bilingual, children's, Fiction, middle grade fiction, poetry, Young Adult Fiction

Complex Family Separation Topics for Teens

It’s become a bit of a cliche for children’s or YA authors to kill off parents or have their characters search for unknown parents. It’s an easy trope to use to center a story’s actions on a child’s choices. But for those young people who are forced to be separated from their families, this voice may not resonate. And in our current times, frankly, won’t resonate with the world-aware teen. Two such books that discuss this topic for middle graders and teens are Scarlet Ibis, by Gill Lewis and Forest World, by Margarita Engle.

Scarlet Ibis

At 12 years old, Scarlet cares for her autistic brother and severely depressed mother. This tenuous situation leads to her and her brother to foster care, a situation that separates them all and initiates Scarlet’s attempt to reunite them. The writing is done from Scarlet’s perspective, guiding the reader through an empathic journey that makes her actions and “acting out” understandable and logical. This unique and much needed perspective is refreshing and a true gift from the author for anyone, especially those with foster children in their lives.

Forest World

Free verse poetry is an intriguing and appropriate way to unfold this novel of a family separated and reunited across the Florida-Cuba divide. Told through alternating poems in the voices siblings, Luza and Edver, we see the same family’s story from two perspectives. In addition to the separated family we see them living their lives and experiencing all the teenage experiences in this context. It’s truly a unique and yet universal book.

children's, Fiction, middle grade fiction

Middle grade fiction for nature & history lovers

The Adventures of Bubba Jones: Time Traveling Through Acadia National Park written by Jeff Alt and illustrated by Hannah Tuohy is the third in a series of middle grade fiction set in US national parks. In this volume Acadia really is the main character. Bubba Jones and family head through different elements learning something new about the area in each chapter. There are character illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. There are also guides to using the book in a curriculum.

This book is perfect for a nature loving 8-12 year old or for young visitors to Acadia National Park.

children's, Fiction, halloween, holiday

Halloween Story Time Books

If you’re looking for some great Halloween story time books to pick up from the Library before the big day, here are some favorites in my house.

Little Goblins Ten, written by Pamela Jane and illustrated by Jane Manning, has been a nightly read for my toddler all of October. The rhyme and rhythm are infectious and the illustrations are fun. This is perfect for ages 2-5.

This Is the House That Monsters Built, written by Steve Metzger and illustrated by Jared Lee, is a progressively building story similar to the tale of This Is the House That Jack Built with both vivid illustrations and word choices. It is a great read for ages 3-6.

Monster Academy, written Jane Yolen & Helen E.Y. Stemple and illustrated by John McKinley, is a loosely rhyming book that is geared toward early elementary and has delightful illustrations. Best for ages 4-7.

Fiction, middle grade fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Middle grade fiction with strong female characters and cyber security education

The Web Paige Chronicles (available on Amazon and direct from the publisher) by Emilio Iasiello is a delightful and refreshing mix of an endearing female hero, a family with realistically supportive relationships, and the harsh difficulties of being a teen and preteen today. The chapters are set up to make it easily accessible to the 4th and 5th grade crowd, but the material is deep and engaging enough for older middle schoolers.

The main character Web Paige solves a series of problems for strangers and friends alike, all related to cyber bullying, cyber stalking, or just plain poor cyber security. This is a great way to introduce how to be safe online with children. And the characters easily have the staying power to make this the first in a series of Web Paige Chronicles books.

I’d highly recommend this for late elementary through early high schoolers both for personal reading or in the classroom. The layout lends itself easily to create an engaging lesson in handling online predators and related issues.

I received my copy in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted on Amazon, Goodreads, Librarything, and Instagram. The hard copy has been donated to a little free library.

children's

Two children’s books for your consideration

Many apologies…I have been out of pocket for quite sometime and am just coming out of that lull. I have a slate of YA and adult fiction and non-fiction coming up in June and July. In the meantime, I offer you two children’s books I received for review and believe are worthy of an audience.

I’ll have to admit at the outset that I am pretty partial to Polly Diamond and the Magic Book. It is written in the same way my daughter talks. She is a bit younger than the target age for this, which I’d say is around 3rd grade. But it captures the energy of lower elementary graders.

As for the book itself, the story is delightful and just kooky enough to hold the attention of its key demographic. Adults will likely find it scattered though.

Length on books aimed at early elementary can often be tricky since that is the age that kids’ reading levels are most divergent. But this one works for a solid reader who is ready for their first longer books.

A book that covers all ages, though without the stories is Prayers for young children. By Martina Steinkuhler, it contains many beautifully written, touchingly warm prayers/poems. They are perfect to read to an infant and yet wonderfully fleshed out to share with an older child.

What makes this book one to keep out in the child’s room though are the wonderful illustrations by Nascimbeni. They are bright, clear, solid, block style colored prints and they adorn every page.

This is a wonderful keepsake printed on high quality, thick paper with a sturdy hardback book binding.

Both have been placed in a Little Free Library and reviewed on Amazon and LibraryThing.

children's

Illustrations or story patterns…but not both

Vibrant illustrations or rhythmic stories usually carry a children’s book from shelf to lap. Looking at two recently purchased books it occurred to me how difficult it is to have both in the same book.

In “How to Find a Fox” by Nilah Magruder, the illustrations really carry the story. The little girl narrator is beautifully drawn and her precociousness jumps off the page. The Fox comes off as appropriately sly and wily as foxes are often found in story books. However, the story itself is a bit choppy and without a rhyme or rhythm is a little difficult to hold the listener. I’d recommend this, though, for the illustrations alone and the story’s main point of learning that sometimes things come to you when you least search for them.

“Mamasaurus” by Stephan Lomp is story-driven. There is an easy rhythm to the story of how the babysaurus asks each prehistoric character encountered about whether they’ve seen the mama. It includes a subtext about different perspectives of big and small and how different individuals have different strengths. The basic illustrations are enough for the page but don’t add anything beyond the story itself.

Both of these books have been kid-approved by a preschooler and a toddler. Each would be a pleasing addition to a bookshelf depending on whether you are into illustrations or storytelling.

These reviews were also placed on Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. The copies reviewed will eventually hit a little free library, once the children outgrow them.

bilingual, children's

Rise of the Water Dragon

I love bilingual children’s books. There are different types of audiences for such books and the variety of bilingual books reflects the differing needs. For some languages where the pronunciation of both languages is relatively easy to identify in the same alphabet such as Spanish and English, families who are bilingual and families who aren’t can both be served by the same books. However, for languages such as Chinese, unless the reader is bilingual, pronunciation guides are necessary. In the case of “The Water Dragon,” by Li Jian the reader should be bilingual to read all of the book in both languages.

That said, even if you can’t read this book in both languages, it is still an enjoyable story in either one. The illustrations are done in the style of a scroll painting. The tale takes us to a struggling village where a boy, Ah Bao, sets out on a journey to bring much needed water. He meets a series of magical creatures along the way. The story covers honesty and self-sacrifice. It is an excellent one for ages 4-7.

This review has also been posted on Amazon, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. The book was placed in a little free library for others to enjoy.