Brown, Melanie. Wildflower. Greystone Kids, 2022. 978-1-77164-906-3. Unpaged. $17.95. PreK-2.
When Daisy blooms in the garden, she is immediately insulted by the other flowers for being a weed. She is told that she isn’t as beautiful as Rose or as tasty as Sage. Her flowers can’t make tea like Chamomile’s. Just as she begins to droop completely in shame, she meets other plants who have amazing qualities, even though they also are called weeds. For instance, Blackberry Vine makes delicious berries, and Sweet Pea smells amazing. Daisy soon realizes there is a place for everyone in the garden, no matter what they are called. Gorgeous, simplified illustrations highlight Daisy’s emotions throughout the story and provide readers with convincing representations of actual plants.
THOUGHTS: This is an adorable story with a subtle message about inclusion, self-respect, and accepting others for who they are. I also love that it incorporates educational information, including back matter about plants and weeds. Give this to fans of The Rainbow Fish (1992) or to gardening enthusiasts.
Picture Book Julie Ritter, PSLA Member
Finison, Carrie. Don’t Hug Doug: He Doesn’t Like It. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021. 978-1-984-8302-2 32 p. $16.99. Grades Pre-K – 2.
You can hug a pug. You can hug a bug or a slug. But don’t hug Doug. He doesn’t like it. Don’t take it personally – Doug still likes you! He just feels that hugs are too squeezy, too squashy, too squooshy, and too smooshy. Doug has every right to decide if he would like a hug or not. Don’t Hug Doug: He Doesn’t Like It is the perfect picture book by author Carrie Finison and illustrator Daniel Wiseman that starts a great conversation about setting personal boundaries and addressing them in a kind but practical manner. Doug explains to the reader in a cheerful tone that all you have to do is ask: Do you like hugs? And the appropriate response would be to respect the answer.
THOUGHTS: Don’t Hug Doug is effective, yet gentle when discussing consent with the reader. I have not read many children’s books that address bodily autonomy and personal boundaries with appropriate and easy-to-understand strategies. This picture book would appeal to all ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, or early elementary students. I agree with Boston Globes’ review: “Don’t Hug Doug can make kids feel better about their own boundaries and challenge them to understand the comfort of others. But really, it gives grown-ups something to consider, too.”
Picture Book Marie Mengel, Reading SD
Stork, Francisco X. On the Hook. Scholastic, 2021. 304 p. 978-1-338-69215-0. $17.99. Grades 7-12.
Hector is a decent, smart kid living in the projects since his father died of cancer. He excels at chess and thinks college may be a possibility, so he keeps his head down, desperate to be overlooked by Chavo’s local drug-dealing crew. But Joey, Chavo’s younger brother and a member of the crew, singles him out, carves a “C” on his chest (for coward) and declares, “I’m going to kill you.” Fear invades every space in Hector’s life. He can’t fathom how his father stayed strong, or how his older brother Fili can command respect in the neighborhood. His best friend Azi tries to help and keep him focused on chess and the future. But Hector’s fears overwhelm him daily. He wonders how to change himself and how to be fearless, and he longs to put his cowardly self behind him. But in failing to stand up for his brother when Fili is attacked by Chavo and Joey, Hector spirals downward into deep questioning and self-loathing. Hector is sentenced to six months in a juvenile probation academy, a friendlier place than most in the system, and encounters numerous guards and inmates seeking to teach him to give up the hate he feels. Hector is torn and the outcome is anything but clear. Can he recreate himself into someone he’s proud to be? And what does that look like?
THOUGHTS: This is a realistic look into dangers young people face, inside and out. Despite the numerous safeguards around him, Hector’s choices are anything but clear. Readers will be interested in what he decides to do.
Realistic Fiction Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Robert, Nadine. Elsie. Abrams, 2020. 978-1-419-74072-5. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-2.
On nice and sunny Sundays, the seven siblings in the Filpot bunny family go fishing. Elsie doesn’t quite fit in with her older siblings–she would rather stay at home than go fishing. She’s a unique personality with her own way of doing things. This can cause conflict with her siblings, who try to convince her to do things the “right” way. Elsie would rather walk along the brook when the rest of the family wants to to walk through the woods. When Elsie wants to bait her hook with a buttercup, her siblings (who prefer traditional bait) exclaim that she shouldn’t do it and it won’t work! When the family eats their lunch, Elsie wants to feed her sandwiches to the ducklings. But when Elsie catches a large fish with her buttercup bait, her siblings realize that Elsie’s ideas, though different from their own, have merit and should be respected and valued. The text is enhanced by the detailed tempera and watercolor illustrations of Maja Kastelic. Each bunny has a unique appearance and the woodland setting is filled with flora and fauna to engage the attention of the reader.
THOUGHTS: This delightful bunny tale would make an ideal read aloud choice and could easily be integrated into lessons on respecting others opinions and viewpoints, acceptance, individuality, and more. Highly recommended.
Picture Book Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD