Tag Archives: recommended

My Appreciation for Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang

emperor's riddleThis is a brief note to say that Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang (Aladdin, May 2017) fits the bill of my continuing search for fun stories set in contemporary China that features Asian American children and authentically captures both the modern day life familiar to western readers and the cultural flavor unique to China.  Definitely a book that I will introduce to the Chinese American mother and child who came seeking books featuring characters that “look more like her.”

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Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, 2016

The winners and honor titles are now public!!!  Watch the video announcement here!


Fiction/Poetry

Winner

The Lie Tree
by Frances Hardinge

Honor

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Picture Books

Winner

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo

Honor

One Day, The End.: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories by Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Fred Koehler
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Nonfiction

Winner

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

Honor

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Having read a host of titles this year, I can vouch for the excellence and brilliance of each and every one of our final selected titles. I couldn’t have been prouder or more grateful to having served on this committee. Hope more readers will discover/rediscover these books!

Below are many other titles that I would also highly recommend to readers, by categories:

Fiction/Poetry:

whengreenbecoomestomatoes allamericanboyscurioustaleoftheinbetween

Bardugo, Leigh: Six of Crows
Brown, Peter: The Wild Robot
DeStefano, Lauren: A Curious Tale of the In-Between
Fogliano, Julie: When Green Becomes Tomatoes
Lu, Marie: Rose Society
Nelson, Marilyn: My Seneca Village
Oppel, Kenneth: The Nest
Reynolds, Jason & Brendan Kiely: All American Boys
Riordan, Rick: Sword of Summer
Rundell, Katherine: Wolf Wilder
Savit, Gavriel: Anna and the Swallow Man
Selznick, Brian: Marvels
Sepetys, Ruta: Salt to the Sea

Picture Books:

billysboogerfreedomincongosquare bookitch

Atinuke: Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!
Barnett, Mac: Leo: A Ghost Story
Buitrago, Jairo: Two White Rabbits
Daywalt, Drew: The Day the Crayons Came Home
Fan, Terry & Eric Fan: The Night Gardener
Goodrich, Carter: We Forgot Brock
Henkes, Kevin: Waiting
Hurley, Jorey: Hop
Jenkins, Emily: Toys Meet Snow
Joyce, William: Billy’s Booger
Light, Steve: Swap
Miyakoshi, Akiko: The Tea Party in the Woods
Miyares, Daniel: Float
Nelson, Vaunda: The Book Itch
Park, Linda Su: Yaks Yak
Smith, Lane: There Is a Tribe of Kids
Stead, Philip C: Ideas Are All Around
Tate, Don: Poet
Weatherford, Carole Boston: Freedom in Congo Square
Yoon, Salina: Be A Friend

 

Nonfiction:

samurairising breakthrough terribletyphoidmary

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell: Terrible Typhoid Mary
Brown, Don: Drowned City
Engle, Margarita: Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Freedman, Russell: We Will Not Be Silent
Hendrix, John: The Miracle Man
Murphy, Jim: Breakthrough
Pinkney, Andrea Davis: Rhythm Ride
Samanci, Ozge: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey
Silverberg, Cory: Sex is a Funny Word
Tonatiuh, Duncan: Funny Bones
Turner, Pamela S.: Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

 

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Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

unusualchickensUnusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Definitely a breezy read with some fun bits and pieces. I really like Kelly Jones’ portrayal of Sophie, level-headed, with plenty of normal kid concerns and normal kid courage. Jones included some not-too-heavy-handed tidbits about how others perceive Sophie, being half Mexican American, being viewed as poor, being “presumed” in not-so-flattering ways.

Since my taste runs more toward more saturated kind of fantasy, I wanted the chickens’ powers (and they are amazing powers) to manifest more, stronger, and add more tension to the story.  However, I can also see how this can be quite attractive to those who just want their magic to be more like everyday happenings — not too many world-altering encounters.

My narrative device-detector antenna was definitely alert for this one and wish that the letter-writing device had worked all the way through.  The really really long, as-it-happens, climatic sections did not work all that well for me: not sure when/where Sophie would have been writing to Agnes in the middle of rescuing the chickens and participating in the Poultry Show (and it is apparent that those letters weren’t written after all the excitement as a report, since Agnes would have known all that had happened and wouldn’t have needed such narration of events.)

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The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

threebodyproblem The Three Body Problem (三体)by Liu Cixin(刘慈忻),translated by Ken Liu

This is a rare experience for me since my encounters with Science Fiction tend to be on the “soft sci-fi” end: where the details of the science employed by the authors are often quite flexible to suit the narrative needs of the tale.  This is Hard Science Fiction and I was absolutely fascinated (even while I didn’t quite understand them) by the explanation of the Three-Body physics problem, the unfolding of protons into various dimensional modules, and how radio waves are delivered and received, etc. However, what compelled me to keep on reading was the realistic and unflinching depiction of the story’s backdrop (from Cultural Revolution era to contemporary China,) the underlying multiple and somewhat conflicting philosophies about human nature, the life story and struggles of one of the main female characters, and the kinship I feel with a specific type of online gaming.

The author honestly and boldly laid out the views of his characters (and one can choose to side with or against whichever view) and the translator faithfully captured and presented the analytical and yet deeply emotional landscape of the story.

Let’s celebrate this book’s 2015 Hugo Award win for being a solid hard science fiction and for being the very first Hugo novel winner penned by an Asian author.

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Magyk by Angie Sage

magykMagyk by Angie Sage

A gentle story of magic and friendship, full of entertaining tidbits for imaginative young readers. Glad that I finally got to read it since the series has been a favorite of many of my students for a while.

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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

lemoncelloEscape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

I can easily understand why my 4th grade students have raved about this one: there’s the thrill of watching a complex puzzle being solved, the excitement of exploring new friendship, the coziness of strengthening old friendship, and the novelty of discovering inventions of a high-tech, but still story-filled, library.  Plus a little bit of safe scare: facing down and defeating villains that really aren’t that threatening from beginning to end. This is old school children’s mystery fun.

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Firefight

firefight Firefight by Brandon Sanderson (Reckoners, #2)

This second book in the Reckoners series reads like a complete story — with it central villain(s) being dealt with by the last chapter and secrets revealed. It also sets up the next book nicely, because those secrets will propel the conflict into grander scales. A thoroughly enjoyable book that did not go beyond my expectations, even when some “shocking truths” are exposed. Perhaps because I have been binging on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as I read this book, and the two storylines share a lot of similarities especially when it comes to how the perceived good characters and those supposedly bad characters might turn out to be very different from what you have originally believed. So, I learned to mistrust all characters (even the narrator himself) until proven otherwise. This makes me wonder about the recent wild popularity of dystopian novels for young people and the central conflict rooted in a strong distrust of one’s government (or team, family, or friends, etc.)

I am all for critical thinking and questioning authority and demanding clear reasons and transparency when we are asked to behave in certain ways (and when we ask young people to follow certain rules and paths.) However, I often fear that we (as educators) are encouraging generations of young people to question everything every step of the way and mistrust those around them as the default form of interaction with the wider world. Once in a while, it would be so nice to simply just trust since I do believe that large portion of humanity is good.

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