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2018 July

13

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: The Barber Chop by Jaki Jones

On 13, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

The Barber ChopThe Barber Chop written by Jaki Jones, illustrated by Adua Hernandez

From Goodreads: The Barber Chop is a short poem-style book of a little boy describing his experience of going to the barbershop with his father.  Use this as a tool to ease your child’s grooming experience and boost literacy as they wait patiently for their “chop”.

I think haircuts are a universal fear of all children. I know my own daughter did not get her first actual haircut until she was six and half years old. Yes, really. She would cry about going to the salon if we even mentioned it. Fortunately for us, we could put off the haircut.

For parents needing a way to introduce the idea of getting a trim and open conversations about what might happen and the feelings a child might have, The Barber Chop is a great book for that. The little boy in the story has large expressive eyes and the accompanying text shares his apprehension at how this trip to the barber is going to go. The story walks the reader through the process of getting to the barber’s shop, what it looks like inside, and actually hopping up into the chair to get a fresh cut. The story validates children’s fear while assuring them that everything will be just fine.

There is no shortage of books addressing this milestone (and surprisingly most of them feature boys), but this one stands out for its aim toward a younger audience. Most famlies will not wait as long as ours did to get that first trim and if you are wanting to prep your little one, you’ll want a book where the text is geared toward them.  While we absolutely adore Furqan’s First Flattop, The Barber Chop is better suited to younger kids. It’s shorter with rhymed text making it easier for little ones to sit through and comprehend. Definitely check out Furqan too, but go for this one first. Also look at Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut that came out last year at least for the pictures if the text proves too complicated for your first-time salon patron.

I absolutely love the illustrations in this by Hernandez who also illustrated Maxine’s New Job. In Barber Chop, Hernandez has drawn an adorable doe-eyed boy. The eyes are particularly effective in conveying his nervousness about the upcoming trim. Despite the worry on his face, how can you not love that cover?! The illustrations, done digitally, have this warm glow to them that make very inviting and help make the experience feel less threatening. The large format of the book make it good for little hands to pick up and ask to be read to. A vibrant black neighborhood can be seen in the background as the little boy and his dad venture out for this first cut. As I always say in these reviews, representation matters and Hernandez delivers on that important front.

If you serve young kids, public libraries, preschools, and home libraries, be sure to order a copy.

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy by the publisher, Melanin Origins, in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase the book here:

On Amazon (not an affiliate link): available as a paperback, hardback, and ebook! A little note, the listing says it’s available for shipping in 1-2 months. I’m not sure why that is, but don’t let that deter you from ordering it.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

 

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11

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: The Monkey King’s Daughter written by T. A. DeBonis

On 11, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Monkey King's DaughterThe Monkey King’s Daughter written by T. A. DeBonis

From Goodreads: The Monkey King’s Daughter isn’t about Sun Wukong, the Monkey King – it’s about his daughter, Meilin. Only, Meilin doesn’t know she’s the Monkey King’s daughter. In fact, she doesn’t know she’s half-monkey at all. As far as Meilin knows, she’s an ordinary 14 year-old high school freshman from Midland Hills, California, facing all the problems that bright young girls face at that age- flakey girlfriends, zits, too much homework, bad hair, obnoxious boys… But all of that changes when her ancient past catches up with her. (And she thought high school was gonna be easy…)

Today I have another great self published series. I said in another recent review that I am getting rather tired of Greek mythology. Because of Percy Jackson it seems to be everywhere. As a kid I went through a phase where I was into Greek mythology and I still enjoy it, but there is a lot of really interesting mythology out there (I was always way more fascinated with Egyptian mythology) and I wish I had been able to discover it as a young reader. The Monkey King’s Daughter is based in Chinese stories of the Monkey King. If you’ve read Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese you will be familiar with the myth this book draws on. Plenty of it is explained in the course of the story and will make sense to kids unfamiliar with it.

Despite Melin’s age and the fact that she’s in high school, the book is totally appropriate for upper elementary. It’s perfect for kids who like to age up. I would also highly recommend it for lower readers in middle school. The story is exciting enough, but the reading level isn’t particularly difficult.

The pacing was off in a few places. Most of the time the story plugged along, but there were a couple places where things happened a little quickly, felt rushed, and were glossed over. I think this has less to do with it being self published and more to do with the reading level it’s intended for. I don’t know exactly where it falls, but it’s a little more difficult than beginning chapter books, but not nearly as difficult as Percy Jackson (or as long).

My only other complaint is that when Meilin meets her father for the first time she isn’t awkward or angry or anything. She runs into his arms and they spend an evening star gazing together, enjoying each other’s company. I just had a hard time believing that a kid who hasn’t met her father would feel overwhelming love for a man who was never around. Will most kids care about this? The only kids who might are ones who have not met their fathers or who have experienced meeting them later in life. Does that make the book unworthy? I don’t think so. I doubt most kids who will tear through the adventure in this will mind that it isn’t totally authentic. Just be aware it may fall a little flat for some readers.

I really hope this story leads kids to the original Monkey King stories from the different parts of Asia. They’re very exciting and funny. Meilin takes some things in stride, but she was a very realistic kid. She didn’t suddenly become good at everything when she discovered her heritage and fell into her adventure. This is the first in a series and I’ll be buying the rest (I bought the first to try it out). It’s well worth having on our library shelves, particularly if you have kids who love mythology (we all have Riordan fans) and kids who like action.

 

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09

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: One of a Kind, Like Me by Laurin Mayeno

On 09, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

One of a KindOne of a Kind, Like Me/ Unico Como Yo written by Laurin Mayeno, illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo

From Goodreads: Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%, and they race to the thrift store to find his costume. It’s almost closing time; will Danny find the costume of his dreams in time?

This is another one of Liu-Trujillo’s books that I had intended to put in the library collection, but was not allowed to leave our house by my daughter. We probably read this once a week. Her favorite, the spread of Nifty Thrifty, the thrift shop Danny and his mom visit to find his costume. There are racks and racks of clothes and she loves to see if she can spot any purple before Danny and his mom start their search aisle by aisle.

This is a must purchase for any family or library looking to add books about gender non conforming kids. While I’m all for books like I Am Jazz that focus on being either gender non-conforming or transgender (those must be in your collection too!), I think the beauty of this particular story is that Danny just wants a purple princess costume. There isn’t much beyond that and that’s fine. We’ve had boys come through our lower school who haven’t struggled with gender identity per se, but love to wear dresses and fancy shoes. This book is for them. Danny is confronted by his friends at the end, but he has the perfect response. Mom and Grandpa are both super supportive and don’t bat an eye when Danny presents the picture of his costume.

The story is also a great one about using your imagination and making something when you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for. Danny is convinced that his purple princess dress is at Nifty Thrifty, but they can’t find it. Just before the story closes Danny realizes all the pieces of it are there. He and his mom just have to put them together. After some cutting and sewing Danny has the costume he pictured and it’s perfect.

The pastel color palette is perfect for the gentle story and the pictures alternate between lots of white space and racks of clothing filling the page. As always the people are lovely and have great expressions and body language.

I don’t think this should be the only book you have in your collection about gender non conforming kids. It must also include books like I Am JazzJacob’s New Dress, and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. (I am having a MUCH harder time finding books for gender non conforming girls.) But it should absolutely be there. It’s for those kids who aren’t quite sure yet about themselves and need to see their reflections. It’s also for those kids who are out there and want to be different. They’ll see themselves too. And it’s for their classmates, so they can see their diverse world, the one they see everyday, reflected. And if you think you don’t have one of those kids in your school, buy it anyways. You might not know that you do, you might eventually, and your students will eventually encounter someone like Danny. They deserve to see a wider world too.

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06

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Taylor’s STEM Adventures: Hawaii by Mary Payton

On 06, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Taylors STEM HawaiiTaylor’s STEM Adventures: Hawaii written by Mary Payton, illustrated by M. Ridho Mentarie

From Goodreads: Taylor’s STEM Adventures Hawaii is the first in a series of stories about the young son of two military members from STEM career fields. As his family moves to various duty locations, Taylor guides you through his adventures in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at each military base. Taylor gives military children the insight into the STEM adventures and activities that await them in their next military move.

I tested this one out on my in-house book tester (i.e. my six-year-old daughter) and we absolutely loved it! STEM is a hot trend in education and while I tend to hate things that become wildly popular as they rarely measure up to the hype, I do love STEM and STEAM. Not only are they important for our kids to become well versed in, but they are interesting and encourage children to be inquisitive, something that’s been really lacking in traditional education for awhile.

Taylor’s parents both work in the U.S. military which is why they live in Hawaii. Books with military families are not particularly easy to come by. Even less so are books with military families where deployment isn’t the main focus. Here Taylor has two parents involved in STEM careers in the military and from them he has had a love of these subjects fostered.

Taylor’s STEM Adventures is part Hawaiian tour, part conversation starter. The book does a couple things with the things Taylor introduces the reader to. First, he gives a broad swath of ways STEM can be found in Hawaii and in everyday life. Second, it creates interest around the concepts and ideas. We stopped at many different points and talked more about volcanoes, observatories, coral reefs, architectures, and history. It was particularly apropos because of the volcano that has been erupting in Hawaii that’s been in the news. Taylor shows the reader how Hawaii was formed and the role volcanoes played. He takes you to historical and scientific points of interest. He also discusses oceanography and a couple famous buildings on Oahu. It’s not unlike the Snippet in the Life series also published by Melanin Origins in that these topics are introduced, but not discussed at great length, allowing readers to take interest and then pursue the ones they find most relevant to themselves. This will help hold the interest of younger readers while guiding older readers to new subjects and ideas.

If you’re looking for some good nonfiction titles to pique interest and encourage curiosity make sure to add this to your collection! Also be sure to hand it to Moana fans that want to get a little more serious about learning about the part of the world she came from. I can’t wait to see more STEM adventures with Taylor.

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy by the publisher, Melanin Origins, in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase the book on Amazon (not an affiliate link): available as a paperback, hardback, and ebook!

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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04

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: The Remembering Day/ El Dia de los Muertos written by Pat Mora, illustrated by Robert Casilla

On 04, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

The Remembering DayThe Remembering Day/ El Dia de los Muertos written by Pat Mora, illustrated by Robert Casilla

From Goodreads: Long ago in what would come to be called Mexico, as Mama Alma and her granddaughter, Bella, recall happy times while walking in the garden they have tended together since Bella was a baby, Mama Alma asks that after she is gone her family remember her on one special day each year. Includes facts about The Remembering Day, El dia de los muertos.

I bought this one for our Spanish collection and because I know several classes, including our music class, study El dia de los muertos. Mora imagines a time when the tradition of El dia de los muertos began in this sweet story about Bella and her grandmother. The story is fairly quiet as the two remember the happy times they have had together. As Mama Alma realizes she is going to die she asks Bella to start a celebration of those who have died in their village.

I think this one would make a great addition to any collection. While it has the cultural component of looking at El dia de los muertos, it’s meaning and possible origin, it is also a story about a grandparent dying. I think it would be a good story to offer to children and families who have lost someone. My own family celebrates the Celtic version of a remembering day each fall and this would be a fantastic book to read at that time.

I loved that Mora’s first line makes it clear that this is something that started before colonizers from Europe came and she touches on it again in the note at the end of the story. Remembering the dead is not uniquely Catholic or even Christian and the practice goes back much further into our human history. I think it’s important to acknowledge that with our students and children.

The illustrations are warm and inviting. They show Bella and Mama Alma working in their garden, weaving, and playing together. The soft, warm colors enhance the nostalgic and gentle mood of the text. The text is a bit on the long side so your mileage may vary with very young audiences. I bought this specifically for my second grade classes, but I think it could be read up into fifth grade and down into Kindergarten. The story is just so worthwhile.

I am curious, the title in English is The Remembering Day while the Spanish title is El Dia de los Muertos. I understand that the holiday is about remembering and respecting the dead, so does that mean The Remembering Day is a more accurate translation? I like it better. Calling it the Day of the Dead always brings Halloween to mind for my students and sort of sucks the meaningful significance out of the holiday (we are actually one of those families that do not celebrate American Halloween, for the record, so this could just be a personal bugaboo). To my limited knowledge of the holiday The Remembering Day seems a lot more inline with what the holiday is about.

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02

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Chapter Book Review: The Mockingbird’s Manual by Seth Muller

On 02, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

The Mockingbird's ManualThe Mockingbird’s Manual written by Seth Muller, pictures by Bahe Whitethorn, Jr.

Book 1 of Windclaw Chronicles

From Goodreads: Near a dry streambed on a wind-swept spring day, Ellie Tsosie makes a strange discovery. She finds a startling gift, a book called The Mockingbird’s Manual. Ellie slowly wakes to a new and magical world, formed of the birds who have always lived around her home. But until the discovery, she never knew of their lives or of their secrets. In the first book of the Keepers of the Windclaw Chronicles, Ellie takes her first steps into the fantastic realm of the Animal World, where she comes to learn that she has a mission.

I would have LOVED this book as a girl. I am a bird person and the idea that you could find a book that allowed you to speak with birds, would have been so magical to me. The story follows Ellie as she discovers a manual that helps her communicate with the birds in her southwestern home. It takes Ellie a few days to figure out what is going on and what she needs to do to help.

Despite being the first in a series of three books The Mockingbird’s Manual does an excellent job of walking the line between setting up the series and creating a story that fits within the confines of the book. It isn’t a fast paced novel by any means, but it also isn’t slow and plodding. Again it strikes a nice balance, this time between giving growing readers something interesting to read without making it too complex for them to work through the mechanics of reading and keeping track of the plot. In other words, it’s a perfect transitional chapter book. I have not read the other two so I can’t speak to their difficulty level although I do know they are slightly longer than this one.

In terms of representation, the book is set in the Navajo Nation. Debbie Reese, children’s literature scholar and Nambe Pueblo member, always stresses the importance of tribal specificity in literature. “Native American” is far too broad of a term to be meaningful to anyone who is actually indigenous. This gives Native kids solid, realistic representation.

I would highly recommend the book (and the series) to all school libraries that serve third grade and up. I hesitate to call it a fantasy novel as the Native Nation it comes from may not view it as fantasy, but it fits in with other Euro-centric fantasy novels with talking animals, magical powers, and mystery. Not to mention Ellie being called to help in the Animal World. It would be a good series to start with before jumping into those (prolific) Warriors books or the Spirit Animals series. Be sure to hand it to kids who like animal books and your quiet fantasy loving girls who may not be quite ready for more difficult series.

Most beginning chapter book collections are lacking in any kind of diversity. It’s even more difficult to find Native representation so be sure to add this to your collections- home, school, or public library.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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