Wednesday, August 12, 2015

RICBA Nominees 2016

Kinda Like BrothersKinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. We need more books like this in my schools. So real, so fresh, so true ... Coe Booth doesn't sugar-coat anything. I appreciate that Jarrett makes bad decisions and then has to deal with the consequences. His emotions are spot-on.

El DeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So well done. Also reminded me that I'd never want to be a kid again.

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon IslandsNeighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This should be a model for how to write nonficton for lower grades! Super interesting, fantastic illustrations, not too much information, but definitely a lot of facts to absorb. Can't wait to share with my kids.

Absolutely AlmostAbsolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Albie.

Newbery criteria mentions "distinguished" a lot, which I know is not the same as "distinctive," but Graff has created a unique character here in that he is in fact NOT distinctive. He's just kind of stumping along in a below average way. And by the end, he's kind of ok with that (although disappointed to not be diagnosed with a reading disorder, because that would have made his parents feel better).

In a society where the pressure is on to not only keep up but edge out, and in a literary landscape full of precocity and amazing talents, this book stands apart.

It reminded me of an article a friend sent me last week, titled "You Don't Have a Purpose." She said it made her feel relieved - it encourages the reader to find a career or life they love, but tells them to stop wasting energy looking for a Purpose with a capital P. Kind of like how Donut Man doesn't HAVE to have superpowers. He can just be a nice guy who likes donuts. Be nice. Choose kind. That's enough.

Death by Toilet PaperDeath by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book deals with a lot more serious issues than you'd think from the cover - death, eviction, dementia. But they're handled pretty well by the author, and the main character's optimism avoids being Pollyanna-ish. I also really liked all of the toilet paper facts at the beginning of each short chapter ... but does the average person REALLY go 6-8 times a day? (Actually, my boyfriend just said he thinks he goes 10 times, so I guess we average out to the stat ... )

Rain ReignRain Reign by Ann M. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books on the list that I picked up reluctantly ... a girl with Aperger's and her dog? Not my favorite topics. But I really really really liked it. Rose's narration was matter-of-fact yet sweet, and I loved that she tried to find solutions to her problems.

The Night GardenerThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm still kind of confused as to how the tree came to be, but I enjoyed the storytelling. Speaking of which:

p. 207: "Stories come in all different kinds. ... There's tales, which are light and fluffy. Good for a smile on a sad day. Then you got yarns, which are showy - yarns reveal more about the teller than the story. After that there's myths, which are stories made up by whole groups of people. And last of all, there's legends." She raised a mysterious eyebrow. "Legends are different from the rest on account noone knows where they start. Folks don't tell legends; they repeat them. Over and again through history."

p. 214: "You asked me for a story; now you call it a lie." She folded her arms. "So tell me, then: what marks the difference between the two?" ... "A lie hurts people," she finally answered. "A story helps 'em."

Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie ChickensKate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens by Julie Mata
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Realistic portrayal of middle-school friendship woes. Alas, I'm not sure if any of my kids will read it; in going over the RICBA titles, they're getting all excited about the zombie part of the title ... once they realize it's not about zombies, I fear they will abandon it.

Joltin' Joe DiMaggioJoltin' Joe DiMaggio by Jonah Winter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Winter's style is going to make for an easy readaloud. Lively and informative.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the CosmosStar Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is going to make for some fantastic lessons next year.

Loot (Loot #1)Loot by Jude Watson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decent addition to the middle-grade heist genre, but I felt like it started getting sloppy near the end. I would buy for the collection, though, for those kids who like adventure.

The Red PencilThe Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A children's novel in poems that are actually "poetic" is a rare thing these days. Unfortunately, the very quality I appreciate may be a turnoff to my students.

Little Green Men at the Mercury InnLittle Green Men at the Mercury Inn by Greg Leitich Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was totally on board - even with wonky science "explanations" - until the big reveal on page 157. Then things got bonkers.

Another Day as EmilyAnother Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I greatly enjoyed Suzy's attempts to go recluse. I did not, however, enjoy "the verse" ... another occurrence, to me, of an author just sticking returns throughout their sentences.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the ColdWinter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I preferred the factual information to the poems.

Life of Zarf: The Trouble with WeaselsLife of Zarf: The Trouble with Weasels by Rob Harrell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For me as a reader, this was just ok. But my kids are going to LOVE it. Adventure, bad jokes, cartoon illustrations ... they will eat it up.

I did appreciate this description on p. 11: "If there were a Stress Olympics, he'd take the gold all day long - but then he'd probably drop dead from a panic attack on the winners' podium."

Mr. Ferris and His WheelMr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was distracted by the separate background information, which was presented in a different font in a corner of the double-page spreads. I wish it had been woven into the main text.

The Map TrapThe Map Trap by Andrew Clements
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was looking forward to doing this as a RICBA readaloud and tying in lots of maps and data visualization ... and then came the (kind of) reveal of the thief/blackmailer. Ew. Ruined it.

The Swift Boys & MeThe Swift Boys & Me by Kody Keplinger
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Pretty realistic look at the ebbs and flows of friendships.

Issue: Why is a character self-described as "chubby" portrayed by a tall skinny girl on the cover?

The Vanishing Coin (The Magic Shop Book 1)The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Lackluster. But fills a void - easy illustrated chapter books for kids older than age 7.

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