Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks (9781626723641)
When Miriam meets Weldon at her bookstore job, she doesn’t realize at first who he is. The grandson of the creator of the TomorrowMen comic book empire, he is wealthy and lives is California. Miriam on the other hand comes from a family without a lot of money and is trying to figure out how to leave her small town to go to college. The two of them have a connection though since it was Miriam’s grandfather who drew the first TomorrowMen comics. As the two of them navigate the perils of two families who have battled one another in court, Miriam becomes more sure of what she wants from her life. Weldon, stuck in rural Canada to get his life back on track, tries his best to be more stable and less impulsive. The two teenagers drift in and out of connection with one another but can’t seem to quite leave one another entirely. It’s Romeo and Juliet reworked to focus on modern comic geeks.
This is Hicks’ first novel, having created several comic books for children and teens. Readers who themselves identify as being “geeks” and in particular comic book geeks, will thoroughly enjoy the banter about comics, the obsessive nature of geek love, and the beauty of two geeks finding one another despite the world trying to keep them apart. The book is filled with humor and yet still offers deep emotions and a look at how one generation’s decisions echo forward to their offspring.
The book takes a look at growing up in rural Canada and has quite a few nods to Canadian life throughout the text. The desire to get out of a rural setting and move to a new place where you don’t know everyone is also an emotion that a lot of rural teens will relate to easily. Add in the appeal of comic books and a visit to Comic-Con and this is a book with a large audience who will root for the two teens.
A funny and warm look at geek love, this is a charming teen novel. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.
I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani (9781250295088)
A young girl heads out into her day telling herself that today she will be fierce! She dons her clothes as her armor and bravely heads outside into the day. She is undaunted as a pack of dogs out on a walk bound towards her, charming them with bubbles she blows and imagining them as dragons. She waits for the bus with bigger kids, giants that she dares to be near. She heads to the library to learn and explore even more, thinking of the school librarian as the “Guardian of Wisdom.” She stands up to bullies in the cafeteria and makes a new friend. She talks in class even when she feels shy. Now she just has to be fierce again tomorrow!
Written in strong declarative sentences, this picture book is filled with energy and a sense of taking action. The unnamed protagonist of the book is a little girl of color who takes large and small risks throughout her day, including just getting on the school bus. Throughout her day, readers will see her getting all the more strong and fierce, meeting bigger challenges. The illustrations are vibrant and bright with the girl’s rainbow top glowing on every page. The other children at school represent a broad look at diversity too.
This strong picture book offers encouragement for children to be brave and to be themselves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Roaring Brook Press.
The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach (9781338289411)
When it’s time for the caterpillars to make their cocoons and metamorphosize, one caterpillar isn’t clear what is actually going on. To make matters worse, he’s also quite impatient about the entire process. Once he starts his metamorphosis, he just can’t wait the entire time and pops out before he has changed at all. He rebuilds his cocoon, but continues to complain the entire time and ask whether it’s time to emerge yet. Happily, the second time, he does become a butterfly but his impatience isn’t cured quite yet.
Burach writes this picture book entirely in dialogue, showing both the impatience of the main character and the exasperation of those around him. Thanks to a high level of humor in the book, the main character is more funny than troublesome. Children will see their own impatience in him. I also deeply appreciated that he didn’t change at all by the end of the book, even after changing into a butterfly. The art is big and bold, filled with bright colors and lots of energy. It is ideal to share with a group.
A great mix of humor and STEM. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Baby Day by Jane Godwin and Davina Bell, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (9781481470346)
Today is baby’s birthday! So it’s time to have a party and a bunch of other babies are invited to the fun. The party is outside and as the babies arrive, so does a friendly dog that belongs to one of the families. There are cautious babies, friendly ones. Babies who worry for others and babies who are brave enough to use the big slide. There are fussy babies, crying babies, and eventually tired babies. Along with the babies, there are ice cream cones and plenty of cake before it’s time to head home.
Godwin and Bell show exactly what happens when you get a group of toddlers together. Often they merrily play alongside one another, other times they get upset. The book focuses solely on the party, follows the progression of emotions through, and ends merrily as people head home. It is simply written and a simple story that will work well for sharing with little ones heading to their first birthday party without setting huge expectations. Blackwood’s illustrations really lift this book to a new level. Her gentle and clever depictions of this group of children is done with attention to detail. One can follow each child through the party and their individual story makes sense.
A winning first birthday book just right for the smallest of children. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn (9781681197432)
Cat and Chicken live in San Francisco with their mother who works several jobs, but one is to be a children’s book author with books that feature Cat and Chicken as a caterpillar and chicken. When they head across the country for a summer job, their plans suddenly fall through. Now Cat and Chicken must stay with grandparents they have never met before while their mother works in Atlanta. Their grandparents live on Gingerbread Island, a place their mother hasn’t returned to since before Cat was born. Lily, their grandmother, is warm and maternal, quickly adapting to Chicken’s special needs. Macon, their grandfather, is more distant and gruff, working in his workshop and going on long walks alone. As Cat and Chicken get to know them, they find a wonderful pair of grandparents who love them immensely, so Cat tries to figure out how to bring her family back together again. She hopes that entering a fishing contest, a sport her mother used to love, with give them an opportunity to bond. But things don’t quite work out as planned, just like in her mother’s books.
McDunn has written the ideal summer read. It has a lightness to it that is pure summer sunshine, one that invites reading with sand between your toes or a flashlight in a tent. At the same time, the characters and story wrestle with larger issues of what family means, how a family can form a rift, and how the pressure of having a little brother who is neurodiverse can be challenging for an older sibling. I deeply appreciated Chicken as a character. He is not labeled in any way in the story but shown as having specific challenges that make looking after him different from other children.
Cat herself is a very strong young woman who holds her family together. Her grandmother recognizes that and helps Cat understand better what she is doing. As her grandparents step in to allow Cat to have a summer as a child, she fights them, trying to retain her role as Chicken’s caretaker. That process of letting go is beautifully shown, given time and patience. Throughout the book, nothing is simple, not even Cat’s enemy on the island, whose own story provides reasons for his actions.
Richly drawn and yet still summer light, this novel is a delight. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.
When You’re Scared by Andree Poulin, illustrated by Veronique Joffre (9781771473651)
A little boy is scared to jump down into the water from a branch, even with his mother waiting below to catch him. A little bear cub feels the same way as he considers jumping from a branch into a dumpster. The mother and son each lunch together after swimming. The cub has lunch too, in the dumpster. When the boy goes to throw away their bag of garbage, he meets the mother bear standing outside the dumpster. The boy is scared of the bear, the cub is scared that he can’t get out. Mother and son decide to help the bears and bring a big log so that the cub can climb out, they are all very scared. Their plan works and the day ends with darkness and no one scared at all.
This Canadian picture book addresses the different aspects of fear. It uses the perspectives of both a human child and a bear cub to show that fear is universal. It also demonstrates that fear can be overcome and that doing so can make a positive difference in the world. The book uses words sparingly to tie the two perspectives together, allowing the story to really be told in the illustrations.
The illustrations are done in collage. They are bright and bold, showing the forest setting of the camping site and the dumpster. In certain images, the emotion of fear is shown as obliterating the sunny day entirely. It’s a very effective use of illustrations to convey emotion.
A book about fear that also encourages moving beyond fear to action. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Owlkids.
8 Books about Passover for Children and Babies
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Awâsis And The World-Famous Bannock by Dallas Hunt, illustrated by Amanda Strong (9781553797791)
When Awâsis accidentally loses her grandmother’s world-famous bannock as she is taking them to a relative, she starts to cry. When a duck hears her crying, the duck offers to help and gives her some tohtosapopimehkan or butter. A rabbit in the woods offers her some flour or askipahkwesikan. As Awâsis walks on, more animals offer her ingredients to make the bannock again. Readers will see a bear lingering nearby and wonder about what he is up to. When Awâsis returns home to her grandmother, she is still missing one key ingredient for the perfect bannock. Who will provide it?
Hunt skillfully integrates Cree words into his tale about a Cree girl, her grandmother and the animals who help her. In the author’s note, he also mentions that the story celebrates traditional indigenous storytelling methods and readers will notice the strong structure of the story and the way it reads aloud beautifully. A pronunciation guide and glossary of Cree words is provided as well as the recipe for world-famous bannock. The illustrations have a lovely softness to them that invites readers into a forest filled with helpful animals.
A marvelous picture book celebrating the Cree language, storytelling and food. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Highwater Press.
My Forest Is Green by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron (9781771389303)
A boy looks out from his apartment into an urban forest nearby. He considers it his forest, but his forest is also all of the art in his room that depicts what he sees outside. As he walks in his forest outside, he sees tall trees, short insects, fluffy seeds, prickly thistles, rough bark, and much more. There are heavy and light things, wide and narrow tree trunks. As he explores the forest in person, he also makes art pieces back at home that represent what he has seen. He incorporates found items like rocks and sticks. He paints and creates paper collages. He sketches in his book while seated in his forest. Every day his forest is different and he finds new sources of inspiration there.
This Lebeuf’s debut picture book. His writing is simple and celebratory. He encourages children to get out into their own forests and explore. While this forest may be large, all of the things that the boy encounters can be found in smaller urban forests too. It’s all about taking the time to slow down and notice the details. The added encouragement to make art from what you see is highly appreciated. The boy uses all sorts of media to explore the forest back at home. This book could be used as inspiration for an art class very nicely or in a story time unit to encourage making art from bits of nature.
The art by Barron is very effective. She uses clean lines and layered paper collage to create a forest that is varied and worth exploring. Her illustrations fill the page with deep colors of nature and offer an inviting look at the world around us. Her inclusion of an Asian-American family in the book is also appreciated.
A call to head outside and make art, this picture book is a gem. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.