Sunday, August 13, 2023

Summer Reading 2023 How This Book Got Red


Red and Gee are pals and enjoy doing panda things together, but when they read a book about pandas they make a terrible discovery. There are no red pandas in the book!

So Red sets out to write her own book, where she and other red pandas can see themselves. It is hard and frustrating and it doesn't seem good enough. But when others discover her abandoned manuscript, they clamor for it to be finished. Maybe the world is ready for red panda representation after all.

The illustrations capture all of Red's many moods and Gee's friendly support. Everyone needs a pal who will take them out for bamboo bubble tea when they are having a bad day. And if you can also find a friend to illustrate your book for you, bonus!

End pages share red panda facts such as "We hang out in treetops to sunbathe and hide from snow leopards." and "We do a wiggle dance to mark our turf." 

This book addresses lack of representation in a kid friendly way, making a good title to use in a lesson on how book publishing has tried in recent years to do a better job of including all groups. But for younger readers who love the movie "Turning Red," this will satisfy their red panda cravings in a delightful way.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Summer Reading 2023 This Book Is Banned


As you can tell from the cover, this picture book takes on the topic of banned books in a humorous way. We may never know what the original title was, since it has been covered by a BANNED sticker. The friendly directions that tell us "Turn Here" are crossed out, and someone has added the admonition "DO NOT!" There is even a X crossing out the unicorn's horn. Gasp!

A foreword explains what a banned book is. "It's when one group of people decides that no one should be allowed to read a certain book, and they try to remove that book from libraries and schools." The story then goes on to show dangerous banning books can be. What if there are giraffes in a book, but the hippos object? Out with the giraffes. Or what if there is delicious avocado, but there is "someone who thinks avocaos are GROSS?!" Okay, no more avocados. 

On and on go the examples, absurd and hilarious, of things that might need to be banned. Robots on rollerskates? Birthday cake? (Someone might not get the slice they want.) And if the horses are offended by the unicorns' horns...You guessed it. Banned! 

If your library or school is dealing with book challenges, this might be just the touch of humor you need to make it through. And if you have students asking you what a book ban is, let them try this on for size.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes. And I truly appreciate the dedication: "This book is dedicated to all the librarians & educators around the worl who work tirelessly to ensure that kids & grown-ups have access to the books that matter to them." Thank you!

Summer Reading 2023 The Bear and Her Book


"The world is big, and there's much to see, and a bear must go where she wants to be." That seems like a pretty good philosophy for anyone, especially a reader. This particular bear has a book that she carries with her on her adventures, Bear's Big Book of Being Wise. Armed with the knowledge in her book she sets off to the sea, the jungle, the desert, even aboard a ship. At each new place she finds a creature in need and advice for how to help them in her handy book. Although she enjoys her new friends, something always pulls her onward looking for more. Perhaps her journey will take her to a place that has everything she needs.

Tosdevin's rhyming text carries readers gently along in Bear's wake as she sees far-off lands and makes new acquaintances. O'Connor's illustrations capture the starlight shimmering on the sea, the vibrant green of the jungle, and the golden yellow of desert sand. I was curious about how the images were created, so I looked up information on the book: "illustrations are hand-drawn using mixed media such as ink, gouache, oil pastels, and more" is what I found. 

Taken together, as all picture books should be, the text and illustrations weave a delightful spell of curiosity, kindness, and the confidence to keep looking until you find the perfect place for yourself. A lovely read and sure to be a favorite at storytimes as little ones chime in with the repetitve phrase.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Summer Reading 2023 Eagle Drums

"Eagle Drums by Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson is part cultural folklore, part origin myth about the Messenger’s Feast – which is still celebrated in times of bounty among the Iñupiaq. It’s the story of how Iñupiaq people were given the gift of music, song, dance, community, and everlasting tradition." That is the description offered on Amazon and it is a good elevator pitch for this book. 

I would add that Eagle Drums tells the story of a boy who has watched his parents suffer due to the disappearance of his older brothers. He says of his father, "His silence became something you could almost see, a depth and heaviness in the air."  So when he is confronted by an eagle who can transform into a human, he chooses to be wise and not run or fight. His mother has advised him about animals like these,  "Respect them as you would any strong spirit, and never challenge them." 

What follows is an adventure that tries his patience, his endurance, and his determination to someday return home. He is taught many skills and commanded to share them wtih others. He is also instructed in the way to teach other humans these skills and share what he has learned. If he can cling to his memories of home and master these new skills, he may just survive and bring something new back to his people.

Readers will be amazed at the incredible details of the environment, the homes, the foods, and the new instruments that he must master - both to play and to construct. The folklore figures of the animals who can "take off their parkas. And then they are human for a while" are also intriguing. And the portrait of a family grieving for loved ones who are gone - with no closure to that grief - rings true.

Recommended for those who enjoy retellings of legends and mythology, as well as those who appreciate a good survival story. I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.