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The Season for Love

by Anita Silvey
February 13, 2013
On Valentine’s Day we pause to think about love. Well, there are many kinds of love, and only some of them romantic.

Every day in cyberspace, I post a love letter to a book and author on the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac. Some I found decades ago (old love). Some I’ve only know for a short time (new or young love).

For this season of love, I wanted to offer up some of my most recent discoveries. They can be shared on Valentine’s Day—or any other day of the year!—to help spark a love of books and reading in children.

Picture Books

UNSPOKEN: A STORY FROM THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (Scholastic, 2012) by Henry Cole
“In UNSPOKEN, Cole decided he wanted to tell a different kind of Civil War story than the ones he had heard about battles—one about the quiet courage of individuals. So he developed the saga of a girl and a runaway slave who never speak but show amazing bravery.”

HOMER (Greenwillow, 2012) by Elisha Cooper
“It is rare to find a successful picture book where the protagonist observes rather than participates in activity. Yet in the watercolor and pencil art, Homer looms as the focal point of each piece…. He reminds us to take pleasure in the simple things of life, such as an old dog’s enjoyment of each day.”

BOY + BOT (Knopf, 2012), written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
“Everything in this book, from the front cover to the final ISBN notice on the back cover (seconding as a battery for the robot), has been carefully constructed to make an enjoyable reading experience. This is one of those wonderful books where all three elements—design, text, and art—combine to make a whole greater than any of the parts.”

THE TREE HOUSE (Boyds Mills, 2010) by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman
“This wordless picture book, which won the BolognaRagazzi Award for the most beautiful picture book in the world in 2010, brings readers into a magical world created by the Tolmans. In a large, oversized format, the artists use the space to create a world that begs to be entered....The intensity of the color, the animation of the animals, and the bold graphic composition of each page distinguish this book.”

Novels

CHICKADEE (HarperCollins, 2012) by Louise Erdrich
“This saga, which explains a great deal about the [Chippewa} communities and trading patterns around the St. Paul, Minnesota area in 1866, reads like a survival story. Chickadee proves that, indeed, small things have great power; he uses his understanding of the woods to stay alive. And in this slim volume of under two hundred pages, he keeps readers turning the pages to find out if he and his family will be reunited.”

STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY (Little, Brown, 2012) by Grace Lin
“Lin’s text can stand alone as a read aloud. But the physical beauty of the book merits special attention. The author’s sketches in different colors of ink and her glorious full-color paintings have been skillfully incorporated into the book…. Writing, art, and design combine to make the reading experience one to be savored and enjoyed.”

ROAD TRIP (Wendy Lamb Books, 2013) by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen
“Few authors write as well for this age group as Paulsen, whether he is telling survival stories like HATCHET or urban adventures like LAWN BOY. Because the chapters are short and punchy, ROAD TRIP would make an excellent choice for a read-aloud.”

A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT (Sandpiper, 2009) by Linda Urban
“Urban’s first novel, published in 2007, provides easy reading for ten-year-olds on up. In it she has gathered one of the most eccentric casts of characters to grace a recent novel.”

Nonfiction

THE LINCOLNS: A SCRAPBOOK LOOK AT ABRAHAM AND MARY (Schwartz & Wade, 2008) by Candace Fleming
“As Fleming moves with grace from Lincoln’s log cabin birth to the final days of his widow Mary Todd Lincoln, she not only reveals fascinating details of his life but illustrates them as well. Hence this book can be browsed and read in small sections.”

LITTLE WHITE DUCK: A CHILDHOOD IN CHINA (Graphic Universe, 2012) by Na Liu
“Both exotic and daring, the book takes readers to another place, time, and culture radically different from our own, and yet one presented with dignity and respect. Because the story appears as a graphic novel, it seems much less a polemic than it would if it were presented as a straight text.”

MONSIEUR MARCEAU: ACTOR WITHOUT WORDS (Flash Point, 2012) by Leda Schubert
“There are so many reasons to love this book—the poetry of the language, the expressiveness of the art. For me MONSIEUR MARCEAU demonstrates what the perfect picture book can accomplish: words and text working together to provide a unique reading experience. Marceau and his performances come alive in this slim volume.”

BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD—AND STEAL—THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON (Flash Point, 2012) by Steve Sheinkin
“Just as he did in THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD Sheinkin plays up the drama, develops characters, and takes readers to the heart of the action. In the process he makes the evolution of the atomic bomb seem like one of the most amazing stories every told.”

BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY: THE TRUE STORY OF THE PUPPETEER OF MACY'S PARADE (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) by Melissa Sweet
“In BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY, author and illustrator Melissa Sweet takes readers behind the scenes of the parade as she presents the story of Tony Frederick Sarg (1880–1942).”

With a unique career in children's books, Anita Silvey has served both as the editor of THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE and publisher of a major children's book imprint. She is the author of several books, including HENRY KNOX: BOOKSELLER, SOLDIER, PATRIOT and I'LL PASS FOR YOUR COMRADE: WOMEN SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR. Her latest project, THE CHILDREN'S BOOK-A-DAY ALMANAC (Roaring Brook Press, 2012), began as an interactive website. The entries serve as a "daily love letter to a book or author," with each one offering a glimpse into the story behind the story.

© 2013 Anita Silvey. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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