Review: Worm Loves Worm

“Worm loves Worm. ‘Let’s be married’ says Worm to Worm. ‘Yes!’ answers Worm.”

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Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato.
Balzer + Bray imprint, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2016.
Picture book, 28 pages.
Lexile:  not yet leveled
AR Level:  2.0 (worth 0.5 points) .

Worm loves Worm.  So Worm proposes.  They want to be married.  But then Cricket and Beetle and the rest all have their own ideas about what a wedding should look like.  Will Worm and Worm ever be able to just be married?

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This book got a lot of attention while marriage equality was still in the news, but the buzz has died down.  Although immigration has replaced marriage equality as the hot topic of the moment, Worm Loves Worm is still a valuable addition to your library.

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Board Book Review: Tango Makes Three

Our 35th board book was enjoyable, but would read better in a larger format.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.
Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015, orig. pub. 2005.
Picture book converted to board book format, 32 pages.

The true story of two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo who became a family, and their adopted daughter Tango.

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And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.

This is a picture book converted to a board book.  Such conversions are always tricky.  Some cut valuable information and lose the meaning of the story or the grace of the illustrations.  Others simply shrink down the size of the book and create a hybrid that might not work for either the original picture book audience or the babies and toddlers that typically use board books.

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Review: My Brother Martin

“We three stuck together / like the pages in a brand-new book. / And being normal young children, / we were almost always up to something.” page 10

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Christine King Farris, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet.
Simon and Schuster, New York, 2003.
Picture book nonfiction, 40 pages.
Lexile:  970L  .
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 0.5 points)  .

Personal remembrances of Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood from his older sister Christine.

My Brother Martin

I debated a lot before buying this book.  Our local libraries didn’t have it and the cover, especially in a small thumbnail version, is just so unattractive.  However, I was hoping for something different from the standard stories, which is exactly what this book delivers.  Luckily the interior art is excellent!

The book does skew a bit toward older readers with denser text and more difficult words like chifforobe, Cyclorama, Auburn, cruelty, bigotry, nourishing.  The main focus here is on MLK’s childhood, specifically on two fronts – both the ways in which he was an ordinary, sometimes mischievous little boy, and the events that shaped his personality.

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Martin Luther King’s congregation includes his son MLK, Jr. on pages 28 and 29 of My Brother Martin.

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Review: Away West

“Everett had been wandering around for almost an hour. His body ached from the cold, and he had no idea where to go.” page 19

Away West (Scraps of Time 1879) by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Gordon James.
Puffin Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, New York, 2006.
Elementary historical fiction, 121 pages.
Lexile:  510L  .
AR Level:  3.4 (worth 1.0)  .

The Scraps of Time series is built around the idea of a grandmother and three grandchildren building a scrapbook about their family from items kept in their grandmother’s attic.  One of the children finds something and asks Gee about it, and then the story proper begins as she tells them the story behind that item.

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Scraps of Time 1879 Away West by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Gordon C. James.

In this case the item is a Civil War army medal, although the story does not deal directly with the Civil War.  Instead, Gee tells them about her grandfather, Everett Turner.  The youngest of three brothers, he was determined to find his place in the West.

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Review: Black Cowboy, Wild Horses

“Bob had been a slave and had never learned to read words. But he could look at the ground and read what animals had walked on it, their size and weight, when they had passed by, and where they were going.” page 7

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin, New York, 1998.
Picture book nonfiction, 40 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.5 (worth 0.5 points)  .

One expedition of a cowboy named Bob Lemmons, famed for his ability to bring in herds of wild mustangs solo.

Black Cowboy Wild Horses
Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

As a young reader I acquired a childish interest in the West.  Actually, I’m pretty sure it was from Laura Ignalls Wilder (and yes, I now know how problematic that was, and our kids read Louise Erdrich instead).  In adult life, I’ve been learning just how very much was wrong, or omitted, from my early education.  Even so, it was surprising to learn that the common all-white image of cowboys were actually roughly a third Hispanic and that one in four cowboys was African-American.

Luckily there are several diverse books about this, so I can share a much more accurate and sensitive culturally appropriate portrayal of the West with our kids.  Since we love Jerry Pinkney, of course this was our first title.

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Review: Code Talker

“But I had no idea, even in my wildest dreams, that the very language those bilagdanaa teacher tried to erase – the way you wipe words from a blackboard – would one day be needed by important white men.” page 27

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac.
Speak, Penguin Group, New York, 2005.
Historical fiction, 231 pages.
Lexile:  910L  .
AR Level:  6.4 (worth 9.0 points)  .

This novel follows fictional narrator Ned Begay through his life, focusing particularly on his experiences as a Navajo code talker.

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The framework of this story is that it is a story that a grandfather is telling to his grandchildren.  This idea is presented in the introduction and mentioned sporadically throughout the novel as well as in the final chapter.  I was a bit iffy about this device, but Bruchac used it beautifully.

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Review: Giving Thanks

“To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life.” page 4

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrate by Erwin Printup, Jr.
My edition Scholastic, New York, 1997, originally published by Lee and Low, 1995.
Picture book, 24 pages.
Lexile:  AD520L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  3.3 (worth 0.5 points)  .
NOTE: There is another book by the same title but subtitled “The 1621 Harvest Feast.”

A children’s book adaptation of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address by Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp.

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This is one of those books that gives the lie to publishers who say they can’t find qualified Native authors and illustrators.  Already back in 1995, Lee and Low had Cayuga/Tuscarora painter Erwin Printup, who not only has a degree in fine arts, but also provides gorgeous, culturally appropriate illustrations for this title.  In fact, we were so taken with this book that I went searching for other children’s books illustrated by Printup.  But it seems that he was also underemployed, because all I found was a few anthologies he was included in.

While this is a handy alternative for librarians to give parents and teachers who insist on Thanksgiving books, truly this book could be read at any time of year.  As Swamp explains in his can’t-miss author’s note, not only is the Thanksgiving Address read at every gathering of the Six Nations, it’s also taught to children as a morning thank you.

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