The Ickabog by J. K Rowling

The Ickabog

J.K. Rowling

Scholastic Inc., Fiction, Nov. 10, 2020

Pages: 304

Suitable for ages: 8 and up

Themes: Fairy Tale, King, Rumors, Lies, Evil, Monster

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Once upon a time there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, as rich in happiness as it was in gold, and famous for its food. From the delicate cream cheeses of Kurdsburg to the Hopes-of-Heaven pastries of Chouxville, each was so delicious that people wept with joy as they ate them.

But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks. Legend tells of a fearsome creature living far to the north in the Marshlands… the Ickabog. Some say it breathes fire, spits poison, and roars through the mist as it carries off wayward sheep and children alike. Some say it’s just a myth…

And when that myth takes on a life of its own, casting a shadow over the kingdom, two children — best friends Bert and Daisy — embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies, bringing hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more.

Why I like this book:

J.K. Rowling has written a magical story for readers with big imaginations. It’s packed with silly humor, fun wordplay and a grand adventure. Cornucopia appears to be a happy kingdom ruled by King Fred the Fearless, who really is harmless and quite vain. Instead of caring about his people, he’s more interested in the lavish silk clothing he wears. If there is a problem, he’d rather leave ruling to his chief advisors and the evil Lord Spittleworth and his side-kick Flapoon.

There are many loving and honest young characters in the story like Daisy Dovetail and Bert Beamish, who are best friends until a dark cloud begins to move over the kingdom. Daisy’s mother’s is King Fred’s seamstress and dies suddenly finishing a new outfit for the demanding king. Not wanting to be reminded of her death, the king moves Daisy and her father to the outskirts of the kingdom. Then Bert’s father, a Major in the Royal Guard, loses his life in a suspicious accident. The evil Lord Spittleworth says Major Beamish is killed by the monstrous Ickabog. This is where the story takes a turn towards darkness.  Lies are told by Spittleworth, each grander than the first. Imaginations soar and the king and kingdom plummet into fear of the legendary monster living in the Marshlands. But brave Daisy and Bert are suspicious and decide to get to the bottom of things, so they journey to the Marshlands. (No spoilers beyond this paragraph.)

The plot is simple, but filled with twists and turns that will keep readers engaged and guessing what will happen next. There is a narrator that guides the story and gives insight from time to time. The chapters are very short, 4-5 pages, making this fairy tale a perfect bedtime read for children.

The Ickabog reminds me a bit of the fairy tales I read as a child in the late 50s. So it was fun to escape into the happy little kingdom of Cornucopia. Like the stories I read, there is good and evil, and cruel characters.  But I appreciated the strong theme about how rumors start and quickly get out of hand. Lies are told to cover up other lies, and chaos is unleashed. Rowling brilliantly shows how powerful fear and misinformation can be when perpetuated by the rulers of the kingdom. But in the end, the children lead the way.

Make sure you read Rowling’s Forward.  She began writing The Ickabod over 10 years ago. She read chapters to her children, who loved the story. But she set it aside and never finished the book.  When the lockdown hit last year, she completed the book and published chapters online for families to enjoy. She also invited children to participate in a competition and submit full-color illustrations of their favorite scenes from the book. The North American edition contains 34 illustrations from children in the U.S. and Canada.  I listened to a virtual program where the children talked about their delightful artwork and asked Rowling questions.  Make sure you check out the back of the book, where there is are thumbnail pictures along with information about the young artists, who range from 7 to 12.

J.K. Rowling is the author of the seven Harry Potter books, which have sold over 500 million copies, been translated into over 80 languages, and made into eight blockbuster films. She has also written three short companion volumes for charity, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which later became the inspiration for a new series of films, also written by J. K. Rowling. She then continued Harry’s story as a grown-up in a stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which she wrote with playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany. She’s received many awards and honors for her writing. She also supports a number of causes through her charitable trust, Volant, and is the founder of the children’s charity Lumos. She lives in Scotland with her family.

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.

Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! by Robin Newman

Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt!

Robin Newman, Author

Susan Batori, Illustrator

Sleeping Bear Press, Fiction, Mar. 15, 2021

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes: Bear, Woodpecker, Forest animals, Interpersonal relationships, Name-calling, Gossip, Humor

Opening: “Bear needed a lot of sleep. Two hundred and forty-three and a half days, to be precise. Anything less and he turned grizzly.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Bear is tired. The weather is getting cool and he’s ready for a nice long nap–he’s got earmuffs and a brand-new door to keep out the noise, plus a pair of fluffy bunny slippers. Meanwhile, real estate mogul Woodpecker finds his recent homes…missing. And he follows the trail of debris right to Bear’s new front door. When he “tap tap taps” to talk to Bear about it, the two engage in a feisty exchange of name-calling and gossip with the rest of their forest neighbors. Can they patch it up–literally–before Bear loses too much sleep?

Why I like this book:

Robin Newman’s Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt!” is an irresistibly funny picture book.  Rich with Newman’s hilarious text and Susan Batori’s lively and expressive illustrations, Bear’s story shows children how hurtful name-calling can be and how important it is to compromise and apologize. Woodpecker’s exuberance plays off Bear’s grumpiness.  At the height of their confrontation, large illustrations brilliantly show Bear and Woodpecker’s anger — nose to beak!  The humor is spot-on and children will ROAR with laughter!

Newman has a distinct and clever voice as an author. She uses kid-pleasing sounds (GROWL SNARL, ROAR, PECK, PEST), repetition, witty wordplay and fun reiterations of butt.  Newman hit a home run with Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt!  It’s her best picture book yet! Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! is an entertaining read-aloud for home or in the classroom. Make sure you watch the trailer below!

Resources: Engage children in a discussion about name-calling, using Bear and Woodpecker as examples. Ask kids if they’ve  ever called someone a name? Have they ever been called a name? How did it make them feel — mad, hurt, bullied, or surprised? Help children make a list of what they can do to stop name-calling. Encourage kids to draw a picture of their favorite scene in Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt!

Robin Newman was raised in New York City and Paris where she was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, peacocks, bears and woodpeckers. She is the author of the popular chapter books Griswold and Wilcox Mystery series, and picture books No Peacocks! and Hilde Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep. She lives in New York with her husband, son, goldfish, and two spoiled English Cocker Spaniels, and one French Bulldog. Visit her at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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

Wonder Women of Science by Tiera Fletcher and Ginger Rue

International Women’s Day – March 8, 2021

Women’s History Month

Wonder Women of Science: Twelve Geniuses Who Are Currently Rocking Science, Technology, and the World

By Tiera Fletcher and Ginger Rue

Sally Wern Comport, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Nonfiction, Mar. 23, 2021

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Girls, Women, Biographies, Scientists, Engineers, STEM

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Searching the cosmos for a new Earth. Using math to fight human trafficking. Designing invisible (and safer) cars. Unlocking climate-change secrets. All of this groundbreaking science, and much more is happening right now, spearheaded by the diverse female scientists and engineers profiled in this book.

Meeting Award-winning aerospace engineer Tiera Fletcher and twelve other science superstars and hear them tell in their own words not only about their fascinating work, but also about their childhoods and the paths they traveled to get where they are — paths that often involved failures and unexpected changes in direction, but also persistence, serendipity, and brilliant insights. Their careers range from computer scientist to microbiologist to unique specialties that didn’t exist before some amazing women profiled here created them. Here is a book to surprise and inspire not only die-hard science fans, but also those who don’t (yet!) think of themselves as scientists. Back matter includes reading suggestions, an index, a glossary, and some surprising ideas for how to get involved in the world of STEM.

Why I like this book:

Women of Wonder is an inspiring and appealing resource for teen girls who love math and science and haven’t given a lot of thought to STEM careers. What I like most about the book is that the 12 women featured are actively engaged in fascinating work, NOW! They are leading the way for generations of girls and making a creative difference in their chosen professions — differences that impact the world.

Dr. Evelyn Galban is a veterinary neurosurgeon who has created a “niche” for herself in a field she calls “Zoo Neuro.” She combines her passion for wildlife and zoo animals with her passion for neurology. Animals have neurological problems just like humans.  Patrícia Medici, a research coordinator for the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative, devotes her life to saving the tapir in the Brazilian rain forests. Tapirs play an important role in balancing the ecosystem. Davine Durgana is an international human tights statistician who is using math to end modern slavery.  She gathers solid numbers worldwide to extrapolate how big the problem is. She’s devoted her life to helping enslaved people.  Dava Newman is an aerospace biomedical engineer and former NASA deputy administrator, who rethought the marshmallow space suit. Space suits provide pressure on the astronaut’s body to help blood circulation. Her modern superhero designs are more skintight and give astronauts greater movement. Kaitlyn Sadtler is an bioengineer who works with the immune system to regenerate tissue. Her goal is to help the immune body accept new tissue and not fight it.

This book is a beautifully crafted and the format is the same for each scientist/engineer featured. There is a lovely illustration of each woman and pictures of them as children. There is a biography about each woman and their amazing specialty.  There is a section called “The Spark” which includes information their childhoods that inspired their interests. Each woman writes a note to their younger self, a note to the reader, and concludes with “Words to Live By.” The book is quite engaging.

Resources: There is wonderful backmatter that includes 16 “Suggestions for Further Stem Awesomeness” — like finding a mentor, stepping outside of your comfort zone, attending a STEM summer camp, get involved in your community and make friends with failure.  There is also suggestions for additional reading.

Tiera Fletcher is an award-winning aerospace engineer who was hired by NASA directly after graduating from MIT. While working to send humans to Mars and inspire others to achieve their dreams, she was featured in a North Face ad campaign, “Tiera Moves Mountains.” She travels the world with her family.

Ginger Rue is an author and a contributing editor for Guideposts magazine. She lives in Alabama with her husband and their blended family.

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 in exchange for a review.

The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azua Kramer

 

The Boy and the Gorilla

Jackie Azúa Kramer, Author

Cindy Derby, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Oct. 13, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Loss, Grief, Hurt, Loneliness, Anger, Imaginary friend

Publisher’s Synopsis:

On the day of his mother’s funeral, a young boy conjures the very visitor he needs to see: a gorilla. Wise and gentle, the gorilla stays on to answer the heart-heavy questions the boy hesitates to ask his father: Where did his mother go? Will she come back home? Will we all die? Yet with the gorilla’s friendship, the boy slowly begins to discover moments of comfort in tending flowers, playing catch, flying a kite, climbing trees and walking along the beach. Most of all, the gorilla knows that it helps to simply talk about the loss—especially with those who share your grief and who may feel alone, too.

Author Jackie Azúa Kramer’s quietly thoughtful text and illustrator Cindy Derby’s beautiful impressionistic artwork depict how this tender relationship leads the boy to open up to his father and find a path forward. Told entirely in dialogue, this direct and deeply affecting picture book will inspire conversations about grief, empathy, and healing beyond the final hope-filled scene.

This profoundly moving tale about a grieving boy and an imaginary gorilla makes real the power of talking about loss.

Why I like this book:

A deeply sensitive story about a grieving boy who asks his imaginary gorilla friend questions about his mother’s death. The  gorilla is reassuring and helps the boy deal with big emotions. Grief is tricky and the gorilla’s presence makes it possible for the boy to approach his grieving father. Together they begin to share memories and start the healing process.

The first four pages of the story are wordless, allowing Cindy Derby to set the somber tone of the boy’s grief with her moving and breathtaking watercolors. The opening pages are intimate and contemplative. Jackie Azúa Kramer’s simple text and Derby’s artwork don’t hurry you along — they provide time and space to study what’s happening and gives children the opportunity to ask questions.  As the story progresses, the artwork appears more luminous and hopeful.

This is a timely book and beautiful book during this time of COVID. It is a book that would be a wonderful gift to families dealing with loss.

Resources: The book alone is a wonderful resource for families.  It opens the doors for families to work at healing together. Encourage your child to make a memory box filled with things that remind them of the person they miss.

Jackie Azúa Kramer is the author of The Green Umbrella and If You Want to Fall Asleep.  She was previously an actress, singer, and school counselor. She lives with her family on Long Island, New York.

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 in exchange for a review.

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, 1)

B.B. Alston, Author

Balzer + Bray, Fiction, Jan. 19, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: African American, Heroes, Fantasy, Mythical Creatures, Supernatural talents, Racism

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.

So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.

Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

Why I like this book:

The cover is breathtaking with Black girl magic swirling around and through Amari’s hands. The title is done in beautiful gold lettering. Amari and the Night Brothers will appeal to readers! The book is pitched for fans of Harry Potter, Nevermoor and Men in Black — I’d also add Keeper of the Lost Cities.

B.B. Alston has created a thrilling action-packed adventure that is realistic, magical and humorous. Alston doesn’t shy away from including contemporary themes that address racism and discrimination, which Amari faces at home and at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.  At home she is an outcast because she is a Black girl from the projects attending a private school. At the bureau she is an outcast because she manifests as a magician, which is the only talent that is illegal in the supernatural world due to the evil Night Brothers — magicians who used dark magic to conquer death. Now she faces prejudice from both adults and peers. Amari doesn’t allow her challenges to define her.

The characters are amazing. Amari is determined, strong-willed and believable. She’s not at the summer camp to stand out, she is on a mission to find her brother, Quinton. She has a courageous spirit and believes that he’s alive somewhere and she’s going to track him down. She befriends her roommate, Elsie who is a technopath/inventor and is also bullied by her peers. Dylan manifests in physics and  technology. His sister, Lara, who bullies Amari, manifests as a superhuman athlete (superhero). Their missing sister Maria was Quinton’s partner. Dylan and Amari become partners as they train hard to make it into the Bureau of Investigations, so they can become junior agents.

The setting is contemporary. The bureau turns smart and talented students into geniuses who they put through a rigorous training programs required by the department they wish to join — and there are many departments like the technology bureau.  The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs resembles a NORAD control center where agents monitor magical creatures — boogie people, fairies, dwarfs, mermaids, witches, werewolves, aliens, Big Foot, the Abominable Snowman, and evil magicians — for their protection and the protection of the world. There are agents monitoring global activities, investigations, and imprisoned criminals. It is amusing when the new president of the United States is briefed by the Bureau about top secret supernatural activities in the world, he passes out.

I highly recommend this book to readers who are looking for an exciting adventure that will keep them glued to the pages and guessing what will happen next. It doesn’t contain an excessive amount of detail and may be perfect for reluctant readers. It is a sparkling read. Yes, there are major surprises. The ending is satisfying, but leaves a lot of room for the next two volumes in the trilogy. Readers will be interested in knowing that Universal Pictures has optioned the rights to Amari and the Night Brothers. So there WILL be a movie!

B.B. Alston lives in Lexington, South Carolina. Amari and the Night Brothers is hi debut middle grade novel. When not writing, he can be found eating too many sweet and exploring country roads to see where the lead.

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.

That Missing Feeling by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

That Missing Feeling

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Author

Morena Forza, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Jan. 12, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Divorce, Change, Emotions, Diary, Grandfather, Intergenerational relationships

Opening: “Who wants to sprinkle cheese?” Mia’s dad called. Mia reached to sprinkle cheddar into a puffy omelet. The kitchen felt warm and smelled delicious. Luna and Toby snuggled.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Mia’s life feels split in two after her parents get divorced—even her cat and dog now live in two separate places. When she’s at her dad’s house, Mia misses her mom’s jokes and singing. And when she’s at her mom’s house, she misses her dad’s laugh and cooking.

Mia just can’t quite shake that missing feeling. Sometimes that missing feeling makes her angry. And sometimes it makes her sad.

One day when Mia visits her Grandpa, he gives her a little blue notebook saying, “When I write about Grandma, I am sad but I am happy too. She is gone, but you are here. Life changes, and writing helps me think about these changes. My notebook is a home for my heart.”

Mia keeps her notebook wherever she goes, writing about happy and sad memories. And soon her notebook becomes a way to balance that missing feeling. And also a home for her heart.

Why I like this book:

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s That Missing Feeling is a heartwarming story about a child dealing with change after her parents divorce. But Mia misses so many things and her parents divorce stirs up big emotions like anger and sadness. This book will facilitate avenues of honest conversation about separation and divorce.

This is also about intergenerational relationships, where Mia and her grandfather bond over loss. For me, the most touching moment is when Mia’s grandfather realizes how much Mia misses her parents and hands her an empty journal to record all of her happy moments, draw pictures and write down her feelings.  It is refreshing and hopeful when Mia’s grandfather pulls out his journals to show Mia how he copes with the loss of her grandmother. The connection between Mia and her grandfather is simply beautiful!

Morena Forza’s beautiful illustrations reflect the mood of the story, showing sadness and many uplifting moments. What a great cover! Great collaboration between author and illustrator.

Resources: Make sure you check out the back of the book for a double-page spread about “Keeping Your Own Notebook” and ways to get started.  Journals help both children and adults sort out feelings through writing poetry, drawing pictures and jotting down feelings.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has taught writing for over twenty years,, and her children’s books have received accolades from the Junior Library Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Amy blogs for students and teachers at The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks. Visit VanDerwater at her website. Follow her on Twitter @amylvpoemfarm.

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.

Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles

Take Back the Block

Chrystal D. Giles, Author

Random House Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jan. 26, 2021

Pages: 240

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Community, Social Justice, Family, Neighborhoods, Gentrification, Friendship, African Americans

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Brand-new kicks, ripped denim shorts, Supreme tee–

Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That–and hanging out with his crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games–is what he wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to.

But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived in his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known. Wes has always been good at puzzles, and he knows there has to be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it before it’s too late?

Why I like this book:

Chrystal D. Giles has written a timely and powerful novel for middle grade students that hits a sweet spot for me — kids making a difference in their communities and fighting for what they believe in. It celebrates the joy of family, friendship and community and will captivate readers from the start.  The plot is daring and hopeful. It is “loosely based on Giles’s hometown.

There is a  delightful cast of characters, with Wes Henderson leading his crew of best friends: Jasper (Jas), Mya, Alyssa, Takari (Kari) and Brent. They live in Kensington Oaks and are typical 6th graders, interested in video games, movies, school and birthday parties. Wes is a lovable and outgoing narrator, who is afraid of public speaking — especially when his social studies teacher, Mr. Bates, assigns each student to research a social justice issue, write a report and do a 10-minute presentation. He’s doomed.

Thumbs up to Wes’s parents for introducing him to social activism. His mother is an active community leader and takes Wes to a peaceful protests so that he understands what is happening in nearby neighborhoods that are being torn down for new shopping areas. This exposure is handy when the Oaks becomes the new target of a development group who wants to build condos and shops. There is no way Wes can leave the only home he’s ever known and holds his family’s history.

While the adults in the community are arguing, some selling their homes and others giving up, Wes knows he has to do something. A fire burns in his belly and he gathers his friends to fight for the survival of the Oaks. They enlist the support of a local group, Save Our City. Suddenly, Wes has his school social justice project, and Mr. Bates proves to give good advise and knows people. He allows Wes and his friends to meet in his classroom after school as they research and strategize each move. No more SPOILERS.

Take Back the Block deals with a topic that I haven’t seen addressed in children’s books — gentrification, the unfair displacement of families in lower income neighborhoods. Development companies buy up homes cheap, tear them down and replace them with high-end housing and shopping areas.  Most families can’t afford to live in the developments and are forced to find housing elsewhere. This is common in many Black communities.

This is an important book for a classroom to read together. Wes and his friends are the new faces of social justice and youth activism, whether it is gun control, climate change and equality. And student interested in social justice issues may gain courage from Wes.

Chrystal D. Giles is making her middle-grade debut with Take Back the Block. Chrystal was a 2018 W Need Diverse Books mentee, and her poem “Dimples” appears in the poetry anthology Thanku Poems of Gratitude. Chrystal lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and son. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @CREATIVELYCHRYS.

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.

Band Together by Chloe Douglass

Band Together

Chloe Douglass, Author and Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Sep. 8, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Band, Making Friends, Social anxiety, Self-esteem, Courage

Opening: “Duck lived by himself. Most days Duck fished, ate lunch, combed the beach, made tea by himself…” 

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Duck is a solo act. He loves the peace and solitude of his beachside home, strumming his ukulele beneath the stars. After helping stranded band players, Bear, Fox, and Seagull, fix their broken-down tour van, he has tons of fun playing songs and hanging out with his new friends.

Maybe he could ask The Band if they want to play with him again. But why would they want to be friends with Duck?

When Seagull gets sick, it looks like the concert will get cancelled. Or will Duck drum up the courage and accept Bear’s invitation to join The Band? Will Duck help his new friends out?

Why I like this book:

Chloe Douglass has written an engaging book for children who are shy about making new friends and suffer social anxiety.  Some may wonder if they are good enough. Sometimes it may be easier to do things by yourself and not risk being rejected. It may be the safer path, but a lonely one as Duck discovers. Once Duck meets Bear, Fox and Seagull and gets a taste of what it’s like to have friends, he has to find the courage inside himself to take the next step. When they ask him to join the band and play in their concert, Duck says no. But then he remembers the fun he had. Just maybe…

Douglass’s illustrations are delightful! There is a double spread in the middle of the book free of words. Douglass shows Duck deep in thought and her warm illustrations support the moment of Duck’s deep contemplation. You can almost hear Duck thinking out loud. Encourage children to fill in his thoughts with their words because they will know what he’s feeling.

Make sure you check out the fun endpapers because Douglass has illustrated a multitude of singers as animals – Justin Beaver, Alpaca Morrissette, Amy Winegrouse and many others.

Resources: This book is a wonderful resource for home and school. Ask kids if they ever feel like Duck. Encourage them to talk about what makes them anxious about social settings and making new friends. Ask them what would help them to step outside of his comfort zone?  Help them make a list of the things they may try. After all, they don’t want to miss out on the  fun.

Chloe Douglass works in her home studio to create illustrations, character designs, and story ideas. She graduated from Kingston University with and MA Illustration degree. She lives in Tooting, London. Visit her at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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

Daily Bread by Antoinette Truglio Martin

Daily Bread

Antoinette Truglio Martin, Author

Red Penguin Books, Historical Fiction, Oct. 12, 2020

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Immigrants, New York City, Poverty, Child labor, Factories, Bullies

Synopsis:

Set in New York City in 1911, the large Taglia family has immigrated from Sicily and is living in a three-room tenement on Mott Street in the Lower East Side.  Earning enough money to cover the rent and basic needs is an endless struggle for the Taglia family and they need all the help they can muster. The father works double shifts at the docks. The mother is very pregnant with her fourth child, refuses to learn English and depends on her daughters to translate and barter for her.

Spunky songbird Lily wants to help by baking Daily Bread at the Goldberg’s Bakery like big sister, Margaret. But Margaret says Lily is just a little kid, and there is more to baking Daily Bread than height and an artist’s heart. Lily learns to navigate in a grown-up world when facing bullies, disasters, loss, dotty bakers, and treacherous streets to cross by herself.

Why I like this book:

Antoinette Truglio Martin has crafted a beautiful work of historical fiction based on her own family’s early beginnings in America. The story is a very American story — one that so many of us share. Martin’s writing is polished and filled with vivid imagery of the sights and sounds of the period, which will captivate reader’s imaginations. Her plot is realistic and sobering, and her pacing is pitch perfect, which will keep readers fully engaged.

The characters are authentic and memorable. Twelve-year-old Margaret is the eldest. She’s a smart student and knows that education is her way out of poverty. She helps the family out by working at a bakery. Ten-year-old Lily loves to sing and wants to learn how to bake Daily Bread at the Goldberg’s bakery with her big sister. Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg are Russian immigrants, who create a safe place where neighborhood children can bake the Daily Bread for their families and only pay three cents for their loaf rather than five cents. They also teach them a skill. Their routine is laborious, with Margaret and Lily arriving at the bakery before dawn to mix and knead their dough and put it into a pan to rise. They head to school only to return on their lunch breaks to punch the air out of the dough, knead and reshape it into a round loaf.  Their loaf will be baked and ready for them to take home when they return after school. Margaret earns extra money by helping with bakery sales and has secrets of her own, if she can dodge her mother’s pressure to take a factory job. Lily is determined to help out too. She makes bakery deliveries and has to learn to outsmart bullies and stand up for herself.

The heart of Martin’s story comes from listening to her grandmother, and her sisters, tell stories about their early lives in the shabby tenements of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They shared their stories around the dinner table or while cooking in the kitchen. Her family immigrated to the U.S. from Sicily in 1905. It was a tough time for immigrants, but they all had dreams of new lives. Make sure you read the Author’s Introduction and check out the Discussion and Writing Prompts and Research Project suggestions  at the end of the book. This is a great classroom book.

Antoinette Truglio Martin is a speech therapist and special education teacher by training but really wants to be a writer when she grows up. She has been collecting, writing, and fashioning stories forever. Over the years she has been a regular columnist in local periodicals and has several essays featured in newsletters and literary reviews. Her children’s picture book, Famous Seaweed Soup was published in 1993 by Albert Whitman Co. Antoinette’s memoir, Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer (She Writes Press 2017), chronicles her first year battling breast cancer as a wimpy patient. She proudly holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook/Southampton University. Be sure to stop by her website and blog, Stories Served Around The Table, to read about past and present family adventures, book happenings, and musings.

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.

Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away by Meg Medina

Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away

Meg Medina, Author

Sonia Sánchez, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Sep. 8, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-7

Themes: Best friends, Moving, Separation, Memories,

Opening: “Evelyn Del Re is my mejor amiga, my número uno best friend. “Come play, Daniela,” she says, just like she always does. Just like today is any other day.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Evelyn Del Rey is Daniela’s best friend, her mejor amiga. But after today, everything will be different. After today, Evelyn won’t live in a mirror-image apartment across the street. Today Evelyn Del Rey is moving away.

The two girls spend on last afternoon together in Evelyn’s apartment, playing among the boxes, until the apartment is empty and it’s time to say their goodbyes. They promise to visit and keep in touch, and, though they will be apart, they know they will always be each other’s first best friend, their número uno.

Why I like this book:

Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away is a touching story of about two best friends playing one last day together. They hide in big empty boxes, romp through the apartment, spin in circles, and hide from the adults.  As the house slowly empties everything familiar begins to disappear. They chat about how the many ways that they will keep in touch and seal their promise with heart stickers they press upon each other’s cheek.  A lovely reminder that best friends will always remain in our hearts even when they are separated by distance.

In Medina’s heartfelt story, she shows how the girls deep bond is mirrored with their similar apartments directly across the street from each other. And Sonia Sánchez’s glorious and emotive illustrations show a string that is strung from one bedroom window to the other — a reminder of their best friend heartstring connection. There is beauty and love on every page. This joyful account of friendship will charm readers.

Resources: Make sure you check out the teacher’s guide, activity guide and free coloring pages at Candlewick.

Meg Medina is the author of the Newbery Medal-winning book Merci Suárez Changes Gears. She is also the author of the award-winning young adult novels and the picture books Mango, Abuela, and Me, illustrated by Angela Dominguez, which as a Pura Belpré Book, and Tia Isa Wants a Car, illustrated by Claudio Munoz, which won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she grew up in Queens, New York, and now lives in Richmond, Virginia.

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 copy provided by Candlewick in exchange for a review.