Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A little Joy goes a long way…

Joy the Elf, by Carmen Gil/Illustrated by Zuriñe Aguirre, (June 2018, NubeOcho), $15.95, ISBN: 9788494692611

Recommended for readers 4-8

Mateo is a boy who loves his tiny elf friend, Joy. She can be found in the most unexpected of places; his daddy’s beard, or in the sound of his grandparent’s car when they arrive for a visit. But the mean Ragdoll Witch doesn’t want Joy hanging around, so she cast a spell on Joy to keep her away from Mateo, and proceeded to give the boy everything he wished for: a fancy tablet, cool roller skates, even a giant dragon. And the more Mateo got what he wished for, the more Joy disappeared, until she finally became invisible. A fish and a fairy got together and created a counterspell, which slightly altered the gifts to be a little off – a mountain bike became a boat trip with Mateo’s grandparents; a video game became a library book – and with each small, slightly off-kilter gift, Joy came back.

The moral of the story? If you get everything you want, you don’t appreciate it; find your Joy in the simplest of moments. Joy the Elf is a bit heavy on the moralizing, but it does open up a nice discussion about finding happiness outside of the expensive things in life. The collage artwork is colorful and eye-catching. Joy the Elf was originally released in Spanish in 2017.

 

Joy, by Corrinne Averiss/Illustrated by Isabelle Follath, (July 2018, words and pictures), $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277669

Recommended for readers 4-8

Fern is a little girl who loves her cheerful Nanna, but lately, Nanna’s been very down. She’s not baking yummy butterfly cakes, she’s not keeping up her home, and she just sits and looks very sad. Fern’s mom mentions that the joy has gone out of Nanna’s life, prompting Fern to seek it out and bring it back! She discovers all the places you can find joy, and brings them to Nanna. The message is wonderfully clear: joy is wonderful, but it’s not a given; sometimes, it needs an infusion. The best part? Joy is also something that can be shared!

Joy also enlightens readers to the issue of elder depression. Nanna shows the signs of someone dealing with depression: Nanna looks sad. She’s stopped her daily routine; she appears to have stopped cleaning her home, grooming her cat, taking care of her appearance. Her daughter, Fern’s mother, is worried, and Fern, being a child, takes the most direct course of action. No one is relying on a little girl to cure her grandmother; she’s acting appropriately for a child, and seeking out things that will make her grandmother happy again. It works, and now, Fern understands that sometimes, people can become sad. The artwork flows with the storyline; happy Nanna has a bright, clean home, with butterflies zooming around; sad Nanna and her home are depicted in darker gray and black shades. Fern’s quest for joy brings us back to bright color and upward movements. This is a book that opens up the chance for discussions about feelings and empathy, and the importance of our family relationships.

Advertisements
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Beauty in the small places: Tiny, Perfect Things

Tiny, Perfect Things, by M.H. Clark/Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, (June 20118, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-946873-06-4

Recommended for readers 3-8

A grandfather and granddaughter go for a nature walk, where they keep their “eyes open for tiny, perfect things”: the glint of light on a spider’s web; the bright color of an apple against the blue sky. It’s a lovely story of slowing down and taking the time to look at the little treasures around us. The grandparent and grandchild stop to examine these tiny, perfect things, leading us on our own adventure; when they arrive at home later that day, mom and dad are cuddled on the couch. A spread opens up to reveal the neighborhood, inviting readers to find their own tiny, perfect things.

Tiny, Perfect Things offers readers a glimpse at a small moment between a grandparent and grandchild, yet speaks volumes about their relationship. It’s also a moving statement to the power of slow movement – the slowing down of life’s hectic pace – and taking the time to notice the little bits and pieces that so many just ignore or don’t see. It’s a tribute to getting our noses out of our phones and enjoying the warmth of a little hand in ours; smelling the rain in the air; listening to the crunch of sneakers on dirt. The illustration is dreamy and soft, like a wonderful daydream, in warm colors. There’s a quiet, beautiful diversity in the story, from the white grandfather and his biracial grandchild, to the multicultural neighbors, to the father of color and white mom at home. You can follow Madeline Kloepper’s Instagram to see more.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to get out the door with our kiddos and explore! There’s a great post on Book Nerd Mommy about Tiny, Perfect Things and nature walks. Get out there! I love wandering around my neighborhood with my kiddo – we found a complete, empty snail shell and some acorns when we were clearing our yard for spring planting. What things can you find when you look?

Tiny, Perfect Things received a starred review from Kirkus.

This is a great storytime add and a nice book to feature in mindfulness collections. You can easily read this in your Toddler/Preschooler Yoga storytimes during belly breathing. You can pair and display with any of the Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds books, like I Am Yoga and I Am Peace; or Whitney Stewart, Stacy Peterson’s Mindful Me.

Posted in Uncategorized

Books for Pride: Julian is a Mermaid

June is coming up quickly (yikes!), so let’s get our Pride collections ready to read and booktalk! I’ll be spotlighting a few new books, and some favorites, this month. Let’s start with a relatively new book: Julian is a Mermaid.

Julián is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763690458

Recommended for readers 4-8

I love this gorgeously illustrated story of a little boy who embraces his inner mermaid. As Julián rides the subway home with his abuela, he spies three women, dressed and gorgeous, and pronounces them mermaids. He daydreams about his own transformation into a mermaid; shedding his tank top and shorts (he keeps his undies on); letting his hair grow wild and free, and develops a fabulous pink and yellow mermaid tail as he heads off to swim with a group of fish. When he and Abuela arrive home, he tells her that he’s a mermaid, too. When she goes to take a bath, Julián transforms himself: he sheds his clothes (keeping those tidy whities on), gives himself a fierce head of hair using Abuela’s fern and some flowers, gets into her makeup, and wraps a curtain tail around himself. Voila! Abuela takes one look at him, hands him a necklace, and takes her fabulous and fierce mermaid to the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island, telling him, “Like you, mijo. Let’s join them.” And they do, following right behind the trio of mermaids the two met earlier on the subway.

What an empowering, fantastic story. I love the New York flavor: the street scenes are pure New York, from the green subway entrances to the faces and body language of every character in this book. A group of girls plays at an open fire hydrant; a seagull hangs out on the street by an older man, sitting out on his chair, with his dog in his lap. The Mermaid Parade is full of fanfare, and the colors pulse off the page. Abuela accepts Julián and takes her grandson to be with his fellow mermaids, but most importantly, Julián accepts himself. The endpapers give us a little more of the story, too: Abuela, Julián, and four older woman enjoy themselves at the public pool; at the end, the same group are all mermaids, enjoying themselves in the sea. Put this on your Pride reading lists, and read this in your storytimes and to your kids often.

Julián is a Mermaid has five starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is wonderful!

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty, (May 2018, Random House), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5247-6757-0

Recommended for readers 8-12

I am so excited to talk up this book, because it is SO GOOD. I was lucky enough to be on author Stacy McAnulty’s “street team”, so I have evangelized this book to my library kiddos, bending the ear of everyone I talk to (including grownups) at the library and at home, and generally shoving this book at people to tell them that they need to read it immediately.

Lucy is a gifted tween, thanks to a lightning strike at age seven that left her with savant abilities in math. She loves math. She sees and smells the numbers and equations; they reveal themselves to her and tell them all their secrets, but social relationships have eluded her. She struggles with OCD behaviors and has been homeschooled by her grandmother, who finally decides that Lucy develop socially, and enrolls her in middle school, which doesn’t really go over so well with Lucy, who’s more ready for college applications. But Lucy promises her grandmother that she’ll make one friend, join one activity, and read one book that isn’t a math textbook. Lucy’s OCD automatically makes her a target to the local mean girl, but she persists, finding ways to use her talents in a class project, and making two pretty good friends, while she’s at it.

I can’t find enough great things to say about Lightning Girl. Stacy McAnulty gives us a strong, funny, sweet, and complex group of characters that reader will recognize bits of themselves in; supportive parental figures that are doing their best, and parents that need a bit more work. It’s a glimpse at everyday life with a touch of the extraordinary, and it’s a touching look at the power of caring about something bigger than oneself. Lucy goes through tremendous upheaval, but she rides it out, and grows through the course of the book. Before the events that form the narrative, she sees life as a series of problems that can be worked out, but learns that some of the toughest problems bring rewarding solutions. Even if the final answer isn’t correct, the work to get there makes a difference.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is compulsively readable, discussable, and perfect middle grade reading. Teachers, PLEASE put this on your Summer Reading lists, so I can hand this book to every middle grader I see this summer. Lightning Girl has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkusand Publisher’s Weekly. Author Stacy McAnulty is on a book tour for Lightning Girl right now: head to her author webpage for a schedule!

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Never That Far: They never really leave us

Never That Far, by Carol Lynch Williams, (Apr. 2018, Shadow Mountain), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62972-409-6

Recommended for readers 9-12

Twelve-year-old Libby is devastated when her best friend, her grandfather, dies at home. Crippled by grief, her father can barely get out of bed to work in the family’s Florida orange groves. On the night of Grampa’s funeral, though, Libby has a visitor: Grampa’s spirit shows up in her room, telling her that “the dead ain’t never that far from the living”, and that she has to search the lake for something he left for her. Sadly, he tells her that her father can’t see him; he doesn’t believe. To him, “the Dead are dead”. Libby joins forces with her friend, Bobby, to discover the treasure at the lake, but her father spirals further into grief and depression and threatens to derail Libby’s entire mission.

Never That Far has a touch of the supernatural set into a realistic fiction about grief, loss, and family. The Sight, Libby’s family gift, allows her to see and speak with dead family members. Her father has been worn down by grief, enduring the deaths of his siblings, wife, mother, and now, father; he has spent years arguing with his family about their “gift”, refusing to accept it for what it is. Libby’s revelation is unbearable to him, threatening an even greater rift between father and daughter when he tries to stop her from her mission. Together, Libby and Grampa, with some help from Bobby, work to save Libby’s father, who’s in danger of becoming a shell of a person and leaving Libby alone in the world.

The characters are gently realized, revealing themselves to readers little by little over the course of the book and packing powerful emotional punches as they come. Libby witnesses her grandfather’s grief at not being able to connect with his son in a scene that will have readers reaching for tissues. Taking place in the late 1960s in rural Florida allows the plot to remain character-driven. This is a moving story of grief, loss, and renewal that will appeal to certain readers: it’s a good book to have handy for your tough times lists, and for comfort reading. It’s spiritual, rather than overtly religious, and is soothing for readers experiencing loss and moving on.

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Battle of Junk Mountain is underway

The Battle of Junk Mountain, by Lauren Abbey Greenberg, (April 2018, Running Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6295-7

Recommended for readers 8-12

Twelve-year-old Shayne is not having the summer she expected. Normally, she loves spending time with her grandparents and her “summer sister”, Poppy, in Maine, but things are different now. Her grandmother, Bea, hasn’t been quite the same since Shayne’s grandfather died in a fishing boat accident, and Poppy’s more interested in boys and makeup than she is in their summertime rituals. Shayne’s in Maine to help Bea get her home cleaned out: she’s always “collected” stuff, raiding yard sales and thrift stores, but she’s gotten a bit carried away since Grandpa died. Shayne refers to the pile of junk (“treasures”) on top of one table as Junk Mountain, but Bea just pooh-poohs any talk about there being a problem. But there are problems: Bea’s spending is out of control, and any attempts at getting the house cleaned up and selling her “treasures” off ends up getting Bea upset. Alone and conflicted, Shayne ends up befriending Linc (short for Lincoln), the Civil War-obsessed grandson of her grandmother’s next door neighbor. Shayne’s got to figure out a way to keep the peace in her shifting relationships this summer, or it will be the worst summer ever.

Told in the first person by Shayne, The Battle for Junk Mountain looks at how relationships shift over time; Poppy and Shayne’s friendship is going through its growing pains as the two start coming into themselves as tweens, but the big story here is the relationship between Bea and Shayne. What happens when that relationship changes? Shayne has some big ticket items to face in Junk Mountain: her grandmother’s collecting has turned into something bigger than she is, and she’s on her own for most of the novel while dealing with it. She also navigates two friendships: a changing longtime friendship and a new friendship with someone who doesn’t fit in with her usual summer traditions. It’s a gentle coming-of-age story that also has the ability to start a talk about big responsibilities kids face today.

There’s a free, downloadable study guide, with discussion questions and Common Core Standards, available through the author’s website. The Battle of Junk Mountain is good summer reading: easy to read, but filled with realistic, relatable characters that will leave readers thinking and talking.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Social Justice, Union Organizing, Dairy Wars, and an Orphan Band!

The Orphan Band of Springdale, by Anne Nesbet, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763688042

Recommended for readers 8-12

It’s 1941, and things are tense in the U.S. as the world is at war in Europe. Eleven-year-old Gusta is on the run with her father, a German labor organizer, heading toward Maine to stay with her grandmother, when her father disappears. Gusta shows up on her grandmother’s doorstep with the clothes on her back and her beloved French horn. Her grandmother and aunt, who run an orphanage, take her in, and Gusta starts adjusting to life in a place very different from New York. American nationalism runs rampant in Maine, and Gusta’s last name and status as a newcomer brings some suspicion with it, as does her talk about unions and workers’ rights. Her uncle, a mill-worker whose hand was mangled at the factory, can’t work, so Gusta takes it upon herself to approach the owner of the mill to ask him to consider helping with her uncle’s bills. What Gusta doesn’t realize is that her desire to do the right thing puts her at odds with the mill owner, who has a history of his own with her family.

There is such rich and relevant storytelling here. Gusta is a wonderfully realized character with a strong background in social justice: a background that makes her an outsider in her own country. She comes to Small Town America during a time when there of alien registration drives (it really happened) and extreme patriotism; when something as innocuous as a last name aroused suspicion. Gusta is hyper-aware of injustice and determined to do what’s right, whether it’s bringing union reps to her town or point-blank asking for compensation for her uncle’s work-related injury. It’s her unflinching sense of right and wrong that puts her at odds in her community – and her father’s reputation certainly doesn’t help. Thank goodness her tough but loving grandmother is there to lean on. The Orphan Band of Springdale moves at a good pace, has believable characters in relatable situations, and readers can easily draw parallels between 1941 and today.

An author’s note reveals the very personal connection between the author and Gusta’s story. Readers can download a discussion guide and author’s notes from Candlewick’s website. The Orphan Band of Springdale has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Bulletin of the Center for Chidren’s Books.