October 30, 2019

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, picture by Scott Campbell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:05 pm by suebe2

Zombie in Love
by Kelly DiPucchio
Illustratrated by Scott Campbell

Do zombies sound too gruesome for a Halloween picture book?  Then you need to pick up Zombie in Love and see how author Kelly DiPucchio handles her topic.

Mortimer is just a regular guy and with Cupid’s Ball coming home he’s ready for a change.  He wants someone special in his life.  But the girls just don’t appreciate his best qualities – his winning smile, his can-do attitude and his willingness to put himself out there.

In a final attempt to find true love, Mortimer places an ad in the newspaper (this is in there for the adult reader).  “If you like taking walks in the graveyard, and falling down in the rain. If you’re not into cooking, if you have half a brain…”

At the ball, Mortimer sits beside the punch bowl where he can see the whole room.  No one wants any punch but Mortimer watches friends laughing together and couples dancing.  As people start to leave, Mortimer hears a crash as someone knew arrives and, judging by the way she’s falling apart, she’s a bit nervous.

This story works for early grade school readers because the text taken alone has almost no creep factor.  It takes pairing the text with the illustrations to make it a true zombie story.  But since the watercolor illustrations are cartoony and silly it doesn’t become overwhelming gruesome.

If you have a young reader in your life who wants to get in on zombies but isn’t ready for the big screen version, read through this book.  My son and niece both would have loved it, but it wouldnt’ have been right for every young readers I’ve known.  Still, the right young reader will want to spend some time with the book, pointing out the silly-creepy details in the illustrations.

–SueBE

October 26, 2019

A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song

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

A Friend for Henry
by Jenn Bailey
illustrated by Mika Song
Chronicle Books

Like the other children in Classroom Six, Henry hopes for a friend.  Samuel is wildly energetic and Henry finds him a little scary.  Vivianne is a tangle of colors and Henry finds it hard to navigate her rules about the world.  Why is it okay for Vivianne’s Mommy to paint on her fingernails but wrong when Henry paints on her shoes?  He too created a rainbow?

Henry finds it difficult to connect with others.  Their rules confuse him and when his attempts at friendship are often misinterpreted.  But he still wants a friend.  Fortunately Katie is also in his class.

They both love to build with blocks and she doesn’t care that he doesn’t like triangles.  After all, it doesn’t bother him that she doesn’t like broccoli.  They both love the swings and he’s willing to wait at the bottom when she climbs up the ladder to the tall slide.  Free time, playground time, and reading time.  The two find a way to share.

It is one thing to be told how amazing a book is and I’d heard a lot of good things about A Friend for Henry.  Hearing about it and reading it are like hearing about chocolate and then getting to experience it for yourself.  Or broccoli if that’s more your thing.

Sing’s ink and watercolor illustrations help Henry express himself from the apprehension on his face when Samuel turns up the volume to the small smile when he and Katie build a tower and the huge grin when they swing.

Many readers will recognize in Henry a boy much like themselves or someone they know.  Henry is on the autism spectrum.  He is very contained until he is overwhelmed.  He wants to connect but often finds it safer to simply step back.  He tries to reach out and doesn’t understand when people don’t listen.

Pick up a copy of this book for your classroom and your home bookshelf.  It is a great jumping off point for discussions on autism, empathy and friendship.

–SueBE

October 9, 2019

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez, illustrated by Jaime Kim

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

Where Are You From?
by Yamile Saied Mendez,
illustrated by Jaime Kim
Harper

This story is about a little girl who doesn’t look like everyone around her. Because of this, children and adults alike assume she is from somewhere else.

Where are you from? they ask.

Is your mom from here?

Is your dad from there? they ask.

This is a book that could quickly become a sermon, or a protest sign, but Mendez gives our young narrator a problem that resonates in today’s world and an abuelo. When he could lecture, abuelo spins a story about the many lands their ancestors called home.  He talks about guacho and the pampas, condors and mountains and far off lands.  But what he’s really telling her about is family.

Jaime Kim’s illustrations bring this story to life.  She creates a diverse variety of characters, children and adults, who pose these questions to the young narrator.  Then she creates a smiling abuelo who spins a story of exotic seeming locals that are in some ways very familiar – they are full of families. The story ends as abuelo and our character return home, to a place full of a wide variety of people.

Kim combines watercolors and digital techniques to create the illustrations for this book.  I think my favorite illustration is the one of the Andes and the condors or maybe it is when the pair are on horseback on the pampas.

If you haven’t read this picture book, I’d definitely recommend it for a great way to teach without preaching.  It is subtle, sweet and relatable.  Give it a place on the bookshelf in your classroom, office and home.  It will act as a great jumping off place for readers young and adult to discuss identity and their understanding of others as well as self-acceptance.

–SueBE

October 2, 2019

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:35 pm by suebe2

New Kid
by Jerry Craft
Harpercollins 2019

Jordan Banks is wild about his art.  He draws pictures of the world around him and longs to study art in school. But his parents send him to a posh private high school known for academics, not art.  From day one, Jordan feels like he doesn’t belong.

Sure, there are the normal new kid problems.  He has to navigate from one building to another.  He has to learn how each teacher works.

But there’s more.  He’s also one of the few students of color.

One teacher always calls him the wrong name.  He suspects he’s imagining it until he realizes she can’t keep the African-American students straight.  She even tosses in the names of students who are no longer there.  And really there aren’t so many that this should be difficult.

Then there is the fact that he’s a scholarship student.  Most people are okay with it but there is still that one teacher.  She means well but always says something racist while thinking she is being supportive and understanding.

Then she finds his art notebook.  He’s mad that she went through it and she’s “disappointed” because she thinks his comics show a bad attitude.  Never mind that it is a spot on middle school attitude and that these rich white people really are clueless, it isn’t what she wants to see from someone who should be grateful to be where he is.

Slowly but surely Jordan finds a place at his new school as he makes friends with Drew and Liam.  Liam may be white and rich like most of the students but he also feels isolated.  He doesn’t want his parents’ wealth to be an issue but he feels awkward that he is so much more than Jordan.

One of the funniest series of jokes in the book is between Jordan and Drew who is also African American. He too is often called by the wrong name.  The two confuse their fellow students and more than a few teachers by constantly calling each other made up names.  “Bye, D’aren!” “Bye, Jaylen!”

Craft’s book fills a need in children’s publishing for stories not only about African American students but about students who aren’t in gangs and come from loving, supportive families.  The stereotype that African American students are gang-banging thugs is also addressed in the book.

Sounds serious, doesn’t it?  And the issues are serious but Craft manages to address them with humor and it is the type of humor that will appeal to students who have dealt with the casual, clueless racism that is so prevalent in our society.

This book should definitely be in school libraries and on reading lists. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to pop over to the library and see what else they have by Craft.

–SueBE

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