Thursday, December 14, 2017

Top 20 Books of 2017: #10-#6



#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

Please visit Travis Jonker's blog to read our blurbs. 




Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt; illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls 


Paige Britt finished my sentences on October 5, 2017. 

Why Am I Me? follows two children—one dark-skinned, one light—as they travel home on a busy subway. The boy notices the girl and wonders: Why am I me . . . and not you? The girl notices the boy and wonders: Why are you, you . . . and not me? The questions get bigger and bigger as they look at all the different passengers, then at the people out the window, and finally up at the stars. It’s not until they get off the train and look into each other’s eyes that the questions stop and something else emerges. I’m not going to tell you what that something is, but I will say this: Maybe “you” and “me” are just part of a vast, extraordinary “we.”


Selina Alko and Sean Qualls’ illustrations are captivating. They’re so expansive, yet intimate. They illustrate these big universal themes, yet they make them deeply personal. The images are multi-layered and textured—just like the layers of meaning in the story—and they invite you back over and over to discover new things. Which is what the book is really all about!


I hope Why Am I Me? inspires both children and adults to stay curious. Most children are naturally full of questions, but as they grow up, those questions are sometimes replaced with answers. And those answers can turn into labels—good, bad, us, them. But we’re so much more than those labels! We’re made of star stuff, after all. Doesn’t that blow your mind? Maybe with our minds just a tiny bit blown, a deeper wisdom can emerge. A wisdom grounded in curiosity and compassion. Certainty creates labels, but curiosity creates space—space for empathy and connection, for delight and (hopefully) dialogue.


School libraries are magic! They connect kids to far-flung places. Whether those places are in the distant corners of your imagination or the distant corners of the galaxy—libraries will take you there! And it ABSOLUTELY does not matter where you come from, how much money you have, or what your gender or religion is—you are welcome in a school library. End of story. Which is really the beginning of the story. See? Magic.


Picture books are for all ages. I have a bookshelf in my house that takes up an entire wall. It’s full of all kinds of books—philosophy books, classic literature, books about art and architecture, and, of course, picture books. They belong right there with everything else. The special genius of a picture book is that you don’t just read it, you experience it. And you’re never too old to experience the wonder and wisdom contained within their pages.

Explore Paige Britt's website.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my Aunt Lil. She’s eighty-six-years-old and has Alzheimer’s disease. She loved Why Am I Me? and was delighted by the images and all the big questions that went with them. She kept asking me what the “right” answers were. I asked her to tell me. When she got to the end of the book, she pointed to the image of the boy and girl with their faces overlapping and said, “Each has one eye of their own, and one eye shared.” She got it! Why Am I Me? is about unity and diversity. It’s about seeing your self in others. Everyone and everything is connected. And if my aunt with dementia knows this, then it gives me hope that, on some level, we all do.


Borrow Why Am I Me? from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper



Travis Jonker's blog post about The Good for Nothing Button is a must-read. 



Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Gordon C. James





"I believe, as an artist, that your primary goal should be to build an important body of work that will be here long after you’re gone. A body of work that your family can be proud of. A body of work that will make people feel good about themselves, that will make them think, laugh and cry. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. Make something meaningful.” -Derrick Barnes | Visit Derrick's website to learn more about Crown





Read Jules Danielson's interview with Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James. 



Real Friends by Shannon Hale; illustrated by LeUyen Pham




Watch the book trailer for Real Friends


Download the Real Friends activity guide. 


I'm Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris; illustrated by Lane Smith 


"It really started with my kids. ... I've been a TV writer for a while, but once they came around, I really wanted to write something special for them. And as parents of young kids understand, you don't get a lot of sleep. " -Chris Harris 

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