Elem. – Bright Star

Morales, Yuyi. Bright Star. Holiday House, 2021. Unpaged. 978-0-823-44328-4. $18.99. Grades K-1.

Morales weaves English and Spanish text together to create a heartwarming tale of a young fawn and her mother. As narrator, the doe speaks to her child as they explore the Southwestern desert landscape. She tells her cosita (little thing) that she is a bright star and that she loves her. After hearing a loud sound, the fawn becomes frightened and the mother cautions her to be alert and find a safe space. In soothing tones, the deer comforts her anxious daughter and reminds her that she will never be alone and will always be protected. The illustrations are done in a variety of media, including embroidery, and reveal a few causes of her fear-a snake, a leopard, a cloud of dust, and a wall. In the author’s note, Morales explains that she began this book in 2019 after observing migrants being detained after attempting to cross the border and how the environment was being destroyed by the wall’s construction. Morales’ drawings are a showcase of the flora and fauna of the area, such as a hummingbird, a scorpion, and saguaro cacti, which in one spread are cut down into pieces. The author connects the disruption of the lives of the plants and animals to the disrupted lives of migrants and inhabitants of the region. This is shown in the final pages by the images of children wearing shirts with animal designs and surrounded by desert plants.  This story conveys a message of reassurance and hope during anxious times.

THOUGHTS: Morales’ art is beautiful, and the renderings of the animals, especially the fawn, are charming. Young children will enjoy looking at the creatures and will find comfort in this story. It also could be useful in ecology units. A strong purchase for elementary libraries.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired PSLA Member

Elem. – Lila Lou’s Little Library

Bergstresser, Nikki. Lila Lou’s Little Library. Cardinal Rule Press, 2021. 978-1-735-34511-6. 25 p. $16.95. Grades K – 2.

Lila Lou loves to read! Her house is overflowing with books, which causes her mother to lose her in the house due to all of Lila Lou’s books. Lila Lou has an idea, to use a stump outside of her house to create a Little Free Library. This allows Lila Lou to share her books with others, as well as for her to get some new ones. At the beginning of the book, there are tips to help the reader for before, during, and after reading. At the end of the book, there are hints on how to make a family library. There is also a glossary for the Spanish words that are found throughout the book.

THOUGHTS: This is an adorable book to read aloud with students!

Picture Book          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

MG – All You Knead is Love

Guerrero, Tanya. All You Knead is Love. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-0-374-31423-1 375 p. $16.99. Grades 4-6. 

Twelve-year-old Alba does not want to leave New York City and move to Barcelona to live with a grandmother she barely knows or remembers. But her mother, a native from Spain herself, is not moving with her, nor is her alcoholic, abusive father. Alba is leaving behind a school she does not like, very few friends, and a home full of secrets and trauma. All You Knead is Love by Tanya Guerrero is a heartfelt story about finding one’s chosen family and discovering the passions stirring inside us. After arriving in a new country, Alba is surprised to find that she not only loves Barcelona but feels her most authentic self in this foreign land. She forms a close relationship with her grandmother, finds her first proper group of friends, and even experiences her first crush. Alba befriends a neighborhood baker who opens his kitchen as a haven to her; she begins to not only heal but thrive as his apprentice. Just as Alba discovers that she has a real passion and talent for baking bread, her beloved bakery faces an unexpected closure. Even more heartbreaking, her mother arrives in Barcelona after finally leaving her abusive relationship with Alba’s father. Alba becomes determined to save the bakery- and mend and heal the strained relationship with her mother.

THOUGHTS: All You Knead is Love seamlessly blends the right amount of culture, music, cooking, and the Spanish language into a vibrant setting that charms and delights. This story transported me to the streets of Barcelona and made me laugh and cheer for Alba and her chosen family. Tanya Guerrero writes with such sensitivity, and her authentic tone created a story with characters that will stick with me for a long time. This story was a gem!

Realistic Fiction          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – The Three Billy Goats Buenos

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.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat

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!

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD