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JANUARY 2016

Five questions for Barbara McClintock
by Katie Bircher
Barbara McClintockEach of author/illustrator Barbara McClintock's picture books provides a glimpse into a jewel-box of a world, from bustling early-twentieth-century Paris (Adèle & Simon; Farrar, 4–7 years) to a cozy 1970s mouse-house (Where's Mommy?, written by Beverly Donofrio; Schwartz & Wade, 4–7 years). Her latest, Emma and Julia Love Ballet (Scholastic, 4–7 years), does the same for the vibrant world of ballet, giving readers a look at the daily routines of two dancers: one a student just starting out, the other a professional in her prime. A dancer myself, I jumped at the chance to talk to Barbara about how she translates movement to the page.

1. How did you decide on this day-in-the-life, compare-and-contrast format for showcasing a dancer's reality?

BM: I blame two of my favorite books for putting the idea in my head: The Borrowers by Mary Norton and The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Marc Simont. The parallel world of The Borrowers fascinated me as a child. And I fell in love—hard!—with the behind-the-scenes showering, sock-pulling-on, hair-combing, and beard-trimming preparations of orchestral musicians before their evening performance in The Philharmonic Gets Dressed.

My older sister Kathleen lived, breathed, ate, and slept ballet when she was little, and I'd wanted to make a book honoring her for a long time. She took me to my first professional dance performance, which proved to have a profound influence on my creative life. Her passion for dance inspired me to believe in myself as an artist. Read More...

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Get a move on
by Elissa Gershowitz
On the Ball by Brian PinkneyWhether kicking a soccer ball, dancing ballet, tiptoeing through the…jungle, or belly-sliding on the ice, these feisty protagonists know how to keep things moving. Get on up!

Brian Pinkney's On the Ball begins on a soccer field, then takes flight as a young boy's imagination soars. The opening text reads, "Owen loved playing ball," and the accompanying illustrations show a boy first dribbling and then tripping over a soccer ball, because "playing ball…didn't always love Owen." When the ball gets away, intrepid Owen chases after it; fantastical scenes show the child transform into a merman, a tiger, and a bird. Pinkney employs loose black ink brushstrokes accented with swaths of color to visually convey movement. (Disney-Hyperion, 3–6 years) Read More...

The world around us
by Katie Bircher
Woodpecker Wham! by April Pulley SayrePreschoolers' curiosity makes them an ideal audience for books about animals and the natural world. These nonfiction picture books communicate information at a preschool-perfect pace—and with plenty of wonder.

In Woodpecker Wham!, author April Pulley Sayre uses a rhyming, sound word–filled text to introduce the distinctively noisy woodpecker and the rhythmic cadences that fill its industrious life: "Wedge it. Sledge it. / Wham by wham. / Clear those chips. / SLAM, SLAM, SLAM!" As several woodpecker species engage in their day-to-day routines, their actions and behaviors are characterized by sound—newly hatched babies crick, crack, flop; adults chip and chop at tree trunks and flick out the insects they find. Illustrator Steve Jenkins's cut- and torn-paper collage illustrations provide action-filled perspectives on the birds swooping, pecking, fanning, and preening. (Holt, 2–5 years) Read More...
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Identifying with history
by Siân Gaetano
American Ace by Marilyn NelsonIn poetry or prose, these works of historical fiction for middle graders delve into the search for identity during hard times, offering paths to self-fulfillment through connecting with family or the arts.

In American Ace, a novel in verse, Marilyn Nelson tells the story of Connor Bianchini, who discovers that his biological grandfather was a WWII Tuskegee Airman, and thus African American. It's somewhat exciting for Connor, but his father suffers an identity crisis. The more the family learns about the Tuskegee Airmen, though, the more proud they become: "Black warriors. Potential grandfathers. / Imagine: Heroes in our family!" Several photographs of Tuskegee Airmen in action plus a concluding author's note enhance the book. (Dial, 8–11 years) Read More...

Survival adventures
by Katrina Hedeen
On the Run by Tristan BancksThese high-stakes survival tales feature bad-ass boys braving the elements, racing the clock, battling villains, and fending off wild creatures, all while learning a little something about themselves and nature. Thrill-seekers should be enthralled.

Tristan Bancks's On the Run begins with twelve-year-old Ben's parents fleeing the police, leaving Ben and his younger sister, Olive, on their own in a creepy old cabin in the Australian bush. Ben finds a copy of My Side of the Mountain in the cabin, appropriate—and useful—reading since he and Olive are now essentially in the midst of their own survival drama. Bancks's third-person narrative laces the propulsive survival story with ethical questions young Ben ponders. (Farrar/Ferguson, 9–12 years) Read More...
 
 

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FROM THE EDITOR
Roger Sutton
Well, a few years ago the Caldecott Medal went to what many people thought was a novel (The Invention of Hugo Cabret), and this week we have the Newbery going to a thirty-two page picture book, the first time this has happened since A Visit to William Blake's Inn in 1982 and only the second picture-book winner ever. I do like surprises, and even if Sophie Blackall's Caldecott win is not a complete surprise, it is both well deserved and justice poetic. (A friend cracked that they should serve blackberry fool at the banquet this summer.) We have rounded up all of our reviews of the ALA award winners; go have a look.

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Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

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