Brain Gain: A Review of Goodnight to Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

Goodnight to Your Fantastic Elastic Brain
JoAnn Deak, PhD and Terrence Deak, PhD
Illustrated by Neely Daggett
Sourcebooks
April 5th, 2022
Ages 4+

In Good Night to Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, we follow Brain, the pink walnut-looking organ in your head, starting with a brief and general explanation of what Brain does, and going through their nightly checklist, from development all the way through dreaming. With each task coming in the order they happen through a sleep cycle. As psychologists, the authors, Doctors JoAnn and Terrance Deak’s passion for the topic is evident. Using a tone of “isn’t the brain cool!” keeps the reader engaged and never talks down to them. Excelling when paired with a completely natural but potentially scary topic like REM paralysis that is part of dreaming. Illustrations by Neely Daggett are simple abstractions with implied details. For example, Brain has bumps along its edge letting the reader do the work of extrapolating the wrinkles in their mind without cluttering the illustrations. In diagrams, while not realistic, they show locations for different sections of the brain accurately, substituting the anthropomorphic brain for a clear cross-section in profile with colored highlights. The art and the writing use metaphors to explain brain processes to readers, using abstractions like stamping when creating memories and baths when Brain needs to clean themselves, to give children simple reasons to want to sleep. The journey through a sleep cycle wraps up with a reiteration that your brain is you, what happens if you don’t sleep well, and actionable advice on how to improve your sleep that is useful for everybody, not just children. One missing feature is a bibliography or a list of continued reading resources for those who want more.

An enthusiastic explainer made for kids who need a good reason to hit the hay.

Empathy in Action: A Review of Our World is a Family: Our Community Can Change the World

Our World is a Family: Our Community Can Change the World
Miry Whitehall and Jennifer Jackson
Illustrated by Nomar Perez
March 8, 2022
Sourcebooks Explore
Ages 3+

We know that young children have lots of questions. Our World is a Family is a simple and sweet explanation of immigration for the youngest and most curious among us. Where might the new people in our neighborhood come from? Why and how do they leave their homes for new ones? Whitehall and Jackson gently explore these questions, and perhaps more importantly, the complex emotions involved in their answers. Vignettes of everyday activities provide examples of before and after homes, and how we can all make a community feel like a more inclusive and welcoming new home. Mini language lessons spread throughout the text provide examples of our similarities and differences. We all say “hello” and here is how—hello, ni hao, jambo, bonjour. And while a language note for each might have been helpful, the bright and joyful spreads are a delight. Superimposed over a map of the world, the diverse cast of children and adults is introduced as a vibrant and varied rainbow of humanity. Perez utilizes a combination of simplistic figures over a more structured and well-drafted backdrop, a juxtaposition that adds softness and humanity to the characters. An author’s note directs adult readers to a resource site to support honest and age-appropriate conversations about migrants and refugees.

A simple explanation for the universal truth that no matter where we come from, we all want to feel welcome where we are.

Butler Bookshelf

This week we are featuring several books that are available Today! Right now! On the bookshelf you will find The Katha Chest. This picture book follows Asiya, a young girl learning about her aunts’ and grandmother’s memories through playing with their handmade quilts made from their worn saris. A beautifully illustrated tale about loving the memories you make and the ones that make them with you. Check it out along with the other titles below!

The Book that Did Not Want to Be Read
Written and Illustrated by David Sundin
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available Today!

The Katha Chest
Written by Radhiah Chowdrury and Illustrated by Lavanya Naidu
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available Today!

Listen to the Language of the Trees: A Story of how Forests Communicate Underground
Written by Tera Kelley and Illustrated by Marie Hermansson
Published by Source Books
Available Today!

My Own Way: Celebrating Gender Freedom for Kids
Written by and Illustrated by Joana Estrela
Published by Wide Eyed
Available Today!

Once Upon a Tim
Written by Stuart Gibbs and Illustrated by Stacy Curtis
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available Today!

Turning
Written by Joy L. Smith
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available Today!

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.

A Mini Mindfulness Lesson: A Review of Too Many Bubbles

Too Many Bubbles: A Story about Mindfulness
Christine Peck and Mags DeRoma,
Illustrated by Mags DeRoma
Sourcebooks
July 6, 2021
Ages 3-6

Chased through her day by one grumpy and persistent thought, Izzy isn’t bothered by it (too much). But when one grouchy thought becomes two and three and a whole cloud of the shadowy things; something must be done. This clever mouse escapes to her happy place at the beach where a polar bear with a bubble wand inspires an idea—just blow the thoughts away. A deceptively simple and strikingly perceptive illustration of how it feels for nagging and uncomfortable thoughts to take over, and one calming way to break free. Vividly colored digital illustrations and interactive text, reminiscent of Hervé Tullet’s Press Here, engage young listeners and caregivers alike in a breathing exercise that leads directly into back matter definitions of mindfulness and additional exercises. Too Many Bubbles is the first title in the Books of Great Character SEL series by Peck and DeRoma, founders of the Silly Street games and toys. A sweet and valuable addition to social emotional learning tools for the preschool to kindergarten years.

When Are We? A Review of Yesterday Is History

Yesterday Is History
Kosoko Jackson
Sourcebooks
Available February 2, 2021
Ages 14-18

Angsty teenage romance plus medical drama plus time travel adventure. Uptight, African American, honor student, Andre Cobb is recovering from cancer and a life-saving liver transplant, when he passes out and wakes up standing in front of his own house—but not. It’s 1969, and the house belongs to the family of cute and charismatic Michael. Andre learns that his new liver has made him a time traveler and that his donor’s white, upper class family chose him knowing what would happen. Domineering and calculating Claire, her distant, workaholic husband Greg, and angry, heartbroken son Blake all have their own reactions to Andre and his new ability. Andre jumps through time, pushed by growing feelings for Michael and pulled back by new feelings for Blake, until he’s forced to choose between a past that doesn’t belong to him and a future that could be all he wants and needs. High personal expectations drive Andre to do what he thinks are the right things—fix Michael, support Blake, live his parents’ dream for him, and even save his donor’s life. Jackson’s primary characters are achingly complex and will have readers just as torn between love stories as Andre. The reality-based aspects of the plot and tension-filled relationships balance the intriguingly far-fetched idea of genetically driven time travel. A dramatic exploration of the things we can and can’t do. And if we can, should we?

Just Try It: A Review of No Reading Allowed: The WORST Read-Aloud Book Ever

No Reading Allowed: The WORST Read-Aloud Book Ever
Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter
Illustrated by Bryce Gladfelter
Sourcebooks Explore
Available November 10, 2020
Ages 4-7

Ptolemy the Pterodactyl (from 2018’s P Is for Pterodactyl) is back to help explain another quirk of the English language: homographs, homophones, and homonyms. As if learning to read isn’t confusing enough, we have words that are spelled the same but have different meaning or pronunciation (homographs), words that are pronounced the same but have different meaning or spelling (homophones), and words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings (homonyms). Just try reading this book aloud and the listen to the madness! Clever word-play from rapper turned children’s book author Raj Haldar (also known as Lushlife), delivers pairs of sentences with hilariously different meanings. “The new deli clerk runs a pretty sorry store” full of rats and thieving gnomes vs. “The New Delhi clerk runs a pretty sari store” full of colorful dress fabrics. The absurd situations are each accompanied by their own wacky illustration, with opposing sentences on opposing pages or stacked on a page for easy comparison. Examples illustrated to dramatically silly effect showcase Gladfelter’s hand-drawn line work accented with vibrant digital color. Great vocabulary throughout is complemented by “the Worst Glossary Ever… Again!” to help those brave enough to read aloud parse the meaning of each wacky word pair.

YA Romances with Heart

book heart

Love is in the air and on the shelves in the Butler Center this winter! And while it’s not uncommon, especially nearing Valentine’s Day, to find a plethora of lovey-dovey books to be had—this year seems particularly love-struck. One of the editors over at BookPage has even declared 2020 to be “the year of the YA rom-com” (they are REALLY looking forward to Yes No Maybe So, the upcoming collaboration between Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, and so am I). They just may be right!

Lest you think it’s all carnations and conversation heart candy over here, there are some pretty fabulous and thoughtful twists on the traditional romantic tropes and quite a few delightfully complex characters and plots to be found as well. Take a look at some of our favorites.

Kissing Lessons cover artKissing Lessons by Sophie Jordan
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available June 2020
Ages 14 and up

Hayden Vargas is a reputed “bad girl.” Emmaline Martin is just the opposite but determined to break out of her “good little sister” box. What could go wrong when Emmaline hires Hayden to give her lessons on how to land a man? An authentic friendship develops between the girls, challenging Emmaline’s comfort zone and Hayden’s desperately poor and unsupportive home life, making this story as much about friendship as it is about romance.

 

Four Days of You and Me cover artFour Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks
Available May 2020
Ages 14 and up

The evolution and devolution of a relationship told in four class trips. Alex and Lulu go from enemies to lovers and back again as they fight, makeup, and support one another through the ups and downs of high school. The secondary plot line that follows Lulu’s art and interest in graphic novels through writing and selling one is compelling and could have played an even bigger part in these fun episodes.

 

19 Love Songs19 Love Songs by David Levithan
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

Joyous, awkward, tearful, raw, supportive, and lonely—19 Love Songs is a short story collection focused on love and all its many, many forms. Some are stories Levithan wrote as valentine notes to his friends, several first appeared in other short story collections, and all take a thoughtful look at the love between friends, strangers, partners, parents, families, and teammates. An appropriately varied mix-tape of emotions for Valentine’s Day.

 

Finding Mr. Better-Than-You cover artFinding Mr. Better-Than-You by Shani Petroff
Published by Swoon Reads
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

When Camryn Roth is dumped by her boyfriend, she turns to her other love, romantic comedies, for solace. With them comes an idea… What if she could use classic rom-com themes to make her ex jealous and salvage her senior year and her life plan—Columbia University with Marc by her side. As with any good movie in the genre, things go awry, and Camryn ends up discovering the true self she lost to her relationship. As sweet and silly as a big-screen rom-com with a side of self-actualization.

 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart cover artOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber
Published by Scholastic Press
Available January 2020
Ages 12 and up

Reiko is good at keeping secrets, like the fact that she still sees and talks to her dead sister Mika. So when the school’s “It girl” starts dating gawky, quiet, unpopular Seth, she can keep that a secret too. But when their relationship goes public her entire life starts to spiral out of control–Seth, her grades, and her secrets. More toxic relationship drama, than rom-com, this story of grief, introspection, and self-discovery is also a love letter to its stunning desert setting.

 

This Train Is Being Held cover artThis Train is Being Held by Ismée Williams
Published by Amulet Books/Abrams
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

Two strangers meet on a train—Isa the dancer and Alex the baseball player. Then they meet again and again and again. Small snippets of their vastly different lives unfold between run-ins on the subway. But can they really develop a relationship while hiding so much of themselves from the other? Themes of racism, mental health struggles, gang violence, and heavy family expectations make this far more complex than your average YA romance.

 

 

 

 

 

Butler Bookshelf

IMG_6897.JPG

Here at the Butler Center, we know we’re so blessed to get copies of great reads before they hit bookstore and library shelves. But there are plenty of great reads that are available right now, like Nic Stone’s Clean Getaway. Road trips? Grandmas? Count us in! Check out this week’s Butler Bookshelf, for titles to anticipate and books to read today!

Wicked As You Wish
Written by Rin Chupeco
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Available on March 3, 2020

A Castle in the Clouds
Written by Kerstin Gier
Published by Henry Holt and Company
Available now!

Real Pigeons Fight Crime
Written by Andrew McDonald and illustrated by Ben Wood
Published by Random House
Available now!

Mañanaland
Written by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Published by Scholastic Press
Available on March 3, 2020

Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World’s First Superstar
Written by Catherine Reef
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available on June 16, 2020

Clean Getaway
Written by Nic Stone
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Reporting for Star Shepherd Duty

The Star ShepherdI’ve got my goggles and I’m ready for star gazing. At least I would be if it weren’t so cloudy in Chicago this week (I’ll spare you the pics of me wearing the goggles!). Instead, I set my sights on lunch with fellow book lovers and the team responsible for The Star Shepherd, Dan Haring and MarcyKate Connolly.

In their upcoming middle-grade fantasy, Kyro dreams of becoming a star shepherd like his father and rescuing stars that have fallen to earth. But when the stars start falling en masse, their village turns against them, and his father disappears Kyro is suddenly thrust into the job. With the help of friends new and old, big and small, he will journey to save the stars and his father.

Fortunately for us, the stars aligned to bring Dan Haring and MarcyKate Connelly together on this project. Haring initially created the story as an animated short, which his agent suggested would be a perfect novel for middle-grade readers. And Connelly’s agent knew just the star-loving writer to help develop the story into a novel format. The two collaborated through the cosmos (ok, mostly through email) to develop the story that we’ll see this fall.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks for the opportunity to meet the creative team behind the book and learn more about their partnership. You can stop by the Butler Children’s Literature Center for a sneak peek at the ARC and keep your eyes open (and goggles on) for publication in September.