Butler Bookshelf

We’re so excited about this week’s batch of new books, including Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. A fry bread recipe comes at the end of this warm picture book–as well as an author’s note that provides history to this lyrical work.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Written by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Available now

Our Wayward Fate
Written by Gloria Chao
Published by Simon Pulse
Available now

Light It Up
Written by Kekla Magoon
Published by Henry Holt
Available now

From A Small Seed – The Story of Eliza Hamilton
Written by Camille Andros and illustrated by Tessa Blackham
Published by Holt Books for Young Readers
Available now

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace
Written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan
Published by Atheneum
Available now

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th-October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month! The Hispanic experience is vast, with different cultures, languages, and races all falling under the Hispanic umbrella—therefore, no one book can define what the experience is like for any one person. With the political climate and rhetoric often disparaging Hispanic people and pushing forward policies that deny Hispanic people rights, it can be comforting to read books that extol the Hispanic experience. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we would like to share with you some of our favorite 2019 books about the Hispanic experience. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the Hispanic books that have come out this year, but it is a start for those who wish to read more books where Hispanic culture and people are the focus.

Happy reading everyone!

other sideThe Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border
Juan Pablo Villalobos
Translated by Rosalind Harvey
Farrar Straus Giroux, September 10, 2019
Ages 12-18
This is a non-fiction novel that depicts the experiences of ten Central American teens who crossed the border. To protect their identities, the names of the teens have been changed. Each experience is written in a narrative format that highlights the struggles that the teens had to endure in their home countries, traveling across the border, and in immigration detention centers. Reading about the challenges that these teens faced is heartbreaking. The back matter provides further details about what happened to each teen after crossing the border, as well as a list of resources and readings for those who want to learn more about the migrant crisis.

moon withinThe Moon Within
Aida Salazar
Arthur A. Levine, February 26, 2019
Ages 8-13
Celi is an eleven-year-old Afro-Latina living in Oakland who is dreading the day that she gets her first period. Her mother wants her to have a traditional ‘moon ceremony’ when Celi finally starts to menstruate to celebrate her transition from childhood into womanhood. If that wasn’t enough, the boy she has a crush on, Ivan, has been cruel to her best friend Mar who recently came out as genderfluid. Celi is forced to navigate the emotional waters of puberty, what it means to be a good friend, and who she wants to be. The back matter contains an author’s note discussing the cultural traditions of Mesoamerican peoples and a poem entitled “A Flower Song for Maidens Coming of Age” written in 1440. It is the only Mesoamerican precolonial document written about a moon ceremony. To accompany the poem, there is a moon calendar for those who are interested in tracking their menstrual cycles with the moon.

juana y lucas big problemasJuan & Lucas: Big Problemas
Juana Medina
Candlewick, May 14, 2019
Ages 5-8
Juana lives in Bogota, Colombia with her Mami and her dog (and best friend) Lucas. Juana grows worried as she begins to notice that her Mami is changing. She’s wearing makeup, perfume, changing her hair, and going out more often. Then one day, Juana meets Mami’s new friend Luis. Is Luis going to take Mami away from Juana? The illustrations are simple and vibrant, showing the things that are the most important to Juana. The book contains some Spanish words throughout the text, making it feel more like Juana herself is speaking.

a new homeA New Home
Tania de Regil
Candlewick, April 9, 2019
Ages Pre K-6
A little boy and a little girl are moving to a new city. The little boy is moving to Mexico City while the little girl is moving to New York. Each of them reflects on the things that they will miss about their city, each hoping that they will enjoy their new homes. The illustrations are phenomenal. The colors and details showcase the differences and similarities between the two cities. The last two pages of the book describe some of the locations within the book, explaining their significance to their respective cities.

vamos¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market
Raul the Third
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019
Ages 4-8
Little Lobo and Bernabe have to deliver supplies to the people at the market. At the market, Little Lobo and Bernabe run into many different people, each new person more interesting than the last. The illustrations are reminiscent of a comic, with the color palette evocative of the desert. Spanish is used throughout the text, with a glossary at the end of the book that translates Spanish words into English. Mexican culture is prevalent throughout the book, not just in the foreground but in the background as well.

 

A Burning Sky of Pain–A Review of The Weight of our Sky

the weight of our sky

The Weight of Our Sky
By Hanna Alkaf
Simon & Schuster
February 5, 2019
Grades:  9 and up

Melati Ahmad is a sixteen-year-old Malaysian girl of Malay descent who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)—however, Melati believes that her OCD is actually the work of a djinn. Since the death of her father, Melati’s greatest fear has been the death of her mother. She counts by threes—her compulsive behavior—to appease the djinn and save her mother, along with everyone else she loves, from dying. On May 13, 1969, Melati is thrown into a world of chaos when the race riots between the Chinese and Malays begin. While at the movies with her best friend Saf, men with weapons break into the theater. Although Melati is saved by a Chinese-Malaysian stranger, she is forced to leave Saf behind if she wants to survive. Overcome with guilt, Mel teams up with Auntie Bee’s son Vince to try and find her mother who see she has not seen since the beginning of the riots. Melati is forced to confront her djinn and find her inner strength in order to stand up for what she believes in, find her mother, and protect the people she loves.

Alkaf is unafraid to make a book that is completely and utterly of her homeland. Alkaf’s note at the beginning of the book is spot on, letting readers know of the many possible triggers within the book and lets readers know that it is okay if they are not ready to read the book at this time. This is a powerful and brutally honest book that provides a very real look at what OCD looks like in a high-stress situation, which help builds the tension within the book.  It is thoughtfully and beautifully written, vividly capturing a time of terror from the eyes of a teenaged girl who just wants her mother.

Sharks Find Their Way Home: A Review of The Line Tender

the line tenderThe Line Tender
By Kate Allen, Illustrated by Xingye Jin
Penguin
April 2019
Grades: 5 and up

 Lucy and Fred are lifelong friends, and as they work on their animal field guide over the summer, it looks like they may become something more. When local fisherman and family friend Sookie catches a great white shark, Fred and Lucy set out to learn more about great white sharks by reading an old research proposal written by Lucy’s mother—an accomplished shark biologist before her untimely death when Lucy was 7 years old. Tragedy strikes when, after sharing her first kiss with Fred, he drowns in a quarry accident. Lucy is then left trying to find meaning in her friendship to Fred and wondering what could have been, while still struggling with the grief of her mother’s passing. By dedicating herself to her mother’s shark research and Fred’s field guide, and with the help of her Father, Sookie, and neighbor Mr. Patterson, Lucy is eventually able to come to terms with the deaths of her mother and Fred.
The Line Tender by Kate Allen is an emotional coming-of-age story that follows Lucy Everhart as she grapples with the loss of her mother and her best friend Fred. Allen thoughtfully ties Lucy’s attempts to find meaning in her friendship with Fred to her attempts to better understand the sharks her mother and Fred loved so much. The Line Tender is beautifully written and is both heartfelt and heartbreaking in the ways that it deals with community, friendship, and tragedy. Xingye Jin’s shark illustrations for each chapter title are stunning, adding yet another layer to the book as it shows Lucy slowly learning how to draw sharks as she learns more about them.

“Made in Illinois”: Connecting Readers with Creators in YOUR Classrooms and Libraries

Sarah Aronson

The Butler Children’s Literature Center was pleased to host local author Sarah Aronson last week Thursday, September 20th, for her “Made in Illinois” presentation. Aronson, who has written several books for children and teens, including the Wish List series for middle grade readers and an upcoming Rube Goldberg picture book biography, is originally from Pennsylvania, but now calls Evanston home. She shared with our audience various ways teachers and librarians can incorporate local authors and illustrators into their programming, from brief but impactful Skype conversations, to writing or illustrating workshops, or as enhancements to various STEAM curricula. Aronson also suggested collaborating with authors and illustrators to introduce more difficult conversations. “Books are a safe place to have a bigger discussion,” she said, whether that be about “bullying, the loss of a loved one, or talks about community and empathy.”

However educators want to work with authors and illustrators, the important thing, Aronson reminded everyone, was that the kids and their interests and imaginations be at the forefront, and that it be a collaborative effort between all parties: “When kids meet authors and illustrators, something happens. The book comes alive.” All it takes to make this magic happen is reaching out. Many authors have contact information on their websites, and there is an online resource launching this fall that will help connect local creators with local educators (look for announcements here and on our social media!).

Thanks again to Sarah, and happy collaborating to all!

Women and Wealth Redistribution: A Review of The Forest Queen

The Forest Queen by Betsy CornwellThe Forest Queen
Betsy Cornwell
HMH/Clarion Books, August 2018

“Steal from the rich, give to the poor” gets a fresh take in this gender-swapped retelling of the classic Robin Hood tale. Sylvie, sixteen and lady of Loughsley Abbey, begins to question her family’s treatment of the people of Loughsley – especially now that her brother, John, is the unforgiving sheriff. With her childhood friend, Bird, she runs away and lives in hiding in the nearby woods. Slowly, others from Loughsley join them in their new community, including a young woman named Little Jane, the midwife Mae Tuck, and others who feared otherwise being jailed for their inability to pay egregious taxes. Sylvie must eventually confront her brother, along with her own complicity in the evils done by her family, and she comes to realize that the changes required for economic justice mean she must take “radical action” and put herself in potential danger for the greater good.
Sylvie and her mission to redistribute wealth among the people of Loughsley are easy to root for, but the additional focus on gender roles, womanhood, and the idea of community as family are what set this retelling apart. Strong secondary characters help to challenge Sylvie and force her to take a strong stand against a system that she would otherwise benefit from, and parallels can be drawn from the injustices in the story to those of today’s world. As Little Jane, who becomes a dear friend to Sylvie says, “If someone doesn’t care whether you live or die, then living itself is rebellion” (p 241). This thoughtful narrative of what can happen when the privileged few horde wealth while the majority struggles to make do with less and less shows the power in a united band of concerned citizens.

Valuable Reminders: A Review of The Dollar Kids

dollar kids

The Dollar Kids
Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Illustrations by Ryan Andrews
Candlewick (August, 2018)
Ages 10-14

When his family wins the chance to buy a house for just $1, twelve-year-old Lowen sees it as a chance to hit the reset button — Mum can open her own restaurant, Dad can follow his dream of working in a clinic in an underserved community, his brother Clem can finally be the star athlete, and his sister Anneth — well, she’ll need convincing. And sensitive, artistic Lowen can work through his grief over the death of a friend and guilt over believing he caused it. But moving to a small town isn’t easy on any of them, leading everyone to question whether the Dollar House program was such a good idea after all. Dubbed the “Dollar Kids” by hostile new neighbors skeptical of the program and “whether it’s a help or drain on the town” (p. 328), Lowen and the other new kids in town struggle to make a place for themselves, rehab houses, and rebuild community.

The idea of home, be it a building, a community, a family, or a feeling creates a strong backbone for this plot, helping to pull the reader through the slightly slow start to the one year the book covers. By mid-book, the pace picks up in both action and time (the progress noted with each new chapter). While slightly awkward, the change of pacing mirrors the changes Lowen experiences as he processes his grief and settles into life in Millville. Scenes from Lowen’s comic book drawing layer in additional elements of his grieving process, questions of faith, and ultimately his healing.

Diversity (of age, gender, and cultures) among the characters in this story provide a varied range of coping mechanisms for dealing with uncertainty, insecurity, and change by both the new families settling in and Millville residents dealing with the decline of their small, but proud town. The inclusion of parents and other community members as active players in the story is a refreshing change from books that often leave you wondering “What happened to all the adults?” and provides a subtle reminder that communities need all types of diversity to thrive.