Unicorn Island: Beneath the Sand by Donna Galanti

Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand (Vol. 2)

Donna Galanti, Author

Bethany Stanecliffe, Illustrator

Andrews McMeel Publishing, Mar. 8, 2022

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Unicorns, Mythical creatures, Mysterious Island, Adventure, Fantasy, Friendship

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Samantha’s (Sam) life couldn’t get much better. Since coming to Foggy Harbor to stay with her Uncle Mitch while her mother tours with an orchestra, she’s discovered a magical island full of unicorns and is learning how to protect them with her new friend, Tuck by her side. Foggy Harbor is finally starting to feel like home,

But just when everything seems perfect, a mysterious illness befalls the unicorn herd and threatens to rob them of their immortality. As Sam and Tuck race to help find a cure, she must confront a dark secret that her Uncle Mitch has spent her entire life trying to protect her from — a secret that links her own past to the future of the herd.

learns the truth behind Aunt Sylvie’s disappearance and her own connection to the island. With determination, courage, and fierce loyalty to one another—and to their code as unicorn protectors—the kids set out to protect the island’s secrecy and the unicorns’ very existence.

Why I like this book:

Donna Galanti’s Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath Sand is the second volume in this enchanting contemporary fantasy, which is packed with adventure, mystery and tension. It will captivate readers’ imaginations and lure them into a magical world of mythical beasts where they can learn to become “unicorn protectors.” 

The characters are diverse and believable. Samantha (Sam) is a curious and resilient protagonist who longs to become a unicorn protector. She befriends Tuck, the veterinarian’s son, is very resourceful during difficult situations and a supportive friend. Uncle Mitch is somewhat stern and elusive at first, but welcomes their help when he needs rescuing.  Sam can’t help but feel that Uncle Mitch is keeping secrets from her. 

Galanti’s narrative is engaging and immersive,  Her plot is solid with elements of danger that will keep readers quickly turning pages. The story also has a strong element of realism. This is the second volume with four books to follow. And it ends with some interesting cliffhangers.

Although Unicorn Island is for students 8-12, it will also appeal to younger readers (7-10) who aren’t quite ready for wordy and lengthy MG fantasy novels. The book has a large type face and includes many gorgeous colorful illustrations by Bethany Stancliffe, which add to the magic.  I believe this book would also appeal to reluctant readers and kids with dyslexia.

Make sure you check out the great backmatter at the end of the book. Galanti shares some history about horns and hooves, secret rooms and passageways, invasive species, and healing salves. 

Donna Galanti wanted to be a writer ever since she wrote a screenplay at seven years old and acted it out with the neighborhood kids. She attended an English school, housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). She now lives with her family and two crazy cats in an old farmhouse and is the author of the middle-grade fantasy adventures Joshua and The Lightning Road and Joshua and the Arrow Realm.

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 Monster in the Lake by Louie Stowell

The Monster in the Lake, Vol. 2

Louie Stowell, Author

Davide Ortu, Illustrator

Walker Books US, Fiction, Feb. 8, 2022

Pages: 197

Suitable for ages: 7-9

Themes: Wizards, Spells, Libraries, Dragons, Magical creatures, Evil curses, Diversity

Opening: “In the Book Wood beneath the library, Kit Spencer was practicing spells. She was a stock girl, with red hair, pale skin, and more mud than you’d usually see on a person who wasn’t a professional pig wrestler…Her goal was to raise the fireball above her head, the lower it to the ground. Faith was guiding her through the spell.” 

Book Jacket Synopsis

Kit Spencer may be the youngest wizard ever, but she sure doesn’t feel like the best wizard. Her magic keeps going wrong, and other weird stuff is happening: talking animals, exploding fireballs, and a very strange new arrival in the local park pond.

She sets off with her two best friends, Alita and Josh and Faith the librarian to investigate with wild magic that’s causing so much commotion. Joining them is a half dragon, half dog named Dogon who breathes fire and loves to be petted. But something is effecting Dogon too. 

Their journey takes them to Scotland, where they meet a loch-full of cranky mermaids, but the danger is greater than they imagined. Will they be able to set things right before the wild and dangerous magic spreads further?

Why I like The Monster in the Lake:

What fun it is introducing this wizarding series to emerging readers who aren’t ready for Harry Potter and other MG fantasy books. In the Monster in the Lake, (Book 2), Louie Stowell creates an exciting and appealing adventure-packed story with magical creatures, diverse characters, and an engaging and suspenseful plot with unexpected twists. The storytelling is straightforward and the pacing is fast and humorous. 

The three diverse friends are lovable characters, but have very different personalities. Kit is a spirited character who is reckless and makes a lot of mistakes. She’d rather play outdoors than read a book. Josh and Alita aren’t wizards, but they both have their own unique talents and are smart, and avid readers. Josh is always taking notes and keeping things straight. This book begins with a letter he writes to his “future self,” which gives a readers a a peek into the first book, A Dragon in the Library. Alita is good at organizing and has a special way with animals. An unlikely group of friends, they do support each other and work well together. Faith, the wizard librarian, is believable and grounds the story. There are many laughable moments. 

I really like this charming and humorous chapter book series. There is a quiz at the end of the book that can be used to launch a discussion about the story. There is a third book in the works and the author leaves room for adventure and Kit’s character growth as she slowly learns to control her magic. I think Kit’s going to be an amazing wizard. This is the perfect summer adventure for young readers looking to escape into a world of magic, libraries, spells, a dragon-dog, and an unseen ancient evil presence trying to regain it’s power!

David Ortu’s pen and ink illustrations are playful. They capture the characters personalities, their reactions to stepping into the pages of a book to transport themselves to far off places, and their encounters with magical creatures. Ortu shares just enough art to spark readers imaginations! 

Louie Stowell started her career writing carefully researched books about space, ancient Egypt, politics and science, but eventually lapsed into making things up. She likes writing about dragons, wizards, vampires, fairies, monsters and parallel worlds. Stowell lives in London with her wife, Karen; her dog, Buffy; and a creepy puppet that is probably cursed. Visit Stowell at her website.

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

*Review copy provided by Walker Books US 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.

 

The View from the Very Best House in Town by Meera Trehan

The View from the Very Best House in Town

Meera Trehan, Author

Walker Books US, Fiction, Feb. 8, 2022

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes:  Autisim spectrum, Diversity, Friendship, Mansion, Classism, Mystery, 

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Part thriller, part friendship story, part real estate listing, this witty and inventive debut explores the nature of friendship and home.

Sam and Asha. Asha and Sam. Their friendship is so long established, they take it for granted. Just as Asha takes for granted that Donnybrooke, the mansion that sits on the highest hill in Coreville, is the best house in town.

But when Sam is accepted into snobbish Castleton Academy as an autistic “Miracle Boy,” he leaves Asha, who is also autistic, to navigate middle school alone. He also leaves her wondering if she can take anything for granted anymore. Because soon Sam is spending time with Prestyn, Asha’s nemesis, whose family owns Donnybrooke and, since a housewarming party gone wrong, has forbidden Asha to set foot inside.

Who is Asha without Sam? And who will she be when it becomes clear that Prestyn’s interest in her friend isn’t so friendly?

Told from the points of view of Asha, Sam, and Donnybrooke itself, this suspenseful and highly original debut explores issues of ableism and classism as it delves into the mysteries of what makes a person a friend and a house a home.

Why I like The View from the Very Best House in Town:

Meera Trehan has penned a compelling and suspenseful story that involves vivid characters a a fast-paced plot. It is told from three different viewpoints — Asha, Sam and Donnebrooke, (the mansion) — that provide valuable insight into the story. Trehan’s storytelling is captivating and her beautiful writing will draw readers into the story.

Asha and Sam are memorable characters and have been best friends since they were young. They are on the autism spectrum, each with their own gifts. Asha is of East Indian heritage. She loves architecture and is enthralled with the quirky features of Doneybrooke, the mansion that overlooks the town. Sam is obsessed with killing monsters in his favorite Househaunt game. They compliment one another, making his attendance at Castleton Academy hard for the twosome. Prestyn lives at Donneybrooke and attends Castleton, where she befriends Sam for the wrong reasons — to hurt Asha. Prestyn is mean and scary. She manipulates Sam with dangerous psychological games, making this story a real thriller.

Donneybrooke views itself in a class of it’s own — a mansion like no other. It is boastful and filled with pride, but over time it softens and only wants to be a home that is loved and cared for by it’s owners. Donneybrook likes Asha best because she appreciates its unique beauty. There is a lot of growth in the characters, as each forges a path forward, including Donneybrooke. The book would be a great read aloud at home or school. There are many themes to think about and discuss.

Meera Trehan grew up in Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. After attending the University of Virginia and Stanford Law School, she practiced law for over a decade before turning to creative writing. She lives in Maryland with her family. The View from the Very Best House in Town is her debut novel.

Meera Trehan grew up in Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. After attending the University of Virginia and Stanford Law School., she practiced law for over a decade before turning to creative writing. She lives in Maryland with her family.  The View form the Very Best House in Town is her debut novel.

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 Walker Books in exchange for a review. 

Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler

Someone Builds the Dream

Lisa Wheeler, Author

Loren Long, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, March 23,2021

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes:   Dreamers, Skilled trade workers, Technicians, Builders, Teamwork, Diversity  

Opening: “All across this great big world, jobs are getting done / by many hand in many lands. It takes much more than ONE.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

A house, a bridge, an amusement park all start as an idea, a sketch, a plan. But what happens next? Someone needs to work the saws and pound the nails. Someone has to build each dream.

This joyous and profound book is an exploration of all the work that happens after someone dreams big — about the skilled laborers who turn a thought into a glorious final product (such as this very book!)

Why I like Someone Builds the Dream:

This is an excellent book to show children how many skilled men and women are involved in the vision, planning, and building of structures around the world. Each job is important. There are architects, engineers, artists, scientists, and designers who create the vision or dream. But then there are the skilled construction workers (builders, electricians, plumbers, machine operators and drivers) who must execute the plans and bring them to life — bridges, theme parks, buildings, houses, and ecological wind farms. 

What a wonderful way to introduce the concept of teamwork to children. And each worker’s job is just as important as any other job.  Many kids will see their parents in these very important jobs and feel pride in their accomplishments. 

The text is snappy. The illustrations are colorful, inviting and detailed as a diverse group work together to bring the visions to life. Kids will enjoy pouring over every double page spread. I hope the author and illustrator team up to do more books like this one, because the possibilities are endless.  They may inspire a new generation of workers.  

Resources: This is a great classroom book. Ask kids if there are jobs shown that their parents or other family members do?  Is there a job they like to do. Ask them to think about the bicycles they ride, the baseball and mitt they play with, the clothing,  and shoes and boots they wear. Remember someone made them. Have them draw a picture of a job they might like to do. It reminds me that my grandfather made ice cream at a dairy. My grandmother designed clothing and was a seamstress.  Our son is a truck driver, Our grandsons are engineers. 

Lisa Wheeler grew up in a family of steel workers and welders, and through this book she hopes that readers will share her deep respect for the nature of labor. She is the author of many beloved picture books, including Jazz Baby (A Geisel Honor Book), Farmer Dale’s Red Pickup Truck, and the Christmas Boot (a Golden Kite Award winner). She lives near Detroit, Michigan. 

Loren Long called upon his love of 1930s WPA murals in the painting of this book. One of the most admired children’s book illustrators working today, he has collaborated with many authors, including President Barack Obama, Matt de la Pena, Frank McCourt, and Angela Johnson. His bestselling Otis the Tractor series is in development as an animated TV show. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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.

 

How to Have a Birthday by Mary Lyn Ray

How to Have a Birthday

Mary Lyn Ray, Author

Cindy Derby, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 14, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Birthday, Traditions, Celebrations, Diversity

Opening“On the morning of your birthday you can tell already that the day is not like others.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

YOUR BIRTHDAY is just one day out of the whole year, but the celebration of you is limitless. On this special day, filled with anticipation and delight, there could be gifts, traditions, or a quiet moment alone to contemplate being one year older.

This is a day to celebrate you and the day you were born. Whatever the day holds, the ordinary will become the extraordinary, so make a wish — it’s your birthday!

Why I like How to Have a Birthday

What a joyful book to read to children a few days before their birthdays to remind them what a miracle they truly are. Mary Lyn Ray’s book is not your traditional birthday book as it encourages children to think more deeply about their day of birth. The very first present is the gift of wonder — what will this day bring? How will you celebrate your day? 

The lyrical text follows follows three diverse families who celebrate with different traditions. Maybe there will be gifts, songs, pictures, balloons, and a cake or pie. Maybe you like to wish upon a shooting star. Or maybe you will want to try something you’ve never done before like visiting a animal rescue center. Some kids may follow family traditions, like measuring their height on the wall.

Cindy Derby’s stunning watercolor and pastel illustrations show children celebrating in different seasons — after all there are 12 birthday months. Her artwork beckons readers to turn the pages and leaves them with a smile on their faces as they think about their special day. This timeless book is for children and individuals of all ages.

Resources:  Ask kids what they would like to do on their birthday. What is their favorite desert? Is it cake, pie or baklava? Do they like to look at birth photos and their baby footprints? Would they like to try something new on their birthday like riding in a hot air balloon, spending a quiet day learning to fly fish or learning to ice skate? Would they like to start a new tradition like donating some of their books and toys to other kids — or asking partygoers to donate to a favorite cause. The possibilities are endless.

Mary Lyn Ray is the author of many acclaimed books for children, including the New York Times bestseller Stars, illustrated by Marla Frazee, as well as The Thank You Book, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, and The House of Grass and Sky, illustrated by E. B. Goodale. Mary Lyn Ray lives in South Danbury, New Hampshire.  Visit Ray 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 Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.

 

They’re So Flamboyant by Michael Genhart

They’re So Flamboyant

Michael Genhart, Author

Tony Neal, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Oct. 19, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Birds, Diversity, Discrimination, Tolerance, Inclusion, Humor

Opening: “When a flamboyance of flamingos flew into the neighborhood…a gaggle of geese gathered to gab.” 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

flam·boy·ant – (of a person—or bird!—or their behavior) tending to attract attention because of their confidence, exuberance, and stylishness

This fun and funny bird’s-eye tome to individuality, community, and harmony follows the reactions of a neighborhood full of birds when a “flamboyance” of flamingos moves in. Each band of birds—a gaggle of geese, a dole of doves, a charm of finches, a brood of chickens, a scream of swifts, and an unkindness of ravens—all have their feathers ruffled and express their apprehension about the new and different arrivals. Bright pink colors, long legs, how dare they!

Even a watch of nightingales patrols after dark. When the band of jays decides it is time to settle down the neighborhood, the pride of peacocks takes the lead, with support from a waddle of penguins, a venue of vultures, a mob of emus, and a gulp of cormorants.

Finally, they all land at the flamingos’ welcome party only to realize that they had all been birdbrained. Their new neighbors are actually quite charming, and not so scary and different after all. 

Why I love this book:

Michael Genhart has written a hilarious and clever picture book that will help children learn about accepting others, avoiding stereotypes and assumptions, and being friendly to new classroom members and neighbors. Genhart’s text is brilliant with entertaining wordplay and alliteration. Each bird group responds with “bubble” comments that exaggerates the gossiping. Some of my favorites: “Flamingos? Really? In our backyard?”…”Well, there goes the neighborhood!”…”Our peace has been totally disrupted!”…”They’re so pink!”…”Stay in your own neighborhood! Gawk!”  But the flamingos remain pretty, pink and proud! And what a surprise there will be when the other birds are ready to take on the flamingos. 

Tony Neal’s expressive and funny illustrations are delightful! They really make this story sing!

Make sure you check out Genhart’s Sampling of Bird Groups at the end of the book. Readers will also have fun with the list of birds and their associated collective nouns. For example: Crows (murder, congress, horde, muster, cauldron); Pelicans (squadron, pod, scoop);  and Turkeys (rafter, gobble, gang, posse.) Another fun class activity.

Resources: There are so many wonderful ways to use this book in the classroom. Make sure you check out the Note to Readers at the end. The author suggests that teachers and parents start with age-appropriate conversations about diversity, differences, and discriminating behaviors like race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation and body types. Ask children to list the hurtful things that they see and hear at their own school. What causes kids to hurt others — are they afraid? This is such a great way to talk about exclusion and inclusion with children.   

Michael Genhart, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco. He has also written Rainbow; Cake & I Scream!; Mac & Geeez!; Peanut Butter & Jellyous: Ouch! Moments: I See You: So Many Smarts!; and Accordionly. He lives with his family in Marin County, California. Visit Genhart at his website, @MJGenhart on FB, @MGenhart on Twitter and @MichaelGenhart on Instagram.

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 Magination Press in exchange for a review.

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

Daughter of the Deep

Rick Riordan, Author

Disney – Hyperion, Fiction, Oct. 26, 2021

Suitable for ages: 10-14

Themes: Adventure, Underwater exploration, Marine sciences, High schools, Orphans, East Indian Americans

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Ana Dakkar is a freshman at Harding-Pencroft Academy, a five-year high school that graduates the best marine scientists, naval warriors, navigators, and underwater explorers in the world. Ana’s parents died while on a scientific expedition two years ago, and the only family’s she’s got left is her older brother, Dev, also a student at HP. (And they’ve heard all the Harry Potter jokes already, so don’t go there.)

Ana’s freshman year culminates with the class’s weekend trial at sea, the details of which have been kept secret. She only hopes she has what it’ll take to succeed. All her worries are blown out of the water when, on the bus ride to the ship, Ana and her schoolmates witness a terrible tragedy that will change the trajectory of their lives.

But wait, there’s more. The professor accompanying them informs Ana that their rival school, Land Institute, and Harding-Pencroft have been fighting a cold war for a hundred and fifty years. Now that cold war has been turned up to a full broil, and the freshman are in danger of becoming fish food.

In a race against deadly enemies, Ana will make amazing friends and astounding discoveries about her heritage as she puts her leadership skills to the test for the first time.

What I love about this book: I am only going to leave bullet comments, because I know this book will be a popular gift for many teens over the holidays. So, no spoilers! 

Rick Riordan has captured my heart with Daughter of the Deep. The brilliantly crafted novel is action-packed, fast-paced, and full of unexpected surprises, right from the start. His storytelling is magnificent. And take a good look at that stunning book cover!

Daughter of the Deep is inspired by Jules Vern’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I believe fans of Vern will find this modern take a thrilling read with a new spin on Captain Nemo and his submarine the Nautilus. Riordan takes world-building to another level. And the believer in me sees the potential for a  series. 

Riordan has created a cast of characters who are complicated, original and represent a wide range of ethnicities, faiths and abilities. Ana Dakkar is very relatable, believable and will capture reader’s hearts. She’s thrown into a situation she didn’t ask for. But her courage shines in the face of what she faces on an emotional level. She quickly gains the respect of the other students, and has a strong team of friends in Nelinha, Ester, Gem and many other HP students. And I love Jupiter the orangutan chef who communicates through sign language. He adds some humor and lightness to the story. First time I’ve seen attention given to menstrual cramps in novel.      

This high-stakes undersea adventure, re-imagines technologies so far advanced that readers will keep turning pages. STEM students will especially love this book — especially those who dream of about the world beneath the ocean and the advanced technologies of the future. But readers will also be challenged to think about the caution required in using them. Who do these advanced technologies belong to and how will they be used for the good of all mankind and nature? Which makes this a perfect discussion book.

Rick Riordan, dubbed “storyteller of the gods” by Publishers Weekly, is the author of five New York Times #1 best-selling middle grade series with millions of copies sold throughout the world: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Heroes of Olympus, and the Trials of Apollo, based on Greek and Roman mythology; the Kane Chronicles, based on ancient Egyptian mythology; and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, based on Norse mythology. Rick collaborated with illustrator John Rocco on two New York Times #1 best-selling collections of Greek myths for the whole family: Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods and Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes. He is also the publisher of an imprint at Disney Hyperion, Rick Riordan Presents, dedicated to finding other authors of highly entertaining fiction based on world cultures and mythologies, and a contributor to an RRP short story anthology, The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife and two sons. He’s even known to go scuba diving on occasion. Rick’s Twitter handle is @RickRiordan.

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.