Over the past several weeks, the world of children’s and young adult literature has been humming with announcements of this year’s winners of awards for excellence in books for young people. We here at the Hive wanted to highlight several of the fabulous books that have snagged some of those awards and honors that are available for clicking out on Brain Hive today! So this week, keep checking back with us here on the blog to find out more about some of the year’s best books!
If…: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers – Written by David J. Smith, Illustrated by Steve Adams – Kids Can Press
A 2015 United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) Outstanding International Book
This book is a delight. Not only does David J. Smith provide accessible, concrete imagery for us to latch onto as we attempt to understand some pretty gargantuan concepts (did you know that the known universe is about 92 BILLION light years across? We can’t really even wrap our heads around how big ONE light year is, let alone 92 billion of them…), but he does so in a big-hearted way that simultaneously awes, humbles, and inspires us. Smith emphasizes the importance of understanding scale and proportion in our attempts to make sense of how the world works, and in doing so, he gently encourages us to recognize how small we all really are in relation to a BIG universe with a LOOOOOONG history. With attention paid to questions of – among other things – astronomy, the world economy, energy consumption, and water salinity (97% of the water on earth is salty!), this book can play an important, illuminating part in a wide range of lessons across subject areas and age groups.
The Whispering Town – Written by Jennifer Elvgren, Illustrated by Fabio Santomauro – Kar-Ben Publishing
A 2015 Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Older Readers – Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries to “outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.”
Like its title, The Whispering Town is a quiet, understated book. In it, Jennifer Elvgren tells the (true) story of the inhabitants of a coastal village in Nazi-occupied Denmark who band together to help smuggle Danish Jews out of the country and into neutral Sweden. The story emphasizes that collaboration, solidarity, and plain, old-fashioned kindness are mighty weapons in the fight against oppression. Elvgren’s handling of the story is a strong reminder that even small and quiet actions – as quiet, even, as whispering from a doorway into the night – can impact the world in big and important ways. This book could provide an excellent entry point for younger readers to begin to think and talk about the Holocaust.
H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination – Written and Illustrated by Christopher Myers, narrated by Dion Graham and Christopher Myers – Audiobook produced by Live Oak Media
Winner of the 2015 Odyssey Award for Best Audiobook Produced for Children and/or Young Adults
H.O.R.S.E. is a whimsically fun celebration of movement and imagination. Originally published in print by Egmont USA in 2012, this audiobook takes playground one-upmanship to another level. In the world Christopher Myers has written, illustrated, and now co-narrated for us, a casual and friendly game of basketball balloons into a contest of imagination and good-natured braggadocio that stretches the boundaries of two friends’ game to include city skyscrapers, oceans, and solar systems as features of their basketball court. Put simply, the game is epic. So epic, in fact, that attentive readers will recognize a fleeting appearance by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in Myers’ illustrations, emphasizing just how out-of-this-world these two friends’ imaginations can be. Teaching the use of hyperbole would be a breeze with this audiobook as an exemplar, and students will get a kick out of listening to the conversation-style narration as they read along with the text.
Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle – Written by Cheryl Bardoe, Illustrated by Alan Marks – Charlesbridge
2015 Cook Prize for Best STEM Picture Book Finalist
If we were inclined to rank the many, many insect species out there in terms of their natural charm and likability, it’s probably safe to say that dung beetles wouldn’t be at the top of most people’s lists. Perhaps unfairly, these guys have gotten a bad rap. Luckily, however, Cheryl Bardoe has written Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle, an informative ode to this less-than-glamorous insect. The book is a true salute to an important, though perhaps underappreciated little critter. Bardoe covers dung beetles’ physical characteristics, life cycles, habitats, and ecological roles comprehensively and concisely, and her humorous and lively narration keeps the subject matter accessible and interesting to all readers. Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle would be a lovely addition to science lessons about insects’ roles in ecological systems, and Bardoe’s ability to write so admiringly about this oft-underestimated little creature could also provide an interesting example of the power of description and characterization in a creative writing lesson.
Well, that’s it for Part I of this week’s roundup of 2015 award winners and honorees available on Brain Hive! Look for more posts this week! In the meantime, happy reading, and of course, keep in touch.
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