Book Reviews

My reviews are published in School Library Connection and on Net Galley.  Although there may be some overlaps between here and those platforms, I am solely responsible for the content on this page.   

A few years ago, after a Vietnamese friend read The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, she talked about this emotionally engaging graphic novel provided openings for conversation about her family's emigration with her teenage children. She saw her family reflected in this graphic novel and talked about how her parents don't talk about this painful time....

This is a perfect summer book! Energetic young readers will connect to Lala, the vibrant, energetic and loving young protagonist whose mother wishes she would slow down and stay clean. The black and white pen and wash illustrations begin as a study in gray except for Lala's sunshine yellow dress. Lala's special place is a vacant lot filled with...

The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a fun and easy story for young children to learn with a repetitive structure and dialogue. The ending is satisfying without being gory with the bullying troll dumped in the river. The Little Blue Bridge by Brenda Maier gives the story a contemporary spin and adds a flavor of Little Red Hen's...

As a young reader I loved fantasy. Edward Eager led to E. Nesbit, L.Frank Baum, C.S. Lewis, then Lloyd Alexander, Madeline L'Engle and J.R.R. Tolkien with a stop along the way to read the Merlin books by Mary Stewart starting with The Crystal Cave. Now, looking back I realize that this rich reading journey was all white, mostly male, and...

She Persisted: Harriet Tubman

By Andrea Davis Pinkney

She Persisted: Harriet Tubman (She Persisted series inspired by Chelsea Clinton's She Persisted) by Andrea Davis Pinkney strives for a fine balance between accurate information, accessibility and interest. Pinkney's explanation of what slavery is clear but dignified and her narrative is exciting while staying close to the facts. When discussing slavery, it is made clear that slavery involved people that were enslaved and they are called people, not slaves. There is no fictionalized dialogue in this biography which makes it drier but more truthful. The emotional quality of the narrative comes from the descriptive adjectives and the excitement from the actual story. As a chapter book aimed at an early elementary school age audience, this title will be most successful for very proficient readers or as a read aloud. With six short chapters it would work as a read aloud! "How You Can Persist" includes six activities for young people can honor Harriet Tubman's memory. Also included is a bibliography including both print and online sources that are appropriate for young people.

Around the World in 18 Ways 

By Vanita Oelschlager and Kristin Blackwood 

Around the World in 18 Ways cover image
Around the World in 18 Ways cover image

Colorful illustrations show smiling multicultural children in a one double page spread for each country. For each of 18 countries visited on this around the world cruise we are taught four words: Hello, Please, Thank you, Goodbye. A "travel journal" included in the backmatter gives some simple information about each of the countries. Young children will enjoy pretending to visit and speak to people around the world but older school age children will want to learn more than is offered in brief introduction to the world. Consider pairing this book with a children's atlas such as the National Geographic Kids May First Atlas of the World or possibly the Barefoot World Atlas App.  

Trouble with a Tiny T

By Meriam Sarcia Saunders

Westin Hopper, a twelve-year-old boy in a suburban middle school whose ADHD makes it hard to make or keep friends discovers a magic bag in his grandparent's basement and accidently imagines a tiny t-rex into his home. If it had been hard to stay focused before, now it is basically impossible as all he can think about is the tiny dinosaur is destroying his room. Westin gets help and makes a friend with a girl he meets at the Friendship Club run by the school's counselor and begins to understand that the boys he is trying to hang out with aren't acting like friends. Westin finally stands up to his dad at the end of the book, explaining his feelings and asking his dad not to be mad at him. Although the magical mayhem is exciting, young readers will understand that this is a book about the importance of friendship, imagination, and seeing past disabilities to the value of everyone.   

Free for You and Me:  What our first amendment means

By  Christy Mihaly; Illustrated by Manu Montoya

A timely book about the five main rights in the first amendment to the United States Constitution.  A charming and diverse group of young people are drawn explaining these rights.  Their discussions are intercut with a poem for each of the five rights and a little bit of explanation.  The book is short enough to work as a read aloud but dense enough for upper elementary students to have details to discuss.  

An educator's guide is provided by Curious City