Posted in Uncategorized

I Wish You Knew… a teacher’s question turns into a movement

I Wish You Knew, by Jackie Azúa Kramer/Illustrated by Magdalena Mora, (May 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250226303

Ages 4-7

In 2016, educator Kyle Schwartz wrote a book called I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids, based on a getting to know you class exercise where she asked her third graders to write something they wanted her to know about them. She received the usual, adorable responses like, “I love my family” and “I love animals”, and she also received deeper feedback that gave her insight into the children in her care: “my mom and dad are divorced”; “I live in a shelter”; “my mom might get diagnosed with cancer this year”. Kids are dealing with a lot; we need to be better at listening.

In the spirit of Ms. Schwartz’s book comes Jackie Azúa Kramer and Magdalena Mora’s  I Wish You Knew. A girl named Estrella’s father was not born here, so he has to leave; she misses him, and helps care for her brother while her mother works long hours. A teacher wants her kids to know that she cares for them. She creates a space for them, in the space where their little school wraps around a 100-year-old tree; a sharing circle, where they can tell her what they wish she knew: one student is hungry. One student’s mother is serving in the military. One student lives in a shelter. And Estrella misses her father. The group shares and finds comfort and support in one another, and Estrella waits to see her father, surrounded by the sunflowers that he helped plant. A touching story, I Wish You Knew is great for welcome back to school reading and to let your kids know that with you, there is a safe space. Mixed media illustrations in soothing pastels show a diverse group of children and a teacher of color among sunflowers and in the warm greens of the area outside school. Estrella and her father are affectionate, leaning toward one another as they sit in a giant sunflower when he tells her he must leave, but that he’ll be back. A beautiful book to engender compassion and empathy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Watch Me is a powerful immigration story

Watch Me: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration, by Doyin Richards/Illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Jan. 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250266514

Ages 3-5

Author and advocacy powerhouse Doyin Richards brings his father’s story to children with Watch Me.  As a child in Sierra Leone, Joe dreamed of going to America. People told him America wouldn’t accept him with his accent and his dark skin. Joe smiled and said, “Watch me”. It was a phrase he repeated often as he arrived in America and experienced racism and people questioned his intelligence. And Joe succeeded. More of a conversation than a one-sided narrative, Doyin Richards asks readers to think about times they were told they were different, or came up against things they couldn’t control. He asks them to think about times they may have seen kids at school be treated differently, or walk by themselves in the hall at school. He encourages readers to put themselves in Joe’s position – in the position of that classmate, eating lunch in the library alone – and to maybe consider a kind word, a smile, a simple act of kindness. As Richards says, “This land is your land. This land is my land. There is enough for everyone”. There’s no place for racism here. There is enough of everything for everyone; all we need to do is share. Beautiful oil and acrylic artwork makes each spread look like a portrait-worthy painting. A perfect readaloud for children.

Watch Me has a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Doyin Richards is a TEDx speaker who has spoken on anti-racism, and his book and blog, Daddy Doin’ Work, became a book that encouraged women to help dads become more engaged, hands-on fathers.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

We only get one world. Books to help us care for it.

Bea’s Bees, by Katherine Pryor/Illustrated by Ellie Peterson, (March 2019, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764356995

Ages 5-8

Beatrix is a young girl who loves to listen to and watch the bees buzzing around their hive in a tree on her way home from school. They zig and zag from flower to flower, and head back to the hive, weighed down with pollen and nectar. But one day, the tree is silent, and Bea discovers that the flowers by the tree have all been cut down. She take a trip to the library and researches bees: what flowers they like to feast on, the important part bees play in our own food web, and how some bees are an endangered species. She takes action, planting seeds for mint, clover, and flowers that bees like; she encourages others to plant wildflowers, even handing out seed packets; she even does her science fair project on bees. Can Bea’s dedication bring the bees back to the tree? A moving story about the impact one person can make on helping the environment, Bea’s Bees is realistic fiction that weaves information about bees, environmental impact, and activism seamlessly into the story of a young girl. Back matter has more information about being a friend to bees, and the artist’s rendering of plants that Bea grows in her garden will encourage readers to grab their shovels and some seeds. Endpapers feature dancing, realistic bees against a white backdrop. A good pick to put aside for Earth Day. Read and display with Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s award-winning Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. If you’re doing grab-and-go bags, consider handing out some seeds for flowers that will grow in your area and that bees enjoy. I looked at the NY State Parks blog and found this article; the Native NY Gardens website also has helpful information. Buggy and Buddy has adorable and affordable craft ideas and books to feature.

 

The Tiny Giant, by Barbara Ciletti/Illustrated by Cathy Morrison, (Sept. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764360299

Ages 5-8

On the heels of Earth Day is Arbor Day (April 30th in 2021), and The Tiny Giant is great Arbor Day reading. A tiny acorn falls from a blue jay’s mouth, and settles into the ground as the seasons, and life, goes on around it. As the seasons change, the seed within the acorn swells and bursts through, with roots anchoring a tentative sapling poking up through the dirt. The sapling will grow until one day, it will provide acorns for future trees, too. The Tiny Giant plays with perspective, shifting from traditional left-right reading to top-bottom as the tree grows, letting storytime listeners see the exciting shift as the tree grows tall. One and two-sentence spreads use beautiful language to describe the sights unfolding: “…blossoms parade along the branches of the tall oak”, “Buds dress in sleeves of summer’s glory”, “…warm summer rain feed the little seed as it sends a single spare thread of life toward the sky”. The story is about a tiny acorn, but the incredible, detailed artwork shows the life that goes on around the acorn as it begins its journey into a mighty tree; seasons pass, animals wander the landscape in search of food and shelter, leaves curl and wither in the snow, and ripe blackberries burst through the pages as spring arrives. It’s a celebration of life and nature, a look at seasons, and a primary STEM story. Wonderfully done. Back matter includes artwork on North American acorns, Arbor Day Fun Facts, and how readers can grow their own oaks from acorns. Endpapers are decorated with leaves and acorns, faded and pale against a light blue background. The Arbor Day Foundation has a kids corner with digital games and printable coloring sheetsPBS Cartoon Nature Cat has an Arbor Day episode, available with teacher materials, on the PBS website.

 

Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies, (Aug. 2020, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781452176802

Ages 6-8

A girl discovers a love of butterflies, a desire for advocacy, and defines a place for herself in her new home in the U.S. Told in first person narration, a girl reads about butterflies as she learns English, and learns that butterflies, “make a long, long journey, just like we did. They have to be strong to fly so far”; as she becomes a more proficient English reader, she learns that the monarch butterfly population is faltering because of environmental impact: milkweed, the plant they eat and lay eggs on, is being decimated by climate change and by farmers who use chemicals to keep it from growing in fields. She gains the confidence to become an activist, motivating her classmates to take action and create a monarch way station that will create a safe space for monarch butterflies. The girl’s story runs parallel to the caterpillar to butterfly life cycle: she feels herself transforming into someone confident, strong, ready to take a stand. The story moves easily between the girl’s narrative and “book excerpts” that provie the nonfiction text and maps the girl reads, letting readers feel like they’re sharing the same book with the narrator. A quiet subplot about immigration makes itself known as the girl wonders if she belongs in her new life; these doubts diminish as she gains more confidence in herself through her activism. Endpapers illustrate a beautiful kaleidoscope of butterflies fluttering across the page. Back matter is written with children and adult readers in mind, including a guide to getting a monarch way station up and running, monarch facts, booklists for young environmental activists and grown-up activists and educators, and a rich list of Internet resources.

BookRiot has a nice list of butterfly books; I also recommend Caroline Arnold’s Butterflies in Room 6. and activism books like Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet by April Pulley Sayre, The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall, and Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Stand to Save the World by Zoë Tucker are great display ideas. The Spruce Crafts has a list of 15 butterfly crafts that hit that grab-and-go budget sweet spot.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books about Immigration, Refugees, and Being Kind

It’s been a heck of a year or four. While we’re thinking back and being thankful for what we have, let’s keep in mind those people who need even more kindness, more understanding, more care. And let’s hope that the coming year will be kinder to all of us, and bring understanding and reunion to those who have been taken from their families.

A Journey Toward Hope, by Victor Hinojosa & Coert Voorhees/Illustrated by Susan Guevara, (Aug. 2020, Six Foot Press), $19.95, ISBN: 9781644420089

Ages 6-8

Four children set out across Central America, leaving their homes and families for different reasons, to find a new life in the United States. They come together as they journey through Mexico and form a family unit of their own as they travel into the States in this hopeful story. The children in the book come from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, fleeing violence and poverty, and represent the 50,000 unaccompanied minors who present themselves to the United States border every year seeking asylum and refuge. A Journey Toward Hope weaves these four lives together and gives readers a glimpse into the fear and the peril each child faces in their quest for a better life. Muted colors are beautiful and blend together to tell this quietly powerful tale, and each child is represented by a folk art rendering of an animal that tells readers something about their character: a jaguar, a bird, a monkey, a butterfly.

Back matter includes additional information and resources created by Baylor University’s Global Hunger and Migration Project. Visit A Journey Toward Hope‘s website and the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to learn even more.

A beautifully written book that deserves a place in collections.

 

Sugar in Milk, by Thrity Umrigar/Illustrated by Khoa Le, (Oct. 2020, Running Press Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9780762495191

Ages 4-8

A young girl arrives in a new country to live with her aunt and uncle. She’s lonely; she misses her friends and her home, and wishes she could make new friends in her new home. Her aunt takes her on a walk one day and tells her a folk tale of how, long ago, people in Persia were forced to leave their home and sought refuge in India; the local king met them and – since language was a barrier – explained, using a glass of milk, that his country had no room to accommodate the new arrivals. The Persian leader took the cup of milk and stirred in sugar; he didn’t spill a drop, thus illustrating that his people would only sweeten everyone’s lives with their presence. The king laughed and welcomed the new people to his land. The girl is inspired to reach out, and discovers that it’s easier than she imagined to make new friends: and she carries around a packet of sugar to remind herself of the tale.

The story is a myth that was part of author Thrity Umrigar’s Zoroastrian upbringing as a Parsi child in India, but will resonate with everyone who hears the tale; especially families of immigrants and refugees. The artwork is stunning; rich, deep colors look like tapestries as the girl’s aunt recounts her story. There are gorgeous touches of cultural artwork throughout the story, including richly woven rugs and artwork. The fall colors are incredible. I’d hang every page of this book up in my library if I could.

Sugar in Milk has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Put a copy in every pair of hands you can find and discuss the need for empathy and understanding, and how a diverse community enriches the lives of everyone in the community.

 

Counting Kindness: Ten Ways to Welcome Refugee Children, by Hollis Kurman/Illustrated by Barroux, (Sept. 2020, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781623542290

Ages 4-7

A sweet counting concept book that encourages kindness and awareness of refugee and immigrant children, Counting Kindness starts by telling readers that “When a place gets so scary that we have to leave home, every kindness counts”. A brown-skinned mother leaves a smoking homestead with her two children and an infant, encountering moments of kindness that include “two hands lifting us to safety; four beds keeping us safe and warm; nine hearts welcoming us to our new school”. The story illustrates, in gentle watercolors, how crucial it is to others to receive kindness and open arms. Back matter includes links to humanitarian organizations. The characters are cartoony and cute, but the message is real; words and text come together to create a heartwarming, yet heart-aching, statement that explains to younger readers as well as school-aged readers that there is a need for welcoming and empathy in our world. Count along with your kiddos as you read; consider, if you have the ability, to count cans or possessions you can donate.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books about friends make back to school all better!

So how’s everyone doing? My kids went back to school as fully remote students today… it’s got to get better, right? RIGHT? I will say that one thing that’s been a saving grace during this has been the ability to get together with friends. We wear our masks, we sit out in the open, and our kids are able to run around together and get some much-needed friend time in.

My older son, a high school senior (WOW), has been active throughout the quarantine by gaming and videochatting with his friends; he’s just started meeting up with them in public parks and spaces, so that’s helped him, too.

Seeing my 3rd grader brighten up when he saw all his friends online (the remote learners all have the same class for now) was amazing. He saw a bunch of these kids yesterday, but seeing him light up at the thought of having ALL of his school friends in his class was wonderful: “Mom! There’s Harry! And Rahwi! And Miles!” He went down the line, calling out every one of his friends, and it helped him engage with the teacher and ease into a fairly stressful day (for me, anyway).

Having said that, I thought I’d talk up some books about friends that are just right for readalouds this time of year, when we’re making new friends and greeting existing friends. Enjoy some buddy time with your littlest friends and read a few of these.

Lost Beast, Found Friend, by Josh Trujillo/Illustrated by Nick Kennedy and Melanie Lapovich, (June 2020, Oni Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781620107423

Ages 3-7

This rhyming story of friends helping one another is absolutely adorable. Keelee is a young girl living on an island, who discovers a big, purple beast one day! The poor beast is lost and scared, and Keelee comes to the rescue by calming and befriending the Beast, and journeys with her new, lost friend across the island to find Beast’s home. The rhyme is so comforting; it’s a joy to read and listen to, and kids will ask for this one again and again. The colors are just incredible: so vibrant and happy, with adorable characters and lush landscapes. I love spending time with this story and can’t wait to bring this to my preschoolers. It’s a sweet story of friendship that appeals to all ages.

 

 

Will You Be Friends With Me?, by Kathleen Long Bostrom/Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter, (July 2020, WorthyKids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781546033806

Ages 0-3

I love board books! Will You Be Friends With Me? is an adorable board book that’s all about celebrating the little things that make us individuals: “I like orange. / You like pink. / I use crayon. / You use ink.” Each phrase ends with the question, “Will you be friends with me?”; it’s an invitation to embrace these fun differences and celebrate the choices available to us. Featuring a soothing rhyme scheme and a gently illustrated group of diverse children, this is an adorable story for storytime and cuddle time. It’s a sweet way to introduce personal preferences and remind toddlers and preschoolers that we don’t always have to like the same things to be friends: in fact, liking different things just gives us that much more to talk about. Don’t miss the free, downloadable companion activity sheets, courtesy of publisher, Hachette.

 

The Same But Different Too, by Karl Newson/Illustrated by Kate Hindley, (March 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212013

Ages 2-6

Another book about celebrating what makes us unique, The Same But Different Too is a rhyming look at what makes us the same – but different, all at once. Diverse children and animals join together to celebrate what we have in common, and what makes us each a special individual: children play hide and seek with a zebra, against a striped wall: “I am playful. / You are too. / I can’t hide as well as you”;  a child and a tiger wait at a rainy bus stop, while another child dives underwater with jellyfish, a whale, and a squid: “I am wet. / You are too. I can splash and swim like you.” The pencil artwork and digitally colored illustrations are lively, cartoony, and fun. This one is a guaranteed win for storytime.

 

The Word for Friend, by Aidan Cassie, (June 2020, Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR), $18.99, ISBN: 9780374310462

Ages 4-8

Kemala is a pangolin who’s moved, with her family, to a new country! She loves to talk and can’t wait to make new friends… but she realizes that their words are different from hers. She doesn’t understand the language here in her new country, and she curls into a little ball, feeling alone. But not to worry! A friendly anteater named Ana introduces herself to Kemala as she sits by herself at recess, cutting animal shapes from leaves. The two bond over a shared love of crafting, and before Kemala knows it, she’s laughing and learning how to communicate, with and without words. A timely story of kindness, empathy, and being the new kid, The Word for Friend is touching and heart-aching at points. Aidan Cassie makes us ache for Kemala when she realizes that “all her wonderful words were missing”; and we rejoice as Kemala and Ana discover how to communicate together with the puppets they create, giving Kemala the confidence she needs to come out of her little ball. An author’s note introduces readers to Esperanto, Kemala’s “new language”, and provides phrases used throughout the book. There’s a note about pangolins, too! (If you love them and want more pangolin stories, may I steer you to Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals series?) The artwork has earth colors and softer, less cartoony versions of animals like foxes, otters, raccoons, and, naturally, a pangolin and an anteater. The endpapers are stunning, with black, intricate cutout artwork of animal puppets that become part of the story, set against a brown/beige background.

A gorgeous story of friendship and language that you shouldn’t miss. Keep this with books like Anne Sibley O’Brien’s Someone New and I’m New Here, and Chana Stiefel’s My Name is Wakawakaloch!

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Open Borders presents the science and ethics of immigration

Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, by Bryan Caplan/Illustrated by Zach Weinersmith, (Oct. 2019, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250316967

Ages 14+

It’s no secret that immigration is a hot-button – one of the hottest button – topics in current events. One one side, we have those who would welcome new immigrants, for cultural and humanitarian reasons; on the other, those who want to restrict the flow of people into the country, whether to protect the current citizenry, the culture, or the economic status quo. Economist Bryan Caplan has written Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration as a proposal to both sides. He argues in favor of open borders, noting that doing so could eliminate poverty worldwide, not spiral us deeper into it; raise the global education and skill level, and lead us – as a whole – into a new age of prosperity for all.

The book, masterfully illustrated by Zach Weinersmith, presents Caplan’s argument using comprehensive research, communicated with a plain-English tone and artwork that’s colorful, multicultural, and translatable to audiences who don’t have a background in economics. The book is conversational and never preachy, and Caplan takes on reasons detractors have fallen back on time and again to argue against open borders, showing, using hard numbers, why open borders may be the next best way for us to advance.

This should be used in high schools and colleges: there are lists of resources and further reading; copious notes and references, and the straight-talk explanations, with clear illustrations, will really assist students, especially those who may stumble with pages of numbers, charts, and data. Once presented in the frame of a story, with a real-life, current events situation to anchor it, the numbers take on a life and meaning.

Open Borders has a starred review from Booklist. Author Bryan Caplan’s webpage is a treasure trove of articles and information, including cartoons and role-playing resources(!).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Room On Our Rock shows two sides to the story

Room On Our Rock, by Kate & Jol Temple/Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton, (July 2019, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781610679022

Ages 4-8

Two seals bask on a rock when a mother seal and her calf show up, in need of a new home. In a heart-rending turn of events, the mother and calf are berated, told there’s no room on the rock, despite there being a wealth of space. Told to go back their own rock, we see tumultuous, dangerous waters await the two… but is this the real story? The book invites readers to back to front for a different point of view, and a very different story emerges. The mother and calf flee their home, in search of a new place to live, where they are warmly welcomed by seals who wouldn’t dream of turning them away.

Room On Our Rock is a touching, clever look at empathy, compassion, and perspective, presenting two points of view to topical events: refugees and immigration. Fleeing catastrophe, a mother and child hope to find safe harbor elsewhere. Will they be welcomed and sheltered, or turned away? Where will this family find compassion?The story takes a human dilemma and uses animal migration to illustrate the two divided schools of thought. The sparse text brings readers into the issues at the heart of the refugee crisis, showing either – depending on which side of the story you’re reading – an astonishing lack of compassion or empathy, or a heart-stirring wealth of benevolence and welcome. The illustrations add to the well of emotion created by the text, giving life to the words by giving us churning waters and the expressive faces of a desperate mother and child. There is a motion to the artwork that creates an urgency in the reader: those seals have to get out of there!

I loved Room on Our Rock and plan to read this at my next storytime. My son loves the concept of the two-sided story, and has gone back to this book several times. This is a good book about an important topic that seems to be its own endangered species: empathy.

Originally published in Australia in 2018, Room on Our Rock has been shortlisted for the Australian Book Design Awards in the Picture Book category, and for the New Zealand Post Book Awards in the Best Picture Book category. You can find downloadable discussion questions and activities.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

We Are Here to Stay gives you the real story

We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults, by Susan Kuklin, (Jan. 2019, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763678845

Ages 12+

Award-winning author and photographer Susan Kuklin conducted extensive interviews with nine undocumented young adults who all came here as children. They come from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Independent Samoa, and Korea, and they – and their families – came here for the chance at a better life and education. They fled poverty. They fled violence. They left family behind.

Originally slated for publication in 2017, Susan Kuklin originally planned to feature full-color portraits and the subjects’ names in this book, but the Presidential election and subsequent repeal of DACA, makes it unsafe to identify these young adults. Identified only by a first initial and represented by empty frames, these are hard stories to read. They will move you: they will upset you, they will make you angry, and they will make you feel for the young people who live in the shadows, terrified that at any moment, they’ll be sent away. They’ve crossed through hellish deserts, been taken advantage of by people that were supposed to help them, and turned away by their families in some cases. Working in their communities to bring about positive change, they are here, and they want to be part of the America we know we can be.

We Are Here to Stay offers a lot of food for thought and discussion. These individuals face an uncertain future, and they know it. We Are Here to Stay is a must-read, must-have book for young people everywhere, and it’s a must-read for every person whose lives touch young people: parents, caregivers, educators.

Susan Kuklin is the Stonewall Honor-winning author of Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Someone New shows students welcoming new friends

Someone New, by Anne Sibley O’Brien, (July 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898317

Recommended for readers 4+

I’m New Here (2015) explored immigration from the points of view of three young newcomers: Maria, Jin, and Fatima. Someone New now flips the dialogue and shows us how new classmates perceive – and eventually befriend – these new kids in town. At first, Maria, Jin, and Fatima are shy, a bit withdrawn, and their classmates don’t know how to work with that. Understandable; these are kids we’re dealing with. Strong and honest statements like, “I feel uncomfortable”; “I don’t know what to do”; and “I can’t figure out to help” give kids words to put to the new feelings they may experience when meeting kids they don’t know.

Since kids are so much smarter than we are, though, they figure it out quickly: Jesse, a blonde white boy, invites Maria to play soccer with his group and discovers that she’s really good! Jason, a dark-skinned boy, can’t read what Jin writes, but smiles, prompting Jin to smile back; eventually, Jin teaches Jason how to write his name in Korean – it’s like a secret code! – and they draw comics together. Emma, a blonde white girl, draws a picture of her classmate, Fatima, and her together, giving Fatima the comfort and safety she needs to open up to Emma about her family. Each of these new children have things to share; they just needed the safety of that first effort. As Jason learns, when Jin smiles at him, “Maybe a smile is like a superpower.” The watercolor and digital illustrations stand out against the plain white space to make these characters stand out.

Someone New tells its story in brief, eloquent sentences with word balloons that allow characters to communicate in their own words. It is a book that needs to be on every shelf in every library and school. You’ll notice I recommend this book for ages 4+; I think it’s a book that all adults should be reading right now. Pick up the award-winning I’m New Here and make sure you tell these stories to anyone within earshot. Someone New has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

June Picture Book Roundup

There are so many good books for Summer Reading hitting shelves in June! Let younger readers explore new worlds and meet new friends with some of these picture books.

Seven Pablos, by Jorge Luján/Illustrated by Chiara Carrer, Translated by Mara Lethem, (June 2018, Enchanted Lion Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781592702534

Seven boys share the same name. Seven short vignettes share the stories of seven lives, taking readers from the copper mines in Chile to a refugee family living in Mexico, from a garbage dump in Peru to a streets of the Bronx, New York. Seven Pablos sheds light on the living conditions of children around the world in sparse, quietly powerful text. Graphite pencil art creates a dreamlike atmosphere for this lyrical story by Poet Jorge Luján.

Seven Pablos is deeply moving and continues to call attention to the plight of migrant and refugee families around the world. One scene expresses the rage these kids hold within them, as one Pablo tells a visiting poet that he wants to be a “big guy in a uniform” so he can “beat people up and get away with it”. A refugee Pablo recites a poem – in actuality, written by a 9-year-old Argentine child – where he imagines soldiers crushing roofs with their boots. Luján ends his story with the beautiful reminder that there are many Pablos in the world, and each one has a heart that beats with the rhythm of our world.

The Turtle Ship, by Helena Ku Rhee/Illustrated by Colleen Kong-Savage, (June 2018, Lee and Low Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781885008909
Recommended for readers 6-12
This folk tale is based on Korean history. A boy named Sun-sin dreams of seeing the world with his pet turtle, Gobugi, and discovers his chance when the king announces a contest: design the best battleship to defend the land. The winner will receive ten bags of copper coins and the chance to travel with the royal navy. After a few failed attempts at a design, Sun-sin notices that his turtle is strong, slow, and steady, and decides that the best design will be based on Gobugi. At first, he’s laughed at in the king’s court, but when a cat tries to attack the turtle, the king and his court all see that there is something to the boy’s idea. Thus, the Korean Turtle Ships were created, and the boy grew to be famed Admiral Yi Sun-sin.
The story is best served by the incredible paper collage artwork, created using paper from all over the world. The art gives the story drama, color, and texture, and the story itself is as good for read-alouds as it is for independent reading. This is a nice addition to historical collections and cultural folktales. An author note on the Korean Turtle Ships provides some background on the legend of Yi Sun-sin and the Turtle Ship design.

Johnny, by Guido van Genechten, (June 2018, Clavis Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781605373775

Recommended for readers 3-5

Johnny is an adorable spider with a secret to share, but everyone’s afraid of him! Wanna know his secret? It’s his birthday, and he wants to share his cake! This adorable book by Guido van Genechten is a good story to read when talking to kids about judging others based solely on appearances.

I have to admit, I needed to read this one a couple of times because I felt so bad for Johnny! It’s his birthday, and he’s all alone because everyone’s afraid of him! And then I figured it out: that’s the point. I mean, I know it was the point to begin with, but having Johnny celebrate with only the reader by the story’s end leaves a reader feeling badly – and that’s the time to talk about empathy. Ask kids how they would feel if people didn’t want to be near them because someone didn’t like the way they looked. Ask how they would feel if they had a birthday party and no one came! And then, for heaven’s sake, throw Johnny a birthday party: have some cupcakes and fruit punch, and sing Happy Birthday to the poor guy. He deserves it. Guido van Genechten’s cute, expressive, boldly outlined artwork is instantly recognizable and appealing to younger readers.

 

Swim Bark Run, by Brian & Pamela Boyle/Illustrated by Beth Hughes, (June 2018, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781510726963

Recommended for readers 3-7

Daisy the Bulldog is so proud of her humans, Brian and Pam, when they compete in triathlons. She wonders if she could train and compete like they do, and decides to enlist the help of her fellow doggie buddies, Rascal, Atticus, and Hobie, to hold their own Dog-Athlon! Daisy is full of energy at first, but when she starts getting tired, a familiar face at the finish line gives her the boost she needs!

Swim Bark Run is a cute book about physical activity, competition and cooperation, and determination. The digital artwork is bright and cute, giving the dogs happy, friendly faces and includes a nice amount of action as the pups train for their big day. There are positive messages about working together and encouraging one another. This is a cute additional add for readers who like animal books and books about physical fitness.

Seven Bad Cats, by Moe Bonneau, (June 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492657101

Recommended for readers 4-7

A child gets ready to go out on a fishing boat, but seven bad cats make progress very difficult. I love this rhyming, counting tale of seven cats who do what cats do best: get in the way! They eat from the traps, take naps on the oars and steal the child’s gloves, and generally make themselves a nuisance until the boat flips over, and the cats band together to save the day. The book counts up from one to seven until the boat flips everything over, including the story, and the countdown from seven back to one ends the fun. The watercolor artwork adds a nice, watery feel to this seafaring tale, and the cats are hilarious, using their whole bodies to get up to all sorts of no good; even appearing in mug shots on one page. They sprawl, they curl, they stretch, and they swim – they may not like it, but a cat’s gotta do what a cat’s gotta do! This one is a thoroughly enjoyable add to storytime and concept collections. Give this to your cat loving kids! (Also good for a readaloud with flannels or beanie babies.)

 

Finn’s Feather, by Rachel Noble/Illustrated by Zoey Abbot, (June 2018, Enchanted Lion), $17.95, ISBN: 9781592702398

Recommended for readers 4-8

In this touching story about grief, loss, and remembrance, a young boy named Finn finds a feather at his doorstep. It’s white, amazing, perfect. It has to be from his brother, Hamish, and Finn tells his mother and his teacher, who take a deep breath and smile; Finn doesn’t understand why they aren’t as excited as he is. His friend Lucas is, though: it’s got to be an angel’s feather, it’s so perfect, and the two friends take Hamish with them on the playground, running with the feather as if it were an additional friend. Finn uses the feather as a quill to write a note to Hamish that evening, and sets the envelope holding the letter in a tree, so the wind will carry it to Hamish.

Inspired by author Rachel Noble’s loss, this moving story about a sibling grieving and remembering is gentle, understanding, and an excellent book to have available for children moving through grief. The soft pencil artwork and gentle colors provide a calming, soothing feel to the story.

 

Ready to Ride, by Sébastien Pelon, (June 2018, words & pictures), $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277737

Recommended for readers 3-7

A young boy finds himself bored on a day home, until his mother sends him out to play. An imaginary friend joins him, and together, they learn to ride a bike! This is a fun, light story about imagination and getting outdoors to play. The imaginary friend is a big, white, two-legged figure – think yeti without the shag – wearing a pointy pink hat and protectively towers over the boy, helping him learn to ride the bike. When the boy heads home after a day of play, his new friend disappears, which is a bit of a letdown. Maybe he’ll show up again. There’s a “Certificate for a Super Cyclist” at the end of the book; a cute prize for kids who learn to ride. This one is an additional add if you’ve got kids who like bike-riding.