Mixed Me! Written by Taye Diggs and Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

MIXED ME!
Written by Taye Diggs
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
(Feiwel & Friends; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

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Starred reviews in Kirkus and School Library Journal.

Librarian Dornel Cerro reviews Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs with illustrations by Shane W. Evans.

“I’m a beautiful blend of dark and light, I was mixed up perfectly, and I’m JUST RIGHT!”

Mike, an exuberant and energetic boy rushes from one place to another in his superhero cape:

“I like to go FAST!
No one can stop me
as the wind combs through
my zigzag curly do”

It’s clear that Mike is a well-loved, confident and joyful child. However, although Mike is comfortable with the color of his skin and the “WOW” of his hair, sometimes his diverse heritage causes people to stare and wonder:

“Your mom and dad don’t match,”
they say, and scratch their heads.

There’s pressure at school to choose a group to belong to:

“Some kids at school want me to choose
who I cruise with.
I’m down for FUN with everyone.”

Using rich vocabulary, gentle humor, rhyme, and a hip-hop like rhythm, Diggs offers a inspirational message. The author uses the diversity in the foods we eat to vividly (and deliciously) capture the differences in human appearances. Mike’s mother’s skin is “… rich cream and honey …” and Mike describes himself as:

“I’m a garden plate!
Garden salad, rice and beans-
tasting GREAT!”

This is not only a fantastic read-aloud, but a wonderful starting place for positive discussions on image, esteem, diversity, friendship, and inclusion. Adults sharing the story can easily design extension activities to reinforce the book’s theme. What do words like “fused” and “blended” mean? How do these words apply to people? How many references to multicolored or “mixed” things can children find in the book’s illustrations? What kinds of theatre, music, movement, and dance activities could help children express their understanding of the book?

Evans complements Digg’s bouncy and humorous text with textured illustrations consisting of watercolors and cut pieces of fabric. There are many two-page spreads of Mike, dominated by all that wonderful “zippy” hair and the book is awash in multicolor images: even Mom’s apron and Mike’s cape contain a rainbow of colors.

Mixed Me! is a highly recommended read for all children and adults who work with this age group.

Visit the publisher to see interior artwork and other reviews. Check out Digg’s and Shane’s Chocolate Me! website for information about their earlier book which also sends a positive message about skin and hair type. Read Diggs’ tribute to his long time friend, Shane W. Evans, in The Horn Book. See Scholastic for a biographical sketch on Evans and other books he’s illustrated.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas

HELLO RUBY: ADVENTURES IN CODING
Written and illustrated by Linda Liukas
(Feiwel & Friends; $16.99, Ages 4-8 )

 

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Linda Liukas’s Hello Ruby is a book that first caught my eye on Kickstarter. In fact, I heavily modeled my Kickstarter project after it since its campaign had tons of contributors and raised over $380,000! After receiving a lot of attention, it got picked up to be traditionally published with an imprint of Macmillan, Feiwel and Friends.

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Interior artwork from Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas, Feiwel & Friends ©2015.

Hello Ruby is all about teaching young kids the building blocks of coding. The book is broken up into nine small chapters. There’s a fairly simple story-line: Ruby needs to find five gems her dad has hidden around the house. Ruby goes on her adventure and starts with a plan by making a map. She ends up in the imaginary world of the map (I was a bit unsure how she got there, but it works with the book). She meets penguins, a snow leopard, foxes, robots, and a young boy on this adventure. As she goes along she is doing things that are the basis of coding.
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Interior artwork from Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas, Feiwel & Friends ©2015.

Immediately following the story there’s a thorough and fun activity section that would be done with a child and parent or teacher. The kids (and adults) can learn about the basics of coding, such as strings, sequence, loops, selection, functions, and more! It’s written simply and clearly for young kids to understand.
I loved the adorable illustrations and so will your budding coders! Liukas has a bright, cheerful and kid-like illustration style that complemented the story and activities well. I know it’s the teacher in me, but I’m partial to books that have a teaching element and since my husband is a software engineer, I’m also familiar with these concepts in their basic forms.

A few months ago a friend asked my husband what apps or online activities are out there to help kids with coding and he gave these three sites saying …

If children are young there is scratch.mit.edu. There are also good exercises at code.org. If the kids are a bit older inventwithpython.com has books that teach more “real” programming skills.
With Hello Ruby, Linda Liukas has done a wonderful job portraying and teaching simple coding concepts in an entertaining and hands-on way. I think her website helloruby.com should be added to my husband’s list too. The website has great information and helpful teaching tools, along with some printables. Although it’s listed online for ages 4-8, I’d recommend Hello Ruby for children ages 5-9 (or anyone who wants to learn some fun kids activities that have coding concepts). Happy reading and coding everyone!
– Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

CRENSHAW
by Katherine Applegate
(Feiwel & Friends; $16.99, Ages 8-12)

 

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Oh, this marvelous cover. The huge cat, the small boy, the dreamy purple all around them, and the feeling like they have known each other for a long time are all reasons that Crenshaw just pulled me in when I first saw it. Of course I knew that Katherine Applegate was going to write a terrific book because she wrote the Newbery Award winner, The One and Only Ivan. So, I just trust her to write something wonderful and she did!

Jackson, known to the family as Jacks, is a person who likes facts. In fact, he loves them. So when Crenshaw shows up one day Jackson is amazed and more than slightly freaked out. Crenshaw was Jackson’s imaginary friend when Jackson was a little boy. Jackson knows better than to believe in imaginary friends. However, now Jackson has a real problem because even though he wishes Crenshaw would just go away, it’s not going to happen. Crenshaw is going to stay for a while. It’s good that he does because Jackson is going to need his old friend again.

Jackson and his family aren’t doing well financially. Jackson’s family is going to have to make a decision about how they are going to cope with job losses and disabilities. It isn’t going to be easy to be able to make any sort of decision at all when there is hardly any money. Jackson and his family have had to live in the family minivan before, and Jackson is worried that they might have to do that again. While everything around Jackson seems out of control, Crenshaw is there. He’s a giant, imaginary cat and I’m so glad he is there for Jackson. Crenshaw guides Jackson. Crenshaw helps Jackson to find a way to tell a hard truth. Crenshaw likes purple jellybeans. Crenshaw is a cat that can ride a surfboard! In short, Crenshaw is a great friend.

There’s just tons to love about this book. It’s magical, full of facts (that’s what Jackson likes), full of imagination (that’s pretty much what Crenshaw is made from), and it has this amazing warmth to it. Jackson’s family may have financial troubles, but there is no deficit of love in this family. They love each other to the moon and back again. Crenshaw received well-deserved starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Horn Book. I’ll add another of my own. Highly recommended!

Read an excerpt by clicking here.

Click here to purchase CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate

  • Reviewed by Hilary Taber

The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles

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The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2014.

The Lost Planet (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, $15.99, Ages 9-13 ) is the first novel in a series by Venice, CA author Rachel Searles. I met this friendly and imaginative debut fiction author earlier in the year at a local event sponsored by Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse where Searles read from her book and explained its premise.

Readers will be introduced to Chase Garrety, a 13-year-old boy who wakes up on another planet with a head wound. Chase soon meets Parker and though they start off fighting, the boys realize they need to take care of each other. Together Chase and Parker meet an android named Mia who becomes a huge help to them in this fast-paced, sci-fi adventure.  The story unfolds in the course of a week in which Chase, without giving any spoilers, learns some unusual stuff about himself. So, if you’ve got a child who thrives on the science fiction genre that’s packed with action and adventure as well as interesting characters such as assorted aliens, a mysterious benefactor, and a Federation-like organization, then this is the book for them.

I asked Searles about when she began writing. She told me that she’s been writing since she was six years old. The Lost Planet actually took her four years to write, but the good news is that the second book in this series has already been written! “Writing a book,” according to Searles, “is like putting lots of puzzle pieces into the right spot, with lots of re-writing.” In fact she said her original outline for the novel changed so much since she had her first idea for the story. That’s not hard to imagine when you learn that the idea for a space story was first planted in her mind in 2006. It then took her two years to write the first 100 pages. In 2008 Searles came up with The Lost Planet concept, and in 2010 she tried to write 1000 words a day. She then spent a year and a half revising. And which character, I wondered, did Searles most relate to? Parker. Now you’ll just have to read it for yourself to understand why.

– Ronna Mandel

Fridays Featuring Flintridge – New Novels

Catherine Linka shares her picks for …

New Novels for Young Readers

This fall, there are several new novels for young readers that offer the flavor and feel of classics. I read these books before they were published, looking forward to the day when I could hand them to readers and say, “I think you’ll love this.” Pick these up for holiday gifts for readers aged 8-13.

THE SPINDLERS ($16.99, Harper Collins) by Lauren Oliver

This reminds me a bit of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Beautifully written, with a lush and dramatic setting “Below.” Liza realizes that her little brother’s soul was stolen in his sleep by Spindlers, spider-like creatures, so she goes Below to get it back. Liza must befriend Mirabella, a tricky rat, to find her brother and the evil queen who holds his soul.  Great read aloud with action and themes of friendship and family. For independent readers 9+.

THE HUMMING ROOM ($16.99, Feiwel & Friends)
by Ellen Potter

Inspired by THE SECRET GARDEN, this was a huge hit with our Advance Reader Club of 5th and 6th graders. Roo loses her parents and goes to live with her reclusive uncle in what was once a Children’s Hospital on an island in the Saint Lawrence river. There’s a mystery inside the walls of this old building and Roo sets out to uncover it. (9+)

SUMMER AND BIRD ($16.99, Dutton Juvenile) by Katherine Catmull

Summer and her little sister, Bird, wake up to find their parents have disappeared into the woods. Searching the woods for their mom and dad, Bird follows a birdsong to a strange and wintery land where the birds await the return of the missing swan queen. While THE SPINDLERS is dramatic, SUMMER AND BIRD is dreamlike. Read it before bed. 9+.

LIAR &  SPY ($15.99, Wendy Lamb Books) by Rebecca Stead

A great story for kids who befriend someone who may not be honest with them. Two boys, neighbors in a NYC apartment building, team up to spy on a resident they suspect of a crime. By the author of the Newbery-award winner, WHEN YOU REACH ME. Perfect for mother-daughter book clubs. (9+)  NOTE:  Read the GRWR review of this book by middle grade author Kristen Kittscher by clicking here.

KEEPING SAFE THE STARS ($16.99, Putnam Juvenile)
by Sheila O’Connor

For fans of Kate DiCamillo or Deb Wiles. A beautifully written story about a girl trying to keep her siblings together when their guardian gets sick. Strong themes of family loyalty, leadership, challenge of honesty.  Pride, the eldest girl is a terrific lead character. This funny and sweet story is perfect for mother-daughter book clubs. (9+)

Please visit the Flintridge Bookstore today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads  and relax over a great cup of coffee.  Also visit the website at www.flintridgebooks.com to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events.

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