This picture book forms a way for younger children to benefit from the information shared in The 1619 Project. In this story, a Black girl is given an assignment in class to trace her family history. She can only trace three generations back and tells her grandmother that she is ashamed. So her grandmother shares the history of her family before slavery when they lived in West Central Africa. Her family spoke Kimbundu and were good with their hands and used them for growing things, inventing, mixing herbs, building tools, and caring for babies. They danced to offer worship, to share joy, and to mourn. Then they were stolen, taken from their families and lands, stamped with new names. They fought back, some refused to eat and chose to die on the journey, others survived. They had to learn a new language, form a new people, and survive the brutality of slavery. From that history have come generations of Black Americans who have changed our nation for the better. There is nothing to be ashamed of, take pride in this history of resilience and hope.
The focus of this picture book is to share the history of Black Americans in this country, showing how a deep history in the cultures of Africa are their origins. The book doesn’t flinch from the darkness of the Middle Passage or the horrors of slavery. These are also sources of pride for children reading the book, who may have been made to feel ashamed of where they came from. Written with a poetic touch, the entire book is filled with hope even in its darkest points. Throughout there is a sense of resilience and power, a knowledge that ancestors survived.
The illustrations carry readers through history. They show the rich cultures in Africa and the beauty of what was lost. They show slavery but not without hope shining in the sky above. They share connections, new families forming, and children who are a promise for the future. They show resistance, an insistence on change, a focus on the future continuing to carry us forward.
Powerful and important, this book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
This picture book celebrates the life of Pura Belpré, librarian and storyteller. From a young age, Pura loved stories, particularly those that her Abuela told her. As an adult she moved from Puerto Rico to New York, where she first dreams of being a librarian. Soon Pura is hired at the library and works as the storyteller. But she is bound by rules such as only sharing stories written in books. But the stories she grew up hearing were not written down in English. Pura shows the how storytelling can be more than is in books, and gets permission to tell her stories in her own way. Pura also finds ways to bring in children who had not been coming into the library, children who spoke different languages and were new to America. Finally, Pura manages to put her stories into a book, one that reminds her of the taste of home.
Through lyrical prose, this picture book shows the power of stories as they cross borders. It also shows the impact of one woman, determined not to lose her stories and how she changed public libraries and their services to children permanently. It is beautiful to see a biography for young children that captures the elements of Pura’s stories and her own personality of determination but also one of joy and playfulness.
The illustrations are filled with that spirit of play. They capture the spark of storytelling, the dance of movement, and the wonder of children entering the library for the first time. Done in the colors of citrus, papaya, guava and mango, they suit Pura’s stories and herself.
An inspiring biography of the librarian who changed the rules for generations to come. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Written by a Spanish geologist, this nonfiction picture book explores how a million fossilized oysters can possibly be found on a mountaintop. The book begins with exploring several landscape scenes, pointing out how simple it is to ignore the rocks that make up our world. The book moves from a child discovering an oyster shell on a hilltop and also explores various scientific discoveries in geology as the reason for the oysters is explained. Concepts such as strata in the earth, the immense length of geological time, and the movements of tectonic plates are explored and explained. Readers will leave with a great understanding of our changing world, much of which may have been underwater long before.
In this Spanish import, the writing by Nogues is what makes this book work so well. His tone is one of wonder and discovery. He writes from the perspective of discovering a new question, forming a hypothesis and then fully explaining the scientific terms and findings. The book offers a great look at geology and earth science for young children, never speaking down to them, instead explaining and lifting their understanding of the world upwards.
The illustrations are filled with earth tones and green punctuated by the whites of bones, fossils and oyster shells. Many of the illustrations help to give context to scientific concepts in a playful way. The scenes include children discovering fossils, exploring redwood trees, and much more.
A fascinating look at the transformations our earth has undergone. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans Publishing Company.
This nonfiction picture book explores African American history by connecting it to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The book starts with Africa during a time of war when people disappeared or were sold. The history continues as they are taken into slavery, landing in places like South Carolina, Hispaniola and Brazil. Some escaped while those who could not escape found a common language and unity. People today remember the days of slavery, seeing that they have self-determination to change the nation. When slavery ended, the Great Migration came along with music on the streets and in churches, showing their collective work and responsibility. The history continues with examples of places that Black people created themselves and Black people who were successful, showing the principle of cooperative economics. Purpose came with voting rights, marches for civil rights, and the grief and hate of lynching. Creativity is shown again and again with music, dance, writing and more. The book ends with faith, a commitment not to forget and to carry forward with hope for change.
This Zoboi’s picture book debut. Her writing is exceptional, an ode to African Americans and their collective impact on the world. Using the Kwanzaa principles to guide the structure of the book works well, as the book naturally forms into seven sections. Zoboi uses a repeating structure of the various African tribes who were taken to America as slaves. In these sections and throughout, there is a call to Black pride, to seeing oneself as survivors and removing any shame from the narrative. Zoboi works to clearly draw the connection between history and today, showing the continuum that reaches backward and forward.
Wise’s illustrations are filled with lush colors, depicting connections between modern times and history. Their art is flat and graphic, almost poster like in its powerful simplicity. Each one could be framed and used to call out a movement or moment in history.
Powerful, unflinching and important. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
This nonfiction picture book explores the world of the fox in beautiful photographs. The text is a mixture of a very simple storyline of finding a fox combined with detailed facts about foxes and their adaptability in a changing world. The book looks at when it is best to find a fox, such as time of day or season. It goes on to describe what a fox looks like and what to look for when finding their tracks. You can also listen for yips or other noises. But most importantly, you must try to be very quiet and hope that a fox might just find you!
The text of the book is well-written and full of interesting foxy facts. Children will want not only the simple story but to hear about the details of the fox’s life and how to find one themselves. The premise of the book alone is an invitation that is almost impossible to turn away from.
From the cover and through the entire book, the photographs are the focus. They marvelously capture the fox with clarity and a real feeling for their character. There are images where the fox is lit by the sun where you can almost sink your fingers into their fur. Other pages have the fox looking right at the reader with undeniable intelligence. Simply beautiful.
One of the most enticing and gorgeous animal books of the year. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Running Press Kids.
Sona lives in a home with lots of family members and others who stop by regularly. There is her mother and father, Thatha, her grandfather, Paatti, her grandmother, and The President who lives in the neighborhood. There is also Elephant, her best friend, and a toy she has had since she was tiny. When Amma, Sona’s mother, tells her that she is expecting a new baby, Sona isn’t so sure that it’s good news. She will have to share her room and her things with the new baby. Sona wants badly to be the best big sister ever, but sometimes her emotions get in the way. She has a chance to help pick the perfect name for the new baby, but she may just wait too long in the end.
Perfectly pitched for young readers, this early chapter book is a glimpse of life in India with rickshaws to get to school, jasmine in the garden, and pooris for a snack. Sona’s reaction to a new baby is just right, an honest mixture of wanting to participate and also resenting what she may lose too. The extended family plays a large part in giving Sona both the attention and the space she needs to process her feelings without making her ashamed along the way.
The illustrations add to the depiction of life in India, capturing the connection of the family members, shared meals, and crowded streets. The images are full of warmth and love.
A look at the emotions of a new baby combined with a visit to India. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
This second Skunk and Badger story returns us to the cozy world of rocks and chickens that the two unlikely friends have created together. Badger is enjoying exploring his rocks again, but the loss of his Spider Eye Agate as a youngster still saddens him. It was stolen by his cousin, Fisher, long ago. Meanwhile, Skunk is trying to stop fretting about the New Yak Times Book Review being stolen by Mr. G. Hedgehog, who seems to have discovered where Skunk is living now. Skunk and Badger set off on a camping trip to find a replacement agate. Complete with overfilled packs, lovely meals, firelight, dark adventures, and arch nemeses, this book is all one could ask for those who love these characters, and chickens!
Timberlake is creating a series with a strong vintage vibe that feels like classic children’s literature. She uses a lot of humor, varying from near slapstick to subtle commentary. Along with the humor, she offers two characters with lots of heart, who care deeply for one another while still having their own passions and interests. There are so many lovely moments of connection, realization and great lunches. Add in a weaselly Fisher who has even bigger thievery plans, and this is a warm and rollicking look at a growing friendship.
Klassen’s illustrations break up the text nicely for young readers, offering occasional full-page images in black and white. He captures seminal moments in the story, such as Skunk and Badger on their porch watching the rain fall down and the dark and brightness of a newly discovered cave.
A winning second book in a great series for children that is perfect to share at bedtime. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Algonquin Young Readers.
As a child, Kitty O’Neil loved to go fast. She loved running, riding on the lawn mower with her father, and swimming and diving. Though she lost her hearing due to a childhood fever, it never slowed Kitty down. Kitty grew up to be a stuntwoman in movies. She also set records as the fastest water skier and boat racer. Then Kitty set her sights on being the fastest driver. Her car was called the Motivator and it was rocket powered, capable of going over 300 mph, if Kitty could steer it at that speed. The woman’s land speed record at the time was 308 mph. Kitty went 618 mph! She became an American hero in the 1970’s even having an action figure made in her likeness. Kitty continued to be a champion of children with disabilities and held records in an incredible range of sports.
Robbins’ book about Kitty O’Neil is just as fast paced as her records. His writing is brisk, opening the book with Kitty in her rocket car and closing the book with her record drive. This frames the story very successfully, as young readers will want to know what happens on that historic drive. Robbins also captures the breathlessness of the countdowns, the danger of the drive, and Kitty’s own fearlessness. It’s a marvelous rocket read of a book just right for the subject.
The art, done in pencil, watercolor, acrylic and digital, get readers right into the cockpit with O’Neil. They capture her joy at going fast and breaking records. With bright colors, they also show the dynamic moments of the countdowns, the acceleration, the determination and the eventual win.
A wild ride of book about a deaf woman driver who became a hero. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.