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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What it’s about: The author’s weirdness being her career super power, and how you can too.
What made me pick it up: I’m… a little weird and this seemed like something that applied.
My favorite parts: This book truly lives up to its title. It’s about a weirdo telling other weirdos how to best fly their freak flag in the world of normals. Aside from that I appreciated her insight into careers and how best to go about one. Be nice. Work hard. Understand that you are unique and your career will also be. But most importantly, you and your experience are just right for whatever is to come.
Who it’s great for: Anyone looking to make a change. Readers wondering if their brand of offbeat is too different. (It’s not.)
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.
What it’s about: I’m here to sadly report that the banana is at risk of dying off. Current practices aren’t sustainable and a suitable replacement has yet to be found or created. In the meantime the bad fungi are taking out this slow to evolve fruit.
What made me pick it up: Well I’d heard about this banana problem and wanted to learn more. Also it is a book about bananas. And I needed a new audiobook.
My favorite parts: Learning so much history of the banana. Like that we don’t have the good tasting one (that one died off when our grandparents were young). That they are hard to reproduce. That GMOing might be the only way to create a sustainable new banana. And most importantly that much of the developed world subsists on these. If we lose them, yes our smoothies will be a tad more boring but people will starve. People are already starting this process in parts of Africa losing their bananas.
My least favorite parts: There is a lot in here that is uncomfortable to downright despicable about Big Ag and American power in the developing world which will rightfully disgust you. I’m not sure if the right course of action is to boycott bananas or keep buying them, but it is clear something needs to change.
Who its great for: Trivia nerds. Banana lovers. History, agriculture, and food science geeks.
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.
What it’s about: Why you should follow your passion one tiny step at a time.
What made me pick it up: It was mentioned in When To Jump, which I read recently.
My favorite parts: This is colorful and short and full of inspirational quotes and the tiny push you might need to begin following your calling. You don’t have to quit your job or go on an intense spiritual journey or backpack around Asia for any period of time, unless you feel you really need to. Just get up a few minutes early to paint or write or do whatever it is you feel you need to do. See where it leads. I do appreciate reminders now and then that you can listen to your inner voice and see what it’s telling you without disrupting your entire world. Or maybe it will and that will also be a fun adventure.
Who it’s great for: Anyone wondering if this is it.