Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books About Kindness

We’re heading toward the holidays, which means my library system is gearing up for their annual “It’s Time for Kind” campaign, where we encourage our communities to show kindness to one another. This year, it means a LOT. I won’t get on too much of a soapbox here, but I will say that I live in a state where people are arriving scared and alone, and need kindness more than ever. These books have been out for a few months, so consider these when you’re putting together readers advisory lists or book displays, or planning storytimes this season.

All You Need, by Howard Schwartz/Illustrated by Jasu Hu, (Apr. 2022, Neal Porter Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823443291

Ages 3-7

Written as a poem, All You Need is a meditation on what one needs for a fulfilling life, from the basics – sun and rain, food and water – to the higher needs, like “a place where you are welcome” and “words to share your thoughts”. Illustrator Jasu Hu tells the story of a young woman who grows to be an artist, nurtured by the land and the people around her. Inspired by Schwartz’s story, illustrator Jasu Hu’s watercolor illustrations bring a tenderness to the work that fits beautifully with the gentle lyrics and leaves touches of Chinese culture throughout the story, including a swallow, ever-present in the tale, to deliver words of happiness and homecoming. Back matter from Schwartz and Hu each explains their motivation. The main character presents as Asian, with touches of Asian culture and landscape throughout. All You Need is a reminder of how simple and fragile our needs are and is a beautiful opening story for storytimes.

All You Need has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

 

Luli and the Language of Tea, by Andrea Wang/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, (May 2022, Neal Porter), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823446148

Ages 3-7

A group of parents file into an ESOL (English as a Second Language) class, while their children head into the free childcare area while their parents are in class. The children play alone, not understanding English, until Luli decides to bring everyone together with one word that they all understand: tea. She sets up a tea party around a table and calls out “Chá!”, the Chinese word for “tea”; the children recognize the word, which sounds similar to the word for tea in their languages: Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese. The children sit together and share tea while the caregiver watches, delighted. Showing that language brings us together more than it divides us, Luli and the Language of Tea features a group of children from all over the world coming together in friendship. Each time the word “tea” is spoken it is illustrated in a colorful font with a phonetic spelling in parentheses. Endpapers feature colorful cups of tea from different countries. Colored pencil illustrations add a childlike innocence to this joyful story. Back matter includes an author’s note, a note on the languages spoken in the story, and notes on immigrants living in the U.S. and how they enjoy their tea. Author Andrea Wang’s website includes a bibliography of sources and audio of various children’s literature creators speaking the word for “tea” in their own languages; there’s also a downloadable educator’s guide. An excellent storytime choice.

Luli and the Language of Tea has starred reviews from Booklist and Shelf Awareness.

 

 

La Casita de Esperanza, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823452033

Ages 4-8

This is the Spanish translation of a book I fell in love with when I reviewed it in July. Terry Catasús Jennings writes about a little home that welcomes a family new to the U.S., and how that family turns that little house into a sanctuary where they, and their extended family, can come, be safe, and begin a new life. The Spanish text is lyrical and makes for a beautiful readaloud; Pura Belpré medalist Raúl Colón’s pencil and watercolor artwork frames pivotal moments in the characters’ lives to create powerful moments, from arriving home to a bustling household to people coming together to forge a new life when they’ve been forced to leave the old one behind. I have copies of both the English and Spanish translations on my shelves. One of the best books you’ll read this year.

Visit Terry Catasús Jennings’s webpage to see more of her books and read her own story; the inspiration for La Casita de Esperanza.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

Indie spotlight: Immigrant from the Stars by Gail Kamer

Immigrant from the Stars, by Gail Kamer/Illustrated by Daniel F. Bridy, (June 2019, Gettier Group LLC), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0999459553

Ages 9-12

I’ve been working to catch up with review requests, so I dug into my indie review pile while I was off and caught up with Gail Kamer’s 2019 middle grade tale, Immigrant from the Stars. Iko is a middle school kid who’s like other middle school kids: he loves hanging out with his friends; he loves his grandfather and his parents, he loves his dog. Oh, and he’s an alien from the planet Trinichia, ruled by a totalitarian government, with eyes and ears seemingly everywhere. Iko’s parents put their escape plan in motion and leave Trinichia, fleeing to Earth, where they start their new lives in Kentucky, disguised as the Newman family, a completely normal Earthling family from Texas. Iko tries to adjust to this new life – this new species! – while desperately hoping he doesn’t give himself and his family away, and worrying about his grandfather and dog, who are still on Trinichia.

I enjoyed Immigrant from the Stars so much! Narrated in the first person by Iko, the story has humor and pathos in equal amounts, with some tense moments that inject some excitement into the story. The story puts a sci-fi spin on the challenges facing immigrants who arrive as refugees and find themselves faced with a new way of life – and possibly an unfriendly reception. If your readers loved Geoff Rodkey’s We’re Not From Here (2019), consider recommending Immigrant from the Stars.

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 Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

A CYBILS graphic novel rundown

I know, being on the CYBILS first round, I can’t give TOO much away about graphic novels I’m reading, but I did have these on my TBR before I was nominated to judge, so… I’ll just talk them up a wee bit. To whet your appetite for what’s coming.

Softies: Stuff That Happens After the World Blows Up, by Kyle Smeallie, (Oct. 2020, Iron Circus Comics), $15, ISBN: 9781945820489

Ages 10-14

This is sort of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with a dose of stuffed animals tossed in for good measure. Earth blows up: kablooey, just like that. But there’s a survivor! Kay, a thirteen-year-old girl, is floating around in space when she’s rescued by Arizona, an alien space-junk collector, and his cybernetic pet Euclid. Arizona looks like a cuddly pink space stuffie that you’d find on the shelves in Target, and Euclid would definitely have his own action figure. There are laughs to be had, especially when Kay explains where she’s from, time and again, to blank faces – we’re not that well-known in the universe after all – and the levels of bureacracy that pop up time and again, as the new friends make their way through space. Softies is comprised of short stories, put together into one volume. The artwork is cartoony and very kid-friendly; the material is probably better suited for higher middle grade to middle school. There are some chuckleworthy moments and some sweet moments as Arizona and Kay try to figure things out together in this new relationship they’re forging. The storytelling has some lags, but overall, kids will get a kick out of it. Good to have for those tough-to-pin-down middle school collections.

 

The Magic Fish, by Trung Le Nguyen, (Oct. 2020 Random House Graphic), $23.99, ISBN: 9780593125298

Ages 12+

Told in parallel narratives between fairy tales and real life, The Magic Fish is the story of Tiến, a Vietnamese teen who loves his family but lives with a secret that he fears will change things. He’s gay, and doesn’t quite know how to come out to them. He shares stories with his parents, particularly his mother, and we can see the story within the story here: each is about suffering, and eventually, rising above difficult circumstances, which mirrors not only Tiến’s life, but his mother’s escape from Vietnam to America and her longing to be with her mother. The artwork itself is breathtaking; the fairy tale scenes are incredible, dreamlike; Tiến’s reality is realistically drawn with fleshed-out characters and expressive body language. Sensitive, beautifully drawn, and perfect for teen collections. The Magic Fish has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and is an Indie Next pick.

Witches of Brooklyn, by Sophie Escabasse, (Sept. 2020, Random House Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593119273
Ages 8-12
I LOVED this magical story! Effie is a kid whose mom has passed away, and she’s brought to Brooklyn to live with her aunt, Selimene; a woman she’s never met before. Selimene and her partner, Carlota, are two “herbalists” who just seem plain weird to Effie, until she discovers that the two women are… shhhh… witches. Good witches, to be sure, but witches! And shortly after arriving, Effie discovers her hands start glowing and that she’s a witch, too! Could this day get better? You bet – she makes two great friends in school, and when she arrives home, discovers that her favorite pop star, Tily Shoo, is in her house in need of Selimene and Carlota’s help. Everything is fun about Witches of Brooklyn, which also has wonderful storytelling and statements about family. Great artwork, great character development and storytelling, and  – let’s hope – more to come. Give this to your Lumberjanes readers and while you’re at it, hand them a copy of Emma Steinkellner’s graphic novel, The Okay Witch.
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, by Maggie Stiefvater/Illustrated by Morgan Beem, (Oct. 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401293239
Ages 12+
Twin brothers Alec and Walker Holland are sent off to spend their last summer before college with their rural cousins after catching their father having an affair. Alec, the studious one, buries himself in a lab where he continues working on a project that takes everything in him – a bit literally – to keep going, while Walker hits the social scene. The two brothers find themselves diverging this summer, with tensions and memories forcing their way between the two. And the swamp… well, that’s just waiting for someone, isn’t it? Maggie Stiefvater is an amazing YA writer, and Morgan Beem has a nice list of comics illustration to her credit. She creates an eerie atmosphere with her green and murky artwork, giving Maggie Stiefvater’s creepy storytelling a wonderfully oogie vibe. I’ll be honest, the story dipped for me a few times when Alec gets caught up in his botany discussions, but the overall storytelling is strong and macabre; very American Gothic.
Posted in picture books

The Paper Boat chronicles a family’s journey

The Paper Boat, by Thao Lam, (Sept. 2020, OwlKids), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771473637

Ages 6-9

Inspired by her own family’s refugee journey from Vietnam to Canada, Thao Lam’s newest book, The Paper Boat is an intensely personal narrative, entwined with a story about an ant colony. The wordless story is told through gorgeous collage art in shades of gray with moments of bright color: a spotlight, the red of an army flag, green of military uniforms, or the pink of a paper boat struggling to stay afloat in tumultuous waters. At home in Vietnam, a young girl rescues ants from bowls of sugar water set out to trap them. Later, as the girl and her family flee from their war-ravaged home, the ants lead them through the moonlit jungle to the boat that will help them escape. As they board, the girl folds a paper boat and drops it into the water; the ants climb on, setting out on their own journey. The two parallel narratives tell the story of a daring escape and the hope of starting life in a new, safe, land. Thao Lam’s author’s note provides deeper context for the story. Endpapers depict newspaper headlines from the Vietnam War and subsequent flight of the refugees.

A moving, thoughtful story that brings home the pain of leaving home and the hope of starting over. The Paper Boat has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. (And it should be nominated for a Caldecott, just sayin’.) Publisher OwlKids has an excellent educator and parent’s guide available for free download.

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

Sanctuary: A Plausible Dystopia from Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher

Sanctuary, by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher, (Sept. 2020, GP Putnam & Sons), $17.99, ISBN: 9781984815712

Ages 14+

Set in a not-too-distant America where an unchecked President who advocates for hate is still in office, Sanctuary is an unsettling, often brutal, story of survival. In 2032, Americans are microchipped and tracked. Getting on the bus? You’re scanned. Going into school? You’re scanned. Some undocumented immigrants have underground chips that don’t always work: and when they malfunction, it’s bad news. Sixteen-year-old Vali and her mother are undocumented and living in Vermont. Vali’s parents crossed over into California when Vali was a toddler; her younger brother, Ernie, was born shortly after. Vali’s father was discovered, deported, and murdered, forcing Vali’s mother to flee, with her two young children, to Vermont. They’ve managed to create a life for themselves until a crackdown from the government’s Deportation Forces hits their town, sending them on the run once again. Vali’s mother’s chip malfunctions, and she’s taken away, forcing Vali and Ernie to head back toward California – a sanctuary state that’s been walled off from the rest of the United States – in the hope that their tía Luna is still alive and able to help them.

Sanctuary is a stressful, urgent, horrific book, because it’s a future that’s entirely plausible. The Wall exists in this future; people are empowered to openly hate and inform on one another, and Deportation Forces brutally enforce racist executive orders with relish. There are deportation camps in hidden areas, out of the public’s line of vision, where human beings are treated like animals, and drones hunt people down like prey. There are people all too willing to take advantage of desperation: coyotes, individuals paid to illegally transport others to California, steal and do worse. There are kind people, like the nun running an underground shelter for refugees, but they feel too few and far between. Vali is an incredible well of strength for her terrified younger brother. There are no wasted characters here: Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher create living, breathing characters that will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book and returned it to the shelf. With taut pacing and storytelling that will penetrate readers to the bone, Sanctuary is essential reading.

Paola Mendoza is an activist and co-founder of the Women’s March. Abby Sher is a YA author and You can read an excerpt thanks to Teen Vogue.

Sanctuary has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Books from Quarantine: Wonder Woman and Aqualad

DC Ink has two more original YA graphic novels out, and they are getting the cream of the YA crop to write them, pairing them with outstanding artists to illustrate. What a time to be a comic book fan (or new to comic books)!

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed, by Laurie Halse Anderson/Illustrated by Leila Del Duca, (June 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401286453

Ages 12+

Easily one of the best Wonder Woman stories I’ve ever read. Diana is the first and only woman on Themyscira to have a birthday (you can read about her origins, both original and updated, here), so her 16th Born Day is a cause for great celebration! The festivities are interrupted when refugees in rafts drift across the barrier separating Themyscira from our world, and Diana, horrified at the sight of people struggling to stay afloat in tumultuous waters, is furious with the Themyscirans who refuse to get involved. She dives into the water and begins helping the strugglers back into the raft, only to discover that the veil has drawn back, obscuring Themyscira once again… and she’s outside of it. Wonder Woman is a teenaged refugee with no way back home and separated from everything she knows and loves. Once the rafts come ashore in Greece, she joins the other refugees as they wait for food, warm clothes, and shelter; she endures the baleful stares and harsh talk from those around her who have no trust in the refugees. Diana is a stranger in a strange and sometimes, unfriendly land. With the help of two kind aid workers named Steve and Trevor, she heads to the United States to formalize her education and become an aid worker herself. And she also discovers a dark underbelly in her new home that demands justice.

This is an incredible Wonder Woman story that strips (most) of her superpowers away and leaves us with the story of a young woman, alone, enduring life as a refugee in our world. With the right care and help, she can make a difference in the world: but how many of our refugees get that chance? A powerful message delivered by Laurie Halse Anderson, with beautiful artwork from comic book artist Leila Del Duca, Tempest Tossed is a strong statement on our attitudes toward refugees, justice, and the state of our world today.

 

You Brought Me the Ocean, by Alex Sanchez/Illustrated by Julie Maroh, (June 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401290818

Ages 12+

Who better to write a story about Aqualad than Rainbow Boys author Alex Sanchez? Jake Hyde is a high school kid living with his widowed mother in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. He is desperate to leave his hometown and study oceanography in Miami. Since his father died, his mother won’t let him near water; it’s at odds with his strong attraction to the ocean, his desire to be near the water. His best friend, Maria, wants him to stay home and go to a local college with her… where they can make a home together in the future… but Jake doesn’t really feel that way about Maria. And then, there’s Kenny Liu, the openly gay and proud swimmer at school. He doesn’t care about the jerks that tease him, and he’ll never let himself be bullied. Jake is drawn to Kenny; as the two spend more time together, Jake realizes that his feelings for Kenny are very, very different than he feels for Maria, and that Kenny feels the same, too. At the same time, Jake discovers that what he thought were birthmarks on his skin are actually something very different, too… something that connects him to his father, who isn’t quite dead after all. Jake is about to learn his origin, but it may not be what he wants to hear.

If you saw the Aquaman movie, you know who Jake is. (Hint: he isn’t related to Aquaman.) Aqualad, in the DC Universe, is a founding member of Teen Titans and has come out as gay in the Young Justice animated show. This story is a coming-out story and origin story, both given the sensitivity necessary when writing this character. Graphic novel author and illustrator Julie Maroh creates soft, almost dreamlike artwork with earthy shades and watery shades to show the difference between Jake’s life in New Mexico and his origins in the water. A gorgeous book and story, perfect for Pride month and beyond. A very fun cameo makes this an all-around win.

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 Intermediate, picture books

The Day War Came, by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb

The Day War Came, by Nicola Davies/Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201734

Ages 6-9

A brown-skinned girl with black hair has breakfast with her parents and baby brother, sits at her desk at school, singing songs about tadpoles and learning about volcanoes, when war comes to her world. In an instant, everything she knows, everything she loves, is gone. She begins an arduous journey on foot, by truck, by bus, and by boat to a strange, new place; searching for a place where war can’t reach, she only encounters closed doors and hard faces. Even a school turns her away, telling her there are no chairs for her. As she loses hope, a boy finds her and brings her a chair so that she can come to school; his friends have brought chairs, too, so all children can come to school. Together, the children provide support for our protagonist, “pushing back the war with every step”.

This book is heartbreaking. The artwork, so childlike in itself, makes it even more powerful: the hunched over girl at her desk, braids blown back and artwork flying off her desk as the giant gray-black cloud envelops the facing page; the girl on her knees at the rubble of her home; the girl huddled under a blanket in an empty hut, turned away from a school for want of a chair. the our realization that she is the only survivor of that happy family eating breakfast together is almost too much to take. The pencil and watercolor art is stunning, using grays and blacks to communicate the horror. Orange flames compete with orange flowers in a destroyed city landscape. And the quiet gift from one child to another brings with it new color: green seats, red seats, blue and white striped seats. Color becomes hope.

The Day War Came is a poem Nicola Davies wrote after reading about a refugee child denied entry to a school because there was no chair for her. This gave birth to the #3000chairs movement, where thousands of people posted photos of empty chairs in solidarity with these children who had lost everything, including a chance at education. Nicola Davies’ poem is eloquent, heartbreaking, and ultimately, hopeful. Writing in the child’s voice brings home the impact of war on children.

She never names the child, nor does she name the child’s country of origin. The child is any refugee child from any number of countries where children are forced out of childhood far too soon. As the author says in her 3000 Chairs blog post, “In an ideal world there wouldn’t be children without parents. In an ideal world hospitals wouldn’t be bombed because they looked a bit like something else. In an ideal world everything would be sweet and smooth and we could all afford to be as selfish as we liked and it wouldn’t matter.”

An important addition to all collections. The Day War Came has a starred review from Booklist. There is a downloadable free discussion guide available through the publisher.

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.