Based on a Cuban folk tale, The Barking Mouse uses a cute story to serve up the importance of learning to speak different languages. In the story, a family of mice on a picnic runs into trouble when brother and sister mouse taunt a cat, as Mama Mouse and Papa Mouse smooch. When the cat chases them, Mamá Mouse saves the day by barking, which scares the cat and makes him run away. The bright, cartoon illustrations make the story attractive to younger readers, but there’s a fair amount of text on each page, which means that it’s a definite read-aloud book. The story is a little bit silly and might get tired kind of quickly, but there’s a lot of really nice, realistic family joking that’s fun to read.
The text itself is interspersed with English and Spanish, and there’s a glossary at the front of the book to show readers words they might be unfamiliar with. There’s also a note from the author, geared towards parents, explaining his own experiences with bilingualism as well as racial and language- based bullying. This note alone makes the book, and really hammers the moral of the story home.
Reviewer: Alejandra Oliva
Recommendation: Mildly Recommend for ages 4-7
First Rain by Charlotte Herman and illustrated by Kathryn Mitter is a wonderful tale of personal growth through family love. When Abby and her parents move to Israel they are sad to have to leave Abby’s Grandma behind. As Abby finds out that Israel is an exciting new place, she tells her Grandma all about her new experiences through letters and telephone calls. Abby’s relationship with her Grandma is poignant without being emotionally heavy. Their love carries the reader through the text and Mitter’s bright illustrations. (more…)
Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood Sugar Hill by Carole Boston Weatherford is an illustrated celebration of famous African-Americans who lived and thrived during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The book is written using rhyming text, introducing the people and the culture of the neighborhood. The illustrations are bright and inviting for both young and older readers. The illustrator, R. Gregory Christie weaves style, color, size and placement of the words into the page so the reader is drawn to stop and notice the details of how Sugar Hill might have looked. The last two pages of the book feature short biographies, giving more details about the featured residents. (more…)
Many Ways: How Families Practice Their Beliefs and Religions by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly, published in 2006, is a book that attempts to raise awareness of spiritual diversity within families and faith traditions. The book views different religious traditions through a universal lens, exploring faiths like Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Rotner and Kelley accomplish this by beginning the book showing children participating in everyday activities like going to school, working, and playing, then shifting into separate traditions that show how these faith-based practices are connected through the global ideas of stories, music, and symbols.
Instead of using the traditional mode of illustrations to show examples of diverse religious and cultural families, Many Ways depicts these ideas through photography. This can be viewed positively, as it demonstrates to readers that a wide variety of religious practices are being celebrated and enjoyed by real children around the world. Children of many religions can read this book and see their own spiritual practices while learning that other children with religions different than their own share fundamental similarities. (more…)
Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan delineates a sobering and startling look into the minds of teenagers with eating disorders. From the beginning we learn that svelte 16-year-old Jack Plumb, who weighs 103 pounds, is obsessed with his weight (in the most stunning ways): He wears only heavy, black sweats to force his body to perspire and rid itself of “liquid fat;” he relishes in the fact that every stomach growl means his body is consuming itself; and he fears the few ounces he’ll gain with every sip of water he takes.
While these things may seem odd to you and me, they make perfect sense to an anorexic like Jack. But Jack knows he needs help because no one actually likes being sick. So he begrudgingly allows his parents to check him into a six-week program in the Eating Disorders Unit (EDU) at a rehab institution. And, of course, he hates it already. There are nurses watching his every move, bathroom doors must remain opened to ensure no one’s purging, and his roommate is…well…not what he expected. (more…)
I began reading Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go with my adoptive mother and adult adoptee eyes. As I read, I thought often of my pre-teen daughter who is adopted from Haiti. Although the author, Laura Wagner, does not write into the adoption conversation per se, she offers a story of Haiti and its people developed with respect and beauty.
Many people outside Haiti can only see the country through the perspective of “other”, but Wagner does the excellent work of telling the country’s story of difficulties, danger, and poverty alongside stories of humanity, hope, and strength.
When I heard Sita Brahmachari had written a sequel to Artichokes Hearts (Mira in the Present Tense) I could not wait to get my hands and eyes on it. Like a memorable character does, Mira had gone on living in my mind and I was excited to see where her creator had taken her. But while Brahmachari’s second novel does continue to focus on Mira and includes character references from her previous book it did not feel like a sequel or a continuation from the first novel. So while it did not satisfy my curiosity, it does mean this book can stand on its own. A reader can begin with Jasmine Skies and not feel lost.
Jasmine Skies reintroduces the reader to Mira Levenson at the age of 14. After the passing of her grandfather, family ties were tenuously rekindled and Mira is on the way to Kolkata, India to meet her grandfather’s side of the family for the first time. In her bag she has letters taken without permission from her mother. Mira believes these letters hold the clues to discover the reason her grandfather never returned to India and why Mira’s mother and her same aged cousin, Anjali, stopped speaking. Despite the strained relationship, Mira is excited to be staying with Anjali and her daughter, Priya for three weeks. She is excited to meet members of her family for the first time and to get to know Kolkata, the place her grandfather told her stories about all her her life.