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.

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.

Resources to Help Combat Racism

Here at the Butler Center, instead of our regular Butler Bookshelf, we are turning our attention to lifting up resources to help combat racism. As a Sinsinawa Dominican-sponsored institution, Dominican University prepares students to pursue truth, to give compassionate service, and to participate in the creation of a more just and humane world. The Butler Children’s Literature Center carries out its own mission as a reflection of that inspiration.

book heart

Below please find resources for children’s book lists, resources for educators, as well as industry and publishing information.

Book Lists and Resources

Center for Racial Justice in Education: Reading Lists 

Chicago Public Library: Black Lives Matter e-books for kids 

Cooperative Children’s Book Center: Multicultural Literature 

Coretta Scott King Book Awards Blog: Online Resources 

Diverse Book Finder: Searchable Collection

Embrace Race: 31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance  

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Diversity Book Lists  

St. Paul Public Library: Books About Hope and Resilience

St. Paul Public Library: Books for Talking About Race With Young Children 

St. Paul Public Library: Books for Talking about Race With Children and Teens 

 

Butler Children’s Literature Center Resources and Reading Lists in reverse chronological order

Butler Center: A Reading List for Black History Month

Butler Center: A Reading List for Hispanic Heritage Month  

Butler Center: Recognizing Diverse Children’s Literature

Butler Center: Own Story Narratives 

Butler Center: More Diverse Literature Resources 

Butler Center: A Reading List for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month 

Butler Center: Celebrating 50 Years of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards 

Butler Center: A Reading List for Pride Month 

 

Educator Resources

Common Sense Media: How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids 

Lee and Low Blog: Panel on Education Resources to Elevate Student Voice & Identity 

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture: Talking About Race  

TeachingBooks: Resources for Coretta Scott King Award Winning Titles, Authors and Illustrators 

Teaching Tolerance: Anti-Racist Education Public Lesson Plans

 

Publishing Statistics and Information

 Butler Center: Breakdown of Diverse Content & Own Voices works within Butler’s 2018 Collection 

Cooperative Children’s Book Center: Publishing Statistics on Children’s/YA Books about People of Color and First/Native Nations and by People of Color and First/Native Nations 

Lee and Low Blog: Where is the Diversity In Publishing? The 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey Results 

Beyond the Ice and Snow: A Review of The Barren Grounds

51ptXY7Wl5L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The Barren Grounds
Written by David A. Robertson
Published by Penguin Random House Canada
Available September 8, 2020
Ages 8-12

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.