Review: Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico 

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico 

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic HIstory of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico (9780399581793)

Take a trip back through women’s history to discover queens, warriors, suffragettes, and much more! This graphic novel is set in the future and has a computer instructor who takes a group of girls back in time to understand the basis of women’s rights around the world. The book starts by looking deep into human history with the Assyrians, Mesopotamians, Eqyptians, Greeks and much more. The book then shows how the rise of the patriarchy eclipsed early women’s rights and replaced it with much more like what we see still today. The book moves forward in time, taking female rulers and warriors from around the world. There is also an exploration of civil rights as well as LGBTQ rights in the book that increases the representation of diverse experiences even farther. 

Kendall’s writing could have simply become a lengthy list of women from history, but she weaves a deeper narrative throughout. It also helps that she includes history as far back as she does. The supportive nature of those early societies is likely to surprise modern readers. Kendall works with intentionality to offer as diverse a cross-section of women as she can. They come from all over the world and represent many different countries, continents and races. Even more impressive is the way that Kendall is frank about the shortcomings of many of the women, acknowledging openly their open racism or unwillingness to challenge the status quo for others besides themselves. 

The art is great. The number of portraits in the book is daunting in its scope. Those women who are familiar visually are recognizable immediately. The additional information on each woman also offers vibrant images of their lives. The more tragic events are documented in more subtle tones, offering a visual cue that something dire has happened. 

A stellar graphic piece of nonfiction. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

Best Middle Grade Fiction 2019

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker

A fresh mix of mystery, art and secrets, this book is full of vibrant colors and not just Greys.

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy

Pancholy, an Indian-American actor, has written a compelling and heart-wrenching middle grade novel that deserves applause.

The Bridge to Home by Padma Venkatraman

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

Venkatraman has created a tale that doesn’t soften the dangers and difficulties of children living on the streets of India. At the same time though, she doesn’t allow the story to be dismal, instead she shows how the smallest things can give joy.

Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

A heart-wrenching novel of abuse, recovery and learning to fly

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

This book is all about giving people second (and even third) chances, including yourself.

eventown by corey ann haydu

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

It is idyllic and eerie, a Stepford version of childhood. Horror is sidestepped neatly here, instead becoming a book about empowerment and making your own choices while asking important questions.

genesis begins again by alicia d. williams

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

In this debut novel, Williams writes with a strong voice, taking on difficult topics including verbal abuse, racism, skin tone, alcoholism and co-dependency in an unflinching way.

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Inspired by Filipino folklore, this is an amazing novel by a Newbery-award winning author.

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

A brilliant debut that is rich, layered and shows that connection to nature can allow one to weather new storms.

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

This one deserves a medal. Period. It’s one of those books that reads so easily, since it’s written with such skill.

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

A grand adventure of a book full of magic and girl power.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Beautifully written with an amazing Syrian heroine at its center, this book is a great read.

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

Another brilliant read from a gifted author, this one offers an extraordinary perspective on World War II.

pay attention, carter jones by gary d. schmidt

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt 

Schmidt takes the spirit of Nanny McPhee and Mary Poppins and gives us a male version in Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick.

A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata

A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Julia Kuo

Kadohata’s novel for children tells the untold story of Japanese Americans forced to repatriate to their country of origin and renounce their American citizenship. It also gives an unflinching look at the aftermath of World War II in Japan, particularly with its setting near Hiroshima.

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

Kramer’s middle-grade novel is nearly impossible to summarize because it is so layered and has such depth.

Strange Birds A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez.jpg

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez

Perez’s writing is just as marvelous as in her first book. There is a freshness about it, one that allows readers to quickly enter the world that Perez has created for them.

The Year We Fell from Space by Amy Sarig King

The Year We Fell from Space by Amy Sarig King

A powerful look at divorce, grief and coming to terms with life.

2020 Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers

YALSA has announced the 2020 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list. The full list contains 64 titles and includes books “aimed at encouraging reading among teens who dislike to read for any reason.” This list tends to have great recommendations for library collections that may have been missed in review journals.

The panel also selected a Top Ten:

10 Blind Dates

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Belly Up

Belly Up by Eva Darrows

The Haunted (The Haunted, #1)

The Haunted by Danielle Vega

Heroine

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Kiss Number 8

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable

Pumpkinheads

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, art by Faith Erin Hicks

Two Can Keep a Secret

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

The Unfortunates

The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett

Unpregnant (Unpregnant, #1)

UNpregnant by Jenni Hendricks and Ted Caplan

We Are Displaced

We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls around the World by Malala Yousafzai

 

 

Best Poetry Books 2019

Climbing Shadows by Shannon Bramer

Climbing Shadows: Poems for Children by Shannon Bramer, illustrated by Cindy Derby

One of the most original and surprising books of poetry for children, this one is worth exploring.

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

An incredible work of poetry and art, this one should win awards.

I Remember Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins 

The poems and illustrations in this book are very impressive. As they play through the authors’ memories of their childhoods and the variety of emotions those memories evoke, the reader gets the pleasure of visiting each author’s experience.

Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever

Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen

A very successful mix of poetry and science, this one is sure to be preyed upon by hungry readers in classrooms and activities.

Rain by Anders Holmer

Rain by Anders Holmer 

The haiku poems range from solemn to merry, some carrying serious weight and others lighter. They mirror the weather, some with lightning and dark clouds while others fill with pink petals and friendship.

Snowman - Cold = Puddle Spring Equations by Laura Purdie Salas

Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Micha Archer

A winning mix of poetry and science, this is a book that captures the wonder of spring.

Trees by Verlie Hutchens

Trees by Verlie Hutchens, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong

A total of fourteen trees are highlighted here in free verse, each one embracing the unique nature of that tree with clarity and brevity.

Review: From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (9780062875853)

This debut middle-grade novel is a stellar look at family, taking risks and doing what you know is right despite opposition from those you love. Returning from her twelfth birthday party at a bakery, Zoe discovers a letter from her father, a man she’s never met. Zoe knows that her father went to prison for murder, but that’s about it. Zoe is sure that her mother won’t let her write back to her father, but Zoe decides to do it behind her back and soon the two are corresponding. When Zoe’s grandmother discovers that the two of them are in touch, she doesn’t object and helps Zoe continue, also letting her speak to Marcus on the phone at her house. Marcus claims that he is innocent of the crime he’s been convicted of and at first Zoe isn’t sure whether to believe him or not, then her grandmother agrees that she has always thought he was innocent. Now Zoe decides that she can find the alibi witness Marcus’ lawyer was unable to locate for his trial. It’s just going to take even more lying to her family.

Marks writing is delectable. She moves seamlessly between writing about Zoe’s interest in baking and her time spent in a professional bakery helping out and then the mystery and drama of Marcus’ crime and his potential innocence. Her depiction of Zoe is deftly done, creating a truly multidimensional character who is juggling her own dreams, problems with her closest friend, and now communicating with her birth father. All of these elements could have been jarring but come together as a perfectly baked treat.

Race is definitely a powerful element in this middle-grade novel where Zoe’s exploration of men falsely convicted of crimes speaks about how many are African-American men. Zoe’s own family is multi-racial, and she is aware of the negative attention that brings even in their large community of Boston. 

A novel that’s not afraid to ask deep questions and seek answers. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

Review: Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards

Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards

Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards, illustrated by Claire Almon (9781250156075)

When two very different girls get together for a play date, it turns out their dolls are just as different. Penelope is a very sweet princess with a tea set and a pony. Penny is a secret agent with a motorcycle. When danger arrives outside the castle, Penny rushes forward. She defeats the crocodile in the moat and then moves on to take out the werewolf lurking in the woods. Soon Penny and Penelope are riding together on the motorcycle trying to escape, but the werewolf makes its way into the castle tower. It turns out that a princess might be just right for taking out a werewolf as long as she has a cunning plan!

Written entirely in dialogue between the two girls, this book has a breezy quality that makes it perfect for reading aloud. Their voices merge with those of their dolls, and are shown on the page in different colors and fonts. There is a certain amount of doubt in the beginning about whether they want to play together, but as their imaginations take over the adventure begins and both dolls are right in the mix of things. The notion that girls can be secret agents, princesses, robots and more resonates clearly here, and the book celebrates all of the options equally.

Almon’s illustrations are bright and bold. They celebrate both the dazzling gown of the princess doll and the slick leather of the secret agent. The action is captured nicely as are the differences between both girls and their dolls.

This playful picture book is just right for your little princess or secret agent. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells Jan 10

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

18 2020 children’s books you’ll want on your reading list this year – Romper

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas author defends work from criticism by Auschwitz memorial – The Guardian

Eoin Colfer on returning to Artemis Fowl – The Guardian Podcast

Fall 2019 flying starts: we spotlight six notable children’s and YA debuts this season – Publisher’s Weekly

Newbery, Caldecott and perspectives on excellence – Reading While White

Raina Telgemeier: The Comics Industry Person of the Decade – The Beat

This teacher was worried children weren’t getting bedtime stories. So she began reading them – on Facebook – The Washington Post

EBOOKS

The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came. – Vox

Why the second-hand ebook market may never take off – Fortune

LIBRARIES

In library renovations, when do discussions of accessibility arise? – Book Riot

Tucson library offering homeless patrons food, resources – Houston Chronicle

Why many libraries are eliminating late fees – Forbes

YA LIT

48 YA book releases to look out for in 2020 – The Nerd Daily

50+ YA books starring queer girls hitting shelves in 2020 – Book Riot

Dash & Lily: Netflix orders holiday rom-com series based on YA books – Sunrise Read

In Conversation: Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed – Publisher’s Weekly

Winter 2020 YA books: 175+ January-March new releases to TBR – Book Riot

YALSA names 2020 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults – YALSA

2019 Costa Book Awards

The winners in each of the categories of the 2019 Costa Book Awards have been announced. These category winners for this UK prize then to on to compete for overall book of the year, which will be announced on January 28th. Here is the winner of the Children’s Award along with the rest of the shortlist:

WINNER

Asha & the Spirit Bird

Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

 

SHORTLIST

Crossfire (Noughts & Crosses, #5) Furious Thing

Crossfire by Malorie Blackman

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham

In the Shadow of Heroes

In the Shadow of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling

 

Best Graphic Novels 2019

Bloom by Kevin Panetta

Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau

The baking scenes as they two work together are the epitome of romantic scenes, showing their connection to one another long before it fully emerges in the story.

Cicada by Shaun Tan

Cicada by Shaun Tan

An incredible book for teens, this one is sad, surprising and uplifting.

I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib

I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib

A diverse and funny look at families, race and America.

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

A stellar graphic novel for teens that is filled with LGBTQ pride.

Laura Dean Keep Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki

Laura Dean Keep Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell 

This graphic novel beautifully captures a captivating but toxic romantic and sexual relationship.

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

A fantasy romance graphic novel worth falling for.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

New Kid by Jerry Craft

This is one of the best books for middle school age that deals with microaggressions, bias, privilege, and racism. Given that it is a graphic novel too, that makes it all the more appealing as a source for discussion.

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Steinkellner’s debut graphic novel for youth is a delightful mix of diversity and magic. While comparisons can be made with other teen witches, this book stands entirely on its own.

Operatic by Kyo Maclear

Operatic by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler

A middle grade graphic novel that focuses on the power of music and opera? Yes please!

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

These two very talented teen book creators have designed an amazing graphic novel together.

Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis

Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis

The pairing of an imaginative world with roots in real history makes for an incredible read.

Stargazing by Jen Wang

Stargazing by Jen Wang

Award-winning graphic novelist Wang invites readers into a personal story about growing up Chinese-American.

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

This graphic novel is amazing. It has a sense of wonder throughout from the very moment the lanterns are set afloat to the final pages of the book.

Your Turn, Adrian by Helena Oberg

Your Turn, Adrian by Helena Oberg, illustrated by Kristin Lidstrom, translated by Eva Apelqvist 

An incredibly moving graphic novel that invites readers to see beyond a person’s surface.