Little Bear’s Treasures by Stella Dreis

Little Bear's Treasures by Stella Dreis

Little Bear’s Treasures by Stella Dreis (9781771646536)

Little Bear collects all sorts of treasures: a shiny button, a clothespin, a shy piece of fluff, a magic stick, and much more. He was a great treasure finder. But the other animals don’t understand and consider all of what he gathers to be just junk. The Little Bear meets Little Bird, who immediately understands that Bear’s stick is magical. Soon the two set out to discover treasures together. And they find all sorts of wonderful things! They discover thinking hats, glittering fish, a swinging tree, mysterious fog, a furry rock, and much more. When night fell, the two looked up to the sky to find an amazing treasure they could share along with the dreams of future adventures together.

Imported from Germany, this picture book is a celebration of creativity and imaginative play. Particularly touching is the fact that Little Bear continued being himself despite the mocking of other animals. Finding a true friend though allows him to discover ever so much more than he did on his own. The ending is lovely as stardust cover them and sleep overtakes them. Perfect for dreaming of your own treasures.

Dries has won many awards for her illustrations. They are marvelously unique and dreamy, filled with dust and fog, blueberries and trees. The illustrations glow on the page, lit from within as if sun shines from just off the page.

A gem of a book perfect for your own treasure hunter. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.

13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz

13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz

13 Stories about Harris by Amy Schwartz (9780823442492)

Harris is a little boy who lives with his parents in his urban neighborhood. In the thirteen (quite short) stories in this book, he is very busy. He draws a huge dragon on the sidewalk, helps in the kitchen, goes on a windy walk, attends his first birthday party, and heads to preschool for the first time. On Thanksgiving, Harris was a truck all day. On other days, he goes to the beach or takes care of a friend’s hamster. There is a lot to do!

Schwartz once again captures the activities and essence of being a preschooler. Harris is wonderfully open to all of his small adventures, experiencing a lot of them for the first time. The book exudes warmth and a family that allows their small child the space to explore and make mistakes but are also always attentive and around to help. The charm of these thirteen stories is remarkable, showing children that they are right where they need to be and that many of these experiences are universal to all small children.

The illustrations show a dynamic and diverse urban neighborhood where Harris is living. The illustrations have plenty of white space, the city streets sometimes taking over with their brick buildings and sidewalks.

Gorgeous preschool vignettes that show the delights of this age. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Holiday House.

Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone

Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone

Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone (9781984816436)

Molly is beyond tired of the dress coding that is happening at her middle school. It’s a dress code that unfairly targets only the girls and then only some of the girls. Molly isn’t the most developed girl in her class, so she often isn’t dress coded though she’s wearing the same outfit as a friend who is. So Molly starts a podcast about the dress code at her school and how inequitable it is. She interviews girls about their experiences, catching the notice of even high school girls who want to share their own middle school stories. Molly also tries to get the attention of the school board, but their petition and requests go nowhere. Soon Molly is leading a significant rebellion at the school, finding her own voice, standing in her power, and not apologizing for what she wears.

It is hard to believe that this is a debut middle-grade novel. Firestone, the author of several young adult novels, really captures what it is to be a middle school girl. The pressures of that age are magnified in this book through the horrible dress code, but are also firmly universal, dealing with body image, periods, friendships, and complicated family relationships. Firestone’s writing is fiery and offers a call to action, positively showing what can happen when you stand up.

The characters of this book are wonderfully drawn with each friend and girl having their own personalities. They each stand out with a unique voice as well, something that is difficult with this large a cast of characters. Molly herself is marvelous, a mix of courage and middle school doubts and fears. The book contains gay characters, who reveal themselves with no trauma and lots of hope, just right.

A dynamo of a middle-grade read that will inspire girls to become activists for their own rights. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Putnam.

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate (9780062991317)

Once again join the three friends Ivan, Ruby and Bob from The One and Only Ivan. Bob now lives with humans rather than in the gorilla enclosure in the mall with Ivan. He’s a dog who doesn’t want to be owned, though he does appreciate the soft blanket, regular food and even an occasional cuddle. He resents the clicker used to train him and still refuses to get into any vehicle after being thrown from a moving truck with his littermates as a tiny puppy. As a large hurricane approaches, Bob is visiting the zoo where Ivan and Ruby now live, separated by a wall. The storm hits the zoo directly, generating a tornado that has Bob airborne. As he deals with the aftermath and next wave of the storm, Bob discovers new wells of courage, his continued connection to his lifelong friends, and relocates a family he thought he’d never see again.

Told in Bob’s voice, this book is like snuggling with your favorite dog. The chapters are brief and inviting, sometimes only a few sentences long. They show the mind and life of a dog who may not easily trust people but loves so deeply when he trusts another creature. Applegate clearly adores dogs and really captures the way they might think in this story filled with scents, sounds and Bob’s own unique perspective on life.

While this book does follow the first book about Ivan, it would be possible to also read this one first. I can’t imagine that anyone reading it won’t insist immediately on knowing more about Ruby, Ivan and Bob.

Warm and funny with a remarkable canine hero. Appropriate for ages 7-11.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.

Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures by Tricia Springstubb

Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures by Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Elaheh Taherian (9781536203066)

Khalil and his family moved into a new house with two floors. They lived on the top floor and Mr. Hagerty lived downstairs. Khalil’s family was loud while Mr. Hagerty was quiet. Both Khalil and Mr. Hagerty loved the backyard. Mr. Hagerty gardened there while Khalil looked for bugs and rocks. On a hot day in the summer, the two of them had a disappointing day where the carrots were small and shriveled and the ground was too hard to dig for treasure. They took a refreshment break in Mr. Hagerty’s place, sharing chocolate cake and cold milk. Later, both of them had an idea. The next day was much better when Mr. Hagerty found big carrots in his garden and Khalil found buried treasures! It called for more shared cake!

Springstubb shows how two very different people: quiet and loud, old and young, different races, can form a friendship that builds slowly and steadily over time. She keeps her story very focused, allowing many of the details to be shown in the illustrations rather than told in the text. The characters first bond over helping one another with words, which grows into something quite special. It’s that initial acceptance, the creation of a shared space of the backyard, that makes this book work so naturally.

Taherian’s illustrations are done in collage with oil and colored pencil. They have a great depth to them, the layers of the collage offering a real backyard to explore alongside the characters. The colors are vivid and glow with the summer heat and sun.

A lively look at emerging friendship and what it means to be neighbors. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick Press.

A Bunch of Board Books

Here are some great recently-released board books to embrace this summer:

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky (9780593110416)

To raise an antiracist baby, you must understand that’s it’s all about showing them that society can transform. This is not a space to be neutral, but one to be an activist. This board book explores what it takes to raise a child who is not racist in our society. First, see all skin colors, don’t be artificially color-blind. Second, talk about race. Third, politics are the problem, not people. Fourth, there is nothing wrong with people, no matter their race, sex, gender, orientation or faith. Fifth, celebrate differences. This book continues through number none which is believing that we can overcome racism. With bright illustrations, this book takes a firm stand of hope and optimism as long as hard work is done and children are raised to see themselves as part of the solution.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kokila. 

Pride 1 2 3 by Michael Joosten

Pride 1 2 3 by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Wednesday Holmes (9781534464995)

Join in the happiness of a pride parade in this counting board book. There is one parade in June with two DJs playing music. Three families, four activists, five motorcycles. Six floats go by with seven divas posing. Eight signs are held high with nine people standing together in unity. The final ten are people waving a variety of pride flags. Incredibly inclusive, this board book welcomes everyone to pride parades and celebrations with open arms. The illustrations are bold and bright, featuring all sorts of characters and families who are part of the LGBTQIA+ family.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little Simon. 

Wake Up, Let's Play by Marit Tornqvist

Wake Up, Let’s Play by Marit Tornqvist (9781782506263)

This dreamy board book invites children to join in the fun that two friends find together. They play all sorts of things, like birthday party and restaurant. They build sandcastles and play stormy seas in the bath. Busy towns with wooden tracks fill the room, and sometimes art wanders onto the walls. They play through snow and even into the night. Then it’s time to figure out what to play tomorrow! Told in very simple sentences, this board book has marvelous illustrations that are quirky and fantastical. At the same time, these are exactly the games that small children play, so it is rooted in reality. A marvel of a little book.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Floris Books.

Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay

Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay

Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay (9781536209600)

Claire started to play the piano when her father got sick. Now after his death, it is a connection to his memory. As Claire longs to go to a school for music, she auditions to become a student of Paul Avon, a well-known and respected piano teacher in San Francisco. Her traditional Filipino mother is uncertain, but is soon charmed by Paul and manages to cover the cost of the lessons. Claire is soon practicing constantly, trying to get Paul’s approval for her playing and reach the emotional center of each piece of music. She participates in competitions and places well, but it never seems like quite enough. As Paul’s moods get more sour, he leaves Claire to watch his house while he goes on tour. When he returns though, Claire’s fantasies about playing for him and finally gaining his approval don’t work out and things turn sexual and sour between them.

Salaysay’s book is unusual and fascinating. She captures the drive and perfectionism of being a pianist who competes. She also shows the steady grooming and isolation of a young woman who is invited to the outskirts of adulthood and abused. At the same time, Salaysay also shows that sex has meaning and is nothing to be ashamed of, unless it is abusive or rape. This delicate line is kept pure throughout the book, as Claire learns about herself and what one event can do.

Salaysay’s writing is exquisite. Readers will at first be on alert about Paul and his approach, but soon will settle in just as Claire does as her playing improves. Yet throughout there are multiple points of tension for Claire and the reader. There is Claire’s falling out with her best friend, fighting with her mother, traveling to the city, and steadily becoming someone else. Yet when she is wounded and hurt, it is those same people she left behind who are there for her and help label what happened to her.

A symphony of a book, this novel encompasses music, race, sexuality and assault. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Candlewick.

Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl

Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl

Madame Badobedah by Sophie Dahl, illustrated by Lauren O’Hara (9781536210224)

Mabel lives at the Mermaid Hotel near the sea where she goes on many adventures without shoes. When a strange new guest arrives at the hotel, Mabel becomes a spy to try to figure out the story of the woman she dubs Madame Badobedah. The lady comes with her pet tortoise and lots of bags and trunks that could be filled with anything, including stolen treasure. After watching her for awhile, Mabel decides that the woman must be a supervillian who is hiding out at Mermaid Hotel. When Mabel’s spy cover is blown, Madame Badobedah invites her into her room for tea. Soon the two are traveling on imaginary adventures together that feature pirates and mermaids, a partnership of young and old.

This picture book has more text than many, but please don’t let that stop you! Dahl’s writing is sharp and witty, offering exactly the right amount of detail to conjure up the hotel fully and craft interesting characters who are fully realized. Told in Mabel’s voice, the book has the feel of a vintage book but with a modern sensibility as well. Filled with creativity and imagination, the stories Mabel conjures are fascinating and the journeys the two kindred spirits share are marvelous.

The illustrations by O’Hara capture the vivid red hair of Madame Badobedah, the wonders of the hotel, and intrepid Mabel on her many adventures. Real life swirls effectively with the imaginary worlds on the page in both text and illustrations.

An adventure worth taking with two great partners. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy provided by Walker Books.

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson (9781547600564)

Even though her father got a new job, Ryan and her family have had to move into a smaller and older house because money is still a problem. Ryan though is able to see the positive in most things, though maybe not her brother some days. She loves to cook, coming up with unique combinations to make good food even better. One thing she struggles with is public speaking, like on Easter where no matter how much she practices her part, she can’t manage to say it into the microphone in front of the congregation. Maybe this is the year? So when Ryan’s class is working on a talent show, Ryan has to figure out how to turn her passions into performance. She is also navigating changing friendships and mean girls who seem intent on pushing her to the side. Ryan may not want the spotlight, but she does bring sunshine wherever she goes.

Watson, winner of a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award, has created a book for young readers that offers a modern look at being an African-American girl in Portland. The city is tied into the story very successfully, drawing people to beloved places to taste and explore along with Ryan. While the title is full of optimism, the book looks at important issues for elementary-aged children such as race, acceptance, self-esteem, and friendships.

Ryan isn’t a Pollyanna character, rather she is a girl who has resilience and optimism. She is distinctly her own person and Black girls will see themselves as she navigates the many changes in her life. She is smart, creative and positive.

A rival to Ramona, get this one in the hands of young readers. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.