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Showing posts from August, 2020

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, 240 pp, RL 4

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Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed Cover art by Shehzil Malik Purchased from Barnes & Noble With Amal Unbound, Aisha Saeed introduces young readers to the many gendered disadvantages experienced by girls in Pakistan, from access to education to indentured servitude. Published in 2018 and inspired by Malala Yousafzai, Saeed's narrator is an intelligent, observant heroine who is brave enough to use her voice to speak out for what she wants for herself and all girls.Amal Unbound is instantly engrossing, with short chapters that make it hard to put down. From the packed school room, two students to one desk, to the low-ceiling houses where electrical blackouts are frequent, Saeed sets the scene, giving readers a strong sense of what life is like for Amal's family. From there, Saeed layers in the many inequities that exists for girls in Pakistan. When her mother gives birth to her fifth daughter, Amal notices the disappointment on her parents' faces and hears the sympathy expressed by…

V Is for Voting, written by Kate Farrell, illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald

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V IS FOR VOTING written by Kate Farrell illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald Review Copy from Macmillan Children's Books Teaching civics, the study of the rights and duties of citizen, is something that, like teaching social-emotional skills and social justice, can no longer wait until high school or later. Happily, gratefully, Kate Farrell and Cailtin Kuhwald have given parents, educators, and activists the perfect place to start. While the restrictions of an alphabet picture book usually make for a contrived, soulless read, V IS FOR VOTING is anything but that. Farrell educates and empowers readers with energy and purpose, delivering a rhyming text that is never forced. 
A is for active participation. B is for building a more equal nation
From the first pages of V IS FOR VOTING, readers know what they are being called on to do and why. With every page (and letter) that comes after, Farrell and Kuhwald make this clear in uplifting, moving, joyful ways with illustrations that emphasize connect…

Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood by Tony Hillery, illustrated by Jessie Hartland

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Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood by Tony Hillery illustrated by Jessie Hartland Review Copy from Simon & Schuster
With Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood, Tony Hillery tells the story of how he and the students of PS 175 transformed a vacant lot across the street from their school into a farm that now grows thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables that they give, for free, to neighbors and the surrounding community. And, from this experience, Hillery started Harlem Grown, a non-profit that has expanded to twelve garden sites across Harlem, with two full-time employees and a thriving (until the pandemic) summer camp program. Hillery doesn't just teach kids how to grow food, he also teaches them about the food desert that they live in, having them count the number of delis, fast food restaurants and pharmacies around their school then compare that number to the number of markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables.
Volunteering at P…

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay, 229 pp, RL 4

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The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKayCover art by Fiona Hsieh Purchased from Barnes & Noble
With The Time of Green Magic, Hilary McKay imbues her novel with a magic that shimmers like a mirage, offering glimpses but never fully revealing itself. Fantasy has long been my favorite genre, but my consumption of it slowed over the last few years, mostly because it is rare that I find something new and different in this realm. McKay, a gifted author of family-centered realistic fiction for young readers, has delivered something new and different. The Time of Green Magickept me reading, curious, and unable to predict an ending. 
Twelve-year-old Abi, missing her paternal grandmother who returned to Jamaica after helping raise her in the ten years since her mother's death, is the first character we meet, page time is shared equally with her new(ish) step-brothers, fourteen-year old Max and six-year old Louis. When their blended family is forced to move houses, Abi's dad Theo, and Ma…

The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson & Jo Rioux, 208 pp, RL TEEN

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The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson & Jo Rioux Review Copy from FirstSecond I dove into this gorgeous and enchanting graphic novel without knowing anything about The Daughters of Ys and was surprised (and thrilled) to reach the end and learn that it is based on an ancient Breton folktale, of which many different versions survive. Anderson, who shares the three sources he referenced to write his modern version, brings this medieval, magical kingdom on the coast to life while Rioux's palette of verdant greens give both land and sea a richness while warm reds and yellows bring the magic to life.
Beginning some years earlier, readers witness the moment the kingdom of Ys is born, with the meeting of Gradlon, King of Kerne and Lady Malgven, wife of Wizard Duke of Wened. Malgven promises Gradlon, mortally wounded in battle, a change in fortune for one thing in return - he must kill her husband. After the deed is done, Malgven makes one more promise to the king - if he marries her, she w…

Sandcastle by Einat Tsarfati

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Sandcastle by Einat Tsarfati Review Copy from Candlewick Press
Last year I gleefully read and reviewed Einat Tsarfati's debut author illustrated picture book, The Neighbors. The curious, imaginative red headed narrator (and her pet hamster) are back - this time at the beach. Tsarfati has created yet another intricately detailed, humorous adventure that readers will pore over again and again, discovering new aspects of the story with each reading. And, as an extra treat, Tsarfati has given readers two tiny creatures to search for on each page - the narrator's pet AND a hermit crab. Sandcastle begins with a wordless, two page spread that finds the narrator, shovel and pail in hand, staring out at the waves, a crowd of beach goers behind her. I don't want to give too much away, but readers who spend time with this illustration will be treated to an igloo, a mummy, and a circle of witches, among other silly sights. A page turn finds the narrator, her fuzzy pet catching rays, sun…

Don't Worry Little Crab by Chris Haughton

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Don't Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton Review Copy from Candlewick PressIn 2010, I reviewed Chris Haughton's first picture book and am thrilled to be reviewing his fifth book ten years later. Haughton is a singular talent, delivering uniquely illustrated picture books AND unforgettable, relatable stories that appeal equally to kids and adults. In fact, Shh! We Have a Plan, which begins with a superb quote from Albert Einstein, is one of my Top 5 Read Out Louds for Crowds of All Ages. And I have read it out loud many, many times and will happily read it out loud many more. Don't Worry, Little Crab begins with another magnificent quote, this one from Anaïs Nin; "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." With a stunning palette and a straightforward, reassuring story, Haughton simply, effectively illustrates this quote. Little Crab and Very Big Crab (both genderless) live in a tiny tide pool, but, "Today they're off to THE OCEAN!"…

DIsplacement by Kiku Hughes,

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displacement by Kiku HughesReview Copy from FirstSecond

"Our connection to the past is not lost, even if we don't have all the documents, even if we never learn the details. The memories of community experiences stay with us and continue to affect our lives. . . Memories are powerful things."

Coming at the end of Hughes's debut graphic novel, this quote encompasses one of the main themes of her semi-autobiographical story and is a powerful reminder of how to move forward without allowing history to repeat itself. 
Visiting San Francisco in the summer of 2016, sixteen-year-old Kiku and her mother are looking for the childhood home of a grandmother Kiku never knew - in fact, she doesn't even know her grandmother's first name at the start of the novel - when a fog overcomes her and she travels back in time. It's 1943 and Kiku finds herself standing alongside her teenaged grandmother and hundreds of other Japanese Americans being sent to a forced relocation camp…

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz, 224 pp, RL 4

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Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz Purchased from Barnes & Noble I LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! this book! I may be too excited and enthusiastic about Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer to do it justice here, but I'm going to try. In her debut graphic novel, Goerz creates a vivid, complete world filled with engaging, authentic characters. And, while an intriguing mystery drives the story, the complexities of friendship and the opportunities for learning and growth that they present are the true heart of this novel, which Goerz dedicates to, "the friendships that changed me for the better."  Shirley Bones is a problem solver and, when she encounters Jamila Waheed, new to her Toronto neighborhood, she senses a problem that, if solved, could save their summer. Both Jamila and Shirley are headed to day camps neither wants to be at. Much to Jamila's dismay, a meeting of the mothers results in the two ten-year-olds being allowed to spend their days together, …