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 picture books, Preschool Reads

V is for Voting… important ALL YEAR LONG

V is for Voting, by Kate Farrell/Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald, (July 2020, Henry Holt & Co), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231253

Ages 3-6

You may be looking at this title and thinking I’m really late on this one, and I am. But I also see this as a book we need to talk about NOW, because it isn’t just about voting. This ABC-edary is an introduction (or a reminder, for some… giving the eyeglasses librarian look now) to civics and what it takes to be a good citizen. V is just one letter in the alphabet, just like voting is just one part of being a good citizen. Farrell has points to make that everyone should understand and take to heart: “A is for active participation. / B is for building a more equal nation.”; “E for engagement. We all need to care. / F for a free press to find facts and share”. Digital illustrations bring vibrant, diverse communities to the pages of the book, showing communities uniting to march for justice, contributing to local communities, and yes, voting. Back matter includes a voting rights timeline and more information about people featured in the book’s illustrations, like Shirley Chisholm, Malcolm X, Takemoto Mink, and Cesar Chavez.

Essential reading. Go to your library and get a copy now, because we all need to read and discuss this book, whether it’s with our kids or among ourselves.

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

Important Reading: Fault Lines in the Constitution

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today, by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Sanford, (Sept. 2017, Peachtree Publishers), $19.95, ISBN: 9781561459452

Recommended for readers 10-14

You don’t need a political science degree to see that it’s been a pretty tumultuous year for our country. You don’t even need to watch the news: stick a toe into the social media waters or just go out in public, and you’ll hear all about our current political climate. What tweens and teens may not realize is that a lot of the political issues we’re struggling with today have their roots in the U.S. Constitution. Husband and wife scholars Cynthia and Sanford Levinson examine this document in detail, from its creation to the present, to point out fault lines – cracks in our foundation – how other countries may deal with similar issues, and suggestions for how to address the flaws.

Big-ticket takeaways include the Electoral College and state-by-state representation: how it’s great to be a tiny state, not so much a big state. An honest, no-holds barred look at our governing document, Fault Lines in the Constitution is an important book to have in libraries and classrooms today, tomorrow, and for years to come. Includes a timeline, extensive notes, bibliography, and index. Fault Lines in the Constitution received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist.


Cynthia Levinson holds degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University and also attended the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. A former teacher and educational policy consultant and researcher, she is the author of the award-winning and critically-acclaimed We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. Sanford Levinson is an American legal scholar and a professor at the University of Texas Law School. He holds degrees from Duke, Stanford, and Harvard universities and is the author of several adult works of nonfiction.

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

Memoirs of a Sidekick – good guys don’t always finish last

memoirsMemoirs of a Sidekick, by David Skuy, (Oct. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385688

Recommended for ages 9-12

Boris Snodbuckle and his best friend, Adrian, are two students at Bendale Public School. They’re not exactly the most popular kids; Boris and his harebrained plans often put him at the mercy of school bullies and teachers alike, and Adrian’s parents aren’t exactly thrilled with Boris, either. But Boris – “the B-ster” – is endlessly optimistic and just happens to see things differently. He decides to run for student council president, because he wants to make positive changes happen for all the kids across every grade. But Robert, Boris’ chief tormentor, also decides to run, and sets about stealing Boris’ ideas, taking all the credit, and getting the student body to promise their votes to him! Can Boris’ latest wild scheme turn things around?

Memoirs of a Sidekick is built on good values: persistence, optimism, and loyalty, for starters; there’s a strong vein of altruism, with Boris’ desire to take a stand for others. The novel touches on bullying and school social groups, and being a good citizen in the world at large, and there’s a nice emphasis on honesty being the best policy. The book meanders a bit at points, and Boris’ adherence to the Rules he and Adrian live by is relatable, if at times frustrating. Readers will appreciate Boris’ unique way of looking at the world and Adrian’s unflinching loyalty to his best friend.

Memoirs of a Sidekick is a good additional purchase for realistic fiction collections.

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

That’s Not Fair! introduces kids to rights, freedoms, and making choices

notfairThat’s Not Fair! Getting to Know Your Rights and Freedoms, by Danielle McLaughlin/Illustrated by Dharmali Patel  (Apr. 2016, Kids Can Press), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771382083

Recommended for ages 7-11

The latest book under Kids Can Press’ CitizenKid imprint, That’s Not Fair! is a companion introduction to civics for middle graders. Using a series of six case studies/short stories starring Mayor Moe and his fellow councilors, each study looks at a problem that arises, a decision to address the issue with a new law, and the consequences – intended or, more usually, unintended – of that law. Bug, the only councilor that seems to think things through, is the first to exclaim, “That’s not fair!” and points out why proposed legislation is unfair, leading to a deeper discussion on the topic. It’s a smart way of explaining the often convoluted legal process to kids, who are quick to point out when something is fair versus unfair (bedtimes were big battlefields in my home).

Each story concludes with talking points for readers: Why did the councilor(s) make their decision? Did the new law achieve its purpose? Were there any unexpected results? These aren’t right/wrong answers; they’re jumping off points for discussions to provide understanding. A Note for Parents and Teachers and definitions of the rights and freedoms covered in each story are included at the end of the book. Dharmali Patel’s illustrations are brightly colored and fun, keeping kids’ interest as they visualize each scenario. Bug is depicted as a somewhat literal lightning bulb literary reference, buzzing and lighting up to call attention to problematic legislation and ideas.

A good companion book for collections that feature books on how communities work and function, and the legislative process.


Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Forget Democrat or Republican, Vote SQUID!

presidentsquid_1President Squid, by Aaron Reynolds/Illustrated by Sara Varon (March 2016, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452136479

Recommended for ages 5-8

This is a big election year, so get read for tons of election books – we had the adorable Monster Needs Your Vote last year, which also taught young readers a little bit about the election process, and this year, we’ve got President Squid, by Aaron Reynolds and Sara Varon, two of my favorite authors/illustrators: Aaron Reynolds, who’s given us great books like Superhero School, Chicks and Salsa, and Creepy Carrots, and Sara Varon, who’s most recently re-published her all-ages graphic novel, Sweater Weather, along with favorites like Bake Sale and Odd Duck.

Squid has had a huge realization: There’s never been a giant squid president before! He’s more than ready and willing to take on the job, and he’s got five reasons why: He wears a tie (very presidential); he’s got a TITANIC house (get it? Titanic?); Presidents are famous (Squid has a book named after him, after all); they get to do all the talking, and most importantly, Presidents are the BIG BOSSES. Since Squid is pretty bossy, he’s a shoo-in, right? Well… maybe. When Squid realizes that being President is hard work, he sets his sights on an even bigger office.

Much like younger readers, Squid knows that being President is a big, important job, but he only sees the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. President Squid is good fun; a book that can start conversations as to what a President’s real duties are, as opposed to what Squid sees. You can even talk about why the President is considered a big boss; why does he wear a tie? What makes him famous, and what’s the name of the President’s big house? Homeschool Journeys has a great printable pack of election-related worksheets and activities that can accompany a reading of the story. Chronicle also has a free, downloadable activity kit to accompany President Squid, with printables that let you make your own election!


The ink and brush artwork on Bristol paper, colored in Photoshop, is fun and eye-catching. Black font is expressive and bold, making for a fun, easy-to-read storytime or independent reading selection.

Remember to Vote Squid (hey, you can even make up Monster vs. Squid election buttons for a book battle!) and add this to your collections if you’re looking for some fun, election-related books for younger readers.




Aaron Reynolds is a Caldecott honoree and New York Times bestselling author. Sara Varon is a recipient of a Sendak Award Fellowship and an Eisner nominee – together, they’re unstoppable!

Posted in Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Hit the Election Trail with Monster Needs Your Vote!





Monster Needs Your Vote, by Paul Czajak/Illus. by Wendy Grieb (Aug. 2015, Mighty Media Kids), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-938063-63-3

Recommended for ages 4-8

It’s election season, and Monster wants to get involved! He’s got a bunch of different platforms he supports – longer summers, dessert for dinner – but he quickly discovers a more important cause to stand for, and shows kids that no matter what your age, you can make a difference!


This latest book in author Paul Czajak’s Monster & Me series gives kids a glimpse into the election process – choosing a platform, the power of a grassroots movement, and the campaign trail, in particular. Monster’s focus on education and literacy makes this a great classroom and library read-aloud – never talking down to the youngest of readers, Czajak Grieb use rhyme and adorable, kid-friendly illustration in eye-catching, bright colors to talk to kids. A free, downloadable Campaign Kit from the publisher is loaded with great add-ons, including facts about Presidents and First Ladies, a political vocabulary sheet, Monster coloring sheets, and more.

The coming Presidential election is already heating up, with a huge primary on the horizon and a lot of passionate issues on the table. Monster Needs Your Vote is a valuable addition to educators and parents who want to get kids involved. I can’t wait to see what my preschoolers think of it (although I expect that dessert for dinner will be a key concern)! Monster gets my vote – I hope he gets yours!

Have a sneak peek at Monster Needs Your Vote right here, then hit that campaign trail!