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Archive for February 11th, 2018

by Sam Juliano

Note:  The Caldecott Medal announcements will be broadcast via ALA streaming early Monday morning, February 12th.  The forty-first and final full essay, “Listen” by Leda Schubert and Raul Colon was published in mid-afternoon on Sunday, February 11th as a result of time winding down.  However, there are thirteen other books that are as deserving as the previously forty-one, and I feel that short capsules need to be provided in this final round-up post.  The thirteen (13) titles are The Boy and the Whale, The Ring Bearer, A Perfect Day, The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s the Hard Way, The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse, Her Right Foot, Grand Canyon, How It Feels to Be a Boat, Blue Sky White Stars and When’s My Birthday?, Tony, Big Machines and Silent Days Silent Dreams.  Adding thirteen to the forty-one full reviews published we ended up with fifty-four (54) books in our 2017 Caldecott Medal series.

The Boy and the Whale (Mordecai Gerstein)

A brown-skinned, shaggy haired son of a fisherman serves as the book’s narrator.  They live near the ocean and discover one morning that a whale has become entwined in their only fishing net.  The father’s anger extended to his use of words the boy had never heard.  When the father tells his son we must save it, the son thinks he means the whale, but the clarification that he means the fishing net leaves the boy in disbelief.  But left untended the boy heads out in the panga and resolves through astonishing bravery to free the whale with the help his his trusty knife in a sequence that recalls the mouse’s teeth work to free the lion in a Caldecott Medal winner by Jerry Pinkney.  the story is tension packed and includes some of the most spectacular illustrations in any picture book of 2017.  One is vertical and contains vignettes, another shows the whale leaping up from the ocean.  Gerstein, who won a Caldecott Medal for his emotionally wrenching The Man Who Walked Between the Towers employs a ravishing aquamarine color scheme with yellow borders.  The dedication and opening page spread with the the color splashes is stunning.  Though The Boy and the Whale is one of my three favorite books of the entire year, I am at a loss to explain how I missed giving it a full review.  But this capsule is enough to propel it among the best books of 2017 via the Caldecott Medal Contender series.

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by Sam Juliano

I think the opposite was true. I think he loved America so much that he was particularly offended and disappointed when it strayed, as it so often has, from the noble ideals upon which it was founded. I don’t think that feeling, or the protests it engendered, were anti-American. I think they were wholly, unabashedly American.

-Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, January 28, 2014

 Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing is a labor of love for author Leda Schubert.  In her impassioned afterward to the picture book biography of folk music icon and ardent social activist Pete Seeger, she reveals that this quintessential American once sang at her nursery school, that she was a regular at his concerts, taught herself to play the five-string banjo using his book How to Play the Five-String Banjo, and once told him directly how much he meant to her.  Schubert was subsequently reassured by Seeger’s wife Toshi that despite seeming indifference he couldn’t be more appreciative.  Seeger was a globe-trotting, astonishingly prolific artist, one whom Schubert notes “devoted much of his life and music to the fights for justice, peace, equality and a cleaner environment” and whom was once quoted as saying we humans “have a fifty-fifty percent chance of surviving another century, but that our participation can make all the difference.  Though Seeger lived beyond his ninety-fourth birthday he was irreplaceable.  His rich and focused life had impacted millions around the world, many of whom as the author confirms have never forgotten the words to those life-changing lyrics. (more…)

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