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Middle-Grade Fantasy Novel Review – Legends of Lotus Island Book #1

 

LEGENDS OF LOTUS ISLAND:
The Guardian Test

Written by Christina Soontornvat

Illustrated by Kevin Hong

(Scholastic Press; $16.99, Ages 8-12)

Legends of Lotus Island cover book one heroine running

 

 

In Legends of Lotus Island: The Guardian Test, the first book in a new middle-grade series by Christine Soontornvat with illustrations by Kevin Hong, young Plum lives on a remote part of the Santipap Islands. An orphan, she lives with her grandparents and helps them tend their home and gardens. Plum is able to communicate with plants and animals and, as a result, the family’s gardens thrive. Seeing this, her grandfather secretly submits an application for her to the elite Guardian Academy on Lotus Island. Guardians are able to transform into magical creatures and are tasked with protecting the natural world.

When she learns that she has been accepted to the Academy, Plum is stunned by her grandfather’s actions. She doesn’t believe that she is that special or magical. Nevertheless, her grandparents convince her to accept the Academy’s invitation and, reluctantly, she leaves her beloved home for an uncertain future.

Once at the Academy, Plum, and the other students are trained in meditation, fighting skills, communicating with animals, and learning how to transform. As the students train, their natural, magical abilities emerge. Based on that, the Masters are then able to assign students to one of the three groups of Guardians: Hand (fast and strong), Heart (healers), and Breath (calming).

However, Plum struggles: she is bullied by another student (who may have a hidden agenda), she can’t focus during meditation, is not much of a fighter, and is unable to transform. The Masters are not sure which Guardian group she belongs in. If Plum wishes to advance to Novice, she must pass the first test which is transformation. Plum’s fears grow –will she be able to pass the test? Or will she fail and be sent home?

Soontornvat fills her short book with a fascinating and lush world, populating it with fantastic creatures, hints of political intrigue, and mysterious ancient legends. The author also does not sacrifice character development. Plum, a kind but unsophisticated girl, blooms into a strong and confident figure. Other students share similar growth, which may be encouraging to readers struggling with their own self-confidence. Along with occasional black and white illustrations, this first in a series is an enticing and accessible read for younger readers who are not yet ready for longer fantasy titles.

Visit the author here for a brief book talk and watch the book trailer here. Watch this short video if you’re not sure how to pronounce Soontornvat’s name. Kids can read an excerpt from the book here.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro
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Something Wild by Molly Ruttan – A Guest Post + Giveaway

 

 

A GUEST POST

BY AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR MOLLY RUTTAN

FOR

SOMETHING WILD BLOG TOUR 

 

Something Wild cover girl playing violin

 

Author-illustrator Molly Ruttan deftly explores the butterflies of anxiety that come with stage fright as well as the joy and magic that comes with facing our fears in SOMETHING WILD (Nancy Paulsen Books; on sale February 28th, 2023; ISBN: 9780593112342; Ages 3 – 7; $18.99), a delightful picture book that depicts a young girl’s preparation for her first violin recital. —Penguin Young Readers

Praise for Something Wild:

“The denouement is a lovely testament to the best magic of which we are capable… combines sweetness, imagination, and gentle humor. Though this tale will appeal to all readers, it will especially resonate with introverts. Brava!” – Kirkus Reviews, starred reviews

 

INTRO:

What a thrill to have a guest post by Molly Ruttan on GoodReadsWithRonna. I marvel at her constantly evolving creativity, enthusiasm, and tireless support of pre-published (me) and published authors, illustrators, and like her, author-illustrators. I hope you will enjoy this candid recollection of how her childhood experiences helped inform Something Wild. And don’t forget to visit all the other sites on Molly’s blog tour and enter our great giveaway. So, without further ado, HEEEEEEEERE’S MOLLY!

 

GUEST POST:

Hi Ronna!

Before I begin, I would like to take this moment to thank you for inviting me onto your blog, and to acknowledge the hard work you put into it every day. It shows! Your blog has great reviews and amazing roundups. I am truly awed by you, and all the other excellent bloggers out there—you really make a difference in the KidLit community. What would we all do without you?? A big Hats Off to you!

In today’s guest post, I’m going to tell the personal story behind one of the questions I get asked a lot regarding my new picture book, Something Wild: Did the idea for it come from my own experience as a musician? Short answer— Yes, as a matter of fact, it did!

It is often said that, as children’s book writers and illustrators, we should write about what we know. Something Wild is about stage fright, and this is something I have absolutely known from the time I was quite small. I’m not sure why I was so shy, although it might have had something to do with being a twin, and being slightly behind other kids in social skills when I entered school. In any case, one of my earliest memories is freezing up during a class play in kindergarten—I was so scared I couldn’t speak. I even remember the line I was supposed to say: “It’s a hamburger.” One of the other kids had to improvise and say it for me!

When I entered second grade my mom signed me up for violin lessons. I loved playing, but then in third grade, the recital came along. Even though I was hidden in the orchestra, I was terrified. But what really upset me was after it was over. My dad proudly told me I was the only one in the orchestra that was swaying to the music as I played. I guess he thought I would feel special —but I was completely horrified and mortally embarrassed that I had stood out. I quit the orchestra and stopped taking lessons. My poor parents never knew why; if only I had had a book that could have given me a way to talk to them about it! The silver lining to this story is that my mother started playing the viola for herself, (she had played cello as a child.) When I quit, I think she realized she had wanted it for herself the whole time!

 

Molly, Linda & Linda Whitehead playing music circa 1969
Playing violin with my twin sister (on French horn) and our friend, Linda Whitehead.

 

The stage fright did not go away as I got older. In middle school, I was failing French class because when I would get up in front of the class to do the required skits, my mind would go blank and I couldn’t speak. The fails were bringing down my grade-point average, so my art teacher convinced the school and my parents to let me and my sister bypass taking a language. (It was clear by then that we would be going to art school, and art schools didn’t require foreign language credits, at the time.)

When I was a teenager, I started playing drums. I would joke that even though it was loud, the drum kit was my armor (plus I was always in the back!).  Still, stage fright was no fun and no laughing matter. I used to get so nervous before shows that I would be physically sick. But I loved the music and the camaraderie. Once I started playing, the intense physical nature of drumming would channel the nervous adrenaline out of my system, so I was able to keep performing into my adulthood.

 

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Playing drums in my art-punk band Sally Dick & Jane, in the 80s. Photo by JPRKenny.

 

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Here I am (top), a singer/drummer in my eclectic-folk rock band GARDEN VARIETY, circa 1997 (left) and a backup singer & percussionist in the art-rock band PHIDEAUX, circa 2011. Photo by Esa Ahola.

 

Many people have stage fright, and there are many tips and tricks out there that are supposed to help. What helped me was when I realized that I could rely on my body and my discipline to pull me through, in spite of my mind, which was busy spinning out! This awareness gave me a great sense of comfort. It helped the stage fight dissipate, especially once I was on stage. All I had to do was remember to get out of my own way—let my hands and my body take over, focus on feeling love for the music—and something wild would happen!

I also came to realize the truth that any time we have practiced, prepared ourselves, and then truly faced our fears, the resulting feeling of joy and magic, and the promise of coming out the other end more empowered, comes into view. This is the place I aspire to, and the place I wanted my main character, Hannah, to land.

As an adult, I still have stage fright but writing and illustrating Something Wild has helped me process it, and when I feel it coming on, it always helps me to remember my own book! As a kid, I would have also greatly benefitted from a book like this. My biggest desire is that Hannah’s story will provide a comforting and entertaining journey for other anxious kids (and adults) to embrace — and hopefully, something wild will happen for them, too!

 

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Interior art from Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

 

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Interior spread from Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

 

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Interior art from Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

 

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Interior spread from Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House ©2023.

 

Molly playing viola 2023 cropped
When it got time to create the final art for Something Wild, I began listening to a lot of violin music to get into the flow, (mostly Irish fiddle & country folk.) I became totally inspired to pick up where I left off in third grade and start playing again! I still had the viola my mother had played when I was a kid, so I started taking lessons! It’s harder than I remember, but I’m enjoying it! I’ve been learning now for about a month.

BUY THE BOOK:

To contact Molly, purchase books, and view her book trailers, go to https://linktr.ee/mollyruttan

 

Molly Ruttan headshot scaledBIO:

Molly Ruttan is an author/illustrator of children’s books. She grew up making art and music in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and earned a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art. Molly now lives in the diverse and historic neighborhood of Echo Park in Los Angeles, where her family has recently grown with the joyful addition of a granddaughter. She played violin as a child, and now plays drums, sings in a community choir, and has just started learning the viola. She loves exploring all kinds of fine art and illustration mediums, including making her own animated book trailers. Her life is full of art, music, family, friends, and all kinds of pets and urban animals.

Molly’s titles include her author/illustrator debut, The Stray, (Nancy Paulsen Books); I Am A Thief! by Abigail Rayner, (NorthSouth Books); and Violet and the Crumbs: A Gluten-Free Adventure by Abigail Rayner (NorthSouth Books). Something Wild is Molly’s second author/illustrated book and has received a starred Kirkus review. She has two additional books forthcoming. Molly is represented by Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency, www.prospectagency.com

Find Molly on Social Media:

Facebook:
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Twitter:
@kidlitcollectiv
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IG:

Other websites to visit:

https://hellomulberries.com/
https://picturebookgold.wixsite.com/website

 

Ruttan_SW-GiveAway-Package Ruttan SW GiveAway Package signed print stickers and toteEXCLUSIVE TWITTER ONLY GIVEAWAY

Enter our Twitter giveaway for a chance to win a special Prize Package from Molly Ruttan! This exclusive opp includes a 12×12 art print; a 4×6 sticker sheet; a “2” round sticker & a tote bag! Follow @molly_ruttan & @goodreadsronna on Twitter, comment about what you do to soothe your anxiety, & RT. We’d love to hear from you! The giveaway ends at 11:59pm on 3/9/23. One winner will be chosen at 6pm PST on 3/10/23. Eligible for US & Canada only.

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Picture Book Review – The Path

THE PATH

Written and illustrated by Bob Staake

(mineditionUS; $18.99, Ages 4-8)

The Path cover

 

This is the time of year when many people attend graduations. And not just high school and college graduations. They go to all kinds of graduations from kindergarten to massage school and lots more in between. But the road taken may have been long and winding with obstacles and indecisiveness. And what of the road ahead? That’s why it’s so lovely to have a book such as The Path by Bob Staake that celebrates the journey as much as the accomplishment. In other words, this book is ideal not just for the graduate, but for celebrating individuality as well.

 

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Interior spread from The Path written and illustrated by Bob Staake, mineditionUS/Astra Publishing ©2022.

 

Acclaimed New Yorker cover artist and author and/or illustrator of more than 50 books, Bob Staake brings readers both young and old a picture book that simply and gorgeously addresses the highs and lows of life’s pathways. They are not always straightforward.

 

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Interior spread from The Path written and illustrated by Bob Staake, mineditionUS/Astra Publishing ©2022.

 

Written in second person, the prose does not always promise that things will be easy and that’s the honesty that appeals to me. It’s also how Staake’s stunning illustrations and color palette convey this message. The path doesn’t always lead to ribbons and rainbows. But as things begin looking up for the traveler, the colors begin to lighten up, too.

 

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Interior spread from The Path written and illustrated by Bob Staake, mineditionUS/Astra Publishing ©2022.

 

This is a picture book about possibilities. It’s not just about the path we choose but about our outlook, and our perspective. I think reading The Path together with kids can help them not only look at what choices exist but it can also help them understand what taking each one will mean, and how to forge their own unique way in the world. What a super conversation starter for parents, caregivers, and teachers about self-reliance at an age when children are beginning to assert their independence.

Find an exclusive bonus print from Bob Staake inside the jacket.

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Picture Book Review – How to Change the World in 12 Easy Steps

HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD
IN 12 EASY STEPS

Written by Peggy Porter Tierney

Illustrated by Marie Letourneau

(Tanglewood Publishing; $15.99, Ages 4-8)

 

How to Change the World cover

 

Starred Review –Kirkus

 

Before reading How to Change the World in 12 Easy Steps, a new picture book written by Peggy Porter Tierney and illustrated by Marie Letourneau, I had not heard about Eva Mozes Kor, the inspiration for this story. I wish I’d had the opportunity to attend one of the talks that she did around the country before she passed away in 2019. If you know what she experienced as a Mengele twin in Auschwitz, yet still survived along with her twin, Miriam, you’ll want to read about and share the wisdom she imparted that has likely positively influenced thousands of school children over the decades.

What I like most about this book is its simplicity and straightforwardness. It’s always encouraging and is never didactic. Rather, it’s full of common-sense suggestions that can bring more meaning and fulfillment into a child’s life. I loved the first spread in which a little girl says she can’t find her phone (in her messy bedroom) and her friend offers to help her clean up. “Start small” is that first step, and it’s one I often use for myself and my kids. The difference in Letourneau’s before and after illustrations are as calming for a reader as being in the tidy room must feel for the two girls.

 

How to Change the World int page5
Interior art from How to Change the World in 12 Easy Steps written by Peggy Porter Tierney and illustrated by Marie Letourneau, Tanglewood Publishing ©2021.

 

Not all of the examples presented are about doing good deeds. One of them says “Just be the best you that you can be.” Letourneau’s charming art shows a boy in a still life painting class content with the smiling-faced banana he’s finished painting while his classmates are still busy at work creating their own masterpieces. Another powerful two pages are devoted to forgiveness and how doing so can rid oneself of anger allowing more space for happiness. While this might be the most difficult concept for a child to integrate, it’s definitely one of the most rewarding. It was certainly Eva Mozes Kor’s overarching philosophy and what kept her going despite all the hardship she endured.

How to Change the World int page9
Interior art from How to Change the World in 12 Easy Steps written by Peggy Porter Tierney and illustrated by Marie Letourneau, Tanglewood Publishing ©2021.

 

While a fast read, How to Change the World in 12 Easy Steps, is also an important and timely one. Parents, caregivers, and teachers can choose to read either quickly or slowly leaving room for numerous conversations. I can see elements of tikkun olam at play in Tierney’s prose. In Judaism, this is the aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially—improving the world essentially, something Eva Mozes Kor was deeply committed to. The caring messages Tierney conveys, coupled with Letourneau’s diverse and emotive characters would make this book a welcome addition to any bookshelf. What a wonderful book to share with and inspire children as we approach the new year.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

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Picture Book Review – Where’s My Cow?

WHERE’S MY COW?

Written by Susan Blackaby

Illustrated by Scott Brundage

(Sleeping Bear Press; $16.99; Ages 5-8)

 

 

Where's My Cow cover

 

Anxious Egret is afraid to fly beyond the pasture which means leaving his constant companion Cow. That is until Cow devises a way to stand out in a crowd so Egret will know where to fly and find her in Where’s My Cow? a heart-warming story by Susan Blackaby with illustrations by Scott Brundage.

A bucolic setting forms the calm backdrop for this charming picture book. The reader opens the book to sunrise with the herd of cows wandering the pasture, a flock of birds heading off to explore, and one egret in particular perfectly content perched on his friend cow’s head. Why not just remain when there is so much that can go wrong if one goes too far?

 

Where's My Cow int1
Interior spread from Where’s My Cow? written by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Scott Brundage, Sleeping Bear Press ©2021.

 

The worldly cow with so many stories to tell is the perfect pal for the apprehensive egret. Riding on the cow’s rump, Egret enjoys tales about all the places Cow has been. “She knew about ukuleles and picnics. She discussed kites and kayaks. She had once tasted a toasted marshmallow. The cow’s stories gave the egret ideas.”

Brundage draws uncertainty in the egret’s eyes as he announces one sunny morning that he might be ready to fly. Cow listens with the facial expressions a concerned mom might give to a child whom she knows suffers from a bit of separation anxiety. Cow encourages the bird to see the beach, reinforcing the idea that Cow will be waiting the whole time. The dialogue between the two is so relatable for any child wanting to venture beyond their comfort zone but worried to leave a parent behind.

The problem is realized when the egret flies above the pasture only to look down and see the large herd, uncertain which one is his friend. Egret is so nervous he Ker-thumps to the ground to the surprised cow. “’I didn’t go,” said the egret. “How would I ever find you again?’”

 

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Interior spread from Where’s My Cow? written by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Scott Brundage, Sleeping Bear Press ©2021.

 

Blackaby’s creativity is demonstrated with how best an anxious egret could locate his cow friend amongst the herd. The cow wags his ears but that is hard to see. “The cow thought about it. Next time I’ll switch my tail.” Great idea but all the “…tails switched and hitched every which way. Where’s my cow? WHERE’S MY COW?”

The illustrations of sea and sand take the reader along on the journey with Egret looking for ways to make the cow stand out. And with every bit of confidence he gains knowing he can now locate the cow, the egret creates his own adventures. The patient cow goes along with ribbons, seashells, and sticks tied to his body never complaining like any parent would do. “And at the end of the day, when the rosy sky is full of birds and the pasture is full of cows, the little egret wonders, Where’s my cow? And there she is.”

This book is recommended for any child wanting to explore the world but worried that their parent will not be there upon their return. This is a relatable story and a reassuring read to share before a young child goes off to their first birthday party, playdate, or any event that will separate them from those with whom they feel comfortable and safe.

  • Reviewed by Ronda Einbinder

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Kids Picture Book Review – A Girl’s Bill of Rights

A GIRL’S BILL OF RIGHTS

Written by Amy B. Mucha

Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

(Beaming Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

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When Amy B. Mucha wrote A Girl’s Bill of Rights, she was not planning to publish it. Mucha says, “I wrote it years ago, only for myself! Like so many women, I was raised to be a people pleaser and put others before myself. Writing this was a way to help me declare and own my rights to have my own opinions, feelings, and preferences. And it helped!” But after a while, she thought her book could also be an inspiration for many girls and women. And by taking a chance and submitting her pitch during a Twitter pitch event, she got a like from Beaming Books, and voilà – a beautiful and inspiring book was born.

“I have the right to look how I look and wear what I wear.” That’s how it begins.
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Interior art from A Girl’s Bill of Rights written by Amy B. Mucha and illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda, Beaming Books ©2021.
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Interior art from A Girl’s Bill of Rights written by Amy B. Mucha and illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda, Beaming Books ©2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And from there, more beautiful spreads with diverse girls talking about all the rights we, girls, have.

I love Sonda’s illustrations showing diverse girls – diverse races, body types, abilities, and disabilities. This makes the message even stronger that we all have the same rights to choose our path, have our own feelings, and say yes and no when we need to.

This book will be an empowering tool to show girls their rights and that they can be whatever they want to be. “Si, se puede.”

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Interior spread from A Girl’s Bill of Rights written by Amy B. Mucha and illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda, Beaming Books ©2021.

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And today, on International Women’s Day, when we celebrate so many achievements by so many girls, it’s important to keep on inspiring them to fight for their rights.

  • Guest Review by Ana Siqueira

Order the book here link

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Ana Siqueira
Children’s Book Writer and Educator

EL PATO QUIERE UVAS
Teacher’s Discovery 2019
BELLA’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS – 
Beaming Books- Summer 2021
IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA
Simon Kids- Summer 2022
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Read a review of another girl-power-themed picture book here.

 

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Kids Picture Book Review – Oona

OONA

Written by Kelly DiPucchio

Illustrated by Raissa Figueroa

(Katherine Tegen Books; $17.99; Ages 4-8)

 

 

Oona cover

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Starred review – School Library Journal

 

Written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, Oona introduces us to an adorable mermaid whose adventurous spirit is  “sweet … and a little bit salty, like the ocean where she live[s].” 

In fact, Oona was born to be a treasure hunter when she was “no bigger than a scallop.” Her curiosity for finding bigger and better valuables puts her in some precarious situations but with trusted pet Otto by her side, she safely discovers all kinds of gems. 

 

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Oona from Katherine Tegen Books Text copyright 2020 by Kelly DiPucchio Illustration copyright 2020 by Raissa Figueroa

 

One item, though, is particularly impossible to collect: an “extra sparkly” crown “stuck deep in [a] rift.” Oona’s resourcefulness and determination motivate her to try and try again, but natural forces in the sea-plus a terrifying, toothy surprise-hinder her efforts. 

 

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Oona from Katherine Tegen Books Text copyright 2020 by Kelly DiPucchio Illustration copyright 2020 by Raissa Figueroa

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A ship plank that bumps her head “(hard!)” is the last straw. Oona quits trying to get that crown and deserts her beloved sea; yet, she knows in her heart that’s where she belongs.

When treasure washes up on the seashore, Oona’s passion for tinkering is reignited. With her homemade invention, she braves the depths of the rift to try for the crown once more. But the real treasure she finds is experiencing what she’s capable of creating.

The beautiful and lush illustrations completely submerge us into Oona’s underwater world. Shapes are soft, edges rounded, and the jewel-toned color palette is gentle and calm, all echoing Oona’s quiet confidence. I particularly enjoy the way light emanates from the background of the illustrations giving hope and energy to Oona’s searches. 

Oona is a treasure trove of multiple layers to hook in a wide range of readers. Mermaid fans, marine life enthusiasts, explorers, and crafters will undoubtedly enjoy this message of persistence and self-belief.  

  •  Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

 

Click here to read another review by Armineh.

 

 

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Best Back-to-School Books 2019 Part Two

BEST BACK-TO-SCHOOL BOOKS 2019

∼ A ROUNDUP ∼

PART TWO

 

Back-to-school free clipart of backpack

 

The King of Kindergarten cvrTHE KING OF KINDERGARTEN
Written by Derrick Barnes
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $17.99, Ages 3-6)

Starred Reviews – Kirkus, Publishers Weekly

The King of Kindergarten written by Newberry honoree Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, transforms the average day at kindergarten into an extraordinary, royal adventure.

It’s fun to read Barnes’ regal language. As Mom says, “today” her little boy is going to be the “King” and, with this encouragement, he prepares to venture out confidently. Brushing his “Royal Chiclets,” he dresses himself and “wolf[s] down a tower of pancakes.” I love the emphasis here on growth, maturity, and independence. Being “deliver[ed] … to a grand fortress” (a.k.a. school), he joins the “round table” where he cheerfully exchanges greetings with his classmates. The royal theme continues during circle time, recess, lunchtime, and beyond, each opportunity allowing him to exercise his noble code of honor by braving playground politics, sharing his royal bounty (in the form of an extra cup of chocolate pudding), and showing kindness to his friends. Vibrant colors invite us readers to participate in the little boy’s “Kindergarten Kingdom;” flowing shapes excite us with anticipation of what’s next on his adventure.

A great way to introduce the school day to budding kindergartners, The King of Kindergarten shows us how a little change of perspective can rewrite a potentially scary event into a magical tale.

See Derrick Barnes on August 31 at Little Shop of Stories, LLC in Decatur, GA

 

Truman book coverTRUMAN
Written by Jean Reidy
Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Starred Reviews – Kirkus, School Library Journal

Written by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, Truman is a heartwarming story of the loving relationship between a pet and his owner. But it can also be read as a tale about the challenges a younger sibling faces as his older sister starts school.

There is no doubt readers of all ages will fall in love with Truman. How could you not? He’s “the size of a donuta small donutand every bit as sweet.” In simple yet powerful ways, Reidy and Cummins express the affection Truman and Sarah share. Sarah isn’t merely Truman’s owner; she’s “his Sarah” (my emphasis)  who shares the same “peaceful and pensive” personality as her adorable tortoise. Humble shapes and bursts of yellow throughout paint a happy home with decor that brings back memories of my own childhood, notably, the Felix the Cat look-a-like clock on the wall.

This particular day, though, is “truly unsettling” because Sarah is acting different. She eats a “big banana” at breakfast, “clip[s] on a blue bow in her hair,” “strap[s] on a backpack SOOOOOO big thirty-two tortoises [can] ride along in it,” and leaves extra food for Truman. Most shockingly, she boards the number 11 bus, that mysterious bus he can see from his window riding in the “honking,” “growling” city below. Truman spends the day in worrisome wonder as to where Sarah could possibly be and why it’s taking her so long to return.

Through Reidy’s funny tone and Cummins’ artistic perspective, Truman’s journey out of the safety of his tank, and his determination to find his beloved owner is as endearing as it is humorous. Of all the challenges Truman faces, my favorite is his crossing of the living room rug“That glorious … ENDLESS rug” made all the more imposing by the mean looking toys along his path we see through Truman’s eyes. When he hears the number 11 bus, he’s ready to cross the threshold, but Sarah is back in time to reunite with her pet and congratulate him on his bravery.

Truman encourages all of us facing a seemingly insurmountable challenge with the message cleverly written on city bus #11:  See New Sights! Hear New Sounds! Think New Thoughts!

Pirates-Dont-Go-To-Kindergarten-cvrPIRATES DON’T GO TO KINDERGARTEN!
Written by Lisa Robinson
Illustrated by Eda Kaban
(Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Can an honorable pirate be loyal to more than one captain? This is the question posed in Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten! written by Lisa Robinson and illustrated by Eda Kaban.

Equipped with the pirate basics (treasure map, spyglass, and cutlass), Emma storms into school, this first day of kindergarten, determined to set sail once again in last year’s ship commanded by “the roughest, toughest, awesomest preschool pirate cap’n ever”Cap’n Chu. Yet, it’s a new year and, as Ms. Chu gently reminds Emma, Cap’n Chu has “‘a new band of pirates” to lead. Despite attempts by Cap’ns Chu and Hayes (Emma’s new teacher) to interest Emma in her outer-space-themed kindergarten classroom, Emma sails back to Cap’n Chu’s ship, fiercely allegiant to her pirate roots.

When Ms. Hayes’ class pet needs feeding, Emma shows interest and discovers all the fun activities in the kindergarten class:  a nature center, an art studio, a reading nook, and science station. What’s the one thing missing? “NO CAP’N CHU!” Back in Ms. Chu’s classroom, everything blows out into a full mutiny. This is where the book provides a great opportunity for caregivers to talk about just how confusing and conflicting emotions can be. At the heart of Emma’s protest is feelings of fear and loss at having to accept this major childhood transition and perhaps, even, feelings of guilt as devotion to one person may feel like betraying another. With heartwarming affirmation from Ms. Chu, Emma is ready to “‘open the shuttle hatch’” of her new classroom, bringing her own pirate spin to the kindergarten space station.

A great picture book for talking about transitions, Pirates Don’t Go To Kindergarten! will draw in seafarers and landlubbers alike.

  • Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

Read more back-to-school book reviews here.

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