Monday, March 9, 2009

BuZZ-worthy Books and Newbery Nightmares

The cover of You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! is a grabber. It's a 3-D vision of the mighty pitching that made this "Greek god of baseball" impossible to defeat from 1961 to 1966. Stats and facts dot the book, but trust me, you don’t even have to understand baseball to relish this story. Jonah Winter spins the tale in a folksy voice loaded with Brooklyn pizzazz. The illustrations of Andre Carrilho, the wizard who does those eerie distorted caricatures for the NYTBR, ooze style. Best of all is the narrative arc. This picture book's pace is smart and snappy, with triumph coming late in the book, as it did in life: Far from an instant success, this was "a guy who finally relaxed enough to let his body do the one thing it was put on this earth to do" (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, ages 4-9).
Now I know why Nic Bishop wins so many awards for his science books. The photos in his newest, Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths, take these magical aerial phenomena and magnify them again and again, propelling them to whole new heights. Gasps of awe will begin when a monarch butterfly caterpillar-- a bitsy thing magnified 45 times-- hatches and eats its old eggshell. Gasps will continue at each new photo of creatures gorgeous, creepy, bizarre, or just plain miraculous. Bishop's text works--conversational, fascinating--and a fold-out page demonstrates the principles that allow a butterfly to fly. He also explains his photo techniques, and how very laborious it was to set up these shots. Prediction: more awards for Nic Bishop (Scholastic Nonfiction, ages 4-8).
Robert Crowther's text and art aren’t full of wild personality, and technically Robert Crowther's Pop-Up House of Inventions: Hundreds of Fabulous Facts About Your Home isn’t quite new, but an updating. Yet I dare anyone to to set this book down. Five intricately designed spreads fold out to reveal the details of a typical house's kitchen, living room, garage, bedroom, and most amusingly, bathroom. Hours of fun facts to entertain the family, from why the first washing machine was named Thor and how many names were in the first phone directory, to the title of the first book published for children, how the first raincoat came about, what country invented the bra.... (Candlewick, ages 3 and up).

So I’ve been having unusually convulsive nightmares, and I look over at my nightstand reading—the Newbery-winning Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Is anyone else having this reaction??

6 comments:

debnance said...

I picked up the latest Newbery from the library, expecting to read it that day, the only Newbery I've not read. Scary. I don't like scary.

Must find a way to get this one read without the nightmares typically accompanying my scary reads....

Anna M. Lewis said...

I love any book by Jonah Winter. Frida is my favorite book of all time.
Thanks so much for sharing!

Gretchen Woelfle said...

I, no fan of scary, found The Graveyard Book riveting. Gaiman says that one of his themes is that we shouldn't be scared of dead people. The ghouls and other evil creatures seemed cartoonishly horrible with a dash of wit, but not scary. In fact the wit that permeates the book, even in the scary parts (e.g. the names of the ghouls!), mitigates the horror and adds to the emotional poignancy of other scenes. Now the humans -- they are really scary characters in the book and, as we all know, that is true to life.

biblauragraphy said...

The Koufax book looks so gorgeous! It's making me plan a trip to my bookstore.

Rosalyn Schanzer said...

After reading this post, I got curious and looked up Nic Bishop's website. What cool photos! And what an interesting life he's led. As a serious photographer and traveler myself, I think Nic is doing something I'd love to try....traveling all over the planet taking great pictures to use in books. I do love painting, but one thing's for sure--his way of working is faster than mine but is equally satisfying. Trust me. And besides, even though I have a lovely basement, there's a lot more scenery and sunlight and action outside the door.

Kelly C said...

The Koufax book looks awesome! I never really thought about how this book could be a great piece of nonfiction for elementary students. It is books like this one which reassure me that students can begin to love nonfiction just as much as I do! If they start with something as snappy and fun as this, they will learn to appreciate this genre. The Nic Bishop book looks wonderful as well.