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Showing posts from January, 2020

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown, 112 pp, RL 5

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The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown Published by Houghton Mifflin Purchased from Barnes & Noble

Don Brown begins this chronicle of this ongoing humanitarian tragedy in 2011 with Arab Spring protests in the city of Dara'a. With stark imagery and straightforward text, he introduces readers to the 50+ year totalitarian regime of the Assad family and the horrors they enacted. Deciding they do not want to die, Syrians begin to flee the brutality and violence of their country. Rather than telling stories of individuals, Brown focuses on the insurmountable challenges faced by displaced populations. Refugees drown in a river trying to cross the border and they drown as they try to reach Western Europe on overcrowded smuggler's boats. The refugees use cell phones with GPS to navigate the new lands they are crossing and keep in touch with helpful friends and relatives already resettled. There are moments of kindness from strangers among the horrors, like a TV engin…

Most People by Michael Leannah, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris

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Most People by Michael Leannah,  illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris Purchased for my school library with grant funding Most People is a simple, gentle, necessary reminder that "most people are very good people." In his author's note, Leannah, a longtime elementary school teacher, father and grandfather, makes the important point that children - through overhearing adults talking, hearing the television or radio, (or even through their own explorations on the internet) - can be left "thinking that the world is a place full of dangers and bad feelings." Add to this the now common and necessary lockdown drills that schools regularly have, and it's hard to ignore that kids today are exposed to a lot of information and experiences that understandably generates anxiety and fear. Leannah, with his gently reassuring text, reminds readers of a common truth - most people are good. What makes Most People a truly stand out, invaluable book that should be in every classroom…

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

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The Journey by Francesca Sanna Published by Flying Eye Books Purchased for my school library with grant funding Sanna's picture book is a magnificently illustrated, compelling picture book about the deeply tragic, increasingly common experience of refugees. When war  takes over the narrator's country, then takes her father, her mother makes the difficult decision to escape to another country. Packing their car with all their belongings, they flee, leaving possessions behind as they go. Over mountains, over border walls in the dark of the night, money changing hands, they travel on. A ferry packed with so many people takes them to a train, traveling over more borders. As the book ends, the narrator looks up at a flock of migrating birds, wishing one day, like the birds, to find a new home, "A home where we can be safe and begin their story again." Sanna's illustrations are magical, yet often heartbreaking. As the family, the narrator, her brother and their mother, fle…

What Is a Refugee? by Elise Gravel

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What Is a Refugee? by Elise Gravel Purchased for my school library with district funds With a straightforwardly simple words and illustrations Gravel has created an explanatory book that can be read to and understood by kindergarteners and serve as a conversation starter for older children. Beginning with some of the reasons why people might need to leave their homeland, Gravel makes the point that refugees have fled because their lives are in danger. They may not want to leave their homelands and families, and leaving is often dangerous and difficult, especially because so many countries do not want to welcome them. Gravel shows readers that refugees may have to live in substandard conditions while waiting for a country to welcome. Throughout the book, Gravel emphasizes that refugees are just like you and me, showing kids of all colors laughing and playing. Back matter includes quotes from refugee children Gravel met while writing the book and brief biographies of famous refugees, inclu…

Go with the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann, 336 pp, RL 4

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Go with the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann Published by First Second Purchased at Barnes & Noble
With Go with the Flow, Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann have created a graphic novel that will make every reader who is or will be menstruating feel like they have a new best friend. A completely engaging story of friendship serves as the backbone for a book about periods, inequity and menstrual activism. As I read Go with the Flow and write this review I am expecting the imminent arrival of what I estimate to be the 450th period of my life, a monthly occurrence that has cost me more than $5,000 over the last 40 years. After reading Go with the Flow, I read several articles about period equity, including this article where I learned women menstruate, on average, for nearly seven years during their lifetime (!) and that tampons are taxed while Viagra is not (!) and am fired up. I am deeply grateful to Williams and Schneeman for writing this book and bringing period equity an…

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troïanowski, 272 pp, RL 3

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The Runaway Princess by Johan Troïanowsk Published by RH Graphic Purchased at Barnes & Noble
I am SO excited to finally be reviewing a title from this new imprint dedicated to "a graphic novel on every bookshelf" because it is headed by Gina Gagliano, a powerhouse in the comics industry known as a "force for good when it comes to making sequential storytelling accessible, exciting and interesting." A fellow Reedie, Gagliano spent over ten years running the publicity and marketing and eventually designing the publishing strategy for my favorite publisher of graphic novels, FirstSecond. I received a digital review copy of The Runaway Princess by Johan Troïanowski, but I needed to hold this book in my hands and am very glad I bought it. Everything about the design of this book - from the raised lettering on the covers to the quality of the paper and the vibrancy of the art, this book is everything I would expect from a publishing director Gagliano and the team she ha…

I AM LOVE: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

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I AM LOVE: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds Review Copy from Abrams Kids I AM LOVE: A Book of Compassion is the fourth in the I AM series by Verde and Reynolds, and if you have read the other three, then you know it is a superb, important, must-have book. As these four books follow a pattern, I feel compelled to repeat words from my January, 2019 review of I AM HUMAN: A Book of Empathy. With simplicity and clarity, Verde and Reynolds's book raises emotional intelligence. With joyfulness and love, Verde and Reynolds give us yet another gift, another way to teach and show our children both what is beautiful about humanity and how to face the challenges of being human. Focusing this book on the concept of compassion, Verde begins in a rainstorm, with the narrator, a marvelously genderfree character, noticing someone going through a storm (literal and emotional), seeing fear, and asking, "What can I do to help let the light back in?" Pausing…

Playing with Collage by Jeannie Baker

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Playing with Collage:  Learn the Art of Collage from a Master by Jeannie Baker Review Copy from Candlewick Studio Baker is the author of many stunning picture books using natural materials to create her complex illustrations that often seem to jump off the page. With this beautiful picture book, she gives readers tips on the tools needed, the various materials to consider and the methods to employ when crafting a collage. Divided into four main sections, she guides readers on creating a collection of materials and how to play with it. While Playing with Collage is ideally a book for older readers, with an adult nearby, it can be enjoyed by and adapted for young readers looking for a new creative outlet. That said, Baker does remind readers not to collect anything that is still living for use in a collage, and not to touch anything sharp or dangerous. She also lets readers know when to bring an adult on board for supervision, like when she tells readers how to cook noodles for use in a col…