Review: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (9780525647072)

Jam lives in Lucille, a place cleansed of monsters by the angels who still live among them. There are no monsters in Lucille any more. But just as Jam is learning about the original angels, who looked more like monsters than humans, she accidentally releases a creature from her mother’s painting. The creature is Pet, who has crossed dimensions to hunt a monster. Pet reveals that the monster is living in Jam’s best friend, Redemption’s house. Now Jam must figure out how to enlist Redemption’s help without accusing his family of doing something terrible and harboring a monster. Or perhaps Pet is the real monster as he hunts without remorse? Jam must learn the truth and then get others to believe her.

Wow. What a book! The voice here is what hits you first, unique and strong, it speaks in a Nigerian-laced rhythm that creates its own magic immediately. Add in the power of Jam herself, a black, trans girl who often chooses not to speak aloud but with sign language. Then you have the amazement of Pet, the nightmare creature who hunts for monsters but also explains the importance of not hiding from the truth. Surround it all with families who love and care and are wonderfully different from one another.

Emezi leads readers through this wonder of a book, filled with LGBTQIA+ moments that are so normal they become something very special. They insist that you understand what is meant by a monster and by an angel, that one can be disguised as another, that monsters are normal people, but must not be tolerated. It’s a book about abuse, about standing up, about angels and demons, and about humans.

An incredible middle-grade fantasy full of power, monsters and beauty. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Make Me a World.

Review: What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Linda Davick (9781481472609)

Riley loves to dress for every occasion. Riley wore a bunny costume on the first day of school, even though no one else worse a costume. At the dentist’s office Riley wore a superhero outfit for bravery. Riley wore a ballgown to dinner with Oma and Otto because they went to a fancy restaurant. Space pajamas were just right for Universe Day at school. A hard hat was ideal for a visit to the hardware store. Some days at home were perfect not to wear anything at all. When Riley wore a complicated outfit to the park, Riley was asked if they were a boy or a girl. Riley answered by talking about her outfit’s roles and joined in playing with everyone.

Arnold writes with such skill here that it is only partway through the book that readers may notice that there are no pronouns or genders shared about Riley. Every child can see themselves in Riley and be dazzled by Riley’s costumes and outfits along the way. There is a sense of merriment in all of the things Riley wears and a strong expression of identity as well.

Davick’s illustrations are filled with bright colors and a celebration of Riley’s sense of style. The mixed costumes are complicated and Davick captures them beautifully, showing exactly what Riley was trying to convey.

Ideal for kids of every gender and every way of expressing themselves through clothing. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Catholic School Bans ‘Harry Potter’ – But According to Free Speech Advocates, It’s Nothing New – Forbes

Harry Potter used to be the number one banned book in schools, according to Caldwell-Stone. These days, she said, books with LGBT themes are increasingly being targeted, both with lawsuits and other extreme measures, like public book burnings.

Interview: Mitali Perkins Talks of Between Us and Abuela – Fuse 8

When it comes to our relationship with Mexico, it struck me that children would have an honest response akin to the child in the old “Emperor’s New Clothes” fable (“Why is that man naked, Mama?”)

New York Times book editor shares tips on ‘How to Raise a Reader’ – WTOP

It may sound counterintuitive, but Paul cautions parents not to reward their children for reading, no matter how badly you want them to crack open a book.

Q&A with Chris Raschka – Publisher’s Weekly

Ultimately, I told the legend in a Mother Goose style of my own, incorporating poems of hers that related to her life. Vladimir’s challenge was to design and illustrate the book so as to keep the strings of text separate and understandable. We worked on the book for six or seven years. He was ill for a number of those years, so there were inevitable big gaps when he didn’t have the strength to work.

This Is Home: Renee Watson on the Importance of Setting in Some Places More Than Others – Bookish

In some novels, the setting is far more than just a location, it’s a character within its own right.

Why I Love Kids’ Books in Translation – Publisher’s Weekly

With children’s books in particular, those in translation have an added aura of adventure, even a sense of the hidden being revealed. At least they did for me. I thought of books written in English as like coming across a fortune typed in that special red ink; I thought of books written in another language as that same fortune, but with a cookie around it, a message you got to crack open for yourself.

The Youth Vote: Women’s Suffrage Centennial – Publisher’s Weekly

As publishers anticipate the 2020 women’s suffrage centennial, they remain mindful of how history is presented to children. And just as words matter, so too do pictures, says Susan Van Metre, executive editorial director at Walker Books.

LIBRARIES

10-year-old library changes with the times – WBAY

“A good library today is not your grandma’s library,” library director Kristin Vogel said. “Nothing against grandmas, but that shushing, that quiet, that sense of policing is very different than what a lot of people experienced in their childhood.”

Thriving Together / Best Small Library in America 2019 – Library Journal

The Copper Queen Library in Bisbee, AZ, is the oldest in the state. It’s older than the state itself, having been founded in 1882 and open continuously ever since. But it isn’t resting on its laurels. Once focused on mining, today’s Bisbee is a study in contradictions.

Wisconsin public library adds part-time social worker – Minneapolis StarTribune

The decision to bring in a social worker didn’t happen overnight: The library staff gradually realized how ill-equipped they were to deal with certain situations, particularly those related to homelessness and drug abuse —

YA LIT

7 Young Adult Books Out in Autumn 2019 in the UK That’ll Keep You Busy until Christmas – Bustle

From romantic vampire thrillers to a feminist call to arms, if you’re a fan of YA writing, you’re in luck this autumn.

50 YA Paperback for Fall 2019 – BookRiot

You’ll find something from every genre in this collection of fall YA paperbacks, so prepare to be swept away in a good book.

‘Permanent Record’ Captures the Confusing Moments between Adolescence and Adulthood – NPR

…Mary H.K. Choi is quietly defining new-adult literature with her modern explorations of how relationships help young people figure out who they really are.

The Korean-American Kids in These Books Bust Stereotypes – New York Times

Fast-forward to 2019 — with its bulgogi tacos, K-pop, snail slime masks and Sandra Oh memes — and Koreans are the new purveyors of cool. Korean-Americans are making a mark on American culture, and the Y.A. universe is no exception.

You’re Not Alone: Mental Health Nonfiction Picks for Teens – The Hub

As mental health struggles get more time in the spotlight, mental health nonfiction books have been cropping up aimed a variety of demographics. In fact, many options are now available just for teens. This list looks at great resources for those who are struggling with mental health issues or want to help someone that is.

 

Review: Finding Grandma’s Memories by Jiyeon Pak

Finding Grandma's Memories by Jiyeon Pak

Finding Grandma’s Memories by Jiyeon Pak (9780525581086)

Told from the point of view of the young granddaughter, this picture book explores the issue of having a loved one who is experiencing memory loss. The little girl loves having tea with her grandmother. She gets to pick a teacup from her grandma’s “treasure shelf” and then they share berry tea and cupcakes together as they tell one another about their day. But Grandma is starting to get confused. She has called the little girl by the wrong name, put her teacups on the bookshelf, and forgot to turn off the water. The next time the little girl visited, she and her grandmother looked at old photographs together. Then she had an idea to label things to help her grandmother remember too. Now she is also ready to share their stories with her grandmother if she has problems remembering.

Pak clearly shows the two generation connecting in this story of family love. The story transforms from the grandmother taking such good care of her granddaughter into needing more help to keep things straight. Nicely, there is no sense of panic in this book, just a steady sense of change and need for care. The use of small helpful ideas to implement also returns some ability to help to the young child in the story. The illustrations are bright and friendly, filled with smiles and connections to one another even as things grow more difficult.

An empowering story for young children about memory loss and helping a loved one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf. 

Kids Indie Next Fall 2019

The Kids Indie Next list has been released for this autumn. The list ranges from ages four through teen. They offer a top ten as well as lists for age groups. Here are the top ten for this fall:

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

 Frankly in Love (Frankly in Love, #1)

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder

The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry, illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Slay by Brittney Morris

Stormy by Guojing

 

Review: Stormy by Guojing

Stormy by Guojing

Stormy by Guojing (9781524771768)

The author of the award-winning The Only Child returns with another lovely picture book. In this wordless picture book done in graphic-novel format, a woman discovers a puppy sleeping under a bench at the top of a hill. When she tries to approach the dog, he runs away, returning to hide under the bench after she leaves. On her next visit, the woman brings a ball for the dog, then pretends to ignore him. He slowly moves out from behind the nearby tree and sniffs at the ball, picking it up but not returning to the woman. The third visit has the two of them beginning to play fetch together. This time, the dog follows the woman home, but she doesn’t see him. When a huge storm appears, she heads into the deluge to save him but he isn’t where she thinks he will be.

If you look at the lighting and beauty of that cover, you will have a sense of the incredible illustrations throughout this book. Guojing beautifully paces her story, showing the patience and time it takes to create a sense of safety and trust between the woman and the stray dog. There are achingly lonely moments at night, the dog alone, the dog with just his ball, the dog outside her window. Guojing gives those moments space in the book to just be there, haunting and lovely.

A great wordless picture book about building trust and finding a home. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade Books.

Review: Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Guts by Raina Telgemeier (9780545852517)

This is the third book in Telgemeier’s autobiographical series that started with Smile and Sisters. Raina has an upset stomach one night and throws up, but her mother has the same problem, so it’s most likely a stomach bug. But with Raina, the stomach ache doesn’t go away. She is a quiet, self-conscious and shy girl dealing with the ins and outs of school and friendships. As Raina starts to grow anxious about vomiting, eating the wrong foods, and general things in life, her stomach gets worse. Once she starts seeing a therapist, she learns techniques to help her cope with her panic and help her face her fears.

It’s great to see Telgemeier return to stories of her own life. Her storytelling is strong and vivid with a story arc that reveals the impact of anxiety on a child’s life but also offers an empowering view of how to move forward and regain control. Her sense of humor is also on display here even about her own anxieties. As always, her art is approachable and inviting.

Expect even more Raina fans after this third book in the series! Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.

 

Review: At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorrell

At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorrell

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorrell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre (9780735230606)

In a cozy cabin under a hickory tree, a grandma sits and weaves. She also worries. Her family gathers around her, singing. Their song tells of a woman in a battle, flying in a plane, protecting and defending. Their song sings of a dream of peace too. The family gathers together, wishing for her return. Told in the beautiful simplicity of a single poem, the words and the weaving work together to create something very special.

By the author of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, this book focuses on a fictional Cherokee family and is inspired by Native women who served in past wars and continue to serve in the military today. The Author’s Note tells of one Native woman who helped train male student pilots, risking her own life as she did so. She served as a cargo pilot during World War II and also as an air traffic controller during the Korean War.

The illustrations of this picture book truly weave the story together. Thread and yarn appear as borders to the images, linking and looping them together. The Native family  and the pilot are shown as strong women full of love for one another.

An important tale of female Native soldiers and the families who wait for their return. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kokila. 

Review: Thurgood by Jonah Winter

Thurgood by Jonah Winter

Thurgood by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Bryan Collier (9781524765347)

From the time he was a small boy, Thurgood Marshall was destined to be a lawyer. He even convinced his parents to have his name legally changed from Thoroughgood to Thurgood at age six. Thurgood faced racism growing up in Baltimore in the 1920’s. He had to attend the overcrowded Colored High School which had no library, gym or cafeteria. His father worked at jobs where he served wealthy white customers, including at a country club that did not allow black people to be members. His father also taught him to debate and argue ideas. When he attended Lincoln University, Thurgood was loud, funny and a great arguer. He went to law school at Howard University where he learned to fight for civil rights in court. His first major legal fight was to force his top pick law school to accept black students. Again and again, Thurgood fought to create laws that focused on equality for all.

A picture book biography that tells the story of the youth and upbringing and early legal cases of the first African American on the Supreme Court, this book really celebrates how he became a weapon for civil rights. Winter makes sure to keep the inherent racism in the society at the forefront, pointing out moments in Thurgood’s life when he was targeted and almost killed. The resilience and determination on display throughout his life is inspiring.

Collier’s art is done in a mix of watercolor and collage. Using patterns and textures, Collier builds entire worlds from paper, from a ruined movie theater to haunting segregated schools. The illustrations are powerful and add much to this story of racism and fighting back.

Strong and compelling, this biography belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade Books.