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 Case of the Missing Auntie by Michael Hutchinson

The Case of the Missing Auntie (A Mighty Muskrats Mystery)

Michael Hutchinson

Second Story Press, Fiction, Mar. 17, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Mystery, Adventure, First Nations, Canada, Indigenous Children, Government, Bullies

Publisher’s Synopsis:

In this second book in the Mighty Muskrats Mystery series, the four problem-solving cousins (now bona fide amateur sleuths) are off to the city to have fun at the the Exhibition Fair. But when Chickadee asks Grandpa what he would like them to bring back from the city, she learns about Grandpa’s missing little sister. The sister was “scooped up” by the government and adopted out to strangers without her parents’ permission many years ago — like many Indigenous children. Their grandfather never stopped missing her or wondering what happened to her. Now the Mighty Muskrats have a new mystery to solve.

Once in the bright lights of the big city, the cousins get distracted, face-off with bullies, meet some heroes and unlikely teachers, and encounter racism and many other difficulties First Nations kids can face in the city. The Muskrats’ search for their missing auntie will take them all the way to the government, where they learn hard truths about their country’s treaatment of First Nations people.

Why I like this book:

The Mighty Muskrats are back again and they have a new mystery to solve, finding their Cree grandfather’s missing sister, Charlotte. The story is entertaining in the beginning as the four cousins leave the reservation (rez) to have fun in the big city and sobering once they settle down to pursue every lead to discover what happened to Charlotte.

Michael Hutchinson’s captivating mystery brings history to life and helps readers learn about the injustice done to indigenous First Nations children between 1950-1980. The stories of mistreatment and betrayal by the government must be told so youth of today don’t forget what happened to many of their relatives.

Chickadee takes the lead in this story. She is a savvy and unstoppable detective who is not going to let the government bureaucracy get in her way as she travels back and forth between agencies and administrators who go by the book when they could show some heart.  For, Atim attending the Exhibition Fair is his mission. Otter’s heart is focused on getting concert tickets to see his favorite band, “The Wovoka Wail.” Samuel leads them into trouble with dangerous gangs and bullies, before he gets serious about the search for their great-aunt Charlotte. After some teenage missteps, the three male cousins show their super sleuth abilities and stand with Chickadee.

I enjoyed this contemporary story about four resourceful teens, the Indigenous “rez”, mixed with tribal wisdom of their grandfather, a respected elder. The ending is well done and I don’t want to give anything away for readers. Just make sure you have a box of kleenex handy.

Make sure you check out the first book in this Mighty Muskrats Mystery series, The Case of Windy Lake, about growing up on a First Nations reservation. This book is ideal for school libraries and classroom reading.

Michael Hutchinson is a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation. He currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he works with organizations that advocate for First Nations families in Manitoba and across Canada.

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 the publisher.

Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen

Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 31, 2020

#ReadYourWorld

Sumo Joe

Mia Wenjen, Author

Nat Iwata, Illustrator

Lee & Low Books, Fiction, Jun 11, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Sumo, Aikido, Wrestling, Martial Art Forms, Rhyme, Multicultural

Opening: Get up early, have to hurry. / Sumo Joe.

Synopsis:

On Saturday mornings, Sumo Joe is a gentle big brother to his little sister. But on Saturday afternoons, he and his friends are sumo wrestlers! They tie on make-shift mawashi belts, practice drills such as teppo, and compete in their homemade ring. They even observe sumo’s ultimate rule: no girlsl allowed! But when Sumo Joe’s sister wants to join the fun, Sumo Joe is torn between the two things he’s best at: sumo, and being a big brother.

Why I like this book:

Mia Wenjen’s debut book, Sumo Joe, is an original, lively and heartwarming multicultural story about sibling relationships and martial arts for children. I knew little about sumo wrestlers, so I enjoyed learning about this ancient Japanese sport.

The rhyming text is clever and simple enough for children to read on their own. Nat Iwata’s big colorful illustrations are perfect for Sumo Joe. They are bold, expressive and humorous. They show the bond between the siblings, as well as the competitiveness.

Sumo Joe is gentle and kind. His determined sister, Aikido Jo, uses her training in aikido to take on her brother in the sacred ring, even though “no girls” are allowed.  And you will have to read the book to find out what happens with his spitfire little sister, who has some moves of her own.

Readers will learn about wrestling, blessing the makeshift ring of pillows with sacred salt, sumo techniques and the traditional apparel – black  mawashi belts.

Resources: Make sure you check out the Author’s Note about the sport of sumo wrestling. There is a Glossary of terms about sumo wrestling moves. Visit Wenjen’s page for Sumo activities. Also check out Lee & Low’s Teacher Guide.

Note: Mia Wenjen would love to do Skype visits with school classrooms. Her visits are free. Please email her at pragmaticmomblog@gmail.com if you would like to arrange a visit.

Mia Wenjen is an entrepreneur, children’s author and a blogger at Pragmatic Mom, a popular online resource for parents and educators. As the cofounder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia is passionate about diverse representation in children’s picture books.

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 author.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

 Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,

Platinum

Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,

Gold

Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,

Silver

Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,

Bronze

Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books,  TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here

The Twitter Party is Jan. 31, 2020 from 9 pm to 10 pm. ET. Follow the twitter  #ReadYourWorld hashtag to join and win.

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Our Future: How Kids are Taking Action by Janet Wilson

Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 31, 2020

#ReadYourWorld

Our Future: How Kids are Taking Action

Janet Wilson, Author and Illustrator

Second Story Press, Nonfiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Child Activists, Making a Difference, Climate Action, Cyberbullying, Gun Violence, Social Justice

Opening: “As anyone will admit, listening to the news can be scary — hurricanes, school shootings, forest fires, wars. What are we to make of a world that seems ever more troubled and fragile?… And so kids are taking action, rising to question the sanity of common practices.” 

Book Synopsis:

From climate action to cyberbullying, from gun violence to animal protection, these young activists have brought about real change.

Young people from across the globe are raising awareness about what issues matter to them most and working to protect the future of the worlds we all share.

American Jaelun Parkerson kneels with his football teammates during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, Canadian Autumn Peltier spoke in front of the United Nations to raise awareness about water pollution; and Tiassa Mutunkei from Kenya started a club for young people to stop elephants from being killed for their ivory tusks. All of them are making a difference for the future of our plaent — and you can too!

Why I like this book:

Janet Wilson writes empowering and timely nonfiction books about ordinary young people who see injustice around them and take action  — no matter how small or large — and make a contribution in their communities, countries and world.

Wilson’s books are my favorite kind of books to share because there is an urgency in our world and kids are concerned that adults aren’t doing enough. We hear it in the plea from 15-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden who is leading worldwide protests for climate change and speaking before the United Nations because she feels leaders are failing her generation. Meet Melati and Isabel Wijsen of Indonesia, who saw firsthand the negative impacts of plastic pollution and petitioned their government to ban plastic bags in Bali.

These children and teens are bold and brave and are working for the rights of children in a peaceful way.  Wilson captures their engaging stories in a double-page spread which features a warm and beautifully painted illustration of the featured child on the left and text and photographs about the child’s contribution on the right, along with a colorful sidebar of other kids doing similar projects globally. Read their stories and you will be inspired! This multiculatural book belongs in school libraries.

Resources: The book is a resource. At the end there is a section for students on “What YOUth Can Do,” that will spark many lively discussions and encourage kids to think about what they may do alone or together to make the world a better place. What will you do? Visit Janet Wilson at her website.

Quote:

“Young people are a part of the largest generation in history — two billion strong. Around the globe young people are coming together to build a movement for success…Yes we face a lot of big problems, but we can start fixing them through a lot of small actions…If each one of you takes action, you will create a wave of action like this world has never, ever seen. Be a part of two billion acts for good. Because, step by step, little by little, we will get to a better world. Together let’s get the job done.” Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General

Janet Wilson is an artist and author of many picture books on child activism including  Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet, and Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World, and Our Heroes: How Kids are Making a Difference, which are popular with educators and students. She also wrote Shannen and the Dream for a School and Severn and the Day She Silenced the World.  Winter’s books  have won many awards.

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 publisher.

Freedom Soup by Tami Charles

Freedom Soup

Tami Charles, Author

Jacqueline Alcántara, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Dec. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Haitians, New Years Day, Family Recipe, Traditions, History, Freedom

Opening: “Today is New Years Day. This year, I get  to help make Freedom Soup. Ti Gran says I’ve got a heart made for cooking, and its time I learn how.”

Book Synopsis:

Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the New Year by eating Freedom Soup, a tration dating back to the Haitian Revolution. The year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup. Just as she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, the dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast.

“Know why they call it Freedom Soup?” Ti Gran asks. She then tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from and the passing down of traditions from one generation to the next.

Why I like this book:

Tami Charles’ lively holiday Haitian tale is a celebration of family, culture, traditions, and community. Just look at that gorgeous cover! Dance your way across this joyful story with Ti Gran, whose feet tap-tap to the kompa beat as she shows her granddaughter how to mash herbs, peel the cooked pumpkin, chop the vegetables and brown the meat for their special soup.

Reader’s will learn about a Haiti, a faraway country where Ti Gran was born. Her descemdents were slaves working in sugarcane and coffee fields until they fought and won their freedom from the French in 1803.

Make sure you read the “Author’s Note” at the end.  Tami Charles’ shares her family’s story with readers and more detailed history about abolishment of slavery in Haiti and Haitian Independence Day.

Jacqueline Alcántara’s bold and colorful illustrations make this vibrant story sing from Ti Gran’s soup kitchen to the revolutionary scenes. They also capture the spirit of the Haitian community. The beautiful collaboration between the author and illustrator, makes Freedom Soup a perfect multiculture choice for holiday collections.

Personal Note:  I was thrilled to review this beautiful and upbeat Haitian story. Haiti is special to our family because our daughter went on two medical mission trips to Haiti and introduced us to this beautiful country that is filled with so much soul. We sponsored Haitian children for years so they could attend school. It is also a poor country that has suffered many natural disasters in recent years.

Resources: Make the recipe for Freedom Soup, which is printed at the end of the book along with an Author’s note. Make sure you read the “Author’s Note” at the end.  Charles’ shares her family’s story with readers and more detailed history about abolishment of slavery in Haiti and Haitian Independence Day.

Tami Charles is the author of numerous books for children, including her fiction debut, Like Vanessa. During an appearance on Good Morning America, she featured a Thanksgiving version of Freedom Soup, which she first learned to make from her husband’s ti gran. Tami Charles lives in New Jersey.

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.

My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva

My Fate According to the Butterfly

Gail D. Villanueva, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Jul. 30, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Superstitions, Philippines, Sisters, Family relationships, Drug addiction, Diversity

Book Synopsis:

Sab Dulce is doomed!

When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows her fate is sealed. According to the legend her father used to tell her, she has a week before destiny catches up with her. Even worse, that week ends on her birthday! All she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her journalist sister, Ate Nadine, cut their father out of her life one year ago, and Sab has no idea why.

If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears — of her sister’s anger, leaving the bubble of her shelter community, her upcoming doom — and figure out the cause of their rift.

So with time running out, Sab and her best friend, Pepper, start spying on Ate Nadine and digging into their family’s past. Soon Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths more complicated, and more dangerous, than she ever anticipated.

Set in the Philippines, this is a moving coming-of-age story about family, reconciliation, and recovery. Readers will root fiercely for the irrepressible Sab as she steps out of her cocoon and takes her fate into her own hands.

Why I like this book:

My Fate According to the Butterfly is a compelling and mesmerizing story about culture, superstition, family secrets, substance abuse and forgiveness. This is the first novel I have reviewed about this beautiful country.

The author basis her story on many of her own real life experiences as a girl growing up in the Philippines. Readers will learn a lot about its rich culture, superstitions, traditions, subway systems, and cuisine — especially the mouthwatering descriptions that will tempt their senses.

Readers will learn about the colonial mentality in the Philippines that is a result of the colonization by Spain. Sab is brown and flat-nosed, something she is very conscious of, as opposed to her friend, Pepper, who is light-skinned, has blue eyes and has a bridge to her nose. It is a stigma of sorts for Sab and she doesn’t feel beautiful. And Sab is very aware how differently she’s treated in public — “white is beautiful, brown is not.”

When a giant black butterfly crosses Sab’s path, she sets out to get her father and older sister, Ate Nadine, to fix their relationship in case her time is running out. It is interesting to watch this wonderfully real protagonist work through this long-held superstition and come to her own conclusions.

Sab is planning her eleventh birthday, but ends up uncovering secrets about her father’s substance abuse. Many readers will identify with an addictive parent, which is a problem for Filipino families, both rich and poor, as it is worldwide. It has spit Sab’s family, but it is also an opportunity for the family to heal.

Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer, an entrepreneur, and a graphic artist. Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their doges, ducks, turtle, cats on one friendly but lonesome chicken. Visit her website.

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.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

Nowhere Boy

Katherine Marsh, Author

Roaring Brook Press, Fiction, Aug. 7, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes: Boat refugee, Syrian crisis, American boy, Belgium, Resilience, Friendship, Self-discovery, Hope

Book Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stranded in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Syria. He loses his mother and sister when their home is bombed. He flees with his father on a perilous journey to the shores of Europe. The rubber boat they are in takes on water, and Ahmed’s father jumps into the water with two other men to pull the boat to shore. But his father is lost to the sea. One of the men, Ibrahim looks after Ahmed and takes him to Belgium, where they end up in a tent city. Ahmed flees and is struggling to get by on his own, with no one left, no money and nowhere to go, his hope  fading.

Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old boy from Washington D.C., who is living with his family in Belgium for a year. Max is having trouble at his new school learning French and just can’t seem to do anything right, according to his parents. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed’s lives collide and a friendship begins to grow. Ahmed is hiding in a wine cellar of Max’s home and needs help. Together Ahmed and Max will defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave and how hope can change your destiny.

Why I like this book:

Nowhere Boy has a gripping plot that won’t let you go until you finish the book — all 358 pages. Ahmed’s journey is perilous across the sea. But the journey that Ahmed and Max make across Europe is even more thrilling. It gives readers an important snapshot of how refugees are welcomed in some countries and treated like criminals in others. There are so many themes covered in this book: refugee crisis, Syrian war, terrorism in France and Belgium, Islamophobia and heroism. This is an important classroom book.

The alternating chapters by Max and Ahmed’s strong voices, adds depth to the characters and the expert storytelling. Readers will enjoy meeting Max, Ahmed, Farah and Oscar. Max is clearly the hero of the story when he decides to hide Ahmed in his basement wine cellar to keep him safe from the unwelcoming Belgium police. Although he isn’t doing well in his new school,  he is smart, determined and cleverly outsmarts a lot of people. Max has an intuitive sense of people and a huge heart. Ahmed is resilient, thoughtful and never gives up on his dreams of returning to school and making a better life for himself.  Max recruits Farah, a Muslim girl born in Belgium and Oscar, the school bully to help him create an identity for Ahmed so he can attend school. Oscar is a surprising character and who has an interesting journey of his own in this story.

Max lives on a street named Albert Jonnart.  Jonnart hid a Jewish boy during WW II in his home, helped  him escape the Nazi’s, but was sent to a labor camp himself. Max sees the comparison between Jonnart and Anne Frank’s story and similarities between the Jewish and the Syrian refugees. He learns as much as he can about Jonnart. It gives Max the courage and inner strength to plan and execute what he feels is “right” for Ahmed, just like Jonnart did.

This is a timely book that clearly demonstrates what fear does to people.  Madame Pauline, a woman Max’s parents hired to keep an eye on him after school, views all Syrians and Muslims as dangerous and potential terrorists. Her life is consumed with fear and hatred, as are other characters in the story who remember how WW II weakened Europe. This is an important topic for discussion.

Nowhere Boy is an exciting read packed with history (past and present), but it’s also a book about friendship, self-discovery and hope. It belongs in classrooms as an important discussion book. Make sure you read the interview questions with the author, Katharine Marsh, at the end of the book and visit her website.

Katherine Marsh is the Edgar Award-winning author of The Night Tourist; The Twilight Prisoner; Jepp, Who Defied the Stars; and The Doors by the Staircase. Katherine grew up in New York and now lives in Brussels, Belgium, with her husband and two children.

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.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

April is National Poetry Month

Imagine

Juan Felipe Herrera, Author

Lauren Castillo, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Poetry, Sep. 25, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Poetry, Juan Felipe Herrera, Imagination, Migrant workers, Moving, Multicultural

Opening: If I picked chamomile flowers / as a child / in the windy fields and whispered / to their fuzzy faces, / imagine.

Synopsis:

Have you ever imagined who you might be when you grow up?

When Juan Felipe Herrera was very young, he picked flowers, helped his mama feed the chickens, slept under the starry sky, and learned to say good-bye to his amiguitos each time his migrant family moved on. When he grew up, Juan Felipe Herrera became a poet.

Why I like this book:

Doesn’t that cover just tug at your heart? This beautiful book is taken from Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem, “Imagine.” It depicts Herrera’s life as the  young boy of migrant workers spending time outside exploring nature, traveling across country with his parents in search of work, learning to read, write and speak a new language when he attends school. He is a curious dreamer who loves life, nature and words. As a teen his words become stories, poetry and lyrics to songs. As an adult, he  becomes the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017.

Written in free verse, each page begins with “If I picked…if I walked.. if I practiced…If I wrote ” and ends with “imagine.” His poetry beckons children to be dreamers of their futures — to “imagine” their own stories as they read his beautiful lyrics.  What stories will they write for themselves? Will they be poets, scientists, artists, lawyers, doctors and musicians? They only need to imagine what they can do.

Lauren Castillo’s ink and foam monoprint illustrations are warm and cozy and beautifully compliment  Herrera’s poem. Her earth-toned illustrations are in soft shades of tan and brown, with yellows, blues and greens highlighting each page. Make sure you check beneath the book jacket to discover a dreamy blue cover speckled with stars.

Resources: This book can be used in many different ways by educators. Different pages will inspire students. Encourage kids to pick a page and imagine who might they be when they grow up. The “If I…” prompts are a great opener for writing a few paragraphs about their stories. Other students may want to draw a picture about themselves and their story.

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.

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

The Bridge Home

Padma Venkatraman, Author

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Feb. 5, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 10 and up

Themes: Runaways, Homelessness, Survival, India, Friendship, Social issues, Hope

Opening: Talking to you was always easy, Rukku. But writing’s hard.

Synopsis:

Life is tough on the teeming streets of Chennai, India, as runaway sisters Viji and Rukku quickly discover. For cautious-minded Viji, this is not a surprise — but she hadn’t realized just how vulnerable she and her sister would actually feel in this uncaring, dangerous world.

Fortunately, the girls find shelter — and friendship — on an abandoned bridge that’s also the hideout of Muthi and Arul, two homeless boys. The four of them soon form a family of sorts, sharing food and supplies and laughing together about the absurdities of life. And while making their living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to take pride in, too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves — and are truly hoping to keep it that way…

Padma Venkatraman’s moving survival story brings to light the obstacles faced by young people in many parts of the world, and is inspired by children she met during her years in India. Her heroic characters will touch readers with their perseverance and unwavering love for each other.

Why I love this book:

Padma Venkatraman’s passionate, heartbreaking and hopeful novel sheds light on the extreme poverty of four homeless children in India. Her powerful storytelling and vivid imagery, draws readers into their extraordinary journey. The setting is culturally rich. Venkatraman is a lyrical writer and there are many poetic turns of phrase. The novel is a beautiful love letter written by Viji to her sister, Rukku.

The four heroic children in the story are homeless for different reasons and will touch reader’s hearts. Viji and Rukku bravely flee an abusive and alcoholic father.  Arul’s parents are killed in accident. Muthu’s stepbrother sells him into child labor. Other street children are abandoned on streets or dumped in orphanages. Viji is protective of Rukku, her developmentally challenged sister.

The plot is dangerous and suspenseful, making this story a page turner. Life may be harsh for this four-some as they scale the garbage heaps, but it also shows their resilience, sense of adventure, deep friendship and hope. The richness of their close relationship makes this story shine brightly, even in the face of adversity. They are brothers and sisters. “We’re not just friends, we’re family,” says Arul. 

There are lighter moments when Rukku befriends a stray puppy, she names Kutti. Rukku doesn’t like sifting through garbage and sits beneath a tree stringing beads into intricate necklaces. Her jewelry brings a nice profit in the local markets and helps feed their family. Viji also begins to see what her sister can do, rather than what she can’t do. I love these uplifting moments.

Growing up in India, Venkatraman’s memories of starving children provide the inspiration for her novel, The Bridge Home.  Her story is well-researched and she draws her story from the tales of the children she meets while doing volunteer work with her mother at respectable children’s homes and schools. Most important, I love that she writes about a culture she knows so well. I hope we see more uplifting novels from her in the future.

Padma Venkatraman was born in India and became an American after living in five countries and working as an oceanographer. She is also the author of A Time to Dance, Island’s End, and Climbing the Stairs. Visit her at her website. I highly recommend her other novels.

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

*Purchased copy.

Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans

Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans

Tina Cho, Author

Keum Jin Song, Illustrator

Little Bee Books, Historical Fiction, Aug. 14, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Korea, Hunger, Compassion, Kindness, Making a difference

Opening: Out in the countryside, across a bridge, to an island blanketed with rice fields, Appa and I ride. We reach a place where mountains become a wall. A wall so high, no one dares to climb. Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have enough food to eat.

Synopsis:

Yoori and her father (Appa) travel to the border of South Korea to help with a secret mission to feed the children of North Korea. Appa grew up starving in North Korea before he escaped. They arrive and meet many other volunteers who are eager to help.  They also are met by angry villagers who chant “Don’t feed the enemy.”

There is a lot of work to be done before nightfall. Rice is poured into smaller bags. Under the cover of darkness, large balloons are filled with helium and bags of rice are tied onto each tail. Appa and Yoori give their balloons a little push as they rise into the sky – Up! Up! Up!. It is a good night as 200 balloons are launched into the air and float over the mountains into North Korea. In the morning, hungry children and families will find rice from friends who care.

Why I like this book:

There is so much beauty in Tina Cho’s book. What a powerful fictionalized story based on true stories of South Koreans showing their kindness and compassion towards the starving children and families living under the heartless North Korean regime. Children hear about North Korea on TV, but don’t understand what is happening.

Cho’s language is lyrical with lovely imagery and a gentle rhythm — “I am a little grain of rice. How can I help?” and “The stars and moon hide under the rain clouds as two hundred balloons creep over the mountains like stealthy ninjas to fight hunger in the darkness of the night.” Keum Jin Song’s beautiful illustrations are hopeful and capture many touching moments. They are colorful and dramatic.

This is my favorite kind of story to share with children because it shows average kids doing something to make a difference for others less fortunate. It is a stark reminder that children can make a difference in their community and world. Rice from Heaven is the perfect medium to start a dialogue about a communist state. It belongs in every school library.

Resources: Encourage kids to write about a time they helped someone and how it made them feel. Look for  projects at school or in the community where kids can make a difference. Make sure you read the Author’s Note about participating in a rice balloon project, sponsored by North Korean refugees who live in Seoul. There are interesting facts about Korea (food, customs, lucky numbers), information about the Politics of the Korean Peninsula and facts on North Korea.

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.

*Purchased Copy