Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie

Dusk Explorers

Lindsay Leslie, Author

Ellen Rooney, Illustrator

Page Street Kids, Fiction, Jun.2, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dusk, Summer, Play, Games, Fireflies, Explore, Nature, Neighborhoods

Opening: “The sun begins to sink. The neighborhood beckons…”

Amazon Synopsis:

It’s that special time of evening, when the hours and the possibilities seem endless: Light is fading. A buzz of excitement and wonder takes over the neighborhood….What outdoor adventures await?

Join a diverse group of suburban kids as they dash and dodge in classic street games like tag and kick-the-can and reconnect with nature’s simple pleasures catching frogs, hunting fireflies, and climbing trees. These explorers play, laugh, and make the most of their own front yards right up until their parents call out that “It’s time to come home!” But when the sun begins to set tomorrow, they’ll be back for more evening excitement!

This ode to the timeless magic of summer evenings spent outside will remind kids of the fun and friends that wait just outside their doors and leave adults smiling with nostalgia for their own dusk explorations.

Why I like this book:

Lindsay Leslie’s Dusk Explorers is a beautiful tribute to magical summer evenings. It is the perfect summer gift book. It will bring back childhood memories for parents and encourage children to explore the outdoors at the special time of dusk. With the pandamic curtailing a lot of play, parents can encourage kids to explore their own yards, play games, catch fireflies, gaze at the stars, and listen to the sounds of nature as darkness comes. There is so much to do and explore.

The text is written in a free-flowing verse that is very lyrical. There is a lovely rhythm that speaks to the  senses and beckons children to come outdoors to play. Each spread begins with: looking, calling, searching, hoping, waiting, longing, watching, wishing, and listening. “Calling for leapfroggers who love to jump over backs and fall down on itchy blades of freshly cut grass …” and “Wishing for firefly catchers who love to fling their nets into the dimming sky sprinkled with diamonds.”

Ellen Rooney’s illustrations are lively, colorful and show an active group of diverse children having the time of their lives. Her artwork is simply breathtaking as we watch the sun lower in the sky, fireflies flicker in the dark and the stars shine brightly above.

Note: I reviewed this book today in honor of what would have been my father’s 99th birthday! I hold so many memories of my favorite time of day as a child — dusk! That meant I’d spend time playing catch or throwing a frisbee with my dad in the backyard. Sometimes we’d water the grass to nudge the worms to the surface and then we’d snatch them for fishing bait. Other times we’d climb the ladder to the roof and gaze at the stars. And the entire neighborhood would become alive with parents and kids enjoying the evening together. I’m sure many of you will find this book very nostalgic!

Resources: Encourage your children to go outside. This could be a fun activity for both kids and their parents as the day cools. I remember playing catch with my dad, throwing the frisbee, riding my bike with friends and mothers around the neighborhood circle, and watering the grass to snatch worms from the grass to go fishing with my dad. Be creative and have fun!

Lindsay Leslie  spent her childhood summers playing all the games found on these pages. Nowadays, she still loves the outdoors, but she love writing too. She is also the author of This Book Is Spinelesss and Nova the Star Eater. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family and two dogs.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

The Next President by Kate Messner

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

Kate Messner, Author

Adam Rex, Illustrator

Chronicle Books, Nonfiction, Mar. 24, 2020

Pages: 48

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Past Presidents, Future Presidents,  Childhoods facts, United States

Opening: “Quick: Name the President of the United States.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

When George Washington became the first president of the United States, there were nine future presidents already alive in America, doing things like practicing law or studying medicine.

When JFK became the thirty-fifth president, there were 10 future presidents already alive in America, doing things like hosting TV shows and learning the saxophone. One president was born in 1961.

And right now—today!—there are at least 10 future presidents alive in America. They could be playing basketball, like Barack Obama, or helping in the garden, like Dwight D. Eisenhower. They could be solving math problems or reading books. They could be making art—or already making change.

Why I like this book:

Kate Messner’s nonfiction book for middle graders, is a timely and fascinating compilation of facts about the U.S. presidents when they were ordinary kids, before they became leaders of the free world. Her creative presentation is unique. Even though there may be one president leading the country, the future leaders of tomorrow are always out there, whether they are infants, students in school, lawyers, teachers, or running a farm and business.

The book wraps up with the most important question of all for young people: “So where is the next president?” At least three future presidents are children right now. It invites readers to think BIG and realize that anything is possible. In fact, they may be reading this book right now. Could it be you?   

Her  beautifully designed book will resonate with children. And make sure you peek under the book jacket cover. Adam Rex’s large pastel illustrations feature unusual and interesting stand-out moments for many of the presidents making them appear very ordinary. The text about each president appears in bubbles.  There is a special double-spread –“Snapshot” page — in the center of the book about presidential pets.

This is an excellent classroom discussion book, especially with a presidental election in November.

Resources: The backmatter in the book includes a map of the Presidential Birthplaces. There is information about Presidential Requirements and The Changing Face of America’s Presidency. There are also suggestions for further reading. This is a valuable and creative resource for students and teachers. It is a fun way to get involved in the process.  Afterall, there are three future presidents in school right now.

Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books for kids who wonder, too. A former teacher, she has written more than thirty picture books, chapter books, and novels for young readers. She is an award-winning author whose many books for kids have been selected as Best Books by the New York Times, Junior Library Guild, IndieBound, and Bank Street College of Education. She lives on Lake Champlain with her family. Visit Messner at her website.

*Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Accordionly by Michael Genhart

Accordionly

Michael Genhart, Author

Priscilla Burris, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Apr. 21, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Biculturural families, Grandpas, Music, Connecting, Intergenerational relationships

Opening: “The accordion is a funny-looking instrument. Is it a little piano? Some kind of harmonica?”

Synopsis:

A boy’s abuelo plays the accordion in a mariachi band and he hoots and hollers louder than the rest.  His opa plays the accordion in a polka band and he belts out many yodels. They bring their accordions when they visit and the boy dances a folklórico or sometimes a polka.

But, when the grandpas visit at the same time, they can’t understand each other’s language and there is a lot of silence as they eat, work in the garden, play croquet, or take walks.

The grandson’s clever thinking helps the grandpas find a way for everyone to share the day together. And two cultures become one big happy family.

Why I like this book:

Genhart’s story is pure joy, from his storytelling to the cheerful and lively illustrations by Priscilla Burris. They are bold and colorful and shows how music breaks down barriers. Just look at that winning cover!

Genhart draws from his own biculturual family history to tell the tale of his two grandpas — one Mexican American and the other Swiss American. As does Burris, who is Mexican American and has a grandpa who plays an accordion.

This is a very clever idea for a book, as we all have bits of different cultures in our history.  And there are many of us who have chosen to create bicultural and multiracial families through adoption.  This book will have a far-reaching appeal to many families. It is such an uplifting and feel-good story.

Make sure you don’t miss the special fold-out page and a special Note from the Author at the end.

Resources: Have a discussion with your children about your interesting family heritage. Does anyone in your family play a musical instrument? (My grandmother played an accordion.) Introduce kids to familiar instruments like a piano, harmonica, saxophone, violin, flute, drum, and trumpet. And introduce them to the not-so-familiar instruments that include spoons, pots and pans, kazoo, xylophone,  and glasses filled with different levels of water. Let them have fun!

Michael Genhart, PhD. is the descendant of Mexican Americans and Swiss Americans, and is a licensed clinical psychologist in San Francisco. He has also written Rainbow: A First Book of Pride; Cake & I Scream!, Mac & Geeze, and Peanute Buttery & Jellyous; Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways; I See You; and So many Smarts! Visit Genhart at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for a review.

The Summer We Found Baby by Amy Hest

The Summer We Found Baby

Amy Hest, Author

Candlewick Press, Aug. 4, 2020

Suitable for ages: 9 and up

Themes: Family, Friendship, Community, WWII, Secrets, Mystery

Synopsis:

On the morning of the dedication of the new children’s library in Belle Beach, Long Island, eleven-year-old Julie Sweet and her six-year-old sister, Martha, find a baby in a basket on the library steps. At the same time, twelve-year-old Bruno Ben-Eli is on his way to the train station to catch the 9:15 train into New York City. He is on an important errand for his brother, who is a soldier overseas in World War II. But when Bruno spies Julie, the same Julie who hasn’t spoken to him for sixteen days, heading away from the library with a baby in her arms, he has to follow her. Holy everything, he thinks. Julie Sweet is a kidnapper.

Of course, the truth is much more complicated than the children know in this heartwarming and beautifully textured family story by award-winning author Amy Hest.  The novel captures the moments and emotions of a life-changing summer — a summer in which a baby gives a family hope and brings a community together.

Why I like this book:

The Summer We Found Baby is heartfelt and genuine, especially as Amy Hest explores the idea of family, friendship and community. Set during World War II in a cozy little town on Long Island, it’s a short novel with a fast-paced plot that will keep readers happily engaged.

The narrative is told from three different viewpoints: Bruno Ben-Eli is a resident of Belle Beach, and Julie and Martha Sweet, the “summer people” who are visiting with their widowed father who seeks a place to finish his book.  The three-some each have their own unique spin on things, which makes solving the baby mystery even more interesting.

The characters are memorable. Bruno is worried about his brother and hasn’t quite figured out girls yet. Julie refuses to talk with Bruno because he reads a letter she’s written. Martha feels Julie is too bossy and finds a doating mother figure in Mrs. Ben-Eli, who happens to live next door.

And there is the big grand opening of the new Children’s Library, which Bruno’s mom is in charge of. Julie takes it upon herself to send an invitation of the library opening to a famous woman she admires. Will she accept the invite? This is a perfect summer read for teens.

Amy Hest is the author of many beloved books for young readers, including Remembering Mrs. Rossi, Letters to Leo, and the Katie Roberts novels. She is also the author of many picture books, indluing Kiss Good Night, When Jessie Came Across the Sea, and On the Night of the Shooting Star. She lives in New York City.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

A Feel Better Book for Little Poopers by Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen

A Feel Better Book for Little Poopers

Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen, Authors

Shirley Ng-Benitez, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction,  May 19, 2020

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes: Using the bathroom, Pooping, Scarry, Creating routines, Children

Opening: “The sun is shining, / it’s a beautiful day. /Your  firends are all waiting / to go out and play. / But something has stopped you / from joining the group… / oh no, not again! / You have to go poop!

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Pooping can feel like a BIG deal to a LITTLE kid!

It’s very confusing / when your head says no / but your body is saing / I really need to go!

In lively, soothing rhyming text, this Feel Better Book helps little ones who are first learning to use the bathroom to understand that pooping doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or scary. The gentle and calming narration gives readers concrete coping strategies and practical advice.

Why I like this book:

Kudos to Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen for tackeling this important topic for young children.  I love their opening as it quickly gets to the problem — a little boy has to poop. He’s worried, scared, and doesn’t want to go. So he’s missing out on the morning play time fun with his friends. It’s wrecking his plans for the day. But the boy is not alone. A diverse cast of characters share his anxiety as they learn techniques to relax, imagine and come up with practical solutions.

This book will also help children realize that everyone has to spend time on the potty including superheroes, princesses, presidents, ballerinas, basketball players and firefighters.

The rhyming text will captivate young children, as will some fun potty puns. The illustrations are priceless. Shirley NG-Benitez has added some humor in her expressive illustrations that will lighten the matter and have kids giggling about going No. 2.  Sure to be a hit with young children and a relief for parents (pun intended).

Resources: The author offer an insightful Note to Parents and Caregivers at the end of the book with more information about helping little poopers to stay calm and have success!

Holly Brochmann  and Leah Bowen are sisters and coathors. This is the sisters’ fourth book in the Beel Better Books for Little Kids series: For Little Tears, For Little Worriers, and For Little Tempers. Leah is a licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist. Holly has a degree in journalism and has a career in public relations. Both sisters live in Texas. You can visit them at their website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.”

Efrén Divided by Ernestro Cisneros

Efrén Divided

Ernestro Cisneros, Author

Quill Tree Books, Fiction, Mar. 31, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Undocumented parents, Mexican Americans, Deportation, Family, Friendship, Culture

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman—or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger twin siblings, Max and Mia, feel safe and loved.

But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. And according to the neighborhood talk, or local chisme, families like his are in great danger. Sure enough, Efrén’s  worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.

Now it’s up to Efrén to be brave and figure out how to act soper himself. While Apá takes an extra job to earn the money needed to get Amá back, Efrén looks after the twins, washes laundry, fixes meals, and does his schoolwork. He helps his best friend’s probably-doomed campaign for school president, and worries about what might happen to his family next.

When disaster strikes, Efrén is faced with crossing the border alone to see Amá and deliver a special package. There is danger all around him. More than ever, he must channel his inner Soperboy to help reunite his family.

Why I like this book:

Ernestro Cisneros’s powerful and timely debut novel, Efrén Divided, captures the humanity of children of undocumented Mexican-American families living in the US.  I love that Cisneros wrote this novel for his children to show that Mexican Americans “are worth being written about.” Some of the book was taken from his own childhood.

The plot is both dangerous and heartwarming. The richly textured narrative is peppered with Spanish words and expressions, which are nicely woven into the story in a way that readers will grasp the translation. But there is a glossary of words and expressions at the end of the book. The diverse cast of characters are memorable, especially David, who adds for some fun comic relief.

Although parents immigrate to the US to provide a better life for their children, there is an underlying worry, pain, and fear for all family members. When Efrén’s mother is discovered by ICE, it forces him to grow up too quickly. Although he is a courageous and resilient teen, he carries a huge burden filled with responsibilities. He can’t confide in anyone — even his best friend David — because he puts his undocumented father and family at risk. 

When Efrén crosses the border alone into Tijuana to see his mom, he sees first-hand the reasons why his parents and others risk the trip north. There is danger lurking on every street corner and down every alley. He feels eyes watching him. There is poverty. Young kids are forced to work or beg for money instead of playing. Men and women of all ages sell handmade items along the curbs. He shudders at the US-built border fence where separated families meet with loved ones at a chain link fence.

There will be many teens who will relate to Efrén’s story, whether they have undocumented parents, family members, or know someone who does. This book should be at the top of the list in school classrooms because it is perfect for meaningful discussions.

The ending surprised me. It is realistic and hopeful. Perhaps there is a sequel in the works? Verdict: This book is a winner!

Ernesto Cisneros was born and raised in Santa Ana, California, where he still teaches. Efrén Divided is his first novel. He holds an English degree from the University of California, Irvine; a teaching credential from California State University, Long Beach; as well as a master of fine arts in creative writing from National University. As an author, he believes in providing today’s youth with an honest depiction of characters with whom they can identify. The real world is filled with amazing people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. His work strives to reflect that. You can visit him at his website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

A Doll for Grandma: A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey

A Doll for Grandma: A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey, Author

Samantha Woo, Illustrator

Beaming Books, Fiction, May 5, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Grandparents, Memory, Nursing Homes, Intergenerational relationships, Love

Opening: “Kiera and Grandma always found ways to have fun together.” 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Kiera loves spending time with her grandma. They play dress up. They paint their nails. They make cookies for picnics with Kiera’s doll. But then Grandma starts to change. She starts misplacing items and forgetting how to do everyday tasks. Soon she has to move out of her home into a memory-care center for people with Alzheimer’s. She starts calling Kiera by a different name. Instead of driving around in her sporty car, her grandma travels in a wheelchair. Many times her Grandma stares out a window and doesn’t say much. Then Kiera has an idea and finds a new way to enjoy time with her Grandma.

Why I like this book:

A Doll for Grandma is heartwarming story for children facing a changing relationship with a beloved family member who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s difficult for adults to cope with, but even more confusing for a child. It is also a lovely story about one of my favorite topics — intergenerational relationships.

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey’s sensitive approach of telling the story through a child’s eyes  is so sweet and tender. Sharkey soothing narrative tells of the happy times together until one day Kiera finds her grandmother’s keys in the refrigerator. Other signs of memory issues appear. One day Kiera’s grandmother calls her “Sally Mae.” Kiera comes up with an idea that helps her connect with her grandmother.

Samantha Woo’s illustrations are cheerful and colorful. They lighten the mood on a heavy topic and focus on the positive. And they beautifully express the loving bond between Kiera and her grandmother.

Resource:  A special page with information on helping children understand Alzheimer’s disease written by expert Judy Cornish, the founder of the Dementia and Alzheimer’s Well Being Network® is included for family discussion. Parents will want to read the many uplifting suggestions that will help the entire family enhance their time together with a loved one.

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey is the author of dozens of articles and puzzles for children’s magazines. A Doll for Grandma is her debut picture book. Her inspiration for this story came from working as a volunteer pianist with memory-care residents and from caring for family members with dementia. Both brought moments of great joy and fulfillment. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem by Kate DiCamillo

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem: Tales from Deckawoo Drive #5

Kate DiCamillo, Author

Chris Van Dusen, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Jun. 9, 2020

Suitable for ages: 6 – 9

Themes: School, Poetry, Metaphors, Arguement, Friendship

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Stella Endicott loves her teacher, Miss Liliana, and she is thrilled when the class is assigned to write a poem. Stella crafts a beautiful poem about Mercy Watson, the pig who lives next door — a poem complete with a metaphor and full of curiosity and courage.

But Horace Broom, Stella’s irritating classmate, insists that Stella’s poem is full of lies and that pigs do not live in houses. And when Stella and Horace get into a shouting match in the classroom, Miss Liliana banishes them to the principal’s office. Will the two of them find a way to turn this opposite-of-a-poem day around?

Why I like this book:

Kate DiCamillo’s sweetly satisfying chapter book speaks to children about everyday struggles that are inherhent with school and friendships. As the title eludes to, the theme in this story is anything is possible — even a pig that sleeps on a couch and a friendship with a boy, who metaphorically speaking, is an overblown balloon.

Stella is a spirited, imaginative and determined. She looks for the good in situations. Horace is smug and a know-it-all. When Stella and Horace are sent to principal’s office, Horace buckles in fear. Not Stella. She remembers that “in good stories, the characters face their fate with curiosity and courage” and leads the way. And throughout the story Stella reminds herself that surprises are everywhere and that anything is possible.

The story introduces children to writing poetry and using a metaphor in their poem. It becomes a game for Stella as she begins to see metaphors in everything around her.  The story is also peppered with a few large words like, absconder. The book has seven chapters with 85 pages, perfect for elementary students learning to read longer books.

Chris Van Dusen’s pen and ink illustrations are lively, expressive and entertaining. They are perfect for text.

Make sure you check out the first four books in the Deckawoo Drive series: Leroy Ninker Saddles Up,  Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon, Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?, Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package.

Kate DiCamillo is the beloved author of many books for young readers, including the Mercy Watson and Tales from Deckawoo Drive series. Her books Flora & Ulysses, and The Tale of Despereaux both received Newbery Medals. Her first published middle grade novel, Because of Winn-Dixie, snapped up a Newbery Honor. The Tiger Rising, her second novel, also went on to become a National Book Award finalist.  She has almost 30 million books in print worldwide. She is a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.

The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord

The Mess That We Made

Michelle Lord, Author

Julia Blattman, Illustrator

Flashlight Press, Nonfiction, Jan. 1, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-7

Themes: Oceans, Pollution, Marine Life, Call to Action, Environmentalism

Opening: “THIS is the mess that we made.”

Synopsis:

Join four children in a little boat as they discover the magnitude of The Mess That We Made. With rhythmic language and captivating art, this cumulative tale portrays the terrible impact of trash on the ocean and marine life, inspiring us to make changes to save our seas.

Includes a back section with facts about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, ocean pollution, and Calls to Action for kids and grown‑ups to share.

Why I like this book:

Michelle Lord doesn’t shy away from showing children a realistic view of what is occuring in our oceans, particularly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But it also is an inspiring call to action for readers that is hopeful and empowering. Julia Blattman’s colorful and beautiful illustrations will capture children’s imaginations.

The snappy text is set to the familiar nursery rhyme The House That Jack Built, with each of the stanzas ending with “the mess that we made.”  First half of the books sets the scene about what is happening to the marine life that are being hurt by the plastics and trash that humans dump into the ocean. “This is the plastic, thrown away, / that traps the turtle, green and gray, / that rides the current through the bay, / that rocks the boat of welded steel, / that dumps the net, / that catches the seal, / that eats the fish / that swim in the mess that we made.” The second half enourages readers to take action, beginning with a beach clean-up day.

Lord’s has done an exceptional amount research for her educational book. Make sure you check out the back matter where she elaborates on each of the repeated phrases, describing how each animal is affected by pollution, and why plastics are particularly problematic.  At the bottom of each topic she suggests ways children can begin to make a difference: using reusable bags, disposing trash in proper recyling bins, using recyclable straws, and drinking from reusable water bottles. A third page focuses on solutions and activities. And check out the back end pages for a map of the Ocean Garbage Patches.

This may seem like a heavy topic, but it is one that children will want to get involved in. They will see the way that they can be helpful.  It deserves a place in every school library/classroom.

Resources: This is a perfect classroom book where kids can talk about the problem, take action at school and home to make sure they are helping to reduce pollution. And there are many clean-ups that take place to remove trash from beaches, rivers, lakes and  neighborhoods.  Check out the Flashlight Press website for even more resources.

Michelle Lord is the author of several books for children including Paterson Prize Honor Book A Song for Cambodia, Nature Recycles, and Animal School: What Classe are You?  She lives with her family in New Braunfels, TX.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Seed Savers: Heirloom by Sandra Smith

Seed Savers: Heirloom (Book 3)

Sandra Smith, Author

Flying Books House, Jan. 3, 2019

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Futuristic adventure, Gardening, Government, Politics, Family, Empowerment

Synopsis:

It’s late in the twenty-first century (2077) and large corporations have merged with U.S. government agencies to control the nation’s food supply. Not only is gardening and seed ownership illegal, but fresh food is unheard of by the masses who are fed the processed food groups of Vitees, Proteins, Carbos, Snacks, and Sweeties.

Thirteen-year-old Clare and her brother Dante have escaped to Canada where the old ways still exist. There that they make friends with the roguish Jason and learn the political history of their own country’s decline of freedoms.

Meanwhile, Lily, the friend who was left behind, begins a journey to find the father she never met—a former leader in the ill-fated Seed Savers rebellion of fifteen years earlier. From Florida to the Smoky Mountains, Lily follows the signs in search of her father and is helped along the way by the quirky characters she meets. Not to mention the attractive Arturo who shows up midway to “protect” her.

Heirloom seamlessly weaves the gentle agrarian story of Clare and Dante together with the swiftly-paced adventure of Lily and Arturo. Themes of family, empowerment, and politics meet in this futuristic tale nostalgic for the past. Heirloom is a hopeful dystopia in today’s current sea of post-apocalyptic literature.

Why I like this book:

Heirloom is the third novel Sandra Smith’s futuristic Seed Savers series.  It’s an engaging adventure from start to finish. Heirloom is a smooth transition from the second novel, Lily. Make sure you read Ana’s Prologue at the beginning.

Heirloom advances the stories of Clare, Dante, Lily (part Japanese) and Arturo (Mexican), in alternating chapters. The characters are all courageous and passionate about their mission to advance the seed saving mission. Lily has fled to search for her father in Florida with Arturuo joining her on her journey. Clare and Dante are learning about hybrid, heirloom, and open-pollinated seeds in Canada.

Teens will find this compelling series timely and thought-provoking. It challenges them to think about the global food supply — consumers losing their ability to choose the kind of food they want to eat, big corporations taking over small farms, and foods that are genetically modified. A lot of what happens in this series is based on fact, even though Smith says she changes the names of corporations.

This may be a fantasy novel, but it certainly has opened my eyes to a potential problem in the future.  And, I was very surprised to learn that there really are seed libraries, seed savers and a network of seed savers all over the world. Make sure you read The Author’s Note at the end.

Heirloom is followed by Keeper and Unbroken. Visit Sandra Smith at her website. This series reminds me a bit of The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Resources:  Click here at Flying Books House for discussion questions on the first two books in the series. They are perfect for classroom or book club use. May there be a day when all our food is processed and comes in the form of Proteins, Sweeties, Vitees, Carobs and Snacks? And check out the author’s note at the end of the book.

Sandra Smith is the author of the award-winning Seed Savers series. She has a Master’s degree in Teaching English and spent over twenty years teaching students of all ages English as a Second Language. As a child, Sandra worked on her parents’ berry farm and enjoyed eating from her mother’s tremendously large garden. She maintains that if you can’t taste the soil on a carrot, it’s not fresh enough. Today, she lives in the city with her husband, cats, and backyard hens. She grows a small, urban garden every summer. When she’s not gardening or turning tomatoes into spaghetti sauce, Sandra writes poetry or novels inspired by her garden.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by author in echange for a review.