September 2022


September 2022 Stars & Big Picture

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

Alexander, KwameThe Door of No Return Little, 2022 [432p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780316441865 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780316442060 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* Gr. 7-10

Anderson, Jodi LynnEach Night Was Illuminated Quill Tree, 2022 [256p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780062393579 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780062393593 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galley   R* Gr. 8-12

Boorman, Kate A.Into The Sublime Henry Holt, 2022 [368p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781250191700 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781250191694 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* Gr. 7-10

Brière-Haquet, AlicePhalaina; tr. from the French by Emma Ramadan. Levine Querido, 2022 [320p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781646141821 $18.99
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* Gr. 9-12

Booth, Molly HortonTwelfth Grade Night; by Molly Horton Booth and Stephanie Kate Strohm; illus. by Jamie Green. Hyperion, 2022 [160p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781368062398 $24.99
Paper ed. ISBN 9781368064651 $14.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781368063838 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* Gr. 6-12

Callender, KacenLark & Kasim Start a Revolution. Amulet/Abrams, 2022 [336p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781419756870 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781647004125 $15.54
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* Gr. 8-12

Drago, Flavia Z. Leila, the Perfect Witch; written and illus. by Flavia Z. Drago. Candlewick, 2022 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781536220506 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781536226867 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* 3-7 yrs

Lyall, Casey A Spoonful of Frogs; illus. by Vera Brosgol. Greenwillow, 2022 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780062890290 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* 4-7 yrs

Strong, KarenEden’s Everdark. Simon, 2022 [272p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781665904476 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781665904490 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* Gr. 5-8

Verdad, MarceloThe Worst Teddy EVER; written and illus. by Marcelo Verdad. Hachette, 2022 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780316330459 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys   R* 4-7 yrs

Cover art: The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense. Two geese use oversized art supplies to scribble the word "DADA" on a piece of paper.The Real Dada Mother Goose

Written by Jon Scieszka; illustrated by Julia Rothman

Nobody knows better than Scieszka how to turn a kiddie tale on its head and produce true, gleeful chaos. Now the mind that bought readers Battle Bunny (BCCB 12/13) returns with another exercise in DIY iconoclasm, offering strategies to recast the canon of Western nursery rhymes with more contemporary kid appeal. No treasured verse will be safe again once readers master the following outline for literary mischief.

First, start with a nursery rhyme and present it in its familiar form, complete with 1916 Blanche Fisher Wright illustrations. Then, play with it, either good-naturedly or like a cat might play with a mouse. Perhaps try something relatively tame, like retelling Humpty Dumpty’s ordeal as a postcard from camp or swapping some letters around to Spooner-ize Jack Be Nimble. Up the ante with a satirical book report on JackBN, or skewer other shopworn middle grades assessments with a pop quiz on Hey Diddle Diddle (“4. When did the dog laugh? 5. Why do you think the dish is running away with the spoon?”). Next, consider a group activity with an online translation app—surely something Mother Goose never envisioned—converting a rhyme from English to Finnish to Zulu to Latin to Samoan and back to something that might still resemble English. Mash up some classics, such as Old Mother Hubbard reinspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” then aim for some total linguistic chaos: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star should race completely out of control through a litany of similes or be mercilessly twisted into anagrams (“WET LINK, WET LINK, little RATS.”)

Rothman is an enthusiastic partner in this goofy subversion, updating Wright’s whimsical but somewhat staid illustrations by unleashing her own flock of sleek geese into edited scraps of Wright’s work. Opening scenes find a committee of geese studying the originals and planning their artful attack, which begins when they paint over the original Wright birdhouse and flock of birds near Humpty Dumpty’s wall in preparation for Scieszka’s first entry, “Censored.” The poor, beset egg finds a brief reprieve in “Boring,” combing a single hair added to his bald head while Rothman’s very diverse cast of King’s Men (and a goose) stand around with nothing to do. HD’s story isn’t much without a fall, though, so his inevitable tumble takes him through several pages of coiled telephone cord (yes, telephone cord) as Scieszka rattles off the results of his online translation app experiment. Even when Rothman leaves a character their dignity, she transports them into incongruous settings. The little boy in knickers who stands at his window pondering the twinkling “little star” then appears in front of a chalkboard working through equations. “Now we know just what you are./ A luminous ball of gas, mostly hydrogen and helium,/ held together by your own gravity, producing light and/ heat from nuclear fusion reactions in your core.”

The stylized illustrations capture this exploration of the tangible and intangible with a graceful beauty, balancing movement and energy against a background of stillness. The forest is anchored by sturdy geometry, with ramrod straight trees and angular hills rich in color. These shapes contrast effectively with Fox’s sleek, fluid body, the blackbirds’ twisty flight, and Moth’s soft curves, all rendered in shades of gray and black. Visual details emphasize the dance between life and death: fossils of running animals and the skeletons of two embracing humans can be seen underground as Fox leaps through the pages, moving past the ruins of an old house and old stumps surrounded by flourishing flora and fauna.

End matter covers the how-to and often the history behind each nursery rhyme transformation, both the self-evident (e.g., rebus) and the inscrutable (N + 7.) Also included is lively commentary on the legendary Mother Goose, as well as Blanche Fisher Wright and Julia Rothman, which leads down an unexpected but logical path to copyright, public domain works, and reassurance that there’s no infringement going on here. Curiously, and perhaps fittingly, there is no direct explanation of Dadaism, but that won’t stop creatives from seizing Scieszka and Rothman’s blueprint and diving headlong into the absurd.

—Betty Bush, reviewer

Cover illustration from The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense. Text copyright © 2022 by Jon Scieszka. Illustrations copyright © 2022 by Julia Rothman. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.