Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl

ellieultra

Image Credit: Stone Arch Books (Capstone), Gina Bellisario/Jessika von Innerebner

What a cute series!

Ellie Ultra is super in every way but when she switches from home school to public school, she suddenly feels out of place. She’s a little too strong, quick and brilliant for her teachers and classmates, so making friends is more difficult than she expects. It doesn’t help that Dex Diggs is a bully (and most definitely a budding-super villain)! When Ellie “borrows” her parents’ Ultra Remote invention, she can finally turn off her “super” but being “ordinary” doesn’t feel quite right. When evil Captain Blob & the Goo Crew invade her classroom, she has to make a difficult decision. Should she continue to fit in by suppressing her powers, or let them loose and save the day??

This book is very fast paced; the story whooshes by in a flurry of action. Though the pace is fast, Bellisario does a nice job of fleshing out her characters. Ellie’s parents are engaged, supporting and loving of their super girl. Ellie is always eager to help others, no matter what. Her selflessness makes her a good person, and a good super hero-in-training. Kids can relate to the issues Ellie faces in this book like being different, fitting in, making new friends and going from home school to public school. Von Innerebner’s digital illustrations are vivid and engaging. I love how she illustrates Ellie; her expressions and body language showcase her confidence and can-do attitude.

I love that Ellie is a Black girl! This series has a healthy dose of “black girl magic” especially since Ellie is a super hero! It’s so great to see. Bellisario also includes a glossary, discussion points and writing exercises to help children connect the story to real life. It’s not easy settling into a new space when you feel different from everyone else. It’s also not easy when the people you desperately want to connect to make you feel odd. There’s a lot to discuss in this story!

I hope you’ll check this one out! It’s a nice new series for beginning readers and if your child enjoys this one, there are three more in the series!!

 

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd Grade and up
Great for: Friendship, Confidence, Family, Beginning Readers, Super Heroes, Black Girl Magic, Determination, Problem-Solving, School Life
Book Info: Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl by Gina Bellisario/Illustrated by Jessika von Innerebner, 2016 Stone Arch Books (Capstone), ISBN: 9781496531445

 

Advertisements

Sarla in the Sky

sarla-in-the-sky

Image Credit: Bharat Babies (Mascot Books), Anjali Joshi/Lisa Kurt

In the United States, Amelia Earhart is considered an inspiration and hero. The first African American female pilot, Bessie Coleman, isn’t very well known and until I read this book, I didn’t know about Sarla Thakral, India’s first female pilot. This simple and pretty beginning reader will teach readers of all ages about her and will perhaps inspire them to learn more.

In this story inspired by Sarla Thakral’s life and accomplishments, Sarla dreams of flying like the birds. When she’s a little girl, her best friend Prem reminds her that girls cannot fly but she’s inspired by a caterpillar to make her dreams a reality. As she grows up, she’s persistent despite the discouragement of others. She tells her critics that wings are not just for boys and continues on her path to the sky. Sarla finally gets her pilot’s license at age 21 and becomes India’s first female pilot. Like the caterpillar from her childhood, she grows into a courageous butterfly.

sarla2

Image Credit: Bharat Babies (Mascot Books), Anjali Joshi/Lisa Kurt

I enjoyed this story but it would’ve been just as good if not better if written in prose, not verse. There were some rhyming lines that didn’t quite work. That being said, I can see children enjoying this book as a read aloud. Lisa Kurt’s paintings are very pretty and I love the scene where Sarla day-dreams in the tall grass. I also liked discovering little details in her art like the use of a map of India for the butterfly’s wings.

It’s not often we get quality stories, especially in picture book or beginning reader format, that discuss Indian girls and women. This book is also important because it’s about a girl who loves science and mathematics. Sarla in the Sky is a great addition to any collection and I hope it inspires children, especially little Indian girls and boys, to dream big and fly high.

Click here to learn more about Sarla Thakral!

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd Grade and up
Great for: Aviation, Dreams, Determination, India, History, History Inspired, Girls In STEM, Girl Power, Inner Strength, Diversity, Inspiration, Beginning Reader, Rhyme
Book Info: Sarla in the Sky by Anjali Joshi/Illustrated by Lisa Kurt, 2016 Bharat Babies (Mascot Books), ISBN: 9781631777462

 

Wait

Wait

Image Credit: A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan), Antoinette Portis

First of all, the cover illustration wraps around to the back of the book…so 10 points to Gryffindor!!

Secondly, what a precious book that speaks loudly to the idea of quiet, slow moments. Wait is about paying attention to the details and it encourages readers to slow down and enjoy.

There are only three words spoken in the entire book. In Wait, a busy mother rushes through the city with her young son in tow while she says “Hurry” and he says “Wait.” She encourages his curiosity about the world around him while kindly nudging him on to their destination. I love how they’re in two different worlds mentally but are still very connected; she holds his hand lovingly.

This book is so clever! Portis uses foreshadowing in the illustrations to give the reader hints about what’s coming next. Be sure to keep an eye on the truck with the fish and though it seems like Mom says no to the delicious rainbow treat, maybe they’ll get another rainbow treat later!

Wait 2

Image Credit: A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan), Antoinette Portis

The first time I finished this book, I thought “Oh that’s sweet” but as I re-read it for this review, I realized how complex it is! Portis’ illustrations are bold & confident with rich colors. The wide pages are perfect for depicting movement since the story starts at one point and ends at another. It’s a great story about city life, relationships and appreciating the little things! Check it out!

P.S. This book pairs excellently with Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith which is another beautiful book about a city commute.

 
Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: City Life, Beginning Readers, Patience, Relationships, Diversity
Book Info: Wait by Antoinette Portis, 2015 A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan), ISBN: 9781596439214

Look What Brown Can Do!

LookWhatBrownCanDo

Image Credit: Sweetberry Books, T. Marie Harris/Neda Ivanova

I don’t know about you but I’m very aware of the fact that I come from greatness. Though I can’t tell you much about my ancestors, I DO know that they lived and loved and are the reason why I’m here today.

The excellent thing about Look What Brown Can Do! is that it’s about empowerment, specifically black empowerment. For a young black child, reading this book can cloak them in a blanket of comfort, pride…and inspiration! For other children, it’s a great book about black history/accomplishments that can inspire them too. The book is sectioned into art, music, business, science and more. T. Marie Harris writes an encouraging sentence about what brown can do and then we see photographs and descriptions of three important black heroes. In many ways, this book is a simpler version of the Empak Black History Series and is more “young kid friendly” because of the fun illustrations.

LookWhatBrownCanDo2

Image Credit: Sweetberry Books, T. Marie Harris/Neda Ivanova

Neda Ivanova’s digital illustrations are cute. It’s beautiful to see little brown children dream of being scientists, doctors, athletes, artists and government officials. I was especially drawn to the cover! I happened to see it online one day and thought to myself, “Oh that looks interesting!” I love the different shades of brown hands and arms busy creating and dreaming together.

This book is the first in Harris’ upcoming ‘Black Like Me’ series which will feature stories that celebrate blackness and everyday life. She writes that sometimes it’s nice to read a fun story with your children that has black characters but doesn’t necessarily focus on race. I SO agree. Though there’s always a need for those books, it’s refreshing to read about kids of color…just being kids! I’m pleased to know and share this book. Please check out Look What Brown Can Do!

P.S. You can check out T. Marie Harris’ website at http://www.lookwhatbrowncando.com and follow her on Twitter at @T_MarieHaris.

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: History, Black History, Black Excellence, Encouragement, Inspiration, Leaders, Occupations, Dreams, Read-Aloud, Science, STEM, Government, Arts, Sports, Medicine, Business, Beg. Reader, Community
Book Info: Look What Brown Can Do! by T. Marie Harris/Illustrated by Neda Ivanova, 2016 Sweetberry Books, ISBN: 9780692483862

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret

BalletCatSecret

Image Credit: Disney Hyperion, Bob Shea

I’m sitting in a coffee shop cracking up while reading this book. How’d it take me this long to read it?? I really don’t know. Bob Shea is a special, random guy. So special.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret captures the adorable hilarity of friendship, expectations, and childhood. You know how sometimes you worry too much about what someone you care about is going to think if you “let them down?” That’s what Sparkles the Pony feels like. The story starts out with Sparkles asking Ballet Cat what she wants to play, to which she replies “You pick, Sparkles.” Haha, but not really.  -_-  Sparkles wants to do something other than play ballet. He suggests doing crafts, playing checkers, making lemonade but Ballet Cat always has a reason why that’s not a good idea…

BalletCatSecret2

Image Credit: Disney Hyperion, Bob Shea

As they twirl and dance and play ballet (like they do EVERY DAY), Ballet Cat can tell that something’s wrong but Sparkles doesn’t want to tell her his secret secret! Maybe they won’t be friends anymore if he does! Little does he know, Ballet Cat has her own secret secret too (psssst it has something to do with friendship!).

Bob Shea’s writing is relaxed and reads like a real conversation between friends. His art is loose, sketchy, bright and fun. He only uses a few colors in the entire book but they pop so well (and there’s GLITTER on the cover!!). He’s also great at drawing expressions! You can clearly see Sparkles’ agony and Ballet Cat’s surprise. I really enjoyed this book and I hope your beginning reader will enjoy it too. It’s also a great read-aloud!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Friendship, Best Friends, Secrets, Worry, Love, Play, Ballet, Trust, Animals, Humor, Read-Aloud, Beginning Readers, Relationships
Book Info: Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea, 2015 Disney Hyperion, ISBN: 9781484713785

Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten

FC_BC_9780545666725.pdf

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’s 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’s 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 inspired to be the best private eye on their street, just like Katie Fry.

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

 

Recommended for: Kindergarten-2nd grade
Great for: Humor, 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

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!

LingandTing

Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Grace Lin

I have a thing for Grace Lin’s art. Let me just get that off my chest. I already love her book Dim Sum for Everyone! and this one doesn’t disappoint.

Ling and Ting want everyone to know that they are not the same. They may be “identical” but they really aren’t the same. In this beginning chapter book, each chapter is a different episode in their lives. Ling can’t really sit still but Ting can. At the barber, Ting has a big sneeze and he snips her hair a little too much! Ting is a little forgetful but she’s also very imaginative. They’re both very caring towards each other and they like to tell good stories.

Grace Lin includes cultural details like making dumplings but the book doesn’t focus on “Being Chinese” The girls are simply girls who are silly and…happen to be Chinese. This is refreshing because children’s books that feature children of color are often historical stories or ones that pointedly focus on ethnicity. Those books definitely have their place but it sure is nice to simply read a great story featuring diverse characters!

Lin’s art style is beautiful; it’s obvious she spends a lot of time painting each illustration. Her paintings are full of bold lines and blocks of color and Ling and Ting’s expressions are very cute and funny. This is a great beginning chapter book series and if you enjoy this one, Ling and Ting have several more adventures!

 

Recommended for: Kindergarten- 2nd Grade
Great for: Twins, Siblings, Sisterhood, Family, Diversity, Cultural Diversity We Need Diverse Books, Chinese Americans, Chinese Food, Food Culture, Friendship, Individuality, Girl Power, Beginning Readers
Book Info: Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin, 2010 Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ISBN: 9780316024525