A Handful of Stars

Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Cynthia Lord

Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Cynthia Lord

Sweet Summery Goodness is the best way to describe this novel. Cynthia Lord creates a story of friendship set in the backdrop of a blueberry field. It’s a quick read and like the star of a blueberry, this novel is star.

Lily lives with her grandparents and helps them out in their general store. Her dog Lucky is going blind but she desperately tries to save money to get his eyesight back. Her personality is a little uptight and she is doggedly (ha!) focused on her goals. One day, Lucky romps through a blueberry field and almost runs into the busy road but Salma, a young migrant worker, lures him back to safety with her sandwich. The friendship between these two young girls begins with Lucky and he binds them together.

I enjoyed this book so much because in addition to encouraging readers to step outside of their comfort zones/be more open-minded, it also discusses Mexican migrant workers and the troubles that families have settling into new places. Salma desperately wants to feel like she belongs, to establish roots and to have real friends. Lily learns how to view the world more vibrantly though her friendship with Salma. Their worlds combine and they are both better for having found each other.

Recommended for: Ages 11 and up
Great for: Friendship, Community, Diversity, Tween Life, Social Issues
Book Info: A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord, 2015 Scholastic Press, ISBN: 9780545700276

Bee-bim Bop!

Image Credit: Sandpiper: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Linda Sue Park

Image Credit: Sandpiper: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Linda Sue Park/Ho Baek Lee

Linda Sue Park’s sweet, lyrical Bee-bim Bop! follows a family making a traditional Korean dish and is a great story time book. It’s also an excellent cultural book for younger readers (especially toddlers).  Bibimbap is one of the most well known Korean dishes in the United States and this book brings the cooking process to life.

Bibimbap

Two delicious types of bibimbap (비빔밥)

Bee-bim Bop! is close to my heart because it reminds me of my life in Korea; especially when I lived with a host family. The sound of the rice cooker boiling in the kitchen, watching my host mother chop vegetables, and finally sitting down to eat a meal together was one of the best things about my host family life.  Koreans love to spend time together by eating, drinking and talking.

Ho Baek Lee’s bright watercolor illustrations translate the rhythm of the story well. Little ones will enjoy seeing the mischievous dog who just wants some delicious food to eat. At the end of the book, there is even a recipe for families to try to make their own special bibimbap. Park not only creates a delightful story but she also successfully teaches about Korean culture in the simplest way; through food, family and rhythm!

Recommended for: Toddlers and young children
Great for: Story time, Rhythm, Cultural Diversity, Food Culture
Book Info: Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park/Illustrated by Ho Baek Lee, 2005 Sandpaper (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 9780547076713

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Harper Teen, Patrick Ness

Image Credit: Harper Teen, Patrick Ness

Warm fuzzy socks. That’s how The Rest of Us Just Live Here made me feel when I finished it. It left me with a comfy feeling because Ness does an amazing job of characterization. I love his characters so much! Onion. That’s how I’d describe this novel due to its layers. On the surface, it’s an action-packed/end of the world thriller but more importantly it’s a coming of age novel. Their world is coming to an end and the “Indie Kids” (they fight the bad guys, are hipster and antisocial) are running around fighting evil while the normal kids try to make sense of everything that’s happening. They just want to graduate high school before the Indie Kids blow up the school…again.

The four main characters Mikey, Jared, Mel and Henna become wrapped up in the middle of all the disturbing events going on in their town, but as they learn more about what’s going on, they learn more about themselves, their relationships and how powerful they are. This novel is really about friendship. Sure we follow the action-packed scenes of the near apocalypse and wonder if another Indie Kid will die, but the heart of the story is how close the friends are and how real their love for each other is. Ness really delves into questions about first love, infatuation, sexuality, mental health, family life, trust and forgiveness. This one will stay with you.

P.S. The U.S. cover glows in the dark…Say What??  😉

Recommended for: Teens aged 14 and up
Great for: Friendship, Mental Health, Diversity, Coming of Age, Sci-fi, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Family
Book Info: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, 2015 Harper Teen, ISBN: 9780062403162

People

Image Credit: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, Peter Spier

Image Credit: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, Peter Spier

People takes a snapshot of the world. This book has a lot of emotional meaning for me because it was one of my favorites as a child. I still have my original copy from 1980. Look what I wrote inside the front cover:

Image for People

I’ve always loved meticulous illustration and Peter Spier doesn’t miss any details. His bold and colorful illustrations of peoples, towns, foods and traditional games are amazing. People is essentially about cultural diversity. His simple sentences prompt reflection and discussion about our similarities and differences. Children learn about tolerance, humanity and how varied our cultures are. As I read through this book again, I thought “Well goodness, he taught me about cultural relativism!” I’m pretty certain that this book is one of the reasons why I studied cultural anthropology in college. It sparked an early interest in learning about all types of people.

Though there are many great things about this book, there are some problems. Some parents and teachers might not like that Adam and Eve are the first people in the book. Spier does a fair amount of cultural stereotyping with his illustrations and the book is rather dated in many ways. So why am I recommending this book? I’m recommending it because I believe that it’s still an excellent book that people of all ages can learn from. For his mistakes, he has many more successes and a book like this one is still a good resource for a curious child. Parents and teachers can use these stereotypes (ex. Native American houses in USA are teepees/The Japanese family always wears Kimono) as learning tools. By encouraging questions and prompting discussion about these issues, children can take away more valuable lessons. A teacher or parent can also challenge their children to “update” this book by having them choose a culture featured and research how they live today.

**I reviewed the 1980 version but there is a more updated version now available. Information below

Recommended for: 1st Grade and Up
Great for: Cultural Diversity, Cultural Relativism, Discussion, Anthropology
Book Info: People by Peter Spier, 1988, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780385244695