Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

New YA fantasy duology: The Darkening

The Darkening, by Sunya Mara, (July 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358561989

Ages 13+

Set in a fantasy world terrorized by a storm that leaves anyone caught in it cursed, Vesper Vale is the 17-year-old daughter of revolutionaries. Her mother walked into the storm, and her father is on the run from the Wardana, the royal guard, led by the ruler’s heir, the cold-hearted Prince Dalca. Her father is a powerful ikonomancer – a magic user that works with symbols to weave spells – and refuses to teach Vesper; this all changes when the Wardana and Dalca catch up with Vesper’s father and take him prisoner. Determined to save her father, Vesper befriends a mole in the Wardana and weaves an appearance spell that will get her inside Dalca’s inner circle. Once she’s on the inside, she realizes that nothing is as black-and-white as it seems: there is much about her mother’s disappearance that she was never privy to, and she certainly never expected to fall for Dalca – or that he would fall for her, too. Strong worldbuilding sets the tone for this fantasy adventure, which has a good premise but gets in its own way at times. The interaction between characters is delicious, particularly between Vesper and Dalca: such romantic tension! The action is exciting, and the idea of ikonomancy is incredibly interesting; I wanted to learn more. This is the first in a duology, and I’m looking forward to where the story goes, now that we seem to be into the meat of the story. A good investment for your fantasy collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mama in Congress! A working mom’s tale

Mama in Congress: Rashida Tlaib’s Journey to Washington, by Rashida and Adam Tlaib & Miranda Paul/Illustrated by Olivia Aserr, (Sept. 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358683438

Ages 4-8

Growing up in southwest Detroit, Michigan, Rashida Tlaib was the oldest of 14 children and the first in her immigrant family to graduate from high school. Having experienced prejudice and inequality growing up, she decided to “start opening doors for other people who had grown up poor or been treated unfairly”: she worked for an elected official at the Michigan House of Representatives, eventually being elected to the state House of Representatives – and then the U.S. House of Representatives – herself! Narrated by her son Adam, Congresswoman Tlaib’s story is motivational: She and her family encounter racism and threats, but she perseveres in her goal to make life better for her constituents. She remembers growing up with pollution and how leaders ignored their neighborhood; she remembers the racism and poverty around her, and uses these memories to fight for better. Adam writes from the point of view of a child who sees his mom as inspiration and yet, she’s still Mom, and humanizes her, endearing her to readers. Colorful illustrations are cartoon-realistic and include details like Tlaib’s sons walking through Congress with her and standing outside her office. The story and artwork both honor Tlaib’s Muslim culture and faith. Back matter includes a glossary of terms and an explanation on the three branches of the U.S. government. An excellent introduction to government and civics for younger readers, and a great choice for collections. Download a free guide to the First Amendment for kids on author Miranda Paul’s webpage.

Visit Congresswoman Tlaib’s Congressional webpage here.

Posted in Toddler Reads

Phoebe Cakes leads a doggie A-B-C in An Alphabet Tail

Phoebe Cakes and Friends: An Alphabet Tail, by Michelle K. Dumont/Illustrated by Jennifer Zoe Taylor, (Sept. 2022, Susan Schadt Press), $14.95, ISBN: 979-8985071306

Ages 2-4

Last week, I posted a list of author Michelle K. Dumont’s favorite dog books for National Dog Week. This week, I’m happy to talk up the adorable lift-the-flap board book she wrote to celebrate her own special needs bulldog, Phoebe Cakes. Phoebe introduces herself in a note at the beginning of the book, guaranteeing that you’ll fall in love with her as quickly as I did. From there, it’s all about the doggos as Phoebe frolics across each spread with a different dog of the alphabet, from Affenpinschers to Irish Setters, Newfoundlands to Zapadno Sibirska Lajkas. Rhyming text and colorful artwork with adorable dogs running, roasting marshmallows, napping, and playing peek-a-book make this perfect dog lovers everywhere. Each letter of the alphabet is set off a large frame, with bold green and pink colors, with each breed running across the top of the page. Lift-the-flaps divulge fun facts about Phoebe. An Alphabet Tail is a very cute abcedary, and will hold up to multiple reads. Dog fans will enjoy learning about new dog breeds and want to hear more about Phoebe.

An Alphabet Tail is the second Phoebe Cakes book, joining A Mardi Gras Tail, which published earlier this year. There are more books planned, and you can follow Phoebe’s adventures on Instagram to keep up with her.

Posted in Graphic Novels, History, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novel Biographies: Nat Love and Bluma & Felix Goldberg

Best Shot in the West: The Thrilling Adventures of Nat Love – The Legendary Cowboy!, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, Jr./Illustrated by Randy Duburke, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797212517

Ages 10-13

Originally published in 2012, this graphic novel biography of Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, one of the most famous African-American cowboys in the Old West. Based on Love’s 1907 autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick,” Best Shot in the West‘s adaptation by children’s literature greats Patricia and Frederick McKissack is told in Love’s voice, from his 1854 birth into slavery in Tennessee; his leaving home to find work as a cowpoke and his adventures across the country, and his decision to marry and work as a railroad porter in his later years. The McKissacks created a faithful adaptation that appeals to a younger readership, and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award Winner Randy Duburke’s painted work brings Love’s work to life, with gray wash over color to add a sepia-toned aging to the artwork. A good purchase for libraries with robust graphic novel biographies and historical U.S. collections. Pair with books like Black Heroes of the Wild West and Bad News for Outlaws for a display on the Wild West your readers didn’t learn about!

 

 

We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story, by Frank W. Baker/Illustrated by Tim E. Ogline, (Sept. 2022, Imagine & Wonder), $19.99, ISBN: 9781637610206

Ages 14-18

In 2000, Holocaust survivor Felix Goldberg handed media literacy educator Frank W. Baker a copy of the speech he’d just delivered to a South Carolina synagogue and asked him to “do something with this”. Baker worked with the Goldberg’s children and illustrator Tim E. Ogline to bring Felix’s and Bluma’s stories to the world. Rendered in stark black and white, their stories unfold: Felix’s and Bluma’s early lives in Poland parallel the growing wave of hate and rage running through Germany; the antisemitic propaganda that dehumanized and turned a nation against a people; the explosion of violence that began the Holocaust. Felix and Bluma experienced untold horrors across concentration camps and death marches, losing family members but finding one another in a displaced persons camp, and arriving in America to begin a life together. It is an moving and powerful story, and a strong book to put on shelves next to Maus. Back matter includes a timeline of events; a glossary; recommended resources for further reading, and an index. You can find a Readers Guide at the Stories of Survival website.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Magnolia Flower introduces children to Zora Neale Hurston

Magnolia Flower, by Zora Neale Hurston, Adapted by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi/Illustrated by Loveis Wise, (Sept. 2022, Amistad Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780063098312

Ages 4-8

National Book Award Winner Dr. Ibram X. Kendi adapts Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, “Magnolia Flower”, for children in this gorgeous tale of an Afro-Indigenous girl and the man she loves. Magnolia Flower is the daughter of an escaped slave named Bentley and an Indigenous woman named Swift Deer, who “had fled her own trail of tears”. Their daughter, Magnolia Flower, falls in love with a man of letters, but Bentley wants more for his daughter and tries separating the two; Magnolia Flower makes a decision to follow her heart. Dr. Kendi beautifully retells Hurston’s tale for young audiences, assuring that her legacy will continue. Loveis Wise’s digital illustrations have a gorgeous folk art quality to them, with vibrant color and a strong connection to nature. Colorful magnolias embellish the endpapers. Back matter includes a historical note on the setting of “Magnolia Flower” and an author’s note on Hurston’s work. This is the first of six classic works by Hurston that Kendi will adapt for younger audiences. A breathtaking book that deserves a place in any collection.

For more information about Zora Neale Hurston, including reading group guides, excerpts, and syllabi, visit the official website of Zora Neale Hurston’s estate.

Magnolia Flower received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Raising Don: Meet your newest favorite animal

Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir, by Georgeanne Irvine with The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press, (Oct. 2022, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781943198146

Ages 6-10

The San Diego Zoo was thrilled when Don the tapir was born in 2018: he was the first baby tapir born at the Zoo in more than 30 years! But Luna, Don’s mother, wanted no part of her calf, so it was up to the Zoo staff to raise little Don. Don was bottle-fed and belly-rubbed by wildlife care specialists, bullied by some animals, and befriended by others, including a capybara named Bristle, who became Don’s best friend while at the San Diego Zoo. A true story, captured in full-color photographs and lively, upbeat, informative storytelling. Back matter includes a section on fun facts about tapirs, where tapirs live in the world, and threats to wild tapirs. Endpapers feature Don’s footprints! An adorable add to animal collections.

Raising Don is the newest nonfiction title from San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press; books published spotlight different animals from the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Posted in Toddler Reads

It’s another Board Book Blitz!

Time for more board books!

Tummy Time! A high-contrast fold-out book with mirror for babies, by Mama Makes Books, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781636550138

Ages 0-1

A two-sided, fold-out board book that’s perfect for infants whether they’re laying on their tummies or during a lapsit. On one side, there is rhyming verse and photos of baby faces; a mirror lets baby see themselves. On the other, high-contrast black and white images with pops of bright primary colors attract baby’s attention. Stiff cardboard allows the book to stand up without tipping over, and the foldout pages allow for caregivers to lay out multiple images for baby to look at. Great for lapsit storytime and baby social time. These are sturdy enough to put into circulation, too!

 

The Trainbow, by Nina Laden, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781452176413

Ages 0-3

Another foldout board book! This time, a colorful “trainbow” is rolling down the track, with rhyming text reminiscent of Donald Crews’s classic Freight Train. One side folds out into a color study of the cars on the freight train, all inhabited by colorful cartoon art animals and people. The other side features a cheerful rhyme as the train chugs past a group of well-wishers. Die cut pages fold into a rainbow readers will see from either side of the book. The pages are sturdy and will hold up to circulation and storytimes and will easily stand up for display or tummy time. A very cute collection choice from the author of the Peek-a…. series of die-cut board books, another board book collection staple.

 

Baby Hippo Finger Puppet Book, Illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797212876

Ages 0-3

I can’t get enough of these adorable finger puppet books! I love putting them up and around my early reading area so my littlest learners can see and easily reach them. Baby Hippo has an exciting day, splashing in the water and playing with her fellow calves, having some grass to eat, and running back to Mama in time to go to sleep. There’s one sentence on each spread except for the last page; gentle blues and greens make up most of the scenery, making this a good naptime/bedtime lapsit choice. Let your kiddos take turns wiggling their fingers inside of the Baby Hippo puppet as you read, letting them act out the story. I won’t lie – the pages are blocky and study, but that puppet is going to go in little mouths, so give them a wipe down with some soap and water if you can. They are durable enough to hold up in circulation.

 

Baby Lion Finger Puppet Book, Illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797212869

Ages 0-3

Set up your own jungle adventure storytime by pairing Baby Lion with Baby Hippo. Baby Lion spends his day playing with friends, nuzzling and getting a bath from Mama, taking a nap, exploring, rejoining his family as the sun starts setting. Oranges and yellows are the main colors here, with greens, blues, and browns joining the natural colors that dominate this story of life on the African Savanna. The Baby Lion finger puppet will easily accommodate a couple of tiny fingers to wiggle around and act out the story. These books are very sturdy and will hold up to multiple readings and in circulation; with all the finger puppet books, my suggestion is to wipe them down; I’ve seen my in-house copies are going in little mouths as toddlers and babies use all of their senses to explore.

 

Mr. Bear’s World of Food, by Virginie Aracil, (Sept. 2022, Twirl Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9791036345173

Ages 2-5

This oversize book has so much to discover! Mr. Bear just loves food, and takes readers on a trip through their taste buds to learn about different types of flavors, including sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. Each spread introduces a new flavor, showcases foods with those flavors, and a little commentary from Mr. Bear on how each one makes him feel. Salty makes Mr. Bear thirsty; he thinks bitter, like coffee, tastes funny; fried makes him feel warm and toasty. Foods are labeled, expanding vocabularies, and introducing children to all sorts of different food, from endive and radicchio to miso and mushrooms; seasonings like vanilla bean and star anise to rich foods like salmon and whipped cream. A section of Favorite Foods features popular comfort foods – ask readers what they love most! – and Foods to Share encourages readers to share the love. There are lift-the-flaps and pop-ups to further delight readers, and a baguette bookmark assures readers can return to their favorite spreads again and again. Great for a yummy storytime! Originally published in France in 2021, this Mr. Bear book accompanies the three previous titles: Mr. Bear’s ABC, Mr. Bear’s Birthday, and Mr. Bear’s Colors.

 

So Many Kisses!, by Alexandra Garibal/Illustrated by Claudia Bielinksy, (Sept. 2022, Twirl Books), $8.99, ISBN: 9791036348822

Ages 0-3

An adorable board book that’s just perfect for a cuddly lapsit storytime. Adorable animals have a lovefest and show off all the fun ways of showing affection! Do you prefer a nose-to-nose kiss? Maybe a foot-to-foot kiss is more your style. An octopus loves to give tickly kisses, and a porcupine is there to give prickly kisses! Colorful animals and colorful backgrounds engage kids’ attention and different “kissy sounds” give readers a chance to really make this a fun readaloud. Originally published in France in 2021, So Many Kisses! gives readers the opportunity to show their caregivers how they like to be kissed and hugged.

 

Bookscape Board Books: We Love Books!, Illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Books), $8.99, ISBN: 9781797215587

Ages 0-3

Bookscape Board Books pack a little world into each book! We Love Books is all about developing a love of books, showing readers that they can enjoy a book just about anywhere, and maybe even consider writing a book one day. Arrhenius’s bold artwork is eye-catching, and the die cuts work together to create a layered world that reveals more with each turn of a page. Sturdy and absolute fun for exploring hands and minds, the Bookscape series is great for young learners. We Love Books is the fifth in the series and is great for board book collections. See more of Ingela P. Arrhenius’s illustration work on her Instagram.

 

Little Wild Animal Hugs, by Hans Wilhelm/Illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797207186

Ages 1-3

Pair this one up with So Many Kisses! for your cuddly lapsit! Little wild animals love hugging, and this die-cut board book allows readers to mix and match the hugs. When a monkey and a seal hug, they make a Chitter-Chatter, Splish-Splash Hug! A porcupine and a lion make a Prickly-Prickly, Roar-Roar Hug! You can read this in a different way each time, just mix and match your animals any way you please. Die cuts make the animals look like they really do hug, and colorful cartoon art shows affectionate, lovable animal friends sharing affectionate embraces. Perfect for readalouds.

 

TouchWords: Color Cards : Touch and Feel, Illustrated by Rilla Alexander, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781797214993

This oversized deck of ten cards is perfect for learning color. The die-cut cards let little hands feel and trace color names and a primary image on each card. Card backs show different shades of the featured color and other items of the same color. Purple is the color of a violet, with accompanying vocabulary words to help kids visualize and identify the world around them: flower / blossom / petals / leaf / stem / wild / delicate. On the back, shades of lilac, violet, and indigo give children additional shades of color, with examples including an iris, an eggplant, and grape jelly. The cards are study and will hold up to exploration; you may lose some in circulation, but keep a set or two handy for your storytime/playgroup collection.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A fairy tale retelling of the Japanese “Cinderella” within the Eva Evergreen universe

Alliana, Girl of Dragons, by Julie Abe, (Aug. 2022, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780316300353

Ages 8-12

In a Cinderella-inspired Japanese fantasy tale, Alliana is an orphan living with her cruel stepmother and stepsiblings, with only her Grandmother Mari providing any affection. When Grandmother Mari dies, Alliana is bereft and alone in a hostile home, until she rescues a baby nightdragon and meets Nela, an apprentice witch. Alliana and Nela become fast friends and the nightdragon, whom Alliana names Kabo, give her hope of escaping her home living the life she dreams of: attending the Royal Academy. Alliana, Girl of Dragons is set in the world of Julie Abe’s Eva Evergreen universe and is filled with rich fantasy worldbuilding and elements of Japanese culture. Fairy tale readers will recognize elements of the Cinderella tale, including references to Alliana being a “girl of dust”, a royal ball, and Alliana’s secret attendance. The story explores friendship and found families, resilience, and greed. Readers do not need to be familiar with Eva Evergreen – I wasn’t! – to enjoy this adventure. Filled with dragons and magic, Alliana, Girl of Dragons is a great book to recommend to fantasy readers, readers who enjoy new takes on classic fairy tales, and anime and manga fans, who will also enjoy the manga artwork that sets off every chapter and places readers in Abe’s world.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max!

Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max, by Varda Livney, (Aug. 2021, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.99, ISBN: 9781728429069

Ages 0-4

The New Year is coming, and Uncle Max is going to spend it with his very excited family! Uncle Max is clearly the life of the party, with his colorful floral shirt and backwards baseball cap. Together, the family watches the sun set, lights the candles and enjoys a meal, and celebrates at the Synagogue. This adorable board book celebrates the Jewish New Year, with colorful illustrations, a cheerful family story, new Hebrew vocabulary words (and puppy translation),  and touchstones of the Jewish holiday, including dipping apples and challah in honey for a sweet new year, and blessing the wine and grape juice. The family largely presents as white, with some brown-skinned members. A joyful story to celebrate a joyful holiday, this is a great choice for holiday collections.

PJ Library has a downloadable reading guide to accompany the book, including a hands-on activity and thought-provoking questions that family can discuss.

For fun and educational Rosh Hashanah activities, see this fun paper mâché shofar on Education.com; you can also find recipes on the site, including a honey cake and noodle kugel. Visit TeachersPayTeachers for coloring sheets, including this one by CreateDecorateEducation and a greeting card from Yom Tov.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Opportunity, the Mars rover who charmed a planet

Hello, Opportunity: The Story of Our Friend on Mars, by Shaelyn McDaniel/Illustrated by Cornelia Li, (Sept. 2022, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645674696

Ages 4-8

The true story of Opportunity, the Mars rover who captivated watchers on Earth, is the star of this picture book biography. Author Shaelyn McDaniel begins with a story of how humans set and achieved exploration goals: humans wanted to go to the sky, so we did. We wanted to go to the moon, so we did. But when we wanted to go to Mars, it was a little too far away, “so we sent a friend instead”. Opportunity , built by scientists, went into space and spent 15 years on what was originally 3 month mission, but a storm hit the planet, draining the rover’s batteries and shutting her down. McDaniel humanizes Opportunity with phrases like “Oppy called home often” and “she sent selfies so we would know she was okay”; as Opportunity shuts down, scientists sent a lullaby – “a kiss from her friends on Earth”. It’s an emotional moment, made more poignant by Cornelia Li’s digital illustration of a satellite broadcasting colorful musical notes into space. Much of the illustration is orange-red tinged, with and there are genuinely breathtaking moments as Opportunity roves the Red planet, groves digging into the ground and layered dunes. Endpapers show Mars from the Earth’s point of view and Earth from Mars’s point of view, and back matter includes more information about Opportunity. A bibliography is available via QR code. Hello, Opportunity will endear the rover to a new generation of sky-watchers who may be inspired to find her on Mars one day. A sweet storytime addition to your space collections. A downloadable activity kit includes games and the opportunity to send a postcard to Opportunity.