Monday, January 16, 2012

100 Best children's books in 2011

Librarian Booktalk with Elizabeth Bird – Part 2
Continuation of transcribed phone interview with Elizabeth Bird, Youth Materials Specialist at the New York Public Library as she discusses her favorite books of the different sections listed on the 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2011 recently released by the New York Public Library.

Picture Books
Elizabeth: For picture books, the title is Everything Goes on Land by Brian Biggs. I like to describe it as Richard Scarry meets Robert Crumb. A boy and his father drive through a city and you just see the sheer swath of vehicles that you run into when you’re in a city. It’s so involved, so complicated, and so much fun. It’s easy to follow the storyline, if that’s what you want to do, or you can try to find all the little details. For example, there is always a bird wearing a hat hidden in the pictures somewhere. It’s just a great book that if you want to spend some time with it, it really rewards the reading.

Folk  and Fairy Tales
Elizabeth: Folk and fairy tales have always been very important to the New York Public Library. So, we always have a folk and fairy tale section, but it’s tough because recently folk and fairy tales have been disappearing. Publishers are less willing to publish folk and fairy tales. They don’t sell as well as some other things. So the numbers have really depleted over the years, which is too bad because teachers want them more than ever right now. So we always try to find just the best of whatever is out there. We have some really good ones this year. My favorite without a doubt was The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred. It’s sort of a cumulative tale, sort of a recipe. It’s beautiful art. It teaches Spanish along the way, but in a fun way. It incorporates the Spanish words into the text so beautifully, so effortlessly that the kids are learning Spanish and they’re not even realizing it.

Early Chapter Book
Elizabeth: The hardest books to find every year are early chapter books. There are tons of easy books, but to get to the chapter books where you’re transitioning from easy books into chapter books, it’s so tough. You have to really search for them. There is a really good one that came out this year by Atinuke called The No. 1 Car Spotter and it’s just fantastic. This is certainly the first and maybe only African boy I’ve ever seen in an early chapter book published in America. It is funny, well written. And Atinuke is clearly a professional storyteller because the language is the book is just top notch.

Middle Grade Chapter Book
Elizabeth: The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander flies off the shelves. I cannot keep this book on the shelf. Kids adore this book. They do not get the Godfather reference. They don’t care. It’s just a really fun story about a kid who gets other people to owe him favors. He takes over an abandoned bathroom in his school and kids come to him in the fourth stall where he has set up a whole desk area where they can ask him for favors. It’s very enjoyable, and a great boy and girl book.

Elizabeth: Some years poetry is really strong and some years it’s not. This year we had the weird sensation of having to deal with a lot of dead people who suddenly have new works coming out. There was a Dr. Seuss poetry book and a Shel Silverstein poetry book. Fortunately, both these poetry books were really good, which is not always the case in these situations. The new Shel Silverstein (Everything On It) was done really well and really looks like his other previous books. The Silverstein estate was very careful about which poetry selections they chose. And his art is just fantastic.

Graphic Novels
Elizabeth: This is a new selection that was not on the list 100 years ago. This is maybe the second or third time we’ve had the graphic novel section, because now we’re seeing really good graphic novels. I selected Dan Santat’s Sidekicks.  It’s the idea that these sidekick animals of superheroes have their own adventures. I run a book group for kids and suggested we do Sidekicks. They loved it. It’s beautiful. It’s full color. It’s a lot of fun.

Elizabeth: The last one that I chose is actually because I am sort of bias. Coral Reefs by Jason Chin takes place in the main branch of the New York Public Library. Chin just did a beautiful job. The architecture is spot on. The idea is that this kid is reading a book and it sort of feels like she’s been submerged into the world of coral reefs. It looks like it’s a fantasy because on the cover she is swimming around with a shark. The text is straight nonfiction, talking about coral reefs, the different animals there, how they’re threatened by pollution and things like that. It has beautiful watercolors. Chin is a true artist.

In addition to being the Youth Materials Specialist at the New York Public Library, Elizabeth is a former Newbery Committee member (2007), blogger for FUSE #8 Production, professional reviewer for Kirkus and New York Times, regular contributing author to “The Horn Book”, author of CHILDREN'S LITERATURE GEMS: CHOOSING AND USING THEM IN YOUR LIBRARY CAREER (ALA Editions, 2009), and author of the forthcoming children’s picture book GIANT DANCE PARTY (HarperCollins).