Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Black Lives, Black History

The Big Day, by Terry Lee Caruthers/Illustrated by Robert Casilla, (Oct. 2020, Star Bright Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-59572-913-2

Ages 5-8

This celebration of suffrage and Black women voters is a fictionalized story of Agnes Sadler, the first Black woman to legally vote in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1919. Agnes, called Big Mama here, wakes her daughter Tansy up and urges her to get moving; today is a “big day”, after all. Tansy and Big Mama dress in their finest, get on the bus, and head to the polls; it’s voting day and women have the vote! A lovely tribute to Black women’s suffrage, Agnes and the other women voters proudly wear sashes; the Black women belong to the “Colored Women’s Political League”, and the white women wear “Votes for Women” sashes. The artwork is colorful, soft, and carries a beautiful, historic feel to it. Endpapers are made up of newspaper articles about women’s suffrage, and back matter provides more information about Agnes Sadler, women’s suffrage and Black women’s role in suffrage, and sources for further reading. A great introduction to Black women’s history, and a good picture book biography on a little-known figure in Black suffrage.

For more information about African American Women and the suffrage movement, visit the Suffragist Memorial, the Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection, and National Geographic.

A Voice Named Aretha, by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2020, Bloomsbury Kids USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681198507

Ages 5-8

All hail the Queen of Soul! This picture book biography on Aretha Franklin starts from her beginnings, singing in her father’s church choir through her singing for President Barack Obama (and bringing him to tears). Covering Aretha’s social justice work, Katheryn Russell-Brown notes that Aretha refused to perform for “whites only” audiences and her work with civil rights groups and philanthropy. Laura Freeman’s artwork brings Aretha Franklin to life with rich colors and passionate renderings; Aretha’s head thrown back as she sings and plays the piano at 12; clasping her hands to her chest as she belts out a song in the choir, and Barack Obama wiping a tear away as he listens to a lushly garbed Franklin sing onstage. Endpapers are a feast of vinyl and gold records on a deep purple background. Back matter provides more information about Aretha Franklin’s life and music and some of her hit songs. A must-have in your picture book biography section, this is an excellent introduction to a music and civil rights icon.

A Voice Named Aretha has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad, by Don Tate, $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-56145-935-3

Ages 5-8

Written in free verse, Don Tate’s biography of William Still, abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and archivist of stories that reunited families, is simply incredible. Born to former slaves living in New Jersey, William Still grew up with a desire to learn and a desire for justice. He moved to Philadelphia and worked with the Anti-Slavery Society, where he took on greater roles, ultimately becoming part of the Underground Railroad. When he reunited his long-lost brother with his family, Still began keeping extensive notes on the people he spoke with, leading to more reunions. The verse is concise but packs emotional punches, like this moment where he meets his brother, Peter: “The man was middle-aged. / Stooped back. Furrowed brow. / Threadbare clothes. / His name was Peter. / He was looking for his mother, his family.” Endpapers include excerpts from Still’s observations. Digital illustrations are emotional and expressive. Another must-have picture book biography. Publisher Peachtree has an excerpt, teacher’s guide, and poster on their website.

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield, by Susan Goldman Rubin/Illustrated by Richie Pope, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763679941

Ages 8-11

This intermediate picture book biography on Crimean War figure Mary Seacole, born in Kingston, Jamaica, begins with her childhood in Kingston, watching her healer mother care for soldiers with herbal remedies and hoping to be like her one day, through her own healing work with soldiers during the Crimean War and cholera patients in Panama. The book deep dives into the racism she encountered as a biracial woman, including a run-in with Florence Nightingale, who scoffed at her remedies and cures and refused her services. Drawn from Mary Seacole’s own writing, this biography is comprehensive for younger readers, with richly colorful and evocative illustrations. Back matter includes sources notes and a bibliography. An important biography for younger readers.

 

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation, by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein/Illustrated by James E. Ransome, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763696504

Ages 6-8

Inspired by author Michael S. Bandy’s memories of taking the train as a child of color during segregation, Northbound tells the story of a boy of color and a white boy becoming friends on a train ride from Alabama to Cincinnati, amid the shifting segregation seating on the train. Young Michael boards the train and goes to the “colored only” section, but when the train leaves Atlanta, the signs come down and he’s free to roam the train. He meets Bobby Ray, a boy his own age and from his own town, and the two become instant friends. Once the train approaches Chattanooga, though, the signs go back up and the new friends are separated. A heart-rending story of separation and segregation, Northbound ends with a spark of hope. The story explains segregation in its most basic terms to children, and encourages discussion about how the story – and our past – parallels with our present. James A. Ransome’s watercolor and collage artwork creates splendid scenery as the train speeds along and the two boys become friends over the course of a train ride; moments of racism, as when the conductor leads Michael out of the “whites only” car when the train approaches Chattanooga, are emotional; the “whites only” harsh white sign stands out like an ugly scar across a lovely painting. An author’s note explains the Interstate Commerce Act and how segregation played into it.

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Big Wishes for Little Feat – a horse and human story

Big Wishes for Little Feat, by Cheryl Olsten/Illustrated by Paolo d’Altan, (Oct. 2020, Fleecydale Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-7339551-0-2

Ages 7-10

Little Feat is a horse who’s small, and worries he’ll never find a rider to love him. Ella is an American girl who moves in with her aunt, in Belgium, while her parents try to get back on their financial feet. Each feels sad and alone, until Ella’s Aunt Anastasia brings the two together. The story is based on a true story, with a spark of fantasy for inspiration as the horse and the girl look to the stars for courage and hope: Ella, hoping to feel a connection by looking at the same sky her family at home in the States looks at, and sharing a love of constellations with her father; Lafitte (Little Feat is the name Ella gives him), who imagines himself leaping into the sky, a constellation made real. The artwork is just lovely, with deep colors and beautiful renderings of horses, nighttime skies, and the bond between horse and rider. A good choice for animal fans and horse lovers.

Enjoy a preview of the book, and learn about the EQUUS Foundation, a charity supporting America’s horse, at the author’s website.

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

Creepy, Kooky, Oogie: Weird But True Halloween!

Weird But True! Halloween: 300 Facts to Scare You Silly, by Julie Beer & Michelle Harris, (Sept. 2020, NatGeo Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1426338281

Ages 7-12

These books are the backbone of my nonfiction section. These little Weird But True! books MOVE; kids love the wild facts that NatGeo writers keep unearthing, and the incredible photos throughout are creepy, freaky, and downright cute. What facts await us in this volume? There are some good ones: a theme park in St. Louis, Missouri, held a “Coffin Challenge” where contestants lay in a coffin for 30 hours to win a prize; there are gummy tarantulas the size of a kid’s hand; there are more Halloween emojis than there are U.S. states. There’s a Halloween theme running through, with Halloween-themed facts, eerie facts, and overall Fall facts. These don’t even require a handselling in my library – I just put it on the shelf and watch the kids surge. The NatGeo Kids digests are essential for pleasurable, nonfiction, reading.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Tag Your Dreams!

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, by Jacqueline Jules/Illustrated by Iris Deppe, (Apr. 2020, Albert Whitman & Company), $17.99, ISBN: 9780807567265

Ages 7-10

I’m getting that TBR under control a little more every day! Tag Your Dreams is a book of poetry about sports and play for kids, but it’s more than that. These are poems about endurance, self-esteem, community, and reaching goals. It’s about a girl reaching out to a new friend by reciting a rhyme that her Guatemalan grandmother taught her (“Clapping  Hands”); it’s about a girl, swimming gracefully, mermaid-like, as she remembers being bullied for her weight earlier that day (“Mermaid Manatee”); a father and son cruising through a park on matching scooters (“Kick Scooters”), and a playground where “Spanish jumps just as high as English” as the kids skip rope and sing together. A multicultural group of adults and kids come together on these pages to play, to laugh, and to inspire readers. Jacqueline Jules, award-winning author of the Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez book series, created 31 poems about the power of play and the power of persistence to motivate readers: motivate them to play, motivate them to embrace themselves, and work as part of a team while striving to be their best. Iris Deppe’s colorful artwork shows children and grown-ups together in various stages of play: clapping hands underneath a tree, reaching for a ball in the outfield, or walking a trail with grandparents. A nice addition to poetry collections, with positive messages that we need more than ever these days.

Jacqueline Jules’s author webpage has information about her books and plenty of free, downloadable activities connected to her books.

Posted in gaming, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Blog Tour: You’re Pulling My Leg Jr!

My family and I are gaming fans. We love our tabletop games, and I also love finding new games that will get my third grader thinking and using his imagination. I’ve also been looking for ways to game with my library kids now that we’ve gone virtual. You’re Pulling My Leg ticks both of these boxes, and the best part is that it’s easy, fun, and hilarious.

Here’s the deal: You’re Pulling My Leg! is adapted from a board game to adapt to… well, *gestures* THIS. The game, now in book format, has two volumes: You’re Pulling My Leg!, and You’re Pulling My Leg! Junior Edition, both by Allen Wolf and Morning Star Games. The objective is to come up with hilarious stories, based on a prompt, while your fellow players try to figure out whether or not you’re bluffing.

You’re Pulling My Leg! Junior Edition, by Allen Wolf,
(Aug. 2020, Morning Star Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9781952844027
Ages 9+

You’re Pulling My Leg!, by Allen Wolf,
(June 2020, Morning Star Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1952844003
Ages 12+

 

Here’s an example: the question is “Tell Me About Something You Found”. Folks, I’m a children’s librarian in an urban public library system. I guarantee you I will tell you a story of something I found that you will either scream with laughter or horror over, but I can get outrageous and YOU MAY NOT KNOW, or I can be kind of low-key and keep you guessing. A conversation from a game about two weeks ago:

Me: “One day, when I was cleaning out the shelves in the storage room, I found – behind the craft sticks and the finger paints – a box of comic books from an old Summer Reading program I’d run. So, you know… I was there, and the comics were there, so I started looking through the box, right? Because there may be an issue of Batman I hadn’t read before, and my lunch hour was coming up. So I’m shuffling through this box of comics, and I find a photo. It must have fallen off the person’s desk when they were packing the box, because there was no way this photo was sent to me on purpose, it was buried at the bottom of the box. The photo was of a guy dressed up like Batman – no, seriously, like Batman, with the cape and the boots and the belt and all of it! But when I looked closer… it was STAN LEE. What the heck was Stan Lee doing dressed as Batman?”

Kiddo: “No way, Mom! Stan Lee does Marvel movies, you’d never find him dressed like Batman.”

Foiled again, my friends. My kid knows me too well. But you have to admit, I made it plausible, right? Let’s try another example.

Me: “Tell me about a time when you caught something.”

Kiddo: “This one time… in gym… at school… my friend and I were throwing a basketball at each other back and forth, because it was gym, right? So he threw it to me, and I caught it, and I kicked it at him, and he picked it up and he sneezed on it but he didn’t tell me and when he threw it at me and I grabbed it, it felt wet and then I ended up catching a cold because he had a cold and that’s why he sneezed on it.”

Me: “Oh my GOD, that’s SO GROSS, WHY WOULD HE SNEEZE ON THE BALL? Is that why you had that cold at the end of last year? Is that how I caught that cold? I felt like garbage for a week, WHAT THE HECK MAN?”

Kiddo: “Gotcha.”

Me: “You made that up?”

Kiddo: giggles madly

Me: “Don’t you ever tell me you can’t write a personal narrative for ELA ever again.”

You see, my friends? This game is GOLD. Librarians, if you’re doing virtual programming, including class visits, this is perfect for getting kids playing and laughing along with you. You can make it as quick or stretch it out for as long as you’d like, and you’ll never play the same game twice. Are you doing a NaNoWriMo program? Let this be your guide. Do your kiddos need to write a small moments personal narrative? There are plenty of ideas here. Each book comes with pages dedicated to Game Highlights, where you can write down some of your funnier/more poignant observations and return to them to expand on, or just keep as a fun journal of a really stressful time. Enjoy.

Games Website: MorningStarGames.com

Twitter: @MorningStarGame

Facebook: @morningstargames

Instagram: @playmorningstargames

Author Website: AllenWolf.com/yourepullingmyleg/

Twitter: @theallenwolf

Facebook: @theallenwolf

Instagram: @theallenwolf/

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade

Halloween seek and find with Waldo

Where’s Waldo? Spooky Spotlight Search, by Martin Handford, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211580

Ages 5-9

Waldo’s getting into the Halloween spirit with his newest Spotlight Search book! Similar to the Spectacular Spotlight Search (2018), this book contains six seek and find challenges, all under cover of darkness – but fear not! You have a glow-in-the-dark spotlight searcher to help you shed some light on the details! Look for Waldo, Woof, Wenda, Wizard Whitebeard, and Odlaw in every scene, in addition to changing, challenging checklists on each spread. And don’t forget to find all the carved pumpkins! Inspect ghostly galleons and shipwrecks, stage a great escape from a hidden cave and watch dragons fly, and seek shelter at a gloomy castle, where you can join a creaky dance party! Sharpen your eyeballs and wield your spotlight wisely, and have fun!

My third grader thoroughly enjoys the Waldo books, and has been swooping his spotlight around since this book arrived at our house, courtesy of Candlewick. Need more temptation? Fine. Remember, the first Where’s Waldo was a banned book. Scandal!
These books are classic fun and belong with your I Spy books and your puzzle books. They keep readers sharpening their attention skills and they’re just fun to do. Enjoy.
Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

It’s a BAD KITTY READ-ALONG! #FurEverBad

Fellow Bad Kitties! I come with great news! Bad Kitty publisher, Macmillan, launched a Fur-Ever Bad Kitty Read-Along Campaign, and they are challenging YOU to read all the Bad Kitty chapter books this Fall!

The read-along is happening in three parts:

Don’t let the start date scare you! YOU’VE GOT THIS.

I’m applauding you and cheering you on! Go! Go! Go!

Finish STRONG!

Grab your books, get ready, and READ! Fill your school reading logs with Bad Kitty this Fall! (Psst… your library has SHELVES of Bad Kitty just waiting for you.) Good luck!

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

Resolve to Recycle! Two books on cutting down on plastic

There are lots of great books about taking care of our planet out for kids, and two timely ones focus on the ways tweens and middle graders can start on a big problem: the use of single-use plastics. Inspiring, empowering, and fun, these are two great books to add to your shelves (and Plastic Sucks! also has the dual duty of offering some environmentally conscious careers, too).

Plastic Sucks! How YOU Can Reduce Single-Use Plastic and Save Our Planet, by Dougie Poynter, (Oct. 2019, Feiwel & Friends), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1250256201

Ages 10-13

Musician and activist Dougie Poynter, of the group McFly, is here to give kids some straight talk about single-use plastics: they suck. They suck the life out of our oceans, most notably, by killing marine life and decimating our natural resources. Poynter has put together a history of plastic, how plastic still has good uses (medical equipment, safety belts) but is largely used as a temporary convenience, and how kids can take action – and get families involved – to lessen the use of single-use plastic in their everyday lives.

Illustrated in two-color green and black, with loads of infographics and eye-catching statistics, this is a smart look at conservation with a friendly, informative voice. Poynter breaks down recycling symbols and has an illustrated aquatic foodweb to show how everything is interconnected, and how pollution affects life on earth as well as the oceans. Easy swaps illustrate how to cut down on plastic waste. Profiles of environmental activists run throughout the book, offering a look at different careers that may appeal to burgeoning activists: marine biologists, wildlife charity heads, and bloggers/YouTubers are all in here. A glossary is available to help readers with some new terminology. A nice, concise book to have in your environmental collections.

 

Kids Fight Plastic: How to Be a #2minutesuperhero, by Martin Dorey/Illustrated by Tim Wesson, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212778

Ages 8-11

Absolute fun while providing absolute info, this digitally illustrated guide to fighting single-use plastic gives kids a book full of missions to fight plastic: from our homes to our schools, to the supermarket and beyond, kids get the skinny on plastics while racking up points, whether it’s through identifying five “good” and five “bad” pieces of plastic, bringing a reusable water bottle everywhere you go, and making homemade snacks to cut down on the use of plastic-wrapped stuff, there’s something for everyone here. Martin Dorey is the founder of the #2minutebeachclean movement, and shows kids that 2 minutes can make a huge difference. Missions are all worth different points, which they can tally up at the end and calculate their “Superhero Rating”. Profiles of different rescued sea life and activists appear throughout on “Everyday Superhero” graphics that look like collectible cards – they can even envision their own Everyday Superhero card! – and missions are all available at the end of the book, in one convenient spot, so folks don’t have to go throughout the book to locate each mission. More resources are available for readers who want to learn more, including more information about the #2minutebeachclean initiative.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

#HomesCool Reads: Math & Nature

There are so many great books that have come out, and are coming out in the next couple of months! With school having started for some kids (NYC doesn’t go back until after Labor Day), I’m transitioning #SummersCool into #HomesCool, since a lot of us will be learning in either a blended or completely remote environment. For everyone who’s back in a classroom, or had to make the decision on how to schedule your children for learning, hang in there. And thank you, teachers!

Up this time, we’ve got folk tales using math and logic; we’ve got lion queens in India, and an archaeologist who discovered Peru’s ancient cultures. Let’s go!

Sharuko: El arqueólogo peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello, by Monica Brown/Illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, Translated by Adriana Domínguez, (Aug. 2020, Lee & Low Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9780892394234

Ages 7-11

This bilingual (English/Spanish) biography of Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello, nicknamed “Sharuko”, is a beautifully written, illustrated, and translated story of Julio Tello, an Indigenous boy growing up in late 1800s Peru, who became a leading expert in Peru’s Indigenous culture. As a boy, Sharuko – a nickname meaning “brave” in Quechua, the language spoken by the Indigenous people of Peru – explored caves and burial grounds in the Peruvian Andes. As he got older and continued his education, he read articles about skulls he had found as a child, which were sent to the city of Lima to be further studied. The article inspired Julio to devote his medical school training to study Peru’s indigenous history; going on to prove that Peru’s Indigenous culture was established thousands of years before, not inherited from other countries, as was the pervasive belief. He awakened pride in his country’s ancestry and its cultural legacy and became a hero to the people of Peru.

Elisa Chavarri’s watercolor and gouache artwork is colorful, with maps, beautiful landscapes, and artifacts all coming together to tell Julio Tello’s story. Author Monica Brown tells Tello’s story in a way that will captivate readers and possibly inspire new generations of archaeologists and anthropologists. The Spanish translation is parallel to the English text, which helps learning readers (like me!) learn the flow of the language, be it Spanish or English. Back matter includes an afterword a note on the illustration, and additional sources. I need more picture book biographies in my Spanish/bilingual collection. Happy to add this one.

Sharuko: El arqueólogo peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello has starred reviews from The Horn Book, Booklist, and School Library Journal.

 

The Lion Queens of India, by Jan Reynolds, (Sept. 2020, Lee and Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781643790510

Ages 6-8

Award-winning photojournalist Jan Reynolds introduces readers to the Lion Queens – a group of female forest guards who track and protect the lions in the Gir Sanctuary. Narrated by Rashila, the first Lion Queen, readers learn about a day in the life of the Lion Queens; from patrolling areas on motorcycle to checking on food and water availability for the lions. There are facts about lions throughout, and Rashila talks about the different lions’ personalities, the “Web of Life” balance in the Gir, and the growing lion population, coming back from the brink of extinction. The Queens work with communities to educate and inform; they discuss conservation and preservation and how to live alongside the lions without hurting the habitats that both human and lion rely on to survive. Back matter includes an author’s note and bibliography. The book is filled with beautiful photos of the lions of the Gir Sanctuary and Rashila and her fellow Lion Queens, and the sentences are brief and to the point, making this a great nonfiction book for emerging readers and for storytimes. It’s an exciting subject to introduce to kids – especially on a Career Day! Consider looking up the Lion Queens of India documentary from Animal Planet to have on hand.

 

Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math, by Rajani LaRocca/Illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan, (Oct. 2020, Lee and Low Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9781885008978

Ages 6-10

Set in ancient India, Bhagat is a boy living with his mother. They are poor and they are hungry, but a chance to win a place at the Rajah’s court as a singer gives Bhagat some hope for bettering their circumstances. As he leaves for the Rajah’s city, his mother gives him the last of their wealth – seven gold links from her wedding necklace – to pay for his food and lodging, and Bhagat knows he must be careful in budgeting, as he doesn’t know how long it will take for the Rajah to see him and he doesn’t want to overpay and run out of money. Bhagat uses math to work out how to safely pay his way and keep the innkeeper satisfied, and his math skills lead to a happy resolution.

There are lessons in computational thinking and mathematics, and has the building blocks for coding units here. An author’s note explains the mathematics at work in the story, touching on binary numbers, base 10, and the history of mathematics in the ancient world. The digital artwork is bright, warm, and attractive, with clear illustrations explaining Bhagat’s use of the golden rings. A solid addition to your fables/folk tales and math tales like the Sir Cumference series, One Grain of Rice, and The Grapes of Math.

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

No Voice Too Small lifts up kids voices

No Voice Too Small: 14 Young Americans Making History, edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila Dawson, & Jeanette Bradley/Illustrated by Jeanette Bradley, (Sept. 2020, Charlesbridge), $18.99, ISBN: 9781623541316

Ages 5-12

Fourteen outstanding young people who saw injustice and took action are celebrated here in poetry and art. Activists include Mari Copeny – “Little Miss Flint” – who demanded clean water for her community and got President Obama’s attention; Virsidiana Sanchez Santos, whose quinceañera at the Texas State Capitol called attention to the state’s stringent immigration policy; and Marley Dias, the girl who started the #1000BlackGirlBooks initative to collect books with characters who looked like her, and so many other readers looking for representation. These activists and 11 more find a place in the pages here, celebrated by luminaries including G. Neri, Nikki Grimes, Joseph Bruchac, and Lesléa Newman. Each profile includes a biographical paragraph; back matter explains the poetry forms used throughout the book, and profiles on each of the featured poets. Callout quotes invite readers to think about ways they can take action. The artwork showcases each of individual, and endpapers look like blackboards, with quotes from each activist in a chalk-white font. One percent of hardcover sales will go to TeachingforChange.org.