IT'S TREVOR NOAH: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Adapted for Young Readers, 304 pp, RL: Middle Grade

IT'S TREVOR NOAHBorn a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Adapted for Young Readersby Trevor NoahPurchased from Barnes & Noble"Many schools don't teach what racism looks like, they teach what racism looked like." This quote has been showing up on social media and I cant stop thinking about it, reflecting on how tentatively - and narrowly - racism was discussed and (occasionally) taught at the school where I worked. Reading IT'S TREVOR NOAH: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, I thought: This is the book that will teach what racism looks like. Noah's autobiography, adapted for young readers, is so well written, so vividly clear, immediate, intelligent, hilarious, and shocking that I found myself regularly reading passages to my family each night at the dinner table (then insisting they watch the latest clip from The Daily Show). The day I finished the young readers edition, I went out and bought the adult version (published in…

Yorick and Bones by Jeremy Tankard and Hermione Tankard, 144 pp, RL 3

Yorick and Bones by Jeremy Tankard and Hermione Tankard Purchased from Barnes & Noble

How could you not want to read a book with the tagline, "The lost graphic novel by William Shakespeare"???
When a witch in a rush crashes into a hot dog cart, a potion falls from her satchel, crashing to the ground and seeping into the earth where a skeleton is buried. Magically, the potion brings the bones to life and Yorick (the skeleton) finds himself alone in the dark, wishing for, "A friend. A one with whom I may converse." Yorick does have one other wish - "A sausage would true, unreal wonder bring." If you are not a poet and/or a scholar of Shakespeare, you might not realize that all of Yorick's dialogue in this quirky graphic novel is written in iambic pentameter. What Yorick gets is a fluffy, white little dog, digging away, looking for a bone to gnaw on. As Yorick and his rescuer/attacker make their way through the world, Yorick continues his quest for a com…

Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So

Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea,  Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies by Deborah Hopkinson illustrated by Meilo So Review Copy from Chronicle Books
With Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies, Hopkinson blends fiction and non-fiction marvelously, sharing a story of migration, conservation, community and advocacy through the eyes of a newcomer.
Starting in Spring, the unnamed narrator tells readers that, when she first came to America, she couldn't read English. The librarian helped her choose books with lots of pictures and her favorite had a butterfly on the cover. That's how she learned about monarch butterflies making the "long, long journey, just like we did." When school starts in the fall, she heads straight to the library where the librarian has stocked up on books about monarchs and shares her personal experience creating a monarch way station in her own yard. The narrator also learns that the milkweed…

Three Keys by Kelly Yang, 288 pp, RL 4

Three Keys: A Front Desk Novel by Kelly YangCover art by Maike PlenzkeReview Copy from ScholasticOnce again, Yang layers important, timely issues and events into Three Keys, the superb sequel to award winning Front Desk, narrated by the brave, determined Mia Tang. As with Front Desk, Yang continues to focus on issues of racism, segregation and the challenges faced by immigrants in America, with and without documentation, setting this sequel in California in 1994 as the state prepares to vote on Proposition 187. 
Now in sixth grade, Mia is looking forward to continuing to grow her writing skills and spending time with her best friend, Lupe. Her parents have made improvements to the Calivista Motel that have brought in more business and more support for immigrants, specifically in the form of "How to Navigate America" newcomer classes held every Wednesday night. As the November election approaches, it is impossible for Mia to ignore the ominous television advertisements and gro…

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee, 272 pp, RL 5

Séance Tea Party by Reimena YeePublished by RHGraphicsPurchased from Barnes & Noble Using her imagination, with stuffed animals and the occasional prop or costume to set the scene, Lora Xi is happiest when she is at play, which is how Yee begins Séance Tea Party. At the helm of a pirate ship, her crew on deck, a page turn shows Lora furiously pedaling her bike, a toy cat and bat in her basket, as she heads to school where it seems that her classmates are more interested in their phones, new earrings, gaming and gossiping. Increasingly alone, Lora celebrates her October birthday with her parents (and a trip to the bookstore and a ghost-shaped cake!) and a séance tea party in the attic for herself and her stuffed animals. To her immense surprise - and happiness - the ghost of a girl arrives. Alexa, once Lora's imaginary friend, wants to rekindle their friendship. Together, the two help each other navigate the challenges of growing up and support each other's growth.
Lora share…

A WORLD TOGETHER by Sonia Manzano

 A WORLD TOGETHER by Sonia Manzano & National Geographic Kids Review Copy A WORLD TOGETHER unites two major influences from my childhood - Sesame Street and National Geographic. Sonia Manzano and the other adults who brought this amazing show into my living room five days a week taught me (in the early 1970s) more about feelings and empathy than any teacher I had while National Geographic sparked curiosity, let me travel the world and grew that empathy I was learning from Sesame Street. It's exciting and feels completely natural and obvious for Manzano and National Geographic to partner for this picture book that is timeless and timely. When the pandemic has made the world so small for many of us and politics are dividing it, it is vital that we give children a window like A WORLD TOGETHER
Manzano's texts toggles between encouraging curiosity (during my time as a librarian, I was always surprised by the lack of curiosity my students exhibited and wonder if being screen-fed im…

If You Come To Earth by Sophie Blackall

If You Come To Earth by Sophie Blackall Review Copy from Chronicle Books To me, a picture book is a 32 page work of art that sits on a shelf rather than hanging on a wall, and more than any other picture book I have read in recent memory, If You Come To Earth is a work of art. When I started work as a children's bookseller back in 1995, the illustration and design style was still reminiscent of my childhood favorites from the 1970s. I am grateful to have worked with children's books for two and a half decades, especially when it comes to illustration. Pulling Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yin Bridges off the shelf to read at a Saturday story time in 2002 (to this day, I cannot read Ruby's Wish without getting choked up) was the moment that I fell in love with Sophie Blackall's work and when I realized that picture book illustration was changing before my eyes. Almost 20 years later, holding If You Come To Earth in my hands and turning the pages feels a bit like the culminati…