Bunheads by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Bunheads: Copeland, Misty, Fiadzigbey, Setor: 9780399547645: Amazon.com:  Books
Bunheads: Copeland, Misty, Fiadzigbey, Setor: 9780399547645: Amazon.com:  Books

Summary:  Misty is excited to hear in her first ballet class that they will be performing Coppélia.  She listens carefully to her teacher’s retelling of the story, and decides she wants the role of Swanilda.  She’s concerned that another girl named Cat might be a rival, but Cat decides to audition for Coppélia.  When the cast is announced, both Misty and Cat get the parts they wanted.  They work hard to prepare, inspiring each other, and by the time the big night arrives, both are ready to deliver a flawless performance.  Both girls are front and center for the final curtain call, smiling happily and wondering what their next ballet will be.  32 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Aspiring dancers will enjoy this story featuring a young Misty Copeland, and will learn the basics of the story of Coppélia.  The illustrations enhance the story and demonstrate some of the ballet steps mentioned.

Cons:  Readers may be disappointed when they’re not selected for a starring role in their first year of ballet like Misty is.  And speaking of Misty, I would have enjoyed some back matter connecting this story to the real Misty Copeland.

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

Wild Symphony by Dan Brown, illustrated by Susan Batori

Published by Rodale Kids

Wild Symphony: Brown, Dan, Batori, Susan: 9780593123843: Amazon.com: Books
Wild Symphony: Brown, Dan, Batori, Susan: 9780593123843: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Maestro Mouse is your guide through this musical romp starring the animal kingdom.  Each page includes a poem or two about the featured animal, concluding with a sign held by Maestro Mouse offering a lesson that can be derived from the poem.  Sharp-eyed readers will also spot letters in each picture that, when put together, spell out a word.  The animals and words come together in the final gatefold page that shows all the animals playing music in an orchestra.  Includes an author’s note from Dan Brown (yes, that Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and many other books for adults) and endpapers showing and identifying the different musical instruments.  Also includes an app that can be downloaded to listen to musical accompaniment throughout the story.  44 pages; ages 4-9.

Pros:  A fun introduction to both animals and musical instruments.  I did not download the app, but it sounds like an enjoyable way to experience the music introduced in the book.  The hidden letters and coded words will please those who like puzzles.

Cons:  Poems, a series of (didactic) lessons, musical instruments, hidden letters, word scrambles, and an app that plays music…felt like a bit too much to unpack for one picture book.

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

The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Lian Cho

Published by Greenwillow Books

The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom: Venable, Colleen AF, Cho, Lian:  9780062494375: Amazon.com: Books
Fall 2020 Children's Announcements: Publishers F-L

Summary: Band director Mr. V. says there is a perfect instrument for everyone, and proceeds to introduce them one by one.  He invites each player to give a demonstration, but every time Felicity bangs her bass drum, “Boom Boom Boom” and drowns out the other instrument.  Mr. V. continues, explaining the reed on a clarinet, the double reed on an oboe, the valves on a trumpet, and so forth, but gets increasingly agitated as Felicity doesn’t stop with the drum.  Finally, he introduces the one instrument that can drown out Felicity: the tuba.  Its “WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP” overpowers the “Boom Boom Boom” so that when it’s finally time to introduce the percussion section, the tables are turned on Felicity.  The final two pages introduce the real-life musicians who inspired the kids in the band, with a short biographical paragraph about each.  40 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  A fun introduction to band instruments with interesting facts about each one.  This would be perfect to read to those elementary kids trying to decide what they want to play.  Connecting each kid in the story to a real-life musician who plays (or played) their instrument is a nice added touch.

Cons:  If the oboe is considered a band instrument, it seems like the bassoon and French horn should have been included too.

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

A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead by Evan Turk

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the  Rosetta Bead - Kindle edition by Turk, Evan, Turk, Evan. Children Kindle  eBooks @ Amazon.com.
A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the  Rosetta Bead: Turk, Evan, Turk, Evan: 9781534410343: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Marietta Barovier grew up in fifteenth-century Murano, an island near Venice, where her father and brothers worked as glassblowers.  She wanted to learn the craft, but it wasn’t something girls did.  She persisted, though, hanging around the shop, and finally her father showed her how.  One day, she and her father took a trip to Venice to visit a wealthy patron.  Marietta discovered a small glass bowl covered with flowers, and was told that the technique for making such glass had been lost.  Years later, she remembered the bowl when she tried a new technique, layering different colors of glass together to make beads.  These rosetta beads became valuable currency and spread throughout the world. Includes an author’s note with additional information about Barovier and her beads, and a note about the art. 48 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Evan Turk’s dazzling illustrations were inspired by Renaissance and Impressionist artists, with hues of yellow, gold, and orange that capture the fiery heat of glassblowing and the light and energy of Venice.  The story of Marietta is fascinating (although slightly fictionalized, since records about her are sparse), and could make a nice addition to an art curriculum.

Cons:  Although there are a couple photos of Evan Turk learning to blow glass and sketching in Italy, I would have liked to have seen some of the beads.

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

Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Chloe Bristol

Published by Versify

Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey: Mortensen, Lori ...

Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey plus Author Interview ...

Summary:  Growing up in Chicago, Edward Gorey was an avid reader, enjoying books as different from each other as Alice In Wonderland and Dracula.  A solitary child who skipped three grades and moved a dozen times, he loved passing hours writing and drawing.  After a stint in the army and four years at Harvard, Edward moved to New York City where he worked in the art department of a publisher.  After work, he wrote his own stories filled with ghastly silliness.  A group of mothers found his book The Beastly Baby so disturbing that they ripped it up and mailed the pieces to him.  But Edward was rarely influenced by what other people thought, and went his own way to achieve his own form of success.  Includes an author’s note with additional information, a photo, and additional sources of information.  40 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  Any fan of Edward Gorey’s work will appreciate this homage, written and illustrated in a very similar style.  Try introducing Gorey to young Lemony Snicket fans.

Cons:  Those not familiar with Gorey’s works, including most of today’s kids, may not fully appreciate this book. 

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

My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer by Suzi Eszterhas

Published by Owlkids (Released October 15)

Buy My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer Book ...

Summary:  Suzi Eszterhas shares how she became a wildlife photographer, beginning with her experiences as a child taking pictures of her cats in her backyard.  Over the years, she has traveled around the globe, often living in a tent and enduring difficult and occasionally dangerous conditions (no showers, lots of insects, airsickness while taking aerial photos, a charging gorilla) to capture the photographs that have appeared in her many books and helped raise awareness for endangered species.  Many of her photographs appear in the text. The final pages answer some of the questions she is most frequently asked. 32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  As a Suzi Eszterhas fan who has promoted her books to kids over the years (most notably Moto and Me), I am delighted to learn that she’ll have this up-close-and-personal look at her life coming out in the fall.  Kids will enjoy reading about her adventurous life and seeing her photos of a wide variety of animals. Clearly, wildlife photography has been a boys’ club for a long time, and Suzi explains how she had to prove she was tough enough to be a part of it–which this book makes very clear she has done successfully.

Cons:  I got this copy off of NetGalley, and it didn’t include all the photos…however, I feel confident they will be excellent and highly appealing to kids.

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

Q&A: Wildlife Photographer Suzi Eszterhas | Sierra Club


Katarina Ballerina by Tiler Peck and Kyle Harris, illustrated by Sumiti Collina

Published by Aladdin (released May 5)

Thanks to Aladdin for providing me with a free review copy of this book.

Katarina Ballerina (1): Peck, Tiler, Harris, Kyle, Collina, Sumiti ...

Summary:  Katarina dreams of being a dancer like her late mother was, but her father is struggling to make ends meet.  She teachers herself enough ballet though YouTube to put together a routine for the school talent show. Her performance is less than stellar, but her dad sees her passion for dancing and offers to pay for some lessons.  Katarina is thrilled until she goes to the first lesson and feels completely in over her head. Fortunately, a girl in the class named Sunny offers to help and the two become good friends. They agree to perform together in a competition for a ballet camp scholarship, but a series of obstacles puts their dream of winning in jeopardy.  Katarina and Sunny make a good team, though, and help from supportive adults brings about a happy ending for all. 192 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Budding dancers will enjoy reading about Katarina’s experiences and everyone will root for her as she tackles one problem after another with resourcefulness and determination.  Illustrations throughout the book will make this appealing to younger readers.  

Cons:  Many of the situations seemed unrealistic, like Katarina and Sunny being allowed to dance by themselves in front of Lincoln Center to raise money for Katarina’s lessons, then having an usher invite them to a free performance and get them backstage passes to meet one of the dancers (Tiler Peck, one of the authors).

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

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko

Published by HarperCollins

Image result for joni the lyrical life of joni mitchell

Summary:  “Joni Mitchell painted with words” begins this story of iconic singer Joni Mitchell.  Growing up in Canada, Joni loved art and music, often feeling a bit alienated from her parents who were “cautious and fixed in their ways”.  After surviving polio at age 10 (the same epidemic that sickened Neil Young), Joni began to pursue music in earnest, buying her first guitar in high school.  Moving from Toronto to New York to California, Joni found inspiration wherever she went: the clouds from her window on an airplane to write “Both Sides Now” and the view from her NYC apartment for “Chelsea Morning”.  Missing Woodstock to perform on TV prompted her to write “Woodstock”, and the aforementioned Neil Young’s song about staying young forever inspired “The Circle Game”. “I sing my sorrow, and I paint my joy,” Joni said, and this quote is illustrated by a collage of her albums spanning 1968 to 2007.  Includes an author’s note, discography, and bibliography. 48 pages; grades 1-5.

I looked at this book from both sides now, and:

Pros:  Any Joni Mitchell fan will appreciate this lyrical story of her life.  The illustrations are a gorgeous mix of painting and collage that perfectly capture Joni’s spirit and her music.  I particularly liked the one of her performing to an audience of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger.

Cons:  There are probably few 21st century kids who know who Joni Mitchell is.  

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


A Voice Named Aretha by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Laura Freeman

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Image result for voice named aretha

Summary:  From her early days singing in her father’s church, Aretha Franklin had a powerful voice and the ability to express her emotions through her singing.  At age 18, she moved to New York to try to make it in the music world. She recorded and performed throughout the 1960’s, always making certain that her performances were in venues open to all races.  She hit the big time with her gold album “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”; the song “Respect” from that album became her signature song, and she was crowned the Queen of Soul. Her voice continued to move and inspire people for many years, until it was finally silenced with her death in 2018.  Includes a lengthy note with additional information on Franklin; a list of her songs; a list of sources; and two photos. 40 pages; grades 1-5.  

Pros:  This gorgeously illustrated picture book biography will introduce a new generation to the amazing voice of Aretha Franklin.

Cons:  Although there’s a list of sources, there’s no kid-friendly listing of resources for additional research.

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

Image result for voice named aretha

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

Image result for this promise of change amazon

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

Image result for infinite hope bryan amazon

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

Image result for each tiny spark amazon

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

Image result for good kind of trouble amazon

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

Image result for genesis begins again amazon

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.