Dog Meets Boy: A review of I Always Wanted One

I Always Wanted One cover artI Always Wanted One
Olivier Tallec
Quarto
August 18, 2020
Ages 4-8

Dog has always wanted a boy of his very own, but quickly learns that it’s not all fun and games. Having a boy is a big responsibility—training, feeding, grooming, and figuring out where he wanders off to all day with his bag of books. But even after all the work and all the years, where the boy has “grown bigger and takes up all the room on my couch,” Dog is proud of his boy, and they “remain the best of friends in the world.”

In this twist on the age-old friendship between a boy and his dog, Tallec flips the script and the prescribed emotions of each. Dog has the duties of responsible ownership, and his dry humor and droll observations illustrate that it can be work. But his thoughtful reflections on their evolving relationship demonstrate his devotion to boy. Tallec’s subtle pencil and watercolor illustrations complement the understated text while adding a layer of visual humor to Dog’s opinions. The sight of boy hiding under the dresser or his freshly brushed hair will surely get a giggle from young readers. The horizontal orientation of the book mimics the twisted theme. Both the orientation and detailed illustrations lend themselves to one-on-one reading. A perfect pick for a child who needs to learn what it’s like to belong to a pet.

Poetry is My Superpower: A Review of Isaiah Dunn is My Hero

41TdgcCewtL._SY346_Isaiah Dunn is My Hero
Written by Kelly J. Baptist
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available August 18, 2020
Ages 8-10

Ten-year-old Isaiah Dunn loves to write poetry. He doesn’t anymore, though, not since his father passed away. Everything is different now that his father is gone. His mother, Lisa, stopped going to work and barely talks, and his little sister Charlie keeps calling their motel room “home.” The only thing Isaiah wants to do is spend time with his best pal, Sneaky, or read his dad’s journals. They are filled with stories about Isaiah Dunn, Superhero, who gets his special powers from eating rice and beans. He feels connected to his father when reading the stories and wishes he could be a superhero himself. Things are getting more complicated, though. Isaiah keeps getting in trouble at school for reacting to his classmate Angel’s name-calling. When he and Angel get paired up for a class project, it could not get any worse. Things start to improve when a school counselor mediates between Angel and Isaiah; Angel reveals that Isaiah hurt her feelings when he made fun of her hair. Angel and Isaiah discover they have a lot in common and create a poetry business together. After losing her job, Isaiah’s mom enters a rehabilitation program; while she is away Isaiah and his sister stay at a family friend’s home.  Isaiah spends more time at the library. He comes up with an idea to have a writing room in an old storage space, and the library approves the idea. Isaiah’s mother returns home and the family celebrates the Fourth of July all together. Kelly J. Baptist’s novel explores Isaiah as a budding young poet while struggling with the loss of a parent and home insecurity. Baptist breaks up the story by days, as if writing in a journal, and populates the middle-grade novel with poetry and snippets of short stories. Baptist depicts Isaiah’s and his family’s grief as the complex entity it is. Lisa’s grief-induced alcoholism and depression are layered and multi-dimensional. Sneaky and Angel are complicated individual characters who go beyond their supporting role. While this is a book about grief, this is a hopeful novel—and a great addition to a middle-grade collection.

What Do You See?: A Review of The Last Mirror on the Left

Last Mirror on the LeftThe Last Mirror on the Left
Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Versify
October 20, 2020
Ages 8-12

The Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County are back for a second adventure to help solve another problem they may have had a hand in creating. When Otto and Sheed took mirrors from the Rorrim Mirror Emporium to fight Mr. Flux (The Last-Last-Day-of Summer, 2019), they inadvertently set free some dangerous criminals jailed inside the mirrors. Now they must travel through mirrors and the Multiverse to bring order back to the Multiverse Justice System. But stepping through the mirror into the Warped World of alternate-Fry will have consequences—like Otto slowly turning to stone and Sheed to a skeleton—that aren’t as random as they seem. With the help of an alt-Grandma (and her flying hat), the Epic Ellison twins (of course!), and some unjustly-jailed giant spiders, the Alston boys will save Fry once again and their future selves in the process.

Lamar Giles’ world-building is stellar, as he creates a Logan County both ordinary and extraordinarily weird. Then throws a warped version into the mix too. Otto and Sheed (two African American cousins) are brave, diligent, and funny even when dealing with themes of injustice, illness, greed, and an angry kangaroo creature. And Giles’ secondary characters are so vividly drawn that they could easily stand alone—maybe an Epic Ellisons series? Dapo Adeola again provides illustrations that add a comic touch to highlight the action while perfectly capturing the personalities of Otto and Sheed. Imaginations will run wild with this second installment of the series full of fast-paced adventure, yet grounded in family bonds and Grandma’s wise counsel.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we’re eager to read a picture book on the Queen of Soul herself–Aretha Franklin! Author Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrator Laura Freeman take readers on a journey back to Aretha Franklin’s childhood and her rise to legendary status in A Voice Named Aretha. For more great reads, check out the list Below!

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows
Written by John August
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Available now!

Machines in Motion: The Amazing History of Transportation
Written by Tom Jackson
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

Hop Little Bunnies
Written by Martha Mumford and illustrated by Laura Hughes
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Voice Named Aretha
Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Laura Freeman
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Beginner’s Projects in Coding
Written by Marc Scott and illustrated by Mick Marston
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Way with Wild Things
Written by Larissa Theule and illustrated by Sara Palacios
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

 

What’s Bugging You?: A Review of Bugs Everywhere

Bugs Everywhere cover art

Bugs Everywhere
Lily Murray, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Candlewick/Big Picture Press
April 7, 2020
Ages 4-8

Bugs really are everywhere, whether we like it or not! This fact-filled picture book for bug-lovers proves it, exploring a wide range of topics from their history, environments, feeding, survival, reproduction, and even their relationship with people—we need them, you know? Small, and often gross, bits of trivia make this title perfect for jumping in and out of, but might induce the curious to settle in for a long, squirm-inducing read. Did you know there are millions of species of bugs? That the cicada is the loudest insect in the world? That there are bugs that live on your face?!?

Lily Murray excels at boiling down the information into concise, yet fun facts that entomologists of all ages will love. Britta Teckentrup’s collage-like, digital illustrations are reminiscent of Eric Carle and provide a vibrant full-color backdrop to the details. The metallic foil accents and friendly lady bugs on the cover will draw in the reader and delightful, yet detailed illustrations will charm even the bug-shy. This will make an excellent and informative step-up for young fans of Carle’s bug books. Originally published in 2019 by King’s Road Publishing (London) under the title There Are Bugs Everywhere, this first US publication under the new title comes from Big Picture Press.

Butler Bookshelf

Tensions are high on the Zero Local train, as riders deal with delays and frustrations. But a new passenger joins the daily commute, and passengers begin to practice gratitude. Ethan and Vita Murrow’s Zero Local: Next Stop Kindness picture book is next on our to read list. For more reads, check out the list below!

Portrait of an Artist: Georgia O Keefe
Written by Lucy Brownridge and illustrated by Alice Wietzel
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now!

The Not BAD Animals
Written and illustrated by Sophie Corrigan
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

Who Do You Think You Are?
Written by Alice Harman and illustrated by Blok Magnaye
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now!

Alphonse, There’s Mud on the Ceiling!
Written and illustrated by Daisy Hirst
Published by Walker Books
Available now!

Zero Local: Next Stop: Kindness
Written and illustrated by Ethan and Vita Morrow
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Evonne Goolagong: Little People Big Dreams
Written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Lisa Koesterke
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

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!