Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed

Published by Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster

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Image result for bilal cooks daal

Summary:  Bilal invites his friends over for dinner to sample some of the daal his father  is cooking.  The kids help get things started, but when his friends think the ingredients look and smell funny, Bilal is worried. Dad starts the cooking, then tells them to go outside to play, as it will take a long time.  They have fun together playing hopscotch, swimming, and hiking, but after each activity, they stop back at Bilal’s to check on the daal, only to hear “Daal takes time”. Finally, as the sun sets, the daal is almost ready.  It’s time for Dad and the kids to add some herbs and spices, then sit down to eat it with some naan and rice.  Bilal can breathe a sigh of relief as his friends dig in and give the dinner two thumbs up. Includes an author’s note and recipe for chana daal.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Suffice it to say that this very cute book has inspired me to plan on trying out the recipe myself next week.

Cons:  The recipe doesn’t specify how many servings it makes.  I may be eating daal all week.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk

Published by Atheneum

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Image result for you are home turk

Summary:  “To the chipmunk in her burrow, sleeping beneath the leaves to keep warm; to the resilient bison in the steaming oases of of an endless winter: you are home.”  Evan Turk goes on to welcome animals and humans from all over America to more than 20  national parks: children in the city, children on farms, children who have just arrived to the United States, as well as those whose ancestors predated the United States by centuries are all welcomed.  The accompanying illustrations show scenes from the parks, each one captioned with a small label to identify it. The author’s note tells more about the history and importance of the parks, as well as the need for changes to preserve them going forward. There’s also a note about the art that encourages kids to experience some of the parks by creating art in them.  56 pages; ages 5 and up.

Pros:  This touching and beautiful ode to America’s national parks would make a perfect read for Independence Day, and is sure to inspire readers of all ages to spend some time in a national park or two this summer.  A Caldecott contender for sure.

Cons:  I guess the word “ode” in the title should have tipped me off, but I was hoping for more travel guide type information about each park.

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The Friendship War by Andrew Clements

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Grace is a collector and a scientist.  When her grandfather takes her for a tour of an old warehouse he’s recently purchased, she’s delighted to have permission to keep any artifacts she finds inside.  On a whim, she asks if she can have the 30 boxes of buttons they find there, and her adoring grandfather ships them to her home. Fast forward a few months:  her class is studying the industrial revolution, and Grace volunteers to share some of her finds from the mill. A few bags of the buttons spark a fad, and before long her classmates are bringing in buttons of their own to trade and show off. The fad turns into a war, and Grace’s longtime friendship with Ellie becomes a casualty.  Grace’s idea to use the science of economics to stop the craze backfires, but new friend and fellow scientist Hank helps her to keep things in perspective and begin to move toward a reconciliation with Ellie. 208 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Another engaging school story from Andrew Clements; I’m already considering this for a back-to-school fourth grade book club choice that will appeal to kids starting to move into “real” chapter books.

Cons:  Ellie seemed like such an unpleasant kid for most of the book that it was hard to understand why Grace was so anxious to preserve their friendship.

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Just Jaime by Terri Libenson

Published by Balzer + Bray

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Image result for just jaime libenson

Image result for just jaime libenson

Summary:  It’s the last day of seventh grade, and Jaime and Maya are having some major friendship issues.  For the past few months, they’ve been hanging out with Celia and Grace, and Jaime has increasingly felt pushed away.  She starts the day determined to confront Maya about it, while Maya is planning to convey Celia’s news that Jaime is out of the group.  When Maya finally sends her text, Jaime is devastated, and seeks solace in French teacher Madame Zukosky’s classroom.  She rallies for an afternoon of field day, realizing who her true friends are, and beginning to reach out to new ones.  Readers of Terri Libenson’s other books, Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy will recognize many of the characters, including Maya and Jaime.  The story is told in a similar format to the other two, with Jaime’s story in illustrated text and Maya’s in comic book style.  The road to the end of seventh grade is definitely a bumpy one, but both Jaime and Maya persevere to a happy ending. 247 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Terri Libenson has her finger firmly on the pulse of 12- and 13-year-olds; anyone who has survived middle school–or is in the process of doing so–will recognize many of the situations and kids.  That, combined with the graphic format, makes this a great choice for reluctant readers.

Cons:  There was a bit of a twist at the end, but not nearly as fun and surprising as the ones in the first two books.

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Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and A Journey to the New World by David Macaulay

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  In September of 1957, David Macaulay left with his mother, sister, and brother to travel to America, where his father had been offered a new job.  Their mode of transportation was the SS United States, the fastest, most advanced steamship ever built.  Macaulay starts the story with himself at age 10 getting ready to go to America, then goes back to the 18th century and traces the history of steam power and the steamship.  The text is illustrated with his trademark detailed, technical drawings illuminating each page, including a six-panel foldout cutaway of the United States with 100 labeled parts.  The last chapter tells about his family’s journey and their move to New Jersey.  Includes an afterword, a timeline, and a list of selected reading. 128 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  If you’re interested in engineering, you will never go wrong with David Macaulay.  The personal connection to his family made the story interesting to non-techies like myself.  The illustrations range from amazing to truly mind-boggling, like the one of the ship described above.

Cons:  It will take a pretty dedicated shipping enthusiast to get through all the details in the text.

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The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly by Rebecca K. S. Ansari

Published by Walden Pond Press

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Summary:  Charlie O’Reilly’s younger brother Liam went missing a year ago–but Charlie is the only one who remembers him.  His mother, struggling with depression, and his father, often away on business, assure him that he is, and has always been, an only child.  The only person who believes him is his neighbor and best friend Ana, even though she has no memory of Liam. Charlie tells Ana about the dreams he has where he is Kiernan, a boy living a tragic life first in Ireland and then in America.  When Charlie receives a mysterious note to talk to Jonathon, his kind but distant assistant baseball coach, he finally finds out what has happened to Liam. It may be possible for Charlie and Ana to rescue him, but only if they are willing to risk giving up everything they have ever known and loved.  389 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Part family story, part time-traveling fantasy, part historical fiction, this debut novel grabs readers from the first chapter and takes them on a wild roller coaster ride to a well-earned happy ending.

Cons:  There is a lot to keep track of–many characters and setting from the past, present, and an alternative world.

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Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, illustrated by John Rocco

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers

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Summary:  It’s the last weekend of summer; the narrator is about to start first grade and isn’t sure he wants to leave kindergarten.  When he and his family go on their annual camping trip to Mountain Pond, they’re surprised when a tiger comes to join them. He asks if he can borrow a tent, and he and the boy hang out inside.  The tiger joins the family as they hike, canoe, and fish, and the boy finds himself doing things that in the past have been difficult, like catching a fish and steering the canoe. The two go on a nighttime adventure the final night, but when the boy wakes up the next morning, the tiger is gone.  When the family gets home again, he draws a picture to show his first grade teacher and to help him to remember the tiger. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Kids will be kept guessing about the tiger–is he real or imaginary?–as they connect with the boy discovering his own tiger nature and becoming braver about trying new things.  John Rocco’s illustrations are amazing and possibly worth some Caldecott consideration.

Cons:  Some of the symbolism introduced by Yale professor and Pulitzer Prize finalist Susan Choi may be a bit over the heads of the intended audience.

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