Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Pauli Murray: An activist’s life in verse

Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist & Civil Rights Activist, by Rosita Stevens-Holsey & Terry Catasús Jennings, (Feb. 2022, little bee books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781499812510

Ages 8-12

Haven’t heard of Pauli Murray before? Remedy that and pick up this biography in verse, written by one of the civil rights activist’s nieces and Terry Catasús Jennings, author of the Definitely Dominguita chapter book series. Born in 1910, Pauli Murray chafed under the Jim Crow South and what she called “Jane Crow”: further prejudice against women. She would become a friend to Eleanor Roosevelt and a voice for the oppressed; she created arguments that would eventually form the Brown vs. Board of Education Topeka backbone (with no credit) and the 1964 decision that won workplace equality for women (credited, thanks to Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

Pauli Murray is told in verse, giving poetic gravitas to her life from her early childhood; the early death of her mother and separation of the siblings, which saw Pauli Murray  move to Baltimore to live with her aunt, who eventually adopted her; her life in the Jim Crow South, which awakened the activist in her, and her work to dismantle the white male patriarchy that sought to “other” her and hold her, and other women and people of color, down. Queer and Black, she was a force for positive change. She went to jail for refusing to sit in a broken seat in the back of a bus long before Rosa Parks, and, like Martin Luther King Jr., was inspired by Ghandhi’s promotion of protest through nonviolence.

Back matter includes author’s notes, a timeline of Murray’s life, endnotes, and a bibliography. An eloquent, powerful biography for upper middle graders and middle schoolers.

Read more about Pauli Murray at the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice’s website and the National Women’s History Museum. VideoNotes and More has a free mini doc on Pauli Murray at TeachersPayTeachers.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

We Can Be Heroes embraces young women’s power in the aftermath of a school shooting

We Can Be Heroes, by Kyrie McCauley, (Sept. 2021, Katherine Tegen Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062885050

Ages 12+

When Nico Bell pulled the trigger of that gun, so many lives were changed: but the problems were there long before that day. Told in third- and first-person narration, in prose and verse, We Can Be Heroes is the story of Cassie, killed in a school shooting by her ex-boyfriend; her two best friends, Beck and Vivian, and a town split down the middle. Bell is a town named for and financed by Bell Firearms; the Bell family has a sociopolitical grip on the town because they write the checks that keep it going. Nico Bell, heir to the Bell company and poster boy for toxic masculinity, kills his girlfriend, Cassie, in a murder-suicide when she tries to escape their abusive relationship. Beck and Vivian, Cassie’s best friends, never much liked one another, but bond over the chance to give Cassie the voice she didn’t have in life by painting murals featuring women from Greek myths: women whose voices were lost, taken by monsters and men. A podcaster focuses on the case as the murals achieve viral status on social media, and Cassie’s story unfolds, shedding light on ugly shadows in the town and the Bell family. Cassie appears as a ghost, bringing Beck and Vivian together and to guide them in their mission; her story is told in first person verse.

Changing narratives and playing with narrative structure – prose, transcript, and verse – keep this already arresting story moving. I loved the use of Greek myth to tell Cassie’s story; women’s stories through history. We Can Be Heroes explores grief and loss, trauma, and unchecked privilege. Small moments, like Cassie’s excitement over music released after her death are poignant, even when played for a chuckle. A subplot involving Beck and her grandfather adds further depth. A thoughtful look at real issues facing teens today that highlights the importance of listening to women’s stories.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Threads of Peace and how two nonviolent activists changed the world

Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Changed the World, by Uma Krishnaswami, (Aug. 2021, Atheneum/Caitylyn Dlouhy Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781481416788

Ages 9-14

Two activists who chose peace and nonviolence; two activists whose lives were cut short by violence. As we forge ahead in this time of social unrest and protest, Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Changed the World emerges as a book for tweens and young teens to turn to as they try to make sense of what they see on the news. Award-winning author Uma Krishnaswami profiles Gandhi and Dr. King, their paths to resistance and social justice, and their continuing influence on the world stage and nonviolence movements. Uma Krishnaswami writes about the threads that join Gandhi and Dr. King – and through them, all of us – together in a desire for social justice and freedom for all, even as their experiences – like ours – may travel different paths. Ms. Krishnaswami’s writing infuses her factual writing with emotion and empathy, investing readers in her subjects and in their mission. Black and white and color photos and colorful callout quotes and fact boxes throughout reach all interest levels. Back matter includes an author’s note, timeline of events in both Gandhi’s and Dr. King’s lives, and a glossary of terms. A bibliography, sources, and index make this an excellent research resource.

Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Changed the World has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. Display and booktalk to your middle school/early high schoolers along with Todd Hasak-Lowy’s We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World and Protest! : How People Have Come Together to Change the World by Emily Haworth-Booth and Alice Haworth-Booth. Unleashing Readers has some suggested questions for discussion.

Posted in Uncategorized

For activists in training: Protest! How People Have Come Together to Change the World

Protest! : How People Have Come Together to Change the World, by Emily Haworth-Booth & Alice Haworth-Booth, (Nov. 2021, Pavilion), $22.50, ISBN: 9781843655121

Ages 9+

A primer for burgeoning middle-grade activists, Protest! offers a glimpse into the history of protest activism, from the ancient world, through the suffrage and Civil Rights movements, through to today’s global social change revolutions, like the Black Lives Matter and the Toys Protest movements. Twelve chapters detail 38 uprisings, but the focus is on how people come together to stand up against injustice. Each chapter includes Tactics sections that provide more insight into approaches protestors have used, including gardening (like Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement in Kenya); sports (the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics); and transportation (the Civil Rights Freedom Riders). Comic book illustrations have big kid appeal and put both a humorous and readable spin on the nonfiction text. Artwork is done in shades of gray and red-orange, popping off the page, demanding to be seen. A final section discusses young people fighting for environmental justice – some as young as nine years old – that will empower kids to take action on their own. Protest! offers ways for kids to recognize and grow into their own power as activists for causes they’re passionate about.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: You Are Revolutionary

Every child has the power to change the world! You Are Revolutionary is all about encouraging kids to use that power.

You Are Revolutionary, by Cindy Wang Brandt/Illustrated by Lynnor Bontigao,
(Oct. 2021, Beaming Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781506478302
Ages 4-7

Podcaster and author Cindy Wang Brandt wants every child to know they are revolutionary: their very existence has changed the world in some way! This rhyming story lays out all the ways children can have a voice in the world, and it’s stuff kids are already really good at: speaking up, being a good listener, being a dreamer, and making art are just some of the ways kids can take a stand. Vibrant, colorful artwork with a diverse cast of children and adults assures that kids will see themselves in this empowering book.

In a Q&A with author Cindy Wang Brandt, she talks about causes important to her: “I served on the board of One Day’s Wages, a grassroots organization that fights global poverty. Economic inequity across the world is the root of many social problems so ODW is a good fit to address a wide range of issues by niching down on global poverty. But I care about inequality of any kind, when people of power wield that power unjustly over marginalized people, it fuels my anger and stirs me to action.”

When asked about who should read You Are Revolutionary, Ms. Brandt writes, “I work with parents and I want parents to know that their responsibility isn’t just to raise happy and healthy children, but that we have an awesome responsibility to raise conscious citizens that together create a better world for all. The best way to love our kids is to create a world that is kind to all kids. Parenting is a revolution in itself, an act of changing the world. I hope parents who feel this responsibility deeply will pick up my book and read it for their inner child as well as their own kids.”

Learn more about You Are Revolutionary at Beaming Books’ website and visit Cindy Wang Brandt’s author page here, where you can also tune into her Parenting Forward podcast. Download free activity sheets here: Speech Bubble; You Are Revolutionary Maze; and Make Your Revolutionary Sign.

 

Visit all the stops on the You Are Revolutionary Virtual Book Tour!

Find You Are Revolutionary on GOODREADS!

Follow on Instagram:

Author: @cindybrandt

Illustrator: @lbontigao

Publisher: @beamingbooksmn

Literary Publicity Team: @prbythebook

 

Follow on Facebook:

Author: https://www.facebook.com/cindywangbrandt

Illustrator: https://www.facebook.com/lynnorbontigaoillustrator

Publisher: https://www.facebook.com/BeamingBooksPublishing

Posted in awards, Cybils, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Roundup, CYBILS edition

The games have begun! Round 1 CYBILS Judges are clearing the shelves in our libraries and homes, wherever we can find the books in our categories. This is my second year as a Round 1 Graphic Novels panelist, so I’m reading all the graphic novels I can find! The CYBILS nomination period is still going strong, so please consider nominating your favorite J and YA reads this year. If you need some inspiration, or the books you’ve liked are already nominated, check out this Padlet for suggestions.

That said, I’ve got some graphic novels to gush about here – maybe this will inspire you. I’ll note any CYBILS nominees on this list.

Glam Prix Racers, by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (May 2021, imprint), $10.99, ISBN: 9781250265388

Ages 7-10

My gushing for this book is so long overdue, I’m embarrassed. Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson, co-creators of one of my favorite middle grade series – the Snazzy Cat Capers series! – have begun their foray into intermediate graphic novels with Glam Prix Racers. Described as “Mario Kart meets My Little Pony”, this book is like a video game in graphic novel form. There are vibrant colors, expressive, kid-friendly fantasy characters, and a fun storyline that relies on teamwork and friendly competition. It’s race season on Glittergear Island, and Mil the Mermaid and her monster truck, Mudwick, get sidelined on their way to take their Glam Prix team photo. They suspect the Vroombot Crew is up to no good, but what can they do? The Racers have to band together to cross the finish line first! This is the first in a planned trilogy; the second book is due out in January, and anything Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson collaborate on is gold in my book.

Visit Deanna and Neil’s website for Glam Prix (and Snazzy Cat!) freebies all in one place; find coloring sheets here, an activity kit here, and digital resources, including wallpapers, a STEM kit, and videos, here.

Glam Prix Racers is a first round CYBILS nominee.

 

 

Mayor Good Boy, by Dave Scheidt/Illustrated by Miranda Harmon, (Aug. 2021, RH Graphic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593124871

Ages 7-10

The town of Greenwood has a new Mayor, and he’s a very Good Boy! He’s Mayor Good Boy – a talking dog who wants to do good things in his home town.  Not everyone is thrilled about the new mayor, though, so when some disgruntled citizens start trying to make trouble for the newly elected pup, siblings Aaron and Abby intervene and get hired on as junior aides. While Mayor Good Boy is all about kindness and finding ways to help make his town better, people are plotting to bring him down by releasing fleas all over the town so that he’ll get the blame! Aaron and Abby have to save the day AND find the culprit, and keep Mayor Good Boy’s good reputation intact. With likable characters, friendly art, and loads of fart and stinky feet jokes, this is warm-hearted comedy gold for intermediate and middle graders. The story touches on themes of diversity. advocacy,  and activism, as Abby gives a great speech about being able to create change, even as a kid; back matter includes how to draw instructions for Good Boy, Aaron, and Abby, plus the Mayor Good Boy Pledge and a side comic starring the two siblings on how to contact one’s representatives. Social consciousness, a great message about friends, working together, and a cameo by a comic favorite (I see you, Steenz!) make Mayor Good Boy a graphic novel series you won’t want to miss. There are adventures planned for 2022 and 2023, so keep your carts ready to load.
Mayor Good Boy hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS yet, so maybe this is one you want to suggest.
Death and Sparkles, by Rob Justus, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $22.99, ISBN: 9781797206356
Ages 10-14
Big themes and hilarious writing make this a macabre, middle school winner. Death is… well, Death. He touches things, they die, he doesn’t discriminate. Sparkles is a self-obsessed social media celebrity who also happens to be the last unicorn. His manager loves making money off of Sparkles, which turns out pretty poorly for Sparkles, who discovers some hard and fast truths about friendship when he and Death meet. Sparkles, seemingly immune to Death’s touch, is stuck on Death in the most hilarious of ways, leading to the two becoming the unlikeliest of friends. On one hand, there are fart jokes aplenty. On the other hand, there are incredible discussions about the pervasiveness of social media, the cult of influencers, and the fake friends that follow celebrity. There’s an ecological subplot that I expect will come back in future books that shows how even the most genuine intentions can get lost in the murky social media waters, causing a vicious cycle where getting attention for a necessary issue feeds into the popularity machine, leading to the distortion of the message. Thought- and discussion-provoking, yet laugh-out-loud funny, Death and Sparkles is a good start to a new series. Download a free activity kit and enjoy a cupcake.
Death and Sparkles is a CYBILS first round nominee.
Bedhead Ted, by Scott SanGiacomo, (Aug. 2021, Quill Tree Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062941305
Ages 8-12
Fourth grader Ted has is a bully target because of his “overactive hair follicles”, which give him a head of wild red hair and the nickname, “Bedhead Ted”. Taunted on the bus and in school, he and his best friend, a boy named Stacy, are on the lookout for The Brookside Beast, a fabled giant raccoon in their neighborhood. As if Ted wasn’t feeling bad enough, two of the boys’ tormentors decide to join Stacy’s Brookside Beast Research Center, causing Ted to distance himself from his best – and only – friend. Just as Ted is feeling his lowest, frustrated with his bullies, his friendship, and his hair, he discovers something incredible: his hair has superpowers! When Stacy disappears during the school’s ice cream social, Ted just knows he’s gone to track down the beast, and follows him: Ted’s hair may just save the day. Themes of bullying, appearances, friendship, and the rumor mill are all addressed in this smartly written, funny story about a kid and his hair. A fun mystery leads to a sweet conclusion, and I loved the subplot involving Ted’s family tree. Mixed media illustrations give life to Ted and his super-powered hair; as bullies throw things at him, readers will see various utensils, writing tools, paper airplanes, and more sticking to his hair as he goes through his day. His family is supportive and doesn’t ignore his bullying, checking in with him throughout the story and leading to his grandmother’s reveal. Visit Scott SanGiacomo’s webpage for Ted-related printables, draw-along videos, and more artwork.
Bedhead Ted hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS award yet… you know what to do!
Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Fearless: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s story

Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Defender of Free Speech, by Gattaldo, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536219180

Ages 7-10

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist who exposed corruption at all levels of government and organized crime, gets her moment in this powerful picture book biography by one of her close friends, award-winning creative director and illustrator Gattaldo. Fearless introduces readers to Caruana Gallizia, whose love of books inspired her to think for herself and the courage to speak out through protest. The story follows her career in journalism, depicting her as a warrior fighting a many-headed hydra of corruption; her headlines proving that the pen is mightier than the sword. Gattaldo uses soft mixed media illustration to create powerful images: Daphne, in colorful clothing, clutching a fountain pen, stands out in a dreamlike sea, illustrating her determination to stand out among those too fearful to speak up. Later, she stands proudly among a group of protestors inspired by her voice and her work. Endpapers feature bay laurels; symbols of strength and victory, and known as “daphne” in ancient Greece. An author’s note includes photos of Caruana Galizia and discusses her assassination, with a touching note about the author’s friendship with her.

Strong words about a strong figure who wouldn’t be silenced, this is a necessity for your biography shelves. You can view Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Running Commentary blog here, where she pulled no punches with her commentary. You can read about her death here, and can follow the latest news on bringing her murderer(s) to justice here.

Posted in picture books

Library Love: Lila Lou’s Little Library

Lila Lou’s Little Library : A Gift From the Heart, by Nikki Bergstresser/Illustrated by Sejung Kim, (Oct. 2021, Cardinal Rule Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781735345116
Ages 5-7
A little girl who loves to read has too many books for her home, so she creates a Little Free Library for her community! A story of book love, library love, and literacy activism, Lila Lou’s Little Library is perfect for class visits and book-about-books storytime. It’ll inspire kids and grownups alike to share their love of books with their neighbors. Back matter includes tips on creating and curating your own little library, and that’s one of the things I love most about this story: it’s not just about loving books, although that’s certainly at the heart of the story; it’s about the love of sharing – the community starts to get involved, contributing to the library with their own books – and the love of librarianship. Lila Lou is a little Reader’s Advisor, selecting just right books for everyone who asks her for a suggestion; she shows readers what librarians’ real talent is. We listen, and we share information that readers want and need. Adults, children, Lila Lou is ready to help them all. It’s a very sweet story about gentle, but firm, literacy advocacy. Colorful kid-friendly artwork is eye-catching, and the storytelling will inspire readers to look over their own piles of books and share them with their friends, their classrooms, and possibly, their communities. Lila Lou’s tree stump reminds me of the librarian in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who created a gorgeous Little Free Library from a hollowed-out tree in her yard, but there easier ways to share books with others. Talk about some of those ways, using the information at the end of the book, and the free, downloadable reader’s guide. Print out coloring pages to share, too!
I would love to see where Lila Lou goes next – maybe she’s got more book-related adventures to come?
Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Earth Day essentials!

Earth Day is getting closer, friends! I’ve got more fun to celebrate Earth Day every day!

Earth: 100 Piece Puzzle (Featuring Photography from the Archives at NASA), (April 2021, Chronicle Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781797202723

Ages 6+

This is a slight deviation from books, but how can you go wrong with an Earth-shaped puzzle of the Earth, using a NASA photo? The puzzle is a nice size, at 2 1/2 feet in diameter; pieces are large and sturdy, as is the storage container. It’s a beautiful shot of Earth from space that will delight you as it comes together. This puzzle is a companion to Chronicle’s Moon and Mars puzzles, for anyone interested in building their own universe. A fun, hands-on way to support astronomy and science learners! My Kiddo and I have been trying to put it together for a few weeks now, and it’s coming along; I’ll have to post the finished product.

 

Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer, by Aneta Frantiska Holasová, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536214611

Ages 7-10

Bruno is a beekeeping bear, having inherited his grandfather’s apiary. Together with his human Grandma, he spends his time caring for the bees and harvesting their honey in this introduction to beekeeping and the life cycle of bees. Organized into seasons, with warm, honey-colored illustrations, readers learn the different types of bees and their functions within the hive; parasites and predators to watch out for, and they watch Bruno as he goes about the business of cleaning and preparing the hives for the next year. Side notes about Grandma’s part in the beekeeping: helping Bruno prepare the hives, making beeswax candles, and delicious gingerbread cookies with the harvested honey! A lovely book about beekeeping and bees for the season, with a gingerbread cookie recipe and an index. Display with Katherine Pryor’s Bea’s Bees, Maribeth Boelts’s Kaia and the Bees, Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s award-winning Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, and Alison Formento’s These Bees Count! for a nice bee-related display.

 

And coming soon…

The Wild World Handbook: How Adventurers, Artists, Scientists – and You – Can Protect Earth’s Habitats, by Andrea Debbink/Illustrated by Asia Orlando, (May 2021, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781683692461

Ages 8-12

The first in a new middle grade series, this volume of The Wild World Handbook focuses on habitats. Organized into nine habitats, from mountains to grasslands, the handbook includes biographical profiles on outdoor scientists, artists, and activists; DIY crafts to give kids a hands-on learning experience and understanding of their world, natural wonders to be found in each habitat, and ways kids can take part in being stewards for the planet. Plan an expedition to the Himalayas or visit an underwater world; make a desert or rainforest biome or learn to press flowers and plants. This is another program-in-a-book treasure for us librarians, and a beautiful, full-color guidebook to earth advocacy for kids. Just in time to get the kids out and about for summer, make sure to display with the upcoming Outdoor School series from Macmillan and Odd Dot.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Booktalk this Book: Dress Coded

Dress Coded, by Carrie Firestone, (July 2020, GP Putnam), $17.99, ISBN: 9781984816436

Ages 9-13

I’ve been killing myself with anticipation over this book since I received the early galley last year. I finally put everything else aside and finished this in a day, because it’s that good. Told in short chapters and including podcast transcripts, text messages, and letters, Dress Coded is a perfect snapshot of what it’s like being a young woman in middle school today. Molly Frost is fed up: fed up with her vape-addicted brother, who’s wreaked havoc on her family; fed up with feeling invisible at school, and fed up with the school’s dress code, which seems hardwired solely to embarrass and harass female students of a certain body type. It all blows up the day her friend Olivia is humiliated by the dean and principal for wearing a tank top at school and refusing to take her sweatshirt off her waist to put it back on – a reason that makes itself clear as the story progresses. Several of Molly’s friends have been “dress coded” for similar offenses, and the humiliation and frustration are far greater than the suspected offense. Molly starts a podcast, Dress Coded, where girls speak up about their dress coding experiences and the mental and emotional fallout from run-ins with staff. The podcast grows into a movement to remove the dress code, and Molly, at the center of it, finds the power within her to stand up to her brother and the school bully, and the ability to help other girls find their voice. A primer in middle school activism and a scathing indictment of how women’s bodies are weaponized and sexualized from a young age, Dress Coded is simply essential reading. Please, educators, put this on your summer reading lists!

Dress Coded is author Carrie Firestone’s middle grade debut. I can’t wait to see what else she’s going to give my middle graders. The book is a Booklist Editors’ Choice Selection, a Texas Lone Star Reading List Selection, and a Rise: Feminist Book Project Selection. It has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. Submit your own dress coding story at Carrie Firestone’s author webiste, and learn about her other books, workshops, and author inspiration, too.