Rebound by Kwame Alexander

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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).


 

Between the Lines by Sandra Neil Wallace

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Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about:  An African-American football player turned painter. Or, I guess, a painter who intermittently played football.

What made me pick it up: I can’t remember now. It must’ve been mentioned somewhere and sounded interesting so I placed a hold.

My favorite parts: The illustrations are lovely, as are the examples of artwork included. I really enjoyed learning about an artist I’d never heard of before and a bit of African American history that is not widely known. It was such an inspiring story and a nice reminder to follow your dreams, even if it doesn’t pay or you get sidetracked for a while on your journey.

Who it’s great for: Art lovers of all ages. Readers looking for less well known African American history stories.

Erica’s rating: four shells


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


 

Thank You, Bees by Tony Yuly

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A picture book about being thankful.

What made me pick it up: I saw it sitting on my coworker’s desk and took a few minutes to page through.

My favorite things: I liked the repetition of thanking various elements — clouds for rain, sun, earth. It has very vivid illustrations, which reminded me a little of Eric Carle, and a simple message which I enjoyed.

Who it’s great for: Little ones who need a lesson in gratitude.

Erica’s rating: three shells


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


 

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A collected biography of some great female icons throughout history.

What made me pick it up: It seemed like a fitting book to kick off my 2018 reading with.

My favorite things: I liked that this profiled Claudette Colvin, who predated and inspired Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. It’s always great to see women who are not the usual reference points for a specific time in history also get their stories told.

Who it’s great for: Everyone. Especially little girls who need role models from all walks of life.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link).