Little Bear’s Treasures by Stella Dreis (9781771646536)
Little Bear collects all sorts of treasures: a shiny button, a clothespin, a shy piece of fluff, a magic stick, and much more. He was a great treasure finder. But the other animals don’t understand and consider all of what he gathers to be just junk. The Little Bear meets Little Bird, who immediately understands that Bear’s stick is magical. Soon the two set out to discover treasures together. And they find all sorts of wonderful things! They discover thinking hats, glittering fish, a swinging tree, mysterious fog, a furry rock, and much more. When night fell, the two looked up to the sky to find an amazing treasure they could share along with the dreams of future adventures together.
Imported from Germany, this picture book is a celebration of creativity and imaginative play. Particularly touching is the fact that Little Bear continued being himself despite the mocking of other animals. Finding a true friend though allows him to discover ever so much more than he did on his own. The ending is lovely as stardust cover them and sleep overtakes them. Perfect for dreaming of your own treasures.
Dries has won many awards for her illustrations. They are marvelously unique and dreamy, filled with dust and fog, blueberries and trees. The illustrations glow on the page, lit from within as if sun shines from just off the page.
A gem of a book perfect for your own treasure hunter. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (9781368053297)
Marva gets how important voting is and how voting has been impacted by racism for decades, so she is up early to make sure she votes before school starts. Duke is up early too, keeping focused on his band’s first paying gig that night and getting his voting done too. But when Duke gets to his polling place, he can’t vote since he isn’t registered there. Marva sees this happen and the two of them go to the voting precinct that Duke should be registered at. But nothing is simple in voting or dating as their lives collide with Marva angry at her white boyfriend for deciding not to vote in the election, Marva’s celebrity cat going missing, and Duke coping with the memories of his dead brother that being with Marva brings up. Still, the two of them are a great team, traveling the city, discovering voter suppression firsthand, and still managing a touch of romance along the way.
Colbert has written a marvelous romantic political novel here. She demonstrates clearly for teen readers that voter suppression in the black community is still active and can impact them as voters at any time. From long lines to closed polls to running out of ballots, each incident underlines how civil rights are being infringed. Wisely Colbert allows that to be significant in the story line but also fills in with an engaging new romance between two people who may approach politics differently but deeply believe in the same things.
The two main characters are completely delightful. Marva is driven and full of passion for fighting back, voting and activism. Duke has lost a brother to gun violence, a brother who was a community activist. Wonderfully, Duke is not dismissive of Marva’s passion, instead he marvels at it, showing his own dedication to voting and also to his music as the day continues. The pair together are magic with their snappy conversation, teasing and humor.
Political and romantic, this book is also a clarion call to vote and get involved. Appropriate for ages 15-19.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Disney-Hyperion.
A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson, illustrated by Akira Kusaka (9781541521483)
Grandmother’s bowl is precious for their family. Sachiko and family live in Nagasaki. At dinner, grandmother’s bowl is brought out and filled with food, Everyone bows their heads, pressing their hands together and says “itadakimasu.” Soon war comes to Nagasaki with its noises and the lack of food and other supplies. As the war continues and intensifies, the food in grandmother’s bowl changes too, becoming less and less. The family survives air raids, until one gets through. One of Sachiko’s siblings is killed in the blast. Her family leaves Nagasaki on foot, until they reach a hospital. Her brothers are very ill and both die from radiation from the bomb, other members of her family die too. Ice chips are all that help the survivors quench the burning. Two years later, Sachiko and her family return to Nagasaki and in the rubble of their home find grandmother’s bowl, unbroken and not even chipped. Going forward, ice chips are placed in the bowl on the anniversary of the bombing, watched as they melt away.
This picture book version of the award-winning book for older children, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Journey, allows the story of Sachiko to be shared with elementary-aged children. Stelson manages to pare the story down, writing in poetic lines that capture the horror of war and atomic bombing as well as the wonder of finding anything still intact afterwards. The symbolic nature of the bowl and the ice chips is incredibly moving and repeats in the book so that readers deeply understand the loss and work that must be done.
Kusaka’s illustrations are beautifully spare. She has created touching moments that show the family around their table with the bowl at the center. When the bomb hits, the pages turn from a red burst to blackness. It’s a powerful use of image without words.
A book about war with a strong focus on peace. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Carolrhoda Books.
Weekend Dad by Naseem Hrab, illustrated by Frank Viva (9781773061085)
When his father moves out of the house, the narrator of this picture book thinks about him a lot. His father is just a bus ride away, past the park and through the tunnel. On Friday, the boy gets to visit him, making sure to take his stuffed hedgehog Wendell along. Father and son take the bus together through the tunnel, talking the entire time. Then they are at the boy’s second home, but it doesn’t feel like home at all, since his mother isn’t there. The night is different and strange, sleeping in an empty room that has yet to be decorated with even a bed. His father wants to do something special, but the boy wants a normal day. So they have breakfast, play cards, go to the park, have dinner. Before returning to his mother, the boy leaves Wendell on his father’s bed to keep him company.
It is the tone here that is particularly effective. Hrab captures the strangeness of suddenly living in a divorced family and being a child navigating moving between two homes for the first time. Both parents are loving and gentle, showing their son support for the changes he is facing. But he still needs to experience them and go through them, even if his parents are lovely.
Viva’s illustrations are in his signature style that wonderfully warp, color and expose the strangeness of regular life. His distorted figures match the strangeness that the main character is experiencing, almost like a fun-house mirror at times and then other times frank and direct.
A look at divorce through the eyes of a child with inventive illustrations and a genuine exploration of emotions. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Groundwood Books.
Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne (9781534441538)
Beetle longs to be a sorceress but instead she is a goblin and learning magic from her grandmother at home. Her best friend is Blob Ghost, who she visits in the failing mall. When an old friend returns to ‘Allows from going to sorcery school, Beetle is smitten and intimidated. Kat is everything that Beetle wants to be. Kat’s teacher has targeted Blob Ghost’s mall for demolition in the near future. But Blog Ghost can’t leave the mall, tied to it by an unbreakable force. As the demolition is suddenly moved up, it’s up to Beetle and Blog Ghost to free them before they are destroyed along with the building. Beetle is going to have to find the magic inside of her and fight for those she loves.
Layne has created a graphic novel for middle schoolers and teens that is an intoxicating mix of magic, goblins and love. The book looks at being left out and left behind by people you thought were your friends. It also explores the impact of family ties, of destiny and how those elements can be used for good or evil. Best of all, it’s a book that embraces an LGBTQ+ relationship that blossoms right in front of the reader. And don’t miss the pronoun used by Blob Ghost. It’s a treat to see someone referred to so easily as they/them/their.
The art in this graphic novel is just as exceptional as the story itself. Filled with colors that change from one page to the next, teals to purples to blob pink to goblin greens. Layne beautifully shows the ties and impact of magic on those who use it, turning Beetle into a floating witch of power at times. Kat with her skeletal aspect is a marvelous visual foil for the green and orange of Beetle, the two of them forming a full Halloween together.
Here’s hoping for more dangerous broom flights alongside Beetle! Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Here are 19 titles for teens that are being released in August and received starred reviews. Enjoy!
All Eyes on Her by L. E. Flynn
Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy edited by Kelly Jensen
Chasing Starlight by Teri Bailey Black
A Cloud of Outrageous Blue by Vesper Stamper
The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Jo Rioux
Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska
Displacement by Kiku Hughes
Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
Facing the Sun by Janice Lynn Mather
Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
I Am Here Now by Barbara Bottner
Invisible Differences by Julie Dachez
It Came from the Sky by Chelsea Sedoti
Lobizona by Romina Garber
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
I’m celebrating 17 years of children’s lit blogging today! Every year this gives me time to take a breath and think about librarianship, children’s books, and how I use my time. In past years, I’ve gone through rolling periods of doubt, of thinking about stopping, of doing something else, reading differently and not critically.
This year hasn’t been like that. Instead I have felt driven to share, to keep creating content about books that I love. It’s a way for me to keep from drowning in the bad news of COVID, to keep hope alive that change may actually happen around black lives and policing, to say that black children and children of color deserve to see themselves in books and white children must start learning that all are equal. One powerful way to do that is to have books that represent children of all races, all faiths, all cultures, all sexual orientations, all genders. Books that celebrate children and teens and their experiences in our world.
I will continue to highlight these books on my blog. Books that share experiences, books that ask us to think, to learn, to build bridges or to burn them down. Now is the time to ask yourself what you spend your time on, what you put your voice behind, what you need to learn, how you need to listen. I have work to do, and I pledge to do it.