Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Someone New shows students welcoming new friends

Someone New, by Anne Sibley O’Brien, (July 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898317

Recommended for readers 4+

I’m New Here (2015) explored immigration from the points of view of three young newcomers: Maria, Jin, and Fatima. Someone New now flips the dialogue and shows us how new classmates perceive – and eventually befriend – these new kids in town. At first, Maria, Jin, and Fatima are shy, a bit withdrawn, and their classmates don’t know how to work with that. Understandable; these are kids we’re dealing with. Strong and honest statements like, “I feel uncomfortable”; “I don’t know what to do”; and “I can’t figure out to help” give kids words to put to the new feelings they may experience when meeting kids they don’t know.

Since kids are so much smarter than we are, though, they figure it out quickly: Jesse, a blonde white boy, invites Maria to play soccer with his group and discovers that she’s really good! Jason, a dark-skinned boy, can’t read what Jin writes, but smiles, prompting Jin to smile back; eventually, Jin teaches Jason how to write his name in Korean – it’s like a secret code! – and they draw comics together. Emma, a blonde white girl, draws a picture of her classmate, Fatima, and her together, giving Fatima the comfort and safety she needs to open up to Emma about her family. Each of these new children have things to share; they just needed the safety of that first effort. As Jason learns, when Jin smiles at him, “Maybe a smile is like a superpower.” The watercolor and digital illustrations stand out against the plain white space to make these characters stand out.

Someone New tells its story in brief, eloquent sentences with word balloons that allow characters to communicate in their own words. It is a book that needs to be on every shelf in every library and school. You’ll notice I recommend this book for ages 4+; I think it’s a book that all adults should be reading right now. Pick up the award-winning I’m New Here and make sure you tell these stories to anyone within earshot. Someone New has a starred review from Kirkus.

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

#AmalUnbound is unputdownable!

Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed, (May 2018, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-399-54468-2

Recommended for readers 10-14

Twelve-year-old Amal is a girl living in a Punjabi village in Pakistan. When she has a rough interaction with the village’s wealthy and cruel landowner, Jawad Sahib, he demands payment for her “insult” by taking her on as an unpaid servant to work off her family’s debt. Charged for room and board, yet receiving no pay for her labor, it becomes clear all too quickly that Amal may be doomed to spend the rest of her life there. Jawad antagonizes her, and other servants are initially cruel to her, but she finds some solace as servant to Sahib’s mother, who is kinder. Amal fears her dreams of education and teaching are gone for good until a Sahib family venture opens the opportunity for Amal to attend school – and possibly, give her the chance to regain her freedom.

Inspired by Malala Yousafszai and young women like her, Amal Unbound is a compulsively readable upper middle-grade story about indentured servitude, gender inequality, and the right to education. Amal is a bookish young woman forced to drop out of school when her sister is born. She’s angry at the reaction that the birth of a girl, rather than a boy, brings not only to her family, but her neighbors. Furious that women are valued less than men, and angry that she must put her own dreams on hold, she lashes out at the local landowner, who takes advantage of her family’s debt to get even with her. She refuses to feel powerless, which further aggravates Jawad Sahib; his mother Nasreen Baji intervenes on Amal’s behalf, but she’s still part of a corrupt system that lets her family keep indentured servants – essentially, slaves – as labor. Amal discovers that Nasreen Baji is in a gilded cage of her own, but does that excuse her own injustices? It creates a good discussion point; one of many readers will discover in the pages of Amal Unbound. Publisher Penguin has you covered with a free, downloadable discussion guide.

Aisha Saeed creates complex characters and a strong story that you won’t want to put down until you’ve turned the last page. I hope I get summer reading lists with Amal Unbound on them; I can’t wait to booktalk this one to my library kids.

Book Riot has a good interview with Aisha Saeed and Shehzil Malik, designer of that beautiful cover, that you should check out and add to your booktalk info. Amal Unbound has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus, and is on my Newbery shortlist.

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 picture books, Preschool Reads

Dork Diaries’ co-author Erin Danielle Russell tries to trick the Tooth Fairy!

How to Trick the Tooth Fairy, by Erin Danielle Russell/Illustrated by Jennifer Hansen Rolli, (May 2018, Simon & Schuster Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481467322

Recommended for readers 3-7

Erin Danielle Russell, co-author of the Dork Diaries, brings us a prank war on an epic level in her new picture book, How to Trick the Tooth Fairy. Kaylee is an adorable little girl with wild brown hair and a twinkle of mischief in her eye, and she’s all about a good prank. But see, so is the Tooth Fairy. In fact, the Tooth Fairy is THE ruling prank princes, and she’s got “more tricks in her bag than teeth”. The prank battle begins when Kaylee leaves a fake frog for the Fairy, rather than a tooth; the Fairy retaliates with a bunch of real frogs; pranks escalate until the unthinkable happens: TOPSY-TURVY TOOTH FAIRY TROUBLE! The two foxhole friends hide under a table and survey the damage in the aftermath, help each other clean up, and decide to join prank forces for future fun.

This is such a fun story, and not overly gooey or sweet. This is a prank war between two bright young ladies, one of whom happens to be the Tooth Fairy. As kids know, pranks can escalate and feelings can get hurt, and that’s what happens here: once that happens, the girls see the humor in what happened – sprinkles in the Fairy’s hair, a banana peel and water dripping off Kaylee’s – and work it out in a way that makes everyone happy. Well, except for future prank victims.

The oil paint illustrations are done on brown craft paper, giving a great feel to the spreads, and the characters are expressive, with winks, shouts, and smirks aplenty. This is a fun book about childhood mischief that kids everywhere will get a kick out of. I hope we get some more adventures with Kaylee… maybe we’ll see how she celebrates a birthday? Visit the How to Trick the Tooth Fairy webpage to learn more about our tricksters, view a trailer, and get updates.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

The Midnight Teacher’s bravery

Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School, by Janet Halfmann/Illustrated by London Ladd, (Feb. 2018, Lee and Low), $18.95, ISBN: 9781620141632

Recommended for readers 7-11

Lilly Ann Granderson was born a slave, taught to read by her master’s children, who played school with her. As she grew up, she practiced her spelling and reading in secret – in some areas, it was against the law to teach slaves to read – and eventually began teaching other slaves. She was determined to teach as many of her people as she could, to give them the chance at freedom made possible through education, and began a midnight school where slaves would gather after dark to learn, risking cruel punishment if they were discovered. Eventually, Lilly Ann won the right to start a school and a Sabbath church school, where she could teach her students with no fear of repercussion.

This picture book biography looks at the life of an overlooked champion for literacy and social justice and makes an excellent addition to biography collections. Lilly Ann Granderson’s determination and perseverance; her desire to to learn and promote learning among others is an important and, sadly, relevant topic today. Talk about how education leads to freedom, and mention that education is not always a right, even today. Malala Yousafzai’s picture book biography, For the Right to Learn, illustrates this and is a good companion to Midnight Teacher.

The artwork is realistic and subdued, made with acrylic paint and colored pencil; London Ladd gives character and expression to his characters, particularly Lilly Ann Granderson, whose determination and inner strength shine through. An afterword provides an overview of Granderson’s life and those of her descendants, who went on to become activists, had life in public service, and found professional success. A nice bibliography has more resources for interested readers, caregivers, and educators. Midnight Teacher has a starred review from Kirkus and is a must-add to collections where picture book biographies are available.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Little Brothers and Little Sisters just want to play!

Little Brothers & Little Sisters, by Monica Arnaldo, (Apr. 2018, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472951

Recommended for readers 3-7

Little brothers and sisters all want the same things: a turn at the wheel, the secret password, a place on the team… they also want a bodyguard, a partner in crime, and a best friend. Monica Arnaldo’s picture book looks at the ups and downs of being a younger sibling, through the eyes of a diverse group of children living in and around an apartment building.

The first half of the book illustrates a group of younger siblings waiting for their older siblings to make space for them as they hog the TV, monopolize play time, or keep them out of the fun; the second half looks at the upsides of having a loving sibling who will be a protector, a teacher, a friend. Four pairs of siblings from varying cultural backgrounds will appeal to kids with older (or younger) siblings, sure, but it’s also great to read to kids in a classroom setting, comparing what it’s like to be in lower grades versus upper grades. It’s a lesson in empathy for older children, and a gently encouraging story for younger kids who may feel like the older kids get to do everything. Invite kids to talk about the great parts about being older versus younger; invite them to talk about the ups and downs in their own lives. Many older siblings are responsible for watching over their younger siblings; this story gives kids a chance to talk about their experiences and may help frustrated readers see the benefits of being a positive role model.

Muted but colorful artwork and expressively illustrated characters, paired with simple text make this a nice choice for storytime and individual reading. Definitely a great big brother/big sister gift. Little Brothers & Little Sisters received a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Tween Reads

Books to inspire your young scientists!

This is an incredible year for children’s books! There’s something for everyone available or coming soon, with wonderful artwork and text that draws readers right in. This time around, I’m looking at some fun science books for readers – and caregivers will like them, too.

Izzy Gizmo, by Pip Jones/Illustrated by Sara Ogilve,
(March 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-68263-021-1
Recommended for readers 4-7

 

Izzy Gizmo is a curious little girl of color who loves to invent, tweak, and discover. Her inventions don’t always work, but she discovers that she has to put her frustrations aside when she rescues a crow with a broken wing. He wants her to help him fly again, and he’s willing to stick with her through trial and error, until she can get it right. I love the bright colors and chaotic art in this story; it lets readers know that creativity is often messy and wild; the story assures readers that mistakes are just opportunities to filter out what isn’t working and concentrate on what will work; and I love the story of endurance and perseverance. Izzy’s grandfather and her crow friend have faith in Izzy; she just has to find her faith in herself. The gray and white endpapers feature different gears and mechanical parts, letting readers know they’re going to put on their engineering hats to help Izzy out, and the art – a mix of pencil, ink, oil pastel, monoprint, and digital technique – create a busy background that provides a glimpse into the mind of a scientist. Originally published in the UK in 2011, Izzy’s just arrived here in the U.S. and her rhyming story would be a great addition to collections where Andrea Beaty’s Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist, Scientist are popular.

 

Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See?, by Chris Ferrie,
(Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492656180
Recommended for readers 3-6

 

Set to the cadence of the classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, scientist and dad Chris Ferrie introduces little readers to some of history’s greatest minds with Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See? There is a strong mix of disciplines and diversity represented here, with Einstein sharing space with Grace Hopper, Ahmed Zewail, George Washington Carver, Katherine Johnson, and more. It’s noted as a “scientific parody”, and it certainly is a fun book that will make everyone smile, but kids are introduced to names and ideas, and that’s just great. Starting off with the question, “Einstein, Einstein, Who Do You See?” and the response, “I see Marie Curie in her laboratory”, the story goes on, introducing scientists and their accomplishments, in the soothing rhyme style we’ve grown up hearing and enjoying. Chris Ferrie has given us Baby Science board books and a fun take on Goodnight, Moon with Goodnight, Lab; let’s hope he keeps finding new, fun ways to make science lovers out of our kids.

 

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything, by Ian Lendler/Illustrated by Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb,
(Apr. 2018, First Second Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722446
Recommended for readers 7-10

This one’s one of my standout favorites. Author Ian Lendler and illustrators Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb drill down the history of everything to one humble dot. From one dot’s excited burst of joy comes the Big Bang, bringing new dots together to form planets and, eventually, life. The dots are animated, dancing, playing, even running away from other dots that want to eat them! The artwork is bright with a retro feel and uses the dot theme as a focal point through the story, gently leading readers on a trip through time and space. It’s a simplified look at the formation of the universe, but works nicely for younger readers. Give this one to kids who like Stacy McAnulty’s Earth: My First 4.5 Billion Years, and Dominic Walliman’s Professor Astro Cat books, published by Nobrow.

 

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby/Illustrated by Rebecca Green,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781771387200
Recommended for readers 7-10

The latest from Kids Can Press’ Citizen Kid imprint, Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea is a fictional story about a Bangladeshi boy named Iqbal, who comes with a clean, solar-powered cookstove for his science fair project. He sees his mother force to cook the family’s meals indoors during monsoon season, but the family has no stove: she cooks over an open fire, which produces smoke that makes breathing difficult, especially for his mother and baby sister. He learns about solar energy cooking, wins first place in the science fair, and introduces a sustainable and healthier way for families to prepare meals. The artwork illustrates everyday life in Bangladesh and communicates the closeness Iqbal shares with his family and his hard work to create a science fair project that accomplishes the dual purpose of getting him a good grade and helping his family. The story shows readers that kids can make a difference, and that healthier living doesn’t depend on expensive gadgets – a little research, and you can make the world a better place with tools right in front of you. The book includes more information on cookstoves, a glossary, and instructions for making a DIY solar cooker. Great for class projects and science fair ideas!

Audrey the Inventor, by Rachel Valentine/Illustrated by Katie Weymouth,
(May 2018), words & pictures, $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277584
Recommended for readers 4-7

Audrey could hang out with Izzy (first book) and Andrea Beaty’s gang. A wild-haired, redheaded little girl who uses measuring tape for ribbons, Audrey is a curious kid who wants to be an inventor – but she doesn’t know what to invent! She sets off on a host of different ideas, some involving her poor cat, Happy Cat, all of which end up in the “rework” pile. She’s ready to throw in the towel, but decides to give it one last try after getting some encouragement. Little touches, like featuring a graph paper background and visualizing Audrey’s thought process and her doodles, invite kids to share their own ways of working out ideas. The collage, watercolor, and pen artwork comes together to create a busy story about a busy mind. A fun add to creative collections.

These books offer a great way to introduce the scientific method, even for younger grades. Little Bins for Little Hands has a good article, with tips on using the scientific method – and including links to experiments – for preschoolers.