Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders, illustrated by Carol Rossetti (9780711252424)
With a clear focus on self-acceptance and body positivity, this nonfiction picture book celebrates all girls and young women. The book is filled with images of girls of all sizes, races, religions and abilities. Readers are told to start loving their bodies now, not waiting. Bodies are more than just there to be admired: they are strong and active no matter their size or shape. The book encourages readers to make a list of what they appreciate about their body, offering help and ideas. The book then recommends that if that did not help it might be a good idea to seek help from an adult or organization. Self care is also emphasized along with dressing your body the way it feels best to you. Self-love is a process, and this book shows a clear way forward.
Sanders’ text is clear and fierce. She demands that readers take action, not see themselves as objects, and deeply understand that no matter our size, race or ability that our bodies are ours to treasure and celebrate. The focus on self kindness and self care is an important one, nicely moving readers away from perfectionism towards habits that will serve them well for their entire lives.
The illustrations are tremendous. I particularly love the groups of girls and young women gathered together in their underwear and fully clothed. It’s a visual sisterhood, a commitment to loving ourselves and one another. The girls throughout the book are diverse and active. I particularly appreciate that it is often the larger girls as well as those of different abilities who are doing the activities.
Fierce, kind and compassionate, this book insists that all girls are valued. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Frances Lincoln.
The Seedling That Didn’t Want to Grow by Britta Teckentrup (9783791374291)
There once was a seed that took a long time to sprout, long after the other plants had grown up around it. Then it took some time to grow from a seedling into a plant. The creatures in the meadow noticed this special plant and monitored it. Ant and Ladybird sat next to it waiting for it to sprout. Circket guarded her roots and Mouse searched for clear paths. Finally, the plant reached the sunshine and left the meadow undergrowth behind. She grew up and up, wide and broad. She transformed with buds and then hundreds of flowers. All kinds of animals lived in her branches. When autumn came, she turned brown and withered along with the other plants, until one day all of her seeds took flight on the wind. Then winter came and spring arrived later, and that’s when everyone could see the transformation of the meadow.
Teckentrup’s picture book about a unique and different plant celebrates those who may be considered late bloomers and looks at how one individual can transform where they live. The seasonal aspect of the book is done beautifully, as the spring brings the sprouting of the seed, the summer with its amazing growth, and the quiet solemnity of autumn. All of this is captured in her illustrations which are rich and textured. The colors are far from simple, taking on the aspect of each season but also bringing in deep maroons in spring, gold light, and the oranges of autumn.
A quiet and lovely look at seasons, plants and transformation. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Prestel.
Sweety by Andrea Zuill (9780525580003)
Sweety is a naked mole rat, though fortunately for the pictures in the book mole rats like to wear clothes. But Sweety is not like the other naked mole rats. She loves to spend her time identifying fungi and does her school book reports in interpretive dance. She doesn’t have any friends because as her grandmother tells her, she’s a “square peg” and she doesn’t fit in. Happily, Sweety has her Aunt Ruth, who also didn’t fit in as a child. Ruth encourages Sweety to just be herself and that eventually she will find other like her who are different too. Sweety wonders how to find others without being too desperate, and in the end, she manages to do exactly the right thing.
Zuill has created a picture book that is entirely heart warming and charming. Sweety is a marvelous character, someone who is not only different in her interests but also looks different than the others around her. The large headgear that she wears adds to that as well as her bald head. My favorite part of the book is the wry look at popularity and the literal single hair that separates beauty from being different. These moments appear throughout the book and encourage readers to see Sweety as an individual.
A great picture book with one big personality. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
Pete with No Pants by Rowboat Watkins (9781452144016, Amazon)
Pete is a little elephant who prefers not to wear pants. He likes to pretend to be other things that are also gray and also don’t wear pants. Maybe he’s a boulder? But the boulders don’t like his knock-knock jokes and never respond. Maybe he’s a squirrel? But he manages to scare the squirrels away. A pigeon? A cloud? Or maybe, he’s exactly who he knows he is, a little one who doesn’t want to wear clothes.
I love that there is a moral here, but it’s for the parents not the kids. That is to let your little one be who they truly are. The ending has the mother elephant who is dressed quite conservatively and has been watching with a worried expression finally just accepting Pete for who he is. The writing is mostly done in asides spoken by Pete and the other animals. It’s wry and great fun, just right for reading aloud.
Watkins’ illustrations have a great softness to them, colors that are subtle and smear on the page. The background isn’t a pure white but a soft textured gray. The pages move from full double-page spreads to smaller comic-book framing that plays in tune with the speech bubbles on the pages. Don’t miss the denim end pages too, and notice the difference between the front and back ones.
A joyous call to support our children, whoever they are. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Bertolt by Jacques Goldstyn (9781592702299, Amazon)
Told in the voice of a young boy who is different from the others around him. He doesn’t mind wearing different colored gloves after he can’t find his lost one. He enjoys being alone most of the time, unlike the others in his town. His favorite place to be alone is in a huge oak tree that is named Bertolt. The boy spends his days up in Bertolt’s branches, weathering storms together, making friends with the animals and birds that live in the tree. The boy looks forward to spring when Bertolt’s leaves will return and become a splendid green shelter again. But when the other trees burst into flower and leaf, Bertolt doesn’t. Eventually, the boy must admit that Bertolt is dead, but what does one do when a tree dies? The boy figures out exactly the right thing.
This is a story of an introverted child who doesn’t mind being on his own one bit. As a fellow introvert, I love seeing the depiction of a child who isn’t longing to be included but instead finds real pleasure in his time spent alone. It’s a story of independence and imagination, showing that quiet time alone can lead to creative solutions even when you have lost something you love. The book is touching, warm and celebratory.
The illustrations are lovely with the huge sweeping oak tree filling the page, the branches thick and strong, the leaves aglow with green and light. The fine-lined images capture the boy almost dwarfed by the space around him and yet eagerly also a vital part of the scene. His acorn cap speaks to his connection to nature and set him apart from the people around him as well.
A lovely look at introversion, imagination and the power of being different and embracing it. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg (9780545858267, Amazon)
A follow-up novel to Openly Straight, this second book focuses on Ben. Ben comes from a conservative New Hampshire farming family and is at a prestigious all-boys boarding school on scholarship. His life is filled with pressures of hard work and high achievement. He is told he will be the recipient of the school’s annual college scholarship and that just heaps on more expectations as does his election to be the captain of the school’s baseball team. As school pressures build, Ben is also wrestling with his sexuality. He has met a girl who makes him laugh and is distractingly beautiful, but he can’t get his best friend Rafe out of his mind. Ben is pushed to his limits in this novel that shows the importance of being honest with ourselves most of all.
Konigsberg delights in this second novel about Rafe and Ben. The use of a different perspective is refreshing and smart. The novel takes place after the first in the series, continuing the story and moving it forward. Throughout the book, other aspects of sexuality and gender are explored. Two of Rafe and Ben’s closest friends are asexual and gender fluid. They too are discovering their own identities alongside Ben, making for a rich experience for the reader.
Ben himself is a robust character with so much going on. He’s a history geek, loves to read and enjoys learning. Still, he is struggling in calculus, working late into the night just to stay afloat. Questions about teen drinking and cheating are also woven into the story, alongside the importance of being true to yourself in a myriad of ways, even if that means standing up to those around you. This is one of the best teen books with a bisexual character that I have read, even if Ben himself would not use that label.
A powerful and wildly funny look at sexuality, this novel makes me hope that future books in the series will be told from the perspectives of the other friends in the group. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.
The Catawampus Cat by Jason Carter Eaton, illustrated by Gus Gordon (9780553509717)
Released March 21, 2017.
The cat arrived in town one day and no one noticed at first. Then a grocer noticed the cat who walked entirely askew, crooked to the world. He and his wife tilted their heads to match and discovered her lost wedding ring, romance blossomed. Soon others in town were tilting too. The barber discovered a new haircut, a housepainter created modern art, the librarian pulled a different book out and found a new passion, and a young boy discovered a new way to look at math. The town entirely changed, rebuilding their houses to be crooked and having their cars made that way too. They named a day after the cat and threw a big event. But in the end, the cat had a new way once again of looking at things.
Eaton’s writing is playful and fresh. He embraces thoroughly the impact of a crooked cat on an entire city, one small change after another building to an entire shift in the society. The picture book looks not only at how one individual’s point of view can change the world but also about how being flexible enough to look at the world from a different viewpoint can change an individual and improve a life. The entire book is hopeful, funny and joyful.
Gordon’s illustrations are a mix of collage and painting. With lighthearted cartoon style, they are immensely appealing. Done in subtle colors, they combine vintage clippings, photographs of objects and loose-lined illustrations.
A winsome picture book, this one can be used to spark discussion about our own catawampus approach to life. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Crown Books.
Gary by Leila Rudge (InfoSoup)
Gary was a racing pigeon, but he wasn’t like the rest of the pigeons. On race day, instead of setting off with the others, he stayed behind and organized his scrapbook. Because Gary couldn’t fly. When the others returned, Gary listened to their stories and recorded everything in his scrapbook. But one night, Gary and his map tumbled into the race basket and he didn’t awaken until they were far from home and in the city. Gary was scared and worried that he’d never find his way home, but then he opened his scrapbook and discovered he wasn’t quite as lost as he had thought. Soon Gary had worked out a route home and arrived there via bus. This time he was the one with the stories and a new way for all of the pigeons to get around.
This picture book is pure joy. Gary is a wonderful misfit pigeon, missing exactly the key attribute that makes him a racing pigeon. Still, Gary embraces his differences and makes himself part of the team by recording their adventures. At the same time, he is always separate from the others. This picture book about resilience and self-esteem will speak to anyone who as felt different from the rest.
Rudge’s illustrations add to the appeal. She makes sure that Gary stands out from the other pigeons who are suited up in racing red. Gary meanwhile wears his winter cap and has keeps his head cocked in an inquiring way the entire time. Gary’s use of tape and his scrapbook is also lovingly detailed.
A charmer of a book about self-esteem and embracing your individuality pigeon style. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (InfoSoup)
This picture book begins with the reminder that the sky is always above you, no matter what. A little rabbit with a long scarf makes his way along an adventure with a wise narrator explaining that there are wonderful things alive in this world. There is magic where you least expect it. There is adventure if you leave the mapped roads. It is OK to both hum and cry. It’s important to trust yourself. The little rabbit gains skills on his adventure and lots of confidence too. In the end, the book returns again to the permanence of the sky above us and its beauty.
This book is completely encouraging, explaining to youth exactly what it takes to live a life filled with bravery and authenticity. In many ways it would make a great graduation gift as teens set off into the world. Yet it still works well as a picture book for younger children where the large concepts inside can be discussed and their importance reinforced in conversations. It’s a book that celebrates the individual and their personal journey through life, one that asks us all to follow our own roads and live as we were meant to live.
Cordell’s illustrations are lovely. Their fluid lines and deep colors reinforce both the necessary fluidity of life and our journey and then also the beauty of the world around us if we take time to see it. His little rabbit is entirely engaging, making sure that the book stays relevant to younger children.
An inspirational read that is all about living your personal life and following your own path, this picture book is just right for young and old. Appropriate for ages 4 and older.
Reviewed from library copy.