Bowles, David and Erik Meza. My Two Border Towns. Illustrated by Erika Meza. Kokila, 2021. 978-0-593-11104-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Life along the U.S. – Mexico border can be more similar than different, especially for a small Hispanic boy who makes weekend trips back and forth with his father. “Vamos a la otra lado.” (Let’s go to the other side.) Once they pass through customs into the Mexican town, they run chores, visit family, and eat at their favorite places. The boy is proud of the gifts and supplies that they are collecting along the way. Erik Maza illustrates the town with friendly people, peaceful streets, and colorful tones. David Bowles brings in Spanish terms and phrases with mostly English narrative to tell their routine journey. The trip ends with an important and realistic stop near the border bridge, where a large group of refugees are camped out and waiting. “The US says there’s no room, and Mexico says it can barely look after it’s own gente.” The boy seeks out his friend who is waiting, and hands over the collected toys, comics, medicine and supplies to the grateful family. The dilemma of crossing the border freely as citizens leaves the boy, and perhaps the readers, wishing for a future of compassion and friendship.
THOUGHTS: Making a complex and never ending issue such as immigration and border control work through the eyes of a child is always a lesson in empathy. In this case, the author chooses to show the connections rather than the divisions between the two countries with a stunning effect. Discussions comparing similarities and differences between students’ towns and the story may continue the conversation. Recommended.
Picture Book Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD
Raschka, Chris. In the City. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-48627-9. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-2.
In The City is a rhyming picture book that focuses on friendship using pigeons to illustrate that point. The book follows pigeons as they go through a city, landing on statues and flying overhead, and the narrator points out the different ways that pigeons form friendships and relates that to the people. The illustrations are beautiful in ink and watercolor which add to the story as readers follow the pigeons and people through making their friends.
THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful addition to any elementary school collection and highly recommended!
Picture Book Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Bell, Kristen & Hart, Benjamin. The World Needs More Purple People. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-593-12196-2. 40 p. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.
You can hear Kristen Bell’s voice on every page in this adorable story about the importance of being an everyday hero. The moral of the story is to work hard, bring the community together, and use your voice. This book does not offer answers to some of the world’s toughest current issues, but it does offer a primer in recognizing that the world isn’t perfect and it’s hard to be angry if you’re laughing.
THOUGHTS: Although the book isn’t explicitly political, I do wonder if purple comes from combining red and blue (political party colors). A quick, silly read that can keep the attention of the youngest readers.
Gardeski, Christina Mia. Season to Season. Pebble Plus, 2020. $20.54 ea. $82.16 set of 4. 24 p. Grades PreK-2.
A Year in the City. 978-1-977112-87-3. A Year on the Farm. 978-1-9771-1293-4. A Year in the Forest. 978-1-977112-89-7. A Year at the Pond. 978-1-977112-91-0.
Readers can explore the four seasons as seen on a farm or in a city, forest, or pond. Large color photographs compliment simple, factual text that covers the basics of changing seasons in each setting. Spring on the farm finds farmers plowing, planting, and welcoming newborn animals; in summer, “Crops grow in the warm sun. Tomatoes ripen. Cornstalks stretch from the earth.” Pebble Plus continues to produce high quality, high interest nonfiction for early readers. Each book includes a table of contents, glossary, index, and resources for students interested in learning more about the topic.
THOUGHTS: An attractive addition for collections looking to update their offerings on the four seasons or any reader who enjoys learning something new.
Raúl the Third. ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat. Versify, 2020. 978-1-328-55704-9. Unpaged. $14.99. Grades K-2.
Little Lobo and his friends, from the Pura Belpré Honor Book ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market, return for more rollicking fun. This time, Little Lobo is asked to deliver lunch to the professional wrestlers in town for a big show. Little Lobo, his dog Bernabé, and his friend Kooky Dooky the rooster proceed to guide readers through a colorful marketplace of food carts where each delicious offering sounds better than the last. The food carts themselves are examined and explored, as well as the myriad of offerings. As in the first book, Spanish language terms are used extensively, sometimes translated in text, other times readers will go searching for the extensive glossary in the back of the book. The illustrations, in a rainbow of dusky colors, are lively and full of action, begging to be pored over. The text is never simplistic or overly explanatory, relying on readers to explore the Spanish language terms on their own. Unfortunately, the admittedly non-inclusive glossary frequently omits words specifically used in speech bubbles or pull out comments, assuming the reader will have the initiative (and ability) to locate a Spanish/English dictionary or look up the term on the internet. Nevertheless, it is a marvelously fun introduction to Mexican food and culture.
THOUGHTS: A must purchase for elementary libraries. The brilliant illustrations by Elaine Bay will enthrall readers, encouraging multiple readings and the litany of Mexican foods will leave readers very hungry!