Blue Daisy by Helen Frost, illustrated by Roy Shepperson

Published by Margaret Ferguson Books

Amazon.com: Blue Daisy (9780823444144): Helen Frost, Rob ...

Summary:  Neighbors Sam and Katie want to befriend the stray dog that’s been wandering around their neighborhood.  She’s starting to trust them when one afternoon she falls asleep under a table that Sam’s dad has been painting.  Thoughtlessly, the kids experiment with using some of the paint on the dog, who wakes up in the middle of their fun.  She’s then marked with a “blue daisy” which gives her her name, but causes her to be mistrustful of the two kids.  They immediately regret their actions, and are dismayed when Blue Daisy starts hanging out with the mean Tracy twins.  The two have to come up with a way to win back the dog’s trust…and that just might mean reaching out to their enemies as well.  Includes recipes for the snickerdoodles and dog biscuits that are part of the story.  96 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Sam’s narration is in the form of poetry, while Katie’s is prose (although quotes are in italics without quotation marks, more like poetry), making this a good introduction to reading novels in verse.  Readers will relate to Sam and Katie’s mistake, and who doesn’t like a dog story with a happy ending?

Cons:  Kids who have only read traditional chapter books may struggle with the unusual format at first.

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Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math by Jeannine Atkins

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Released August 4)

Thanks to Atheneum for providing me with a digital copy of this book to review.

Amazon.com: Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math ...

Summary:  As she did in Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, Jeannine Atkins has created biographical novels-in-verse about seven women who used math to excel in their chosen careers.  She starts with Caroline Herschel (1750-1948), who helped her brother William (discoverer of the planet Uranus); she eventually received a salary from the king of England for her work and was awarded a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society.  Other subjects include nursing trailblazer Florence Nightingale; inventor Hertha Ayrton; undersea mapmaker Marie Tharp; sociologist Edna Lee Paisano; NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson; and astronomer Vera Rubin, the second woman to receive the Royal Astronomical Society’s gold medal (in 1996, a mere 168 years after Caroline Herschel got hers).  Woven into the narratives are messages about the importance of math and of women pursuing math-related careers. Includes additional information and a selected bibliography about each subject.  320 pages; grades 5-8. 

Pros:  A great addition to both poetry and STEM collections, these stories are told with lyrical language and close attention to detail that brings the subjects to life.  The importance of math in a wide variety of fields is emphasized, along with the struggles that each woman had making her voice heard in male-dominated fields.

Cons:  This seems like it might have a limited audience; the stories may be more suitable to a class assignment than something middle school kids would pick up on their own.

If you would like to pre-order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here. 

Lizzie Demands A Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights by Beth Anderson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Published by Calkins Creek

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Summary:  When Lizzie Jennings was denied admission onto a New York City “Whites Only” streetcar in 1854, she stood her ground, refusing to leave until she was forcibly thrown off by the driver and conductor.  Lizzie was a teacher whose parents were abolitionists. When she told the people of her church what had happened, they hired a lawyer and formed a committee to make sure she had plenty of support. Her case became Elizabeth Jennings v. The Third Avenue Railroad Company, and she was represented by Chester A. Arthur, who went on to become President of the United States.  Lizzie won her case, and the “Colored People Allowed on This Car” came off the Third Avenue streetcars.  Others were inspired by her courage, and continued the fight against segregated public transportation, including, a century later, Rosa Parks.  Includes a lengthy author’s note with additional information and photos; and an extensive bibliography. 32 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  A fascinating and little-known story about an ordinary person whose courageous deeds led to real change.  Caldecott honoree E. B. Lewis’s colorful paintings complement the story perfectly.  

Cons:  It would have been nice to tie this to the more familiar story of Rosa Parks, either through the text or the illustrations.

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Likewise, it’s not just the Newbery

Just like yesterday’s post, this list gives me an excuse to highlight more of 2019’s rich offerings, this time in the writing category.

 

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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I really enjoyed this book when it was released in early January, but then it kind of slipped off my radar screen.  I’ve seen it on a few Newbery prediction lists, though, and that or a Coretta Scott King award (or Sibert, for that matter) would be well-deserved.

 

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan

Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

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Although I think the appeal of this book for kids may be limited, it’s a real work of art, and I’d love to see 96-year-old Bryan recognized with a Coretta Scott King award (or, again, Newbery or Sibert).

 

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya

Published by Kokila

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A book about a girl connecting with her father over welding didn’t really spark my interest (ha, ha), but I’m glad I overcame my initial resistance and read it before the end of the year.  I loved all the characters in this book, and hope it’s recognized by the Pura Belpré folks.

 

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

Published by Balzer + Bray

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Shayla generally avoids trouble at all costs, but incidents in her community turn her into an activist.  What could be more timely at the start of 2020?  Debut author Ramée should be considered for a Coretta Scott King award.

 

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

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Another debut author and another one I had to kind of force myself to start (I’m not a huge fan of the cover, although I appreciated it more after reading the book), but this ended up being one of my favorites of 2019.  Coretta Scott King or Newbery, I hope.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Published by Balzer + Bray

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Summary:  Jude worries about the changes going on in her Syrian town: the tourist business has almost completely stopped, and her college-age brother is increasingly involved in protests that could get him arrested or worse.  When her mother tells Jude that she’s expecting a baby, she also reveals that the two of them are moving to Jude’s uncle’s house in Cincinnati, Ohio. In America, Jude finds both good and bad. She likes her ELL classmates and bravely decides to try out for her middle school’s production of Beauty and the Beast.  But she also must deal with a cousin who’s not thrilled to have to share her home and with racism when she starts wearing hijab.  Concern for her brother and her best friend, both of whom go missing after she gets to the U.S., and for her father, whose fate in Syria is uncertain, color Jude’s days.  Seeing her mother’s courage and resilience inspires her, and new friends help her to move toward a hopeful future by the end of the book. Includes an author’s note with websites to visit for more information about Syria and Syrian refugees.  352 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  The poetic language of this novel in verse is both beautiful and accessible, and American readers will get a greater understanding of what life for immigrants and refugees is like.  I would certainly not be unhappy to see this on the Newbery or other award list next January.

Cons:  The future still seems pretty uncertain for Jude and her family.

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