A New Day by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Dan Santat

Published by Dial Books

Amazon.com: A New Day (9780525554240): Meltzer, Brad, Santat, Dan: Books
Amazon.com: A New Day (9780525554240): Meltzer, Brad, Santat, Dan: Books

Summary:  When Sunday quits, saying she is tired of being a day, the other days of the week have to scramble to fill her place.  They get all kinds of applicants: FunDay, RunDay, Caterday, and many, many more.  Finally, a young girl shows up with a seedling in a flower pot.  Monday guesses that she wants to apply for Eggplant Day or Cabbage Day, but the girl says no.  She has grown a plant to say thank you to Sunday for being such a nice day.  Sunday, suddenly not tired anymore, agrees to go back to her old job, and the other days try to play and appreciate each other more…every day of the week.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  With lots of zany visual humor and the possibility for kids to create their own days, this is sure to be a big hit with kids and teachers alike.

Cons:  I wish the editor had worked a little harder to keep this book to 32 pages.  The multiple suggestions for new days of the week felt a bit long.

Wild River by Rodman Philbrick

Published by Scholastic Press

Amazon.com: Wild River (9781338647273): Philbrick, Rodman: Books

Summary:  A whitewater rafting trip turns into a survival nightmare for five middle school students when a dam breaks and they barely escape the floodwaters.  With their adult leaders gone, the group breaks into two factions, starting a war over who will lead until they are rescued.  When this conflict results in tragedy, the kids realize they have to put aside their differences if they are going to survive.  Facing wild animals, injuries, and a dwindling food supply, they learn each others’ secrets and vow that their friendship will last if and when they are rescued.  Includes tips for surviving in the wilderness.  193 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  The short chapters, non-stop action, and cliffhanger chapter endings will keep even the most reluctant readers engaged.  Narrator Daniel’s secret about his father’s mental illness adds an interesting dimension to his character.

Cons:  Due to the short length of the book and the focus on the action, the characters weren’t all that well-developed, particularly Tony, who had a pivotal role in the story.

Ten Little Dumplings by Larissa Fan, illustrated by Cindy Wume

Published by Tundra Books

Ten Little Dumplings: Fan, Larissa, Wume, Cindy: 9780735266193: Amazon.com:  Books
Ten Little Dumplings – Mutually Inclusive

Summary:  A special family lives in the village of Fengfu.  What makes them special?  They have ten sons.  Their parents call them their ten little dumplings because they are round like dumplings, and because dumplings, like boys, are auspicious.  The ten little dumplings grow up into ten fine young men.  But wait!  The person telling the story is actually their little sister.  You may not have noticed her in the pictures, but she was there!  She too grows up and discovers her own talent, becomes a successful artist and one day has a dumpling of her own.  An author’s note explains the inspiration for this book comes from her father’s family of ten boys and one girl…who was often left out of the stories.  48 pages; 4-8.

Pros:  A fun story with an unusual structure that will definitely send readers back to the beginning to look for the little sister.  The author’s note in which she wonders who has been left out of stories and why provides a good discussion starter for older readers.

Cons:  I couldn’t find the sister in all the illustrations, but that might just have been my lack of observational skills.

Welcome Home, Whales by Christina Booth

Published by Blue Dot Kids Press

Welcome Home, Whales: Booth, Christina: 9781733121286: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  A child hears a voice calling from the bay, a voice that the adults are unable to hear.  The voice grows loud, sometimes joyful and sometimes full of sorrow.  A whale is telling the story of how she wants to come home but feels unsafe, knowing that other whales have been hurt or sent away.  Then one morning, the whale appears in the bay with her baby.  People gather on the shore to watch and to hear her call, which others beside the child can finally hear. Includes two pages of additional information about right whales and four things people can do to help whales.   32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros: The gentle voice of the text and beautiful watercolor illustrations provide a compelling introduction to whales and their endangered status.  

Cons:  There were no additional resources about whales listed.

Trillions of Trees: A Counting and Planting Book by Kurt Cyrus

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Trillions of Trees: A Counting and Planting Book: Cyrus, Kurt, Cyrus, Kurt:  9781250229076: Amazon.com: Books
Trillions of Trees | Kurt Cyrus | Macmillan

Summary:  When the narrator’s sister calls the nursery to order “a trillium, please”, the worker there hears “a trillion trees”.  Before long, the first installment–a thousand saplings–is delivered to their house.  The whole family races to plant the trees all over town, identifying many of them as they go.  Exhausted, they return home, only to face the next delivery arriving.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This follow-up to Billions of Bricks has the same fun rhyming text and big numbers incorporated into the story.  There’s some good information on trees here as well as plenty of humor tied to the impossibility of the family’s tree-planting situation.

Cons:  The lack of back matter about trees and/or large numbers.

Knight of the Cape by Terry Catasús Jennings, illustrated by Fátima Anaya

Published by Aladdin

Knight of the Cape (Definitely Dominguita Book 1) - Kindle edition by  Catasus Jennings, Terry, Anaya, Fatima. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Summary: Dominguita Melendez would rather read than do just about anything else.  Her abuela shares her love of reading, but she’s recently moved away and Dominguita misses her.  She decides to become a knight, inspired by her love of Abuela’s Don Quijote stories.  When the class bully tells her girls can’t be knights, Dom enlists her big brother to document her heroic deeds and prove him wrong.  Before long, she’s collected some armor, a lance, two faithful sidekicks, and a steed.  Tilting at a windmill almost results in disaster, but unexpectedly winds up inspiring some heroic deeds. Like Don Quijote, Dom recognizes her weaknesses and vows to do better the next time around.  Includes an author’s note with further information about Don Quijote and two chapters from the next book in the series, inspired by Treasure Island.  144 pages; grades 2-4.

Pros:  A fun start to a new illustrated chapter book series featuring an imaginative girl who values reading over friends (but eventually comes to appreciate those as well), and who finds adventure on her own city streets.

Cons:  I thought that Dom’s bunny rescue was pretty darn heroic, but even her own family seemed to dismiss it as kind of lame.

Daisy by Jessixa Bagley

Published by Neal Porter Books

Daisy: Bagley, Jessixa: 9780823446506: Amazon.com: Books
Daisy* – Books of Wonder

Summary:  Daisy is a warthog named for her mother’s favorite flower. “They seem plain, but when you look closer you see their beauty,” Mom tells her.  Unfortunately, Daisy’s classmates don’t bother to look closely, laughing at her instead and calling her “Thistle”.  Consequently, Daisy keeps her head down a lot.  She discovers there are treasures to be found that way, though, and keeps her broken cups, abandoned birdhouses, and old pots and pans in a secret tree fort.  One day she discovers a broken crystal candy dish at the fort’s entrance, and before long, treasures are popping up in other familiar places.  Then she makes a discovery that leads to the greatest treasure of all–a new friend and kindred spirit.  40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  A tender ode to the introverts of the world, as well as a celebration of friendship and finding a soulmate.  This would pair nicely with Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes in a girls-named-for-flowers-who-come-to-embrace-their-identities story hour.

Cons:  The mean girls never get their comeuppance.

Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Loren Long

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

Someone Builds the Dream: Wheeler, Lisa, Long, Loren: 9781984814333: Amazon.com:  Books
Someone Builds the Dream: Wheeler, Lisa, Long, Loren: 9781984814333:  Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  “All across this great big world/jobs are getting done/by many hands in many lands./It takes much more than one.”  An architect designs a building, but other workers build it.  Likewise for engineers, scientists, authors and illustrators: their ideas are just the beginning, and it is up to thousands of other workers to make the dream a reality.  “So when you see a bicycle, a playground, house, or shoe, remember all the someones who helped make a dream come true.”  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros: The rhyming text and beautiful illustrations show a diverse group of workers who provide the hands-on skills necessary to plan and execute someone’s vision.  This would make a great book for Labor Day to celebrate all kinds of workers.

Cons:  Seems like the creative minds are generally valued more than the hands-on builders. (I guess that’s why Lisa Wheeler wrote this book).

The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold

Published by Versify

The Year I Flew Away: Arnold, Marie: 9780358272755: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  As if immigrating from Haiti isn’t hard enough, Gabrielle has to move to America by herself, her parents promising to join her soon, but admonishing her not to get into any trouble lest she get sent back.  Her aunt and uncle make her feel welcome, but Gabrielle gets bullied because of her accent and other connections to Haiti.  When she meets a witch who promises her three wishes to help her fit in, it’s hard to say no.  Of course, there are always strings attached to such propositions, and when Gabrielle wishes to speak flawless English, she loses her ability to speak Haitian Creole.  Gabrielle’s new friendships with Carmen, a Mexican-American girl in her class, and Rocky, a talking rat who wants to be a rabbit, help her to feel stronger.  When the witch threatens to take away Gabrielle’s family and her essence, she has to find the courage to fight back and to express who she really is.  256 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  What starts as an ordinary middle grade novel about immigration quickly takes a detour into some fun magical realism.  Plenty of readers will relate to Gabrielle’s middle-school wish to blend in, and the ending will show them that being yourself is more important than being popular.

Cons:  The whole be yourself/find your voice message got a little heavy-handed toward the end.

Ramble Shamble Children by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

The Ramble Shamble Children: Soontornvat, Christina, Castillo, Lauren:  9780399176326: Amazon.com: Books
The Ramble Shamble Children: Soontornvat, Christina, Castillo, Lauren:  9780399176326: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Five children live in the ramble shamble house, taking care of the garden and chickens, apparently without any adult supervision.  At night, they pile into the same bed, where Merra, the oldest girl, tells them stories.  One day they find a book in the attic with a picture of a “proper home” and set about transforming their own house from ramble shamble to proper.  But it doesn’t quite feel like home, and worst of all, baby Jory goes missing.  Finding him helps them realize that ramble shamble is the perfect style for them, and they stay up late, enjoying the stars and celebrating their family.  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  The Newbery-Caldecott team of Soontornvat and Castillo have created a fanciful tale of happy children enjoying their own home and life in a story that feels like a little bit of a throwback to the Boxcar Children era.  Sure to spark kids’ imagination and have them imagining their own ramble shamble homes and families.

Cons:  Happy childhood fantasy or dark post-apocalyptic dystopia?