Serving Underserved Urban Youth Presentation at Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference


Public Library Outreach Examples

Learn More: Recommended Books and Articles

Additional Works Cited

Kathy, McLellan, and Suellentrop Tricia. “Serving Teens Doing Time.” VOYA 30.5 (2007): 403-07.
O’Brien, Natalie, Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling, and John Shelley-Tremblay. “Reading Problems, Attentional Deficits, and Current Mental Health Status in Adjudicated Adolescent Males.” Journal of Correctional Education 58.3 (2007): 293-315.
William, Drakeford. “The Impact of an Intensive Program to Increase the Literacy Skills of Youth Confined to Juvenile Corrections.” Journal of Correctional Education 53.4 (2002): 139.

July 2010 Reading Log


Middle Grade

Graphic Novels

Kids and Teens Nonfiction

Adult Fiction

Currently Reading

Hazy Friday Links

  • Still thinking about going to see Avatar: The Last Airbender despite the terrible reviews?  Gene Luen Yang tells you why that’s a bad idea, in handy cartoon form!
  • Brendan Halpin wants us to take another look at how we use those high school stock characters: who says the football player has to be a bad guy?  Always good to be reminded not to fall into the easy traps of those stereotypical high school roles.
  • Really great post on white readers reading and responding to books by and about people of color.  What they boil it down to: stay aware of the fact that you are white, and remember that every book concerns ethnicity – even if we don’t neccesarily think about it that way because whiteness is the default for so many people.  (Hat tip to The Rejectionist)
  • After that last link, take a look at this essay on White Mind – it looks at how unconscious bias in white people’s perspectives, and applies it directly to children’s literature. (Hat tip to Neesha Meminger)
  • As long as Shannon Hale keeps being brilliant about books, I will keep linking to her.  This time it’s about how the power in stories comes from their openness.
  • Adam Rex and Editorial Anynomous both crack me up.  And here they are, together at last!  After reading, go watch the book trailers for Adam Rex’s excellent new book, Fat Vampire.  If you want me to watch book trailers, make them like this.
  • You’ve probably read Maureen Johnson’s Manifesto on branding in your online presence by now, right?  Just in case you haven’t, pretty please click here.
  • Elizabeth Bluemle put together a LibraryThing library of books that feature characters of color but are not specifically about race.  This is a great collection development tool – I’m using it as part of my goal to have my library’s collection more closely reflect the diversity of my community.
  • In the Horn Book, Ellen Wittlinger writes about the changes to the Lambda Literary Foundations’ book awards, and how she feels as a straight author who writes about queer characters and is no longer eligible for the award.  I think this is a tough question – at least for me, there is not a right or a wrong answer here.  I do think changing the award after it’s been done one way for so long is maybe not the best way to accomplish their goals – a new award specifically for LGBTQ authors sounds awesome, though.
  • Arthur A Levine is thinking about this same issue on his new blog, which leads him to some thoughts about making fiction more inclusive.  (Edited to add: Wow, also go read the comments on this post.  Some really well thought out discussion going on over there.)
  • Why are we making it so hard for our patrons to read ebooks?  David Lee King is absolutely right here – DRM is an issue, but it’s not the only issue.  Design and usability are important, guys.  Let’s not ignore them.
  • SLJ’s latest editorial is about that tool of censors everywhere, Comon Sense Media’s book ratings.  They do a nice job of outlining exactly why these ratings are less a useful tool for concerned parents and more a scary guide for folks who want to keep ideas out of the hands of children.  Liz Burns’ response, in which she takes a look at their transparency and comes to a new decision about Common Sense Media, is also worth reading.
  • We’re Number 3!  We’re Number 3!  (The third largest library by collection volume, that is, according to this new ALA fact sheet.  And #1 public!) Edited to add: Just took another look at this link, and they’ve added the branch library collections and bumped us up to #2!

Speed Reviews

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
World-building definitely takes the day in this one – it’s incredibly creative.  And the story is gripping.  I hope that we will see more of the world outside the prison in the next book – while the prison itself is interesting, the politics of this country that cannot use modern conveniences by law are the part of the book that really grabbed my attention. (Review copy provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter)

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
I thought this might be one of those books that is capital-G goofy in a desperate, “kids like this stuff, right?” kind of way.  How could I ever believe that of Adam Rex?  Is it goofy?  Absolutely.  Pitch-perfectly goofy, and all in the service of a good story.  Gratuity is a delight, especially in her relationships with her mother and J Lo.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the gold standard of goofy alien-invasion stories.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Now here’s a YA dystopian novel with some serious teeth.  This is a world that is nasty, where everything and everyone is out to get you, but these kids are way too busy staying alive to whine about it.  Fast pacing, fantastic central relationships, and a story that raises a lot of great questions about environmental stewardship and class issues without ever feeling like it’s moralizing at you.  Nailer’s dad deserves a nod in any discussion of the scariest fathers in YA.  (Review copy provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter)

White Cat by Holly Black
Mobsters and magic, written by Holly Black?  Sold!  I didn’t connect with the characters in this one as strongly as I might have liked, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the world, and I will look forward to more in the series.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Honestly, this made me sad.  I was so excited about it, and then it felt like a faded rehashing of the Percy Jackson series.  I loved Basta, but she was the only thing in the book that made me care – or even made me laugh very much.  I’m hoping that maybe I was just in the wrong mood for this book – I’ll give the next one a try.  But I was definitely disappointed.

The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephardt
Lovely book, if not my favorite of Beth Kephardt’s.  She has that strange way of making it feel like not much is happening even when there is a good bit of story going on – and making that slow pace feel right.  The internal lives of her characters are so rich.  And we can add this to the pile of recent books for teens that address religion in ways that go beyond the obvious – a pile I’m pleased to see grow. (Review copy provided by publisher)

Sorcerers and Secretaries Vol. 1 by Amy Kim Gantner
Cute and relatable, but didn’t stick with me at all.  And the romantic interest drove me nuts.

The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
Excellent second book in a series – does a nice job of avoiding the “middle book in a trilogy that doesn’t have it’s own narrative arc” pitfall that drags many a good series down.  The strange sibling relationship between Nick and Alan, which was my favorite thing about The Demon’s Lexicon, gets even more interesting here.

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes
Read this one at the urging of one of my patrons, and it was just about what I expected from it – a sweet, quick read with a strong female character that will appeal to lots of my beginning readers.  It’s really exciting to see so many books for this age range with great POC characters popping up recently – a trend I hope to see reach down to easy readers soon as well.

Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry
Somewhere in between baffling and brilliant.  The art is stunning and perfectly suits the tone of the narrative.  Features some great old-school noir lines – the kind that make me want to put on some bright red lipstick and a hardboiled gumshoe accent and say hardened, brilliant things.  But I still have NO idea why he was a teabag.

Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson
I unabashedly love these books.  And yes, I am absolutely one of the hordes who are in love with Spencer – his deliciously silly plotline was the highlight.  This was even better than the first one.

I So Don’t Do Mysteries by Barrie Summie
I pretty strongly disliked the main character in this one, who had no faith in herself and very little curiosity, and I wasn’t ever able to get past that dislike.  I was also bothered by how easy the suspension of disbelief was.  But I know some kids who will like this a lot, so I’ll give this series another chance and hope for a little more character growth. (Review copy provided by publicist)

The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz
As a bit of a music geek, I appreciated a lot of the music-geeky characters – they shine when they’re talking about their favorite albums or making a mix.  But the romance subplots were obvious, and the exponential growth of her blog was unrealistic enough that it pulled me out of the story.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
When Arthur Levine raves about a book and makes comparisons to one of his previous acquisitions, The Golden Compass, I stand up and listen.  And this fantasy did remind me of Pullman’s masterpiece in some ways – both authors show respect for their young readers by telling stories that are sometimes dark and always complex, without ever writing down.  And this is genuinely dark – much more than I expected it to be.  Russian folklore provides a rich base for Bow’s story, and her characters are wonderful.  This is one to watch for.  (Review copy provided by publisher at BEA)

The Half-life of Planets by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
A sweet romance between a girl who’s trying to get over her addiction to kissing and a music-loving boy with Asperger’s.  I did feel like quirky traits took the place of genuine character-building sometimes, and I was really annoyed at Lianna’s complete inability or unwillingness to understand how Hank’s actions are affected by having Asperger’s.  But despite those reservations, I enjoyed this. (Review copy provided by publisher at BEA)

Mistwood by Leah Cypess
I think this fell victim to too many Graceling comparisons – not that it wasn’t a good book, but it didn’t meet the extremely high standard that I had set in my mind.  The story is interesting, and the court politics are great – particularly anything that involved the prince’s sister Clarisse, who is a total Machiavellian ass-kicker.  I started to really enjoy it towards the end as Isabel began to realize exactly what was happening to her, which gives her a little bit more depth as a character.  (Review copy provided by publisher at BEA)

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee
Another solid entry in this series.  Mary starts to actually acknowledge how distant she feels from her Chinese background and how eager she is to keep it hidden in public, which I would really like to see explored further – I thought it was the most interesting part of this book, and it was mostly glossed over.  But the mystery was entertaining, and the romance was still quite a bit of fun. (Review copy provided by publisher at BEA)

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
Oh man oh man oh man.  These books kill me.  Todd and Viola have their final showdown with Mayor Prentiss, Mistress Coyle, and the Spackle, and it is a doozy.  Patrick Ness knows how to send readers on an emotional rollercoaster, and he has turned the volume up to 11 here.  I have rarely felt so physically battered by a  book.  I didn’t quite believe Mayor Prentiss’ plot arc – toward the end it was a little too much for me.  But that hardly mars a truly exceptional series.  I can’t wait to see what Patrick Ness has in store for us next.  (Review copy provided by publisher at ALA)

Gunnerkrigg Court Vol. 1: Orientation by Tom Siddell
A group of my library kids have been raving about the Courtney Crumrin series, and I’m planning to buy this series and hand them over to those guys.  It has the same kind of delightfully ho-hum response to really unusual situations, and similarly great characters.  I loved the episodic feel – especially when it means there can be a one-pager featuring Fox Mulder.

The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
I wasn’t wild about the ending of this one, but it was certainly unexpected and I think will appeal to a certain type of reader.  However, the ride that the Hardscrabble children take to get to that ending is a terrific one.  The narrative voice is definitely the star here – although Great-Aunt Haddie and her castle folly threaten to steal the show.  (Review copy provided by publisher at ALA)

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
A younger, more innocent turn for Cohn and Levithan.  I really enjoyed the scavenger hunt conceit, and I loved Lily and Dash’s opposing feelings about the holidays – Dash’s bah-humbug compared with Lily’s cheerful-Christmas-elf cracked me up.  I think Lily’s relentless good cheer was a bit of a stretch for Rachel Cohn – it was definitely a stretch for me.  But as we started to see some cracks in her Christmassy armor I warmed up to her.  A sweet read.  (Review copy provided by publisher at ALA)

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
Engle is so good at getting to the core of her historical characters – their voices really shine.  And this is such a rich story, even with the very sparse actual historical detail that exists about Rosa and her husband.  I am starting to think that verse novels are an ideal way to tell fictionalized versions of true stories from history – the form forces the author to distill the story down to its most essential parts.  And Engle is the reigning champion of these historical verse novels.

We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni

About once a year, sad-eyed teens wander into my library, sigh, and tell me that their teacher is making them read historical fiction.  Now most of the time I can send the boys away happy – here in my library the words “Walter Dean Myers” and “Vietnam War” work wonders – but a certain type of girl groans at everything I pull out and casts sad eyes towards the Twilight books and whatever PC Cast happens to be on the shelf that day.  They’re looking for a little bit of the supernatural and a whole lot of romance, but it’s got to be realistic fiction with a strong historical bent.  And Dianne Salerni has found a story that a history teacher and a teenage girl can get equally excited about.

Kate and Maggie Fox only meant to play a practical joke, but their ability to make loud rapping noises with their joints – combined with a few strange coincidences – have the whole town convinced that the young sisters can converse with the dead.  And when their shrewd Aunt Leah gets involved, the girls find themselves in the center of the newly formed Spiritualist movement, with their services highly desired for seances and sittings. 

A rift grows between Maggie, who struggles with her conscience as their growing fame and need for secrecy make her more and more uncomfortable, and Kate, who is either completely convinced that their talent is genuine or a frighteneningly good liar.  The narrative is split between the two girls with Maggie getting the majority of the chapters – which is a good choice, since Kate’s chapters are told from the perspective of someone who is either crazy or an incredible manipulator, neither of which make her easy to relate to as a narrator.  Maggie, on the other hand, is easy to sympathize with as she is swept up in a series of events that are often beyond her control.

It’s a compelling piece of history – the kind of history that just begs for the YA treatment.  And Salerni has clearly done her research, both on the Fox sisters and on the period.  Details are vivid, and the narrative touches on other important historical movements of the time in interesting ways, particularly women’s liberation.  In the second half of the book, Maggie’s relationship with a famous Arctic explorer provides some wonderful opportunities to explore issues of class, gender, and power in the late 19th Century. 

While Salerni’s historical accuracy and clear love for the period and the story are welcome, they do lead to one of my pet peeves for historical fiction based on a  true story – Salerni’s desire to tell every part of the Fox sisters’ story means that this book is loooooong.   We Hear the Dead is strongest in the beginning, when the sisters were first caught up in their deceptions, and in the second half, when Maggie’s love interest provides a firm plot arc for her character.  The central part of the book, which relates a  part of the Fox sisters’ story that does not have as natural a narrative arc, did not always hold my interest as a reader.  A tighter focus would have benefitted the book and made it a little bit more approachable in terms of length.  Despite that reservation, Salerni tells an engaging story that will appeal to many teens.

Reviewed from ARC provided by the publisher.

June 2010 Reading Log


Middle Grade

Graphic Novels

Adult Fiction

Currently Reading

(Reading logs two posts in a row – how embarrassing!  I have so many half-written review posts, so hopefully I’ll get some of those up soon now that summer reading is up and running.)

May 2010 Reading Log


Middle Grade

Early Chapter

Kids and YA Nonfiction

Graphic Novels

Adult Fiction

Adult Nonfiction

Currently Reading

Monday before BEA Links

  • R. David Lankes looks at ways that e-readers could be reinventing books and reading at School Library Journal.
  • This post on some of the REALLY COOL and innovative ways that libraries are being used in Helsinki makes me want to move there.  RIGHT NOW.  So many things about this make me excited: libraries as content generators!  Patron-driven programming!  Citizen Media Computers!  (Hat tip to Tame the Web.)
  • This is a gallery called “Hot Guys Reading Books.”  I have nothing to add.
  • A good conversation happening in the comments of this post on swearing in YA fiction.  (My opinion: would the character say it?  Then it should be there.)
  • Neesha Meminger’s post on bullying is wonderful.  I especially appreciated her thoughts on what gatekeepers can do to empower kids who are “easy targets.”  If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly suggest giving it some of your time.
  • The Book Smugglers gathered some poll data and dug deep into the way we relate to book covers, and how they can influence our purchasing and enjoyment of the books we read.  They ask some genuinely interesting questions.
  • Scott Westerfeld shares one of the best tidbits he found while conducting his book research, and it’s about the legalization of pants on ladies.  Sadly, there’s a current tie-in to actions in schools.
  • At this point I’m pretty sure that I’m just linking to every single thing Shannon Hale has ever said on the internet.  But she keeps saying such worthwhile things!  This time it’s about book banning and how books can start important conversations.
  • Over at The Rejectionist, Zetta Elliot takes a closer look at the myth of meritocracy in the publishing industry by re-imagining Peggy McIntosh’s classic article on white privilege.  She also points out the UK Publishing Equalities Charter and the need for something similar in the US.
  • Maggie Stiefvater, who has written some pretty awful YA parents in her day, weighs in on the “oh-no-there-are-no-good-mommies-and-daddies-in-YA” debate.
  • When Paolo Bacigalupi found a “distinct lack of ass-kicking” in books for young people, he up and wrote Shipbreaker with “knife-fights and sea battles and the bio-engineered warbeasts called half-men that are a lethal mix of tiger and dog and hyena and human.”  While I don’t know that I agree with him on the lack of kickassery, I can definitely say that his book kicks a lot of it.  Also liked his comments on the difference in tone between writing for YA and adults.  Good interview.  (Hat tip to Chasing Ray)
  • Just in case there is someone out there who hasn’t seen the Bronte Sisters Doll video that has been turning up all over my RSS reader lately – Go!  Watch! (Hat tip to lots of people, but first time I saw it was courtesy of Chris Ashworth)
  • BEA!  Woohoo!  If you see somebody wandering around with purple hair, there’s a pretty good bet that it’s me – stop me and say hi!

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

Ry is on the train to summer camp when he reads the final letter from the camp director.  The letter reads, in its entirety:

Dear Roy,

Do not come to camp.  There is no camp.  Camp is a concept that no longer exists in a real place or time.

We are so sorry.  The Summer ArcheoTrails Program will not take place.  A statistically improbable number of things have gone wrong and the camel’s back is broken.  Your money will be fully refunded as soon as I sell my car and remortgage my house.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, blahblahblah.  We hope to regroup and put together a bombproof program by next summer.  Live and learn!

With deepest apologies, believe me,

(illegible scrawl)

Wally Osfeld (pgs 6-7.  All quotes taken from ARC and are subject to change.)

This is not the last statistically improbable thing that will happen to Ry during his summer vacation – not by a long shot.  Who ever would have guessed, for example, that shortly after reading this strange letter Ry would hop off the stopped train – just for a moment – to try to get cell phone reception so he can call his family, only to have the train suddenly pull away and leave him stranded in the hills with not so much as a house in sight?  By the time Ry reaches civilization he has only the travel cash from his pocket, a black eye, a pocketknife, a single shoe, and a useless cell phone with very little charge and no reception.  Not that the cell phone would have done him much good – his parents, who are on a vacation somewhere in the Caribbean, have lost their cell phone to a curious monkey.  And his grandpa, who is house-sitting and taking care of Ry’s dogs, has hit his head during a fall and developed short-term amnesia.  No one in the world knows that Ry is wandering by himself – and it might not seem like it at this moment in time, but a totally unplanned, detour-filled, almost-catastrophic road trip might be exactly what Ry needed this summer.

Some books have a charm that is just so easy.  It takes a light hand and a keen sense of humor to make the reader stay invested and, well, somewhere within the realm of belief, in a book where literally everything goes wrong.  And I do mean everything – Ry is in the above situation within 30 pages, and things don’t get any simpler for him.  Luckily, Lynne Rae Perkins has both of those qualities in spades.  Despite Ry tripping from one unbelievable situation to the next, the wry, conversational style of the narrative keeps the verging-on-silly plot from running off the rails.  A notable example (and please know that I am doing my very best not to make this review just a string of random quotations – it’s a serious temptation with a book that’s so expertly narrated!): “Ry looked at his feet and legs in one of those little shoe mirrors that sat on the floor.  The shoes were a metaphor for the decline of western civilization: crappy and glitzy and barely useful, but pretty comfortable.  This is the narrator’s opinion.  Ry didn’t think that thought specifically, but he felt as dispirited as if he had.” (Pg. 68. All quotes taken from ARC and are subject to change.) You want to crawl inside the narrator’s head right now, don’t you?  I sure do.

And in the end, no matter what the plot threw my way, the absurdly delightful characters that people this novel could hold my attention in any situation.  Ry is funny, sweet, and a little bit dumbfounded – as anyone would be in the situations he finds himself in.  He is charming from the very beginning, and is capable of keeping his affable nature even in the worst of circumstances.  And then he finally stumbles into a town, finds a stranger, and tries his best to act like this is all something that happens to ordinary people. But in what might be the single stroke of good luck that finds Ry in his journey, this total stranger is Del.

Oh, Del Del wonderful Del!  Del lives, breathes, and thrives on people in unusual situations who are in need of his help.  Especially if that help involves unexpected road trips, fixing things in unusual ways, danger, or unlikely odds – and Ry’s story will have all of these.  Del’s the kind of guy who listens to Ry’s improbable story and says, well, since you can’t get a hold of your family I guess I’ll drive you from Montana to Wisconsin.  And when that doesn’t work out as they planned, he says well, I guess I’ll just take you down to the Caribbean to find your parents.  And when they end up in a car driven by a man with very little eyesight and no feeling below his knees, or in a small plane that requires some midair repairs over the ocean, Ry is able to stave off panic by looking at Del, who “seemed, as he was in any situation that required physical strength and agility plus mechanical aptitude and that also included unlikely odds, perfectly at ease” (pg. 259All quotes taken from ARC and are subject to change.) Del is, without question, my new favorite grown-up in a YA novel, and he is the perfect companion for Ry’s bizarre summer.  It is Del’s reassuring presence that makes the novel still feel comfortable and safe enough to be truly funny, even in situations that should, by all rights, be terrifying.

Now, Ry and Del’s adventure is interwoven with a few others – Ry’s parents, his grandpa, and even his dogs each have their own tale to tell.  And in Perkins’ hands, their tales are also funny and sweet and worth reading.  In any other context, I think I would have been delighted by these little sidestories.  But I fell so completely in love with Ry and Del that I got easily annoyed by anything that took me away from them.  Please don’t think of this as a genuine quibble with the book – when I make myself think of it in an objective way and not as a crazy reader with an agenda of her own, I think these detours were the best way to tell the stories of Ry’s family, and those stories are important to Ry’s journey and do a nice job of further illuminating the themes of luck and chance that the book centers around.  And I think many readers will love their addition, especially the story of the dogs, which is told in short illustrated episodes.

I have not yet read anything else by Lynne Rae Perkins.  I feel like an idiot now.  Are her other books this wise and wonderful?  Somebody get me a copy of Criss Cross, stat!

Lynne Rae Perkins

Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz-Ryan

When you see The Dreamer sitting on a shelf, you will want to pick it up and hold it in your hands.  From the shimmering cover that invites you into the universe of Neftalí’s head, to the thick paper that feels perfect under your fingers, to the calm green color of the ink, to the tiny illustration of an acorn that greets you on the title page, this is a book full of small treasures.  In a story that is about taking delight in the smallest details, kudos to the designers who made the physical object of this book reflect the subject matter so beautifully.

Neftalí’s family lives under the shadow of his domineering father, a railroad man.  Happy family moments are stopped cold by the sound of the train whistle that announces Father’s impending return.  Rodolfo, Neftalí’s older brother, has already abandoned his dreams of studying music and becoming a singer, and Father is doing his best to railroad Neftalí onto the same path of leaving dreams behind and pursuing the future of Father’s choosing.  But while Neftalí appears to be a weak, vulnerable child, he has hidden reserves of strength and stubbornness.

Munoz-Ryan does a wonderful job of capturing the nuances of Neftalí’s character.  His compassion and curiosity are almost overwhelming, and they often get the better of Neftalí’s desire to please his authoritarian father.  His fascination with words is woven into the text as he plays with their sound and meaning.  The story is episodic, and the scenes are well chosen to crystallize the moments that made Neftalí into Neruda, but they also hang together well to tell a story of a shy young man with a highly developed sense of wonder.  One of this book’s greatest strengths, in terms of getting it into the hands of children, is that it easily stands on its own as a novel.  There is no need to know anything about Pablo Neruda to appreciate this book – in fact, there is no need for a reader to even know that it is based on a true story.  While being aware of Neruda’s life certainly adds layers of resonance to this book, the story will be enjoyed by anyone who can appreciate Neftalí’s struggles and his unique outlook.  The selection of poetry  in the back of the book, which includes several of Neruda’s poems that directly address some of the pivotal moments in the book, is expertly chosen to appeal to young readers and may convince some young readers to seek out more.

While Munoz-Ryan’s telling of Neftalí’s childhood is wonderful, the collaboration with Peter Sis makes the story sing.  Each chapter begins with three small pictures on a single page, each picture showing some scene, feeling, or object that will be important to the text.  These tiny drawings echo the small treasures that Neftalí collects, and they evoke the fascination with the world around him and the attention to detail that define Neftalí.  Larger drawings, all in Sís’ characteristic stippled style, illustrate the fantastical ways in which Neftalí sees his world while also working in relevant lines from Neruda’s poetry (edited to add – please see Pam Munoz-Ryan’s correction in the comments – these lines of poetry were written by her, not Pablo Neruda.).  These drawings are full of wonder, but also very evocative of Neftalí’s feelings in that moment – whether that is fear of his father looming up above the sea, sadness and protectiveness of a hurt swan, or the excitement of traveling and making new friends.  Sís’ drawings do with ink lines what Neruda’s poetry does with words – they crystallize feelings and experiences down to their essence, conveying them in briefly but completely.  They complement the story, and the poetry, beautifully.  Asking Peter Sís to turn Pablo Neruda’s imagination into visual form was a stroke of genius, and one that will give young readers an additional window into the world of his words.

Pam Munoz-Ryan

Peter Sis