May 2019


May Stars & Big Picture

Starred titles are books of special distinction. See the archives for selections from previous months.

Barnett, Mac The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown; illus. by Sarah Jacoby. Balzer + Bray, 2019 [48p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-239344-9 17.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 6-10 yrs

Fox, HelenaHow It Feels to Float. Dial, 2019 [384p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-525-55429-5 17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-525-55435-6 10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 9-12

Jenkins, Martin Beware of the Crocodile; illus. by Satoshi Kitamura. Candlewick, 2019 [32p]
ISBN 978-0-7636-7538-7 16.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 6-9 yrs

Knowles, Jo Where the Heart Is. Candlewick, 2019 [304p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5362-0003-4 16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5362-0684-5 16.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 4-7

Lai, RemyPie in the Sky; written and illus. by Remy Lai. Holt, 2019
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-250-31409-3 21.99
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-250-31410-9 12.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-250-20867-5 9.22
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 4-6

Moldover, Joseph Every Moment After. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019 [368p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-328-54727-9 17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-328-63005-6 9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 9-12

Santat, Dan Harold & Hog Pretend for Real!; written and illus. by Dan Santat and Mo Willems. Hyperion, 2019 [64p] (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!)
ISBN 978-1-3680-2716-8 9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 1-3

Stutzman, JonathanLlama Destroys the World; illus. by Heather Fox. Holt, 2019 [40p]
ISBN 978-1-250-30317-2 17.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 4-7 yrs

Tamaki, MarikoLaura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me; illus. by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. First Second, 2019 [304p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-25031-284-6 24.99
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-259-0 17.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12

This Place: 150 Years Retold; written by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, et al.; illus. by Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, et al. Highwater/Portage & Main, 2019 [272p]
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-55379-758-6 36.00
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 9 up

The Important Thing about
Margaret Wise Brown

by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

Gather ’round for meta-storytime, as the librarian bunny, surrounded by little bunnies sprawling around with copies of Margaret Wise Brown picture books, begins this book—yes, the very Mac Barnett book you are reading. Librarian bunny wrangles book and squirmy audience in a most convincing storytime manner, pointing out the remarkable fact that Margaret Wise Brown lived for forty-two years and this book is exactly forty-two pages long, and fielding questions about what biography readers should know (“When is her birthday? “May 23, 1910”) and what they want to know (“What was her favorite dog’s name?” “His name was Crispin’s Crispian . . . he bit lots of people”). And then come the quirky bits, such as young Margaret’s dead-pet disposal: “[When] one of Margaret’s rabbits died, she skinned that rabbit and wore its pelt. . . . There are people who will say a story like this doesn’t belong in a children’s book. But it happened.” Bunny listeners hold up copies of Brown’s works, and the librarian bunny has a recap and an observation for each. Goodnight Moon: “Nobody knows why he says goodnight to all this stuff”; The Runaway Bunny: “His mother just won’t let him get away. (Maybe that is why he is trying to escape from her)”; Little Fur Family: “When this book was first published . . . every copy was wrapped up in a real rabbit’s fur.”

As details of Brown’s life and literature unreel, text is accompanied by soft focus pastel and rich crayon-box hued watercolors. until, that is, the librarian bunny drills down to a truth about Brown’s work—it’s strange: “Every good book is at least a little bit strange, and there are some people who do not like strange things in their worlds.” Then with a flip of the page, viewers enter a darker world and meet Brown’s nemesis. The New York Public Library looms grimly across a double-page spread, its gray, eerily illuminated exterior shrouded in the foreboding fog of a noir mystery and “guarded by two stone lions on the steps out front. And the children’s room was guarded by Anne Carroll Moore.” Influential librarian Anne Carroll Moore (always referred to here by her complete name—a virtual invitation for participatory hissing from the audience) is, herself, a strange piece of work, inseparable from her wooden doll, Nicholas Knickerbocker. When Brown scales the slashes of NYPL’s gray steps, pictured on this month’s cover, to introduce Anne Carroll Moore to her work, we know trouble is afoot. With a “Bam!” of her rubber stamp, Anne Carroll Moore dismisses Brown’s books, a villainous act visually underscored here by the “Not Recommended For Purchase By Expert” stamp defacing the covers of picture books held up by incredulous storytime bunnies.

It’s now clear that the librarian bunny and Mac Barnett share a common passion: advocacy for children’s free access to books. And who better to carry that banner than Margaret Wise Brown, whose books have been vindicated by decades of children who have assayed such titles as Goodnight Moon and found them valuable. Although Brown’s life ended at forty-two, her often strange picture books bear the stamp that counts—the author’s name on the covers of titles in print decades after her passing. The librarian bunny concludes, “The important thing about Margaret Wise Brown is that she wrote books.” Her bunny listeners, and Barnett’s audience as well, may begin to suspect that there could be other books, quirky and strange and wonderful, that aren’t reaching their paws right now in 2019. Children old enough to look back at their Brown favorites with happy nostalgia will surely enjoy this creatively rendered backstory, while teachers and librarians will see connections between Moore’s collection exclusion and broader issues of access, making this age-accessible material for Banned Books Week.

Elizabeth Bush, Reviewer

Cover art from The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown © 2019. Reproduced by permission of Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.