Tuesday, February 28, 2023

A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat

This amazing graphic memoir by Dan Santat is out in the world today and if you teach middle school especially, you need this book for your classroom library.

I read this book on my flight back home from NCTE back in November and I have been impatiently waiting to share this book with readers, but no more!
The premise of this book is that the summer before high school, Dan is presented with an opportunity to travel to Europe with a school group for 3 weeks, but he is initially ambivalent. He wants to experience new things, but he's not sure he wants to do it with some of his classmates. But as the trip goes on, he realizes how much bigger the world grows for him as he tries new and forbidden things for the first time (beer, cigarettes, coffee, and even steals a bike... this was the 80s... we were all feral in the 80s 😛), has his first summer romance, and he sees what the world has to offer beyond his small hometown.

I read this book on my flight home from NCTE and it was the perfect book to read on a plane. My experience living in Europe was in my 20s but I saw so much of my own experience in this book and how the world became so much bigger for me. I loved the way the story was structured, I love how it ended in a way that it felt like you were watching a movie, oh, and I also love that I understood most of the German throughout the book and laughed so hard when Dan was baring his soul to Helga, his Austrian host mother whom he lived with for a week and she said "Es tut mir leid, dass ich nicht verstehe was du sagt." This book has so much heart and is relatable in so many ways, whether that's the travel angle, the "middle school was torture" angle or the pining away for a summer romance angle. So many readers will devour this book and I'm so glad it's finally out in the world for more readers to love.

Published: February 28, 2023
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 320
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Audience: Older middle grade/younger YA
Disclosure: ARC received at NCTE 2022

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Monday, January 23, 2023

2023 Caldecott Predictions

One week from today the 2023 Caldecott Medal will be awarded. 

Our school recently finished our Mock Caldecott unit and our school selected... 

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

But having done Mock Caldecott for a few years now and having studied previous winners and honors as well as having served on a book award committee before (I served on ALAN's Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee for five years), I have my own opinions on which books I think might win.
My prediction for the medal: 

Berry Song by Michaela Goade
The artwork in this book is so stunning there are literally page spreads I would frame and hang up in my house. Like this one, for example:
If this book wins, no one will question it. It is an obvious choice. But depending on the makeup of the committee, I have a second possibility...

My outlier prediction for the medal:

Gibberish by Young Vo
Where Berry Song takes your breath away with its traditionally beautiful illustrations, Gibberish is something new and innovative and like nothing I've ever seen before. It also just happens to tug at my personal heartstrings because as a person who has lived in another country where I didn't know the language, the main character's struggles were incredibly real to me. But the way Young Vo communicates this feeling of being in a world of confusion is what stands out here. This book could tip the scales if there are enough people on the committee who are looking for something fresh, new, and different. 

Honor predictions:

Knight Owl
by Christopher Denise
What Denise does with lighting in his illustrations for Knight Owl is what makes these illustrations distinguished, but the adorable, brave owl is what made this book our students' choice to win for our school's Mock Caldecott. While I totally understand why they chose this book, I personally am getting Caldecott honor vibes from it. 

Kick Push by Frank Morrison
I don't have any basis for this prediction other than kids love it, it's a teensy bit subversive since the artwork has a street art vibe, and every year I always like to make an unexpected prediction because the year I had a feeling about The Rough Patch by Brian Lies but DIDN'T put it on our Mock Caldecott list because I hadn't heart anyone talk about it, I decided I will now always make at least one prediction that is a little outside the box (though not too outside the box since it's also one of Betsy Bird's predictions too). 

Hot Dog by Doug Salati
It's a book that a lot of people are talking about. It's giving Caldecott honor vibes. I can't explain why. It's just a feeling I have. 

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, illustrated by Daniel Minter
This book has mesmerizing illustrations that kids absolutely love, but the text is what trips me up on this one. It's a book that a lot of kids loved flipping through but not actually reading. So I guess it depends on how much the committee considers the text when deciding on this one. 

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
I know a lot of people are predicting that this one will win, but I will always root for an underdog and the fact that Sophie Blackall has already won two Caldecott medals in the past eight years means I'd rather Farmhouse win an honor. Would I be surprised if it wins the medal? No. Do I want it to? Also no. 

Those are my predictions. What are yours? 

Purchasing books from any of the above Bookshop affiliate links support independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale.