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.

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

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.

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

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Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare

Published by Margaret Ferguson

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Image result for field trip to the moon john hare

Summary:  At the start of this wordless picture book a school bus approaches the moon, and a group of space suited kids and adults head out to explore the surface, peering into craters and jumping over chasms.  One child hangs back, eventually propping herself up against a rock and using crayons and a pad of paper to sketch the Earth. She nods off, waking up to a deserted moon and a glimpse of the flying bus in the black sky.  With nothing else to do, she gets out her art supplies again. As she draws, a group of blobby gray aliens surround her to watch. They’re intrigued with the colors, and when she offers them crayons, they use them to decorate the gray moon rocks and each other.  When the bus reappears, they scatter. An adult comes out and hugs the child, then insists she clean the drawings off the moon rocks. The two go off to board the bus, as alien hands holding crayons rise out of the moon’s surface to wave goodbye. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This ode to imagination stands out from the plethora of moon books being published this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.  There’s plenty to see on each page, yet the story is straightforward enough for kids to understand (something I sometimes struggle with in wordless books).

Cons:  What teacher doesn’t take attendance when the kids get back on the bus?

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

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Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate from Farm to Family by Elizabeth Zunon

Published by Bloomsbury

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Image result for grandpa cacao zunon

Summary:  While a little girl and her father make a chocolate cake, her dad reminisces about his life in Ivory Coast, growing up on a cacao plantation.  He explains how the cacao beans were grown, and how the whole village helped out during harvest time. When the beans were sold, the family would go to the market to buy food, school supplies, and fabric to make clothes.  Just as the timer rings to let them know the cake is done, the doorbell sounds as well. When the girl opens the door, it’s Grandpa Cacao! He has come for a visit and to meet his granddaughter for the first time. Includes an author’s note with more on the history and science of chocolate, as well as a chocolate cake recipe.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Chocolate lovers will find it interesting to learn how their favorite treat is produced, and will get an interesting glimpse of life in Ivory Coast.  The beautiful illustrations are done in two different styles to show the past and present, as explained in the author’s note.

Cons:  The chocolate industry is not always quite as idyllic as it is portrayed here; the author’s note includes information on child and slave labor that has been used to produce cacao.

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

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

Published by Kokila

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Image result for my papi has a motorcycle

Summary:  When Papi comes home from work, his daughter rushes to greet him, two helmets in her hand.  It’s time for them to climb on Papi’s bright blue motorcycle and go for a ride. Together, they zoom through the streets of their city, noticing what’s new with familiar landmarks, waving to friends and family, and outrunning chasing dogs.  There are a couple stops along the way–at Don Rudy’s Raspados, which is unfortunately closed and at the construction site where Papi works to see the new houses going up–but mostly they stay in motion. At the end, they come back home again, and are rewarded with a visit from Don Rudy, who has taken his raspados on the road. Includes an author’s note about her own experiences riding behind her father in Corona, California. Simultaneously published in Spanish as Mi Papi Tiene Una Mota. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Part family story, part love letter to Corona, California, kids who loved wheeled vehicles will enjoy reading about Daisy’s tour of the city.

Cons:  It would have been nice to have a Spanish/English list of the Spanish words that are included in the text.

If you would like to buy the English version of this book on Amazon, click here.

If you would like to buy the Spanish version of this book on Amazon, click here.

We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders with an introduction by Harry Belafonte

Published by Chronicle Books

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Image result for we are the change belafonte amazon

Summary:  “So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy.”  This quote from American Civil Liberties Union founder Roger Baldwin appears on the dedication page (the book is dedicated to the ACLU) and sets the tone for the book.  16 children’s book illustrators have each chosen a quotation to illustrate that captures the spirit of human rights, along with text explaining their choice. The last several pages include brief biographies of each illustrator.  48 pages; grades 2-7.

Pros:  A beautiful collection of inspiring quotes and art that could serve as a springboard for students to choose their own favorite quotations and illustrate them.  This would make a nice graduation gift.

Cons:  Sometimes the text appeared before the illustrations; other times it was after.  I found this format a little confusing.

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