Butler Bookshelf

It’s August, which means Back to School season is here! This season is all about new beginnings, meeting new people, and learning more about yourself and the world around you. Clash by Kayla Miller is a perfect example of this. When new kid Natasha comes to town and takes the sixth grade by storm, everyone wants to be her friend, including Olive. However, Natasha only seems interested in hanging out with Olive’s friends, not Olive herself. Will Olive’s best buds choose Natasha over her, leaving her behind? Find out this and more by checking out the Back to School themed titles below!

Chill, Chomp, Chill!
Written by Chris Ayala-Kronos and Illustrated by Paco Sordo
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available August 17, 2021

Henry at Home
Written by Megan Maynor and Illustrated by Alea Marley
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion Books
Available now!

Merci Suárez Can’t Dance
Written by Meg Medina
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

Clash
Written and Illustrated by Kayla Miller
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Etch
Available now!

To Tell You The Truth
Written by Beth Vrabel
Published by Simon & Schuster/Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Let’s Go for a Walk
Written by Hamza Yassin and Illustrated by Kate Kronreif
Published by The Quarto Group/Ivy Kids
Available now!

Looking Towards Fall: A Review of The Leaf Thief

The Leaf Thief 
Alice Hemming 
Illustrated by Nicola Slater 
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky 
August 3, 2021 
Ages 4-8 

Squirrel wakes up one day to find that some of the leaves on his tree are missing. He concludes that there is a Leaf Thief on the loose and accuses other animals of having stolen his leaves. Over time, more leaves disappear, and Squirrel continues to panic, prompting Bird to show him the true Leaf Thief. Bird explains that the wind is taking the leaves, that this happens every year in autumn, and that the leaves will grow back in the spring, finally putting Squirrel at ease. 

Hemming primarily uses dialogue to tell the story, with different fonts used for each character. The text is laid out differently on each page, with large text used to accentuate Squirrel’s rising panic. He reacts dramatically to the situation, turning to his friend Bird for guidance. Despite the humorous nature of the situation, Bird takes Squirrel seriously, aptly explaining why the leaves are disappearing. Slater’s illustrations depict rich and vivid environments through a mixture of two-page spreads, single page spreads, and pages split into panels that make the storyline more dynamic. The colors of the autumn leaves are a focal point, though even the pages that do not depict leaves are full of vibrant colors. Paint and graphite textures scanned over the digital art give it a unique feel. Back matter further explains the changes that autumn brings. The Leaf Thief is a humorous story that will leave young readers amused while also providing information about a change they see around them in a straightforward and fun way. 

Butler Bookshelf

International Day of Friendship is this Friday, July 30th! Celebrate by getting your hands on Playing a Dangerous Game by Patrick Ochieng. Set in 1970s Kenya, the story follows four friends as they embark on a formidable adventure. While roaming the neighborhood, the boys discover that stolen coffee is being smuggled into an abandoned house they believed to be haunted. This discovery sucks them into a criminal underworld, putting both themselves and their families in danger. Now the boys must lean on each other for survival. For more books featuring strong friendships, check out the list below!

Gerald Needs a Friend
Written and Illustrated by Robin Boyden
Published by The Quarto Group/Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

The Best Worst Summer
Written by Elizabeth Eulberg
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

Rise to the Sun
Written by Leah Johnson
Published by Scholastic Press
Available now!

Peep and Ducky Sleepover
Written by David Martin and Illustrated by David Walker
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

Take Me Home Tonight
Written by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Playing a Dangerous Game
Written by Patrick Ochieng
Published by W. W. Norton & Company/Norton Young Readers
Available August 17, 2021

Love and Loss: A Review of Things We Couldn’t Say

Things We Couldn’t Say
Jay Coles
Scholastic Press
September 21, 2021
Ages 12+

For 17-year-old Giovanni “Gio” Zander, life has been an emotional rollercoaster. At age 9, his mother abandoned him and his younger brother. Then, at 16, he knew without a doubt he was bisexual. Now, in his junior year of high school, he is struggling with how to be out and comfortable, while also keeping his feelings of grief about his mom at bay. However, when his mother reaches out, wanting to spend time with him, his whole world collapses. Gio grapples with his newfound feelings of anger at her sudden reappearance. Plus, new kid David, who just moved across the street, is stirring up feelings in Gio that he’s finding hard to walk away from. Gio must find the strength to face his mother and learn why she left him so long ago. Maybe this will help him follow his heart, be free, and live in his truth.

Through characters’ personal experiences, past and present, Coles dives deep into the complexities of love, loss, abandonment, family, race, and LGBTQ relationships. As David (a white teenager) and Gio explore their feelings for each other, and Gio and his family deal with the return of Gio’s mother, we see how these themes intertwine and affect everyday life. The story reads as a cathartic dropping of thoughts, unfiltered and raw. Gio’s narration is not neat or grammatically correct, with slang throughout. This catharsis illustrates how complicated Gio’s feelings are as he struggles through hardship. His constant fear of someone finding out how he feels about David shines a light on the fact that even though we have come a long way, LGBTQ kids still have a hard time accepting themselves and gaining acceptance from others. Black Culture is well-integrated into the story through the personalities of the Black characters and the neighborhood in which Gio lives. Coles shows the vibrant environment of the Black church with descriptions of songs played, and language used by pastor Charles Zander, Gio’s father. He demonstrates the differences between Gio and his white friends and relays how important it is for white people to be allies when people of color are wrongfully accused. Coles’ Things We Couldn’t Say is a timely story packed with conversations that we all need to hear.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf you will find summer stories! One in particular that we can’t wait to dive into is Best Day Ever! by Marilyn Singer and Leah Nixon. A young puppy is having the best day digging for bones, chasing cats, and stealing frisbees. She is so happy to be out with her boy that she doesn’t realize her playfulness is on the border of breaking the rules. Her boy scolds her for being naughty and suddenly it’s the worst day ever. Will the boy and puppy be able to make amends and end the day joyfully? For more great titles, check out the list below!

My Nana’s Garden
Written by Dawn Casey and Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
Published by Candlewick Press/Templar Books
Available now!

Sophie’s Seashell Scramble
Written by Educational Insights and Illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti
Published by Candlewick Press/Candlewick Entertainment
Available now!

The Infamous Ratsos: Ratty Tattletale
Written by Kara LaReau and Illustrated by Matt Myers
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

The Little Blue Bridge
Written by Brenda Maier and Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez
Published by Scholastic Press
Available now!

Nina Soni: Master of the Garden
Written by Kashmira Sheth and Illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky
Published by Peachtree
Available now!

Best Day Ever!
Written by Marilyn Singer and Illustrated by Leah Nixon
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion Books
Available now!

Add a pinch of belly button lint: A Review of Boo Stew

Boo Stew
Donna L. Washington
Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
Peachtree
Available September 1, 2021
Ages 3-7

Curly Locks, the most disgustingly imaginative cook in Toadsuck Swamp, just hasn’t found the right audience for her culinary creations. When a group of spooky Scares (one larger than the last) make their way out of the swamp and into the mayor’s kitchen, the townsfolk are scared silly. Only Curly Locks knows what to do—cook for them! She whips up the best batch of Boo Stew east of the Mississippi and lures the Scares right back to the swamp with promises of feasts to come and satisfaction at finally finding those that appreciate her cooking.

In this twist on the Goldilocks tale, Washington’s background as a traditional storyteller shines through in the structure, repetition, and the Southern vernacular that bring the inhabitants of Toadsuck Swamp to vivid life. Her heroine breaks the mold of the most Goldilocks’, with a bolder personality, grand self-confidence, and belief in her ability to make a difference. The text is based on an oral telling from her 2006 recording Angels’ Laughter. Jeffrey Ebbeler has created a diverse cast of hilariously terrified townsfolk that help to highlight Curly Locks’ gumption and bravery, further setting her apart from the often insipid traditional Goldilocks. His sepia toned illustrations and shadowy, bear-like Scares lend a suitably spooky setting and some Southern gothic flare to this fine addition to both folktale and Halloween collections. 

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf you will find Noah’s Seal by Layn Marlow! Come along with Noah and his Nana as they prepare to sail the sea and spot some seals along the way. While Nana repairs the boat, Noah waits on the beach, sculpting his own seal out of sand and pebbles. But when a storm rolls in, Noah is forced to take cover and leave his seal behind. Will Noah’s seal survive? To find out, check the list below for this book and more amazing titles!

Too Small Tola
Written by Atinuke and Illustrated by Onyinye Iwu
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

An Occasionally Happy Family
Written by Cliff Burke
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available now!

Before They Were Artists: Famous Illustrators as Kids
Written and Illustrated by Elizabeth Haidle
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Etch
Available now!

Noah’s Seal
Written and Illustrated by Layn Marlow
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See
Written by Sam McBratney and Illustrated by Linda Ólafsdóttir
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

Made in Korea
Written by Sarah Suk
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available now!

A Tool for Tomorrow’s Activists: A Review of This Book is Feminist

This Book is Feminist: An Intersectional Primer for Next-Gen Changemakers 
Jamia Wilson 
Illustrated by Aurélia Durand 
Quarto/Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 
August 3, 2021 
Ages 10-14 

A continuation of the series Empower the Future, which began with This Book is Anti-Racist and its journal companion, This Book is Feminist aims to describe intersectional feminism in ways that are understandable to young people. Intersectional feminism is explored through a mixture of the author’s personal anecdotes and statistics. The book is divided into chapters by concepts such as identity, justice, and power. Vibrant illustrations feature most prominently on the title page of each chapter along with art of important figures and quotations relevant to the chapter. Beyond these full spreads, nearly every page of the text is accompanied with bright illustrations highlighting diversity. Most of the chapters close with a “Call to Action” section, inviting readers to ponder how the concepts covered can be applied to their own lives. These prompts, along with the closing chapter, “What Does Feminism Mean to YOU?”, are sure to get young readers thinking about power imbalances that exist around them, not only regarding gender but also regarding the multitude of other aspects of identities covered under the umbrella of true intersectional feminism. The back matter of the book includes additional notes, a list of further readings, and a glossary of terms that are bolded throughout the text for greater understanding. This comprehensive text has something for both those who are new to the concept of intersectional feminism and for those who are familiar with the topic as it provides additional resources and lists of organizations working towards positive change, inviting those inclined to do so to research further and become activists themselves. 

Butler Bookshelf

It’s time to celebrate America! The United States is a country made up of immigrants seeking independence and the promise of a better life. Our country is a place where people can dare to dream and fight for their beliefs. What better way to celebrate this legacy than by reading Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan–a story of an immigrant’s struggle to fight for justice and prove that she too is an American. Check out the list below for more titles featuring immigrant stories, stories of independence, and information on the intricacies of our democracy!

Joe Biden: Our 46th President
Written by Beatrice Gormley
Published by Aladdin
Available now!

Zara Hossain is Here
Written by Sabina Khan
Published by Scholastic Press
Available now!

Barakah Beats
Written by Maleeha Siddiqui
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 19, 2021

Baby Loves Political Science: Congress!
Written by Ruth Spiro and Illustrated by Greg Paprocki
Published by Charlesbridge
Available now!

Baby Loves Political Science: The Presidency!
Written by Ruth Spiro and Illustrated by Greg Paprocki
Published by Charlesbridge
Available now!

Room to Dream
Written by Kelly Yang
Published by Scholastic Press
Available September 21, 2021

Coming of Age in a Time of Civil Unrest: A Review of Why We Fly

Why We Fly
Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal
Sourcebooks Fire
October 5, 2021
Ages 14+

At the end of the summer of 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia, two of Franklin High’s most talented cheerleaders are preparing to enter their senior year. Chanel “Nelly” Irons and Eleanor “Leni” Greenberg have been inseparable since the age of four. But that all changes when Leni becomes captain of the cheerleading team—an honor Nelly has worked hard for, leading the team while Leni was on the sidelines last year recovering from a severe concussion. When the squad takes a knee during the national anthem at the school’s first football game of the season, chaos and drama ensue. The squad gains national attention, receiving support from some and opposition from others, including the school administration. As Nelly and Leni both deal with the fallout of the protest, they grow further and further apart. Will they be able to mend their friendship, fight for a cause they believe in, and become the leaders they are meant to be?

Jones and Segal bring us an honest coming of age story focused on how our decisions now affect our future. With chapters that alternate between Chanel and Eleanor’s perspectives, and the use of language indicative of Generation Z, Jones and Segal open up the conversation on the work that needs to be done to end racism in an unintimidating way. They illustrate a realistic view of the Black community, describing skin color, the language used by younger generations, the importance of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and the differing opinions amongst the community in regard to kneeling. Themes of courage, friendship, civil unrest, and harsh realities are ever present as Nelly and Leni struggle to face the consequences of their actions. But through self-reflection and the guidance of others, Nelly and Leni come to a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. They realize that growing up sometimes means growing apart from the people closest to you; that standing up for yourself is always right even when adversity comes from those that love you; and that fighting for equality doesn’t always have an obvious path.