Tag: self esteem

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

piecing-me-together-by-renee-watson

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (9781681191058)

Jade attends a mostly-white private school on scholarship, riding the city bus to and from school as her mother works multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their head. Jade is one of the best students in Spanish class and she looks forward to being selected to travel abroad. But a different opportunity arises as Jade is placed in Women to Women, a mentorship program for at-risk African-American girls. Jade’s mentor, Maxine, is often distracted or late, seemingly more interested in her love life than in Jade. Sometimes though, she is wonderful, paying attention to Jade’s collage art, talking about ways to get her art seen. Still, Jade is the one with things to show and teach even as she is learning herself to find her own voice in life.

Watson’s writing is superb. She captures the conflicting issues of being poor and African-American in today’s America. There are opportunities, yes, particularly for talented students. Still, those opportunities can come at the cost of other decisions and choices. There is the tension of being the one leaving poverty to another place and not wanting to lose family and friends along the way. Even neighborhoods and ways of life are sources of pain and emotions.

Watson doesn’t shy away from directly addressing racism in the book. She gives Jade a new best friend who is white and who doesn’t understand the racism that Jade is experiencing and can’t support Jade in the way that she should. This is handled with sensitivity but also clarity, about what the role of white friends should be in our world. Jade herself is learning that she needs to speak up for herself, insist on fairness, and continue to push. Black Lives Matter is clear on the pages too, showing the violence of society, the murders by police and the impact that has on everyone in a community.

Powerful, strong and filled with writing that calls for action, this book is simply stellar. Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

 

Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray

molly-pim-and-the-millions-of-stars-by-martine-murray

Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray (InfoSoup)

Released January 17, 2017.

Molly longs not to have a mother who heads into the woods to collect weeds and herbs. She wants a normal family that has a normal house, not one that feels like a caravan inside. She wants a mother who gives her granola bars in packages, not one who creates potions and treatments. Her neighbors want them to calm down too, get control of their rooster who crows at dawn and to neaten up their yard. Molly’s mother creates a powerful potion to grow a tree in one night that will shield them from the neighbors, but accidentally drinks it herself. Suddenly, Molly’s mother has turned into a tree. Now Molly has to decide who to trust with the secrets of her life. It can’t be Ellen, her best friend, who is very normal and whose life Molly covets. Instead she turns to the odd boy in their class, Pim, who creates a plan along with Molly to bring her mother back. But will it work before her neighbors start to cut off the branches of the wild new tree?

This Australian import is a magical read and not only for the real magic that happens on the pages. It has a gorgeous tone about it, one that is organic and delicious at the same time. One feels invited directly into the wonder of potions and weeds, your hands itching to get out there and brew your own green syrup. The voice throughout is fresh and filled with surprise.

Molly grows throughout the book, realizing that her own unique upbringing is nothing to be ashamed of. I love that it is Ellen, the normal one, who teaches her this. She speaks directly to Molly about how it feels to be excluded and how important it is to trust. The writing in the book is very special, creating moments like these that are less about lectures and more about sudden inspiration and realizations.

A gorgeously written novel that offers potions, magic and wonder. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

 

Gary by Leila Rudge

gary-by-leila-rudge

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 Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi

The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi

The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober (InfoSoup)

In a dim sum restaurant, one dumpling is sad because he is considered ugly. He tried to make up for it with outfits or wrinkling his brow, but he was always the one left behind and ignored.Then a cockroach came along and offered to show the Ugly Dumpling the beauty in the world. They explored the kitchen together with all of its wonders. Then the Ugly Dumpling noticed something. There were more ugly dumplings who looked just like him! He was in fact a steamed bun and fit in perfectly. The same could not be said for the cockroach though when he was revealed to all in the dining room. But by that point, the Ugly Dumpling knew just what to do.

This is a clever riff on the Ugly Duckling story that manages to tweak the story just enough to keep it fresh and new but also so that the traditional tale is still able to be seen as well. It is the character of the cockroach that makes this book really work. The addition of a friend to model self-esteem even if you are unique is crucial here and then for the tables to turn at the end of the story. The text is simple and straight-forward, making it a great book to share aloud with a strong story arc.

Kober’s illustrations are jaunty and lively.  Showing the kitchen as a kind of wonderland is magical with the towers of plates that look like skyscrapers, the woks that are almost volcanic, and the landscapes of flour. The emotions of the dumpling and other characters are done clearly and the illustrations are large enough to work with a group nicely.

A strong pick for a book to share aloud, this dynamic picture book is sure to suit everyone’s tastes. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

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.

 

 

Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty

Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty

Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach (InfoSoup)

Everyone in Ed’s family is excellent except for Ed. He doesn’t understand why he isn’t allowed to eat at the table, ride in the van, sit on the couch or use the inside bathroom like the rest of the family. So he decides that he’s just not good enough and sets out to find something that he is the best in. But each time he finds something, one of the others in the family shows how much better they are than he is at exactly that thing. Finally, Ed shows why he is the perfect pet in a perfect family, though he still wonders about the inside bathroom.

This book uses humor and a dog’s perspective to take a look at being the underachiever in a family. The family is oblivious to Ed’s self-esteem crisis, continuing to excel and to applaud one another along the way. The book is cleverly crafted with Ed figuring out what he is good at and then another family member putting a twist on it and showing a new interpretation of the skill. Additionally, the list of things that Ed isn’t allowed to do serves as the basis for what he is actually very good at. It’s a lovely concept that brings the entire book full circle.

The illustrations are jaunty and delightful. In a book about a dog and not about race at all, it is great to see a family of color as the central figures. There is a lot of energy throughout the book and it is made all the more energetic by the illustrations which pack plenty of action on each page, moving the book along at a lively pace.

Dynamic, funny and very satisfying, this picture book is dog-gone good. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (InfoSoup)

Willowdean doesn’t spend her days worrying about how fat she is, though her mother’s nickname of “Dumplin'” can be a problem, especially when used in public. Her mother is in charge of the local beauty pageant and has never encouraged Will to enter, though she has told Will’s best friend Ellen that she could win. When a boy at her work at a local fast food joint starts to flirt with Will, she is shocked. Bo is a gorgeous guy and someone that moves in a different social level than Will. When the two of them start to make out after work in their own secret place, Will begins to question her comfort with her body. As Will’s confidence plummets, she makes a big decision. She’s going to enter the Miss Clover City pageant. As she reclaims her self-image, she ends up helping other girls do the same.

Murphy’s novel is simply brilliant. Willowdean is a wonderful protagonist and the claustrophobic setting of a small southern town is also perfection. It’s that setting that lets Will really shine, since it wears on her and the reader. Add in the Dolly Parton songs, the loss of a beloved aunt who served as a second parent, and a handful of red suckers, and this novel will have you head-over-heels in love with Will and everything that she stands for.

Murphy gets the fat-girl personality just right. The feeling of complete self-acceptance that you can have and then the way it can disappear as if it never existed. Murphy though does not accept that. Instead Will fights back, recovers from her funk about herself, insists on relationships on her own terms, and heck even falls in love for good measure.

A book that will have you turning on Dolly yourself, this novel for teens shines and dazzles. It’s for girls of every size, because none of us feel worthy enough. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from library copy.