Summary: “We give thanks for mittens and for coats and boots and hats. We give thanks for yellow dogs and yellow kitty cats.” A frog and a rabbit show their gratitude for different aspects of their lives, like food, family, and nature. They travel around their neighborhood, then end up back at home where they prepare a feast as friends and relatives start to arrive. “Bless our nights and bless our days and bless all those we meet. We give thanks for everything, and now…it’s time to EAT!” 32 pages; ages 3-7.
Pros: With many of those Pilgrim and Indian Thanksgiving books feeling more problematic each year, I am thankful for books like these that focus on gratitude and make perfect Thanksgiving read-alouds. Cynthia Rylant’s rhyme is bouncy and fun, and Sergio Ruzzier (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite illustrators) has done an outstanding job creating an animal world to complement the text.
Cons: The Thanksgiving feast seems to be a little light on vegetables (although some may consider that a pro, not a con).
Summary: On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set sail from Southampton, bound for New York. The next day, the Carpathia left New York, heading for various ports in Europe. A few nights later, just after midnight onboard the Carpathia, 21-year-old radio operator Harold Cottam received a message saying, “Come at once…we have been struck by a ‘berg.” As soon as Captain Arthur Rostron got the message, he turned his ship around and headed full-speed for the Titanic, navigating through iceberg-infested waters to see if he could save anyone. Around 4:00 a.m. the Carpathia reached the lifeboats and started bringing survivors onboard. The heroism didn’t end there, as the shipheaded back to New York, with passengers and staff providing food, clothing, and medical care. The Carpathia docked in New York on April 18, where it was greeted by a crowd of 30,000 people. Includes a glossary and lists of sources and further reading. 80 pages; grades 3-7.
Pros: I had pretty much vowed to never read another Titanic book for the rest of my life, but I really enjoyed this one, which focused on the heroism of Captain Rostron and others on board the Carpathia, usually just a footnote in the Titanic tragedy. The illustrations are well-done and really support the text, and there’s lots of interesting information about all things nautical, as well as the historical stuff.
Summary: Kiki is tinkering with a bicycle near her home in Ghana when she gets the signal that the Secret Explorers have a mission. When they’re all gathered, they learn that they’ve been assigned to the Arctic, and Kiki and marine specialist Connor are the two chosen to go. When they get there, they find a ship stuck in the ice and learn that one of the scientists has gone missing. As they carry out their rescue mission, they learn a lot about the polar environment, and have a close encounter with a polar bear. Not only do they find the scientist, but Kiki’s engineering skills allow them to free the ship from the ice as well. Includes additional information on the Arctic, the people who live there, and polar bears; a quiz; and a glossary. 128 pages; grades 2-4.
Pros: Somehow I’ve missed this series until this book, #7, which got a starred review from School Library Journal. Kids who like science and reading nonfiction will enjoy learning all the facts that are woven into the story and given in the backmatter. There’s a diverse cast of characters that apparently answer the call from all around the globe when there’s a new mission. I was a little vague as to the group works, so definitely start with book 1.
Cons: Even though there are plenty of illustrations, there’s no credit given on the cover or title page. Unless SJ King is also the illustrator?
Summary: Although not everyone in her neighborhood loves graffiti, this girl sees it as beautiful art decorating the walls and trains of her community. Some people complain about it, while others are too busy to notice it. In the park, there’s a big block party, and suddenly the art comes to life and joins in the celebration. Everyone boogies away except the girl, a friend, and their dog, who shake up some cans of spray paint and get busy creating art. 40 pages; ages 3-8.
Pros: A rollicking rhyming book that celebrates the art and life of an urban neighborhood.
For some reason, interlibrary loan has been very slow recently, so I’m low on books to read and review. Don’t worry, September is a big month for new books, so the good stuff is coming. In the meantime, I recently added a book list for Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) that you might want to take a look at. You can find it under the Book Lists section on my blog (just move the cursor to Book Lists and you should get a drop-down menu of all the lists), or use this link.
Summary: These two collections of scary short stories were released in August, just in time to get in the library before Halloween. Only If You Dare has 13 stories, mostly about kids whose normal lives are disturbed by some supernatural aspect. They try to dismiss it at first, but eventually the nightmare comes true, the doll comes to life…well, you get the idea. Hide and Don’t Seek is a collection of 19 stories, with a little more variety in the format, including a poem, a story told all in texts, and a collection of letters from a summer camp that you might want to avoid sending your kids to. Both books have plenty of illustrations just in case your imagination isn’t overstimulated enough. Only If You Dare is 208 pages, Hide and Don’t Seek is 224; both recommended for grades 4-7.
Pros: Anyone who has worked in a library frequented by kids knows that these books will never be on the shelves. The demand for scary stories is huge, and these stories are truly creepy. Some kids’ horror is more funny than horrifying, but not these two collections. They are definitely scary without being too disturbing for the intended age group.
Cons: Horror is not and has never been my favorite genre, so reading 32 scary stories in a row…let’s just say I’ll be avoiding dolls and clowns for a while.
Summary: Hudi just wants to hang out with his imaginary friend Chunky and make people laugh, but his parents think it’s better for him to play sports. Not only are they concerned about his weight, but he had some health issues as a child that resulted in him losing part of a lung. Most of the chapters have sports titles: “Soccer”, “Football”, “Swimming” as he tries one after and other and not only fails, but often ends up in the emergency room with some sort of injury. in the last chapter “Theater”, he finds his true passion; his parents eventually come around and become his biggest cheerleaders. Includes an author’s note with additional autobiographical information and a couple of photos. 208 pages; grades 3-7.
Pros: An engaging graphic memoir; kids struggling to find their own identities will relate to Hudi’s difficulties on the sports field and cheer for him as he discovers where he really belongs–on stage.
Cons: In his author’s note, Mercado says how he and his dad shared a passion for art. While this is alluded to very briefly in the story, it would have been an interesting dimension of their relationship to play up a little more.
Summary: Basketball is Sarah’s passion, and she’s concerned when she finds herself slowing down and missing shots. When her coach tells her that it may have to do with the ways her body is changing as she goes through puberty, Sarah decides to severely restrict her eating to reverse those changes. She’s supported in this decision at home, where her petite mother lives mostly on cookies and candy, has strict rules about food, and often forgets to grocery shop or make meals. Food takes on new importance when the boy she has a crush on asks her to be his partner in the upcoming Chef Junior competition. When Sarah collapses at a basketball game, her best friend confronts her and opens up a way for Sarah to finally get some help. Includes a note from the author telling of her own struggles with food and eating. 272 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: Alyson Gerber addresses a real-world problem that many elementary and middle school kids are dealing with as she did in Braced and Focused. Like Starfish, this book does a great job showing the crazy messages about eating that abound in our society and creates a memorable narrator whose strength and resilience help her to navigate them.
Cons: The speed with which Sarah’s parents were ready to make major changes after just a single session with the school counselor seemed a little overly optimistic.
Summary: Every year, the residents of Wolver Hollow grow mustaches or wear fake ones on October 19. When Parker and Lucas get to fifth grade, they’re old enough to finally learn why. According to local legend, many years ago Wolver Hollow resident Bockius Beauregard was vaporized in an explosion, with only his mustache surviving. Every year the haunted mustache goes out looking for a hair-free lip to rest on. The two boys decide to investigate to find out if the tale is true, reluctantly including their classmate, ghost expert Samantha von Oppelstein. The three of them have a series of hair-raising adventures, but finally succeed in defeating the mustache. Or do they? 160 pages; grades 2-5.
Pros: This first of a three-part series is just the right blend of funny and scary for new chapter book readers. The cliffhanger ending will have kids eagerly seeking out book 2. Book 3 comes out in February.
Cons: I hope the boys will eventually feel comfortable enough with Samantha von Oppelstein to drop the von Oppelstein and simply call her Samantha.
Summary: Growing up in Mexico, Luz Jiménez learned the language and culture of her people, the Nahua. Although she dreamed of reading and becoming a teacher, this proved to be difficult. When she was young, indigenous children weren’t allowed to go to school; later the law changed, and they were required to go to Spanish-speaking schools, forbidden from speaking their native languages. When the Mexican Revolution came to her home, most of the men in Luz’s community were killed, including her father. She and her mother and sister moved to Mexico City, where Luz became an artist’s model. 20th-century artists were interested in portraying native people instead of the traditional light-skinned Spanish subjects. Through her work as a model, Luz also became a teacher, sharing her language and culture with others and becoming known as “the spirit of Mexico”. Includes notes from the author and artist, including a photograph and a list of illustrations that were inspired by other artists’ work who had painted Luz. Also a timeline, glossary, notes, and a bibliography. 48 pages; grades 1-5.
Pros: Another excellent addition to the growing list of 2021 books about indigenous people. Despite Luz’s many difficulties, she maintained a positive spirit and contributed in many ways to Mexico’s history. Sure to receive some Pura Belpré consideration.
Cons: The illustrations that were inspired by other artists’ work were listed with page numbers; since there were no page numbers in the book, I wasn’t sure which page was being referenced.