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

Belittled Women: A Little Women for a new age

Belittled Women, by Amanda Sellett, (Nov. 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358567356

Ages 14+

Don’t ask Jo Porter how she feels about Little Women: she lives it. No, seriously. Her mother is a bit obsessed; not only did she name her three daughters Jo, Meg, and Bethamy (a mashup of Beth and Amy), and refer to herself as Marmee. Oh, and they play their namesakes in a running show called Little Women Live!, with school visits coming to watch the family act out – and put unique spins on – scenes from the Alcott classic. Jo is sick to death of it all, she’s constantly at odds with Amy, and Meg is just tuned out of everything. When a journalist and her son show up to write article about the Porter family, Jo is intrigued: the journalist asks pointed questions that get her thinking about life beyond home, and Hudson, the journalist’s son, is giving her signals. When Jo strikes out on her own and lands in New York on what she thinks is an invitation to stay with the journalist and learn from her, and pursue a relationship with Hudson, she learns that the grass ain’t always greener. Narrated by Jo, there are hilarious moments – the dialogue between Jo and Amy is particularly biting and witty – and moments that most teens will understand, like being frazzled by family relationships. You don’t need to read Alcott to read and enjoy Belittled Women. A good first purchase for teen collections.

Read Amanda Sellett’s laugh-out-loud Belittled Women FAQ on her author webpage.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Dear Wild Child

Dear Wild Child, by Wallace J. Nichols & Wallace Grayce Nichols/Illustrated by Drew Beckmeyer, (Aug. 2022, Cameron Kids),
$18.99. ISBN: 9781951836467
Ages 4-8

Inspired by a letter from a father to his daughter about life, family, and the wildfire that took their home, Dear Wild Child is a emotional story that chooses to celebrate the idea of home and its presence inside of all of us. Textured artwork shows beautiful detail: a home filled with books, music, and nature, from seashells to plants; family moments as a child grows up in a home filled with love; a life, filled with memories, moving on. An author’s note discusses climate change and its detrimental impact on our homes and our environment.

“The art echoes the text’s emphasis on beauty rather than loss. . .In the event’s aftermath, the affecting story’s tone remains openhearted, concluding with sentiments that encourage resilience and reflect on the nature of home.”
Publishers Weekly

“It’s a touching sentiment that reminds readers of all ages that our lives are defined not by our material possessions but by the memories we make… Intricate and emotional.”
Kirkus Reviews

In the shade of ancient redwood trees, by a creek, not far from the ocean, a father builds a house for his newborn daughter, where she grows up wild and strong in their coastal canyon home. When a wildfire takes back their beloved house, a father writes his now-grown daughter a letter telling her it’s gone. Inspired by the real letter the author wrote his daughter, this poignant story—written together by father and daughter—joyfully declares that a home is more than just wood and stone; it is made of love and can never be taken away. You carry home with you wherever you go.

 

Wallace Grayce Nichols is a student of sustainable design, problem solver, and water lover. Her father, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, is a marine biologist and the author of the bestselling book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. Home is the slow coast of California. Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Drew Beckmeyer is a fine artist, illustrator, and elementary school teacher. He lives in Northern California. Website | Instagram

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10 winners will receive a hardcover of Dear Wild Child. US/Can only; no P.O. Boxes, please! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The new workplace: HELP MOM WORK FROM HOME

Help Mom Work from Home!, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld (Oct. 2021, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780316273657

Ages 4-7

With more parents working from home than ever before, Help Mom Work from Home! is a fun, rhyming readaloud that speaks to the work-life balance. A mom is working from home and her little one is right next to her, modeling everything from Mom’s hot beverage of choice to taking notes and important phone calls. Mom looks a little frazzled, though: it must be time for a break! Learning how to relax and take the chaos of home life as it comes, the story then leads into a look at making time for creative play and work – little one stacks cups as Mom packs boxes; they make deliveries together, they even straighten up their workplaces together. Endpapers show Mom’s packed schedule, with a childlike drawing of a solitary kid holding a red balloon scrawled across the calendar loaded with deadlines and meetings; back endpapers show a much happier schedule, filled with playdates, game nights, and library visits, and a drawing of Mom and child together, playing soccer. Is it an easy answer to the work/parent from home question? No, but it’s a helpful addition to the ever-increasing dialogue. A recognizable and relevant story with playful rhyme, Help Mom Work from Home! is a good addition to picture book collections. Visit Diana Murray’s author webpage for free printables including a word search and DIY desk nameplate.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A middle grade horror classic gets a graphic novel retelling: Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes Graphic Novel, by Mary Downing Hahn/Illustrated by Meredith Laxton, (Sept. 2022, Clarion Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780358536895

Ages 8-12

A classic work of children’s horror gets its day in graphic novel form.  Siblings Molly and Michael have tried time and again to bridge the divide between them and their 7-year-old stepsister, Heather, but Heather only seems to want to make their lives miserable. She lies to get them in trouble, she spurns any overtures from Molly, Michael, and their mother, and wants 100% of her father’s time. When the family relocates to an old church with a graveyard in back and sets up residence, things become even worse: Heather claims to have made a new friend: Helen, the ghost of a girl who died in a fire years ago, and who will make Molly and Michael pay when she comes. Wait Till Helen Comes is a chilling ghost story that receives an equally chilling graphic adaptation, with creepy imagery and a chilling blue and purple palette. Meredith Laxton maintains the spooky atmosphere that Hahn masterfully creates with her words. Characters are realistically human, all presenting as white.

With the current trend of popular novels being adapted into graphic novels, Wait till Helen Comes Home is about to reach even more readers. A great add to graphic novel collections.

Written in 1986, Wait till Helen Comes has won multiple awards and garnered a 2016 film adaptation.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I’ll Go and Come Back stretches love around the world

I’ll Go and Come Back, by Rajani LaRocca/Illustrated by Sara Palacios, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536207170

Ages 3-7

A young girl named Jyoti visits her family in India, where she experiences some culture shock: it’s so different from home! But she and her grandmother, her Sita Pati, spend time together making sand art, going to the market, and playing games. When she leaves, she doesn’t say goodbye; in India, they say “Poitu varen”: “I’ll go and come back”. When Sita Pati visits Jyoti, she experiences a similar culture shock, but Jyoti is there to play, create, and shop with her. Told in a repeat narrative from Indian and American experiences, I’ll Go and Come Back reminds me of Margaret Chiu Greanias’s Amah Faraway, which I also loved. I enjoy the reverse narrative, where each character swaps roles to become the caregiver and guide to a new culture. Rajani LaRocca creates warmth between Jyoti and Sita Pati, brought to life by Sara Palacios’s gouache and acrylic artwork. Sita Pati and Jyoti holds hands and lean toward each other when they’re together, and readers get a peek into Indian culture, with touchstones like food, public spaces, and clothing. Endpapers look like colorful sari prints. I’ll Go and Come Back is a sweet grandparent-grandchild story that celebrates culture and familial relationships.

I’ll Go and Come Back has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Little House of Hope is the story of America

The Little House of Hope, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823447169

Ages 4-8

A family arrives from Cuba and finds a home to call their own as they build their new lives in America. In time, La Casita – the little house – welcomes other family members and later, a family who needs a place to call home; together, they all work toward making the casita and America their new home. Terry Catasús Jennings was inspired by anger to write this story, after a realtor claimed to never rent to “Hispanics because they lived four families to a house and always destroyed the properties where the lived”. She was also inspired by the memories of growing up in her own casita. Here, the Definitely Dominguita author tells the stories of families who come here to be safe. In quietly passionate storytelling, she tells readers about the fears that spurred these people to leave their homes and come to the States, and she tells readers how these families all worked together to turn the house into a warm, loving casita: adults and children coming together to paint and clean, to mow lawns and make artwork, and how the casita inspired them. A father starts their own landscaping business. A mom starts a daycare in the casita. Another mother secures a job as a high school Spanish teacher, and a father becomes an accountant. A daughter uses her passion for collage to welcome new families to the casita, and when they’re ready to move on, sends them off with artwork to display in their home.

Pura Belpré medalist (2006) and Eric Carle Honor (2021) illustrator Raúl Colón pencil and watercolor artwork uses perspective and soft color to create beautiful moments: a family, looking up at la casita; gathered around a table, smiling; confiding in one another; a father, looking through the window and seeing a full home ready to welcome him. The Little House of Hope reminds us all that this is what America should be when we’re at our best.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Exciting Afrofuturistic middle grade reading: Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun, by Tolá Okogwu, (June 2022, Margaret K. McElderry Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781665912617

Ages 8-12

Onyeka is a tween living in the UK with her mom. She’s got a thick head of hair that makes people stop, stare, and whisper, but her best friend, Cheyenne, couldn’t be bothered what other people think, which helps calm Onyeka’s anxiety. When the two head to the pool for some swimming, Cheyenne almost drowns, until Onyeka – or, is it Onyeka’s hair? – saves her. Everything moves quickly from here: Onyeka’s mother reveals that she is Solari, a secret group of people with unique powers, unique to their home in Nigeria. Her scientist father has disappeared while trying to research the Solari, and her mother brings Onyeka to Nigeria, to the Academy of the Sun, a special school – think the X-Men’s school run by Charles Xavier – for Solari, where they are trained to work with their powers. But nothing’s ever that easy; as Onyeka starts learning more about her family and the Rogues, a group of Solari working against the school, she and her new friends have to figure out where they stand.
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is the first in a new series, written by British-Nigerian author Tolá Okogwu and inspired by a lack of representation in children’s books. The decision to empower Onyeka by channeling her power through her hair is a deliberate move, as she notes in her author’s note: “our hair has never just been hair… the lie we’ve all been fed that Afro textured hair is somehow inferior because it doesn’t conform to the Western standards of beauty”. Onyeka’s hair is incredible: it shields her; it saves Cheyenne’s life; it curls around her to comfort her. The characters are African; the Solari are all Nigerian, and the school is organized into different areas, according to student’s Ike – the Igbo word for “power”. The story moves at a brisk pace while still bringing these characters to life, fully-fleshed out with backstories and personalities. The students will empower and inspire readers, and the family relationships are beautifully realistic, with conflict and love often sharing the same space. A glossary of words and an explanation of Nigerian Pidgin English provides even further depth and educates readers. I can’t wait for the second book.
Give this to your Rick Riordan Presents fans; your Black Panther readers (not just the comics! Remember, Shuri and Black Panther have middle grade novels, and Okoye’s got a YA novel, too!), and your Tristan Strong readers. Give this to any of your readers who love reading about different cultures, and are always up for adventure. It’s awesome.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is an Indie Next pick.

Posted in Uncategorized

Happy Book Birthday to Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee and Pascal Campion

Rosa’s Song, by Helena Ku Rhee/Illustrated by Pascal Campion, (June 2022, Random House Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9780593375495

Ages 4-8

Jae, a young boy from South Korea, and his mother move into a new building in a new country. Missing his home and friends, Jae is withdrawn, but his mother urges him to get out and meet other kids in the building; Jae meets Rosa, a friendly young girl whose pet parrot, Pollito, sits on her shoulder and warbles a sweet song. Rosa and Jae become fast friends, and engage in imaginative play that evokes memories of each of their home countries; scaling sofa mountains and exploring lost Incan cities and rainforests. When Rosa and her family suddenly leave one night, she leaves her parrot to console the heartbroken Jae. Shortly after Rosa leaves, Jae meets two new children in the building, and follows Rosa’s example, becoming their friend and guide to their new home and world. Helena Ku Rhee’s childhood inspired the story, which shows the need for connection and highlights the often erratic home lives of immigrant families, who often have to move suddenly, whether because of immigration status, employment, financial stress, or family issues. Pascal Campion’s digital artwork gives vision to Helen Ku Rhee’s voice: Jae stares out a window at a brick wall while standing in a beige room with faded wallpaper; upon meeting Rosa, his world becomes more colorful. Touches of each child’s home country are represented, with Asian brush paintings decorating the walls of Jae’s home, and colorful parrots and lush green trees in the rainforest of Rosa’s memory. When Rosa leaves, Jae’s world goes gray again, and the portrait of Jae in Rosa’s vacated apartment is absolutely devastating. Endpapers show Rosa and Jae at imaginative play, with Pollito flying around them. A touching and lovely book on empathy and friendship.

Rosa’s Song has a starred review from Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Thursday by Ann Bowill and Kayla Harden

Thursday, by Ann Bowill/Illustrated by Kayla Harden, (June 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542032896

Ages 4-7

Thursday used to be a little girl’s favorite day of the week, until she learns that her parents are getting a divorce on a Thursday. Now, instead of art class, and popsicles with friends, Thursdays mean that everything will change. Her stuffed unicorn steps in to give the girl a much-needed friend and comfortable shoulder, staying with her to support her through the hard feelings and the move, until Thursday becomes “just Thursday again”. The story moves forward with a gentle sensitivity, told in first person by the unicorn, who repays an act of kindness with love and and concern. The unicorn grows into a larger-than-life-sized companion that the little girl can lean on; when she can stand on her own again, the unicorn shrinks back to a toy-sized stuffie, but never leaves her – always around, ready to take her side if she needs it. Kayla Harden’s digital illustrations glow with optimism, letting readers know that things may be difficult right now, but the sun will always come up the next day, and things will eventually get better. The unicorn has its own cheerful radiance, sharing its warmth with the little girl. Add this one to your SEL (social-emotional learning) collections, and maybe consider adding some stuffed friends to your collection for kids who need a friend to lean on.

 

Ann Bonwill grew up in Maryland surrounded by books. Before becoming an author, Ann worked as a clinical social worker, a Montessori teacher, and an autism therapist. She is the author of multiple picture books and nonfiction books for children, including When Mermaids Sleep, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, and I Am Not a Copycat!, illustrated by Simon Rickerty. Ann has lived in many places, from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Frankfurt, Germany. She currently lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more at www.annbonwill.com.

Kayla Harren is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City with a BFA in illustration. She’s an award-winning illustrator of multiple picture books, including A Boy Like You, written by Frank Murphy, and The Boy Who Grew a Forest, written by Sophia Gholz, among other titles. Her work has been featured in the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, and 3×3 Magazine, and she won the Highlights for Children Pewter Plate Award. She lives in Minnesota with her family. Learn more at www.kaylaharren.com.

Facebook: Kayla Harren Illustrator

Instagram: @kaylaharren

Posted in Uncategorized

Missing Mommy: Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle, by Nina LaCour/Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536211511

Ages 3-7

A little girl loves her cuddly life with her Mama and her Mommy, but when Mommy has to go away for a week for work, she misses her more than anything. This book just bursts with joy and love, and is spot-on for any child who misses a beloved presence in their lives; something Nina LaCour touches on when the little girl shares her feelings with her class, and her friends weigh in, missing older siblings away at school, parents in another country, and pets that have run away. Nina LaCour embraces the childhood ache of missing a parent and the residual feelings when Mommy returns, and the little girl experiences the mixed emotions upon her return. She’s thrilled to have Mommy back home where she belongs, but confronts resentment at being left in the first place. Kaylani Juanita’s colorful mixed media illustrations show a loving family who lavish affection on one another. Mommy and the little girl are brown-skinned with hair and skin patches that allude to vitiligo. Mama is light-skinned, with lilac hair and tattoos. Inclusive and honest, Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle touches on all the right emotions kids experience when missing someone.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle has starred reviews from Booklist, Bookpage, and Publishers Weekly.