Tag Archives: board book

Book Reviews: June 2020 Picture Book Roundup: Visiting Another’s Bookshelves

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Click to visit an article in a local paper about the books' publication.

Roanoke Baby by Paige Garrison. Baltimore: duopress-Workman, 2014.

Roanoke Baby is definitely a local and a niche market book, although most of the text would be very easily adaptable to any city in the way that the series from Good Night Books do or even more so as do the regional books put out by Sourcebooks, (except perhaps that [Roanoke babies] “live under a big, shiny STAR,” the Star referencing a giant, lit statue that looms over the city from atop one of its nearest mountains). The text itself is simple with sentences continuing on multiple page spreads, alleviating some of the repetition that could have made this story flounder. I am especially fond of the final page, which gives suggestions for several pages to help readers make the story more interactive: “Can you find the American flag in the picture?” “How many people do you see in these pictures?” “What colors do you see here?” “Can you find a square and a triangle?” The people in these illustrations reflect the diversity of the city with Black, Latinx, Asian, and white characters. On the page on festivals (“Roanoke babies love FESTIVALS…”), Asian (mother in kimono), African (mother in traditional, brightly patterned garb), Arabic (in traditional headgear, man in white keffiyeh with black agal), Greek (traditional vest, tasseled cloth belt, pointed hat), and white characters mingle at a festival that seems to be an amalgamation of several of local festivals or perhaps just the popular Strawberry Festival.

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Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, sample pages, and author's and illustrator's bios.

This Little Artist: An Art History Primer by Joan Holub and illustrated by Daniel Roode. New York: Little Simon-Simon & Schuster, 2019.  Intended audience: Ages 3-5, Grades PreK-K.

This book offers a very brief introduction to a few well-known artists, both modern and older from around the world. Knowing a bit of art history, I got a bit of a laugh at the wholesome, brief descriptions of these characters, particularly the bitter and vindictive Michelangelo shown here with a bright U of a smile. The descriptions focus more on what the artists created than on their biographies. The left side of the page spread is a simpler description of the artists’ works, beginning with “This little artist.” The right side of the page spread is a little bit more detailed and gives the artists’ full names. I was a little disappointed that Holub focused her primer on primarily white European and American artists, with the exception of Mexican Frida Kahlo and Jean-Michel Basquiat, who is Black and is the subject of the primer’s last two-page spread (although these two share the cover). The final pages, which highlight 17 different artists and leave a final space for “? YOU!”, include a few more artists of other ethnicities, including Yayoi Kusama, Jiangmei Wu, and Liu Bolin, as well as Faith Ringold, El Anatsui. The artists featured cover an impressive range of styles and mediums, particularly including the final 17. Many of these last 17 I was unfamiliar with and so learned from this primer myself. Of course, I have always laughed and said that my knowledge of art history ends around 1600, which is when my mind reached its saturation in my AP class (although I can pride myself on saying that I knew every of the 10 artists featured on the 2-page spreads and would struggle most with recognizing Basquiat, who I learned of only fairly recently, I am ashamed to say, when Radiant Child won the 2017 Caldecott award).

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, and sample pages.

Maybe by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Gabriella Barouch. Seattle: Compendium, 2019.

I wasn’t as impressed by this book as I had hoped to be. I have enjoyed Yamada’s What Do You Do series, and I love cover illustration of this book by Barouch. But this book falls flat by just not adding much to the plethora of books out now that express a child’s future potential and the necessity of their existence on Earth. I do enjoy that the central character here, though white (pale skin, darker hair mostly hidden beneath a cap, freckles, pale brown eyes), is fairly gender neutral. The shoes to me suggest a more female presentation, but I know too that that’s society’s gender binary intruding on my imagination. I enjoyed the imaginative scenes with which the character interacts, and I love the sentiment that “the world has been waiting for centuries for someone exactly like you. One thing is for sure, you are here. And because you are here… anything is possible” is linked with the invention of wings for the child’s pet pig, making a visual pun of the phrase of “when pigs fly,” a cliche suggesting that something is impossible, and the illustration suggesting then the impossible is made possible through imagination and invention.

****

These reviews are not endorsed by any of the authors or publishers or anyone else involved in the making of these books. They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.

Book Reviews: Best of the Best of 2019

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I had genuinely forgotten until last year’s popped up as having been viewed on my stats page that I had been in the habit of pulling together these lists for you all. So while I am posting 2019 recap lists this month, have just I think one more.

This is a comprehensive list of all of the books that I read in 2019 that I rated 5 stars. Some of these are re-reads and have appeared on other such lists from me before. Some are new.

The last two years I have been on top of this and posting in January and using these to guess which books might win awards. The ALA conference is long-since past, so this year it’s a straight list.

Some of these books I had forgotten that I read and so enjoyed, and so I hope this list might remind you of a few favorites too or help you to find new ones. Go out and read! 

TODDLERS-KIDS (AGES 0-8)

MIDDLE GRADE (AGES 8-12)  

TEEN (AGES 13-19)

ADULT (AGES 20+)

 

LGBTQIA+ Representation in the Books That I Read in 2019

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It’s Pride Month! And it’s time to do another review of the books that I read the previous year that included LGBTQIA+ characters. I read 141 books in total in 2019. 15 of those included a character who identifies as LGBTQIA+. 10% of the books that I read in 2019 included LGBTQIA+ representation, up 5 percentage points from last year.  This year, the books I read represented a greater diversity of identities too (last year’s characters were all gay except for Apollo, who is bisexual).

Board Books and Picture Books (Ages 0-8)

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer. Dial-Penguin Random, 2018. Beer’s book represents all kinds of families including gay and lesbian parents.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. Candlewick, 2018.  Julián Is a Mermaid won a Stonewall award, so the committee thought that Julián’s actions mark him as transgender, but I see his actions less so as necessarily identifying him as transgender though certainly rejecting heteronormative gender binary performance. That being said, Julián and his abuela identify Julián as a mermaid and not a merman even as she continues to call him mijo.

Love, Z by Jessie Sima. Simon & Schuster, 2018. Z is nonbinary, never given a gender within the text. I suspect that Beatrice’s love for her female friend with whom she holds hands as a young woman is more than platonic, but that is my supposition from knowing this author’s work and not explicit in the text.

Middle Grade Readers (Ages 8-12)

9 from the Nine Worlds by Rick Riordan.  Hyperion-Disney, 2018.  This is a series of short stories set in the world and featuring the characters from Magnus Chase. One of those characters is Alex, who is genderfluid and uses he/him/his and she/her/hers pronouns at different times within the series.

The Trials of Apollo, Book 2: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan. Hyperion-Disney, 2017. & The Trials of Apollo, Book 3: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan. Hyperion-Disney, 2018. Apollo, the protagonist of this series, is openly bisexual. In The Dark Prophecy, the protagonists stay with an older, lesbian couple who left immortality to love one another.

Teens (Ages 13-19)

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. Make Me a World-Penguin Random, 2019. This book. The protagonist Jam is transgender, but her coming out is not the focus of this story and her identity is not presented as any kind of problem for her family, friends, or society. Her best friend’s parents are in a polyamorous relationship. One of his three parents uses they/them pronouns*Emezi uses they/them pronouns themself.

The Montague Siblings, Book 2: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. Katherine Tegen-HarperCollins, 2018. The protagonist is asexual! (Though she never uses the word in the text.) That excites me so much! And her brother is bisexual. And his lover is gay (I think; we never see him interested in any human other than Monty).

Wilder Girls by Rory Power. Delacorte-Penguin Random, 2019. Several of the girls, including one of the main characters, Hetty, are queer.

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio. Wednesday-St. Martin’s-Macmillan, 2019. Shane’s cousin Leo comes out as gay while she is abroad.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic, 2017. Double D ranch was owned by a lesbian couple. When her lover died before her, Darlene turned bitter and began a cockfighting ring.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. First Second-Roaring-Holtzbrinck, 2018. The prince enjoys dressing in gowns and sometimes feels uncomfortable with the image of himself as a man.  When in gowns, she calls herself Lady Crystallia. The prince uses masculine pronouns when he is dressed as a man and feminine pronouns when he is dressed in gowns. Genderqueer is how Wang described Sebastian/Crystallia in an interview with Forbes, but she says his identity is open to readers’ interpretations.  His queerness is outed by a neighboring prince, and Sebastian exiles himself from the royal court. His parents track him down, however, and in solidarity the king and his men dress in Frances’ gowns and parade them down the runway.  The king calls his son “perfect.”

Adults (Ages 20+)

Vox by Christina Dalcher.  Berkley-Penguin Random, 2018.  In this dystopian, future America, people who engage in homosexual relationships are forced into concentration camps. One of the leaders of the failed revolution, Jean’s college friend, Jackie Jaurez, is lesbian. She joins Jean and Lorenzo in their final flight at the novel’s end.

The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire, Part 1 by Michael Dante DiMartino.   Dark Horse, 2019.  Korra and Asami are officially a couple in this second comic book series after the ending of the television series. Both girls are bisexual, based on what we know from the animated series.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie.  Random House Audio-Penguin Random, 2015.  Geronimo Manezes’ uncle, for whom Geronimo works and with whom he lives after immigrating to New York, is gay, and through his uncle, Geronimo encounters gay culture in New York. Geronimo is one of Dunia’s descendants who is present at the final battle between Dunia and Zumurrad for the control or the freedom of the human world.

As always, if you know or think that I misrepresented or misinterpreted any of these, please comment below.  Let me know.

Characters of Color in Books That I Read in 2019: Part 2: Picture Books

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A friend and I talking about Black creators in the publishing world on Facebook prompted me to go back through my list of rated picture books on Goodreads. I looked for books by and about Black characters for that age. I found remarkably few.

I am calling myself out.  *And I am still learning.  I have been reading that the preferred terminology is Black, capital B, Black being a more inclusive term, rather than African American, and African American only if told that that is the person’s preferred term, and that the two terms are not synonymous.  So I am editing this piece on June 14 to reflect this.  I apologize for being ill-informed before.  Please correct me if I am wrong.

I found among the picture books that I had rated 5-stars only ‪Mahogany L. Browne‘s board book, Woke Baby, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, and‬ a picture book, ‪Quvenzhané WallisA Night Out with Mama‬, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

Looking further into my 4-star reads I found Sean Qualls illustrated The Case for Loving, the story of the couple that helped lift the ban on interracial marriage in the US. Edwidge Danticat, a black Haitian-American, wrote Mama’s Nightingale about the injustice of the detention of immigrants found to have overstayed their visas or entered without paperwork. Keith D. Shepherd illustrated Walking Home to Rosie Lee, which is about a freed boy looking for his mother in Reconstruction American.

I am highlighting these creators so that you might know their names too and look for them.

The following list is a compilation of picture books about characters of color.

I began these lists in 2016 to call myself to seek out more characters of color, to highlight the disparity of publications about white characters versus characters of color as highlighted by SLJ in 2015 and again in 2018 (those illustrations based off stats from this website), and to bring extra attention here to those works that do include characters of color.

I read 141 books altogether in 2019. These numbers include books for any age. 69 of those included a character of color, 49% of the total, very nearly half (28% in 2018, 27% in 2017, 26% in 2016, 23% in 2015). 26 of those included a character of color as a protagonist, 18% of the total and 38% of the books with a character of color at all (7% of the total in 2018, 14% in 2017, 9% in 2016). Those numbers are far better then than any year for which I have done this survey of my own reading, but I know I need to work to make them higher.

Picture books give me less information generally than do novels when trying to determine whether or not a character is a person of color or how that person would identify themselves, but I’ve done my best. I have also done my best this year to highlight creators of color based on biographies I found online.

Picture and Board Books (Ages 0-8)

Books with a POC as a protagonist 

I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong and illustrated by Nidhi Chanani. Roaring Brook-Macmillan, 2019.  The protagonist and her family seem to be either Indian or Pakistani, as do most of the families in their apartment building, who are not shown, but whose names are on the mailboxes. Her classmates are diverse. One of the teachers seems to be a woman of color as well. *Chanani is Indian-American.

Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. Roaring Brook-Macmillan, 2018.  A darker skinned infant wakes in a crib and the text follows the child through all the day in this lyrical celebration of its body and its power. The family is Black. *Browne and Taylor are both Black.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan and illustrated by Lorraine Rocha. Sterling, 2019. The protagonist, a little girl, and her family are darker skinned, probably Black. They live in a large city with diverse citizens.

The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Knopf-Random, 2004.  This story was originally published by Hamilton in a collection of African American folktales. Told during a time of American enslavement, this is a tale about African people who had wings that fell off during the horrors of the Passage and the old man who spoke magic words to help a group of people on an American plantation fly away from their enslavement. In the author’s note, Hamilton notes that the power to fly is associated with the Gullah (Angolan) people. *Hamilton was Black and Leo Dillon was the son of Trinidadian immigrants to the US. 

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. Candlewick, 2018.  Julián is Afro-Latinx. Julián and his abuela speak in Spanish and English in the text. I think every character depicted even the crowd and street scenes is darker skinned.

Harrison Dwight, Ballerina and Knight by Rachael MacFarlane and illustrated by Spencer Laudiero. Macmillan. 2019.  Harrison appears to be biracial (his father has brown hair and a darker skin tone than his mother, who is blonde), and characters throughout the book have various skin tones and hair colors, including some of the characters in the city scenes and at the science fair, the winner of which appears to be Black as does the friend of Harrison’s that is moving away and the boy shown crying at a sad book while reading in bed. There is also a darker skinned ballerina.

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez and illustrated by Jamie Kim. HarperCollins, 2019.  The family of the protagonist, a little girl, is from somewhere in the Pampas, a region in South America that stretches across Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. This book provides a heartfelt answer full of love to the annoying question “But where are you from?”. * Méndez is Argentine-American. Kim is South Korean and immigrated to the US at 18.

A diverse cast with no protagonist

Sunny Day: A Celebration of Sesame Street by Joe Raposo and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Selina Alko, Brigette Barrager, Roger Bradford, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Ziyue Chen, Joey Chou, Pat Cummings, Mike Curato, Leo Espinosa, Tom Lichtenheld, Rafael López, Emily Winfield Martin, Joe Mathieu, Kenard Pak, Greg Pizzoli, Sean Qualls, and Dan Santat. Random, 2019.  This book, each page spread illustrated by a different person, celebrates the power and history of Sesame Street. Most illustrators who use human characters (and almost all of them do) use diverse human characters. These include a woman in possibly a chador and several girls in hijabs. *Robinson, Brantley-Newton, Cummings, and Qualls are Black. Chen is from Singapore. Chou was born in Taiwan. Espinosa is Columbian. López is Mexican and splits his time between Mexico and the US now. Santat’s family is from Thailand.

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer. Dial-Penguin Random, 2018.  Beer’s book is about all the different kinds of families and these include interracial and darker skinned families, families that I would guess are Black, Arabic with the mother wearing a hijab, and Latinx.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo. Balzer + Bray-HarperCollins, 2018.  I Am Enough features a Black girl on its cover, but its story is about the inherent worth of every girl, including Black girls (with natural hair it should be noted) and with more than one shade of brown skin, one girl wears a hijab and is likely Arabic, one looks to be possibly of East Asian descent, and one looks possibly Latina. *Byers is Caymanian-American and biracial. Bobo is Black.

How to Trap a Leprechaun by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Emma Randall. Sky Pony-Skyhorse, 2017.  Of the four characters represented, two are white, one is dark skinned, probably Black, and the fourth has skin toned somewhere in the middle, possibly also Black or possibly meant to be maybe Latina. But all four children seem more props to the plot of explaining the legend of the leprechaun and how to trap one than full characters.

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Jane Kates and illustrated by Joe Mathieu. Random, 1992.  This book is about diversity. Put out by Sesame Street, the puppets’ bodies are compared to those of illustrated humans. The human characters are from many backgrounds, including Black, Asian, and white. The illustrations focus more on differences in physical appearances while the text seems to focus on differences in physical abilities.

All You Need Is Love by John Lennon and illustrated by Marc Rosenthal. Little Simon-Simon & Schuster, 2019.  This book illustrates the Beatles song of the same name. The illustrations start in a forest following a bear that wanders towards a city and finds a boy playing with a toy truck who has light brown skin and dark hair. The citizens of the city that the two go to are a diverse group, including a woman wearing a headscarf. A few of the citizens look to possibly be of Asian descent.

An animal or nonhuman protagonist with a secondary character who is a POC with a speaking role

Merry Christmas, Little Elliot by Mike Curato. Henry Holt-Macmillan, 2018.  Elliot and Mouse search across New York City for the spirit of Christmas but are unsuccessful. They find a letter to Santa that has gone astray and travel to the suburbs to answer it, meeting a new friend, Noelle, who is darker skinned. The New Yorkers in the group scenes have different skin tones.

A Friend Like Him by Suzanne Francis and illustrated by Dominic Carola and Ryan Feltman. Disney, 2019.  This book was released by Disney in conjunction with the new, live-action Aladdin. Aladdin and the people of Agrabah are depicted as Arabic. Jinni is the protagonist, though, I would say, and though he disguises himself at Aladdin’s request as human, appearing then in the guise of Will Smith, who is Black, the character is a jinni and not human.

Corduroy by Don Freeman.  Penguin, 1968.  Corduroy is the protagonist of this story, but he is returned to his pristine condition and loved by a Black girl, Lisa.

The Duchess and Guy: A Rescue-to-Royalty Puppy Love Story by Nancy Furstinger and illustrated by Julia Bereciartu. Houghton Mifflin, 2019.  The dog, Guy, is the protagonist of this story, but he is loved by Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex and married to a prince, is biracial; her mother is Black; her father is white. 

Daniel Chooses to Be Kind by Rachel Kalban and illustrated by Jason Fruchter.  Simon Spotlight-Simon & Schuster, 2017.  Daniel Tiger is the protagonist. Daniel is made king for a day by the white monarch, King Friday. In fulfilling his kingly duties, Daniel visits Baker Aker, who is darker skinned, and helps him with his rolls. He also visits Music Man Stan, who is darker skinned than Aker with a black afro hairstyle. Daniel helps Music Man Stan when his sheet music is caught in the wind. Daniel also cheers up Miss Elaina, a young dark skinned girl with textured hair. Miss Elaina as the daughter of Music Man Stan and Lady Elaine, who is white with blond hair, is biracial.

Love, Z by Jessie Sima. Simon & Schuster, 2018.  The letter that the robot Z finds is from Beatrice. Searching for love in delicious food, Z visits a dark skinned and black haired baker. In visiting the school, Z encounters children with various skin tones. As a child, Beatrice holds hands with a darker skinned, black haired girl who makes her feel safe.

An animal or nonhuman protagonist with diverse background characters

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. Hyperion-Disney, 2018. Penelope Rex, a young T. rex, is the protagonist, but her classmates are a diverse group including a hijabi and a boy in a yarmulke as well as children with varied skin tones.

A white protagonist with diverse background characters

Cookies for Santa: The Story of How Santa’s Favorite Cookie Saved Christmas. Illustrated by Johanna Tarkela. America’s Test Kitchen Kids-Sourcebooks Explore-Sourcebooks, 2019.  Santa and Santa’s family and the elves and the family that finds the cookbook are all white, but the family in lieu of getting the cookbook back to Santa in time for Christmas, broadcast the recipe and ask families across the country to bake cookies in Santa’s stead. (I cannot find a read-aloud online to check the illustrations for myself and the book is not currently on the shelves as it is not the season, so I am going from memory.)

Clifford the Small Red Puppy by Norman Bridwell. Cartwheel-Scholastic, 1972. One of the police officers who come to investigate the disturbance that is Clifford is darker skinned with gray, curly hair. Every other character in the book appears white.

Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure by Eva Chen and illustrated by Derek Desierto. Feiwel & Friends-Macmillan, 2019..  Juno herself appears to be white. One of her friends has a skin tone near hers and blonde hair. Two have a tone that is darker. And one has a skin tone darker than any of the others’. In the story, Juno becomes famous women throughout history, many of whom are women of color. In the place of such women, Juno interacts with a few characters of color, including a few servants (slaves more likely) serving Cleopatra, possibly of Egyptian heritage. As Misty Copeland, Juno encounters ballerinas with a range of skin tones and hair colors. *Chen’s parents are from Taipei and Shanghai.  Derek Desierto is Canadian-Filipino.

No More Monsters Under Your Bed! by Jordan Chouteau and illustrated by Anat Even Or. JIMMY Patterson-Little, Brown-Hatchette, 2019..  The unnamed boy appears white. The first child that the boy shares his magic pin with appears to be a Black girl with natural, curly hair. *Or was born in Tel-Aviv.

We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines and illustrated by Julianna Swaney. Thomas Nelson-HarperCollins, 2019.  *Gaines’ mother is Korean and her father is half-Lebanese/half-German.  She and her family are the protagonists of this story, which is really more nonfiction than fiction.

Elle the Entrepreneur by Andrea B. Newman. Petite, 2016.  The second family to whom Elle reaches out are darker skinned with black hair and gray or brown eyes. They do not hire Elle because setting the table is already one of the chores that their children do.

We’re All Wonders by R. J. Palacio. Alfred A. Knopf-Penguin Random, 2017.  The protagonist is actually pictured as having white—no, white—skin. The protagonist claims that he doesn’t look “ordinary […] like other kids.” The other kids he imagines are a diverse group include skin tones across the spectrum and a girl who wears something akin to a hijab. This diverse group is among those that “sometimes […] stare […] point or laugh [and] even say mean things behind [his] back.” The friend that he makes at the end is darker skinned, but this boy is never given any dialogue or narrative role. *Palacio’s parents were Columbian immigrants to the US.

Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse and Paris Rosenthal and illustrated by Holly Hatam. HarperCollins, 2017.  The protagonist is a white skinned girl with black hair. A dark skinned girl with a black afro is seen thanking her birthmark for making her unique. Another dark skinned girl offers a hug. Another plays soccer and one with a lighter brown skin tone and brown hair paints.

Dear Boy, by Paris and Jason Rosenthal and illustrated by Holly Hatam. HarperCollins, 2019. The protagonist is an unnaturally white skinned boy with black hair but the friends who cheer him on are diverse. The inclusion of characters with more naturally white skin (more of a sawdust than milk) make me wonder if the boy’s white skin, skin so white as to match the uncolored page is meant to be an absence of skin tone rather than a white, but other characters are also represented as unnaturally white skinned too.

Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker and illustrated by Zoe Persico. Frances Lincoln Children’s-Quarto, 2019.  Greta Thunberg is of course Swedish, but in this fantastic reimagining of her fight against disinterested governments and greedy big businesses, the second child to join her protest is a darker skinned boy. And the growing crowd of protesters is diverse.

As always, if you know I have misrepresented anyone, please tell me so that I can correct my information.

Book Reviews: November 2019 Picture Book Roundup: Sing Along

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Snow Blows White

Click to visit the publisher's site for links to order and summary.

The Soundtrack Series: Let It Go by the Disney Book Group. Disney, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 3-5.

You probably almost all know this book by heart already. This is the lyrics and illustrations to match the original animation of “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. Nothing really spectacular here, but if you need the lyrics for, say, a sing-along story time, it is a helpful book to have on hand. The book comes with a CD of the single. According to the description, the CD is a karaoke, instrumental version, and a sing-along version of the song. It’s a good song, but I’m not sure that the picture book is a necessary publication. I was surprised how few of my littles at story time did sing along with the book and I (we were a cappella). I had one who definitely knew the chorus, but that was all the backup that I got.

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order and summary.

Reindeers Are Better Than People by the Walt Disney Company. Disney, 2015. Intended audience: Ages 3-5.

I had sort of hoped that this would be the lyrics to the song like the Soundtrack Series: Let It Go—only because I was doing a sing-along story time. It was not. I still sang the song for the kids, and I only missed a line. I pulled it up on my iPod and let Jonathan Groff sing us through it once too. It’s such a delightful, short song. Instead of lyrics, this is a very brief introduction to the characters of Frozen, seemingly narrated by Kristoff (I would guess because of his “thing with the reindeer”), two sentences or for each of the main adventurers. The kids at story time laughed at and seemed to very much enjoy the characters that they knew with reindeer antlers.

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order and summary. 

Anna, Elsa, and the Secret River by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum and illustrated by Denise Shimabukuro and Elena Naggi. Disney, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 3-5.

This is a new adventure for children Anna and Elsa. Note: I have not yet seen the new film, but I don’t believe that this particular adventure is portrayed in the film. Anna convinces Elsa to chase after a magical river that might provide answers to why Elsa is born with magic mentioned in a lullaby. The sisters use their senses to search for the river, but the sun begins to rise before they find it. As soon as they decide to return to the castle, they wake in their beds, but was the adventure a dream or did they really venture out of the castle and into the woods? The illustrations in this are beautiful, and Rosenbaum does a good job capturing the personalities of the two sisters as I understand them from the first Frozen film. The introduction to the senses—sight, smell, hearing—was a nice touch too.

****

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, reviews, and sample.The Crayons’ Christmas by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.  Penguin Workshop-Penguin Random, 2019.

In previous Crayons books the crayons have written to Duncan.  Now the crayons are the recipients, receiving letters and postcards and gifts from friends and family in a sweet celebration of reaching out to loved ones at the holidays.  The book has the same offbeat humor and insightful comments on our use of colors that the previous books did.  Many of the characters are from previous books, their adventures expanded here, and I think the book made less sense as a standalone for that reason.  The concept of the crayons and their letters was not well explained in this book (I’m giving it five stars anyway but suggest reading The Day the Crayons Came Home first; meet Esteban).

I grew up with my mother’s love of the interactive picture book, The Jolly Postman by Allan Ahlberg.  This book reminded me of that with its letters and postcards and gifts in envelopes attached to the page while the envelopes’ contents remained separate, able to be taken from the book and read.  This book includes ornaments to hang on a Christmas tree, games, and a gluten-free cookie recipe to try in addition to letters and postcards.  There was also a Hanukkah greeting and paper dreidel to make!  Reading it could easily be spread out over a day or several days if one stops to interact with all the contents.

I had a small audience for this one, but they did better with this story than they have with the length of any of the other Crayons books.  I struggled to balance the book and the separate pieces.  If you’re reading it aloud, make sure you have somewhere to lay the book down to hold up the envelopes’ contents.

*****

 Click to visit BN's website for links to order, summary, trailer, and reviews.

Jack Frost vs. the Abominable Snowman by Craig Manning and illustrated by Alan Brown. Wonderland-Sourcebooks, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 4-7.

I am excited to have an introduction to choose your own adventure style stories for such a young audience, although the Choose Your Path series name is more fitting. The endings for this story cannot change; there is only one. A reader can however choose which character to follow through the story. There is a lesson here about not having to be locked into one way of reading. When I let my story time children choose their path, they did miss one adventure with Abe the Abominable Snowman, so if they read it a second time, there might be a surprise for them. The instructions to turn to this or that page were included in the rhyming text, and sometimes that felt awkward, but reading it aloud without any prep time, it was nice to have a catchy way to explain to the audience how we could choose between following either of the two racers.

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, and sample pages.

Cookies for Santa: The Story of How Santa’s Favorite Cookie Saved Christmas. Illustrated by Johanna Tarkela. America’s Test Kitchen Kids-Sourcebooks Explore-Sourcebooks, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 4-7.

This was a pretty long book for story time, and required me to skip a bit of the text—though, again, I didn’t get to prep. With more time before reading, I might have been able to trim it more effectively. I barreled through to the ending, but the kids’ attentions were wandering. This is yet one more picture book trying to begin a new Christmastime tradition (like Elf on the Shelf, like Santa’s Magic Key), though this is my favorite of the traditions that picture books have yet tried to begin—and may already be a tradition for many. This tradition is to make a particular type of cookie: Chocolate Krinkle Cookies.

The Kringle family cookbook, which Santa uses every year to make cookies for his helpers and family, is missing. Santa cannot get the recipe right without. He has no cookies to share as he usually does. His helpers and family feel unappreciated and become uncooperative, not helping him prepare for Christmas any longer.

Meanwhile in a library, Abigail who reads cookbooks for fun, finds the Kringle cookbook. She brings it home, and the odd ingredients in the cookbook confuse her family.

In a televised address, Santa confesses to feeling like he should cancel Christmas because he is so upset that he lost the cookbook. Abigail and her family realize what they have, and rush to the America’s Test Kitchen studio to get help with the recipe, not having time to mail the book back to Santa in time for Christmas. The cooks there figure out substitutes for all of the magical ingredients. They televise the recipe and encourage the world to bake the cookies that Santa could not and leave them for him.

On his rounds, Santa finds the cookies left for him, and cheers up considerably. Abigail and her family leave the book for him in addition to the cookies.

In addition to being long, I didn’t really like any character in this story. Santa is not jolly. He, the elves, reindeer, and Mrs. Claus are too focused on the gifts that come with the season. The insertion of America’s Test Kitchen was clunky and clearly an advertisement for the company. I think reading aloud I actually left out the trademarked brand, and I think that the text ought to have done too.

The story I think would have been better without the inclusion of Abigail and her family and without the inclusion of America’s Test Kitchen, perhaps instead a story about Santa losing his cookbook and his family and friends reminding him of the Christmas spirit. The idea that the world gets to give back to Santa is sweet, though.

I could never decide whether I was imagining that the stack of these books smelled a touch like peppermint and chocolate, though they are not advertised as scented.

Kirkus suggests a chance that Abigail and William’s mom might be Asian, but I’m not sure that I see the same.

The book does include the recipe in the backmatter.

**

Click to visit the author's page for links to order, summary, reviews, and activities.

Cookiesaurus Christmas by Amy Fellner Dominy and Nate Evans and illustrated by AG Ford. Hyperion-Disney, 2018. Intended audience: Ages 3-5.

I did not realize that Cookiesaurus was a series until I began to research for this review, though this is only the second in the series. Cookiesaurus, whose pleas and excuses make up the text of the story, wants to be the cookie left out for Santa. He knocks other cookies off the plate, making several messes and hurting his friends. Near the end, he realizes that his friends have been hurt by his actions and apologizes and helps the cookies back onto the plate. As a reward, he is chosen to top the Christmas tree. The style of writing reminds me of Mo WillemsPigeon books.

***

Making the World a Kinder Place

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order and summary.

Stir, Crack, Whisk, Bake: A Little Book about Little Cakes. America’s Test Kitchen Kids-Sourcebook Explore-Sourcebooks, 2019.

This is an interactive book on the line of Don’t Touch the Button! and Press Here. My audience member was shy and nervous about participating. The text reads like instructions for an app game, especially “Use your finger to drag each [ingredient] to the counter.” The end result of these interactive instructions is a batch of cupcakes for a “special day.”  This is a way to “bake” together with a little one without the mess, but the result is only “cupcakes.” I can’t eat “cupcakes.” I can see where a family might use this one though, to make a little feel as though they had been included in the baking process.

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, and reviews.

Sunny Day: A Celebration of Sesame Street by Joe Raposo and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Selina Alko, Brigette Barrager, Roger Bradford, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Ziyue Chen, Joey Chu, Pat Cummings, Mike Curato, Leo Espinosa, Tom Lichtenhelf, Rafael López, Emily Winfield Martin, Joe Mathieu, Kenard Pak, Greg Pizzoli, Sean Qualls, and Dan Santat. Random, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 4-8.

The text of this book is the lyrics of the theme song that opens episodes of Sesame Street. Each illustrator gets a single page spread. The book celebrates diversity. As a bookseller, I enjoyed the challenge of identifying each illustrator and have yet to convince myself that I have solved the puzzle. I believe the illustrators are listed in the order that they appear, but I would have to double-check that. The text works best, I think, as a sing-along, but there was a verse that neither I nor the young parents at my story time remembered.

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, and author's bio.

People in Your Neighborhood by Jeff Moss and Sesame Street. Sterling, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 3-7.

I remembered this song only after looking it up, and I did not find this exact version of the song. I was able to sing the chorus for story time but not the verses. The book does come with a CD, but reading a book intended for sale to another, I did not use it for story time. The book introduces children to several professions including postman and fireman. The book suggests that putting on the clothes of such a profession makes one such a professional.

This book has been available at Barnes & Noble for several months now, at least since November when it was a required story time read, but it appears that it will be getting a wider release in February 2020.

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, info about Thunberg, info about the 350.org, and author's and illustrator's bios.

Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker and illustrated by Zoe Persico. Frances Lincoln Children’s-Quarto, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 4-7.

Greta Thunberg, Time’s Person of the Year 2019, is in another picture book. This one makes fantastic her battle against the giant corporations—here literal giants. Greta lives in a forest. The forest animals come to Greta to ask for her help because the Giants are destroying their home. Greta makes a sign and stands in the Giants’ way. They bowl past her, but other human inhabitants of the forest watch, and slowly begin to join her protest until the Giants are forced to pay attention to the crowd. In this story, the Giants mend their ways and begin to live more sustainably, making the forest better for all those who live in it. The giants are portrayed as being greedy and busy but blind to their destruction rather than heartless. I really like the illustrations in this one. I like the hope in this one even if I believe it to be misplaced.  Greta is portrayed though as more magical than she is, given the ability to speak to animals, and that is a dangerous line to walk, but then, this is clearly a fantasy if the antagonists are literal giants so a heroine who can talk to animals is not unusual in such a story.

*****

These reviews are not endorsed by any of the authors or publishers or anyone else involved in the making of these books. They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.

People of Color in Books That I Read in 2018: Part 2: Picture Books

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This review is SO FAR OVERDUE! I was prompted to look for it again as 2019 comes towards a close and I began to think about doing a recap of the representation of people of color across the books that I read THIS year. That being said, I want to get this information out to those seeking it. All the lists like this one that I have done can be found here.  There are lists that include novels too.

Looking at 2018’s numbers, 28% percent of the books that I read included a person of color in any capacity—which is 1% more than 2017’s numbers. However, only 12 books that I read in 2018 included a person of color as the protagonist, a dismal 7% of my total books read, less than half as many as in 2017. That’s terrible. That’s on me. I did not this year seek out as many picture books to read independently as I have done in other years. Only 1 of the 12 books with a person of color as the protagonist was a book mandated for story time. I was not this year running independent, reader’s choice story times.

Picture and Board Books (Ages 0-8)

I did not complete every month’s picture book review in 2018, and now it seems too late, so this is the first time some of these stories are mentioned on this blog. Where possible, I have included links to my full reviews.

Books with a POC as a protagonist

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington. 2018.  This is a biography of Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel in space. Mae is told by her white teacher seek a more practical career than astronaut, but her parents tell her it’s possible, and she succeeds.

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko and illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls. 2015.  This is an introduction to the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a Virginian couple whose court case legalized interracial marriage in the USA.

Two Problems for Sophia by Jim Averbeck and illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail. 2018.  Sophia’s giraffe is causing a lot of trouble for her family. Every character’s skin is a different shade, from Grand-mama’s darker skin to Sophia’s father’s light. I’d guess that Sophia herself is biracial.

Feminist Baby Finds Her Voice! by Loryn Brantz. 2018.  I thought that the primary character of Feminist Baby was white but looking online I realize that her family is interracial. One of the babies with whom she “stand up tall” is darker skinned than she is.

Goodnight Football by Michael Dahl and illustrated by Christina E. Forshay. 2014.  There are many crowd scenes that allow Dahl to show off the hues of humanity. An African American family is featured. 

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Leslie Staub. 2015.  Saya’s mother immigrated to America from Haiti without papers and is taken to an immigration detention center and separated from her family. Saya’s family are all darker skinned. The judge is a dark skinned woman too.

Cece Loves Science by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. 2018.  The protagonist, Cece, is I think biracial and darker skinned, her mother darker skinned and her father light skinned with dark hair. Isaac, her best friend, is light skinned with black hair, possibly Asian.

Santa’s Husband by Daniel Kibblesmith and illustrated by A. P. Quach. 2017.  Santa is a black man, living with his white husband, who helps him around the house and with his business. This book is shelved in the adult humor section at Barnes & Noble, but it is a picture book, and I think could be read and enjoyed by children.

Drawn Together by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat.  2018.  A boy struggles to connect with his grandfather who only speaks Thai. The two end up communicating by drawing together.

Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds. 2018.  The protagonist Jerome has darker skin and pink hair. The background characters are of varying hues. One girl, whom he thanks, wears a hijab.

A diverse cast with no protagonist

I Am Enough by Grace Byers and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo. 2018.  The girls represented in this story are mostly dark skinned. A few look like they could be of Asian descent. A few are lighter skinned. One wears a hijab.

Love by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Loren Long. 2018.  Latinx and African American and Asian America and white and biracial families are all represented. One girl wears a hijab and a long dress while relaxing in the grass.

First Explorers, Book 5: Astronauts by Christiane Engel. 2017.  Some of the astronauts in this little, lift the flap board book about the profession are darker skinned.

Salam Alaikum: A Message of Peace by Harris J and illustrated by Ward Jenkins. 2017.  A diverse cast illustrates this picture book version of Muslim, British singer Harris J’s song of the same title, the chorus of which is Arabic for “peace be upon you.” 

The Peace Book by Todd Parr. 2017.  Todd Parr often illustrates his humans with no likeness to the colors of human skin: green and blue for example. There is a snake charmer in a turban and a woman in what I think is meant to be a niqab. The story, about sharing and caring for the Earth, implies that more than one group of people are meant to be represented.

The Forever Tree by Tereasa Surratt and Donna Lucas. 2018.  The grandfather who first finds the tree for humanity is lighter skinned. But among the first families to discover the tree are people with darker skin and black hair. Among those who save the tree are people of darker and lighter skin too.

Animal or nonhuman protagonist with a secondary character who is a POC with a speaking role

Merry Christmas, Little Elliot by Mike Curato. 2018.  Elliot and Mouse search across New York City for the spirit of Christmas but are unsuccessful. They find a letter to Santa that has gone astray and travel to the suburbs to answer it, meeting a new friend, Noelle, who is darker skinned. The New Yorkers in the group scenes have different skin tones.

Corduroy Takes a Bow by Viola Davis based on characters by Don Freeman. 2018.  The family from Corduroy visit a children’s theater production. Corduroy is the protagonist, but Lisa and her family are dark skinned, usually interpreted as African American. It looks as though the actress playing Mother Goose might have a darker skin tone than the other actors on stage too.

Neck & Neck by Elise Parsley. 2018.  The zoo patrons have different skin tones. The boy who holds the giraffe balloon has darker skin and dark hair. The protagonist is definitely Leopold the giraffe.

A white protagonist with a secondary character who is POC with a speaking role

Fancy Nancy: Oodles of Kittens by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. 2018.  Nancy and her best friend Bree each bond with a kitten. Bree is more of a secondary than a background character in this picture book.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt. 2015.  The prince in this Cinderella retelling is darker skinned.

Animal or nonhuman protagonist with diverse background characters

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates. 2018.  The umbrella really is the protagonist. Characters of different skin tones are all represented. A woman wears a hijab. This is a story about acceptance and sharing space, sharing kindness.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. 2018.  Penelope Rex, a T-Rex, is the protagonist but her delicious classmates are a diverse bunch, including a hijabi and a yarmulke-wearing Jewish boy.

How to Catch a Snowman by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton. 2018.  One of the three children trying to catch this snowman is African American. I would say though that the snowman, who appears to also be the narrator of the story, is the protagonist.

White protagonists with a person of color as a background character

Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes by Eva Chen and illustrated by Derek Desierto. 2018.  Juno herself may be white, though I am not entirely certain, but some of the women throughout history whom she becomes are not, included are Egyptian Cleopatra, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, and African Americans Serena Williams and Misty Copeland. Unfortunately because Juno becomes these women by stepping into their shoes, none of them are depicted as themselves. The ballerinas on the page around Juno as Misty have a variety of skin tones, and Egyptian are depicted serving Juno as Cleopatra.

Princesses Save the World by Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim and illustrated by Eva Byrne. 2018.  The two princesses whose kingdoms are in peril are both dark skinned. The princesses who convene at the Pineapple Kingdom’s palace to devise a solution to their problems seem to be from all over the world. 

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis. 2018.  The prince on his search for a bride—a partner—visits other kingdoms; the royal families of some are darker skinned. His knight appears also to have a darker complexion than does the prince, though whether that is his less-pampered life of knight errantry or genetic I am not certain.

I Am Neil Armstrong by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos. 2018.  Neil Armstrong is of course himself white, but he meets with Katherine Johnson in the books, who is African American, and in the museum there is an African American boy.

The Magician’s Hat by Malcolm Mitchell and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. 2018.  The magician is white but the library audience is diverse.

Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. 2005.  At the restaurant there is an African American family.

Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. 2007.  In this, Nancy plays with other children and their dogs. One of those girls is Bree, who is African American, but in this Bree is not yet named, though her dog is. To be fair, neither of Nancy’s friends are named.

Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. 2014.  Nancy has never been to a wedding, but Bree has, and it is from Bree’s questions and experiences that Nancy imagines the wedding before arriving at the cabin. But Bree is only in two pages of this book.

How to Scare a Ghost by Jean Reagan and illustrated by Lee Wildish. 2018.  The main kids portrayed are white but at least one of the trick-or-treaters and one of the families offering candy Halloween night are African American.

Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex. 2018.  In the Star Wars films, Darth Vader is portrayed as white, though in this picture book, he is completely masked and cloaked in black. The kids sent by the narrator to ask him questions and climb all about him are a diverse bunch.

Builder Brothers: Big Plans by Drew Scott and Jonathan Scott and illustrated by Kim Smith. 2018.  Not all of the adults at the Scott family’s outdoor barbeque are white. The woman in the hardware store is African American.

A First Introduction to Audrey Hepburn by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara and illustrated by Amaia Arrazola. 2018.  This biography of Audrey Hepburn includes her in her later life traveling the world to visit and help more impoverished countries in Africa and India. The book portrays her enjoying her time with the children in these countries, playing soccer with the kids in Africa and sitting quietly beside a pond with kids in India.

I have one more book to note: Moon by Alison Oliver (2018). I want to be the first to admit that I may have this one totally wrong. The girl, Moon, is purple. She has classmates who are darker skinned than herself. I want to include this on the list of books that include a person of color but I don’t know where to put it.

Do you think or know that I misrepresented or misinterpreted any of these?  Please comment below.  Let me know.

Book Reviews: October 2019 Picture Book Roundup: Monsters, Monster Trucks, Female Icons, and Daniel Tiger

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Click to visit the publisher's site for links to order, summary, samples, and author's bio.

Elbow Grease vs. Motozilla by John Cena and illustrated by Howard McWilliam. Penguin Random, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 3-7.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first Elbow Grease, though I’m not sure that I could put my finger on why if you asked me to do; perhaps it just isn’t living up to my expectation now that I have a more favorable expectation for Cena’s books. In the first, Elbow Grease learned the worth of his personality and how to use his skills, and his brothers learned to respect Elbow Grease. Now Elbow Grease is craving some of the adulation that his brothers receive. He decides that they need to defeat the biggest, baddest new truck in the monster truck world, and he devises a plan for he and his brothers with the help of a contraption made by their female mechanic Mel to work together to take down the monster. I don’t know. The plot and the lessons both fell more flat in this one for me, though the length was better, shorter. I really do think that this is just a case of my expectations being too inflated from the success of the previous book.

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, reviews, and activities.

No More Monsters Under Your Bed! by Jordan Chouteau and illustrated by Anat Even Or. JIMMY Patterson-Little, Brown-Hatchette, 2019.

This book relied too heavily on its gimmick—a patch that according to the tale turns you invisible to monsters—in much the same way that Santa’s Magic Key was an explanation of why a person was giving you a key or The Elf on the Shelf is an explanation of why someone wants to give you a creepy elf plush. It begins by introducing a boy who is scared of monsters and then describing all the different types of monsters that scare him. His parents give him a patch which when pressed turns him invisible to monsters, which erases his fear. Becoming bored without anyone to scare, the monsters move on, and the boy passes on his patch to another friend, who passes it to another, and so on, until it reaches the reader, I suppose, who gets the patch by buying the book. This isn’t really teaching a reason to not fear so much as it is preaching a belief in a token.  It is though I suppose a lesson in sharing tools that have helped you.

**

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, sample pages, trailer, reviews, activities, and author's and illustrator's bios.

Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure by Eva Chen and illustrated by Derek Desierto. Feiwel & Friends-Macmillan, 2019.  Intended audience: Ages 4-6.

I did I think like this one just a bit better than the first of Eva Chen’s books. Chen has changed the rules of her magical closet. Now, Juno does not become the women whose clothing she obtains but rather interacts with famous historical women, who gift her clothing and advice on her quest to capture her brother who has trespassed in the magical closet—and it isn’t until I am writing this now that I have to wonder about the implications of a boy intruding on a woman’s private space, a space held open for interactions with other women. Does his interaction with the space change the space and how? Certainly now the conversations that Juno has with the other women have become conversations about her brother, how Juno can catch up to her brother. It does pass the Bechdel test, though the conversations with named women are either about catching Finn or about Juno’s clothes. In her wanders through the closet, Juno gains not only the means to apprehend her brother but a unique outfit for school photo day, which earns her the title “Most Likely to Be Herself and No One Else,” a little ironic since she is quite literally borrowing the fashions of the others.  Her class is a diverse group that includes children of many hues, a child in a wheelchair, and a child wearing what appears to be a patka, a head covering for Sikh boys.  Her teacher, Miss Dahlia, is a black woman, a thing that is more rare in a picture book than you would expect and than it ought to be.  I read an ARC.  The book is out now.

**

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, and sample pages.

Peek-a-Flap: Boo by Rosa Von Federer and illustrated by Gaby Zermeño. Cottage Door, 2017.  Intended audience: Ages 2+.

I was pleasantly surprised by this little board book which has suggestions for celebrating the Halloween holiday, labels to make it a primer, and facts about the holiday—a few of which even I did not know. I still love how sturdy these Cottage Door Press board books seem. Most other flaps are cardstock, but these are the layered cardboard that make up board book covers and pages. The illustrations are bright.  This is a Halloween book that is more about how humans celebrate with costumes and candy than centering any of the monsters.

****

Daniel Tiger

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, and activities. 

Big Enough to Help adapted by Becky Friedman and illustrated by Jason Fruchter. Simon Spotlight-Simon & Schuster, 2015.  Intended audience: Grades PreK-1, Ages 3-6.

Daniel isn’t big enough to do everything, but there are many things that he can do, and there are some things that he has to do be small to do, like play in his new playhouse. “Everyone is big enough to do something” is the refrain of this book.  Reading this aloud, I avoided the ending catchphrase, which is unfamiliar to me, and any singing (on all three of these).

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order and summary.

Daniel’s First Fireworks adapted by Becky Friedman and illustrated by Jason Fruchter. Simon Spotlight-Simon & Schuster, 2016.  Intended audience: Grades PreK-2, Ages 3-7.

Daniel helps his little sister overcome her fear of the fireflies, which she has never seen, by holding her hand and showing no fear himself. She holds his hand as does his dad as the fireworks start, and they are louder than Daniel thought that they would be.  This is a sweet story about encountering new things and helping others experience new things that might be frightening.

***

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order and summary.

Daniel Chooses to Be Kind adapted by Rachel Kalban and illustrated by Jason Fruchter. Simon Spotlight-Simon & Schuster, 2017.  Intended audience: Grades PreK-2, Ages 3-7.

Daniel asks King Friday what it is like to be king, and Friday declares him king for the day. He gives Daniel a list of things that he needs to bring to the castle at the end of the day. It’s never quite clear what King Friday intended to do with these items. After acquiring them, Daniel gives them all away in the course of the day to cheer up or help his friends. He never acquires replacements for the items that he gives away, which seemed a little odd honestly.  Though Daniel visits shops, he doesn’t seem to pay.  There’s seems to be some economy run on trade of services.  I really don’t remember much of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood anymore, and I have never seen Daniel’s Tiger’s Neighborhood.

***

These reviews are not endorsed by any of the authors or publishers or anyone else involved in the making of these books. They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.

Book Reviews: September 2019 Picture Book Roundup: A Few Good Books

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Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, reviews, and activity.

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez and illustrated by Jamie Kim. HarperCollins, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 4-8.

The text and the illustrations in this picture book are both beautiful! This sentiment is beautiful! A little girl, frustrated by repeated questions that imply that she and her family are not from “here,” asks her abuelo’s advice on how to answer them. Her abuelo gives her a beautifully lyrical answer: She is from each of the strong and brave ancestors before her, she is from the beautiful land that they came from, and she is from the love of her family, “my love,” her abuelo says, “and the love of all those before us.” I assume that the girl like the author is Argentine American, but there is no specific reference to the country. There is mention of the Pampas, but the lowlands stretch across several countries in South America. This is a book about feeling proud of one’s heritage and provides a comfort and an answer to the too often asked question. I don’t share Méndez’s heritage, but I was still stirred by Méndez’s words and sentiment and Kim’s illustrations. I think I would be even if I had never met the first generation of my family to immigrate to this country. I think this book will stir something in everyone. I do think, though, that more than the text, I will remember the sentiment and the illustrations.

*****

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, excerpt, sample pages, reviews, activity, and author's and illustrator's bios.

How I Met My Monster by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam. Flashlight, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 4-8.

This is the third in a series of books but the first one that I have read thoroughly enough to write a review for this blog. The illustrations in this are so wonderfully saturated and detailed and fun. This book reminds me somewhat of Monsters, Inc with its concept of monsters learning the rules for haunting a child at night. These monsters don’t seek the child’s terror, though. Instead their goal is to keep the child in bed until they are asleep, an aid not a trial for parents. A class of small monsters and their teacher emerge from beneath a boy’s bed and try to frighten him into bed, but the boy doesn’t find them particularly scary, mostly funny, though one, Gabe, is kind of awesome and just a little scary with his long claws, gurgling stomach, and feigned penchant for human toes. The boy enjoys being just a little scared though. The book ends with Gabe proclaiming that this seems like “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” and an illustration of Gabe curled up beneath the boy’s bed, looking like an overlarge canine or feline. This was just the right length for my group of three littles at story time. Anything longer would have been too much. They enjoyed counting the eyes under the bed and shouting out the colors of the monsters. They wanted the monsters names sooner than the story supplied them though.

****

Click to visit the author's page for links to order and summary.

A Busy Creature’s Day Eating! by Mo Willems. Hyperion-Disney, 2019. Intended audience: Ages 3-5.

Here’s an unusual alphabet book, which begins with breakfast food and, the creature running out of food, devolves into eating all sort of unusual things like Furniture, Gravy, a Hoagie, Ice cream, and a Jacket. And then at O, the creature begins to feel sick from its unusual diet and runs to the Potty. It is cared for, given basic foods to calm its stomach, Vomits anyway, is kissed by its guardian (XO-XO-XO), and sleeps away the ache: Zonked. The story is completely gender-neutral, which is a nice change, with no actual indication that the guardian is a biological parent. I liked that this included unusual words beside those more typically used in alphabet primers. I liked that this has a storyline. So many alphabet books are list books without a story. I have read clever alphabet primers before: Animal Homes ZXA: an Out of Order Alphabet Book, Animalphabet, and even A is for Awful: A Grumpy Cat ABC Book and Arctic Bears Chase. This is still perhaps the only one that really tells a story, though, a story that makes sense (Arctic Bears tries to build a story from one sentence, but it is a fairly nonsensical story). For what this is, this is a very good, a very unique book. I am surprised that no one that I know of has done this before, but no one that I know has done it. Willems does it with characters’ exaggerated expressions and humor in the text.

*****

These reviews are not endorsed by any of the authors or publishers or anyone else involved in the making of these books. They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.

Book Reviews: December 2018 Picture Book Roundup: Insects, Romance, and a Snowman Gone Rogue

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Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, and sample pages.

Never Touch a Spider by Rosie Greening. Make Believe Ideas, 2018.  Intended audience: Ages 0-3.

This came out as part of a series of similar books by Make Believe Ideas: Never Touch a Dragon, Never Touch a Monster, Never Touch a Dinosaur. These books are bright. The textures, made of rubber or some rubbery substance, are unique. I actually like that these are just fun; there’s not really any kind of educational element to these. They are silly. It makes a rare change in a touch-and-feel book—in touch-and-feel books. I admit that there’s not a lot of maybe value to this, but I enjoyed the laugh, and I enjoy the textures.

****

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Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis. Little Bee-Bonnier, 2018.  Intended audience: Ages 4-8.

Stevie Lewis has done an amazing job with these illustrations! They are so vibrant. My favorite by far is the page with the prince and his knight lounging together by the town fountain, watched by the joyful townspeople. Their pose says so much about the casual, comfortable love and trust that they have for one another. The kingdoms that the royal family travel to too are colorful. It’s difficult to tell but there seems to be some chance that the prince’s chosen knight is of a different racial background than the prince as well. The story is told in easy rhyme. The prince’s parents are supportive not only of his eventual choice but in his quest for the perfect partner, taking him abroad to meet princesses with whom he does not ultimately end up sharing a connection. The prince is often in stereotypical princess poses, for example leaning on a balcony railing, propping his head on one hand—or caught in the knight’s arms as he falls from the dragon. The story is good. The message is good. The characters are good—like, lawful good (chaotic good?). All around, I love this one.

*****

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How to Catch a Snowman by Adam Wallace & Andy Elkerton. Jabberwocky-Sourcebooks, 2018.  Intended audience: Ages 4-10.

This story plays with modern, living snowman “lore,” specifically referencing without naming Frosty of Rankin and Bass’ movie and Olaf of Disney’s Frozen. That was almost my favorite and least favorite part of the book—the references to other snowmen. The midnight snow star is new. The flying is new too. Why the kids want to catch a snowman is never really addressed; though it says in Goodreads’ description that the kids have built him for entry into a contest, I did not pick up on that in reading through the text; maybe if I examined the illustrations more carefully I would have done, but I often read these upside down for the first or second time. The kids’ traps all fail. The snowman is never caught but he creates a larger than life, snow trophy for them—which makes more sense if the kids’ first ambition had been to win a trophy. Some of the rhyming seemed forced, and I’m not overly fond of the direct address to the audience format.

***

These reviews are not endorsed by any of the authors or publishers or anyone else involved in the making of these books. They are independent, honest reviews by a reader.