Sugar In Milk by Thrity Umrigar, illustrated by Khoa Le

Published by Running Press Kids

Sugar in Milk: Umrigar, Thrity, Le, Khoa: 9780762495191: Books
Sugar in Milk: Umrigar, Thrity, Le, Khoa: 9780762495191: Books

Summary:  Sent to America to live with her aunt and uncle, the narrator is struggling to adjust to her new life, missing her family and friends back home.  One day her aunt takes her on a walk and tells a story from ancient Persia about a group of people forced to leave their home.  They arrive by boat in India, ragged and exhausted, only to be told by the king that they can’t stay.  His land is too crowded, and there is no room for these strangers who don’t speak his language.  He fills a cup to the brim with milk to demonstrate this.  One of the refugees takes some sugar from his pack and adds it to the milk.  The milk has become sweeter without causing the cup to overflow; the king understands the message that in the same way the Persians will bring happiness to his country, and he welcomes them.  The girl learns from her aunt’s story, and begins to see the beauty in her new country, carrying a packet of sugar to remind her to bring sweetness wherever she goes.  48 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  With spare prose and gorgeous illustrations, this book delivers its message about immigration without preaching.  It’s also a great example of the timelessness of folklore and how ancient stories can still be relevant today.

Cons:  I would have liked some additional information about the history of the folktale.

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

We Will Live In This Forest Again by Gianna Marino

Published by Neal Porter Books

We Will Live in This Forest Again: Marino, Gianna: 9780823446995: Books
We Will Live in This Forest Again: Marino, Gianna: 9780823446995: Books

Summary:  A deer tells her experience surviving a wildfire.  The forest has always been her home, and when the fire gets close, she doesn’t notice it at first.  But soon it is roaring in, and she and other animals are running for their lives.  She sees a fierce mountain lion’s fur burning, and realizes he is as fragile as she is.  After the fire is gone, the forest is blackened and smoky, but soon the animals return, rain falls, and green shoots start growing.  The conclusion? “We will live in this forest again.” Includes an author’s note on her experience of the 2017 California wildfire, wildfire facts, and books and websites for further reading.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Marino’s beautiful watercolors give an impressionistic view of the fire, with the colors changing from green to yellow, orange, and red, to black, and back to green again.  The extra information at the end ups its value to older kids.

Cons:  The picture of the mountain lion with a small flame on its head and the implication that it died in the fire was a little disturbing (although obviously realistic).

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

The Brave by James Bird

Published by Feiwel and Friends

The Brave - Kindle edition by Bird, James. Children Kindle eBooks @

Summary:  Collin has never met his mother, but when he gets in a fight at school, his father is frustrated enough to send him away to live with her.  Collin has a disorder that compels him to count up and say the number of letters in anything anyone says to him.  This has resulted in bullying and misery for him that his dad doesn’t know how to deal with.  When Collin moves in with his mother on the Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota, he slowly begins a journey of discovery about his past and who he is.  He becomes close with Orenda, the girl next door, and is crushed to learn about her terminal illness.  He discovers his own strength and spirituality as he falls in love with Orenda, learns about his late older brother, and comes to terms with his own disability.  When his father reaches out to him a few months later, Collin is able to tell him that he has found happiness and peace in his new home.  320 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  This beautifully-written debut novel explores the mysticism of the Ojibwe people while keeping the story firmly rooted in reality with a down-to-earth narrator who is reluctant to believe in magic.  Filled with memorable characters, romance, and heartbreak, this will undoubtedly appeal to many middle school readers.

Cons:  I’m not a fan of the Fault In Our Stars/Bridge to Terabithia ill-fated romance with the amazingly wise doomed teen (as I may have mentioned once or twice before…maybe even three times), so I didn’t love the Orenda storyline.

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

Doodleville by Chad Sell

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Doodleville — Chad Sell Doodleville (9781984894700): Sell, Chad: Books

Summary:  Drew has always loved to draw and is excited to become part of a kids’ art club.  Her doodles come to life, and she considers the characters she’s created to be some of her closest friends.  As she becomes friends with the kids in the club, her doodles also get to interact with their creations.  One night, Drew creates a new doodle called Leviathan, or Levi for short.  Before long, Levi has turned into a monster and become a threat to the other doodles.  Drew’s new friends try to help defeat Levi with their own creations, but it soon becomes clear that only Drew has the power to destroy Levi…or maybe to transform him.  She discovers a unique solution, and there’s a promise of more adventures ahead for the entire art club.  Includes an author’s note; an annotated history of the doodles that tells how the author created the doodles that appear in Drew’s drawings; and instructions on how to draw a doodle.  288 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Aspiring artists will be inspired by all the kids’ artwork and will also enjoy the magical world in which their drawings come to life.  Looks as though there will definitely be a sequel to look forward to.

Cons:  The story bogged down somewhat when Levi came on the scene, and I had trouble distinguishing the different kids’ personalities and drawings as they each tried to help Drew.

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

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden by Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Amy June Bates and Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Laura Freeman

Published by Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden: Biden, Dr Jill, Krull, Kathleen, Bates, Amy  June: 9781534480537: Books
Joey: The Story of Joe Biden: Biden, Dr Jill, Krull, Kathleen, Bates, Amy  June: 9781534480537: Books

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice: Grimes, Nikki, Freeman, Laura:  9781534462670: Books
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice: Grimes, Nikki, Freeman, Laura:  9781534462670: Books

Summary:  The Democratic nominees for President and Vice President are profiled in these two picture books.  Each one traces the candidate’s life from childhood, emphasizing their hard work, integrity, and quest for justice.  Biden’s is a straightforward account of his life, while Harris’s is narrated by a mother to her young daughter who has been told that girls can’t grow up to be President.  Published before she was chosen as Biden’s running mate, Harris’s story ends with her dropping out of the primary.  Joey includes photos, sources for quotations, a timeline, a bibliography, and a list of “Bidenisms”; Kamala Harris includes a timeline and list of sources. 48 pp. and 40 pp.; grades K-5.

Pros:  These books may come in handy as November 3 approaches and students are looking for more information on the candidates (I did try, in the interest of being nonpartisan, to find Trump and Pence picture book biographies, but was unsuccessful).  Readers will get ample biographical information, as well as some insights into both Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’s characters.

Cons:  One might expect a book written by the candidate’s wife (Biden) to read like a piece of campaign literature, and one would be right.  I wish the editors had worked a little harder to tone down the fawning rhetoric, letting Biden’s life speak for itself.  Also, the device of having the mother tell her daughter the story of Harris’s life seemed unnecessary, particularly the last page, where the girl tells her mother she’s going to call the kid who said she can’t be President a doofus.

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

If you would like to buy Kamala Harris on Amazon, click here.

10 picture books about kindness and community

This year, for so many reasons, kids need to feel the safety of the classroom community more than ever. And, of course, whether your students are Zooming or social distancing, creating community will be extra challenging. Here are some books to help you get started.

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates

Published by Simon and Schuster

The Big Umbrella: Bates, Amy June, Bates, Juniper, Bates, Amy June ...

This umbrella is big enough to cover everyone. A quick read, great illustrations, and a diverse cast of characters get the conversation on inclusion rolling. Buy it on Amazon.

The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo

Published by Tilbury House Publishers

The Buddy Bench - Kindle edition by Brozo, Patty, Deas, Mike ...

What happens when kids are being left out at recess? This class has a solution: build a buddy bench. When you see someone sitting on the bench, you know they’re looking for a friend. Buy it on Amazon.

The Cool Bean by John Jory

Published by HarperCollins

The Cool Bean - Kindle edition by John, Jory, Oswald, Pete ...

In this school, the cool kids are also kind, and the bean who’s been feeling kind of uncool appreciates it. Buy it on Amazon.

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar

Published by Sterling Children’s Books

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh - Kindle edition by Kelkar ...

Harpreet dresses according to his moods, and a new school has him wearing white every day, trying to fade into the background. But a new friendship helps him start dressing in all the colors of the rainbow again. Buy it on Amazon.

I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet

Published by Schwartz & Wade

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness ...

The girl in this wordless story has to figure out what to do when she sees new girl Vanessa getting picked on. The whole school ends up coming together to put an end to the bullying. Buy it on Amazon.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Be Kind - Kindle edition by Zietlow Miller, Pat, Hill, Jen ...

After her friendly overtures are rebuffed, a girl reflects on what it means to be kind. Buy it on Amazon.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

All Are Welcome: Penfold, Alexandra, Kaufman, Suzanne ...

Rhyming text and busy illustrations show a diverse classroom of children and families coming together to form a community. Buy it on Amazon.

Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds

Published by Orchard Books

Say Something: Reynolds, Peter H., Reynolds, Peter H ...

“Some people find it easier to say something than others. But everyone has something to say.” Encourages extroverts and introverts alike to express themselves in a variety of ways. Look for Reynolds’ newest book Be You! Buy it on Amazon.

You Matter by Christian Reynolds

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

You Matter | Book by Christian Robinson | Official Publisher Page ...

Even when you feel small, insignificant, or lost, you matter. A quick and reassuring read for every member of the group. Buy it on Amazon.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

The Day You Begin - Kindle edition by Woodson, Jacqueline, López ...

Four kids feel a little strange on the first day of school, but as time goes on, they start to connect and feel okay about what makes them unique. Buy it on Amazon.

Back to school with books

Whatever plan your school is going with this year, it’s going to be unfamiliar territory.  It seems impossible to escape the first-day jitters this year, even if you’re a 30-year veteran.  Here are ten of my favorite back-to-school books from this blog to help get you through those first few days.

Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell

Published by Salaam Reads

Our Favorite Day of the Year: Ali, A. E., Bell, Rahele Jomepour ...

Musa’s teacher tells the class that the first day of school is her favorite day of the year. She invites them to share their favorites as they go through kindergarten, resulting in a celebration of holidays, foods and cultures all year long.  Click here to buy on Amazon


Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube

Published by Abrams

Mae's First Day of School - Kindle edition by Berube, Kate ...

Mae would rather sit up in a tree all day than face the uncertainties of the first day of school.  When others join her, including her new teacher, she realizes she’s not the only one feeling nervous.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Monkey Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Brown

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten: Brown, Marc: 9780553496581 ...

Monkey worries about all the ways he might not be ready for kindergarten.  A simple tale with a reassuring ending.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous by Keith Calabrese, illustrated by Juana Medina

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Lena's Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma: Calabrese ...

Lena’s shoes are nervous about starting school.  So are her socks.  It’s up to her headband to remind them that they’ve tried out new things before that turned out well.  By the end, the shoes are joined by the friendly sneakers, shoes, and boots of the other kids.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, illustrated by John Rocco

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Camp Tiger: Choi, Susan, Rocco, John: 9780399173295: Books

A boy who’s worried about starting first grade meets a tiger on an end-of-summer camping trip with his family.  Is the tiger real or imaginary?  Either way, he helps the boy to find courage for a new beginning.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


A New School Year by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song

Published by Charlesbridge

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices - Kindle edition by Derby ...

Six kids from grades K-5 tell about their first day of school in a series of poems that takes from the night before to the end of the first day.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Published by Roaring Brook Press

School's First Day of School - Kindle edition by Rex, Adam ...

Even though the janitor assures him that he’ll do fine, the new school building is worried about school starting.  The first day brings its share of ups and downs, but overall, School is pretty happy and ready to move on to the rest of the school year.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Butterflies on the First Day of School by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Dream Chen

Published by Sterling Children’s Books

Butterflies on the First Day of School - Kindle edition by ...

Mom calls Rosie’s nerves on the first day of school “butterflies in your stomach”.  Whenever something good happens at school that day, a butterfly flies out of her mouth.  She even sees one come out of another girl’s mouth!  By the end of the day, the butterflies are all gone.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison

Published by Schwartz and Wade

Nana Akua Goes to School: Walker, Tricia Elam, Harrison, April ...

Zura’s worried about bringing her Ghanaian grandmother to school for Grandparents’ Day, because she’s seen people stare at Nana Akua’s facial tattoo.  But Nana knows the secret for helping people feel comfortable, and the visit is a huge success.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems

Published by Hyperion Books for Children

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!: Mo Willems: 9781406389012: Amazon ...

The pigeon has a long list of reasons why he shouldn’t have to go to school…until he sees that he gets to ride there on a bus.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Published by Scholastic Press

Show Me a Sign: LeZotte, Ann Clare: 9781338255812: Books

Summary:  11-year-old Mary Lambert lives in Chilmark, a community on Martha’s Vineyard, where, in 1805, many of the residents are deaf.  Mary and her father are deaf; her mother is hearing, as was her brother George, who died recently in an accident that Mary feels she caused.  Their community is somewhat uneasily intertwined with the Wampanoag and black freedmen, and Mary is aware of the racism expressed by some of the people closest to her.  Everyone in Mary’s life communicates through a sign language that has evolved on the island making the community distinctive enough to draw the attention of scientists.  One of them, Andrew Noble, arrives from Boston to stay with the local minister and study the population in hopes of better understanding the cause of deafness.  When Mary accidentally discovers a letter to Andrew asking him for a live specimen, she doesn’t realize that she is soon to become that specimen, kidnapped and taken to Boston for further study.  Mary awakens to the fact that most of the deaf population outside of Martha’s Vineyard are treated as less than fully human, and she becomes desperate to find a way to communicate and get help.  The story concludes with healing for Mary and her family, and with a vision of a brighter future for the deaf community.  Includes six pages of notes about the history of Martha’s Vineyard, deaf education, sign language, and the Wampanoag.  288 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  This is honestly a masterpiece of historical fiction that tackles so many different topics and doesn’t shy away from difficult topics.  Mary’s mother and best friend both have racist beliefs that don’t change by the end of the story, yet also have qualities that Mary loves.  This would make an excellent book club selection.

Cons:  I found the beginning a little slow going as there was so much to introduce.

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

Tweet, tweet

What do Donald Trump and I have in common?  That’s right, we’re both on Twitter!  This week, I started a new account as a companion to this blog.  It’s taken me just a little more than 14 years to catch up with exciting new social media platform.  Not for nothing do my kids describe me as “technologically cutting edge” (just kidding).  Anyway, if you want to take a look, go on over to @kidsbookaday.  If you are a more sophisticated Twitter user than I am–and really, just about everyone on Twitter is–feel free to offer feedback on how I can improve my account.

Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet by April Pulley Sayre

Published by Greenwillow Books Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet (9780062893314 ...

Summary:  “Rectangle. Right angle. Window. Wall. A windy canyon where shadows fall.”  The simple rhyming text is accompanied by several photos on each page showing urban landscapes.  Building, vehicles, and other structures focus on shapes, angles, functions, and art.  The last couple pages discuss how to find science, technology, engineering, math, and art in the city.  A list of 40 questions encourages readers to observe what they see in the city with an inquiring mind.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  April Pulley Sayre works her usual magic with her combination of interesting photographs and brief rhyming text.  She moves in a different direction with this book, away from her usual nature topics, and into the city and human-built structures.  There’s a lot to absorb in both the book and the questions at the end, and kids will come away from this book observing their surroundings in a whole new way.

Cons:  Some of the topics seemed somewhat abstract.  On the other hand, this could make the book an interesting read for older kids as well.

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