A Tale of Crossing Fates: A Review of The Other Side of Luck

The Other Side of Luck 
Ginger Johnson 
Bloomsbury Children’s Books 
July 6, 2021 
Ages 8-11

Una and Julien could not be more different. Una is a Princess while Julien is a pauper, barely getting by day to day with the profits made from selling plants he forages with his ailing father. Yet both have something the other lacks. Una, wealth and comfort that Julien could only imagine. Julien, his father’s love. Una longs for parental love after her mother’s death leads her father into a depressive spiral. Even after he remarries, he only seems interested in his male children, leading Una to resent her gender. Una’s father then decrees that anyone who can bring him the rare Silva Flower will get a grand reward. This sets the events of the story in motion, eventually leading Una and Julien to each other and ultimately to the Silva Flower. 

Johnson crafts her setting carefully, with the start of the book rarely featuring dialogue amidst lyrical prose. The setting has a medieval feel, though the descriptions focus more on the physical setting – wildlife and nature that the protagonists spend much of the story trekking through – than the time period. Alternating viewpoints focus on a variety of characters beyond Una and Julien, providing insight once multiple things are happening at once. Character names as chapter headings help to keep track of the shifting point of view. As the story progresses, Julien and Una’s goals change as Una comes to terms with the loss of her mother and focuses on the present, prompted by Julien to realize that she can use her talents to show her father what she can do, despite her gender. While at times plot points are conveniently resolved, the theme of luck interwoven throughout the text make this believable and it allows for the plot and goals of the protagonists to shift unpredictably, leading to great moments of suspense. 

Review based on Advance Reading Copy 

Butler Bookshelf

Father’s Day is June 20th and it’s time to celebrate! Fathers come in all shapes and sizes, which is why we are eager to dive into Tuesday is Daddy’s Day by Elliot Kreloff. Kreloff tells us the story of a young girl’s routine living with separated parents. Some days she stays with Mommy, while other days she stays with Daddy and his partner Henry. The little girl loves her busy routine and hates change. So when Mommy comes to pick her up from school on Tuesday (Daddy’s day), the young girl is upset. However, Daddy’s amazing surprise shows her that change isn’t all bad. Tuesday is Daddy’s Day celebrates LGBTQ+ parents and the many forms of family. Check out the list below to kick off the celebration of Dads everywhere!

Tuesday is Daddy’s Day
Written and Illustrated by Elliot Kreloff
Published by Holiday House
Available now!

What is Daddy Going to Do?
Written by Carly Madden and Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo
Published by Quarto Publishing/words & pictures
Available now!

Daddy/Papi
Written and Illustrated by Leslie Patricelli
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

My Dad
Written by Susan Quinn and Illustrated by Marina Ruiz
Published by Quarto Publishing/words & pictures
Available now!

On the Trapline
Written by David A. Robertson and Illustrated by Julie Flett
Published by Tundra Books
Available now!

Global Play: A Review of Soccer Atlas

Soccer Atlas: A Journey Across the World and onto the Soccer Field
James Buckley Jr.
Illustrated by Eduard Altarriba
QEB Publishing
June 15, 2021
Ages 7-11

Step into the world of fútbol with James Buckley’s Soccer Atlas! Buckley introduces the reader to all things soccer, starting with how professionals play the game. Top professionals play for club teams in a league, as well as for the national team of their homeland. He then explains the make-up of the field and the rules of the game, pointing out that the penalty area is the most important part of the pitch. We also get a look into the history of soccer, including how it started on each continent, and the design of the ball. Another thing readers will find in this book is information on FIFA, the men and women’s World Cups, and national competitions. The bulk of this book is dedicated to the individual histories of each continent, with two-three pages explaining the growth of the sport and highlighting the achievements of each region’s top professionals, past and present.

Buckley and Altarriba produced a comprehensive and engaging book for kids interested in soccer. With book dimensions of 9.5×11.5, Altarriba gives us full-bleed illustrations. The colorful pages and titles with large, bold lettering are sure to capture the reader’s attention. The illustrations and text mix together throughout the page, incorporating vivid charts and maps for easily accessible information. Buckley includes a chart with the different words for soccer used around the world. This speaks to inclusion and diversity, helping kids connect with different cultures or see their own culture represented. Along the same lines, “Other Ways to Play” shows how those who are wheelchair bound or visually impaired can still participate in the game. Whether the reader’s interests are to play professionally or to become a more informed fan, Soccer Atlas will provide the answers!

Butler Bookshelf

It’s World Oceans Day! A great way to celebrate is to learn more about these majestic bodies of water. This is why we are eager to dive into Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas by Elizabeth Shreeve and Frann Preston-Gannon. With Preston-Gannon’s vivid illustrations and Shreeve’s engaging prose, learn how creatures developed and emerged from the ocean into the animals we know today. Check out the list below for more books about our oceans, and of course some LGBTQ themed titles!

Creature Features: Ocean
Written by Big Picture Press and Illustrated by Natasha Durley
Published by Big Picture Press
Available now!

Jacob’s School Play: Starring He, She, and They
Written by Ian & Sarah Hoffman and Illustrated by Chris Case
Published by Magination Press
Available now!

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope
Written by Jodie Patterson and Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Plasticus Maritimus
Written by Ana Pego & Isabel Minhós Martins and
Illustrated by Bernado P. Carvalho
Published by Greystone Kids
Available August 24, 2021

Andy Warhol (Little People, Big Dreams)
Written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Illustrated by Timonthy Hunt
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas
Written by Elizabeth Shreeve and Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

Destination India: A Review of Word Travelers: The Mystery of the Taj Mahal Treasure

Word Travelers: The Mystery of the Taj Mahal Treasure
Raj Haldar
Illustrated by Neha Rawat
Sourcebook Kids
October 5, 2021
Ages 7-12

When best friends Eddie and MJ’s Super Saturday Sleepover goes from blanket forts and movies to magic books and teleportation, they are totally up for the adventure. At mom’s suggestion, they open Eddie’s etymologist grandfather’s Awesome Enchanted Book (AEB). Whisked away to India by the AEB, they help Dev, grandson of the maharaja of Jaipur, find a hidden treasure and rebuild the local school. Using creativity, curiosity, and the AEB, they race a comically sinister mustache-twisting villain to solve the maharaja’s clues and find the treasure before the school is replaced with a department store.

This fast-paced and adventure-packed early chapter book (first in a series) is equal parts Magic Treehouse and National Treasure. Raj Haldar (No Reading Allowed: The Worst Read Aloud Book Ever) brings his signature wordplay with a twist—exploring the derivation of some common (and not so common) words. The Mystery of the Taj Mahal Treasure focuses on Indian origins (Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Marathi), while future installments will explore other places and languages. Some holes in the plot and inconsistencies between the text and art are minor enough not to detract from the fun. Neha Rawat’s delightful and architecturally detailed illustrations, coupled with a map and full glossary of highlighted words, make for a well-rounded adventure, sure to appeal to word nerds and world travelers alike.

Review based on Advanced Reader’s Copy.

Butler Bookshelf

June is Rainbow Book Month! We look forward to highlighting LBTQ+ titles for young readers. This week on the Butler Bookshelf you will find The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass. Douglass tells the story of 16-year-old Jake Livingston. Jake is a medium who sees dead people everywhere. He must juggle the pressures of this along with those caused by the racism he faces as one of the few Black students at a private school. Things begin to look up when he meets the handsome Allister, a new Black student. However, life as a medium worsens, as Jake becomes haunted by the vengeful ghost of a troubled teen who shot and killed six teens at a local high school before taking his own life. Suddenly, high school becomes a different kind of survival game. For more riveting titles featuring LGBTQ+ representation, check out the list below!

Bruised
Written by Tanya Boteju
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Daddy & Dada
Written by Ryan Brockington & Isaac Webster and Illustrated by Lauren May
Published by Brown Books for Young Readers
Available now!

The Taking of Jake Livingston
Written by Ryan Douglass
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Available July 13, 2021

How to Save a Queendom
Written by Jessica Lawson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Fire with Fire
Written by Destiny Soria
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available June 8, 2021

Grandad’s Camper
Written and Illustrated by Harry Woodgate
Published by little bee books
Available now!

Perfectly Imperfect: A review of Phoebe Dupree is Coming to Tea

Phoebe Dupree is Coming to Tea
Linda Ashman
Illustrated by Alea Marley
Candlewick Press
June 1, 2021
Ages 3-7

This is a big day for Abby! The perfect, smart, and creative Phoebe Dupree is coming to her tea party. Everything has to be exactly right. So, Abby bathes the dog and tells him what he can and cannot do. She sets the table with china and flowers and seats the other guests (one doll and two teddy bears). The décor is flawless. When Phoebe arrives, the dog is pleasant, and the tea is poured without a hitch. However, when Abby carries out the sweets, she trips! This sets off a terrible chain reaction, causing disaster at what’s supposed to be the perfect tea party.

Ashman begins this picture book with Phoebe’s invitation to the tea party, which invites the reader as well. After inviting them, she engages them with rhyming text, making this an ideal book for Storytime. The couplets on each page render a fun, smooth, and easy read for both reader and listener. Marley’s soft-focus illustrations are expressive and vivid. You can visibly see the dog shaking off water with faded images of each stage of the shake superimposed on the drawing of the dog. And the splatter of blue across the page gives us a sense of chaos. Also, the drawings of Abby and Phoebe are enlarged, making them tall and the feature of each page. Yet the surrounding objects show their true size. These elements demonstrate the brilliance of the illustrator at using scale and adding movement to still pictures. This lyrical and vibrant tale proves that life is still perfect, even when things don’t go according to plan.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf you will find The Cost of Knowing by Brittany Morris. Morris tells the story of 16-year-old Alex Rufus. Alex tries to lead a normal life and be the best version of himself. However, his psychic abilities hinder him. Knowing what’s going to happen before it does makes him anxious and prevents him from living an ordinary life. And when Alex receives a vision of his younger brother’s imminent death, he must race against time, face his past, and discover what it means to be a Black man in America. For more amazing titles, check out the list below!

Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Human Migration
Written and Illustrated by George Butler
Published by Candlewick Studio
Available now!

Race Cars: A children’s book about white privilege
Written by Jenny Devenny, LCSW and Edited by Charnaie Gordon
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

In Deeper Waters
Written by F. T. Lukens
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Available now!

The Cost of Knowing
Written by Brittney Morris
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Bug Blonsky and His Swamp Scout Survival Guide
Written and Illustrated by E.S. Redmond
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!

Battle of the Blanket Forts: Fort Builders Inc. 3 (Quix)
Written by Dee Romito and Illustrated by Marta Kissi
Published by Aladdin Quix
Available now!

Pass or Play?: A Review of The Passing Playbook

The Passing Playbook
Isaac Fitzsimons
Dial Books, Penguin Random House
June 1, 2021
Ages 12 and up

After transitioning at his old school leads to threats, Spencer Harris gets a second chance at a progressive, private (read: expensive) school. Thinking things will be easier if he can just pass; he plans to keep his head down and make his family’s sacrifice worth it. But when his teenage temper flares, an errant kickball to the head of the soccer team captain gets the attention of the head soccer coach. Spencer gets recruited for the team and develops a relationship with rival, turned boyfriend, Justice Cortes. All his under-the-radar plans may be for naught, when paperwork reveals the F (for female) on Spencer’s birth certificate. Sharing his identity risks his status on the team, his budding romance, and possibly his safety. But maybe being true to himself, and standing up for other trans kids in the process, is worth the risk.

This #OWNVOICES title by debut author (and soccer fan) Isaac Fitzsimons is a fun and complex illustration of a biracial, queer, trans boy who is also a soccer star, fantastic big brother, and irrational teenager (not always in that order). And an exploration of how he balances those identities with the consequences of not being himself. Spencer knows he’s “had it pretty easy, all things considered” with supportive family and friends who try, despite not always getting it right (265*). His support system stands in grave contrast to Justice’s ultra-religious and homophobic family. Secondary characters like sweet, but closeted Justice; snarky, but supportive best friend Arden; and tough, but tender Coach Schilling add balance and complexity to the cast and layers to the plot. But Fitzsimons truly let’s Spencer shine—as a soccer star, queer advocate, and thriving teenager.

*Quote from ARC.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf is Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles! We are eager to dive into the story of Wes Henderson and his fight to save Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood he’s lived in since birth. When a real estate developer offers to buy Kensington Oaks, threatening to take away the only life he has ever known, Wes thought he could turn to the adults to fix the problem. But all they do is argue. Now it’s up to Wes to find the missing piece to this puzzle and save the Oaks! For more fantastic titles, check out the list below!

We Want A Dog
Written and Illustrated by Lo Cole
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Available June 8, 2021

Take Back the Block
Written by Chrystal D. Giles
Published by Random House Children’s Books
Available now!

Yesterday is History
Written by Kosoko Jackson
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Available now!

A World of Plants
Written by Martin Jenkins and Illustrated by James Brown
Published by Candlewick Studio
Available now!

Goodnight, Astronaut
Written by Scott Kelly and Illustrated by Izzy Burton
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Bears at the Beach
Written by Shirley Parenteau and Illustrated by David Walker
Published by Candlewick Press
Available now!