Children’s Non-Fiction: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert & Lauren Castillo

Review: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert, illus. Lauren Castillo
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

A lyrical biography of E. B. White, beloved author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, written by Barbara Herkert and illustrated by Caldecott honoree Lauren Castillo.

When young Elwyn White lay in bed as a sickly child, a bold house mouse befriended him. When the time came for kindergarten, an anxious Elwyn longed for the farm, where animal friends awaited him at the end of each day. Propelled by his fascination with the outside world, he began to jot down his reflections in a journal. Writing filled him with joy, and words became his world.

Today, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web are beloved classics of children’s literature, and E. B. White is recognized as one of the finest American writers of all time.

How many of us growing up read and formed an intense, lifelong connection with the work of E.B. White? Whether we’re talking about Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan, or Charlotte’s Web (one of my all-time favourite books), E.B. White is arguably one of the most loved and recognized children’s writers in North America- in addition to having numerous other novels and works to his name. When I heard and read that author Barbara Herkert and Caldecott honoree Lauren Castillo were collaborating on a children’s biographical title about E.B. White, I was very excited and curious to see the end result!

The end result is a wonderful, heartfelt pictorial biography that gives younger readers (and frankly, readers of all ages!) an incisive look into the life of E.B. White and into the motivations behind his children’s classics. Readers of all ages will be taken in with Castillo’s glowing, magical, warm and perfect-for-the-story illustrations (her illustrative style is just so fitting here!), and Herkert impressively takes on the daunting task on pairing down White’s storied and celebrated accomplishments into gently poetic, readable text. From White’s childhood- where he met and befriended a bold mouse!- to his college-era adventures in writing, his vivid dreams, to his adult years on his family farm in Maine, readers are offered insight into what personally inspired White’s well-known writings and themes and his most cherished, beloved characters- unforgettable characters like Wilbur, Charlotte, Fern, Stuart Little.  A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White is as appealing as it is informative and one I definitely recommend; be sure to take a read of the Author’s Note in the back as well as the Bibliography if you are so inclined for further reading on White’s life.

Overall, a beautifully told and beautifully illustrated children’s biographical title. From Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad’s Swan to Renée Watson and Christian Robinson’s Harlem’s Little Blackbird and a parade of others, children’s biographies are an absolute treasure trove. A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider is another excellent children’s non-fiction title that can be added to that list; readers who have enjoyed the titles mentioned above, as well as offerings such as Finding Winnie, Enormous Smallness, or The Iridescence of Birds might especially adore this title.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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Must Read Monday (77): Children’s Non-Fiction & Biographical Picture Books from Jason Chin, Jeanette Winter & more!

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

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This week: all about non-fiction children’s titles and biographical picture books! Incredible looking and sounding and wonderfully reviewed and buzzed about titles here. While I did make my way through a number of non-fiction/biographical children’s titles, I still feel terribly behind in my reading in those areas. Taking a look through other blogger, librarian and author best of 2017 lists, and looking ahead to early 2018, I can see there is SO MUCH that I need and want catch up on and get to! Let’s get into the titles right away, in publication date order:

 

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Publication: February 21, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Rivers wind through earth, cutting down and eroding the soil for millions of years, creating a cavity in the ground 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep known as the Grand Canyon.

Home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived and evolved within its walls for millennia, the Grand Canyon is much more than just a hole in the ground. Follow a father and daughter as they make their way through the cavernous wonder, discovering life both present and past.

Weave in and out of time as perfectly placed die cuts show you that a fossil today was a creature much long ago, perhaps in a completely different environment. Complete with a spectacular double gatefold, an intricate map and extensive back matter.

 

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illus. Nancy Carpenter
Publication: April 4, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children’s books—John Newbery himself. While most children’s books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and games. He believed that every book should be made for the reader’s enjoyment. Newbery—for whom the prestigious Newbery Medal is named—became a celebrated author and publisher, changing the world of children’s books forever. This book about his life and legacy is as full of energy and delight as any young reader could wish.

 

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illus. Dow Phumiruk
Publication: May 2, 2017 by Christy Ottaviano Books
Book Description:

As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is the story of an inspiring American artist: the visionary artist-architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

 

What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures (The World of Weird Animals) by Jess Keating, illus. David DeGrand
Publication: August 8, 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Some people think monsters are the stuff of nightmares–the stuff of scary movies and Halloween. But monsters can also be found right in your backyard. Animals like aye-ayes, goblin sharks and vampire bats may look scary, but they pose no threat to humans. Others, such as the prairie dog, seem innocent–cute, even–yet their behavior could give you goose bumps.

What makes a monster? Read this book to find out, if you dare. . . .Jess Keating and David DeGrand, the author illustrator team behind Pink Is for Blobfish will have readers shrieking with laughter at this latest installment to the World of Weird Animals series.

 

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter
Publication: August 22, 2017 by Beach Lane Books
Book Description:

Get to know Zaha Hadid in this nonfiction picture book about the famed architect’s life and her triumph over adversity from celebrated author-illustrator Jeanette Winter.

Zaha Hadid grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, and dreamed of designing her own cities. After studying architecture in London, she opened her own studio and started designing buildings. But as a Muslim woman, Hadid faced many obstacles. Determined to succeed, she worked hard for many years, and achieved her goals—and now you can see the buildings Hadid has designed all over the world.

 

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. Eric Velásquez
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked. Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro-Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.

 

How to Be an Elephant by Katherine Roy
Publication: September 19, 2017 by David Macaulay Studio
Book Description:

The savanna is not an easy place to live, even for African elephants, the largest land animals on earth. If it’s a challenge for these 7,000-pound giants, what’s it like for their newborn babies?

An infant elephant has precious little time to learn the incredible array of skills that are necessary to keep up, from projecting her voice across a 10-octave range to using the 100,000 muscles in her trunk to stay hydrated. But this giant-to-be has the perfect classroom–a family herd made up of her mother, sisters, cousins, and aunts. With their help and protection, she’ll learn how to survive, how to thrive, and how to be an elephant.

Award-winning author-illustrator Katherine Roy’s How to Be an Elephant delves into the intricate family dynamics at play in a typical African herd. Drawing upon the latest scientific research and Roy’s own expedition to Kenya, and brimming with lush watercolor illustrations and detailed diagrams, this book vividly portrays the life and development of an elephant from an uncertain newborn into a majestic adult. As informative as it is beautiful, Roy’s unique portrait of an elephant’s life will captivate young explorers and animal lovers alike.

 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illus. Gordon C. James
Publication: October 10, 2017 by Agate Bolden
Book Description:

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut makes boys fly.

This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair–a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.

 

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illus. Bryan Collier
Publication: November 14, 2017 by Little, Brown
Book Description:

Six-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Bryan Collier brings this classic, inspirational poem to life, written by poet Useni Eugene Perkins.

Hey black child,
Do you know who you are?
Who really are?
Do you know you can be
What you want to be
If you try to be
What you can be?

This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals.

 

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson, illus. Qin Leng
Expected publication: January 23, 2018 by Balzer + Bray
Book Description:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of our greatest writers. But before that, she was just an ordinary girl.In fact, young Jane was a bit quiet and shy; if you had met her back then, you might not have noticed her at all. But she would have noticed you. Jane watched and listened to all the things people around her did and said and locked those observations away for safekeeping.

Jane also loved to read. She devoured everything in her father’s massive library, and before long she began creating her own stories. In her time, the most popular books were grand adventures and romances, but Jane wanted to go her own way . . . and went on to invent an entirely new kind of novel.

Deborah Hopkinson and Qin Leng have collaborated on a gorgeous tribute to an independent thinker who turned ordinary life into extraordinary stories and created a body of work that has delighted and inspired readers for generations.

 

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear, illus. Julie Morstad
Expected publication: February 6, 2018 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

By the 1930s Elsa Schiaparelli had captivated the fashion world in Paris, but before that, she was a little girl in Rome who didn’t feel pretty at all. Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli is the enchanting story for young readers of how a young girl used her imagination and emerged from plain to extraordinary.

As a young girl in Rome, Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) felt “brutta” (ugly) and searched all around her for beauty. Seeing the colors of Rome’s flower market one day, young Elsa tried to plant seeds in her ears and nose, hoping to blossom like a flower. All she got was sick, but from that moment, she discovered her own wild imagination.

In the 1920 and ’30s, influenced by her friends in the surrealist art movement, Schiaparelli created a vast collection of unique fashion designs—hats shaped like shoes, a dress adorned with lobsters, gloves with fingernails, a dress with drawers and so many more. She mixed her own bold colors and invented her own signature shades, including shocking pink.

 

Best of 2017, Part 2: Picture Books & more!

Welcome to Part 2 of my Best of 2017 posts, which is all about picture books (including early fiction, readers and non-fiction picture books)! This reading year was picture book intensive– as you can tell from the sheer volume of awesome titles! There are so many incredible, unique, innovative and beautiful titles I had the absolute pleasure of reading and discovering this year. I have divided the list into three parts: the VIPs (i.e. titles of exceptional merit, in my opinion), other standout/best titles, and then non-fiction. If you’re interested in checking out more of my best of picks, you can take a look here at Part 1 of my Best of 2017 picks– including everything from Children’s lit, YA to Humour!

 

Picture Book & Board Book VIPs:
Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illus. Sydney Smith
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli illus. by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell
A Day with Yayeh by Nicola I. Campbell, illus. Julie Flett
When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illus. Julie Flett
King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illus. Laura Carlin
After the Fall by Dan Santat
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman, illus. Liz Climo
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, illus. Esme Shapiro
Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead
Tony by Ed Galing, illus. Erin E. Stead
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illus. Matt James
A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illus. Chris Appelhans
Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi (board book)

 

Rest of the Best Picture Books, Board Books & Readers:
The Fog by Kyo Maclear, illus. Kenard Pak
Counting with Tiny Cat by Viviane Schwarz
Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. Richard Jones
La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo, illus. Jaime Kin
Lines by Suzy Lee
Ida, Always by Caron Levis, illus. Charles Santoso
Bob, Not Bob!: *to be read as though you have the worst cold ever by Liz Garton Scanlon, Audrey Vernick, illus. Matthew Cordell
The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illus. Ana Aranda
Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima
Wild One by Jane Whittingham, illus. Noel Tauzon
His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. David Roberts
This House, Once by Deborah Freedman
Boat of Dreams by Rogério Coelho
The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illus. Sarah Jacoby
Nothing Rhymes With Orange by Adam Rex
Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup
That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares
South by Daniel Duncan
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis by Paul Meisel
Marigold Bakes a Cake by Mike Malbrough
Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List by Kate Klise, illus. M. Sarah Klise
The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illus. Matthew Forsythe
Treat by Mary Sullivan
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illus. Zachariah OHora
Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illus. K.G. Campbell
Love Is by Diane Adams, illus. Claire Keane
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen
The Lines on Nana’s Face by Simona Ciraolo
Gary by Leila Rudge
Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin
Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske
Lily Wool by Paula Vásquez
123 Dream by Kim Krans
Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros, illus. Brianne Farley
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, illus. G. Brian Karas
Shapes, Reshape!: A Minibombo Book by Silvia Borando
1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina
Hotel Bruce (Bruce #2) by Ryan T. Higgins
A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, illus. Eugene Yelchin
Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas, illus. Sydney Smith
Over and Under the Pond (Over and Under) by Kate Messner, illus. Christopher Silas Neal
We Are Growing! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #2) by Laurie Keller, Mo Willems (Reader)
Before & After by Jean Jullien (board book)
Flora and the Ostrich: An Opposites Book by Molly Idle (board book)
Arctic Animals by Tad Carpenter (board book)

 

Non-Fiction:
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Upsby Chris Harris, illus. Lane Smith
The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill
Whose Poop Is That? by Darrin P. Lunde illus. Kelsey Oseid
This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson, illus. Christian Robinson
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illus. Marta Álvarez Miguéns

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2017. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

Best of 2017, Part 1: Children’s Lit, Young Adult, Adult Fiction & more!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful, safe and lovely holiday season, whatever your celebrations may be!

I am rather late in posting this, but I wanted to get in my 2017 reading highlights before the end of the year. In no particular order, here are my book selections for part one, hope you enjoy!

 

Children’s Fiction/Middle Grade:
The Goat by Anne Fleming
Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Greetings From Witness Protection by Jake Burt
Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
Greenglass House (Greenglass House #1) by Kate Milford
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall
Shadow of a Pug (Howard Wallace, P.I #2) by Casey Lyall
Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds
The Cat Stole My Pants (Timmy Failure #6) by Stephan Pastis
Royal Crush (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #3) by Meg Cabot
Roll by Darcy Miller
The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson
Jolly Foul Play (Murder Most Unladylike #4) by Robin Stevens
Mary Anning’s Curiosity by Monica Kulling
The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter
Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere (Olga #1) by Elise Gravel
Catstronauts series by Drew Brockington (graphic novel)
Wallace the Brave by Will Henry (graphic novel)
Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten (graphic novel)
Bird and Squirrel on Fire (Bird & Squirrel #4) by James Burks
Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illus. LeUyen Pham, color by Jane Poole (graphic novel)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm (Heavenly Nostrils, #6) by Dana Simpson (graphic novel)
Grandfather and the Moon by Stéphanie Lapointe, illus. Rogé, translated by Shelley Tanaka

 

Young Adult:
The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith
The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman
Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Short for Chameleon by Vicki Grant
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan
Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail (YA/MG crossover)
The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler (YA non-fiction)

 

Adult Fiction & Mysteries:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Nine Lessons (Josephine Tey Mystery #9) by Nicola Upson
Hunting Hour (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #3) by Margaret Mizushima
Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
On Turpentine Lane by Eleanor Lipman
Forgotten City (A Claire Codella Mystery #2) by Carrie Smith
The Boy is Back (Boy #4) by Meg Cabot

 

Adult Non-Fiction, Humour and Other:

Big Mushy Happy Lump (Sarah’s Scribbles #2) by Sarah Anderson
It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot
I Hate Everyone Except You by Clinton Kelly
Texts From Dog II: The Dog Delusion by October Jones
Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting by Brian Gordon
Onward and Downward: The Twenty-Second Sherman’s Lagoon Collection by Jim Toomey

 

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2017. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

Recently Read: Great Picture Books & Non-Fiction Titles!

It’s been a tad quiet on the Fab Book Reviews front lately…I had lofty goals for posting in June, somehow (why?!?) not counting on the fact that Summer Reading Club, school visits, and recent life craziness, etc., would really impact my reading and posting schedule! Ah well!

Here are some wonderful picture books and non-fiction children’s titles I’ve recently read and/or shared at storytimes. Some titles have been promoted during Summer Reading Club, though I may do another separate post just for those titles! I’ve starred the ones which I have used and were a big hit at one of my storytimes. I haven’t yet used Corinna Luyken’s The Book of Mistakes or Adam Lehrhaupt and Felicita Sala’s I Don’t Draw, I Color! at storytimes, but I highly, highly recommend taking a close look at both of these titles. Totally unique- an experience in storytelling and incredible visuals– just amazing work!

 

Shark Dog! by Ged Adamson*
Morris Mole by Dan Yaccarino*
You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman, illus. Liz Climo*
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis by Paul Meisel*
Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas*
Whose Poop Is That? by Darrin P. Lunde, illus. Kelsey Oseid*
Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals (World of Weird Animals) by Jess Keating, illus. David DeGrand*
South by Daniel Duncan
Colette’s Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault
I Don’t Draw, I Color! by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Felicita Sala
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

Picture Book Review: This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

Review: This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: April 4, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Follow the real lives of seven kids from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia for a single day! In Japan Kei plays Freeze Tag, while in Uganda Daphine likes to jump rope. But while the way they play may differ, the shared rhythm of their days—and this one world we all share—unites them. This genuine exchange provides a window into traditions that may be different from our own as well as a mirror reflecting our common experiences. Inspired by his own travels, Matt Lamothe transports readers across the globe and back with this luminous and thoughtful picture book.

 

An utterly engaging entry into the informational picture books genre, Matt Lamothe’s This Is How We Do It is a wonderful and illuminating look inside the daily routines of seven children (and their respective families) from countries around the world. From Uganda to Italy, Peru to Russia, This Is How We Do It is educational and all-around fascinating. Lamothe leads readers through his illustrative representations of components of daily life such as “This is who I live with” to “This is how I go to school” and “This is how I spell my name” and beyond. For every one of these components (and there are many!), Lamothe draws each of the seven featured children and their respective experiences. How the author has encapsulated the representation of each child’s experience is quite marvelous. Readers might find themselves in moments of major surprise as they learn about how vast, or, in fact, how minor our different practices and habits actually are!

Picture books speaking to dissimilarities/commonalities of children around the world are not necessarily a new concept but Lamothe’s entry here is one I would absolutely recommend due its reflective, open nature and attention to detail. It is worth noting here as well that Lamothe acknowledges that these seven children cannot of course be “representative of their country or culture” (or of how family structures have changed)- but the author hopes that there can be learning, insight and surprise to be gained from reading his book. I receive increasing numbers of questions on the children’s reference desk on broader subjects such as empathy, compassion, cultural sensitivity and awareness: This Is How We Do It is one terrific, current, and insightful children’s book to have on hand to recommend. A special bonus: readers get to see some pictures of the children and families featured in the book in a ‘Meet the Families’ spread in the back pages of the book.

I received copies of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest reviews All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: The Dead Inside: A True Story by Cyndy Etler

Review: The Dead Inside: A True Story by Cyndy Etler
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books
Publication: April 4, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Book Description:

For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious tough love program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”

I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight. From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was… well, it was something else.

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world. To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”

As I read the harrowing true story of Cyndy Etler‘s time in the Straight Inc. program, I felt as I had when I read Garrard Conley’s brilliant memoir Boy Erased: floored, aghast, enraged. A memoir of Cyndy Etler’s time in the “rehabilitation” centre for “wayward” and “druggy” youths, The Dead Inside is an incredibly detailed, eye-opening, disturbing read that brings to light a very troubling so-called recovery program that existed only decades ago in North America (…and one that perhaps not many know about).

The Dead Inside is an emotional, bleak read- and a very important one at that. Not only is the memoir insightful about one particular kind of ‘treatment’ program that was tested on youth, but it is also read that stirs thoughts regarding opportunity (and limits to) for forgotten or hidden youth; parental abuse; as well the dangers inherent in labeling teens as ‘bad’ kids. Many intense subjects are openly approached in this title: sexual abuse, verbal abuse, psychological and physical trauma for a start. Etler does not broach any subject matter in a benevolent, timid fashion- and The Dead Inside makes all the more impact for it. Etler’s memoir is one read that I feel needs to be experienced for the full impact; I fear that I cannot do justice to aptly describing or condensing the dark and compelling nature of this memoir.

A little side story here before wrapping up my thoughts: while in the middle of this read, I actually stopped to tweet about my reading experience (so many thoughts and emotions were running through my head) and Cyndy Etler herself (unexpectedly and so sweetly!) responded back…which is all kinds of incredible. Any readers who appreciate darker, no holds-barred memoirs, or the writing of authors such as Ellen Hopkins or Patricia McCormick might especially take to this read. Interested readers: take note that a follow-up to The Dead Inside called We Can’t Be Friends, detailing Cyndy’s recovery and life after leaving Straight Inc. is due out in the fall of 2017.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books I’ve Read…

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job with keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week’s topic: the most unique books we’ve read!

With the caveat that I have probably/most likely missed a number of unique titles here, I’ve picked ten titles- mostly all children’s titles- that, to me, stand out. Are unusual. Out of the ordinary. Seriously unexpected and seriously unforgettable. Perhaps even peculiar. In no particular order, here are my picks:

 

 

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
A picture book written all in imagined bug language (yes, indeed!), with gorgeous artwork…

The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, illus. Júlia Sardà
Kyo Maclear is up there as one of my favourite wordsmiths/storytellers. The Liszts is a newer title: a story about a list-making family that is beyond one’s expectations and imaginings. Sardà’s illustrations are…extraordinary…

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
I am rather obsessed with Tan’s work. This was one of my first introductions to his work, and I haven’t stopped reading and poring over his incredible work since…

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard
The combination of Orchard’s unusual and beautiful style of artwork with the darker fairy-tale feel- a stand-out graphic novel…

The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz
Ah, The Sleepwalkers! I read this graphic novel after falling in love with Schwarz’s picture books. A genuinely unusual, offbeat but lovely and hypnotic story about a team of heroes who rescue children from nightmares…

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
A feat in storytelling, visuals and typography, this picture books is also a love letter to the power of books and words…

Press Here by Hervé Tullet
One of the first interactive perfect-for-storytime picture books I remember reading and arguably still one of the best…I would argue this was a game-changer and paved the way for more delightful interactive picture books to follow…I can’t imagine storytime with interactive books…

Art & Max by David Wiesner
David Wiesner, as with many authors and artists on this list, is a favourite. While most anything and everything by Wiesner is breathtaking and innovative, I must confess to a particular soft spot for Art & Max: a picture book about art, art styles, and two friends who test and bend art between the pages of this book that cemented Wiesner’s place on my roster of favourites.

Shadow by Suzy Lee
One of the first wordless picture books where I had a serious ‘aha’ moment about the beauty and signficance of the genre…Also: why isn’t everyone just as bananas about her work as I am?!?

Milk Teeth by Julie Morstad
This is a small book/collection of Morstad’s artwork. Surreal, dreamy, so strange and so beautiful…As with Shaun Tan’s work, I could forever be breathing in Morstad’s exquisite work…

Bonus mentions:

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illus. Isabelle Arsenault

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

What titles are on your top ten this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Recently Added to My To-Be-Read Shelf

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job (at all!) keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week! Now, this week is actually a freebie week, so I thought I’d focus on titles recently added to my to-be-read shelf!

A blend of picture books, mystery and fiction…In no particular order, here they are:

1. Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin– a wordless picture book that I have been reading wonderful reviews about. Graegin’s illustrative work is lovely!

2. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken– described as Zoom meets Beautiful Oops!, I’m looking forward to seeing this gorgeous-looking picture book in person.

3. I Don’t Draw, I Color! by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Felicita Sala– regular readers of my picture book posts might know I just adore Lehrhaupt’s work! As soon as I saw this latest one come up on Goodreads, it went right to my must-read.

4. I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly. Any other folks here who watched TLC’s What Not to Wear? I’ve read and really enjoyed Kelly’s previously published fashion/entertainment books (love his humour and snark). I Hate Everyone, Except You is a little bit different- this one is actually a memoir- a collection of personal essays- and it sounds fantastic.

5. Tales for the Perfect Child by Florence Parry Heide, with illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier– a new edition of Parry Heide’s classic. I feel as though I have read this, many years ago, but I just cannot recall! In any event, I’m looking forward to rediscovering (or discovering!) this book, and can’t wait to see Ruzzier’s illustrations!

The next four are titles I added to my TBR immediately after reading terrific reviews for in Publisher’s Weekly:

6. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot– a fascinatingly described non-fiction title

7. Find Me by J.S. Monroe– a right-up-my-alley kind of thriller…

8. The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward– a gothic horror/mystery!

9. Say Nothing by Brad Parks– another taut thriller that sounds just like something I’d be interested in!

10. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett– an unmissable cover, intriguing description and narrator? Yes, please!

What’s on your Top Ten Tuesday this week?

Blog Tour Stop: The Playbook by Kwame Alexander!

Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Kwame Alexander‘s latest, The Playbook!

Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a special excerpt from the book!

the-playbook-coverThe Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander, photos by Thai Neave
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 14, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life . Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?

Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

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Author, poet, and educator Kwame Alexander is a Newbery Medal winning recipient- for The Crossover– and highly regarded author with such titles as the stellar Booked and picture book Surf’s Up to his name. With The Playbook, Alexander approaches the non-fiction children’s/teen genre with his genuinely inspiring and impassioned voice.

Starting with a section called ‘Warm up’, and moving on through four quarters and into ‘Overtime’, The Playbook is divided up into manageable chapters with accompanying and relevant rules, quotes (from accomplished professionals in and out of sports) and personal stories, poems and/or notes from Alexander himself. I think it can be tricky navigating and creating a non-fiction title for children and teens that aims for inspiring; the audience/readers are a tough and discerning crowd who can easily suss out insincerity or try-hard. In Alexander’s hands though, The Playbook only ever reads as genuine: from an author who himself comes from an authentic place of meaning what he says, who has lived through what they are talking about and sharing, and who practices what they advocate.

I personally found The Playbook to be candid and encouraging as well as grounded; a book of terrific application for a huge children’s and teen audience. The use of quotations from highly respected athletes as well as leaders (in literature and beyond) are wonderfully effective and meaningful here; readers who might not be into sports and worried about connecting with ‘sports’ content need not worry as everything in The Playbook is all analogous to life. One component of The Playbook I especially adore (as I am a huge fan of Alexander’s work) is the sections which include Alexander’s personal stories- talking about his own struggles in sports, trying to measure up to his incredibly athletic and celebrated father, and how he made it through wins and losses and major struggles.

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Overall, The Playbook is a great non-fiction title that makes for a wonderful addition to any children’s/teen collection. An uplifting read with spirit and heart, The Playbook is an inspiring read that sings with authenticity through Alexander’s electrifying and effortless way with words. Readers who appreciate and enjoy reading non-fiction, or reading more true-to-life stories, or personal stories from authors might especially want to check out The Playbook. Those who have already read and loved Kwame Alexander’s previous work might also be interested in checking this one out as well!

Interested in reading more reviews and excerpts from this awesome book? You can check out the other great blogs participating in the tour:

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I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.