No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Jeanette Bradley

Published by Charlesbridge

No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History - Kindle  edition by Bradley, Jeanette, Metcalf, Lindsay H., Dawson, Keila V.,  Bradley, Jeanette. Children Kindle eBooks @
No Voice Too Small – Charlesbridge

Summary:  Fourteen poems by different writers and using different poetic forms tell the stories of ordinary children and teens who have made a difference in their communities.  Through writing, music, fundraising, speaking, and more these kids have tackled issues from climate change to diseases to civil rights.  Each poem includes a portrait and a short paragraph about the subject.  The kids’ stories are bookended by two poems called “Amplify” and “Make Some Noise” about the importance of standing up and speaking out.  Includes definitions of the different poetry forms and photos with additional information about all the poets.  40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  It would be hard not to be inspired by the kids in this book, and their stories are told in an accessible way, through poetry, prose, and art.  Teachers and students will find this book useful for getting ideas for making a difference as well as learning different forms of poetry.

Cons:  The taped-down library jacket flaps covered up some of the kids’ inspiring quotes on the endpapers.

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The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer

Published by Calkins Creek

The Teachers March!: How Selma's Teachers Changed History - Kindle edition  by Wallace, Sandra Neil, Wallace, Rich, Palmer, Charly. Children Kindle  eBooks @
The Teachers March!: How Selma's Teachers Changed History: Wallace, Sandra  Neil, Wallace, Rich, Palmer, Charly: 9781629794525: Books

Summary:  Reverend F. D. Reese, a science teacher at R. B. Hudson High School in Selma, Alabama, was determined to vote.  He decided to organize his fellow teachers, who were considered leaders in the community, and invited Martin Luther King, Jr. to visit town to encourage the group.  On the appointed day, teachers walked from school to the courthouse, carrying the toothbrushes and sandwiches they would need in jail.  Although the sheriff threatened them with arrest, ultimately they were allowed to complete the march and return to school.  Their action inspired their students and members of other professions to organize their own protests, and Selma became one of the most important cities in the civil rights movement.  Includes authors’ and illustrator’s notes, photos, a timeline, and a bibliography.  44 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  A fascinating history of a little-known but important part of the civil rights movement, told from the perspectives of Reese and Joyce Parrish, the 15-year-old daughter of another teacher.  The back matter makes it an excellent research resource.

Cons:  It’s quite long and a bit wordy for a picture book.

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Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers Tune It Out (9781534457003): Sumner, Jamie: Books

Summary:  Lou’s mom hopes to capitalize on Lou’s beautiful singing voice; Lou loves to sing but her aversion to loud noises and touch make it difficult for her to be on stage or even to function in settings like school.  She hasn’t had to worry about school for awhile, though, as she and her mom are living in their truck, traveling from one campsite to the next in search of their big break.  When Lou crashes the truck, police take her away from her mom and send her to live with a wealthy aunt of whom she has only dim memories.  Her aunt and uncle send Lou to the private school where her uncle teaches, and she finds herself enjoying school and friends for the first time.  An astute counselor diagnoses her with sensory processing disorder, but Lou refuses treatment, preferring to see herself as the fighter her mother always told her she was.  Lou feels herself increasingly torn between the desire to be reunited with her mother and the happiness she feels in her new life.  A crisis at school finally convinces her to accept help from friends and family and to begin to create a life that might be able to include all the people she loves.  288 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Lou is a likeable character who has been dealt a pretty tough hand, and she is indeed a fighter who does remarkably well despite that.  It’s nice to see some supportive, savvy social workers and school counselors in a children’s book (for a change), as well as some quirky kids who aren’t total outcasts.

Cons:  Lou’s immediate and unwavering acceptance by the theater crowd seemed a little unrealistic for middle school.   

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The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out edited by Yoshimi Kusaba, illustrated by Gaku Nakagawa

Published by Enchanted Lion Books

The World's Poorest President Speaks Out: Yoshimi, Kusaba, Gaku, Nakagawa,  Wong, Andrew: 9781592702893: Books

Summary:  It’s 2012, and world leaders have gathered in Brazil for the Rio+20 Summit to discuss climate change and the environmental crisis.  “One after another, they gave speeches, but no one says anything new.”  Then José Mujica, president of Uruguay, steps to the podium.  Described as “the world’s poorest president” for donating 90% of his salary to charity and choosing to live on his farm instead of in the presidential palace, Mujica questions the whole system of capitalism, asking the participants if they were really committed to living in harmony with nature, as they said, or driven by production and consumption.  “Shared human happiness is the greatest treasure of all,” he concludes.  “If we appreciate the beauty of nature and life itself and care for our world, we will be able to continue to live well as humans on this planet.”  40 pages; grades 3+

Pros:  Mujica’s speech is as timely today as it was eight years ago, and will resonate with older readers (middle school and up) at least as much as with the picture book crowd.

Cons:  The title makes Mujica sound like an object of pity when really he seems to have figured out a lot more about life and happiness than most other world leaders.

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The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Lian Cho

Published by Greenwillow Books

The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom: Venable, Colleen AF, Cho, Lian:  9780062494375: Books
Fall 2020 Children's Announcements: Publishers F-L

Summary: Band director Mr. V. says there is a perfect instrument for everyone, and proceeds to introduce them one by one.  He invites each player to give a demonstration, but every time Felicity bangs her bass drum, “Boom Boom Boom” and drowns out the other instrument.  Mr. V. continues, explaining the reed on a clarinet, the double reed on an oboe, the valves on a trumpet, and so forth, but gets increasingly agitated as Felicity doesn’t stop with the drum.  Finally, he introduces the one instrument that can drown out Felicity: the tuba.  Its “WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP” overpowers the “Boom Boom Boom” so that when it’s finally time to introduce the percussion section, the tables are turned on Felicity.  The final two pages introduce the real-life musicians who inspired the kids in the band, with a short biographical paragraph about each.  40 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  A fun introduction to band instruments with interesting facts about each one.  This would be perfect to read to those elementary kids trying to decide what they want to play.  Connecting each kid in the story to a real-life musician who plays (or played) their instrument is a nice added touch.

Cons:  If the oboe is considered a band instrument, it seems like the bassoon and French horn should have been included too.

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Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Published by Harry N. Abrams

Our Little Kitchen - Kindle edition by Tamaki, Jillian. Children Kindle  eBooks @
Our Little Kitchen: Tamaki, Jillian: 9781419746550: Books

Summary:  A group of volunteers comes together to provide a community dinner, working with the food that they have on hand to make chili, bread, salad, and apple crumble.  The pace quickens as someone shouts “Fifteen minutes!”, and the early birds start to arrive.  Finally, it’s dinnertime, and the volunteers bring the food to the waiting crowd.  Everyone sits down to share a meal and some time together.  As the guests trickle out, one of the kids loudly announces the obvious: “OK, time to clean up!”  Includes an author’s note about her experiences volunteering in a similar small kitchen weekly to prepare a community meal, and endpapers that outline how to prepare vegetable soup and apple crumble.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The bouncy rhyming text and colorful, comic-inspired illustrations by Caldecott honoree Tamaki have a ton of kid appeal and an inspiring message.  Pair it up with Harlem Grown for a community service-themed story hour.

Cons:  Some of the rhyming words (hot/start/bought) were a little loose.

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Grow: Secrets of Our DNA by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Published by Candlewick

Grow: Secrets of Our DNA: Davies, Nicola, Sutton, Emily: 9781536212723: Books

Summary:  All living things grow: some quickly, some slowly, some a little, and some a lot.  Humans grow from a tiny dot to an adult, following a set of instructions coded into DNA, the genetic code.  Humans’ genetic code is similar to some animals, like chimpanzees, less similar to other animals like dogs, and even less similar to plants.  But all forms of life are connected, and all connect back to earlier forms of life “because all life has always been written in one language”.  Includes an afterword called “How did you grow?”.  40 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  Nicola Davies does a masterful job of explaining DNA and genetics in a way that allows me to confidently recommend this book for kids as young as kindergarteners.  The gorgeous illustrations showing all kinds of animal and plant life make it even more accessible for readers of all ages.

Cons:  I was surprised there were no resources for further research included at the end.

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Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

Published by Jimmy Patterson Books (Little, Brown)

Becoming Muhammad Ali - Kindle edition by Patterson, James, Alexander,  Kwame, Anyabwile, Dawud. Children Kindle eBooks @

Summary:  Round One: Cassius Clay’s friend Lucky and the rest of Cassius’s friends and family are awaiting the results of the 1958 Golden Gloves championship.  16-year-old Cassius is in Chicago, 300 miles from his home in Louisville, KY.  The phone rings, and the story shifts to Cassius’s voice, told in verse.  Clay didn’t win that championship, but he relates how he got there: the friends and relatives who influenced him, the events that led him to boxing, the unflagging discipline and confidence that helped him in his training.  By the time we get to Round Nine, Cassius is ready to return to the Golden Gloves competition and become a champion.  Lucky introduces each round, then finishes with a Final Round, in which he tells what happened to Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, during the rest of his career.  320 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Apparently, Kwame Alexander has been a Muhammad Ali fan since he read Ali’s autobiography as a kid, and he uses his considerable poetic talents to bring the boxer life.  I wasn’t sure I liked Lucky’s prose sections at first, but they did flesh out the story, setting up the action for the poetry parts. This is sure to be an enormously popular choice for kids.

Cons:  I’m curious about the collaboration James Patterson, who seems more like a brand than an actual author these days.  I would have preferred this to be the sole work of Kwame Alexander, whom I’m sure could have pulled it off without any help.

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The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The Canyon's Edge: Bowling, Dusti: 9780316494694: Books

Summary:  Nora and her dad are going for a hike on her birthday.  It’s the first time they’ve gone hiking since her mother was killed by a gunman exactly a year ago when the family was celebrating Nora’s birthday at a restaurant.  Her father was also injured, but the greater trauma to both of them was psychological.  Nora’s ready to return to school, but her dad’s afraid to let her out of his sight.  The two of them argue about it as they start their hike; seconds later, there’s a rumbling sound, and a flash flood sweeps into the canyon, washing her father away.  Nora’s left on her own to survive two nights in the desert, battling snakes, scorpions, heat, thirst, and her own demons.  Determined to find and rescue her dad, Nora draws on inner resources and discovers she is stronger than she’s believed for the past year.  320 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Warning: once you pick up this novel in verse, it’s hard to put down. It’s equal parts survival tale and a story of healing from a horrific trauma, told in flashbacks as Nora grapples with nightmares and other reminders of her mother’s murder.  Although it may not sound so from this description, this is a book appropriate for upper elementary kids, who will undoubtedly find it as difficult to put down as I did.

Cons:  If you’re seeking a little light reading, you should probably look elsewhere.

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The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story by Thao Lam

Published by Owlkids Books

The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story: Lam, Thao: 9781771473637: Books

Summary:  Thao Lam and her family escaped from Vietnam in 1980 when she was two years old.  This wordless book shows her family’s journey, starting with a dinner in their Vietnam home where they’re planning their escape.  The author’s note explains how, as a child, her mother used to rescue ants from the sugar water left in the house to trap them.  When her mother was lost in the tall grass during her escape, a trail of ants led the family to the river and their escape boat.  The illustrations show a parallel journey of ants escaping in a paper boat as the family is traveling in a larger ship.  One of those ants crawls into a meal that turns out to be Thao Lam’s family dinner in their new apartment in Canada.  Includes an author’s note giving more information about her family’s experience and her mother’s story about the ants.  40 pages; grades 2-7.

Pros:  The cut paper illustrations do an amazing job of telling this refugee family’s story, cleverly bookending the tale with two family dinners, and weaving the story of the ants in seamlessly.  

Cons:  Reviews I read recommended this book for kids as young as 5, but I think the nature of the story and the way it’s told make it more of an upper elementary and middle school book. I wish the author’s note had been at the beginning to help me understand the story before I began.

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