Tag Archives: book review

Striped pants not required

almaAlma has one of those names that goes on and on.  Or maybe some of the names are not her favorites.  In any case, she is bopping around in awesome striped pants, not feeling like her name fits her.

Daddy can bring to life all the people whose names she shares, though, including a woman in really awesome striped pants.  (Nice touch.  Where can I get these pants?) There is more to us than our names, but it’s sure interesting to know how they came about, isn’t it?

The illustrations are light and sweet, and it’s perfect for any kid questioning their Edith or Jaquarian or Huong in a Jennifer and Sophie world.  Perfect for a quiet moment with a special little one who likes their name, too.  Maybe even the perfect way to talk about naming and how it works in different cultures.  Keep looking!  There might be more.

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

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Future Batgirl wins the day

library on wheelsMary Lemist Titcomb – Miss Titcomb – was a fierce advocate of libraries, pushing aside those people who said working people and children weren’t interested in reading, charging forward to provide more varied library services to people who didn’t live close to physical libraries.  AND she thought up a plan which she put into action to get the first bookmobiles out into parts of the community that did not have access.  What a gem!

The pictures and documents are fascinating, and though Miss Titcomb is not a well-known figure today, learning about her is sure a treat.

Library on Wheels:  Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s First Bookmobile by Sharlee Glenn


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Where’s my cowboy bus?

bus stop

Who knew that catching a bus was this complicated?  You miss your bus, but then the buses that follow include options for cowboys riding horses, bouncing clowns, sailors, and balloon fans?  Man, what neighborhood does this guy live in?

A seriously silly flight of fancy and a lot of fantastic fun.

Bus!  Stop! by James Yang

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This book is all over the place

theysayblue.jpgAnd that’s ok.

It all hangs together, the thoughts about colors and where you see them and how you see them and what you might do if you could float on a color or become a tree.  It doesn’t really even make sense if you’re looking for traditional story progression, but it’s beautiful, anyway — full of movement, full of imagination.  It stretches your brain a little and makes you wonder, “What else could I see or hear or touch or feel if I were looking closely?”

Roll with it.  You’ll be glad you did.

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

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Hello, it’s hot dog I’m waiting for

hello hot dogAgain with the dated song lyrics?  I imagine that’s what all of my five or six readers are thinking right about now, since I’ve lately been wandering deep into my sketchy pop music past.   Are you tired of it?  Well, join the club, people.  I’m blaming it on this ridiculous weather.

I’m telling you, if this freakish spring doesn’t give us at least a few days of decent weather and soon, you’re probably going to find me in the garden singing A Flock of Seagulls and Haircut One Hundred tunes while I’m planting the carrots and cucumbers.

However, while I’m scaring the rabbits away with I Ran or Love Plus One, you will have done your work and found this book and maybe paired it with The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog to read to some fun little one you like.  I can’t wait to get it in front of some kindergartners, but that’s just how I roll.  Like a hot dog.  (You’ll get that joke after you read the book.)

Hello, Hot Dog by Lily Murray and Jarvis

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See what’s become of me

forever or a dayIt’s not often that a picture book makes me think of a Bangles song and a guided meditation on the life of a prophet, but when you are talking about time, time, time, all bets are off.  Let’s all take a moment to be grateful for the mysterious and wonderful connections our brains make.

Sarah Jacoby’s Forever or a Day is a meditation on time and its passing.  It is perhaps not a book for the hyperaware and deep-thinking kid who gets stressed out by the days passing, but it’s otherwise a great read for kids, parents, and grandparents.  And its last page sums the joys of life up simply and perfectly: “I love the time I have with you.”  So true in so many situations.

Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby

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A memory of a life left behind

islandbornHow do we remember the places we leave behind?  How do we create our history when we can’t remember it?

Lola has a class assignment to draw the place she (and her family) came from.  In a class of immigrants, there are all kinds of places to draw and imagine – pyramids, jungles, cities, canals.  Lola can’t remember much about her own Island, but by talking to her community, she collects images and ideas she can combine into something she can understand and share.

Islandborn’s art and text illustrate both the good and the bad of the past, which is the most powerful part of this amazing whole.  It’s easy to think that children won’t understand the destruction of a hurricane or something like political corruption, but they see bad things every day on some level, just as adults do.  Being honest about the beauty and the horror – without dwelling on particulars – creates a more complete picture of who we are and where we’ve come from.  Superb.

Islandborn by Junot Díaz and Leo Espinoza

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War. What is it good for? Again.

Groundwood Logo TextIt seems like days, but I know it was actually weeks ago that I posted about another middle grade book about war—Playing Atari With Saddam Hussein.  This one is a graphic novel, based on Deborah Ellis’s classic, The Breadwinner.

Adapted from the film version directed by Nora Twomey, the story is a familiar one.  Power struggles, militarized conflict, outcomes no one particularly likes – in this case, only the strict Taliban and their thugs like the idea of limiting women so much.  People who just want to live their daily lives struggle while those in power find ways to exploit their standing.  No surprise there.

Parvana has to disguise herself as a boy in order to be able to provide for her family, and while the disguise allows her some freedoms she doesn’t have otherwise, it also brings complications – fear of bullies with guns, for one thing.  With her father jailed for having forbidden books, her life and that of the rest of her family is trapped in survival mode.

Having this in graphic novel form will appeal to a lot of young readers, especially those who are interested in social justice issues.  It’s a view into another world, and that’s an especially good thing for those of us with the advantages of technology and development and education and relatively safe daily lives.

The Breadwinner: a graphic novel – based on the book by Deborah Ellis and adapted from the film by Nora Twomey

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Lose the bow tie. Keep the costume.

harriet-gets-carried-away-9781481469111_lgI love kids who wear costumes when they come to the library, and not just when there’s a Frozen singalong to celebrate.  Once in a while, Spider-Man or Moana or some random princess will bounce in, totally happy with their look, showing off their cool shoes or mask or fabulous, floofy skirt.  My librarian costumes are, by comparison, pretty dull – cardies, sensible shoes, the occasional fun socks — but I can appreciate flair in others.

So, I’m all there for Harriet, who gets carried away about a lot of things – wearing a monster costume to the dentist, going with her dads to get treats for her party, adventure, penguins.  This is a light, happy, silly book about figuring out where you belong – everywhere! – and having the right people or penguins around you.  Bow ties optional.

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima

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You say tomato, I say tomahto

blue riderThis book is a masterpiece.  Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but it’s 100% groovy at a minimum.  It’s wordless – how I LOVE great wordless books! – and the art is delightful.  There’s so much in the early pages to look at, and then when the book and imagination take off, it’s like happy paintings are exploding on the page.

Your average kindergartner might interpret it a bit differently, however.  Seeing that wonderful blue horse with the long, colorful tail might lead them to say, “It looks like lightning is coming out of that horse’s butt!”  I’m pretty sure that’s not what the artist was going for, but you never know.  Perhaps Geraldo Valério has a sense of humor and an ability to look into a five year old’s not-so-deep thoughts.  Maybe the joke is on me, my friends.

So enjoy it as an adult or share it with a kid who can appreciate the bright, thrilling fun of it.  But maybe stay away from the cold medication while reading this one or prepare for giggles, lots of giggles.

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valério

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