The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit

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The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit (9781771647823)

The farm was a safe place where life was comfortable and everyone knew their role. There were chickens who had plenty of food and a rather vicious dog who guarded them. Then one day, the capybaras emerged from the swampy part of the pen. There was no room for them there and they were not expected. The hens found them too big, too hairy and too wet. But the capybaras couldn’t go home because the hunting season had started. So the hens set some rules where they would not share food, or their dry pen, or tolerate any noise. Then one day after a chick had a misadventure, everything changed. The capybaras had saved the chick and now they were allowed to sleep in the chicken coop, share food and live together. Then hunting season ended and the capybaras prepared to leave. What were the new friends to do?

This picture book was originally published in Spanish in Latin America. Soderguit has a marvelous gift for wry understatement or in fact just stating the opposite of what is actually happening in the illustrations. This contributes to a sense that horrible things are happening off the page and the characters live in real denial, even before the capybaras arrive. The entire book works beautifully as a statement about refugees, tolerance and building a community.

The illustrations are a marvel of quiet moments with a lot of the power of the book being the things in the illustrations that go unremarked upon in the text. The illustrations are done in pen and ink with pops of orange color and the deep browns of the capybaras. The wide-eyed capybaras contrast impressively with the white chickens and their delicate life balance.

Profound and remarkable. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon (9781524718961)

Evie has always been a romantic, hooked on reading spicy romance novels. So when her parents divorce, she is left reeling even though her mother and sister seem to handling it in stride. When Evie donates her stack of romance novels, she meets a woman who gives her the power to witness a couple kissing and then see the beginning, middle and end of their relationship. All of them go to prove to Evie that relationships end with a broken heart. Evie is also directed to a small dance studio where she finds herself asked to join a competition for ballroom dancing. She is paired with X, a young man who has the policy of saying yes to everything in life and taking risks, the exact opposite of Evie. As the two of them dance together and get to know one another, romance sparks between them, but Evie may not be ready to risk heart break thanks to her visions and her parents.

Yoon fills this book with Black joy and with swoony characters straight out of Evie’s romances. At the same time, her characters are deliciously human and struggling with weighty issues that impact them on a variety of levels. It is this grounding of her characters that makes this romance so much more than fluff, instead speaking directly to the risk of falling in love, the depths of loss, and how to continue after being hurt by life.

Yoon also fills her book with marvelous dancing and the gorgeous setting of Los Angeles with all of its diversity, talent and magic. Her writing soars with dialogue between characters, sounding wonderfully human and real. Her touches of magic in everyday life add to the fun.

A winner of a teen romance just right for those looking to be swept off their feet. Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from copy provided by Delacorte Press.

Unbound: The Life & Art of Judith Scott by Joyce Scott

Cover image for Unbound.

Unbound: The Life & Art of Judith Scott by Joyce Scott with Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (9780525648116)

Told by Joyce Scott, the twin sister of Judith, this picture book explores the closeness of the sisters as small children until they are separated for years. The two sisters shared everything with one another, playing together all the time. Then Joyce is sent to kindergarten and Judith is left behind. Judith has Down syndrome and has never spoken. Then her parents send Judith to a special school where she will live and learn to talk. They don’t visit for a long time and when they do, the school isn’t like other schools. There is no playground, no desks, no books. As they grow older, Joyce gets married and has children. She continues to think of Judith as being at her side all the time. Eventually, she is able to bring Judith out of the institution and to live with her. Joyce finds Judith an art program to be part of. Judith attends but won’t participate at all. Months go by until her teachers give her some natural materials and fabric. Suddenly, Judith is creating unique pieces of sculpture and is celebrated as an artist.

Full of sorrow and loss, this picture book examines the destructive nature of the systematic institutionalization of people with special needs to both the person institutionalized and their loved ones. Having Joyce herself narrate the book is powerful. The beautiful connection the sisters have in their young childhood forms a foundation of connection that allows her to rescue her sister decades later. Even as the book moves to when Judith finds her artistic voice, there is a melancholy to the years lost and the muting of her voice for so long.

Sweet’s illustrations are incredible and moving. She incorporates collage and also builds sculptures to pay homage to Scott’s work. Built with string, textiles, wire and wood, there is a celebratory nature to them of an art newly found. In other moments, Sweet captures wistfulness, longing and connection with light, shadow and color.

An extraordinary look at an artist who was almost lost. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf.

Bubbles…Up! by Jacqueline Davies

Cover image for Bubbles Up.

Bubbles…Up! by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez (9780062836618)

This picture book celebrates the joy of swimming in a pool on a hot summer day. Focusing on the bubbles created by heading underwater, the merry rhythms of the text bounce along like the bubbles heading to the surface. The bubbles capture the light of the sun until you follow them upwards, surfacing like a porpoise. You have a mom who stays at the side of the pool with your little brother who doesn’t swim yet. Interrupted by a thunderstorm, you huddle with the others in the shelter until it’s safe to return to the water with your friends. When your little brother loses his toy in the pool, you rescue it. You can’t stop for lots of mushy attention though, because you have to keep on swimming.

Sure to bring an immediate grin to kids who love to swim or play in the water, this picture book shares the small pleasures of swimming that make it such a treat. The bubbles heading to the surface, the jumping in, the floating, the diving, splashing and more. Davies’ writing is marvelous, full of repetition, rhythms and rhymes. Her words plunge, dive, swirl and create imaginary underwater worlds.

The illustrations are full of pool blues, sunshine and bubbles. Sanchez uses the words as part of her art, creating words that plunge down and float up. Her diverse cast of characters is delightful, everyone enjoying the pool together.

Dive into this summer delight of a picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

2021 Environment Award for Children’s Literature Shortlists

The shortlists for the 2021 Environment Award for Children’s Literature have been announced. The Australian awards celebrate the best children’s nature books with the winners being announced in early September. Here are the 13 shortlisted titles:


Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish by Gina Newton, illustrated by Rachel Tribout

Ninja Bandicoots and Turbo-Charnged Wombats by Hazel Flynn

Tree Beings by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Sandra Severgnini

The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants

The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants by Philip Bunting



Bandits by Sha’an d’Anthes

Brother Moon

Brother Moon by Maree McCarthy Yoelu, illustrated by Samantha Fry

The Giant and the Sea

The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson, illustrated by Rovina Cai

Give Me Some Space! by Philip Bunting

Image for Larry Leadbeater : Field Notes from a Fairy Possum

Larry Leadbeater: Field Notes from a Fairy Possum by Jo Watson


The Carbon-Neutral Adventures of the Indefatigable EnviroTeens

The Carbon-Neutral Adventures of the Indefatigable EnviroTeens by First Dog on the Moon

Edie’s Experiments 2: How to Be the Best by Charlotte Barkla, illustrated by Sandie Flett

The Power of Positive Pranking

The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore

Planet Weird (WeirDo #15)

Planet Weird by Anh Do, illustrated by Jules Faber

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner

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Long Distance by Whitney Gardner (9781534455665)

The author of Fake Blood returns with another fantastical graphic novel. Vega’s parents have moved her from Portland to Seattle, leaving behind her best friend. Vega loves astronomy, something she shared with her best friend. She still has her telescope, but no one to watch the stars with. To help her transition to her new home, Vega’s parents send her off to a summer camp designed to help her make new friends. Vega isn’t interested in making new friends, so she is stand offish to the other kids. As things around camp get stranger, including a camper who changes his appearance regularly to try to make friends, rocks that are speakers, no cellphone service, and really strange food, Vega must join forces with the other campers to figure out what is actually going on.

Gardner’s middle-grade graphic novel is a genuine look at moving away from friends and the struggle to regain your footing and make new ones. Gardner though takes it much farther explaining the weirdness of all summer camp experiences in a fresh way. When all is revealed at the end of the book, readers will have the satisfaction of having figured it out along with Vega and the other characters. The pacing of the different elements is nicely done as is the consistent look at loneliness and friendship throughout.

Gardner’s art style is bold and clear. She offers readers a diverse cast of characters, including Vega herself who is a character of color and also has two fathers for parents. The format feels larger than most with some of the images taking up the entire page with great impact. The entire book feels effortlessly modern.

A perfect summer read, particularly for those who have done summer camps. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

2021 Boston Globe – Horn Book Awards

The winners of the 2021 Boston Globe – Horn Book Awards have been announced. The awards cover three categories and offer honor books in each category as well. Here are the winners and the honor books for 2021:


I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith


A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia


From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial That Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo


I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

Watercress by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin


Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam


All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – June 25


ABA 2021 Booksellers’ Choice winners announced – Books+Publishing

7 books on the refugee experience every child should read – TRT World

21 books for kids and young adults to read for National Indigenous History Month – CBC

Ibram X. Kendi recommends 6 books to help your kids understand race – NPR

A Juneteenth celebration of children’s books featuring Black characters – Boston Children’s Hospital

Meet Sydney Taylor, unsung creator of the All-of-a-Kind Family – The New York Times

Pride is for all ages: recommendations for LGBTQIA+ friendly children’s books – Nerds and Beyond

These children’s biographies about great women will inspire & educate – Romper

‘We didn’t use to have children’s books that talk about difficult issues’: Author of picture book on Dr. Fauci discusses COVID’s impact on kids – MarketWatch

Who is John Newbery? A major children’s book award was named after him – The Washington Post


Public libraries are reopening. What do they add to your community? – KALW


8 of the best new queer YA books – Elle

Bestselling YA authors of “Blackout” on importance of centering, celebrating Black love – CBS News

Begin with a Bee by Liza Ketchum

Cover image for Begin with a Bee.

Begin with a Bee by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs and Phyllis Root, illustrated by Claudia McGehee (9781517908041)

On a winter day, take a look in a small hole and you will find a solitary rusty-patched queen bee. She waits all winter long, her body holding everything needed to create a new colony of bees that year. As the sun shines and spring comes, the bee awakens and travels from flower to flower, eating and eating. Now she must find where she will build her nest. Once she finds the right spot, she builds a pot of wax from her body and fills it with nectar to help her survive the rainy days and the long days of caring for her eggs. She carries pollen to the nest until she lays her eggs and sits with them, shivering to keep them warm. The eggs hatch into grubs who them make cocoons and weeks later the pupae are finally bees! The queen continues to lay eggs through the summer as the other worker bees gather pollen. That fall, the new queens mate with male bees from neighboring colonies and then must find their own hole to survive the winter.

This picture book celebrates the life of the rusty-patched bee by focusing on how they survive the winter and how one lone queen bee carries the future of an entire colony in her body. Throughout the book, the authors show their own marveling at the way that nature works and the incredible burden and hard work this little queen bee must accomplish to allow her offspring to survive. The text is simple and poetic, letting even the smallest children learn about bees and life cycles.

The illustrations are done in scratchboard art that richly mimics woodcut prints. The thick black lines are accompanied by natural colors that evoke the nature around the bee habitat, including a wide variety of the native plants and flowers that keep them alive. Detailed images of the bee lifecycle are shared, often embraced by oval shapes.

A gorgeous and informative look at the bee lifecycle. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by University of Minnesota Press.