Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See looks at childhood anxiety

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See, by Sam McBratney/Illustrated by Linda Ólafsdóttir, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212815

Ages 3-7

A young girl named Mindi is afraid of an invisible goose in her room. Her parents do their best to ease her fears, to no avail. Mindi’s father brings Mindi to visit Austen, a wise farmer who has a wonderful, gentle way to get that goose out of Mindi’s room. Sam McBratney, author of the childhood classic Guess How Much I Love You (1994), created a kind, gentle story about listening to children and understanding childhood fears and anxiety. The author, who passed away last year, had an intuitive way of telling stories that allow children to see themselves, and a wonderful way of showing adults how to put themselves in a child’s place and see the world through their eyes. Linda Ólafsdóttir’s mixed media artwork brings soft colors and gentle artwork to this wonderful story.

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books

Sensitive Storytelling: A Place to Stay

A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story, by Erin Gunti/Illustrated by Estelí Meza, (Aug. 2019, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781782858249

Ages 5-9

A young girl and her mother seek housing at a shelter. The girl is uncomfortable with her surroundings: this isn’t her home, her bed, her kitchen, but her mother tries to smooth over the situation using positive visualization and imagination. No, it’s not her home; it’s a grand palace! The beds become rocket ships that shoot into space, and the dining room becomes a banquet hall, where people from all over come to break bread together. In between fantasy trips of the mind, the girl’s mother tries to put her daughter’s mind at ease, telling her that they are lucky to have a place to stay, encouraging her to greet others she meets at the shelter. Mother and daughter befriend another mother and her children at a nearby table; the two girls discover they are reading the same book at school. The protagonists are white, but there is a multicultural group of residents at the shelter, and the family she and her mother meet are brown-skinned.

A Place to Stay is sensitive to a child’s concerns over staying in a shelter, using the main character to communicate those fears, and her mother, to assuage them. A Place to Stay also explains what a shelter is, what purpose one serves to the communities, for those families that may have a pre-existing notion of the “kinds of people” that stay in shelters. Back matter includes notes on shelters and homelessness, including how shelters help and why people stay in shelters. A Place to Stay is an important addition to your libraries.

Author Erin Gunti wrote A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story after working as a child abuse and neglect investigator, to open a dialogue between adults and children about childhood homelessness. Her experiences come through with subtle nuances throughout the book: the use of creative visualization to ease anxiety and fear; having moments like the “treasure room” for kids in the shelter, where they can play and be children not defined by their situation; meeting other families and bonding over common ground like a book from school. Artist Estelí Meza uses soothing, soft colors to bring her story to life.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ahmed’s Journey is a study in mindfulness

Ahmed’s Journey: A Journey of Self-Discovery, by Jill Apperson Manly, (Jan. 2019, Jabu Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-9980220-0-0

Ages 4-7

Yogi, author, teacher, and award-winning author Jill Apperson Manly creates a quietly eloquent tale of mindfulness against a backdrop of the Arabian peninsula. A boy named Amend and his family have traveled across the desert to race their camel in the famous camel races. As Ahmed feeds the camels, he start to feel anxious about the race. As he meditatively rubs his favorite camel’s ear, he stands still, in the moment, and senses his surroundings, and his place within his surroundings. He senses a sandstorm building, and notices that his anxiety is causing a storm within him, too. He breathes, he takes an inventory of himself and his emotions, and rides out both the inner and outer storms. At the story’s conclusion, Ahmed feels strong, peaceful, patient, and wise; he’s confident that everything he needs within him.

Ahmed’s Journey uses techniques to walk readers through the process of mindfulness and being present. Ms. Manly uses visual and verbal cues to help readers get in touch with all of their senses, even bringing the tactile to life as she describes the grittiness of the sand, the discomfort of anxiety, and the warmth of love. The title refers to both the outer journey Ahmed and his family make to the races, and his internal journey to inner awareness. Gentle, earth-toned watercolor illustrations create a desert landscape and present a calming influence on readers. The text is brief and impactful, making this a wonderful story to read during a yoga or mindfulness storytime. A nice add to multicultural and yoga/mindfulness collections.

 

Award-winning author of Nothando’s Journey, Jill Apperson Manly’s second book, Ahmed’s Journey, deepens the themes of exploring thoughts, emotions and sensations. Manly uses international cultural festivals to educate the reader and teach the importance of  self-love. Jill is a certified iRest® teacher and Somatic Yoga Therapist and loves sharing yoga and meditation with children and adults, coaching girls’ high school basketball, and being a mom to her four children. She lives with her husband and children in Newport Beach, CA.

 

Some questions for Jill, courtesy of JKS Communications:

How important is it for kids to explore and know their own emotions?

Jill: There is nothing more important.  It is essential to learn and value who you are.

Do you think that emotional lessons can be integrated into school studies?

Jill: Yes, Absolutely! Globally and in the U.S. we are seeing this done right now. My first book, Nothando’s Journey, is part of part of an SEL curricula created by Think Equal (www.thinkequal.com) currently in 147 schools across 15 countries. The pilot program is being evaluated by Yale Center for Emotional Learning. Kids live in present. There is no better time to discuss how a child is feeling then when  it is occuring. Of course, you cannot disrupt the class to deal with each emotion so therefore, it is better to have a set time within a lesson, for example in social science, to include a SEL lesson.

How did your experience teaching and studying in Saudi Arabia affect the writing of Ahmed’s Journey?

Jill: My overseas teaching experiences with children gave me great joy. Picking stories from “far-away places” gives a different perspective and we all benefit by learning about others. It’s fun to think about riding a camel. Kids in America don’t get to do that. It is even more fun to think about racing one!

 

 

What aspects of yoga do you bring to writing children’s books?

Jill: Yoga is seen in mainstream America as primarily a form of exercise, in my books, some of the deeper benefits of yoga or any mindful (peaceful) practice are explored.

How were the emotions and sensations that Ahmed experienced in the book reflections of your experiences traveling abroad or those of your own children?

Jill: I hope my experiences do not create experiences for others. I hope they are only a springboard for a discussion of everyone’s self potential. There is SO MUCH in our kids and in ourselves that gets stuffed down or swallowed up or is undervalued. I hope my books encourage and support kids and adults to value who they are on the inside.

Why is it important for kids to experience cultures different from their own?

Jill: We are more alike than different. As we see others, we see ourselves.

What is some advice you can give to parents who have children experiencing fear and anxiety like Ahmed?

Jill: The best advice is to have the conversation around these topics. Our children have lots of anxiety and being able to help them address their anxiety around their fears is very empowering. My website has additional resources both for the child and adult on this topic.

 

How is Ahmed’s Journey a continuation of your first book, Nothando’s Journey?

Jill: It takes kids and parents to another place in the world to learn about others and, at the same time, to learn about themselves.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Hector’s Favorite Place shows kids how to face their fears

Hector’s Favorite Place, by Jo Rooks, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828683

Ages 4-7

Hector is a hedgehog whose favorite place is home. He doesn’t go out that often, because everything he needs is home; home is “cozy and snuggly and safe”. At the same time, though, Hector wants to do things with his friends! He’s invited to the most exciting things: playing in the snow, ice skating, going to a party. But every time Hector accepts an invitation, he starts thinking about all the things that could go wrong, becomes anxious, and cancels plans. He decides to confront his anxiety, be brave, and head to the Winter party in the forest; when anxiety rears its ugly head again, he closes his eyes and imagines himself having fun and dancing at the party – and discovers that he’s having fun! After the party and some hot chocolate, Hector’ decides that he’s ready to take on new adventures outside of his home.

Hector’s Favorite Place is a child-friendly look at getting past fear. The author uses cute animals and age-appropriate text to communicate situations that may make kids nervous. Having Hector use creative visualization by imagining himself having fun is a great way to communicate this strategy to kids, giving them the tools to tackle worry and fear of everything from going to a friend’s party to starting the first day of school. Back matter gives parents some helpful advice on managing worry in kids and how to model helpful behaviors.

Magination Press is a publishing imprint of the American Psychological Association. The publisher’s website offers links to brochures and research from the APA, links to social media, and and links to the APA Book and APA Style blog. KidPsych is a kid- and parent-friendly site with games and activities.

I’ve been enjoying the Magination Press books for toddlers and kids. I like the topics the authors explore, and I love the way the authors and illustrators come together to create a story that appeals to kids and speaks to them in a way that respects and understands their feelings and challenges. So far, every book I’ve seen from Magination Press earns a spot in my library.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Dexter Dino takes on show & tell! Plus, a giveaway!

He’s back! My favorite neurotic toy dinosaur is back in his second adventure!!

Sorry, Rex, it’s not you.

 

 

It’s… DEXTER DINO!

It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!, by Lindsay Ward, (Aug. 2018, Two Lions),
Ages 3-7

 

Dexter’s fully recovered from his experience in the pediatrician’s waiting room, and he and Jack are back together to take on a new adventure: SHOW AND TELL. But Dexter’s worried again… he wants to wow the class! Should he wear a costume? Learn an exciting new routine? OH NO! WHAT IF HE’S THE… BORING TOY? Dexter’s latest story takes on performance anxiety and worries about self-image. Thankfully, the omniscient reader is there to let Dexter know that being himself is the best way to go: and sure enough, the Dexter Dino chant makes him the most popular dino in the class and on the bus!

I have such love for this fun series and for author Lindsay Ward. Dexter is adorable, neurotic, and totally relatable. He worries about being cool enough to hang with his buddy, Jack; he worries about not being exciting enough to hold a kids’ attention, and he works through his anxiety for everyone to see, letting kids (ahem… and some adults) know that we’re not alone. By pointing out physical manifestations of what nerves can do to us: pit in the stomach, fidgety claws, awkward smiles, and all, Dexter lets readers know that we all get anxious about something, and that it’s okay. Being oneself is the best solution.

Dexter’s bright color and body postures make him awkward and lovable, and his empowering Dexter Dino chant gets an entire room up and stomping, making this PERFECT for storytimes. I tested this one out with a pre-k Kindergarten visit (they’d had a test run with Don’t Forget Dexter!), and they all jumped up and joined me for some chomping and stomping. I had a couple of kids let Dexter know it was okay, too: leave room for kid reactions when reading it out loud and watch empathy in action. My own 6-year-old was so excited to get the book in the mail, he had his own stomping party! Have a show and tell storytime, and encourage kids to talk about their cool things. Have some toys on hand for anyone who shows up empty-handed, and encourage some imagination by asking kids about what they like most about their toys and objects. Maybe you’ll get a new rhyme or two out of the experience, and don’t forget to have Dexter coloring sheets on hand!

 

 

Lindsay Ward is the author of the Dexter T. Rexter book Don’t Forget Dexter! Though she never got to bring an orange dinosaur to Show and Tell Day, she did once take all four albums of her sticker collection. She is also the author and illustrator of Brobarians, Henry Finds His Word, and When Blue Met Egg. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play.  Most days you can find Lindsay with her family, writing and sketching at her home in Peninsula, Ohio. Learn more about her at www.LindsayMWard.com or on Twitter: @lindsaymward.

 

Praise for It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!

“Ward’s gentle art features cut-paper forms with residual pencil outlines, providing an ad hoc quality to the spreads. Readers prone to anxiety over big events should be tickled by the idea that a toy has concerns too.” —Publishers Weekly

“Ward’s illustrations, made with printmaking ink, colored pencil, and cut paper, wonderfully capture Dexter’s every emotion and over-the-top ideas.” —Kirkus Reviews

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of both Dexter T. Rexter books–Don’t Forget Dexter! and It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History, Young Adult/New Adult

House of Dreams looks at a classic author’s life

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, by Liz Rosenberg/Illustrated by Julie Morstad, (June 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763660574

Recommended for readers 10+

This illustrated biography of Maud Montgomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, is a must-have for middle school and up biography readers. Her mother died when she was a toddler; her father left her in the care of her grandparents, and Maud grew up wanting more: passionate love and affection; education; a career as an author. She dealt with anxiety and depression throughout her life, and married for security rather than love. Drawing on correspondence and her unpublished journals, Liz Rosenberg draws a picture of a woman who led an often difficult life and who struggled against her circumstances to create one of the most memorable literary characters of all time.

It’s not always an easy read. Reading about Maud’s struggle against greedy publishers and her own gold-digging son can be rage-inducing, as is her fight to continue her education against the grandfather who refused to help her. Her callous uncle left Maud and her widowed grandmother to live in horrible conditions, waiting for his own mother to die so he could inherit her home, left to him by his father. But we also read about Maud’s devotion to her Prince Edward Island home, her lifelong love of writing, and her success at being able to sustain an income by writing.

L.M. Montgomery was a complex, conflicted woman and her struggles with mental health and financial independence make her more real, more three-dimensional, to readers who will understand and be inspired.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Archival Quality is SO GOOD, and not just because I’m a librarian.

Archival Quality, by Ivy Noelle Weir/Illustrated by Steenz, (March 2018, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620104705

Recommended for readers 14+

First, the scoop: Cel Walden is a young woman who loves working with books. But she loses her library job, because she’s also dealing with crippling anxiety and depression. She finds another job, this time as an archivist, at the Logan Museum, where she’s responsible for putting records in order and digitizing them. Sounds pretty cool, right? (You know it does.) She meets Abayomi, also called Aba, the secretive curator, and the fabulous Holly, librarian extraordinaire. Cel starts scanning and archiving, but notices strange things afoot at the library and the archivist’s apartment on library property; she also starts having some strange dreams about a young woman who needs Cel’s help. Cel becomes consumed with finding out this woman’s identity and what happened to her, which puts her job, relationship, and possibly, her mental health, at risk.

Now, the raving: Archival Quality is a great story on so many levels. It’s a ghost story; it’s got secrets; it takes place in a library – where better to have a ghost story?!; and it takes a strong and sensitive look at mental health and takes an hard look at mental health treatment in the past. Cel is on a mission to find out what happened to the ghostly girl who shares her initials and her mental health challenges. The ghost’s story gets under Cel’s skin because she empathizes; she understands, and she wants to help put an uneasy, persecuted spirit to rest: and that certainly has a double meaning, as we see the toll this takes on Cel through the story.

The characters are wonderful. Cel stands on her own as a fully realized character, and her friends: the mysterious Aba has his own fears and frustrations to work with, and Holly is strong and witty. Holly and Aba are characters of color and Holly’s got a girlfriend whose family has its own ties to the Logan Museum, giving us a tertiary character that has a realistic connection to the story and isn’t just there to be window dressing for Holly. Archival Quality is a solid story that works to bash away at the stigma of depression and anxiety. I love it, and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of the readers at my library. I’d hand this off to my upper-level middle schoolers and high schoolers, and keep copies handy for the college kids.

Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz also happen to be former librarians. See? LIBRARIES ROCK. Check out Ivy Weir’s webpage for more webcomics (with Steenz) and general awesomeness. Check out Steenz’s Tumblr for more art.

 

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

Shannon Hale Talks Cool Kids, Crybabies, and Real Friends

Real Friends, by Shannon Hale/Illustrated by LeUyen Pham, (May 2017, :01 First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-62672-785-4

Recommended for readers 8-13

How do I even start my gushing over Shannon Hale’s memoir about family, friendship, and growing pains? I’m a Shannon Hale fan and a LeUyen Pham fan; their collaborations – like on one of my favorite chapter book series, Princess in Black – work so well, visually and literally, it’s a treat for the eyes, the imagination, the whole reader is satisfied.

Here, we see young Shannon’s life from Kindergarten through fifth grade in terms of her relationships; with her mother, a series of friends, her troubled and sometimes abusive sister, and with God. Primarily, this is a story of how Shannon struggled with The Group. We all know The Group. Mean Girls was a story about The Group; just about every high school or middle school movie or TV show has a Group. It’s the in-crowd, the girls who make lives miserable for everyone that isn’t part of their group – and sometimes, even for the people in the group. Shannon desperately wants friends, but with friends comes the stress of being part of The Group and putting up with the mind games and backstabbing that is aimed at her by another jealous group member. At home, she tries to navigate relationships with her large family, trying to give her temperamental sister, Wendy, a wide berth.

We see the effects of stress on Shannon, who develops OCD-type behavior and manifests physical ailments often associated with anxiety. We also see how Shannon copes by creating her imaginary worlds – she’s a Wonder Woman, a Charlie’s Angel, a secret agent, and she brings her friends along for the ride. This book is powerful for a girl who, like Shannon, grew up in the ’70s, disappeared into my own imagination, and struggled for years with Groups and backstabbing. I’m an only child, but Shannon could have been writing about me – and that’s how readers will feel reading this book, just like readers do when they read literally anything by Raina Telgemeier.

Readers will know this is their story, whether they’re an 8 year old kid or a 46 year old librarian and book blogger; maybe there’s a boy out there who, like Shannon or Kayla, another character, hides in the bushes so no one will see them crying and make fun of them. Real Friends is painful, real, and beautiful.

Real Friends received a starred review from School Library Journal, and Kirkus offers an interview with Shannon and Dean Hale. Wander over to Shannon Hale’s author page for information on her other books, games and quizzes, and more; LeUyen Pham’s webpage is loaded with neat things to see, including a free, downloadable Love: Pass It On poster, and links to her illustration, Facebook, and book pages.

This one is a no-brainer for collections. Display with Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, and Sisters, and novels like Jennifer L. Holm’s Fourteenth Goldfish,  and Dana Alison Levy’s Family Fletcher books. If it’s a display or book talk on self-esteem and standing up to the crowd, make sure to include Kathryn Otoshi’s Zero, One, and Two.

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Teen, Tween Reads

Once Upon a Zombie – these aren’t the fairy tales you’re used to!

once upon a zombieOnce Upon a Zombie: Book One – The Color of Fear, by Billy Phillips and Jenny Nissenson (Oct. 2015, The Toon Studio Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781935668343

Recommended for ages 12+

Caitlin Fletcher and her wonderkid sister, Natalie, have moved to London with their dad to try and start their lives over. Caitlin’s and Natalie’s mom disappeared four years ago, and Caitlin suffers from severe anxiety, and starting over at a new school, where the mean girls have no qualms about letting Caitlin know she doesn’t measure up, is causing more anxiety than ever. The one bright spot is Jack, the super-cute boy at school who’s been friendly to her and invites her to a school dance, but a phone mixup lands Caitlin alone, in a cemetery, where she falls down the proverbial rabbit hole and lands in a fairy tale universe! The only drawback is, in this universe, all of the inhabitants are blood-eyed zombies, living under a strange curse. The fairy tale princesses we all know and love – Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty – have been sent to find Caitlin, because she holds the key to restoring order in their world and saving her own. But how is Caitlin, who’s two steps away from a panic attack, supposed to save an entire world, let alone herself?

Where do kids go after Goosebumps? Right here. This first book in a new series is a great way to ease younger horror fans into the zombie genre. The horror is slightly ramped up, with gorier descriptions of the living dead princesses and inhabitants of the fairy tale world, and there are allusions to zombies doing what zombies do best – Cinderella has to be yelled at to stop sniffing at Caitlin on a few occasions – but we’re not leaping into full-on gore and horror just yet. The secondary characters are familiar; we’ve grown up with them and heard about them for generations, so readers will get a kick out of this latest twist on the fractured fairy tale genre. There’s just enough romance to keep middle school girls happy, especially if they like their adventure light on the romance and heavy on the action.

Related to the book and mentioned in the story is the site, UnexplainableNews.com, a tabloid site the kids love checking out and aspire writing for. Direct your readers here (and check it out yourself) for some fun “news videos” on the zombie sightings happening all over the world that garner mention in the book.

Once Upon a Zombie is good fun for readers who love things that go bump in the night, but are ready to be just slightly more scared. Shelve it with a display of Monster High books!

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Finding Forever – Secrets, Lies, and the Search for Eternal Youth

finding foreverFinding Forever, by Ken Baker (Sept. 2015, Running Press), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0-7624-5594-2

Recommended for ages 13+

Brooklyn Brant isn’t your ordinary 16 year-old with a blog. She’s determined to break into  celebrity journalism, and has a blog – Deadline Diaries – that’s gaining some momentum. When she gets call from Simone, the assistant to white-hot teen celebrity Taylor Prince, claiming that Taylor’s been kidnapped and needs help, Brooklyn has the opportunity of a lifetime handed to her. Using her police officer dad’s investigative techniques, she launches her own investigation – but as she gets too close to the truth, could she find herself in danger?

Taylor Prince has it all – fame, fortune, screaming fans – but she just wants one night as a normal teenager. Her Sweet 16 party has no security, no press, just friends and a really, really cute guy that her assistant set up for her. She has no idea how vulnerable she is until she’s abducted at her own birthday party and wakes up in a strange place, where she’s told she’s been put in rehab for her own good.

Told in dual narratives following Brooklyn and Taylor, Ken Baker creates a story that shows readers that what we see isn’t always what we should believe in the world of celebrity journalism; we also get a chilling look at medical quackery in chase of eternal youth. It’s a mystery that touches in social issues like drug and alcohol abuse, OCD, dealing with grief and loss, and faith.

Baker, an E! news correspondent, has likely seen and heard about stories like this and more, and his writing is fast-paced and keeps the pages turning. The chapters revolving around Taylor’s abduction were interesting, even disturbing at points, but I had trouble connecting with the book overall because there’s a lot of pontificating. The main antagonist has an unhealthy Peter Pan/youth fixation and talks at length about it. Taylor’s attempts to play along come off as just letting victimization happen to her. Brooklyn tends to preach when she’s not suffering an attack of OCD.

It’s a good, light read for teens who may not gravitate to most realistic fiction, but enjoy a celeb fix.