Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik (9780593109212)
Omar and his family have moved, which means that Omar has to start at a new school. He lives with his mother, father, older sister and younger brother. One of their new neighbors doesn’t seem happy to have Muslim neighbors, glaring at them through her fence and not being friendly when approached. Omar is also facing a bully at school. Daniel has even told him that because Omar is a Muslim he could be kicked out of the country! Luckily, Omar also has a new best friend and a family who can support him as he learns the ins and outs of being Muslim in America.
Mian’s #ownvoices novel for elementary readers is wildly funny and really approachable. Omar himself seems the world through a silly and engaging lens, where teachers may be aliens and he is a magnet for trouble. That trouble includes spitting on his little brother in bed, getting lost during a field trip, and asking Allah to bring him a Ferrari. The book has lots of illustrations, making it just right for elementary-aged readers who need some breaks in their text. They will find that the humor and format make for an engaging read.
A winner of a children’s book that is about prejudice, friendship and community. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from library copy.
The shortlists for the 2020 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals have been announced. Each shortlist has eight titles, selected by youth librarians in the UK from the longlists. The Carnegie Medal is given to the best writing for young readers while the Kate Greenaway Medal is for the best in illustration in children’s books. Here are the shortlisted titles:
2020 CILIP CARNEGIE MEDAL SHORTLIST
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Girl. Boy. Sea. by Chris Vick
Lampie by Annet Schaap
Lark by Anthony McGowan
Nowhere on Earth by Nick Lake
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus Sedgwick and Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by Alexis Deacon
2020 CILIP KATE GREENAWAY MEDAL SHORTLIST
Child of St Kilda written and illustrated by Beth Waters
The Dam illustrated by Levi Pinfold and written by David Almond
The Iron Man illustrated by Chris Mould and written by Ted Hughes
Mary and Frankenstein illustrated by Júlia Sardà and written by Linda Bailey
The Suitcase written and illustrated by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
Tales from the Inner City written and illustrated by Shaun Tan
The Undefeated illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by Kwame Alexander
You’re Snug with Me illustrated by Poonam Mistry, written by Chitra Soundar
A Way with Wild Things by Larissa Theule, illustrated by Sara Palacios (9781681190396)
Poppy is a little girl who loves bugs and spending time alone outside. Around other people, she tends to fade into the background, disappearing into the potted plants and the wallpaper. At her Grandma Phyllis’ 100th birthday party, Poppy hides in the bushes. She enjoys watching the party from there, seeing the different people as colorful leaves. When a dragonfly enters the party, it lands on the birthday cake, and Poppy claps her hands in joy. One of her relatives leans in and calls her a wallflower. Poppy wilts, but the dragonfly darts over to land on her hand. Soon everyone is gathered around and Grandma Phyllis declares her a “wild flower” rather than a wallflower.
Told with a great empathy towards Poppy and her need for quiet contemplation and connection with bugs and nature, this picture book celebrates solitude and being understood. All shy folks will recognize the rather pushy nature of relatives who suddenly notice a quiet child and call them out. The beauty here is that Poppy finds her own way forward with the help of an insect friend.
The illustrations are done in cut paper, paints and digitally, combining layers together. This has created organic-feeling images that have a wonderful play of texture and pattern. The finer details of the illustrations contribute to the layered effect.
A quiet picture book just right for reading outside on a blanket. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.
Child of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana, illustrated by Raul Colon (9781524717551)
This picture book takes the science of how atoms move through the universe and then shows how that makes us all very special. Through the eyes of one father and his child, each of us is celebrated for our connection to stars, planets and the entire universe. The story is told in lyrical verse that connects the child to the sun, the moon and faraway planets. The little girl’s features and hair are all compared to the Milky Way and the shine of the cosmos, inextricably tying them to one another. This book will have us all delighting in the iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones and the stars in the sky.
Jayawardhana’s text in this picture book is evocative and lovely, inviting everyone to think of their own connection to the universe. Combining this poetic approach with the science behind it in his Author’s Note, this book really allows children to imagine themselves as an integral and unique part of a much larger system, dreaming beyond the earth.
Colon’s art is jaw dropping in this picture book. He takes readers to other planets, frozen and barren but then lights the skies with new planets, galaxies and stars. He fill the bodies visually with the swirl of stars and planets and then juxtaposes humans into these wild and beautiful worlds he has created.
A stellar look at our connection to the universe. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Make Me a World.
Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (9781534461833)
Told in the first person, this picture book celebrates adults in children’s lives who take on the role of mother even if they aren’t related to the child. The little girl in this book lives with Mama Rose. Their relationship is never clarified as foster parent or relative, making it a picture book that will speak to children living in a variety of circumstances. Mama Rose does everything a mother does. She combs the little girl’s hair, get her to school, teaches her skills like making a bed or dribbling a basketball. Mama Rose encourages the little girl to dream and to know that she has potential. She also has rules like finishing your vegetables before you get dessert and doing chores like cleaning your room. Mama Rose is home and there is plenty of love to go around between them both.
With a repeating refrain and writing that is simple and accessible, Duncan shows that it is not actually being a biological mother that matters but instead being a mother figure for a child whatever the relationship. In her author note, Duncan speaks to the long tradition of fictive kin that dates back to the times of slavery and the broken families that resulted from the brutality. In the story itself, the focus is on love and support for a child and what that looks like every day.
Barlow’s watercolor illustrations show a clear connection between Mama Rose and the little girl. Filled with color, they capture the many moments that make up a relationship of parent and child.
An important book that embraces different kinds of families. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
All the Dear Little Animals by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated by Julia Marshall (9781776572892)
Originally published in 2009, this award-winning Swedish import is written by the author of the Detective Gordon series. One summer day, Esther found a dead bumblebee and decided to give it a burial ceremony. The narrator of the story, a little boy, helps her by writing a poem about death. The two head out to the secret clearing to dig a grave and plant seeds. Then they set out to find more dead creatures with the help of Puttie, who was a very good crier. They form a business called Funerals, Ltd. and spend their day doing a variety of funerals for animals of all sorts, all in their secret clearing. The final funeral of their day comes when a blackbird hits a window and dies in front of them. They all felt the sadness of that death. And then the next day, they did something different.
I adore Nilsson’s approach to children’s book with his deep understanding of the way that children think and act. This book feels like my childhood, dealing with deep and serious thought one day and moving on. It offers a skillful balance of morose, serious sadness with a sunny summer day, a business idea, and time spent with friends. It’s that juxtaposition and the frank approach of the children toward death that makes this book work so well.
The illustrations by Eriksson really add to the mix of sorrow and sunshine. They are dappled green and gold. Children will appreciate that the dead animals are shown to the reader, tucked into their boxes or on their way to being buried. The final pages with all of the headstones and graves are both humorous and touching.
Funny and serious, just like childhood. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Gecko Press.
Bear Goes Sugaring by Maxwell Eaton III (9780823444489)
Join Bear as she goes through the process of making maple syrup. Joined by her friends, Fox and Squirrel, who are desperate for pancakes, Bear begins by getting her tools ready. Both Squirrel and Fox don’t really help much, offering a lot of side comments and once knocking a hole in one of the buckets. That hole though gives Bear a chance to show readers that all sorts of containers can be used to catch the sap as it drips from the trees. Readers will learn about the type of maple used for syrup making, about the tools used, and then the process of boiling down the sap into maple syrup. Bear does this outside with an open fire and a lot of patience. The end result is sweet, particularly for the impatient pair who have joined Bear throughout the book.
Eaton excels at making nonfiction subjects jovial and great fun. His use of Squirrel and Fox to offer comical asides makes the book great fun to read. Bear herself is knowledgeable and unflappable as she reacts patiently to her friends and buckets with new holes. The information shared here is fascinating and delivered in a way that allows readers to really understand things like why sugar maples are the best for syrup and how many gallons of sap it takes to make a gallon of maple syrup (40!)
The illustrations are bold and colorful, inviting readers into the woods with Bear and showing in detail what the steps are to making maple syrup. Squirrel and Fox peek out from various places on the page, offering their opinions on what is happening.
Funny and factual, this picture book is not syrupy at all. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Maris Wicks (9781626728776)
The team who brought us the Primates graphic novel continue their focus on women in science. This time they tell the story of Mary Cleave and how women were finally able to enter NASA has astronauts. It is the story of hard work and dedication, of insistence on being heard and knowing when to push. It is a story of proving the worth of women, undergoing a battery of tests and still being told no. The tale is a compelling one, a story of politics and science, of women’s right to be seen as valid scientists, engineers and pilots.
There are so many heroines on these pages! Women who changed the course of NASA along the way. Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, is also shown as the space race intensified between the United States and the Soviet Union. Throughout, Cleave narrates the history for the reader, as she floats in space herself, testimony to the progress that would eventually be made. Just as with any fight for equal rights, this one took a lot of time and a lot of women to enact. It is a story worth exploring.
The graphic novel format works particularly well with this subject as the story plays out almost as a documentary across the pages. Wicks makes each woman recognizable on the page as an individual, eventual side-by-side illustrated version and actual photograph show how deeply she connected the images to the actual women.
A stellar look at gender in space and science that is inspiring. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.