Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story by Zeena M. Pliska

Hello, Little One A Monarch Butterfly Story by Zeena M. Pliska

Hello, Little One: A Monarch Butterfly Story by Zeena M. Pliska, illustrated by Fiona Halliday (9781624149313)

Caterpillar’s entire world is filled with green after he leaves his egg. Then something orange arrives, soaring high above. Caterpillar calls out to the flying orange thing, but it doesn’t stop. Later, Orange lands nearby to sip nectar from a flower. Caterpillar is eating a leaf nearby. The two spend time together, Orange talking about how they used to feel as a caterpillar and Caterpillar longing to be more like Orange someday. Orange tells all sorts of stories of the things they have seen as they fly. Soon it is time for Caterpillar to form their chrysalis. Orange explains that they won’t be here when Caterpillar emerges. Once caterpillar emerges, they too are a monarch butterfly and are ready to inspire another tiny caterpillar on their journey.

Pliska writes with a tenderness in this picture book. Her words look at the wonder of a new world filled with green leaves and the promise of eventual flight. She creates a natural connection between the two characters who clearly enjoy their shared company. The beauty of the change from caterpillar to butterfly plays out against the sadness of Orange  not being there. These quiet and aching moments create quite a special book.

The illustrations in this book are done in traditional and digital mixed media. The colors are so vivid and deep. They are large enough to work well with a group, focusing on the bright colors of the caterpillar and butterfly and also the greens and blues of their surroundings.

A marvelous book about butterflies, their life cycle and the circle of life. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Page Street Kids.


The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert (9780316456388)

Alberta has lived in the small town of Ewing Beach her entire life. She’s one of the only Black kids in the entire middle school, so when another Black girl just her age moves into the old bed and breakfast in her neighborhood, Alberta is thrilled. Alberta does have a best friend, but Laramie doesn’t understand some of the things that Alberta experiences, particularly with Nicolette, a bully who makes sly comments that imply that Alberta is different or gets special treatment due to her race. As seventh grade starts, Laramie gets closer with Nicolette and the popular group of kids while Alberta finds herself spending more time with Edie, the new girl. When Edie and Alberta discover a series of old journals in the bed and breakfast, they find themselves untangling a mystery that reveals haunting secrets about race and identity.

This is Colbert’s first middle-grade book and she brings the skill she has shown in her award-winning novels for teens to this new audience. The book embraces difficult subjects but also shows how having a strong family and sense of identity eases even hard conversations and situations. The book deals very directly with race and racism, having gay parents and a complicated family structure, and divorce. It also explores middle grade friendships and their tensions with empathy and solid advice.

Through the two main characters of Alberta and Edie, readers get to experience different sorts of Black girls. Alberta wears bright colors and loves to surf, spending lots of time at the beach. Edie who is from Brooklyn, wears black goth clothing and loves to read. They are both far from being stereotypical in any way, something that shouldn’t need to be said about today’s books but is also still noteworthy. The adults in the book show the same differences and exude a sense of warmth and support.

A great middle grade read about family, friendships and race. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.