unacceptable treatment of females, whether in Skyggehavn in 1572, Steubenville in 2012, or the Nigerian village of Chibok in 2014. – Gigi


Moon Runner

moon

By Carolyn Marsden
Candlewick Press, 2005
Middle grade, Ages 8 – 12
ISBN: 0763633046 / 9780763633042
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection * William Allen White Masters list * Gate City Award nominee * Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award nominee * Maryland Black-eyed Susan Book Award list

One morning in fourth-grade gym class, Mina discovers something new about herself: she loves to run under a morning moon. What’s even more surprising to her is that she’s fast. As fast or faster even than her best friend, Ruth. No one has ever thought of Mina as an athlete; Ruth is the athletic one among their group of friends. As soon as Mina makes the track team, however, Ruth starts to ignore Mina at school. When the track coach picks Mina to race against Ruth, Mina has an important decision to make. Should she shine on the track, or should she let Ruth win?

It’s a wonderful feeling to develop a new talent or to find unexpected success, but a terrible feeling when your new-found confidence causes conflict with a dear friend. Author Carolyn Marsden, who is known for writing from the heart and telling multi-cultural stories of self-discovery, explores the height and depth of such emotions in Moon Runner. This is a fast and satisfying read that speaks to the tension that arises, at times, in almost every friendship: the desire to please your friend versus the desire to pursue your own dreams. – Gigi


The Visconti House

The Visconti House
By Elsbeth Edgar
Middle Grade, Ages 9 and up, Grade 4 and up
Candlewick Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0763650193
additional formats: e-book, audio
Junior Library Guild Selection

I love eccentric people. They feel like fresh air to me, and they offer a new view on even the most ordinary things. But as we all know, there are times in life when being unusual can be seen as a liability. The Visconti House by Elsbeth Edgar is a book about two young people caught in that web. It’s a celebration of two smart loners, Laura and Leon, who find their way to each other – and self acceptance – as they uncover the mysteries of an old mansion.

Laura despises school for all the usual reasons. The mysterious cliques of girls. The drone of teachers. The boredom. She’s a bright and artistic girl who lives with her parents – a sculptor and writer – in an old Italian mansion, the only one of its kind in the neighborhood. However, her living arrangement isn’t exotic in her view. It is yet another way for her to be outside of the norm.

When Leon Murphy, the grandson of an eccentric elderly neighbor, arrives at her school, Laura tries to keep her distance. A friendship with him would seal her fate as an outcast. Leon is rumored to be the son of a murderer, and he’s certainly capable of pummeling anyone who crosses him. It’s soon apparent, though, that he is brilliant – and much more than what others assume.

Eventually their paths do cross, and Laura does her best to keep it a secret from the prying and judgmental eyes of people around them. At what point should a strong girl take a stand on what and whom she likes?

If you are looking for big drama and an edge-of-your-seat mystery, this is not the book for you. You’ll find no knives, guns or bloodshed here. Instead, this is a quiet book, a romantic story about young teens on those borders of friendship and romance. It’s a lovely story for girls who like brains and originality.MM


Same Sun Here

Same Sun Here
By Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Middle grade, fiction
Ages 9 and up, Grades 5 and up
Candlewick Press, 2012
ISBN:978-0763656843
Additional formats: e-book, audio book
Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year *Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award List *New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing *Best Fiction for Young Adults – Nominee *Audie Award for book narration

From the outset of this epistolary novel, readers will absolutely recognize what kind of people twelve year olds Meena Joshi and River Dean Justice are. We’d call these two old souls in my family. Their friendship begins when Meena chooses River’s name from a pen pal list. Not the e-mail pen pal list, but from among the kids who want to write real letters with stamps and everything. Meena lives in New York City. She chooses River, who lives in Kentucky, because she misses the mountains of her native India, and because she likes the name River.

Meena has lots of questions for River, and he does of her, too. They quickly establish the most important rule of their pen pal friendship: they can be their true selves with one another. Honest. Real. No holding back. What unfolds is an incredibly deep and bright journey into the interior worlds of two children who are carrying some grown up burdens, participating in history, and building bridges with letters. In Kentucky, River plays basketball and lives with his mom and his grandmother, Mawmaw, an advocate for mountains, trees, and social justice. His father, a former coal miner, had to leave Kentucky to find work. In New York City, Meena is starting a new school and finding she has a talent for art and a love for theater. She misses her own grandmother, Dadi, who still lives in India. Her father, too, works away from home. Meena lives with her mother and older brother in a rent-controlled apartment owned by their neighbor and friend, Mrs. Lao. As the lives of Meena and River unfold and entwine, history does too. Barak Obama is elected President; River and Mawmaw march on the Kentucky governor’s mansion to protest mountaintop removal; and Meena’s parents progress through the citizenship naturalization process.

The easy rapport between Meena, written by Neela Vaswani, and River, written by Silas House, is so believable and joyous to read. True, River and Meena come from two different cultures and far apart places, but they are kindred spirits who agree that the cures for most any ailment of the heart can be found by gazing across the mountains, holding hands with your grandmother, or looking into the brown eyes of a good, old dog. I think it’s all too common that we adults deny the complex spiritual, political, and creative lives of children. The twelve year old girl who I was – campaigning at school for Jimmy Carter, fretting about my hairy arms, confronting prejudice within myself, and finding comfort in nature – would have devoured this book and then started reading it again. The love and openness between Meena and River as they share their hopes, their fears, and their regrets opened my heart so wide. As fine a novel as Same Sun Here is, I think it’s also a handbook of sorts. On how to be a friend. On how to start over, how to fight for our earth, and how to be a good citizen of the world. GA

Listen to an audio excerpt from Same Sun Here.


Sneaky Art

Sneaky Art
By Marthe Jocelyn
Middle grade, Ages 8 and up
Candlewick Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5648-5

Every now and then, a book comes skipping by with jolly shouts of sunshine and fun, calling out for everyone to join in. Even those of us who can’t knit or crochet or quilt can make sneaky art. Marthe Jocelyn says so! And she shows us how. Sneaky art isn’t graffiti or vandalism or mean or permanent. Sneaky art IS temporary, playful art made by YOU and placed around town or your neighborhood or home in sneaky places to make people smile or laugh or do a double-take. The introduction explains the rules, gives you a tool kit, and explains the hows, whens, and wheres of getting sneaky. The rest of this spiral bound book includes DIY-instructions for sneaky art projects that are fun and easy, even for me.

My favorite projects include: Teeny Party, colorful garlands sneakily strung in medicine cabinets, refrigerators, or school lockers; Cup Dangler, an easy, tasty surprise made with soft candy and paperclips that can be left on the rims of mugs or cups; Sink Boats in a public fountain; Little Landmarks, tiny houses made with empty matchboxes and tucked into nooks and crannies, and Stick Pixies – just imagine making a stick fairy out of your baby pictures and sinking them in your mom’s birthday cake or Mother’s Day flower pot. Who knows what new projects you’ll come up with? Oh sneaky, sneaky, sneaky art! I’m so happy you arrived in time for summer! GA


Kizzy Ann Stamps

Kizzy Ann Stamps
By Jeri Watts
Middle Grade fiction
Ages 9 and up, Grades 5-8
Candlewick Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5895-3
additional formats: e-book, audio
Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year *Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies *Parents’ Choice Awards Recommended

Kizzy Ann Stamps is a strong girl who hates dresses and her annoying neighbor Frank Charles but loves her border collie to distraction. She’s also a girl with a distinctively scarred face that makes her stand out – exactly what she doesn’t want as she prepares to attend the formerly whites-only school in her town.

Jeri Watts’ novel is set in 1963 rural Virginia, just as public schools are beginning to integrate. Thanks to Miss Warren, who has taught at the black school for thirty-seven, Kizzy Ann is required to write a letter to her new teacher, Miss Anderson, who will teach the first integrated classroom. With each letter, Kizzy Ann reveals her skill as a southern storyteller. Her stories of her life’s daily trials not only flesh out her family, the black school, the library, and the appalling neighbors, but they also give name to the fears and misgivings of being asked to step into a hostile territory every day. This is the Virginia where a school must designate one out of every three bathroom stalls for use by black children, the Virginia where a black child can get spanked publicly for sassing a white man, the Virginia where an athlete like Kizzy Ann’s brother James, can never earn a place on his high school varsity football team, regardless of his skill.

Through all of this, Kizzy Ann enjoys the faithful companionship of her dog, Shag, who keeps dangerous neighbors at bay and who puts his life at risk for hers. In turn, when it is time to fight for Shag’s right to compete in dog trials where he will surely shine, Kizzy Ann finds her strength to prove that they both have a right to be there.

This lovely debut middle grade novel brings a piece of Virginia’s difficult racial history into focus for young readers, never an easy task. Yet at its core, Kizzy Ann Stamps is the story of a strong girl with the voice and courage to make change happen. MM

Listen to an audio excerpt from Kizzy Ann Stamps.


Mr. and Mrs. God in the Creation Kitchen

Mr. and Mrs. God in the Creation Kitchen

By Nancy Wood, Illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering
Picture book
Ages 5 and up, Grades K and up
Candlewick Press, 2006
ISBN: 9780763612580
Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices Award

Have you ever tried reading the familiar and comforting Psalm 23 with a tiny change in pronoun from ‘He’ to ‘She’? Try it! Adding that one letter ‘s’ is like watching a flower open right before your eyes. The same kind of joyful surprise unfolds here in Mr. and Mrs. God in the Creation Kitchen. The Bible includes masculine and feminine images of God. In Nancy Wood’s re-imagining of the creation story, these aspects of God toil side-by-side as a married couple collaborating on their greatest work yet – Earth. Timothy Basil Ering’s water color illustrations play light against dark with just enough color that the story explodes into illustrations that are scientific and inspired, mysterious and simple. The ultimate strong girl, Mrs. God, pretty much rules the Creation Kitchen and, clearly, Mr. God adores her. He makes the sun, which inspires her to whip up the earth. To please his wife, Mr. God makes hideous dinosaurs, but Mrs. God is not happy and sets about to make something beautiful to counter his “mistake.” But, a bigger mistake follows and another until at last, Mrs. God is pleased with her husband’s efforts to please her. In the Creation Kitchen, Husband and Wife are equal. They bake alongside each other, sharing their opinions and suggestions lovingly, doing their best work when they do it together. Every year for Christmas, I pick one picture book to share with the children in my life. In 2006, I gave out Nancy Woods’ and Timothy Basil Ering’s Creation Kitchen because this book invites us to explore new images of God, deepen our experience of God, and celebrate a God who rejoices in laughter, mistakes, starting over, and working together. GA

Author, poet, and photography Nancy Wood passed away on March 12, 2013. Read more about her life and her work in School Library Journal’s tribute.


Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Almost Astronauts

By Tanya Lee Stone
Non-fiction/Middle grade
Candlewick Press, 2009
ISBN: 0763636118/9780763636111
Awards/Recognitions: *ALA Notable Children’s Books *ALA Best Books for Young Adults *Amelia Bloomer Project Selection *Boston Globe – Horn Book Awards – Honor Book *Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books *IRA Teacher’s Choice Award *Flora Stieglitz Straus AwardJane Addams Children’s Book Award *Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People *Sibert Medal *Smithsonian Notable Books for Children

Not that long ago, women in America weren’t allowed to rent cars, borrow money from a bank on their own, or play professional sports. In Almost Astronauts, Tanya Lee Stone tells the story of thirteen women who shared a dream of flying and becoming American astronauts. Known as the Mercury 13, these pioneers were dumped by their fiancés, served divorce papers, fired from their jobs, and objectified by the media as Astronettes because they were participating in the Women in Space Program.

The Mercury 13 volunteered to take the same tests that NASA required of male astronauts in order to prove women were capable of flying into space. Their results were superior – scientific evidence that women are as fit or fitter than men for space travel. It was near the apex of the Cold War, and Russia had put the world on notice that it intended to send women into space. Yet, in 1961 Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson still gave a shocking response to a request that he back a space program for women, a response that effectively kept women and people of color out of NASA for years.

So, quick: what was the first year a woman commanded a space shuttle? What was her name?

1998. Lieutenant Colonel Eileen Collins.

Thirty-eight years after Vice-President Johnson shut down the women’s space program before it could officially get started, Lieutenant Colonel Collins thanked the Mercury 13 for not giving up, for proving women were capable of being astronauts, and for insisting that women had the right to do so.

Almost Astronauts is fast-paced, urgent, and invigorating 20th Century history. It’s personal and political too, but it’s not secret history. Not any longer. As a mother, a writer, and a history-buff, I’m grateful to Tanya Lee Stone for telling the story of the Mercury 13 and for letting us get know these women who put it all on the line for all the women and men who would come next.

So. What will you say the next time you hear: A girl doesn’t have a chance? GA

Listen to an excerpt from Almost Astronauts audiobook!

Read the author’s tribute to the Mercury 13 Women.


See You at Harry’s

See You at Harry's

By Jo Knowles
Middle grade
Candlewick Press, 2012
ISBN: 0763654078/9780763654078
Awards/Recognitions: *Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Jo Knowles’ middle grade novel, See You at Harry’s, is a portrait of family life drawn from the perspective of twelve-year old, Fern, the youngest child until surprise-brother, Charlie, arrived. We join the family as Fern starts middle school, Charlie is now three; Fern feels invisible; her older brother Holden wishes he was invisible; and her older sister Sarah sees everything that everyone else is missing.

Fern’s folks are overwhelmed. Who wouldn’t be managing three teenagers, a toddler, and a family-restaurant? Mom and Dad keep themselves distracted from the struggles of their teen-age children – Mom by running off to meditate and Dad by working himself into a hilarious marketing frenzy guaranteed to embarrass his teens. Fern is a peacemaker by nature, but a feisty one who descends the steps of school bus hell in solidarity with her gay brother, Holden.

Things start to really unravel as Fern clocks a bully to give him a spoonful of his own medicine, Holden skips class to get away from everyone but Mr. Right, and Sara gets busted making out with a bus boy in the restaurant freezer. Hey, who’s running this family, anyway? And, what will it take to get the family back on its center?

In every family, there is heartache and regret, misunderstanding and misplaced guilt. In this family, there is also tragedy. When the unthinkable happens, everyone blames themselves and the family bond begins to fray even more. Fern is the hardest hit of all, a prisoner to her own isolated grief, and refusing, for a time, to let anyone in. Thank goodness for Fern’s best friend, Ran. I speak from experience when I say that the most exquisite and wonderful of friends are those like RAn who quote Julian of Norwich during times of crises and worry. All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

In the end, Ran is right, and that is the jewel of this book. We know that the very act of loving is to accept – even welcome – heartache, because even the cruelest night cannot squelch love.

Jo Knowles has captured the particular lexicon of this family with an expert-ear and perfect pitch. She is masterful in her portrayal of family life with all of its routines and surprises, guilt and absolution. She writes with such intimacy and heart that reading See You At Harry’s is almost like reading a memory that you know you never lived but now cannot quite dismiss the thought that maybe, you did. GA

Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook, See You at Harry’s audio


Happy Like Soccer

Happy Like Soccer

By Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Picture book
Candlewick Press, 2012
ISBN: 0763646164/9780763646165
Awards/Recognitions: *Publisher’s Weekly, Starred review

In Happy Like Soccer, Sierra has just made a new soccer team and she loves it, but Sierra’s team plays across town, far from her apartment, and games take place on Saturdays. That’s the day Sierra’s auntie works long hours. While it’s nice to hear people cheering for her jersey number, Sierra wishes her auntie could see her play just once. Just once, Sierra wishes she could hear someone cheer for her by name.

Finally, her auntie gets a day off to watch Sierra play soccer. Under gray skies and the threat of rain, they take two buses to get to the field across town. Sierra can’t hide her disappointment when the game is called before it starts; she knows that Auntie’s boss will never allow her to take off two Saturdays in a row. Later that night at home, Sierra thinks of a way to play the rescheduled game that just might work for her auntie and the team. She’ll need some help to make it happen. Does Sierra dare to share her plan with Coach and ask for his help?

One of the most important skills for girls to learn is self-advocacy. For Sierra, the desire to join the two things she loves most – family and soccer – helps her speak up for herself. Author, Maribeth Boelts, and illustrator, Lauren Castillo, are perfectly paired in Happy Like Soccer. The inviting call and response of words and pictures bring both the light and shadows of Sierra’s story to life. GA


The Calling

The Calling

By Cathryn Clinton
Middle grade/ Ages 10 and up/Grades 5 and up
Candlewick Press, 2001
ISBN 0763613878/978-0763613877
Awards/recognitions: * Parents’ Choice Awards Gold Award

Cathryn Clinton’s first novel, The Calling, made me a lifelong fan of hers and of her book’s publisher, Candlewick Press. The strong girls that I know are spiritual beings. They wrestle with questions about right and wrong, about intuition, about the hereafter, and about how they fit into God’s plan. With The Calling , both author and publisher affirm that spiritual questions belong in the realm of children’s literature, for this is a story of a child receiving a call by God into her life’s work. Yet while spiritual journeys are serious matters, we have only to pay attention to the world around us or to read The Calling to remember that God really does have a big old sense of humor.

In The Calling, Esta Lea is one of the youngest members of a clan where preaching is a tradition, just how farming is for other families. At the ripe old age of twelve, Esta Lea unexpectedly gets the call to allow God to heal others through her. Esta Lea experiences visions and something profoundly different starts happening in her “knower” – her “knower” being the part of herself where wisdom and insight reside. She is a somewhat reluctant healer, pure in motivation, and both surprised and grateful as God uses her to restore the faithful to full sight, full hearing, and full faith.

Right away, Esta Lea’s handsome and ne’er do well uncle, Peter Earl, sees opportunity in his niece’s calling. He hatches a plan to take Esta Lea and her songbird older sister, Sarah Louise, on a healing revival tour of all the nearby small towns. But, is Peter Earl’s plan for God’s glory or Peter Earl’s? Not only is Esta Lea now a healer, she’s a bit of a private eye, too! With some help from her BFF, Sky, who unabashedly lives her life in emulation of Saint Joan of Arc, Esta Lea tries to figure out what her uncle is really up to. Add Peter Earl’s glammed up ex-girlfriend, a hoarder with a heart of pure gold and a prophetic gift of her own, a few other real-life saints, and The Calling is all at once mystery-comedy-faith fiction.

Yes, The Calling feels like home. This is a book to read when you need to breathe in a stand of pine trees, to recall a best friend who had your best interests at heart, to laugh out loud, and to rock easy in the grace of being called by name. GA

Learn more about Cathryn Clinton.


Shark Girl

Shark Girl

By Kelly Bingham
Young adult
Candlewick Press, 2007
ISBN: 0763632074 / 9780763632076
Hard cover, paperback, e-book
Awards/recognitions: * South Dakota Teen Choice Book Awards Reading List * Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Maryland) * Florida Teen Read Award * Oprah’s Book Club – Kids Reading List * Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year

Find a hammock, a beach chair, or a blanket. Go away to your backyard, the pool, or the ocean. Leave the tissues behind. It’s not that you won’t need them; it will just feel good to let your tears splash these pages. Kelly Bingham’s debut novel, Shark Girl traces one tragic and triumphant year in the life of fifteen-year old artist, Jane Arrowood.

A sunny day at the ocean in June turns into a national news story when a shark attacks Jane, severing her dominant right arm. Jane’s older brother, Michael, starts their day at the beach by teasing his sister about her pink bikini. Shortly thereafter it is Michael who pulls Jane out, saving her life. In a way, the rest of the story shows us how many people and how much time it takes to pull Jane Arrowood out of that moment that changed her life. Everyone works so hard at Jane’s recovery; no one harder than Jane.

Using poetry, journal entries, and interior dialogue to trace Jane’s recovery, Bingham tells the story in three parts. Part One occurs in the hospital immediately after the attack. Letters, cards, and flowers pour in from all over the world. People want Jane to be a hero. Jane just wants to be Jane, again. In the hospital therapy room, she meets a little kid named Justin who has lost his leg below the knee. When Jane tells him, “A shark attacked me,” Justin responds, “He ATE your arm?” Finally, here is someone who wouldn’t know how to walk on egg-shells even with feathers on his feet, and Jane’s recovery deepens. In Part Two, Michael, their mom, and her friends help Jane adjust to returning home. Everyone thinks Jane will never draw again. She remains friends with Justin, who urges her to draw him a picture, but Jane can’t. Part Three begins with Jane alone in the kitchen struggling to cook her own dinner. Flashbacks through poems that begin with “I remember” show us how long this journey has been and will continue to be for Jane. By Part Three, though, Jane is getting there. Her worries have shifted. She talks about make up; she accepts a ride and welcomes attention from a pretty cute guy. She gets angry when a friend makes her feel not good enough. And, Jane’s back.

Shark Girl is a book to be devoured. All in one sitting. I took a blanket and pillow out in the yard and read Shark Girl in an afternoon. Later, I let myself go back and take in the visual experience of how artistically the pages are designed and rendered to bring texture and illumination to the story. GA

Click here to listen to
an interview and reading with Kelly Bingham from Candlewick Press.

Learn more about author Kelly Bingham.


Butterfly

Butterfly

By Sonya Hartnett
Young adult
Candlewick Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4760-5
Awards/recognitions: * Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award *Starred reviews from Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal

There is a particular kind of girl who moves from middle grade novels straight into the adult world, without looking back. Her heart and mind are big enough to make the leap into all kinds of reading – just as long as it moves her. Luckily, there’s room on this list for a gifted writer who can create thoughtful and provocative YA that walks such readers into adulthood. Her name is Sonya Hartnett, an Australian author who won the 2006 Printz Honor award for her novel Surrender.

Butterfly, her 2009 release, is dark, thoughtful, and unerringly honest about the hell of being 13. Hartnett, who started publishing when she was a teenager, captures the world of “frenemies” and predatory adults, without reducing anyone to simple clichés.

Plum is about to turn 14, and her party plans are at hand. She lives an ordinary life in Australia with her loving (and thus incredibly irritating) parents, her 21-year-old brother, Justin, over whom all her friends swoon, and Cydar, the oldest brother, a pothead and recluse. Plum wants to stop believing in God. She wants to be thin and well-liked (or at least not tortured) by her friends. She wants someone to understand her, perhaps as well as her 35-year-old neighbor, Maureen Wilks. But is girlhood something we want to keep or something to run from? And what price does Plum have to pay to find out?

Plum and the other characters in this novel are richly layered and unpredictable in both their ruthlessness and unbelievable kindness. Hartnett’s prose is – as always – gorgeous, and her subtle insights about the landmines of becoming a woman are unfailing. Yes, the novel has drug use, sexuality, infidelity, and an uncanny accuracy for the painful self-loathing that comes on the heels of trying to blend into vicious girl groups. It also has chapters told from the point of view of the adults. If that makes you pull the plug on it as a book for young people, it’s your loss. To me,  Butterfly, as its name suggests, is about the metamorphosis of growing up. It’s about beauty emerging from even the ugliest situation. MM


Bink & Gollie

Bink and Gollie

By Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile
Early reader/picture book/or some new form these brilliant people have discovered, ages 4 – 8
Candlewick Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3266-3
Awards/recognitions: * ALA Notable Children’s Book 2010 * Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Charming, sweet, funny – you could use any of those descriptions for Bink & Gollie. But what makes this stand out as a Girls of Summer selection is that it celebrates girl friendship the way it ought to be. The story captures two complicated and headstrong buddies who figure out how to share fun and still leave room for individuality. (Seriously, is that too much to ask?) Gollie is tall and intellectual; Bink is short and all heart. In a mere 80 pages, DiCamillo and McGhee touch on disagreements, envy, and even a clash in temperament. But what I admire most is that the girls never try to hide who they are in order to remain friends. Instead, they make room for the other, whether it means trekking through the Andes or befriending a goldfish. Rounding things out are the illustrations by Tony Fucile of Disney fame for his award-winning character design for films like The Incredibles among others. His work here has a charming retro feel and palette that I find irresistible.  MM

I love that Bink and Gollie are part of “Girls of Summer.” What particularly thrills me is that they are seen as being absolutely, utterly, unapologetically themselves: strong, curious, a little bit difficult, a lot joyous.     — Kate DiCamillo

Read the Girls of Summer interview with Bink and Gollie co-author Alison McGhee here!

Visit Bink & Gollie‘s website: www.binkandgollie.com

Kate DiCamillo

Alison McGhee


What Comes After

What Comes After

What Comes After

By Steve Watkins
Young adult
Candlewick Press, 2011
Hardcover/ebook/audio
ISBN: 10-0763642509 / 13-9780763642501
Awards/recognition: Georgia Peach Award for Teen Readers

Once while at a writing conference, I heard a famous author ask, “Does the world really need more stories about child abuse?” Almost everyone in the audience laughed. I got kind of ticked off.

Does the world need more baseball stories? More World War II stories? More talking animal stories? Are children still being abused at the hands of their families? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Our world needs many more stories of triumph over trauma, especially those told by authors such as Steve Watkins who infuse the telling with insight, beauty, and clarity.

What Comes After is the realest of realistic fiction. In this, his second novel, Watkins fictionalizes a harrowing and true crime of an orphaned teen beaten at the hands of her extended family to the point of hospitalization. The story begins with a newspaper account of the beating, which conceals the victim’s identity. From there, we meet sixteen year-old Iris Wight just after her father’s death, just before she is sent to live with distant relatives in North Carolina. The story’s main villain, Aunt Sue, sees Iris – or more accurately, Iris’ trust fund – as a meal ticket. Free labor for the family’s goat farm. Right away, Aunt Sue begins to withhold all sustenance from Iris and attempts to strip her of her identity completely.

Iris, however, instinctively reaches into the depth of her own heart and soul and memory, turning What Comes After into a story of resiliency. She writes letters to her deceased veterinarian-dad. She finds ease and relief in the natural world. As Iris begins to care for the animals on Aunt Sue’s farm with skills she learned while accompanying her father on his rounds throughout her childhood, we see vividly how her dad’s nurturing presence attends to Iris, even long after his death.

As a reader, I found myself grasping for Iris’ name about mid-way through the book. I willed myself not to forget the girl, not to let Aunt Sue take away everything even from the story. The almost-disappearance of Iris as a person throughout the narrative is no accident and is, I think, a sort of ghost journey for the identities of so many abused children, invisible and unknown to us. Watkins sets this up from the first page and though I wanted to turn away, put the book down, I did not do it because. Because I trust Steve Watkins and his knowledge of how resiliency works, how it unfurls and rises up when it is needed most. Because I do believe that we need to hear these stories so we remember there is work yet to be done.

Watkins is a mandated child abuse reporter who volunteers for his local Court Appointed Special Advocates office (CASA). In 2010, over 1,000 CASA offices throughout the U.S. restored 237,000 children in America to safety. Watkins brings his real-life experience of working to end family violence to his writing. From having witnessed healing and recovery, he knows that early nurturing, social connections, friendships, and support in a crisis are key to a child’s ability to survive and, ultimately, to thrive. Yes, he sends Iris on a journey to hell. Yes, he is very clear that the fictional character, Iris Wight, is willing to make this journey on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of children who we may only read about in the newspaper, but thankfully, Iris Wight is well-equipped to make the return trip. GA

Listen to an audio excerpt of What Comes After from Brilliance Audio

Learn more about author Steve Watkins.