September 22, 2017
The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian
Daria is a young teen, proud of her Iranian-American heritage and fast friends with her gang who call themselves “The Authentics” because of their commitment to continuing to be real, not fake. There are problems, of course; there is no love lost between Daria and her former best friend who leads a clique of girls that Daria calls “the Nose Jobs.” But life continues to get more complicated, as research into her past for a school project uncovers secrets. Daria is a delightful and believable protagonists. She worries about her appearance, wonders what her first kiss will be like, and struggles to find her niche among her friends. What I really loved was the the range of cultures, including:insights into the contemporary high school social world, Daria’s gay brother’s marriage and excitement about becoming a parent; mother-daughter dynamics and family relationships, and her Iranian-American world as well. At the heart of the book is a journey of self-discovery, told with humor, insight, and sincerity. Highly recommended!
September 16, 2017
The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Zaha Zahdid by Jeanette Winter
It is with a great deal of enthusiasm that we recommend Jeanette Winter’s latest contribution to the world of non-fiction picture books. We have loved her previous biographies like The Librarian of Basra, My Name is Georgia, and Nasreen’s Secret School, to name a few favorites. Winter chooses such fascinating people to research and write about, and brings to her readers important stories of people from around the world. Zaha Zahdid may be my all-time favorite Winter picture book (so far, at least). Zahdid’s vision of architecture and designs is creative, unconventional, and courageous. Growing up in Iraq, she was always fascinated by the patterns in nature–both the breath-taking landscapes and heart-breaking ruins that surrounded her. Studying architecture in London gave her the foundation she need to make her visions a reality. She has created buildings around the world based on the shapes and patterns of nature. She designed museums, opera houses–even a ski jump! Her conviction in her work and her dedication to her vision prevailed despite discrimination as a woman, as well as against her Muslim faith. The illustrations are bold and clear and work perfectly with the simple and elegant text. You can’t ask for a better role model–or book–to share with kids.
September 9, 2017
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
You gotta love a boy who is so space-obsessed that he names his dog Carl Sagan. Eleven-year-old Alex is a truly endearing character in so many ways. As you can guess, his hero is the real life Carl Sagan, and the novel is a reporting of Alex and his dog’s journey to launch his golden iPod into space the way his hero Carl Sagan launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to LA, with many stops in between, Alex records his views of life on Earth to explain to other life forms. He meets incredible and often lost people in his journey, and as readers, we learn about Alex’s part as the adventure unfolds. Magical and surprisingly optimistic. An important addition to bookshelves of tweens, early adolescents, and the adults who share books with them.
September 1, 2017
The List by Patricia Forde
In keeping with our theme of the wonder of words, we recommend Patricia Forde’s new middle grade reader book The List. The future world of Ark allows speakers to speak List and List alone, a language of only 500 words. Our hero, Letta, is the exception. As apprentice to Benjamin the Wordsmith, she is allowed to read every word that has ever existed, even those not part of List. Words we are pretty used to like freedom and music. The leader of this dystopian world has decreed that words are the root of the problems their society faces. So when Benjamin disappears and Letta becomes the new Worsmith, she is ordered to cut the vocabulary of List even further. She is befriended by a mysterious boy, who is a fellow dissenter. Lots of adventure–as well as commentary on censorship and the role of language. A compelling addition to your tween dystopian reading list.
August 25, 2017
Lexie the Word Wrangler by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Jessie Hartland
I’ve always had a soft spot for cowgirls. Dressing up as one and pretending to ride my pony through the yard as a kid, and now that I live in the West, immersing myself in the history of the real-world tough cowgirls of my adopted state of Oregon. So I was immediately drawn by the title to Lexie. Turns out this great new picture book celebrates another love of mine as well: words. That’s right, instead of cattle, Lexie wrestles. . .words! Wordplay, puns, word chains, and other delightful word play are all integral parts of this off-beat and funny picture book. I especially appreciate Lexie’s determination to serve justice when someone starts messing with her words. Perfect for the Early Readers in your life.
August 18, 2017
The perfect gift for new parents? Books, of course! Favorites from when you –or your kids–were babies or toddlers are a great place to start. But every year, terrific new board books are published that you don’t need to wait for babies to grow into. Here are three recently published books we recommend sharing with parents, who can cuddle up with a book and their little ones right from Day One.
Lucha Libre: Anatomy/Anatomia by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein
What a great way to learn body parts–and in both English and Spanish. Bright, colorful illustrations add to the fun. And did we mention. . .wrestling? One word and one image per page helps introduce young children to concepts perfectly. If you and your little reader enjoy this one, check out the other books in the Lil’ Libros baby board book series. Our other favorites: Loteria: First Words/Primeras Palabras and Zapata: Colors/Colores.
Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals by Mo Willems
If you are a fan of Mo Willems (like we are! see our previous post) you will be thrilled to share this new book with parents. An amusing and delightfully illustrated read-aloud. Not to mention heart warming. I’ve heard new parents say it is the best baby book they’ve received. Read it and see why!
Who, What, Where? by Olivier Tallec
We love the work of Olivier Tallec, and gave copies of Who Done It? to friends and family. In the same format of each page asking the reader a question about the characters featured on the spread, Tallec draws on interacting with the book using insights and keen eyes. Kids can certainly read the facial expressions of the characters, as well as the little details that point out “Who’s looking in the mirror?” or “Who left a jacket at home?” With his trademark sly humor and whimsical art. Tollec has created another winner of a lap book to share and enjoy.
August 12, 2017
A few weeks ago, we recommended a couple of terrific new graphic novels for tweens. We’ve extended our fascination with the genre and can’t resist adding a couple more recommendations, guaranteed to keep you cool as you sip lemonade and seek shelter from the sun.
Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
You don’t have to read more than a few pages to understand that Mighty Jack is based on the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. But in this contemporary retelling, the old tale takes a decidedly compelling twist. First, there are the modern characters: Jack, who is dreading summer, since he has to care for his sister Maddie while his single Mom works; Maddie, who is autistic and never speaks–until she does one day! At the flea market, she tells Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds. Yikes! Big mistake–or is it? What happens when the garden that he plants from the seeds runs amok? And when a dragon enters the scene? We love the cliff hanging elements throughout the book, and the thoughtful themes that make the adventures and humor even more compelling. Great storytelling, wonderful artwork. . .this is the start of a not-to-miss series of books. Watch for Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, due out this fall.
Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel
It’s particularly hard on Ely when his dog Tommy, his best friend is hit by a car. A summer with his Grandpa is what Ely needs to have the space to grieve and recover. He spends hours exploring a local cave–and discovers a friendly, not to mention fully grown, Tyrannosaurus Rex! As their friendship deepens, word of the dinosaur gets out and brings the mean-spirited mischief of one of the local kids, Randy. Adventure, drama, and comedy abound in this fine graphic novel, and of course the full-color artwork is just right. You may shed a tear or two, as there are some sad moments, but the sadness also includes themes of friendship and kindness.