The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard

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The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard (9781945820687)

This graphic novel offers a series of strange and tantalizing short stories sure to give readers the shivers. Set in ordinary places like the beach, on a farm, and near a lake, these stories take the mundane and make it strange and horrifying. From a lonely girl who discovers the terrifying truth of what happened on the farm next door to a young girl who meets a boy on the beach who becomes her best friend but who only comes out at night, these stories invite readers to look under the surface to the darkness and weirdness that lurks there. The stories also ask whether monsters are kind or cruel, and how we know what a monster actually is. Some people trust too much, others too little and some find a new path.

I’m a huge fan of Howard’s 2020 graphic novel The Last Halloween: Children. She uses the same gorgeous pen and ink illustrations here, once again creating a world adjacent to our own that is bewildering and yet familiar. Her skill with storytelling is clear as she creates one tale after the other, stringing them together into a beautiful yet horrifying collection that can’t be put down.

She manages to quickly bring us into each story with both her text and her illustrations, showing us at first how normal each scene is and then swiftly ripping that away. It’s a pleasure to experience each reveal, timed just right for maximum impact and then to have the story play out in unexpected and surprising ways.

A great graphic novel for teen horror fans. Best read after dark. Appropriate for ages 13-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Iron Circus Comics.

2021 CILIP Carnegie & Greenaway Longlists

The longlists for the 2021 CILIP Carnegie and Greenaway Awards have been announced. The Carnegie Medal is the UK’s oldest book award. Judged by children’s librarians, the award recognizes “outstanding achievement in children’s writing.” The longlist for the Kate Greenaway medal was also announced, an award that recognizes the best illustrations in a book for children. Here are the longlisted titles:


After the War: From Auschwitz to Ambleside

After the War by Tom Palmer

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly (And The Stars Were Burning Brightly, #1)

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

Burn by Patrick Ness

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Deathless Girls

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham

The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

In the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido (American title is slightly different)

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

On Midnight Beach

On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Run, Rebel

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann

The Short Knife

The Short Knife by Elen Caldecott

Somebody Give This Heart a Pen by Sophia Thakur

The Space We’re In by Katya Balen, illustrated by Laura Carlin


Arlo the Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep by Catherine Rayner

The Bird Within Me

The Bird Within Me, illustrated by Sara Lundberg and translated by BJ Epstein

The Child of Dreams

The Child of Dreams, illustrated by Richard Jones, written by Irena Brignull

Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka

The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers

The Girl Who Became a Tree. illustrated by Kate Milner. written by Joseph Coelho

Hidden Planet by Ben Rothery

Hike by Pete Oswald

How the Stars Came To Be

How the Stars Came to Be by Poonam Mistry

I Go Quiet by David Ouimet

It's a no-money day

It’s a No-Money Day by Kate Milner

Just Because, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, written by Mac Barnett

Lights on Wonder Rock

Lights on Cotton Rock by David Litchfield (American title is slightly different)

The Misadventures of Frederick

The Misadventures of Frederick, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark, written by Ben Manley

My Nana’s Garden, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, written by Dawn Casey

Small in the City by Sydney Smith


Starbird by Sharon King-Chai

Tibble and Grandpa

Tibble and Grandpa, illustrated by Daniel Egneus, written by Wendy Meddour

Where Happiness Begins by Eva Eland

The Wind in the Wall

The Wind in the Wall, illustrated by Rovena Cai, written by Sally Gardner

Stella’s Stellar Hair by Yesenia Moises

Stella’s Stellar Hair by Yesenia Moises (9781250261779)

Stella’s hair was not doing what she wanted at all. It was the day of the Big Star Little Gala, so Stella wanted her hair to be special. Her mother suggested that Stella visit her Aunt Ofelia who lived on Mercury for a special style. So Stella hopped onto her hoverboard and headed over. Aunt Ofelia gave her a soft and elegant style, but Stella wasn’t sure it worked for her. Next she visited Aunt Alma on Venus, who created a straight lion’s mane style that took up too much space. Then she tried Aunt Rubi on Mars who gave her a crown of hair that was a bit too much for Stella. Auntie Cielo on Jupiter splashed around while Aunt Iris on Saturn gave Stella space buns. On Uranus, her twin aunts, twisted and braided. Neptune’s visit got her waves. Finally, Stella ended up with her Aunt Solana near the sun, who encouraged her to see her wild hair as a positive. Stella finally incorporated all of the elements of her aunt’s styles into her own plus some of her very own curls too.

Full of positivity, this book celebrates the many, many ways that Black hair can be styled with real flair. It’s great to see a science fiction picture book that focuses on a Black girl exploring the universe and visiting Black women for support. The ending with a focus on individuality and self-expression sets just the right tone of encouragement too. Turn to the back of the book for some information on the different planets in our solar system.

The art is bright and vibrant with the various Black women characters wearing their hair in all sorts of colors and styles. It’s great and funny to see them each style Stella in their own preferred style, until she reaches the final aunt who tells her to be herself.

Inclusive and vibrant, this book explains that we all need to simply be proud of who we are and what our hair does. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Macmillan.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – Feb. 19


Children’s book author Matt de la Pena tells it like it is – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Diverse children’s books that aren’t about diversity – HuffPost

The most anticipated children’s and YA books of Spring 2021 – Publishers Weekly

Netflix to adapt Lupita Nyong’o children’s book ‘Sulwe’ into an animated musical – Deadline

PageTurners: children’s books guaranteed to make everyone smile – The Root

Utah parents complained after kids were read a story about a transgender boy. Now other diverse books are on hold. – The Salt Lake Tribune


9 young adult novels we’re excited about – Essence

18 epic fantasy books starring magical black leads – BuzzFeed

February 2021 YA book releases – The Nerd Daily

I Love You, Baby Burrito by Angela Dominquez

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I Love You, Baby Burrito by Angela Dominquez (9781250231093)

A Latinx family welcomes a new baby in this picture book where Spanish and English mix in the text. The new parents welcome the baby home. They gaze at the perfect little face, touch fingers and toes. The baby is fed after getting a bit fussy, then burped too. It’s eventually time for a siesta, achieved with a clever burrito fold of the blanket that leaves that cute little face showing. The book ends with bedtime and being kissed goodnight.

Perfect for new older siblings who are still toddlers themselves, this book shows what to expect on a baby’s first day. There will be lots of gazing in bliss at the new little face, exploring fingers and toes, and sleeping. The Latinx family bursts with love and warmth on the page, showing how adored and longed for this new baby is. The text is simple and weaves Spanish into the English sentences. A glossary of the Spanish words is included at the end of the book.

The illustrations are simple and full of light. They were done with watercolor, colored pencil and Photoshop. The quiet greens and blues carry from the cover through the entire book, creating a unified vision.

A lovely glimpse of a baby’s first day. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Roaring Brook Press.

Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin

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Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga (9781580899369)

Lily was traveling with her Gram to Gram’s house in Iowa where Lily was going to live now. Gram suggested that on the long drive they discover ten beautiful things. Lily looked out the window but couldn’t find a single beautiful thing. Just then, the sun broke the horizon, and Lily had found her first beautiful thing. As they traveled, Lily’s stomach would hurt and she would feel very sad, but before she could get too sad, another beautiful thing would appear. There was a wind farm, a creek, even a decaying old barn. The smell of the muddy earth was one that Lily discovered and picked. Towards the end of their journey, a thunderstorm broke over them, filling up the entire space, and definitely making itself number 9. Then they were at Gram’s house. What would be number 10? Gram knew just the thing.

Griffin’s writing is deeply empathetic to Lily and the changes happening in her life. Lily’s emotions about the change are right at the surface, causing her stomach to ache and for her to sometimes withdraw. Gram is the perfect response to that, feeding her crackers and carefully building a relationship as the miles went by. The structure of counting beautiful things creates a way for readers to experience the unique beauty of the Midwest and Iowa in particular. The use of a storm to both symbolize the turmoil of life and also the clearing of the air is especially well done.

The illustrations are done digitally and with watercolor textures. From the drama of the storm that takes over the pages, filling them with wind, rain and lightning to the dazzle of sun as they reach Gram’s house with a page that glows with hope, this book shows emotions on the page clearly and with real skill.

A quiet book where readers can experience the beauty of nature and the wonder of a new family being built. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Charlesbridge.

The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter

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The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter, illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring (9781536211238)

At his first day at his new preschool, Dmitri was very excited. He sat next to Liam, rested his head on Liam’s shoulder and told him, “I love you.” Liam didn’t know how to respond, so he didn’t say anything. Outside, Dmitri told a group of girls that he loved them. They blushed and ran off. Dmitri hugged a tree, told it that he loved it, and then told the same to the ants on the ground. At lunchtime, he told the lunch lady that he loved her too, though she was certain he meant he loved her cooking. All afternoon, Dmitri told different objects and people that he loved them. But the next morning, Dmitri didn’t want to go back since no one had said that they loved him too. His mother pointed out that people show love in lots of different ways, and Dmitri’s second day showed exactly that!

This picture book glows with lots of love showered on everyone by Dmitri. While it makes them feel awkward and likely will make the reader feel that way too, Dmitri means it each and every time. The satisfaction of the second day at school is profound as Dmitri is welcomed by all of the people who had perhaps turned away from him the day before. They may not be saying they love him but in all sorts of actions, they show it to him.

The illustrations are done in a vibrant mixed media. They depict a very diverse preschool filled with children of all skin tones and teachers of different faiths. The preschool is full of bright colors, activities and marvelous messes that make it feel very welcoming and familiar.

For all of us who wear our hearts right out in the air. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick Press.

One Jar of Magic by Corey Ann Haydu

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One Jar of Magic by Corey Ann Haydu (9780062689856)

The author of Eventown returns with another book showing how children can see beyond the social façade to what is actually happening. Rose is the daughter of the most famous and successful magic capturer in her town, which is the most magical in the world. She has grown up as “Little Luck” knowing that she is the one who will be the one to carry on her father’s legacy, unlike her older brother. She spends her days going barefoot despite the cold, practicing by catching fireflies, and wearing her father’s sweaters and scarves. But all is not quite right in her family, and deep down Rose knows it. The entire family tiptoes around her father’s expectations, making sure they are perfect and happy all of the time. So when New Year’s Day finally comes, Rose just knows she will be the best at finding the magic, but she isn’t. In fact, she just gets one little jar of magic. Now Rose’s father won’t speak to her, her previous friends mock her and ignore her, and everything has changed. Rose has a strange new freedom, accompanied by a new friend who doesn’t use magic, where she can start to see what is really going on not just with magic and her town, but in her family as well.

Haydu moves smoothly into full fantasy with this latest novel for middle grades. She laces magic throughout a world that looks much like our own, adding glitter, rainbows and wonder. She manages to take readers through the same process that Rose goes through, dazzled at first by the magic around them, then questioning it, and finally seeing beyond it to the marvels of the real world beneath.

Haydu’s depiction of Rose’s father is particularly haunting: a man who himself is all glitter with real issues not quite hidden by the magic that surrounds him. His anger, insistence and control are all revealed steadily through the book, alarm bells that grow louder and steadier as it progresses. Rose is a great protagonist, raised to believe herself the most special of all, fallen from that pedestal and able to lift herself to a new place based on reality and her own resilience.

A great fantasy read that asks deep questions about magic, control and freedom. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford

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Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (9781541581203)

This nonfiction picture book offers a gripping look at one of the worst racial violence incidents in American history. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a community called Greenwood was formed by Black people descended from Black Indians, former slaves, and those fleeing the racism of the segregated South. Along a one-mile stretch of Greenwood Avenue, over 200 Black business started, becoming known as Black Wall Street. But there were people in Tulsa who were not alright with the growth of Black wealth. In 1921, those tensions turned into action when a white teen accused a Black young man of assault. A standoff at the jail resulted in the deaths of two Black men and ten white men. The white mob stormed Greenwood, burning it to the ground. 300 Black people were killed, hundreds more injured and more than 8,000 were left homeless. The survivors were moved into camps and eventually rebuilt, but never spoke of the massacre. Today, the truth is being spoken of and addressed through reconciliation efforts.

Weatherford does an incredible job telling this terrible truth, showing the beauty and potential of the Black community in Tulsa and then sharing its eventual destruction at the hands of a mob. Weatherford has family ties to other race massacres in the United States, which led to her this, the worst incident. Her author’s note shares some photographs and more of the history. Weatherford’s initial focus on the community built in Tulsa, makes the the burning of the area all the more impactful for the reader. The tragedy’s magnitude is carefully shown in numbers and continued impact.

Cooper’s illustrations are incredible. Cooper’s grandfather grew up in Greenwood, a history that he rarely spoke about. Cooper captures the promise of Greenwood with its libraries, churches, doctor’s offices and more. He shows the hotel, the bustling streets, the children playing safely in the neighborhood. He gives history faces that look right at the reader, demanding that they see what happened.

Tragic, powerful and insistent that change happen. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Carolrhoda Books.