In two charming tales from a Swedish author, Detective Gordon, a very wise toad and Chief of Police in the forest, must solve mysteries. In the first book, Detective Gordon helps a squirrel find his missing hoard of nuts. During his investigation, Gordon finds Buffy, a mouse who has no family or place to live. Thus, an assistant position is created for Buffy, who is willing and ready for sleuthing. In the second mystery, the entire forest is unhappy because of an unidentified bully, and it is up to Detective Gordon and Buffy to put an end to it, because in the forest, “It is permitted to be nice but forbidden to be nasty.”As Buffy becomes part of the Police family, she develops a true friendship with Detective Gordon. Both feel a strong sense of duty to keep the forest safe and happy. When Detective Gordon learns that Buffy cannot read, he teachers her. In turn, Buffy uses unusual strategies to uncover clues when Detective Gordon catches up on his sleep. Together, they make a strong team. Nilsson’s short chapters and clever, well-developed plots, Marshall’s crisp translation, and Spee’s soft paintings make these titles ideal for early readers ready for adventure and mystery.
Bettie Parsons Barger
Detective Gordon: The First Case; Detective Gordon: A Complicated Case
Illus. Gitte Spee
Trans. Julia Marshall
Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press, 2015. 93 pp.
ISBN: 978-1-927271-49-0; 978-1-776570-59-1
(Fiction; ages 6-8)
In the village of Palenque, very few people know how to read or write. When her older sister starts receiving what she thinks are love letters, however, a young girl decides it is time to learn to read so they can figure out together what the letters say. With the help of Mr. Velandia, the village’s gentle shopkeeper, who offers to teach her in exchange for helping him around the shop, the little girl learns to recognize the different letters and then some words, until she is able to read and write on her own. Using a piece of charcoal she borrows from the kitchen, she starts to teach other children as well. Vasco’s own experiences conducting literacy work shops with Afro-Colombian and other communities inspired this story. It is a tribute to all the women, mothers, and librarians that she met during her travels—who had often learned to read by themselves in order to teach their children and share with them the pleasure of reading. Palomino’s beautiful illustrations fi ll the page with thick colors and textures that evoke the vibrant culture and landscape from Colombia’s coastal regions and bring the story and the characters to life.
Letras al Cartoon (Charcoal Letters)
Illus. Juan Palomino
Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Juventud, 2015. 32 pp.
(Picture book; ages 4+)
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Paper House Effigy is a story about the traditional art of pasted-paper sculptures in Taiwan, told from a little boy’s perspective. His grandfather is a Taoist priest and a master of paper pasting. Through telling the boy’s memories of his grandfather, Liao introduces the meanings behind burning paper effigies for religious rituals and funerals to readers. The dialogue between the boy and his grandfather are informative and moving and convey the grandfather’s enthusiasm for passing down the wisdom of this important Chinese ritual practiced for over a thousand years. They also reveal the boy’s admiration and care for his grandfather. Wang’s illustrations show the grandfather tying bamboo and cutting and pasting colorful patterned paper on bamboo frameworks to create a wide range of paper effigies—such as a luxurious palace for Jade Emperor God, a fancy mansion for a dear friend who passed away, and a small palanquin for the soul of the deceased. The collage illustrations show the details in creating pasted-paper sculptures, and they capture the solemn atmosphere of burning paper effigies as offerings or gifts for deities or the deceased. Wang is one of the selected illustrators for the 2016 Bologna Illustrators Exhibition.
火燒厝 (Paper-House Effigy)
Illus Shu-Man Wang
Taipei, Taiwan: Yes Creative Ltd., 2016. 36 pp.
(Picture hook; ages 5+)
Regardless that he is underperforming in Afrikaans and facing other challenging situations at school and home, Elton April is dreaming big. He is writing a book about his life in his new school. His new Afrikaans teacher, Miss Broom, nicknamed Brom (grunt), impacts his life on all levels with her often contentious teaching methods. With his mother’s poor judgment in men leading to disastrous investment of their savings, Elton sometimes has to rely on finding odd jobs at his local supermarket to feed himself. With the author’s positive, humorous style and clever characterization, the story stays light with a sense of hope while dealing with heavy subjects. Miss Broom’s teaching methods allow creativity and originality, and Elton finds his niche in Afrikaans. Coining new words and phrases are encouraged, and correct spelling becomes easier by writing rap songs with key words. Quirky commentary, corrected spelling mistakes, and doodles within the text and in the margins have presumably been added as Elton’s Afrikaans improves and confidence grows, and as an afterthought after finishing his book. This is a book to be enjoyed by both boys and girls and adds a valuable, fresh perspective on Afrikaans as one of South Africa’s eleven languages. It received the South African MER Youth Fiction prize.
Elton amper-famous April ann Juffrou Brom (Elton almost-famous April and Miss Brom)
Illus. Silvia Rebel
Trans. Julia Marshall
Cape Town, South Africa: Tafelberg, 2015. 140 pp.
(Fiction; ages 12-15)
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Donghae is forced to leave his baseball team because he cannot lie and say that his teammate was safe on the base when he was not. Heeju also cannot join the baseball team because she is a girl. Heeju is very active and energetic and will do anything to get what she wants, but she can’t become a boy to play on the boy’s baseball team. When Donghae and Heeju meet they decide to create their own baseball team, called “Whatever Baseball Team, ” because they don t want to follow rules that a typical baseball team follows. On the Whatever Baseball Team, you don’t have to play with bats and gloves; you don’t have to be a boy; you can also play as much or as little as you want. Young readers will enjoy reading ho w the Whatever Baseball Team tackles challenges and will find themselves rooting for this team. A series of incidents are woven nicely into the c hronological story structure. After finishing this book, readers may want to play “Whatever Baseball” themselves.
소리질러, 운동장 (Shout Out, Playground)
Illus. Hansol Lee
Paju, South Korea: Changbi Publishers, 2015. 153 pp.
(Realistic fiction; ages 9+)
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In this YA novel, four children are removed from their families and forced to travel from the four directions to the fictional Wellington Residential School, somewhere in the continental USA. From the epigraph—a quote from the original headmaster of the Carlisle Indian School, “Kill the Indian to Save the Man”—through the harrowing narratives of the four protagonists, Stealing Indians offers a fictionalized account of the all-too true experiences of tens of thousands of North American First Nations children. Therefore, while the author draws on the distinct cultures of the four children and thus teaches young readers about both differences and similarities among First Nations societies, he offers no easy conclusions. Native children subjected to the residential school system were irrevocably changed, as were their communities, which were affected by the absence of the stolen children and then by the westernized children who returned. Just as Smelcer fully develops his characters as distinct individuals and as products of their tribes, he gives them different outcomes and, thus, shows how Indigenous children and their communities coped with effects of colonization and assimilation. This is an important novel, both absorbing and socially relevant.
Fredonia, NY: Leapfrog, 2016. 198 pp.
(Fiction; ages 12+)
A Winter’s Night autobiographically depicts a winter’s night from the author’s childhood. A young girl identifies a series of sounds—such as the whistle of the watchman, the sizzling sound that fresh orange peel makes when it touches the hot stove, and the sound of her grandfather popping some popcorn, as well as the call of the local Boza vendor, who sells a traditional Turkish drink. Onomatopoeia often connects these sounds with shapes, colors, and other sensory feelings, hinting at synesthesia. By integrating the sounds of traditional occupations and habits into the picture book, this story explores the intangible cultural heritage aspects of the past and creates a sensory history of winter nights in Turkey. At the end of the book, a set of engaging questions invites readers to think and converse about their own sensory memories and experiences. Vividly colored illustrations capture an abstract, enticing atmosphere where icy turquoise colors of the exterior are juxtaposed with warm crimsons of the interior. Throughout, Veryeri Alaca also employs intertextuality by making references to a wide range of artists such as Vermeer, Kandinsky, John Cage, and Robert Doisneau, as well as to traditional Iznik pottery motifs.
Bir Kış Gecesi (A Winter’s Night)
Ilgım Veryeri Alaca
Istanbul, Turkey: Yapı Kredi Publications, 2016. 44 pp.
(Picture book; ages 3-8) [End Page 65]
Sugar Kid is based on true events that happened to the author's older friend. Stella (Elli) was only four years old and living with her family in Moscow when her life was drastically affected by the political situation in Stalin-era Soviet Union. First, her father was arrested during Stalin's "Great Purge." Soon his wife and his daughter also were arrested and exiled to Kirgizia in Central Asia in a camp for family members of "enemies of the state."' There, Elli and her mother both slept on the ground without any shelter, women were forced to work in particularly harsh conditions, and young Elli was beaten by guards. Released from the camp Ellie's mother could not find a job. They almost died from starvation and cold until a local family took them in and other kind people provided food and clothing. Bill's mother also helped local illiterate Kirgiz families by reading books and writing letters for them. Elli was nicknamed Sugar Kid, or "Kant Bala," for her blond hair, unusual for that area. When Elli went back to school, she made new friends, but the possibility of a second arrest always lingered on. Only many years later were she and her mother able to return to Moscow.
First published as
Sugar Kid: A Story of the Girl from the Last Century Told by Stella Wudolskaya
illustrated by Maria Pasternak
Moscow, Russia: KompasGuide, 2014. 160 pp.
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