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

Take Away the A

Image Credit: Enchanted Lion Books, Michaël Escoffier

Image Credit: Enchanted Lion Books, Michaël Escoffier/Kris Di Giacomo

I love a great endpaper (it’s all about the details!!). I open this book and there’s a neon green background with white ABC letters. Okay, I’m already hooked!  *__*

Take Away the A is by far my favorite ABC book. This book is CLEVER! It gets kids thinking about not only their ABCs but also the meaning of words. Escoffier takes away one letter from a simple word, that word magically transforms into another word and then he writes a silly sentence using both words. Then the illustrator, Di Giacomo, pairs the sentence with a charming illustration. The child reader is reading and simultaneously making connections between the sentence and image. If they have some trouble understanding the words, they can glance up at the illustration for help, especially since the format of this book is very formulaic. Some children are more visual learners and books like this are great for strengthening their reading comprehension!

As a bookseller, this was my go-to recommendation for children who are starting to feel more confident with their reading because it’s so fun and silly. The illustrations use muted colors and have a classic feeling to them. Teachers and parents can also use this book as a tool to get their kids thinking creatively! How about a Take Away the A inspired lesson where the students come up with their own silly sentences and illustrations? The possibilities are endless!

Recommended for: Beginning readers and up
Great for: ABC Learning, Inspiring creative thinking, Storytelling, Animals, Humor
Book Info: Take Away the A by Michaël Escoffier/Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo , 2014 Enchanted Lion Books, ISBN: 9781592701568

Roller Girl

Image Credit: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), Victoria Jamieson

Image Credit: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), Victoria Jamieson

Okay! Are you ready?? One thing I learned from being a children’s bookseller is that graphic novels are HOT! Kids are eating them up. Maybe it’s because they think it “isn’t really reading.” Maybe it’s because of the success of comic-like books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid but young people are rushing to the bookstores and libraries to find fun graphic novels to read. One of the best new graphic novels for kids is Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. All you need to know about this book is ROLLER DERBY and DRAMA…are you sold yet?? 😉

Jamieson’s spunky main character Astrid is transfixed by her fist roller derby bout and assumes her best friend Nicole will join her for roller derby camp in the summer. Little does she know that Nicole has other ideas. Their friendship is tested and Astrid realizes her strength and determination as she strives to be like her idol Rainbow Brite, the coolest jammer (scorer) on her city’s adult team, The Rose City Rollers.

This is a great tweeny (is that a word??) graphic novel because tweens will relate to the struggles Astrid goes through. She matures, becomes more confident, gains friends, has angsty moments with her mom and finds her passion for roller derby. Jamieson’s art style is fresh and relatable and she creates a great book about growing up. This is one of my favorite graphic novels at the moment and roller derby fans of all ages will definitely love this one.

Recommended for: Ages 11 and up
Great for: Girl Power, Tween Life, Sports, Roller Derby, Friendship
Book Info: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, 2015 Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), ISBN: 9780803740167

Supertruck

Image Credit: Roaring Brook Press, Stephen Savage

Image Credit: Roaring Brook Press, Stephen Savage

I really love a clean line and an image that “pops.” Maybe that’s why I love illustrators like Bob Staake and Dan Yaccarino. Well, now I’m adding Stephen Savage to my exclusive “list” because I love his book Supertruck. I already loved this book and then I read it for story time and let me tell you, the kids (boys especially) stopped playing with their toy cars and gravitated towards me in Zombie Mode. ^__^  They were totally enthralled by this book, and for good reason. It is awesome.

Garbage truck has (duh duh duh) a secret identity and during a massive snow storm, he takes off his glasses and becomes…Supertruck! This book is clever and simple and is great for young readers because it is short, as I mentioned earlier the illustrations are clean and vibrant and the beginning of the book talks about different kinds of trucks! I know some of you parents out there have three year olds who know already know what front loaders are and love a whirring fire truck. They’ll really love this one. How can you resist a good super hero/truck combo book? Check it out.

Recommended for: Toddlers
Great for: Storytime, Super Heroes, Trucks, Read-Aloud, Colors
Book Info: Supertruck by Stephen Savage, 2015 Roaring Brook Press, ISBN: 9781596438217

Maddi’s Fridge

Maddi's Fridge

Image Credit: Flashlight Press, Lois Brandt/Vin Vogel

Childhood hunger is a huge problem in the U.S. In 2014, 15.3 million kids lived in food insecure households; read more about it here. This is why books like Maddi’s Fridge are important. They are conversation starters and get kids thinking about how they can be more informed and how they can help those they care about. Diversity in children’s books, in my opinion, also includes books that “expand minds” and teach children about social issues. In many classrooms around the country, there are children like Maddi and close friends like Sophia. Brandt addresses these issues and includes helpful information at the end of the book about childhood hunger and how to help.

In Maddi’s Fridge, Maddi and Sophia are best friends but one day Sophia notices Maddi only has a bottle of milk in her fridge and a loaf of bread. Maddi is embarrassed and makes her promise not to tell anyone. When Sophia gets home, she can’t help but look at the abundance of food in her fridge and think about her friend’s situation. Sophia keeps trying to bring food to school for her friend but…some foods aren’t meant to be kept in a backpack all day! Maddi also helps Sophia in the best way a friend can; through encouragement and support. This is one of my favorite books about friendship because it is quietly powerful and memorable. Vogel’s bright comic-style digital art illustrations add a charm to the book. Teachers and parents, keep an eye on this book for your little ones.

Recommended for: All ages especially 1st grade and up
Great for: Social issues, Discussion, Diversity, Classroom, Volunteering, Friendship, Poverty, Homelessness, Sharing
Book Info: Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt/Illustrated by Vin Vogel, 2014 Flashlight Press, ISBN: 9781936261291

Remembering Through Books

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A small but mighty collection of books

Back in August, we took time to reflect on ten years since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. So many lives were lost and many communities are still coping with the aftermath of the hurricane. Hearing about the tenth anniversary made me think about how I can connect the people of my community to this important anniversary, as a bookseller. I gathered these books and made a simple display. In this way, a casual bookstore-browser, especially children, can be exposed and introduced to important social events. My table also got a seal of approval by author Renee Watson (A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, Harlem’s Little Blackbird, This Side of Home)!! 🙂 The titles I used are listed below and click here for information about Hurricane Katrina.

Scholastic Discover More Reader Level 2: Hurricane Katrina (9780545829540)

Scholastic Discover More: Hurricane Katrina (9780545829564)

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews (9781419714658)

Giada de Laurentiis’s Recipe for Adventure: New Orleans (9780448462592)

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick (9780545342391)

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith (9780553511932)

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes (9780316043083)

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson (9780385376686)

What Was Hurricane Katrina? by Robin Koontz (9780448486628)

I Survived Hurricane Katrina by Lauren Tarshis (9780545206969)

Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick (9780805047165)

National Geographic Kids, Extreme Weather: Surviving Tornadoes, Sandstorms, Hailstorms, Blizzards, Hurricanes and More (9781426318115)

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

Funny Bones

Image Credit: Abrams, Duncan Tonatiuh

Author/illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh is one of my current favorites. I love not only the abundance of cultural and historical information in his picture books but his art style is simply amazing. It’s so smooth and modern while being unique and a throwback to his indigenous Mexican heritage. Does it get better than that? Not really and that’s why I’m loving his books so much.

Because Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is coming up soon, I’m discussing his newest book Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. I’ve had an interest in Dia de Los Muertos ever since I taught a lesson about it to my Korean students. I wanted to expose them to a cultural tradition that was different but similar to one of their own. Koreans celebrate a holiday called Chuseok where they honor and pray for their dead ancestors. Since there are some similarities to Dia de Los Muertos, I thought the kids might really get something out of it!

Tonatiuh does an excellent job of making culture, art critique and history accessible to kids. Some kids really enjoy the bio books and I think they’ll love this one. We learn about the life and art of Mexican artist Posada who is responsible for making the crazy and vibrant Calavera (bone people) illustrations popular. He also documented important political events like the Mexican Revolution.

What I enjoyed most about this picture book is how Tonatiuh encourages children to do art critique. He reproduces Posada’s art, blends it with his own and poses questions about the meaning of the art all while telling Posada’s story. This is awesome! Because the book is partially about Dia de Los Muertos, it encourages you to think about life and death. This may seem heavy but like the holiday, it is about the celebration of life as well as the celebration of a great Mexican artist!

Recommended for: Ages 7 and up
Great for: History, Art History, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Holiday, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, Artist Bio, Biography, Non-Fiction, Mexico
Book Info: Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh, 2015 Abrams, ISBN: 9781419716478

All the Picture Books!

happy cat

When I see all the lovely picture books!

A little about me: I’m definitely a picture book girl but I’ll be highlighting great middle grade and YA as well. What is it about picture books?? Well it takes skill and finesse to match a great story with great illustrations. The picture book industry is BOOMING right now but does that mean every book is quality? Oh no, it doesn’t. As a former children’s bookseller, I can assure you that every New Book Tuesday was full of hits and misses. But nevertheless, you could never pull me away from the picture books…

Happy Reading

Welcome! Sit back, relax and read

Image Credit: Tina Kugler

Image Credit: Tina Kugler

Hello!

This blog will be my platform to not only discuss my favorite children’s books (and to spread the love) but it will also be about diversity in children’s literature. You may or may not already know about the We Need Diverse Books movement by now. If you don’t, it’s something you should definitely check out. Why? Because all types of children should be able to see positive role models in the books they read. They should be able to walk into any bookstore or library and pick up a book that has a kid on the cover who reminds them of themselves. As far as diversity in race/ethnicity goes, the stories of people of color are not limited to historical non-fiction/fiction. Let’s share these diverse stories and celebrate them because we all benefit from them. 🙂

Welcome to Read It Real Good! Do-do do do do do-do do do do do…

Alia