Love Is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Published by Candlewick

Love Is Powerful: Brewer, Heather Dean, Pham, LeUyen: 9781536201994: Books
Love Is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer, LeUyen Pham |, Hardcover | Barnes  & Noble®

Summary:  Mari and her mother get out crayons and poster board to make signs: “Be Kind”, “Love Is Powerful”.  From their apartment, they can see crowds gathering in the streets.  Mom explains that they are sending a message to the world.  “How will the whole world hear?” asks Mari.  “They’ll hear because love is powerful,” her mother tells her.  Mari thinks about friends and family members who are also demonstrating around the world as she and Mom ride the elevator down to join the crowd.  Her mother lifts Mari up on her shoulder.  When Mari shouts the message on her sign, “Love is powerful”, others around her pick up the chant.  The illustrations show hearts swirling around the crowd and up into the sky.  Includes a note from Mari that explains how she felt when she participated in the first Women’s March in 2016.  32 pages; ages 5-8.

Pros:  An inspiring story of activism told from a child’s point of view.  The Women’s March is portrayed very positively with lots of empowering signs and happy people marching together.  LeUyen Pham’s illustrations are adorable and capture the spirit of the story.

Cons:  As I sit here on the morning after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, pondering what is going to happen in the next few months, it’s hard for me to feel the happy optimism of this story.

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My Big Family by Yanitzia Canetti, illustrated by Micha Archer

Published by Reycraft Books

My Big Family: Canetti, Yanitzia, Archer, Micha: 9781478867906:  Books

Summary:  There are just three people in Alex’s family: him and his mom and dad.  He knows he has a big family in Cuba, so when his parents tell him his abuela is coming to stay, he’s thrilled.  The next day, his aunt Celia and her three children move in.  Then Cousin Beto arrives.  It’s fun to have so many people in the house, talking, laughing, cooking, and playing.  But it’s also crowded and noisy, and sometimes it seems like too much.  Then one morning, Mom tells Alex that Celia and Abuela are getting an apartment together, and Cousin Beto is moving out too.  Things are quiet again, but not for long…a new baby sibling is on the way!  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The story celebrates family and Cuban culture, while realistically portraying the ups and downs of going from a family of three to a family of nine in a matter of weeks.  I loved the bright, bold illustrations featuring all kinds of patterns and colors.

Cons:  I would have liked to know more about what brought all the relatives from Cuba.

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Evelyn del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Published by Candlewick

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away - Kindle edition by Medina, Meg, Sánchez,  Sonia. Children Kindle eBooks @
Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away: Medina, Meg, Sanchez, Sonia: 9781536207040: Books

Summary:  Daniela’s next-door neighbor and best friend Evelyn is moving away.  The girls get together and play one last time as Evelyn’s parents finish packing, and their mothers hug goodbye.  Even though the girls promise to call every day and have a sleepover in the summer, Daniela knows that things won’t be the same after today.  There are plenty of tears as the del Rey family drives away.  Daniela’s mother assures her that she’ll make other friends, but Daniela knows that Evelyn will always have a special place in her heart as her first best friend.  The last page shows a picture of an older Daniela happily looking through a box of letters and photos from Evelyn.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This quiet story by Newbery medalist Meg Medina perfectly captures the emotions of two close friends who have to say goodbye.  It both celebrates their friendship and shows their sadness in ways that will resonate with many readers.

Cons:  Their neighbor, grouchy Mr. Miller, looks pretty darn scary.

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A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris

Published by Candlewick (Released October 13)

A Polar Bear in the Snow: Barnett, Mac, Harris, Shawn: 9781536203967:  Books
A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, Shawn Harris |, Hardcover | Barnes  & Noble®

Summary:  A polar bear is sleeping in the snow…which is shown as a blank white page.  He wakes up, and his nose appears, then his eyes, and finally the whole bear is visible.  Where is he going?  Not to play with (or eat) the seals, not to hunker in a cave, and not to meet a man (there’s a big growl for that one).  It turns out the polar bear is going to the sea, where he dives in, playing among the fish and seaweed, then is silhouetted against the sun.  When he’s done, he climbs back onto the snow.  Where is he going now?  Who knows?  40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  This simple tale with its beautiful cut-paper illustrations will appeal to the very young, but has enough slightly snarky humor to engage older readers as well.  

Cons:  I guess we will never know where that polar bear is going.

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Why Do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera, illustrated by Ana Sender

Published by Kids Can Press

Why Do We Cry?: Pintadera, Fran, Sender, Ana: 9781525304774:  Books
WHY DO WE CRY? – Verok Agency

Summary:  When Mario asks his mom why we cry, he gets a poetic answer describing different scenarios that might make a person cry:  sadness, frustration, anger, and loneliness to name a few.  The most important reason for crying, she concludes, is because you feel like crying.  Mario notices his mom is crying, and she tells him that people also cry sometimes when they are happy.  Includes scientific information about tears, as well as two activities.  34 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The lyrical text and illustrations of a young girl experiencing different emotions will help kids name their feelings and be okay with crying, whether it’s their own or someone else’s. 

Cons:  I thought this was a science book and was looking forward to a little more scientific information than this delivered.

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Saturdays Are for Stella by Candy Wellins, illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan

Published by Page Street Kids

Saturdays Are For Stella: Wellins, Candy, Eve Ryan, Charlie: 9781624149214: Books
Book Giveaway: SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA by Candy Wellins | Writing and  Illustrating

Summary:  George’s grandmother, Stella, makes everything fun, which is why George likes spending every Saturday with her.  Sometimes they go out to the dinosaur museum, to the park, or downtown, and sometimes they stay in and have ninja tournaments or play games together.  One Saturday, George wakes up late, and gets himself dressed and ready for his visit.  But when he comes into the kitchen, his parents have some sad news about him about Stella.  He’ll never spend another Saturday with her; from then on, George hates Saturdays.  But other changes are afoot, and one day George gets a baby sister…and her name is Stella.  As Stella grows, George teaches her to do the things he and Grandma Stella used to do together.  And soon he loves Saturdays again, because Saturdays are for Stella.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  We all need a story about the ups and downs of life right now, and this one is at the perfect level for kids to understand that life is made up of both joy and grief.  The illustrations are adorable; I love Stella Junior’s pink hair.

Cons:  I don’t think I could read this to kids without losing it; I got kind of choked up just writing this review.

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The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

The Blue House: Wahl, Phoebe: 9781984893369: Books
The Blue House: Wahl, Phoebe: 9781984893369: Books

Summary:  Leo and his dad love their blue house, despite its mossy roof, peeling paint, and unreliable heating system.  Astute readers will notice clues in the illustrations that the neighborhood is changing: small houses are being torn down, replaced by larger buildings.  One day, Leo’s dad picks him up from school and tells him that their house has been sold, and they have to move.  Leo is devastated.  Slowly, he and his father pack up their house, painting pictures on the bare walls to make themselves feel a little better.  They move into another small house in the same neighborhood.  “’I hate it,’ said Leo.  ‘That’s okay,’ said his dad.”  Leo’s idea to paint a picture of the blue house on his bedroom wall helps, though, and slowly, the new house starts to feel like home.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  There’s a lot to love about this book: it portrays a single-parent family that is succeeding despite the fact that they clearly are struggling financially; it deals with the sadness of moving and leaving a beloved home; and the illustrations offer tons of details that both help tell the story and are just fun (I loved the record albums).  Both the story and pictures should be enjoyed slowly and savored.

Cons:  It doesn’t seem like a great idea to move to another small house in the same neighborhood that seems to be undergoing gentrification.

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Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Outside In - Kindle edition by Underwood, Deborah, Derby, Cindy. Children  Kindle eBooks @
Outside In — Cindy Derby

Summary:  “Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us.”  But now, even when we’re outside, we can be inside, like when we’re riding in a car.  It’s easy to forget about Outside, but it has a way of reminding us it’s there, by sending sunlight streaming through a window or filling the air with chirps, rustles, and tapping on the roof.  The food we eat, the water we drink, and the materials that make our clothing and furniture all come from Outside.  Answer the call, as the girl in this story does, and make your way outside.  40 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  This gorgeously illustrated ode to nature should find a place in every library and classroom.  It would make a great jumping-off point to talk about the importance of getting outside, and all the parts of our world that come from nature.  The illustrations, which I learned from the verso page are “watercolor and powdered graphite on cold press paper” should definitely get considered for some awards.

Cons:  The idea of Outside as a separate being may be a bit hard for younger kids to grasp.

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10 picture books that teach persistence and grit

I think it goes without saying that these characteristics will be essential for students and teachers in the 2020-2021 school year!

When Sophie Thinks She Can’t by Molly Bang

Published by Blue Sky Press

When Sophie Thinks She Can't...: . . . Really, Really Smart: Bang, Molly,  Bang, Molly: 9781338152982: Books

Sophie’s teacher shows her how having a growth mindset can help her solve problems instead of giving up. Buy it on Amazon.

Jabari Jumps and Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

Published by Candlewick

Jabari Jumps: Cornwall, Gaia, Cornwall, Gaia: 9780763678388:  Books
Jabari Tries: Cornwall, Gaia, Cornwall, Gaia: 9781536207163:  Books

Jabari’s dad and little sister help him find the courage to jump off the high dive and to persist in his efforts to design and build a flying machine. Jabari Tries will be released September 8. Buy it on Amazon.

Golden Threads by Suzanne Del Rizzo

Published by Owlkids

Golden Threads: Rizzo, Suzanne Del, Sato, Miki: 9781771473606:  Books

When a battered stuffed fox washes up at Kiko’s house, she and her father repair him like they do broken china, with golden threads. Broken does not mean imperfect, and the fox leads Kiko and her dad to new friendships. Buy it on Amazon.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Published by Schwartz and Wade

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read: Hubbard, Rita  Lorraine, Mora, Oge: 9781524768287: Books

Born into slavery in 1848, Mary Walker worked hard her entire life. At age 114, she decided to put her energy into learning to read, and was eventually certified as the oldest student in America. Buy it on Amazon.

More-Igami by Dori Kleber

Published by Candlewick Press More-igami (9780763668198): Kleber, Dori, Karas, G. Brian: Books

Joey loves to fold, so when he learns about origami, it seems like it’s right up his alley. It’s not as easy as it looks, though, and he needs persistence to figure out how to do it. Buy it on Amazon.

Truman by Jean Reidy

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Truman: Reidy, Jean, Cummins, Lucy Ruth: 9781534416642: Books

When Sarah leaves for her first day of school, her pet turtle Truman can’t understand where she’s gone. He decides to go find her, doggedly seeking a way out of his tank and to the front door. Buy it on Amazon.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

Published by Roaring Brook Press

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again): Santat, Dan, Santat,  Dan: 9781626726826: Books

Humpty Dumpty got put back together again, but his new fear of heights proves crippling. His determination to overcome his phobia results in a transformation and one of the best picture book endings ever. Buy it on Amazon.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Published by Kids Can Press

The Most Magnificent Thing: Spires, Ashley, Spires, Ashley: 8601411239502: Books

It’s not as easy as it seems to make “the most magnificent thing”. This girl and her dog must keep going when their first attempts fail to create what they want. Buy it on Amazon.

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

Published by Random House Children’s Books

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah: Thompson, Laurie  Ann, Qualls, Sean: 0884547302700: Books

Born in Ghana without the use of his right leg, Emmanuel learned to persist in school and sports. In 2006, he rode a bicycle from one end of Ghana to the other to raise awareness about people with disabilities. Buy it on Amazon.

Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick

Published by Simon and Schuster

Small Walt - Kindle edition by Verdick, Elizabeth, Rosenthal, Marc.  Children Kindle eBooks @

Small Walt and Gus team up to clear the streets, holding their own with the bigger, more powerful snowplows. Buy it on Amazon.

Letters from Bear by Gauthier David, illustrated by Marie Caudry

Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Letters from Bear: David, Gauthier, Caudry, Marie: 9780802855367 ...
Let's Talk Picture Books: LETTERS FROM BEAR

Summary:  Bear is sad that his friend Bird has migrated south for the winter.  He plans to write her a letter each day, but by day two, he’s decided to travel to be with her.  Each letter describes a different adventure, with an illustration to go with it.  Bear journeys to the top of a volcano, the desert, a cave filled with drawings, and the sea.  He meets a mermaid and several friendly animals, and witnesses all kinds of marvels.  When he finally arrives at his destination, he learns that Bird missed him, too, and has headed back north so they can be together.  The other birds have an idea: they build a giant nest and carry it back with Bear inside.  The last page shows Bear and Bird embracing, reunited at last.  56 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A dreamy and imaginative book which could be used as a mentor text for letter-writing.  The illustrations are filled with enchanting details, and could be used as inspiring writing prompts.

Cons:  There’s no way ten birds could carry a bear in a nest all that distance.

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