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
Peck, Christina, and Mags Deroma. Too Many Bubbles: A Story about Mindfulness. Sourcebooks, 2021. 978-1-728-23590-5. 48 p. $12.99. Grades PreK – 1.
Izzy starts with one thought, a grumpy one right above her head after a rough day, following her all day until it was time for bed. When she woke up the next morning, she had another thought bubble, and as the story goes she has more and more until they, literally, push her off the page. Izzy makes her way to her secret spot which has room for all of her bubbles. She takes a deep breath in and gently blows on the bubbles (the book encourages the reader to do the same to help Izzy). The back of the book has more information for the reader regarding mindfulness, as well as some exercises that the reader can practice. The illustrations in this book are very bright and colorful which was a nice contrast to the plot of Izzy feeling overwhelmed by all these thought bubbles.
THOUGHTS: This is a great introduction for mindfulness, as well as a great book to start a conversation with a reader about that topic. This book would be useful in any elementary library collection, or for an elementary guidance counselor or school social worker.
Picture Book Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Root, Andrew. Nerdycorn. Beach Lane Books, 2021. 978-1-534-46005-8. 32 p. $17.99 Grades K-2.
Nerdycorn follows a unicorn named Fern who loves science, experiments, and coding her computer. However the other unicorns love rainbows, glitter, and parties. They tease Fern and don’t include her in their parties; however, they all ask for her help when something breaks. Fern doesn’t mind being a good friend and helping, until one day she does mind. The big Sparkle Dance Party needs her to help fix things, and she initially refuses. However, she changes her mind and ends up helping. This causes the other unicorns to apologize and then end up learning some things from Fern. The illustrations in this book fit perfectly with the story as they are bright, colorful, and full of sparkle (just like the unicorns).
THOUGHTS: This is a great addition to an elementary school library collection and would be a great read aloud for a career week or empathy focused lesson.
Picture Book Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Solis, Nicholas. The Color Collector. Sleeping Bear Press, 2021. 978-1-534-11105-9 32 p. $14.99. Grades K-3.
Violet is quiet and keeps to herself; yet, there is a bit of mystery that surrounds the new girl at school. A young boy notices that the new girl collects colorful pieces of debris and trash and places them in her backpack on her walk home from school. A red candy wrapper, bright blue cookie wrappers, yellow pieces of paper, green bottle caps, and red leaves disappear into her backpack every day. Full of curiosity, the young boy gently asks the new girl what she does with her collection of trash. Violet takes her new friend home and proudly shows him the mural in her bedroom. Each piece of trash and each colorful piece of debris has found a home in her artwork displayed on the wall. The mural shines bright and depicts the home that Violet misses so dearly. A friendship ensues as the children talk and confide in each other about the stories and the people that mean so much to them. Renia Metallinou’s beautiful art tells the story as much as the author’s words. As the friendship between the two children develops throughout the story, the artwork changes from gray tones to vibrant and bright colors. The beautiful illustrations compliment the author’s gentle and endearing text.
THOUGHTS: The Color Collector would make for a great read aloud for any grade level in the elementary school setting and would encourage conversations about friendship, empathy, and kindness. The story of Violet and her new friend is relatable to anyone that may have moved a short distance, immigrated from a far away county, or even simply longed to belong. It may also hold a special place in the hearts of elementary art teachers, as the book pays homage to self expression and identity.
Murphy, Frank. A Girl Like You. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. $16.99. 32 p. $16.99. 978-1-534-11096-0. Grades K-3.
A Girl Like You is a celebration of all of the things a girl can be: brave, bold, empathetic, radiant, proud, and more. The story begins with a girl who stands apart from a sea of adults and then moves through all of the ways that she is unique. Mantra-like text such as “radiant girl, stand tall” is supported by diverse portrait style illustrations showing girls in action demonstrating the qualities discussed. The main character shows bravery when standing up for herself and boldness while leading others to speak out. Girls are encouraged to learn, lead and care for others without forgetting to take care of herself. The main protagonist of this story presents as Asian with a lovely dark golden complexion, rosy cheeks, and long straight dark hair past her shoulders which is often worn in a loose braid. The myriad of girls included throughout the book represent nearly every skin, body, and hair type imaginable including permanent and temporary differing abilities. Multiple images of girls with wheelchairs and prosthetic or missing limbs are included throughout. Girls with Vitiligo, Albinism, and freckles appear along with a rainbow of skin tones. Many girls wear khimar, scarfs, or bandannas. A few are bald or have very short hair including one that is presumably due to medical treatment. Children appear to be elementary age. Some scenes include boys working and playing alongside, but the focus remains on encouraging young girls.
THOUGHTS: As inclusive as a children’s book can possibly be, this book is a good one to have on hand when discussing differences with children or introducing women’s history celebrations to younger readers.
Mantechev, Lisa. The Perfectly Perfect Wish. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-40619-3. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-2.
When a young girl finds a wish in grass, will she wish for something for herself? As she asks her teacher and her friends what they would wish for, and as they share their wishes with her, the girl realizes that she can achieve her own wishes with hard work and patience. In the end, the girl wishes that everyone else’s wishes come true … which is the perfectly perfect wish.
THOUGHTS: This sweet little book relays the importance of thinking about the bigger picture and of others. It also is a good reminder to appreciate all of the things you already have.
Picture Book Krista Fitzpatrick, Waldron Mercy Academy
Elya, Susan Middleton, and Miguel Ordóñez. The Three Billy Goats Buenos. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020. 978-0-399-54739-3. Unpaged. $16.99. Prek-2.
Middleton gives a familiar folk tale a fascinating new twist, while incorporating Spanish language vocabulary. The three goats need to cross the bridge guarded by the grumpy gigante. Each of the first two goats manages to convince the troll that the next goat would be better to eat. But it’s Número Tres who turns the book, and the story, on its head. The third goat wonders why the troll is so angry. Taking a look, he notices she has a large thorn lodged in her toe. He empathizes with the troll and enlists his siblings in gathering hierbas to make a healing poultice, which he applies after gently pulling out the offending thorn. The grateful troll then allows her new amigos to pass. After finishing the book, readers will wonder why they themselves never considered what made the troll so mean in the original story. The text is composed in rhyming couplets, with Spanish words bolded so readers can refer to the glossary conveniently placed at the front of the book, rather than the back. Illustrations are sparse and bold, reminiscent of cut paper, yet emotions are clearly defined through expressive eyes. Young readers will delight in this unique approach to the story, and will sympathize with the hurting gigante.
THOUGHTS: This understated book will be a wonderful selection at story time. It pairs with twisted fairy tale units, as well as discussions about empathy.