Saturday, January 26, 2013

Week 4: Caldecott, Newbery, & Printz Reviews

Caldecott Reviews:

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
A young girl named Annabelle discovers a magical box containing a never-ending supply of yarn.  Annabelle uses the yarn to knit a sweater for herself and her dog, then her friends, classmates, neighbors, animals, etc.  Eventually Annabelle’s whole village has benefited from her knitting.  Word spreads of her magical box until an archduke arrives demanding to buy her box but Annabelle refuses.  The archduke hires robbers to steal the box but when he receives the box, it has lost its magic and the archduke throws the box into the sea.  The box eventually returns to Annabelle and its magic is restored. 
The illustrations are ink, gouache, and digitally created.  Klassen has created a black and white world that is brightened with colorful geometric stiches.  Each stitch is bright and warm, giving feeling to Annabelle’s world.  Alone, Barnett’s text is void of emotion but with Klassen’s artwork the reader feels the power of the magical yarn box.  People, animals, cars, buildings, and trees become alive with Annabelle’s sweaters.  Ill-tempered characters’ facial expressions warm with Annabelle’s gift.  Barnett’s text paired with Klassen’s illustrations brings this story to life and show how simple acts are powerful.

Chloe and the lion by Mac Barnett
Chloe and the lion should be the story of a young girl who collects change all week to ride the merry-go-round on Saturdays.  After a fun afternoon of riding the merry-go-round, Chloe heads home through woods.  But this is where Chloe’s story ends because the Author and Illustrator disagree on what should leap out from behind an oak tree.  The author writes that a lion leaps out but the Illustrator draws a dragon, thus becoming a battle between the Author and Illustrator with the main character trapped in the middle.  The Author gets a new Illustrator to draw a lion and eat the Illustrator, but then he quits leaving the Author to draw the pictures.  It is only with the help of Chloe that the book can be finished.
While the story sounds confusing, Adam Rex’s illustrations help to distinguish between the story of Chloe and the lion and the story of Author & Illustrator.  Chloe and her story are line drawings, while Mac and Adam are Claymation.  Their story offers insight into the relationship between authors and Illustrators.  Often children do not consider the author and illustrator when reading a picture book but in this story you have no choice but to consider both.  Barnett’s book also shows how important a good illustrator is to a story.  As the illustrator changes in the book, so do the illustrations, quickly getting worse.
This book is a great example of the importance of illustrations, without them there is no story to tell.  This book is a great candidate for the Caldecott award.

Caldecott Reviews:
One and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Ivan is a silverback gorilla that lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  Ivan has not always been a captive gorilla.  He was born in the wild but early in life was captured and raised by humans.  He has few memories of his life in the jungle and finds the easiest way to survive is to let go of the few memories he has.  Ivan is not alone.  In the cage next to him is Stella, an elderly elephant that grew up in a cirus before ending up in the Exit 8 Top Mall.  Ivan also has Bob, a stray dog that sleeps in Ivan's cage at night by squeezing through a crack in the glass.  Ivan's day to day life changes when a baby elephant, Ruby, is introduced to the Exit 8 Big Top.  Soon after Ruby's arrival Stella dies from an infection in her foot.  Before she dies Ivan makes the difficult promise to Stella to protect Ruby and keep her safe.  Ruby's presence opens up a wave of memories for Ivan of his mother, father, and sister. He begins inviting back the memories of his childhood in the jungle.  These memories and his promise force Ivan to look at the poor life they are all living.  Ivan knows that he and Ruby have to escape this place and Ivan begins to dream up a plan.

Applegate creates this story using first person narrative through Ivan's eyes.  His life and observations are showed through his concious thoughts.  Applegate does a beautiful job of showing readers how Ivan's mind works and how he views the world.  There is nothing fantastical about this story.  Applegate does not shy away from the truth about animal abuse. This is a beautiful written story, with a wonderful message about captive animals. 

Printz Reviews:

Code name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Code name Verity is a difficult book to review without giving away too many important plot details that will spoil the book.  This review will be brief. 

A British spy plane crashes in Nazi occupied France during World WarII.  There is a pilot and one female passenger on board.  As the plane crashes to the ground the passenger exits the plane and our two main characters are separated.  "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo before her mission even begins.  Nazi interrogators quickly break her spirit and give her two options: reveal British secrets or suffer further torture and a grisly death.  "Verity" is quick to tell readers that she is a coward and agrees to trade secrets to stop the torture, but will it be enough to save her life.  Verity reveals her secrets by writing a lengthy confession for the Nazi's in the form of a biography, making Maddie, her best friend, the main character in her story.  This may sound confusing but will be explained within her confession.

The book starts out with lengthy rambling by the main character that may turn off readers but keep going!  You will understand why the book needs to start this way.  "Verity" refers to herself in the second person but this is necessary for her to create a full picture of the war.  Half way through the book the narrator changes and all the loose ends are pulled together.  This is a beautiful story with well-developed characters that you want to love and hate.  Even the Nazi interrogators have dimension.  If this book appears too overwhelming or you are having trouble getting past the first fifty pages, check out the audiobook.  The narrators are brilliant.  Be warned that this book is not for the squeamish; torture is an underlying theme in this book that is necessary to the story.

Ask the passengers by A.S. King
Astrid Jones desperately needs someone she can trust to talk to.  She can’t talk to her parents, her sister, or even her best friend.  Instead Astrid lies on the picnic table in her backyard and watches the airplanes fly overhead.  She sends her love to the passengers on the airplanes and sends her own questions about love as well.  Astrid does not know the passengers of the flights she sees but believes they are the only people who will not judge her.
Astrid is questioning her sexuality.  She has previously had a boyfriend but now finds herself attracted to a girl named Dee.  As her relationship with Dee intensifies the people around her want answers; answers that Astrid is not prepared to share.  Growing up in a small town, Astrid faces many small prejudices.
Ask the passenger is not a groundbreaking book about struggling with sexuality but this story of belonging, self-discovery, and peer pressure is wonderfully written and allows readers to be who they are without labels.  This book is broken up with passengers from people aboard the flights Astrid sends her love to, offering insight into homosexual and heterosexual relationships; along with relationships just getting started and relationships that have come to an end.  This book is worth your time.

The Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz awards will be announced on Monday, January 28 at 11:00 a.m.

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