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Showing posts from January, 2019

Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek

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Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox,  illustrated by Judy Horacek Review Copy from HMH Co. This book came out in 2004, the year my youngest was born, and I remember snapping it up the minute I saw it. I was already familiar with Fox's books and her gift for playful rhymes and Where Is the Green Sheep? proved to be - and still is - my favorite book of hers. Now that I am an elementary school librarian working with emerging readers, I am thrilled to be reminded of Fox's book again, as it is on par with any book by Dr. Seuss when it comes to learning to read, especially since it's quite a bit shorter! The fun of Where Is the Green Sheep? is Fox telling readers everywhere that the Green Sheep IS NOT. In doing so, she covers all the people, places and things that littler listeners love (and emerging readers will be able to identify with picture clues). There are sheep in bed and sheep on swings, thin sheep and wide sheep, and slide sheep. They play instruments, juggle, sunbathe an…

Never Too Young! 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference, by Aileen Weintraub, illustrated by Laura Horton, 112 pp, RL 3

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Never Too Young! 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference by Aileen Weintraub, illustrated by Laura Horton Purchased at Barnes & Noble Never too Young! 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference is an invaluable addition to the fantastically diverse biographies being published for kids today and I just could not edit myself when writing this review, the subjects are so amazing. So, apologies for the length. While there are important historical figures who accomplished remarkable things as children that all readers should know about (Anne Frank, Joan of Arc, Mozart, Helen Keller, Picasso, Louis Armstrong and more) what surprised and delighted me most is the preponderance of subjects born in the last thirty years. In fact, more than half of the biographies in this book were born in or after 1980! And, while there is no doubt that the achievements of each person in this book benefitted humanity, it is both moving and impressive to see the charitable contributions of kids from the last t…

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, 544 pp, RL 4

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The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson & Eugene Yelchin Review Copy from Candlewick Press Where to begin? The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is so many marvelous things and will mean so many varied things to each individual reader that I am struggling to distill what I want you, readers of this review, to know about this incredible, engaging, engrossing, timeless book. I will start with these two nutshell descriptions of The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge from somewhat reliable sources: "It is about the life and death of prejudices," said my husband, a high school history teacher with a specific interest in politics and war and occasional reader of kidlit. And, the reviewer  for Kirkus, who, calling this book splendid, describes it as, "Monty Python teams up with Maxwell Smart for a wrestling mat with Tolkien."  The plot of this book is as layered as the design, which is part epistolary, part graphic novel, with multiple narratives. The (ficti…

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, 368 pp, RL: TEEN

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo Purchased from Barnes & Noble
A verse novel, there is a poem that comes toward the end of The Poet X titled, "'You Don't Have to Do Anything You Don't Want to Do.'" These are words spoken to Xiomara, the Poet X, by her English teacher after the major climactic moment you know is coming from the first page of this stunning, unforgettable story. A first generation Dominican-American born to older parents - a mother who wanted to become a nun and a philandering father who took the birth of his son and daughter, twins, as a sign - Xiomara is walled in by what everyone else wants for her, expects from her, fears for her. Tall and with, as her mother says, "'a little too much body for such a young girl," Xiomara has forced herself to have thick skin to shield her from the unwanted comments - and touches - of the men and boys in her Harlem neighborhood and at school, letting her knuckles talk for her. Her religious, ul…

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

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I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds Review Copy from Abrams Kids Books With I Am Human: A Book of Empathy, Verde and Reynolds partner for their fifth picture book and their third in a series of superb books embracing Buddhist ideas, although they are never referred to as such directly. I Am Human: A Book of Empathy simply, and elegantly addresses the individual and the whole, the light and the dark. Embracing self-worth and self-love, and proclaiming with joy, "I am human," Verde's narrator goes on to say, "Being human means I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I can hurt others with my words, my actions, and even silence. I can be hurt, too." The challenges, the pain and the fear of being alive do not overwhelm the narrator, who reminds himself, "I AM human, I can make choices. I can move forward. A poor choice can become a BETTER choice with thoughtfulness. A bad day can become a GREAT day with kindness." Minds…

What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris

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What Can a Citizen Do? written by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris Review Copy from Chronicle Books Egger's questioning title invites readers to think about their connection to others and to their community, and to question their capacity to contribute and make a difference. While connection to and service to community are deeply important values to instill in our children, I'm not sure that the Seussian rhyming text What Can a Citizen Do? conveys this message clearly. The use of the word "citizen" in the title of this book is timely, although possibly not entirely accurate or appropriate. Citizenship, from country to country, has specific, concrete, legal definitions, whereas Eggers presents it here in a more fluid, abstract, and playful sense. Harris's sometimes crowded and chaotic paper cut, collage and sketch illustrations show a group of friends creating a community on a small island, anchored by a lone tree. The visuals of community and collaboration a…

I'm an Immigrant Too! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh

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I'm an Immigrant Too! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh Review Copy from Simon & Schuster First published in in Australia by native, literacy expert and excellent rhymer Mem Fox with the title, I'm Australian Too!, this book is specific to the country, but also universal. The Australian title is also the first line of this picture book that begins with the narrator listing the birthplace of parents and grandparents, saying, "Our mob's been here forever - now we share the place with you." A change in narrators details the places families immigrated from and the reasons why, from famine to war, along with the challenges faced. Love of country of origin and love of new home country are evident in every expression from each narrator, as this stanza shows:
Lebanon is beautiful -  my family came from there.  The fled a war, but now they sing: "Advance Australia Fair"!
Fox's text is straightforward and accessible, giving readers an understanding of the …

Every Human Has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids based on the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, with Poetry from the ePals Students, 48 pp, RL 4

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Every Human Has Rights:  A Photographic Declaration for Kids by National Geographic,  Forward by Mary Robinson, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,  with Poetry from the ePals Community Purchased from Barnes & Noble National Geographic makes the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights accessible and engaging for young readers, adding a wealth of information and resources for further exploration to this important endeavor.
There is a lot happening in Every Human Has Rights, and a lot to unpack, starting with Robinson's forward where she tells readers that the, "Universal Declaration ranks as one of the greatest documents of human history."  Robinson goes on to acknowledge the, "widespread discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs [and] sexual orientation," noting that genocide, like that of WWII and the aftermath that necessitated the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, is happening again. Robinson tells reader…

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, written by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr

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Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr Purchased at Barnes & Noble
Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights is a standout among the growing number of books for kid's addressing equal rights and human rights. Rather than tell readers what to fight for, Sanders shows them the many ways to protest peacefully. Highly accessible and rich with conversation starters (supported by backmatter that includes a brief history of peaceful protests and a glossary of terms), Sanders's writes in short sentences that are often one word only, rich with action words. In fact, Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights is an ABC book, though not rigidly so. More of an organizing principal than concept, Sanders uses the alphabet and repetition of the letters to deepen and expand the theme. To demonstrate this, I included images of the first twelve pages. Schorr's illustrations are perfectly paired with Sanders's words. His papercut collages are as straightforwar…