Picture Book Round-Up #7

I’m back, back again with another round-up of picture books. A real potpourri this week, of diverse titles covering race, food, civil rights, bedtime routines, and animal rescue.

Hold Them Close: A Love Letter to Black Children by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Patrick Dougher, with photography by Jamel Shabazz

This is a gorgeous book–a great use of illustration, collage, photography and the poetic prose that’s kind of a command and kind of a prayer for Black children. There are many spreads in this book that are powerful but the building made of bricks of the names of Black people killed by police or police-adjacent violence is especially potent. My only real critique is that some of the words are hard to read because of the font color and the metallic nature of some of the background elements. And that the boy is wearing crocs…but that’s a personal problem, for me haha. It’s got strong back matter that’s a great jumping off point–giving a glossary of references without bogging down with timelines and such.

Kimchi, Kimchi Every Day by Erica Kim

I love food based books, because they’re such an easy sell to kids. I know, long term, they don’t shape the cultural zeitgest, etc, etc, but if kids read them, I’m happy. This is a lower-level picture book with short, simple rhyming sentences that follows a girl who LOVES kimchi and her bunny rabbit sidekick, of course. If kids love kimchi, they’ll love this book–if they’ve never had kimchi, it might excite them to try it! I especially love that it doesn’t show anyone saying “ew” or doubting her love of kimchi. This book is just a fun celebration of the food and the various ways it’s used in cooking.

Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers by Lina AlHathloul and Uma Mishra-Newbery, illustrated by Rebecca Green

Fascinating books .GORGEOUS illustrations, and reasonably poetic prose, but it’s all a metaphor for Saudi women not being able to drive. Will most kids get that? Probably not, but this feels as much a book for tweens and adults reading it to kids as younger kids. Again, the illustrations are great, but I think the metaphor of flying may go a bit over kids heads–pun intended.

Good Night Little Bookstore by Amy Cherrix, illustrated by EB Goodale

A sweet, warm book about the closing of a, you guessed it, little bookstore, at night—this is lovely, and has bookshelves you’ll want to run your finger along. But, of course, even though it’s reminiscent of Goodnight Moon, it’s pretty clearly for adult readers who love books more than the actual young readers of modern picture books. I love the illustrations–seriously, wallpaper worthy. And I love the text being separated from the illustrations–that’s great for young readers. But the story line of this is a harder sell to little kids.

The World’s Loneliest Elephant by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Naoko Stoop.

While I think the story at the core of this book is an extraordinary animal rescue—a literal saving of an elephant from a zoo and a transportation across country borders with the help of freaking Cher, I found the TELLING of the story in this picture book to be mundane and underwhelming. The illustration style is okay, the palette eh, and the prose eh. The text often gets lost in the illustrations, and it’d be hard to keep a kid’s attention.

What picture books have you read and enjoyed recently?

3 Unique Ways to Circulate Biographies

Got a biography collection that you need to make come to life and walk off the shelves and out of your library?

Try these three ideas!

“You meet me on Xavier Riddle”

The kids show Xavier Riddle and The Secret Museum does a GREAT job of getting kids interested in historical figures–some well-known, others lesser-known. Consider building an entire display, or program, around historical figures that kids will have met through the Xavier Riddle show. This includes Cleopatra, Marie Curie, Goldie Meir, Isaac Newton, Abigail Adams, Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Mary Anning, Confucius, Ibn Battuta, Bob Ross, and many more!

Print out some coloring sheets to go with them!

It’s My Birthday!

Supplies need: one book stand, one re-usable party hat and a balloon.

Set up a rotating display for ONE book and one book alone and all it “It’s My Birthday!” Give this a place of prominence, add a sign that promises it can be taken out, and starting prowling your collection for good people to feature! I love to use historical figures birthdays to coordinate with craft or STEM programs, but why not a dedicated one book display?

This one requires a little more research and planning to execute, but would be SO worth the trouble!

Here are some good birthdays to get you started:

January 26th: Bessie Coleman

February 27th: Marian Anderson

March 4: Dav Pilkey

April 21: Charlotte Bronte

May 21: Mary Anning

June 25: Sonia Sotomayor

July 10: Nikola Tesla

August 26: Katherine Johnson

September 7: Queen Elizabeth I

October 17: Mae Jemison

November 22: Abigail Adams

December 9: Grace Hopper

Space Week

Space Week–which is usually in October each year-is a great chance to launch some of your best biographies–especially of women in STEM–into the hands of new readers. Theme each day around a different woman, feature or read from their biography, and do an activity. Popular people for this might be Katherine Johnson, Ellen Ochoa, Mae Jemison, Mary Jackson, Sally Ride, Anousheh Ansari and more. Have coloring sheets ready to go. Make a Moon Journal inspired by Katherine Johnson helping us get to the moon. Launch a straw rocket for Mae Jemison, or do an experiment from Sally Ride Science.

Picture Book Round-Up #6

Back with another picture book round-up! Some recent releases, funny and thoughtful!

Boobies by Nancy Vo

Okay, this was adorable and funny and probably incredibly needed. A book about boobies, literally. Blue footed ones, sure, but not really–because birds don’t have boobies. This book–which works well for kids under 5–is all about what boobies are, why we have them, what animals have odd numbers of them, how long artists have depicted boobies, etc. It’s done REALLY well and it’s really funny and definitely going to have kids giggling the whole time, but learning so much.

Sky Color by Peter H Reynolds

Reynolds does it again, with a sweet, understated tale about a young artist learning you don’t need blue to paint the sky and to slow down and look around her. The simple lined illustrations really pop when Reynolds bursts color onto the page, though I always find his prose lovely in the moment and mostly forgettable long term.

Chia and the Fox Man by Barbara J Atwater and Ethan J Atwater, illustrated by Mindy Dwyer

This is a fun folkloric/mythology tale of an Alaskan Native boy and his encounter with the Fox Man. It’s a fun way to talk about a different kind of folktale, and the illustrations–especially of the snow and ice—are stunning. Definitely bring this out year round and not just during Native American Heritage Month.

13 Stories About Ayana by Amy Schwartz

This is a cute vignette-style story book–13 of them, you guessed it–about a young Black girl doing different things. Getting a hamster, going on vacation, taking the bus. It’s sweet, sparsely illustrated (not full-page, but it works). What I really appreciated was that both parents got a chance to have these strong engagements, as well as friends–we didn’t really focus on school, but we got to see hobbies (gardening, piano) and just a wee bit of reckless fun.

Forest: Finn and Skips’ Rainforest Adventure by Brendan Kearney

This is a mildly pedantic but warmly illustrated climate change narrative about the dangers of deforestation. The full-page illustrations as they head into the forest and discover the chaos, and then lead the animals to safety, is beautiful, and the adventure elements are enjoyable, but the end feels a bit pedantic by incorporating the “next steps” into the story versus backmatter.

My 2023 Youth Media Award Predictions

It’s my favorite time of year again! The Youth Media Awards are just around the corner, and I’m ready to make my out of context predictions on most of the awards, except the one I am on this year, of course!

Want to know how well I did last year? You can find my post here: https://aryssareads.com/2022/01/05/my-2022-youth-media-award-predictions/

Frankly, I didn’t do GREAT on exacts. I wanted Da Vinci’s Cat to win, and it won NOTHING. Wronged, I say. I said Starfish would be a Newbery Honor, but it was a Printz Honor. I was way off on my CSK predictions—though I should have seen Unspeakable coming. I did predict the Caldecott! But I think that was obvious, don’t you? Oh, and I got the Printz too! I didn’t make as wide of guesses last year, but this year, I feel like I actually read more Kid Lit, so I feel prepared!

Alrighty…here we go. My predictions, but also maybe my hopes for some, which will either be confirmed or dashed on January 30th, are….

Newbery Medal: The Ogress and the Orphans

Newbery Honors: Cress Watercress, A Rover’s Story,  Hummingbird, Marshmallow Clouds

Caldecott Medal: Every Dog in the Neighborhood by Philip Stead

Caldecott Honors: Swim Team, Blue: A History of the Color, Gibberish, Farmhouse

Pura Belpre Author:  Sonor Reyes for The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School

Printz: A Thousand Steps into Night by Traci Chee or I Must Betray You by Ruta Septys

Sydney Taylor Middle Grade or Young Adult: Black Bird Blue Road

CSK Author: Kwame Alexander, The Door of No Return or Jason Reynolds, Ain’t Burned All the Bright

CSK Illustrator: Daniel Minter, Blue:  A History of the Color

Sibert: How to Build a Human

Morris: The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School

Excellence in Non-Fiction: Unequal: A Story of America

Edwards Award: Jason Reynolds

Stonewall Awards: Kind Like Marsha, Self-Made Boys

Stonewall Honors: A Different Kind of Fruit, Alice Austen Lives Here,

Easy Reader Series Series: Ty’s Travels

This is an easy reader series I didn’t follow from the beginning. Beach Day was nominated for a committee I read for, and I read it without understanding the context that Ty is using his imagination to have these experiences–I thought the illustrations were just super kid friendly! Knowing Ty’s imagination is the driver definitely colored my reading of the whole series and while I think it’s a cute series, especially for level one readers just getting into simple sentences, I found some of the much more exciting than others. I found the plots and the imagingings MUCH more engaging as we advanced through the series, even though the structure and difficulty didn’t really advance. They were just more fun to view through the lens of imagination.

Have you read Ty’s Travels? Which one will you give to a level one reader in your library to match their interests, an event at school, or a new-found hobby?

All Aboard!

In this first book in the series, Ty is tired of waiting for someone to play with him, so he puts his imagination to work. He turns a cardboard box into a train and takes off around the city that is his house, picking up family along the way.

Zip, Zoom

Ty gets a new scooter and wants to learn to go fast and race, but he’s struggling to get the hang of things. He imagines he’s at a race track, and along comes a nice friend, Ari, to keep his spirits up.

Winter Wonderland

Ty’s Christmas wish comes true when it snows, he gets to go to the “North Pole”–a park–with his mom, and gets to partake in fun winter activities and even meet Santa!

Beach Day!

Ty and his Dad have a back yard beach in the sandbox in this tale, which is interrupted by their neighbor Jazz, who comes over to enjoy the fun, toss a beach ball, and cool off with some ice pops.

Lab Magic

Ty and his brother Corey go to a real museum with their Mom, but are too young to go into the science lab, so they make their own lab at home and experiment with bubbles and more.

What I’m Doing to Set Myself Up for Success with My 2023 Reading Resolutions

Earlier this week, I talked about my 5 reading resolutions for myself in 2023. They are: 

  • I will DNF a book if it takes me more than 2 days to read 50 pages
  • I will track what I’m reading more diligently—including the Kid Lit I’m reading and reviewing. 
  • I will listen to at least 2 audiobooks a month, even if I’m in the middle of a really good podcast series
  • I will not buy the sequel of a book if I haven’t read the last one already
  • I will read 1 short story collection a month 

Today, I want to talk a little bit about how I’m working to set myself up for success in 2023 so that I don’t wait until the last minute to try and cram in the complete stories of Flannery O’Connor. Whoops. 

  1. Using the Book Riot Tracker

This year, I’m going to COMMIT to trying to use the Book Riot tracker. My coworker uses it and enjoys it, and while I’m not seeing the 2023 one yet, I think I can use the 2022 one with no issue! This will live in my Google Drive, which is also where I live most of the day, and it’s got SO many cool stats built into it. I am modifying it a bit so I’m logging less aspects–like translation, nation of origin, etc. I’m definitely interested in maintaining a diverse reading list—and I find that I do without tracking it–so while I get started this year, I’m going to lessen the boxes I’m trying to fill in when logging a book. I’m still going to track if it has a BIPOC Protagonist or character, but will likely put other identifiers in the Notes section. I’m not going to track how many pages I read a day, for my own sanity because I hate math. 

I like that it’ll easily allow me to mark things as short stories or audiobooks, so I can track them in the stats tab!

I modified the “Reason for Reading” tab to better reflect the different reasons I read—Pleasure, Capitol Choices, Booklist, SLJ, my DAR book club, Work or for an award committee. Like I mentioned, I’m not committed to a 2024 award committee yet but…covering my bases. 

Using this tracker and its date started feature will hopefully also help me know when to DNF a book because it’s not pulling me in fast enough. 

  1. Picking out my books for January

I set monthly goals for myself this year, so I  need to set myself up for success. I have a list of 3-5 books I WANT to read in January 2023, that aren’t for my award committee that will be wrapping up, and I’ve mentally picked out my short story collection and 2 audiobooks for the month. I kind of want to prioritize getting books OUT of my house, so I’m going to start with a few physical books I have, from the library or the publisher. 

For my non-absolutely-required reading,  I want to read Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire, Parachute Kids by Betty C Tang, Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist, Coven by Jennifer Dugan and Kit Seaton and Home Away from Home by Cynthia Lord. 

For my short story, I’m going to read Courtney Sender’s In Other Lifetimes All I’ve Lost Comes Back to Me, which publishes in March. I had Courtney as a professor for a semester in college, and she writes for my favorite podcast now, so I’m very excited. 

For audiobooks, I’m going to do the Inheritance stories from Katharine McGee and Judith Heumann’s Rolling Warrior, which is her YA/young reader biography. I also got Kal Penn’s memoir as a backup plan, lol. This are all checked out from Libby. 

My goal with this audiobook listening is to break my NPR addiction, not my bank, so I’m going to be relying on Overdrive/Libby and Hoopla for this!

  1. Making a basket of short-story collections

I don’t know why I got it into my head to read a short story collection every month—I’m mostly indifferent about short stories, but I know as a writer they are important to keep abreast of, and I like the idea of reading one before bed or when I wake up…though we know that isn’t how it’ll work out. 

The short story collection by Sender I’m planning to read in January in an e-arc, but I went around my house and gathered a basket of the short story collections I have in print to keep on-deck for 2023. The idea is I’ll grab one at the end of the month to put on my bedside table for the next month, etc. We’ll see how that works out. 

  1. Stacking my books I haven’t read yet with 2023 sequels

This is….humbling, to say the least. I think this is a resolution I can keep, because I’m not as bad off as I thought I was. I was thinking of a lot of middle grade books I have that I know have sequels coming out, but when I actually evaluated what I wanted to read, I was like “this is doable”

These are the books I need to read before I can read/buy/borrow the sequels in 2023: 

  • Onyeka and (Sequel comes out May 30, 2023)
  • Mihi Ever After (Sequel comes out May 16, 2023)
  • Lia Park and the Missing Jewel (Sequel comes out May 30, 2023)

Luckily for me, I don’t read many adult or YA books that are series, so I think I’m going to do well here! There probably won’t be another Robert Galbraith book this year, so I have time to read through Inkblack Heart. I’ve read Ninth House, so I’m good to order Hell Bent, and same goes for Anatomy: A Love Story and Immortality: A Love Story. I’m also excited about the next Skander book, but why do they all have to come out in May!??!?

What are you doing to set yourself up for success in your 2023 reading goals? Any must-listen audiobooks?

My 2023 Reading Resolutions

I write this staring down the last two weeks of 2023, knowing that I did SO MUCH reading this year, and yet not enough of what I wanted to read. 

I didn’t set MANY reading resolutions in 2022, for a few reasons. At the end of 2021, I was wrapping up my time on the 2022 Carnegie Awards. By February 2022, I was serving on the 2023 Alex Awards. I also review for two magazines—so my reading time is not really my own, and I didn’t want to OVER commit. My award committee work meant I couldn’t get a Goodreads goal or use goodreads this year, and I DNF’d several titles, so I think I read 230 books this year, but it’s hard to tell. 

My two MAIN reading goals in 2022–the things I put on my little Canva graphic–were to read 100 chapter books in 2022 and to read the Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. 

Reader, it is December 19th as I write this, and I have not cracked open the Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. There’s still time! But not much. 

I think my intention in reading 100 “chapter” books was to read books like JUV Fiction series and the like to get a feel for what I wanted to write, and I definitely didn’t read 100 ‘chapter’ books or even probably juvenile fiction books total, but I did kind of figure out my writing style with easy reader series reading, by reading a lot of picture books and reviewing them, etc. 

So maybe my goals went off track, but I still did good in balancing reading kid Lit with the immense amount of adult books I read for the Alex Awards. 

As of this writing, I am not yet committed to a 2024 award committee. That could change in the next weeks and months, so I’m not going to jinx it or set myself up for failure with any insane goals but here are 5 reading resolutions I am setting for myself in 2023. 

  1. I will DNF a book if it takes me more than 2 days to read 50 pages
  2. I will track what I’m reading more diligently—including the Kid Lit I’m reading and reviewing. 
  3. I will listen to at least 2 audiobooks a month, even if I’m in the middle of a really good podcast series
  4. I will not buy the sequel of a book if I haven’t read the last one already
  5. I will read 1 short story collection a month 

What are you reading resolutions in 2023?

A Heart That Works

One important thing to know about me is that I’m addicted to NPR. That addiction has worsened in the past year into what I can only describe as a coping mechanism, but that’s also interrupted my old routine of plowing through audiobooks on the regular, especially non-fiction ones. It doesn’t help that my commute is shorter now, so that quick NPR segments within the app are like candy to my little addicted mind. I obsessively listen to three of the main NPR podcast outputs though: Up First, Consider This, and NPR Politics. I dabble in Short Wave when I have time, but unsubscribed from it daily due to being overwhelmed with so many podcast episodes like six months ago.

Anyway, cut to a Sunday morning, I’m working in the library mostly alone, and one of the myriad of NPR things I consume does a weekend episode special replaying an interview between Rachel Martin and Rob Delaney about his new book, which details the brain tumor his infant son developed and his eventual death. It took me a few minutes to realize, but I had a slight awareness of Rob Delaney–I had to read the pilot episode of Catastrophe in college for a class I tried to get into three times. Spoiler alert: I never got into the class. Thanks, Aaron Tracy.

Anyway, I kept listening to this podcast even though I didn’t really want to be depressed on a Sunday morning and the entire thing seemed…depressing. Of course, Delaney is a comedian, he’s funny, he brings wit and light moments, but it’s still a tale of a child, a 2 year old, DYING of cancer. It’s going to be hard.

Cut to a few weeks later, I finished 3 2022 celebrity memoirs in rapid succession and am ready to keep the audibook vibe going, but the Matthew Perry memoir isn’t available. And the I see A Heart That Works, available for download.

It’s a short book–under 4 hours–and I took it in spurts. Sometimes I listened for an hour straight, sometimes ten minutes. It’s not a surprise when Henry dies, and you aren’t nervously waiting for it, you are simply along for Delaney’s ride as he and Henry grow together, and he and his wife balance their other sons with Henry while he’s in hospital, as he details the differences dealing with this in London versus the US would have painted, and more. It’s a memoir, but it’s not about Delaney. It’s about a very discrete moment in time, it’s about grief, it’s about sorrow and joy, and I really found myself entrenched in it. Enjoying isn’t the right word, of course, but it felt like what I needed, something to put perspective into my own life.

This isn’t a book to read if you’re going through your own crisis, but it also might be just the book you read. It’s a tender book, and I 100% recommend the audiobook, which Delaney reads himself.

Also, of course, listen to the NPR interview.

Picture Book Round-Up #5

This is my garden picture book round up, because I’m in the middle of making a bibliography of books about gardens that feature Black protagonists, and I thought….why do double the work, when I could write about some of those books for this blog too?

Especially with spring eventually going to be coming, why not get ahead on planning a new display?

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta, illustrated by Frank Morrison

This is a biography, but it is SO lushly illustrated. It’s a garden book, how could it not be? The characterizations here are gorgeous–GWC shines on the page, and you want to dive into the garden he curates in secret. This is a very clear-cut biography that isn’t just about “here’s this guy” but looks specifically at his life in relationship to plants and agriculture, and while it includes the less garden-y elements as well, his love for nature and growing and caring is allowed to take center stage.

Our School Garden by Rick Swann, illustrated by Christy Hale

This is the exact kind of book I was thinking of when I started making my bibliography of books about Black kids gardening—a book that includes a diverse cast and a Black protagonist but that is covering modern topics about student development, the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the fun that can be had in a garden. This feels pedantic at times, but the verse poems are fun to break up and use in classes. The illustrations didn’t draw me in, but there was nothing outwardly wrong with them.

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A Cabrera

What a sweet book! I read this the day after I read Claribel Ortega’s book, Frizzy, so this felt like a perfect pair.This is a book all about a girl who has to learn to take care of her hair after being teased for it, and by going to her neighbor, who is also.a Black woman, she learns not only the basics of wash day, but also about accepting the beauty of her hair, and how her hair is like a garden: she has to care for it, and nourish it, and accept it when it grows and changes and not compare it to other parts of the garden. A great book with strong illustrations, though keep in mind the prose is a little long for young readers–might be best for elementary school.

Jayden’s Impossible Garden by Melina Mangal, illustrated by Ken Daley

A sweet, if some what confusingly illustrated, tale of.an urban Black kid and his neighbor who uses a wheelchair finding bits of nature in the city against his mom’s constant refrain of “there’s no nature in the middle of the city.” This is a sweet book, and a great way to show kids how nature pops up in small ways everywhere, but the illustration style was really confusing. It was like a mid-2000s cartoon fever dream, but extra airy? And the characters were always smiling in a way that didn’t match the story? Confusing, but a cute book overall.

Lenny in the Garden by Ken Wilson-Max

If the pages were a centiment thicker, this would be a board book. Prose wise, it’s definitely more there than in the picture book category. This is a simple, simple story about a Black toddler in the garden in a diaper and t-shirt seeing garden bugs, saying hello to them, etc. Finally, he is called in for lunch by his Asian-presenting mother, and his dog is there the whole time too, obviously. Underwhelming. A good sort of “Black kids should go outside and be allowed to play” book but lacks any oomph.

Easy Reader Series Series: Yasmin

This is my series where I talk about Easy Reader Series. I’m funny, right?

This time, we’re talking about our girl YASMIN–the star of I think 25 or 26 easy readers about her adventures in painting, fashion, ice skating, librarianship, and more.

I picked up all twenty-something of these for a binge read one sunny afternoon—and it was an amazing way to read the series cuz I could see the structure so clearly unfolding across the pages.

Each book has three chapters or parts–one where we meet Yasmin and the context for the story, one where the problem emerges, and the final one where a solution is found. It’s absolutely repetitive if you’re an adult reading them all back-to-back, but I can absolutely see the benefit of this structure for emerging and developing readers. The predictive nature encourages them to explore stories they aren’t familiar with with a sense of familiarity, and builds confidence in vocabulary.

The cultural flare of these books is also a huge plus–Yasmin’s Pakistani heritage is woven throughout the stories, from the words she uses to the way she interacts with her family to what she wears. She has a multi-generational family home, which will resonate with many reader across different cultures, and features Urdu words with a small glossary in the back time.

While each book focuses on a different scenario, all of them are very relatable to easy reader readers—finding something that is lost, conquering a school assignment, trying something new, etc. The added flare of Yasmin’s culture and the ties to developing reader scenarios are just icing on the cake.

I love that this has so many titles in the series, because if a reader falls in love with Yasmin, they have so many more opportunities to explore her world.

What are some of your favorite Easy Reader series?

Have you read Yasmin–what is your favorite “job” she takes on in her series?

I’m partial to Yasmin the Librarian, of course!

3 Books to Read if You Liked ‘Wednesday’ on Netflix

Need more “something goes wrong at a boarding school” ambiance with a bit of magic or spookiness thrown in?

Here are five books that give me Wednesday vibes–though caveat, I’m writing this mid-episode 4.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

A mystery, a boarding school, a past and present interlude that’s a bit connected and a bit not. Plus, murder, of course! Everyone in this story has a special talent, not a magical ability, but what’s the difference, really?

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

I believe this book has a bit of er….concern around some of its racial elements, or what it’s trying to allude to, especially in the later books, but watching Wednesday reminded me of reading the first book in this series, since I never read the rest. It’s a magical boarding school but not just witches and wizards, and a bit dark at times.

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

This is a middle grade novel, but it’s got GREAT vibes—a little lighter, and no murder, but still a mystery that puts peoples lives on the line. Big Hogwarts-vibes but better, in my opinion, so if you like the Nevermore aspect of Wednesday, NEVERMOOR is just what you need.

What other books do you recommend to people who enjoyed Wednesday on Netflix?

Picture Book Round-Up #4

Another picture book round-up! Some new releases, biographies, and more!

What picture books have you read and enjoyed recently?

Hana’s Hundreds of Hijabs by Razeena Oma Gutta, illustrated by Manal Mirza

The illustrations are the star of this book, which is all about a young girl who loves styling her hijab. She loves it a bit too much—her hijabs are taking over the house and all her time! The vibrant illustrations show these different styles, how fashionable Hana is–and how it impacts the people around her. In the end, Hana finds a way to help others through her love of fashion. I loved the illustrations in the book, and it’s a cute way to talk about hijab’s that’s not explicitly religious, but I did think Hana read older on the page than she was supposed to be, and that the pacing of the book was a bit off. Overall, a cute book though! Girls who wear hijab or who have family members who do will especially love the way the illustrations come to life.

When the Sakura Bloom by Narisa Togo

I picked up this book because cherry blossoms are a big DC thing, obviously, and my DAR State Regent’s pin is cherry blossoms, so I try to keep an eye out for them in books. This is more of an all-ages picture book in that it doesn’t have one set protagonist, and can appeal to a broad audience. Against the backdrop of gorgeous, gorgeous illustrations, we see poeple busy with life slowly stopping to bask in the glory of nature as the seasons change and the sakura bloom. The illustrations are the real sell of this book-but it’s nice and I’ll definitely recommend it in the spring!

A Portrait in Poems: The Stories Life of Gertrude Stein & Alice B Toklas by Evie Robillard, illustrated by Rachel Katsaller

Admission: this is shelved in JUV Biography, but I’m counting it in this round-up regardless! It was a really well-done introduction for older elementary school kids to Stein & Toklas. If they already love art, they’ll love the illustrations, and the quiet but clear queer undertones were lovely. A great book to talk about this period of time in art/literature with kids, but the illustrations are really the selling point.

The Home Builders by Varsha Bajaj, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

A beautifully illustrated, but otherwise kind of forgettable intro to nature books–this poem looks at builders, nature homes, and fauna families in short bits–“Snug and sheltered as nighttime falls, home is our earth shared by us all” sort of prose. The illustrations are gorgeous and well-light and the kind of stuff you want to paper a baby’s nursery in, but because the prose lacks real emotion, so do the illustrations. Overall, a cute book I’d share with kids wanting to read animal books, but not going on the top of any list.

Miguel’s Community Garden by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Samara Hardy

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about gardens this year, so of course came across this one. This stands out though–it’s not about making a garden, but rather exploring them. We start with sunflowers–what we know about them, how to find them, how to tell them apart from other parts of the garden. Miguel is adorably illustrated–looking perhaps a little older than he’s supposed to with that haircut–but the garden aspect are vibrant throughout. I especially love the peaches page. I also love that it isn’t just flowers but also vegetables–including artichokes-a really diverse garden! I think kids who are interested in where food comes from will really like this, cuz how often do you see celery growing out of the ground? It also includes a recipe for sunflower seed salad.