Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos

Cover image for Your Mama.

Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara (9781328631886)

This picture book cleverly riffs on the “Yo Mama” jokes. Each set of pages starts with a full joke, including “Your Mama so sweet, she could be a bakery” and “Your Mama so strong, she like a marine.” Then the story takes over and explains how this little girl’s mother is all that and more. Examples like her high heels shoes that no one else can walk in, being public library VIPs, and making the perfect costumes. This mother loves road trips, good jokes, and makeup. She stands up against injustice, has friends everywhere, and loves her daughter more than she will ever know.

The humor at the center of the book, taking often negative “Yo Mama” jokes and turning them on their head is a real pleasure. The Latinx protagonists are both strong women with the text slowing with English and Spanish. It’s a pleasure to see a fully realized mother, who is modern, focused and still able to be a great Mama. This woman has real dimension on the page, allowing readers to see their own amazing mothers here too.

The art in this book shows the warm love between mother and daughter, from bouncing on couch cushions, to living room performances, to being out and about together. The setting is urban and friendly, the streets bustling with friends and relatives. From her long curly hair to her high heeled shoes, this is a mother with plenty of attitude and self confidence to share with her daughter.

A celebration of Mamas both sweet and spicy. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Versify.

Sunshine by Marion Dane Bauer

Cover image for Sunshine.

Sunshine by Marion Dane Bauer (9781536214116)

Ben lives with his father and his faithful imaginary dog, Sunshine. This summer, he’s going to spend an entire week with his mother, whom he hasn’t seem since he was three. She lives alone on an island in northern Minnesota. As he and his father journey to meet her, Ben struggles to ignore Sunshine, since his father thinks Ben is too old to have an imaginary friend. After journeying to his mother’s island home by canoe, Ben finds himself struggling with his anxiety and often unable to speak. He has so many questions he wants to ask her and has imagined many conversations together, but nothing comes out. He desperately wants to figure out how to get her to return to living with them. Instead of asking, Ben spends his days on the island, giving his mother time to read. After a disastrous expedition to see some bears and another harrowing solo journey in a canoe, a disaster hits the island and a path to forgiveness is formed.

Bauer is such a remarkable writer. Her books are invitingly brief for young readers and also offer real depth of emotion. In this novel, she shows the struggles of someone with anxiety who is often asking “what if” rather than diving in. She doesn’t allow it to be superficial, instead really exploring what it feels like. At the same time, readers will realize that Ben is incredibly brave and fueled by anger that he won’t acknowledge. His connection to Sunshine is fully realized, from the way they curl up to sleep together to her position in the canoe to their ongoing friendship in a new place.

Ben is a complex character and so are his parents. His father is fastidious, clearly anxious himself in ways that Ben can’t articulate. His mother is a remarkable character in children’s literature. A mother who left her child behind for reasons that are hinted at but not fully revealed until later in the novel. Yet she is given the space to be warm, kind and caring while also being rather distant and reserved. She is many things, and also far more than she realizes.

A book full of dangers, adventure and heart. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Candlewick.

Applesauce Is Fun to Wear by Nancy Raines Day

Cover image for Applesauce Is Fun to Wear.

Applesauce Is Fun to Wear by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Jane Massey (9781951836054)

In this charmer of a picture book, toddlers wear all sorts of food. Applesauce in the hair and toast as a nice flat hat. Milk can make a mustache and yogurt can cover your tummy. Mashed banana makes a great set of gloves for your hands and ice cream can cool your toes. Peas are great to roll on the floor and spaghetti makes celebratory confetti. Chocolate cake covers your face. Then it’s all cleaned up in the end with bubbles in the tub.

Simple and engaging, this title has fun and rollicking rhymes for toddlers to enjoy. The delight in messiness is great fun, with a focus on foods that littles ones will likely have enjoyed already. After all, it’s a lot more fun to wear your food than eat it sometimes.

Massey’s illustrations add to the appeal of the title with a diverse cast of toddlers show using simple lines and colors. They are merry in their messes. She has caught the naughty grins of children having great fun.

A terrific toddler read for those who don’t mind a mess. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy provided by Cameron Kids.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – June 11

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

20 queer books that are great for kids – CafeMom

22 beautiful and inclusive kids’ books for Pride month – Today

From yuck to yum, kids are learning about food in almost every book we read them – Romper

‘Nobody wants white kids to feel bad about their race’ – The Atlantic

LIBRARIES

9 most beautiful bookstores and libraries in Japan – TimeOut

What happens when libraries go fine-free? – WFAE

YA LIT

All the new young adult SFF books arriving in June – Tor

Authors Nicola & David Yoon ink Anonymous Content deal focused on love stories toplined by people of color – Deadline

New Line nabs YA novel ‘The Distance from Me to You’ for HBO Max – Deadline

SFWA announces the Andrew Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction – Nebula Awards

YA and MG book trends for summer: sequels, superheroes and sweethearts – Forbes

Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale

Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale, illustrated by Leuyen Pham (9781419750915)

Kitty thinks she might be a unicorn. She puts a horn on her head and feels wonderfully unicorny. But the others don’t see her that way. Parakeet and Gecko remind her that she is a cat. But Kitty continues to be a unicorn with hooves and a horn. She even says “Neigh!” Still, Parakeet and Gecko don’t see her as anything but a kitten. When a real unicorn arrives, Kitty flops away, dejected that she can’t be anything like the shining unicorn in front of her. But the unicorn surprises Kitty with his own secret, that he sees himself as a Kitty-Corn. Suddenly Kitty realizes that she too is a Kitty-Corn and has a new friend who supports her and sees her that way too.

What starts out with dressing up and pretending becomes something much deeper in this book that explores identity and the right to be who you are. Kitty faces real derision from Parakeet and Gecko, who live on the margins of the page and comment on who Kitty thinks she is. They are rude and horrible, speaking to Kitty as if they are the only ones who can define who she is. With the arrival of Unicorn, the book changes to one of allyship and friendship.

Pham’s illustrations play into the fuzzy and sweet start of the story. Unicorn’s arrival is stunning, hooves first and then the full reveal. When he goes on to tell the truth about himself, Pham’s illustrations stay just as bright and pink and purple as before. The change happens not in the world around them, but in the magic of their connection.

A brilliant and crafty look at unicorns, kitty-corns and identity. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.

The Power of Style by Christian Allaire

Cover image for The Power of Style.

The Power of Style by Christian Allaire (9781773214900)

This nonfiction book explores the importance of fashion as a way to pay homage to heritage, culture and identity. The book looks at the work of designers who are incorporating their own Indigenous heritage into their work, such as ribbon work. The book moves on to hair styles and the importance of embracing natural hair, keeping long hair as a connection to culture, and the art of braiding. Cosplay comes next focusing on size acceptance within the cosplay community and the people who are forcing more inclusivity. Modest fashion and hijabs and head scarves are explored next with a focus on style and individuality. Then the book moves on to talk about high heels for men and the importance of standing tall for LGBTQIA+ rights. The final section is about makeup, both as a way to express yourself and as a way to see yourself included as modern makeup embraces more skin tones.

Each turn of the page in this book shows people of color, different cultures and religions, various gender and sexual identities, a wide range of sizes, and it embraces all of them as valid and beautiful. Written by an Ojibwe author who is the Fashion and Style Writer for Vogue, this book represents so many movements in the fashion world to be seen and accepted. Allaire’s writing is friendly and fresh, inviting readers to explore the pages, showing what allyship looks like, and giving real space to these new ideas and designs.

The book is full of photographs, making it a visual delight to read. Allaire has clearly carefully selected the photographs to show the fashion and also the figures who make the fashion come alive. They are bright, beautiful and truly speak to the diversity he is highlighting.

A gorgeous and enticing book about fashion that will broaden definitions and embraces inclusion. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Annick Press.

Is Was by Deborah Freedman

Cover image for Is Was.

Is Was by Deborah Freedman (9781534475106)

Throughout a day in a meadow, readers will explore what is happening now and then what also was. The sky is blue until the rain comes. The rain was falling and now is puddles for animals to sip from. The fox is stalking the yellow bird who was drinking from the puddle. The buzz from the bees is in the sunshine. The shadow of a hawk is where the chipmunk was. Quiet comes to the meadow as the light changes to evening with its pinks and purples where blue once was. A child swinging in the evening joins their mother on the porch to watch the sky change and enjoy the quiet that is nightfall and the day that was.

Freedman excels at using only the words needed to keep the story flowing. The movement of now to past swirls past the reader again and again as time moves forward and circumstances change slowly and quickly. The wildlife in the meadow is a marvelous look at change as is the weather and the sky itself. It creates a vibrant look at the creatures themselves, their interaction and the sweep of the day as it passes with rain and sun.

The illustrations are full of color and light. From the golden sun of buzzing bees to the blue of rain to the pinks of the sunset arriving. Freedman allows some of the pages to stand with few or no words, showing the meadow grasses, stone wall and flowering trees, allowing the quiet to be still for the reader too.

A lovely look at our world as moments pass. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

Cover image for The Mirror Season.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore (9781250624123)

Ciela rescued a boy who had been drugged and assaulted at a party. At the same time the boy was assaulted, so was Ciela. After dropping him at the ER, Ciela thought she’d never see him again, until he turned up at her school that fall. As the people responsible for their assaults begin to bully Lock, Ciela starts a friendship with him without telling him what she knows. After the assault, Ciela’s world started to change. She could no longer look at a person and know what pan dulce will help them. She also saw mirrored glass everywhere, filling in puddles, replacing leaves and branches, draining the color from the world. As Ciela becomes better friends with Lock, her pan dulce powers start to return, something she thought she had lost forever. But there is still that secret between them, that Ciela knows what happened to him because she was there too. With silence all that is protecting her and Lock, how can she start to speak about what happened?

This harrowing and hauntingly gorgeous novel is so powerful. Its depiction of assault and its aftermath is filled with metaphor but also firmly grounded in what trauma does to someone. The writing is fierce and funny, insistent that the reader not look away. It’s a novel that gets into your heart, rather like a piece of mirrored glass, that burrows there and tears at you. Readers will not be surprised to read in the author’s note that McLemore has personally experience sexual assault, since the experience here is so raw and honest.

The two characters at the center of this novel are amazing. Written with truth and grit, they are both remarkable. Ciela is a brown girl who has lived unapologetically. She is queer and pansexual, making her even more of a target. Her experience is spoken about frankly in the book, the experience of a queer Latinx woman and how it is to live in America. Lock would seem to be her opposite in so many ways. A heterosexual white boy, he is just as interesting as she is somehow, even with her pan dulce magic. Lock is a tree-stealing, finger-biting boy who has been torn apart by trauma and is piecing his life back together, one crocheted mushroom at a time.

Unique characters face a shared assault in this book of trauma, friendship and a dash of magic. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Strange Nature: The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss by Gregory Mone

Cover image for Strange Nature.

Strange Nature: The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss by Gregory Mone, illustrated by Levon Biss (9781419731662)

Levon Biss is a photographer who usually took pictures of celebrities and politicians. When his son brought him a regular garden beetle, the two of them looked at it under a microscope and were amazed at what they saw. Biss then selected 37 insects from the collection of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to photograph. He used special lenses, cameras and lights to take thousands of pictures of each insect. Those many images were then combined to create the Microsculpture project. The images were enlarged and shown in museums around the world. This nonfiction picture book explores the images created from the Microsculpture project and offers information on each of the insects.

Mone’s text is limited to explaining how Biss got into photographing insects and then moves into sharing scientific information and fascinating facts about each insect. The book includes a glossary and an encouragement to head to the Microsculpture website to learn even more. Mone’s information is nicely selected offering enticing facts, measurements and also pointing out the most interesting parts of the photograph to the reader.

The portraits are incredibly detailed and beautiful. From the lighting that captures each insects iridescence to the incredible shapes of their bodies and armor. The book offers close ups of various parts of each insect, allowing readers to see eyes, legs, heads and more up close. These images are transformative, letting all of us know that we walk in a world of tiny amazing monsters.

Remarkable photographs that will have you leaning in close to see even more, if you dare! Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.