Clark-Robinson, Monica. Standing on Her Shoulders: A Celebration of Women. Illustrated by Laura Freeman. Orchard Press, 2021. 978-1-338-35800-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-5.
“Standing on the shoulders of giants” is an oft used term for referencing those who came before us in a given area. In this nod to female path-makers, Monica Clark-Robinson guides a young black girl and shows her some of the great leaders and trailblazers through history who helped bridge her current opportunities. As she walks through a portrait gallery, she sees some expected women figures such as Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Sacajawea, as well as modern heroes like Megan Rapinoe and Serena Williams, and less familiar names including Harriet Chalmers Adams and Nellie Bly. Through the poetic couplets, the young learner hears how important it is to recognize those giants before us in many fields and fighting for equal rights, but also to leave our mark for the next generation. Featuring mostly black and people of color through the illustrations by Laura Freeman, there are a few short notes about each historical figure at the endnotes. The message is clear to walk among the heroines and lead the way for others to stand on your shoulders next.
THOUGHTS: An inspirational, though not always obvious, celebration of female trailblazers. Those readers most familiar with the illustrated people will appreciate the themes for each path, but those wanting to know more about the heroines will need to research further. Nevertheless, the picture book is a beautiful touchpoint introduction or kick-off for Women’s History Month.
Picture Book Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD
Dobbs, Alda P. Barefoot Creams of Petra Luna. Sourcebooks Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-728-23465-6. $17.99. 288 p. Grades 4-7.
Set in 1913 during the time of the Mexican Revolution, twelve-year-old Petra’s father is captured by soldiers. She promises him that she will help take care of her grandmother and two younger siblings. When it is no longer safe for them to stay in their village, they decide to flee north through the Mexican desert to safety, and America. Petra’s dreams of finding a safe haven for her family and learning to read burn within her. Her dreams persist through her abuelita’s negative talk of Petra’s “barefoot dreams” of freedom and education. Petra’s persistence keeps her family going and leads them to safety and realized dreams in America. This is based on a true story and includes a timeline of the Mexican Revolution.
THOUGHTS: I read this story after reading the “grown up” book American Dirt. Even though that story is set in present day, Barefoot Dreams would be an excellent companion read for upper elementary students who are looking for a story about immigration and the reasons behind why people leave their war torn countries.
Historical Fiction Krista Fitzpatrick, Wissahickon Charter School
Sheth, Kashmira. Nina Soni: Master of the Garden. Peachtree, 2021. 978-1-682-63226-0. $7.99. 179 p. Grades 2-4.
Fourth grader Nina is very excited to finally get a warm and sunny Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day in frigid Wisconsin. This means she and her sister and friend will get to plant a garden with her Landscape Architect mom! Nina has dreams of starting her own business with all of the extra produce their garden will grow. But gardens take time to grow, and a lot of work as well. Throughout this illustrated novel, challenging words are defined to help promote unfamiliar vocabulary words.
THOUGHTS: Kids who enjoy outdoor activities and gardening will enjoy this read.
Realistic Fiction Krista Fitzpatrick, Wissahickon Charter School
Do, Anh. Ninja Kid: From Nerd to Ninja! Scholastic, 2021. 978-1-338-58523-0. $6.99. 192 p. Grades 2-5.
This illustrated novel for younger readers tells the story of Nelson, a nerd from Duck Creek. Nelson wakes up on his tenth birthday and discovers that he’s a ninja! The last ninja on earth! With the help of his grandmother’s inventions, Nelson finds a way to save the day from giant hairy spiders invading his town. He even learns of family secrets about his father’s ninja past and disappearance. This is the first book in a new series.
THOUGHTS: This illustrated novel is action packed and will appeal to reluctant readers. The humor and common theme of not fitting in will resonate.
Early Chapter Book Krista Fitzpatrick, Wissahickon Charter School
Reynolds, Peter H. Our Table. Orchard Books, 2021. 978-1-338-57232-2. $17.99. 48 p. Grades Pre K-3.
This sweet story is about a young girl who notices that her family is spending less time together, being pulled in various directions and being lured away from each other by technology. The dining room table represents the family being pulled apart by slowly shrinking, and eventually disappearing all together. So the little girl uses technology to bring her family together, by building a new table as a family.
THOUGHTS: Peter H. Reynolds never disappoints. This sweet story is a reminder of what is truly important.
Picture Book Krista Fitzpatrick, Wissahickon Charter School
Coelho, Joseph. Luna Loves Art. Kane Miller, 2020. 978-1-684-64046-1. Unpaged. $12.99. Grades PreK-2.
Luna’s class takes a field trip to the art gallery. There, they view works by many of the masters, including Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, and more. When they see Henry Moore’s Family Group, a bronze statue of a traditional family, Luna learns an important lesson–namely, that like art, all families look different. A lovely celebration of art, family, and friendship, this is a solid addition to any collection serving young readers.
THOUGHTS: I love the underlying message in this book about differences being beautiful (like art). This celebration of diversity is very relevant and timely in today’s world. I also like that both the front and back inside covers display images of art that are labelled with the artist and year of creation. This creates a beautiful connection to any elementary art curriculum and could prompt further research about these artists and works of art by older students and/or art lovers.
Picture Book Julie Ritter, PSLA Member