Showing posts from 2020

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…

Big Red Lollipop by Rukshana Kahn, illustrated by Sophe Blackall

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Kahn illustrated by Sophie Blackall In Big Red Lollipop, Khan tells a story of sibling struggles and cultural differences, sparked by an invitation to a birthday party. When Rubina is invited to her first birthday party, her mother insists that she take her younger sister Sana with her. Rubina obeys her mother even though she knows that she will be shunned by her classmates for bringing her. Not only does Sana insist on winning all the party games and crying when she doesn't, in the dark of night she eats almost all of the big red lollipop that was in Rubina's goodie bag, despite the fact that she has already devoured her own green lollipop. Rubina is understandably angry and heartbroken. Rubina is not invited to any more parties after that and, a year or so later when Sana gets her first invitation, their mother again insists that the sisters join her. This time, the baby is even big enough to attend. Rubina says there is no way she is going to the …

Crabapple Trouble by Kaeti Vandorn, 176 pp, RL 3

Crabapple Trouble by Kaeti Vandorn Published by RH Graphic Purchased from Barnes & Noble Callaway Crabapple is both excited and anxious about the upcoming Summertime Fair hosted by the Forest Fairy Kingdom with "Fairy Prizes Galore." Calla wants to be part of the festivities, but when her friends ask her about what she'll be making to enter into the contests for judging, well, she gets so worried she loses her head. Literally. It pops off and rolls away and, while she's more bewildered than actually hurt, it also gives her the chance to meet Thistle, a fast friend and fairy who has a very different approach to life. 
As the fair approaches and her anxiety mounts, Calla finds a way to comfortably be part of the festivities and contribute to the work her group of friends has taken on. Even better, in a moment of worry, she bumps into Clementine, also nervous about participating, and is able to comfort her. Meanwhile, Thistle, shunned by the other fairies because he has…

You Are A Beautiful Beginning by Nina Laden, illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley

You Are a Beautiful Beginning by Nina Laden illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley Review Copy from Roaring Brook Press It is rare that I like a picture book that tells readers how loved, special, brave [insert affirming adjective here] they are, but Nina Laden has a way with this kind of story (see below for more). With You Are A Beautiful Beginning, Laden has written a rhyming text that will help readers cope with challenges and dark days by gently pointing them toward love for themselves, empathy for others and a positive mindset. Garrity-Riley's enchanting illustrations bring Laden's encouragements to life with a determined child and her plan to, with the collaboration of friends, create a fort in the woods where they welcome a crew of magical creatures.
The protagonist's venture starts in her room, collecting her ideas and plans. Putting on her rain slicker and boots, sketchbook in hand, she heads out the door - "It's not how far you traveled. / It is the journey tha…