Patina (Track #2)

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.50.20 PM

Image Credit: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Simon & Schuster), Jason Reynolds/Vanessa Brantley Newton

 

Happy New Year everyone!

I’m kicking off this year on Read It Real Good by inviting a friend to share a review. I met Chisom Onyeuku last year at Kweli Journal’s The Color of Children’s Literature Conference in NYC. Not only is he a kind person, he cares a lot about diverse books, representation and great stories, so it was a no-brainer to invite him here to share a bit of his writing with you. ūüôā He’s currently working on a middle grade novel titled Life in the Flats. If you’d like to talk to him about his review, you can find him on Facebook.

 

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Review by Chisom Onyeuku

~*~

Sports stories have always been some of my favorites. When done right, they can encapsulate action, adventure, romance and highly personal stakes. For that reason, I was excited to pick up the first book of Jason Reynolds‚Äô Defenders track series, GHOST, especially after I found out it was about a black boy coming into his own. GHOST was easily one of my favorite reads of 2017 and so when I found out that there would be a sequel, I knew I had to read it. PATINA picked right back where GHOST left off. What makes PATINA great is that although it takes place in the same ‚ÄúDefenders‚ÄĚ universe, Patina‚Äôs story feels markedly different from Ghost‚Äôs. I love how the track becomes a catalyst for Patina to find comfort amidst some difficult circumstances and I enjoyed the interactions between Patina and her teammates.

When I encountered Patina at the beginning of the book, I was elated that, through her eyes, we get to watch Ghost finish the race from the end of the previous book. I won’t spoil the race but Jason expertly plays on the audience’s expectations to create a suspenseful scene. From there, we fully cross into Patina’s story arc.

Like Ghost, Patina has deeply personal reasons for running track that resonated with me as a former athlete. More importantly, they resonated with me as a person. Like every great novel, I found myself not only empathizing with the main character but also her friends and teammates. I appreciated that Jason introduces Patina’s surface motivations for running track before delving deeper into the story.

The pace of the book is much like a 400-meter dash. Out of the gate, Patina is running to prove to everyone that ‚ÄúPatty ain‚Äôt no junk.‚ÄĚ By the 200-meter mark, she‚Äôs dealing with challenges of school and adapting to her new teammates. And the last 100 meters are focused on her family. After all of these stretches, we finally have a moment of quiet with Patina and her uncle. Like the diner scene from Ghost, I was caught off guard by how close that moment brought me to tears. It gave me time to appreciate Patina‚Äôs journey and growth but I was also reminded that no matter what she had been through, she still had her family and friends. She didn‚Äôt have to bear the weight of her struggles alone; a lesson that we should all be reminded of from time to time.

Like Patina, I had teammates that became friends who I now consider family. I feel like I’m watching that bond form between The Defenders. A large portion of the story revolves around Patina’s work with her relay teammates. Luckily, Ghost, Sunny and Lu are never too far away. You can see how much their bond has evolved since their formation. Even though PATINA stands alone, the story still feels part of something bigger. I consider that one of the markers of great series writing.

Jason has a knack for drawing you in with his writing and taking you on an emotional roller coaster. Growing up, I didn’t see myself in a lot of literature. However, I did when I encountered Ghost for the first time. Patina could have easily been a teammate and friend of mine. As I walked with them through their respective journeys, I was reminded of why I love sports stories so much. No matter what you bring to the track or to the page, you will always walk away with more than you brought to it.

 

 

Recommended for: 5th Grade and up
Great for: Friendship, Diversity, Teamwork, Track and Field, Sports, Middle School Life, Determination, Black Girl Magic
Book Info: Patina by Jason Reynolds/Jacket Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, 2017 Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481450188

 

 

Advertisements

Where’s Halmoni?

Where'sHalmoni

Image Credit: Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch Books), Julie Kim

Where’s Halmoni? works on so many fantastic levels. It’s an #ownvoices graphic novel/picture book about two Korean-American siblings and their experience over their grandmother’s house. Simple right?? Nope! Just like the Korean folktales and characters that inspire this work, there’s a delightful mix of fantasy and realism. Kim’s portrayal of everyday Korean life (it’s in the little details) adds another important level of depth to this epic debut.

So let’s start with the story. Details, Details, Details! The story actually begins and ends on the endpages (cool right?). Grandma receives a package from Korea and inside the box is a wooden window she places on the wall of her bedroom. A tiger’s head pop out the window and the next thing we know, Grandma says “Aaah! Bad tiger!” in Korean and the story begins. Joon and his Noona (“ŽąĄŽāė older sister” her name is not Noona, it’s what younger boys call older girls in Korean) let themselves into Grandma’s house only to find…that she’s missing!! There are clues to her disappearance though (enormous cat paw prints and a disheveled kitchen) and the kids discover the curious window in her bedroom. In a very Narnia-esque turn of events, they step through the window into a world straight out of Korean folklore. On the search for their grandma, they run into a tricky (and silly) rabbit Ū܆ŽĀľ, a rowdy and hungry bunch of goblins ŽŹĄÍĻ®ŽĻĄ, and finally, an untrustworthy tiger ŪėłŽěĎÍłį fighting over Grandma’s pot of delicious red bean porridge ŪĆ•ž£Ĺ with a nine-tailed fox ÍĶ¨ŽĮłŪėł (who suspiciously looks a bit like grandma)!! How far will they go to find and save their grandma?

Continue reading

Milky Way

 

MilkyWay

Image Credit: Yali Books, Mamta Nainy/Siddhartha Tripathi

Tashi lives with his grandmother and mother in Ladakh, India. He loves watching nature through the big window of their house. When he sits at his window, he can catch up with his favorite friend, the Moon. He joyfully greets him everyday with “Julley!” Tashi likes to ask questions and Moon always answers back, but one day, Tashi notices that his friend looks thinner than usual. Every night, the Moon is more and more a sliver of his former self until he disappears completely! Tashi’s Momo-ley (grandmother) reminds him that it’s New Moon Night, where they fast and pray to Buddha and drink only a glass of milk. Clever Tashi comes up with a plan; he’ll leave out a tall glass of milk to help Moon regain his strength! Before long, Moon looks like his normal, jolly self.

Continue reading

A Bike Like Sergio’s

 

ABikeLikeSergios

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Maribeth Boelts/Noah Z. Jones

In A Bike Like Sergio‘s, Ruben’s family has trouble making ends meet and money is always tight. His best friend Sergio has a slick new bike and doesn’t understand why Ruben can’t just ask his parents to buy him one too. Ruben, like many children around the world, already understands the necessity of being choosy about every purchase in order for his family to survive.

One day at the grocery store, a lady drops “just a dollar” that turns out to be a hundred and Ruben’s thoughts go straight to buying a new bike!! But when he sees his mother crossing items off their grocery list (they can’t afford all of it), he starts to feel guilty; the bill suddenly weighs heavy in his pocket. After Ruben scares himself by thinking he’s lost the money, and his dream bike, he develops empathy for the woman when he sees her again in the store…What’s the right decision to make when you’re so close to having something you desire, and maybe even deserve?

Continue reading

Town Is by the Sea

 

Groundwood Logos Spine

Image Credit: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, Joanne Schwartz/Sydney Smith

Coal. Here in the United States, we have a long history with the fossil fuel. Americans have been burning coal for hundreds of years and mined it heavily¬†from the late 19th century until the mid 20th. Towns developed¬†around coal, generations of families (of various ethnicities) mined it &¬†depended on it. Though we don’t mine and burn coal like we used to (due to mechanization of mining & increasing natural gas usage), we still have deep, emotional¬†ties to it.

Town Is By the Sea¬†is a story of the Canadian coal town Cape Breton in the 1950s and a boy’s connection to coal, to the sea and to his family. This story has multiple layers; on the surface level, it’s a boy’s account of his daily life. But on a deeper level, Joanne Schwartz paints an intimate portrait of a coal mining town and a boy’s understanding of his role as a miner’s son. Continue reading

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

JasmineToguchiMQ

Image Credit: Farrar Strauss Giroux Books for Young Readers, Debbi Michiko Florence/Elizabet Vukovińá

Whew! It’s been a while, yeah? Today’s review celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! Let’s go!!

The first in a delightful new beginning chapter book series, Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen is¬†a great addition to your bookshelves. I’m so excited to welcome this¬†new series about a Japanese American girl &¬†her family.¬†Two areas of children’s literature¬†that are lacking in diverse/#ownvoices stories¬†are Beginning Chapter Book Series &¬†Board Books, so it’s encouraging to see this new series *hopefully* flourish.

Every year, Jasmine’s family hosts a¬†mochi-tsuki; they make sweet rice cakes to celebrate the New Year. But this year, OH THIS YEAR, Jasmine is determined to help make the mochi (even though she’s too young). Her bossy big sister Sophie is finally old enough to help the women roll the¬†mochi…but she can’t! She thinks up a clever plan though; she’ll help the men of¬†the family pound the mochi! In order to lift the big wooden hammer, she has to build up her strength first. Jasmine pushes against traditional gender roles¬†in order to accomplish her goal of joining the men in¬†the physical work.

I like how Florence invites¬†the reader inside of Jasmine’s home; we’re placed right in the middle of the drama, love and mochi-tsuki. In addition to dealing¬†with a bossy big sister, Jasmine¬†battles a visiting cousin who’s a bully!¬†Jasmine is eager, as most young children are, to do the same thing her big¬†sister does. She’s also eager to show everyone how capable she is. Readers follow¬†her ups and downs and by the end of the book, will admire and respect her¬†fortitude. Jasmine is one determined kid!

I love Elisabet Vukovińá’s ink and watercolor illustrations; they really enhance the story. She’s great¬†at characterization; Jasmine has confident body language and her spunky facial expressions are hilarious.

I hope your child will enjoy Jasmine’s story as much as I did! Don’t miss this one; libraries &¬†bookstores, please add this one to your beginning chapter book sections!

 

P.S. Coming July 11th, 2017,¬†Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen includes an easy mochi recipe at the back of the book! How fun! Also, the second book in the series, Jasmine Toguchi: Super Sleuth, releases the same day!! Say, what? ¬†ūüėČ

 

Recommended for: 2nd Grade and up
Great for: Family, Friendship, Siblings, Determination, Humor, Girl Power, Diversity, Japanese American Culture, Japanese Food, #Ownvoices
Book Info: Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen¬†by¬†Debbi Michiko Florence/Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovińá, 2017¬†Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780374304102

 

 

New York is My Playground

NewYorkIsMyPlayground

Image Credit: POW! (powerHouse Packaging & Supply, Inc.), Jane Goodrich/Bob Raczka

City life. Movement. Happy kids.

New York is My Playground is a joyful romp though New York City. Goodrich’s vibrant photographs accompany Raczka’s playful words in this simple and beautiful book. It’s more of a collection of photographs with text than a story; one huge spread shows a little boy “holding up” a large¬†red sculpture and he says “I feel like I can do anything in New York.”

This book showcases¬†the¬†hustle & bustle of New York but also explores the fact that you can¬†find a quiet, restful spot when you need it. Curious kids¬†twist, run, jump and play on every page. I¬†love the diversity of the kids and the energy of the photography. Goodrich’s shots are dynamic! The typography, with its vibrant colors, is fun; it looks like¬†graffiti covering¬†the city landscape. Instead of sitting in straight lines on the page, the typography is blended & bended into the city landscape. It’s really visually interesting.

This is a fun one!¬†Kids in New York¬†might recognize¬†familiar spots and kids not in New York¬†have the opportunity to check out a new city. New York is My Playground, with words like “running,” “dancing,” and “jumping,” is great¬†for getting kids up and moving during story time!

Enjoy!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: City Life, New York, Movement, Diversity, Read Aloud, Friendship, Family, Photography, Exploration, Feelings, Colors
Book Info: New York is My Playground photographs by Jane Goodrich/Text by Bob Raczka, 2016 POW! (powerHouse Packaging & Supply, Inc.), ISBN: 9781576877890

Ghost: Track #1

Ghost

Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Jason Reynolds

Three things I love about this book are:

1) The voice

2) The careful and thorough characterization

3) How Reynolds depicts black male love

Ghost is a character you won’t forget because he’s very honest about everything. He messes up, you feel for him. He does something right, you cheer for him. As he explains, he has¬†“scream inside.” Many people would quickly¬†label Ghost a “bad kid” but what Reynolds does so well is remind readers that behind every person, behind every relationship, there’s a story. Usually the¬†“bad kids” have experienced heavy things and could benefit from real, caring relationships.

Ghost likes sunflower seeds & world records and takes a lot of crap from kids at school. After his dad tries to shoot him and his mom, the harrowing experience leaves him even more shaken up. He learns to run that night (“…running ain’t nothing I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do.”) and later earns¬†a spot on a track team without even trying. Tough as nails (not really) “Coach” takes Ghost under his wing and they become¬†closer as Ghost learns more about himself. He leaves it all out on the track; pushing himself to be better, in every way. He becomes more disciplined, he¬†finds community in his team, and though he continues to make stupid mistakes, he grows as a young man.

Reynolds does an amazing job of¬†creating voice for this book. Ghost’s AAVE is prominent and used unabashedly,¬†he’s silly and makes interesting connections in his head. I love it; it feels fresh. Reynold’s characters are all very interesting people; he includes little memorable details like…Ghost’s mom hates studying and pretends to study while they watch her favorite love stories. Though this is a slim book, there’s a great amount of character development that’ll keep you interested and excited about the next book in the series.

I love Coach!! He’s the father-figure Ghost needs and deserves in his life.¬†Though he’s kind enough to bail Ghost out of sticky situations, he makes sure to teach him important lessons too. It not just about Ghost’s track potential for him; he recognizes early¬†that Ghost needs guidance and love. He comes from the same rough place as Ghost and is committed to shaping him. This entire book is about connections and relationships but Ghost and Coach’s relationship is what shines¬†the most.

I really enjoyed this book! I’m curious about how children of color are reading/enjoying it too. This is my first book by Jason Reynolds and I can’t wait to read more.

On your mark…set…go!!

P.S. OMG I reviewed a chapter book (it’s been a while)…lol.

Recommended for: 6th Grade and up
Great for: Family, Diversity, Role Models, African American, Sports, Track and Field, Middle School Life, Bullying, Friendship, Determination, Black Boys, Love, Relationships
Book Info: Ghost by Jason Reynolds/Jacket Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, 2016 Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481450157

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‚Äôt help that Dex Diggs is a bully (and most definitely a budding-super villain)! When Ellie ‚Äúborrows‚ÄĚ her parents‚Äô Ultra Remote invention, she can finally¬†turn off her “super” but being ‚Äúordinary‚ÄĚ doesn‚Äôt 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‚Äôs 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

 

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love

a-hat-for-mrs-goldman

Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House LLC), Michelle Edwards/G. Brian Karas

 

Happy New Year!! ūüėÄ

2017 is going to need a heaping spoonful of kindness. Kindness and consideration for others. But it’s not just “consideration” that we need, it’s holding people in our hearts. There’s a difference there. A deeper level of connection.

In A Hat for Mrs. Goldman, we meet Sophia and Mrs. Goldman who are close friends and neighbors. Mrs. Goldman has cared for and loved Sophia since she was a baby, when she knit her her first hat. Because Mrs. Goldman is so busy knitting for everyone else, she doesn’t have a hat to keep her head warm and¬†Sophia decides to do something about it! Though she only vaguely remembers how to knit (her speciality is making pom-poms), she determinedly works on a special hat for her friend. It turns out a little lumpy but it’s beautiful because it’s a gift for her friend.

What I like so much about this book¬†is that it’s very honest; two good friends love each other and work to take care of each other. The story is simple but touching storytelling and charming illustrations make it a winner. Children will learn Yiddish words like keppie (head) and mitzvah (good deed) too! ¬†I love that Sophia is Latino and Mrs. Goldman is Jewish but it isn’t dwelled upon; there’s a great message of community and love¬†here.

a-hat-for-mrs-goldman-2

Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House LLC), Michelle Edwards/G. Brian Karas

 

Karas’ sweet mixed media illustrations are full of gorgeous pale pinks, browns and blustery blues and greens. The illustrations are very soft, which adds to the comfortable, homey feel of the story. Sophia, with her determined expressions, brown skin and no-sense side-ponytail is a great character for children to emulate; even though she gets frustrated, she keeps working¬†towards her goal!

Edwards even includes a pattern for Sophia’s Hat at the end of the book (Edwards writes for Lion Brand Yarn) so that children can dive into knitting themselves. What a sweet book about friendship and knitting! I hope you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did.

 

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Mitzvah, Love, Caring, Selflessness, Determination, Creative Thinking, Kindness, Relationships, Diversity, Community, Knitting
Book Info: A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards/Illustrated by G. Brian Karas, 2016 Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House LLC), ISBN: 9780553497106