August 25, 2021
Next month is the Central Wisconsin Book Festival! This year, 11 fabulous children’s authors will be speaking at the festival. The majority of these events will be conducted virtually through Zoom, which means you can attend from anywhere! The following books are my recommended pre-festival reads for kids. The good news? They're all available for checkout from your local Marathon County Public Library!
On Friday, September 17, via Zoom, Canadian artist Matthew Forsythe will read from his entertaining picture book Pokko and the Drum and also show participants how he created the illustrations. Forsythe’s artwork has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Japan, Italy, and Germany. A few of my favorite titles are Pokko and the Drum, The Brilliant Deep, written by Kate Messner, and The Gold Leaf, written by Kirsten Hall.
Author Jacqueline Briggs Martin presents a virtual story time on Saturday, September 18. She will read from Creekfinding: A True Story and her newest book, co-authored with Phyllis Root and Liza Ketchum, Begin with a Bee. Both books highlight human interaction with the environment and encourage a sense of wonder about the natural world.
Also in the world of middle grade realistic fiction, Kate Allen and Anika Fajardo will both be speaking about their novels in an event on Tuesday, September 21. I was blown away by the artful writing in Kate Allen’s The Line Tender. Much of the book is about grief over losing people that you love. Fajardo’s What If A Fish recently won a Minnesota Book Award. It includes elements of magical realism, which Fajardo describes as magical things happening in otherwise realistic fiction.
Wisconsin authors Baptiste and Miranda Paul will present an interactive story time at the Portage County Public Library in Stevens Point on Thursday, September 23. The Pauls are a high-energy team passionate about sharing books with children. They have collaborated on three books including I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon and Peace. I also recommend reading Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul and The Field by Baptiste Paul.
Peace activist and prolific Canadian author Deborah Ellis is best known for her series of books set in Afghanistan beginning with The Breadwinner. The series includes four books and has been made into a film as well as a graphic novel. The harsh realities of life in a war-torn country I read about in these stories reached me in a way that news coverage on these events hadn’t ever before. I strongly encourage teachers to read these books in their classes. The simple, matter-of-fact style of writing is suitable for second through sixth grades. Ellis’s books explore themes of social justice and courage while also ending with hope. In a virtual event on Thursday, September 23, Ellis will talk about the power of stories to get us through difficult times and read from her newest book, The Greats.
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, a writing and illustrating team based in Colorado, will speak at a virtual event on Saturday, September 25, about some of the fantastic creatures featured in their animal books. Their books are well known by many teachers and librarians to be engaging and informative for young readers. Of their many collaborations, I recommend The Frog Book, What Do You Do If You Work at the Zoo?, and Move!
Collect your pencils and bring your creativity when you attend the virtual presentation by Canadian cartoonist, writer, and illustrator Gillian Goerz on the afternoon of Saturday, September 25. Goerz will read from Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer and show participants how to create their own characters. I recommend reading this clever detective story ahead of time! The gang of neighborhood kids in this book reminded me of classic characters like in The Moffats by Eleanor Estes and The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. Readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories will notice a few parallels.
Minnesotan author V.T. Bidania’s work stars a Hmong American family, the Lees. On Saturday, September 25, in a virtual presentation, she will discuss the inspiration behind the Astrid and Apollo series of beginning readers. The first book, The Starry Campout, was selected by the St. Paul Public Library for their 2021 Read Brave Program.
SEPTEMBER 17 - MATTHEW FORSYTHE
This sweet story about a bold young frog brings back memories for me of the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel. Pokko receives a drum from her parents, which she plays day and night. Eventually her parents send her outside and she leads a band of assorted creatures around the forest making music.
The Brilliant Deep uses a spare amount of text and wide picture spreads to tell about Ken Nedimyer’s work rebuilding coral reefs.
The illustrations for this story include a special shiny gold leaf, as you might expect.
SEPTEMBER 18 - JACQUELINE BRIGGS MARTIN
A man named Michael Osterholm succeeds in resurrecting a creek buried for a long time under pounds of dirt in a cornfield. The creek creates a habitat for brook trout, sculpin, herons and other birds, frogs, and thousands of insects.
Using the same style of illustration as Creekfinding, this book educates readers about the lifecycle of a bee and emphasizes the importance of all bees to the ecosystem.
SEPTEMBER 21 - KATE ALLEN AND ANIKA FAJARDO
This story takes place in Massachusetts in a community that is very connected to the ocean. Lucy’s mom, a marine biologist who studied sharks, died about five years ago. She thinks daily about what it would be like if her mom were still alive. Following another tragic event, Lucy studies shark anatomy to complete a guide she began with her best friend.
11 year-old Eddie Aguado is convinced that winning the 14th Annual Arne Hopkins Dock Fishing Tournament (once he actually learns how to fish) will bring him closer to his dad, who died when Eddie was only five. –summary from publisher
SEPTEMBER 23 - BAPTISTE AND MIRANDA PAUL
“Peace is on purpose.
Peace is a choice.
Peace lets the smallest of us
have a voice.”
Farmer Tantoh’s motto is, “When you don’t have what you want, use what you have.” He uses his love of farming to bring clean water to villages in Cameroon, Africa.
Do you see Little Free Libraries near you? Little Libraries, Big Heroes tells how the movement was started by Todd Bol in Wisconsin.
The Field is based on Baptiste Paul’s childhood in Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Children play a soccer game through the rain using words in English and Creole.
SEPTEMBER 23 - DEBORAH ELLIS
Young Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan. Because Parvana's father has a foreign education, he is arrested by the Taliban. Women cannot appear in public unless covered head to toe, go to school, or work outside the home, so the family becomes increasingly desperate until Parvana conceives a plan.
Parvana leaves Kabul to search for her family. The Taliban still controls Afghanistan, but Kabul is in ruins, Parvana's father has died, and her mother, sister and brother could be anywhere in the country. Parvana doesn't know where they are. She just knows she has to find them.
Shauzia has a dream. She dreams of getting away from the refugee camp in Pakistan and travelling to France. There she knows she would find a better life, away from the war in her home country of Afghanistan. But escape is not so easy. Once she leaves the camp, she has no money, no food, and only her dog Jasper for company. –summary from publisher
Found wandering alone in a bombed-out Afghan school, 15-year-old Parvana mystifies American military forces by remaining silent, while spending her time remembering the past four years of her life, having been reunited with her mother and sisters and living in a village where her mother has finally managed to open a school for girls.
Imagine what happens to the animals after a nuclear explosion in Japan. Who takes care of all the dogs and donkeys? The thoughtful situations in these short stories will prompt discussion. It’s a good book to read together!
Winning a national high-school geography competition should be the high point of Jomon's life. So why does he find himself running through the streets of Georgetown, Guyana, later that same night—so angry and desperate? Why does he heave his hard-won medal through the front window of a candy store? Why does a teenaged boy decide life is not worth living?
SEPTEMBER 25 - STEVE JENKINS AND ROBIN PAGE
From its title page, where you see a frog skeleton side-by-side with a frog, to the endangered clown frog (it’s actually a toad!) at the end, this book is full of remarkable detail.
Did you know a zookeeper needs to put sunscreen on an aardvark’s ears? Or brush a hippo’s teeth? You’ll learn other surprising facts about animal caretakers and the animals in a zoo from this book.
Move! makes connections between different animals like the roadrunner and arctic hare based on how the animals move. It’s a great read-aloud choice for preschool kids!
This book displays the wide variety of beaks birds have and how they use them to survive.
How do you fit a whole African Elephant inside a picture book? Well, you just fit its foot. Actual size includes scale models of larger animals’ body parts and complete models of smaller animals, like insects, in Jenkins’s own neat paper collage style.
SEPTEMBER 25 - GILLIAN GOERZ
Shirley Bones and Jamila Waheed reluctantly befriend each other so that they will not be sent to day camps during the summer. If the girls are together, Shirley can read (about all things crime related) and Jamila can practice at the basketball court. When a gecko goes missing, both girls are pulled into the case—making for a satisfying detective story.
SEPTEMBER 25 - V. T. BIDANIA
Astrid is anxious about her family's camping trip because she is afraid of the dark (and bears), but her twin Apollo is looking forward to the experience.
Twins Astrid and Apollo are excited to be going to the Hmong July Fourth Soccer Festival, but when they are told to babysit their baby sister, Eliana, it looks like they will miss the particular match their father is interested in.
Astrid and Apollo are attending the Hmong New Year festival, but in the crowded arena they are soon separated from their parents and younger sister.
Astrid and Apollo are on their very first fishing trip, but while Astrid catches three fine fish, Apollo's line keeps snagging on non-fish things.
Whatever reading you do ahead of the festival, we hope you can attend an event that interests you! A panel of children’s authors is scheduled virtually on Zoom for Friday, September 24, in which several of these authors will be participating. Check the Book Festival’s website for full schedule details: www.mcpl.us/cwbf.
image credit: https://pixabay.com/images/id-2595510