Sunday, February 19, 2012

268-269 (2012 #13-#14). Two Nonfiction Youth Award Winners

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet is about its subtitle:  "The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade," immigrant Tony Sarg (1882-1942).  With her trademark 3D collages, gouache, and mixed media including period photographs, Sweet brings to life the little-known man behind the giant balloon puppets at the New York City Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade beginning in 1927 (as well as Macy's famous "Wondertown" display windows).

This is a fun book with an author's note providing more information about Sarg at the end, as well as a bibliography and source list.  This book was also honored in 2012 with the Orbis Pictus Award "for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children" from the National Council of Teachers of English, and as a 2012 Zolotow Award Highly Commended Book, an award "given annually to the author of the best picture book text published in the United States in the preceding year" by the Cooperative Children's Book Center.  This book has a fifth-grade reading level, so it is probably most appropriate as a read-aloud for younger children, but older kids will get a kick out of it as well.

I'm not too crazy about the cover of Caldecott Medalist (in 1994, with an Honor book in 1988) Allen's Say's partial autobiography in graphic novel form, Drawing from Memory.  It doesn't really invite one to explore the fabulous pictures and story inside. Say used watercolors, pen and ink, pencils, and photographs to tell the story of his unusual childhood, particularly his teen years in post-World War II Japan.  At the age of 12, Say was living independently and apprenticed himself to master cartoonist Noro Shinpei.  The book ends four years later, in the summer of 1953, when Say decides to take up his estranged father's offer and join his new family in the United States.

Say's life story after that point is also intriguing, and one would have to know it to appreciate the irony of a statement he makes on page 50, "I hated photography."  Say also hated his father, made clear in the book with only one drawing that includes him - back turned, hands on hips.  In contrast, the book is a tribute to Shinpei, who also served as a father figure to Say, and there is an extensive author's note at the end with many photographs of Shinpei and his family.

Say wrote an autobiographical novel in 1979, The Ink-Keeper's Apprentice, that covered much of  the same material, but this book is probably more accessible.  Its 63 pages and numerous illustrations, many in comic book format, combined with a reading level of about fourth grade, makes it appealing to reluctant readers, as the book would interest students up through high school.  This book was named a 2012 Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book.

© Amanda Pape - 2012

[These books were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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