Review: My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Pena (9780525553410)

Daisy loves to ride with her father on his motorcycle. After he finishes his work in construction, he always has time for an evening ride with her. They ride like a comet on the hot asphalt, zigzagging through the streets. Together they rumble through their Southern California town and visit all of the sites that Daisy loves. There is Joy’s Market where they see their librarian shopping. Murals on the walls tell the story of their history as Mexican-Americans. They plan to stop for a sweet treat, but the store has closed. They pass her grandparent’s home with happy waves and a plan to visit tomorrow. Their ride ends with a visit to her father’s workplace and then a curving race around Grand Boulevard. They return home to find that the owner of the closed shop has is running a food cart instead.

Quintero’s text is lush and beautiful. It’s remarkable for a picture book to use language the way that she does, yet she manages it without leaving small children behind. It is particularly evident in the places where Daisy’s imagination soars. As Daisy pictures them as a comet flying, Quintero’s prose flies alongside her imagination lifting it with colors, and sentences like “We become a spectacular celestial thing soaring on asphalt.” What more could a reader want?

The illustrations are a true celebration of the community Daisy and her Papi right through. The murals are shown in bright colors, the city itself bathed in the heat and sunshine of a summer day. Perspectives are done playfully at times with chasing dogs and narrow streets.

A summer treat of a book, this one is worth the ride. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Kokila.

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (9780374303235)

This nonfiction book for teens looks at two sides of a hate crime in Oakland, California. It took place on a bus where an asexual student, Sasha, was riding. They (the pronoun they use) were reading at first and then fell asleep on the public bus. A white teen, they went to a small private school in town and lived in a middle-class neighborhood. They were wearing a gauzy skirt at the time. It was a skirt that caught the eye of Richard and his friends. Richard, a black teen, attended a public high school and was newly back in the community after being in juvenile detention. Without even considering the impact of his actions, Richard set Sasha’s skirt on fire. What was meant to be a prank turned into a hate crime and potential life imprisonment.

This internationally known crime is given voice by the people who lived it in this nonfiction book. Written with such care and compassion for both sides, the book made me weep with both the fact that asexual and gender nonconforming teens and people face this type of attack and also the fact that African-American teens are charged as adults and face huge sentences as a result. Slater dances what seems at times to be an impossible line, showing the humanity on both sides of the story, explaining the facts that impact the lives of the people involved, and offering an opportunity to look deeply into a case rather than reading the headlines.

There is such humanity on these pages. It will remind everyone that there are different sides to incidents like these, that rushing to judgement is not helpful, that forgiveness has power, and that people, especially teenagers can learn from mistakes and grow from them if given a chance. Written like a novel, the book has dashingly short chapters and features the voices of the two teens whose lives changed in a moment.

The skill evident in this book is remarkable. This is the nonfiction book that teen readers today need. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Review: The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

tree lady

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Kate Sessions is the woman who made San Diego into the green city that it is today.  She was a pioneering female scientist who grew up in the forests of Northern California.  After becoming the first woman to graduate with a degree in science from the University of California, she moved to San Diego to be a teacher.  San Diego was a desert town with almost no trees at all.  So Kate decided to change all of that and began to hunt for trees that survive and thrive in a desert.  Soon trees were being planted all over San Diego, but that was not enough for Kate who then worked to fill entire parks with her trees and gardens.  Kate Sessions was a remarkable woman who helped San Diego become the great city it is today.

Hopkins takes a playful approach to this picture book biography.  From the beginning he uses a format that ends each new event in Kate Session’s life with “But Kate did.”  Not only does this create a strong structure for the story, but it shows Session’s determination to not be swayed by what others thought was possible.  From the beginning, she was a unique person with a unique vision.  It is that vision and her strength in the face of societal opposition that made her so successful.

McElmurry’s illustrations add a beauty to the book.  She captures the lush green of the California forests and then allows readers to experience the transformation of San Diego from a barren desert to the lush green of Session’s many trees.  She also shows all of the hard work that it took to make that transformation possible.

Sessions will be a newly found historical figure for most of us, and what an inspiration she is!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

Review: Engine Number Ten by Rose Ann Woolpert

Engine Number Ten

Engine Number Ten by Rose Ann Woolpert, illustrated by Jaguar Studio Design

This is the story of how granite was quarried over one hundred years ago in California.  First work was done with mules and small wooden carts.  Then little steam trains were used on the narrow tracks, shuttling back and forth with loads of rock.  Steadily, more steam trains were used until they had ten steam trains and one steam shovel working in the quarry.  Then diesel locomotives started to replace the oldest steam engines until just Number Ten was still working.  The other steam trains had been taken apart and sold.  A new diesel engine was purchased for the quarry, pulling huge loads of granite with ease.  Number Ten was sent off to be scrapped.  But then something happened that changed Number Ten’s fate, a rockslide trapped the diesel engine.  There was only one train that could rescue her:  Number Ten!

Woolpert successfully mixes the true story of the Number Ten engine that now is on display at the Railroad Museum in Sacramento with personified engines that eagerly say “Yes, I Will!”  Her writing is refreshingly clear and playful, allowing the momentum of the true story itself to set a brisk pace. 

The illustrations are a mix of vintage photographs and black and white drawings that are often superimposed upon the photos.  This echoes the story being a mix of history and fiction.  The result is clearly historical but also very friendly.

This is the first book in the “Yes, We Will” series which will continue to tell the stories of the machines and people of Graniterock, a business in northern California.  It’s a good pick for young train enthusiasts or those interested in American history.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from the author.