Charles, Tami. All Because You Matter. Scholastic, 2020. 978-1-338-57485-2. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.
Charles and illustrator Bryan Collier create a loving ode to children of color, gently reassuring them that they matter. Collier’s rich, exuberant pages give life and emphasis to Charles’ text, showing young parents dreaming of their child to come. Their hopes and expectations spiral through a dreamy, quilt-inspired landscape. While the story espouses hopes and confidences applicable for all children, the intent is clearly to address current events, to bolster young black and brown children against a world that may be unwelcoming. Charles’ writing is gentle and powerful, but Collier and his stunning visuals should have been on the Caldecott shortlist.
THOUGHTS: A necessary purchase for all libraries serving young patrons.
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is introduced to a new generation in this vibrant picture book. While this biography is brief, it succeeds in conveying the essence of Franklin’s life. The oil paint illustrations by Frank Morrison draw readers into the story, their richness implying the importance of her family, faith, community and music. The rhyming couplets on each two-page spread succinctly summarize aspects of Franklin’s history, the rhyme scheme unifying the book. Understandably, the abbreviated format does not allow for deeper exploration of her life, and no mention is made of darker events such as her parents’ separation, her mother’s death before Aretha was 10 years old, or the children she bore at age 12 and 14. (The information about her parents is mentioned in the Author’s Note following the story text.) The book accomplishes its intended purpose beautifully, celebrating the life of a revered talent. Hopefully a nearby adult will pair a reading of the book with an introduction to Franklin’s glorious music.
THOUGHTS: A lush, inspiring introduction to a musical icon and activist. With a motion picture biography slated for release in August 2021, this could be a timely purchase.
Novesky, Amy. Girl on a Motorcycle. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11629-6. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-5.
In 1973, a young woman in Paris dreams of seeing the world. So she gets on her motorcycle and takes off, becoming the first woman to solo circumnavigate the world on a motorcycle. This is the story of Anne-France Dautheville and her remarkable journey. Beginning in Canada, the 28-year-old white woman rides across North America, Japan, India, on to Turkey, back to Europe, and eventually, home. Anne-France’s magnificent style shines through the poetic text and gorgeous, soft-hued, yet bold illustrations. Her path leads her through myriad cultures and experiences. “I want the world to be beautiful, and it is beautiful. I want people to be good, and they are good.” This book will certainly ignite wonder and curiosity about the world and its people in readers, as well as deep admiration for Anne-France.
THOUGHTS: A beautiful book that does justice to a remarkable woman. In addition, it is a much needed reminder that the world is, indeed, beautiful and good. Highly recommended for elementary libraries.
Fulton, Kristen. Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-14960-8. $17.99. Grades 2-4.
There are two sides in Germany, the right side and the wrong side. Peter is aware that he was born on the wrong side of Germany, where there are more strict rules and uncomfortable uniforms, and having nice food can be near impossible. While other kids can be watching cartoons on the right side of the wall, Peter is watching news stories and programs. Peter, however, has found the secret his parents have hidden away. With his family, Peter knows that life can be different and will be different for them. Each night, Peter and his family go into the attic to slowly piece together their way to freedom… through a hot air balloon.
THOUGHTS: The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning. The back of the book contains real information on the hot air balloon the Wetzel family created to help secure their freedom. Older readers will appreciate the story and the history behind it.
325 International MigrationRachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD
Bahrampour, Ali. A Pig in the Palace. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-419-74571-3. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Bobo is a little confused. He was just rolling in the mud when a note was slipped under his door. An invitation… to a dinner party… with the Queen! How could this be so? After all, he is only a pig. Bobo attends the dinner party only to do what pigs do best… make a mess out of things! With everything destroyed, the palace a mess, and lots of angry people, how can Bobo face the Queen!?
THOUGHTS: The ending of this book had me rolling with laughter! A delightful story that young readers will enjoy!
Moreau, Laurent. Play Outside! Norton Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-324-01547-5. Unpaged. $18.95. Grades K-2.
It’s a common refrain uttered by parents on a regular basis – “why don’t you go play outside?” Author and illustrator Laurent Moreau puts a creative spin on this refrain in this picture book which was originally published in France in 2018 and appeared on U.S. shelves in a translated edition in 2020. The story features an unnamed brother and sister who are encouraged to play outside by their mother after their horseplay leads to a broken vase. Once outside, the pair travel through a variety of landscapes, including trekking through deserts, climbing mountains, climbing trees in the forest, and sailing on icebergs, among other locales. Each locale features a variety of animals, some common and plentiful, others endangered and facing extinction. At the conclusion of the book, readers can explore an illustrated index showing each animal the children met along their journey and identifying the endangered status of each.
THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy the challenge using the index to help them try to locate the 250 animal species hidden in Moreau’s vibrant artwork. This title could easily be incorporated into lessons involving endangered species and the importance of protecting the environment, themes which are also reinforced within the text of the storyline.
Love, Jessica. Julián at the Wedding. Candlewick Press, 2020. 978-1-536-21238-9. 40 p. $16.99. Grades PreK-2.
Julián returns! This time he isn’t donning a mermaid costume but is attending a wedding! Abuela and Julián arrive at the wedding, but Julián quickly finds a new friend. Julián and his new friend, Marisol, find their own adventures during the celebration, but Marisol’s flower girl dress gets ruined in all the fun. Julián and Marisol work together to fashion a new fairy-like dress as they reunite with the party. Similar to Julián’s first story, themes of identity and who people are on the outside and who they are on the inside can be more easily understood through this work. A story filled with love, beautiful colors, and culture is another one for bookshelves of blooming readers.
THOUGHTS: Love seamlessly incorporates a same sex wedding into a typical story of children being children. She provides the anchor for the opportunity for social emotional in safe ways for young readers. This book should be added to elementary libraries everywhere!
Black Reinhardt, Jennifer. Playing Possum. Clarion Books. 2020. 978-1-328-78270-0. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Alfred is a possum. When possums become nervous, they tend to freeze and play dead. Unfortunately, Alfred is an extremely nervous possum, which means he often is freezing up. This can make life very difficult for him, as he does not do well in school, sports, or even making friends because of his freezing up. Sofia is an armadillo. Armadillos will often curl into a ball when nervous. Together, Alfred and Sofia slowly learn to trust each other and become friends, understanding that everyone has moments. Together they learn all of the animals cope differently, and it is okay. Friendship and trust can take time, but it is worth it!
THOUGHTS: A cute book about different animals, nerves, and anxiety! The back of the book contains information on how different animals react in different situations. A fun read that can be helpful for readers who may need help with nerves or anxiety.
Brennan-Nelson, Denise. Mae the Mayfly. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. 978-1-534-11051-9. $16.99. Grades K-2.
Mae the Mayfly has only a day or so to enjoy the wonderful world that is all around her! Mother cautions her to be careful as she explores, and Mae almost ended her day by being eaten by a trout! As Mae hides in a tree, the beautiful world outside calls to her. Mae realizes that she cannot stay hidden in a tree, for there are so many things out there for her to see! As Mae explores, she realizes the same trout that tried to eat her needs help. Are they so different fr other? What should Mae do!?
THOUGHTS: The message of living your life and not hiding away is a great message found throughout this sweet picture book. In addition to this sweet message, this book provides information on an insect that many read may not know about. A delightful read!
Mike, Wu. Ellie Makes a Friend. Disney Hyperion, 2020. 978-1-368-01000-9. $16.99. Grades K-2.
There is a commotion at the zoo! A new animal has joined, and it is a painter just like Ellie! Only instead of an elephant, the new animal is a Panda who came all the way from China. Ellie wonders if there is room for two painters at the zoo. Ellie decides to learn all about her new possible friend. Soon, the two are sharing stories, ideas, and painting together. They find harmony in the ways they are different, and delight in learning more about each other. Sharing can be the best way to learn about someone else and a great way to make a new friend.
THOUGHTS: A delightful book on friendship and sharing. This book is a nice beginner book for readers to look at the country of China, as it contains some brief discussion topics and ideas.