Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein

mrlemoncellos

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A group of kids have to prove their library benefactor, Luigi Lemoncello, hasn’t stolen intellectual property in a high-stakes trivia scavenger hunt.

What made me pick it up: It was recommended to me by a young reader from the library.

My favorite parts: This book is incredibly fun! Not only does Grabenstein weave in details from other children’s books but he makes his characters continuously profess their admiration for libraries and librarians. I’ll read any book that is essentially a love letter to my profession. But more than that, this book is wildly entertaining. Outlandish? Sure, but we’re dealing with a fictional bazillionaire here. I really liked how even though I expected things to turn out ok in the end, I wasn’t really sure they would and remained on the edge of my seat down to the final pages. It also has a nicely done information literacy storyline that emphasizes over and over to the characters the need to search for reliable sources and consider alternative explanations before jumping to conclusions. Since this is book #3, I’ll head back to the beginning and work my way through the other two books.

Who it’s great for: Upper elementary readers on up.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët

iwalkwithvanessa

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: Being kind in the face of bullying.

What made me pick it up: I can’t quite remember. I think I saw it on Twitter. Wherever it was, the person was raving about it.

My favorite parts: This sweet and brief picture book contains no words. And it doesn’t need to. The story is told perfectly through the illustrations. When a young child is antagonized by a bully she finds an ally in another child who witnessed the bullying. And they walk to school together. Then another child joins, until everyone chooses to support the bullied child. It’s powerful and lovely and all kids and adults alike should read it.

Who it’s great for: Everyone. No exceptions.

Erica’s rating: five shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Bolivar by Sean Rubin

bolivar

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: The last living dinosaur and the little girl who lives next door and is trying to prove he exists.

What made me pick it up: A coworker gave this five stars on Goodreads so I had to see what all the fuss was about.

My favorite parts: No one has ever really noticed a dinosaur living nearby. Why not? Because they are too busy! It was a gentle reminder to look up once in a while and really notice what’s going on around you. You might see a dinosaur! I also like the tenacity of the little girl. No one believes the dinosaur she keeps talking about exists but she doesn’t give up. Parts of this are hysterical and I won’t ruin the dinosaur’s best joke for you. It’s more illustration heavy than text heavy, which is perfect for beginning or struggling readers. And for avid or older readers, it goes very quickly. I finished it in like 20 minutes tops. Then I immediately checked it out to Abby. It’s so good it must be shared.

Who it’s great for: All ages, but especially curious, imaginative, and/or literacy-challenged young readers.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

rebound
This post contains affiliate links.

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: A novel in verse about a teen boy coping with the sudden loss of his father.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Alexander’s and read whatever he puts out. It helped that it was National Poetry Month and I was looking for books in verse.

My favorite parts: I really like the depiction of how sincerely mixed up this boy is since his dad’s death. He’s trying to be good but also he is having trouble coping and expressing his grief especially when everyone around him is afraid to bring up the subject or show their grief, even his mother and friends. Part of his grief is having panic attacks when sirens sound, and I appreciated the description of them and the understanding of the situation by supporting characters. You will really cheer for him to find his way forward with help from good friends and love of family. There is also a positive portrayal of using a journal to express your thoughts and feelings. You might cry — especially if you’ve read The Crossover.

Who it’s great for: All ages.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this book in your local library or on online.


 

Islandborn by Junot Díaz

islandborn

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: A little girl has to draw a picture of where she is from but she left her homeland when she was only a baby so she can’t remember. She turns to neighbors and family members to help her create her picture.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Díaz and was delighted when I found out he was turning his talents to picture books.

My favorite parts: I loved the beautiful descriptions of her place of birth, and the way the illustrations show how a young child might literally interpret them. I also like the use of a general “monster” to simplify the explanation of conflicts that caused many people to flee their nation. The colors are lively and it will make you want to book a trip to hear the music, and revel in the pardisio. (I also listened to this on audio, which is read by the author so it is excellent for that reason and includes vibrant music which only adds to the story.)

Who it’s great for: Díaz fans. Littles who can’t quite remember their birthplace. Anyone missing the island where they used to live. Readers looking for diverse books.

Erica’s rating: four and a half shells


Find this book in a library near you or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Danza! by Duncan Tonatiuh

danza

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: The iconic Amalia Hernández and the traveling dance company she created 60 years ago – Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet.

What made me pick it up: I had just returned from a trip to Mexico where students had performed some of the traditional dances mentioned in this book. When I saw a review for it, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

My favorite parts: I was inspired by the tenacity of Hernández to not only follow her dreams to dance, but build something to blend traditional dances into ballet and modern dance and take it around the world to showcase the culture of her home and her pride in it. I hope to see this one day. It sounds magical.

Who it’s great for: Dancers. Anyone who has been to Mexico and been awed.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Mama Africa by Kathryn Erskine

mamaafrica

Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Miriam Makeba, a South African musician who used her music to tell the story of apartheid to the rest of the world and request their aid.

What made me pick it up: I was checking out the Wikipedia pages of some local authors and found out Erskine had put out a picture book about Africa. Win win.

My favorite parts: Once again a picture book for young children teaches me about history I never knew. Erskine lived in South Africa when she was younger and always wanted to tell this story. I have read many stories about apartheid but not heard this one. I appreciated having the history fleshed out and learning about a musician who used her gift to not only get out of deteriorating South Africa but ask for help from everyone she could. Truly powerful and inspiring.

Who it’s great for: Anyone interested in the history of Africa, South Africa, apartheid, or music. 

Erica’s rating: three shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni

loved

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: A book of illustrated poems for children about the many ways to care for others and be cared for.

What made me pick it up: It’s by Nikki Giovanni. I cannot emphasize enough how you need to sample her work if you haven’t yet.

My favorite parts: These poems are vibrantly illustrated, so if the words weren’t amazing enough (which they definitely are) you also have wonderful, colorful illustrations to accompany.

Who it’s great for: Littles who want an engaging introduction to poetry.

Erica’s rating: four shells

 


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood

shaking

Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: Fourteen women and girls who have changed the world throughout history.

What made me pick it up: It was about women and girls who have changed the world.

My favorite things: I always love reading about women who have had an impact on history, especially when they are unfamiliar to me, as some in this book were. The one I enjoyed the most was about a librarian (of course) — Pura Belpré was the first bilingual public librarian in New York City. It’s even better when the inspirational women you’re reading about reflect your career path. In this case, it made me that much prouder of all these great individuals and their work. The stories are written in verse, with little bios at the bottom of the pages and vibrant illustrations. There is so much to enjoy in this book!

Who it’s great for: Women and girls of all ages.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this book in your local library.


 

Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison

little leaders

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A collection of 40 brief biographies of Black women who have made significant contributions throughout US history, geared toward children and complete with charming illustrations of each woman.

What made me pick it up: I couldn’t not pick it up.

My favorite things: I love the variety of women profiled! There are women from early US history, those alive and achieving today, and those from all the time in-between. Harrison includes women who were pioneers in science, education, law, activism, athletics, and the arts among others. Each biography is long enough to learn about each woman’s life and work, but still short enough to fit on one page so you can easily read a few at a time. I learned a lot!

Who it’s great for:  Readers looking for inspiring stories of Black women’s achievements. Young readers of all identities and backgrounds looking for strong role models. Fans of Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Abby’s rating: five shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).