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.
Jazz for Lunch! by Jarrett Dapier, illustrated by Eugenia Mello (9781534454088)
A boy heads with their Auntie Nina to a jazz club for lunch. The musicians play while the chefs in the kitchen cook, their sounds mixing together. But it’s so crowded that they can’t get to the front and can’t get any food either. It gets hot too, so the two head out and Auntie Nina has a new plan. The next day, the two of them set up in the kitchen. They listen to jazz on the stereo and start cooking together. There is cinnamon, peanuts, chicken, cheese, and much more, as they name the dishes after jazz icons. Soon it is the boy’s turn to have a drum solo played on the pots and pans. A knock comes on the door, and it’s all of the jazz musicians from the club. They share a great meal together. Now what’s for dinner?
This book cleverly demonstrates the improvisation of jazz music through having to change their plans for the day. That theme is also part of their cooking as their free-flowing style continues there with plenty of style. The text throughout the book has rhyme and rhythm. Dapier uses repetition of the phrase “Jazz for lunch!” throughout the book to great effect.
Mello’s illustrations are filled with bright colors of saffron, tomato, melon and blueberry. The illustrations swirl with movement, whether it is music moving through the air or ingredients dancing into the pan.
A delightful jazz riff on food. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
The author of The Story That Cannot Be Told returns with her second book for middle-grade readers. Essie is scared of a lot of things, so many things that she keeps a list of the things that scare her like cats, electric lights, closets, darkness, and doors. Her mother has remarried after the death of Essie’s father and the two move from where they live in poverty in the Bronx to North Brother Island where Essie’s new stepfather runs a hospital for those with incurable contagious diseases. Of course, Essie is also terrified of disease, and is particularly worried when she learns that Typhoid Mary is a resident of the island. Once on the island, Essie starts to see a girl her age and have nightmares about the red door that leads to the attic, which is just like the one that she has seen in her dreams for years. Essie must follow the clues to see if her new stepfather is conducting horrible experiments on his patients and who the girl is, a process that will force Essie to face all of her fears.
This historical novel for middle-grade readers is a fascinating look at contagious diseases in the past. It is given particular weight given the Covid pandemic, adding to the tension and fears of the book. The setting of North Brother Island plays a large part in the story, giving it a gothic loneliness, foreboding mists, and a marvelous creepiness both due to its landscape and to its purpose as a quarantine hospital.
Essie is a character who changes and grows as the book progresses. At first entirely paralyzed by irrational fears, she slowly reveals the grief and reasons behind her frights. Her willingness to face a ghost along the way, plays against her fearfulness and shows exactly who she is without her shame and grief clouding her world. It’s a complex rendering of a character that is immensely satisfying as she untangles the mystery she finds herself in.
A creepy and ghost-filled read that also offers historical context of our current pandemic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The Finalists for the 2021 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature have been announced by the National Book Foundation. The five finalists are mostly first-time nominees with the exception of Kekla Magoon who has received her second nomination. Here are the finalists:
Mr. Watson lives with Mr. Nelson in a big house in an even bigger city. In their little yard, they kept dogs, cats and three chickens. They started with a sensible number of chickens, but Mr. Watson’s collection quickly grew until they had 456 chickens! Their big house had chickens in every room. One of the chickens, Aunt Agnes, even wrote a song that added to the chaos and noise. She sang it all the time. Finally, Mr. Nelson had had enough and threatened to move out to the chicken coop in the yard if nothing was done. The two of them took the chickens to the county fair to get rid of them. But after an accident sets all of the chickens free, they are forced to gather them all up again. Luckily, their accident proves to be exactly the solution to the chickens.
This picture book shares rollicking rhythms and repetition along with a skillfully told story. Dapier leans into the full chaos of so many chickens. It’s the song that Aunt Agnes writes that really proves to be too much, though young listeners will love it. There is a merriness to the entire book, where the chickens steal the story away from the gay couple who are struggling to adapt and figure out how to take control back from their feathered friends. The human couple caught in the frenzy are a wonderful example of how being gay can be an integral part of a story but not seen as an issue.
Tsurumi’s illustrations have a touch of vintage cartoons mixed with modern elements. She shows the wild world of the chickens with details that are great fun to look at. There is even one double-page spread of the county fair where readers can search for the last chicken. She layers additional visual jokes and humor onto a story that is already great fun.
A funny feathery frantic tale of pets that get out of control. Appropriate for ages 3-5.