Review: Drawn Together by Minh Le

Drawn Together by Minh Le

A boy heads to stay with his grandfather and is clearly not excited to be there. The two of them eat different foods, the grandfather has ramen and the boy has a hotdog and fries. When they try to talk together, they don’t even speak the same language as one another. When they try to watch TV, the language barrier reappears and the grandson walks away. He gets out his sketchpad and markers and starts to draw. Quickly, his grandfather joins him with his own pad of paper, brushes and ink. Soon the two of them are drawing together, communicating and seeing one another for the first time. It’s not all perfect, sometimes the distance reappears but it can be bridged with art that combines both of them into one amazing adventure.

The story here is mostly told in images with many of the pages having no text at all. The text that is there though moves the story ahead, explains what is happening at a deep level and fills in the blanks for readers. Santat’s illustrations are phenomenal. He manages to clearly show the child’s art and the grandfather’s art as distinct and unique while then moving to create a cohesive whole between them that is more than the sum of the two. This is pure storytelling in art form and is exceptionally done.

Look for this one to be on award lists! Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney Hyperion.

Review: Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker

Counting on Katherine How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk (9781250137524)

Katherine loved counting and math as a young girl. She was a brilliant student who skipped three grades. However, there was no high school in her town that accepted black students. So her father worked day and night to afford to move them to a town where Katherine could attend high school. She became an elementary school teacher, because there were no jobs for research mathematicians who were women. Katherine did not give up her dream, eventually becoming a mathematician working for NASA. She worked on the Mercury missions and the Apollo missions, doing the math that allowed the Apollo 13 astronauts to return safely.

Filled with the determination and resilience it took for Johnson to become a NASA mathematician, this picture book shows the barriers that were and are in place for scientists and mathematicians who are women and people of color. Make sure to check out the note at the end that provides even more information on this incredible mathematician. The art in the book is incredibly appealing with mathematics adding complexity to the simple style.

A picture book biography that soars to great heights. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Nothing Stopped Sophie by Cheryl Bardoe

Nothing Stopped Sophie The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock (9780316278201)

Sophie loved math from the time she was a small girl. Her parents had to take away her candles and her warm dresses to keep her in bed at night and not at work at her desk. But nothing stopped her, not even the French Revolution when she  was growing up. There were no opportunities for Sophie to study in a university, so she did her homework by mail using a male name. Her work was extraordinary, but when her identity was discovered no mathematicians would return her letters, though she became very popular at dinner parties due to her reputation. In her thirties, Sophie discovered a mathematical problem that would become her focus for many years. A challenge was set to figure out the mathematics behind vibrations and the patterns they made. Years later, Sophie was the only one to submit a solution which she then worked to perfect for additional years. This time though, she worked under her own name.

Bardoe has written a lovely biography of a fascinating woman who demonstrated that women are just as good at mathematics as men are. Her math has a blend of science and math with its focus on vibrations, making it all the more complex. The book shows again and again the resilience and determination that it took for Sophie to succeed. The writing is accessible and celebratory in tone. McClintock’s illustrations incorporate collage in a subtle but profound way. She also uses numbers and formulas in the art itself, creating scenes from a scaffold of digits and action from vibration patterns.

A great picture book biography about an inspiring woman. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor (9780062673671)

When Miri, Soleil and Penny make a plan to get close to their favorite author, Fatima Ro, at one of her signings, they couldn’t predict what would eventually happen. The girls meet Fatima, make a connection with her and suddenly are walking out with her and are invited to an exclusive gathering at a local coffee shop. Soon they are friends with Fatima, invited over to her house and spending time with her. They bring along Jonah, a boy who has just started at their private school and who seems to have a secret. As their friendship with Fatima deepens, their lives begin to revolve around her book, her ideas of human connection, and each of them having their own sort of connection to the famous author. But is everything what it seems?

This is one delicious read, even if readers figure out the twist ahead of time watching it play out and the reverberations it has for the characters is great fun. Penaflor writes the book in a series of texts, conversations, interviews and notes. Added in are excerpts from the new book that Fatima Ro has written, inspired by the teens themselves. Throughout, there is a wonderful creepiness as the novel written by Fatima mirrors the lives of the teens so closely. Readers will not trust any of the characters because they are all immensely flawed and biased in their recounting of what happened.

The novel explores privilege and power. It looks deeply at whether someone who has done something atrocious can be redeemed, can recover themselves and can regain their life. I’m someone who loves ambiguous endings to books and this one is particularly well done, working well with the layered quality of the novel as a whole.

A perfect summer novel that is a thrilling, compulsive read. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Week’s Tweets

Here are some of the tweets I shared this week with a big focus on libraries and that Forbes article:


Chance the Rapper, Langston Hughes, and Creative Self-Expression Inspire Teens in Newark Library’s Spoken Word Workshop

Get Crafty for Banned Books Week | Library Hacks

No, Amazon Cannot Replace Libraries –

Twaddle: Librarians respond to suggestion that Amazon should replace libraries –

Twitter Erupts after Forbes Story Calls for Amazon Stores To Replace Local Libraries –

Why public libraries are still essential in 2018


Why ‘getting lost in a book’ is so good for you, according to science


The Best Young Adult Novels of 2018 (So Far): New on ! –

Monkey Around with These Easy Readers

Jeff Mack has created a winning new series of easy readers featuring Mr. Monkey.

Mr. Monkey Bakes a Cake by Jeff Mack

Mr. Monkey Bakes a Cake by Jeff Mack (9781534404311)

In the first book in the series, Mr. Monkey decides to bake a banana cake. Despite some inventive ways of using ingredients, his cake turns out beautifully. It’s nice enough that he’s inspired to enter it into a contest. But now he has to get his cake across town to the competition and that will not be easy. Using plenty of vaudeville-like falls, trips and hazards, the book is fast-paced and funny. Even when disaster seems certain, there is an opportunity suddenly to succeed.

Mr. Monkey Visits a School by Jeff Mack

Mr. Monkey Visits a School by Jeff Mack (9781534404298)

In the second book, Mr. Monkey visits school. After learning to teach himself to juggle, he is invited by the school librarian to come and perform. Mr. Monkey gets himself ready and drives to school but is stopped by a cow in the road. When he tries to toss the cow out of the way, it lands on his car. Now he has to walk to school in the rain and then the snow and then even more snow. He finally arrives but along the way manages to lose all of his props. Look out! He’s about to improvise!

These books are inventive and children learning to read will enjoy the strong sense of humor that permeates them. The classic prat falls and silliness are intoxicating, particularly when combined with the very simple text. Add in the illustrations that help tell a large part of the story and you have a really funny new addition for your early reader shelves.

Mr. Monkey will keep kids learning to read turning pages and giggling along the way. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copies provided by Simon & Schuster.

2018 Eisner Winners

Here are the winners of the 2018 Eisner Awards which are given to the best books in comics and graphic novels. I’m focusing on the awards for young people’s categories, but here is a list of the full award winners.


Good Night, Planet

Good Night, Planet by Liniers



The Tea Dragon Society

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill



Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening (Monstress, #1)

Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda – Note, this also won best continuing series overall!

Review: Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin

Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin

Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin (9780062665867)

Della knows what it looks like when her mother gets worse, like when she had to be hospitalized four years ago and Della didn’t see her for months. So when she finds her mother digging every seed out of a watermelon to keep Della and her baby sister safe, Della knows that it’s up to her to help. She tries getting some healing honey from the magical Bee Lady, but the Bee Lady tells her that the fix may be more about Della than her mother’s brain. So Della decides to become the model daughter to give her mother’s brain a rest. That’s hard on their working produce farm where a drought is damaging the crops. Soon Della is struggling with the oppressive heat of the summer, trying to keep her baby sister under control, harvesting produce, manning the farm stall, and helping her mother too. When it all becomes too much, Della decides she has to leave to help her mother, which puts her on the path to realizing that she has to accept her mother and empathize before she can help at all.

This is Baldwin’s debut novel and it’s a great summer read. She has created quite a pressure cooker of a summer for Della where everything seems to be in crisis or falling apart and everything is entirely out of Della’s control. The high heat adds steam, the troublesome but lovable little sister adds humor but problems, and the drought adds financial pressures for the whole family to muddle through. Della throughout is clearly a child who takes responsibility for things, worries a lot and is trying to learn. She is entirely human, making mistakes along the way.

The focus of the book is on Della’s mother and her struggles with schizophrenia. Her refusal to take her medication any longer precipitates her more symptoms worsening. As her father tries to convince her mother to make different choices, Della gets angry with her father for his unwillingness to force her mother to do something. Her father demonstrates exactly what Della needs to learn, empathy and compassion for her mother and allowing her the space to make her own decisions about her life. This perspective is often lost in novels for young people about mental illness and it’s a pleasure to see it so clearly shown here.

A great book about mental health in families, this is a great pick for summer reading. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

(Reviewed from copy provided by HarperCollins.)

2 Great New Swedish Picture Books

These two picture book are imported from Sweden. Each one is written by one of the Adbage Sisters, two of Sweden’s top picture book makers.

The Grand Expedition by Emma Adbage

The Grand Expedition by Emma Adbage (9781592702459)

Two children head out into the backyard on a camping adventure. For their expedition, they try to pack everything they need. Unfortunately, there are no snacks to take along although their father offers them some pickles for their adventures. They head out to the backyard where the tent is already set up. They make their beds and discover a squished ant in one of the books they brought along. Soon they were out of pickles, one of them has to poop, and there’s a mosquito buzzing around. They head back to the house, tell their father about their adventure, and watch a movie all together.

There is something entirely lovely about this quiet book. Any child who has camped in the backyard will see themselves here. From the little drama of the ant in the book to the pickles to the need to suddenly return home, each element is so clear, so child centered, so realistic. The strong relationship the children have with their father is another highlight of the book. The illustrations have a supporting quiet simplicity to them and yet the busyness and clutter that also accompanies childhood.

A charmer of a picture book that is recommended reading at your next camp out in the backyard. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Koko and Bo by Lisen Adbage

Koko and Bo by Lisen Adbage (9781592702589)

Koko is always saying “I don’t want to” to her caregiver Bo. Over and over again, Koko refuses to cooperate. She stays in the park alone because she doesn’t want to leave. She doesn’t want to go to bed, but eventually sees how cozy it is. She doesn’t want to wake up in the morning and almost misses breakfast. Each time, Bo allows Koko to decide and to live with the results of her decision. In the end of the book, Bo turns the table a little bit on Koko and uses her phrase back at her.

Like her sister’s book, there is a beautiful tone throughout this picture book. The playfulness and love shines on the pages, gently demonstrating a way of parenting a child who is going through a contrary phase. Both characters are wonderfully depicted, each of them dancing along gender lines in a natural and open way.

Another charmer of a picture book just right for bedtime, even if someone doesn’t want to read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Both books provided by Enchanted Lion for review.