Holiday Break


This blog and I will be taking a little holiday break through New Year’s Day. I’ll return in the new year with lists of my top picks for 2018.

Review: Captain Starfish by Davina Bell

Captain Starfish by Davina Bell

Captain Starfish by Davina Bell, illustrated by Allison Colpoys (9781419728372)

Alfie sometimes gets a feeling, the one that makes him not run relay races or go to parties. This time, Alfie was worried about being a starfish in the school parade. He would get to be first in the parade. Alfie practiced at home, pretending he was at school. That night, his parents tucked him into bed, but Alfie didn’t sleep well at all. His sleep was filled with watery nightmares and when he woke up, his tummy hurt. He just can’t bring himself to be a starfish at school. That day, his mother took him on a special trip to the aquarium where Alfie discovered the shy clown fish that ducked between the rocks. Maybe next year Alfie can join in on the fun in his own way.

Bell beautifully captures the experience of a shy child in this picture book. Particularly noteworthy is her explanation of the physical manifestations of shyness and the way that it can shut children down entirely. It is also very special that she shares supportive parents who show not only patience but a willingness to support their child on his journey toward independence.

The art in this picture book is done in a particular color palette that includes sea blues, deep blue and papaya pink. Alfie’s entire bearing in the illustrations shows his hesitation and worry.

A lovely quiet book about shyness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


This Week’s Pins & Tweets

Here are some items I shared on my Pinterest and Twitter accounts this week:


Children’s Publishers Choose Their Favorite Reads of 2018

Diversity in Children’s Books Isn’t Radical – Romper –


8 Things I Learned Behind the Circulation Desk via

Can’t find your favourite e-book at the library? This might be why | CBC News

Review: Mina vs. the Monsoon by Rukhsanna Guidroz

Mina vs. the Monsoon by Rukhsanna Guidroz

Mina vs. the Monsoon by Rukhsanna Guidroz, illustrated by Debasmita Dasgupta (9781949528985)

Mina loves to play soccer outside in the sunshine. But it’s now monsoon season and that means a lot of days filled with rain. Her mother won’t let her play soccer in the rain since she might catch a cold. But Mina knows that her mother doesn’t understand the joy of playing soccer or scoring a goal. Mina tries a series of things to drive the rain away, but none of them work. When the milk man explains to her why the rain is so important for the rice crops and mango fruit, she still isn’t convinced. Finally, Mina discovers something new about her mother that just might change everything, even the pouring rain.

A strong book about the importance of girls playing sports, this book has an afterword that speaks to the work of local organizations in India combating child marriage by organizing girls’ soccer games. Those games keep the girls in school, offer them a sense of accomplishment and give them a model for different roles for women and girls in society. The writing is kept simple and is filled with words in Urdu and Hindi that are defined in a glossary at the end of the book that also offers pronunciation guidance. They are used cleverly in context so that readers will immediately understand them as well.

The art in this picture book is vibrant despite the rain. It offers a look at life in rural India, the vibrancy of the textiles, and the connection to nature. It also clearly depicts Mina’s love for her mother even when they don’t agree.

A powerful look at sports and girls in an interesting part of our world. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Yali Books.

Review: Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna (9781911171539)

A girl talks about how her fear had once been small and helped protect her. However, when she came to a new country, her fear grew much bigger and kept on growing. Her fear kept her in the house when she wanted to go out. Her fear doesn’t want her to go to school. Fear fills the girl’s dreams, evenings and meals. It makes her feel separate and lonely. When a boy reaches out to her at school, they draw and paint together. When they head outdoors, a dog barks at the two of them and suddenly both of them reveal their fears to one another. Her fear steadily gets smaller and more manageable as she begins to try new things and meet even more people.

Sanna, the author of The Journey, returns with her second book that once again speaks to the experience of an immigrant child. The use of Fear as a full character in the book works very well, embodying this large emotion and demonstrating how it can control one’s life. Children who are not immigrants will be able to see their own fears represented here as well, making this a strong choice for discussing emotions.

The art plays a crucial role in the book, particularly in the way that the fears are presented. Sanna creates a fear that is friendly at times and ferocious at others. Fear is soft and changes size, sometimes riding on the girl’s back and weighing her down. When Fear shrinks, it becomes almost toylike and very manageable, conveying that some fear is a good thing to have.

An original look at fear as an emotion. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


Review: All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky (9780399554193)

Based on the series by Sydney Taylor, this new picture book gives a warm look at a beloved family celebrating Hanukkah. Set in New York City in 1912, both fans and new readers alike will find themselves immersed in this family of five girls, all of a kind. Gertie, the youngest of the five girls, knows about latkes but can’t remember what they taste like since Mama only makes them on Hanukkah. All of the girls help Mama make the meal except for Gertie who is too little to help. The potato peeler is too sharp, the onions make you cry, the shredder is even sharper than the peeler, and the grease in the pan could burn. When Gertie discovers there isn’t a job she can do, she throws a tantrum and is sent to her room. It isn’t until Papa comes home that Gertie gets her own special job, lighting the menorah’s first candle.

I adored this series as a child, loving the depiction of an immigrant family. I’m so pleased to see it return in a new format that brings the stories to a new generation in need of positive immigrant tales. As always, this family is filled with warmth and the picture book just like the series focuses on small moments in a family’s life that speak to their values, their deep love for one another, and their customs. The writing here is deft and focused just right for the picture book format without losing any of that special “All-of-a-Kind” feeling.

Zelinsky’s illustrations carry that same warm feeling. Done in rich colors, the pages are full of the bustling family working together in the kitchen. Even Gertie’s time alone in the bedroom under the bed has warm wood tones. The final pages of the book are all the more rich and warm as the family comes together for the meal with the lit menorah.

Exactly what our world needs right now, a celebration of immigrants and faith. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.


Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (9780062795250)

When Arthur and Ben meet for the first time, it’s perfect. However, neither of them get each other’s numbers. With Arthur in New York City for just the summer, they have a limited time find one another again in a huge city. Thanks to some expert sleuthing online by friends, a flyer in a specific coffee shop, and the universe helping them out, they manage to meet once more. But what if it’s not actually meant to be? Arthur has never had a boyfriend before, and Ben has just broken up with his first serious boyfriend. Arthur tries a little too hard, and Ben doesn’t quite try hard enough particularly when it comes to being on time. Could it be that they just aren’t mean to be together after all?

The pairing of these two master authors is beautifully done. There is no clear line where one author’s voice begins and the other ends, instead the voices of the two characters meld and create a cohesive experience. The humor in particular is skillfully done with both Arthur and Ben having distinct personalities, voices and senses of humor. New York City itself is a backdrop to their summer together and becomes almost a character of her own. From subway rides to tourist traps to Broadway shows to coffee shops, the city shows her own magic throughout the book.

The entire novel reads like a movie with scenes playing out visually and the dialogue snappy and quick. The book has strong secondary characters as well who are vibrant and entirely their own people. In particular, the two sets of parents are well drawn and it’s great to see everyone supporting their gay kids. Additionally, the depiction of gay sex focuses on consent, pleasure and is entirely positive.

A humorous, honest and heartfelt novel that offers a gorgeous look at the ups and downs of relationships through the eyes of a gay couple. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from ARC provided by HarperTeen.

Kirkus Best of Indie 2018

Kirkus has completed their best of 2018 lists with their Best Indie list. In this list, they have two categories for youth books. Kirkus is one of the only review journals to really look at independently published titles, some from very small publishers, so this will be a list that has books you may not have discovered yet. Here are their picks for best indie youth books of the year:


All is Assuredly Well Everyone Is Asleep But Me

All Is Assuredly Well by Professor Gore, Maestro Wilson, illustrated by Angela F.M. Trotter

Everyone Is Asleep but Me by Diana Yacobi, Lily Safrani, illustrated by Philip L. Wohlrab

Go To Sleep! Gusto & Gecko Travel to China (The Curious Travels of Gusto & Gecko, #3)

Go to Sleep by Marion Adams, illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills

Gusto & Gecko Travel to China by Longy Han, illustrated by Elinor Hägg

IF YOU LOOK UP TO THE SKY by Angela  Dalton

I Love You This Much, Nonna by James Doti, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

If You Look Up to the Sky by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Margarita Sikorskaia

One Hundred Thousand Some-Things

One Hundred Thousand Somethings by Ryan Forbes



By a Charm and a Curse Matthew Patterson and the Wish Defenders

By a Charm & a Curse by Jaime Questell

Matthew Patterson and the Wish Defenders by Michael R. Holm and Rick Foster

The Puddle Club Ray Vs the Meaning of Life

The Puddle Club by Michael McGruther and Gregg Russell

Ray vs. the Meaning of Life by Michael F. Stewart

Where Dragonwoofs Sleep and the Fading Creeps

Where Dragonwoofs Sleep and the Fading Creeps by A. J. Massey

Review: A Web by Isabelle Simler

A Web by Isabelle Simler

A Web by Isabelle Simler (9781441328434)

A spider takes a look at the things around her and then demonstrates her skill as a webmaker and an artist. The book features all sorts of items from the spider’s world. There are twigs, feathers, pebbles, insects, leaves, flowers, and more. With each spread of a variety of different kinds of these items, each item is labeled and the pages are filled with details worth exploring. Sharp-eyed readers will notice a spider lurking nearby. At first this is subtle, but soon the black legs of the spider are impossible to miss. When her art is unveiled at the end, readers will realize the care with which she has chosen from the wide array of different pieces for her work.

Simler’s text is minimal, offering basically the category that the items fall into and then labels for each item. The splendor of this title are the finely detailed illustrations that invite readers in. Children who love to categorize items or enjoy nature will love to pore over the pages here. The addition of the art at the end is a splendid surprise for readers who thought they were in a more serious nonfiction book.

Expect children to want to hold this on their laps and really look at the illustrations. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.