She Persisted: Sally Ride by Atia Abawi

She Persisted: Sally Ride

Atia Abawi, Author

Gillian Flint, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Nonfiction, 2021

Pages: 80

Suitable for ages: 6-9

Themes: Sally Ride, Biography, Women, Astronauts Physicists

Synopsis: As the first woman in space, Sally Ride broke barriers and made her dreams come true. But she wanted to do even more! After leaving NASA, she created science and engineering programs that have helped other girls and women make their dreams come true as well.

Why I like this book and the entire She Persisted chapter book series:

Young girls need role models who share their interests and dreams. Sally Ride is particularly interesting because she was curious, active, determined and an athletic. She thrived in sports and grew up with dreams of being a shortstop for the Los Angele Dodgers. In later years she discovered she was an exceptional tennis player. And she loved science and had her own telescope. Becoming an astronaut was not something on her radar.

I appreciated that the author shows readers how dreams change. Even though Sally loved playing tennis in college, she decided to put her studies on hold and went home to California to focus on becoming a professional tennis player. She me and trained day and night, and was recruited to play for Stanford. Doors began to open as found her love of physics.

Abwai also shows readers how hard it was for girls in 1969 to study a subject like physics in college. She wasn’t accepted by male professors who though “girls were taking jobs away from men.” I was in college at the same time and remember the challenges women faced. In many cases there were few role models in specific fields.       

The story-like text moves along at a quick pace, relating important information that readers will find appealing. There are six chapters in each book. It is well-targeted for its intended audience. At the end, Abawi includes a section for readers about “How You Can Persist” and follow in the footsteps of Sally Ride.  Gillian Flint’s expressive and simple pen and ink drawings compliment the story for readers and give them a peek into Sally’s early life.

Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds!  

Atia Abawi is among a group of authors who have been invited by Chelsea Clinton to write chapters books for young readers about the childhood and lives of remarkable women. Clinton has selected a “sisterhood” of authors to write each book. If you are looking for biographies of famous girls/women to inspire young readers, this series is a perfect choice. 

There are 20 books about American women have been released monthly from 2021 to 2022. They include Harriet Tubman, Claudette Colvin, Sally Ride, Virginia Apgar, Nelly Bly, Sonia Sotomayor, Florence Griffith Joiner, Ruby Bridges, Clara Lemlich, Margaret Chase Smith, Maria Tall Chief, Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey and Coretta Scott King, Temple Grandin, and Mala Yousafzai. Marian Anderson, Maya Lin, Rosalind Franklin and Wangari Maathai will be released in coming months. They may be purchased individually in paperback, or in a chapter book collection. And, they can be found in libraries. This entire series belongs in every school library. 

Atia Abawi is a foreign news correspondent who spent ten years living and working in Afghanistan and then the Middle East. She was born to Afghan parents in West Germany and was raised in the United States. She is the critically acclaimed author of The Secret Sky and A Land of Permanent Goodbyes. She currently lives in California with her husband, Connor Powell, their son Arian, and their daughter, Elin.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Kid Confident Books for Middle School Students – Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM)

I am sharing two dynamic nonfiction resources written by Bonnie Zucker PsyD and Lenka Glassman, PsyD, and illustrated by DeAndra Hodge, that will help prepare readers, ages 11 to 14 for middle school. Published by Magination Press Aug. 30, 2022, both books help students transition from elementary school to middle school. It is both an exciting and challenging time as readers learn to handle the many changes that are occurring in their personal and home lives, their bodies, and their relationships with friends and peers. The first book helps readers understand social power and how to keep it balanced in their interactions with friends/peers. The second book helps readers examine their emotional life and rapidly changing moods so that they can learn to face their school experiences with self-confidence and self-control.

The authors provide useful strategies and advice. I like the design of each book, which has has ten short informative chapters that end with a “Take-Away” page that highlights the major points. And every page is full of fun and expressive illustrations and cartoons — the cover is a good example of what is inside.

Kid Confident #1: How to Manage Your Social Power in Middle School

Author: Bonnie Zucker, PsyD

Illustrator: DeAndra Hodge

Synopsis: Do you know what “social power” is? HINT: You experience every day, you share it with your friends and classmates, and when it is balanced and equal, you feel AWESOME. But when it’s unequal or out of whack, you feel All. That. Drama… right?  

This book gives you a real look at the social life of middle graders and offers expert ways to deal when unbalanced social power situations and unfriendly peers happen. Loaded with safe and appropriate strategies and easy-to-apply advice, you’ll get just what to need to blossom and grow though an often turbulent time in your life. With this, you will thrive in your friendships, figure out who you are, become the best version of yourself, and have a rock-solid sense of confidence.

Kid Confident #2: How to Master Your Mood in Middle School

Author: Lenka Glassman, PsyD, 

Illustrator: DeAndra Hodge

Synopsis: Some kids sail through their middle school years without any drama, but most kids get stuck on a rollercoaster of up and down moods. How is it possible to feel sad and happy at the same time? Why is everything so embarrassing? How does one eye-roll from a friend make you suddenly doubt everything about yourself? 

The truth is you are growing into the amazing person you are meant to be and your many moods and emotions are helping you figure it all out. Not everyone nerds out on mood and emotions, but this book is packed with cool brain science and info on mental health and wellness, plus real-life stories from kids your age, you’ll learn something about yourself without even trying! Soon you’ll be an expert on YOU and will figure out what your emotions and feelings are saying. Soon you’ll staying cool and calm during really tough moments knowing that you can handle anything. And all that adds up to feeling so much lighter and more confident about yourself and your future. 

Bonnie Zucker, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist in private practice. She received her undergraduate degree from George Washington University, her master’s degree from the University of Baltimore, and her doctoral degree from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. Dr. Zucker specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders and is the author of Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding DeathAnxiety-Free Kids,Take Control of OCD, and co-author of Resilience Builder Program for Children & Adolescents and two relaxation CDs. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Visit bonniezucker.com

Lenka Glassman, PsyD is a licensed psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety and related conditions. She runs a private practice in Washington, DC and Bethesda, MD where she works with children, teens, adults, and families on issues related to anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and self-esteemIn addition to her clinical training and career in psychology, Dr. Glassman has worked as a group fitness leader for over 18 years, and views physical exercise as an important component in overall psychological well-being. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Visit drlenkaglassman.com and @drlenkaglassman on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

DeAndra Hodge is an illustrator and designer based in Washington, DC. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design from University of Montevallo. Visit deandrahodge.com/illustration and on Instagram as deandrahodge_ 

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copies provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.

The Way I Say It by Nancy Tandon

The Way I Say It

Nancy Tandon, Author

Charlesbridge, Fiction, Jan. 18, 2022

Pages: 240

Suitable for ages: 10-12

Themes: Speech impediment, Brain Injury, Best friends, Bullying, Emotions, Courage 

Opening: “I can’t say my name. Not because it’s a secret or anything. Honestly I’d shout it into a microphone right now if I could. I’d give up anything to be able to do that.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Sixth-grader Rory still can’t his r’s. He’s always gone to speech therapy at his elementary school, and now he has to continue in middle school. But that’s just the beginning of his troubles.

Rory’s former best friend, Brent, now hangs out with the mean wrestling-team kids, who make fun of Rory. And Rory’s mom doesn’t understand why he and Brent aren’t friends anymore.

Still, Rory and his other friends are finding their way in middle school, and Rory and his new speech teacher, Mr. Simms, discover that they share a love of hard rock and boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Things are looking up.

But then Brent is in a terrible accident and suffers a brain injury. After winter break, Brent returns. He’s not the same and everything is difficult for him.  Rory is challenged to stand up for his old friend — even though Brent never did that for him.

Why I like The Way I Say It:

I am thrilled that Nancy Tandon has written an inspiring book for children who deal with a variety of speech impediments. It’s a real life issue and they need to see themselves in uplifting and hopeful stories. Books on speech impediments and stuttering are the most searched topic on my website. There are many children who have difficulty with speech. Yet, there are so few books for kids dealing with such a big issue in their young lives. Our daughter was hearing impaired and required speech therapy into middle school. 

The narrative is written in first person and gives the reader deep insight into Rory and his coping strategies, including how he chooses words without the letter “r” when he speaks. Readers will learn some interesting things about how important the positioning of tongue is in speech. Tandon gives the right amount of information about speech and exercises. I enjoyed Rory’s relationship with his quirky and unconventional speech therapist, Mr. Simms. They bond over their love of heavy metal music, guitars and a famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, who becomes a motivator for Rory as he moves forward in his growth. Every kid needs a Mr. Simms in their academic life.

A significant theme in the story is how relationships begin to change from elementary school to middle school, which many times results in betrayal and hurt. Rory is baffled when his best friend Brent turns on him in middle school, calls him a looser and hangs out with the mean kids. Their relationship becomes even more complicated when Brent suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) — another topic rarely addressed and something I can relate to — at the beginning of the school year. Rory’s lack of empathy may seem a bit troubling, but he is working through a lot of anger and hurt. Brent returns to school in the New Year and they end up together in speech therapy with Mr. Simms and as partners on a class project. Rory really faces some personal challenges which require a lot of courage and patience. Tandon did her homework on brain injuries and nailed the unpredictable side effects, which I think are important for readers to understand.

The plot is interesting and has its moments of humor, with Rory’s friends sweet Jenna, Tyson and Jetta. There is plenty of tension to keep readers turning pages. Make sure you check out the interesting note about speech development at the end of the book. Thank you Nancy Tandon for writing this book!

Nancy Tandon is a former teacher, speech-language pathologist (SLP), and adjunct professor of phonetics and child language development. As an SLP, she worked with many clients who had difficulty pronouncing sounds specific to their names, as well as people recovering from brain injury. Nancy lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. The Way I Say It is her first novel. Visit Nancy at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

Under the Tangerine Tree by Esther M. Brandy

Under the Tangerine Tree

Esther M. Bandy, Author

JEBCO Publishing, Fiction, Jan. 6, 2022

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Pages: 226

Themes: Loss, Grief, Family relationships, Moving, Adventure, Faith, Hope

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Angie Mangione lives with her parents and her five-year-old brother, Joey, in New York City. After Papa is shot, Mama moves with Angie and Joey to Granny’s house on a country lake in Florida. How can Angie cope with missing Papa, moving to Florida, being the new girl at school, and living with her angry teenage cousin at Granny’s house? Will Angie and Joey be able to survive the mysterious danger that lurks in the lake? With all the changes in Angie’s life, will she ever be happy again?

Why I like Under the Tangerine Tree:

Under the Tangerine Tree is a heartwarming tale about strong family bonds and faith after the unexpected death of a parent. It’s also about moving to a new town, making new friends and dealing with grief and other big emotions. 

Readers will enjoy Bandy’s visual and melodic writing. It is simply beautiful. And it is a timely book for children who have lost a parent through an act of gun violence. They will find a friend in Angie and the many other engaging and memorable characters.  The plot is interesting, adventurous and entertaining — especially with peacocks scratching and screaming on the roof of Granny’s house. And then there is the mystery in the lake that poses a danger.  

The story is set in 1963 when Angie Mangione is 12 years old. The time frame immediately drew me into the story because I was the same age in 1963. I observed many of the historical events of the time — the Bay of Pigs incident with Cuba, Martin Luther King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial, and the death of President Kennedy — which are seamlessly woven into the story. It was a lazy summer time for kids as we played games outside, went fishing, caught lightning bugs and went on picnics. There was more interaction with family members and neighbors.

The story has a strong Christian theme as Angie struggles to deal with her father’s death. Her faith helps her through some tough times along with the support of her mother and Granny. It reminds me a bit of Because of Winn Dixie. It’s always tough moving to a new town and making new friends. 

This is a perfect summer read and a satisfying coming-of-age story. And I must comment on the title and beautiful book cover.

Esther Bandy  has been published in two anthologies: Treasures of a Woman’s Heart and Triumph from Tragedy. Under the Tangerine Tree is her debut middle-grade novel,  When she was five, a neighbor taught a Good News Club. She heard the gospel there, and she received the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. That was the most important day in her life. She later worked as a nurse, a missionary, a director with Child Evangelism Fellowship, and a Spanish teacher at a Christian school.  Visit here at her website,  You can follow her on Facebook @EstherMBandy.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a review. 

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

The Last Mapmaker

Christina Soontornvat, Author

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 12, 2022

Pages: 368

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Fantasy, Mapmaking, Explorers, Ship, Adventure, Dragons

Book Jacket Synopsis:

In a fantasy adventure every bit as compelling and confident in its world building as her Newbery Honor Book A Wish in the Dark, Christina Soontornvat explores a young woman’s struggle to unburden herself of the past and chart her own destiny in a world of secrets. As assistant to Paiyoon, Mangkon’s most celebrated mapmaker, twelve-year-old Sai plays the part of a well-bred young lady with a glittering future. In reality, her father, Mud, is a conman.  In a kingdom where the status of one’s ancestors dictates their social position, the truth could ruin her.

Sai seizes the chance to join an expedition to chart the southern seas, but she isn’t the only one aboard with secrets. When Sai learns that the ship might be heading for the fabled Sunderlands—a land of dragons, dangers, and riches beyond imagining—she must weigh the cost of her dreams. Vivid, suspenseful, and thought-provoking, this tale of identity and integrity is as beautiful and intricate as the maps of old.

Why I like The Last Mapmaker:

Set in a Thai fantasy world, The Last Mapmaker is a suspenseful and thrilling high-seas adventure that will captivate readers, It will introduce them to some history of early colonizers exploring uncharted countries and staking their claims. And sometimes there are environmental consequences that are detrimental to the country.  

Soontornvat’s richly textured novel is original, fast-paced and tightly plotted with surprise twists, secrets, and betrayals that will keep readers engaged. Her prose is lyrical and visual. Readers will experience both the beauty and wrath of the sea, deal with sea sickness, smell the salty air, and enjoy the time in ports.

The diverse cast of characters are complex, messy and real. Sai is a determined and resourceful character who dreams big. She gets her chance when the aging mapmaker, Paiyoon, invites Sai to assist him on expedition to chart and discover the fabled Sunderlands for the Queen. His handwriting has become shaky and Sai can duplicate his writing without anyone knowing — their secret. He is somewhat fatherly toward Sai. The Captain of the ship is a female war hero, Anchalee Sangra, who is professional and aloof. Sai connects with the Captain’s friend Rian Prasomsap, who takes her under her wings, but she has her own agenda. Readers will enjoy seeing women in leadership roles.  Sai recognizes a crew member on the ship, Grebe, who could reveal some of her own secrets. And Sai’s relationship with with a colorful pickpocket/stowaway, Bo, could get her in a lot of trouble. 

When the Captain suddenly falls ill, the voyage takes a dramatic turn and the captain’s friend, Rian takes command of the ship. She convinces the crew to chart a course for the fabled Sunderlands, a place thought to be beseeched by dragons. 

This story deals with some serious themes written in a way that is relatable to middle grade students. It has a contemporary takeaway for readers about being true to yourself and charting the right course in your life when others disagree — much like navigating a course through an unmapped ocean.  It is easy to lose yourself in The Last Mapmaker. I highly recommend this story to those who enjoy fantasy, adventure and history. I will be reading this gem again!

Christina Soontornvat is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children of all ages, including A Wish in the Dark and All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, both of which received Newberry Honors. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, two young children and one old cat.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.

Who Are Your People? by Bakari Sellers

Who Are Your People?

Bakari Sellers, Author

Reggie Brown, Illustrator

Quill Tree Books, Fiction, Jan. 11, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4-9

Themes:  African Americans, Family, Ancestors, Pride, Community, Dreams

Opening: When you meet someone for the first time, they might ask, “Who are your people?” and “Where are you from?”

Synopsis:

In these pages is a timeless celebration of the individuals and experiences that help shape young children into the most remarkable and unique beings that they can be.

New York Times bestselling author and CNN analyst Bakari Sellers brings this inspiration, lyrical text about family and community to life with illustrations from Reggie Brown.

Why I like Who Are Your People?

Bakari Sellers’s beautiful picture book celebrates who we are and the people we become. It depicts an African American father who encourages his two children to know their descendants and be proud of the things they accomplished as great activists who struggled for justice, equal rights, voting rights and the hope for a brighter future.  Sellers’s prose is eloquent and it beautifully transitions from the past to the present community that shapes us and encourages dreams. Reggie Brown’s richly textured and vivid illustrations carry the story. Lovely collaboration. Be prepared to read this uplifting book again and again. It is a perfect class read aloud. 

Resources: Although this book is for Black children, it really is a book for ALL children.  We all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and do the best we can to make a contribution in the world.  So challenge kids and ask them what they dream about and what they want to do to make their world better. Encourage them to interview their grandparents and family members.  Ask them to draw pictures or share their stories. 

Bakari Sellers made history in 2006 when, at just twenty-two years old, he defeated a twenty-six-year incumbent state representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. He has been named to TIME’s 40 Under 40 list the The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans list. Sellers is the author of the New York Times bestseller My Vanishing Country. He practices law, hosts The Bakari Sellers Podcast, and is a political commentator at CNN. Visit Sellers at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

Over and Out by Jenni L. Walsh

Over and Out

Jenni L. Walsh, Author

Scholastic, Historical fiction, Mar. 1, 2022

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Family, Cold War, Berlin Wall, Secret police, Oppression, Family Escape

Synopsis:

Sophie has spent her entire life behind the Berlin Wall, guarded by land mines, towers, and attack dogs. A science lover, Sophie dreams of becoming an inventor… but that’s unlikely in East Berlin, where the Stasi, the secret police, are always watching.

Though she tries to avoid their notice, when her beloved neighbor is arrested, Sophie is called to her principal’s office. There, a young Stasi officer asks Sophie if she’ll spy on her neighbor after she is released. Sophie doesn’t want to agree, but in reality has no choice: The Stasi threaten to bring her mother, who has a disability from post-polio syndrome, to an institution if Sophie does not comply. 

Sophie is backed into a corner, until she finds out, for the first time, that she has family on the other side of the Wall, in the West. This could be what she needs to attempt an escape with her mother to freedom — if she can invent her way out. 

Jenni L. Walsh, author of I Am Defiance, tells a page-turning story of a young girl taking charge of her own destiny, and helping others do the same, in the face of oppression.

Perfect for fans of Alan Gratz and Jennifer A. Nielsen, a gripping and accessible story of a young girl from Cold War East Berlin who is forced to spy for the secret police… but is determined to escape to freedom.

Why I like Over and Out:

Over and Out is a courageous and suspenseful tale that has many heart-stopping moments. Expertly researched, Jenni L. Walsh’s story is based on the true stories of real people. Their stories are woven together into a fictionalized tale that involves danger and a desire to save human lives at the risk of losing their own.

Sophie’s story is set in East Berlin around 1973, during the Cold War. The wall was erected in 1961 and came down in 1989. Readers will get a good glimpse of what life is like for those living there. The government provides/owns everything. Luxuries like cars must be requested. People wear what is available in stores. Food is rationed and people stand in long lines daily to get their allowance. People can’t choose their own jobs, they are assigned. Only one middle-class job is permitted in a family. Mail is opened and read. There are listening bugs planted everywhere. Those living in East Berlin can never visit West Berlin, but the same isn’t true for West Berliners. 

The story is driven by a cast of young and brave characters who are multi-layered. Sophie is smart and clever, and loves science and inventing things. She was born in East Berlin — the day the wall went up — even though her family lived in West Berlin. She and her mother are trapped and assume new identities,  so they can fly under the radar for 12 years. Her mother has polio and uses a wheelchair. Her best friends are Katrina and her babysitter, Monika,18. 

Sophie is approached by by the Stasi (secret police) to spy on her friend, Monika who doesn’t like the job she’s been assigned. Sophie is threatened by the Stasi that if she doesn’t co-operate, her disabled mother will be sent to an institution to live. The Stasi uses psychological mind games on children to get them to spy on teachers, family, and friends. This is the turning point for Sophie and she knows she needs to find a way to escape. 

Sophie narrates the story. Her voice is believable and she is very brave. I loved how the author weaves Sophie’s love of science and invention into her escape plan, along with the help from her best friend, Katrina. Together they have to figure out precise distances, gravity, tension, and torsion for their escape.  And they have to find right light-weight materials that are strong enough to carry them to freedom. Sorry, but I won’t divulge her escape plans. You’ll have to read the book. 

Over and Out begs the question for readers — would you have the courage to plan an escape, knowing the odds are against you? Well many did, as the author shares other escape attempts throughout the book — digging underground tunnels, walking tight ropes, derailing a train, flying an ultra-light plane, hiding in a truck of a car and flying homemade hot-air balloons. 

This riveting and fast-paced adventure is a great addition to any classroom and is a timely and important discussion book.

Jenni L. Walsh is the author of the companion to this book, I am Defiance: the She Dared books: Bethany Hamilton and Malala Yousafzai; and many other books for young readers and adults. Her passion lies in transporting readers to another world, be it in historical or contemporary settings. She is a proud graduate of Villanova University and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband, daughter, son, and a handful of pets. Learn more about Jenni and her books at her website http://jennilwalsh.com,  and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @jennilwalsh.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

Out on a Limb by Jordan Morris

Out on a Limb 

Jordan Morris, Author

Charlie Mylie, Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Feb. 15, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Broken bones, Cast, Injuries, Healing, Patience

Opening: “Lulu surveyed her sympathy trove and smiled. Two new games, three good books, six cards, a dozen daisies, a slew of balloons, and a matching yellow cast for Bonnie Bear. So far, Lulu mused, this broken leg isn’t so bad.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Lulu’s leg is broken, but she’s OK. Bonnie Bear has a matching yellow cast. Well-wishers deliver new books, sweet cards, and happy daisies. She finds new ways to do ordinary things—like taking a bath or wearing her favorite pants.

As time wears on, the newness of the cast wears off and the weariness sets in. Lulu grows bored and grumpy by day. Her cast becomes itchy and twitchy at night. Eventually, it’s time to get the cast off, but Lulu’s not ready. What if her leg can’t do all of the things it used to do? What if it breaks again? A visit from Grandpa, a well-timed letter, and the power of healing help get Lulu back on her feet.

Why I like Out on a Limb:

Jordan Morris takes readers on a realistic journey of what happens when Lulu breaks two bones in her leg and deals with her emotions. It concludes when Lulu’s cast is removed and she’s challenged to find the courage to run and play without being afraid she’ll hurt her leg again.  The story line is educational, hopeful and entertaining, 

There is another intriguing journey taking place in Out on a Limb, with a mysterious letter that patiently takes it’s time to reach Lulu. Make sure you look at the endpapers where the letter first appears and follow it’s journey in the story as it reaches Lulu at the perfect moment. Clever addition to the story.     

Charlie Mylie’s predominantly black and white illustrations with splashes of yellow, are expressive and capture Lulu’s emotions, caution and courage.

This is a perfect book to gift any child that is wearing a cast. It’s a great book to read in the pediatrician’s office. And good for teachers who might want to educate primary school children on why another child is in a cast.  

Resources: Many kids will identify with Lulu, so this is a perfect resource book to add to home and school book shelves. Parents will also identify with this story. Good time to share experiences.

Jordan Morris is a designer and creative director in Kansas City, Missouri. A long time ago, she fell off a trampoline and broke her arm. This is her debut picture book.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Reviewed from a library copy.

The Monster in the Lake by Louie Stowell

The Monster in the Lake, Vol. 2

Louie Stowell, Author

Davide Ortu, Illustrator

Walker Books US, Fiction, Feb. 8, 2022

Pages: 197

Suitable for ages: 7-9

Themes: Wizards, Spells, Libraries, Dragons, Magical creatures, Evil curses, Diversity

Opening: “In the Book Wood beneath the library, Kit Spencer was practicing spells. She was a stock girl, with red hair, pale skin, and more mud than you’d usually see on a person who wasn’t a professional pig wrestler…Her goal was to raise the fireball above her head, the lower it to the ground. Faith was guiding her through the spell.” 

Book Jacket Synopsis

Kit Spencer may be the youngest wizard ever, but she sure doesn’t feel like the best wizard. Her magic keeps going wrong, and other weird stuff is happening: talking animals, exploding fireballs, and a very strange new arrival in the local park pond.

She sets off with her two best friends, Alita and Josh and Faith the librarian to investigate with wild magic that’s causing so much commotion. Joining them is a half dragon, half dog named Dogon who breathes fire and loves to be petted. But something is effecting Dogon too. 

Their journey takes them to Scotland, where they meet a loch-full of cranky mermaids, but the danger is greater than they imagined. Will they be able to set things right before the wild and dangerous magic spreads further?

Why I like The Monster in the Lake:

What fun it is introducing this wizarding series to emerging readers who aren’t ready for Harry Potter and other MG fantasy books. In the Monster in the Lake, (Book 2), Louie Stowell creates an exciting and appealing adventure-packed story with magical creatures, diverse characters, and an engaging and suspenseful plot with unexpected twists. The storytelling is straightforward and the pacing is fast and humorous. 

The three diverse friends are lovable characters, but have very different personalities. Kit is a spirited character who is reckless and makes a lot of mistakes. She’d rather play outdoors than read a book. Josh and Alita aren’t wizards, but they both have their own unique talents and are smart, and avid readers. Josh is always taking notes and keeping things straight. This book begins with a letter he writes to his “future self,” which gives a readers a a peek into the first book, A Dragon in the Library. Alita is good at organizing and has a special way with animals. An unlikely group of friends, they do support each other and work well together. Faith, the wizard librarian, is believable and grounds the story. There are many laughable moments. 

I really like this charming and humorous chapter book series. There is a quiz at the end of the book that can be used to launch a discussion about the story. There is a third book in the works and the author leaves room for adventure and Kit’s character growth as she slowly learns to control her magic. I think Kit’s going to be an amazing wizard. This is the perfect summer adventure for young readers looking to escape into a world of magic, libraries, spells, a dragon-dog, and an unseen ancient evil presence trying to regain it’s power!

David Ortu’s pen and ink illustrations are playful. They capture the characters personalities, their reactions to stepping into the pages of a book to transport themselves to far off places, and their encounters with magical creatures. Ortu shares just enough art to spark readers imaginations! 

Louie Stowell started her career writing carefully researched books about space, ancient Egypt, politics and science, but eventually lapsed into making things up. She likes writing about dragons, wizards, vampires, fairies, monsters and parallel worlds. Stowell lives in London with her wife, Karen; her dog, Buffy; and a creepy puppet that is probably cursed. Visit Stowell at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Walker Books US in exchange for a review. 

Papa, Daddy and Riley by Seamus Kirst

Papa, Daddy, & Riley

Seamus Kirst, Author

Devon Hozwarth, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Families, Love, Diversity, Gay fathers, LGBTQ+

Opening: “On the first day of school, my parents walked me to my classroom. My friends were being dropped off by their families, too….I was with my dads.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Riley is Papa’s princess and Daddy’s dragon. She love her two fathers! When Riley’s classmate asks her which dad is her real one, Riley is confused. She doesn’t want to have to pick one or the other.

Families are made of love in this heartwarming story that shows there a lots of ways to be part of one.

Why I like Papa, Daddy, and Riley:

Seamus Kirst has written a sweet story about different families that is both contemporary and realistic. It is an important book for young children as it demonstrates how curious, open and honest kids are with each other. When Olive sees Riley’s two fathers on the first day of school, she asks, “So, which one is your dad dad? And where is your mom?” The question confuses and upsets Riley. She has to choose? Both Daddy and Papa reassure Riley that she doesn’t have to choose and tell her that “Love makes a family.”

This is the first time I’ve seen the expression “belly mommy” in reference to the woman who gives birth to Riley. This is a nice inclusion. Riley even has a picture of her. (This meant a lot to me because we adopted two children and I always wished we had photographs of their birth mothers.) 

The different family representations throughout this book, will suit many families. Some kids have one parent, some have two. Some families have stepparents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who care for them. Some kids have foster parents. Kids need to see their families represented in books. That is why this book is so important.

Devon Holzwarth’s beautiful illustrations are rendered in bright pastels and watercolors. The children’s facial expressions and body language are spot on and so truth to life. The pages are filled with different family representations. I love the diversity.

Resources: This book is a resource. It will prompt many interesting discussions among many different or diverse families.  

Seamus Kirst is a writer who work has been published in The Washington Post, The Guardian, Teen Vogue, Forbes, The Advocate, and Vice. He has always loved reading picture books and is still in slight disbelief he has published one of his own. He is absolutely honored to be able to contribute to LGBTQ representation that he wished he could have read and seen when he was young. He lives in New York with his two cats, Sugar Baby and Bernie Sanders.  Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @SeamusKirst or on Facebook @seamuspatrickkirst. 

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Copy provided by Magination Press in ecchange for a review.