I wanted to let you know about a new feature on my blog: lists of books that I’ve reviewed over the years, arranged by topic. I think we can all agree that my blog has a certain amateurish charm, and I’m sure there’s a better way to make these lists accessible there. However, we all have to live with my limited tech skills, so for the moment, here’s how to find the lists: under the “A Kids Book a Day” title, you’ll see three links: Home, About me, and Book lists. If you move your cursor over the book lists one, a drop-down menu will appear with all the lists I’ve created so far.
I have lots of other ideas, and will be adding more as the year goes on; I’ll also update these lists as I review new books.
If you have suggestions of lists that would be helpful to you, please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m hoping to put these on Pinterest, and am just starting to learn about the world of Pinterest and how to create pins. If anyone has any sort of Pinterest expertise, or WordPress expertise to improve the look of my blog, I’d love to talk to you.
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Summary: Ari is excited that Uncle Lior is coming for a visit. Uncle Lior uses they/them pronouns, and they always ask Ari, “What are your words?” Usually Ari knows right away; it may be “Happy! Creative! Funny! He/him” or “Thoughtful! Athletic! Silly! She/her.” Today, though, nothing quite seems to fit. Ari worries about it as the day progresses, with more introductions (including pronouns) around the neighborhood, finishing up with a barbecue and fireworks. As the first ones burst across the sky, Ari suddenly discovers the words for today: “Impatient! Excited! Colorful! They/them.” Uncle Lior tells them, “That’s definitely you, Ari.” 40 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: This book will be a valuable resource to anyone working with transgender, nonbinary, or gender fluid kids and will help others to understand the importance of pronouns. The illustrations are cheerful and colorful; I especially liked the endpapers that showed a variety of people and pronouns.
Cons: The story was definitely secondary to the lessons being taught.
Summary: When Roberto Alvarerez returned to school from Christmas vacation on January 5, 1931, he was told he was no longer a student at the Lemon Grove Grammar School. He and the other Mexican American children were supposed to go to the new Olive Street School. Most of the kids headed home, as they had been instructed to do by their parents when rumors of the new school started to make their rounds in the neighborhood. Families filed a lawsuit with Roberto’s name on it against the Lemon Grove School District. On March 12, a judge ruled that there could be no separate school for Mexican children, and the students were allowed to return to Lemon Grove. Includes a six-page author’s note with additional information and photos; and sources and source notes. 40 pages; grades 2-5.
Pros: This straightforward picture book tells a story of standing up to school segregation that happened years before Brown vs. Board of Education. While the story and folk art style illustrations could be understood and appreciated by a second-grader, there’s enough information in the author’s note to get a good start on a middle school project.
Cons: 90 years later, de facto school segregation is still prevalent all over the United States.
Summary: “Escape (verb) – To avoid a threatening evil”: that’s the definition given on the title page. Each spread has another verb–cling, defy, swim–with a story of refugees escaping danger. Yusra and Dara Mardini cling to their boat as they escape from Syra; Yusra goes on to swim for the Refugee Olympic Team in 2016. Chinese diplomat Dr. Feng Shan Ho defies orders and issues over 4,000 visas to Jews escaping Germany during World War II. Chan Hak-chi and Li Kit-hing swim for six hours through shark-infested waters in a typhoon to make it from mainland China to Hong Kong. Each story is accompanied by a somewhat abstract illustration showing the escape. Includes Articles 13 and 14 from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a link for more information. 40 pages; grades 2 and up.
Pros: Each story is brief and compelling, making it a gripping read-aloud for older elementary or middle school kids. The brief text, abstract illustrations, and even slightly mysterious authors (identical twins known simply as Ming & Wah) add an air of suspense that is perfect for the topic.
Cons: I definitely wanted to know where I could find out more information about every one of the stories.
Summary: When the narrator visits her abuelo, she loves helping him sell fruit. Together they make up a song to let people know the fruits they have, “Mango, limón, coco, melón, naranja, toronjo, plátano, piña.” On New Year’s Eve, many customers buy grapes so they can gobble up twelve at midnight, making a wish for each chime of the clock. The girl’s last wish is always to be able to visit her grandparents more often, but much of the time they have to make do with letters that travel between the U.S. and Cuba. Includes an author’s note with additional information about Spanglish, travel restrictions to Cuba, los pregoneros or the singing vendors, and New Year’s Eve. Available in Spanish and English. 40 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: The lively narration and colorful illustrations present an inviting portrayal of Cuba that would pair well with All the Way to Havana for a Cuban/Margarita Engle story hour. Well deserving of some Pura Belpré recognition.
Cons: Eating twelve grapes on the stroke of midnight sounds challenging.
Summary: In 2018, Sharice Davids became one of the first two Native American women in Congress. From a young age, Sharice loved to talk and used her big voice to make friends when her single mother’s army career forced them to move several times. She worked hard to get through college and law school and to pursue a passion for martial arts. Her law degree led her to a South Dakota reservation, where she helped people start small businesses, and eventually to a career at the White House. In Washington, she noticed that there weren’t a lot of people who looked like her, and decided to try to change that by running for Congress. Her victory made her not only one of the first Native women in Congress, but also the first LGBTQ Native American there. Includes an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, and additional information about Davids’ Ho-Chunk tribe. 40 pages; grades K-4.
Pros: The chatty, informal tone of the writing makes Sharice seem like an old friend, and like pursuing your dreams is a real possibility. I loved the art for this book, created by Ojibwe Woodland artist Pawis-Steckley. I want to mention that this is the third book I’ve reviewed in the last week that’s by a Native American author with Native main characters. Things sure have changed since I started this blog in 2015, and it’s about time.
Cons: I wish there were more photos with the author’s note. I think the one there is of Sharice with her mom, but it wasn’t labeled, so I’m not sure.
Summary: Growing up in Sierra Leone, Joe had big dreams. He decided he needed to go to America to follow them. Family and friends told him people in America would laugh at his accent and be afraid of his dark skin, but Joe said, “Watch me,” and moved to America. People did, in fact, make fun of his accent and sometimes told him to go back to Africa. Joe was homesick, but he persisted. Sometimes he felt he had to work twice as hard to prove himself, but in the end he kept going and became a doctor. How does the narrator know all this? Dr. Joe was his dad. 40 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: This inspiring narrative tells Dr. Joe’s story, but also asks a lot of questions of the reader: do you know people like Joe? Do you see them at your school? Did they come by plane or boat? Maybe you did, too? The text is simple, but it is sure to provoke discussion and encourage kids to make connections between Joe and themselves or people around them.
Cons: I wanted to know a lot more about Dr. Joe, but there was no additional information.
Summary: The story of Peter Pan gets an update featuring stepsisters Lily, who is Muscogee Creek, and Wendy, a white girl originally from England. Lily’s mother is married to Wendy’s father, and they share a half-brother, 4-year-old Michael. Mr. Darling has taken a new job in New York, while Lily’s mother plans to stay in Tulsa, and divorce is threatening to tear the family apart. On the eve of Wendy’s departure, Peter Pan appears with a fairy named Belle, whisking Wendy and Michael away to Neverland. Lily follows, and winds up connecting with a group of Native kids who live in hiding to escape Peter and his Lost Boys. There are mermaids, more fairies (and lots of fairy dust), pirates (led by Pirate Queen Smee), and wild animals that Peter and his band are quickly hunting to extinction. Wendy and Lily have to put aside their differences to figure out how to rescue everyone, and even Peter winds up a somewhat reformed character as the book winds up with a happily-ever-after ending. Includes an author’s note that discusses the questions she had about the original story that led her to create this one. 320 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: The story manages to explore serious themes like colonialism, bullying, and the environment without losing any of the fairy tale fun. The truth about the “bad” characters from the original story, the Indians and the pirates, turns out to be far more interesting and shows how storytelling can be misleading and result in harmful prejudices.
Cons: I’ve never read the original book and it’s been years since I saw the Disney movie, so I felt I wasn’t always appreciating all the details of the story.
Summary: It’s hard to envision 8 billion people (the current population of Earth), so what if that number is reduced to 100? 60 people live in Asia, 5 in North America. 11 don’t have enough to eat (although enough food is wasted each day to feed them), and 29 don’t have access to clean water. 26 are under 14, and 8 are over 65. And, as you may have already heard, 10 people have 85% of the world’s wealth. Each of these facts is accompanied with an infographic that helps readers see the information. The final two pages attempt to answer the question, “What are the big questions?” as we move into a future that will likely see 10 billion people on the planet by 2050. 32 pages; grades 2-5.
Pros: I love information like this, and really, who doesn’t? It makes demographics so much more accessible, with the fun illustrations adding another level of access. I learned some surprising facts, as I’m sure most readers would. This could be used for social studies into middle school or even high school.
Summary: When Josie decides she wants to dance at her tribe’s powwow, she enlists her mom, grandmother (kookum), aunty, and tribal elder Grandma Greatwalker to sew and bead her costume and to dream her spirit name. Josie practices all winter and spring, excited about all the preparations but a little anxious that they won’t be done in time. On the morning of her dance, though, everyone surprises her with their completed work, and Elder Grandma Greatwalker tells Josie that she has dreamed her spirit name: Migiziinsikwe, or Young Eagle Woman. Josie is welcomed into the circle of dancers as the singers say her name, Migiziinsikwe, and Young Eagle Woman soars into the dance. Includes a glossary and information about Turtle Mountain, a reservation where the author lives as a citizen of the Tribal Band of Chippewa and the illustrator is a tribal member. 32 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: This would pair well with Bowwow Powwow for a story hour about contemporary kids participating in their powwows. The colorful illustrations and text give a real flavor of what goes into preparing for the dance and the excitement of the actual event. I loved the endpapers portraying a variety of powwow participants.
Cons: I wish there had been some more information about Josie’s dance in the back matter.