Monday, June 8, 2015

Recently-Read Children's Books Round-up: June 2015

This is a quick round-up of some children's books I've read recently that are suitable for all ages. Adults, don't miss out on great books just because you're taller than you used to be.

Nicola Griffith (author of Hild, etc.) looked at what kind of books have won literary prizes and found that books about women and girls are less likely to win, regardless of the author's gender. See more about this enlightening study online here. I'm going to champion books about girls here today, plus one about lesbians, gays and queers of every sort.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
You know the fantastic Lumberjanes comics, right? About five best friends who battle mythological beings at summer camp? (Did you know that it's going to be a movie too?) So, anyway, Stevenson is one of the creators of the Lumberjanes series. She is also the sole creator of Nimona, which started as a webcomic (view some of it here). Nimona is a kickass heroine, a sturdy girl with a pink punk hairstyle, and she can shapeshift into absolutely any form she wants. This makes her the ideal sidekick for a supervillain, Lord Ballister Blackheart... who may not be such a bad guy after all. You know it's all in good fun when the knights have names like Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, Sir Coriander Cadaverish and Sir Mansley Girthrod. Fun, and loyal friendships. (Grade 5 and up.)
The Story of Antigone by Ali Smith
The Baileys prize for women's fiction is one award that by its nature bucks the trend towards male-dominated fiction. I am so pleased that Ali Smith just won the Baileys prize for How to Be Both! It was my favourite on the Baileys list. How to Be Both is partly set in 21st century England and partly in 15th century Italy. Smith goes back even further in time to retell the Greek myth of Antigone. A brave preteen girl risks death when she takes a stand against injustice. Smith adds humour to this poignant story by choosing a crow as narrator and including a bumbling chorus of elders who speak in mawkish rhyme. This is a beautifully-designed book with evocative illustrations by Laura Paoletti. (Grade 4 and up.)
My Guardian Angel by Sylvie Weil, translated by Gillian Rosner
12-year-old Elvina tells about her life in the year 1096, when Christian crusaders threaten her small Jewish community in northeastern France. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Vanessa Benjamin [Blackstone: 4.5 hrs]. Engaging historical fiction. Readalike: Catherine, Called Birdy (and others) by Karen Cushman. (Grade 5 and up.)
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith
In this wordless Canadian picture book, a modern girl dressed as little red riding hood accompanies her father on errands through the city. There is no wolf, unless it is sleepy urban indifference. The girl notices and picks flowering weeds, then distributes the flowers wherever she sees the need. Splashes of bright watercolour enliven the mostly black and white ink artwork more and more as the story progresses until the artwork is in full colour. Happy-making! (Preschool and up.)

This Day in June by Gayle Pitman and Kristyna Litten
The annual Pride parade took place in Edmonton a few days ago. Place a child on your lap and together you can relive the magic with this picture book set in San Francisco and told with sparse rhyming text. "Rainbow arches / Joyful marches / Motors roaring / Spirits soaring / Voices chanting / Doggies panting / Clad in leather / Perfect weather..." I love the cheerful illustrations, with so much happening on every page. "Love beats hate" is just one of the many slogans portrayed. (Preschool and up.)

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