It’s My Tree by Olivier Tallec

It’s My Tree by Olivier Tallec (9781525305474)

A squirrel shares his adoration for his tree in this picture book. But then he gets paranoid, wondering what would happen if someone else thought it was actually THEIR tree! Or if his pinecones were their pinecones! So the squirrel decides to make sure that everyone knows it’s his tree. Perhaps a gate or a wall? A wall so long you can’t walk around it! Then the wall could end in another wall, surrounding the tree and keeping everyone else out. But wait, what’s on the other side of the wall? It could be a better pinecone, a bigger one, or even a better tree!

A master author/illustrator gives us a picture book about the fear of missing out as well as paranoia about others and a fear of them. This book runs with that, showing the wild result when it is taken to its extreme. The use of a jittery squirrel is just right, tending his pinecones, protecting his property, frantic with worry and stress. It’s a book for our times, speaking to all of the elements that create a similar reaction in ourselves and how we protect our own trees and pinecones.

The art is done in bright yellows and oranges, creating a real energy on the page and strengthening the tension the squirrel is experiencing. His facial expression is almost always alarmed, ears stretched high and eyes wide. He almost darts across the page.

Don’t miss out on this one! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.

Winter 2020-2021 Kids’ Indie Next List

The American Booksellers Association has their preview of the titles included on the Winter 2020-2021 Kids’ Indie Next List. The list features a top ten as well as additional picks for ages four through teen. The books are nominated by booksellers at independent bookstores across the country. Here are the books that made the list:

THE TOP TEN

The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

Soulswift by Megan Bannen

The Valley and the Flood by Rebecca Mahoney

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

AGES 4 TO 8

Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon by Kat Zhang, Charlene Chua (Illus.)

Beak & Ally: Unlikely Friends by Norm Feuti

Benny’s True Colors by Norene Paulson, Anne Passchier (Illus.)

The Couch Potato by Jory John, Pete Oswald (Illus.)

Counting Creatures by Julia Donaldson, Sharon King-Chai (Illus.)

Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey, Luisa Uribe (Illus.)

Find Fergus by Mike Boldt

I Love My Teacher by Giles Andreae, Emma Dodd (Illus.)

The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney

No Reading Allowed: The Worst Read-Aloud Book Ever by Raj Haldar, Chris Carpenter, Bryce Gladfelter (Illus.)

Oona by Kelly DiPucchio, Raissa Figueroa (Illus.)

Over the Shop by Jonaro Lawson, Qin Leng (Illus.)

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution!: The Story of the Trans Women of Color Who Made LGBTQ+ History by Joy Ellison, Teshika Silver (Illus.)

The Trouble With Penguins by Rebecca Jordan-Glum

Wreck This Picture Book by Keri Smith

AGES 9 TO 12

The Ballad of Tubs Marshfield by Cara Hoffman

Exploring the White House: Inside America’s Most Famous Home by Kate Andersen Brower

Fantastic Tales of Nothing by Alejandra Green, Fanny Rodriguez

Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast: And Other Tasty Poems by Jack Prelutsky, Ruth Chan (Illus.)

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable, Stephanie Yue (Illus.)

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

Max and the Midknights: Battle of the Bodkins by Lincoln Peirce

The Mouse Watch by J.J. Gilbert

The Retake by Jen Calonita

Root Magic by Eden Royce

Serena Says by Tanita S. Davis

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles

This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

Unplugged by Gordon Korman

FOR TEENS

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

Saucy by Cynthia Kadohata

Cover image for Saucy

Saucy by Cynthia Kadohata (9781442412781)

Becca is a quadruplet which makes it hard to be unique. Her three brothers all have their own thing that makes them special: sports, music or science. Becca doesn’t have anything, though she keeps on searching for it. So when she finds a piglet with a bad case of mange on the side of the road, she thinks she may have found it. After a long stay at the vet, Becca is the owner of a pig, one that will grow to 600 pounds! She knows that eventually she will need to donate the pig to a sanctuary, but for now Saucy lives with her and her family. Saucy though has her own ideas about how to live in a house. They involve flipping chairs to ask for more food, rooting around in the refrigerator at night, and needing Becca to sleep in the kitchen on the floor with her. Becca must wrestle with losing Saucy as she grows bigger and bigger. Then Becca decides that she must find out where Saucy came from, something that will involve her entire family, just like caring for Saucy did.

Kadohata has written award-winning books that are heart wrenching. Here, she offers readers a light and fresh read that is just as well written as her previous books. Just having a pig in a book changes it for the better, offering humorous moments that the pig brings on their own. Saucy is a pig that readers will fall for just as hard as Becca and her family does. There is an underlying question throughout the book about factory farms and the treatment of farm animals that Kadohata takes on directly in a way that shows that children can make a difference even about such large topics.

The characters are great from all of the brothers with their unique attitudes and personalities to Becca herself who is seeking to discover who she really is and clearly does by the end of the book. The adult characters are well done too, including a grandmother who is quite prickly but also smitten with Saucy. Then there is Saucy herself, who makes her own sort of noises and pushes her humans around very effectively.

Funny with real depth, this novel will have you falling in love with Saucy too. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.

The Shadow Elephant by Nadine Robert

Cover image for The Shadow Elephant

The Shadow Elephant by Nadine Robert, illustrated by Valerio Vidali (9781592703128)

The elephant was staying in the shadows, not speaking or engaging with anyone. The other animals decide to try to cheer him up. First, the monkey told the funniest joke he knew, but the elephant didn’t even smile. The ostrich sisters did a dance, but elephant didn’t even move. The crocodile brought him a treat of acacia leaves, but the elephant just sighed. Then a small white mouse came up out of breath and asked to rest near the elephant. The elephant asked if the mouse was there to tell a story, but she just wanted to rest. So the two of them sat quietly together. The mouse eventually shared part of her story, making the elephant cry. The mouse cried too. Finally, when they were done crying, the elephant felt lighter and was able to stand up. The two headed off to find the mouse’s home together.

Translated from the French, this picture book about emotions and sadness shows how separate these blue emotions can make us feel. The elephant remains in the shadows, silent and sad, not even able to weep. Then the smallest of creatures with the simplest of gestures shows empathy. It’s that shared experience, the silence together, the moments taken, not to distract but to be with one another. The power of that, shown in such simple ways, resonates throughout the book.

The illustrations are full of contrasts. The pages with the elephant glow with blues and lurk with dark shadows. The elephant is almost a mountain at night, large and unmoving. The other animals are bright and colorful, the sky a beaming blue and the ground a neon yellow-green. The mouse arrives as the sun is lowering in the sky, creating a synergy between her side of the page and the elephant’s that shows their growing connection as well.

A deep look at sadness and the power of empathy to overcome it. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion.

2020 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Finalists

The lists of the 2020 finalists for the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award have been announced. The awards highlight “excellent children’s books that can deepen understanding of peace and justice.” This marks the first time they have ever released the finalist titles that are under consideration for the award. The winning books will be announced on January 15, 2021. Here are the two lists of finalists:

2020 FINALISTS FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

Black Is a Rainbow Color.  Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes. 

The Day Saida Arrived.   Susana Gomez Redondo, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, translated by Lawrence Schimel.

Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon.   Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Laura Freeman.

Freedom Soup.   Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara.  

Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea.   Meena Harris, illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez.    

Lizzie Demands a Seat.   Beth Anderson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. 

Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children.   Jonah Winter, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed The Ocean’s Biggest Secret. Jess Keating, illustrated by Katie Hickey.  

The Only Woman in the Photo: Francis Perkins & Her New Deal for America.   Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Alexandra Bye. 

Shirley Chisolm Is a Verb.  Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Rachelle Baker.  

The Teacher’s March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History.   Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer.  

We Are Water Protectors.   Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade.  

2020 FINALISTS FOR OLDER CHILDREN

Blackbird Girls.   Anne Blankman.  

Brave. Black. First.   Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrations by Erin K. Robinson.  

Brother’s Keeper.   Julie Lee.  

Finish the Fight.   Veronica Chambers and the staff of the New York Times.  

Fighting Words.   Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  

King and the Dragonflies.   Kacen Callender. 

Land of the Cranes.   Aida Salazar.  

Rick.   Alex Gino.  

Show Me a Sign.   Ann Clare LeZotte.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.    Jason Reynolds,  Ibram X. Kendi.  

The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth.   Edited by Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson.  

This Book is Antiracist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work.   Tiffany Jewell, illustrated by Aurelia Durand.  

When Stars Are Scattered.   Victoria Jamieson, Omar Mohamed. 

A Wish in the Dark.   Christina Soontornvat.  

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice.   Mahogany L. Browne with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III.  

My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal

Cover image for My Rainbow

My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal, illustrated by Art Twink (9781984814609)

A mother-daughter team tells this story of being a transgender Black girl. After playing dolls with her sister, Trinity started to think about the doll’s long hair. Trinity had short hair because due to her autism she struggled with how itchy it got as it grew longer. Trinity also knew though, that as a transgender girl she needed long hair. Her mother was at a loss until her older brother had an idea. Visiting a beauty parlor, they browsed the wigs, but none of them were quite right. That’s when they decided to create Trinity her own rainbow wig. Her mother spent the night creating the wig, the first one she had ever made. Using strands of purples, pinks and blues, she created a one-of-a-kind wig with lots of spring. It was a rainbow just for Trinity.

The creators of this book are advocates for black and transgender rights. This book is about a little girl who clearly knows who she is. I appreciate that it is not a coming out story, but instead continues the story of one child’s transition to who she is, giving her the space to speak for herself and also a way forward supported by her entire family. The book exudes acceptance, warmth and love.

Twink’s art is bold and bright. They have included a family pig, who joins the family in all of the brainstorming and shopping, even trying out some nail polish in the store. This added touch of whimsy joins a strong Black family depiction full of modern elements and a real sense of home.

A great picture book that demonstrates intersectionality, acceptance and love on every page. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kokila.

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit

Cover image for The Way Back

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit (9781984894625)

Yehuda and Bluma grew up near one another in the tiny village of Tupik. But their lives could not have been more different. Bluma was the daughter of the town baker, raised with plenty to eat and an ever-warm hearth. Yehuda spent his time figuring out where his next meal was coming from and trying to stay out of fights. The two find themselves transported to the Far Country. Yehuda is on a quest to find his father’s soul, which has been added to a demon’s collection. Bluma found herself in an endless cemetery, quickly scooped up by a female demon and her group of demon cat-women. Bluma has in her possession a very special object, the spoon that Death used to take her grandmother’s soul. Bluma found it after Death left her home. In the Far Country of the demons, there are different rules, pacts that are made and reworked, lies and truths. It is a world that shifts and changes right in front of Bluma and Yehuda who must find their own way through and back home.

So there is no way to actually summarize this book clearly at all. It is a great twisting and writhing story that the reader simply must give themselves up to and enjoy the journey. There are deaths and there is Death. There are demons who all manipulate and scheme, telling partial truths for their own gain. There are fathers who are trying to find sons and then sons trying to find fathers. There are spoons that cut and remove and libraries with endless knowledge and answers.

This book is less about the two main protagonists and more about the world they enter. Based on Jewish mythology and folklore, this world is full of jagged points, dangers and despair. But it is also basked in love, the joy of unexpected kindness, and the discovery of new old friends. It’s complicated and unique, a world that readers will likely never have visited before, and what a treat that is!

A delicious nightmare of a novel, this is one to make room for in your reading pile. Appropriate for ages 13-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry

Cover image for Swashby and the Sea

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (9780544707375)

Swashby spent all of his time on the sea. He loved the sea, and the sea understood him better than anyone else. He lived as close to the sea as he could in a small house. His life was just how he liked it: simple and serene. That is until one day a little girl moved in next door. Swashby shut himself in his house, fed their gift of cookies to the seagulls, and wrote a message in the sand: NO TRESPASSING. But the sea changed it a little, leaving only SING, which the little girl proceeded to do while dancing on Swashby’s deck. The next message is turned into W-ISH, and when the little girl decides to wish on a starfish, Swashby comes out to show her how to do it properly. The next message has her playing on the beach, and Swashby find himself showing her how to make sandcastles that won’t topple. After Swashby again retreated, the water didn’t and soon the sea had pulled the little girl out with it. The choice was clear for Swashby.

This picture book is a stellar marriage of story and illustrations. Ferry offers two great characters here, the solitary seaman and the charming little girl. Oh and one more, the sea herself, who plays such a role in the story with both her support of Swashby and in her meddling with his messages. The text is just the right length, robust enough to create a full story to tell and short enough to read aloud well. The fiddling of the sea is just right, not quite easily guessed by the reader and very cleverly done.

The illustrations are marvelous. Done in acrylics, colored pencil and graphite, they capture the bright seaside where the sea fizzes along the beach. Swashby is pure prickles from his bristly beard to his scratchy sweater. Meanwhile the little girl is colorful and soft. The two together on the page make for a study in contrasts that is sure to please.

Satisfying sea fare. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – Nov. 13

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

8 picture books about books – New York Times

12 snow picture books to read on winter snow days – Book Riot

20 children’s books by Black authors every family should own – Yahoo! Life

26 beautiful children’s books about the most impactful LGBTQ+ icons – Romper

Arabic Children’s Literature winners announced – Gulf News

TEEN LIT

Alex Rider brings teen spy adventure series to Amazon – Boston Herald

Get Rec’d: Seven YA SFF books for a cozy November – Syfy Wire

Netflix’s YA rom-com Dash & Lily shows the festive appeal of a well-worn recipe – Polygon

A TV adaptation of Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath & the Dawn is in the works – Tor