Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Always look for the rainbows.

There Is a Rainbow, by Theresa Trinder/Illustrated by Grant Snider, (Jan. 2021, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781797211664

Ages 4-6

Written in the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, There is a Rainbow is about coming through the dark times to the other side. Presented in simple statements, it’s a story of opposites; of going through the hard to get to the better; of our connections to one another, and ultimately, about rainbows. There are kids learning on screens; there are Black Lives Matter signs; there are thank-yous to heroes, all reflecting moments we lived through last year. There is also a thread of hope, in the form of the ever-present rainbow, encouraging us to keep going, because, as the book notes, “On the other side of a storm, there is a rainbow. On the other side of today, there is tomorrow.” For those of us who have come through so much, it’s a supportive message that pushes us to keep moving toward that light at the end of the tunnel. For future generations, There Is a Rainbow will stand as a testament to a moment in time where we stood, resilient, together against unbelievable events. An author’s note talks about writing the book during the pandemic. Grant Snider’s colored pencil artwork adds a gentle touch to the text, but shows strength in the details: trees standing in the wind, a chalk rainbow refusing to wash away in the rain, a series of cheery rainbows hanging in the windows, celebrating our first responders. Download a free activity kit and encourage your littles to talk about their feelings from the past year. Pair with Smriti Prrasadam-Halls and David Litchfield’s Rain Before Rainbows for an inspiring storytime.

School Library Journal calls There Is a Rainbow the “perfect pandemic book”. Can’t put it any better than that. There Is a Rainbow has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

While We Can’t Hug explains the now normal to kids

While We Can’t Hug, by by Eoin McLaughlin/Illustrated by Polly Dunbar, (Aug. 2020, Faber & Faber USA), $15.95, ISBN: 978-0571365586

Ages 3-7

Last year, Hedgehog and Tortoise became best friends in The Hug. This year, social distancing has hit them, too, but they’re finding ways to work around it in While We Can’t Hug. For the book’s duration, Hedgehog is on the left side, and Tortoise on the right; they’re sad that they miss each other but can’t hug, until Owl swoops in and tells them that there are many other ways to show love and affection. The two friends tentatively give it a shot, first, by waving, then by making funny faces. Inspired, the two write letters, blow kisses, dance, and paint pictures together, simply enjoying the other’s company. Author Eoin McLaughlin eloquently uses brief text to communicate the many ways to show others we love them while hugging isn’t an option. Polly Dunbar’s warm artwork uses comforting colors and soft shading to make each reader feel like they’re included in Hedgehog’s and Tortoise’s circle of friends.

For little ones who are having a difficult time not seeing friends and family, or seeing them and not being able to run and hug them, books like this are vital in explaining that love is still there, even when touch isn’t an option. Polly Dunbar provides the most important observation as Hedgehog and Tortoise share love across the book’s pages: “They could not touch. They could not hug. But they both knew that they were loved”. And that’s the message to take to heart.

Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Not just the flu: Pandemic

pandemicPandemic, by Yvonne Ventresca, (July 2016, Sky Pony Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781510703902

Recommended for ages 12+

This is the paperback release of the 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Winner for the Atlantic region.

Liliana used to be an outgoing, top student. Until the whole thing with Mr. B happened; now, she’s withdrawn, her grades have plummeted, and her outlook has changed from a glass half full to the glass being smashed on the floor. Only a few people know what happened, and she’s lost some friends over it, but Lil has bigger problems right now: there’s a fast-spreading flu going through her New Jersey town, and friends and neighbors are getting really sick. Her medical journalist father is in Delaware covering the disease’s early stages, and her mother, on business in Hong Kong, is unable to get a flight back home when everything hits. Lil is on her own, and she’s terrified. As the disease marches through her world, she’s got to reach deep down inside herself and become the person she once was to survive.

Pandemic is a good read. It moves fast, has good characters, and puts them in a scary situation that’s all too real for a lot of us watching the news these days. Lil is on a journey without realizing it. Readers don’t know her before the incident with a teacher, but we see her go from a withdrawn, depressed teen to a strong young woman who can think, organize, and act to keep herself and the people around her as safe as she can, all while facing terrifying odds. I love a good, strong heroine, and was really appreciative that Yvonne Ventresca gives readers a take-charge main character who’s flawed but recognizes the need to push forward.

If you know readers who love a good plague story (minus zombies here), add this one to your shelves. For readers who want the gripping lead-up to dystopia, but minus the government-run aftermath.

Pair this with your cataclysm books: Chris Weitz’s The Young World series, Em Garner’s Contaminated books, and Lex Thomas’ Quarantine series are some good starts (and make Pandemic look like everyone’s getting off easy).

Edited to add: Holy cow, I sent this to publish too soon. Yvonne Ventresca’s author page has links to a Pandemic Pinterest board and an educator’s guide. Make sure to check it out!