What? You were too busy enjoying your chocolates and roses on Valentines' Day to pay attention to the Cybils? Shame on you! Books make the best Valentine!
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.
Head on over to the Cybils web site to see a list of the great winners. As always, I was very lucky to work with astonishingly organized, motivated and talented bloggers who volunteered hundreds of hours to read and debate the merits of books. Make sure you visit the blogs of the fantastic Middle Grade Fiction judges!
Puss Reboots, Falling Letters, Reading Rocks, Proper Noun Blog
Randomly Reading, Always in the Middle, Skipping Through the Stacks, The Logonauts, Project Middle Grade Mayhem
Myers, Walter Dean, illustrated by Floyd Cooper.
Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
January 24th 2017 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
The first sentence of this book sets the stage for Douglass' impact on history: "This is the story of how one man's careful decisions and many accomplishments not only made his own life better but in many ways changed the history of America." This is a great lesson for children of all ages to learn, especially since Douglass was such a great example of a man taking charge of his own destiny.
Douglass was a bright child, and learned to read after the wife of his owner saw him paying close attention to the lessons she was teaching her own children.These lessons came to a halt quickly after they were discovered, but Douglass was smart enough to know that if reading made him unfit to be a slave, then the best thing he could do was to learn to read! Douglass also stood up to another owner and was sent to do back breaking work at a shipyard, but used his wiles to work his way to the north and to freedom. There, he educated himself and made alliances with people who could help him improve his own situation as well as the situation of African Americans.
This picture book tells Douglass' story succinctly but completely, and Cooper's illustrations are reason enough for the larger format of this book. The text is sophisticated enough for middle grade readers, but short and simple enough that this could be read aloud even to younger children. Myers' years of writing experience show clearly in his beautiful and motivational depiction of this influential leader.
Cooper has illustrated such an impressive range of biographies, from Satchmo to Langston Hughes to Michael Jordan, that there should be some sort of curated collection of his work. He has done other picture books, on a wide variety of topics relating to Civil Rights and African American history. His pictures are always warm and evocative, adding new layers to whatever text they accompany.
Myers must have left a significant number of works unfinished at his death, and it is a gift to see a new title from him. Readers who enjoy picture book biographies or who are looking to gather information on the early civil rights activities will enjoy and learn a lot from The Lion Who Wrote History.
Ephron, Amy. The Castle in the Mist
February 7th 2017 by Philomel Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Tess and Max's father is a war correspondent and their mother is ill, so they must be shipped off to their Aunt Evie who lives in the English countryside. There, of course, Tess wanders off and meets William after finding a key to mysterious garden. She visits again with Max and meets all of the delightful characters who take care of William-- the slightly French Marie who is either a nanny or governess, the cook, and Barnaby the gardener. There are all manner of wonderful things, like a carousel and a hedge maze, but also very scary hawthorne trees through which Max disappears and must be found by a frantic Tess. Eventually, the children have to return suddenly to the US with their father, and when they pay a visit to the castle, they find that things are quite different from what they have experienced.
Strengths: This is a wonderful, classic feeling, summer-in-the-British-countryside book. I adored it. If you have readers who can't get enough of books like The Greenglass House, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle, definitely invest in this. I haven't read any of Ephron's adult novels, but this was a very beautiful love note to classic British tales. The end papers are very nostalgic.
Weaknesses: I don't have as many readers for this as I would like to have.
What I really think: I'll have to buy a copy of this. Very nice.