Review: Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

Not My Idea A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham (9781948340007)

This picture book takes on the subject of white privilege in a way that makes the subject accessible to children. The book tells the story of a white child seeing news about a police shooting on the television while their mother tries to distract them and tells them that they are safe. But that is not what the child is concerned with, they want to know why they are treated differently in stores than black children and how this happened. The book grapples with what white children and adults can do to combat racism and get involved in social justice. It pushes children to speak out, even to their own family who are expressing racist ideas. It talks about the concept of “not seeing race” and then clearly explains why that is not true.

Higginbotham writes books about difficult subjects for children. She has taken on divorce, sex and death in the past. Still, this new one may be the most fraught subject yet. The way that she tackles the subject clearly puts the onus on white people to figure this all out, since it is a problem that they are responsible for. The book has just enough history to clarify that this is a long-standing problem and is systemic. Yet it is not willing to rest there, calling for action, clarity around the subject and a responsibility to step up.

The book is hand made and the illustrations and design of the overall book embrace that. The text is hand-lettered on brown paper, creating a book that is approachable and immensely personal. The illustrations, like the text, demonstrate the racism in our society and beautifully never put people of color in the position of having to teach or correct white people in the book. That is the job of white people, including children.

A strong primer on being white in America, examining our privilege and getting involved in tackling racism in our communities. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

2018 Best Picture Books!

What a year for picture books! This is always the hardest list for me to select for because I have so many favorites. I managed to keep it to my top 30 this year:

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (9780316404488)

This is a beautiful tribute to the phases of the moon that tells the story in an original and modern way. – My Review

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9781626720664)

The images are grand, beautiful and full of depth. They invite readers into this world of blue. – My Review

The Day War Came by Nicola Davies The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb (9781536201734)

There are very few picture books that can make me truly weep. This was one of those. – My Review

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (9780399246531)

A marvelous pick to speak about diversity and acceptance with children. – My Review

Drawn Together by Minh Le Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat (9781484767603)

This is pure storytelling in art form and is exceptionally done. – My Review

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (9780823440559)

A dazzling and incredible picture book that is sure to win awards this year. – My Review

35297103 First Laugh - Welcome, Baby! By Rose Ann Tahe

The Field by Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara (9780735843127)

The entire book is filled with energy and action as the children take the initiative to create a field and play together. – My Review

First Laugh – Welcome, Baby! By Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (9781580897945)

A warm look at the Navajo First Laugh Ceremony and a great depiction of a modern Native American family. – My Review

The Funeral by Matt James Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

The Funeral by Matt James (9781554989089)

James captures going to a funeral as a small child with a poignancy and beauty. Anyone who attended a funeral as a child will see their own memories come to life. – My Review

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel (9781452150147)

Inviting, fresh and friendly, this picture book is exceptional thanks to its art. – My Review

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall (9780316362382)

This is a quiet yet dramatic book, exquisitely written and illustrated. – My Review

A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Lane Smith (9781626723146)

Seriously one of the best picture books of the year. This is treat by two master artists must be shared with children! – My Review

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoeet Imagine by Raul Colon

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoeet (9781524769567)

This picture book takes the large issue of bullying and gives children a way to not only talk about the issue but to do something about it. – My Review

Imagine by Raul Colon (9781481462730)

An exceptional wordless picture book, this one is a must-have for libraries. – My Review

Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi

Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (9780763690458)

This one belongs in every library, it is sublimely diverse and accepting. – My Review

The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi (9780802855091)

A delight of a wordless read, this is one that children with their own toy swords will love. – My Review

Love by Matt de la Pena Marwan_s Journey by Patricia de Arias

Love by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Loren Long (9781524740917)

Readers are guaranteed to fall for Love. – My Review

Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arias, illustrated by Laura Borras (9789888341559)

An important book that beautifully captures the dangers and loss of a refugee child. – My Review

Mommy_s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins- Bigelow On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins- Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn (9781534400597)

This lovely picture book beautifully ties a child’s playful imagination to wearing a hijab or khimar. – My Review

On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yonkteng (9781554989836)

It is a journey of opening up, of finding new friends who warm you when the wind blows and who surprise and delight you. – My Review

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd (9781536200317)

This use of recycled material to tell the story of a scrap bike, sets just the right tone. And on that cardboard is a story of celebration and childhood. – My Review

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (9780735229358)

An intelligent look at big emotions and how best to deal with them and support one another, this picture book is exceptional.  – My Review

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies (9780062671271)

One of the top picture books of the year, this is a dead dog picture book worth reading. – My Review

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9780763678838)

Her poem soars through the primordial darkness, journeys directly into the Big Bang, floats beside emerging planets, visits Earth, and welcomes children to life. – My Review

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora Groundwood Logos Spine

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (9780316431248)

A top read-aloud of the year, this picture book should be shared just like red stew. – My Review

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (9781419728518)

This is one of those books that you can read over and over again, different words and illustrations touching you each time. – My Review

Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc The Visitor by Antje Damm

Up the Mountain Path by Marianne Dubuc (9781616897239)

This gentle picture book has such depth to it. – My Review

The Visitor by Antje Damm (9781776571888)

Great illustrations lift a book about empathy and community. – My Review

We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell Zola's Elephant by Randall de Seve

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac(9781632896339)

A wonderful modern look at Cherokee traditions and our universal gratitude for community and family. – My Review

Zola’s Elephant by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (9781328886293)

Beautiful and rich, this picture book is unique and imaginative.

Review: Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden (9781681198071)

Set in the 1880s, this novel explores the world if Essie, a young African-American woman who grew up with a neglectful mother and was rescued from poverty and prostitution by a kindly cleaning woman. Determined to keep learning even though she left school at an early age, Essie continued to read everything she could get her hands on. While working at a boarding house, Essie meets Dorcas Vashon, a wealthy African-American woman who sees potential in Essie and offers her a way to transform her life. Taught etiquette and new manners by Dorcas over several grueling months, Essie becomes Victoria and takes on the persona of Dorcas’ niece. As Victoria enters the social elite in Washington, D.C. she must hold to the lie that she is living until she can’t manage it any longer.

Bolden captures a period in American history that is rarely seen in books, much less teen novels. It is the period after Restoration gave African-Americans new rights but before the Jim Crow laws came stripped them away. It is a dazzling time to be a member of society and Bolden gives us details about the books, the manners and the dresses that make up that world. The setting of Washington, D. C. society is beautifully depicted as well.

Essie/Victoria makes for a wonderful set of eyes to view this world through. While she is taken with her new lifestyle and the opportunities it brings, Essie wrestles with the lies she must tell to keep it that way. Her strength of character is particularly evident when she is pressed such as learning etiquette and at the end of the book when she must make a moral decision. It is then that Essie fully steps into her own.

A fascinating look at a neglected piece of American history. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

2018 Best Teen Books!

This was a great year for books for teens, particularly those written by diverse authors about diverse characters. Here are the 20 books that I loved the most:

The Belles (The Belles #1) Blood Water Paint

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (9781484728499)

A mesmerizing first novel from an incredible new talent. – My Review

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (9780735232112)

A necessary and vital call to action, this book shows that women have stood up all the way through history and their voices will not be ignored. – My Review

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1) Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (9781250170972)

What an amazing read this is! It is a world that no one has seen before, a world anchored by Black Lives Matter that will echo for fans of Black Panther. – My Review

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (9780525552963)

Come fall in love with Darius and Iran at the same time in this amazing debut novel. – My Review

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) Emergency Contact

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (9780062570604)

A wild and bloody book with a fierce protagonist who sears the page. – My Review

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi (9781534408968)

Beautifully written, awkward in the best way and entirely empowering and accepting, this novel is a warm hug for readers struggling with anxiety.  – My Review

Fresh Ink: An Anthology Girl Made of Stars

Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles (9781524766283)

Strong writing, great stories and a call to action will make this collection a popular one. – My Review

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (9781328778239)

Fierce and angry, this novel about sexual assault and the power of survivors. – My Review

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings, #2)

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (9781250147905)

A great read, this blend of fairy tale and horror is completely intoxicating. – My Review

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (9780062795328)

Lee has a wonderful wit and humor in her writing. She tells this new tale with the same dance of sarcasm, historical detail and charm as her first book. – My Review

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein The Place Between Breaths

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge (9781626725003)

This verse novel is pure wonderment. – My Review

The Place Between Breaths by An Na (9781481422253)

Masterfully written, this is a harrowing depiction of mental illness in a family. – My Review

The Poet X Rabbit & Robot

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (9780062662804)

One of the best verse novels I have ever read, this one deserves a standing ovation.  – My Review

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith (9781534422209)

A deep book hidden in farts, horniness and space, this is one incredible teen novel. – My Review

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton (9780525580966)

Each of Dayton’s stories is an ethical question wrapped in a taut and fascinating plot in a shared world. – My Review

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (9781510727663)

A joy of an LGBT read that will give you all the feels. – My Review

Summer of Salt A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno (9780062493644)

This is one of those books that you fall for hard. It sweeps in with poetic language that invites readers to explore the island of By-the-Sea, breathe in the magic, taste beautifully-named ice cream flavors and linger in the autumnal graveyard for awhile. – My Review

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (9780062671158)

No matter whether they are fantasy or contemporary fiction, these stories are each tantalizing and rich. – My Review

A Very Large Expanse of Sea What If It's Us

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (9780062866561)

A fierce heroine faces racism alongside romance in this gripping novel for teens. – My Review

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (9780062795250)

A humorous, honest and heartfelt novel that offers a gorgeous look at the ups and downs of relationships through the eyes of a gay couple.  – My Review

Review: The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt

The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt

The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by David Spencer (9780399172762)

The adventures of Huggie and Stick are told in diary format from each character’s point of view. Stick is an eternal optimist, always seeing the best in every situation. Huggie, on the other hand, is a delight of a pessimist and is regularly complaining and seeing all of the problems surrounding them. As the two friends make their way around the world and visit each continent, readers will delight in the humor on the page and enjoy the way the two points of view show the same voyage from very differing points of view.

Daywalt has a way with humor, creating wonderful timing on each page. He knows when to use plenty of text and other times to let the humor just sit for a moment on the page. The juxtaposition of the two characters is written with flair. Readers may at first be drawn to Stick the optimist but by the end I was entirely in Huggie’s camp as he bore the brunt of the journey. The humor is all the better for the illustrations which show Huggie steadily falling apart on their journey and the ramshackle ways that Stick helps patch him back together.

A journey definitely worth taking, this one would be great to share aloud with elementary-age children. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

2018 Best Middle-Grade Fiction!

It’s been an exceptional year for middle-grade fiction, filled with diverse characters written by diverse authors. Here are my top picks for the year:

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (9780399544682)

A very readable book that invites readers into rural Pakistan and the dangers of corruption and debt. – My Review

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin (9780763698225)

A timely look at political intrigue and getting beyond what holds us apart with plenty of humor to make it a delight. – My Review

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr (9781536200171)

Richly told, this book is a delightful wintry read that feels like a long-lost classic. – My Review

Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older (9781338268812)

A rip-roaring read that will have children longing for a dactyl to ride. – My Review

Front Desk by Kelly Yang The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Front Desk by Kelly Yang (9781338157802)

Based on her own childhood growing up as a family managing motels, Yang tells a vibrant story of hope in the face of crushing poverty. – My Review

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (9781338209969)

A dynamic retelling of the Baby Yaga folktale, this book offers a big world of magic and ghosts to explore. – My Review

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (9780316515467)

Blake has created a middle-grade book that is warm and beautifully supportive. – My Review

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (9780553535327)

A complex book that takes a deep look at grief, loss, courage and family. – My Review

It Wasn't Me by Dana Alison Levy.jpg The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy (9781524766450)

Strongly written and compellingly paced, this novel is a fascinating look at how justice can be done in a school setting without the use of detentions or suspensions. – My Review

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (9780545156660)

The Newbery Award winning Curtis writes with such skill that it is impossible not to fall deeply into his stories and become immersed in the world he builds. – My Review

Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr

Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard (9780062652911)

A brilliant debut novel with changing families, lots of maple syrup but one that isn’t too sweet either. – My Review

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr (9781452159584)

Beautiful, haunting and tragic, this is a special fantasy for young readers. – My Review

Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (9780763694630)

DiCamillo tells Louisiana’s story with a deft humor and a deep empathy. – My Review

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (9780763690496)

A winning middle-grade novel that is part of #ownvoices, this is a must-read. – My Review

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (9781524767587)

A stellar read, this middle school book is a book that is hard to sum up, but one you can count on. – My Review

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (9780735262751)

A nuanced and skilled look at homelessness with great characters to discover along the journey. – My Review

Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (9781250165695)

I cannot stress enough how utterly captivating this children’s book is. – My Review

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (9781524715663)

Smartly written and filled with glowing characters living complicated lives, this middle grade novel is unbreakable. – My Review

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon (9781524715953)

Magoon has created a story that reads smooth and sweet, a tale filled with adventures and riotous action. – My Review

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (9780525515029)

Written with rich prose that is a delight to read, this eerie tale will be enjoyed by any young reader looking for some spine tingles. – My Review

The Stone Girl's Story by Sarah Beth Durst Sweep by Jonathan Auxier

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst (9781328729453)

Durst has created a compelling stand-alone fantasy book for middle graders. The world building is warm and lovely, unrolling like a carpet before the reader. – My Review

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier (9780735264359)

I loved the London that Auxier has created for us with all of its Victorian charms. He peels away the charming veneer though and shows us the brutality of child labor, the dangers and the cruelty of chimney sweeping in particular. – My Review

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor (9780062491497)

Connor writes books that soar and are completely heartfelt, this book is another of those. – My Review

The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie (9781534414464)

A great read, a grand mystery, and a strong protagonist. – My Review

2018 Best Poetry Books!

I didn’t manage to read a lot of poetry in 2018, unfortunately. The ones on my list of the Best of 2018 though are worth treasuring:

Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters For Every One by Jason Reynolds

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (9781512404425)

In this book, there is a feeling of safety to explore difficult subjects that the poetry itself creates. – My Review

For Every One by Jason Reynolds (9781481486248)

It is a book about perseverance and resilience, a poem about life, hard knocks and getting up and continuing onward. – My Review

The Horse_s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

The Horse’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows (9780763689162)

A stellar book of focused haiku. – My Review

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (9780763690526)

Rich, memorable and timely, this picture book is something special. – My Review

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright

Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright, illustrated by Nina Crews (9781512498622)

A dynamic look at one of the top African-American poets of the 21st century, this book of poetry is a celebration. – My Review

Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (9781250144546)

Set in 1889 Paris, this teen novel mixes historical fiction with fantasy into one incredible adventure. Severin was denied his inheritance by the Order, a group of wealthy and powerful Houses that control the French Babel fragment and therefore the power to forge amazing devices. So Severin has become a thief who hides in plain sight in his hotel with his group of fellow thieves and friends around him. Each of his friends has their own distinct skill set that is invaluable when rescuing magical artifacts. Their expertise ranges from explosives to poisons to spiders to desire. As they start to seek out their largest target ever, it is an opportunity for Severin to regain his inheritance but it may just kill them all in the process.

Chokshi has written several amazing books and this one builds on her previous success. The setting here is particularly lush. Lovingly depicted, Paris comes to life just as the Eiffel Tower is being built for the Exposition Universelle. Paris is a great setting for the equally vibrant adventures the characters have there with traps, break ins, magical elements and more adding to the drama. That mixture of fantasy and history is forged together tightly into a unified whole.

This is a complex teen novel filled with engaging characters who all are distinct from one another and enticing to spend time with. She has included all sorts of diversity in her characters, including neurodiversity, bisexuality, and racial diversity. Each of these characteristics is a part of the story and plays into the plot, so they are far more than token notes and instead are rooted deeply in the characters.

A breathtaking adventure in a fantasy world, this first in a series will be appreciated by fans of Leigh Bardugo. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Wednesday Books.

 

Review: Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay

Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay

Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay (9781101917831)

A series of weather-related sayings form the words in this book while also telling the story of a family heading out on a fishing trip for the day. The book begins with sayings like “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” and “When the dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass.” They indicate that it’s a great day to head out to fish and camp, so a grandfather takes his grandchildren out. There are sayings about sunset, about the moon, about rain. The next day on their way home though, the weather begins to change. Even the morning begins ominously with a “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” The little family makes it home before the rain begins, cozy and warm inside.

MacKay takes these sayings and weaves them together in to a story arc that guides young readers through the outdoors and the changing weather. Her illustrations are exceptional. Done with paper, light and photography, she calls them “lightbox illustrations or illuminated papercraft.” Her illustrations have such depth that one almost expects them to be physically layered pages in the book. The light in the illustrations bathes the reader, creating a physical experience of the weather at that moment.

An exceptional picture book about weather and beauty. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.