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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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.

 

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. 

 

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.

 

Undercover Latina by Aya De Leon

Undercover Latina (The Factory)

Aya De León

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Oct. 11, 2022

Pages:

Suitable for ages: 10-14+

Themes: Latino, Culture, Racism, Privilege, Spies, Intelligence organization, Adventure, Diversity   

Opening paragraph: “A grown man is no match for a teenage girl on a skateboard. Even if he’s wearing sneakers and athletic gear. We called this guy El Rubio, because of his pale blond hair, and I was supposed to grab the briefcase from him. Then I’d skate the two blocks from the hotel lobby to where my parents were waiting with the car running, and we’d get away clean.”  

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A Latina teen spy goes undercover as a white girl to stop a white supremacist terrorist plot in a fast-paced middle-grade debut from a seasoned author of contemporary crime fiction.

In her debut for younger readers, Aya de León pits a teen spy against the ominous workings of a white nationalist. Fourteen-year-old Andréa Hernández-Baldoquín hails from a family of spies working for the Factory, an international organization dedicated to protecting people of color. Her parents have been working for the Factory for 20 years. For her first solo mission, Andréa straightens her hair and goes undercover as Andrea Burke, a white girl, to befriend the estranged son, Kyle Summer, of a dangerous white supremacist.

In addition to her Factory training, the assignment calls for a deep dive into the son’s interests—comic books and gaming—all while taking care not to speak Spanish and blow her family’s cover. But it’s hard to hide who you really are, especially when you develop a crush on your target’s Latino best friend. Can Andréa keep her head, her geek cred, and her code-switching on track to trap a terrorist? Smart, entertaining, and politically astute, this is fast-paced upper-middle-grade fare from an established author of heist and espionage novels for adults.

Why I like Undercover Latina:

Aya De León’s Undercover Latina is a gripping and well-executed spy story for both tweens teens. Readers will learn about racism, culture, and passing as white. The plot is timely, heart-stopping at times, packed with action and completely believable in today’s world.  Once I read the opening paragraph (above), I knew I wouldn’t put this book down until I finished it.

The worldbuilding is extraordinary, especially the fantasy gaming world the author invents — Triangulo — a fictional Latin American game. I thought it was a real game because of how she linke it to Comic Com, which gamers will love. De León creates strategies to play the game and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) characters with back stories that are culturally rich. Players use magic to free 17th century enslaved people in the Caribbean as they travel back and forth from past to present. Gamers will find this interesting.

The characters are racially and economically diverse. The Arizona high school Andréa attends is split between the typical “mean” white kids and those of color. Andréa passes for white and assumes the name ANN-drea. She’s befriended by the popular white girls, which causes a lot of inner conflict,  She has to listen to how the white girls label people of color, especially how Latinos .But she is an agent and  she has to keep quiet and cool-headed so she doesn’t blow her cover. She struggles with being true to herself and her culture. She finds her group with nerdy Kyle (white),Rámon (Latino), and Imani (Black) who are deep into the game of Triangulo. Imani is sent by the Factory to help ANN-drea learn the game. Undercover

Undercover Latino is a smart informational and well-written novel that is fast-paced and exciting to read. It is written for upper middle grade and young adult readers. Be sure to read the Author’s Note about her own family experiences as light-skinned Latinos who could and did pass for white. And she “hopes that her book will resonate with readers of all backgrounds and skin tones.” And I hope this novel turns into a series, because there are many more Factory assignments for Andréa.

Aya De León is the AfroLatins author of several suspense novels for adults as well as The Mystery Woman in Room Three, a free serialized online novel about two undocumented Dominican teens who uncover a kidnapping plot to stop the Green New Deal. She teaches creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley, and is active in movements for racial, gender, and climate justice . She lives in Northern Califronia.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Alone Like Me by Rebecca Evans

Alone Like Me

Rebecca Evans, Author and Illustrator

Annie Schwartz Books, May 3, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Rural immigrants, China, Moving, Educational system, Friendship, Multicultural

Opening: “I used to go to school in the mountains of China, where I was born, but since we moved, my desk there is empty. My parents can’t afford to pay for school here in the crowded city.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Liling and her family have moved from their rural farm in China to an overwhelming urban city. Because of Chinese law, Liling can’t go to school and spends her days with Mama or Baba at work. At the playground, the other children throw sand at her and tease her old red coat and dirty shoes. She is considered a second class citizen.

But after she shares a smile with a girl in a bright yellow jacket who lives in an apartment beneath hers, Liling has a big idea! She draws a picture and lowers it down to the girl–Qiqi–who returns it with a drawing of her own. When the new friends meet face to face, Liling takes Qiqi’s hand, and they walk bravely into the park–together.

With luscious watercolor illustrations and lovely poetic text, this achingly beautiful story is about our universal desire for connection, and the comfort we feel when we find a true friend.

Why I like Alone Like Me:

Alone Like Me is a beautiful and heartfelt story about the power of friendship. Liling moves from her home in the mountains to a bustling Chinese city.  Because she is a rural immigrant, Liling and her family are considered second class citizens. She can’t go to school, she’s lonely and desperately wants a friend. And she spots that friend in a yellow coat at the market one day.

This story is unique. I can honestly say that I have never read a picture book like this one. It immediately draws reader’s into the story. I didn’t know about the hūkðu record that identifies a person as a rural or urban dweller and the limitations imposed on school attendance, jobs, food purchases and housing. 

The stunning artwork really shows the story. The muted blue/gray watercolor illustrations emphasize the sadness Liling feels. The only color is Liling’s bright red coat  and her friend Qiqi’s bright yellow slicker. The city, work and housing scenes give a real sense of Liling’s new life. 

I love the glossary and pronunciation of Chinese words and expressions at the beginning of the story. It is a quick guide for readers to check out words and expressions throughout the story. Make sure you check out the author’s note at the end, as readers will learn about the inspiration behind the story and information about China.

Resources:

Rebecca Evans grew up near Buffalo, New York in a family full of musicians, artists, and crazy people with a love for life. She started drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and just never stopped. She new from a very young age that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up. She has illustrated and authored more than twenty-two children’s books, teaching art at a local Art Center and publishing artwork with magazines and multiple publishing houses. She regularly speaks at elementary schools and share her love of literature and art with children. She’s also the Co-Regional Advisor for the MD/DE/WV SCBWI and has mentored with EB Lewis. She lives in Maryland and enjoys spending time with her husband four young children, while working as author/illustrator from her home studio.

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 Last Fallen Moon by Graci Kim

The Last Fallen Moon: A Gifted Clans Novel (#2)

Graci Kim, Author

Rick Riordan Presents/ Disney-Hyperion, Fiction, Jun.14, 2022

Pages: 384

Suitable for ages: 10-14

Themes: Spiritrealm, Quest, Fantasy, Korean Mythology, Magic, Korean Americans, Sisters, Family, Diversity, Multicultural

Publisher’s Synopsis:

For Riley Oh, life as the Godrealm’s last fallen star is not all it’s cracked up to be. Her new divine heritage doesn’t even come with cool magical powers; half of her friends and family (including her parents) can’t remember her; and to top it all off, the entire Gom clan is mad at her for killing the Cave Bear Goddess and stripping away their healing abilities.

But when their anger boils over and a group of witches curse Riley’s home, she knows it’s up to her to restore magic back to her clan – even if it means sneaking into the Spiritrealm.

Luckily, Riley has some backup. Along with her sister, Hattie, Riley meets Dahl, a heaven-born boy with shockingly white hair and a fondness for toilets, who might not be telling the whole truth about who he is. Together they’ll fight vicious monsters, discover dark underwater worlds, and race to save the land of the dead from a fate that no one could have foreseen.

And this time, Riley won’t let anything get in her way. Because she can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is coming their way – and the gifted community is going to need all the powers they can get.

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents the second book in Graci Kim’s New York Times best-selling Gifted Clans trilogy.  “Graci Kim does such an amazing job of blending Korean mythology into the modern world, I am now wondering how I ever lived without knowing all this cool information.”New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan.

Why I like this book:

Another compelling Korean mythological fantasy in the Gifted Clans series by Graci Kim. Her illustrious writing skills and fascinating world-building are perfect for this action-packed adventure that is magical, realistic, humorous, and dangerous. 

After the death of the Cave Bear Goddess in The Last Fallen Star, Riley decides to travel to the Spiritrealm and find the patron, Saint Heo Jun, and restore the magic and healing powers to the Gom Clan. That means Riley must leave the real world behind (won’t tell you how) and journey into the afterlife, where souls pass through an interim period between life and death — seven stages of hell — before they can move into heaven. (View the realms inside the book cover.)  Kim’s inclusion of the seven trials really makes this a rich reading experience as it expands the first book. It also introduces readers to this fantastical realm, new mythological creatures, danger and a lot of humor. (No more spoilers.)    

What makes this story sing is Kim’s well-drawn characters that leap off the pages. Riley, an adopted protagonist, who can’t do magic or heal, makes a lot of mistakes in the first part of the story. But then her character growth takes off and she surpasses her sister by the end. Hattie is the best sister ever and takes risks of her own to be by Riley’s side in the Spiritrealm. Her presence reminds readers of the strong family relationships in the story. And there are new characters like Dahl, a delightful, witty, white-haired 13-year-old who claims to be a janitor  and tour guide and helps Riley navigate the realm. There is so much more to his story (no spoilers) and he’s never incarnated. There are many more characters like the incompetent mayor and creatures who aren’t who you think they are — some loveable and and others are dark —  but they will find their way into the hearts of readers in unexpected ways.

The plot is skillfully executed and readers will think they know where the story is headed, but will experience many different twists and turns.  And they will be surprised and satisfied with the resounding ending,  

Additional thoughts: If you enjoyed the first book, you will probably enjoy reading The Last Fallen Moon. I will admit that it took me a while to get into this story, but I am glad I hung in because it was worth the my time to really understand Korean mythology and the various rituals that still exist today in Korea. I do recommend you read the books in order, even though there is a short summary of the previous book to bring readers up to speed, I really loved The Last Fallen Star, so you don’t want to miss it! There will be a final book in the trilogy. 

Gracie Kim is the national best-selling author of The Last Fallen Star, the first book in the Gifted Clans trilogy.  a Korean Kiwi diplomat turned author who writes about the magic she wants to see in the world. In a previous life she used to be a cooking-show host, and once ran a business that turned children’s drawings into plushies. When she’s not lost in her imagination, you’ll find Graci drinking flat whites, eating ramyeon, and most likely hugging a dog.  She lives in New Zealand with her husband and daughter. Follow her on Twitter @gracikim and Instagram @gracikimwrites. 

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.

 

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

The Last Mapmaker

Christina Soontornvat, Author

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 12, 2022

Pages: 368

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

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

Book Jacket Synopsis:

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

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

Why I like The Last Mapmaker:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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