To Change a Planet by Christina Soontornvat

To Change a Planet

Christina Soontornvat, Author

Rahele Jomepour Bell, Illustrator

Scholastic Press, Nonfiction, Aug. 2,  2022

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Earth science, Climate change, Activism, Making a difference

Opening: “Our planet. Big, tough, dependable. Our planet has spun through eons of time. Mere moments ago, we arrived.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A clarion call to protect our planet, our only home.

One person. Small, quiet,

insignificant.

But when one person,

and one person,

and one person

become many,

they can change

a planet.

Spare, poetic text and breathtaking pictures invite readers on a stirring journey that gently illuminates the causes of climate change as well as how our individual and collective actions can make the world better.

Meticulously researched and brimming with hope and hands-on solutions that will edify and empower even the youngest readers. To Change a Planet is a loving ode to our only home and vital for every child, classroom, and family.

Why I love To Change a Planet:

To Change a Planet is an extraordinary introductory picture book about climate change and caring for our planet. Christina Soontorvat’s text is short and lyrical, but its powerful message will speak to the hearts of children in a hopeful and meaningful manner. There is so much beauty in this book.  Rahele Jomepour Bell’s eye-popping gouache illustrations are rich in detail and draw readers into the story. Beautiful collaborative work between the author and illustrator.  

I’m impressed with Soontorvat’s research for her informative book. As a result, children of all ages will enjoy this gem. She includes a little bit of earth history and science in her text, as well as a call to action. My favorite books to share are those that encourage children to make a difference in their world. Older children will want to read “More About Climate Change” in the double-spread at the end of the book. This is book is a beautiful addition to your home or school library, as it can be used in so many ways. 

Resources: The best place to start talking about climate change is at home. Use the information in the book to look at how you and your family can conserve energy and become more environmentally-friendly. At school there are many suggestions about getting involved from writing letters to your city council or legislators to talking with with neighbors and participating in marches..   

Christina Soontornvat began this book during a time when she was searching for hope. “As I wrote, I realized that the mechanism behind climate change — many small things coming together to make a big impact — also gives us a framework, for how we can work together to help  our planet. Hope is the first step in problem-solving, and I am hopeful we can change our future for the better.” Christina is a two-time Newbery Award honoree of A Wish in the Dark and All Thirteen, which also won the Kirkus Prize and Sibert Award. A former science educator, she holds a BS in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in science and education. Christina lives in Austin, Texas, with her family. Learn more at her website: http://www.soontornvat.com.

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 Healing Star by A. Kidd

The Healing Star

A. Kidd, author

Quiet Storm Publishing, Fictioin, July 15,  2019

Pages: 240

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Stars, Adventure, Magic, Fantasy, Intergenerational relationship, Hope

Book Jacket Synopsis

Feisty fourth-grader Julia’s best friend in the entire universe is her grandmother. Julia and Grammu share secrets while cooking soup together, stay up late eating junk food and watching scary movies, and go stargazing on Blackberry Hill. They even wish on the same star every night.

But everything changes when Grammu catches the disappearing disease: little by little, she’s turning invisible. If Julia can catch a falling star, then her wish to save Grammu will come true. All Julia needs to do now is find the legendary ladder to the stars…

Why I like The Healing Star:

A. Kidd has written a magical story filled with heart and hope. Pause a moment to gaze at the beautiful fairy-tale cover.

What really stands out in The Healing Star is the endearing bond between Julia and her grandmother.  They stay up late watching scary movies and sharing secrets. They enjoy cooking together. They snuggle in bed together. Grammu shares wonderful stories about star-catching, healing star dust and the star constellations. They even pick their own star. Julia and Grammu are so close that they think of themselves as cosmic twins. So when Grammu falls ill, Julia has to catch a falling star to save he life.  Julia’s mother is skeptical, calling Grammu’s stories “old wives tales.”

When Julia fails to catch a falling star in Miller’s Field one special night, she and her loyal flatulent beagle, Pete, embark upon a dangerous journey to find the legendary ladder that leads to the stars. She discovers magical clouds, cloud people, and a cloud castle with a video game parlor. The story fantasy elements are fun but also teach Julia that not everyone is trustworthy.

This empathetic novel also dives into the uncertainty of life — disaapointment and loss — that many young people experience in their daily lives with loved ones.  It is a story about family and how we keep those memories in our hearts forever. The ending is very moving and will surprise readers. Julia will inspire readers to find  their own inner strengths during difficult times. This novel is a perfect read-aloud for younger kids and a read-alone for middle grade readers.     

A. Kidd is the middle child in a family of three girls. She started making up her own stories at age four. Because she couldn’t yet write, her mom wrote the stories down for her while she painted the pictures. Her first story was called Wagland and featured an island community with sea creatures that ate tuna fish sandwiches.

She has a B.S. in Written Communication with a minor in Language, Literature, and Writing from Eastern Michigan University and an MLIS with a specialization in children’s librarianship from Wayne State University. Her poetry has been published in literary magazines. A. Kidd lives with her husband and daughter in a suburb of Detroit, MI. The Healing Star is her debut novel. She often wishes on stars but hasn’t caught one yet. Connect with A. Kidd through her Facebook page.

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 Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito – Multicultural Children’s Book Day #ReadYourWorld

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 26, 2021

Official hashtag: #ReadYourWorld 

 Learn more about this special day at the end of my review.

The Sound of Silence

Katrina Goldsaito, Author

Julia Kuo, Illustrator

Little, Brown, Fiction, 2016

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Sounds, Listening, Silence,  City, Tokyo, Multicultural 

Opening “Little Yoshio wiggled with anticipation. Three…Two…One! He threw open the front door.”

Puslibsher’s Synopsis

“Do you have a favorite sound?” little Yoshio asks. The koto musician answers, “The most beautiful sound is the sound of ma, of silence.”

But Yoshio lives in Tokyo, Japan: a griant, noisy, busy city. He hears shoes squishing through puddles, trains whooshing, cars beeping, and families laughing. A koto plays notes that are twangy and twinkinling; they tickled Yoshio’s ears!  Tokyo is like a symphony hall!

Where is silence?

Join Yoshio on his journey through the hustle and bustle of the city to find the most beautiful sound of all. 

Why I like The Sound of Silence: 

Katrina Goldsaito’s The Sound of Silence will transport readers to another place, where one needs sound in order to appreciate silence. The text is inspirational and very lyrical for both children and adults. The illustrations are rich and lively. This is a beautiful book for the family library.

I love the concept silence presented as “ma” by the koto player, with no further explanation. It can be heard in many different ways. When I attend the philharmonic, I love the moment of total silence that I hear as the last note is played just before the audience breaks into applause. For me that is a “ma” moment.

For Yoshio, he embarks upon a journey to listen more closely for sound. There is too much noise in his school classroom. When recess arrives, he visits a bamboo grove at the edge of the playground, but the wind is blowing and creates a beautiful sound, but it isn’t the silence he’s seeking. Silence seems so illusive, even at night when his family is asleep. There are noises. His journey contineus and he finds it in an unlikely place. No spoilers.

Resources:  Make sure you read the author’s afterwaord about the Japanese concept of ma. There are some exercises that Goldsaito’s father taught her as a child to listen to individual sounds around her, that would be fun to use with children. And like Yoshio, children can also discuss list their favorite sounds  and sounds that may feel disruptive, like a horn blasting. There are many ways to use this beautiful book.

Katrina Goldsaito’s favorite sound is the sound of bare  feet on tatami mats. In Tokyo, she worked as an on-camera TV journalist and producer for NHK-World, and has written for National Geographic, The Christian Sicence Monitor, NPA, and The Japan Times. She lives near Golden Gate Pak with her husband and son, and spends her days eating avocados and working on her first YA novel. You can visit her at katrinagoldsaito.com.

*Reviewed gifted by the author in exchange for a review.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2023 (1/26/22) is in its 10th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those books into the hands of young readers and educators.

Ten years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

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Authors: Sivan HongAmanda Hsiung-BlodgettJosh Funk Stephanie M. WildmanGwen JacksonDiana HuangAfsaneh MoradianKathleen BurkinshawEugenia ChuJacqueline JulesAlejandra DomenzainGaia CornwallRuth SpiroEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoTonya Duncan EllisKiyanda and Benjamin Young/Twin Powers BooksKimberly Lee Tameka Fryer BrownTalia Aikens-NuñezMarcia Argueta MickelsonKerry O’Malley CerraJennie LiuHeather Murphy CappsDiane Wilson, Sun Yung Shin, Shannon Gibney, John CoyIrene Latham and Charles WatersMaritza M MejiaLois PetrenJ.C. Kato and J.C.²CultureGrooveLindsey Rowe ParkerRed Comet PressShifa Saltagi SafadiNancy Tupper LingDeborah AcioAsha HagoodPriya KumariChris SingletonPadma VenkatramanTeresa RobesonValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena PublishingMartha Seif SimpsonRochelle MelanderAlva SachsMoni Ritchie HadleyGea MeijeringFrances Díaz EvansMichael GenhartAngela H. DaleCourtney KellyQueenbe MonyeiJamia WilsonCharnaie GordonDebbie Ridpath OhiDebbie ZapataJacquetta Nammar FeldmanNatasha Yim, Tracy T. Agnelli, Kitty Feld, Anna Maria DiDio, Ko Kim, Shachi Kaushik 

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Join us on Thursday, January 26, 2023, at 9 pm EST for the 10th annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day Read Your World Virtual Party!

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We will be giving away a 10-Book Bundle during the virtual party plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. **

Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, and connect with like-minded parts, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. We look forward to seeing you all on January 26, 2023, at our virtual party!

Singing with Elephants by Margarita Engle

 Check out Multicultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 26, 2021

Official hashtag: #ReadYourWorld 

Singing with Elephants

Margarita Engle, Author

Viking Books for Young Readers, Historical Fiction, May 31, 2022

Pages: 224

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Animals, Elephants, Nature preserve, Rescue, Gabriela Mistral, Poet, Intergenerational relationships, Cuban, Belonging, Friendship, Novel in verse, Multicultural

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A powerful novel in verse from Newbery and Pura Belpré Award-winning author Margarita Engle about the friendship between a young girl and the poet Gabriela Mistral that leads to healing and hope for both of them.

Cuban-born eleven-year-old Oriol lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she struggles to belong. But most of the time that’s okay, because she enjoys helping her parents care for the many injured animals at their veterinary clinic.

Then Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature moves to town, and aspiring writer Oriol finds herself opening up. And when she discovers that someone is threatening the life of a baby elephant at her parents’ clinic, Oriol is determined to take action. As she begins to create a world of words for herself, Oriol learns it will take courage and strength to do what she thinks is right—even if it means keeping secrets from those she loves.

A beautifully written, lyrically told story about the power of friendship—between generations, between humans and animals—and the potential of poetry to inspire action, justice, and acceptance.

Why I like Singing with Elephants

Margarita Engle’s compelling free-verse novel is about learning a new culture, loneliness, a love of animals and the power of friendships. Her narrative is spare in details, yet she paints big pictures with her words and evokes rich visual images. It is truly a novel written straight from the author’s  heart.

Oriol is a memorable, likable, determined and courageous character with a strong voice. She lives in Santa Barbara with her parents, who are veteranarians, and an older sister. Oriol misses Cuba and her beloved Abuelita, who recently passes. English is hard to write, speak and understand. Therefore, she stands out and is bullied at school, when her greatest wish is to belong and be accepted among her peers. Oriol turns to her poetry and the animals who seem to understand her. Especially Chandra, a pregnant elephant that lives at a wildlife-zoo and is under the care of her parents. However there is a mystery Oriol must solve. A bond forms between Oriol and Chandra and they dance together in their own way. An Oriol poem:

OUT LOUD

Hand in trunk with the elephant / I recite poems, and together / we sway as if dancing, / not mourning. 

Elephants seem to understand / the part of poetry that has no words / just music that echoes / like wind chimes/ or bells.  

I love intergenerational relationships. This story hit a sweet spot for me when Oriol meets an older woman from Chile who begins teaching her how poetry can help her express and understand her emotions. Oriol finds her gentle guidance salve for her soul. She soon finds herslef writing her words in English, in Spanish, and sometimes in both languages at one time. Oriol is not immediately aware she is being tutored by Gabriela Mistral,who is a poet, writer, educator, peace diplomat, and. the only Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Engle’s fascinating Cuban-based novel is inspired by the late Gabriela Mistral, who is the only real character in the book, She did live in Santa Barbera around 1947. Make sure you check out the Author’s Note at the end and and exerpt from Gabriela’s Poetry for Children that inspires singing and dancing. This novel would also be a wonderful read for reluctant readers.

Margarita Engle is the Cuban American author of many books, including the verse novels Your Heart, My Sky; Rima’s Rebellion: Newbery Honor winner The Surrender Trees; and Forst World. Her verse memoirs includ Soaring Earth and Enchanted Air, the latter of which received the Pura Belpré Award and a Walter Dean Myers Honor, and was a finalist from YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among other honors. Her picture books include Drum Dream Girl, Hancing Hands, and The Flying Girls. Visit her at MargaritaEngle.com.

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 wonterful reviews by KitLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

 

Still This Love Goes On by Buffy Sainte- Marie and Julie Flett

Still This Love Goes On

Buffy Sainte-Marie, Author and Songwriter

Julie Flett, Illustrator

Greystone Kids, Poetry, September 22, 2022

Pages: 40

Suitable for ages: 3-7 years

A New York Times / New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2022

NAMED A BEST PICTURE BOOK OF THE YEAR: Kirkus Reviews, Globe and Mail, and Chicago Public Library

Themes: Indigenous people,  Nature, Seasons, Family, Community, Traditions, Song

Opening: “Sat beside a beaver dam and watched the winter grow. Ice was hard with little tracks appearing on the snow.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

With breathtaking lyrics by internationally renowned Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and stunning images by award-winning Cree-Métis author and illustrator Julie Flett, this picture book, based on the same name, is a love letter celebrating seasons, place, Indigenous traditions and community. At the hear of the heart of the picture book is a gentle message about missing our loves ones and promise of seeing each other again. 

It is a song of hope   Of power and place and change and time. Of summer flowers turning tields to sun, and hearts filled with drumbeats. Read it. Sing it. Share it.

Why I love Still This Love Goes On:

I am always searching for beautiful books that represent the Indigenous and Native American cultures for children. It mention sweetgrass, morning, cranes, horses, buffalo, drums, jingle dresses and starlit nights, which highlight the relationship between the people and their culture. This book is a gem.

Julie Flett’s two-page spreads will mesmerize children as they pour over her beautiful pastels. I love that there is so much space in each spread, which gives the artist the time to work her magic with readers. The cover is beautiful!

Resources: There is sheet music of Buffy Sainte Marie’s beloved song at the end.  And make sure your read both Buffy and Julies about messages to readers about the inspiration behind the music and the artwork for this very happy book. If you are American or Canadian, read books about the indigenous people in your area. Enjoy indigenous artwork. And celebrate Indigenous People’s Day Oct. 9, 2023 or Native American Month in November 2023. 

Buffy Sainte-Marie is a world-renowned and Academy Award-winning Cree singer–songwriter, activist, educator, and visual artist. She has made her voice heard through her music, establishing herself among the ranks of songwriter greats. . Her other books for kids include Hey Little Rockabyeillustrated by Ben Hodson, and Tâpwê and the Magic Hat

Julie Flett is a Cree–Métis author, illustrator, and artist who has received numerous awards for her books, including two Governor General’s Awards and the American Indian Library Association Award. Her work has been reviewed widely, including in the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, and Publishers Weekly. Her books Birdsong and We All Playalso published by Greystone Kids, earned multiple starred reviews and appeared on many best of the year lists.

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 book.

 

All Through the Night: Important Jobs that Get Done at Night By Polly Faber

All Through the Night: Important Jobs that Get Done at Night 

Polly Faber, Author

Harriet Hobday, Illustrator

Nosy Crow, Fiction, Nov. 1, 2022

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes: Jobs, Night, Workers, Parents

Opening: “It’s getting dark, I’ve had my dinner. I’ve brushed my teeth and put on my pajamas. But my mom’s just had her breakfast. She’s brushed her hair and put on her coat….She’s got an important job to do.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

As the sun sets, a little girl gets ready for bed. Meanwhile her mom is putting on her coat and preparing to go to work.

But she’s not alone. Workers all across the city are getting ready for a busy night. Nurses and doctors are helping people who are sick, delivery workers are unloading groceries, band members are playing music, and journalists are drafting stories. And these are just some of the people who keep things running and prepared all through the night.

Why I like this book:

Make sure you check out the beautiful cover!  Polly Faber’s text is spare and lively. Harriet Hobday’s colorful  and  bold  illustrations are so lively! Readers will have fun examining each page!  It is a perfect read aloud.

This book will appeal to so many children who have a parent, sibling, grandparent or other family member who work at night, whether it is a second or third shift. They will feel pride in knowing their family member is doing an important job to run the city  and prepare for the next work day. Some work in healthcare, entertainment, cleaning, restaurants/supermarkets, transportation, bakeries. law enforcement and fire departments.. Yes kids may miss them, but they will feel proud that their mom or dad does a very important job to keep the city running, healthy and safe.

As a young reporter, I always enjoyed writing a Christmas Eve story of people who would worked while Santa was making his journey around the world — at night time. I remember what it was like at night to put the morning newspaper to bed near midnight and wait for the first pages to arrive to proof read. Yes we used typewriters and the presses had led type. Guess I’m dating myself! 

Resources: Great classroom read. Encourage children to draw a picture of the job their parent, family member or neighbor does at night. It would be fun to make a big  list of all the jobs that must be done at night. Many are suggested in this book, but there are so many more. Think outside the box.

Polly Faber is the author of Building a Home and Through the North Pole Snow. She is also a children’s book blogger and volunteer reading helper. She lives with her husband, sons, and cats in London, where she has her own tiny free library right outside her house.

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 Candlewick Press in exchange for a honest review.

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Stellarlune by Shannon Messenger

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Stellarlune

Shannon Messenger, Author

Aladdin, Fiction, Nov. 8, 2022

Suitable for ages 12 and up

Pages: 738

Themes: Fantasy,  Magic, Adventure, Magical creatures, Friendship, Villains

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Sophie Foster changed the game. Now she’s facing impossible choices: when to act, when to trust, and when to let go.

Her friends are divided and scattered, and the Black Swan wants Sophie to focus on their projects. But her instincts are leading her somewhere else.

Stellarlune—and the mysterious Elysian—might be the key to everything. But finding truth in the Lost Cities always requires sacrifice. And as the Neverseen’s plans sharpen into terrifying focus, it appears that everyone has miscalculated. The Lost Cities’ greatest lie could destroy everything. And in the battle that follows, only one thing is certain: nothing will ever be the same.

In this stunning ninth book in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie and her friends discover the true meaning of power—and evil.

Why I like Stellarlune:

Many teens have been gifted Stellarlune over the holidays. so I am going to be careful and not spoil anything for readers.  First of all, Karin Paorocki’s cover is stunning!  Gorgeous and packed with action!  

Shannon Messenger is certainly setting the stage in Stellarlune for the fate of the Lost Cities. Dedicated fans will find  her story gripping, risky, and thought-provoking. This story ties up loose ends as it prepares readers for what is to come in her final novel next year. How will it all end, only Messenger knows. And yes Shannon, some readers will think your ending is “evil,” (your words, not mine). But that cliff hangar is spectacular and will leave readers with gaping mouths and playing out many scenarios in their minds until the final novel is released and all is revealed. 

Two standouts for me in this series are Messenger’s magnificent worldbuilding and her impressive cast of characters, who are growing up. Sophie is more mature, and has her abilities under control. But she is a teenager, so there are times she is impulsive, over zealous, headstrong and reckless as she carries the elven world on her shoulders. Needless to say there is a lot of normal teen drama in this book. Her friends Fitz, Biana, Dex, Linh, Tam, Marilla, Maruca, and Wylie are upset with her lack of team work. So Sophie’s working hard on finetuning her leadership skills, to keep Team Valliant strong and one step ahead of the Neverseen. And there is a little more romance in this story. Keefe–Sophie fans will be cheering. But Keefe flees to the Lost Cities to hide from his evil mother, Lady Gisela, who is conducting experiments on him and triggering dangerous abilities he can’t control.

The plot is action-packed. It picks up from the previous book, where Sophie and a few friends return from blowing up a hidden Neverseen storage facility. They retrieve valuable information, including the stolen “caches” of former Councillor Kenric and Fintan, an evil Pyrokinetic. Readers will know that there will be retaliation at some point in the story. But, lines are beginning to blur a bit between good and evil, when Sophie tries to understand hidden secrets from the ancient world the Council has hidden for a millennium. A meeting with the enemy only reinforces that. premise. Sophie and Team Valliant are beginning to question how the secrets have contributed to the instability they are all feeling in the Lost Cities. Sophie knows that CHANGE is inevitable and it will be fascinating how it plays out in the end.  I will not share anything more as I don’t want to spoil anything for readers.  

So while we read, Shannon is masterfully writing and plotting the finale!  Stellarlune is a thrilling read for her worldwide fans! If you are new to the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, do not start with this book! Start with the first volume and you can binge read the entire series.

Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she learned — among other things — that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She studied art, screenwriting, and film production, but she realized her real passion was writing stories for children. She’s the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the award-winning middle grade series Keeper of the Lost Cities, as well as the Sky Fall series for young adults. Her books have been featured on multiple state reading lists, published in numerous countries, and translated into many different languages. She lives in Southern California with her family — and an embarrassing number of cats. Visit Shannon 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 purchased copy.

Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Friends Like These

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Author

Delacorte Press,  Fiction, Nov. 1, 2022

Suitable for ages: 12-17

Themes: Teens, Parties, Dating, Revenge, Mystery, Crime, Assault, Suspense  

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A Party 

A Betrayal

A Girl who disappears

Mistake number one . . .

Fun-loving Jake tells his girlfriend, Jessica, that they have to go to Tegan’s end-of-summer party in their tiny California beach town. Jessica doesn’t like parties, and she doesn’t like Tegan, who has an obvious, obsessive crush on Jake. But she agrees to go, to make Jake happy. 

Mistake number two . . .

Something awful happens at the party. Something so embarrassing that Jessica doesn’t know if she can ever get over it—and Jake will do whatever it takes to earn her forgiveness. And now a girl is missing. Everyone is a suspect. And Jake seems to have a lot to hide. . . . 

When a body is discovered at the beach, friends start turning on friends, and lies start piling up on lies. What happened could destroy their lives. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Mistake number three . . .

Why I like Friends Like These:

Jennifer Alvarez’s has written a gripping and haunting psychological thriller that will take readers on an emotional journey. So hang on tight! The setting, compelling characters with a dark edge, and a realistic plot are so brilliantly intertwined that they create an extraordinary reading experience.

The narrative is superbly written in three alternating voices of Jessica, Jake and Tegan and is divided into three parts. It is fast-paced — don’t blink — and addictive.  The tension is palpable. Alvarez doesn’t let up until the very end. You may think you know the guilty parties as your read, but you won’t. There are more twists and turns in this story that will keep readers off-balance. And there is a huge cliff-hangar at the end.  Readers may want to think twice before they go to unsupervised parties! 

There is a large cast of characters that are complicated. I’m only focusing on the threesome.  Jessica is kind and spunky. And she’s in love with Jake who has recently lost his dad. His anger over that loss causes him to act out. Tegan is the rich mean girl who gets what she wants at any cost. She dated Jake for six weeks until he breaks it off. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the story for readers. After you read the story make sure you read her author’s note at the end.

With two outstanding YA fiction novels in the last two years, including Lies Like Wildfire, Alvarez will certainly become a beloved author for many high school students seeking a good mystery. For younger readers, check out her MG fantasy series mentioned in her bio.

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is the author of a YA  Lies Like Wildfire and two middle-grade fantasy series The Guardian Herd and Riders of the Realm. She earned her BA in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the Sonoma County coordinator for SCBWI. Jennifer splits her time between Northern California and Middle Tennessee. When she’s not writing books, she travels with her husband in the overland RV, dreaming up new stories to tell. Visit her 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.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

 

Hope Wins : A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers

Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers

Edited by Rose Brock

Philomel, Nonfiction, May 10,2022

Pages: 208

Suitable for ages 8-12

Themes: Hope, Change, Difficulty, Inspiration

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Where does hope live?

In your family?

In your community?

In your school?

In your heart?

From a family restaurant to a hot-dog shaped car, from an empty road on a moonlight night to a classroom holiday celebration, this anthology of personal stories from award-winning and bestselling authors, shows that hope can live everywhere, even—or especially—during the darkest of times.

No matter what happens: Hope wins.

Contributors include: Tom Angleberger, James Bird, Max Brallier, Julie Buxbaum, Pablo Cartaya, J.C. Cervantes, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Stuart Gibbs, Adam Gidwitz, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Hena Khan, Gordon Korman, Janae Marks, Sarah Mlynowski, Rex Ogle, James Ponti, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Ronald L.Smith, Christina Soontornvat, and R.L. Stine.

What I like about this book:

I love that Rose Brock took her book Hope Nation and created a younger version for for middle grade readers. Brock carefully selected a cast of  22 bestselling children’s authors and asked them to share a personal story about what hope meant to them in their youth and its impact on them today

Readers will discover how very different hope is for each author. For me, each offering reads like a letter from a friend. There is something in this book for everyone. Hope is a very personal idea or thought for each of us. How I describe it is different from how you describe it. 

Christina Soontornvat shares stories about working in her family’s Asian restaurant and the valuable life lessons she learned working around people that aren’t taught in school. I enjoyed her observation about how we are all “influencers” no matter what we do. Gordon Korman’s shares a story about his 7th grade English teacher asking  students to write a novel. Korman’s novel ends up being published when he’s in eighth grade. That experience inspires him to become an author — something he never thought about.  Hena Khan shares what it means to feel different in school and how it forms her personality.  Suart Gibbs shares his truth about adversity and grief following the death of a loved one. Adam Gidwitz shares his lifelong struggle with “coolness” and he has some interesting insight into how he turns it around. Pablo Cartaya writes a letter to his eighth-grade daughter upon her graduation. R.L. Stine shares his ghostly encounter.

Each tale is heartfelt, moving and filled with encouragement. Hope describe a variety of different experiences. For many it represents inspiration and the possibility of a positive outcome during difficult times. I  found it interesting how each author thought about hope. And some didn’t believe in hope and found ways to hope for negativity. I highly recommended for middle grad readers to encourage them to think, dream and discover what hope means in their lives.

And take a moment to admire the gorgeous cover illustration by Vashti Harrison. It is so warm and appealing and will draw readers. And there is a a lovely Introduction to the book by Dr. Rose Brock at the beginning that readers won’t want to miss!  

Dr. Rose Brock is a professor and educator at Sam Houston State University who has dedicated her career to turning young people into book lovers. Building relationships with readers through books is her superpower. In addition to her career as a librarian and educator, Dr. Brock is the cofounder of NTTBF, the North Texas Teen Book Festival, the largest library run book festival for young people in the country. Dr. Brock was awarded the Siddie Joe Johnson Award for Outstanding Service to Youth by the Texas Library Association. She is the editor of Hope Nation: Young Adult Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration and author of Young Adult Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Visit her online at drrosebrock.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.

*This book was gifted to me by Greg Pattridge as he knew I was dealing with a lot of personal challenges a few months ago. It is an uplifting read for adults too. Thank you Greg! 

 

Mommy’s Hometown by Hope Lim

Mommy’s Hometown

Hope Lim, Author

Jaime Kim, Illustrator

Candlewick Press,  Fiction, Apr. 12, 2022

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Themes: Parent and child, Family relationship, Memories, Hometown, Change, Multicultural 

Opening: “At night, Mommy would tell me about where she grew up.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

This gentle, contemplative picture book about family origins invites us to ponder the meaning of home. A young boy loves listening to his mother describe the magical place where she grew up. The stories are filled with friends who splash in the river surrounded ny tall mountains. Mommy’s stories have let the boy visit her homeland in his thoughts and dreams, and now he’s old enough to travel with her to see and experience it .

However, when mother and son arrive, the town is not at all like he has imagined. There are tall skyscrapers in front of the mountains and people everywhere. The boy feels like an outsider—until they visit the river where his mother used to play, When they dip their toes into the river, the little boy feels the same joy his mother did when she used to play there. Even though Mommy’s hometown has changed, the spirit has stayed the same and the happiness from memories new and old remain.

Sensitively pitched to a child’s-eye view, this vivid story honors the immigrant experience and the timeless bond between parent and child, past and present.

Why I like Mommy’s Hometown:

Hope Lin has written a endearing story about the bond between a boy and his mother, and their first visit to her South Korean  hometown. His mother has shared so many fond memories that he has difficulty reconciling all the changes around him. It’s not what he imagined.  Lin’s text is lyrical and gentle and is beautifully captured in Jamie Kim’s warm and inviting illustrations. Cozy and inviting cover.

What a perfect book to talk about the past and present and the effects of change. The boy’s mother’s lived in a village that now is a huge bustling city with a lot of concrete, steel and people. Where are the mountains and rivers? Where are the houses and the red sky at dusk? There are so many ways to use this book in a classroom.

Resources: Children love to hear their parents share their experiences of growing up,. Take your child to visit your old home or neighborhood. Show them the schools you attended, your favorite ice cream store, climbing tree and park. Show them your favorite quiet spots.  Talk about how it used to be and compare it to how it is now.  Talk about how everything changes and ask children about the things that have changed in their lives.  For example, kids will remember their first three-wheeler and their graduation to a bigger bike they ride now. Change can be good. Help them make a list of all the changes they have seen in their lives.

Hope Lim is a children’s book author with a BA in English literature as well as an MA in conference interpretation. She is the author of I Am a Bird. Mommy’s Hometown was inspired by the changes she noticed to her own home town while visiting with her son and husband. Born and raised in South Korea, Hope Lim now lives with her family in San Francisco.

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.