Perfect Picture Book Friday
In The Star Festival (Albert Whitman & Company, 2021) by Moni Ritchie Hadley and illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa, I loved learning about this Japanese festival of Tanabata Matsuri through the eyes of little Keiko. The parallels between the folktale of Orihime and Hikoboshi (lovers separated by the Emperor of Heaven) and Keiko and Obaasan (her grandmother) are fun. The twist on who gets lost was great. I like how the traditions of the festival are shown through the actions of the story. I love the bright illustrations, too.
This is the author’s debut picture book. The book is being launched virtually at Once Upon a Time bookstore on April 3rd. Read about Moni here. You can see some pictures that inspired the book on this page.
You can see the illustrator’s other books here and look at more samples of Mizuho’s artwork here.
Labeled women’s fiction but with a fourteen-year-old character, I believe The Girl with the Louding Voice (Dutton, 2020) by Abi Daré will be a good read for teens, too. It’s such a moving story of hardship and perseverance. And a reminder of the importance of education that we so often take for granted.
In a small village in Nigeria, Adunni just wants to go to school like Papa promised her mother when she was dying. But her father needs money and sells her to an old man who already has two wives. Not only does she have to deal with being forced to have sex (not described graphically), but also with the resentment of one of the other wives. When Adunni is put in an even more terrible situation, she runs away. Only to be sold again–this time as a housemaid in an abusive rich lady’s home in far away Lagos. But Adunni is willing to risk working and speaking up for a chance at a better life no matter how hard things are.
I love the voice of the character–it’s clear from her words that English is a second language–but more than that Adunni’s determination and sense of right and wrong comes through. She is a so admirable. It’s satisfying to see her learning, too.
This great book became a New York Times Bestseller. I wish everyone would read it.
Amazingly, this is Abi Daré’s debut novel. You can read about her here.
Perfect Picture Book Friday
Coming in April is an interesting picture book about diversity: The Capybaras (Greystone Kids, 2021) by Alfredo Soderguit.
When the capybaras show up the chickens are not happy about these wild creatures. Rules are shared to keep the capybaras away. But when danger comes, the chickens change their minds. And the ending has a surprising twist, too.
I love how the chickens learn that different isn’t bad. I keep smiling at the end–you’ll have to read it to find out why.
The Spanish edition, Los Carpinchos, is a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids 2020.
Read about the author/illustrator here.
almost American Girl (Balzer + Bray, 2020) by Robin Ha is a fascinating graphic memoir of one girl’s life. I learned a lot about Korean culture and had such empathy for Chuna.
Chuna and her mother often travel. This time they’re going to Alabama which Chuna hasn’t even heard of. But it isn’t just a visit as Chuna thinks–they’re going to stay. Trying to fit in with a new family, new school, and new country when she barely speaks English is very tough. One consolation is getting to pick a new name, Robin. After many tears, a comics drawing class makes a huge difference in her life.
Don’t miss the acknowledgements at the end. They are well worth reading, too. I wish this book was required reading for everyone.
Robin Ha is a cartoonist–read more about her here. See her work here.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
Mañanaland (Scholastic Press, 2020) by award-winning author Pam Muñoz Ryan is a wonderful tale of growing up and discovery.
Eleven-year-old Max likes to make up stories and wonder about big things, like what lay beyond the horizon, why his mother left, and if he’d ever meet her. But Papá does not like questions. He does give Max a compass that belonged to Renata. Max hopes he can find his mother and give the compass back to her. When Papá is out of town and someone comes looking for a guardian to help a traveler along the way, Max decides to be the escort to the next guardian who might have traveled with his mother. Maybe he’ll make it all the way to Mañanaland.
Here’s an interview with the author about what inspired the story. Read about the author here. Go here to check out her many many books.