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.
Fish Girl, by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli; Clarion Books, $25.00, 185 pages, ages 7-10.
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.
‘Tis the season for award ceremonies, and on Monday the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books for children and young adults at its Midwinter Meeting, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. We reported on Tuesday that Kelly Barnhill took top honors with the Newbery; read who else was recognized for their contributions to children’s literature over on the Fine Books Blog.