Category: Book Reviews

Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

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)

This book of poetry for children is written by two authors, Irene Latham who is white and Charles Waters who is African-American. The two create a fictional setting where they attended school with one another and were assigned to be partners in a poetry-writing assignment. The poems here explore hair, families, church, shoes, and hobbies but most of all they explore race in America. Told in alternating voices, the poems show  each of the authors as children and are based on real childhood experiences.

In this book, there is a feeling of safety to explore difficult subjects that the poetry itself creates. The characters are not perfect, sometimes saying the wrong thing or reacting the wrong way. Their trust in one another builds and readers can see that through their growing friendship they are learning to reach out to other children who are different from themselves too. The writing in each voice is exceptional, the two authors are clearly different but also work together to create a unified whole for readers to enjoy.

The illustrations by Alko and Qualls are wonderful, offering just the right details to support each of the poems and reflecting the emotional quality in the poem they accompany. Done in acrylic paint, colored pencil and collage, the illustrations are rich and organic, filled with dancing words and swirls.

A book that invites conversation, this one belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Netgalley and Carolrhoda Books.

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

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

Released January 23, 2018.

Mason is the biggest kid in his grade and it doesn’t help that he’s also the sweatiest. To make matters worse, he has dyslexia and trouble with reading and writing. His family has gone through a series of tragedies with his mother dying and then his best friend falling out of a tree house in Mason’s family orchard. Since his death, Mason has been trying to tell the police his side of the story, but he can’t write it down and the officer interrupts him and makes it all confusing. Now Mason has a new best friend, one he made when running from the neighborhood bullies who throw balls and apples at them as they get off the bus. The two create a club house for themselves in an abandoned root cellar behind Mason’s house. But trouble seems to find Mason, and soon there is a a new tragedy to overcome.

Connor writes books that soar and are completely heartfelt, this book is another of those. Connor looks at what grief does to a family, the time that it takes to recover and what happens when a series of incidents occur to the same family and they can’t return to normal. Still, there is hope in every day things. There is hope in the clean kitchen, NPR playing, banana milkshakes. There is hope in good dogs, new friends and people surprising you. Connor’s book shines with that hope, despite the clutter of their life, the dirt on the carpet, the laundry on the floor.

Mason too shines with hope and honesty. He is an unlikely hero with his size and his sweat. And yet, readers will immediately see beyond that. They will see Mason as a friend and a source of protection and care. Readers will also figure things out well before Mason does, including the fact that he is suspected of contributing to his best friend’s death.

Filled with heart and hope, this is a wonderful read. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Harper Collins.

Write to Me by Cynthia Grady

Write to Me by Cynthia Grady

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao (9781580896887)

This nonfiction picture book tells the true story of a librarian who stayed in touch with the children she served even after they were moved forcibly away. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were sent to prison camps. As a librarian in San Diego, Clara Breed served many children of Japanese descent. Before the children left, she gave them books and postcards to correspond with her. While they were gone, she continued to send them small things, even visiting once and delivering boxes of books. The children wrote to her during the three years they were gone as she offered them a way to stay connected to the outside world.

This book shows the Japanese internment in a way that children will understand. The letters shared in the book are excerpts from actual children’s letters written to Miss Breed during this time. They reflect the different ages of the children, their focus on everyday moments and their strong connection to books and their librarian. It is a book that shows how importance and life changing kindness is.

The illustrations  are done in pencil on paper and have a softness and glow to them. They do not shrink from showing the desolation of the internment camps and the sorrow and fear of those being placed in them.

A very timely nonfiction book that will show young readers a horrific point in American history and how just one person can make a difference. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Charlesbridge and Edelweiss.

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (9781616958473)

Maya is a young documentary-film maker who longs to go to NYU for college, but her traditional Indian parents want her to go to college much closer to home, even better if she can live at home while she attends school. As a senior in high school, Maya spends her time making short documentary films and hanging out with her best friend, Violet. She has a crush on a boy at school, Phil, someone whom her parents would never approve of. When she meets a very appropriate boy though, the spark just isn’t there. Meanwhile, something awful is about to happen and when it does, Maya finds her family and herself a target of hate crimes and Islamophobia. Maya will have to find a way to make her plans for her future come true at the same time she stands up to others who would silence her.

This teen novel is wonderfully readable. It invites readers into Maya’s world, demonstrating the way that she sees her experiences through the lens of films. Readers will also learn about Indian culture, but the focus is on Maya as an individual. She struggles with parental expectations and the hate crimes of modern America. Though at times it has the feel of a Bollywood romance, there is no softening of the hate that is aimed at Maya and her family, much to the author’s credit.

The book reads at first as a pure romance, with a bit too much blushing and twinkling eyes. It really gains strength when the suicide bombing happens and Maya’s family is targeted due to their last name. The pace at this point turns from dreamy romance to drama and tension. The violence towards Maya and her family has repercussions deep into Maya’s future plans that force her to make a very difficult decision. While the book eventually returns to a more romantic tone, the tension never truly disappears again.

Deftly plotted and well written, this book is an important look at diversity in America. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Soho Teen.

2017 Top Picture Books

After the Fall by Dad Santat

After the Fall by Dan Santat

A traditional tale retold into something very special.

 

All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson

All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson

A brilliant book to share aloud, this picture book is wild and free.

All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle

 

All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato

Engle’s skill with writing fills the page with the richness of Cuba and its cars.

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff

 

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff

An import from Brazil, this book has a low key vibe that is full of laid back joy.

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins

 

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins

This is a natural read aloud that will be a wild one to share with a preschool group. Brace yourself for lots of laughs.

Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper

 

Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper

Simple and insightful, this book is solid and true.

Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus

Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Awe inspiring, patriotic and grand, this picture book is superb.

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

Creative, inviting and a gorgeous book to explore, this picture book will have everyone trying art even if they make mistakes.

 

Crown An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

…exceptional, a book that belongs in every public library in every community.

 

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui

Told with grace and strength, this picture book is wondrous.

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

A special book that looks at those delicate moments before the birth of a new baby, this picture book celebrates family and storms.

little-fox-in-the-forest-by-stephanie-graegin

Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin

This genre bending graphic-novel picture book is beautiful, rich and worthy of journeying through time and again.

Little Wolf's First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee

 

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J Muth

Mama Lion Wins the Race by Jon J. Muth

A truly special picture book, this one is for those kids who love racing and those who love toys and those who love a great read.

My Pictures After the Storm by Éric Veillé

My Pictures After the Storm by Éric Veillé

Much more than a concept book, this is a funny and wry look at the chaos of life before and after.

Now by Antoinette Portis

Now by Antoinette Portis

Perfect for those of us who love the book we are reading right now most of all, this picture book is about simple pleasures and enjoying the current moment fully.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

A great book to read and then set off on outdoor adventures together on a rainy day.

The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead

 

The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

A wet and rainy riot of a picture book that is sure to make even the dampest child smile.

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy

 

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Strong, vital and important, this picture book is a great pick to read aloud and discuss.

Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani

Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani

A winning cat-filled counting book.

This House Once by Deborah Freedman

This House, Once by Deborah Freedman

 

Tony by Ed Galing

Tony by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

A lovely poetic picture book that slows you down to another time and place.

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Even as the book shows a richness of a well-spent childhood, it is overshadowed by the presence of the coal mine in the boy’s life and how it impacted his family and his father in particular.

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

A war-torn book that speaks to the power of history and knowledge along with resistance and resilience.

 

When_s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano

When’s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Fogliano uses rhythm and internal rhymes to give the book a fast paced structure that almost sings. It is quick and funny and infectious.

 

Why Am I Me by Paige Britt

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Aiko

This picture book is a great way to start a discussion with a class or single child. Perfect for public libraries in search for diverse picture books that invite children to think deeply about the subject.

Windows by Julia Denos

 

Windows by Julia Denos

There is a lovely quiet to this book, a pleasure in being outside at sunset, the sky lit with colors as the buildings turn dark with windows alight.

wolf-in-the-snow-by-matthew-cordell

 

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

A beautiful look at nature and wolves and the way that kindness can build bridges without words.

The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett

The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

The story has a mix of fun and fate that will have readers guessing right up until the end.

Yo Soy, Muslim by Mark Gonzales

Yo Soy, Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

 

A great diverse picture book for all libraries.

2017 Top Teen Books

NotYouPrincess

#NotYourPrincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Beautiful, angry and insistent, this collection of the voices of Native women belongs on the shelves of every library serving teens.

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Start with the first in the series, because you don’t want to miss a moment of this intoxicating blend of fantasy, horror and Nigeria.

allegedly-by-tiffany-d-jackson

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Complex and riveting, this debut novel is one that is dazzling, deep and dark.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Beautifully written with strong characters and danger, this book is exceptional.

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

I hope you find it just as compelling and wondrous as I did. Enjoy!

city-of-saints-and-thieves-by-natalie-c-anderson

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

A thriller of a teen novel, this book has a unique setting and one dynamic female protagonist bent on revenge.

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden

An important book on a little-known episode during the Civil War, this book is intensely personal and a dangerous mix of romance and horror.

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

Complicated and incredibly poignant, this novel for teens rocks.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Perhaps one of the greatest things about this book, though there are many great elements is Zappia’s portrayal of introverts. There is a coziness here, a feeling of safety in the pages, as if they are forming a critical spot for introverts to bloom, just like an online community.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

This is an exceptional teen novel and definitely one of the best of the year.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This debut novel is breathtakingly honest, searingly angry and exactly what we need right now. I can’t wait to see what this author does next!

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

A powerful and wildly funny look at sexuality, this novel makes me hope that future books in the series will be told from the perspectives of the other friends in the group.

a-list-of-cages-by-robin-roe

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

A stunning debut novel that is deeply moving and wondrously hopeful.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

A very special book for teens, this book is diverse and filled with moments of triumph and pain.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Moving and deep, this verse novel is one of the best. Get this into the hands of teens, particularly reluctant readers who will discover they love poetry after all.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Engrossing, intelligent and incredibly rich, this novel for teens is truly exceptional.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

This book raises its voice for feminism and fighting back. It’s a book for all genders and all libraries.

piecing-me-together-by-renee-watson

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Powerful, strong and filled with writing that calls for action, this book is simply stellar.

Release by Patrick Ness

Release by Patrick Ness

A successful and sexy mix of LGBT realism and magic, this novel is a delight.

a-single-stone-by-meg-mckinlay

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

Strong writing and a delicious tension make this book a stand out teen fantasy.

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Throughout the book, there are questions asked that are deep, about wealth and poverty, about privilege and race, about addiction and recovery, about parenting and failure. This is a rich book filled with lots to discover and discuss.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

A book that celebrates individuality, art and survival, this novel is fresh and deeply moving.

Stone Mirrors by Jeannine Atkins

Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins

Timely and simply amazing, this verse novel is uplifting and deeply moving.

we-are-okay-by-nina-lacour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

One of the best young adult books on loss and grief that I have ever read, this one will find a place in your heart.

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

A triumph of a novel for teens that celebrates family, diversity and love.

2017 Top Board Books

32666685

Baby’s First Words by Stella Blackstone and Sunny Scribens, illustrated by Christiane Engel

The entire book is merry and bright, just right for all families to enjoy.

Before & After

Before & After by Jean Jullien

This book is silly and fun and will result in lots of conversation with little ones.

32792738

Cook in a Book: Pizza! By Lotta Nieminen

Make sure to have some baking supplies ready to make pizza with children after sharing this one. Yum!

Flora and the Chicks by Molly Idle

Flora and the Chicks by Molly Idle

A charming counting book sure to please.

33160332

Flora and the Ostrich by Molly Idle

Expect the youngest Flora fans to adore this one.

Hello Humpback!

Hello Humpback by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd

This is an exceptional board book that belongs in all public libraries.

Lines

Lines by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Melinda Beck

A simple concept book about shapes that shows how our entire universe features squares and circles.

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Opposite Surprise by Agnese Baruzzi

This is a board book that begs to be shared and talked about.

The World Shines for You by Jeffrey Burton

The World Shines for You by Jeffrey Burton, illustrated by Don Clark

A great book to share aloud with one or two children and discuss the pictures together. There is so much to explore here!