Written and Drawn by Henrietta

Written&DrawnByHenrietta

Image Credit: Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC), Liniers

“A box of colored pencils is as close as you can get to owning a piece of the rainbow.”

Written and Drawn by Henrietta is about the unpredictability of storytelling, going with the flow and letting your mind take you on a journey. Henrietta is just as surprised about what happens in her story as readers are! We get to follow her creative process and listen in on her discussions with her cat Fellini as she writes and illustrates an EPIC story.

This funny and clever book actually starts on the front endpaper. Henrietta shares wisdom about the power of books. Next we see her聽holding a shiny new box of pencils which she’ll use to create the title page of her story聽about a three headed monster with only two hats. Her protagonist “Emily” seems very聽stressed about the noises coming from her wardrobe and Henrietta even scares herself! Hahaha. Her story progresses and Huey, Dewey and Louie Bluie (the three headed monster) accompanies Emily into the wardrobe (It was made in Narnia, see…) where adventure awaits. Henrietta knows all the tricks to make an engaging story.

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Image Credit: Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC), Liniers

Liniers’ writing and illustration are excellent. But when you read this book, you won’t think about him because he creates a loveable character who has complete control of the reins of this book. He’s mastered the “Kid Art” style of illustration and the pages are alive with bold strokes, gnarly teeth and wild colors. Henrietta is confident in her skill and it’s fun to see the story develop. TOON BOOKS are special because they’re comic leveled-readers. Many kids are into comics and graphic novels these days and I can’t recommend this TOON Book enough. I have my fingers crossed for another installment of Henrietta’s story. I hope your child will love this book and be inspired to create!

 

P.S. Be sure to read Liniers’ dedication. 馃檪 It’s very sweet. AND this book is also available in Spanish!

 

Recommended for: Age 6 and up
Great for: Discussion, Humor, Clever, Friendship, Puns, Relationships, Storytelling, Suspense, Writing a Story, Storyboarding, Inspiration, Creative Thinking
Book Info: Written and Drawn by Henriettaby Liniers, 2015 Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC.), ISBN: 9781935179900

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Toys Meet Snow

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Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House), Emily Jenkins/Paul O. Zelinsky

It’s starting to get cold out where I am and though I’m not a fan of聽cold weather, I can’t deny how beautiful snow looks as it blankets the earth.

Toys Meet Snow聽celebrates the wonder of curiosity and play. It’s both simple and complex with excellent characterization. First, we’re introduced to our characters; Lumphy, a stuffed Buffalo, StingRay, a plush stingray and Plastic, a rubber ball. Their Little Girl has left for winter vacation and they’re staring out the window in wonder at the first snow of the season. Teamwork gets them out the door and into the snow (not before taking the necessary protective measures of course!).

We get to see the personalities of each toy and Jenkins writes the story so that聽it’s easy to聽anticipate their reactions聽on each spread, which can be great for children who’re learning to read (the predictability in story format). Lumphy is very inquisitive, StingRay is poetic and visual and Plastic is all about the facts! They study the snow, ask questions and make a snowman. Plastic even gets a special boost of self confidence before heading back in for the day.

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Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House), Emily Jenkins/Paul O. Zelinsky

 

I like the way Emily Jenkins writes. There’s a quirky cuteness to this聽story. Her writing pairs well with聽Zelinsky’s soft, beautiful聽digital illustrations. My favorite spread is the one where the toys leave indentations in the snow to make snow angels! It’s fun to guess which toy made which angel. With glittery snow on the cover, you’re ready to dive into a winter story, but you’ll find that it’s quite warm. 馃檪 Toys Meet Snow聽is a large book with wide beautiful spreads. The blustery white snow covers the pages and you’ll feel like you’re out with the toys, on an adventure. Can you tell how much I love the illustrations?The red strawberry syrup sunset is聽lovely and so is this book. Check it out and enjoy!

 

Recommended for:聽All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Learning, Curiosity, Inquisitive Minds, Learning, Relationships, Action/Adventure, Snow, Animals, Personalities, Read Aloud, Play
Book Info: Toys Meet Snow聽by Emily Jenkins/Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky聽, 2015 Schwartz & Wade (Penguin Random House), ISBN: 9780385373302

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

DrownedCity

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Don Brown


Drowned City
is a tough but very important聽read. The graphic novel element makes this story accessible to reluctant readers and Brown does a great job of recounting and documenting this part of history. It’s easy to pick up the book and learn the history, facts, heroism and the incompetency. The writing of Drowned City reads like an extended newspaper article; fact after fact with the addition of speech bubbles. The moments of dialogue help connect聽readers to the tragic events and the people who suffered through them.

As I read the book, I’d stare at the words and then the illustrations and I’d shake my head, memories of television news reports coming back to me. Brown’s illustrations are powerful. He uses a palette of of browns, blues, grays and purples to depict the stagnant water, stormy skies, and hopeless expressions of the people of New Orleans.

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Don Brown

One criticism I have of this book is that in the summary, Brown writes “The suffering hit the African American community hardest; a weather disaster became a race disaster” but he never addresses this in the book. Brown skin is visually noticeable in the illustrations聽but he doesn’t聽discuss the issue of race in the lack of聽response to the hurricane victims, or even acknowledge that most of the victims were African American. This is something I’d encourage parents and teachers to discuss.

Published in 2015, just in time for the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Drowned City is a worthy and moving read that will provoke much discussion in your home or classroom. This book can be even more聽powerful when used in conjunction with real life accounts and stories from the victims themselves.聽A while back I compiled a group of聽excellent books about Hurricane Katrina for a display at my bookstore. Check out my post here for those books and be sure to pick up a copy of this graphic novel.

 

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up
Great for: History, Modern History, Hope, Community, Determination, Discrimination, Discussion, Economic Inequality, Incompetency, Hurricane Katrina, Inner Strength, Lack of Leadership, Leadership, Social Issues, Struggle, We Need Diverse Books, Non-Fiction, African American
Book Info: Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans聽by Don Brown, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544157774

Growing Up Pedro

GrowingUpPedro

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Matt Tavares

Let me get this off my chest…I’m not a baseball fan and I think that’s why it took me so long to pick up this book. I didn’t read it until I decided to participate in a Twitter Chat (SharpSchu) to discuss it.聽Sometimes I have to remind myself to open my eyes and embrace everything. I’m still聽not big on baseball but Growing Up Pedro isn’t just about baseball; it’s about the amazing relationship between brothers Ram贸n and Pedro Mart铆nez.

The size of this picture book is large; it’s designed to be opened wide and fully experienced. As soon as you open the first page, you’ll see a sweeping landscape of the Dominican Republic in 1981 and little brown boys playing stickball. This sets the tone of the story where we’ll learn how two great baseball players came to dominate American baseball.

GrowingUpPedro

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Matt Tavares

From an early age, Pedro admires his big brother Ram贸n’s skill and they practice together, throwing balls at the ripe mangos hanging from the trees. Eventually Ram贸n makes it to the LA Dodgers in 1985 and when he leaves for America, Pedro becomes more determined than ever to follow him. Ram贸n learns from his struggles and聽makes sure聽that Pedro is better in English than him when he’s ready to join him in the Major Leagues. Pedro isn’t as big as Ram贸n (this will cause some to doubt his ability) but his heart is just as big if not bigger. Heart pumping full of determination, he makes it to the Minor-Leagues just as his big brother is making waves on the Dodgers.

The brothers end up on the Dodgers, together. But before he knows it, Pedro is traded to Montreal! He continues to shine due to his inner strength and the support of his big brother. He DOMINATES as a pitcher and eventually聽surpasses even his brother in skill. Pedro goes to the Red Sox and later Ram贸n聽joins him again and together they lead the Red Sox to the American League Championship Series. Throughout their career, the Mart铆nez Brothers are the聽pride of the Dominican Republic and never forget where they come from.

Tavares’ watercolor and gouache illustrations are dynamic. As I mentioned earlier, the wide, sweeping landscapes are gorgeous. I particularly enjoy the scenes of young Pedro and Ram贸n against the green trees, in shorts and caps, playing baseball with their friends and having fun! Baseball lovers will appreciate the almost photorealistic paintings of the brothers during their prime, pitching on the mound with determination in their eyes. If you’re looking for an excellent story about brotherhood, love and reaching for your dreams (oh and baseball 馃槈 ), pick up Growing Up Pedro!

P.S. If you buy this book, be sure to remove the jacket and check out the cover!! It’s really cool and brings the story full circle. Also, this book will be published in Spanish soon! SWEET!

 

Recommended for:聽2nd Grade and up
Great for: Brotherhood, Ripe Mangos, Siblings, Relationships, Role Model, Admiration, Dreams, Determination, Coming of Age, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Friendship, Baseball, Biography, Sports, Sports History, Pedro Mart铆nez,聽Ram贸n Mart铆nez, LA Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos, Dominican Republic, Inner-Strength
Book Info: Growing Up Pedro聽by Matt Tavares, 2015 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763668242

Ask Me

AskMe

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Bernard Waber/Suzy Lee

Ask Me, written by Bernard Waber and posthumously published with illustrations by Suzy Lee is so聽sweet. The little girl in the story enjoys a fun day with her dad. As they spend time聽together, she asks him to ask her questions about her likes and reminds him about things she loves. They’re both attentive towards each other while being totally a part of their autumn surroundings. Their relationship is聽very solid and loving and I appreciate聽the fresh style of the writing; the story is essentially dialogue between the two. The pace and delivery of the story (also the illustrations) remind me of another great book about a father and daughter, Sidewalk Flowers.

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Bernard Waber/Suzy Lee

Lee depicts a messy piggy-back ice cream treat, romping through the falling leaves聽and dad pretending to be a bear. These are just a few of the tender moments in this book. I love the way she uses colored pencil and long, scratchy strokes to create the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of fall leaves.聽Not only is the story comforting, but the colors and her sketchy-style of illustration is as well and聽readers will love this father-daughter relationship. What a cute book!

P.S. Another book that starts on the end pages (like Remy and Lulu)! Watch them get ready for their day out. 馃檪

 

Recommended for:聽All ages
Great for: Family, Relationships, Father-Daughter, Colors, Animals, Autumn, Nature, Community, Read-Aloud, Love, Environment, Discussion
Book Info: Ask Me聽by Bernard Waber/Illustrated by Suzy Lee, 2015聽Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780547733944

Let Our Powers Combine!

 

I’m now a part of a new exciting Tumblr called The Book Wenches! This fun new blog combines my powers with the powers of my good friends Tori, Marita, Claire, Melissa and Jo Ann. We all met working at the same bookstore and this blog is our way of keeping connected and sharing our PASSION for books.

I’ll mostly blog about children’s books but my talented friends have interests that vary greatly! They’re into Sci-fi, Fiction, YA, Middle Grade and more. This will hopefully be an outlet for me to discuss my feelings about “big people books.” 馃槈 聽Tori already posted some excellent聽feminist and diverse聽reading lists so please check those out if you’re looking for great reads. I hope you’ll support our new creative venture and check out聽The Book Wenches!

Happy Reading As Always!

Alia

Last Stop on Market Street

 

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Image Credit: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group), Matt de la Pe帽a/Christian Robinson

 

Last Stop on Market Street is聽one of the best of 2015.

It’s about the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson聽and聽what makes it shine is the grandmother’s magic. She’s pure positive energy and has the ability to see beauty in everything.聽Her wisdom is gentle yet strong enough to open CJ’s young eyes to his world. As they travel through their neighborhood, CJ yearns for what others have but her thoughtful corrections and caring perspective show him聽just how much he already has. She gives him the gift of positive reflection.

Their bus ride in the rain is full of colorful people. A man plays his guitar and a blind man jokingly says he closes his eyes to better hear the music, and聽they do as well. CJ especially, begins to SEE; he sees the music and all of its vibrancy. At the last stop on Market Street, he steps off the bus and his lessons continue as he walks with Nana聽down the street…

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Image Credit: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group), Matt de la Pe帽a/Christian Robinson

There are so many great things working聽together in this book. Until I sat down to write this review, I valued the story more, but when I slowed down (like CJ) and聽took time to appreciate聽the聽illustrations, I came to love how well they belong聽with this story. De la Pe帽a’s poetic, rich and descriptive words combined with Robinson’s vibrant, blocky paint and collage illustrations carry the story to its destination.

I love the diverse people! I love how they speak in colloquial language! Nana sounds like my grandma and that detail is important; some young readers may connect to this book based on that detail alone.聽The everyday realness of this story shines brightly; Nana and CJ’s story is a reflection of us, our modern world and all of its amazing colors!

 

Recommended for:聽All ages
Great for: Community, Buses, Movement, Travel, Family, Lessons, Perspective, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Grandmother-Grandson, Community Service, Read-Aloud, Music, Disability, Discussion
Book Info: Last Stop on Market Street聽by聽Matt de la Pe帽a/Illustrated by Christian Robinson, 2015 G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Young Readers Group), ISBN: 9780399257742

Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten

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Image Credit: Scholastic Inc., Katherine Cox/ Vanessa Brantley Newton

Katie Fry is one smart cookie with a knack for solving mysteries. This Level 2 Beginning reader is a great short story for building confidence in reading. Katie is very modern and relatable and kids will enjoy following her adventures in her neighborhood. Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten is the first in a series and in it we meet Katie and her family. She practices her detective skills on her dad and finds his glasses…on top of his head! Katie, being the thoughtful entrepreneur she is, sets up a booth to help people solve mysteries. Before she knows it, she鈥檚 on a case to find a missing kitten named Sherlock!

Vanessa Brantley Newton is one of my new favorite illustrators because her digital/mixed media illustrations have so much life to them. She鈥檚 great at creating characters with personality and spunk. Katie Fry, with her brown skin, curly natural hair and flower dress reminds me of my little cousin. THAT is the beauty of a diverse book; a child can see a reflection of themselves in the story and might even be聽inspired to be the best private eye on their street, just like Katie Fry.

If you like this book, there’s聽a sequel called聽Katie Fry Private Eye: The Missing Fox! If you enjoy mystery picture books like me, check out my reviews for聽Shark Detective and Hermelin the Detective Mouse. Happy Sleuthing!

 

Recommended for:聽Kindergarten-2nd grade
Great for: Humor,聽Friendship, Animals, Cats, Mystery, Girl Power, African-American, BlackGirlsRock, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Family, Community, Encouraging Reading, Beginning Readers
Book Info: Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten by Katherine Cox/Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, 2015 Scholastic Inc., ISBN: 9780545666725

Two Mice

TwoMice

Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Sergio Ruzzier

 

Two Mice.
One (awesome) Friendship.

Two Friends.
One (big) Adventure.

Two Mice is a nice little mouse-sized adventure book. I imagine in the mouse world, if Roger Cheesebert rated books, he’d give it four cheddars聽and I suspect this book is already legend. I鈥檓 imagining little mice children sitting around the fire while Grandma Mouse reads this tale.

This little book has a big heart. The simple text聽focuses on numbers and counting; younger readers can read this book and feel confident that they know all the words in front of them! It also shows that sometimes you don’t need many words to tell a great story. In this story, two mice live together in one house and after a meal of three cookies (one mouse looks a little annoyed!) they set out for the day. Three boats with two oars…what adventures await?

I’m a big fan of Sergio Ruzzier’s storytelling and art. I recently reviewed his book A Letter for Leo which is one of my favorites! I love聽how he creates complete little worlds on each spread.聽His attention to detail is wonderful and the watercolor paintings are lovely (I always love his skies!). You’ll love all the funny expressions of his characters. Teachers, this book would be perfect for lessons about travel, adventure, storytelling (beginning/middle/end) and “best travel stories.” Hope you will enjoy Two Mice!

Recommended for:聽All ages
Great for: Animals, Friendship, Action/Adventure, Counting, Determination, Vocabulary, Humor, Read-Aloud, Discussion
Book Info: Two Mice聽by Sergio Ruzzier, 2015 Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt),聽ISBN: 9780544302099

 

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

TheAmazingAgeofJohnRoyLynch

Image Credit: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Chris Barton/Don Tate

John Roy Lynch. A child of slavery and reborn during Reconstruction, he is a true example of hard work and determination. This biography gives us a glimpse into his amazing life during a very important but overlooked part of American history, Reconstruction.

John was a half Irish boy born into slavery.聽Soon the Civil War came and though slaves were eventually emancipated, John wasn鈥檛 really free until he set off on his own as a teen.聽He took several jobs in Natchez, Mississippi; just being able to make his own way, as a free man, was liberating! He taught himself to read and write and started to speak out in local politics on the issue of Blacks and voting. Before he knew it, he was Justice of the Peace and would eventually be elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. He became the Speaker of the House and would rise on to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C. He did all this in just ten years time from being a slave and would live his life striving for equal rights.

John Roy Lynch accomplished quite a great deal but he was frustrated with the slow speed of progress for people of color. Though Blacks were legally liberated, Whites started to push back against the progress Free Blacks were making in American society though processes like voting to make changes, owning property, and gaining government positions. Some of this push back was done with violence. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is an important historical biography that not only tells us the story of a great man but also reminds us of the importance of Reconstruction.

The illustrations for this book are great! Don Tate brings John鈥檚 life to life though soft ink and gouache paintings. From his early days in the cotton field, to my favorite spread of John Roy Lynch standing in front of the flag with determination in his eyes, his life is honored though skillful illustration. Here鈥檚 to making your own amazing age and living with purpose!

 

Recommended for: 3rd Grade and up
Great for: Non-Fiction, Biography, Leader, Role-Model, Determination, Government, Slavery, Reconstruction, Community, Family, We Need Diverse Books, Diversity, Discussion, History, Social Issues, African-American
Book Info: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton/Illustrated by Don Tate, 2015 Eerdmans Books for Young Readers,聽ISBN: 9780802853790