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.

Papa, Daddy and Riley by Seamus Kirst

Papa, Daddy, & Riley

Seamus Kirst, Author

Devon Hozwarth, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

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

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

Book Jacket Synopsis:

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

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

Why I like Papa, Daddy, and Riley:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Dear Reader: A Love Letter to Libraries by Tiffany Rose

Dear Reader: A Love Letter to Libraries

Tiffany Rose, Author and Illustrator

Little Bee Books, Fiction, Feb. 8, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Diversity, Representation in books, Libraries, Call to action, Make a difference

Opening: Dear Reader, do you see that little girl down there? That’s me with the big hair, the one surrounded by all the books. Look!

Book Jacket Synopsis:

A voracious young reader loves nothing more than going to the library and poring through books all day, making friends with characters and going off on exciting adventures with them. However, the more she reads, the more she notices that most of the books don’t have characters that look like her, and the only ones that do tell about the most painful parts of their history. Where are the heroines with Afros exploring other planets and the superheroes with Afros saving the day?

Why I like Dear Reader:

Wow! I really love this powerful picture book by Tiffany Rose! And it includes one of my favorite themes: kids making a difference. The illustrations are vibrant, expressive, colorful and deliver the message of the importance of representation of people of color in books.

A spirited brown-skinned girl devours books of all sizes and topics, She vicariously sees herself as a heroine who saves the day and goes on many adventures with the characters who become her friends. But, not one character looks like her. Yes, she finds stories about historical characters who deal with struggle, hardship and pain. But she wants to see herself in characters who do magic, fight villains and dragons, 

She invites readers to join her in her call to action to get more diverse books in the hands of readers. She wants to see books that represent people of all color. She urges them to write their own books with the characters and adventures they want to read.  This is a perfect home or classroom read aloud!

Resources: Encourage kids to write and draw a simple picture book where they see themselves represented in adventure stories and as superheroes. There are crayons of different skin tones available now.  Grab a box so kids of all ethnicities can match their own skin tones. 

Tiffany Rose is a left-handed illustrator and author who’s currently living and working in China. She’s a lover of coffee, wanderlust, massive curly Afros, and children being their imaginative, quirky, free selves. She is a full-time teachers, part-time author/illustrator, and world traveler. Rose remembers what it was like as a brown child not seeing herself reflected in the books and characters she loved so dearly, and has been inspired to create art and meaningful stories, like this book and her debut, M is for Melanin, so that underrepresented children and see themselves in books. Pencil in hand, she’s changing that percentage one illustration at a time.

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.

 

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.

 

Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

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

Love in the Library

Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Author

Yas Imamura, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Historical Fiction, Feb. 8, 2022

Themes; Japanese Americans, Relocation camps, Library, World War II, Love, Hope

Suitable for ages: 6-9

Opening: “Tama did not like the desert. She brushed the dust from her eyes as she walked to the library. The barbed wire fences and guard towers cast long shadows over her path. She always did her best not to look at the guards.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

“The miracle is in us. As long as we believe in change, in beauty, in hope.”

Tama works in the library at the Minidoka incarceration camp, where she is imprisoned because she is Japanese American.  Life in the Idaho camp is relentless and getting through each day is hard. Tama prefers to escape into her books, with their stories of honor and adventure. 

But every day, George is there, too — with a smile, yet another stack of books, and his comforting presence. It is George who helps Tama understand that she isn’t alone, and in that realization, hope if found.

Based on the experience of author Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s own grandparents, who met in Minidoka during World War II, this is a wrenching and beautiful tale of two people who find each other during a time of extreme darkness, and the family born out of their love. 

Why I like Love in the Library:

Love in the Library is an inspiring book for young readers who are introduced to one of America’s darkest periods in history — the internment of Japanese American families living on the West Coast. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, children and babies, shared single rooms in these prison camps. This is an important story to tell because of the fear that pervaded our country during World War II and the social injustices that occurred.

The material is age-appropriate, very factual and allows for a lot of discussion. The lovely gouache and watercolor illustrations will give children a peek into the stark and dreary camps and offer a glimpse of hope.

Even though this is based on the true story, the author helps readers understand how important it is to hope and dream, even under the worst circumstances. It is difficult for Tama to leave college life, but she finds a way to cope by working in the library. It is a place she can escape to and find books that lift her spirit. They are a constant companion, as is the daily visitor, George, who checks out stacks of books. They fall in love in a prison camp where people feel less than human and show their deep inner strength during a challenging time.   

Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the story. There is a picture of Tama and George Tokuda. This book is a timely read for students today with so much pain and suffering going on in the world around them. It will lead to many interesting discussions. Ask children what helps them cope when they face a difficult situations? Make a list. 

Maggie Tokuda-Hall is Tama and George’s granddaughter, Wendy and Richard’s daughter, and Mikka’s sister. She’s the author of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning picture book Also an Octopus; the YA novel, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea; and the graphic novel Squad. She lives in Oakland, California, with her son, husband, and dog.

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 review.

 

Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen

Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 31, 2020

#ReadYourWorld

Sumo Joe

Mia Wenjen, Author

Nat Iwata, Illustrator

Lee & Low Books, Fiction, Jun 11, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Sumo, Aikido, Wrestling, Martial Art Forms, Rhyme, Multicultural

Opening: Get up early, have to hurry. / Sumo Joe.

Synopsis:

On Saturday mornings, Sumo Joe is a gentle big brother to his little sister. But on Saturday afternoons, he and his friends are sumo wrestlers! They tie on make-shift mawashi belts, practice drills such as teppo, and compete in their homemade ring. They even observe sumo’s ultimate rule: no girlsl allowed! But when Sumo Joe’s sister wants to join the fun, Sumo Joe is torn between the two things he’s best at: sumo, and being a big brother.

Why I like this book:

Mia Wenjen’s debut book, Sumo Joe, is an original, lively and heartwarming multicultural story about sibling relationships and martial arts for children. I knew little about sumo wrestlers, so I enjoyed learning about this ancient Japanese sport.

The rhyming text is clever and simple enough for children to read on their own. Nat Iwata’s big colorful illustrations are perfect for Sumo Joe. They are bold, expressive and humorous. They show the bond between the siblings, as well as the competitiveness.

Sumo Joe is gentle and kind. His determined sister, Aikido Jo, uses her training in aikido to take on her brother in the sacred ring, even though “no girls” are allowed.  And you will have to read the book to find out what happens with his spitfire little sister, who has some moves of her own.

Readers will learn about wrestling, blessing the makeshift ring of pillows with sacred salt, sumo techniques and the traditional apparel – black  mawashi belts.

Resources: Make sure you check out the Author’s Note about the sport of sumo wrestling. There is a Glossary of terms about sumo wrestling moves. Visit Wenjen’s page for Sumo activities. Also check out Lee & Low’s Teacher Guide.

Note: Mia Wenjen would love to do Skype visits with school classrooms. Her visits are free. Please email her at pragmaticmomblog@gmail.com if you would like to arrange a visit.

Mia Wenjen is an entrepreneur, children’s author and a blogger at Pragmatic Mom, a popular online resource for parents and educators. As the cofounder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia is passionate about diverse representation in children’s picture books.

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.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th 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 book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven 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.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

 Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,

Platinum

Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,

Gold

Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,

Silver

Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,

Bronze

Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books,  TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here

The Twitter Party is Jan. 31, 2020 from 9 pm to 10 pm. ET. Follow the twitter  #ReadYourWorld hashtag to join and win.

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.