See You Tomorrow: A Review of Mañanaland

Written by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Published by Scholastic Press
Ages 8-12
Available now!

Every night, Maximiliano’s Buelo weaves him stories of mystical bridges and a magical gatekeeper who aids travelers on their journey into tomorrow. During the day, Max’s head is full of his father’s rules, his bridge-building apprenticeship, and fútbol. Now that he is eleven, he is eligible to try out for Santa Maria’s village team. Maybe he can play professionally, just like his Papá and his Buelo. But when a new policy mandates a birth certificate for eligibility to join the team, Max’s hopes fade. His birth certificate vanished years ago, just like his mother. Max’s mother left the family when he was a baby. No one speaks of her; there are not even any photographs to remember her by. When Max’s Papá leaves to request a new birth certificate from a nearby city, Max sets out to find the truth about his mother. What he discovers is that the stories his Buelo told him are based in reality: Max’s comes from a line of guardians who help those fleeing the dictatorship of a neighboring country, Abismo. Those who fled the terror of their homeland are called the hidden ones. They sought refuge in La Reina Gigante, a tower set amidst the ruins near his home. What’s more Max’s mother was one of them. As Max seeks his mother, he joins his family in the guardian tradition when he is called on to ferry a girl only a few years younger than him to safety. Pam Muñoz Ryan immerses the reader into Santa Maria life: the village council, the local gossip, and the meddlesome families. Ryan blends typical middle grade woes such as jealousy over a best friend’s wandering attention or being too young to do anything fun with heightened stakes. The mystery of Mañanaland and where Max’s mother has vanished are the same, and their answer is inconclusive. Mañanaland is hope, a dream to keep the weary pressing onwards to tomorrow. Mañanaland’s exploration of morality, self-knowledge, and family make this a worthy addition to a children’s or middle grade collection.

Butler Bookshelf

Up next on our TBR list? Outside In written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Cindy Derby. This gorgeous picture book tells of the ways nature creates and touches our lives in homes, apartments, and cars–reminding us all of the world’s connectedness. For more great reads, check out the list below!

There’s Something About Sam
Written by Hannah Barnaby and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Playing Possum
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Published by Clarion Books
Available now!

The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found
Written by Karina Yan Glaser
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Nothing in Common
Written by Hoefler and illustrated by Corinna Luyken
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Stealing Mt. Rushmore
Written by Daphne Kalmar
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Available now!

Outside In
Written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Cindy Derby
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Election Year Titles for All Ages

We’re less than two months from election day, and it’s the perfect time for civic-minded students of all ages to understand that their voice and their vote matters. Publishers have provided a plethora of options; from picture books to YA novels, fiction and nonfiction, there is something for every kid and every lesson plan.


Curious George Votes
Deidre Langland
Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe in the style of H. A. Rey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 1, 2020

As per usual, Curious George causes well-intentioned chaos with an elementary school mascot election while passing out stickers, stuffing the ballot box, helping a write-in candidate get elected—a monkey! This silly introduction to voting will be a great introduction for little ones that might be curious about all this election-talk.

V is for Voting
Kate Farrell
Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald
Macmillan/Henry Holt
July 21, 2020

This civic-minded ABC book is a bright and optimistic look at why we vote—for Citizens’ rights, Onward progress, and Representation. A diverse cast of engaged voters (and kids), with cameo appearances by political and social figures past and present, represent 26 reasons why your vote is important. The back matter, including notes on how to contact elected officials, organizing a voter registration drive, and a voting rights timeline, is geared toward grown-up reading buddies.


Vote for our Future
Margaret McNamara
Illustrated by Micah Player
Penguin Random House/Schwartz & Wade
February 18, 2020

They may not be old enough to vote yet, but these elementary school students will make their voices heard because “kids have to live with adult choices.” By passing out voting guides, talking about voting options, encouraging registration, and hosting a bake sale, they build enthusiasm and turn out in their community. Includes a list of Acts of Congress that were influenced by votes for a better future.

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents
Kate Messner
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Chronicle Books
March 24, 2020

Everybody starts somewhere, even our presidents, who were politicians, soldiers, farmers, students, and regular kids. This timeline of U.S. presidents gives snippets of their histories and overlapping experiences to show how, even now, our future leaders are leading, learning, growing-up, and maybe even reading this book.


Kayla Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
July 21, 2020

Olive puts her sixth grade civics lessons to work when she runs for student council representative. Learning about protests, debates, and the issues important to her classmates will make her a great candidate, even if it means running against her friends. This bright and engaging graphic novel includes a recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip-Ins, notes on historic and modern day peaceful protests, and a suggested reading list.

The Kids’ Complete Guide to Elections
Cari Meister, Emma Carlson Berne, and Nel Yomtov
January 1, 2020

This thorough nonfiction guide covers everything from vocabulary to in-depth, but age-appropriate explanations of democratic values, campaigns, the electoral college, political parties, and voting. Vibrant photography and relatable examples will both inform and inspire students to make a difference in their communities.

Young Adult

Natalia Sylvester
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion
July 14, 2020

When Mari Ruiz’s father runs for president; she isn’t prepared for the effects on her life—intense media scrutiny, questioning her family values, and her growing sense of political activism. As she evaluates her feelings and beliefs, Mari sets her own boundaries and finds her own voice. An intimate look at the way personal beliefs conflict with business as usual in U.S. politics.

Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy
Daniel G. Newman
Illustrated by George O’Connor
Roaring Brook/First Second
July 7, 2020

An accessible exploration of the connection between corporation, big money, and political power, and how breaking that connection is the needed to see genuine change in our country. The subtle turquoise and goldenrod color palette in this YA graphic novel puts the focus on specific examples, clearly-explained concepts, and what readers can do to affect change.

Butler Bookshelf

For this week’s Butler Bookshelf, J. Albert Mann’s new historical novel The Degenerates has captured our attention. Mann portrays four young women in the early twentieth century whose lives intersect when they are locked up by a world that took the poor, the disabled, the marginalized-and institutionalized them for life. For more great reads, check out the list below!

The Mysterious Messenger
Written by Gilbert Ford
Published by Henry Holt and Co. Books For Young Readers
Available now!

Backward Science
Written by Clive Gifford and illustrated by Anne Wilson
Published by QEB Publishing
Available now!

The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids
Written by Liz Lee Heinecke
Published by Quarry Books
Available now!

Written by Yasmeen Ismail and illustrated by Jenni Desmond
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

The Degenerates
Written by J. Albert Mann
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Written by Sally Sutton and illustrated by Brian Lovelock
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

All Around Us: A Review of The Environment: Explore, Create and Investigate!

The Environment: Explore, Create and Investigate! (What On Earth series)
Written by Jonathan Litton and illustrated by Pau Morgan
Published by Quarto Publishing
Available September 22, 2020
Ages 6-12 years

This introduction to the earth’s environment blends foundational information on biodiversity and the ozone layer, with how humans play a part in the planet’s safekeeping. Jonathan Litton divides the nonfiction picture book into different learning-focused pages (ExploreInvestigate, and Create) with themed pages that go deep into topics  such as carbon dioxide and its role in global warming. Explore pages impart fact-based information against colorful, educational illustrations. Pau Morgan prominently features humans in their artwork, reinforcing humanity’s effects on the world around them. Color-coded topic tagging, factoid bubbles, and illustration-based puzzles draw readers into the surprisingly dense subject matter. Investigate pages offer observation-based science activities, such as recreating an oil spill with common kitchen ingredients or tracking animals that frequent a bird feeder. Create pages invite readers to put what they have learned into action, such as making a personal microhabitat; some of the Create activities are more labor intensive and require adult supervision. The Environment: Explore, Create and Investigate! features a glossary, index, and templates for activities featured in the book.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we turn to a new picture book written by Farhana Zia and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, Lali’s Feather. In this story, Lali finds a feather in a field–but is the feather lost? Lali sets out to return the feather to its owner, but no bird accepts it. Soon, Lali makes use of the feather for herself and the birds see its usefulness. For more great reads, check out the list below!

Be Amazing: A History of Pride
Written by Desmond is Amazing and illustrated by Dylan Glynn
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Noodle Bear
Written and illustrated by Mark Gravas
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention
Written by Pip Jones and illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie
Published by Simon & Schuster
Available now!

Secrets of the Witch: An Initiation Into Our History and Our Wisdom
Written by  Julie Légère and Elsa Whyte, illustrated by Laura Pérez
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now!

Not An Alphabet Book The Case of the Missing Cake
Written by Eoin McLaughlin and illustrated by Marc Boutavant
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Lali’s Feather
Written by Farhana Zia and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Published by Peachtree Publishing Company
Available now!

Beyond the stars: A Review of Lights on Wonder Rock

Lights on Wonder Rock
David Litchfield
Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 9, 2020
Ages 4-8

Heather was searching for something more—magic, friendship, adventure, and aliens! So she spends her nights at Wonder Rock, doing all she can to attract the attention of a spaceship. When she finally gets her chance to jump aboard, Heather realizes she doesn’t want to leave her family behind. She grows up, loses the wonder of childhood, and has a family of her own, but never gives up waiting for her alien friend. When at last they return, Heather once again recognizes that she might already have all she needs here on Earth.

Litchfield’s thoughtful story explores themes of longing, hope, and curiosity about what other lives may be out there for us. His use of dark and muted tones for the forest, juxtaposed with the colorful and sparkling pages where the spaceship appears, help to set off the difference between how Heather sees her life and her expectations about what might await her in outer space. Double-page spreads of wordless panels put a unique focus on the two most important relationships in the story, with her son and her alien friend, and explain the pull she feels between them. Throughout, Litchfield cleverly uses light—sun, moon, and flashlight beams—to focus on Heather’s emotions and the devotion she feels to both her family and her dreams.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we cannot wait to read Imagina by Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. This Spanish-language illustrated poem is a beautiful and moving read of endless possibility. For more great reads, check out the list below!

Where Happiness Begins
Written and illustrated by Eva Eland
Published by Andersen Press
Available now!

Ollie and the Augustus
Written by Gabriel Evans
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Written by Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Papa Brings Me the World
Written and illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Available now!

A Ben Of All Trades
Written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Matt Tavares
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

The Blue House
Written and illustrated by Phoebe Wahl
Published Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Pure Imagination: A Review of The Blank Page

The Blank Page: How a Piece of Paper Connects to Everything
Written by Alberto Blanco and illustrated by Rob Moss Wilson
Published by Plum Blossom
Available September 22, 2020
Ages 3-6

Poet Alberto Blanco begins this thoughtful, provocative picture book with a simple statement, “There is nothing here” (8). Or, rather, the reader does not see anything, for this is a blank page in a book. That blank page, however, is something. Imagine where the page comes from, the book instructs, from wood, a tree, a forest. How did this paper come to be? Who cared for the earth and the lumber? How was this tree processed, and by whom? Where was the wood sent? Blanco’s deceptively simple words welcome the audience to look beyond what is in front of us. . The picture books’ images reinforce the Blanco’s prose. A topic is suggested before its official introduction, allowing readers to envision and imagine what could be. A page later, the topic is made concrete and an image appears. Plain drawings set against a stark white background grow and grow; their detail remains hazy, inviting readers to use their imagination. As the occupants of the pages grow, so does the readers’ worldview As Blanco writes, “Look closely the next time you see a blank page… because it contains the whole universe.” (31-32). The picture book’s message is one of intentional awareness and understanding of the interconnectedness of the world. 

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we immerse ourselves into a world of Appalachian small towns and secret twins with Maria Romasco-Moore’s new novel Some Kind of Animal. For more great reads, check out the list below!

The Power of One: Every Act of Kindness Counts
Written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Mike Curato
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

The Polio Pioneer
Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Lisa Anchin
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Maud and Grand-Maud
Written by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Kenard Pak
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker Book 1
Written and illustrated by J.C. Phillipps
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Some Kind of Animal
Written by Maria Romasco-Moore
Published by Delacorte Press
Available now!

Silli’s Sheep
Written by Tiffany Stone and illustrated by Louis Thomas
Published by Schwartz & Wade
Available now!