Silver Linings: It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon & A Good Day

ToughToLoseBalloon copy

Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random), Jarrett J Krosczka

AGoodDay

Image Credit: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), Kevin Henkes

Searching for the positive, for the silver lining, can be pretty rough. When you’re knee deep in sadness and frustration, it’s almost impossible to see the bright side. A big part of growing up is learning how to bounce back from these moments and A Good Day and It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon beautifully & creatively discuss this topic for children.

In A Good Day, four young animals have a bad day; little yellow bird loses his favorite feather and the other animals also face frustrating situations. But then, things slowly get better for each of them and even a little girl’s day brightens. This small book packs a big punch; it’s about relationships, interconnectedness and perspective. Sometimes things don’t get better but usually they do. The story is lovely in its pacing, format and emotion. The art is, as usual for Henkes, strikingly simple. Children will enjoy looking at the bright watercolor animals. I love how he draws their furrowed brows!  Continue reading

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Thunder Boy Jr.

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Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Sherman Alexie/Yuyi Morales

There aren’t enough words to describe the joy that is this book and how ecstatic I am to know it. I feel privileged to be a bookseller and share this book with the world. I get to put this book into little hands and I’m hoping that kids will connect to Thunder Boy Jr.

I’ve been anticipating this collaboration for over a year, since it was announced, because Sherman Alexie and Yuyi Morales create magic…and together?? Rarely do we get such cosmic levels of possibility and creativity as this. I’m calling this book for, at the very least, a Caldecott Honor but it deserves a Caldecott Medal. I doubt the Newbery Committee will choose a picture book winner again this year but the story/writing is POWER.

You’d think Thunder Boy Jr. is a super special name; that only one person in the world has it but actually that’s not true. Thunder Boy is named after his dad and though his dad is great, he wants his own name! Thunder Boy likes to do things like ride his bike, roll in the mud and Grass Dance so maybe his new name could be related to those things? With a nickname like Little Thunder, it sure is easy to feel small but his bright and rambunctious personality (and the love between him and his father) will see him through.

ThunderBoy2

Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Sherman Alexie/Yuyi Morales

Rarely do we get to see picture books about Native American families and this important and beautiful book should be in every library. I’m hoping teachers and families around the world will love Thunder Boy Jr. because it speaks to individuality, growing up and identity (and just happens to feature a loving Native family.) Indigeneity is central to the story but also it isn’t. It’s SO lovely to read a picture book that talks about powwow and how names are given and earned in Native cultures! Wow! ❤ Though the story focuses on a son-dad relationship, readers will love Little Thunder’s cool mom and his cute little sister who, by the way, have “fancy-normal” names.

Yuyi Morales’ illustrations have so much raw energy and vivid color and for that reason she’s one of my favorites (I’ve reviewed Just a Minute! in the past). I love how she draws the big body of Thunder Boy Sr. next his small son; he really is like his namesake. Earthy & bright colors and lots of movement fill the pages; this family bursts onto the scene like a lighting bolt and at the end of the book, I feel as though I know them. I enjoy how the writing matches the illustrations exactly in some parts of the book but Morales also uses her illustrations to create a separate story that gives us more insight into Little Thunder’s personality. He rocks out hard on a guitar but his dad is angry about the broken strings and he slyly steals his sister’s red ball as he continues sharing his story.

Thunder Boy Jr. is the strongest picture book so far of 2016 and I’m hoping people will love it and cherish it. Something tells me Little Thunder would gobble up all the love and attention…especially now that he has confidence in his brand new name!

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All the love and happiness

 

P.S. Since this book is out in the wild now, great discussions are starting. It has a lot of potential to teach but it also discusses aspects of native cultures that might need explanation to some readers. Please check out Debbie Reese’s two posts about how to read this book with your children; it gives context that the book itself is lacking. They are here and here.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Love, Humor, Identity, Struggle With Identity, Individuality, Growing Up, Native Americans, Father-Son, Siblings, Frustration, Powwow, Cultural Diversity, Diversity, Read-Aloud, Discussion
Book Info: Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie/Illustrated by Yuyi Morales, 2016 Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ISBN: 9780316013727

My Fuzzy!! by Alia Jones

A review I wrote for Nerdy Book Club! OWEN is one of my all time favorites. 🙂

Nerdy Book Club

Kevin Henkes has won several awards for excellence in illustration and writing. Most recently he won a Caldecott Honor and a Geisel Honor for Waiting, which is a beautiful book. Not only is he a skilled illustrator, he’s a powerful storyteller and when I think of stories that have heavily influenced how I critique (and enjoy) picture books, his always come to mind.

owen

I first read Owen when I was a little girl and that little mouse and his blanket have stayed with me. I’d read it over and over again and even as I read it now, I can’t help but crack a smile because it’s so clever and funny! Many people rally around Chrysanthemum and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (deservedly so) but I want to show some love for little Owen and his awesome parents. It’s ultimately a book about relationships.

Owen is the story of a…

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That Book Woman

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Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Heather Henson/David Small


That Book Woman
is one of my favorite finds of this year. I LOVE this book. I found it sandwiched in the picture book stacks at my bookstore and it was actually on its way back to the publisher due to low sales. I’m telling you, I found some interesting books that way. This book tells the story of a family in the remote Appalachian mountains of Kentucky and is beautifully written both in style and in the smooth rhythm of Appalachian dialect.

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Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Heather Henson/David Small

Cal holds a grudge against his sister Lark whose nose is always in book. He’s working hard and she’s always…readin’. Hmph. Well he doesn’t want to sit still reading “chicken scratch” and he’s baffled as to why a woman (in britches!) rides around bringing free books and why his sister treats those books so reverently. Pap though, he encourages his daughter’s love of reading and offers to the Book Woman what they can. Though all kinds of weather, the Book Woman rides her horse up the mountains and keeps coming to trade out books and Cal just can’t make sense of it! He starts to think that maybe…that woman is brave, maybe it’s worth seeing what’s so great about those books and what makes her so determined to share them.

That Book Woman is inspired by the real women who braved remote regions called the Pack Horse Women. Be sure to read the Author’s Note in the back to learn more about these amazing women who dared to work outside the home and do their best to improve literacy.

The art in this book is so right for the story. The soft watercolors and pastel chalk with heavy ink outlines are beautiful and David Small is so spot on with Cal’s expressions. Cal is so dang surly at first and we watch him soften as his curiosity gets the better of him. I love the scene of Pap and Lark together, a poke of berries in his hands as they gaze at each other. If you have a house full a readers who also love history, please check out That Book Woman. It’s a great story!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Reading, Literacy, Encouraging Reading, Discussion, History, Appalachian, Rhythm, Siblings, Family, Perspective, Growing Up, Girl Power, Pack Horse Librarians, Works Progress Administration, Rural Life, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books
Book Info: That Book Woman by Heather Henson/Illustrated by David Small, 2008 Atheneum Books for Young Reader (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781416908128

The Honest Truth

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Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Dan Gemeinhart

“Here’s what I don’t get: why anyone would try to stop me. All I wanted to do was die. That’s the truth.”

This is a tough book.

Mark, a twelve year old boy, takes his trusty dog Beau on the last adventure of his lifetime and on the way, discovers his inner strength. He’s been battling cancer for years and is emotionally and physically worn out. He finally decides that he’s had enough and runs away to climb Mt. Rainier to die.

The story is told from two perspectives; he tells his story in first person and then the story regularly switches to third person to tell the reader about the person who holds Mark’s biggest secret, his best friend Jess. The Honest Truth is as much about his journey as it is about her struggles, anguish and doubt. Ultimately though, we follow Mark’s emotions most closely, as we watch him switch between sadness, regret, determination, bitterness, love and relief.

This story is powerful; Gemeinhart really explores what it means to be human, to be alive, to look death in the eye and live fully. The relationship between Mark and Jess is amazing but the relationship between Mark and his dog Beau is also extremely remarkable; that little dog loves him to the end of the world! If you’re looking for a great read about the strength of the human spirit, try this one. You’ll be moved. That’s the honest truth.

P.S. Grab some tissues…ㅠ ㅠ

P.S.S. In celebration of a year since the release of his book, Dan Gemeinhart gave us Beau’s voice in a special “lost” chapter. Click here to enjoy! ❤

 

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up
Great for: Emotions, Inner Strength, Friendship, Determination, Growing Up, Cancer, Dogs, Love, Family, Power of Photography, Hope, Grab the Tissues
Book Info: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, 2015 Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc.), ISBN: 9780545665735