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Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Tunnel, written by Sarah Howden and illustrated by Erika Rodriguez Medina. Owlkids, 2022. $19.95 ages 4 and up


""May I come in?" Mom asks. 

"Yes," I say. She sits down and 
gives me a hug. It's gentle and 
warm and strong. 

Tonight, I hug her back.

As hard as I can. 


In a room where all the vases of flowers have shriveled and died, readers see a little boy playing alone with his toys. His mom sits cheerlessly at a nearby table. The only color in the double-page spread is the boy's shirt, which is red. The rest is in shadows with minor outlining done is red. We are told that 'something bad happened'. 

The boy spends much time in his own room. His mom comes in to give him hugs. Visitors arrive with questions about how he is doing. He has no need to or taste for talking. Instead, he digs down through his bedroom floor into the darkness of the underground. The worms, beetles and other creatures pay no attention to his presence. Hearing noises from the house, he keeps digging. When he comes back to the surface, he sees his mom and aunt talking together. His mom peers out the window, unable to see him. 

He looks around to see the moon, his surroundings, the darkness and realizes no one knows he is out there. Would disappearing be an option? He could; perhaps, not tonight. Back he goes to his bedroom, knowing he can always return to the tunnel. Comfortable back in his own room, he hears his mom's knock at the door. They have a hug that both need. He tells her about his tunnel. 

"I think she knows I need a secret place.
She might have secret places of her own.

Readers are never told what the bad thing is. It makes for a powerful story of loss and grief. The boy's pain is felt, and that is enough. For now, the two have each other and quiet spaces to sit and share the heartache, also knowing there is hope. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Last Week, written by Bill Richardson and illustrated by Emilie Leduc. Groundwood, 2022. $14.95 ages 9 and up

"Ring, ring, ring. 
Ring, ring, ring. 

It's not the phone, it's the door buzzer. 
My job is to greet the visitors. I take 
their coats and hang them in the closet
next to the wetsuit. If they've brought 
food, I take that, too. Almost everyone
brings food. Brownies. Cheesecake. 
Banana bread. Casseroles.

It is the last week of Flippa's life. For her grandchild that means 'Six hundred and four thousand, eight hundred' seconds. It is happening because she is very sick, after a long life of swimming, and living, and loving, Flippa has decided that a doctor will help her go to sleep forever. One week to focus on the many wonderful times spent with Gran. Second by second there is less time left. The decision has been made; Gran is at ease with it. One thing that makes her sad is she will not get a chance to taste this year's tomatoes. 

Monday dawns with thoughts of Gran walking down to the beach every day (in her flippers) for a swim in the sea. The visit with her today is about those flippers and goggles. She can't swim anymore. Tuesday brings visitors - with food. Everyone brings food. Their coats are hung, the food accepted. Dad (Flippa's son) wonders who will help them eat it all. Wednesday is a day of many tears, shared alone and with visitors who all have stories to tell and memories to relate. Laughter is a part of being together, too. Mom arrives on Thursday, a day when Flippa is feeling a little better. While dad goes to the airport, grandchild and grandmother have time to themselves and a chance to tell a favorite story. 

"You were there when I was born. 
And now I'm here for you."

"For when I'm set free," she said."

Friday is the last day for visitors; there are many. They stay only a few minutes, saying hello and goodbye. Last to arrive is Mr. Bark, with a joke and a hug, and a final goodbye. Now, there will only be the four of them together, and no one else. On Saturday mom and dad explain what will happen Sunday, assuring that it will be gentle and bring comfort to Gran after all the pain endured. Sunday dawns in sunshine and a cloudless sky. What a surprise when a tiny ripe tomato makes its presence known in the sun's glow. Inside it goes - a final, perfect gift. 

Bill Richardson's text is meticulous and emotional, centering fully on the grandchild and love for a cherished grandmother. It is a clear look at what dying with dignity can be; though sad, the story is in no way depressing. Black-and-white artwork, and a deft hand with light and shadow, help readers through the emotions of each passing day. The one spot of color is the tomato. It brings joy at a time of sadness. An afterword explains assisted dying, and a list of resources for parents is included. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! Written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Dan Santat. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2022. $24.99 ages


"Now what, Rosie? Are you going to let 
that wolf scare you away from your adventure?

YES, silly. Wolves are no joke! To go back 
inside and start fresh tomorrow, turn to 
page 2
To take a deep breath and journey on, turn
to page 50

There are so many places the reader can go after picking up this book. It begins when mama shakes Rosie out of bed to take a basket to Grandma who's ailing. First question concerns which coat to wear. The choice made leads to a specific page. The cape leads straight to a toothy wolf, and her release of far too much information about her plan for the day. The fur coat leads a never-before-seen house. What to do? What to do?

Up pops another choice - hurry on, or stop for a short visit. There are many twists in the tale and countless diversions that often take readers down unfamiliar paths. Along the way they will meet wolves, princesses, poor Jack who has lost his goose and his clothes, an irate pig, an impatient hunter, and many other familiar characters. The endings may be slow or quick; they may be happy or not. It all depends on the road taken.  

"And though you turn to run away,
 there isn’t time for that.
You’re finished off in seconds,
and you never hear the SPLAT

Lively rhymes and assorted characters move the book at a frantic pace. Dan Santat's always-entertaining watercolor art is perfect to bring this fairy tale world to bold life. Exaggerated fairy tale denizens garner full attention. Rosie (the main character for the many adventures) is evidently unsure of what to do next in many of the scenarios. After making wrong choices, she comes to an end. Simply turn the page and new choices and adventures are presented.  Kids will pore over it for hours!                                                                                

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Ada and the Galaxies, written by Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv and illustrated by Susanna Chapman. mit Kids Press, Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2021. $23.99 ages


"Let's go kayaking. I love kayaking,"
says Poobah. 

"Me, too," says Ada. "But when will we 
be able to look at the stars?"

"See that big rock over there?" says 
Poobah. "That's how I tell time on the 
island. Today, when it's completely 
covered with water, it'll be dark 
enough to see the stars."

Ada lives in New York where the city lights keep her from seeing the stars at night. She loves those stars: summer can't come soon enough for her. As soon as they can, Ada and her mom head for Maine and a visit with her Ama and Poobah. From their island in Maine, Ada can see all the stars she wants to see. 

It's hard for her to wait until it is dark enough. Poobah promises they will see them when the time is right. In the meantime, the family visits the natural beauty of the island and its many sights. A kayak ride helps to pass the time. Ada's grandfather suggests a big rock will help them gauge the passage of that time. When it is covered with tidewater, the stars will be visible. Dinner time sees the sun setting, and the rock covered with water. It's time! 

When no stars are seen, Ama tells Ada that fog has rolled in and they will have to wait until TOMORROW! Dear Me! Luckily, Poobah knows how to distract Ada. He shares a book about galaxies that inspires questions. Their conversation is light and entertaining, while also being informative for all.

"Because everything in the universe is 
made out of the same stuff," says Poobah. 
"It's all part of nature. Even things that 
we can't see." 

"Do galaxies have people?" asks Ada."

To their great surprise, when they step outside to check on the fairy house before bedtime, the fog has lifted. What wonder there is to see in the night sky! 

Watercolor illustrations by Susanna Chapman are remarkable! They capture a beautiful Maine setting and all its natural surroundings. Ada's emotions - curiosity, fervor, impatience, abiding interest, pure joy - are front and center in artwork that chronicles the day spent with her cherished grandparents. Every spread invites readers to see, feel, smell, and wait in anticipation of the evening's light show. Ms. Chapman connects young readers to the beauty of the universe, and the delight felt when the whole family goes outside to bask in the starlight they have awaited.                                                                                     

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Disasters by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2021. $24.99 ages 10 and up


"Too cold! 

A cold wave, also called a cold snap, 
happens when the temperature drops 
far below normal lows in a short period 
of time. Cold waves can be dangerous to
humans and animals. They can freeze 
water supplies and cause power failures, 
which leaves many people without heat.

In one of his last books, Steve Jenkins again turns to numbers and infographics. This time he examines the catastrophes that continue to plague the world. He sets out four categories; earth, weather, life and space. While some of these disasters have been happening for millions of years, he is quick to let his middle years audience know that many are linked to human harm done to the planet without truly understanding the repercussions of their actions. Some cause concern for everyone living on the planet.

The table of contents provides thumbnail sketches and a title for upcoming spreads which cover earthquake, volcano, tsunami, landslide, avalanche, uncommon disasters, hurricane, tornado, flood to name about half of them. As any fans of Mr. Jenkins' work will know, he does his research and presents what he has learned in accessible and informative text. 

The first double-page spread shows the effects of one such natural disaster that had both short-and long-term effects on multiple levels. His topic of choice is Mount Tambora, a volcano that exploded in Indonesia in 1815. It is 'the most powerful volcanic eruption in the past 10,000 years'. A timeline at the bottom of the spread tracks the eruption and its aftereffects. Now, he has his readers' attention. 

From that first spread, he continues providing detailed descriptions of disasters and their effects from day, to month, to year, and further. Using circles on a graph for earthquakes on a timeline, he shows the names, magnitude and number of lives lost for each - from Shaanxi in China in 1556 (the oldest) to Banda Aceh in Indonesia in 2004 (the latest). A sidebar shows how earthquakes are measured on the Richter Scale.  

Readers are only beginning. After learning about the ones named above and more, he concludes with climate change. He clearly explains what has been happening, and will continue to happen now and in the future. Captioned thumbnails, useful sidebars, careful explanations make this a terrific resource for interested readers, and for school libraries. 

He adds a glossary and bibliography for further understanding and research. 

Steve Jenkins' death in early 2022 is a tremendous loss. His inquisitiveness and concern for conscientious research provided answers to many questions we didn't always know we wanted to ask. His books are some of my favorites, and deserve to be included in home, public and school libraries. They are that good. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: A Story of Immigration, Family, and Finding Home. Written and illustrated by Zahra Marwan. Bloomsbury, Raincoast. 2022. $25.99 ages 4 and up


"Mama is on the shore; my aunties drink their tea. 
Baba swims in the open water. 

His sister takes the boat 
out to sea. 

Me and my brothers are 
in our own world.

A young girl describes poignant feelings about her family's forced emigration to a new home. She loves everything about her first home: family activities, her house, her culture and traditions. There are people who want her family to leave; so, they must. Baba and Mama are encouraging when talking to her about their new home. 

"I say my goodbyes 
without knowing why

The family's journey is long and so are the days following their arrival. No one offers friendship. Baba and Mama find new pleasures where they can now. Her brothers are interested in their own pursuits. On a family walk, they hear guitar music and come upon a place where people are dancing. When they look up, they see 'one hundred balloons fill the sky'. Like being at home, except there were butterflies there. 

As the days pass, the people in their new home become friends and help to remind them that their new home is a good one, too. There are calls and reminders from family back home. They will not forget each other. Still, she has found a new family in a new land. 

Detailed back matter provides context for the two deserts the family called home, and why they had to leave their home in the first place. In creating illustrations for her story, Zahra Marwan chooses to show her readers both the similarities and differences found in her two homes. Both are loved and honored and have shaped her life. The settings, the cultural motifs, and the traditional colors convey the beauty in her life. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

I'm Not Scared, YOU'RE Scared! Written by Seth Myers and illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr. Flamingo Books, Penguin Random House, 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"One day, Rabbit made an announcement. 
"Bear, we are going on an adventure!"
Bear suggested that, instead of going on an 
adventure, they could read a book about 
adventures. "That way, if anything goes 
wrong, we can close the book." 

Rabbit looked at her friend and asked, 
"Bear, are you scared?"

In this story of a rare kind of friendship, Rabbit is the ringleader for an adventure with her friend Bear. Rabbit is keen; Bear is definitely NOT. Yet, off they go! A map on the endpapers prepares readers for the perils of such an undertaking. 

We learn much about each of them in the first two double-page spreads. Bear is 'easily scared', of so many things. Rabbit is the opposite: never scared. As they prepare for their adventure their dialogue shows just how timid a big, brawny bear can be when faced with unwanted experiences. Rabbit is quick to check to see if Bear is scared. Every time the question is asked, Bear has a quick reply. 

"I'm not scared, you're scared!"

Their adventure leads first to a small stream, deemed 'deep' by Bear. To prove he isn't scared, Bear moves forward as Rabbit tells him that all will be well. The next obstacle is the dark woods. Once again, Rabbit is reassuring, and wonders if Bear is scared. Instead of putting himself through the terror of making his way through the woods, Bear takes a bus and meets Rabbit on the other side. Poor bear! The mountain ahead has him boarding a train to the airfield where he hires a helicopter to deliver him to the top. Bear would like to go home right then and there. That is not going to happen on Rabbit's watch. 

The last part of the adventure involves a rope bridge that offers no hope for Bear to feel safe. When asked if he's scared, he answers with complete honesty. 

""YES! Yes, Rabbit, I am scared! I
was scared of the river, and I was
scared of the forest, and I was scared
of the
 mountain, but I am the most
scared about this 
long, old, rickety
And with that, Bear turned around
and headed home."

Rabbit continues the journey alone, and gets herself in REAL trouble. Luckily, the bird who has been their constant companion knows exactly what must be done - right now! In that moment, the two friends realize what it means to be both scared and courageous when it comes to love and friendship. 

Digital artwork is perfectly matched to the comic text, and offers expressive reactions in all the right places. Just a note: don't miss the back endpapers! Hilarious and heartwarming, young readers will want to hear this story more than once.                                                                                        

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Angry Me, written by Sandra V. Feder and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell. Groundwood Books, 2022. $19.99 ages 3 and up


"Sometimes I get 
angry even though it 
was a mistake. 

"You ate my 
cookie?" angry. 

I'm sorry. 
I didn't know you
were saving it.

There are many occasions when anger cannot be tamed; it bursts forth, reasonable or not. First-person narration starts with a young girl looking at herself in the mirror and exhibiting clear signs that she is angry: downturned mouth, one small hand clutching her toothbrush, her shoulders tense, and her eyes fiery. She knows what angry is. 

She goes on to let readers know about the times when anger gets the better of her. She has an understanding for those moments that make her lash out. It might be when another child is being 'mean', or 'not nice', and even when she makes a mistake for being mad at her dad. She is able to name each of the different times when anger overtakes, and she reacts. 

"Sometimes I get angry when things don't feel fair.
"I didn't do anything wrong," angry. 

Too noisy! The whole 
class will stay inside 
for recess."

She knows when she is tired, or frustrated, sad, or has hurt feelings. These are the times when anger becomes a companion. As the page turns to the second half of the book, she goes back to each of the scenes described in the first half. Through these pages, she considers an alternative for handling her feelings. Using words doesn't always work; sometimes they help. There are times when others can help find the right words. In the end she realizes that anger comes, and goes. 

Readers are sure to see themselves in some of the scenes explored here. The sensitive text allows the little one free rein to feel what she is feeling. Those feelings of anger are treated with respect and understanding.The dramatic and meaningful digital illustrations are filled with color and appeal. They  will help readers name what makes them angry, while offering quiet ways to confront those feelings.                                                                                    

Saturday, July 23, 2022

5 Butterflies, by Carol Pasternak. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2021. $24.95 ages 9 and up


"I had been raising butterflies for 30 years by the time
I attended my first butterfly festival. One vendor had 
a small selection of native plants. As I was anxious to 
experience the life cycle of a different butterfly species, 
I asked the proprietor whether she had any host plants 
that might bring butterflies to my tiny garden in the 
suburbs. She picked up a pearly everlasting and 
promised me that American ladies Vanessa virginiensis
would find the plant in my garden. I was not so sure.

One of the amazing things that comes with a renewed interest for many in what is happening to our environment is our need to find ways to make things better. As many were forced to stay at home during the pandemic, some families turned to creating peaceful spaces in their own backyards and began thinking about the many issues that are affecting birds, butterflies, and bees. Ensuring that our yards are places that provide sustenance, people are reading books and informing themselves to the steps they can take to help these creatures survive and thrive. 

Carol Pasternak has been raising butterflies for many years. This text focuses on 4 butterfly species (Monarch, American Lady, Eastern Black Swallowtail, and the Question Mark) and 1 moth (Cecropia).
In her introduction, she invites her readers to explore nature, something too few kids are encouraged to do these days. There is so much to discover there, and every day outside brings a feeling of awe and makes us feel better. Observing butterflies is one way to get started. You will need an adventurous spirit, a magnifying glass, and time to spend. Deciding what is a butterfly and what is a moth is clearly explained, and will be noted the more observations are made.   

Each of the species included is given its own chapter. Here, readers will learn about characteristics, life cycles and where they can be found. Ms. Pasternak's reporting shares her love, and provides engaging text for readers. In chapters following the initial introductory one for the monarch, she adds further content: Protecting Monarchs and Inviting Butterflies to Your Garden. If you are at all interested in finding out how to create a space for monarchs and to watch them through their growth cycle, you will discover everything you need to know here. 

The design remains the same for other species included. As you read, you will learn about butterfly farming, and how they play a role in biodiversity of all ecosystems. Conversational and accessible text is written to speak to their beauty, their value in pollination, their diet which results in them consuming weeds, and their presence in helping determine how healthy an environment is. 

A concluding chapter describes ways children, in their families and classrooms, can help by creating a habitat that will attract butterflies. by writing letters to politicians to ask them to help make changes to get people involved in protecting habitats and learning more, by making pollinator gardens a part of the plan for cityscapes, and to try not to use insecticides. A size comparison page is included for readers to see each of the species' wingspans. Amazing!  A list of resources, a bibliography, glossary and index are appended. 

Most of all ... get outside and observe what is happening where you live. Learn more through your own eyes about the wonders of butterflies and so much more. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Grandpa and Jake, written and illustrated by Julie Fortenberry. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up


""Did your grandpa take you fishing?"
"No, he never did."

"Are we going to the beach? 
I love the beach!"
"No," said Grandpa. "It's inside." 

"Grandpa? Are you sure 
you know where you're going?"
"Yep. It's inside with boats." 

Grandpa and Jake are spending their day together. Grandpa suggests turning the TV off, and making their way to somewehere new. It's a special place, and the same one his grandpa he took him to when he was Jake's age. Jake is intrigued. Grandpa says he will have to guess where they are going. 

Jake is filled with questions as they go. Their surroundings offer clues and encourage those questions. Jake is persistent; Grandpa is patient and encouraging. Their destination unclear, Jake makes sure that Grandpa knows where they are heading. Jake's questions are tconnected to their surroundings. When they tire, the two stop for popcorn and a snack on a park bench. 

Finally, they arrive at the steps that will take them inside. Grandpa asks Jake to close his eyes so as to be ready for the big reveal. 


In fact, they are at the library. With a few necessary reminders, Jake is able to lower his voice and take in the many treasures to be found there. And in the best way possible, Ms. Fortenberry uses book covers to show readers the books that are about the many places Jake and his grandfather visited on their way to the library itself. Wonder of wonders! 

They spend time together reading in the stacks before it is time for the library to close. Jake rails against leaving. Grandpa lets him know that he can borrow one book (or more), and keep them until they make their next visit. What? What remarkable place is this? is Jake's sentiment. 

Ms. Fortenberry fills her spreads with action, and detail. There is much fun to be had in taking the time to pore over each of the appealing scenes. It is quite the community to celebrate.                                                                                      

Thursday, July 21, 2022

A Gift for Nana, written and illustrated by Lane Smith. design by Molly Leach. Random House Studio, Penguin Random House.2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up $


"Further into the woods, 
where it was hard to tell 
the shadows from the 
trees, the forest creatures
became less ordinary. 

One was a stickler.

Rabbit told it of the quest
for Nana's perfect gift." 

If you give a gift from your heart, it is going to be perfect. Although there is no special reason for a gift for Nana, Rabbit wants to find one. A crow willingly offers advice, and explains the gift is not far away. Rabbit is ready to begin his quest. He begins in the forest where he meets the full moon. Moon explains it is there because the sun is shining at the moment. Rabbit tells moon what he is doing. The moon offers a crescent smile; Rabbit explains his nana has her own bright smile. 

He walks further, and meets a stickler who offers a stick. He explains that Nana already has a walking stick. Crossing a lake, Rabbit meets a huge fish, who suggests water. Nana has no need for water. The volcano he meets next proposes a temper. Rabbit does not know what a temper is. As his journey moves toward its conclusion, Rabbit comes to a dusty cave that causes a sneeze and a polite response. Having finally reached the place Crow described, Rabbit is captivated by its beauty and the perfection of Crow's advice. His route home takes him back the way he came, and his gift is deemed perfect in all eyes. 

Although his gift seems unnecessary when he gives it to his beloved Nana, she has exactly the right response. 

Beautifully told with love and humor, this new book from Lane Smith honors the relationships that exist between a grandparent and her grandchild. The artwork was 'painted in gesso, oils, and cold wax drawn with an Apple pencil in Procreate'. As anyone who admires Mr. Smith's talent for storytelling and illustration has come to expect, it is stunning.                                                                               

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

What Animals Want: The Five Freedoms in Action, written by Jacqueline Pearce and illustrated by Julie McLlaughlin. Orca Books, 2021. $24.95 ages 10 and up

"Did you know that feeding wild animals
can be more harmful than helpful? It may 
cause wild animals like bears and raccoons
to lose their fear of people, which is a safety
concern for people and animals. It may also
encourage animals to crowd around the food
source, raising the risk of disease being 
spread, as well as fighting.

We all know the feelings that animals inspire in our children. Interaction with animals are daily events for many. They are pets, they work for people in various ways, they provide food and clothing, and are used for research and learning. While kids are always concerned with their pets' needs, how often do they think about all the other animals in the world, and wonder what they might need? 

The table of contents shows that seven chapters will follow the introduction. They concern food and water, good health, suffering, homes, allowing animals to do what they naturally do, building communities that care about their welfare, and ways for each one of us to make a difference in their lives. Appealing photographs and winning illustrations add appeal to the informative text. Did You Know? boxes add useful facts, and True or False? questions allow time for thought, then provide concise answers. There are numerous Care Tips, and Kids in Action profiles that tell stories of kids who are bringing attention by acting for animals. 

Here is The Five Freedoms Checklist. It was created to ensure that animals who are cared for by people are treated with the respect they deserve. 

Freedom from hunger and thirst. 

❤Freedom from pain, injury, and disease

❤Freedom from distress

❤Freedom from discomfort

❤Freedom to express behaviors that promote well-being

The task doesn't seem formidable, does it? These are the same freedoms we all need. Animals cannot speak their needs. We must do it for them. The author provides many suggestions for creating empathy and understanding for all animals. She explains how careful thought must be given when considering each of the five freedoms, and the changes that can be made to make life any animal's life better. Animal activists raise awareness, and kids can make a difference as well. 

In her final Care Tip, Ms. Pearce offers a page filled with 10 actions children can take to ensure that the five freedoms are followed where they live. The concluding chapter offers a graphic double-page spread of the five freedoms. Back matter includes an extensive glossary, a list of resources and an index. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Anybody Here Seen Frenchie? Written by Leslie Connor. Harper, 2022. $21.00 ages 10 and up


"He stayed only long enough for her to tell
him that yes, Frenchie was at school today.
He double-timed it into the boys' bathroom
to see if Frenchie had made a stop, then back
to his classroom for one last look. Empty 
Topher took no chances. He dialed the school 
office from the hall, as he turned in full circles, 
looking up and down the corridor still hoping 
to spot the boy. The secretary answered. 
Topher informed her that they may have a 
problem. He did not have eyes on Frenchie

Aurora, a loud and outspoken sixth grader, has been best friends with Frenchie Livernois since the minute they met three years ago.  Frenchie lives next door, and is both autistic and nonverbal. Aurora gets him: his likes and dislikes, his responses to birds and animals, his love of order, and his aversion to being too close to people. They both love nature. Frenchie helps his friend take time to slow down and see what is around them by doing the same himself. 

When Frenchie disappears one day before school, Aurora blames herself for messing up ... again! It is absolutely the worst thing that ever could have happened. The questions she has of herself are compelling and never-ending as people show up to help Aurora, her family, and Frenchie's mother search for him. There are few clues; the first day of the search turns up nothing. Now, Frenchie must spend a night alone in the dark outdoors. What must he be thinking? 

The community that Leslie Connor builds is wonderful. The local residents know each other, and care about what happens to all. Aurora is a feisty young woman who loves adventure and speaking her mind. Frenchie does not get the same respect, as there are many who do not understand him. Too often, others talk about him rather than to him. Their parents support each other daily and provide a warm relationship for their children. 

Aurora's voice adds humor to the telling. She proves herself to be attentive and vigilant in all of her dealings with Frenchie. Her love and concern for him is evident at every turn. Other perspectives in occasional chapters offer a third person voice for meaningful community members. A few of those chapters give Frenchie a voice as well, as he responds to what is happening. 

Fast-paced and full of heart, this is a book that many middle grade readers will appreciate. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

The GREAT ZAPFINO, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books, 2022. $21.99 ages 3 and up


Zapfino is a circus performer of renown, and entirely unpretentious. The ring master is loud in his introduction, promising a LEAP FOR LIFE! Zapfino climbs the ten-story ladder and looks down upon the crowd before making his announced leap. He looks, and bends, and looks at readers. Without any hubbub, he disappears from the diving board. The crowd and the ring master are stunned. 

With a turn of the page, readers will learn that Zapfino makes his exit from the circus tent and heads straight to the airport where he boards a plane for a coastal destination. As he makes his way along a beachfront street, he sees a man with a sign; JOB! ROOM! He is standing in front of a tall building. Zapfino applies, is given a uniform, a room, and a job as the elevator operator. 

He proves himself to be a warm and welcoming man to all who enter his place of work. When the day is done, he returns to his room on the top floor of his building, exhausted. After a night's sleep he returns to his post. His days pass in exactly the same way, until the day he burns his evening meal, filling his room with smoke. To save himself, he makes his way to the ledge outside his window.  From there, he makes his famous flying leap onto a firefighters' jump net, and bounces off safely and with great flourish. The following day he is back at his job! 

Marla Frazee's always wonderful illustrations were 'rendered in black Prismacolor pencil on Dura-Lar matte film'. Her many vignettes inside the elevator will attract careful attention for the stories they tell.  The two settings couldn't be more different. Still, readers will feel the terror and wonder of Zapfino's marvelous performance, and cheer loudly for him start to finish. 

This mostly wordless book is pure delight. I can't wait to hear the conversations when it is shared with  my grandkids. THE GREAT ZAPFINO is a treasure. 


Sunday, July 17, 2022

The Wishing Balloons, written and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $25.99 ages 4 and up


"I wondered if he wanted to go 
back to where he used to live. I 
thought about where I would go
if I could fly. Then I remembered 
my kite ... 

... and what happened when I 
took it out on a much-too-windy

That was the first time I ever flew."

Dot is keen to meet the boy who has just moved into the neighborhood. She watches from behind a tree as he wanders over to a swing in his yard. He looks sad and is holding tightly to a box with unidentified contents. Dot introduces herself, finds out his name is Albert, and he doesn't want to play. Instead, he returns to the house. 

Readers watch Albert in a series of somber scenes as he writes a note, ties it to a golden balloon and sends it skyward. All the while, Dot is surmising the reasons he might not have accepted her invitation to play. 

"Maybe he didn't like playing with girls?

Or maybe I didn't have good enough toys ..."

When she discovers the balloon outside her bedroom window, she learns it is a wish written to a star. It makes her wonder even more. It brings up a memory about flying when her kite pulled her off the ground and her father was there to save her. Maybe a kite would make Albert happy. It does ... ' just a little'. A second note lands in the neighbor's yard where a 'bear' lives. She wants to save it from destruction, and is very careful in doing so. 

This time the wish is for a dog who can listen. Dot thinks she might have just what Albert needs. It makes Albert smile again ... 'just a little'. Albert still refuses to play. Dot, wanting to be a good friend and being ever thoughtful, finds the third balloon in a tree. She doesn't like heights, but that doesn't stop her from climbing up and up. This time the note is about Albert's dad and how he misses him and wishes he could come back. It brings to the surface warm thoughts of her own dad, and sparks an idea that is absolutely perfect. 

This is one of my favorite books this year. It is absolutely beautifully designed and illustrated. Textured, created in glorious colors, and with indistinct images, it conjures up memories and even dreams. This allows emotions to be the center of attention. Albert is so evidently filled with heartache. It is tender tale of loss and the value of real friendship. We would all do well to follow in Dot's procession.   

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Wildlife of the Rockies for Kids, by Wayne Lynch. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2022. $26.95 ages 8 and up


In areas with heavy winter snow the animals 
often have especially large feet so they don't 
sink so deeply when they move around, tiring 
themselves out. Good examples of this are the 
caribou, the snowshoe hare, and the lynx. The 
lynx is a true snow cat that seems to float over 
the snow when it runs, compared with the 
heavy-footed wolf, bear or cougar.

Wayne Lynch turns to the Canadian Rocky Mountains for his new photographic reference guide for middle grade readers. The table of contents sorts the animals into the specific types to be found in a mountain habitat. Bears, hoofed animals, wild cats, wild dogs, small mammals, and birds find pride in chapters dedicated to them. 

He begins with the mountain habitat itself: alpine zone, wetlands, subalpine zone, and the montane zone. Accompanying photographs give a glimpse of each specific part of the mountain. The following double-page spreads are mostly taken up by clear, often close-up color photos of the many animals who make the mountain their home. Concise, conversational and informative paragraphs describe each animal and are surrounded by appealing photographs, plus many sidebars that provide additional material and fast facts that include size, habitat, diet, and strange but true. 

Sharing his many first-hand experiences while capturing these winning images, he also allows that the realities of doing what he does can be dangerous. It's perfect for browsing, and sharing with friends. Readers will be especially attracted to the many baby animals featured.  

Back matter includes wildlife viewing tips, an author biography and an index.                                                                               

Friday, July 15, 2022

Everybody in the Red Brick Building, written by Anne Wynter and illustrated by Oge Mora. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2021. $21.99 ages 3 and up


"Woken up by a WaaaAAH!
and a Rraak! Wake up!

Benny pulled Cairo and Miles 
from their sleeping bags
and challenged them to a game
of flashlight tag.

I waited for a long time to get a copy of this excellent book. The action happens on a starry night when everyone in the red brick apartment building is fast asleep. That sleep does not last as long as most would like. Baby Izzie is the tiny culprit. She wakes with an ear-shattering WaaaAAH! The repercussions from that one single, though loud, noise reverberate through the entire building. 

Rayhan wakes up to check on his parrot. RraaK! WAKE UP! is the next disturbance in the once-quiet building. The two sounds taken together awaken Benny, Cairo and Miles from their sleeping bags, with nothing better to do than start up a game of tag. Their Pitter Patter STOMP! adds to the cacophony of sound erupting from the building's windows. A cat leaps out one of those windows to land on a car, and set off the car's alarm. As Izzie is quieted, the rest of the building's residents settle back to slumber. As they do so, the gentle sounds of the city lull them. Rest is restored. 

Kids will love the powerful sounds and the cumulative nature of the telling. Loud sounds are repeated as each new one is added; then soft city ones are heard as peace falls upon the building. It is sure to be a well-loved tale at bedtime.  

Oge Mora used 'acrylic paint, gouache, china markers, patterned paper, pastels, and old book clippings' to create her gorgeous collages that bring this nighttime story to glorious life. The power of the loud sounds is fully displayed and invite active participation in the noise-making. They turn quickly to the oft-heard night sounds of the city as peace reigns once more. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes "the French Chef", written by Paul Prud'Homme and illustrated by Sarah Green. Calkins Creek, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 8 and up


"Julia inhaled the wonderful aroma of fish
cooked in butter. Then she took a bite of the
sole, experienced ‘a magnificent burst of flavor,’
 and closed her eyes. She had never tasted
anything so fresh and delicious. She tried to chew
slowly, to savor every morsel, but the lunch was so
good that she gobbled it down.

Julia Child's grandnephew, Alex Prud'Homme, creates a loving tribute to his 'larger than life' aunt who  admitted to 'being born hungry, not a cook.' Her dream was to have grand adventures and be a famous writer. World War II found her working for the US spy agency and living first in Ceylon. Her work was important, but her loneliness was great. That is, until she met Paul Child who worked in the next office. 

The two could not have been more different in size, age or demeanor. Their differences were outweighed by their love of food, books and travel. Julia knew nothing about cooking; her first recipe was for shark repellant to protect sailors from shark bites and keep the sharks away from sea mines. After the war, the two returned home and married. Thus began Julia's journey toward learning to cook. 

A trip to France included a stop at Paul's favorite restaurant where Julia ate the most delicious meal she had yet tasted. While living there, Paul worked and Julia tasted foods of every kind. She read French cookbooks and tried her hand at many recipes, all falling slightly short of the perfection she was seeking. She had much yet to learn. So, she signed up at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, and worked harder than everyone there. She learned to shop and to cook from her teacher. Then, she passed on what she had learned so well in her own cooking classes, teaching her students to make mistakes without apology, and always have fun! 

An author's note includes further information about her life, her teaching, and many other accomplishments. Back matter that follows is titled The Essential Julia, and lists books, TV shows, podcasts, websites, exhibits, and a bibliography. Oh, and a recipe for scrambled eggs. 

Digital illustrations are a wonderful accompaniment to the text, with pages depicting the wonderful foods that led to her life of learning and teaching, their travles, and their love for each other.                                                                                 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Urgent Message From a Hot Planet: Navigating the Climate Crisis, written by Ann Eriksson and illustrated by Belle Wuthrich. Orca Book Publishers. 2022. $26.95 ages 12 and up

"If you are reading this paragraph, you've made it
through a lot of bad news. I hope you feel informed
about the task ahead of us as global citizens to tackle
the climate crisis for ourselves, our loved ones, the 
rest of humanity and all the other species we share 
the planet with. That brings up the question, Where
is it that we all need to go instead?
Looking into the 
past at the root causes of our situation can help to 
answer that question.

Ann Eriksson pulls no punches in this call for action. She aims her information at teen readers, and offers hope in a time of great despair over the state of our world because of climate change. Using science and research, she defines what the crisis is, and the three dominant issues that make it worse: “global heating, ecological destruction, and inequality.” She talks about the impact of action and inaction as it affects our Earth right now. The more knowledge, the better to help make the changes needed. 

Her first-person account is compelling and invites readers to learn the stories and good work being done by teen activists concerning environmental issues. While she wants them to know that the news is dire, she also says that being proactive through knowledge makes for powerful action. She feels strongly that having communities become involved in shared solutions, and a growing respect for nature are integral to making the changes needed. 

Ms. Eriksson makes a clear case for taking action to keep from feeling hopeless in the face of issues that seem impossible. They are not, but they need a concerted effort from everyone to change the trajectory of the crisis. Her stories and wisdom shared through interviews and conversations show that there is hope. Her final chapter reminds readers that preparation for living in a changing world is key. She offers a list for personal action: learn to do stuff, connect with nature, make room for silence, feel your emotions, join a climate action group, be in control of your choices, seek out a mentor, give back, and finally, practice gratitude. 

Throughout the text, readers will find meaningful illustrations and photos to add context. "Burning Questions" ask readers to think seriously about various issues, and "Youth Voice" boxes are quotes from young activists who describe their own experiences and offer messages to readers for making changes where they are. In back matter, the author includes a helpful glossary, lists that share print and online resources and a comprehensive index. This is an important read for teens looking for real scientific facts about climate change. It also provides fire for those wanting to make changes. 

From everyone I interviewed, I learned that action breeds hope and that action taken with others is an antidote to despair.” 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Anita and the Dragons, written by Hannah Carmona and illustrated by Anna Cunha. Lantana, Thomas Allen and Son, 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Abuela is not coming, so we must tell her every 
detail. We promise to send thousands of pictures. 
Both she and I are sad. However, like a brave 
princesa, I hold her and give her my brightest 
smile each time we talk about the new palace.

Anita, the narrator of this meaningful emigration story, loves her Dominican home, and her abuela. She will miss both when the family leaves for a new life. The planes that fly overhead are like dragons to her, and today is the day she will meet one. She is not scared. 

She sees herself as a princesa, and lets her brother know that he has no place in her palace. Everyone on the island loves her; they are very sad when she reports that dragons are coming to take her whole family away. Her mother explains that conditions in their new home will have real benefits - hot water, a dryer. The family will learn to speak English, and there will be electricity all the time. But, they will be missed in their community. 

The dragons arrive. 

"Face to face with the massive beast, 
my throat clenches. Wings protrude 
from either side. Eyes line the slender 
body. Already the beast hums in 

It is time for passengers to board the beast. She is having none of it! So many questions about loneliness, fear, and bravery. Her Mami and Papi listen, and then they take her hand and lead her aboard. In her heart, she says goodbye to the island she loves, and promises to return. 

The expressive lines of text are accompanied by exceptional mixed media artwork. Its textured look 
adds depth to the island setting, and to the emotions felt by Anita as she prepares to leave on an unwanted adventure.                                                                                      


Monday, July 11, 2022

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


"Some animals keep their babies 
in very strange places: in their 
mouths ... 

A female mouth-brooding cichlid fish lays 
eggs that she keeps in her mouth until 
they hatch. Once released, the babies 
leave her mouth but dart back in if 
danger threatens."

Last month, I posted a companion book to this one: Find Out About ... Animal Homes. This other one about animals and their babies follows the same format. Mr. Jenkins explains that all animals in the world have babies. How they do that, and how they take care of them is the subject of this book. He reminds that this book includes only a few from the countless list of animals in our world.  

Again, he uses opposite comparisons: big/small, look alike/do not/babies together/babies alone. The introductory statement is once again printed in bold-face and the facing page adds further data written in a much smaller font. Most animals are familiar, with a few exceptions. The ways in which they care for (or don't) those babies are varied and at times surprising. 

"And some don't look after them 
at all. 

A female sea turtle comes out of the ocean
to lay her eggs on a beach. She covers 
them with sand and goes back to the sea, 
leaving the eggs to hatch by themselves 
weeks later.

Once again, the colorful and engaging mixed media artwork is sure to attract interest and full attention as the book is shared. Encouraging young children to think about other animals and the babies they would like to know about will generate a list leading to further research. That's a real bonus. Then, further information about animals and their babies, and an index complete the book.                                                                              

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle, written by Nina LaCour and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 3 and up


In the faraway place where Mommy 
is working, snow falls from the sky. 
Out the window of our house, rain
pours down. 
She tells me that rain is loud and 
snow is quiet but both are made 
of water.

I squeeze my eyes shut and listen."

Monday begins with a kiss from Mommy and a wish for a good morning. When they get to the kitchen, Mama is getting the table ready, and Mommy is in charge of pancakes. They have breakfast before Mommy leaves for a weeklong business trip. Mama and her little one enjoy normal activities for the rest of the day. Tuesday at school, the children talk about the things they miss, including Mommy, a sister, a papa, and a cat. At night the two talk with Mommy, as they will do while she is away. 

The week moves slowly forward, with calls to show how much Mommy is missed. Hugs over the phone are fine, but not nearly the same as the real ones. Being not in the middle is unsettling. Errands get done on Thursday, but the missing gets bigger. 

"I miss Mommy. I miss her as deep
as a scuba diver down in the ocean
and as high as an astronaut up in the stars.

As Friday rolls around, our narrator whispers a plan to her Mama. On Saturday, while they do their weekly chores, the idea continues to evolve. It will a wonderful surprise! Finally, it's Sunday and it is time to get ready. Mommy's coming home! The emotions spring fully to the surface. When the sadness and crying are done, the little one is back in her perfect spot - Mama and Mommy and me in the middle once again. 

This debut picture book for Nina LaCour is written with heart and real emotion. The careful attention to every detail in the mixed media illustrations adds depth to both characters and setting. Readers will want to return to this book. Each time they will find more fine details in the facial expressions, the setting, the characters, and the events of a long week. Feelings of love and loss are expressed equally well in text and artwork, making this a terrific read aloud.                                                                                   

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Every Dog in the Neighborhood, written by Philip C Stead and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"The third house has a big red door and a 
fancy knocker that I am too short to reach. 
I look through the mail slot and say, loudly, 
"Excuse me! My name is Louis and I am 
counting every dog in the neighborhood! 
Do you have a dog?" 
"We have three dogs, " says a little girl
who is even shorter than the mail slot.

Grandma is upset with the weather, and makes sure her grandson knows it. She can feel it in her knees. She wants Louis to get ready for a walk in the rain. As they walk, he reminds her that he wants a dog. Grandma tells him there are already too many dogs in the neighborhood. Louis wants to know how many there are. As they pass a vacant lot, Grandma notices it is deemed 'off limits'. That sets her to writing a letter to City Hall, and influences her grandson to do the same, asking how many dogs there are in their neighborhood. 

Grandma's reply goes in the garbage with her grumbling that if you want something done, you might as well do it yourself. Louis's reply says that dogs are not officially counted. Loading his backpack with supplies, Louis sets off to do his own research. Grandma goes in the opposite direction to deal with the unsatisfactory response she received about her inquiry. Louis begins door-knocking to gather the information he needs. While Louis busy, so is his grandmother. We are privy to her actions in enjoyable artwork by Matthew Cordell. 

After many wonderful conversations, and a couple of short breaks with Grandma at the park gate, Louis completes his research. He returns with a final tally of nineteen dogs in the neighborhood. Grandma is busy with letter writing and doesn't respond until Louis repeats himself. She lets him know that he missed one, and off they go in the dark with purpose written all over Grandma's face. At the last house, Louis meets Mr. Khan, who has a dog and a sad story. Or is it a happy one? 

Louis's letter to City Hall offers the information he has gathered, and a suggestion for better record keeping, almost ending this brilliant story. It is another stellar collaboration from two of my favorite artists. Philip Stead's choice of Louis as the narrator makes for pure entertainment and some pretty funny moments along the way. Matt Cordell's signature pen and ink and watercolor illustrations add drama, hilarity, and details to rouse interest and discussion as the book is read. The final two spreads will bring a smile to readers' faces. It sure did for me. One of my favorites this year! 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Tanna's Lemming, written by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley and illustrated by Tamara Campeau. Inhabit Media. 2022. $18.95 ages 5 and up


"When Tanna went to play with friends,
she brought Fluffi in a small wooden box.
Tanna's friends took turns holding Fluffi.
They were much kinder than visiting 
researchers who always looked at the 
lemming and cried, "Ew!" Tanna just 
couldn't understand grown-ups.

This new book about Tanna and her love for animals follows Tanna's Owl (Inhabit Media, 2020). Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley opens with a greeting.

"There were giant lives around us. Like whales and polar bears.
But there were also little lives. Like insects. Or plants. Even 
sickness was thought to be alive, before we had ever heard of 
germs. And there were unseen powers to balance the world. We
never believed that they needed to be seen. Or explained. As 
long as their ways could school us. 

Here is what Tanna learned from just a lemming. 

(And Thunder.)

All the children from Tanna's village are working hard in the Arctic summer. A researcher has promised money for each lemming they can catch. Tanna is up to the task, and very good at it. As she turns over the last stone of the day, she finds a lemming, with tiny, black beady eyes. It's soft and appealing. She will not give it up. She makes a promise that the lemming will be free. 

Holding that tiny thing she thinks about the Laws of Thunder which teach respect for even tiny things. Her father has explained those laws to his children, telling them about a force that is part of the sky and cares about such things - like Thunder. Her father points out that all living things are important, even the tiniest ones. Treating them badly leads to problems in the future. That does it for Tanna. She names the lemming Fluffi and carries it home. Over the summer, Tanna cares for the lemming and learns it ways. She keeps it in a box, and allows friends to hold Fluffi. 

During winter, Tanna fashions a leash for their walks. As they walk, she again learns from Fluffi about the ways lemmings live and thrive. When Fluffi causes a ruckus with very special sewing materials belonging to Tanna's mom, Tanna knows she must make a heartbreaking decision. Ultimately, it is the very best thing she can do for Fluffi. Once summer arrives, and while she is still missing the lemming dearly, Tanna spends time outside on the land. There she sees many lemmings, all living their best and most vibrant life. 

Tanna pauses to think an important thought:

"Tanna had only wished to have the lemming. 
She had never thought about the lemming's 
wishes. Maybe lemmings wanted other lemmings
for family.

Tamara Campeau's illustrations are brightly colored and provide a clear visual for the Arctic setting. They also show expression, and thought as Tanna considers her various actions. 

I want to mention while I have your attention to this book from Inhabit Media that they also publish Kaakuluk: Nunavut's Discovery Magazine for Kids. I recently received Issue #10 Walruses and Issue #11 Orcas. They are described as an exciting, fact-filled magazine about Nunavut for all curious kids, north and south. Each issue includes activities, traditional stories and articles about life in the Arctic. The series is printed in full color, with photographs and illustrations throughout that will be sure to capture the attention of young readers. The will do exactly that, and they are printed in two languages. Meant for older children ages 8 and up. 

At the same time, I received two copies (6,7) of Ukaliq: Fun for Little Nunavummiut. Their main topics are Caribou! and Snowy Owls! They include captioned color photographs, a traditional story, followed by activities for more learning and fun. They are also printed in two languages. Meant for younger readers ages 4 to 7

I hope you can find copies to add to classroom collections of nonfiction. 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

It's Me, Henry! Written by Stephanie Deslauriers and illustrated by Genevieve Despres. Translated by Charles Simard. Orca Book Publishers, 2022. $19.95 ages 4 and up


"All through dinner I talk about tomorrow's 
year-end field trip. I've been waiting for this 
day for so long. The Botanical Garden is my 
favorite place on the whole entire planet. I 
even have my own annual pass. I know almost 
all the employees, like Ms. Rose and Mr. 
Haywood. I hope they'll be there tomorrow.

Henry narrates this story, letting readers know that his love for plants is great. He even calls his friend Daisy by her scientific name - Leucanthemum vulgare. Daisy is not impressed. Henry is not sure why. Henry makes it clear that he has difficulty waiting to share what he knows. He also notices that his classmates are concerned when they don't get a chance to answer. 

At recess, with few friends, Henry finds safety and peace under the weeping willow - Salix babylonica. Only when recess is over and quiet envelops him is he truly relaxed. The school counselor knows where to find him, and brings him back to her office. The calm remains. 

At home he exhibits further concerns; this time with his dinner plate and foods that touch each other. He is excited to talk about the school field trip to the Botanical Garden the next day. He will be in his element there. When they arrive, Ms. Rose asks for his help. When needed, Henry provides extra information. Sometimes, he is allowed to give his own commentary. 

"These are sunflowers of the Helianthus genus. I would rather stay in the shade, but they like a lot of light. Did you know that sunflowers are mainly grown for their seeds, which are used to make oil?"

When Daisy helps him to name 'daisies', he blushes. The children are asked to partner up, an experience that doesn't generally go well for Henry. Imagine his surprise when Daisy wants to work with him. What a way to end their day! 

The gorgeous artwork created in watercolor, gouache and charcoal is filled with color and movement, and a love of the plants Henry loves. Facial expressions add depth to the telling and allow readers to see the emotions felt at all times. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

I'll Go and Come Back, written by Rajani LaRocca and illustrated by Sara Palacios. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"We made designs in the courtyard
with colored sand - bright pink and 
sparkling blue and dazzling gold. 

She dressed me in the same colors
and tucked strands of jasmine in 
my hair.

Oh, what a affectionate look at the love between a granddaughter and her grandmother. Jyoti narrates this story of flying back to India for the first time since she was a tiny infant. She and her parents are very excited to see their extended families once again - especially Sita Pati, her grandmother. 

India holds many surprises for Jyoti as it is so different from her own home. Thunder, mosquitoes, barking dogs, honking horns, and neighborhood chitchat fill her ears with jarring sounds. Add to that, it seems that everyone is staring at her. It is bothersome. Loneliness takes over when her cousins leave for school; being by herself makes her yearn for home. 

Although Sita Pati doesn't speak much English and Jyoti speaks little Tamil, the two find comfort and joy in spending time together. Jyoti enjoys the customs that her grandmother shares. Their trip to the market is a revelation. There is so much to see. Playing games, making food, reading together, and sipping warm milk with saffron before bed are special moments for each new day. 

Too soon, it is time to return home. Sadness at leaving leads to much happiness when the following summer it is Sita Pati who makes the trip to America. It is time for Jyoti to help her grandmother allay homesickness with new American experiences.

Gouache and acrylic artwork assembled in digital form, allows readers to see the warm colors and rich settings of the two countries. I especially love the parallel storytelling that compares the two visits seamlessly.                                                                                  

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

All My Friends, written and illustrated by Hope Larson. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $17.50 ages 10 and up


"I don't know. One, he's a jerk. 
Two, I don't think my parents 
would let me. 

So, don't tell them. We'll cover
for you!

Why are you so desperate for me 
to do this? 

'Cause you'll get to learn how 
recording works. 
The only thing really stopping 
us from recording our own
album is, we don't know how.

This is the third novel in the Eagle Rock Series about Bina and her love for music. At 14, she has worked hard to make a name for herself. She has new friends and her band, Fancy Pink, finally gets a break after blowing an opening gig with hit band Anne Surly. Following the show, the merch rep for Anne Surly asks for demo of one of their songs. Quickly, they hear that she and her father love their music and want to use it in a remake of a popular television show. Bina is over the moon. She is excited to agree to record it. 

Bina's parents say no, and so do the other parents. In talking to her bandmates, they decide they will try to earn the money needed to pay for making the record themselves. They will lie to their parents about doing it. At the same time as they are dealing with band issues, Bina goes on a few dates with Cooper, a cute member of Anne Surly's band. Things do not go so well, and the two decide they will remain friends. Dating Cooper has shown Bina just how much she misses her BFF, Austin. Maybe she should tell him how she really feels. How will he react if she does? What will happen with the recording contract? 

The two-tone pink artwork is appealing and very effective. Fans will be very happy to see Bina navigate the events as they play out. Familiar characters, and lasting friendships play a strong role. They have grown and changed, while dealing with issues important to a teen's sensibility. This is a terrific addition to a very popular series.