January 9, 2018

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs Inequality by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Stacy Innerst

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:30 pm by suebe2

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
The Case of R.B.G. vs Inequality
by Jonah Winter
illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Abrams Books for Young Readers

When Ruth Bader was growing up in Brooklyn, there were a lot of Jewish families but there was also a lot of hate there and elsewhere in the country.  Once when she and her parents were driving cross-country, they spotted a sign outside a resort.  “No Dogs or Jews Allowed.”

In spite of this, Ruth thrived.  Her father was a hard worker but had never graduated from high school.  Her mother finished high school and was an excellent student.  But because she was a girl she got to help earn money to send her brother to college.  She didn’t complain.  She worked hard, read a lot, and saved money for her daughter to go to college.

At Cornell, Ruth studied hard although at first she hid to study.  A girl who wanted a date couldn’t act too smart.  Fortunately she met Martin Ginsburg who loved her as much for her love of learning as he personality.  On the job, in law school, and even teaching at law school, every where she went Ruth Bader Ginsburg found discrimination.  Sometimes it was because she was Jewish.  Sometimes it was because she was a woman but that’s okay.  Ruth was ready to show them what a Jewish girl from Brooklyn could do. From the court of appeals to the US Supreme Court, Ruth has been speaking out for others, dissenting and leading the way.

What an amazing book.  In addition to the inspiration that is RBG herself, the author does not write down to young readers.  Evidence, dissent, argument, these legal terms and more pepper the text which isn’t preachy but inspirational.  Stacy Innerst illustrations pull the reader in as they search for the tiny figure that is RBG on each and every spread.  I hesitated to use the word tiny but when you see the spread on the Supreme Court . . . tiny but mighty.

A definite must for the classroom.  But expect this book to launch discussions on education, discrimination and everyone who is put down or put in their place.



January 5, 2018

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:38 pm by suebe2

A Different Pond
by Bao Phi
illustrated by Thi Bui
Capstone Young Readers

The sky is still dark when a young boy is awakened by his father.  Together they leave the leave home and head to the bait store, open even though the stars still twinkle in the sky.  The only time to fish is before Dad has to go to work – he’s working two jobs now.

At the pond, they are the only ones there although sometimes other fishermen join them.  Dad sets up their fishing gear.  The boy gathers small sticks for a small camp fire.  While Dad fishes he talks about fishing with his brother when he was a boy.  Sometimes Dad tells about fighting in the war in Vietnam, side-by-side with his brother, but not this time.  And then their bobber dips.

The boy guides the fish on the line, a crappie, into the bucket.  Dad is happy because tonight the family will have a good dinner. As they leave, the boy looks at the trees and wonders what the trees look like around the pond back in Vietnam.

The sun is up by the time they get home.  Time for Mom and Dad to go to work.  The boy thinks about everyone gathered around the table for dinner, laughing and telling stories as they share the fish he helped catch.

Bao Phi has woven together a story of family and working together, of continuity even in the face of change.  Although this is the story of an immigrant family in the 1970s, it is also a story of immigrant families today.  It is a story of hard work, devotion, longing, love, and strength.

That strength is depicted in the bold lines of Thi Bui’s illustrations.  Her art work is reminiscent of the panels of a graphic novel and she shows the night world in bold black lines and strong blues and browns.

This is a heartfelt thought-provoking story that is sure to prompt discussions among young readers and the adults who shape them.



Stolen Words by Melanie Florence, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:42 am by suebe2

Stolen Words
by Melanie Florence
illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Second Story Press

A little girl is walking home from school with her grandpa when she asks him how to say grandfather in Cree. For several seconds he freezes and then he tells her the story of the boarding schools.  The government took him to live at a school away from his family. They punished children for saying words in their own languages.  Because of this, the children lost their words.  He no longer remembers how to say anything in Cree.

The next day the little girl comes out of school and pulled a small, battered book from her pack.  Introduction to Cree.  

Together they sound out words.  She tells him that her teacher helped her find this book so that she could share it with him.  So that together they could rediscover his beautiful words.

This is one of the sweetest books that I’ve read in a long time.  But not overly sweet.  The story of the boarding schools is harsh and bitter.  It is balanced with the innocence and love that this girl feels.  It is also balanced by contrasting his school experience with hers where she makes a dream catcher at school and brings home a book full of Cree words.

Gabrielle Grimard’s art work helps bring the story to life.  Rich colors depict this girl with raven wing hair and show the life and vibrancy that still exist.  Depictions of past events are created in washed out, weaker colors telling the reader without words that the past may impact the present but clearly this bright little girl is stronger than the heartless past.

This book was written for ages 6 to 9.  Although the boarding school reality is frightening, this retelling is age appropriate. The grandfather’s recollections will form a skeleton on which to hang additional facts at a later date.  Use this book as a jumping off point for discussions in Native Rights, language and culture, and even immigration.

A must read for any diverse classroom.



December 27, 2017

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 9:25 pm by suebe2

An Enchantment of Ravens
by Margaret Rogerson
Margaret K. McElderry Books

We’re used to thinking about artists as being temperamental but Isobel is anything but. A skilled portrait artist, the teen has to keep her wits even when she gets lost in her work because she has a particularly dangerous set of clients.

The fair folk crave things that are crafted – portraits, fancy clothing, jewelry, and sweet cakes.  But they don’t pay for these wares with gold or other coins.  They pay with magical enchantments.  Word the price for your work poorly and you may shorten your life by years or no longer be able to speak any words that begin in vowels.

Isobel is adept at wording the bargains she makes with her fair folk clients.  Her home is layered with protection spells and their hens lay a handy number of eggs on a regular basis. But then she is told that a new client, a prince of the Autumn Court, will be paying her a visit. Isobel begins to worry. Fair folk in general are intimidating with their unreal beauty, inhuman skills, and love of mischief. What will a prince be like?  As much as she fears Rook, the Autumn Prince, his humor and curiosity fascinate her.

It is only after the pair fall in love, a crime punishable by death, that Isobel realizes the client who recommended her to Rook is a prince in his own Spring Court.  Isobel is determined to find a way out, a way that will preserve both their lives and she knows it will have to be a way other than becoming Fair herself.  Because becoming one of the Fair Folk means losing her craft and never again being able to capture someone’s inner likeness in paint.

This may be Rogerson’s first published novel but I suspect it will not be her last.  From Isobel’s home village of Whimsy to the surrounding woods and the Fairy Courts, the setting is created with layer upon layer of detail, just like coats of paint.  The characters are just as complex from Isobel to Rook and even the Fair Folk who seek their deaths.

She has also taken the stories about fairy and created her own world of human and Fair Folk. Themes of family, love, loss, craft and knowledge are woven together in a rich novel.  Although, I will warn you, that it sat unfinished on my bedside table for two weeks.  With just two more chapters to read, I didn’t want the story to end.

Share it with the young fantasy lover in your life.




December 20, 2017

Manjhi Moves a Mountain by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Danny Popovici

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 5:35 pm by suebe2

Manjhi Moves a Mountain
by Nancy Churnin
illustrated by Danny Popovici
Creston Books

In the country of India, a massive mountain separated two villages.  On Manjhi’s side of the mountain, nothing grew.  It was a 40 mile walk to the other village and that is where children had to journey to go to school. Adults ventured the same path to go to the market.

In the other village, life was good and the people were prosperous.

Manjhi believed that life in his village would be easier if people no longer had to travel up and over the mountain.  Manjhi traded his three goats for a used hammer and chisel.  Each night, after this work was done, he climbed to the top of the mountain and chipped away at the stone.

Night after night Manjhi worked.  His neighbors told him he was crazy.  But little by little his hole grew. A year passed and Manjhi had grown stronger.  His hole had grown longer and deeper. After 15 years, people could see the notch in the mountain from the village below. People started to leave him gifts.  Food.  A new hammer and chisel.  And he could tell that other people were now working on his hole.

When I checked this book out of the library, I thought it was a folk tale but this is a true story about a man who broke a hole through the mountain that blocked to way between two villages.  Manjhi started the project because his wife had trouble getting the medical care she needed in their village.

Danny Popovici’s art work helps bring this story to life. From the warm earth tones of the stone to the greys and blues of cloud and sky, his style is cartoon-like but very appealing.  Spread by spread, readers watch Manjhi age and the hole grow.  They also watch the attitudes of the people in Manjhi’s village change as they gain hope.

This is a must read for the classroom and for the home.  Share it with your children and then be prepared to discuss.  What mountain do they want to move bit by bit?


December 6, 2017

I Love My Purse by Belle DeMont, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:54 pm by suebe2

I love my purseI Love My Purse
by Belle DeMont
illustrated by Sonja Wimmer
Annick Press

Charlie is getting ready for school one morning when he’s looking through his closet for something to wear.  The problem is that there is only one thing in there that he really likes. It is the red purse that his grandma let him have.

Enough is enough.  Charlie decides to wear what makes him happy.  He packs his things up in the red purse and he is ready to go.  On the way downstairs, his father attempts to stop him. “Hold on, wait a second!” Charlie explains that the purse makes him happy but Dad’s a hard sell.  “I love Hawaiian shirts but that doesn’t mean I wear them to work.”

From Dad to Charlotte and Sam at school, person after person questions his decision.  Still, Charlie knows what makes him happy.

The next day, things are a little different.  Everyone notices that Charlie still has his purse but something about each of them is different too, starting with Dad. He’s decided not to wear a tie.

Day after day, Charlie’s impact grows.  Soon Dad is wearing Hawaiian shirts and Sam is cooking lunch for the other students.  DeMont’s message is clear without being preachy – be yourself and you will encourage others to do the same.  Self-confidence, and happiness, will spread.

Sonja Wimmer’s bright art helps bring this story to life.  It is fanciful enough to add to the fun mood of this story while still being realistic.

Share this book with young readers to spark discussions on individuality and personal expression. Invite them to discuss what they’d do “if they could” and what makes them think they cannot. Some answers will be obvious, such as having to follow school rules, but the conversation will also make them think about self-imposed limitations.

A fun fast-paced book that would be good for the classroom and the home bookcase.

For another book about individuality see The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania al Abdullah with Kelly DiPucchio illustrated by Tricia Tusa.


December 1, 2017

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 6:07 pm by suebe2

all the crooked saintsAll the Crooked Saints
by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press

The Soria family doesn’t exactly welcome visitors to Bicho Raro, Colorado.  But still the visitors come, drawn by the promise of a miracle.  And visitors aren’t all that’s drawn to Bicho Raro.  So are owls of all kinds who gather whenever a miracle is imminent.  Good or bad, it doesn’t much matter to the owls but it does matter to the Soria.

Whenever Daniel Soria, the handsome teen who is the family’s current saint, performs a miracle for a pilgrim, it always does more than expected.  The first miracle addresses the pilgrim’s problem but it also unleashes their inner darkness.  A predatory priest who loves the ladies just a little too much finds that he now has a coyote’s head. A pair of twins who can’t quit bickering are joined by a cantankerous snake. Until they resolve this darkness, they are stuck with it and cannot leave.

But a Soria who tries to help may unleash his or her own darkness and Soria darkness is something to be feared.  This means that the family refuses to speak or interact with the bizarre cast of characters with whom they share their ranch.

And, as is always the case in a Stiefvater novel, the characters are amazing.

Daniel seems sweet but he was a hell raiser as a teen.  His cousin Beatrice has a scientific mind but believes she has no emotions.  Joaquin spends his nights running a renegade radio station with the help of his cousins.  His parents don’t know about his radio personality – Diablo Diablo – and would be horrified given the power of Soria words.

Stiefvater’s latest novel is set in Colorado in the 1960s.  It is a world of ranches, rodeos, and radios.  I’ve only touched on the characters because I don’t want to retell the entire novel and, as is always the case, it is hard to talk about a Stiefvater novel without giving too much away.

All the Crooked Saints is magical realism at its finest.  Magical things happen and no one bats an eye.  Unless, of course, the particular event warrants a reaction.  Out in the larger world, there may not be any magic but in Bicho Raro, miracles rule, a spirit owl can hold onto a person’s eyes until they need them again, and a radio DJ from back East becomes a towering giant.  And the desert is a character as influential as any human in the book.

This is a story, and a land, where magic and love are equally strong and capable of doing both great and terrible things.

I plan to add this one to my Christmas shopping for a particular niece who loves fantasy.  Share it with the readers in your life who love adventure but aren’t afraid to step beyond the world of the ordinary.


November 27, 2017

Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:08 pm by suebe2

Creepy Pair of Underwear
by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Peter Brown
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Jasper is not a little bunny so when he goes to the underwear store with his mother, he’s ready for big boy underwear.  And for Jasper, that means going with the creepy underwear.

The first thing he notices about his purchase is that they glow in the dark. The greenish glow keeps him up so he buries them in the bottom of his laundry hamper. But when he wakes up in the morning he is wearing none other than the creepy underwear.

He tries hiding them in a drawer and even cutting them into tiny squares but the underwear just keeps coming back.  I’m not going to tell you how Jasper finally succeed in ridding himself of the underwear menace but when he does he actually misses them.  His room is just too dark.

In the end, Jasper proves what a grown up bunny he is and surrounds himself with creepy underwear.

Like Reynolds’ Creepy Carrots, this is picture book horror at its finest.  The story is creepy but also funny because – underwear!   Preschoolers as a whole find the word and everything about it just plain funny.

As an adult, I had to wonder if this story was born of a pair of underwear that had a tendency to creep up.  Not polite, but it is something irritating that the wrong pair will do. As a parent, I realize how funny young readers will find these ridiculous underwear as well as the thought that underwear can be scary.

The creepy factor is emphasized by the black and white, picture book noir, effect with only the underwear being in color.   As always, Brown’s illustrations add tons of fun to the story.  That said, I was a tad disappointed when the cover did not glow in the dark.  Yes, I tested it.

Still a fun story to help introduce young readers to a discussion of what is scary and how what is scary to one bunny, or person, doesn’t phase another.  Share this one with a young reader in your life!  This pair also wrote and illustrated Creepy Carrots.


November 25, 2017

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoët

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:16 pm by suebe2

Malala’s Magic Pencil
by Malala Yousafzai
illustrated by Kerascoët
Little Brown and Company

Do you know a girl who needs inspiration?  This is the perfect picture book!

“Do you believe in magic?” That’s the question Malala asks readers.  She and her brothers used to watch a children’s program about a boy with a magic pencil. He drew food to feed himself when he was hungry.  He used the pencil to get people out of trouble.  Malala dreamed of having a magic pencil of her own.

Even as a young girl, Malala loved school.  She studied hard but couldn’t help noticing as the other girls dropped out. Powerful, dangerous men had said that girls should not be educated so they no longer felt safe in the classroom.

Malala didn’t have a magic pencil but she was a good writer and thought that she could help. She wrote about what it was like to be scared to walk to school. She wrote about her friends who had moved away to safer places. Her writing appeared online and in the paper.  She even did a tv interview.  She was scared but she believed she had to speak out for those who didn’t have the ability.

She drew attention and the powerful men wanted to silence her. Fortunately they failed.

Because many other people have joined Malala in speaking out, their voices have come together.  They make her voice is much stronger and she believes that this magic can change the world.

This is truly an amazing, inspirational book.  It is also perfect for a picture book audience.  Malala doesn’t go into what happened to her, only saying that the men wanted to stop her.  The backmatter includes photos of her and her family, all of whom now live in England.

The illustrations for this book were created by Kerascoët.  This is the pen name of the French illustrators and animation artists Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset. Their style compliments this story and helps bring Malala to life for young readers.

Share this story with the young readers on your list this holiday season.  Bring it into the classroom and use it to launch a discussion of the problems your students see in their communities and what they might do to change the world.


November 16, 2017

I am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 8:33 pm by suebe2

I am Peace:
A Book of Mindfulness
by Susan Verde
illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Abrams Books for Young Readers

How do you explain to a young reader just how to chill the heck out?  With a great picture book like I am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness. Told in the first person, the reader follows the narrator through a journey of self-awareness.  And really, this kid could be any of us.

“There are times
when I worry about
what might happen next
and what happened before.”

We’ve all been there.  Fortunately, the young narrator knows how to go from feeling unanchored to noting the ground beneath his feet.

This book deals with a lot of abstracts — mindfulness, focus, and clarity.  But it does so in a way that young readers, and even older readers hung all over with their preconceptions, can understand. He notices the here and now. He inventories how he is feeling and names those feelings. He shares kindness, feeding birds, and then takes it easy beneath a tree that sprouts from a fallen birdseed.

In this book, small acts take root and have big consequences as they bless many.

The art may look familiar as it is provided by Peter H. Reynolds who wrote and illustrated The Dot. Reynolds’ fluid style is colored by watercolors and . . . you’ll never guess this one . . . tea.  His inked character is expressive, clearly showing as he lets go of tension and negativity.

Verde’s final note includes information on guided meditation for those who have never used this technique and want to give it a try. Reynolds and Verde worked together on another picture book, I am Yoga.  

Celebrate Picture Book Month by sharing this title with your young reader.  It would make a great bed time book but don’t limit it to quiet times.  It would also be a good launching off point for a discussion on dealing with negativity and how what we bring into this world, whether it is anger or peace, spreads to and impacts others.



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