Friday, December 15, 2017

Top 20 Books of 2017: #5-1


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

Please Travis Jonker's blog to read our blurbs. 


Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia 


A phenomenal book trailer! 


All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson 


Share All's Faire in Middle School's book trailer with your students. 


Graphic Novel Tips from Victoria Jamieson. 


wishtree by Katherine Applegate


Katherine Applegate finished my sentences on September 5. 

wishtree's book trailer makes me sniffle every time I see it. (Very happy tears.) 

Red thinks that humans are awfully tough to figure out. 

I can’t disagree.



Charles Santoso’s illustrations are simply perfect. There’s a spread with all of the animal characters—baby skunks and curious kittens and tiny opossums and more—that readers are going to adore. 

wishtree is for newcomers and welcomers. Which means, I like to think, most of us. Maybe even, someday, all of us.

School libraries are non-negotiable. Kinda like air and water and fish sticks in the cafeteria.


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if trees can talk. But I suspect you didn’t because you already know the answer: Of course they can.

That is, if you know how to listen. 



Look for wishtree on September 26. 


Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell


Matthew Cordell finished my sentences on November 30, 2016. 

The book trailer for Wolf in the Snow gets to, I think, much of what the heart of the book is about for me. What do we do when confronted with a difficult choice? When there is fear and suffering, do we think of ourselves, acting in our own best interests? Or do we go beyond that and think of those around us? And who are the ones around us? Are they good? Bad? Are we good? Bad? As we are confronted with so many stereotypes and prejudices—about ourselves and others—we should all always be challenging ourselves with these questions and answers. Now more than ever. Adults and children alike.


Wolf in the Snow’s cover shows the book’s two heroes. A girl and a wolf pup. The girl in this story is a very brave soul. The pup is brave to trust her. What happens when the girl reunites the pup with its pack takes incredible courage. And what happens after that takes incredible trust on behalf of everyone. To me, a wolf is a powerfully brave and loving creature. Loyal to family. And fiercely protective. I kept asking myself… is the “wolf” in this book just the wolf? Or is it the girl too?

Illustration Credit: Matthew Cordell
I created the illustrations in my favorite blend of pen and ink drawing with watercolor painting. But the art in this book is slightly different from some of my others. The girl and surrounding nature are drawn very loosely and minimally—as I tend to do. But the wolves are drawn more realistically and more detailed than I typically draw. For one, to suggest the distinct difference between wolf and human. How we might think and react and how they might. I hope the art will also put the reader in a very real place as they see the wolves drawn in this way. It takes a lot of courage for the girl to do what she does in the book—to bring a lost wolf pup back to its pack. Before she, also lost, finds her own way home. It was essential to depict the wolves more realistically to draw out these feelings of fear and, ultimately, reassurance that play out in the book.

Illustration Credit: Matthew Cordell 
I hope Wolf in the Snow leads children and adults to want to learn more about wolves. I knew next to nothing about wolves when I first embarked upon the journey of making this book. As I tried (and failed many times) to find the story in this book, I found another entirely true story about wolves. They have been demonized throughout literature. (Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.) Which has led to the unfair treatment and relentless killing of these noble creatures. In fact, they are highly complex, intelligent animals. They want much of the same things that we want. Safety. Family. Companionship. Joy. Life. They are wild animals, but they are not bloodthirsty and vicious. They hunt animals—not humans—purely for survival. And wolves have come to fear humans, just as we have come to fear them.

Illustration Credit: Matthew Cordell 
Wordless picture books are deceptively difficult. They are difficult to make and they are difficult to read. Because there are no words, the visual language needs to be clearer than ever. Because there are no words, they can be read in a multitude of ways. This can be a wonderful thing. Or—if confusing—this could be the worst thing. When a wordless picture book works, it is brilliant. I won’t try and shoot for brilliance, but I’ll just hope that my book works.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me
about the music in this book trailer. It’s a song by one of my all-time favorite bands, Archers of Loaf! They’ve been in heavy listening rotation for me starting in my college years and up to now. These guys were incredibly gracious to allow me to use this beautiful little waltz for this book trailer. (They are normally a rock band, but this song closes out their 1996 album, All the Nations Airports.) I think it fits the book so perfectly.




After the Fall by Dan Santat 

Congratulations, Dan! :) 

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