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.

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!

Apples Trees and Apologies: A Review of Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day

Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day
Written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Pete Oswald
Ages 4-8 years
Published by Scholastic Press
Available March 3, 2020

Rita and Ralph are best buds who always meet at the apple tree equidistant between their two houses, and spend their days playing games and making daisy chains. But an accident and hurt feelings leave Rita mad and Ralph sorry, but then their roles reverse and then flip again, all while traveling up and down the many hills between their two houses. Only when they’ve exhausted their emotions, can they meet in the middle again and blurt out exactly what they want to say, “I’m sorry.”

Carmen Agra Deedy takes on the familiar fingerplay, “Mr. Wiggle & Mr. Waggle,” and roots it in a relatable story, deepening and enriching it. The actions and feelings flow quickly: an accident leads to hurt noggins, which leads to hurt feelings, which leads to anger, which leads to frustration, which also leads to guilt, which also leads to missing your friend! Quite a ride, but as any caregiver knows: this is part of learning and understanding emotions. After all, who hasn’t caused hurt and felt bad—and who hasn’t let unresolved anger overflow into other things? The song-like nature of the words belies just how complex feelings can be. Pete Oswald’s pitch-perfect drawings are an excellent complement to this complexity. The images are inextricably linked to the up-the-hill-and-down-the-hill refrains. The characters’ eyebrows and wide eyes convey those ever-changing emotions, while the whimsical apple dotted hillside remains bright and safe enough to house those large and upsetting feelings.

In the back portion of the picture book is a supplementary hand game manual, detailing how to incorporate hand gestures into telling this tale.

Butler Bookshelf

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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!

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!

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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.

 

My Love Language is Snack Food: A Review of Permanent Record

Permanent Record
Written by Mary H. K. Choi
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Ages: 14+
Published: September 3, 2019

Nineteen-year-old Pablo Neruda Rind is a lot of things: snack food aficionado, NYU dropout, and deeply in debt. He’s working the night shift at a bodega when the stars align (or the pop stars align): superstar Leanna Smart comes in, picks out snacks, and sparks fly. Soon Pablo has two separate lives: the jet-setter life with Leanna and the one he’s avoiding back home. But you can only avoid debt collectors, parents, and roommates for so long.

Is this a love story? No. This is the story of a 19-year-old who simply cannot get it together. Pablo is whip-smart and talented and absolutely maddening. Why? Because author Mary H. K. Choi captures the haziness and frustration of almost-adulthood with perfect pitch. The romance between Pablo and Leanna isn’t that far-fetched on paper—her megastar life is paparazzi-ridden and exhausting, his life is debt-ridden and tiring.  This romance lets them both disconnect from what drains them. The difference is that Leanna is committed to her popstar life, whereas Pablo wants to check out of his. Which he does. It is not an easy feat, because, for all its complications, Pablo’s life is filled with people who love him. Watching him blow off his little brother or screen his mom’s calls aren’t easy for the reader. But it is possible for Pablo because he’s got his own script: his single mom is wedded to her work, she won’t even take them to Korea to visit their family; his dad is no role model, a Princeton engineer who now dabbles in playwriting? Please. And his little brother? Well, if his little brother knew about Leanna Smart, he would understand. The thing is, Pablo’s family and friends—heck, even his bosses at the bodega!—they do understand. But Pablo doesn’t hear it. At least, he doesn’t hear it, until finally, finally he does.

This is an excellent read for anyone who doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

New Children’s Fiction Alert!: Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight
Torrey Maldonado
Nancy Paulsen Books, September 2018
Ages 8-12/Grades 3-7

If Bryan could be any superhero, he’d be Batman. Or Black Panther. They’re smart, they think 10 steps ahead, and they’re tough. Bryan’s dad and his older sister, Ava, both say he should be tough: “don’t be soft” they tell him, but his mom keeps him cool and level-headed. She also introduces him to Mike, who is in 7th grade – one year older than him in school – and Bryan thinks he’s pretty tight. Mike loves comics and drawing superheroes just like Bryan, and he doesn’t let school get in the way of having fun.

Slowly, Mike starts asking Bryan to take more and more risks: climbing up to the rooftop of a neighborhood building, ducking the subway turnstiles to take the train for free, skipping school to get the newest Luke Cage comic. Bryan doesn’t feel so good about lying to his parents, especially his mom, but he loves the feeling of freedom that comes with hanging out with Mike.

Bryan’s internal struggle to make the right choices is grounded in Tight’s contemporary Brooklyn setting and in his genuine interactions with strong secondary characters. He genuinely wants to do the right thing, while also wanting to give his friend a chance to choose better as well. Maldonado’s dialogues present a variety of perspectives on peer pressure and the difficulties of navigating friendships as a young person, making it easy to empathize with Bryan.

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.