Kids Blog

Happy Birthday Leo Lionni!

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

If youve ever stopped by our StoryTime on Tuesdays you probably noticed how much we at BookCourt love Leo Lionni. Today would have been the renowned designer, writer, and illustrators 100th birthday. Celebrate by picking up one of our favorite titles:

Leo Lionni was never awarded the Caldecott Medal, but he made the Honors list four times. One of those times was for Frederick, a story that appears at the beginning to be a traditional Ant and Grasshopper warning about working hard and being prepared, but turns into a touching missive on the value that artists and writers contribute to society. Leo Lionnis stories were full of interesting surprise lessons like Fredericks.

Tico and the Golden Wings is one of the most spectacular examples of Lionnis illusrtration, with detailed paintings of a bird and his trip through India helping the poor with his golden wings. Lionni doesnt just moralize about being charitable, though; the story raises complicated questions about the nature of friendship and acceptance.

Lionni could make beautifully detailed paintings and drawings, but some of his most-famous books have the simplest illustrations. His first book, Little Blue and Little Yellow, is illustrated entirely with torn paper, and teaches children about the color wheel and friendship.

And for a little reading about Leo Lionni, pick up Vivian Gussin Paleys story of the year her kindergarten class spent studying his work, The Girl with the Brown Crayon. The students responses to his stories and illustration are surprisingly insightful and open up a whole new avenue of talking to your kids about stories. And short enough to read during the little ones naps!

So, Happy 100th Birthday Leo Lionni! We will make some rabbits and think of you.

Kids Events at BookCourt

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Have you been coming our our Sunday kids author events series? If you havent, this is what youve been missing:

Oliver Jeffers led the kids in a paper-plane-making (and throwing) contest

Stephen Savage and his trusty assistant demonstrate how he illustrated Margaret Wise Brown's The Fathers are Coming Home

Sergio Ruzzier wondered what the kids would ask the rabbit for if they were in his book Hey Rabbit!, so they drew what they wanted for him!

Our kids author and illustrator series keeps going strong through the month of May. This Sunday were excited for our first special Mothers Day event for the book Mama Says: A Book of Love for Mothers and Sons. Author Rob. D Walker and illustrators Leo and Diane Dillion (two-time Caldecott winners for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples Ears and Ashanti to Zulu) will be joining us to read and sign books and celebrate the mothers of Cobble Hill (and anywhere else you come from). The event is free and no reservation is required, just bring your favorite local mom and family and join us!

Great Titles for Black History Month

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Freedom on the Menu by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jerome LaGarrigue
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins, and Freedom on the Menu is probably the best childrens book you could use to mark the occasion. Weatherford tells the story from the perspective of a young girl whose siblings join in the fight for equal rights in Greensboro. She makes the story exciting and accessible for young readers while LaGarrigues muted color paintings lend a solemn quality to the story.

Henrys Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Most kids have heard stories of slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad, but not every story involves the dangerous night hikes and safe-houses weve come to expect. Levine tells the surprising story of a man who actually mailed himself to freedom. Henry Browns story is understandably sad and upsetting in the beginning, and even though Levine is not graphic in her descriptions of the hardships he faces, the loss of Henrys family and parts of his escape might be difficult for younger readers to handle. But kids ages 6 and up will be enthralled by the unusual (true!) story and Nelsons Caldecott-Honor-winning illustrations.

Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Jerry Pinkney became the first African-American to win the Caldecott Medal on his own just last month, but Leo Dillon was the first African-American to win the award, and he and his wife are the only people to ever win the medal two years in a row. They accomplished this feat with 2 wonderful books about African fables and traditions: first, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples Ears and then Ashanti to Zulu, an alphabet book that takes readers across the continent. Each letter introduces another tribe or culture to expose kids and parents to the diversity of Africa, and while it might be organized alphabetically, kids will learn plenty from this book long after theyve mastered their letters. A beautiful reminder that African American can mean a lot of different things.

Choosing just a few books for this post was tricky, and we have more than 20 of our favorite Black History books for all ages on display right now in the store.

Best of the Rest

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

We wrote about the American Library Associations three big awards announced Monday, but there were actually 17 other awards handed out that day (and many of those awards included 2-4 honorable mentions). Its a formidable list. These are a few of our favorites.

Marcelo in the Real World was awarded the Schneider Family Book Award, honoring books that that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience. Simply classifying this book as a disability book sells it short, though. It wasnt just the best book about a kid on the autism spectrum, it was one of the best young adult books of the year, period. Francisco X. Stork created a wonderfully complex and caring character in Marcelo, whos challenges with new jobs, new friends, morality, and the new-found fallibility of his family are universal, even if his challenges with Aspergers are not.

Another staff favorite that wound up in the hands of pretty much any person who wandered in and said I need a gift for a 5 [or 6, or 7, or 8]-year-old, Moonshot by Brooklyn resident Brian Floca is the beautifully-illustrated account of the Apollo 11 mission. The ALA named it a Sibert Honor Book, recognizing distinguished informational books for children, but the poetic text makes it as good a bedtime story as it is a reference. The balance of engrossing story with detailed diagrams and a more advanced history of the early space program at the back of the book make Moonshot a book that can grow with kids and wont get tossed aside as they get older.

Bad News for Outlaws by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson flew under our radar until it was awarded the Coretta Scott King Award honoring African American authors, but that cover demands attention. Inside its the exciting and sometimes startling story of Bass Reeves, a former slave who became a Deputy U.S. Marshall. The reading level is decidedly higher than most picture books, which makes it a great addition to the non-fiction section of middle-grade classroom libraries, but would also make a great quick read aloud for families with older kids who have graduated to reading mostly on their own. Everyone loves to be read to sometimes.

The complete list of awardees is here. With 20 different categories, theres no excuse for not being able to find something to read.

Childrens Book Awards Announced

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The American Library Association made some pretty good decisions this morning with their Youth Media Awards.

Newbery Award: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

A personal favorite of several employees (and by favorite, we mean if you were between the ages of 8 and 12 we pretty much would not let you leave the store without this book), When You Reach Me deserves every bit of praise it has received and more. The writing is crisp, the characters are lovable and relatable, and the plot is quick and exciting. Rebecca Stead joined us for our Young Reader Book Club meeting in November to share her experiences writing the book and growing up on the Upper West Side like her main character, Miranda. One interesting bit we learned: Rebecca was inspired to write the novel after hearing a news story about a man in Washington state who lost his memory, and the only part of his identity he remembered were things that hadnt happened yet. We also talked about the lovely cover, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. You can see how the cover came together here.

Newbery Honor books can be found here.

Caldecott: The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

It takes a special talent to tell a story entirely in pictures, which is probably why the ALA is fond of giving the Caldecott to books without words. One thing theyve never done before, though, is give it to an individual* African-American illustrator. The Lion and the Mouse follows in other wordless books** footsteps, but illustrator Jerry Pinkney blazes a new trail for African Americans with his much-deserved win this morning. Wordless books are a great way for pre-reading kids to learn about story structure, and are also a fun way to challenge kids who can read to approach books in a new way. The gorgeous watercolor illustrations of The Lion and the Mouse are a welcome addition to the genre.

Check out the Caldecott Honor books here.

Printz: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Lastly, we were delighted to see that frequent BookCourt guest Libba Bray was awarded the Printz award for Young Adult Literature. One thing the big ALA awards are sometimes lacking is genuine humor, but the audience at our recent Going Bovine reading repeatedly cracked up at the antics of 16-year-old mad-cow-disease sufferer Cameron. Libba Bray writes smart, witty, less-than-perfect teenage characters who might not always be likable, but theyre all the more believable for it.

The ALA handed out quite a few other awards this morning as well. A complete list of awards are here and up-to-date information on recipients can be found here. Congratulations to all the winners!

*Cobble Hills own Leo Dillon is actually the first African American to win the prize. He won it twice with his wife, Diane, back to back in 1976 and 1977.
**Okay, theres some onomatpoeia worked into some illustrations. We dont really think those should count towards the books word count, which is otherwise zero.