May 18, 2020

Dibs! by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Marcin Piwowarski

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 12:36 am by suebe2

by Laura Gehl
illustrated by Marcin Piwowarski
Carolrhoda Books

Julian is pretty sure he’s gotten the hang of being a big brother.  The first step is to set boundaries.  Julian does this by calling dibs on the solar system plate, the astronaut costume, and the star-shaped cookies.  But perhaps he’s taught Clancy a bit too well.

Because Clancy’s first word is – Dibs!

Clancy isn’t satisfied with getting a certain plate or even a plate of cookies.  First he claims Mom and Dad’s bed.  And oddly enough, they let him have it.  After all, he did call dibs.  Then he claims the bakery.  But even that isn’t enough.   Before Julian can get anyone to listen, Clancy has claimed the White House and then NASA.

Julian settles in to enjoy life as an only child, and it is sweet. But with NASA Clancy got a rocket and blasted off.  When he doesn’t come home, Julian worries about what has happened to his brother.

I have to admit that I liked this book a lot more than I enjoy the majority of new baby books.  It felt honest and daring and just a touch subversive.  Sure, the brothers eventually work things out but at first Julian knows how he feels about having to share everything, and it is not positive.

Young readers will love the ridiculous humor in this book as calling dibs works in the extreme.  Because Gehl establishes silly parameters, it works when Julian goes into space on his own.  The reader has already accepted that the book is fun if not 100% realistic.

Marcin Piwowarski’s digital illustrations bring the story to life.  His style is just cartoon-y enough to play up the sillier aspects of the story, and I don’t mean simply that an adults turn the White House and NASA over to a toddler.  What’s sillier than that?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!


May 6, 2020

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:06 am by suebe2

All American Boys
by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Rashad is on his way to a party when he stops at the local market for chips.  He is getting his phone out of his duffel, digging around trying to find it under his ROTC uniform, when another shopper, a white professional woman, backs up and falls over him.  Because Rashad is a black teen, assumptions are made and a police officers decides he has to stick up for the victim, the woman.

He beats Rashad even after cuffing the young man and throwing him to the sidewalk.  One of Rashad’s classmates, Quinn, sees what is happening and initially fails to recognize Rashad but is still freaked out because the cop is his best friend’s brother. The story follows the lives of both young men and how they change as Rashad is released from the hospital.

Rashad has to find his voice.

Quinn has to understand that being racist can mean keeping quiet and going on with life as usual because something isn’t your problem.

This is an amazingly powerful book written in two voices – Rashad and Quinn.  The authors got to know each other on a publicity tour put together by their publisher.  They decided after the Michael Brown killing that they needed to write this book.

I had read some of Reynolds other work, I especially liked Long Way Down, but this may be the first time that I’ve ever read Kiely’s work but it won’t be the last.  Books like this, dealing with issues of race and racism, remain important as African Americans die from COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate.  The reasons why have to do with poverty, access to health care, and overcrowding.

In spite of the serious themes addressed in this book, it ends on a note of hope as two young men truly see each other.





April 8, 2020

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 12:50 am by suebe2

Fortunately, The Milk
by Neil Gaiman
illustrated by Skottie Young

When Mum leaves to attend a conference, Dad assures her that he has everything under control.  And things go reasonably well until he forgets to pick up milk for breakfast.  Will the kids have to have OJ on their cereal?  And worse yet, what will he use in his tea?

Determined to save breakfast, Dad heads off to the corner store.

He eventually returns and explains to the kids that NO he did not stand around talking to his friends.  He had a small mishap on the way home, fortunately the milk survived.

When they ask him what happened, he goes into a long drawn-out story about an alien ship, the space-time continuum, pirates, a volcanoe god, wumpires, and a time-traveling stegosaurus in a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier.  Oh, and I nearly forgot, the piranhas.

I’m not going to detail the plot because you really need to read it for yourself.  And since the book is just over 120 pages long?  Just read it.

Written for grades 3 up, this is a ridiculously silly story, just what so many of us need to read right now.  And while many would say it is silly just for the sake of being silly, Gaiman ties it all together rather nicely.  Skottie Young’s illustrations bring the silly tale to life.  My favorite illustrations were his wumpires which reminded me of cartoony Nosferatu.

Still not sure what to expect from this book?  That’s part of the Gaiman experience – his stories are always unpredictable adventures.  This one is also funny, silly funny but funny.

Unlike many children’s books, this book is written from the point-of-view of an adult – the father.  But he is an adult with child-like qualities and seen by the tale he spins for his children.  Or is it fact?  You’ll have to decide for yourself.


March 28, 2020

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:26 pm by suebe2

Prairie Lotus
by Linda Sue Park
Clarion Books

It is 1880 when Hanna and her Papa arrive in LaForge in the Dakota Territory.  Hanna is excited to learn that the town has a school. She’s never been to school before and hopes that this will be the place.  Mama used to tutor her but she has been dead for three long, sad years.  Hanna promised Mama that she would graduate and she wants to keep that promise.

Papa plans to open a dress goods shop and he knows tht any bad blood between his family and other residents could jeopardize the shop.  While he works on construction, Hanna organizes the materials that arrive to fill the shop, but she has to stay hidden.  Hanna is half Asian and many people make assumptions about what she will be like.

It is really hard to write about this book without detailing the entire plot.  There is just so much to it!

Readers will learn about prairie life, setting up a business, and what life was like for anyone who was not white.  In her author’s note, Linda Sue Park discusses how much she loved the Little House books as a child although as someone of Korean descent she loathed the overt racism of Ma’s hatred of Native American’s and Pa’s performance in black face.

For Park, the solution was this – to write a book that shows what life would have been like for an Asian girl on the prairie.  Park did her research and quickly realized that while she couldn’t get away with making Hanna Korean, she could be part Korean as certainly many Chinese were.

As I read this, I relived my love of the Little House books.  But I also wished this book had come out while my mom, a noteworthy seamstress, was still alive.  She would have loved the details about dressmaking and adapting patterns.

This book is definitely a much needed addition to the classroom and library bookshelf, creating a more complete picture of life on the American prairie.



February 29, 2020

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 11:37 pm by suebe2

When Aidan Became a Brother
by Kyle Lukoff
illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Lee and Low Books

Aidan is excited to know that he will be a big brother.  He helps paint the new bedroom to look like the sky.  He practices reading – because babies need someone to read to them.

But Aidan is also worried. What if he says or does something that makes the baby feel pigeon-holed? That who they are has been predetermined?  After all, Aidan knows what that is like.  When he was born, his parents thought that he was a girl.  Then people thought he was a tomboy.  Sometimes people still give him funny looks, looks that make him uncomfortable.  He doesn’t want this baby to have to work so hard to be themself.

I can’t say enough how much I loved this book.  When I was pregnant (long, long ago), it bothered me when people asked if I was having a boy or a girl.  And was he going to be a doctor.  Or a teacher.  Or . . . I always wanted to yell.  “How should I know?  I haven’t even met that baby!”

Author Kyle Lukoff, himself a transgender man, has written a story that is about so much more than being transgender.  It is about love and identiy.  It is about expectation and acceptance and love.  Do I sound a little fan girl?  Perhaps I am.

I thought the illustrations were ink and watercolor.  But Kaylani Juanita created them digitally.  I love the colors and the patterns that bring this story to life.

This book is a great choice for expanding families and to launch discussions about acceptance, patience and love.  It is easy to see why the American Library Association chose it as the Stonewall Book Award winner back in January.  Add it to your bookshelf today.


February 21, 2020

Keep Calm and Carry On Children by Sharon Mayhew

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:18 pm by suebe2

Keep Calm and Carry On Children
by Sharon Mayhew
Black Rose Writing

A while back, I won a copy of this book in a drawing complete with a variety of British snacks to accompany my reading experience.  That’s ironic, snacks to munch on while reading about rationing and the like.

I’ve read a number of books about Britain during World War II and the bombings that took such a heavy toll on London.  But this story is told from the perspective of eleven year-old Joyce.  Through her eyes, I saw just how many assumptions I had made.  My first?  I pictured commercial bomb shelters, government built shelters for neighborhoods and metro tunnels.  I hadn’t realized that numerous people sheltered in what were essentially trenches with a piece of sheet metal over the top.

After their neighbor’s shelter fails to keep him safe, Joyce and her younger sister are sent away as part of operation Pied Piper.  Trains were filled with children and sent into the countryside for the duration of the war.  My second assumption?  I thought that there would be homes lined up for the children.  I didn’t realize that once they got off the train, they were told to walk along the road until someone picked them out.

Keep Calm and Carry On Children tells of the situation in London as well as the lives that many children faced once the evacuated.  Some were used as laborers.  Others found loving families.  And many of these children brought comfort to the families who took them in.

Sharon’s story was inspired by her grandfather’s tales of being evacuated to the countryside.  The details that she includes in her story, both those gleaned from her grandfather and those she found in her research, bring this world to life for her readers.  Readers will also be inspired by Joyce because although she was frightened she kept an eye not only on her sister but also on other children on the train.

The story is realistic without being gory and will bring history to life for Sharon’s readers.


February 15, 2020

Pies from Nowhere by Dee Romito illustrated by Laura Freeman

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:05 pm by suebe2

Pies from Nowhere
by Dee Romito
illustrated by Laura Freeman
Little Bee Books

At the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company.  Georgie cooked at the customers sat in one section or the other.  One side of the lunch counter was for whites.  The other side was for black customers.  Georgia had been treated badly by bus drivers.  Many people had.  So she decided that she wanted to help.  But she wanted to do more than boycott the buses.

Georgia and a group of women cooked and cooked.  They brought dinners to the meetings.  They sold sandwiches and dinners.  The women were afraid that they would lose their jobs so Georgia hid their identities.  When she turned in the money, people asked where it came from and she told them nowhere.  The women became known as the Club from Nowhere.

The food paid for gasoline.  People who didn’t ride the buses still needed to get to work so carpools were organized.  The women even bought cars for the carpools.

When the National Lunch Company found out that Georgia was taking part in the boycott, they didn’t care what a good cook she was.  She lost her job.  Georgia started her own business, cooking and feeding the people who came to her home.

Freeman’s illustrations help bring this story to life.  The bright colors of the women’s clothing offsets the warm browns of the pies and pound cake baked by Georgia.

Many of the women who worked in the Civil Right movement are unsung.  With this book, Romito gives one of them a voice.  Recently, I saw a TED Talk about the myth of Rosa Parks.  I was glad to see that Romito told Parks’ story vs the less threatening story in which she was simply too tired to give up her seat.  These people were fighting for their rights and that is clear in this book.

Definitely a book that should be on classroom shelves and in school libraries.  Share this with your young reader and use it as a jumping off point to discuss Civil Rights and the parts that various people played in the fight.


February 8, 2020

Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 3:33 am by suebe2

Home in the Woods 
by Eliza Wheeler
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Putnam

Marvel’s dad lives with the angels now and her family needs to find a new home.  They head into the woods in search of someplace to call their own.  When they find a tarpaper shack, Marvel is unimpressed.  “‘You never know what treasures we’ll find,’ says Mum.”

It is summer when 6 year-old Marvel, her mum, and her seven siblings find the shack.  Mum isn’t entirely wrong.  The shack may be only one room but in the cellar below there is a pump that brings up cool, clear water.  They plant a garden and gather berries.  Using the cook stove, Mum cans and they begin to put up food for the winter.  Mum works and earns a few coins which they use on necessities.  Otherwise, their garden and the forest provide what they need.

This story is set in the Great Depression.  Wheeler based it on events from her grandmother’s life in Wisconsin.  Wheeler’s water color, ink and pastel pencil illustrations give the story an old time feel.  Personally, it reminded me of the Box Car Children although this family was much larger and included mom.  Still, the two stories are comparable in that the characters learn to make do with what they can find and it is a loving, family story.

The illustrations are detailed and help pull the reader into the story.  Several illustrations are labeled, including the first interior of the shack and a holiday meal, helping to clarify new settings and information for young reader.

While the story itself would be compelling for story time, the illustrations need to be viewed closely and savored.  There is so much to them that the reader could easily get lost in the art work alone.

Wheeler has created a touching story that will inform even as it touches the heart.


January 31, 2020

Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 5:08 pm by suebe2

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
by Kevin Noble Maillard
illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Roaring Brook Press

Fry bread is food.
“It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.
It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

At 48 pages, Fry Bread is slightly longer than the norm for a picture book.  The more typical length is 32 pages.  But Maillard has written a book in fast-moving, fact-filled verse.  Mallaird tells a fast-paced story about making this tasty treat.  He also explains that it is more than that – it is tradition in the face of struggle.

The moment I saw this book, I wanted to read it.  I had to read it.  Fry bread may be my favorite bread ever.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with fry bread, it is a indigenous treat.  Although I had never thought about it, there are as many recipes for fry bread as there are for meatloaf or cornbread or chili.  Think about the dish that you love as long as it is your grandmother’s or mother’s recipe.  Me?  Meatloaf has to be like Mom’s and cherry pie like G-ma’s.  Now you understand a bit about fry bread.  Why had I never considered the variety of breads?  At our local pow wows, the fry bread is a fist-sized pillow.  Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  It is likely regional.

The beauty of this book is that it honors this variety.  It discusses the wide variety of breads, shapes, and textures.  It also presents young readers with the reality that the people who make it are just as varied and they are still among us today.

Monday as I read over the books that had received awards from the American Library Association, I was thrilled to find Fry Bread on the list.  It is the winner of the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award.

This is Mallaird’s first book.  His clean, powerful text was paired with the acryllic and pencil illustrations of Juana Martinez-Neal.  Her art brings the people to life.

Share this book with the young readers in your lives and be prepared for their request to try fry bread.   You’ll need to have butter and honey on hand because, really?  That’s the best way to eat it.


January 10, 2020

Zombie in Love 2 +1 by Kelly DiPucchio, illustratrated by Scott Campbell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 11:44 pm by suebe2

Zombie in Love 2+1
by Kelly DiPucchio
Illustratrated by Scott Campbell

Mortimer and Mildred (the zombie couple from Zombie in Lovehave gotten married and pink healthy baby has joined their happy home.  Pink and healthy?  Sonny isn’t a zombie baby.  He’s just a regular baby and Mom and Dad aren’t at all sure how to handle him.  His teeth are coming in vs falling out.  He almost never cries.  And, worst of all, he’s awake all day!

Like many concerned parents, Mortimer and Mildred take him to the doctor.  He examines the pink, healthy baby and pronounces him – normal!  “I’d say you two are very lucky parents!”  Finally Mortimer and Mildred can relax and just enjoy their time with Sonny.

If you aren’t familiar with Zombie in Love, be warned.  This is true zombie humor. It is gross.  It is off color.  And it is 100% funny.  My favorite part?  When Mildred says that Sonny has Mortimer’s nose, she doesn’t mean that their baby resembles Mortimer.  Nope.  Mortimer’s nose is literally in the tot’s hand.

Scott Campbell’s illustrations add delightful details to this story.  The text reads that they are taking Sonny to the doctor.  The illustration includes the doctor’s name – Dr. Frank N. Stein, M.D.   The doctor’s assistant is in the background and looks more like Mortimer and Mildred than Sonny does.

No, I wouldn’t pick this book for fans of Fancy Nancy but my son loved zombies even when he was little. This book would have been perfect for him.  And if you have someone who loves zombie and all things gross and this person is about to become a parent?  Really.  They need this book.  They’ll enjoy the gruesome details and having a set of marvelous parents they can study for top notch parenting techniques.


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