Total Pageviews

Thursday, June 30, 2022

See You Someday Soon, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Suzy Lee. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $26.99 ages 3 and up


"But I can't. 
           There's school. 
Mom and Dad's jobs. 

Plus, rockets and jet packs and catapults
cost money. 
Even if you build them yourself.

This is a book that will always speak to my heart. As you will know, if you regularly read this blog, I have two granddaughters. They live half a country away from where I live. That will not change. With regular FaceTime calls, we are able to keep up on what's happening there and here. It has to be enough; I can tell you that I happily anticipate any real visits we are able to plan. The next one happens in TWO days! 

Reading this story of love between a grandmother and her grandchild hits all the high spots. Told in the child's first-person voice, the longing to see each other is fully shown. They share telephone calls, video chats and even letters. The child's imagination is given full rein when dreaming up other ways that they might see each other 'soon'. Would a rocket work? Or a jet pack? Or even a catapult? It's fun to think about what might work. Yes, it would certainly be a surprise to open the front door and find that it had.  

"Did you know you can see me on your computer? 
Yes, really. 

If you push the right button and I look at the right 
spot. That spot. Over there. 
Isn't that better? 

Now you can show me your new glasses
And I can show you how much 
I've grown. 

I know you'll be surprised."

Constant creative suggestions are made for the two to spend time together again. They will delight and engage readers as they come to life on the page. Repeating the 'see you someday soon' theme keeps the two always hoping together that their wishes will come true. It is a reminder of what happened with families as they journeyed through the COVID lockdowns, and also for loved ones who live across long distances. 

Suzy Lee's art is described as being 'created with pencil, crayon and watercolor and then digitally manipulated. The die-cuts were used to show how the characters could be physically closer together through the pages.' It is a beauty, full of love and humor. The ending is perfection.                                                                                      

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A Seed Grows, by Antoinette Portis. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2022. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"and the seed 




into the open air "

Oh, to be a very young child today and have the great good luck to share books by Ms. Portis! In this new book that focuses on seed growth, readers will see first-hand the life cycle of a sunflower. The verso tells the story in simple steps, while the recto displays an image that demonstrates the action. 

That action moves forward from page to page, helping readers see that the seed needs soil, sun, and rain to establish itself and continue to grow ... and grow ... and grow! At just exactly the right time, readers lift a flap upwards to see the full glory of the marvelous flower that will soon fill with seeds. Then, the cycle can begin again. 

The text flows seamlessly, and makes for an enjoyable read with little ones. As they watch birds find the seeds, take them to their nest, and drop yet another one, they know that they can return to the beginning of the book and replay the action all over again. 

Back matter provides a clear look at the steps in the plant's life cycle, as well as a set of facts about the sunflower itself: parts of a sunflower seed, what the seed needs to sprout, and parts of a sunflower plant. A list of resources encourages further exploration.  Perfect! 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

When the Wind Came, written by Jan Andrews and illustrated by Dorothy Leung. Kids Can Press, 2022. $21.99 ages


"I remember my mother 
grabbing my baby brother. 

I remember her running 
with him in her arms. 

I remember my father opening 
the door to the root cellar.

The first-person narration of a young child recalling a natural disaster that changed her life is both devastating and uplifting.  In the beginning, the family was spending the day outdoors on their prairie home. Papa tended to the cattle, and Mama to the weeds. The baby was whimpering and disturbing his sister's quiet reading. From this idyllic moment on, everything changed. 

She vividly remembers when the wind came, and the devastation it left in its wake. As it worsened, Papa made sure the cows were inside, Mama grabbed the baby, and they all ran toward the root cellar. DARK. SILENCE. Nothing to do but wait. When the wind was gone, so was their house. 

Together, they did what needed to be done. After finding enough food to eat, and while her parents were packing up what they could salvage, she did the dishes. As she did, she created bubbles that resulted in some joy, and laughter. While the laughs didn't change anything that had happened, they really did change everything going forward. 

Dorothy Leung’s illustrations, done in pencil and paint, pay homage to the land and the emotions felt in the midst of this heartbreaking event. They perfectly complement this spare and quietly shared memory. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Like, written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Leo Espinosa. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up


Mushrooms grow, like we do. They need 
air and water and food, like we do. They
make more mushrooms, like we do (okay,
okay, we don't make mushrooms; we 
make people).

But mushrooms don't have anything to say, 
and even if they did, they wouldn't have a 
way to say it. They don't have mouths. 
They don't have brains either. 

It's not a rude thing to say. It's the truth."

I LIKE this book. 

A child narrator speaks directly to readers, relating that we are all people and that makes us different from most other things that live on Earth with us. First up is the tin can. There is not one thing that makes people similar to a tin can. What about a swimming pool? We have 'water, chemicals and dirt inside us.' A bit like a swimming pool is what we are. 

There are ways children are like mushrooms. But the differences outweigh the similarities. So, readers are moved to the next comparison: an excavator! Before turning the page, what do readers think? Are we the same in any way to an excavator? Can it do things better than we can? Then, what about a hyena? 

I love that this book asks readers to think about comparisons between a wide variety of objects. Each additional character comes a little closer to being 'like' humans. 

"Hey, It's me! And there's you! 
Look at us! 
Are we alike? 

We are not exactly alike." 

What a terrific book to use with kids to inspire critical thinking. How many other comparisons can they make?. With guidance and discussion, this book also offers an invitation to do some follow-up writing. 

Colorful, energetic artwork by Leo Espinosa is sure to appeal to listeners as they watch this family work together to consider comparisons and be an important part of the learning. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Marie Mitchell. Written by Laura Alary and illustrated by Ellen Rooney. Kids Can Press, 2022. $21.99 ages 8 and up

"The captain wasn't so sure. What could a girl 
possibly know of mathematics and machines? 
But what choice did he have? Maria set to work, 
her mind whirling with numbers, calculations, and 
measurements as tiny and precise as the springs 
and gears of the chronometer. 

She did not make a single mistake."

Born in the early 1800s, there were expectations of Maria to do what all young girls and women did at the time. There was so much more Maria wanted to do with her life. Balancing the duties expected of her with her innate curiosity, she made time to get outside in the wider world and extend her collections. She gathered natural elements that she found while, at the same time, ideas and words filled her thoughts. She was constantly on the lookout for something special. 

Even as an adult, her search for more was continuous. She longed to leave her island home in search of more. Whaling ships did not provide a solution; her interest in the stars and the role they played in guiding those ships was more to her liking. She looked to her father, a man of science, to teach her how to use a sextant to learn about the sky and its many wonders. She noted every discovery in her notebook. On the day her father was unavailable to help a ship's captain get his chronometer fixed; Maria stepped in and did the job. Her father was quick to reward her with a quiet place to do her writing and dreaming. 

Maria was a determined child and woman, never content to do what others expected of her. 

"She was a dreamer. 
A wonderer. A collector. 
She had to keep looking. 

But she also had to make a living."

Maria was not one to sit still. She started her own school. She became a librarian which led to new learning, and finally an opportunity to be the first person in the world to spot a new comet. Her search ended with a brand-new discovery, and a chance to make a name for herself in scientific circles. Offered a job as a professor of astronomy in New York, she found her calling and a use for all the knowledge she had gathered.  It took tenacity to be the teacher she wanted to be, and to encourage her students to do as she had done: ask questions, learn as much as possible, and put a rest to the expectations of others for the life they wanted to live. 

She passed the message to young family members as well, encouraging them to question everything. It remains an important lesson today. Well-written and appealing, this book offers readers a chance to learn about a woman of science whose wonder at the world led her to discover much about herself. 
Ellen Rooney uses collage artwork to take readers back in time, providing context for the information presented about a woman whose life is not well-known, and should be. 

Back matter includes an author’s note about life in Mitchell’s era, her Quaker background, and her belief in freedom of choice for boys and girls, as well as a list of resources. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Oliver Bounces Back! Written by Alison Hughes and illustrated by Charlene Chua. North Winds Press, Scholastic, 2021. $16.99 ages 4 and up


"At recess, Oliver dropped his muffin in 
the dirt, stepped in a puddle, and totally 
soaked his shoe. Then a third-grader 
dropped his ball cap into the mud. 

Oliver just sat there, 
not playing soccer,
not climbing on the 
climbers, not doing 

We ALL have them - bad days! In fact, Alexander had a 'terrible, horrible, no good, very bad'  day. I read that wonderful book by Judith Viorst many, many, many times when our kids were young. I still have a copy to share with my granddaughters. 

Oliver knows exactly how Alexander was feeling so long ago, and I am sure he knows the same about the kids and adults are having bad days today. They are inevitable; it's how we handle them that makes all the difference. His day from beginning until recess is filled with some of the things that have happened, at one time or another, to most of us. 

His hairbrush tangles in his hair, his favorite shirt is still in the wash, and his baby sister throws a banana that hits him in the face. What a way to get started on a new day! After the difficulties at home, getting to the bus adds to his frustration. A dropped juice box, a delay on the way to school, and being late only makes things worse. 

Luckily, Oliver has sympathetic people in his life willing to narrate what is going on with him. His mother, father, friend, bus driver, teacher, and classmates willingly share the mishaps and problems. Recess doesn't make things any better. Oliver wants nothing to do with anyone after his ball cap ends up in the mud. Things begin to look up; lunch time brings a big change. His day gets much better when he decides that bouncing back is the way to change his state of mind. His friends join him; the mood is brightened. 

" ... It was a terrible morning. But I finally stopped 
thinking about everything that went wrong.

Inviting illustrations and a confident outlook inspire listeners to share their own stories. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

A Brave Cat, written and illustrated by Marianna Coppo. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"A fearless explorer. 

And a hunter, 
through and through. 

More or less."

In another case of what is said to be happening in the text is not really the truth of the events taking place in the illustrations, Olivia describes herself as an adventurer. She may be that, in her own mind. Actually, she is a pretty indulged house cat. Her adventures take place in a cardboard box, in a plant-filled room, rolling around on a artfully painted desert landscape, and under the bedcovers. She is a hunter of shoelaces, and endlessly spoiled with toys, a comfortable bed, and the run of the house. She loves her perfect world, and wants nothing more to do than the fearless exploring she does every day. 

"Besides, from what she's seen, 
the world outside isn't all 
that it's cracked up to be.

The world outside is for cats
without any imagination.

Then, imagine her surprise when she falls out a window while chasing a fly. First off, she does not land on her feet. As she explores the yard, she is confronted by a barking dog. Fear sends her up the nearest tree. What can she do? As all fearless explorers are likely do, she takes a leap of faith and lands on the roof of the house, From that vantage point she is content; and delighted when her owner sees and rescues her. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Children of the Forest, written and illustrated by Matt Myers. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2022. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"The sun is low. 
We must make our camp.

I teach sister the ways of survival. 
High ground is more dry.
Red sky means no rain tonight. 

Tent poles are not to eat."

The siblings in Matt Myers' new book are looking for adventure. They don't have to go far! In fact, they can stay right in their own backyard and have the most wonderful and imaginative experiences. The boy wears a green hoodie that would make Robin Hood jealous, and carries a toy bow and arrow. His sister wears a bright red wool cap and stoops to pick a handful of purple flowers. There are wild 'children of the forest', bent on using all the skills they have learned from their upbringing with wolves, raccoons, and owls. They are well-equipped for survival. 

"I teach Sister 
which native plants 
are not to eat ... 

and how to brew tea
with ancient herbs.

We find a pioneer cabin."

While the cabin owner (their dad) sleeps, they stealthily remove only what they need. Confronted by a mountain lion (aka pet cat), Brother tries to lead his sister away from danger. She is much more interested in the food they have been able to secure. Pulling her away, their concern then becomes hunger. A fierce beast (aka their Saint Bernard) makes its presence clear, they know they are in line for a fancy feast. As the sun goes down, they set up camp - no fire and a long line of noise-making warning signals to keep intruders at bay - they are safe. Or are they? 

With marvelous storytelling in both text and art, Matt Myers uses contrast to great success. The narration is dramatic and attention-getting, while the very detailed pencil and watercolor images spin an entirely different reality. Equally witty and brilliant, this is a book that will be read numerous times. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

How To Make a Mountain: in Just 9 Simple Steps and Only 100 Million Years! Written by Amy Huntington and illustrated by Nancy Lemon. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2022. $25.99 ages 9 and up


"When continents collide, rock along the edge
can crumple up. Think of your continent like 
a rug. If you push the rug toward the center, it will 
crumple into folds. Those are your mountains. 

Except this isn't a rug. It's solid rock. 
And this is a do-it-yourself project, 
so you will be doing the crumpling. 


While it may only take nine steps start to finish to make a mountain, those set steps will take millions of years to complete the task. An unseen narrator takes the role of guiding three characters on an often-arduous journey from rock to mountain. A young girl, a raccoon and a woodpecker are companions for the long and demanding adventure. 

It's quite the challenge, and begins with finding exactly the right rock for the job. It must be BIG! Once found, that rock must go through many movements and changes as continents collide and even crumple. That work is an assignment for the girl; not easy by any means. When the mountain range is finally created, there is even more work to be done. Water and weathering are needed to create interest in the mountainous shapes. Much has yet to happen, which is what takes ALL the time. 

The design and organization, the comparisons used, and hands-on activities included help with understanding this complex process. Illustrations created in pencil and gouache, then finished digitally, help readers see how the mountain forms from one page to the next through all nine steps. Each image is a double-page spread that details the formation over countless years. In the end, a mountain has been built to become its own spectacular habitat, with growth from bottom to top - deciduous forests at the bottom, conifer forests, alpine meadows and moss and lichens at the very top. 

Now, comes the time to enjoy and protect it. There is still work to be done in keeping it healthy and welcoming for all visitors. 

Back matter includes a glossary of mountain features. In an afterword, the story of the Earth's growth and continued development is explained. There will always be changes as the years pass by.                                                                                          

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Kunoichi Bunny, written by Sara Cassidy and illustrated by Brayden Sato. Orca Book Publishers, 2022. $19.95 ages 3 and up





Saya and her dad are out for a sunny walk when she notices an altercation between two cats. Selflessly, she throws her stuffed bunny into the fray. That bunny's name is Kunoichi, the Japanese word for female ninja. It works. The two cats spring apart, and then contentedly move back together to have a good sniff at the interloper. Saya calls out, letting her dad know she needs her bunny. 

On they walk to catch the bus. Once they are seated, Saya notices a young woman with her little one in a stroller climb aboard. As she reaches into her purse for payment, the stroller begins to roll toward the open door. It's Kunoichi to the rescue once again! Alertly, Dad saves Kunoichi for his young daughter. Then it's to the park where they meet their friends. While the adults talk, Saya explores. As she watches a mama duck and her ducklings waddle past, she notices one duckling tries to jump over the storm grate and falls through an opening. 

Saya's quick thinking, with Kunoichi's help, has her rescuing the duckling. What superheroes they are! As happens with many superheroes, their work goes mostly unnoticed by others; that is the way they like it. One more accident averted and it's time for Dad and Saya to make their way home. Kunoichi is recovered once more, and the two catch their bus for the ride home. Kunoichi's final act of the day is to bring a smile to the face of a lonely, older woman who shares the bus with them. 

As they walk back the way they came, Saya falls asleep and drops her bunny on the sidewalk. Dad notices, and saves Kunoichi once more. A quick launder and the battered bunny is ready for a bedtime snuggle and a grateful kiss from Dad. 

The design, using a graphic format, is appealing for children. The story is charming from start to finish, and the pencil artwork finished digitally is exceptional. While there is the drama of the many heroic actions, the father-daughter dynamic is loving and invites careful attention. Those who share this fine picture book will find much to discuss, and will enjoy mimicking its many sounds.                                                                        

Monday, June 20, 2022

Wildflower, written by Melanie Brown and illustrated by Sara Gillingham. Greystone Kids, 2022. $22.95 ages 4 and up


"Daisy turned up toward Sunflower.
"What about you?"

"I tower over the garden and 
my seeds are good to eat."
Sunflower threw back his petals.

Daisy is so blooming happy to be in this beautiful new place. But, Rose is quick to pass on her mother's opinion that Daisy is nothing but a weed. Daisy doesn't know the meaning of that word, and Rose is happy to explain that Daisy has no purpose, and only gets in the way. 

Daisy wonders why it should matter what she is when there is lots of space in the garden for all. Rose brags about her scent. Sage is quick to assure her place as a helper to the chef. Poor drooping Daisy. Sunflower explains his importance, and Chamomile explains her role in making tea that helps people sleep. By now, Daisy is fully drooped and looking miserable. Strawberry Flower offers reassurance that Daisy must have some purpose, while explaining that she feeds hungry people. 

Meeting Sweet Pea is a revelation! 

"Daisy said, " I can guess why you were
planted. You smell lovely, like Rose. 

"I wasn't planted," said Sweet Pea. 
"I just blew in on the wind, like you. 
I get called a weed sometimes too." 

Daisy's spirit brightens. Meeting other plants that are often considered weeds - Blackberry Vine, Clover, and Dandelion - helps Daisy realize she also has a place in the garden, as does every other flower that puts down roots there. Informative and thoughtful, this is a book that young readers will enjoy hearing. 

In back matter a gardeners' glossary gives meaning to the weed, and an author's note makes a case for their presence in the natural world. Digital artwork gives life to all plants in the garden, and endpapers offer sketches of some common weeds (front) and some common wildflowers (back).  

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Whale Who Swam Through Time: A 200-Year-Long Journey, written by Alex Boersma and Nick Pyenson and illustrated by Alex Boersma. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $26.99 ages 5 and up


"But her blubber also makes her a target
for whalers, who want to turn it into oil
and food. 

They arrive in ships trailing black smoke, 
their engines filling the water with a 


It's louder than any noise the whale has 
ever heard, but she doesn't yet know to 
avoid the unfamiliar sound - and the 
ships that make it.

In their first picture book, Alex Boersma and Nick Pyenson spin an imagined tale of a bowhead whale. It is a research-based story and particularly well-crafted by two scientists who want their readers to know about climate change and the damage being done to the environment over time. The bowhead is the longest-living mammal in the world. Imagine the changes she has seen over the two centuries of life. 

They begin their tale with the birth of a calf  'about 200 years ago ...'  Explaining that she is not a typical whale due to species' longevity, they let readers know that she will always make her home in or near the Arctic. That gives her a very unique perspective on how her world will change through the next two centuries. The first boats seen don't bother the whales. Large, peculiar-looking, but not meant to harm the calf and her mother as they pull alongside. 

The calf stays with her mother for a year, then ventures out on her own. As she goes, she grows to her full size. An awesome illustration at this point shows the whale swimming in the vast ocean - a tiny blip in this incredibly vast environment. She has her own calves, and lives peacefully. The blubber that helps her float and feed her young becomes a commodity for whalers who too soon arrive in noisy boats with murderous intentions. 

Over the first 150 years, much changes. The story moves to 'about fifty years ago ...'  Now, there are much bigger ships and oil drilling, all noisy and dangerous to the whale. Ships are above and below the surface, and the whale can no longer hear members of her family. It is a tremendously sad consequence of the changes taking place. Finally, the story moves to 'today ... '

Accurate illustrations are created using watercolor, gouache, and ink. They offer a clear view of the Arctic setting through the two hundred years. The changes that occur make readers aware of the impact of global warming and the growth in industry that threatens the whale's future. Open, ice-free ocean, oil spills, plastic litter, and fishing lines are all perils that the whale and her future family will face. 

"She struggles to imagine what the world 
will be like for her great-grandchildren, 
200 more years into a murky future.

Back matter includes an authors’ note, further scientific facts about the bowhead, and historical facts on the life and creatures of the Arctic.                                                                                

Saturday, June 18, 2022

A Park Connects Us, written by Sarah Nelson and illustrated by Ellen Rooney. Owlkids Books, 2022. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"A park touches us
and teaches us, 
inspires and 
      unleashes us. 

It chirps and blooms and splatters and zooms!"

We are finally enjoying consecutive sunny days. People are out walking, biking, relishing and basking in  the warmth of the sun. Parks offer an invitation of welcome for everyone. The park in this city does just that. Winding paths, mature trees, birdsong, playgrounds and benches offer places for everyone - of all abilities and ages to come and visit, play, and relax. 

The double-page spreads are filled with moving vignettes of people greeting others, or meeting for the first time. They watch the wildlife, fly kites, stop for ice cream, play soccer. There is no end to the activities to be experiences as they wander from place to place in this much-appreciated and well-used green space. The characters are diverse and spend time in the park engaging in many different ways. There is much to discuss as the book is read with little ones. They are sure to recognize some of the things they like to do themselves when they visit a park. It's important to know that parks are there for everyone.   

"A park can drum out a rhythm 
and dance

A park can party." 

What are your parks like, and what do you do while you are there? 

Back matter provides a brief history of urban parks in North America and highlights park successes around the world.

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Baby-Changing Station, written by Rhett Miller and illustrated by Dan Santat. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2022. $22.99 ages 5 and up


"I looked down at Joe
Who bothered me so
And I wondered if this was for real. 
What will they say 
If I trade him away? 
Would their broken hearts ever heal?

When there were only the four of them - James, his mom, dad and dog - things seemed good. Once Joe arrives on the scene, James only thinks of himself as 'in the way.' Whatever the baby does is seen as nothing short of miraculous. James, who does things properly, gets no praise or respect. Once the baby has made an appearance, there is no sending him back. 

Thursday night is family pizza night, and everyone loves it. Following the meal they sit back to relax with full bellies. Of course, Joe decides that is exactly the perfect time to fill his diaper. When the parents can't agree on whose turn it is to change him, they look to James. 

"James, my son, this is a milestone. 
Your mother and I 
Need assistance tonight
With your brother and his situation. 
In the bathroom right there 
To the left of your chair
There's a Baby-Changing Station.

In they go, ready to relieve Joe of the stinky mess he has created. The deed done; James is very surprised to read a tempting offer on the screen above the changing station. Press a button and Joe will be gone! There are exchange options; each hold some appeal for an older, often ignored brother. The offers are time-sensitive and urge immediate action. What will James choose to do? 

Dan Santat's entertaining and expressive double-page watercolor spreads offer humor and details to match the drama of the rhyming text. It makes for a terrific read aloud in early years classrooms.    

Thursday, June 16, 2022

A is for BEE: an alphabet book in translation, written and illustrated by Ellen Heck. Levine Querido, Raincoast. 2022. $23.99 all ages


"I is for fish

Inhlanzi in Zulu

Ikan in Malay

Iqalluk in Alutiiq

Iwak in Javanese

Isda in Tagalog "

"We speak to each other in many languages, 
and in some of them ... A is for Bee

I have always been intrigued by the endless diversity found in alphabet books. There was a time when I had a huge collection of them. So, I was excited to see this new book about animals. I have not seen anything like it. I love that the author found inspiration for its creation while reading Lithuanian alphabet books to her son. It is ever-fascinating what inspires writing! 

The research is quite extraordinary. Ms. Heck explores 69 languages to find the names of 26 animals. Each one of them begins with the same letter, but is different from their corresponding English word. The languages are global: some are non-Roman and some with alternate systems of writing.  

"The letter A is for “Anu in Igbo, Ari in Turkish, Aamoo in Ojibwe, and Abelha in Portuguese,” all of which translate to bee in English." 

Ms. Heck is a printmaker. For this book, she has created black-and-white scratchboard artwork placed on bold backgrounds. Textured, and accompanied by hand-lettered type by Jon Gray, they are dramatic and fascinating. I'm told that each letter is hidden somewhere on the illustrated page. I have been successful with finding some, but continue to pore over the pages to find all of them. It is a worthy pursuit in that it takes me back time and again for a closer look - all very worthwhile for such a thing of beauty. 

This is not a book designed exclusively for kids. Anyone (adults included) who has an interest in languages and sounds will find it worthy of attention. An author's note is filled with explanatory text concerning choices and spellings, even agreement over translation. All pronunciations were confirmed with a native speaker. She ends with this: 

"These languages are currently spoken by a range of more than a billion speakers to a few hundred, and the 69 languages represented in this book are only a fraction of the more than 6,500 spoken across the world."                                                                           

Here you can enjoy a visit with Ellen Heck as she talks her book:

Readers are also invited to use publisher-supplied links to hear native or fluent speakers pronounce the animal names:

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Singing with Elephants, written by Margarita Engle. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2022. $22.99 ages 8 and up



Hand in trunk with the elephant, 
I recite poems, and together
we sway as if dancing, 
not mourning. 

Elephants seem to understand 
the part of poetry that has no words
just music that echoes
like wind chimes 
or bells.

The year is 1947. Oriol and her family are living in Santa Barbara, where her parents run a veterinary clinic. Their move from Cuba was made to find medical help for her grandmother's diabetes. When the treatment fails and her Abuelita dies, Oriol wants to move back home. She is grieving, and not happy at school where she feels detached from her studies, and is being bullied because of her accent and her love for the animals at the clinic. 

Finally, it is summer vacation and Oriol can spend her days being with the animals she so loves. It is difficult to let her family know how she is feeling. Neither Spanish or English make it easier. When she meets her neighbor, Gabriela Mistral, she finds a mentor. Gabriela helps Oriol find her voice through poetry. A crisis at the clinic, when a baby elephant is taken from its family to entertain a rich actor, gives her further reason to use her voice to make change happen. 

Oriol creates a petition to have the elephant family reunited. Her hard work and strong feelings lead to a hopeful and happy ending to the story. As she is celebrating the joy that comes from using her voice, she learns that her lovely friend must leave for another assignment. While there is much sadness in saying goodbye, Oriol knows that she is a stronger version of herself due to Ms. Mistral's tutelage. 

Margarita Engel has such a gift for telling powerful stories in free verse. She chooses perfect words to convey clear feelings of humanity, tenderness, integrity, and true friendship. Using Gabriela Mistral - the first Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature - adds depth to this imagined story of her role in helping a young girl use poetry to express herself. 

Back matter includes an author's note providing information about Gabriela Mistral, elephants, one of her poems and a list for further reading. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Dolly! The Story of Dolly Parton and Her Big Dream, written by Robyn McGrath and illustrated by Ellen Surrey. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2022. $22.99 ages 6 and up


"Every Saturday, Dolly's family crowded 
around their battery-operated radio. 

As Dolly listened to the Grand Ole Opry, 
her heartbeat quickened, 
she held her breath on each note, 
and she felt the lyrics of joy and pain.

Dolly Parton was born to entertain. In her large family, her need to be heard was strong. If her siblings would not listen, she sang for the farm animals. She found inspiration for making music in her mama's bean snapping, in the honking of geese, and wrote her first song when she was five. Nothing stood in the way of her making music. 

Listening to the music of the Grand Ole Opry led to her wanting to be there. Even when people said she was too young, she kept believing in herself and her talents. She worked hard on the farm, as did the rest of her family. Her best work came when she had time to write songs and dream of the future. The family made time together to make music, and Dolly was right in the middle of it. Her Uncle Bill took note of her amazing talent; with his help, she became a regular on a weekly variety show. Then, began the trips to Nashville to find her a place on the Opry stage. 

"Finally, Dolly's persistence paid off. 

One night, another singer agreed to let 
Dolly go onstage in his place at the 
Grand Ole Opry!

Dolly's dreams had led her here. 
                    To this moment. 
                             To THIS stage. 

And she was ...
                      just a kid.

The audience loved her. Following high school graduation, she made her way to Nashville where she sang and wrote, and wrote and sang until she became the star she is today. Her sweet voice, her heartfelt songs, her generous and giving nature are an inspiration. 

The cheery gouache illustrations show the exuberance of this popular and much-loved woman throughout her life. Back matter includes more about Dolly, about the Grand Ole Opry, and adds a welcome list of "Dollyisms'. 

"I've always been misunderstood because of how I look. 
Don't judge me by the cover 'cause I'm a real good book!"

Monday, June 13, 2022

Be The Change: Making a Difference in a Messed-Up World, by Rob Greenfield and Antonia Banyard. Greystone Kids. 2022. $24.95 ages


"Open your closet. Look in your drawers, 
cupboard, backpack - everywhere you 
keep stuff. Do you need it all? Do you 
love it all? If you don't, you're like most 
of us. You have too much stuff. But we 
love stuff.

This is another one of those books that had me thinking I could skim through it, know its contents, and be able to tell you about it. Instead, I found myself constantly impressed by the information Rob shared with his readers about the journey he has been on since he was 25 years old. At that time, he decided he wanted to be the change he wanted to see in the world. 

He started with small steps and continued day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year to bring change to the way he had been living. He wanted to make Earth a better place. Now an environmental activist, he spends his days reaching out to people and encouraging them to do better. His extreme actions are not meant for everyone; he does not suggest that his audience do what he does. He simply wants readers to be aware that even small changes make a big difference. 

He and his co-author Antonia Banyard have penned nine chapters to help kids recognize that they have a role to play. Each chapter begins with a clear-cut introduction to a particular issue: stuff, waste, food waste, the food system, water, energy, transportation, money, and connection. The second part of each chapter describes the story of his journey in terms of each of these issues. Finally, Antonia Banyard discusses what kids and their families can do to make changes. 

From dumpster diving, to wearing a 'trash suit' for a month, to not taking a shower for 1000 days, the journey is a fascinating, if an improbable one for most of us. Howver, it is inspiring, informative, and very compelling. Sometimes, it is downright disheartening. Text boxes introduce kids who are making a difference, and many ideas are included for actions that can be taken. 

This is an important book for children and their parents (and teachers) to share. I can only imagine the conversations it might generate. Nonfiction features include a table of contents, a glossary, an index, and a very useful list of resources.

Rob wants everyone who reads his book to know that no one is too young, and no action too small to make a difference.

Here is a link to Rob'sTedTalk: 


Sunday, June 12, 2022

Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes, words by Mahak Jain and pictures by Anu Chouhan. Annick Press, 2022. $22.5 ages 4 and up


"Madame taught them how to lift their arms. 

Dana mimicked Madame easily, and Marco  
was a pro. But when Paro tried, she moved 
like a Bharatanatyam dancer, drawn to the 

"What's wrong?" Madame asked. 

Paro stared at the floor. 
How could she explain?

Paro wants to attend dance class, but she is unsure of her ability at ballet. Her mother reminds her that she comes from a family that loves to dance. Ballet is different, Paro worries. Looking in on the class doesn't help. She is very nervous. As she listens to the others talk about their dance experiences which are not all ballet-related, Paro becomes a bit more confident. She steps out like the Bharatanatyam dancer she is. The others think she is merely walking. 

Dana and Marco follow Paro's lead and enjoy this new dance movement. Marco mentions that Anna Pavlova is his favorite dancer. Paro mentions Rukmini Devi, her favorite. The others do not know that name. They know nothing of Bharatanatyam dancers. Paro is concerned that she has much to learn about ballet. As Madame tries to teach new moves, Paro falls back on her previous dance training. It is hard to explain what is happening when her dance teacher asks. Her friends try to help. She tells her mother she must only practice ballet. 

"She saw how different Bharatanatyam and ballet were.
 Bharatanatyam turned Paro's mother into a queen,
but a ballet dancer needed to be like a fairy. 

And Paro couldn't be both. Not ever.

Paro's mother does not stay for the next class. Instead, she has a surprise for her daughter. She dances for the class, showing them the beauty of her own dancing. Madame happily joins in. First, they dance Bharatanatyam together; then, her mother does a pirouette. All the dancers are excited to be part of this new kind of dancing. Paro gives aid where needed and learns that she can do both! She is not one or the other. 

"Paro Janaki Shankar was a fairy queen!

Anu Chouhan’s artwork is expressive, colorful, and full of energy. Readers will enjoy seeing the dance moves, the children's attempts at new learning, and the success felt as the story ends.  

An author's note tells that she was inspired by the story of the meeting of Anna Pavlova and Rukmini Davi, and their love for each other's dancing. Both trained to learn a new dance form, reaching from one culture to another for inspiration. Further information is provided, as well as instructions for making the anklets (ghungroo) that Paro's mother wears while she is dancing. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Find Out About ... Animal Homes, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Jane McGuinness. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"There are animals that build 
homes that last for years and 

Prairie dogs live in big underground
towns made of tunnels that they dig 
themselves. The tunnels have rooms
for sleeping, to use as nurseries, and 
for going to the bathroom. The towns
can be dozens of miles long and decades

This is an exemplary introduction to variety in animal abodes; it will be much appreciated by young children wanting to know more about the world of nature. The author begins each double-page spread with an opening statement about the home itself, shown in bold-face lettering. In small font on the facing page, he adds digestible bits of information for the animal that lives there. The following spread  compares an opposite type of home - tidy/messy, big impression/barely see, sticks/stones/spit. While the homes are as different as can be, so are the animals' behaviors. 

As happens with excellent nonfiction, this book may spark wonder for small children about what other types of homes animals build and live in.  Simple, directed research will help them to discover more, and that is surely the point of reading good nonfiction text. Animals included are beavers, spiders, birds, polar bears, termites and more. Creating a list of other animals is a useful first step in expanding interest and furthering knowledge. 

Mixed media illustrations are warm, captivating, and engaging for little ones. A final spread reminds that some animals have no homes at all. Back matter includes further material concerning animals and their homes. An index will take readers back to their favorite pages. 

Friday, June 10, 2022

Thunder and the Noise Storms, written by Jeffrey Ansloos and Shezza Ansloos with pictures by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley. Annick Press, 2021. $21.95 ages 4 and up

"Mosom closed his eyes, then he said, 
"Thunder, Thunder, listen with wonder.
Can you hear our relative the wind? 
The wind is singing a soothing song."

I stopped to listen again. It was hard at first.
I only heard annoying songs. The flag whipping,
a door banging, and the gravel grinding under 
my feet.

The narrator is a young Indigenous boy who finds school noise storms to be very annoying. Kids on the bus, and car horns honking are all that needs to happen before his brain feels befuddled. It continues at school as students arrive, call out to each other, and put away their belongings. Now, he's grumpy! 

Music class makes it worse. Will his hoodie help? Gym follows and readers will be aware of the multitude of noises that happen during an activity period. An angry response and everyone being outside for recess does nothing to help. 

"I felt so alone. 

I hid in the 
play structure,
covering my ears.

Mosom is called to help Thunder with his emotions. Once it is quiet, Thunder climbs down from his lonely perch to talk with his grandfather. They take a walk together, a favorite activity. While walking, Thunder says he struggles with all the noise; his grandfather explains that the same thing happened to him. When it did, his father gave him a word to help him deal with the storms. The word is mamasskasitawew, and it means to 'listen with wonder'.

Mosom explains that there are many wonders when one listens to the quiet sounds. It doesn't help at first. It is hard to do, and there are many loud sounds to distract Thunder from his task. With practice, Thunder is encouraged to hear what his grandfather is hearing. Together, they find comfort in their natural surroundings. Things change as they walk more slowly, allowing time to really listen. Standing quiet and really paying attention, Thunder is able to breathe out the loud sounds and breathe in the sound of a 'slow and steady drum' ... his heart! It is part of the wonder that is around them. 

Thunder is ready to return to class, and finish out his day.  

The Woodland artwork is filled with bold colors and strong images which honor the many feelings Thunder has throughout the telling. The setting beyond the school allows readers to see the peace found in the natural world. The bold double-page spreads are filled with sounds, quiet and loud. It's ideal for reading aloud to kids who are sound-sensitive, but also for their classmates in order for them to better understand the difficulties and the emotions. 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Song of the Nightingale, written by Tanya Landman and illustrated by Laura Carlin. Candlewick Studio, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 6 and up

"She started with the itty-bitty animals, 
dabbing dots on ladybugs and spots
on butterflies. 

As the morning went on, she slicked stripes
on zebras, and painted pentagons on 
giraffes. She popped penguins into sharp 
suits and furnished flamingos with 
feathers of delicate pink.

This lively and lovely tale makes a case for the origin of the nightingale's song. In the beginning, the earth was full of color. Day and night scenes show light-infused scenes of wonder. There are deserts burning with red, yellow and orange. The animals have no color at all. 

The painter decides that must change. When all the animals congregate, their line is long. She gets right to work. She starts with the tiny ones, and moves on to paint stripes, spots, pentagons and feathers. The painter does not rest; the animals continue to make their way to her side. When the painting stops momentarily, a mandrill sits on the paint box and 'ends' up with a colorful bottom. 

The work continues throughout the day. This time the colors are monochromatic: green, gray, red, orange, yellow and blue. The last animal to arrive is a tiny beetle. Her job done, the painter closes her box of paints in preparation for a return home. Wait! One bird is left; a bird who avoided being in the midst of the cacophony of sound made by the others during the long day. What color will the artist use? What she does with the tiny drop of gold paint that is left is what gives such tales an abiding appeal.  

Laura Carlin's paintings are created using watercolor, acrylic, and pencil. They are wonderful, adding both humor and drama to the storytelling. She adds beauty to the author's glorious text at every turn of the page.                                                                              

Fashion Forward: Striving for Sustainable Style, written by Raina Delisle. Orca Book Publishers. 2022. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"Millions of animals are injured or killed 
for fashion every year. Some are raised on 
farms and others are caught in the wild. 
Their skins become sneakers, their wool 
becomes sweaters and their feathers 
become stuffing in winter coats. Some 
people think we shouldn't wear animal 
products at all. Others think it's okay as 
long as the animals are not endangered or 
mistreated. What do you think?

In one of the newest books in the Orca Footprints series, Raina Delisle wants readers to consider fashion through education, and perhaps to learn a new way of making choices about the clothes they wear. Always conversational in style, the books in this series do a terrific job of providing information that teaches readers what they may not have known or considered. 

There are four topical chapters: Dressed to Impress, Fashion's Footprint, Taking Action on Fashion, and Be a Fashion Hero. Those chapters are followed by acknowledgements a list of print, online, and film/television resources, a glossary, and an index. All are useful in helping readers navigate this fine example of informative fiction for middle grade readers. 

It is a book for everyone. Teachers can read it with students, parents can read it with their children, middle graders can read it with each other. There is much to learn here, and it provides food for thought for so many different reasons. It shows each one of us how the choices we make when we buy clothes have a distinct effect on the people who work making those clothes, and on the environment. 

One of the things I most admire about the Footprints series is that the books include the authors' personal stories and actions taken to create a better world for all. Information boxes called Fashion Fact are quick reminders of historical events having to do with fashion. Carefully captioned photographs are colorful and telling. Each section of the four chapters is highlighted to make for an easy return to what the reader finds enlightening and important. Throughout the text, attention is given to a Trendsetter - a person who has made a change concerning the expectations of what is fashionable. They stand out for not following what is trendy; they make their own fashion statement.  

"When a Nova Scotia boy wore a pink shirt on his first day of high school in 2007, he was teased by several other students. Two twelfth-grade students, Travis Price and David Shepherd, decided to do something about it. First they bought 75 pink shirts. They they contacted their classmates through social media to tell them about their plan to turn the school into a sea of pink to show their support for the student. The next day Travis and David handed out the shirts and hundreds of students showed up in their own pink outfits. Not only did the students send a strong message to the kids who were being mean, but they also started an international anti-bullying movement that became known as Pink Shirt Day. Once a year kids wear pink shirts to school to show that they won't tolerate bullying. Today Pink Shirt Day is celebrated in more than 130 countries!"

If readers want to know about how they can help, have them research Second Hand September, Buy Nothing Day, and National Thrift Shop Day, to name a few, We can make a difference, each one of us.  
Eye-opening and hopeful, this book could well lead students in middle years classrooms to come up with ideas of their own. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Amajurjuk, written by Levi Illuitok and illustrated by Ben Shannon. Inhabit Media. 2022. $13.95 ages 6 and up


"The father did not sleep well that night,
as he was so worried. In the morning, he 
got up and used his magic to ask where 
the child may have been taken. When 
he asked, he was told where the amajurjuk
had taken the child.

I am always happy to receive books from Inhabit Media in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Their books are written to share traditional stories from the Inuit culture with all children, as well as other stories from their Arctic communities. 

In this book, the Amajurjuk is wandering through the frozen landscape when she hears a baby crying. The sound is coming from a nearby iglu. She steps inside to find a blind woman and her child alone. The woman cannot see her scary visitor and thus shows no fear. Seeing an opportunity to steal the child away, the amajurjuk offers help. She puts the child in her wooden amauti, and leaves. Only then does the mother sense something is wrong. 

When her husband returns from hunting, she pores out her story and her sorrow. The following morning, he uses his magic to find out where the amajurjuk is. So begins his quest to find his child and return home with her. When he arrives at the described place, he is fearful of meeting the ogress inside her lair. He decides to wait for his chance to grab his child and escape. It takes patience and preparation. 

The second time the amajurjuk lets the child outside on a braided sinew, the father grabs the child, ties a rock to the sinew, and finds a hiding place. The amajurjuk is furious and exits her lair. Seeing no one, and threatened by a tiny bird that would like to eat her big toe, she flees - and disappears. 

Elder Levi Illuitok tells a powerful and hopeful story, and Ben Shannon creates expressive characters and often terrifying images. In the end, love wins out and father and daughter make their return home. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Somewhere in the Bayou, by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey. Norton Young Readers, 2022. $23.95 ages 6 and up


"What should we do?


Find another way? 


The chatter begins before the title page, with the four voices of unseen characters. They are looking for a place to cross the bayou. On the opening spread readers meet the four - a mouse, a squirrel, a possum, and a rabbit. They also see the looks of fear on the four faces as they contemplate a fat, green tail near the log they are hoping to use.

A page turn shows four panels, one for each animal, and their thoughts on taking a chance. The possum will go first - very quietly. A wobble, a smack, and a splash make short work of him. Concern clouds the faces of the remaining three. The squirrel advances the theory that she is the only one who knows what scary is. Screeching, she sets out only to wobble, smack and splash! 

Two are left, and the rabbit is looking annoyed. Unimpressed by the 'mean' tail he sets off to find a big stick. Poke, wobble, smack, splash! Finally the mouse wants to know who the tail belongs to, and yells out her question. There is no answer. Her assumptions about the tail lead her to try and help, thinking the tail is stuck. Her instincts are right, and she is offered a ride. 

"You were so kind to 
me. Please allow me 
to return the favor. 

Funny ... heh, heh ...
I always thought 
alligators ate mice ... 

Oh, we do.

Is it the end for the mouse? I cannot tell you. But, I guarantee a chuckle as the story ends. 

If you have read other books by the Pumphrey brothers, you are going to love this one, too! 

Monday, June 6, 2022

Esme's Birthday Conga Line, written by Lourdes Heuer and illustrated by Marissa Valdez. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2022. $17.99 ages 6 and up

"In their apartment, the beats are bumping. 

An old record player spins. 

Mr. Leon plays the bongos. 

Mrs. Leon cha cha chas.

Baby Leon shakes his rattles.

I break in with my guitar."

It wasn't long ago that my almost six-year-old granddaughter announced she was going to plan her own birthday party. A bit of a surprise of course; she was full of excitement and absolutely convinced she could pull it off. There have been a few glitches, but she has handled them in much the same way that Esme does in this humorous early reader. 

She lives with her grandparents on the top floor of the best of all possible buildings. It's her birthday, and the first one celebrated since moving in with Mimi and Pipo. They are filled with love for their granddaughter and gift her a guitar. Delighted, she offers to play it at her birthday party. What? They don't anything about party planning. Leave it to Esme. 

"I think I can make a pinata. 
I can bake a cake. 
I can play music. 

I can make a party all by myself.

Esme decides to invite everyone in their building to her party. Mimi discourages Esme from inviting Manny, the building superintendent. Esme will not be deterred. Esme promptly involves everyone in her building. The Garcia Sisters are enlisted to make curlicue pull strings. In a flash, the pinata is ready. The Mora sisters are gardeners, sewers and bakers. Voila! The cake is ready. The Leons are musicians, and offer to play at the party to avoid Esme's underwhelming competency on the guitar.  Now, there is only Manny left. Will Manny attend? 

I can't wait to share this book when the girls ger here! 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together, by Nathan Fairbairn and Michele Assarasakorn. Razorbill, Penguin Random House. 2022. $17.99 ages 8 and up

"You KNOW I'm going to need to come 
with you to meet your clients and make 
sure they're safe and ... 

What? Not going to KIDNAP me or 

Well, YEAH! 

Oh, come ON, Dad ... "

This is for those kids who are fans of graphic novels that deal with friendship, animals, entrepreneurship, and finding a way to work together. 

Three best friends who, for a variety of reasons, cannot have a pet of their own, try to find a way to have contact with those animals they so love. Initially, they make a list of four things they might try; all prove impossible. When they meet the owner of a dog they love in their neighborhood and then meet Pickles herself, they are asked if they would be interested in walking Pickles every day after school. They jump at the chance. 

The three could not be more different in almost every way. Their personalities, their chosen out-of-school activities, and their family life have little in common. They all love animals and they are keen to find something they can do to make sure they have that daily contact. So, they decide they will hire themselves out as dog walkers. PAWS (Pretty Awesome Walkers) is born. It turns out there a number of people who could use their help, and soon they have enough clients to keep them busy - in fact, too busy at times. 

Running their business is not as easy as they thought it might be. Arguments are constant. That fighting leads to a big problem with the dogs. Will they find common ground? Can they save their business? What about their friendship?  

I think this may be the awesome beginning for a brand-new series!?!

Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Beatryce Prophecy, written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $25.99 ages 8 and up


"She kept hold of Answelica's ear. 
She thought: I am Beatryce. I have 
friends in the world. I no longer have 
hair. But I have friends.

I have read this novel twice already. I don't often take the time to do such a thing, as there are so many books waiting for my attention. It was worth every single minute to savor the words, the people and the events all over again. I have great respect and full-on fandom for Kate DiCamillo and her extraordinary gift for storytelling. 

Here we first meet Answelica, a goat of great strength and an inclination to have the monks of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing feel a quiet complacency at her presence. Then, in the blink of an eye, she changes and is quick to give them a hard butt in the backside. She can make them fly, before giving them a bite. Such a truly funny way to open a remarkable story. 

It is one of the monks - Brother Edik - who finds the young girl in the barn where Answelica spends his nights. She is lying beside that cantankerous goat, her hand firmly holding one of its ears. Where had she come from, and why was she sleeping in the barn? Brother Edik immediately recalls a prophecy, long ignored because it said the child would be a girl. 

"It is written in the Chronicles of Sorrowing 
       that one day there will come a child
                  who will unseat the king. 
The prophecy states that this child will be a girl.

Now, there are three characters to be admired and followed. It won't be long until another is added. Jack Dory is a young and spirited boy who lives on his own, and makes a life for himself carrying out tasks for many. He becomes a loyal and trusted friend to Beatryce. He and the monks are astounded to learn that Beatryce knows how to read and write, an unheard of skill for girls of their time. They soon learn that the king and his minions are on the hunt for Beatryce to ensure the prophecy remains unresolved. Their story is told from all three perspectives - Brother Edik, Beatryce, and Jack Dory.

Ms. DiCamillo's tale is full of kindness, suspense, humor, empowerment, loss, and protection. Deep love assures that Answelica is one more of those animal characters destined for inclusion in a DiCamillo tale. Fans will not be disappointed to see what bravery means when it comes to being there for those you love. 

To have Sophie Blackall as a co-creator is icing on the cake for all readers. Her characters are an ideal match for the words that bring them to life. Illuminated letters begin each chapter and additional embellishments add connections to the medieval setting. And those faces! Oh, those faces - innocent while determined, frightened yet brave, full of love and honesty; these are characters to admire and emulate for their will to have their story come to its hopeful ending. 

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

Friday, June 3, 2022

The Witness Blanket: Truth, Art and Reconciliation, by Carey Newman and Kirstie Hudson. Orca Book Publishers. 2022. $24.95 ages 10 and up

"I wanted the Witness Blanket to include
one thing from every residential school in 
Canada. At the end of our travels, though, 
after collecting pieces for the project from 
coast to coast, we were still missing items 
from several schools. 

There were any number of reasons why we 
couldn't track down any objects from or 
memories of those schools. In some cases, 
the actual school buildings didn't exist 
anymore - or were never permanent 
structures in the first place. In other cases, 
despite our efforts we were unable to connect
with Survivors who attended them.

In 2020, Orca Books published Picking Up the Pieces, written by Carey Newman and Kirstie Hudson for the general public to tell the story of the making of the Witness Blanket. It was conceived by Carey in response to a Request for Proposals by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He wanted to create a living work of art that included hundreds of pieces collected from residential schools across Canada. Every piece had its own story to tell.

In this new book, he and Kirstie Hudson bring the story of the Witness Blanket to a younger audience - middle grade students. Our children need to know this story, and to realize that the heartbreaking news they are hearing about bodies found on the grounds of many of these schools happened because of the decision made to take the children from their families and house them in residential schools far from their homes. Many did not return. 

This history should never be forgotten. Readers learn early that Carey's father is a residential school Survivor, who carries with him stories he would rather not tell of his time there. By keeping the trauma he felt from his family, he hoped to protect them. Carey, an artist, wanted to create something that would honor all those affected by shared trauma. 

"I wanted to make something to represent the experience 
of Survivors.  Canada is a big country, and more than 
150,00 Indigenous children went to residential school. I 
needed to make something that wasn't just large as in 
tall or wide but was a concept big enough to carry 
thousands of stories." 

Create it he did, with help from many. A blanket has great significance in various cultures, and it seemed a perfect way to honor community, to symbolize family, to offer gratitude and protection. The pages of this book are filled with the story of how the Witness Blanket evolved and to tell that today, after three years of touring Canada, it is now located at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg. Information boxes offer quotes from Survivors, important historical facts, and captioned archival photos. It collects and shares the truths about what happened for far too many indigenous children and their families. 

It is but one step toward Truth and Reconciliation, and it is an important book to share with middle years students. It was created to inform and to encourage conversations about difficult topics. If you want to know more, here is an excellent video to share with your children and students about the creation of the Witness Blanket.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Sitting Shiva, written by Erin Silver and illustrrated by Michelle Theodore.Orca Book Publishers, 2022. $21.95 ages 5 and up


"Aunts, uncles, cousins, 
grandparents, neighbors
and family friends ... they 
all come, their arms filled
with platters of food and 
bakery boxes. I watch them
from my bedroom window.

Jenny's mother has died. Her dad is as inconsolable as Jenny is; still, he follows all the Jewish rituals dictated by their loss. That means there are a lot of people constantly in attendance with food, comfort, and wanting to support she and her dad. Jenny wants to be alone. 

What she really wants is her mother. 

"I reach for the blanket she knit for me 
and wrap it around my shoulders like a cape. 
I thought I'd feel superhero strong
in it. Instead I feel tired under its weight.

Reminders surround her and memories fill her heart. When she hears a laugh that sounds just like her mother, she opens her bedroom door to see Aunt Sarah motioning for her to come downstairs. She looks and sounds a lot like Jenny's mother. Her aunt folds Jenny into her arms, and tells her stories about their childhood. 

Her cousin Jack asks her to play; she begins to appreciate all who have come to express sympathy at such a sad time. A hand squeeze from her friend, and a hot pizza from her neighbor sends her in a search for her father to let him know she no longer minds having company. She finds him alone  in her bedroom, wrapped in her blanket. After a quiet time together, she convinces him to come with her - 'it's not the time to be alone'. 

The comforting text and the warm images will help young readers begin to understand what shiva means in Jewish families. There is a clear sense that Jenny and her dad are mourning their loss in the darkness at the start of the story; more light enters as the story unfolds and allows some small feelings of solace through the heartwarming actions of others. 

A note from the author explains the ritual of sitting shiva, a seven-day period of mourning for the death of a family member observed in Jewish homes.