Energetic and silly, this graphic novel throws together an unlikely trio of new friends in the first book in a new series. The story begins with Pea, who longs to be the one in the garden who is able to roll the farthest. When he is taunted by a rude Strawberry and Cherry, he agrees to try to roll all the way to the tree with the red leaves on the other side of the fence. Unfortunately, just as he leaves the farm, a storm hits and he is tumbled along with the water. He bumps into a bee, who warns him of the dangers outside the farm, particularly the dangerous birds. That’s when they meet Jay, who returns Bee’s satchel to her and then forlornly walks away. When Jay reveals that he can’t fly because he fell from the nest and was never taught how, he joins their group. Now they must get Pea back home before his mother worries about him. But there are more dangers lurking in the bushes (literally!)
Smith has created a madcap race of a book. Filled with all sorts of puns about peas and bees, the book’s writing is pure silliness. After all, what can one expect from a book who entire title is a pun and likely the inspiration for the characters. However it was conceived, this is a book that children will adore. It’s truly funny, filled with friends and has plenty of action too.
The art is clear and comical. From a bee with glasses to a bird who walks to a pea who bounds across the pages. The pacing is brisk, helped by the snappy dialogue and the wildly fast moments of the story. The art works well, moving just as fast as a pea can roll.
About much more than the birds and the bees, you have to give peas a chance. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Compiled from lists of the most banned and challenged books from 2010-2019, these are the books that were reported as being challenged. ALA reminds us that the vast majority, 82-97%, of challenges remain unreported to ALA and therefore are not part of the list. There are 100 titles on the list. If you haven’t read some of these, they are almost all worth your time. Here are the top ten:
One day, a strange animal arrived with a big suitcase. He was frightened and dusty. The other animals who lived there, came out and started asking him what was in his big suitcase. He answered that there is a teacup inside, along with a table and chair. In fact, he went on to tell them that his entire home is in the suitcase, a wooden cabin with the hillside it sat on. Then the animal curled up and went to sleep. The others knew there was only one way to find out if the animal was telling the truth. They had to open the suitcase! But what was inside surprised them all and gave them a way to say they were sorry for breaking into his belongings.
This picture book shows the importance of a few belongings from home for refugees. Through the eyes of the strange teal animal, young readers will feel outraged that the others broke into his suitcase but also will be amazed at what they go on to do next. One wrong can be undone as long as care and empathy is given in its place. The book does not lecture at all, allowing the lessons learned to be organically presented in the story.
The art is simple and clear, filled with animals of different colors. The animals pop on the clean white page while sepia tones are used to look back at the new animal’s homeland. They are echoed in the photograph that they discover too. The text contains a lot of dialogue done in colors that match each of the animals, so no speech bubbles are needed.
A gentle and empathetic look at welcoming someone to your community and honoring where they have come from. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Jamila is living in a new neighborhood where she doesn’t have any friends. She wants to spend her summer playing basketball in a park nearby, but her mother doesn’t want her out alone. So when Jamila meets Shirley, they come up with a new plan for their summer. Shirley will come with Jamila to the basketball courts and then Shirley will do her thing too. But Shirley is more than a little strange and a lot secretive. Jamila figures out that Shirley helps children in the neighborhood solve small mysteries that arise. Soon the two of them are on a case together, helping Oliver figure out where his gecko went. It’s a case with many possible suspects. Jamila discovers she has detective skills herself and becomes a full partner. But does Shirley really see her that way? When their friendship and detective service falls apart, can they sleuth out how to get it back on track?
Goerz has created an engaging graphic novel that centers on solving a mystery. Readers will love the characters in particular, Shirley and Jamila are very different from one another, but find ways to connect. After all, Shirley’s work is fascinating and the way her mind works is impressively different and more like a young Sherlock Holmes. Goerz creates a mystery where all of the elements snap into place by the end and it also becomes about more than punishing a culprit, ending with new friendships and greater understanding.
The art is engaging and the story is full of diverse characters. The pages are filled with people from different races and cultures. Readers will love the look at a vibrant urban neighborhood where mysteries abound.
Ideal reading for fans of Raina Telgemeier who are looking for a diverse and mysterious read done right. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby (9781328866820)
This book calls readers back to be outside rather than staying inside. It reminds us that we used to simply be part of outside, and that at times now even when we are outside we keep ourselves separate. Outside though uses a few tricks to remind us that it is there, peeking in windows, sending sunsets and shadows, tapping on roofs and projecting bird song. The outside is also all around us inside in our sweaters, chairs, and food. Our pets remind us too as do the little insects that get inside. Outside waits for us, until we answer.
Underwood’s simple poetic lines soar in this picture book, creating moments of real beauty with her words. Using “outside” and “inside” again and again, she paints connection and demands that we all see the outside entering our inside. It’s a book that insists that we not only look outside, but acknowledge our connection to nature and the outdoors and get outside!
Derby’s illustrations are awash in watercolor that plays the bright aliveness of the outdoors against the gray of the interior areas. She uses yellows, orange, peach, purples and greens to beckon us all to look out the windows and connect.
Beautifully written and illustrated, this is an exemplary picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
The author of Pie in the Sky returns with the story of a twelve-year-old who wants to prove his maturity to his helicopter family. Henry’s family monitors what he is doing all the time, packing his backpack for him, making sure he has eaten, and hovering all the time. But Henry knows he can do a lot more than they think. That’s how he came up with a very exact plan to prove his independence: he will fly from where he lives in Australia to Singapore where his father lives. He’s also running from being exposed as the author of a nasty gossip comic at his school, something he is both proud of and terrified by. He just needs his ex-best friend to follow through on the plan, or he will definitely get caught!
The entire adventure that Henry experiences is a delight to experience by his side. His sense of humor both in his gossip comics and on the page is broad and very funny. Throughout the book, he is a disciple hoping to find a shifu to teach him what to do next in his quest. When he meets a girl on the plane, he soon discovers that she might just be the shifu he is looking for, if he can keep from making her so mad that she stops talking to him.
With the text broken up with illustrations done in neon green washes and black ink, this book will appeal to readers of Wimpy Kid. The illustrations range from single illustrations to panels in series to examples from Henry’s own blog done in a completely different style.
Funny, insightful and proof that everyone worth knowing is a little strange. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Lami is the best chicken catcher in her small Nigerian compound. Happily, the compound is full of all kinds of chickens and she helps out by catching them for everyone. She may not be fast at spelling like her sister or fast at braiding hair like her friend, but she is the fastest at catching chickens! But one day, Lami moves too fast to catch a chicken, ignoring everyone telling her to slow down. She chases the chicken right up a baobab tree, toppling from a branch and falling. Her ankles swells up, and now she can’t catch any chickens at all. But her Nana Nadia sits down with her and gets Lami thinking of a new way to catch chickens without the wild chase.
Atinuke is the author of the Anna Hibiscus series and several picture books set in her native Nigeria. Her skill as an oral storyteller always shines in her picture books. This one also reads aloud beautifully, building in pace to a great crescendo before the literal fall. Atinuke uses repeating phrases and sentence structures to create a warm energy throughout the book.
The illustrations will work well for sharing the book with a group. Done in mixed media, the move from long distance images of the compound to being right in the mix of the action with Lami as she dashes after chickens. These are energetic illustrations that perfectly suit the story.
Clever and fun, head on a wild chicken chase with this picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.