Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton (9781536211191)
Little Crab lives with Very Big Crab in a small tide pool, but now they are off to the ocean! At first Little Crab is very excited. They journey over rocks, across pools, and through seaweed to get there, each with its own special sound. When they reach the edge of the ocean though, Little Crab is overwhelmed and not sure they should continue. There are big waves that hit them over and over again. Little Crab decides it’s time to head home instead, but Very Big Crab continues to encourage Little Crab to try. Step by step, Little Crab enters the ocean until he’s in it! And what an amazing place it is!
Haughton beautifully shows the fear of the new and the way that experiences can feel very overwhelming for children. The use of wave after wave is what doing something new can feel like. The book also clearly demonstrates the importance of continuing forward and trying something new. You may just love it, like Little Crab does. Gentle and powerful, this picture book shows rather than tells, allowing children to find their own way through fear with the help of a couple new friends.
The illustrations are bold and beautiful. They have dark cliffs near the ocean, battered by turquoise water with bright white foam. The greens of the seaweed, purples of the crabs, pop on the page. Then once the ocean is entered, it’s like discovering colors all over again. Remarkable!
Wave away your worries with this wonderful read. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick.
The Dark Matter of Mona Starr by Laura Lee Gulledge (9781419734236)
Mona’s best and really only friend is moving to Hawaii and leaving her to face school and life on her own. It’s made even harder by Mona’s Matter. Her Matter is her dark thoughts that tell her she isn’t good enough and her depression that can take control. Mona steadily learns to make new friends, connecting with others in orchestra. She also learns ways to deal with her depression, the Matter, that keeps it under better control. She meditates, uses art to express herself, and leans on those who love her. In a culminating episode, when her depression seems to be causing physical pain, no one can figure out what is wrong. Mona insists that more tests are run and a problem that requires surgery is found. The battle against her Matter may not be fully won, but one victory at a time makes a difference.
Gulledge has written a fictional but very autobiographical graphic novel. Her representation of depression as “Matter” is really well done. It will serve as both a reflection of experience to those who have depression and a way of learning about it to those who don’t. The physicality of depression is captured here, the isolation that is self built, the nastiness of self talk, and the bravery it takes to break free of the cycle.
The art is gorgeous, beautifully showing the darkness of the Matter that lurks in corners only to suddenly surge and take over. That same darkness though is also a canvas for stars, a way of seeing the rays of yellow that promise hope and light through all of the bleak times. Gulledge uses the yellow sparingly, allowing it to pierce and glow at specific times.
A great graphic novel that tackles depression, courage and recovery. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from copy provided by Amulet.
The Yawns Are Coming! by Christopher Eliopoulos (9781984816306)
A sleepover is great fun as long as you can avoid the yawns! This is the story of two children and their sleepover where they planned to stay up all night long. They even had a long list of things to do like playing hide-and-seek, board games, soccer, and trampolining. The yawns started to appear while they were playing cards together. Soon there were hundreds of them. The kids ran, climbed and hid from them, but it was no use. Soon they were yawning and then suddenly a Doze landed on their heads, Snores came, and finally a Sleepie covered them up! Next thing, it was morning, but there was still fun to be had.
Eliopoulos’ picture book has a great look and feel that is made all the more fun by the humor of the story. Using cute monsters as the yawns, snores, dozes and sleepies was a great idea, especially when they appear in droves or drop from the sky. The book captures the great plans made before every sleepover and how they never quite manage to be achieved.
In the illustrations, it’s great to see a picture book that features diverse characters who are close friends. I also appreciate that the narrator and their friend “Noodles” are not given genders in the book and could be whatever the reader chooses. The use of hooded pajamas and then daytime hats to keep them clearly identified but also gender neutral is a great touch.
A funny and marvelous bedtime (or staying up late) book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Dial.
The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead (9781101938096)
When Bea’s parents got divorced, they gave her a list of things that they promised would never change. Since then, that list has grown to include new things that Bea has added to it herself. A big change is that her father is getting remarried to Jesse, the guy he’s been dating for awhile. Bea loves Jesse and is ecstatic when she finds out the Jesse has a daughter just Bea’s age. Bea is convinced that they will be the best sisters ever. Meanwhile, Bea is navigating living in two houses, going to see her therapist for anxiety, and finding a theme for her dad’s wedding. It all becomes a lot to handle when Sonia, Jesse’s daughter, isn’t quite as eager as Bea to become sisters. Still, Bea knows how it feels to need to be forgiven and offered more than one chance to become part of someone’s life.
Stead’s writing is deft and clever. She writes with so much empathy for children and a deep understanding for the puzzling situations they face in their lives. Stead creates incredible moments in the novel that offer wonder and refrain through the book like a catchy bar of music. I must mention that it is great to see the marriage of a gay couple handled with such joy, such acceptance while also addressing the bigotry society still has.
Bea a great character, complicated and yet easily understandable. She is enthusiastic but also at times quiet, defying labels as we get to know her better. That alone is a remarkable achievement as an author, just allowing this girl to be herself on the page. The secondary characters are all robustly depicted with no one become stereotypical and everyone showing heart.
Two things that will not change about this book. One, it’s wonderful. Two, it is full of love. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Wendy Lamb Books.
YALSA has announced their Teens’ Top Ten nominees for 2020. The list is a teen choice list where teens nominate and select their favorite books from the year before. The list will be shortened to the official top ten after teens vote online from August 15 through October 12. Winners are announced the following week.
Here are the 25 nominated titles:
#MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil
Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi. Translated by Cathy Hirano
Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Illustrated by Frances Castle
Broken Throne: A Red Queen Collection by Victoria Aveyard
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
Frankly in Love by David Yoon
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki. Illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Lovely War by Julie Berry
The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy
My Ideal Boyfriend is a Croissant by Laura Dockrill
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell. Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins
Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan
These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
Warhead: The True Story of One Teen Who Almost Saved the World by Jeff Henigson
Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Secrets of the Loon by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Chuck Dayton (9781681341583)
On the edge of a quiet lake, an egg hatches with pecks and wiggles. Out comes Moon Loon, who learns quickly that she can float in the water. Her parents feed her minnows and crayfish, then Mama takes her baby birds onto her back to protect them from predators. As days pass, the chicks grow too large for a parent’s back and stay in the water. When an eagle flies nearby, Moon realizes that she can dive down underwater to escape. Humans come too close and Moon’s parents move to defend her, but the humans move away. Soon it is time to practice flying. When Moon can fly, her parents leave. But once autumn comes, Moon knows just what to do and heads south.
Salas’s poetry rhymes with a lovely effortlessness that keeps the focus on the loons. She beautifully describes the loon’s habitat in just a few words, sharing details of the loon’s growth process and how they evade predators. The fascinating nature of their first migration is detailed further in the author’s note that offers more loon secrets as well as selected resources.
Dayton’s photography is done in a fascinating way. His clear and brilliant photos layer together to form forests, lakes, trees, reeds and more. Done through cleverly cut edges, the images form a complete picture of the loons and their lives.
A poetic glimpse of the Minnesota State Bird and its northern habitat. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Minnesota Historical Society Press.
The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine, illustrated by Anne Hunter (9781536201536)
This gorgeous picture book introduces the art and skill of building a wren nest. Told in a folktale style, the book follows a Wren building her nest in a tree. Papa wren brings sticks, then twine, pine needles and small roots are added. A spider sac will help with keeping the mites eaten and a snakeskin wards off predators. Soft moss is gathered from the shade as well as feathers, petals and thread to make a soft bed. In this beautiful nest, eggs are laid and soon hatch, emerge onto branches, and fly away.
Sonenshine’s writing is exquisite. She focuses on the elements of the nest, lingering on beautiful language like “velvety moss” and “a scaly and thin reptilian charm” and “snippets of twine, spidery rootlets, and needles of pine.” This rich language is presented lightly on wren wings as they hurry back and forth creating their work of art and home.
Hunter’s illustrations are done on a rosy warm background that echoes the richness of the language. Done in fine lines and lots of detail, readers can pore over the illustrations to see the twine, needles, feathers and more. Hunter makes sure to take readers in nice and close, allowing them to peep at the eggs safe in the nest
A great readaloud pick, this book is a celebration of birds, nests and nature. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson (9781547600564)
Even though her father got a new job, Ryan and her family have had to move into a smaller and older house because money is still a problem. Ryan though is able to see the positive in most things, though maybe not her brother some days. She loves to cook, coming up with unique combinations to make good food even better. One thing she struggles with is public speaking, like on Easter where no matter how much she practices her part, she can’t manage to say it into the microphone in front of the congregation. Maybe this is the year? So when Ryan’s class is working on a talent show, Ryan has to figure out how to turn her passions into performance. She is also navigating changing friendships and mean girls who seem intent on pushing her to the side. Ryan may not want the spotlight, but she does bring sunshine wherever she goes.
Watson, winner of a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award, has created a book for young readers that offers a modern look at being an African-American girl in Portland. The city is tied into the story very successfully, drawing people to beloved places to taste and explore along with Ryan. While the title is full of optimism, the book looks at important issues for elementary-aged children such as race, acceptance, self-esteem, and friendships.
Ryan isn’t a Pollyanna character, rather she is a girl who has resilience and optimism. She is distinctly her own person and Black girls will see themselves as she navigates the many changes in her life. She is smart, creative and positive.
A rival to Ramona, get this one in the hands of young readers. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.
As part of National Library Week, the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom compiles the list of the most challenged books in libraries and schools for the previous year. I have included ALA’s notes about the reasons the books were challenged. I hope you find them as infuriating as I do!
Here are the top books for 2019, many of which will be familiar and likely beloved titles:
- George by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased
- A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning
- Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”
- Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint
- I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”
- Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”
- Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals
- And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content