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

Welcome Spring with My Big Book of Outdoors

My Big Book of Outdoors, by Tim Hopgood, (March 2022, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536215335

Ages 7-10

One part poetry book, one part nonfiction resource, one part craft and activity primer, My Big Book of Outdoors is an illustrated guide to the seasons with activities and mixed media illustrations. Each season is organized like a scrapbook of art, poetry, nature facts, and nature-based projects to create, like chocolate nests (made with shredded wheat and chocolate); leaf mobiles, and bird feeders. Thoughtful observations and questions invite readers to consider nature as seasons move from one to the next; to think about different birds they see in each season, or look for types of plants and trees. The artwork is vibrant. Think of it as a scrapbook that celebrates and encourages active participation in each season. It’s beautiful to look at, enjoyable to read, fun to play with. There are tons of ideas for seasonal programs and grab-and-go programs in here, too – an all-around great resource for kids and educators.

My Big Book of Outdoors was originally published in the UK in 2021.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Some poetry books for National Poetry Month

April 1 starts off National Poetry Month, and Candlewick Press is ready with three new books to share with your readers! Take a look at these picture book poetry collections.

Behold Our Magical Garden : Poems Fresh from a School Garden, by Allan Wolf/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536204551

Ages 8-12

Perfect for springtime reading, this collection of poems celebrates gardening at school; from scientific observations and flavorful herbs to bugs on strike and compost bins, all facets of gardening get a moment in the sun (so to speak) here. Colorful illustrations featuring diverse students and an enthusiastic teacher have cartoony moments and photorealistic artwork that comes together to give readers a fun expedition into gardening. Great for quick readalouds, Behold Our Magical Garden gives silly moments like an underwear-sporting thundercloud: “We saw up in the sky by chance / a rain cloud who had lost his pants. / But luckily he wore a pair / of silver lining thunder-wear”, and thoughtful moments, as with The Green Bean Bower: “so much depends / upon / a green bean / bower / covered with vine / leaves / climbing the bamboo / poles”. Back matter includes notes on each poem, and endpapers showcase a variety of gardening tools and inhabitants. What a way to welcome springtime planting activities!

For extension activity ideas, visit KidsGardening.org, and find learning activities, lesson plans, and information on designing a school garden of your own.

 

Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech, by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek/Illustrated by Richard Jones, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536203035

Ages 9+

Framed by the four elements – fire, water, air, earth – and infused with dreamlike imagery, Marshmallow Clouds is a collection of poems that takes readers into the heart of a hot July day: “I was the crimson crayon / melting in a sunny car, / the color of firecrackers and flags / and Mars, where once water / cooled the red stones” and confides in the readers as to why pets don’t write: “Parrots could, actually, / but they don’t believe that’s / any of your business”. The authors let their imaginations run wild, envisioning remote controls “designed for the human hand / the way a pacifier fits exactly / where a baby cries” and old barns “pull[ing] on / its patched-up underwear of rotten boards / beneath its coveralls of corrugated metal”. Richard Jones’s dreamlike illustrations manage to bring Ted Kooser’s and Connie Wanek’s imagery to life while maintaining a surreal, hazy feel. Readers will devour these, come to the end, and turn back to start all over again.

Marshmallow Clouds has starred reviews from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist, and The Horn Book. Ted Kooser is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former US Poet Laureate; find more of his poetry at his webpage. Find more of Connie Wanek’s poetry at her website.

 

Take Off Your Brave, by Nadim (age 4)/Illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536223163

Ages 4-8

Enjoy this collection of poems that shows the world through a preschooler’s eyes. Nadim, the author, wrote these poems when he was a 4-year-old preschooler (his sister and his preschool class have piece in here as well) after discovering poetry at school. The poems are adorably created, by children for children, with observations on love: “Everyone has love / even baddies”, beloved teachers: “Miss Angela is nice. / Miss Angela smells like flowers. / Miss Angela is warm. / Miss Angela sounds like a bell, ringing gently”, and best friends: “He’s as fast as anyone – / Faster than everyone – / And everyone you’ve ever seen. / And he knows pretty much everything / About aliens”. The poems are a true, wonderful look into a preschooler’s mind; a sweet, comforting hug kids and adults alike could really use to get through a rough day. Essential reading for Poetry Month and beyond, teachers can use Nadim’s Take Off Your Brave as a class project jumping off point and create their own poetry collections to share. A note from Nadim’s mother explains how Nadim discovered poetry. Yasmeen Ismail’s watercolor illustrations are a joyful celebration of being a child, with a diverse group of children and animals playing together. Take Off Your Brave was originally published in the UK in 2021.

Poets.org has a wealth of National Poetry Month resources, including printable Poem in Your Pocket PDFs and programming ideas, both in-person and virtual.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Love is Everything: Father Goose does it again!

Love is Everything, by Charles Ghigna, (Nov. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764362231

Ages 3-7

Charles Ghigna’s ode to love is just what cuddle time, lapsit, and Valentine’s Day storytimes need. The poem reaffirms beliefs in everyday magic, like mornings and nights; mountains and trees, music, the seasons, and, most importantly, love. Artwork shows a little bear and bigger bear sharing time together, enjoying each other’s company, and sharing warmth and joy in the every day. Charles Ghigna begins each new line in his poetic tale with the affirmation, “I believe…” creating a sense of optimism and positivity that readers really need these days; comforting images and reassuring words come together to give young children a soothing storytime. Softly colored images of cute bears frolicking throughout nature, with uplifting verse, make this a lovely bedtime, laptime, or anytime read.

Visit Charles Ghigna’s author webpage for resources. The Poetry Foundation’s Charles Ghigna page has a biography and links to some more of his poetry.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

At the Height of the Moon: A treasury for bedtime

At the Height of the Moon: A Book of Bedtime Poetry and Art, Edited by Alison Baverstock, Matt Cunningham, & Annette Roeder, (Nov. 2021, Prestel), $24.95, ISBN: 9783791374802

Ages 5+

When you and your littles want something different at bedtime, At the Height of the Moon delivers. Divided into eight areas – Twilight, Dreamland, Moonlight Menagerie, Creepy Crawlies and Things That Go Bump in the Night, Minds Ablaze, and Midnight and Magic – readers can browse artwork, poems, and short fictions to set a nighttime mood, whether it’s a mood for the surreal poetry of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” or a fantastical extract from Alice in Wonderland. Images by Gustav Klimt, Vincent Van Gogh, and Thomas Cole set the mood. It’s a lovely way to introduce classic art, fiction, and poetry to kids and older readers may enjoy discovering magical prose, poetry, and art to lull them to sleep. Art pairs with words to spin images that set the stage for dreaming and sleep. A beautiful gift book or addition to your 800s (literature, plays, poems).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Play with Your Words! Stop That Poem!

Stop That Poem!, by Eric Ode/Illustrated Jieting Chen, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684642236

Ages 4-8

This colorful exploration of the moving nature of poetry is so much fun. A girl constructs a tower of words, creating a poem, which flies away, going on a series of adventures where the words will reassemble in the water, on a clothesline, and carried off by dogs, birds, and buses, with new experiences to read about each time. Three children chase the words, calling, “Stop that poem!”, but that’s the thing, about poems: words are free and flow like water, like air currents. It’s inspiring for younger readers, learning to put their thoughts together, and the colorful artwork and movement furthers the idea that words never stay in one place. The words of each poem appear on cards, allowing for fun programs where kids can assemble their own poems, either from words they write, or words you provide for them. I used to have large MegaBlocks with sight words glued to them that let kids create their own words during play, at my library; this could be a fun learning exercise for preschoolers! Stop That Poem! is a fun addition to your wordplay books.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

What is a poem? Oh, so many things…

A Poem is a Firefly, by Charles Ghigna/Illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde, (April 2021, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764361081

Ages 5-8

A lovely answer to the oft-asked question, “What is a poem?”, A Poem is a Firefly is also a love letter to the art of poetry. I’ve been asked many times about poetry, when my own kids and my library kids have worked on a unit at school. “Does it have to rhyme?” “What’s the difference between a poem and a story, if it doesn’t rhyme?” “How do I read this, anyway?” The answer? I don’t really have them, because poetry tends to confound me, too. I love Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, and their silly verse, but the true meaning of poetry has escaped me while I have friends who simply adore it (and have earned my envy). A Poem is a Firefly is a lovely guide to unlocking the poetry kids have inside them. A group of animal friends wonder and wax thoughtfully on what a poem is: it can be a whisper or a shout; it can be a “thought… turned inside out”; it can be an “echo… slowly passing by”, or a “moment… a memory caught in time”. There are beautiful things that a poem can be, including a firefly, on the summer wind. Beautifully phrased, the rhyming verse encourages readers to observe the poetry in nature, around them, and inside them. It’s a great storytime book and a great way to introduce a poetry unit in school. Cartoon animals invite readers in, and they hang around on the endpapers, welcoming readers and seeing them out. A lovely way to introduce poetry this National Poetry Month.

Fun thing to watch for: the title and the firefly on the cover are glow-in-the-dark!

Charles Ghigna is also known as “Father Goose”. His author webpage has links to plenty of resources, including help on writing a poem.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novels for Tweens and Teens

I’m back with more graphic novels! It’s an all-consuming joy of mine; I love them all. I’ve got some newer and up-and-coming books, and some backlist that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve got books for middle grade/middle school, and I’ve got teen/YA, so let’s see what’s good!

Sylvie, by Sylvie Kantorovitz, (Jan. 2021, Walker Books US), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536207620

Ages 9-13

An autobiographical graphic novel that really hits the sweet spot for middle schoolers but will also appeal to upper elementary and high schoolers, Sylvie is the story of the author and illustrator’s life, quirks and all. She grows up in a school where her father was principal. She loves art from an early age, but her mother is focused on her pursuing a career in math or science. The book follows her family as they add more children to the family and Sylvie’s mother doggedly pushes her academically. As she grows in confidence, and seeks her father’s council, Sylvie takes control of her own future. Artwork is cartoony and friendly, and easy-to-read, first-person narration makes Sylvie readers feel like they’re talking with a friend. Discussions about racism and anti-Semitism in ’60s and ’70s France sets the stage for discussion.

Candlewick/Walker Books US has a sample chapter available for a preview.

 

Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas, by Sam Maggs/Illustrated by Kendra Wells, (Feb. 2021, Amulet), $21.99, ISBN: 9781419739668

Ages 10-14

Another middle school-geared book, Tell No Tales is a fictionalized account of pirate Anne Bonny, pirate Mary Read, and their female and non-binary pirate crew. They have a growing reputation, but a privateer is on their heels: Woodes Rogers, a failed pirate turned pirate hunter for the Crown, has sworn to wipe the stain of piracy from the seas. There are strong positive female and non-binary characters, based on characters from history, but the overall story falters, leaving readers to look for the thread in between the individual stories of Bonny’s crew, all of which are fascinating. The artwork is colorful, manga-inspired, and will grab viewers. Back matter includes a word on the real-life exploits of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, notes, and a bibliography.

Publishers Weekly has an interview with Sam Magga and Kendra Wells. 

Fantastic Tales of Nothing, by Alejandra Green & Fanny Rodriguez, (Nov. 2020, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062839473

Ages 8-13

One of the most beautifully illustrated graphic novels I’ve ever seen, Fantastic Tales of Nothing is one of heck an epic fantasy for middle graders and tweens, and early teens. Nathan is a human living what he considers a pretty ordinary life until that fateful day when he wakes up in the middle of nowhere and meets a being named Haven and a race of shape shifters called the Volken. As the unlikely group find themselves on a quest, Nathan also learns that he isn’t that ordinary – he has mysterious power in side of him, and the fate of Nothing lies in his hands. Vivid color, breathtaking fantasy spreads, and solidly constructed worldbuilding lays the foundation for what could be a groundbreaking new fantasy series for middle graders, with nonbinary and Latinx representation to boot. Where are the starred reviews for this book?

Tales of Nothing received IndieNext Honors. The website has more information about the characters, authors, and upcoming projects.

 

Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry, by Julian Peters, (March 2020, Plough Publishing House), $24, ISBN: 9780874863185

Ages 12+

Illustrator Julian Peters has taken 24 poems by some of the most recognizable names in the art form, and brought them to life using different art forms, from manga to watercolor to stark expressionist black and white.  Organized into six areas of introspection: Seeing Yourself; Seeing Others; Seeing Art; Seeing Nature; Seeing Time, and Seeing Death, Peters illustrates such master works as “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, “Annabel Lee”, by Edgar Allan Poe, and “Juke Box Love Song” by Langston Hughes. It’s a great way to invite middle school, high school, and college students to deep dive into some of the greatest works of poetry.

Marvin: Based on The Way I Was, by Marvin Hamlisch with Gerald Gardner/Adapted and Illustrated by Ian David Marsden, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764359040

Ages 9-13

This graphic adaptation of PEGOT (Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Marvin Hamlisch’s biography is one I did not see coming! The legendary musician, composer, and conductor discusses his family’s flight from Hitler’s Austria and settling in America, Hamlisch’s admittance to Julliard at the age of 6, and the intense anxiety that plagued him before every performance. He tells readers about attending high school with Christopher Walken and Liza Minelli, and playing the piano for Judy Garland as a teen; about composing pop radio hits and learning to compose music for a motion picture as he went along. By the time he was 30, he’d won his first major award. Hamlisch’s voice is funny, warm, and conversational throughot, and Marsden’s realistic art has touching moments, particularly between Hamlisch and his father. A great read for theatre and music fans – this one is going to be my not-so-secret weapon.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Tag Your Dreams!

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, by Jacqueline Jules/Illustrated by Iris Deppe, (Apr. 2020, Albert Whitman & Company), $17.99, ISBN: 9780807567265

Ages 7-10

I’m getting that TBR under control a little more every day! Tag Your Dreams is a book of poetry about sports and play for kids, but it’s more than that. These are poems about endurance, self-esteem, community, and reaching goals. It’s about a girl reaching out to a new friend by reciting a rhyme that her Guatemalan grandmother taught her (“Clapping  Hands”); it’s about a girl, swimming gracefully, mermaid-like, as she remembers being bullied for her weight earlier that day (“Mermaid Manatee”); a father and son cruising through a park on matching scooters (“Kick Scooters”), and a playground where “Spanish jumps just as high as English” as the kids skip rope and sing together. A multicultural group of adults and kids come together on these pages to play, to laugh, and to inspire readers. Jacqueline Jules, award-winning author of the Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez book series, created 31 poems about the power of play and the power of persistence to motivate readers: motivate them to play, motivate them to embrace themselves, and work as part of a team while striving to be their best. Iris Deppe’s colorful artwork shows children and grown-ups together in various stages of play: clapping hands underneath a tree, reaching for a ball in the outfield, or walking a trail with grandparents. A nice addition to poetry collections, with positive messages that we need more than ever these days.

Jacqueline Jules’s author webpage has information about her books and plenty of free, downloadable activities connected to her books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Back to School stories!

Step right up, I’ve got a bunch of back to school stories for your readers!

Pearl Goes to Preschool, by Julie Fortenberry, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207439

Ages 3-5

Pearl is the youngest and smallest student at her mother’s ballet school, but when Mom suggests that Pearl try out preschool – a school full of kids her age! – she’s got some questions: Is there dancing? Do they have stories? What else is there to do? Mom answers all of Pearl’s questions, and Pearl mulls it over, finally deciding that yes, she, and her stuffed mouse, Violet, are ready to try out preschool. Narrated from little Pearl’s point of view, this is an adorable story for kids getting ready for preschool: questions get answers, there’s a routine to the day, and best of all, Pearl has a wonderful day – and dances! Digital illustrations are soft, with muted pastels and lovely illustrations of ballet dancing and the relationship between a mother and her child. An adorable addition to school stories.

A free, downloadable activity kit features a Pearl paper doll with two outfits! Try to print it out on a heavier card stock, so it’s durable. Brightly has a good list of ballerina books for preschoolers, Scholastic has a list of books for beginning preschoolers.

 

Play Day School Day, by Toni Yuly, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202830

Ages 3-7

It’s always a good day for a Toni Yuly book, and her latest, Play Day School Day, captures a sweet moment between a little boy and his older sister. Mona, a young girl, is excited for the first day of school; her younger brother, Milo, asks what she does at school. “Lots of things”, Mona replies, and tells him about a typical school day, from riding the bus, to practicing reading, writing, science, and math. She tells him that sometimes, one must sit quietly at school, but other times, one can run around and be loud with friends. Mona makes school sound pretty great! The two siblings share their day in a garden or backyard, playing together with their black cat. Toni Yuly’s spare prose is to-the-point and enticing, giving Milo a wonderful vision of school. The story text is bold and black, easily readable against the bright white background, and Toni Yuly’s mixed media artwork is bright, cheerful, and vibrant. Play Day School Day is a fun school story for school-aged children and their younger siblings.

Pair Play Day School Day with Anna McQuinn’s books, Lola Reads To Leo.

 

I Got the School Spirit!, by Connie Schofield-Morrison/Illustrated by Frank Morrison, (July 2020, Bloomsbury Kids US), 9781547602612

Ages 4-7

She’s back! The exuberant, spirit-filled little girl from Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison’s previous books, I Got the Rhythm! and I Got the Christmas Spirit! is back and ready for school in her newest story! Brushing her teeth, and getting dressed, she’s filled with the spirit, which stays with her and powers her – and her friends – through the school day! The spirit helps her comfort a scared friend on the school bus and enjoy her school day; it helps her kick a ball at recess, and propels her right into her mother’s arms at the end of her school day, leaving her ready to do it all again the next day. Filled with small moments that make up a school day, and with gorgeous, evocative oil painting, I Got the School Spirit! is the picture of Black Joy, and a picture book that will get kids excited about their own upcoming school days. Sound effects throughout: the stomp, stomp of shiny new shoes, zip, zip! of a school bag, and crunch, munch, sip! of lunchtime makes this a perfectly interactive read-aloud. A definite must-add to your back-to-school/first day of school collections.

For more Black Joy book selections, refer to these articles and lists from School Library Journal, We Are Teachers, Brightly, and Helping Kids Rise.

All Welcome Here, by James Preller/Illustrated by Mary GrandPré, (June 2020, Feiwel and Friends), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15588-7

Ages 4-7

James Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones chapter book series, and Mary GrandPré, whose illustrations we all know and love from Harry Potter, come together to present a collection of haiku poems about the first day of school. Covering subjects like new school supplies, the fear of boarding the bus, and class pets, all students will find themselves in the words and mixed media illustrations in the book. Moments like “Growing Up”, as a parent sighs after waving goodbye to the school bus, and “Principal K”, the new principal who has a dab of shaving cream on his ear, show kids that we grownups have our own first-day jitters, too. It’s not easy saying goodbye to our littles and it’s a little scary when the first day of school is your first day of work, too! Other poems celebrate first-day stalwarts like name tags on desks, the Reading Rug (it was the Circle Time rug when my elder boys were was in grade school), and running errands – and choosing a friend to accompany – all find their voice here. “Library” is a touching nod to school libraries everywhere: “…the whoosh and thrum / of the school’s heart beat”. Colorful and buoyant, with a diverse group of students and teachers, All Welcome Here is a thank you letter to schools, teachers, and students everywhere.

A free, downloadable storytime kit encourages readers to write their own haikus and make their own name tags.

 

I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office, by Jancee Dunn/Illustrated by Scott Nash, (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201987

Ages 3-8

A delightfully hilarious companion to Jancee Dunn and Scott Nash’s 2017 book, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in Trouble Today, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is all about you – the principal is speaking to you, isn’t she? – and your teddy, who stashed away in your backpack and went to school with you today; Teddy, along with your friends’ stuffed animals, who all did the same thing, waited until everyone was in assembly to burst out of their schoolbags and wreak havoc all over your school! They wrote their names with condiments and tied up the coach; they trapped the art teacher in glue and rolled around in finger paint. As the principal details everything that went on during the day, parents will have to suppress their giggles – just like poor Mr. Krimple, standing next to the principal – as they imagine the principal’s tone of voice. But are you really in the principal’s office? Is there even a principal? Or is it an imaginative little girl playing school? Way too much fun to read and act out, I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in the Principal’s Office is fantastic reading… and will put a new spin on playing school, I’m sure. The colorful digital illustrations showcase a group of stuffed toys having the time of their lives throughout school, as teacher chase them through the chaos. The title page begs for a real-life storytime setup, featuring a bunch of guilty-looking toys sitting uncomfortably on chairs, some covered in paint, waiting to be claimed by their children. Just great fun to read.

 

When Pencil Met the Markers, by Karen Kilpatrick & Luis O. Ramos, Jr./Illustrated by Germán Blanco, (July 2020, imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250309402

Ages 4-8

The companion to 2019’s When Pencil Met Eraser, also by Karen Kilpatrick, Luis O. Ramos, Jr., and Germán Blanco, is about teamwork, friendship, and coloring outside the lines. A group of markers loves to color, but Purple sees things differently. He colors outside the lines, which drives the other markers CRAZY. They confront Purple, telling him his creativity is a mistake and that he doesn’t fit in. Dejected, Purple sets out on his own and meets Pencil and Eraser, who inspire him to look at things differently: he doesn’t need lines! As Purple creates, Pencil and Eraser fill in the area around his work, making gloriously purple grapes, butterflies, birds, and cupcakes. The creative team’s work draws the attention of the other markers, who ultimately learn that coloring outside the lines can be fun, and Pencil says – in a tribute to Bob Ross – that “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents!” It’s a great story to read to kids, while reminding them that it’s good to approach life with a flexibility and attitude, and to color outside the lines every once in a while. Be creative, take chances, and don’t be afraid to be the Purple Marker. The digital artwork has bright, primary colors that pop off the bright white background; dialogue between the markers, Pencil, and Eraser are bold and rounded, while the narrative text is more of a Roman font, not bolded. Endpapers let Purple – and, later, the other markers – show off their scribbly best. Full of lessons that respect the reader, When Pencil Met the Markers is perfect for school stories like Eraser, by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, The Day the Crayons Quit/The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, and A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery. Visit the When the Pencil Met website to sign up for their newsletter and get a free, downloadable activity book.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A Place Inside of Me is necessary reading

A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart, by Zetta Elliott/Illustrated by Noa Denmon, (July 2020, Farrar Straus Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-374-30741-7

Ages 4+

This has been an ugly year; there’s no better way to put it. Let this Black Lives Matter poem by award-winning author, poet, and playwright Zetta Elliott and illustrated by the fantastic Noa Denmon, be the must-read book that will start important conversations and inspire hope and joy. A young Black child works through his shifting emotions over the course of a year in A Place Inside of Me: summertime brings joy, and hoops with friends at the basketball court; the joy turns to sorrow as the news covers a story about a child being shot, and sorrow becomes fear, which festers into anger. Anger isn’t enough to satisfy the hunger for justice and freedom, and with the end of Fall and Winter, comes Spring, bringing pride, peace, compassion, hope, and love; a wish for brighter futures and better days, and a reminder that Black Lives Matter.

Zetta Elliott’s verse is powerful, loaded with emotion like pain, anger, and hope; Noa Denmon’s artwork is colorful and vibrant, with an expressive child who invites us to follow through their dialogue. Color sets the child apart in the foreground, as washed backgrounds show them skateboarding against a neighborhood, playing basketball against a mural-painted wall in the court, and the neighborhood barber shop, where a look at photos on the wall lets you rest your eyes on a rendering of a slave ship’s blueprints. It’s a reminder of a history where Black lives most certainly did not matter. There’s a poster of Malcolm X in the child’s room, and a collection of Black faces like Beyonce’s, Mae Jemison’s, Martin Luther King’s, and Jackie Robinson’s form a stunning display as the child raises his arms in a gesture of pride. See more of Noa Denmon’s artwork at her Instagram, @noadenmon.

If you can’t understand why Black Lives Matter, rather than “all lives mattering”, I beg you, please read this book.