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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Josephine's 'Magination

Josephine's 'Magination by Arnold Dobrin (Scholastic, 1973).

This is sweet story about a little girl in Haiti who goes to market with her mother to sell brooms. Although she plays with flower dolls made from hibiscus, she's always wanted a real doll. When she's at market, she meets a man selling little straw animals. She asks who taught him how to make them, and he says no one taught him, he used his "'magination." Josephine wonders if she has 'magination that she could use to make something. She and her mother leave the market only having sold a couple brooms. That night, the idea comes to Josephine to make dolls out of the brooms. Her mother praises her for her smart idea, and together they make many dolls which sell quickly at market. 

I loved the soft and textured illustrations. I tried to find out more information about Dobrin, but despite having published a good number of books in the 60's and 70's, I couldn't find much more about him, besides on this page of Nebraska authors.  It appears he's still living, so I wonder why he stopped creating children's books so long ago.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna

Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Scholastic, 1987). 

This is a charming, sing-songy rhyming book that is fun to read aloud. The author also wrote the Jesse Bear books, which I loved as a kid. The always wonderful illustrations by Pinkney capture a young girl playing outside. Although the 80's fashion is now outdated, it hearkens back to a classic, innocent look of childhood. This is a great, playful read.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Cherry Tree

The Cherry Tree by Daisaku Ikeda (English translation by Geraldine McCaughrean), illustrated by Brian Wildsmith (Knopf, 1991). 

Today was the annual cherry blossom festival in my city. Although only a couple of trees were in bloom due to the late start to spring this year, it was a beautiful sunny day. As such, I thought this would be a good time to share this book.

The Cherry Tree is a story of a Japanese village that has been through war. The father of the two young protagonists was killed and their mother's heart is broken. When the children see an old man taking care of an old cherry tree that hasn't bloomed since before the war, they at first wonder if he's wasting his time and energy. But they decide to help him and soon they are filled with hope that the tree will bloom again. It's a powerful story about resilience through great struggle. As always, Brian Wildsmith's illustrations are rich and layered with amazing pops of color. 

Photo from today's festival:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (Candlewick Press, 2018).

This sweet book is about a little girl with a big name: Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. She tells her dad how she doesn't like her long name because it never fits when she's writing it. Her father proceeds to explain why she has the name she does. Each name is from a relative on her family tree, and he tells her a little about each person, so that they come alive to her. She notices the similarities between her relatives and herself. When they get to her first name, Alma, her father says he picked the name just for her. "You are the first and the only Alma. You will make your own story."

I've always been interested in family history, as well as origins behind names, so I really enjoyed this. Both the story and the illustrations are so lovely. Juana Martinez-Neal has illustrated a couple other books, but this is her debut as an author. I'm sure we'll see much more from her as she's obviously very talented in both areas! 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Birds' Gift: A Ukrainian Easter Story

The Birds' Gift: A Ukrainian Easter Story by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Katya Krenina (Holiday House, 1999).

This is a beautifully illustrated book that tells a story about pysanky, or Ukrainian decorated Easter eggs.  When hundreds of small golden birds get stuck in the snow, a young girl inspires her village to help save them.  As spring draws close, the birds fly away. But they return later to gift the villagers with their beautiful eggs.

Visit this link to learn how to make your own pysanky.

You can find more books about Easter on my Pinterest board here

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

When I'm Sleepy

When I'm Sleepy by Jane R. Howard, illustrated by Lynne Cherry (Dutton, 1985). 

This is a delightful book about a little girl who imagines herself sleeping like different animals, only to decide that her own bed is the best. The illustrations are so warm and cozy, you'll wish you could snuggle up with a bear or some big penguins as well! I discovered this book in a local used bookstore, and I'm glad I did, because it's such a fun, imaginative book. I definitely recommend it.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Like Vanessa

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (Charlesbridge, 2018). 

I'm very happy to share this new middle grade book that comes out on March 13! I've only had a chance to read the beginning, as I recently got back from a vacation, but I'm really enjoying it so far. It's an important book about how our society views beauty.

Book Description from Amazon: 
In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.

Early Buzz
2017 SCBWI Book Launch Award
2018 "Indies Introduce" Selection
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A Kirkus starred review
A Foreward starred review

Endorsed by New York Times Bestselling author, Rita Williams-Garcia 
and Vanessa Williams, Multi-Platinum Recording Artist & TV/Film Actress

Below is a video where the author discusses her inspiration for the book.

You can read more about the book on the author's website and pre-order it from the publisher here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.