Dream, Annie, Dream by Waka T. Brown

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – May 1 – 31, 2022

Dream, Annie, Dream

Waka T. Brown, Author

Quill Tree Books, Fiction, Feb. 8, 2022

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Japanese Americans, Differences, Diversity, Middle School, Theater, Racism, Friendships

Book Jacket Synopsis:

You can be anything you want to be.

Armed with her sixth-grade teacher’s parting words of encouragement, incoming seventh grader Annie Inoue was ready to take on the next year of her life doing just that: following her dreams.

As seventh grade unfolds, so do the opportunities for dreaming. There are basketball tryouts, Annie’s first  crush, and most importantly, auditions for a huge middle school production of the The King and I that Annie is dying to be in. So when she lands a prominent role in the play, she’s ecstatic…until she hears murmurs around school that she only got the role because it’s an Asian play with Asian characters. Then, she’s stunned. This was her dream, and now her classmates want to take it away from her? 

Devastated but determined, Annie channels her hurt into a new dream: showing everyone what she’s made of.  

Waka T. Brown, author of While I Was Away, delivers an uplifting coming-of-age story about a Japanese American girl’s fight to make space for herself in a world that claims to celebrate everyone’s differences but doesn’t always follow through.

Why I like Dream, Annie, Dream:

Waka T. Brown has written a captivating book that is so full of heart and big dreams. But it also tells a story of how American Asians are stereotyped and diversity is not necessarily welcome — an important theme running throughout the story. Set in 1987, there weren’t many people of color in movies, on TV or in books at that time.

I fell in love with Annie (Aoi Inoue) right away. Like Annie, I loved theater, music and the arts in middle grade and high school, so it stirred up many fond memories. I believe her big dreams will appeal to students who love the theater. Annie also loves playing on the basketball team, even though she’s short. Readers will love her spirit, enthusiasm and work ethic. They will identify with her dreams of being on Broadway or playing in the NBA.  But middle school is tough, especially when her best friends, Jessica and Ben unfairly turn on her because of the racism present. But this talented 12-year-old is determined to remain true to herself no matter what others think. The author nailed the middle school drama. 

I enjoyed how the director, Sam, involves both the middle school and high students in The King and I. It allows the students to bond and Annie learns a lot about high school dances, Homecoming, and Friday night football games.  They end up idolizing some of the high school actors. Well done.

Annie’s family is strict, but loving and supportive in an interesting way. They understand what Annie is up against and are concerned that her aspirations are a dead end for her. Her father is a mathematics professor and and her mother is a stay-at-home mom, who isn’t comfortable socializing.  Readers will learn learn a lot about Annie’s culture. I enjoyed the role Annie plays in inspiring her mother to pursue her own dream of becoming a nurse.

Dream. Annie, Dream is a delightful read that will also open readers to many interesting discussions that impact our world today. I also recommend you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book. It will give readers insight into the story.

Waka T. Brown was the first American born in her family. She is a Stanford graduate with a master’s in secondary education. With her background, she’s worked to further US-Japan relations and promoted cultural exchange and awareness. She’s currently  an instructor at Stanford Program on International and Cross Cultural Education (SPICE), authoring curriculum on several international topics and winning the Association for Asian Studies’ Franklin R, Buchanan Prize. Waka’s also been awarded the US–Japan Foundation and Engage Asia’s 2019 Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award for her groundbreaking endeavors in teaching about US–Japan relations to high school students in Japan. While I Was Away was her debut memoir and is followed by Dream, Annie, Dream, her first work of fiction. She lives with her family in the Portland, Oregon area. To learn more about Waka, visit 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.

 

Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Sloth & Squirrel in a Pickle

Cathy Ballou Mealey, Author

Kelly Collier, Illustrator

Kids Can Press, Fiction, May 4, 2021

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Animals, Bicycle, Job, Pickles, Differences, Teamwork, Friendship

Opening: “Sloth. I want a bike,” said Squirrel. “I want a bike just like that. We could go FAST!” Sloth nodded s-l-o-w-l-y. 

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Sloth and Squirrel want to buy a bicycle that goes FAST.

So, they get a job. Squirrel works fast, really fast. And Sloth works…s-l-o-w-l-y. It turns out that getting a bikes is harder than they thought.

Starring two lovable and unlikely friends, this hilarious story is a celebration of teamwork, ingenuity and pickles. 

Why I love this book:

Opposites attract. Squirrel is quick and full of energy and speed. Sloth moves a lot more slowly, but is very deliberate. There are many obstacles along the way as they try to earn money to buy a bike. Eventually they come up with a very clever plan that suits them both.

Cathy Mealey’s message is simple, quirky and hilarious for children. It encourages kids to not to make swift judgements about someone else. Everyone has a different strength, a different pace and an unknown talent that may compliment the teamwork. This certainly is the case for Squirrel and Sloth. 

The narrative is delightful and full of fun words. Kids will gasp, they will commiserate with antics and failed attempts to pack pickles, and they will cheer as the two unlikely friends find their way through this pickle. The ending is endearing and funny as Squirrel and Sloth realize their dream in a very big way. A wonderful story about problem-solving and friendship!

Kelly Collier’s comical and colorful illustrations bring each character to life in a unique way. Be prepared to laugh out loud!

Resources: Do you like pickles? What is your favorite kind of pickle?  Like Sloth and Squirrel, can you think of the other ways that you can use pickles? Draw a picture of your idea. And if you wanted to buy a bike, how would you raise the money? Share your ideas. 

Cathy Ballou Mealey has never picked a peck of pickles, but she has been a crossing guard, pet-sitter and professional gift-wrapper, among many other jobs. Her favorite pickle is a crisp, tangy bread-an-butter chip. She lives with her family north of Boston, where she delights in watching silly squirrel antics and is waiting patiently for a sloth to appear. 

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.

I’m A Hare, So There! by Julie Rowan-Zoch

I’m A Hare, So There!

Julie Rowan-Zoch, Author Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Mar. 16, 2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Hare, Animals, Similarities, Differences, Humor

Opening: “Hello, Rabbit.”… “Rabbit? Did you say…rabbit?”

Synopsis:

Rabbit? Did you say…rabbit?  I’m not a rabbit! I’m a hare, so there!

You may have heard that we hares can outrun turtles. Oh, wait — I mean tortoises…They are similar; but not the same. Still, we hares are speedy, and we can look out for ourselves.  Good thing, too, because you never know what you might come across in the desert…

Why I like this book:

This is a smart, witty and simple story about a feisty rabbit — I mean Hare — with attitude.  Readers of all ages will enjoy the author’s clever wordplay and jovial banter between Hare and Chipmunk — I mean ground squirrel — about the important differences between a hare and a rabbit.  Hares are born with hair. They are larger and have long ears and big feet. They change colors during the winter.

Children will find the author’s sense of humor hilarious, as they watch Hare jump all around the desert, oblivious to the fact he’s being tracked by a Jackal — I mean coyote. They will enjoy the repetition. It is a perfect read aloud for at home and school.

The text is spare and allows Julie Rowan-Zoch to showcase Hare’s story with exuberant and cheeky artwork against the desert backdrop. Hare’s facial expressions and body language really make this story! Kids will want to draw just like Julie!

Be sure to check out the backmatter. The book is educational and kids will learn in the “SIMILAR but not the same” section that there are significant differences between similar animals, like turtles and tortoises, frogs and toads, wasps and bees, and lizards and salamanders. And there is also a page where kids are asked to choose and place the animals that will most likely be able to survive in the desert.

Resources:  Have children draw pictures of Hare or any of the other desert animals. This story may also have other applications in real life. For instance, my adopted son is from India, but is frequently mistaken for other ethnicities. Many kids have beautiful names that students may not know how to pronounce correctly. These can be hurtful, in the same way Hare experiences being called a rabbit.

Julie Rowan-Zoch grew up collecting freckles and chasing hermit crabs in New York, and spent years slicing rich breads in Germany before waking up to 300 days of blue Colorado skies. If she doesn’t answer the door, look in the garden. She is also illustrated Louis, authored by Tom Lichtenheld. Visit her online at her website, and on Instagram at @jrzoch. 

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 purchased copy.