Bird House by Blanca Gomez

Cover image for Bird House.

Bird House by Blanca Gomez (9781419744082)

One day when out on a snowy walk, a little girl and her abuela found an injured bird. They brought it home and took care of it. As it healed, they kept it in a cage and also let it fly around their living room. The bird was just as fantastic as everything else is at Abuela’s house. When the bird was better, they released it out the window. It flew off over the city until they couldn’t see it any longer. Winter turned to spring. The little bird returned to their balcony. The little girl wanted to keep it, but instead they decided that the bird could visit them whenever it liked.

Told in simple sentences, this picture book is beautifully quiet and thoughtful. Readers will enjoy the discovery of the bird and the care that the pair take with getting it better. There is sadness as the bird has to be set free and then a joy when it returns. Without being heavy handed, this picture book explores how we can help nature without needing to own it or change it.

The illustrations capture the warmth of Abuela’s home and the rich connection she has with her granddaughter. The two spend lots of time together, reading and gardening, just being with one another on the pages.

Quiet and simple. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

Cover image for Tokyo Ever After.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean (9781250766601)

Izumi has never felt that she was either Japanese enough or American enough. She is caught in between. It doesn’t help that her father is an unknown and unnamed person. When one of Izzy’s friends discovers a clue in Izzy’s mother’s room, they soon discover that Izzy is the illegitimate daughter of the Crown Prince of Japan. After Izzy reaches out to him, she is soon whisked off to spend time with him in Japan. But being a princess isn’t what Izumi pictured. Her life is suddenly full of rules to follow, language lessons, etiquette lessons and strict schedules. Even ducking into a bathroom when she lands in Japan creates a schedule crisis and makes the tabloid news. Izumi is surrounded by jealous cousins, a bossy handmaiden, and a hot bodyguard. But finding true love isn’t easy when you are a princess and the world is watching.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as a Japanese remake of the Princess Diaries, but this novel is much more than that. Readers are on a journey to Japan along with Izzy. They will learn about traditions, folk tales, the royal family and more. The settings are beautifully described and Jean brings both Tokyo and Kyoto to full realization with her writing. Izzy’s search for where she belongs is complicated and very personal.

Izzy is a marvelous character. She’s a girl more comfortable in t-shirts, hoodies and leggings than in fitted dresses selected by her handmaiden. Surrounded by a new life, she struggles to figure out where she fits even though she suddenly looks like everyone else around her. As she learns Japanese language and customs, she retains her snarky attitude, much to the dismay of some of her handlers while also learning when to hold her tongue to have the impact she wants.

A fairy tale grounded in Japanese culture and identity with a sequel on the way. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Flatiron Books.