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.

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!

 

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

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.

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!

 

Danger in the Water: A Review of Mayhem

cover179111-mediumMayhem
Written by Estelle Laure
Published by Wednesday Books / St. Martin’s Press
Ages 14 +
Available July 14, 2020

Mayhem Brayburn knows her mother never wanted to go back to Santa Maria, a small coastal California town. But when her stepfather goes too far, she and her mom take off for home. Mayhem was only a baby when she was last in Santa Maria, and it’s nothing like Mayhem expected. For one thing, there’s been a spate of girls gone missing—vanished from the beach without a trace. For another, the townspeople seem to think the Brayburns have mystical powers, something Mayhem’s mom and her estranged aunt don’t discourage. And finally, Mayhem’s aunt has taken in several wayward youngsters, around Mayhem’s own age, and they seem dangerous.

Mayhem is a wild story full of supernatural twists and lore, and everyday all-too-common horror (abuse, murder, addiction, sexual assault). Our title character’s name may mean chaos and anarchy, but Mayhem sees clearly through the turmoil that rages around her and her mother. Things go fuzzy for Mayhem when others take control. But what control does Mayhem have if all Brayburns follow the same destiny? Author Estelle Laure hooks readers with a story of magic passed down generation to generation. A journal from the Brayburn women’s lineage interspersed between the present day and illuminates much of the novel’s mystery. Readers should take note: this is an adrenaline-filled book, filled with edgy material and language.

 

Butler Bookshelf

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Top on our TBR list? A story about a girl, her grandmother, and an alternate reality–steeped in magic. Diana Abu-Jaber’s Silverworld has us longing to cast spells and learn from our elders. For more great reads, check out the list below!

Silverworld
Written by Diana Abu-Jaber
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Awesome Dog 5000 vs. Major Bossypants (Book 2)
Written by Justin Dean
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Golden Arm
Written by Carl Deuker
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available on April 7, 2020

On The Horizon
Written by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Kenard Pak
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available on April 7, 2020

Bloom (The Overthrow Book 1)
Written by Kenneth Oppel
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

The Twin
Written by Natasha Preston
Published by Delacorte
Available now!

Brave (American Dog)
Written by Jennifer Li Shotz
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available on April 7, 2020

Taking the Reins (An Ellen & Ned Book)
Written by Jane Smiley
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available now!

Stargirl (Movie Tie in Edition)
Written by Jerry Spinelli
Published by Ember
Available now!

Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee
Written by Jeff Zentner
Published by Ember
Available now!

Butler Bookshelf

A graphic novel that centers women’s health and female friendship? Yes, please! Go With The Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann is just one of the fabulous books we received at the Butler Center this week. Check out the list below for more!

Snakes on the Job
Written and illustrated by Kathryn Dennis
Published by Feiwel and Friends
Available now!

Catching a Russian Spy: Agent Leslie G. Wiser Jr. and the Case of Aldrich Ames
Written by Bryan Denson
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Available now!

Hostile Territory
Written by Paul Greci
Published by Imprint
Available now!

Baby Shark!
Illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Published by Henry Holt and Company
Available now!

My So-Called Superpowers: All the Feels
Written by Heather Nuhfer and illustrated by Simini Blocker
Published by Imprint
Available now!

Go With The Flow
Written and illustrated by Karen Schneemann and Lily Williams
Published by First Second
Available now!

You’ve Got Great Taste!

As Thanksgiving nears and the weather turns colder, we want to highlight what brings us togetherwhat better combination than food and books? Please enjoy this delectable selection of food-inspired reads, many of which include recipes to share!

amy-wu-and-the-perfect-bao-e1574279420905.jpg

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Written by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Published by Aladdin
Available now
Ages 4-8
Amy Wu loves bao, a filled dumpling with fluffy dough. But for Amy, even though her entire family makes excellent bao—she cannot. The picture book is an energetic run-through of a family coming together and preparing a treasured food. Charlene Chua’s images leap off the page—so much energy! Kat Zhang writes of a kiddo with an affinity for food and a resilient spirit. Zhang also includes pronunciation help for those unfamiliar with how to pronounce the word “bao” plus a recipe for them. Very delicious.

bilal-cooks-daal.jpgBilal Cooks Daal
Written by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Published by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster
Available now
Ages 4-8
This is a charming picture book introducing the South Asian dish daal to Bilal’s friends—and perhaps the reader. Illustrator Anoosha Syed depicts the children’s wide-eyed facial expressions—and her depiction of the pantry is excellent, featuring the traditional names for the types of lentils used in the daal. A very sweet and familiar portion of the picture book comes when Bilal’s two friends, speaking to themselves, confide to each other that daal looks and smells funny—it’s not familiar to them! Bilal overhears and worries. Aisha Saeed’s choice to include this moment is important and telling and helpful for any youngster to hear that those feelings are normal. In the end, though, the daal is delicious. Author Aisha Saeed included a contextual note about daal in South Asian, specifically Pakistani, cuisine—and includes a recipe for Chana Daal.

CookingWithBear.jpgCooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest
Written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Lisa Cinar
Published by Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press
Available now
Ages 4-7
Cooking with Bear is a combination picture book and cookbook populated with Lisa Cinar’s water-color illustrations. The pictures are accessible and curious, much like Bear’s woodland friends who want nothing more than to learn how to cook as Bear does. Deborah Hodge’s cookbook implicitly encourages eating whole, natural foods that are available seasonally. The recipes – a few include nuts and dairy – are nourishing and are a lovely opportunity for child-and-adult cooking. Many recipes call for food processors, chopping or dicing with knives, as well as simmering and sautéing on a stovetop. This cooperative cookbook is a lovely way to introduce children to eating seasonally.

FryBread.jpgFry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Written by Kevin Noble Maillard and Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Published by Roaring Book Press
Available now
Ages 3-6

Fry bread is community, history, and love. The work by Kevin Noble Maillard, with warm illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal, tackles the history of indigenous people in what is now the United States. Fry bread is distilled to its emotional essence—art, time, place. The story invites the reader to learn about the history, both through its lyrical telling and through the author’s note at the book’s end; the note contains often-ignored, vital information about the history of Native Americans. Finally, Fry Bread concludes with an eponymous recipe that readers will be eager to try.

GrandpaCacao.jpgGrandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family
Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now
Ages 3-6
On a little girl’s birthday, a father and daughter bake a cake together, and he tells her the story of Grandpa Cacao, a farmer on the Ivory Coast. Zunon juxtaposes past with present, connecting the child to Grandpa Cacao despite their geographic distances.  After the cake is baked, there is a surprise at the door that truly connects the two. Zunon describes the difficult, community work of harvesting cacao, and her note on the current cacao trade is a thoughtful inclusion.  Also included is a Chocolate Celebration Cake Recipe.

WhatYouEat.jpegWhat You Eat: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind
Written and illustrated by Valorie Fisher
Published by Orchard Books/Scholastic
Available now
Ages 4-7
Creative photography with a mathematical twist details the complexity of what’s in everyday foods (vanilla ice cream, dill pickle, honey, apple, corn, peanut butter and jelly, pizza). Accessible language and photography diagram how basic food comes to fruition. The conclusion of the book uses MyPlate language and features a breakdown of the vitamins and minerals present in many foods. The back of the book also features a “words to know” vocabulary section. This nonfiction picture book is a nice investigation into how we get the foods we know so well.

LittleLunch.jpegLittle Lunch: Triple Treats
Written by Danny Katz and illustrated by Mitch Vane
Published by Candlewick
Available now
Ages 6-9
The latest from the Little Lunch series is a trio of snack-sized tales with jaunty illustrations. Oversized emotions and situation comedy rule these vignettes set during a typical elementary school day. Little Lunch: Triple Treats is an excellent entry into early chapter books, with simple storylines but plenty of action to keep momentum going. The book series is also the inspiration for a mockumentary-style television program now on Netflix.

PieintheSky.hpeg.jpgPie in the Sky
Written by Remy Lai
Published by Henry Holt
Available now
Ages 8-11
Jingwen is 12-year-old stuck in grief following his father’s death and a move to Australia, far away from his grandparents’ bakery. Isolated and lonely in a classroom where he doesn’t speak the language, Jingwen turns his attention to baking cakes, something he and his father did together. Now Jingwen does this alone—or almost alone, he includes his little brother while his mother works nights (it’s their secret). But Jingwen’s confectionery-focused mind ignores two big facts: 1) he’s not allowed to use the oven or stove unsupervised and 2) he has no money for fancy ingredients. What ensues is a bittersweet tale of a kid who’s hungry for something to assuage his sadness—and doesn’t always go in the best way to get it.

HungryHearts.jpgHungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love
Edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond
Published by Simon Pulse
Available now
Ages 12+
These thirteen interconnected stories tell about what happens on Hungry Heart Row, a street chock full of the best restaurants you can imagine. Familiar themes with some occasional supernatural elements populate this tremendous collection. The stories feature a mix of rom-com (a teenage love columnist decides to take her own advice in “The Grand Ishq Adventure” by Sandhya Menon), family and community lore (Charlie’s and his grandmother’s ghost-seeing burden in “The Slender One” by Caroline Tung Richmond), and true terror (Rebecca Roanhorse’s eerie tale “The Missing Ingredient” about a mother, daughter, and a middling restaurant). Whatever you do, don’t read this #OwnVoices anthology hungry—your mouth will soon be watering.