Monday, March 26, 2007

New Book Micro-Reviews

Okay, okay. So I had this goal of doing a whole bunch of mini-reviews of new books once a week. But do you know what happened? The mini-reviews turned into mega-reviews. I mean, take a gander at the last one I did. It took me three flippin' hours to write, mainly because I had to do a quick scan of each book so I could remember what I wanted to say about it. Too much information.

So. I'm going to take inspiration from a favorite website of mine, which reviews Pittsburgh restaurants in just a few sentences. It's kind of like a Whitman's Sampler of book reviews. Hopefully, these little tates will tantalize you enough to learn more about these brand-new babes of children's literature.

Let it Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals
Adapted and illustrated by Ashley Bryan
Is it to early to state that this is the book I want to win the Caldecott Medal next year? Bryant's exuberantly colorful paper collages just makes you wanna stand up on a pew somewhere and belt out some tunes. Or better yet, hear Bryan sing 'em himself, 'cause that man is a big ol' walking ball of glad-eyed charisma. This book gives us pitch-perfect rainbow renditions of "This Little Light of Mine," "When the Saints go Marching In," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." It won't be hard to find this book in a store or library; you need sunglasses just to look at the pages. Golly, it makes my mouth water.

So Sleepy Story
Written and illustrated by Uri Schulevitz
A boy drifts off to sleep amongst the anthropormorphic objects in his room, but when a mysterious melody drifts through the window, everything wakes up and begins to dance for a while before snoozing once more. I love the sombre blue-and-grey palette of the illustrations, and the cute faces given to the chairs and plates reminded me a little of Remi Charlip's Sleepytime Rhyme. But the text! It seems great when you read it silently, but if you're roped into repeat out-loud readings with a child? So, so uninteresting ("sleepy cuckoo-clock/by sleepy dishes/on sleepy shelves/and a sleepy cat/on a sleepy chair"). Kind of a disappointment after the minimalist magic of his Caldecott Honor-winning Snow. But still. It's purty.

Bronzeville Boys and Girls
Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks; illustrated by Faith Ringgold
Revered poet Brooks wrote this collection back in the 1950s in homage to the kids she observed in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. The poems are as fresh and universal a portrait of childhood today as they were then -- we are given glimpses into tea parties, snow games, and the pleasures of sitting alone and dreaming; all the good stuff of childhood. Best of all, now these poems have supremely divine illustrations by Ringgold. Better yet, this is the first Ringgold work I've seen in a while that doesn't appear to be . . . um, Dali-esque. (Cough.) Ringgold gives the poems a world of glorious, thick-lined paintings that make you want to feel the summer heat on your back while you play hopscotch in the street. What could be better than that?


Josephine Cameron said...

I have 2 Ashley Bryan songbooks that are among my prize possessions:

What a Morning! The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals and All Night, All Day: A Child's First Book of African-American Spirituals.

I use these all the time in my work with kids, & the illustrations are amazing. I can't wait to check out Let It Shine. Thanks for the review!

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