Books

Cathy Jacobus' Picks

Elephant Quilt, The: Stitch By Stitch to California
"Slow, slow, slow go the wagon wheels. But my little needle flies quickly, quickly, quickly. We are going to California in a wagon train." So begins Lily Rose's account of her family's 1859 journey along the Santa Fe and Gila Trails. To commemorate this great undertaking, Lily and her grandma are making a quilt from patches of fabric and their memories of joy and sorrow along the way. Always, Lily Rose anticipates seeing "the elephant," a metaphor for the new, impossible-to-imagine life awaiting her. Accomplished storyteller Susan Lowell has outdone herself this time! Her choice of words is exquisite, and the character development she achieves is extraordinary in a picture book. This is a well-told story, blessed with marvelous, well-imagined pictures by Stacey Dressen-McQueen.
Growing up with Tamales / Creciendo con Tamales
Six-year-old Ana narrates this bilingual tale of two sisters who make tamales together each Christmas. Ana can't help noticing that older sister Lydia always gets the more interesting tasks! Longing to take on more responsibility, Ana imagines the scene when she's two years older -- reading big words, reaching high places, riding a bike without training wheels AND getting to spread the tamale dough on the corn husks. Of course, when Ana's older, Lydia will be older still, and able to take on even more. It's just not fair! This charming book is as much about tamale making as it is about childhood, family, tradition, and dreams. Illustrator April Ward's strong colors and expressive images are the ideal complement.
Smell of Old Lady Perfume, The
Chela’s hopes are high as she enters 6th grade. She’ll be in the “smart” class with her best friend, her mean-girl nemesis has moved away, and popularity seems inevitable. Sometimes though, the transitions we expect are not the ones we face. Friends betray us, mean girls (it seems) are forever, and the people we love, like Chela’s wonderful father, will not always be with us. Setting her story in El Paso, Claudia Guadalupe Martinez gives us the gift of a real world, filled with authentic kids and family dynamics. Though the going is rough, Chela succeeds, and learns to trust herself in the process. Martinez’s prose, always animated and descriptive, is frequently quite beautiful. She is an author to watch.
Stone Cutter and the Navajo Maiden, The
After accidentally breaking her mother's grinding stone, young Cinnebah sets out on a quest to find someone who can repair it. Along the way, she meets a moccasin maker, a potter, and a stone cutter, all of whom offer compassion, wise advice, and thoughtful gifts. Set in the timeless past, this bilingual English/Navajo story is itself gift of simple, solid storytelling. Johnson Yazzie's illustrations, lovingly lifelike and resplendent with the colors of the Dinetah bring the tale to life. A final note by author Vee F. Browne describes the sacredness of grinding stones in Navajo culture. This is one to treasure.

About Cathy Jacobus

Jacobus is a reference librarian with the Pima County Public Library. While she enjoys working with people of all ages, she is a particular fan of children and teens, and the literature written for them. Her interests include weaving, lap-swimming, and the eternal quest to coax her Labradors to behave on walks.

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