Mommy Sayang by Rosana Sullivan (9781368015905)
Aleeya lives with her mother in their Malaysian village. She loves spending time with her Mommy, and the two of them do everything together. Mommy also features heavily in Aleeya’s dreams which are filled with flowers and dancing. The two of them plan to always be together like this. But then Mommy gets sick and has to stay in bed. Aleeya is lost without her, but steadily starts to realize that she can be at her mother’s side, just in a different way.
This picture book brings diversity in multiple ways. There is the Malaysian setting that is richly depicted with animals and activity. The family is Muslim and prayers and head-wear are depicted. Then you have the mother get ill. While she does recover by the end of the book, it is rare that you see a mother get bedridden in a picture book and the impact of that loss explored. Here it is fully shown and Aleeya’s response is brave and loving.
The illustrations are rich and filled with color and touching moments between mother and child. Their relationship is at the center of the text and the illustrations. It is not a surprise that the illustrations are captivating, since this is a book in the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase. The talent here really shines.
A lovely look at the impact of a mother, whether she can get out of bed or not. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas by Juana Medina (9781536201314)
The first book in this series won the Pura Belpre Author Award in 2017. This second book continues to use the author’s own childhood in Bogota, Colombia as inspiration. Juana’s life is wonderful. She has her dog, Lucas, and her mother. But lately, her mother has been making some changes. Her hair is different and she has a boyfriend. Luis is nice and kind to Juana, but it’s a lot of change to deal with. When the two decide to get married and move to a new home, Juana is brokenhearted. But even though things are changing, some things will always be true, like how much Juana is loved.
Medina shares how traumatic major life changes can be to children without minimizing their emotional strain. At the same time, Juana is a resilient child, who is constantly facing life with an inherent optimism that pays off. Medina focuses on hope and love throughout the book, never allowing it to bog down and keeping the pace brisk.
Throughout this early chapter book, Spanish words are sprinkled in a way that makes sense to English-speaking readers. The setting is used nicely in the story and factors heavily into the illustrations which are friendly and have a warm cartoon feel.
Another winner from Medina! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Great Job, Mom! by Holman Wang (9780735264083)
The co-creator of Cozy Classics returns with a felted family. The three-person family has a mom who almost a hero for her children. As the story progresses, she is given different jobs in the family. She is a carpenter when she repairs things. She’s a general when the troops get marched to bed. She is a doctor when the children are sick. She’s an actor when they pretend together. This charmer of a picture book offers a glimpse of the many roles that mothers play in families, celebrating their myriad skills.
Wang’s text is simple and straight forward. Done in rhymes, they have a jaunty rhythm that makes the book great to share aloud. But the real winner here are the illustrations that life the book to new heights. At the end of the book, the process for creating the felted characters and their scenes is shown, not taking away any of the immense skill that Wang has as an illustrator. The small touches and the lifelike characters are delightful, making each image worth looking at closely.
A celebration of mothers, this picture book is a joy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (9780062662835)
In her second novel, Acevedo cements her place as a master author for teen readers. Emoni’s life has not been easy, getting pregnant as a freshman in high school was not part of her plan. Now as a senior, her life is filled with work, caring for her daughter, and taking care of her Abuela. There is room too for her love of cooking, but not enough room for big dreams for her future. When a culinary class is offered for the first time at her school, Emoni hesitates to apply even though she longs to. The class includes a trip to Spain, which Emoni knows she will not be able to afford, nor could she leave her daughter or ask that of her grandmother. Still, she signs up for the class. It’s not easy, learning to not improvise in the kitchen but follow the rules and recipes. She can’t add the small touches that make her cooking magic. As Emoni opens herself up to new experiences, her life begins to open in other ways too, allowing herself to find romance and new connections.
In this novel, Acevedo gifts us with a story in prose where you can see her skill as a poet shining through often, taking words and making them dazzling. The fierceness of her first book is still here, with some of the short chapters taking on issues like racism and poverty. The entire work is such an incredible read. Emoni takes up a place in your heart and mind, insisting on being heard and believed.
The portrayal of a young mother who is ferociously caring and loving of her daughter, is something not seem often in our society. Emoni stands as a character speaking for women, a teen caring not only for her daughter but also standing alongside her grandmother as they care for one another. Throughout the book, there is a strong sense of community and extended family that are supportive of Emoni and her dreams.
A stellar and important read, let’s hope this one wins more awards and attention for Acevedo. Appropriate for ages 16-18.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperTeen.
Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld (9780062698940)
Just as an orangutan mother and baby wake up and stretch in the treetops, the wild baby rushes off to explore. Sliding and swinging through the jungle, the baby wants to touch and dance and hop, no matter who gets bothered along the way. As they chase through the jungle, the baby ends up being hunted by not just mother but a jaguar while chasing butterflies. Just as the baby is in the utmost danger, everything works out. Now he has to contend with a rather irate mother who carries him back to their nest. Happily, he has a lovely surprise for her when they get there.
For anyone who has cared for a toddler who loves to dash away, this will be a familiar feeling. Doerrfeld creates a madcap race through the jungle done with very simple language sprinkled liberally with the word “wild.” The pacing is exciting and fast and the book is filled with just enough danger and plenty of love. The illustrations are filled with orange fur, playfulness and glee.
A terrific toddler pick. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Shannon Wright (9781250140913)
When a little girl wakes up sick, she knows that her mother is going to take great care of her with a special brand of Mommy Medicine. There are kisses and hugs, massages and tickles. Then there are special treats like ice cream, tea, hot chocolate or soup. A bubbly bath is another form of medicine and then there are board games to play too. A quiet nap is a moment of quiet and then on to singing songs, silly dances, and playing pretend. Movies watched together and seeing stars before bed end the day spent together.
Danticat uses her own family as inspiration for this picture book using the phrase that her family used, “Mommy Medicine.” The book goes through each type of maternal love that can be shown on a sick day. Each one not only cares for the sick child but also builds the mother-child relationship stronger. Danticat also shares lots of details that bring the book fully to realization with lovely moments captured on each page.
Wright’s illustrations show a mother and daughter who shine with love for one another. They delight in their time together, coming up with ideas to share. Their home and time together is filled with warmth and visible joy, even on a day of illness.
A deep and comforting look at motherly love and how it can heal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.
Loving Hands by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Amy June Bates (9780763679934)
This tender and moving picture book looks at the connection between parent and child from babyhood all the way through adulthood and old age. The book begins with pregnancy and birth, then moves on to the activities of toddlers and childhood like pat-a-cake and skinned knees. The book moves on to baking together, star gazing, and gardening. Full of simple pleasures, the child becomes an adult who visits home now and again. Until he returns to care for his mother and they watch the stars once again together.
First, I must tell you that the mother does not die at the end of the book. So the book stays hopeful and filled with warmth all the way through. The focus on hands is lovely, connecting the two of them through their activities and their loving touches. Johnston’s writing is superb, lifting the book up to something splendid and special. The verse in the book has a repeating rhythm and near rhymes that create beautiful moments on each page.
The artwork by Bates exudes warmth on the page. The characters are lit from within by their connection and love for one another. Each image captures that connection through body language and expressions.
A lovely book for mothers and children alike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (9780735262751)
Felix loves trivia and his gerbil who is named after a famous Canadian game show host. He lives with his mother Astrid, who struggles to keep jobs and tends to tell lies whenever she wants. Living in Vancouver is expensive, so when Astrid loses her job and then offends the person who takes them in, Felix finds himself living in a camper van. It’s only temporary, so Felix starts school and doesn’t explain to anyone where he is living. Astrid uses her ability to stretch the truth convincingly to get him a place in the school he wants and to get them a mailing address. Still, living in a van is not any fun after awhile and as Felix makes new friends, he finds it hard to keep lying to them. But there is a way out, if Felix can win the junior version of a national game show, he might just have enough money to get them back on their feet and into a home.
Nielsen tells a story about the power of hope, the importance of friendship and the creation of a community of people who care. It is also the story of a mother who is struggling with depression and an inability to keep a job. Astrid is a great character, a mother who manages to continue to be sympathetic but also disastrous. She is complicated just like their story of homelessness is. This is not a flat look at homelessness but instead an in-depth exploration of how it happens, the trap of being in it, and the long climb back out.
Felix too is a wonderful character. He is bright, funny and written as a twelve-year-old boy. That means that his sense of humor is a little naughty and his sense of integrity and honor is strong. His voice resonates as that of a child his age, not reaching up to be a teen yet. The friends he makes are also depicted well, from his old childhood friend with the warm and messy home to the girl he likes, maybe, and her straight-talking hard-hitting journalism approach.
A nuanced and skilled look at homelessness with great characters to discover along the journey. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Tundra Books.
Mama Dug a Little Den by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (9781481480376)
In this companion book to Mama Built a Little Nest, the story explores the many animals who build dens to protect their babies. The book offers rhyming couplets as the main part of the story but each animal also has facts included on the page. These facts include how long the babies stay with their mothers, how the dens function and how the animals are fed while in the den. There are mammals, toads, lizards, spiders and many more on these pages, each with a unique den of their own and interesting reasons for having them.
Ward has selected a broad range of animals to highlight here. Her poems are jaunty and clever, the rhymes never feeling forced. The facts she shares are brief, pertinent and fascinating, just what you need in a picture book format. As always, Jenkins’ art is exceptional. He captures small details and interesting habitats with his cut paper collage that introduces texture to the illustrations as well.
Curl up in your own den to share this with your own baby animal. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.