A Sea of Memories: A Review of When Life Gives You Mangos

cover190381-medium.pngWhen Life Gives You Mangos
Written by Kereen Getten
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Ages 10-14
Available September 15, 2020

Clara lives in a small village on a tourist-destination Caribbean island, but to Clara, it’s not a destination—it’s just home. This summer, she is twelve, and she’s struggling. Her former best friend Gaynah does not want to play in their secret dugout anymore; she is more interested in Calvin and being grown up. Also, Gaynah teases her about last summer. Even though Clara tries, she cannot remember what happened. All she knows is that her parents will not let her surf anymore, and she can never go into the water alone. Sometimes she has nightmares that she does not understand. Her parents explain the imagery, but they tell her not to worry. Clara finds that she angers and frustrates easily, but she does not understand why. Now, a mysterious new girl named Rudy is living on the island and wants to be friends with Clara. But Rudy does not know the rules of the island, and what spots are off-limits. Clara does not want to lose another friend, so she follows along, even though she could get in trouble. Kereen Getten’s When Life Gives You Mangos begins slowly, unfolding the story of Clara’s memory loss. The calm pace and beautiful landscape exacerbate the scary and obscure reason behind the amnesia. The book takes time to reveal what happened, and the grief behind the loss is significant. Newcomer Rudy serves as a stand-in for the reader at times, as she is learning how the village of Sycamore operates. Religion is an important factor in how Clara’s memory loss is dealt with by the community; ultimately Getten reveals that pastors and bishops, no matter how well-intentioned they are, are ultimately human and can make mistakes. The reveal behind Clara’s amnesia involves grief, but also reconciliation as her family makes room for members that have been long shunned in the village. This read emphasizes the power of love and community.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we’ve got our sights set on the wide world of wrestling! But not just any kind of wrestling, it’s Friday-night-before-bedtime wresting with the Dangerous Daddoo, and maybe a special appearance from the Flying Mom Bomb! This energetic picture book is on our must read list. For more great reads, check out the list below.

Taylor Before and After
Written by Jennie Englund
Published by Imprint
Available now!

Friday Night Wrestlefest
Written by J.F. Fox and illustrated by Micah Player
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Available now!

All The Stars and Teeth
Written by Adalyn Grace
Published by Imprint
Available now!

Bent Heavens
Written by Daniel Kraus
Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier
Written by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Maris Wicks
Published by First Second
Available now!

Babysitting Nightmares: The Vampire Doll
Written by Kat Shephard
Published by Imprint
Available now!

Creating the Change: A Review of Saving Savannah

Saving Savannah cover art

Saving Savannah
Tonya Bolden

Bloomsbury
January 14, 2020
Ages 14-18

It’s 1919—the Great War just ended, the Spanish Flu still rages, and women nation-wide are demanding the vote. Against this tumultuous backdrop, Savannah Riddle lives a life of luxury amidst the affluent African American community in Washington, DC. But she is beginning to chafe at the vapidity of her set and speculate about the poverty and struggle just outside her bubble. Making new friends and seeking out new experiences opens Savannah’s eyes to the world around her and challenges her to find ways to make a difference in her community.

Fans of Bolden’s earlier YA (Crossing Ebenezer Creek, 2017; Inventing Victoria, 2019) will be familiar with Savannah’s family tree, but this elegant story also works as a stand-alone novel. As pandemic, racial inequality, and social unrest are once again—and still—front and center in our consciousness, Savannah’s fear, bravery, and determination to effect change feel both modern and timeless. Bolden sets a brisk pace with the narrative that is well-matched to the book’s chaotic events and prevents the difficult themes for getting too weighty. While Savannah is clearly the central and most dynamic figure, the supporting characters (including many real-life historic figures) are well-drawn and provide a strong counterpoint to her journey from debutante to social justice advocate. History lovers will appreciate Bolden’s thorough research and documentation. The extensive author’s note offers a look at the historical inspiration for many of the characters and events. Also included are background notes on many of the historical references, citations for newspaper headlines, photo credits, and a bibliography of selected resources.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we’ve got magic on our minds. More specifically, 17th century Parisian magic! EM Castellan’s In the Shadow of the Sun, spins a tale of hidden powers, royal alliances, and Versailles. For more reads, check out the list below!

In the Shadow of the Sun
Written by EM Castellan
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Available now!

You Be Mommy
Written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Zoe Persico
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Available now!

The Lost Tide Warriors
Written by Catherine Doyle
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Available now!

Havenfall
Written by Sara Holland
Published by Bloomsbury YA
Available now!

Fabio The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express
Written by Laura James and illustrated by Emily Fox
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Available now!

Go to Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons from the Fog of New Parenthood
Written and illustrated by Lucy Knisley
Published by First Second
Available now!

Sharing Languages and Stories: A Review of The Day Saida Arrived

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The Day Saida Arrived
Written by Susana Gómez Redondo, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, and translated from Spanish into English by Lawrence Schimel
Published by Blue Dot Kids Press
Available Sept 15, 2020
Ages 3-7

When Saida arrives, she does not speak any English. In fact, she does not speak at all. Sad and silent, the young narrator wants to find words that will help Saida alleviate her sadness. She cannot find them anywhere. So instead, she draws a welcome; in return, Saida draws a smile. The young narrator continues to search and search for Saida’s words, and she learns that Saida is from Morocco. Her mother shows her on a globe. Her father explains that Saida’s words and language are different; she speaks Arabic. The next day, she and Saida write to each other in their native languages. They touch objects in their classroom and write their own version of the name on the blackboard. They work on their “B” sounds and rolling their “Rs” and differentiating between “E” and “I.” They laugh and giggle through their mistakes. As the two friends share their languages, their snacks, and their stories, they plan for when they will travel to Morocco together.

Susana Gómez Redondo spins a beautiful tale. The words curl and warm themselves around the two young strangers and glow as their bond develops. Repetition of the phrase, “The day Saida arrived,” gives the story a timeless quality that is rooted only in the pair’s friendship. The artwork by Sonja Wimmer is exquisite and vivid. Drenched in emotion, Wimmer conjures up the emotions felt by Saida when she is unable to express herself. The illustrations are fantastical: the friends climb onto a hippopotamus, walk a clothesline as a high wire, and sail away on a hot air balloon. Words in English and Arabic dance around the pages. Some Arabic letters sprout wings and fly. The illustrations create a magical and otherworldly exploration of the friends’ journey to understanding one another. The picture book’s backmatter contains a chart of both the Arabic and English alphabet.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we meet Jabari! Jabari is so, so ready to jump off the diving board. He’s done everything he is supposed to: finished swimming lesson, passed the swim test, plus he is an excellent jumper! Despite this, he is still nervous. With his father’s encouragement, Jabari takes on his fear.  Written by Gaia Cornwall and translated into Spanish by Georgina Lázaro, Jabari Salta is a sweet picture book that is perfect for Father’s Day. For more great reads, check out the list below!

BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself To Freedom
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Michele Wood
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Jabari Salta (Spanish edition)
Written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall, translated by Georgina Lázaro
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Madame Badobedah
Written by Sophie Dahl and illustrated by Lauren O’Hara
Published by Walker Books
Available now!

Don’t Worry Little Crab
Written and illustrated by Chris Haughton
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Cats in the Crater: My FANGtastically Evil Vampire Pet
Written by Mo O’Hara and illustrated by Marek Jagucki
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Available now!

Big Ideas For Young Thinkers: 20 questions about life and the universe
Written by 
Jamia Wilson and illustrated by Andrea Pippins
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now!

 

Summer of Sisterhood: A Review of the Summer of Impossibilities

The Summer Of Impossibilities cover art
The Summer of Impossibilities
Rachael Allen
Abrams/Amulet
May 12, 2020
Ages 14-18

Spending the summer at a lake house may sound idyllic, but its anything but for four girls forced into it by their mothers—best friends since college. Each girl is hiding something—Skyler (her worsening arthritis pain), Scarlett (cutting and rage at her parents’ broken marriage), Ellie (confusion about her multicultural identity, body image issues, and bullying), and Amelia Grace (her sexual identity)—and more in need of the others than she realizes. Forging an uneasy alliance, the girls make a pact to each do something impossible with their summer: Skyler (return to playing softball), Scarlett (build a healthy relationship with her (totally unworthy) boyfriend), Ellie (turn the other girls into her BFFs) and Amelia Grace (be accepted and reinstated as a youth minister at her church). Gradually, and sometimes grudgingly, they build a friendship that turns them into family.

Told in chapters that alternate in perspective between the girls, Rachael Allen makes the leaps skillfully, using their differing points of view to explore events from multiple angles and create strong and distinctive personalities. Allen balances the story between the vibrant, volatile, emotional, and evolving characters that fight with and for each other and their families. She tackles tough topics in an honest, but not overly dramatic fashion. And while the setting of the lake, parties, and a summer-long slumber party could be over-the-top fluff, the idyll is a strong counterpoint to the girls’ turmoil, reflection, and growth. A valuable addition to the coming-of-age-story canon, with struggles that will resonate with a wide audience.

Butler Bookshelf

This week for the Butler Bookshelf, we have our eyes on How To Make Friends With The Sea by Tanya Guerrero. The middle grade novel tells the story of Pablo, a twelve year old who has spent the years following his parents’ divorce globetrotting with his zoologist mother. Pablo’s fears have multiplied over the years, and his mother has been too consumed with her work to notice. We can’t wait to read this debut novel. For more great reads, check out the list below!

How To Make Friends With The Sea
Written by Tanya Guerrero
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Reagers
Available now!

Timo the Adventurer
Written by Garnier Jonathan and illustrated by Sacré Yohan
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available October 13, 2020

The Great Upending
Written by Beth Kephart
Published by Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Available now!

Under Shifting Stars
Written by Alexandra Latos
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available September 29, 2020

This Boy
Written by Lauren Myracle
Published by Walker Books
Available now!

Who Will You Be?
Written and illustrated by Andrea Pippins
Published by Schwartz & Wade
Available now!

Intergenerational Understanding: A Review of My Day with Gong Gong

cover193785-mediumMy Day with Gong Gong
Written by Sennah Yee and illustrated by Elaine Chen
Published by Annick Press
Available September 8, 2020
Ages 3-6

May, a young girl, spends the day with her grandfather. At first, she feels shy and later bored, until her grandfather takes her to Chinatown. As they make their way through the city, May cannot always understand her Gong Gong. May does not understand Cantonese, and Gong Gong does not speak that much English. Gong Gong takes May on errands and into shops, and sometimes it seems like Gong Gong’s friends are laughing at her. She does not understand and gets frustrated. She is also hungry. It turns out, though, Gong Gong does understand her: he gives her pork buns when she is hungry, and he surprises her with the stuffed monkey she saw in a gift shop.

Sennah Yee captures intergenerational love and understanding with this new picture book. Illustrator Elaine Chen’s colorful drawings show off May’s full range of emotions and normalizes the frustration and confusion that can often come when a young child is out of their comfort zone. Chen’s pictures feature close ups of May’s face, and as the book evolves, May and her grandfather’s faces turn towards each other, not away. The watercolor illustrations are bright and airy, detailing everything from a living room to the streets of Chinatown. Some of Yee’s best writing comes in situational comedy–May gets pooped on by a pigeon, and the tears flow quickly. Her grandfather comes to her aid, and the tearful expressions soon turn joyful. At the beginning of the book, May was suspicious of the new faces and phrases in Cantonese that she did not understand; by the end of the book, May is more confident and can exclaim, “Nei hou” as well as say “doh je” in thanks for some delicious food. The picture book’s ending has a list of Cantonese phrases May and her grandfather used during their day together.

We’re All in This Together: A Review of One World, Many Colors

One World Many Colors cover art

One World, Many Colors
Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Alette Straathof
Quarto
Ages 5-7
Published March 17, 2020

 

What could be better than a trip around the world while we’re all trying to stay safe at home? Journey from a Paris bakery to a Vietnamese rice field, the peak of Mt. Everest to the streets of New York City. Travel writer Ben Lerwill guides this tour to explore the colors of the rainbow (well, most of them) and where one might find them the world over—comparing and contrasting the way white might look in the desert of Oman, on an Antarctic glacier, or the Sydney Opera House.

With visits to each continent, readers will discover the beauty of new places and cultures in this sophisticated exploration of the color spectrum. Each page gives just a snapshot (a peaceful Japanese garden or raucous Brazilian soccer stands), with spare text that often captures a unique aspect of the location. Alette Straathof’s detailed watercolor-pencil images (her signature medium) are a lovely counterpoint to the text, providing much to explore on each page. Her expressive faces and diverse crowds lend an additional layer of meaning to the title. The final spread, featuring a map of the world, provides an overview of the tour, a recap of the colors, and a timely reminder of the connection we share as inhabitants of this planet.