A Very Mercy Christmas by Kate Dicamillo

A Very Mercy Christmas

Kate DiCamillo, Author

Chris Van Dusen, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction,  Sep. 27, 2022

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Themes: Holidays, Caroling, Kindness, Friendship

Opening: “Stella Endicott felt joyful. She felt like something miraculous might happen. She wanted to sing.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

When Stella Endicott gets the sudden idea to go caroling, she has a little trouble getting anyone to join her. Her brother, Frank, is not good at spontaneity. The Watstons are very involved in a precarious baking endeavor. Eugenia Linclon declines, a bit rudely, to accompany the singing on her accordion. And Horace Broom is too busy studying planetary movement.

Will Stella need to sing by herself, accompanied only by the cacophonous contributions of the pig, the cat, and the horse she pick up along the way? Or might there be a gentle miracle in store?

Why I love A Very Mercy Christmas:

This is a delightful holiday story for fans of  Kate DiCamillo’s early reader books the Tales from Deckawoo Drive. It will put  readers in the mood for the holidays. It is full of holiday joy, friendship, kindness compassion and a little bit of silliness. 

Stella is filled with the Christmas spirit and wants to go caroling, but her friends and neighbors aren’t interested or are too busy.  So her animal friends, Mercy the Pig, General Washington the cat and Maybelline the horse follow her.  Not deterred, Stella  begins singing “Joy to the World” by herself as she walks down the street. That’s when something magical happens. This heartwarming story  doesn’t have a strong religious tone — just Stella wanting to share the joy she feels bubbling up inside her. 

Chris Van Dusen’s eye-popping and colorful illustrations will delight readers. He really captures the holiday spirit, the rosy cheeks, the gorgeous winter scenery, a starry night, and the unique personalities of each character/ Readers will see their favorites in full-color. A must read for DiCamillo’s fans. There is a special surprise at the end of the book.

Resources: Go caroling, but make sure you have friends and an adult to join you. Make your own holiday cards for friends. Or gift your neighbors some cookies you helped bake. Offer to do a chore for a senior neighbor. Spread the cheer of the holidays.

Kate DiCamillo is the beloved author of many books for young readers. Her books Flora & Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux both received Newberry Medals. A former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, she lives in Minneapolis. Visit Mercy Watson for more about Mercy, and don’t miss a Piglet Named Mercy!

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.

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

Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire

Cress Watercress 

Gregory Maguire, Author

David Litchfield, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 29, 2022

Pages: 224

Suitable fore ages: 8-12

Themes: Animals, Family, Loss, Moving, Friendships, Independence,  Fantasy, Magic

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Gregory Maguire turns his trademark wit and wisdom to an animal adventure about growing up, moving on, and finding community. When Papa doesn’t return from a nocturnal honey-gathering expedition, Cress holds out hope, but her mother assumes the worst. It’s a dangerous world for rabbits, after all. Mama moves what’s left of the Watercress family to the basement unit of the Broken Arms, a run-down apartment oak with a suspect owl landlord, a nosy mouse super, a rowdy family of squirrels, and a pair of songbirds who broadcast everyone’s business.

Can a dead tree full of annoying neighbors, and no Papa, ever be home? In the timeless spirit of E. B. White and The Wind and the Willowsyet thoroughly of its time—this read-aloud and read-alone gem for animal lovers of all ages features an unforgettable cast that leaps off the page in glowing illustrations by David Litchfield. This tender meditation on coming-of-age invites us to flourish wherever we find ourselves.

Why I like Cress Watercress:

Gregory Maguire’s Cress Watercress is a delightful celebration of the wonders and beauty of the natural world, along with the hidden dangers and threats lurking on rocks, behind trees and in the plants and flowers. 

Reading Gregory Maguire’s Cress Watercress, stirred up so many fond childhood  memories of  sitting on my mother’s lap and listening to Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit,. I was eager to read Maguire’s (Wicked) more contemporary story about a family of rabbits who deal with grief, loss and all the difficulties of life, while learning to create a home where they can heal and move forward after a tragedy. The animal characters are relatable with human emotions. The story is both sad and happy. It’s  packed with adventure and suspense, and has a strong sense of community.

Maguire’s imagery is rich and vivid and a delight to read.  For example, “The setting sun was a lumpy clementine in a net bag of string clouds. The air, so cool and damp. A few birds moaned in falling tones.” David Litchfield’s lively and breathtaking artwork makes this story sing. Readers will delight in his colorful eye-popping images. I believe my favorite illustration is the split oak tree apartment, which alludes to a  theme of dark and light in the story. It is a perfect read aloud book for bedtime, with short chapters and delightfully humorous, cranky, witty, conniving and dangerous characters. 

Gregory Maguire, is the author of the incredibly popular  Wicked, which inspired the musical. He is also the author of several books for children, including What-the-Dickens, a New York Times best seller, and Egg an Spoon,, a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year. Gregory Maguire lives outside Boston.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

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

 

 

I Survived: The Wellington Avalanche, 1910 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Wellington Avalanche, 1910

Lauren Tarshis, Author

Scott Dawson, Illustrator

Scholastic, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sep. 6, 2022

Pages: 144

Suitable for ages: 8-12 (reading level Grade 4)

Themes: Avalanche, Trains, Survival, Wellington, Orphans, Gangsters, Theft

Publisher’s Synopsis:

The Wellington snow slide of 1910 was―and still is―the deadliest avalanche in America’s history. 

The snow is coming down faster than train crews can clear the tracks, piling up in drifts 20 feet high. In a tiny town in the Cascade Mountains, Janie Pryor — and the other passengers trapped on the Seattle Express train – wait for the horrific blizzard to end.

One day passes, then two. three…six days. Secretly, Janie doesn’t mind being stuck on the mountain. She’s safe from the brutal gangsters chasing after her. And so far, nobody on the train knows about the stolen jewels Janie has sewn in a hidden pocket of her coat. And for the first time since her parents death, she’s enjoying sleeping in a warm bed and eating food.

At the Wellington train depot in the Cascade Mountains  two trains sat stranded, blocked in by snow slides to the east and west. Some male passengers brave the storm to make the treacherous hike off the mountain to a town called Scenic. They send word for no one to follow, it’s too dangerous. Many passengers have no choice but to wait out the storm, because of age or they have children.

Then, just after midnight on March 1,the snow turns to rain and  a lightning storm strikes the mountain, sending a ten-foot-high wave of snow barreling down the mountain. The trains tumbled 150 feet. 96 people are dead. Janie sees it coming an runs, but is buried in a ferocious wave of snow, giant rocks and train parts. Can she make it out alive?

The Wellington avalanche forever changed railroad engineering. 

Why I like this book/series:

I Survived: The Wellington Avalanche, 1910, is a  gripping survival story that will thrill readers with its heart-pounding action.  Tarshis’s snappy text moves along at quick pace, encouraging her audience to keep reading. Scott Dawson’s expressive illustrations add to the tension of the story. Just read the opening paragraph: 

RRRRRRRooooooor! The earsplitting explosion shook the ground. Eleven-year–old Janie Pryor swung her head around and stared in horror. The mountain above her seemed to have shattered apart. A massive wave of icy snow was crashing down. An avalanche!” 

This book is a excellent way to teach young readers about different events in history, narrated by someone their own age. I am impressed with the amount of research that goes into this piece of historical fiction. Readers will learn about how avalanches form, how poorly the railway system was at the turn of the century, the placement of tracks too close to cliffs and the inability to track weather conditions. They will also learn about how this disaster led to railway changes.

Janie’s story represents another interesting part of history — the plight of the thousands of children who are orphans. Janie’s parents are killed in an accident and she is on her own. Many end up in deplorable orphanages, work houses, begging on the streets, stealing, and sleeping in alleys. Janie is snagged to work for criminals, like Ray Malvo, who force her to deliver stolen jewels by train and watch her every move. Her storyline is interesting in the book and kids will cheer for her.

What they won’t learn in this story is survival techniques. Perhaps there weren’t techniques, like today. Janie only hears the mountain explode and runs as fast as she can to save her life before she is buried in snow, ice and debris.  However, the author does use a technique in her story to show how Janie finds the will to live until she is rescued.  

This the 22nd book in the ” I Survived” middle grade series. The reading level is set at fourth grade. So it is certainly the perfect series to hand to a reluctant readers. 

Make sure you check out the backmatter, which include many photographs of the real-life places that inspired Janie’s story. Readers will get to see inside the trains, newspapers articles. photographs of the crash sites and information about from the author about writing the story.

Lauren Tarshis’s New York Times bestselling I Survived series tells stories of young people and their resilience and strength in the midst of unimaginable disasters and times of turmoil. Lauren has brought her signature warmth and exhaustive research to topics such as the battle of D-Day, the American Revolution, Hurricane Katrina, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Shark Attacks, the California Wildfires, the Attacks on September 11, 2001 and other world events. She lives in Connecticut with her family, and can be found online at laurentarshis.com.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

 

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion by Shannon Stocker

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion

Shannon Stocker, Author

Devon Holzwarth, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Biography, Apr. 12, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4–8

Themes: Music, Deafness, Listening, Feeling, Resilience,  Percussion, Biography

Opening: “This is a story of music. Of obstacles. Of strnegth and hard work. Of all you can accomplish when you dream. If you only . . . listen.“usPublisher’s Synopsis:

A gorgeous and empowering picture book biography about Evelyn Glennie, a deaf woman, who became the first full-time solo percussionist in the world.

“No. You can’t,” people said.
But Evelyn knew she could. She had found her own way to listen.

From the moment Evelyn Glennie heard her first note, music held her heart. She played the piano by ear at age eight, and the clarinet by age ten. But soon, the nerves in her ears began to deteriorate, and Evelyn was told that, as a deaf girl, she could never be a musician. What sounds Evelyn couldn’t hear with her ears, though, she could feel resonate through her body as if she, herself, were a drum. And the music she created was extraordinary. Evelyn Glennie had learned how to listen in a new way. And soon, the world was listening too.

Why I like this book:

This inspiring biography about Evelyn Glennie will have a special impact on readers — especially those who are differently abled. How often children are told “no, you can’t do that.”  And something within them says, “watch me.” Shannon Stocker’s story will find a home in the hearts of many children. The text is lyrical and Devon Holzwarth’s vibrant and lively illustrations capture the essence of the movement Evelyn feels when the vibrations move through her body. Excellent collaboration between the author and illustrator. 

I really enjoyed the special relationship Evelyn had with her teacher, Ron Forbes, who encouraged her to feel the music in her own way. For Evelyn it was feeling the vibration in her heart and her entire body. My favorite scene is when Forbes encourages her to remove her hearing aids (not a likely thing to do) and feel the vibrations. She also takes off her shoes. She discovers that without her aids, the vibrations move through every part of her. And she finds her own way of listening and making music. She eventually ends up studying at the Royal Academy of Music. In later years, Evelyn Glennie became the first full-time solo percussionist in the world. 

This book spoke to me because I have a daughter who is hearing impaired. She began wearing hearing aids at age 4.  It opened the world to her. And, one of the things she loved was music and movement. We let her take piano lessons and play the violin in the middle and high school. She has a lovely singing voice and sang in a choir, but always positioned herself a certain way and stood by someone with a strong voice. She learned to adapt in her own way. 

Make sure you check out the Author’s Note at the end of the book, as you will learn about the author and her own journey with music. She spoke many times to Evelyn and shares her wisdom for young readers. To learn more about Evelyn, visit her website.

Resources: What a great classroom book. It would be fun to have a teacher to bring in some drums and other instruments, especially if there is a music department. Have children take off their shoes, touch the walls and feel the vibrations that are created.  

Shannon Stocker is a writer and musician who has always danced to the beat of her own drum. She is the author of the picture book Can U Save the Day? and the 21st Century Junior Library:  Together We Can: Pandemic early reader series. Shannon lives with her husband, Greg, and her children, Cassidy and Tye, in Louisville, Kentucky. Learn more about her at her 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.

Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Renee Hartman with Joshua M. Greene

Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust

Renee Hartman with Joshua M. Greene, Authors

Scholastic Press, Nonfiction, Jan 4., 2022

Suitable for ages:  8-12

Pages: 128

Themes: Sisters, Deafness, Czechoslovakia, Holocaust, Survival., Biography

Publisher’s Synopsis:

 I was ten years old then, and my sister was eight. The responsibility was on me to warn everyone when the soldiers were coming because my sister and both my parents were deaf. 

I was my family’s ears.

Meet Renee and Herta, two sisters who faced the unimaginable — together. This is their true story.

As Jews living in 1940s Czechoslovakia, Renee, Herta, and their parents were in immediate danger when the Holocaust came to their door in 1943. As the only hearing person in her family, Renee had to alert her parents and sister whenever the sound of Nazi boots approached their home so they could hide.

It became too dangerous, and their parents sent the two girls to live on a farm miles outside of their town of Bratislava. But soon their parents were tragically taken away to Auschwitz. The farmers made the girls leave. The two sisters went on the run, desperate to find a safe place to hide. Eventually they, too, would be captured and taken to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Communicating in sign language and relying on each other for strength in the midst of illness, death, and starvation, Renee and Herta would have to fight to survive the darkest of times.

This gripping memoir, told in a vivid “oral history” format, is a testament to the power of sisterhood and love, and now more than ever a reminder of how important it is to honor the past, and keep telling our own stories.

What I like about Sings of Survival:

I’ve reviewed many Holocaust books for middle grade students, but this book is really an excellent “first book” on the subject for young readers.  It is informative, without revealing too much scary information for children. The book is only 120 pages with short chapters narrated by both Renee and Herta.

Renee and Herta’s stories are taken from interviews from the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University. Renee and her husband, Yale Professor Geoffrey Hartman, founded the program.  Geoffrey was a Holocaust survivor.  It was their mission to record as many survivor stories as possible. Joshua Green, who produces books and films, transcribed their stories and edited them together. But they are both Renne and Herta’s own inspiring words.  

This is the first book, where I’ve encountered a deaf family and the danger they faced. They can’t hear soldiers outside, the marching of boots, and air raid sirens. Renee’s big job was to alert her family when soldiers approached. I enjoyed the very strong bond between Renee and Herta. Renee fiercely protects her sister throughout their ordeal . She manages to keep the the Nazi doctors from experimenting on her sister. Herta meets other deaf prisoners and learns to sign in several languages and is strong in her own way. Just before the camp is liberated, Renee comes down with typhoid fever and nearly dies. But Herta won’t let her and gets her to hold on until the camp is liberated. They are both sent Sweden to recover for three years, before American relatives locate them and fly them to New York City in 1948. Herta finally is able to attend a deaf school.

Make sure your check out the Epilogue by Joshua Greene at the end of the story. There are also photos of Renee and her family, that relatives found and sent them. There are photos of them in America, where family cared for them. Readers will also view pictures of  Bratislava in the 1930s, children living the Jewish quarter of Bratislava, deportation and prisoners at Bergen-Belsen.

Renee Hartman was born in Bratislava, which is now the capital of Slovakia. She and her sister were arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen, where they endured horrifying conditions, and where Renee nearly succumbed to typhus. After being liberated, Renee and her sister immigrated to the United States. Ever since, Renee has been writing about her experiences in the Holocaust. She lives in Connecticut.

Joshua M. Greene produces books and films about the Holocaust. His documentaries have been broadcast in twenty countries and his books translated into eight languages. He has taught Holocaust history for Fordham and Hofstra Universities. He lives in Old Westbury, New York.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

The Superpower Sisterhood – Perfect Picture Book Friday

The Superpower Sisterhood

Jenna Bush Hager & Barbara Pierce Bush, Authors

Cyndi Wojciechowski, Illustrator

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Apr. 19, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Friendship, Sisters, Cooperation, Talents, Working together, Diversity

Opening: “I’ve lived here my whole life. Just me, Mom and Dad, and our closest  neighbors: the Millers, the Díazes, the Franks, and the Rosas.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Emma has been lonely all her life growing up in a neighborhood with no other kids—until the day two sets of sisters move to her street! The girls immediately form a club, only to discover that something mysterious is going on. They’ve each always had special talents, but when they work together, it’s almost like their skills become…superpowers. Now the sisterhood is ready to help their neighborhood thrive, as long as they can keep the spooky Ms. Wigglestoot from discovering their secret. Or maybe there’s a way these super sisters can help their archnemesis too….

From former first daughters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, authors of the #1 New York Times bestselling Sisters FirstThe Superpower Sisterhood makes it clear that with sisters by your side, life is pretty exciting. And anything is possible!

Why I like The Superpower Sisterhood:

The Superpower Sisterhood is a beautiful and inspiring tribute to the power of girls combining their talents and using them to help their neighbors and community. And if you are an only child, you can find sisters in the friendships you make in your neighborhood, with cousins, and at school. Cyndi Wojciechowski’s spirited pastel illustrations really make this story sing. And look at the powerful cover!

For Emma, who narrates the story, choosing her sisters is powerful because each of her new friends has a special ability to offer — the knowledge of math and design, art, writing, dance and music — and together they can accomplish anything. They build a club house, fix a neighbor’s potty, build planters for Mrs. Rosa’s roses, and choreograph “an epic flash mob” that even the neighbors join in. These diverse and memorable characters demonstrate that friendship is not limited to any one kind of person — even the mysterious Ms. Wigglestoot. 

Make sure you check out the message from the Bush sisters at they end of the book to discover the inspiration behind their story. It will surprise readers. And they also include a page of photographs of Emma and her friends and other things they do together. The Superpower Sisterhood is a perfect read in classrooms and is a special gift book.

Resources: Encourage children students to draw a picture of the girls they consider their “sisters.” It can be a blood sister or girlfriends doing their favorite activity or helping someone.

Jenna Bush Hager is the cohost of the fourth hour of the TODAY show with Hoda Kotb and the founder of the TODAY book club Read with Jenna. She is an editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine. She is the coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestselling Ana’s Story and two children’s books that she wrote with her mother, Laura—Our Great Big Backyard and Read All About It—as well as the #1 New York Times bestsellers Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life written with her sister, Barbara, in both adult and children’s editions. She lives with her husband and three children in New York City.

Barbara Pierce Bush is the board chair and cofounder of Global Heal Corps, an organization that has mobilized more than one thousand young leaders who take an innovative approach to solving some of the world’s biggest global health challenges. She is the coauthor of the #New York Times bestsellers Sisters First and Sister First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life and recently graduated with her master degree from Harvard University.

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.

 

 

 

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor with Danica Davidson

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins who Survived Auschwitz

Eva Mozes Kor with Danica Davidson, Authors

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Nonfiction, Apr. 5, 2022

Pages: 240

Suitable for Ages 8-12

Themes: Jews, Romania, Twins, Persecution, Holocaust, Auschwitz, Medical experimentation, Survivors, Biography

Book Jacket Synopsis:

The unforgettable true story of sisterhood and survival during the Holocaust.

Eva and her identical twin sister, Miriam, had a fairly happy childhood as part of the only Jewish family in their small Transylvania mountain village — until antisemitism reared its ugly head in their school. Then, in 1944, ten-year-old Eva and her family were deported to a ghetto for several weeks and then put on a cattle car for Auschwitz. At its gates, Eva and Miriam were separated from their parents and two other siblings, The twins were selected as subjects for Dr. Josef Mengele’s infamous medical experiments. Her family was sent to the gas chamber.

At Auschwitz, twins were considered the lucky ones because their lives were spared.. Eva became “A-7063” and Miriam “A-7064.” They were housed in rat-infested wooden barracks several miles from Auschwitz, allowed to wear their own clothing, and fed bread and a fake coffee daily. In return, they were  subjected to Mengele’s cruel medical experiments and fought daily to survive.

During the course of the war, Mengele would experiment on 3,000 twins. Only 160 would survive–including Eva and Miriam.

Writing with her friend Danica Davidson, Eva reveals how two young girls were able to survive the Nazi’s unimaginable cruelty of the Nazi regime. Eva eventually found healing through forgiveness. Written  specifically for young readers, I Will Protect You is an accessible and deeply moving memoir of survival, forgiveness, and hope.

What I like about I Will Protect You:

I Will Protect You is a powerful and inspiring story of survival, narrated by Eva Mozes Kor with author Danica Davidson. Kor gives readers a firsthand account of the twin experiments and their interaction with Dr. Mengele. However, they wrote Kor’s story with a younger audience in mind. It is presented with sensitivity and is age-appropriate.  

I especially appreciated how Davidson set the stage of “hatred” at the start of the book. Hate begins with name-calling, exaggerated drawings, objects thrown at your home, neighbors spying on your activities and threats made against your family. People you thought were your friends, turn on you, don’t try to stop the retched name-calling and eventually become part of it. It all begins with HATE and it is a poignant lesson for all readers, especially during the times we live in. 

Eva’s mission throughout their ordeal was to protect Miriam. Eva was the strongest twin. She stood up for herself and was more outspoken and daring than Miriam, who was sweet and kind. She knew their survival depended upon her. Her instincts were good and she understood that the Nazis wanted to kill every single Jew. There was no time to feel sorry for herself, so she remained alert and depended upon luck. One ray of hope was the occasional nightly visits from her mama’s friend — a mother of twins — who was allowed to live at the camp. Mrs. Csengeri brought extra food, warm hats and clothing.

Eva became very sick from the injections she received and realized that Miriam was the “control” subject. Her strength of character and strong will kicked in and she was determined to survive for Miriam’s sake. She hid her illness because she was determined not to succumb to the experimentation. Her luck ran out when a nurse saw her swollen legs. She was taken to the Hospital Barracks to die. Her efforts to live were extraordinary. And she wouldn’t die and give Dr. Mengele that satisfaction. 

No matter what Eva lived through, readers won’t see hatred and bitterness. Yes she was angry, as would be expected. But she was focused on surviving the camp until it was liberated by the Soviets on Jan. 27, 1945, just shy of their 11th birthdays. What Eva experienced and saw was unspeakable, yet she was able to create a meaningful life for herself  in later years. She found healing through forgiveness.

I  spoke with Danica Davidson about her writing relationship with Eva Mozes Kor. Here’s what she had to say

Yes I worked very closely with Eva. I met her in the fall of 2018 when she gave a speech at a college about an hour from me. I introduced myself to her afterward, hoping I could interview her somewhere (as I am both author and journalist) and I mentioned I wrote kid’s books. She got very excited an said she wanted to write a children’s book about her survival, because she felt we needed to teach kids Holocaust stories early. She believed waiting until age 12 or later, when the Holocaust is usually taught at school (if it’s taught at all) is too late because prejudices are already formed.

“I interviewed her and discussed ideas I had for ways we could write a book. Then I did all the writing. I had the first draft finished in December and I sent her a few chapters at a time. She sent me her thoughts so I could make revisions. The manuscript was finished by March,  and Eva approved.  I submitted our story to my agent and received an offer from Little, Brown on June 19. Eva was so excited for this book. She was going on an educational trip to Auschwitz, and said as soon as she got back she’d start promoting the book. But she passed away on that trip, 15 days later on July 4, 2019.  It’s fallen to me to get the word out about her story and our book.”

Resources: Make sure you read Davidson’s Afterword about Eva Kor at the end of the book. She includes a speech Eva  had written and planned to deliver at Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation. There is also a glossary and timetable.  

Eva Mozes Kor (1934 – 2019) was a Holocaust survivor, forgiveness advocate, and a public speaker. Powered by a never-give-up attitude, Eva emerged from a trauma-filled childhood as an example of the human spirit’s power to overcome.  Founded the CANDLES Holocaust Memorial Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, dedicated to the Twins Mengele victimized, in order to teach about the Holocaust and as a testament to the power of forgiveness. She was a community leader, champion of human rights, and tireless educator. A frequent public speaker, Eva was also the subject of a PBS documentary about her life. 

Danica Davidson wrote I Will Protect You under Eva’s supervision. Danica is the author of sixteen books for middle grade and young adult readers. Her books are used by Minecraft Education Edition in special lessons on reading, writing, and cyberbullying, available to millions of children in 115 countries. Danica invites you to visit her online at her website.  

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Little Brown in exchange for a review.

All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change by Leslie Davenport

All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change

Leslie Davenport, Author

Jessica Smith, Illustrator

Magination Press, Nonfiction, 2021

Suitable for ages: 10-14 

Themes: Climate change, Emotions, Global warming, Weather  

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Climate change challenges every part of our world and our lives, and learning about it can bring up some big emotions.

Discover all the ways that nature is beautiful, powerful, delicate, fierce, mysterious, and awesome. Find ways to take action and cope with big emotions with journal prompts and self-guided activities you can do anywhere. Read about kids just like you who have made a difference, and what the future looks like.

Climate change affects everyone…but change can start with you.

Why I like this book:

After reviewing Alan Gratz’s new novel Two Degrees last week, I thought All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change would pair nicely with his book and help young people process their feelings about what they hear on the news and experience personally in their communities. 2022 has been an active year. Many kids worldwide have lived through wildfires in California and Colorado, hurricanes in Florida and Mexico, major flooding in the Appalachians, Nigeria and Pakistan, an earthquake in China and summer droughts and heat waves throughout Europe, and tornadoes in the southern states.  

Climate change is scary for everyone. Davenport says that dealing with emotions like anger, fear, sadness will help young people “build inner resiliency: our emotional strength” This is a perfect book for teachers and school libraries to include in their studies and discussions about climate change. .

The book is beautifully crafted and easy to read with fun and interesting illustrations. There are five chapters: How We Know What We Know, The Earth is Heating Up, Everything is Connected, Practicing Eco-Justice, and Making a Healthier World Together. Readers will learn the differences between climate change, global warming and weather events. Each chapter includes age appropriate facts, encourages journaling, writing and art activities, and includes exercises to help readers calm themselves and build courage. Acknowledging feelings of anxiety can free readers so that they can become part of the solution. Davenport encourages readers to discover what they believe, what they are passionate about and how they can use their own talents to help create a healthier environment. The book includes some fascinating information about what they can learn from Indigenous traditions and “see all parts of nature as our relatives.”  They will meet many young people, like Greta Thunberg, and important youth groups that encourage kids to make a difference through art, writing, legal efforts, and social media campaigns. Some may choose to become climate activists.

Links to youth organizations that have come together to create many organizations to strengthen their voices through collective action and peer support. The author recommends the following groups: Zero House, young people focused on climate and environmental justice and Sunrise,.young people who believe that reversing climate change means reorganizing how the government operates. Read about their activities in the book and check out their sites.

Leslie Davenportis a Marriage and Family Therapist bringing 30 years of clinical experience to the emerging field of Climate Psychology. She works as an educator and consultant to institutes recognizing the benefits of behavioral research for cultural shifts and policy change. She is the author of three previous books, including Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change. Leslie has worked at Ground Zero on disaster mental health teams and is on faculty with the California Institute of Integral Studies. She has offices in Tacoma, WA, and in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit Davenport at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

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

 

Makana is a Gift by Janet Lucy

Makana is a Gift

 Makana es un Regalo/ Bilingual version

Janet Lucy, Author

Alexis Cantu, Illustrator

Seven Seas Press, Nonfiction, Jun. 13, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Sea turtles, Marine life, Oceans, Pollution, Plastics, Purpose, Identity

Opening: “The Sun glistened on the water like gold glitter, where a little green seat turtle was basking on the surface of the warm turquoise water of Turtle Cove.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

One bright morning a little green sea turtle basks on the surface of Turtle Cove, where he arrived the night before. He hatched from a nest on a shore hundreds of miles away, and has spent the first six years of his life swimming through the ocean. Here in Turtle Cove he meets the inhabitants—a wise elder turtle, Kato, and other sea creatures. He admires the unique features of an octopus and starfish, and wishes he could swim with a school of fish. He observes the gulls and terns flying freely overhead, and begins to question his identity.

Makana is a Gift is the story of a young sea turtle’s quest to understand his unique purpose, who and why he is, while waiting to be given his name. One morning while hungry for breakfast, he mistakes a plastic bag for a jellyfish, takes a bite as many sea turtles do, and must seek help to survive this too common, life-threatening experience.

In the end, he understands that all creatures are needed to help and care for each other; he too has a unique and essential purpose; that life is a gift, and so is he. In Hawaiian, Makana means gift, and thus he receives his name.

Why I like Makana is a Gift

Janet Lucy’s storytelling is magical. Her prose has a gentle rhythm that reminds one of the lapping waves. Packed with fascinating facts, beautiful watercolor illustrations and a lovely theme about identity and finding your purpose, Makana’s journey will fuel curious young minds and inspire the next generation of nature lovers. It will definitely appeal to children who have a passion for learning about marine wildlife and a special interest in ocean creatures and all things hidden beneath the sea.  

Children will learn about how a mother sea turtle makes a nest in the sand and lays around 100 eggs the size of ping pong balls.  The sun warms the sand as the little turtles develop in about two months. Once they begin to hatch, they crawl to the ocean, hoping they won’t meet predators along the way. If they reach the water, they will be on their own.

Sea turtles and marine life need protection from the plastic bags and straws that they mistake for food, as Makana discovers. It is important for children to learn how vulnerable sea turtles and marine life can be to the plastics carelessly dumped into the oceans by humans.

Makana means gift in the lovely Hawaiian language and is such a beautiful and fitting title for Lucy’s book. It is a reminder that nature (and life) is a gift and needs to be cherished and protected by all of us. I highly recommend Makana is a Gift for school libraries.  

Resources:  There is a Discussion & Activities Guide, links to Resources, and a list of  Books and Documentaries at the end of the story. Encourage children to draw or paint a sea turtle and the other marine life Makana meets in the ocean. If you live near a beach, plan a day to clean up the plastics you see before they reach the ocean.

Janet Lucy, MA, is the award-winning author of Mermaid Dreams/Suenos de Sirena, multi-award winning The Three Sunflowers/Lost Tres Girasoles , and co-author of Moon Mother, Moon Daughter – Myths and Rituals that Celebrate a Girl’s Coming of Age. Janet is the Director of Women’s Creative Network in Santa Barbara, California, where she is a teacher and consultant, facilitates women’s writing groups and leads international retreats. She can often be found in or near the water. Visit Janet Lucy at her 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.

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

Two Degrees by Alan Gratz

Two Degrees: A Planet in crisis. And time is running out.

Alan Gratz, Author

Scholastic Books, Fiction, Oct. 4, 2022

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Pages: 384

Themes: Climate change, Global warming, Survival, Adventure,  Science and nature 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Fire. Ice. Flood. Three climate disasters.

Four kids fighting for their lives.

Akira is riding her horse in the California woods when a wildfire sparks–and grows scarily fast. How can she make it to safety when there are flames everywhere?

Owen and his best friend, George, are used to seeing polar bears on the snowy Canadian tundra. But when one bear gets way too close for comfort, do the boys have any chance of surviving?

Natalie hunkers down at home as a massive hurricane barrels toward Miami. When the floodwaters crash into her house, Natalie is dragged out into the storm–with nowhere to hide.

Akira, Owen, George, and Natalie are all swept up in the devastating effects of climate change. They are also connected in ways that will shock them–and could alter their destinies forever.

Bestselling author Alan Gratz is at the top of his game, shining a light on our increasingly urgent climate crisis while spinning an action-packed story that will keep readers hooked–and inspire them to take action.

What’s to like about Two Degrees:

I am an Alan Gratz fan and I feel he’s outdone himself with Two Degrees. It is a brilliant action-packed novel about the most important topic of this century — our rapidly changing climate. It is a breathtaking  read, but it will also have readers holding their breaths as they encounter many suspenseful moments and wonder what will happen next.  I felt a lot of energy in this novel that I am hopeful will energize readers to do something. 

This is storytelling at its finest.  It is a  necessary story with a harrowing and fast-paced plot that will keep readers engaged.  Just look at that gorgeous and engaging cover. It speaks to readers.  

Gratz did a remarkable amount of research in his thoughtfully penned novel. Although he focused his story in North America, he also addresses climate change worldwide. That’s why there are moments that are truly chilling as readers watch Akira, Natalie, Owen and George in survival mode outsmarting fires, rising waters and polar bears. Make sure you check out his author’s note at the end and learn about how he created each character. 

The story is written in three alternating stories, each ending with a big cliff hangar, which adds to the suspense. The characters are authentic and their engrossing stories are drawn from real-life situations that are particularly relevant with the recent wildfires in the west and fury of Hurricane Ian. All four characters are courageous, determined and committed.  And they are connected in ways they can hardly imagine in an over-the-top (crescendo) ending that will inspire and energize students to want to do something about climate change.  As Natalie realizes in the story “we can’t do it alone, it will take all of us doing something.”  

Gratz’s novel belongs in school libraries and would encourage interesting discussions in classrooms. Many readers will have already lived through wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts. Climate change can be scary and it is important that readers are in touch with their feelings. Next week I’m reviewing All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change by Leslie Davenport. It pairs beautifully with Two Degrees.    

Alan Gratz is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of many highly acclaimed books for young readers include Ground Zero, Refugee, Allies, Projekt 1065, and Prisoner B-3087.  Alan lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Look for him online at his website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.