Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

JasmineToguchiMQ

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

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 Vuković’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?  😉

 

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 Vuković, 2017 Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780374304102

 

 

Advertisements

Dear Dragon

deardragon

Image Credit: Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), Josh Funk/Rodolfo Montalvo

Like the dragon Blaise Dragomir, this excellent book has flown a bit under the radar. Josh Funk writes really amusing books and this is my favorite one so far! Dear Dragon has themes of kindness, inclusiveness and discovery; kids will enjoy watching these characters fall into friendship!

Blaise Dragomir (dragon boy) and George Slair (human boy) are matched through a poetry/pen-pal assignment in their classes. I love how the language they use is formal at first but as they get closer, it becomes more familiar. The boys have no idea that they’re different species; their friendship grows over several months. It’s fun to see how each boy imagines the life of the other; different experiences lead to different perspectives. When Blaise reads about George building a fort with his dad, he imagines two dragons hammering A REAL FORT, that protects a castle! He has no idea that George’s fort is built of cardboard (and that he is human! 😉  ). Their classes finally meet in the spring and though it’s quite a surprise, they roll with it!

deardragon1

Image Credit: Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), Josh Funk/Rodolfo Montalvo

 

Though dragons and humans don’t have the best history of peaceful interactions, these boys overcome that and recognize the goodness in each other. Children can relate to overcoming differences (and learned prejudices and fear) to connect with others. Also, at first Blaise and George don’t enjoy writing much, but though the project, they gain more confidence in their skills (as they gain a friend).

As with most excellent picture books, the synergy between the text and illustrations is phenomenal. Montalvo’s watercolor, ink and graphite illustrations are warm and so detailed! I happened to see the book’s cover months before it published and I remember being SO excited to see a brown boy with bushy hair! It’s not common to see brown boys on the cover of picture books so I’m glad to have one more gem to recommend. Montalvo brings Funk’s writing to life in a beautiful way.

I really enjoyed Dear Dragon and I hope you will too! In addition to being a very good read aloud, this book is perfect for pen-pal projects. Maybe a new (dragon?) friend is waiting…

 

 

Recommended for: 1st Grade and up
Great for: Friendship, Open-Mindedness, Courage, Acceptance, Read-Aloud, Rhyme, Humor, Pen-Pal, Inclusiveness, Diversity, Adventure, Animals
Book Info: Dear Dragon: A Pen-Pal Tale by Josh Funk/Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016 Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), ISBN: 9780451472304

This is Not a Book

thisisnotapicturebook

Image Credit: Phaidon Press Inc., Jean Jullien

This is one of my favorite board books this year! It’s very cheeky (literally) and imaginative. This Is Not a Book has Jullien’s signature humor and creativity; if you haven’t read Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise yet, please do!

First things first, this is not a book. It is a tool for play and discovery. Open the first page to see a monster ready to eat you, the next page is a laptop for you to use and keep flipping to find a refrigerator full of delicious food and more. I repeat, this is NOT a book! Jullien adds little details to his art that make it fun. Pay attention to expressions, themes, and place. Some of the pages are meant to be moved too; the butterfly can’t flap its wings if you don’t flap the book! I love Jullien’s use of bold black line; his style is very distinct and strong. The format of this board book is very clever; though only a rectangle, this…object…can transform into many different things. 😉

I hope your toddler will enjoy this book! If you’re looking for something different and fun to “read” check this one out. It’s perfect for sparking fun discussions with children because this book is what you make of it.

 

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Storytelling, Imagination, Discussion, Humor, Animals, Play, Pretend-Play
Book Info: This is Not a Book by Jean Jullien, 2016 Phaidon Press Inc., ISBN: 9780714871127

Music Is…

musicis

Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

I’m not a big fan of music. I know that sounds weird. I mean, I enjoy listening to music. Of course there are songs that take me back; the memories connected to those songs are so vivid. I always dance and move to a good song or beat. I’m just not INTO music. Some people live and breathe it; they always have headphones on and bump it loud in their car. They talk music, they anticipate music, they live music.

That’s not me but I appreciate music and I love how happily this book celebrates it.

Music Is…has flowing text that begins simply, becomes more lyrical and ends reflectively. Contrasting words like quiet & loud, slow & fast, lo-fi & hi-fi lead to lines like “cymbals that splash and ba-da-ba bass and rat-a-tat-tat drums on a rumbling stage.” Stosuy’s words are great for reading aloud and invite discussion. “How is music happy?” “What is lo-fi?” “What does ‘Music is for everyone’ mean?” are just a few questions that children might ask when reading this book and for that reason, it’s a book for all ages! Music-loving parents will want this book to share with their children.

musicis2

Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

 

Amy Martin’s illustrations are bold, eye-catching and so diverse. I love how she uses colors that contrast and highlight. Her art shows children that indeed, music is for everyone. Her illustrations match the rhythm of Stosuy’s words and the cover of the book is so bright and inviting!

I hope you’ll check this one out. It’s a pretty cool board book to share and enjoy. 🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Music, Music History, Diversity, Family, Emotions, Friendship, Relationships, Vocabulary, Humor
Book Info: Music Is… by Brandon Stosuy/Illustrated by Amy Martin, 2016 Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481477024

Have You Seen Elephant?

HaveYouSeenElephant

Image Credit: Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), David Barrow

I finally got my hands on this book, y’all!  I spotted it on Twitter months ago and it’s finally available in the US. *victory*

Do you know how refreshing it is to open a picture book that’s obviously about an interracial family…but doesn’t focus on it? We’re starting to see more books like this (The Airport Book) in children’s literature. Don’t get me wrong; books that focus on race are necessary but it’s also important to have ones that present multiculturalism as norm. The endpapers & first page of the book show a wall of family photographs that tell us a bit about the family’s genealogy.

In Have You Seen Elephant?, a boy is invited to play a thrilling game of hide and seek. Elephant kindly warns him that he’s very good. He’s up for the challenge though and it turns out that Elephant is rather good. My goodness, Elephant is in the most obvious places but no one sees him. 😉 After they finish their game, Turtle asks if they want to play tag…he’s quite speedy.

HaveYouSeenElephantExtra

Image Credit: Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), David Barrow

I like this book very much. Not only is it very sweet, it’s playful, hopeful and kind. They’re all very good friends and care about each other. The text is sparse but it allows the illustrations to speak loudly. Children can fill in the gaps and decide for themselves whether Elephant is really good at hiding or if the boy and his family are very generous. Barrow’s illustrations are heartwarming; he uses lots of warm browns, golds, oranges and reds. There’s a lot of texture in his technique; spirals radiate out from light sources and scratches, splotches and drips are on every page.

I think you’re going to really enjoy this book. I can’t wait to see what’s next from David Barrow!

P.S. Pay attention to the endpapers for laughs. 😀

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Friendship, Animals, Love, Diversity, Multiculturalism, Discussion, Read-Aloud, Humor
Book Info: Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow, 2016 Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), ISBN: 9781776570089

Real Sisters Pretend

RealSistersPretend

Image Credit: Tilbury House Publishers, Megan Dowd Lambert/Nicole Tadgell

What makes a relationship real? Is it blood? Dedication? Love? As the little girls in this book know, real sisters never have to pretend.

In Real Sisters Pretend, two sisters play a game of pretend princesses. The younger sister Mia says to her big sister Tayja “Let’s pretend we are sisters” and Tayja quickly corrects & reassures her that they are already sisters, real sisters, and there’s no need to pretend that! As they play, they discuss adoption and a confused stranger they met at the grocery store.

I like the way Megan Dowd Lambert and Nicole Tadgell craft the story and illustrations to create a conversation. Like real life, serious & important moments are blended into the silly ones. Tayja and Mia (climbing princesses) play, take a snack break and continue to play until their other mommy comes home. Readers will enjoy Tadgell’s beautiful watercolor illustrations; she brings these girls, their sweet relationship and loving family to life. When I first saw the cover of this book months ago, I was drawn to the image of two brown girls embracing; it’s powerful!

Real Sisters Pretend is a lovely and important book that can help adopted children make sense of people who “just don’t get” what they naturally understand. I think any child with siblings or cousins will connect to Mia and Tayja. I highly recommend checking out this article from the author about her family & the experience that inspired this story and also this post from the illustrator about her process creating the illustrations! I hope you’ll add this one to your collection. 🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Love, Siblings, Blended Families, Adoption, Relationships, Humor, Diversity, Compassion, Forever Families
Book Info: Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert/Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, 2016 Tilbury House Publishers, ISBN: 9780884484417

 

Thunder Boy Jr.

ThunderBoyJr

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!

MeWithThunderBoy

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

Oh No, Astro!

OhNoAstro

Image Credit: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, Matt Roeser/Brad Woodard

What a blast this book is!

Oh No, Astro is great for kids who love astronomy but also enjoy a fun storybook. Astro is QUITE the character. If you think ALL asteroids like to bump and bang into each other, you’re wrong! Astro is all about keeping his personal space intact; he likes his comfy solitude, thank you very much!! But one day a happy little satellite lurks closer and closer until BAM! it knocks him off orbit and before he knows it, he’s on the fast track to Earth!

OhNoAstro2

Image Credit: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, Matt Roeser/Brad Woodard

What initially drew me to this book is the art (and my friend’s enthusiastic recommendation); Brad Woodard’s style reminds me of Dan Yaccarino/Bob Shea/Bob Staake and if you follow my blog, you know that I adore their art! Bold and cute at the same time, the digital illustrations really stand out and are well designed. I love the cover!! Astro is so cute with his polite surliness; he has the best annoyed expression and his little arms are so expressive.

Oh No, Astro has so much potential for the classroom and can boost an Astronomy lesson. At the end of the book, Roeser includes helpful (and very funny) space facts that really enhance the story. If a child has a question about asteroids, the planets featured in the book, etc., answers can be found on these pages. This is a cool little book and I hope your family or classroom will jump right into this space adventure!

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Humor, Friendship, Science, Girls in Science/Stem, Astronomy, Action/Adventure
Book Info: Oh No, Astro! by Matt Roeser/Illustrated by Brad Woodard, 2016 Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9781481439763

The Great Pet Escape

GreatPetEscape

Image Credit: Henry Holt and Company (MacMillan), Victoria Jamieson

What do YOUR pets do when you’re gone? Plan escape? World domination? Sniff their butts?

Victoria Jamieson’s (winner of the Newbery Honor for Roller Girl) brand new graphic novel about three classroom pets and their clever plan to escape their elementary school is pure fun. Ringleader GW is a tenacious hamster with cute, lovey-eyes during the school day but as soon as the kids are gone…flee to the secret laboratory!! Little do the kids know, GW is an inventor and is super determined to convince friends Biter and Barry to escape. Unfortunately, they meet their match in a tyrant mouse named Napoleon who strives to keep things nice and orderly. There’s something to be said for seniority! >_<

What shines about The Great Pet Escape is the writing; witty lines, clever jokes and snappy banter between characters make for a fun read! Jamieson has stepped up her humor and I’m loving it; kids will get a kick out of how silly this book is. As usual, her art is great! With bold colors, exciting panels and characters with great expressions, this one is a hoot.

Another thing I love about this book is that it’s a great option for budding readers. I’m always looking for quality beginning readers and this is now on my “to-recommend” list for adventurous young readers who want to laugh out loud! I hope you’ll check out The Great Pet Escape and enjoy the shenanigans!

 

Recommended for: Age 6 and up
Great for: Humor, Animals, Friendship, Determination, Rivals, Ingenuity, Teamwork, Inventions, Imagination, Graphic Novel
Book Info: The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson, 2016 Henry Holt and Company (MacMillan), ISBN: 9781627791052

Quackers

Quackers

Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), Liz Wong

It’s hard being a cat-duck…duck-cat…cat duckity duck. Something like that.

When it boils down to it, at one point or another we all struggle with our identity and it can be hard figuring out where you fit in. In this delightful book, Quackers knows that he’s a duck since he’s surrounded ducks but why does he look different? One day he meets another duck (that looks like him!!) and learns that he’s something called a cat…curious. After spending a day with the cats, though he does love doing cat things, he starts to miss his feathered friends. The duck life is quite nice; Quackers is happy being a cat AND a duck!

Liz Wong’s artwork is very sweet. With a palette of mostly grays, whites, oranges and beautiful greens, she takes us to a duck pond and the farm. Pretty shades of green, swaying grasses contrast with Quacker’s bright orange and brown fur and the white feathers of the ducks. She’s awesome at drawing expressions! Half the fun of the book is reading the speech bubbles and looking at the characters’ expressions.

Hope you’ll take time to enjoy Quackers with your family and classroom. What a great debut! 🙂

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Humor, Identity, Acceptance, Fitting In, Friendship, Relationships, Family, Discussion, Animals
Book Info: Quackers by Liz Wong, 2016 Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), ISBN: 9780553511543