Crown: an Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James. Bolden from Agate Publishing, 2017.
I’d seen this on the shelf, but was moved to check it out when listening to the Caldecott Contender episode of Fuse 8 & Kate with my kids. It’s a first picture book outing from the author of the early chapter book series Ruby and the Booker Street Boys, and also an illustrator debut from painter Gordon C. James. In poetic language and stunning paintings, Barnes and James tell the story of a boy at his weekly barber shop visit, describing the way he’s treated like royalty and how his newly boosted confidence will help him do better in every aspect of his life. It has a list of awards so long you’ll have to click “more” on Amazon to see them all. Go read it if you haven’t already.
The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson. Second Story Press, 2017.
This is one I looked into because Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature was so excited about it. It’s a rare nonfiction look at a contemporary Native heroine. Nokomis loves Nibi, the water. One night she has a dream that soon water will cost more than gold, but no one is working to protect it. She ties on her sneakers and organizes her friends to be the Mother Earth Water Walkers and walk all around the Great Lakes. She takes her copper pail, her Migizi Staff, and leaves gifts of semaa at every body of water. We see her planning the walk with her friends in her kitchen, and at a microphone giving speeches at large gatherings, as well as walking. Ojibway words like nibi and semaa are mostly used without translation, though the pictures help and there is a glossary and pronunciation guide at the back. It’s short, and the marker illustrations are deceptively simple, but there is a lot packed into this little book about the endurance and values of Nokomis and her people. It’s an inspiration for others who care about the future of our water.
This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe. Chronicle Kids, 2017
This one was nominated for a Cybils in elementary nonfiction, but I just pulled it off the new book shelf to put it on display and ended up taking it home instead. The simple but effective premise is this: one day in the lives of seven kids from around the world: Japan, Peru, Iran, Russia, India, Italy, and Uganda. After being introduced to who they are, who they live with and where they live, it goes through breakfast, the trip to school, what they call their teachers, what they learn, and so on. Mostly the page is divided into eight panels, each showing one child with one panel explaining what they’re doing, but some steps are given multiple page spreads for a bigger view of the scene. The author’s note says that he drew the illustrations based on photographs the actual families sent him, and a photograph of each is included at the end. I don’t often cry over books, but the ending of this one, finding unity after all the differences of the preceding day, made me tear up. It also fascinated everyone I gave it to, from kindergarteners through middle schoolers and adults.