Brown Girl Dreaming - written by Jacqueline Woodson
I'm not surprised that I loved this book. So many have talked about it weeks before if was published just last week. It's a trip in my own memories, growing up in Missouri, a small town where the dust wasn't red, but still squashed softly between our toes in the summer. Sitting on that porch, listening to stories is what touched me, too, and although I'm not a published writer, I remember well when a teacher told me I was a writer as Jacqueline's teachers told her. I wonder how many young people will, at least secretly, thrill to the stories of Jacqueline and her thoughts about being a writer?It's filled with memorable moments, moving to South Carolina along with moving to New York, changing what home meant and didn't mean. My favorite part as an example of such beautiful writing is early in the book when she wrote about ribbons that were tied in her and her sister's hair. They felt they were too old for them, but faithfully washed them out every night and hung them on the clothesline to dry. She writes they were "gently moving in the air, eager to anchor us to childhood." Jacqueline Woodson tells her story well for young students to read.
Nest - written by Esther Ehrlich
I haven't read a book so fast in a while. A compelling read, and coming TOMORROW, the 9th! Don’t miss this beautifully written middle-grade novel of a loving family living on Cape Cod. Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein is not a usual eleven year old, but perhaps her love of birds is connected to her and her mother’s love of dancing? Her interest and the ways her knowledge is mixed in with Naomi’s life events are special. Is it her story, her family’s story, or a universal story? Esther Ehrlich shares this young girl’s thoughts vividly and realistically. Many, Chirp too, see what they wish to see, and Naomi is no different. There are moments where she imagines things like “this is what I’m going to do” and "this is what they will say", and "I’ll be so happy". This thinking brings small disappointments, and large celebrations.
The story tells of love and change, challenge and sickness, mixed up with a growing-up adolescent sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father who seems to say the right things in the beginning of the novel, but they aren’t the right feelings; and her dancer mother, loving her family most because she did not grow up loved. Sadly, Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes. Although she’s avoided him before, a near neighbor Joey, becomes a little bit of a friend, and then, when they both desperately need each other, the friendship becomes vital. I loved the changing relationships, the ability of each character to seek to understand others’ needs more clearly. Children have tough challenges sometimes, and this book shows how much we should watch and listen to their feelings.
Razia’s Ray of Hope, One Girl’s Dream of an Education – written by Elizabeth Suneby and illustrated by Suana Verelst
Based on the stories of many girls around the world, this one highlights a young girl from Afghanistan whose village is building a school for girls. She already knows how to read a little because she listens to two of her brothers when they do homework. But it’s time for registration and the family has a meeting to discuss whether she might attend. There are some objections, but the final say is a “no” from her older brother. In a brief, and telling moment, he finally relents. I don’t want to give away the reason, but it has to do with reading! The pictures highlight the young girl, showing the background of different situations.
How I Learned Geography – written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
What a wonderful story, discovered at my school library! A little boy and his family fled their home country and ended in a camp for immigrants where they were very poor, so poor they had to share their tiny home with another family. They had little money, but one day the father goes to town to see if he can buy some bread. Instead, he comes home with a map. They now must go without even a meager dinner, and both the boy and the wife are angry! What happens next is such an adventure of imagination. This is based on a real-life memory of the author’s. life, whose family fled Poland before World War II. After the map, he “landed in burning deserts, ran on beaches, and climbed snowy mountains!” The illustrations show each stage of their lives with good detail, lovely, almost cartoon-like, black-outlined watercolor
Candy Shop – written by Jan Wahl and illustrated by Nicole Wong
Daniel, the cowboy, is on his way to his favorite shop, the “candy shop” with Aunt Thelma. But there’s a crowd outside, and Daniel is wondering why. Sadly, it’s because someone has written some hurtful words on the sidewalk in front of the store, and the owner, Miz Chu from Taiwan is upset. Daniel and his aunt step right in to help Miz Chu feel better. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture to make someone feel better, and Daniel and his aunt showing that they care is enough. This will be a great book to start or continue talking about prejudice and how to be an ally for someone. The illustrations fill the pages with happy, bright colors, , and even when the story is sad, Nicole Wong shows that Daniel and his aunt are determined to do the right thing.
The Girl And The Bicycle – written by and illustrated by Mark Pett
A young girl counts her pennies, plans to earn more money by doing chores, selling lemonade, asking neighbors if they could use some help doing something. Most say ‘no’ until one kind older woman hires her. They do lots of organizing, cleaning, gardening and do it together. Somewhere in the story, the brown-tone illustrations show one thing in color, a beautiful green bicycle in a shop window. And now we know why the girl is saving money. This wordless picture book shows a child who works hard to fulfill her dream. As we see the pictures, we silently root for her success. How the story ends is even happier than predicted. It’s a heart-warming story to discuss more than once with a class, or with one’s child.
Jacob’s New Dress – written by Sarah and Ian Hoffman and illustrated by Chris Case
This is one of the first stories for young children I’ve seen about gender non-conforming children, and it is easy to read, with clear explanations of different events and different experiences in the fictional Jacob’s life at school. It looks as if the children are in about primary-age. Jacob asks his mother if he can buy a dress and she puts him off. It looks as if the mother is trying to decide if it’s okay. Eventually, he asks her to help sew a dress, and they do. When he shows the dress to his dad, the father says, “it’s not what I would wear, but you look great.” What happens at the end, you’ll have to discover. There is a good author’s note at the end, talking about gender non-conforming children and the challenges they face. The illustrations are bright and colorful, pages full of a story that will be welcomed for its diversity.
Give and Take - written by and illustrated by Chris Raschka
I’m planning to read a picture book with a class who is studying world views, point of view, and how people learn to compromise for the good of everyone. This is the book I’ll read, a book that will inspire good discussion. What fun Chris Raschka has offered in a good story of a farmer who is persuaded by one side—Give, and the other side—Take, and ends up in quite a muddle of confusion. The ending is a satisfactory surprise, and Raschka’s illustrations are lively and entertaining as always.
When Elephant Met Giraffe - written by and illustrated by Paul gude
I should take my five-year-old granddaughter to the library more often because she found this book! We brought it home, liked the short story, but especially the illustrations. It reminded us of Elephant and Piggie stories, which we both love. There are several scenes, some having to do with the facts that giraffes are very quiet, and elephants talk a lot. For young children, it’s a hit!
Next: I want to read Like Bug Juice on a Burger , one in the series by Julie Sternberg that I missed, and then I’m not sure. I have Revolution from the library
Have a great week reading, everyone!