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February Favorite: Bone Gap February 20, 2015

Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
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I am having a very good reading month in February! Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan was a middle grade historical adventure with twists and turns and a hint of magic. Gabi, a girl in pieces by Isabel Quintero was sweet and funny and strong and hopeful. Audacity by Melanie Crowder was thoughtful and lovely and helped me better understand early 20th century labor history. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart made me miss Florence and think about cities and families, art and the brain in an entirely different way.

So many favorites, but I think my top pick this month has to be Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, which hovers in the back of my head and refuses to leave. I love the characters, the setting, the tone and the way it reveals big truths about our world through extremely specific moments that the characters experience. It is unflinching in it’s examination of the ways women are subjected to unfairness and cruelty, but at the same time, offers a portrayal of strong relationships built on respect and love. The prose is beautiful, the magic is entrancing and the painful moments are balanced with humor. I highly recommend it to everyone!

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Oh My Gods! Comics for a Mythology Lover February 14, 2015

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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For those of you who love Greek mythology, there are plenty of awesome comics retelling these ancient stories for both kids and adults! Here are a few:

Amazing Greek Myths of Wonders and Blunders

by Michael Townsend

blundersThe table of contents gives a sense of the tone of this one: “Pygmalion’s Rocky Relationship!” “Arachne Gets a Big Head!” This collection features mostly side stories (Icarus, Pandora etc.) rather than the twelve great gods. The artwork is brightly colored and occasionally silly, making this a good choice for younger readers. Also, there are sheep. Lots of them.

Olympians Series by George O’Connor

zeusIf you’d rather stick to the twelve main gods, look no further than this fantastic series, which has seven books out so far. Starting with Zeus, each book focuses on stories about one particular god or goddess, paired with gorgeous artwork. O’Connor shapes the stories to be as action packed and suspenseful as any superhero story and includes a bibliography and author’s note explaining his sources. In an additional section titled “G(r)eek Notes” he talks about his process in drawing the panels and points out tiny details and hidden references throughout the series for hardcore fans.

The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds

odysseyIf epic wanderings and misfortunes are more your style, why not try this take on the great Homer himself? Leaving out none of the adventures, from the Cyclops to the bloody homecoming at Ithaca, Hinds’ lush, detailed panels reflect the scope and rich language of the original poem. The monsters are scary, the gods are intimidating and Odysseus himself is very sympathetic in this fantastic retelling that makes it clear why this tale has lasted so long.

Letter to a Comics-Loving Student February 14, 2015

Posted by ccbooks in Classroom Books.
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In honor of El Deafo and This One Summer being the first books to win in all three top ALA Youth Media Award categories, I am writing this long-overdue letter. 

Dear Javier,

I’m not sure if you remember me but I was your third grade teacher at Tuckahoe Elementary School in Arlington. You were only there for a year before you moved with your mom to another part of Virginia. I was the teacher with the library of books in her classroom, who read out loud to you while we waited for buses to be called, and had everyone sit down to read independently every day. I remember there was one series of books that you read over and over and over again–Bone by Jeff Smith.

I want to say that I’m sorry for not understanding your love of comics and the genius of this series. You see, I didn’t read any sort of comics growing up–not even the ones in the newspaper most of the time. In my mind, a book was words only, and I thought that since Bone was a comic, it wasn’t the same thing. I was wrong. Bone has complicated characters, an action-filled plot and as many twists, and turns as any of the stories on my library shelves. The stakes are high, the relationships are strong and there are moments of connection and love as well as laugh-out loud humor. You learned just as much about reading from deciphering the expressions of Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone as analyzing their dialogue. You were probably my only student who knew about Moby Dick, thanks to Fone Bone. I wish I had talked about the series with you; asked you who was your favorite character, what surprised you and what you thought might happen next to Thorn and Gran’ma Ben.

I’m not teaching full time anymore but I am reading comics! I loved Cece Bell’s memoir El Deafo, the action-packed Battling Boy by Paul Pope and I’m eagerly awaiting the adventure The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks. I hope you are still reading comics too and maybe even writing and drawing your own. I hope your new teacher (and librarian) encourages you and other kids to read and share and enjoy more comics. I’m sorry it took me so long to open my mind and appreciate the value of this style of storytelling. Thank you for helping me get there.

your teacher,

Ms. Cackley

Jumping Up and Down in Excitement February 9, 2015

Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
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I really should have written this last Monday, when the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced. SO MUCH AWESOMENESS all in a short span of time!! Almost everything that was a favorite of mine won some award, and several won multiple awards. Here is a recap of my favorites:

PURA BELPRE

I was excited and completely unsurprised to see Viva Frida win for illustration and Separate is Never Equal get an honor. I was slightly surprised that Gabi: a girl in pieces did not win for text and I am looking forward to checking out I Lived on Butterfly Hill, especially now that I’ve been to Chile.

CORETTA SCOTT KING

Pretty much no surprises here. I have been saying that Brown Girl Dreaming would (and should) win all the awards for months now. I’m so happy it got a nice shiny gold medal.

PRINTZ AWARD

Not at all surprised to see both This One Summer and Grasshopper Jungle get honors and now I’m even more excited to read Carnival at Bray (which neither of my two library systems had on hand when it was nominated for Morris and people started talking about it). I’ll Give You the Sun didn’t stick with me as much as other titles this year, but I thought it was well-written and definitely deserving of the award.

CALDECOTT MEDAL

This one had me screaming. At one point I could only stammer “I can’t type I can’t type” onto Twitter. I was so excited, I may have woken my roommates up and scared the dog with my cries of joy. To see Lauren Castillo get her first (I’m sure not last) award for Nana in the City,  as well as a graphic novel (This One Summer, again) get an honor, The Right Word win an honor and Viva Frida win an honor! Viva Frida is the first title EVER to win both Caldecott and Pura Belpre! EVER. Thrilling. Beekle has also been a favorite, ever since I read it way back in the spring.

NEWBERY MEDAL

Even more screaming. As I said, I knew Brown Girl Dreaming would turn up in this list but El Deafo? I was hoping and crossing my fingers and look what happened! IT WON!! Another huge first, a graphic novel memoir winning the Newbery–I couldn’t be more thrilled. There is probably only one title that I would have been happy to see take the gold medal away from Brown Girl Dreaming and that was The Crossover. Though I know absolutely nothing about basketball, the brothers in this story made their way into my heart and as I read, I was picturing all the thousands of kids who I KNOW this is going to speak to. I’m so happy it now has a big gold sticker to advertise its awesomeness to the world.