Monday, March 10, 2008

Cool New Books and the Fartiste, Part 2

I’ve had a vivid, sometimes "Right on!" response to each of the posts here so far. But lest this blog get incestuous…. On with what's new in nonfiction.

I hate to tangle with the mighty Library of Congress, which classifies How I Learned Geography as fiction. But Uri Shulevitz's gem of a true story from his childhood sure reads like nonfiction to me. It's in the serious vein of last year's much-lauded masterpiece from Peter Sis, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, only more at a young child's level. In 32 pages, with just a few lines of text on each, 4- or 5-year-old Uri is forced to flee wartime Poland with his family. Since they are starving, Uri is "furious" at his father for one day bringing home from the marketplace a large map instead of bread. Then, as Uri studies the map, even drawing it when he has the chance-- his imagination takes flight, and it's the birth of an artist. Moving and beautiful, with the stark white borders around each watercolor painting diminishing as Uri is able to transcend his physical misery and travel around the globe in his mind. Expanding his horizons is what allows him to survive. The Author's Note includes his first drawing to win a prize-- a scene from that marketplace (Farrar Straus, 2008, ages 4-8).

For suspense that's almost nail-biting, check out this heroic animal story-- Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City. Is Pale Male the only wild hawk with his own website? Certainly he's the only one with so many children's books about him. In this, the third, Janet Schulman narrates with lots of personality the whole true tale. The flap copy mentions that she wrote it specifically for artist Meilo So, whose sprightly, soft-focus watercolors are indeed an attention-grabbing fit. One day in 1991 a red-tailed hawk with a four-foot wingspan soared into New York's Central Park. To avid bird-watchers' delight, Pale Male and his series of mates nested in various locations, triumphing over their own disorientation, natural enemies like crows, and human enemies at the fancy addresses they favored. Will these wild creatures get used to city life and become resourceful New Yorkers at last? Will their chicks learn to fly without smashing into cement? Will they all survive President Bush's relaxation of the Migratory Bird Treaty (Knopf, 2008, ages 6-12)?

For utter, nearly wordless simplicity, tune into Jukebox. This French import is sort of informational-- celebrating and instantly characterizing every style of music you can think of, from disco to opera, country to hip hop. But mostly it's a really witty romp. Down at the local bistro, a magical machine transforms its listeners into the embodiment of the music they choose: a Goth girl goes gothic, three chums take up choral music, even the bistro's mice get caught up. Creative teachers could have a blast using this to show the power of music, as well as its diversity. The charming concept and stylized, poster-like illustrations are by David Merveille (Kane/Miller, American edition 2008, all ages).

What other 2008 nonfiction titles look cool to you???

Meanwhile, picking up the saga of Fartiste from my last post, at least one blogger has delivered a toot-- Lori Calabrese (hint: scroll down--it's not Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez). And my favorite mag has given it an award already! OK, you can't exactly call "Title Most Likely to Make Middle-Grade Boys Guffaw and Parents Groan" a real award, and also we didn't exactly win, we tied with a book that sounds gross and not in a classy way. But Paul and I will take what we can get.

And moving from the ridiculous to the slightly more important… Go Hillary!


Lori Calabrese said...


Thanks for the link! I really am looking forward to Fartiste! It's about time somebody else tackled the subject besides Walter the Farting Dog! Doesn't everyone love a little gassy humor every now and then? Thanks for such wonderful books!

Anonymous said...

The library of congress is not beyond mistakes. I discovered that A Brave Soldier by Nicolas Debon has been classified with the subject World War 1938-45 even though it is most definitely about WWI.

thanks for the great recommendations.

Anonymous said...





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