Interview with Abigail, Episode One: Tracey Baptiste

Last week, children’s book author Tracey Baptiste visited The Voracious Reader bookstore in Larchmont, New York, to talk about her latest book Rise of the Jumbies (Algonquin 2017). Afterwards, Abbie had a chance to sit down with the award-winning author and ask Baptiste a few questions about characters and craft.

First, a little background: Raised in Trinidad on a steady diet of rich fairy tales filled with mythical beasts and monsters, Baptiste eventually decided that the world beyond her island ought to learn about these tales, too. Rise of the Jumbies is the second in the Jumbies series for middle-grade readers. Jumbies are creatures that roam the Carribbean at night, with the sole purpose to devour wayward children. Their queen is Mama Dl’eau, a merciless sea creature who turns people into stone.

In book one, Baptiste’s main character, Corrine, must stop a jumbie from taking over the island. Corrine returns in book two, which gets even darker with an exploration of the slave trade–important, Baptiste says, for all children to learn about, even when it’s difficult to fully comprehend. Rise of the Jumbies illustrates that though there’s much pain associated with Carribbean history, beauty can rise from it as well.

Listen to Abbie’s interview here.

 

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(Yes, that’s a press badge–never leave home without it!)

Photo credit: Barbara Basbanes Richter

Author Tracey Baptiste Talks Jumbies, Folklore, and Titles at Indie Bookstore

Earlier tonight children’s book author Tracey Baptiste visited the Voracious Reader bookstore in Larchmont, New York, to talk about her latest book Rise of the Jumbies (Algonquin 2017). After the presentation, Abbie had a chance to sit down and ask Baptiste a couple questions about characters and craft. Be on the lookout for her profile later this month! 

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Earlier tonight, children’s book author Tracey Baptiste visited The Voracious Reader bookstore in Larchmont, New York, to talk about her latest book Rise of the Jumbies (Algonquin 2017). Afterwards, Abbie had a chance to sit down and ask Baptiste a few questions about characters and craft. Be on the lookout for Abbie’s profile later this month! (Yes, that’s a press badge–never leave home without it!)

Children’s Books Holiday Round-Up

Here’s a few of our favorite new books to give to your loved ones this holiday season:

The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith, Folio Society; $59.95, 208 pages, all ages.

Smith’s 1957 classic children’s story gets the Folio treatment in this lavish update, complete with a black and white spotted slipcover. Illustrated by award-winning Sara Ogilvie and introduced by National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson, share this special edition with someone with a soft spot for canine capers. NOTE: Order by December 14th to ensure Christmas delivery.

Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zacharia OHora, Little, Brown & Company; $17.99, 40 pages, ages 3-6.

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While sailing in freezing waters, First Mate Foxy reads that lemmings don’t jump off cliffs, only to finding his furry shipmates doing exactly that. “Guess they didn’t read the book,” he muses. As they keep leaping into the icy drink, Foxy takes it upon himself to solve the mystery of these jumping lemmings. Dyckman’s on-point humor is perfectly matched by OHora’s retro-inspired artwork. A warm and funny look at compassion and patience that’s perfect for all ages.

The Little Reindeer, by Nicola Killen, Simon & Schuster; $15.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5.

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Just as Ollie snuggles under the covers on Christmas Eve, she’s jolted awake by the sounds of jingle bells. Away she slides on her sleigh into the snowy night, where she meets a reindeer who sweeps her up on a magical journey. The black and white palette, punctuated by pops of red and metallic silver ink, makes for a most enchanting tale about the magic of the season.

Red Again, by Barbara Lehman, HMH Book for Young Readers; $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-7. 

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A boy discovers a red book on the side of the road. Inside it is another book where another child finds a similar book, and two worlds collide in this wordless examination of loneliness, adventure, and the never ending pleasures of storytelling. Lehman’s sequel to her 2005 Caldecott Honor winning The Red Book is sure to delight fans both old and new.

The Nutcracker Mice, by Kristin Kladstrup, illustrated by Brett Helquist, Candlewick Press; $17.99, 336 pages, ages 8-11.

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A family of mice live in Saint Petersbourg’s famous Mariinsky theater, and the little critters adore the ballet performed by both the humans and their furry cohorts, but a new ballet called the Nutcracker features mice as villains, sending the mice into distress. Meanwhile, among the humans, nine-year old Irinia, the daughter of a mouse exterminator, believes the mice she’s seen hidden at the theater may be more than just four-legged pests. Can Irina help save the Mariinsky mice from certain annihilation? Will the dancing mice make it in the ultra-competitive Russian Mouse Ballet Company? Veteran YA author Kristin Kladstrup gives The Nutcracker a delightfully whimsical origin story, and Brett Helquist’s full-page illustrations provide just the right touch of magic.

 Countdown to Christmas: A Story a Day, Disney Press; $10.99, 64 pages, ages 3-8.

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This compendium of twenty-five stories includes characters from the wide world of Disney characters, from Bambi, the Aristocats, Wall-E, and the 101 Dalmatians. Serious Disney fans may notice some stories are repeats from the Five Minute Christmas Stories, but this update will surely please fans of the Mouse on your holiday list.

Philomena’s New Glasses

Abigail’s back with a look at another picture book starring three sister guinea pigs who learn about acquisition overload and sibling rivalry.

Philomena’s New Glasses, by Brenna Maloney, Viking; $16.99, 32 pages, ages 2-6.

Philomena the guinea pig has fuzzy vision, so she gets new glasses. But her sister Audrey thinks Philomena looks cool, so she gets glasses, too. Soon, their littlest sister, Nora Jane, gets worried–if her sisters are wearing glasses, shouldn’t she? Then, all three sisters want new purses and dresses, and instead of being happy with their things, they’re all very miserable. The author’s photographs of real guinea pigs wearing dresses are very funny, and show that it’s important for everyone–even guinea pigs–to just be themselves. Don’t skip the end pages for “deleted scenes!”

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image credit: Brenna Maloney. Used with permission from Viking Books

Help Comes in All Sizes

Welcome to our newest reviewer, Abigail Constance Richter, a New York third grader excited to share great new children’s books with you. This first review was inspired by the brave and selfless hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida, reminding us that anyone can lend a helping hand.

Bulldozer Helps Out, by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann; Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 3-6.

In Bulldozer Helps Out, Bulldozer wants to help the rest of the construction team, but the other machines say he is not big enough, strong enough, or tough enough. Soon, they feel bad and give Bulldozer an “easy” task. The full-page pictures in the book are big, bold, and colorful, and make the book a good choice for preschoolers and kids in kindergarten who love construction and want to be part of the team.

She Persisted

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, Philomel; $17.99 32 pages, ages 4-7.

“I wrote this book for everyone who’s ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down–for everyone who’s ever been made to feel less than,” said Chelsea Clinton about her children’s book, She Persisted. Certainly, the goal is laudable: profile thirteen American women whose strength and perserverance helped change the world for the better. Harriet Tubman, Hellen Keller, Virginia Apgar, and even Oprah Winfrey appear as pint-size activists. In each vignette, Clinton presents the challenges each woman faced and repeats the current feminist rallying-call, “She persisted.” The book joins a fleet of recently published girl-power volumes like Feminist Baby and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

Each woman is presented chronologically, but there are no dates to pinpoint the progression across time. Luckily, Alexandra Boiger’s marvelous double-page illustrations help to fill the gap. Perceptive readers will have questions about these women, such as when they lived, how they made history, and who helped them. For example, Anne Sullivan appears in an image of Hellen Keller, but isn’t mentioned by name. Yet, there are no endnotes or bibliography to help answer those questions. That aside, the text itself feels forced–read aloud, the words are halting, hesitating, and, unfortunately, boring, which these women certainly were not. The presentation is less a celebration than a suggestion that women, simply by virtue of being women, will always face a stacked deck, and those who succeed do so alone.

Clinton fans will no doubt flock to the book regardless, but those looking for more engaging accounts of brave American women would do better to look elsewhere–the recently published Motor Girls by Sue Macy, for example (National Geographic, $17.99, ages 11-14), is a fascinating account of women at the turn of the twentieth century who took to the open road despite much (male) protest. It’s thorough, engaging, and packed with primary source material, statistics, and lively anecdotes. Amy Ehrlich’s Willa, illustrated by Wendell Minor (Paula Wiseman, $16.99, 72 pages, ages 6-10) is an excellent picture-book biography of one of America’s most beloved writers.

Well-intentioned, She Persisted lacks joy, and despite its simplicity, manages to strike an unwelcome didactic tone. “Remember these women,” Clinton writes. “They persisted and so should you.” Rather than a lively, well-written, and informational account of great women, She Persisted offers platitudes that do little to inspire.

 

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Fish Girl

Fish Girl, by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli; Clarion Books, $25.00, 185 pages, ages 7-10.

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Image copyright 2017 David Wiesner. Reproduced with permission from Clarion Books.

On a lonely stretch of seaside boardwalk stands a modest three-story building hiding a big secret: inside resides the mysterious Fish Girl, watched over by King Neptune. For a small fee, visitors are welcome to glimpse the girl for themselves. Fish Girl feels protected by Neptune and believes his stories–that she is the last of her kind, that this building full of exotic fish is the last refuge of his realm–until she befriends a neighborhood girl, Livia. Now, the mermaid (soon to be renamed Mira) wants to enjoy life on land, but an inability to talk and lack of legs hampers the process. Slowly, with steady determination, a little yoga, and some magic, Mira’s lonely life changes forever.

Three time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner (Mr. Wuffles!) and Donna Jo Napoli (Albert) debut their first graphic novel with an exploration of trust, betrayal, and bravery–Mira is kept in what amounts to a water-filled cage, lied to about her family, and forced to perform tricks for money. Adults will no doubt make comparisons to children and young women conscripted into all sorts of unsavory labor around the world, but the mermaid element keeps this story squarely rooted in fantasy and will not spook young readers. Interestingly, the protagonist is mute–most of Wiesner’s best-loved books are wordless, relying on visual storytelling. That’s not to say Mira doesn’t share her thoughts–somehow, she communicates with her underwater and oxygen-breathing friends, and cultivates a language of friendship with Livia. Deft interplay of myth and contemporary folklore make this splashy story hard to resist.