Posted in Preschool Reads

Little Sid – Meet the Buddha!

Little Sid, by Ian Lendler/Illustrated by Xantha Bouma, (Jan. 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626726369

Recommended for readers 3-8

This adorably illustrated story of the Buddha’s childhood is both a nice introduction to Buddhism for younger readers, and a meaningful fable about valuing connections over possessions.

Little Sid is Siddhartha, a little prince who gets everything he could ever want, except for time with his parents. They’re always running off to some grand event or monarch duty, leaving Sid to be raised by an army of handlers who all fawn over him. He isn’t happy. He takes off to find the secret to happiness and meets a wise man who confuses him, a tiger who terrifies him, and a mouse who makes it all come together for him. When he comes back, he’s a changed kid, ready to put what he’s learned into practice: starting with his parents.

Xanthe Bouma’s artwork is adorable and bright, lively and bold. Sid’s face is filled with expression, whether he’s happily greeting readers on the opening page or reveling in the joy of a ripe strawberry. Ian Lendler’s text weaves a story of a child who has everything he could want, but wants only his parents’ time. It’s a story of mindfulness and gratitude, and that’s something every child should know and every family should embrace. My favorite lesson? That being happy isn’t permanent, but neither is being sad. It teaches kids that life comes in ebbs and flows, and to go with those ups and downs. A brief biography of Siddhartha Gautama closes out this volume.

Booktalk or display Little Sid with one of my favorite books, Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth; together, the two books present a starting point to discover different cultures and faiths, all while delivering solid messages about awareness and resilience. Talk about the religions that inspire these tales; introduce your readers to Buddhism and Hinduism. It’s a great way to make their worlds a little bigger.

Advertisements
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Nightvale for tweens: Welcome to Oddity

Oddity, by Sarah Cannon, (Nov. 2017, Macmillan), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250123282

Recommended for readers 10-13

A desert town where zombie rabbits roam freely, and a vague, yet menacing, government agency holds sway over the populace… Welcome to Oddity (said in Cecil’s Welcome to Nightvale voice). Okay, here’s the scoop: Ada is an 11 year-old rebel who loves to push the boundaries in her New Mexico hometown, Oddity. She’s flanked by her best friend, Raymond, and the new kid in town, Cayden; Cayden, who comes from Chicago and just wants to go back to normalcy, which Ada finds incredibly boring. After all, does Chicago come with a Blurmonster? Or zombie rabbits who fiend on marshmallows and play Punkball games with the aliens hanging around town? But see, Ada’s got some issues. Pearl, her twin sister, won the town’s annual Sweepstakes last year, and hasn’t been heard from since. Her mother’s all but withdrawn from life and her father buries himself in work, which leaves her aunt – who puts up with no foolishness – in charge. Ada and her friends are Nopesers (think Snopes, but with more danger) and go on the sneak to solve Oddity’s various mysteries, but when one sneak goes haywire, Ada finds something off about the Sweepstakes… one thing leads to another, and just like that, Ada’s leading a resistance and demanding to find out the truth about Pearl and about Oddity.

I LOVED this book. I love the Welcome to Nightvale podcast, and this book could be an episode on its own. Ada is a brilliant role model: smart, spunky, and willing to stand up for what’s right. She’s a child of color who takes pride in her braids, leading to a giggle-worthy moment when she crosses her aunt. Raymond is a Latinx character with two moms, one of whom he refers to as “jefa” – The Boss. I love the world Sarah Cannon’s created with Oddity: even seemingly peripheral characters leap off the page, coming to life as sentient mannequins and misunderstood monsters. There are countless great moments in this book, giving you endless amounts of talking points for a discussion (or writing exercises, for the English teachers in my life).

Do yourself a favor and pick up Oddity, and (for grownups and teens) check out the Welcome to Nightvale podcast. You know Tamika Flynn and Ada would be best friends.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

The King of Soccer: Pelè

Pelè: The King of Soccer, by Eddy Simon/Illustrated by Vincent Brascaglia, (Oct. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $15.99, ISBN: 9781626727557

Recommended for ages 10+

The latest graphic novel biography from FirstSecond is Eddy Simon and Vincent Brascaglia’s Pelè: The King of Soccer. From his beginnings as a child growing up in poverty in Sao Paulo, Brazil, readers see Pelè – born Edison Arantes do Nascimento, son of a football player whose career ended with an injury – rise from a child using a ball made from rags, to his dominance in youth leagues, and to his first professional soccer contract at the age of 15. He became a sensation at 17, when he led Brazil to victory at the World Cup, and went on to become “O Rei” – The King – a household name, a worldwide sensation. More than just a soccer player, Pelè traveled the world as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. An athlete worth more than face value, the Brazilian government and the military tried to force him to continue playing when he wanted to play for the U.S., and the United States thought that acquiring Pelè would make soccer the next great American sport. He partied with the likes of Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, and had a turbulent personal life that includes multiple affairs and illegitimate children. Full-color photos of Pelè complete this solid graphic biography of a sports icon.

Great for middle school and up, display and booktalk with other graphic novel biographies, including Box Brown’s biography on Andre the Giant, and 21: The Story of Robert Clemente, by Wilfred Santiago.

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Pashmina is an Indian-American girl’s journey of self-discovery

Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani, (Oct. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626720879

Recommended for ages 12+

Priyanka is an Indian-American young woman, living with her single mom, in California. She’s got so many questions: Why did her mother leave India to raise her daughter in the States? What’s India like? Why doesn’t she ever talk about India? And the big question: Who’s her father, and why hasn’t she ever met him? For Priyanka’s mom, though, the topic of India is closed. She will only say that things were different for women in India, and that’s that. Left with her questions, and feeling emotional after her uncle – her only father figure – becomes a new dad, Priyanka stumbles across one of her mother’s old suitcases, containing a beautiful pashmina shawl. She wraps it around herself and is transported to a magical, beautiful place: India. She also meets two guides: Kanta, an elephant, and Mayur, a peacock, who show her a breathtaking India. Priyanka gets the feeling she may not be getting the whole story – especially when the two guides keep shooing away a mysterious shadow that lurks by them – but she’s determined to find out more about her heritage and her birth.

Priya gets the opportunity when her aunt calls to reconnect with her estranged sister. She’s pregnant, and Priya’s mom agrees to let her fly to India to spend time with her. Thrilled, Priya embarks on a journey that will provide more answers than she expected, and learn more about her mother – and herself.

Pashmina is brilliant, bold, and beautiful storytelling. It’s the story of a child walking the line between two cultures, and it’s a story about the search for identity. It’s also a powerful story of feminism; the goddess Shakti guiding women to choose their own paths and the women who are brave enough to answer the call. Nidhi Chanani creates breathtaking, colorful vistas within the pashmina’s world, making Priya’s everyday black-and-white world even more stark and humdrum. This is a must-add to graphic novel collections, particularly for middle schoolers and teens. Booktalk and display with Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Na Liu’s Little White Duck, and Sarah Garland’s Azzi in Between.

See more of Nidhi Chanani’s art at her website.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Join the resistance: BAN THIS BOOK

Ban this Book, by Alan Gratz, Sept. 2017, Starscape), $15.99, ISBN: 9780765385567

Recommended for readers 8-12

Fourth grader Amy Anne Ollinger isn’t one to speak up. When her parents tell her to let her sisters get their own way, she listens. All she wants to do is read her books and stay off anyone’s radar, but that all changes when her favorite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, is pulled from the library shelves after a classmate’s mother finds it inappropriate. Amy Anne is shocked when the school board carries the motion, but it gets worse when her classmate’s mom returns to the library with a list of MORE books. And the administration refuses to call it banning! Amy Anne launches into action: she starts her own banned book library, run out of her locker. As the battle of the books escalates, Amy calls some friends in for backup. They’re going to challenge every book in the library. The dictionary? You can find bad words, like “stupid”, in there. Goodnight Moon? That cute little mouse is a health violation! Math textbooks? Imaginary numbers don’t exist!

Ban This Book is wonderful, first and foremost, because it gives kids a voice. Amy Anne finds hers as the novel progresses, and defending her beloved books gives her the power to assert herself in other areas of her life. Alan Gratz gives us a protagonist of color who goes on her own hero’s journey in the course of this novel; from mouse (as drawn by her classmate) to advocate – and assistant librarian! Mr. Gratz also shows a valuable part of librarianship that most people don’t always associate with our little profession: defenders of the right to read. Ms. Jones, Amy’s school librarian, is portrayed as a knowledgable, dedicated professional – and one who notably does not “shush” her library kids – who fights for her books and her readers, challenging the school board over their decision to take her – the professional – out of the review and reconsideration process.

Amy Anne and her friends learn how to assemble as a group and use their strengths to form their own library, to organize their own challenge to the status quo, and to make decisions for themselves. Every character is a winner here, and extra kudos to the author for not making the board and PTA mom classic mustache-twirling villains here: Amy recognizes that they are good people who want to believe they are doing what’s best for their kids.

Every single book that the PTA mom challenges in Ban This Book can be found on the American Library Association’s list of frequently banned and challenged books.

An absolute must-add to reading lists and collections. Make this one the center of your Banned Book Week Display!

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A spooky Book Birthday to Spirit Hunters!

Spirit Hunters, by Ellen Oh, (July 2017, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062430083

Recommended for readers 9-13

Harper Raine is not happy about her parents’ decision to move them from New York to Washington, D.C. She can’t stand the creepy house they’ve moved into, especially when she hears the rumors about it being haunted. When her younger brother, Michael, starts talking about an imaginary friend and undergoes a radical personality change, Harper knows she has to act, even if no one else believes her. The thing is, some of Michael’s behaviors ring familiar bells for Harper, but she can’t put her finger on why. She’s missing chunks of memory from a previous accident – can things be connected?

Ellen Oh’s the founder of the We Need Diverse Books movement, and Spirit Hunters gives readers a wonderfully spooky story, rich in diversity. Harper and her siblings are half Korean; as the story progresses, subplots reveal themselves and provide a fascinating look at Korean culture, and the conflicts that can arise between generations. Harper’s new friend, Dayo, and a helpful spirit named Mrs. Devereux are African-American; Mrs. Devereux in particular provides a chance for discussion on race relations, and how racism doesn’t necessarily end with one’s life. Told in the third person, we also hear Harper’s voice through her “stupid DC journals”; journal entries suggested by her therapist, to help bridge her memory gaps, that show up between chapters. The characters are brilliant, with strong backstories, and two mystery subplots emerge that come together, with the main story, to give readers an unputdownable story that will dare them to turn the lights off at night.

I can’t say enough good things about Spirit Hunters, and neither can other reviewers: the book has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction, Uncategorized

Chow Mein and Potstickers brings global friends together

Chow Mein and Potstickers, by Liselotte Schippers/Illustrated by Monique van den Hout, (June 2017, Clavis Publishing), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1605373287

Recommended for readers 5-10

Chan is new to the neighborhood and wants to make some friends. The best way to go about it? Go door by door, of course! Told in the first person, we follow Chan along and meet the neighbor kids, who are from Bosnia, Indonesia, Poland, Afghanistan, Turkey, the Netherlands, Suriname, the U.K., South Africa, and Italy. Each new friend introduces Chan, and the reader, to a fun activity, food, and greetings in each language. The kids all gather together at the end for a celebration, where they share food and friendship.

Originally published in Belgium and Holland in 2015, Chow Mein and Potstickers is an initiative by Inclusive Works, a Dutch organization that promotes diversity and inclusiveness – and what better way to accomplish that than by having children serve as our example? Chan is our guide, as the new kid who wants to make friends. By playing together, Chan – and readers – learn about the ways kids all over the world have fun; we learn how to greet one another in global languages, and finally, we share food together. All great ways of promoting peace and togetherness. My son’s pre-k class had an international day where we did something similar; they sang “It’s a Small World” in 15 different languages and ate food that parents contributed from their native countries. This is a great story to read for a similar occasion; it’s a great story to read to our preschoolers and beyond to promote the global village we call our world.

Each 2-page spread features a new child Chan encounters; backgrounds are light, washed out, to bring the realistic artwork of the children to the forefront, with bright faces and clothing, surrounded by colorful toys. The vocabulary is set off with smiling icons for hello and good-bye, and a colorful sketch of each food the kids eat together.

This is a solid addition to diversity collections. It’s similar to How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea, in that it stars a character who travels the world (well, in this case, the world in a diverse neighborhood), meeting different people from different cultures, and sharing food together. Get some recipe cards together and hand them out with coloring sheets for a multicultural storytime!