Tag: self esteem

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber (9780545902144, Amazon)

Rachel is looking forward to a great year. She has two best friends and it’s looking like she may not just make the soccer team but may be playing forward. She even has a crush on a boy, Tate, in her class. Just as her plans start to take off though, she is hit with news about her scoliosis which has been being monitored for years. Rachel must wear a brace to correct the curve of her spine. She has to wear it 23 hours a day, every day. The brace changes how she can kick the soccer ball, how she breathes, how she runs and how she eats. Worse though, it changes how everyone sees her, including her best friends and Tate. What had been going to be the best year ever has become the worst year ever.

Gerber, who wore a brace herself for scoliosis, has created a piercingly clear look at life-changing events like wearing a brace. She takes the time to really look at the brace itself, the impact that it has on an athlete, and the changes it makes in self-perception. I haven’t read a book since Deenie by Judy Blume that tackles this subject and it was high time for a new take on it.

As the adults in Rachel’s life push her to quickly accept the brace, Rachel pushes back and insists on continuing to play soccer. Rachel appears to be coping well, but she is bottling so much up inside her. She is a great character, demonstrating with honesty and strength the importance of voicing aloud to those you love what you are experiencing and feeling. Once Rachel begins to do that, others can support her and help her through. It’s a lesson in vulnerability leading to better understanding that is gracefully presented.

Strong, human and timely, scoliosis impacts ten percent of teens. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio

Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio

Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson (9781481457835, Amazon)

This is the second book about Gaston and his friends. The focus in this picture book is on Antoinette, the little poodle growing up in a family of bulldogs. Each of her brothers has a special talent: one is fast, another is strong, and the third is fast. Antoinette’s mother tells her that she also has a special talent, but no one knows what it could be. Then one day in the park, Gaston’s sister goes missing.  Can Antoinette be the one who finds her? It depends on whether she can trust her nose and her heart.

DiPucchio has a wonderful voice for picture books. She creates a natural rhythm with her writing, using repetition skillfully and not overplaying it. She understands the importance of little pauses, creating special moments in the prose that really pull a reader’s or listener’s attention to important parts. DiPucchio also manages to create real tension in a picture book that is appropriate for a preschool audience.

Robinson’s illustrations are bright, bold and large. They work well for sharing with a group. Against the bright backgrounds, the white and brown dogs pop visually. The acrylic paint offers deep colors that have some texture to them, adding to the visual appeal.

Another winning picture book from a master author, make sure to check in with Gaston’s story too! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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.