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Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar, 256 pp, RL 4

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar, with absolutely beautiful cover and spot art by Penelope Dullaghan is a book I will not forget. The heart of the story is Ruthie Mizrahi and the year she spends in bed recovering after a horrible car accident, but Behar fills her story with a rich cast of characters, making this one of those rare books that is organically diverse.
It is 1966 and Ruthie has just moved from Cuba to Queens with her parents and younger brother to join mother's parents, Baba and Zeide, and her Aunt Sylvia. In fact, Sylvia has an American husband and children, Dennis and Lily. Ruthie and her classmate Ramu, whose family immigrated from India, are anxious to get out of the "dumb" class and prove that they are smart even if English isn't their first language. Ruthie is also yearning for go-go boots, just like her elegant neighbor Danielle, who is from Belgium. A fatal, multi-car accident leaves Ruthie in a full body cast, in bed for a year and being taken care…
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The Doodle Book of Feel Good by Charice Mericle Harper

The coloring and doodle craze never really grabbed me, but, working with kids, I am continually surprised by how much they love to draw and color. I bowed and gave them what they wanted, printing out countless coloring pages (mostly Shopkins and Minecraft) and watched them speed through the process of filling in the picture. Then, while enjoying a Cosmic Kids Zen Den (guided mindfulness meditation) with my students, Ms. Jamie (if you have and/or work with kids and don't know this amazing website, I highly recommend it) was suggesting activities to help kids learnt o focus, and coloring a detailed picture was one of them. And I lightbulb went off. Happily, around the same time, The Doodle Book of Feel Good by Charice Mericle Harper appeared. Not only are Harper's doodles characteristically quirky, detailed and adorable, Harper has included thoughtful, empowering, inspirational and celebratory sayings in each doodle. Not only does The Doodle Book of Feel Good allow me to give my…

Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez

Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonore Garza with illustrations by Alyssa Bermudez is one of those rare, great kid's books that is diverse without diversity being the subject.
Lucía zips through the playground in her red cape, clearly braver and more agile than the boys in capes who tell her that, "Girls can't be superheroes!" Hearing this makes Lucía, "spicy mad. A KA-POW kind of mad!"
But, Abuela has a secret past and something that can help Lucía. When Abu was a little girl, she was a special kind of superhero, a luchadora! Abu tells Lucía that a luchadora is, "more than a masked wrestler with swift moves, more tha just a superhero with slick style. A luchadora is agile. She moves and thinks quickly. A luchadora has moxie." With Abu's silver mask on, Lucía finds the courage to go back to the playground and show those boys just how wrong they are. 
Soon, there are all sorts of luchadoras on the playground and Lucía can't wait to play with t…

Tinyville Town: I'm a Librarian by Brian Biggs

If you grew up with the marvelous, magical books of Richard Scary, then Brian Biggs's Tinyville Town Gets to Work will feel familiar to you. And, while you may wonder why we need even the slightest reworking of Scarry's richly detailed books, let me remind you that, during my own, slightly less than half a century lifetime, Scarry's books have been edited and adapted to our changing social norms. Biggs got his version of Cars and Trucks and Things that Go out of the way with his Everything Goes trilogy. With Tinyville, Biggs continues to give kids a look at the working world of adults and all the different jobs there are.

What Biggs does with his Tinyville books is put minorities like people of color and women into the work place while also giving readers a look at more meticulous aspects of the work. These books are important because, if children can see it, they can imagine it. Children's books are mirrors, windows and doors. They allow children to see themselves, in …

The Owl and the Pussy-cat by Edward Lear and The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Julia Donaldson is a brilliant British children's book author who has made her mark in the US with books like The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. Donaldson writes with a sense of humor and creativity that pairs perfectly with her masterful gift for telling a story in rhyme, making her the ideal choice for carrying on the further adventures of Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussy-cat with the marvelous Charlotte Voake illustrating.

Edward Lear's story, first published in 1871, reads a bit like an acid trip, what with the bong trees, the mince and the quince and the turkey wedding officiant. Voake plays with these oddities, inhabiting the island that the Owl and the Pussycat sail to with little green and brown folk and a distinct colonial air.  Her style is loose and and fluid, much like Lear's rhymes. The Owl and the Pussy-cat with illustrations by Charlotte Voake is a wonderful way to introduce children to this very famous, very fun lyrical rhyme about a two animals in l…

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury is, like every picture book Donaldson writes, an absolute joy to read out loud. This is exactly the kind of book best read with a little listener on your lap, being bounced up and down with each and every exciting page turn.

Rabbit is hopping home one day when a booming voice comes out from his burrow saying, "I'm the GIANT JUMPEREE and I'm scary as can be!"

Each time, with each increasingly larger animal, the Giant Jumperee's threats get bigger and scarier. From, "I'll squash you like a flea," to "I'll sting you like a bee!" to, "I'm the GIANT JUMPEREE and you're terrified of me!" Oxenbury's pastoral illustrations and gentle watercolors perfectly present the animals, taking the edge off them. Their body language is tense at times and the suspense builds as the story unfolds and the fear of the animals builds. Oxenbury mitigates the tension with humor. But, up…

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence, 192 pp, RL 4

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrenceis an extraordinary story of friendship, scout camp and competition that just happens to take place in outer space. But it begins on Earth with Avani Patel, new kid in town who loves rodeo and country music, unlike the girls in the Flower Scouts troop her father forced her to join. They love talking about boys, the heartthrob Chaz Wunderlip and makeup. Things take a sharp turn when, somewhere in space, Mabel is finishing up her homework. But, instead of teleporting a newt, she mistakenly zaps a "new kid."

Avani and Mabel become fast friends, and soon Avani gets her father's permission to go to scout camp, but not the camp he thinks. Instead of Flower Scout camp, Avani and Mabel head to Star Scout camp where she makes enemies straight away when she steps on the tail of a methane breather, or, as Avani mistakenly calls them, "toot breathers."

At Camp Andromeda, the rivalry between the oxygen breathers and the methane breathers heats up a…