Bill O. Smith’s third book starring chickadees lives up to the standard set by his first, Chickadees at Night, and second, The Chickadee Spirit. Like the earlier books, Chickadeeland once again presents the little birds we all love in rhymes that please the ear and captivate the imagination, completing a trilogy of perfect bedtime stories that all ages will enjoy. Traverse City artist Charles R. Murphy’s watercolors, too, could not be better suited to illustrating Smith’s chickadee adventure tales.
Nor will you want to overlook a fourth Bill Smith book (third in chronological order), Four a.m. December 25, illustrated by Glenn Wolff. There is also a lot going on in the pictures that isn’t told in the words in this book. Lots to look for and talk about as the author and illustrator take us around the world, through the time zones, for one hour in the dark of Christmas morning.
The author is donating his profits from Chickadeeland to the National Parks Conservation Association, Historic Sleeping Bear Preservation, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Groundworks Center, and the National Park Foundation. His profits from Four a.m. December 25th are going to the Air Force Enlisted Village, Air Warriors Courage Foundation, Our Military Kids, Inc., and the Cherryland VWF Post 2780 Relief Fund.
Books by Bill O. Smith, all hardcover with beautifully illustrated boards:
Chickadees at Night, $18.85
The Chickadee Spirit, $18.85
Four a.m. December 25 (somewhat larger format than chickadee books), $19.95
You will definitely want to catch the chickadee spirit yourself!
There is no need to introduce anyone in northwest Michigan to Gwen Frostic. Most people have been to her charmingly quirky working studio (see above) in Benzie County, where production is still active though the artist is no longer alive. Now a new children’s book has arrived to introduce another generation to Michigan artist Gwen Frostic and her life’s work. Beautifully illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen, Lindsey McDivitt’s Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story combines biography with inspiration in a way that does honor to its subject.
When it comes to graphic novels, I have lagged behind the times dreadfully, but I couldn't help being intrigued by this book from bestselling author Eoin Colfer and the team behind the Artemis Fowl graphic novels, the story of a young boy’s perilous journey from Ghana across the Sahara to Tripoli and out onto the ocean to reunite with his brother and sister.
Eoin Colfer says, “I will keep writing until people stop reading or I run out of ideas.” Andrew Donkin became interested in migration and asylum while writing the story of a man who lived on a bench in an airport for 18 years. Illustrator Giovanni Rigano, independent writer and Disney-Pixar contributor, has now adapted five of Colfer’s books into graphic novels.
Incredible team, timely topic, taut adventure. Ages 10 and up.
Illegal, by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano.
Whether you already know Grady Service from earlier Woods Cop novels or approach this book innocent of preconceptions, there’s no way Joseph Heywood’s Bad Optics will disappoint. All you need by way of background the author lays out for you at the beginning: Woods cop Grady Service has been suspended but is determined to go on protecting his Upper Peninsula wilderness. Grab it and go! When you reach the last page, if you haven’t read earlier Woods Cop stories, you’ll want to go back and catch up to yourself.
The Far Away Brothers, by Lauren Markham, isn’t a Michigan book, but it’s one I have chosen to stock and promote this season. The subtitle of the book is Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life. I read about it the New York Review of Books and was surprised and pleased to learn that it is already available in paperback.
Ernesto and Raul (not their real names) are twins from El Salvador. At age 17, threatened by gang violence, they fled their country for the United States, having borrowed $14,000, which compounding interest had boosted to $16,000 by the time the boys reached their older brother in Los Angeles. Recovering from the horrors of a treacherous trip through Mexico, earning a new language, and working to pay down their debt, the boys must also navigate the U.S. law courts to establish legal residency.
Author Lauren Markham, while keeping her focus on the personal story of Ernesto and Raul, manages to weave in statistics on immigration and historical background of American involvement with El Salvador.
This would be an excellent choice for book clubs this fall, so hereare few suggested discussion questions to get your group talking after they read the book:
Do you believe the death threat against Ernesto endangered the life of his identical twin brother Raul, or did Raul simply not want to be left behind? What other factors might have influenced Raul’s decision?
Do young people fleeing gang violence in other countries bring increased violence to the U.S.? Explain.
Did you have any idea what what traumatic event Ernesto had experienced on his way north? Did learning what it was surprise you? What did it help explain?
If you have ever lived in a house with unrelated residents in addition to family, what was the situation, and why were you part of it? How were disputes resolved?
What aspects of poverty experienced by the Flores family, both in El Salvador and in the U.S., similar to poverty in general? What aspects were unique to their situations?
Did this book help you gain clarity on what a reasonable solution to immigration, legal and illegal, might look like? Having read the book, in what ways is your perspective now more or less clear, and how has your view changed — or does it remain unchanged? What other books, if any, have you read on the subject of immigration, and how does this book’s coverage of the subject compare to that of others? Would you recommend this book to others interested in the subject?
If you were a parent in a town like La Colonia, El Salvador, would you try to keep your children “down on the farm” or send them “north”? How would you make decisions for their future? How could the family life be different? What is within their power and what beyond their control?
The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life