Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed

Published by Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster

Image result for bilal cooks daal

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

Image result for you are home turk

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.

Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and A Journey to the New World by David Macaulay

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Image result for crossing on time macaulay amazon

Image result for crossing on time macaulay

Summary:  In September of 1957, David Macaulay left with his mother, sister, and brother to travel to America, where his father had been offered a new job.  Their mode of transportation was the SS United States, the fastest, most advanced steamship ever built.  Macaulay starts the story with himself at age 10 getting ready to go to America, then goes back to the 18th century and traces the history of steam power and the steamship.  The text is illustrated with his trademark detailed, technical drawings illuminating each page, including a six-panel foldout cutaway of the United States with 100 labeled parts.  The last chapter tells about his family’s journey and their move to New Jersey.  Includes an afterword, a timeline, and a list of selected reading. 128 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  If you’re interested in engineering, you will never go wrong with David Macaulay.  The personal connection to his family made the story interesting to non-techies like myself.  The illustrations range from amazing to truly mind-boggling, like the one of the ship described above.

Cons:  It will take a pretty dedicated shipping enthusiast to get through all the details in the text.

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

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

Published by Bloomsbury

Image result for grandpa cacao amazon

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.

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

Published by Chronicle Books

Image result for we are the change belafonte amazon

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.

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Mummies Exposed! (Creepy and True #1) by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Whether discovered in tombs, bogs, or ice, mummies give a unique glimpse into the past through the well-preserved bodies of ancient humans.  Some were intentionally mummified, like Egyptian kings, while others were mummified by the right combination of elements that prevented their flesh from decaying.  Each of the ten chapters tells the fascinating story of a different mummy–its discovery and the stories it tells. Sometimes it takes years to piece together theories of how a person or group of people met their end and wound up in a place where they were found centuries later.  There are plenty of gruesome photos, as well as a glossary, index, and extensive bibliography. 212 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  The conversational tone, fascinating subject matter, and plethora of photos will make this a popular choice for middle schoolers.

Cons:  Although this is billed on Amazon as book #1 in the series Creepy and True, I couldn’t find any upcoming books in the series.

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

Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

Published by Creston Books

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Image result for martin and anne nayburg

Summary:  Born five months apart in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank grew up in very different circumstances on different continents.  Both experienced prejudice and discrimination, though, and both loved to learn and express their ideas through writing and speaking. Although Martin lived more than twice as many years as Anne, they both had their lives cut short by hatred.  And both left legacies of peace and love that continue to this day; includes a timeline and bibliography. 32 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  This would be a perfect text to introduce a unit on people who have made a difference, or to encourage students to compare the lives of two famous people.  An inspiring book.

Cons:  An author’s note with more information about Anne and Martin would have been a nice addition.

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