Tag: self esteem

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.

Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs

Mixed Me by Taye Diggs

Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (InfoSoup)

The author of Chocolate Me! returns with his second picture book. Mike is a boy with wild curls whose skin doesn’t match that either his mother or his father. His father has dark skin and his mother light, and Mike is somewhere in between. Mike loves to run and dash with a cape on his back. He knows exactly who he is and is proud to be a mix of both of his parents. He’s not mixed up at all, he just wants to do his own thing, wear his hair the way he likes it, choose his own clothes, and be exactly who he is.

Taye Diggs, the well-known actor, keeps his book fast moving and filled with rhythm. The character of Mike is a joy to find on the page, a creative boy who has a look and personality all his own. The frank look at skin color is also very welcome as is the exuberant acceptance of being mixed race and the beauty that brings.

Evans’ illustrations are a dynamic collage of fabrics, printed paper and skilled drawing. The way that Mike’s hair is shown gives it its own personality, often moving ahead of Mike himself as he zips through life. The art celebrates different races and colors and the way that Mike stands out for all sorts of reasons from the crowd.

A celebration of self-acceptance, children of all backgrounds will enjoy this book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel and Friends.

Review: Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison

extraordinary jane

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison

Jane lived in an extraordinary world at the circus, but she was just an ordinary dog.  Her mother could do tricks on the back of horses.  Her father could lift an elephant.  Her brothers got shot out of cannons and her sisters performed on the high wire.  But Jane didn’t do any of that.  She tried to find her own special talent, but nothing seemed to work.  She even managed to cause some disasters along the way.  Jane was just ordinary, but in her own quiet way she was very special too.

Harrison has created a quiet heroine in her picture book.  This book will speak to dog lovers but also to children who feel that they don’t live up to their older siblings.  It is a story that celebrates kindness, supportiveness and just being yourself whether that is loud or quiet, flashy or subtle.  The setting of a circus was an inspired choice, offering the most contrast between a regular dog and the daredevil family she has.

Harrison’s art is wonderfully detailed.  She offers spreads of the entire circus and its three rings filled with action.  The dogs fur is shown in individual hairs, the wrinkles on the elephants are striking, and the perspectives are engagingly diverse.

For all of the quiet stars out there, this amazing dog will be inspiring for them to just be themselves.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

Review: Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds


Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat

It’s hard to be a carnivore when all of the prey whispers behind your back, nobody understands the way you eat, and you are accused of sneaking around.  So a lion, a great white shark and a wolf get together to form a support group.  Their first plan is to become vegetarians, but that doesn’t go well at all.  In fact, the wolf can’t seem to find a berry bush that doesn’t have a bunny in it.  The next plan is using disguises to blend in, but one smell of the lion’s zebra breath turns the antelope against him.  Finally, the lion asked the great horned owl to speak with them.  The owl talked about accepting themselves as carnivores.  The others realize that he is right and follow his advice perfectly.

Reynolds has written a book that is screamingly funny.  Each page has laughter on it with the perfect timing of his jokes.  It begs to be shared aloud with punch lines that just have to be delivered.  Happily, the humor is edgy and truly funny, not just for small children.  With clever twists throughout the story and situations that make for very funny results, children will be delighted with this look at self-acceptance and meat eating.

Santat’s illustrations are perfection here.  Bright colored and bold, just like the humor, they add just the right touch to the book.  He manages to capture the comedy perfectly, but not allow his art to blow the punch lines prematurely.  The large format will work well with a group, but there are also details that will have to be shared too.

Clever, funny and wonderfully inappropriate, this book asks us all to accept our inner or outer carnivores.  Appropriate for ages 4-6, this would also work well as a read-aloud for older elementary kids who will love the humor and the naughtiness of the jokes.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.