Showing posts from July, 2019

Tomorrow I'll Be Brave by Jessica Hische

Tomorrow I'll Be Brave by Jessica Hisch Purchased with grant funding for my library Hische, a lettering artist, has all her talents on display in this graphically stunning picture book. Tomorrow I'll Be Brave is a little bit more of a mantra than a story, and, while it was a little flat reading out loud to a large group of kids (and sometimes the text is a challenge to read), I can definitely see it being ideal as part of a cozy bedtime. Since becoming an elementary school librarian, I am always reading a book, picture books especially, with eye for incorporating it into a lesson. Tomorrow I'll Be Brave is a great tool for teaching positive character traits (and vocabulary) to young children. A rabbit is the star of this book, along with a cat friend. Together, with simple rhymes, they show all the things the rabbit promises to do tomorrow as this bedtime story unfolds. "Tomorrow I'll be smart," is followed by, "I'll think before I act. I'll solve a…

If I Had a Little Dream by Nina Laden, illustrated by Melissa Castrillon

If I Had a Little Dream by Nina Laden illustrated by Melissa Castrillon Purchased for my library with grant funding I'll be honest, I am so completely in love with Castrillon's illustrations for this book that I can barely even think about Laden's rhyming text. With a limited palette of autumnal colors and a retro feel, Castrillon weaves vines and flowers throughout every charming illustration. I want to dive into each page and walk around, in part because Laden's rhyming text practically invites you to. If I Had a Little Dream is a celebration of the extraordinary that exists in the ordinary, asking readers to "Look, Imagine and Dream." With playfully rhyming quatrains, Laden's main character, a little girl with yellow pigtails, tells readers what she would name things if they were hers, and what they would be like. A house would be named Love and it would make her happy and protect her like a glove. My favorite, of course, is book, which she would name Fri…

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

The Book of Mistakes  by Corinna Luyken Purchased with grant funding  for my school library
I am shamefully late to the marvelous parade that is The Book of Mistakes. Happily, a very generous opportunity gave me the chance to finally read it! Backstory: My school (actually, eleven schools in my district!) is the recipient of a Carson Reading Room grant that has doubled my annual book buying budget provided funding to purchase furniture, something I have NEVER had and the reason why I started teaching myself how to find and write grants five years ago. Spending this kind of money on books is a huge responsibility and I decided to devote a portion of the funds on developing a collection of books to support social-emotional learning, as well as a collection of books on gender identity and inclusion. It's hard to find really good picture books about emotions, mindset and coping, but I am off to a good start, especially with one as fantastically fun as The Book of Mistakes!

With sparse text…

my heart by corinna luyken

my heart by corinna luyken review copy from penguin random house My Heart, Luyken's follow up to the superb The Book of Mistakes is (also) a MUST HAVE picture book. As with her first book, Luyken demonstrates her gift for taking abstract concepts like creativity and feelings, and distilling them into thirty-two pages of a marvelous reading experience. With metaphors that young readers will grasp, ("My heart is a window, / My heart is a slide. / My heart can be closed or opened wide.") Luyken explores emotions and feelings, punctuating them with bursts of yellow among shades of grey, without directly naming them. From puddles and stains to something tiny that can, "grow . . . and grow . . . an grow," to a fence "between me and the world." This particular illustration, seen above, conveys the black emotions that can cause us to put up a defensive fence, yet the fence itself is (like the heart) delicate, intricate and beautiful. This is a perfect example o…

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, 352 pp, RL 4

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson Purchased from Barnes & Noble The Parker Inheritance is a masterfully written mystery with civil rights, racism, segregation, discrimination, the realities of being black in America, in the past and present, and justice at its heart. The mystery of The Parker Inheritance is informed and inspired by (the shadowy character in the book who crafts this chain of clues left for a specific set of players confesses that this book was a favorite of an important person in his life) Ellen Raskin's classic and my childhood favorite, The Westing Game. How Johnson makes all this work together, powerfully and unforgettably, is amazing and I especially appreciate the After Words in the back matter where Johnson shares the evolution of the first chapter of the book. I finished the book, completely in awe of Johnson and what he had accomplished, then went back and read the evolution and was grateful to be reminded of the hard, hard work, the many revisions…

Glitch by Sarah Graley, 192 pp, Reading Level 4

Glitch by Sarah Graley Purchased at Strand Book Store Izzy and her Eric, who uses the pronouns she and her, are best friends and gamers eagerly awaiting the release of the new game Dungeon City and have agreed to wait to play it until they can unbox it together and stay up all night on the weekend. Unfortunately, the call of this new game overrides all parental rules and the rules of friendship and Izzy gives in. Even more unfortunate, Izzy is sucked into the game itself! There, she is befriended by a robot named Rae, who uses the pronouns they and them, and told she is the one gamer who can save the world of the game ("you are our only hope, Izzy.") from an undefeatable final boss buried in deep within the code by the developers once they realized their mistake. Going in and out of the game, staying up all night to play and lying to Eric, her teachers and parents about why she is so tired every day. But, she's fueled at night every time she levels up, believing she is wor…

Midnight at the Zoo by Faye Hanson

Midnight at the Zoo by Faye Hanson Review Copy from Templar Publishing It's field trip day at school for Max and Mia and they are READY to go! With their animal ears on and a backpack full of supplies, they are off. They trundle like elephants, cling like monkeys and nibble like lemurs, hiding like "scardey meerkats" at the back of the line as their class is shepherded into the zoo. As their class moves from enclosure to enclosure, their spirits sag. All the animals are asleep and hidden! As their group heads for the bus, Max and Mia are have their faces pressed to the glass of an exhibit, unaware that they are being left behind. But, the pair aren't afraid. Max is prepared and, when the clock strikes midnight, they make a new friend - a lion cub who takes them on a tour of the zoo, so different now that all the animals are awake. With poetic flair, Hanson employs alliteration, from the "flouncing flamingos amid fabulous fountains," to the "mischievous mo…

Neither by Airlie Anderson

Neither by Airlie Anderson Purchased with grant funding for my library Neither is a marvelously illustrated explosion of rainbow-piñata-jellybean-colors, bursting with cute and curious creatures. Neither is also a sweetly subtle, entirely accessible, non-message-y story of acceptance and inclusion that readers will love and understand immediately. I discovered Anderson's book, which was published in February of 2018, while perusing Barnes & Noble's selection of LGBTQIA+ books for young readers during Pride Month. Neither is a great way to start a conversation about gender identity, gender norms and the gender spectrum. And, as I learned when I read it out loud to an audience of kids, ages 5 - 12, I realized (as one student blurted out "racist" a few pages into reading the book) that Neither is also a conversation starter for discussions about race, racism and xenophobia. If Neither had been published when I was a kid in the 70s, it would have been read as a book ab…