Even after two years at Roseburg Public Library, we are relative newcomers to Oregon. When it comes to books, that means we have a lot of local authors on whom to catch up. Here are a few we recently discovered:
“The Snow Dancer” by Addie Boswell has wonderful illustrations by Mercè López that show the joy of making patterns in the snow. The dancer creates beautiful patterns all alone, and then others trample along, having their own fun. The dancer is a snow fairy to a little girl and they dance in between the chaos of others enjoying the snow.
The story shows that snow patterns are temporary and you can have fun in the snow with or without other people. This is a lovely picture book to read when there is fresh snow on the ground.
“In the Half Room” by Carson Ellis is a picture book with a unique storyline that leaves you wondering. The story is about things in a room that are all in half. There are halves of a table, chair, cat, shoes, a girl and more. Looking outside, there is only half of a moon.
The half of the girl knocks on the door and she becomes whole with a “schooooop” illustration. The other half of the cat comes to play, but it never “shooooop”s back together into one cat. The story is interesting in showing only half of objects and never really explaining where the other half of the objects are. This is a good questioning book that shows sometimes there are not answers, and that’s OK.
Cynthia Rylant is a prolific author with numerous easy reader series, including Annie & Snowball and Henry & Mudge. She also writes chapter books and picture books for children. Rylant’s latest title is “Motor Mouse Delivers,” which is illustrated by Arthur Howard, and it lives up to the quality of her many other books.
It is a well done combination of easy reader and picture book with three separate short stories in one volume. Motor Mouse has to contend with issues of anticipation, patience and good sportsmanship. The illustrations are mixed media that clearly show what is being talked about in the text, making a great combination for children to connect words with visual representations. This is overall a fun book to share with children and adults.
In “We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance,” Deborah Hopkinson uses letters and taped interviews to describe the courage and extraordinary lives of several Holocaust survivors. She divides the book into geographic areas and includes accounts from Germany, the Netherlands, France and Poland.
“We Must Not Forget” is an excellent way to introduce research techniques to young people because it includes links to primary and secondary source material that can be used to extend the conversation with tips for conducting additional research.
“A Game of Fox & Squirrels” written by Jenn Reese and illustrated by Jessica Roux is a contemporary tween novel with fantasy elements that explores themes of physical abuse, the emotional toll of keeping secrets, resiliency and family support. Eleven-year-old Sam and her older sister, Caitlyn, move into their aunt’s and aunt’s wife’s rural Oregon home after Caitlyn suffers a severe injury and Sam shares her family’s secret with the authorities.
Aunt Vicky gives Sam a card game called A Game of Fox and Squirrels, which becomes the avenue for Sam to work through her feelings of the emotional and physical pain she has suffered. Sam wanted to go home to California, but the more time she spends with Aunt Vicky and Hannah, the more she realizes there are adults capable of providing unconditional love.
Aunt Vicky is especially nurturing because she, too, experienced abuse as a child. “Fox & Squirrels” would make a good selection for an intergenerational book discussion.
Aiden Thomas just won a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for their debut novel “Cemetery Boys,” a fantasy that centers a transgender, Latinx teen. Yadriel knows he is meant to be a brujo who helps the ghosts of his Los Angeles community pass into the afterlife. Unfortunately, his family hasn’t accepted his true self, so Yadriel and his best friend, Maritza, conduct the ritual that gives him brujo powers just before the Día de Muertos celebration that honors the dead.
The ritual does not go quite as planned and Yadriel conjures Julian, a ghost with an attitude. The three teens team up to figure out what happened to Julian and three other young people who went missing at the same time and there is a lot of action and a little romance along the way.
“All the Stars Denied” by Guadalupe Garcia McCall is a historical novel that examines the mass deportation of Mexican American citizens during the Great Depression. Teenager Estrella del Toro Villa lives on the family farm in southern Texas with her activist parents and 2-year-old brother. When roundups of her neighbors begin, Estrella and her classmates speak out, leading to a confrontation with authorities.
The tension builds when Estrella’s father presents to the City Council on behalf of the Mexican American community. Soon after, her family is split up and deported to Mexico in the middle of the night. What follows is Estrella’s desperate fight to survive and reunite her family in her homeland.
Fiction such as “All the Stars Denied” is a great way to introduce historical events and encourage students to learn more about the past.