Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Marshmallow & Jordan is a gentle friendship story

Marshmallow & Jordan, by Alina Chau, (Oct. 2021, First Second), $22.99, ISBN: 9781250300607

Ages 8-12

Set in Indonesia, Marhsmallow & Jordan is a story of friendship and finding one’s own way. Jordan is a middle schooler who loves basketball: even an accident that put her in a wheelchair can’t stop her, mostly. She can’t compete with the team like she used to, but still serves as captain. She’s feeling a bit unfulfilled, when she rescues a hurt white baby elephant that she promptly names Marshmallow. The two new friends quickly become attached. Meanwhile, Jordan’s basketball coach recommends she try out for water polo after Marshmallow digs Jordan a pool, letting her take to the water without worrying about her wheelchair weighing her down. The training isn’t easy, but Marshmallow’s loving support and her own determination keeps Jordan focused on practice and success. But Marshmallow is hiding a secret of her own. Rich with warm colors and Indonesian culture and a diverse group of characters, Marshmallow & Jordan is a great middle grade story that works as a book club pick and a realistic fiction piece. Back matter includes a glossary of Indonesian terms, an author’s note, Indonesian facts, and food recommendations.

Visit Alina Chau’s author website for more information about her books, to sign up for her newsletter, and connect to her social media. Read an interview with Alina Chau at SLJ’s Good Comics for Kids, TeachersPayTeachers has free Indonesian activities, including an animal word search from Teach With Mrs. T’s Class and a map of Indonedia from The Harstad Collection. Britannica for Kids has information about water polo.

 

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Dancing With Daddy

Inspired by her daughter, Elsie, author Anitra Rowe Schulte created a lovely story about a girl’s night out with Daddy in her first picture book, Dancing With Daddy.

Dancing With Daddy, by Anitra Rowe Schulte/Illustrated by Ziyue Chen,
(Dec. 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542007191

Ages 4-7

Elsie is a little girl who can’t wait for her first father-daughter dance, and really hopes the weather holds out so she doesn’t miss it! She’s got the perfect dress and matching headband, and she and her sisters have practiced dance moves. Elsie sways in her wheelchair, and her sisters twirl her around, until she’s ready! The snow may come, but that won’t stop Elsie, her sisters, and their daddy from dancing the night away!

Inspired by her daughter, who has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (WHS), Dancing With Daddy combines external narration with internal dialogue, giving us a glimpse into Elsie’s world as she waits for the big dance to arrive. Elsie’s thoughts are italicized and colorful fonts to set them apart from narration. Her sisters are supportive and excited, including her in all their dance-planning activities; they coo and squeal over her dress, and help her with dance moves by twirling her around in her chair. Soft colors and gentle illustration create a comfortable, warm family setting; when Elsie and her Daddy dance together, the world disappears around them, and the spread becomes the two, Elsie in her Daddy’s arms, as he sways and swings with her against a black background with glittering lights around them. Endpapers celebrate this moment, showcasing Dad and Elsie dancing together against a glittering background of navy blue. The story also illustrates how Elsie communicates with her family using a special communication book, with pictures and words she points to in order to give voice to her thoughts. A good book to add to your inclusive lists.

Visit Anitra Rowe Schulte’s author page for more information about her book, her journalism, and her school visits.

★“Refreshingly, Elsie’s disability is seamlessly presented as simply another aspect of family life…As she swings and sways in her father’s arms, her forehead against his, their love is palpable; Chen’s illustrations fairly glow with affection…A heartwarming portrayal of a family embracing disability.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Anitra] Rowe Schulte uses accessible, rhythmic language…conveying Elsie’s thoughts in pink- and red-colored text. Light-filled digital illustrations by [Ziyue] Chen make use of differing angles and dynamic shots, emphasizing the love the family has for one another.” Publishers Weekly

“This sweet story is a great addition to any diverse and inclusive library.” ―TODAY

Anitra Rowe Schulte has worked as a journalist for The Kansas City Star and the Sun-Times News Group, as a staff writer for Chicago Public Schools, and as a publicist. She is the mother of three beautiful girls, one of whom has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome and is the inspiration for Elsie in this book. She lives in the Chicago area, and this is her first picture book. Learn more about her at www.anitraroweschulte.com and follow her at @anitraschulte on Twitter.

Ziyue Chen is the Deaf illustrator of a number of children’s books, including Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk, How Women Won the Vote by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby by Danna Smith. She lives with her loved ones in Singapore. Find out more at www.ziyuechen.com or follow her @ziyuechen on Instagram.

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Dancing With Daddy. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! If you’ve won in the last six months, please give other folx a chance and don’t enter this one. U.S. addresses and no P.O. Boxes, please!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Poojo’s Got Wheels! Look at him go!

Poojo’s Got Wheels, by Charrow, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210361

Ages 4-8

Poojo is an adorable dog born without back legs, but don’t you feel sorry for him: he’s got wheels! Little Poojo has a big smile and a super-cool wheelchair that lets him zip around, being a good friend to everyone and everything. When he gets a flat at a costume parade, he’s momentarily flummoxed, but Poojo? He’s got it all handled, and he’s got support from all his friends. This adorable can-do story about a pup and his wheelchair is just a feel-good, wonderful story about ability and spirit. Brief text lets emerging readers build their confidence, and lets the illustrations transport the reader into the story to play with Poojo and his friends. Digital and gouache artwork creates colorful illustrations with cute dogs and green spaces for them to frolic within. Poojo has a big smile, a bright red wheelchair, and very cool pockets that fit all his stuff. Green-washed endpapers sport a shower of bones, most likely snacks for Poojo to enjoy after his parade. Don’t miss this one; it’s an upbeat read that your littles will love.

Poojo’s Got Wheels has a starred review from Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

Award winner: All the Way to the Top!

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for American with Disabilities Changed Everything, by Annette Bay Pimentel/Illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, (March 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492688976

Ages 4-8

A Schneider Family Book Award Honoree, All the Way to the Top is activist Jennifer Keelan’s story. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child, Jennifer used a wheelchair to get around, but found that “buses, museums, libraries, and even schools that were accessible to my able-bodied peers were not accessible to me because there were no wheelchair ramps”. Becoming an activist at age 6, Jennifer found her voice when her family brought her to strategy meetings and protests for the right to access and to push for the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA). Most of All the Way to the Top takes place in Jennifer’s early childhood, leading up to her history-making moment in 1990, when, at the age of 9, she took part in the Capitol Crawl, where protestors left their wheelchairs and mobility aids aside and crawled up the Capitol steps to demonstrate the need for accessible architecture. All the Way to the Top is a powerful story about a major moment in history, and illustrates how important it is that children are invited to discussions about policies that affect them. Back matter includes information about activism, the access, the life before and after the ADA, timeline for both the Disability Rights Movement and Jennifer Keelan-Chaffin’s life, and a bibliography. Nabi Ali’s illustrations show expressive, diverse groups of people assembling to discuss and advocate for themselves and others. Jennifer and her younger sister, who attended protests with her, stand out in crowd scenes, with the sisters rendered in full color and the crowd in various monochromatic shades.

Britannica Kids has an entry on the ADA for students, and readers can learn more about Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins at her website. Publisher Sourcebooks has a free, downloadable Educator’s Guide available, and the book detail page has an interview with author Annette Bay Pimentel and more.

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

February Graphic Novels bring big feelings

PTSD, by Guillaume Singelin, (Feb. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626723184

Ages 16+

A veteran home from an unpopular war, Jun is an outsider whose fate is similar to many of our own vets in the here and now. She’s mentally and physically broken, finding relief in the drugs she’s addicted to. When she connects with a single mom running a food booth, and a fellow vet and his dog, Red, Jun begins to heal and works toward helping her fellow vets heal.

Set in a fictional, Hong Kong-inspired city, PTSD chooses a gritty, urban futuristic landscape to tell the story of a veteran who went off to fight a war, and came home to indifference. Jun gives us a chance to glimpse into a vet’s psyche: beaten down, haunted by her memories, and physically broken, she’s been left behind by the people she thought she went off to defend. She’s angry, she’s in pain, and the only thing that seems to take the edge off is drugs. Basic human kindness angers her – she initially rebuffs the woman who runs a food stand, because she’s so unused to humane gestures. Readers will see our vets reflected in Jun and her fellow homeless vets.

The story is strong, although I struggled with the artwork. The manga-inspired artwork is dark and often muddy. It’s atmospheric, but often left me struggling to figure out what was going on and where. Manga fans will snap this up, and booktalk this with books like Elizabeth Partridge’s National Book Award nominee, Boots on the Ground. This is a young adult and up-level graphic novel with language and content that may be too rough for middle grade readers.

Bloom, by Kevin Panetta/Illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau, (Feb. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250196910
Ages 13+

This YA/New Adult graphic novel is a gentle love story. High school is over, and Ari can’t wait to move out of his hometown. He and his bandmates are planning on a big move to the city, where they can get more gigs and make their names – now, all Ari needs to do, is convince his dad to let him quit his job at the family bakery. At the same time, Hector comes to town to wrap up his deceased grandmother’s affairs and sell her house. He loves to bake as much as Ari is sick of it, and he ends up being the perfect replacement for the struggling bakery: even Ari’s dad loves Hector! But as Ari works side by side with Hector, getting him up to speed on the bakery, the two fall in love… until disaster hits, in more ways than one. Can Ari’s family recover when their business and home burns to the ground, and can Hector and Ari ever work out their relationship?

Created with soft blue and white artwork, Bloom is a sweet story of first love, identity, and independence. Ari can come off as pretty whiny, but his friends are even worse. Hector is the strong, silent type that pulls Ari out of himself and helps him discover who he is – and that he doesn’t need his friends in order to give him an identity. Bloom also explores consequences: Ari has to make big choices in this book, and not every choice is going to be the best one for him. It’s part of growing up, and growing up can be painful. It’s how you work through it that matters. Bloom is a good add to your YA/New Adult graphic novel collections and a love story that will give readers the warm fuzzies.