Posted in picture books

My Day with the Panye: a love letter to Haitian women’s strength

My Day with the Panye, by Tami Charles/Illustrated by Sara Palacios, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763697495

Ages 5-9

In the hills above the Haitian city of Port-au-Prince, a young girl and her mother head to the market together. Fallon, the girl, wants more than anything to wear the large woven basket, called the panye, balanced on her head like her mother does. She watches her mother twist the mouchwa wrap around her head and balance the panye on top, and, walking next to her, begs to try it. Finally, when Maman allows Fallon to try, she realizes that it’s harder than it looks, but it’s worth the feeling of accomplishment! A gorgeous, lyrical story about the poise and tremendous strength of Haitian women, My Day with the Panye is simply wonderful reading. Gouache and digital artwork bring textures and color alive on the pages, with beautiful landscapes and lively street and market scenes. While not in verse, the story reads like a beautiful ode to Haiti and its people, and wearing the panye comes across as a rite of passage: Fallon says that her mother is “tall like an arrow pointing to the clouds” as she walks with her panye, and that other women “…walk like they have gold in their shoes”. To wear the panye is to move gracefully and to be strong, even under its weight: Maman compares this strength to the strength of the Haitian walls, still standing after the 2010 earthquake. An author’s note gives a brief history of the panye and its place in Haitian culture.

Tami Charles is the bestselling author of 2018’s Freedom Soup and All Because You Matter. Sara Palacios is the illustrator of Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border, by Mitali Perkins. My Day with the Panye has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books

Freedom Soup celebrates an important New Year tradition

Freedom Soup, by Tami Charles/Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, (Dec. 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763689773

Ages 5-10

Belle and her grandmother, Ti Gran, are making soup – but it’s not just any old soup, it’s Freedom Soup. As the girl and her grandmother dance and cook, Ti Gran tells Belle the history behind the Haitian soup: it’s the history of Haiti, the history of revolution and freedom, and the history of family, as the recipe is passed from generation to generation. As the two create the recipe, readers are witness to a celebration, watching grandmother and granddaughter dance and cook, the girl learning from her grandmother about food, history, and life.

The very story in Freedom Soup teems with rhythm and movement. Belle and Ti Gran listen to Haitian music as they prepare the soup; the two dance as they cook, and the ingredients come alive with their own movement: garlicky herbs click clack as Belle mashes them; ribbons of steam dance; the soup’s delicious scent swirls around the kitchen, all coming together to set the stage for Ti Gran’s story about Haitian slaves making soup for their masters and finally, triumphantly, making soup for themselves to celebrate their independence. Belle and Ti Gran celebrate Haiti’s freedom, too, as does the rest of their family, who arrive to eat soup, dance, and celebrate. The story reads like a poem, inviting the reader in by tempting their senses with sights and smells. Jacqueline Alcántara’s mixed media illustration creates a warm, homey setting, with prominent yellows and browns, calming blues and childhood kitchen whites. There’s movement on each spread, making this a book you’ll want to move with as you read it (and you should!). Back matter includes a recipe for Freedom Soup, and a note from the author about her husband’s Ti own Gran, who inspired the book.

Put Freedom Soup on your shelves and add it to your New Year’s storytimes. With relatively little about the Haitian revolution available for children, particularly younger children, this is an excellent start – or addition – to collections.

Freedom Soup has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness.

 

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is the YA you need to read this Fall

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite, (Sept. 2019, Harlequin TEEN), $18.99, ISBN: 9781335777096

Ages 13+

Alaine is a smart, witty, outspoken 17-year-old Haitian-American teen living in Miami with her father. Her mother, a high-profile cable news journalist, has an on-air meltdown that puts Alaine in the crosshairs of the mean girls at school; she retaliates with a school project that goes sideways. Her psychiatrist father intervenes and comes up with an appropriate “punishment” for Alaine: she must spend two months volunteering with her Tati Estelle’s startup fundraising app in Haiti. Alaine’s mother is already there, spending time pulling herself together after events leading up to the on-air breakdown. As Alaine spends more time in Haiti, the burgeoning journalism student discovers her love for Haiti and its history, and stumbles onto family secrets and a situation with her aunt’s organization that’s sending up red flags.

Told through e-mails, postcards, journal entries, and in Alaine’s voice, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is an unputdownable look at Haiti, its history, and its people, all wreathed in magical realism tied into the heart of the country. Alaine’s voice is strong and clear; she’s dealing with a seemingly nonstop onslaught of feelings and stressors and works through them all as they come. She desperately wants to improve the relationship between herself and her high-powered, emotionally distant mother, but sometimes, she isn’t even sure where to begin. She’s as confused by her aunt as she adores her. And does she dare explore a relationship with the fellow intern in her aunt’s Patron Pal startup? (Hint: Uh, YEAH.) There’s never a lull in the storytelling here, which will endear readers to Alaine and her family, and inspire an interest in learning more about Haiti’s rich, yet troubled, history.

If this is the debut for sisters Maika Moulike and Maritza Moulike, I can’t wait to see what’s next. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist. The book is out today – check out an excerpt on Bustle.com, and then hit your library or local bookstore to pick up a copy.

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

Out-There Nonfiction

There is such great nonfiction being published these days. Nonfiction used to conjure pictures of boring textbooks with walls of words, with a handful of old black and white photos. Today? Nonfiction includes video game guides, crazy stories about our bodies, animals, planets, and the freaky ways famous people died. And that’s just scratching the surface. Kids’ nonfiction sports full-color illustration or photographs, text that understands how kids read and learn, and takes all interests into consideration. Series nonfiction, like the Who Was/What Was series from Penguin makes history compulsive readable, and No Starch Press has full-color STEM and tech books that teach kids everything from coding in Scratch to explaining the sciences using manga comics. I love building a good nonfiction section; these are a few of the books on my current shopping list.

Behind the Legend series, by Erin Peabody/Illustrated by Victor Rivas and Jomike Tejido, little bee books
Good for readers 9-12

 

This series is so good. I’ve read Werewolves and Zombies, and love the way Erin Peabody weaves history with pop culture to present a paranormal guide that kids will love reading and learn from. There are black and white illustrations throughout; cartoony, bordering on downright freaky. Zombies delves deeply into the history of slavery and its ties to the rise of the zombie legend and the practice of voudou; Peabody also talks about the walking dead being very old news; they were showing up in Mesopotamia long before Robert Kirkman ever thought up Rick Grimes and his band of survivors. Werewolves talks about the history of animal lore and famous “were-beasts” in history, like the Gandillon siblings – a French brother and sister who were convinced they were wolves and acted accordingly. Harry Potter, Scooby-Doo, and Twilight all get a shout-out in this fun look at werewolves. There are further sources for kids who want to read further. Other Behind the Legend books include Dragons, the Loch Ness Monster, and Bigfoot. This is an absolute must-add set for kids who love themselves some pop culture paranormal reading (and half the price of most series nonfiction, library-bound books).

 

Don’t Read This Book Before Bed, by Anna Claybourne, (Aug. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2841-1
Good for readers 9-12

The kids in my library love creepy. Most kids do, right? It’s that safe scare, the adrenaline rush, the squeal of the “eeeeeewwwwwww!” that you can make while safely in your seat, surrounded by family, friends, or your stuffed animals or action figures. It’s being able to turn to your friend and say, “Look at this!” and watching your friend freak out, too. NatGeo knows this, and Don’t Read This Book Before Bed (which is exactly what kids will do) is chock full of freaky stories that will keep them reading and saying, “NO WAY!” Think of it as the Lore podcast, for kids. Haunted castles? Check. Freaky dolls? (Robert the Doll, profiled in here, actually has both a podcast and episode of Lore dedicated to him.) Check. Aliens and fish people? Right this way. Each story has a “fright-o-meter” to let readers know how scary this is going to get, and quizzes help readers figure out their phobias (I love a good flow chart), test whether or he or should would be a good ghostbuster, or take apart the mysteries of science. My library’s copy is rarely on the shelf.

 

50 Wacky Things Humans Do: Weird & Amazing Facts About the Human Body, by the Walter Foster Jr. Creative Team/Illustrated by Lisa Perrett,
(Dec. 2017, Walter Foster Jr.), $14.95, ISBN: 9781633223967
Good for readers 7-10

Our bodies do some wild stuff. A sneeze moves at about 100 miles per hour. (Think about that, next time someone doesn’t cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze near you.) If someone tickles you and you put your hand on theirs, it’ll send a message to the brain that stops the tickling sensation. Wrinkly bathtub fingers help us grip things better. Readers will learn all of this and more in 50 Wacky Things Humans Do, written in a similar vein to the chunky, digest-sized NatGeo Kids fun fact books. Wacky Things features one fact per spread and one colorful, fun illustrations; good for intermediate-level readers.

 

Evolution: How Life Adapts to a Changing Environment, by Carla Mooney/Illustrated by Alexis Cornell,
(Nov. 2017, Nomad Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-61930-601-1
Good for readers 9-12

Nomad Press has enjoyed shelf space in my library for a while. They have great science project books and consistently win awards because they blend hands-on projects with text readability. Evolution is a great update to Nomad’s collection and my science projects shelf. First of all, the book is in color; my Nomad books have normally been black and white, and this is as eye-catching on the inside as it is on the cover. The book progresses from a basic overview of evolution and how it works, through natural selection, species and speciation, through to classification and human evolution. Twenty-five projects allow kids to map early human migration; find sidewalk fossils (awesome for my urban library kiddos), and research an endangered species and create a plan to save it. There’s a glossary, lists of resources, and an index. I love this new direction Nomad seems to be taking and want to see more! Great for library shelves.

 

 

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

Goodnight, Boy is beautiful and raw

Goodnight, Boy, by Nikki Sheehan, (July 2017, One World), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-78607-210-8

Recommended for readers 12+

The novel of a boy and his dog is brutal and beautiful, all at once. JC is a Haitian child who’s already experienced a brutal life on the streets and orphanages of Haiti when the earthquake strikes. He’s adopted by a rescue worker and her husband and brought to America, but when his new mother is back in Haiti, his stepfather locks JC and his dog, Boy, in a kennel. The story, told in the form of conversations JC has with Boy, unfolds and we learn about JC’s life, and the terrible moment where he and Boy were banished to the kennel.

Goodnight, Boy goes to dark places, but JC’s voice is strong, clear, and stands as a beacon for Boy and for readers. He always holds out hope that things will get better, taking comfort in the smallest moments of light, like hearing children play or seeing balloons from the kennel. As he tells Boy – and us – his story, we learn about grief and loss, but we learn about perseverance and hope, all the same. An intense read, Goodnight Boy is a strong addition to YA bookshelves and can easily cross over to adult reading. It’s a great book for discussion.