Welcome to the online presence of the Butler Children's Literature Center, housed in Dominican's SOIS and generously supported by the Butler Family Foundation. Here, we run Butler Book Banter (B3), a book discussion group; host an annual lecture; and invite anyone interested in books for youth to visit us during our open hours (suspended until further notice). You can still reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Life Gives You Mangos
Written by Kereen Getten
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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.
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
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.
My Day with Gong Gong Written by Sennah Yee and illustrated by Elaine Chen
Published by Annick Press
Available September 8, 2020
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.
The Barren Grounds
Written by David A. Robertson
Published by Penguin Random House Canada
Available September 8, 2020
Morgan’s latest foster family isn’t so bad, even Eli, the new foster kid is okay. He’s indigenous, like her, but he never raises his voice or gets angry like Morgan. In fact, he hasn’t said much since he arrived at the foster home in Winnipeg, and he stays quiet at their middle school, too. The only thing he does is draw in his giant artist notebook. But at least Eli shows her his drawings—they’re layered and mysterious and incredible. But when one of his drawings opens up a portal in their attic, the children find themselves transported to Misewa. There they meet creatures, like Ochek, a talking fisher, who introduce them to traditional ways to survive. The community of Misewa, Ochek explains, has been locked in a forever winter following an encounter with a duplicitous man. The community is struggling, and soon food supplies will run out. As conditions worsen, the children and Ochek set off to save Misewa from perpetual ice.
Author David A. Robertson connects Morgan, and the reader, with her Cree heritage, blending difficult truths about First Nations history with middle-grade fantasy. Morgan and Eli, like so many other First Nations children, have been separated from their biological parents and placed in the foster care system. Morgan’s struggles and mistrust of her foster parents come with good reason; she’s been neglected and discarded before. Despite this trauma, Morgan is able to connect with Ochek and Eli. And as her trust in them grows, so do her snappy comebacks. Robertson’s depiction of Morgan’s emotional and cultural journey is compelling, with occasional humorous outbursts. Whether it’s her skepticism with new friends or with her white foster mom’s cringeworthy cross-cultural attempts to make her feel at home, Morgan’s reactions are captivating. Readers do not uncover the whole mystery behind Morgan’s and Eli’s backgrounds, but there will be plenty of opportunities to learn more: The Barren Grounds is Book 1 of Robertson’s Misewa Saga.
Alya and the Three Cats
Written by Amina Hachimi Alaoui, illustrated by Maya Fidawi, and translation by Mehdi Retnani
Published by CrackBoom! Books
Available June 16, 2020
Minouche, Pasha, and Amir have the perfect, lovely life. They are three cats who live a pet-filled life with Maryam and Sami. But one day, Maryam’s belly begins to grow, and soon there is a new addition to the family. What will the cats do with the arrival of a new baby?
This darling picture book by Amina Hachimi Alauoi is filled with specificity: in the personalities of cat trio and the particularities of their worries and adjustment to life with a newborn. These specifics are matched by Maya Fidawi’s intricate illustrations, which have soft and appealing cats as well as beautiful textiles and architecture. The author and illustrator depict the fear and unknown that can accompany a new sibling: parental time can be focused elsewhere, there are new sounds and people afoot, and unexpected changes can disrupt routines. This delightful read reassures even the most fretful mind, “to love is to share.”
Written and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Published by Kids Can Press
Available September 1, 2020
Sometimes a hug makes everything feel better. After a girl’s cat suffers from a gnarly hairball and falls ill, the girl offers a hug, and everything improves! But then one by one, more animals come by for a hug. First, a dog asks politely. Next, a pair of flapping ducks arrive. Third in line is a stinky skunk. And that’s just the beginning! This humorous tale asks, “How many hugs are too many?”
This charming picture book is filled with a delightful menagerie of creatures. Each scene sets the stage for the next potential hug confrontation to come. As the demands increase, so does the girl’s weariness. With each new hug, which demands more of the girl, the reader gets an opportunity to laugh – hug a porcupine?! – and see the girl’s reactive emotions. The images take center stage here, and oversized visual cues about emotions and feelings are both silly and educative. Charlene Chua’s expressive illustrations lay the foundation for conversations around boundaries and empathy. In these socially distanced days where hugs can be few and far between, this book is a timely, lovely addition to a collection.
When We Vanished (Call of the Crow Quartet, Book One)
Written by Alanna Peterson Published by Rootcity Press Available June 2, 2020
After Andi Lin’s family record store goes bust, her dad enlists in a clinical trial run by food corporation Nutrexo that promises big bucks. But when Andi cannot get in touch with him, she starts to worry—especially when she learns that Nutrexo’s involved in a harmful research study. Andi’s next-door neighbor Cyrus is also wary of Nutrexo; his mom worked for them years ago, and he knows she’s keeping secrets from her family.
Alanna Peterson writes a complex and compelling mystery that indicts the U.S. food industry. Even the most innocent-seeming things take on a scary new meaning in When We Vanished. Take Blazin Bitz, that delectable chip from Nutrexo: no one can resist them! And soon enough Andi, Cyrus, and Cyrus’ siblings know why when the break into SILO, Nutrexo’s top-secret research facility. What they discover there is not for the squeamish. These instances of violence, medical experimentation, and animal cruelty—while crucial to the plot—may upset readers. But there is also plenty for readers to enjoy: wonderful recipes and food imagery, teenage crushes, and unyielding family bonds. These enjoyable parts don’t play second fiddle to the action—the relationships and personalities that make up the characters’ world drive this thriller into unexpected places. With so many overlapping plots, even one concerning the main villain’s background, you’d think the reader would lose track. Not so—every single story sucks you in. Good thing When We Vanished is the only the first installment of the Call of the Crow Quartet. There is plenty of material here for a series.
Written and illustrated by Marion Arbona
Published by Kids Can Press
Available March 3, 2020
Walking home from school, a young girl looks up at the windows as she makes her way through the city. Each window is shaped differently, and each window holds a different adventure: creatures playing games, a jungle, and even a whale in a bathtub. It is not until the last window, when the girl is back inside her bedroom, that the reader sees familiar faces.
Marion Arbona’s wordless picture book is a treasure. With drawings reminiscent of Edward Gorey’s surrealist style, these black and white images provoke questions and curiosity. The fine detail work within each drawing is puzzle-like: young readers may want to explore and make up their own plot within each window-scheme. Images, like the story’s imagined jungle, have layers of visual information within them; readers can return to them again and again, looking for previously missed pieces and plucking out smaller narratives within the book’s larger plot. Window contains multitudes.
The Edge of Anything Written by Nora Shalaway Carpenter Published by Running Press Kids Available March 24, 2020 Ages 13+
Sage is going places: she’s a varsity senior on her school volleyball squad, scouted by Penn State and UNC. But when a court accident leads to a medical disqualification, she’s sent reeling. Her family isn’t helping, and her teammates just don’t get it. But then she meets high school loner Len. Len isn’t going places: Len’s stuck. Ever since a family tragedy, her photography has lacked life and Len has been picking up strange fears: most recently, dirt and the diseases it holds—even though she used to hike the Asheville mountains every day. As Sage and Len’s friendship grows, so does their willingness to face their inner turmoil.
In some ways, this is a tough read. Len, a gifted artist, struggles with grief and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder amidst a troubling family backdrop—a family of free thinkers who believe the mind is enough to cure what ails. Sage, faced with devastating and scary news of a genetic medical condition, also struggles and shuts out her family and friends. Both teenage girls exhibit scary signs that something is wrong, but families, teachers, coaches, and teammates are unable to get through to either girl. Despite the serious topics (mental health, grief, genetic conditions), both Sage and Len are fully realized teenagers—and their big deal topics are imbued with adolescent attitude. Sage doesn’t mean to ice out her teammates, but she thinks that they should be able to intuit what kind of support she needs. Len does not want anyone to feel pity for her family, so she doesn’t seek help or confide in anyone about their financial circumstances. Author Nora Shalaway Carpenter writes the girls’ stories with great care. Her author’s note details her own experience with trauma-induced Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In addition to her own story, she spotlights mental health resources at the close of the book.
Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress
Written by Regine Galanti, PhD
Published by Zeitgeist
Available March 31, 2020
In this practice-based book, Dr. Regine Galanti addresses anxiety in teens. Galanti is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of the New York-based Long Island Behavioral Psychology and has expertise in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety, as well as parenting and behavior problems. Galanti employs cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, to give teenagers mindfulness tools and coping skills so that they can—with consistent practice—meet their fears and challenges and improve their quality of life.
Mindfulness is a word thrown around a lot these days. For Galanti, mindfulness skills are integral in addressing anxiety because they allow the individual to be present and observe their surroundings without judgment. Of course, as anyone who’s tried to meditate knows: it’s no easy feat. Which is why the realism behind her Galanti’s mindfulness practices will be welcome to anyone who’s ever worked with teenagers: no quick fixes are promised, but consistent and deliberate practice can improve one’s reaction to life’s stressors. These practices run the gamut from “talking back” to your fears to visualization exercises where teens imagine breathing in a calm color (blue) and exhale a stressful color (in this case yellow, like a caution sign). The sheer abundance of cognitive behavioral techniques (there are over 30 instances) lets readers choose what works for them—and invites them to try on different tools for different stressors. Galanti’s judgment-free writing makes these exercises appealing, never shaming. It is important to note: Galanti is quick to provide hotline numbers and a medical disclaimer in the pages. That warning is serious; this book can be a wonderful supplement to those in treatment—possibly a standalone for a teen who is looking to improve their negative reactivity. This is a great resource for teens, but it should not be the only resource. This book includes quiz-style assessments, sample worksheets, and diagrams; its back matter includes a list of mental health resources.