My Ocean Is Blue by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron

Published by Kids Can Press

Image result for my ocean is blue darren

Image result for my ocean is blue darren

Summary:  A girl and her mother explore many different aspects of the ocean.  It can be shallow or deep; slimy or sandy; sparkly or dull. It can splash, crash, echo, squawk, or be silent. It appears and disappears with the tides.  She finds things that are pink, orange, grey, green, and red in and around the ocean, but mostly it is deep, endless blue. 32 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  This follow up to My Forest Is Green will make kids want to go to the beach and look closely at all that is in and around the ocean.  The collage illustrations are filled with great colors and textures that really capture the feel of the seashore.

Cons:  I turned the last page, eagerly expecting additional information and sources about the ocean…nothing.

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

Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker

Published by Balzer + Bray

Image result for here in the real world pennypacker

Summary:  Wade is crushed when his grandmother’s fall means he has to spend his summer at the rec center.  His hard-working parents are taking double shifts to try to buy their own house, and they need easy, affordable care for their son.  Wade is an introvert who hates spending the day running around with the other kids. One day, he wanders next door to an abandoned church that immediately sparks his imagination.  When he discovers a girl, Jolene, who’s trying to grow papaya plants there, the two must figure out a way to share the lot. They slowly get to know each other and eventually form a tentative friendship while trying to figure out how to keep their secret kingdom away from developers.  When Wade’s artist uncle gives him a movie camera, Wade discovers a hidden talent that may also be the key to saving the church. While he wishes at the beginning of the summer to be “normal”, by the end, he has come to appreciate his own unique gifts that he uses to help himself and his new friend.  320 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Introverts and sensitive artist types will make a connection with Wade as he slowly comes to appreciate his empathy, artistic tendencies, and enjoyment of his own company.  The various parts of the story all came together in a very satisfying conclusion.

Cons:  I didn’t really start enjoying this book until I was about halfway through it.  Kids may not have the persistence to get through the somewhat slow beginning.

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

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko

Published by HarperCollins

Image result for joni the lyrical life of joni mitchell

Summary:  “Joni Mitchell painted with words” begins this story of iconic singer Joni Mitchell.  Growing up in Canada, Joni loved art and music, often feeling a bit alienated from her parents who were “cautious and fixed in their ways”.  After surviving polio at age 10 (the same epidemic that sickened Neil Young), Joni began to pursue music in earnest, buying her first guitar in high school.  Moving from Toronto to New York to California, Joni found inspiration wherever she went: the clouds from her window on an airplane to write “Both Sides Now” and the view from her NYC apartment for “Chelsea Morning”.  Missing Woodstock to perform on TV prompted her to write “Woodstock”, and the aforementioned Neil Young’s song about staying young forever inspired “The Circle Game”. “I sing my sorrow, and I paint my joy,” Joni said, and this quote is illustrated by a collage of her albums spanning 1968 to 2007.  Includes an author’s note, discography, and bibliography. 48 pages; grades 1-5.

I looked at this book from both sides now, and:

Pros:  Any Joni Mitchell fan will appreciate this lyrical story of her life.  The illustrations are a gorgeous mix of painting and collage that perfectly capture Joni’s spirit and her music.  I particularly liked the one of her performing to an audience of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger.

Cons:  There are probably few 21st century kids who know who Joni Mitchell is.  

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

 

On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman

Published by Millbrook Press

Image result for on a snow melting day amazon

Image result for on a snow melting day buffy silverman

Summary:  “On a drip-droppy, slip-sloppy, snow-melting day…squirrels cuddle.  Snakes huddle. Clouds break. Salamanders wake.” The rest of the text of this book takes this format, describing a type of spring day, then showing signs of spring with a subject/verb combination.  The photographs illustrate each phrase, portraying plants and animals in early spring. The final two pages give more information about each of the photos; there’s also a glossary and list of books for further reading.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This would be a great catalyst to start a conversation about looking for signs of spring.  The photos are sure to inspire kids to think of what they’ve noticed in their own neighborhoods.

Cons:  Like my other recent Millbrook Press review (Run, Sea Turtle, Run), this only comes in an expensive library-bound format: $23.88 on Amazon; $21.04 on Follet.

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

Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Image result for ruth objects the life of ruth bader ginsburg

Summary:  Part of the Big Words series, this biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg traces her life from her childhood in Brooklyn, New York to her present career as a Supreme Court justice.  From the days when her beloved mother (who died two days before Ruth’s high school graduation) encouraged her to learn and to think for herself to her arguments for gender equality on behalf of women and men, Ruth’s path has prepared her for her role as beloved Supreme Court justice.  Each page has at least one quote from Ginsburg to accompany the text and large, full-color illustrations.  Includes a timeline, author’s and illustrator’s notes, and a bibliography. 48 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  Another beautiful picture book biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to put on the shelf next to I Dissent by Debbie Levy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of RBG vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter (which I could have sworn I reviewed, but apparently didn’t).  The quotes and illustrations make all the books in this series excellent resources.

Cons:  It would be nice to see some picture books about the other two women on the Supreme Court.  Sonia Sotomayor has written her own, but there’s very little for kids on Elena Kagan.

Happy birthday to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turns 87 today!  Long may you reign.

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

The blog will go on…at least for the next four weeks

Thank you to everyone who commented or emailed about my post yesterday.  I appreciate the supportive words and news of job openings.  In response to a couple messages, I wanted to clarify that I intend to keep this blog going even if I switch jobs.

For the short term, I am going to do my best to keep the daily reviews going during the coronavirus epidemic.  Like many of you, I’m home for two weeks, possibly longer.  Public libraries in this area are closing, cutting off my usual supply of book.  While others have been hoarding pasta and toilet paper, I’ve been visiting as many libraries as I could to stock up on books to review.  I have 28 at the moment, so the blog will continue for at least another four weeks.  This may the motivation I need to learn how to use the Kindle that’s been sitting on my desk for the last year.

Stay well, everyone, and enjoy a silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud: more time to read.

Three Billy Goats Buenos by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Miguel Ordóñez

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

Image result for three billy goats buenos

Image result for three billy goats buenos

Summary:  The familiar story of the three billy goats gruff is told in rhyming text with a few dozen Spanish words incorporated into the story.  A glossary of the Spanish words appears at the beginning of the book so readers can refer back to it. The story is simple, but includes a twist when the biggest goat discovers the troll has a thorn stuck in her toe.  His sympathy brings a few tears to the troll’s eyes, and the goats work together to remove the thorn and apply some soothing herbs. There’s a happy ending for all four of the new amigos.  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  Susan Middleton Elya has produced another winning retelling of a familiar folktale that incorporates Spanish words and culture.  The rhyming text and simple, geometrical illustrations will make this an appealing choice for even the youngest readers.

Cons:  I didn’t care for the illustrations as much Juana Martinez-Neal’s in La Princesa and the Pea.

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

Friday the 13th

Just a reminder to be sure to wash your hands and sanitize after reading this blog…just kidding.  We’ve all gotten enough of those messages for one week.

All things being equal, I wouldn’t have chosen to lose my job the same week a global pandemic hit, but that’s how things played out for me this week.  I was told that the position of K-8 librarian in our district is being cut for next year, so I’m out of a job as of June 30.

I’m a certified K-12 librarian in Massachusetts with a few decades of experience in school and public libraries, and I’m willing to relocate.  Since I know many of you are in libraries, I thought I’d put the word out.  If you know of any openings, please feel free to email me at jkdawson115@gmail.com.  Thank you!

Oh, and happy Friday the 13th!  Sure hope it’s a lucky day.

Mother Jones and Her Army of Children by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Published by Schwartz & Wade

Image result for mother jones and her jonah winter

Image result for mother jones nancy carpenter

Summary:  Mother Jones tells her story, beginning with some of the things that have made her mad: conditions for coal miners in West Virginia, factory workers getting shot at for protesting for fair pay, and young children working ten-hour days in Philadelphia factories.  It was these last that inspired her to set out with 100 children on July 7, 1903, determined to march from Philadelphia to New York City, and then on to Theodore Roosevelt’s “fancy-schmancy” Long Island summer home to speak with the president himself. They traveled 100 miles in the hot summer sun, demonstrating in towns as they went.  By the time they reached New York, many of the kids had given up and gone home, but 37 of them marched in a torchlight parade up Fourth Avenue. After a trip to Coney Island, Mother Jones sent most of the children home, approaching the Roosevelt mansion with just three of the boys and two other men. They were turned away at the gate, but the Children’s Crusade had shone a spotlight on child labor, and laws began to change.  Includes an author’s note, four photos, and a bibliography. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  An inspiring story that will show kids the power of some unlikely people:  a 66-year-old woman and 100 poor children taken from factories. The text does a masterful job of using Mother Jones’s voice and incorporating many of her quotes into the story.  The author’s note gives full credit to Mother Jones for being instrumental in changing labor laws for both children and adults.

Cons:  Theodore Roosevelt certainly doesn’t come off too well in this story.

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

Run, Sea Turtle, Run: A Hatchling’s Journey by Stephen R. Swinburne, photographs by Guillaume Feuillet

Published by Millbrook Press

Image result for run sea turtle run swinburne

Image result for run sea turtle run swinburne

Summary:  A leatherback sea turtle tells of her journey from the time she hatches out of an egg until she reaches the water.  Close-up photos show the turtle and her siblings as they emerge from their nest and race for the water. A Google search tells me that only one in 1,000 baby turtles make it to the sea, but happily we are spared seeing what happens to this turtle’s brothers and sisters.  The last page shows a fully grown leatherback emerging from the waves: “Someday I will come back to this same beach. I will lay eggs of my own.” Includes a page of information on the sea turtle life cycle; how you can help sea turtles; a link to a YouTube video of Stephen Swinburne singing a song about sea turtles (which didn’t work, but I found it by searching on YouTube); and books and websites for additional research.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Preschoolers will love the photos of turtles and enjoy learning about them from the simple text.  The extra material at the end would make this a good research resource for primary grades.

Cons:  This book is only available with a library binding, which costs $27.99 on Amazon and $21.99 on Follett. 

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