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.

Eid Mubarak: A review of Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices

Once Upon an Eid cover

Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices
Edited by S.K Ali and Aisha Saeed
Amulet/Abrams
May 5, 2020
Grades 3-7

Celebration, joy, family, traditions—Once Upon an Eid is a powerful collection of short stories from a group of the most talented voices in literature for young people. And the stories are as interesting and diverse as the writers they come from, with portraits of plenty and scarcity, heartache and love, prose, verse, and even a compact graphic story.

Editors S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed have succeeded in curating an engaging collection for middle-grade readers (but accessible for older readers as well) that both celebrates the traditions of the two Eid holidays (Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha) and respects how those traditions differ by culture, community, and family. The cast of characters is a well-drawn assortment of young people and families learning, growing, and celebrating their faith in a way that appears as a reminiscence for those that celebrate and a welcoming window into the celebration for those that don’t.

 

Butler Bookshelf

We’re eager to read Nelly Buchet’s picture book Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family, with charming illustrations by Andrea Zuill. It’s about what happens when families come together–all the messiness and the joys. For more great reads, check out this week’s Butler Bookshelf below!

The Water Bears
Written by Kim Baker
Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Available now!

Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family
Written by Nelly Buchet and illustrated by Andrea Zuill
Published by Schwartz & Wade
Available now!

A Girl in Three Parts
Written by Suzanne Daniel
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Dirt Cheap
Written and illustrated by Mark Hoffman
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

The Lucky Ones
Written by Liz Lawson
Published by Delacorte Press
Available now!

Bedtime Bonnet
Written by Nancy Redd and illustrated by Nneka Myers
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Butler Bookshelf

It’s the little things, isn’t it? What I Like The Most singles out life’s small pleasures:  apricot jam on toast, the mailman on the street. We’re thrilled with this new picture book, written by Mary Murphy and illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang, which celebrates daily life and all its changes. For more great reads, check out the list below!

Molly’s Moon Mission
Written and illustrated by Duncan Beedie
Published by Templar
Available now!

Not Playing by the Rules: 21 Female Athletes Who Changed Sports
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Happy: A Children’s Book of Mindfulness
Written by Nicola Edwards and illustrated by Katie Hickey
Published by Caterpillar Books
Available now!

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Retold by Georghia Ellinas and illustrated by Jane Ray
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the World
Written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Published by Candlewick Studio
Available now!

What I Like The Most
Written by Mary Murphy and illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

 

Opposites Attract: A Review of 10 Things I Hate About Pinky

10 things I hate about Pinky

10 Things I Hate About Pinky
By Sandhya Menon
June 30, 2020
Published by Simon & Schuster
Grades 7 and up

Fans of Menon’s previous works (When Dimple Met Rishi, There’s Something About Sweetie, and From Twinkle, With Love) will be excited to read her latest work, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky. Pinky is proud to be a social justice warrior, but her mother doesn’t feel the same way. After another fight where Pinky’s mother unfairly judges her, Pinky makes up a perfect fake boyfriend that her mom would love; but now Pinky must find this perfect boy. Enter Samir. A friend of a friend, Samir is stuck in D.C. after an internship with a coveted law firm falls through. When Pinky reaches out to him to be her fake boyfriend, Samir sees his chance to get an in with Pinky’s respected, lawyer mom. Although they start fake dating for their own reasons, they soon find that there might actually be something between them. Lines between fake and real begin to blur, and they both have to decide if this is what they want.

Told in alternating voices, Menon transitions seamlessly between the two. Menon leaves no loose ends, resolving all major and minor conflicts neatly. Clearly inspired by the movie 10 Things I Hate About You—which in turn was inspired by Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew—Menon makes the choice to keep the romance in the forefront but also explore issues of identity, environmentalism, familial discord, and more. All of this make for a refreshing take on a well-known and beloved story. A funny and charming book that will pluck at the heartstrings of many a rom-com lover.

Don’t Trust Your Cravings: A Review of When We Vanished

WhenWeVanished3DPhotoTransp-1.png

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.

 

The Great Pet Escape: A Review of The Barnabus Project

barnabus project butler

The Barnabus Project
By Terry, Eric, and Dan Fan
September 1, 2020
Published by Tundra
Grades K-2

Underneath the Perfect Pet story lies a huge laboratory where people in green rubber suits make the perfect pets. Pets that aren’t perfect, like Barnabus, are known as failed projects. Failed projects are placed in bell jars where they stay until the green rubber suits are ready to recycle them. Worried that being recycled will mean that Barnabus will no longer be himself, he escapes his bell jar and helps the other failed projects escape the lab. Though they may not be perfect, the failed projects have each other, and they learn to be happy with the things that make them unique.

A sci-fi pet adventure that shows that it’s okay to be different. Where similar stories end with characters being accepted by the group that had previously rejected them, The Barnabus Project makes the interesting choice have the characters be accepted. Instead, the book shows that the failed projects never needed to be accepted in the first place. They just needed each other. Gorgeous illustrations help bring the story to life. A touching story about cute and loveable, misfits that reassures readers that no one has to be perfect.

Butler Bookshelf

Any book about an aspiring trapeze artist has our full attention–that’s why we’re so eager to leap into Harley in the Sky, a new read in teen fiction by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Oh, and did we mention it features a traveling circus named named Maison du Mystère? For more great reads, check out the rest of the Butler Bookshelf for new publications and info on ALA’s National Library Week, which runs from April 19-25!

Harley in the Sky
Written by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Published by Simon Pulse
Available now!

Spindle and Dagger
Written by J. Anderson Coats
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Mermaid Moon
Written by Susann Cokal
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

Houndsley and Catina at the Library
Written by James Howe and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

The Degenerates
Written by J. Albert Mann
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Available now!

A Wish in the Dark
Written by Christina Soontornvat
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

For more on ALA’s National Library Week:

ALA National Library Week

The theme for National Library Week, “Find your place at the library,” was chosen months ago before the emergence of a global pandemic forced most libraries to temporarily close their buildings.

While most libraries have closed their buildings to the public in the interest of community health and safety, they are open for business online, providing the virtual services and digital content their communities need now more than ever. Many libraries have expanded their access to digital content and found innovative ways to continue their programming virtually.

To highlight these efforts, we decided to build on the original National Library Week theme by flipping the text to “Find the library at your place.” For more tools for librarians, please check out the site.

Pure Imagination: A Review of Window

Unknown-1Window
Written and illustrated by Marion Arbona
Published by Kids Can Press
Ages 4-8
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.

Butler Bookshelf

What do you get when you cross Mean Girls and the supernatural? You get Mintie Das’ debut novel, Brown Girl Ghosted. It’s a high school thriller about cheerleaders, race, and the #metoo movement – all set in a small Illinois town. Check out more great reads below, in the latest Butler Bookshelf!

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor
Written by Ally Carter
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Brown Girl Ghosted
Written by Mintie Das
Published by Versify
Available now!

Prairie Lotus
Written by Linda Sue Park
Published by Clarion Books
Available now!

Jasmine Green Rescues: A Duckling Called Button
Written by Helen Peters and illustrated by Ellie Snowdon
Published by Walker Books
Available now!

You Call This Democracy?: How to Fix Our Government and Deliver Power to the People
Written by Elizabeth Rusch
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available now!