Review: The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner & Matthew Forsythe

Review: The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner & Matthew Forsythe
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: May 8, 2018 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

All it takes is one: one coral gamete to start a colony, one person to make a difference, one idea to change the world. The ongoing efforts to save and rebuild the world’s coral reefs-with hammer and glue, and grafts of newly grown coral-are the living legacy of Ken Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation. Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe tell the true story of the coral restoration pioneer in this brilliant tribute to the wonders of nature and the power of human hope.

Image from The Brilliant Deep via Matthew Forsythe’s website

Award-winning children’s author Kate Messner (The Seventh Wish) and acclaimed Canadian artist Matthew Forsythe (The Gold Leaf) have teamed up for the children’s non-fiction title, The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs: The Story of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation. A pictorial biography as well an introductory examination into conservation efforts of coral reefs, The Brilliant Deep is a fascinating true story brought to life by beautiful artwork.

Image from The Brilliant Deep via Matthew Forsythe’s website

The Brilliant Deep begins in the water, with one coral illuminated and the words “It begins with one”. Messner takes readers on a brief look at the spawning of corals: how “corals begin to spawn- releasing first one, then millions of tiny lives”, and that if one “is lucky” and not eaten or washed away, it “lands in a place where it can grow…[beginning] a coral reef”. Messner then switches to a summarized look at Coral Restoration Foundation founder Ken Nedimyer’s childhood, and how his love of swimming and exploring the Florida Keys reefs spurned what would become his lifelong captivation and passion for protecting and restoring reefs. Messner balances some tricky work here: as the story turns to follow Nedimyer as an adult, there is a significant amount of terminology and (necessary) explication of Nedimyer’s experiments of growing and planting coral colonies. However, Messner makes it work smoothly, particularly with the repeated emphasis on how it takes just “one”, and the neatly woven narrative circle that the entire story makes from coral back to coral. It would be absolutely remiss not to mention how stunning Forsythe’s artwork is here, as his golden and blue/green-toned artwork masterfully captures Messner’s narrative and allows the reader to actually ‘witness’ steps involved in coral restoration. You can get a sense just from the selected images above and below how rich and ambient Forsythe’s illustrations are, whether invoking Nedimyer’s childhood seeing Jacques Cousteau on the television, with his array of aquariums or (not pictured) seeing hands gently apply glue on coral. The last few pages of The Brilliant Deep include links to organizations, books, and articles that readers can further explore; a succinct note about coral reef decline and protection; how to help/get involved; as well as a select set of vocabulary definitions.

Image from The Brilliant Deep via Matthew Forsythe’s website

Overall, a timely, mesmerizing and truly interesting non-fiction children’s title that has multiple ways of being enjoyed (and used!). Thinking of books like Hello Hello or Bloom, one can see that children’s titles (whether categorized as picture books or more strictly non-fiction) are exploring and offering up tremendous scope of topics for children (and adults). Children’s book efforts on conservation are blossoming and the possibilities for education and literacy (in schools, in libraries, at home, etc.) is exciting. Messner and Forsythe have, with The Brilliant Deep, added a very strong (and beautiful!) title to the booming roster of children’s biographical and science books- a title that might spark readers to learn even more about the Coral Restoration Foundation and Ken Nedimyer’s legacy of conservation.

News note: Here is a link to a May 16, 2018 news article about Ken Nedimyer stepping down from a leadership position with the Coral Restoration Foundation.

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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Review: Missing Mike by Shari Green

Review: Missing Mike by Shari Green
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Pajama Press. Thank you!
Publication: May 11, 2018 by Pajama Press (in Canada)
Book Description:

He’s a rescue, a mutt. Maybe there’s a little golden retriever in him, although he’s not exactly pretty. He’s had a run-in with coyotes and he’s missing an eye. But Mike is eleven-year-old Cara Donovan’s dog, and they love each other absolutely. Usually her pet follows Cara everywhere, but on the day the family first smells smoke in the air, Mike becomes anxious. Pine Grove is in the path of a wildfire, and the family is ordered to evacuate. In the ensuing chaos, Mike runs off. And then the unthinkable happens; there is no time to search for Mike. They are forced to leave him behind.

Shocked and devastated, Cara watches helplessly as the family drives through a nightmare, with burning debris falling from the sky and wild animals fleeing for their lives. Once in the city far from the burn zone, the Donovans are housed with a volunteer host family. Jewel, the hosts’ daughter, is nice, but Cara can only think about what she may have lost. What will happen if nothing is left? But as she reflects on what “home” means to her, Cara knows only one thing. She is not going to lose Mike. She will do what it takes to find him, even if it means going back to Pine Grove on her own.

The wildfires are bad this year
new ones popping up every day

It’s hard to tell how far away the smoke is
but the tightness in my gut
says it’s not far enough.

Canadian author Shari Green, author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning novel-in-verse Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, returns with Missing Mike, a middle grade novel (also in free verse) about a young girl’s unbreakable bond with her rescue dog Mike and what happens to Mike, her family, and their community when a devastating, seemingly unstoppable wildfire hits their town.

That’s when I saw Mike.
He wasn’t a puppy
and he wasn’t cute
but I was pretty sure
he needed somebody to love him.

We meet Cara Donovan and her dog, Mike (full name Mike Wazowski, after the famous monster), shortly before she and her family have to evacuate their home of Pine Grove (hours north from Vancouver) due to rapidly-spreading wildfires. In first-person narrative, Cara takes readers through the terror she, her older sister Sloane, and their mom and dad feel as they are faced with ten minutes to vacate their house. In the immediate sharpness and disorientation of the moment, Cara and her family quickly pack, taking their pre-prepared ‘just in case’ bags with whatever they think their must-have items could be. Cara, in the middle of brushing her beloved one-eyed rescue mutt, leaves Mike in their backyard, with the plan to take him to the car promptly after packing. The only thing is, when Cara goes back to their fenced-in backyard, Mike is gone: “Mike’s not in the yard / probably jumped clear over the lousy fence / searching for a cool spot / a not-so-smoky spot / a safe spot”. Cara pleads with her family to let her search for her best friend, but the utter urgency of their evacuation orders overrides everything. Even looking for a much-loved family member. We follow Cara and her family as they are taken in by a well-meaning, hospitable couple and their child Jewel, who becomes a friend and ally when Cara attempts, multiple times, to locate her dog. Woven in Missing Mike is Cara’s exercise- stemming from her love of crossword puzzles- in figuring out different words for home…and what ‘home’ really means in the midst of tragedy and displacement, while feeling and receiving kindness and warmth from strangers brought together in crisis. The main thread in Missing Mike, though, is that of Cara’s unyielding quest to, beyond all hope, find her much loved dog. Never resting, Cara is proactive in her multiple searches, helped by Jewel and even her strangely distant sister, providing readers with just enough small rays of hope to believe that her resilient dog Mike might just be out there, facing down coyotes and fires, waiting for his best friend to come back.

Overall, Missing Mike is a touching, lyrical story with the beautiful, boundless relationship of Cara and Mike as its core and achor. Shari Green’s writing style is effortless and candid, a perfect match for Cara’s natural and appropriately trusting, childlike narrative. Readers who love stories about human-animal bonds, children’s novels told in free verse, or middle grade titles that explore family dynamics and strength in facing adversity might find much to love about Missing Mike. Those who enjoy the writing of authors such as K.A. Holt, Katherine Applegate, Barbara O’Connor, Beth Vrabel or Alison Hughes might also want to check this moving middle grade novel out.

I received a copy courtesy of Pajama Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: Bloom by Kyo Maclear & Julie Morstad

Review: Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear & Julie Morstad
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada & Tundra Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Here is the life of iconic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who as a little girl in Rome, was told by her own mamma that she was brutta. Ugly. So she decided to seek out beauty around her, and found it everywhere. What is beauty? Elsa wondered. She looked everywhere for beauty until something inside of Elsa blossomed, and she became an artist with an incredible imagination. Defining beauty on her own creative terms, Schiaparelli worked hard to develop her designs, and eventually bloomed into an extraordinary talent who dreamed up the most wonderful dresses, hats, shoes and jewelry. Why not a shoe for a hat? Why not a dress with drawers? And she invented a color: shocking pink! Her adventurous mind was the key to her happiness and success–and is still seen today in her legacy of wild imagination. Daring and different, Elsa Schiaparelli used art to make fashion, and it was quite marvelous.

Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad, the dynamic duo who created the critically acclaimed Julia, Child, team up again to bring to life the childhood memories and the inspiring milestones of the legendary Elsa Schiaparelli. With its warm, lyrical text and enchanting illustrations, Bloom shows readers how ingenuity, vision and self doubt all made Schiaparelli truly beautiful. A gift for her older fans and younger audiences who have yet to discover her genius, Bloom is sure to be an enthralling classic.

Bold beauty. Quiet beauty. Hidden beauty.
By the age of seven, I wonder: What makes something beautiful?

Canadian author and artist duo Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad have worked together previously- on the delightful and beautiful picture book Julia, Child– and return here in glorious , vibrant and poetic fashion with Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli. A biographical picture book about the life of the illustrious, rule-breaking and rule-bending designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Bloom takes readers through major moments, breakthroughs, and legacies in the designer’s life.

Bloom is told in the first-person narrative of Elsa, and opens to a scene in which a newborn Elsa looks up to frowning parents who, we are informed, had been hoping to have a boy. As we soon learn, Elsa’s older sister Beatrice- apparently favoured by their mother- is recognized as the bella in the family, while Elsa is called brutta- ugly.  This harsh judgment of ugliness by her own immediate family seems to remain a relatively constant cloud in much of Elsa’s early (and perhaps later) life. It is through a failed experiment involving flower seeds, as well as the encouragement from an innovative and kind uncle, that ‘a seed of wild imagination’ and artistry is planted in Elsa- something that moves her and propels her life and life’s work to be ‘daring, different, and whole…[to] plant a new seed of beauty’. With Maclear’s beautifully melodic, empathetic storytelling style leading the way, Morstad’s incredible, meaningful illustrations follow to highlight just some of Elsa’s significant moments: her stirring time with artists such as Picasso and Dahli; her Trompe l’oeil design breakthrough; the mixing and making of her signature shocking pink; and ‘why not’ approach to making fashion for women extravagant, unusual, bold, colourful, talked-about- and unforgettable.

Overall, Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli is a gorgeous work that balances biography, lyricism, and art in picture book format. For readers who adore biographical picture books, or simply love Kyo Maclear’s and Julie Morstad’s respective (or joint!) work, Bloom is a sensorial feast whether read quietly or shared aloud. Those both familiar and unfamiliar with Schiaparelli’s life and continuing influence in fashion will likely find something- or many things!- to appreciate and savour about Bloom. At the back pages, A Note from the Author and the Illustrator mentions that ‘it is difficult to express everything [Schiaparelli] was and did in such a short book’; Maclear and Morstad have added a concise yet rich catalog of the designer’s contributions, as well as a list of Sources and Further Reading for those interested.

 

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I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Reviews: Forever or a Day & The Boy and the Blue Moon

Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: March 27, 2018 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

What does time mean to you? Sometimes it feels like it could last Forever or a Day .

The seconds that count in catching the bus;
The idyllic hours that slip by so quickly during a perfect day on the lake;
The summer days that disappear into blissful happiness . . .

Sarah Jacoby’s debut picture book as an author and illustrator is as elegant as a poem and as perfectly paced as a mystery. This beautiful picture books follows an unassuming narrator through a meditation on time through the course of a single day. Inviting comparisons to Virginia Lee Burton and Margaret Wise Brown, this book’s musings on time are at once simple, peaceful, and profound-the work of a truly genius picture book maker.

“The more you try to hold it…the better it hides.”

This is an enchanting picture book, readers! The debut picture book from award-winning artist Sarah Jacoby, Forever or a Day is a wonderfully illustrated and told story about meditations and thoughts about time. A big subject to be sure, but Jacoby writes- much like Sara O’Leary, see below- in a lyrical, hushed sort of fashion that creates this simultaneously poetic and lucid air for the reader/audience. Jacoby takes us through various contemplations about time- how we might perceive it, absorb it, experience it, appreciate it and more. The text is refined, sophisticated and ultimately perfect for a read aloud for a great span of ages (think preschool, kindergarten and elementary grades). Moreover, Jacoby’s artwork is gorgeous and varied. Varied in the sense that for every musing about time the narrator goes through over the course of their day, there is an illustration to reflect it. For example, with the thought ‘Some people pay a lot of attention to it’, we’re taken into a terminal where we see people dressed in charcoal, muted shades standing in lines, watching the information display, or racing around. For the thought ‘It is a drumbeat, ba dum, ba dum, ba dum.’, we’re taken inside a train compartment with the narrator, watching multiple occupants all doing different things as the scenery tick ticks by. Forever or a Day offers much to imagine and think about, and ends rather fittingly with a warmhearted, genuine sentiment. Overall, a terrifically written debut with standout illustrations. A slight side note here- if you have a chance, do take a look through Jacoby’s amazing, out-of-the-ordinary art! I hope we get to read and see much more from this artist in future projects.

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The Boy and the Blue Moon by Sara O’Leary, illus. Ashley Crowley
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 13, 2018 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

On the night of a blue moon, a boy and his cat set out for a walk and find themselves on a magical adventure. Together they travel through fields of flowers, forests of towering trees, and lakes of deep dark blue. Flying through starry blue skies, they reach the blue moon. But the blue planet, Earth, calls the explorers home. Safely back in bed, the boy wonders-was it only a dream?

“The cat and his boy walked through the bluebells toward the forest. A hundred thousand tiny bells were ringing out a song that no one had ever heard before.”

Picture book enthusiasts might recognize Sara O’Leary‘s name immediately- she is the Canadian author behind the brilliant children’s titles This Is Sadie, When I Was Small (illustrated by Julie Morstad), and A Family Is a Family Is a Family (illustrated by Qin Leng). O’Leary has teamed up with English artist Ashley Crowley for a lovely, lulling story about a young boy’s (and his cat’s!) nighttime adventures during a rare blue moon. As ever, O’Leary’s writing is so beautiful: softly, gorgeously poetic and something to be savoured by both children and adults. Readers who have dreamed or wondered about the moon might enjoy following along the journey the boy and his cat take as they somehow find themselves on an incredible yet desolate new place far, far away from the coziness of home. O’Leary has often teamed up with artist (and fellow Canadian) Julie Morstad for her picture books, so having another illustrator collaborate with O’Leary is interesting to experience. Crowley’s illustrations match the tone and subject matter of the story well- the cat, boy and earth-set scenes are so saturated and rich- though I do wonder if an audience might find the colour palette itself a tad unvarying or the space-set scenes towards the end lacking some kind of necessary warmth to fully gel with O’Leary’s writing. Overall, I do recommend taking a read of this title; it is indeed a beautiful story, and one likely to be much appreciated at bedtime!

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I received copies of Forever or a Day and The Boy and the Blue Moon courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray by E. Latimer

Review: The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray by E. Latimer
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: February 13, 2018 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Bryony Gray is becoming famous as a painter in London art circles. But life isn’t so grand. Her uncle keeps her locked in the attic, forcing her to paint for his rich clients . . . and now her paintings are taking on a life of their own, and customers are going missing under mysterious circumstances.

When her newest painting escapes the canvas and rampages through the streets of London, Bryony digs into her family history, discovering some rather scandalous secrets her uncle has been keeping, including a deadly curse she’s inherited from her missing father. Bryony has accidentally unleashed the Gray family curse, and it’s spreading fast.

With a little help from the strange-but-beautiful girl next door and her paranoid brother, Bryony sets out to break the curse, dodging bloodthirsty paintings, angry mobs and her wicked uncle along the way.

When I saw the great cover and read the blurb for E. Latimer‘s The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray I thought it sounded terrifically spooky and added it to my reading list. A gothic historically-set middle grade novel, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray? Count me in! More sinister and more fantastical than I imagined, Latimer’s novel is a surprising treat.

The novel opens with a prologue that takes us into the extravagant, lush and self-indulgent life of Lady Dashworth, who is eagerly awaiting the delivery of a portrait of herself done by a supposedly odd but extremely talented thirteen year old girl. Upon opening, Lady Dashworth finds the portrait stunning…remarkable…so remarkable in fact, that the portrait seems too life-like. It is then that Latimer takes the already eerie opening and takes the story to its darker core: the portraits being done by that thirteen year old artist- Bryony Gray- are coming to life, ripping from their canvases and causing deadly mayhem in London. As readers meet Bryony and the terrible aunt and uncle who keep her prisoner in their attic, the story takes one fascinating turn after another.

Having planned an escape from her attic confines for some time, Bryony finds herself freed quite suddenly by accident when a portrait she purposely painted to look monstrous tears itself to life off the canvas. It is then, as Bryony escapes into the city slowly being tyrannized by her art, that she meets siblings Mira and Thompson- the next-door neighbors she had only dreamed to meet one day. Latimer weaves multiple elements as the story continues to unfold: Bryony experiencing London, her surroundings, and children her own age for almost the first time in her life; the trio of children having to escape for their lives time after time while attempting to help Bryony stop the madness; and perhaps the biggest thing of all, Bryony finally learning truths about her long-absent father who presumably cursed the Gray family. It is a lot to pack into a tale, but Latimer does a solid job of maintaining all of the elements, adding some bombshell reveals, and threading in some very interesting ties to an imagined incident that lead to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Overall, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray is wonderfully unusual and atmospheric, with terrifying and surprising moments. It is written with such precise, intriguing detail that I vividly pictured the story from beginning to end, and even thought to myself how incredible it would be to see this story brought to life on-screen! Readers who enjoy gothic, scary stories or the work of authors such as Claire Legrand, Charis Cotter, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl or Laura Amy Schlitz might especially enjoy this dark tale.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: What’s My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston & Tim Mack

What’s My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston, illus. Tim Mack
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Inhabit Media. Thank you!
Publication: August 4, 2017 by Inhabit Media
Book Description:

Nalvana feels like all of her friends have some type of superpower. She has friends with super speed (who always beat her in races), friends with super strength (who can dangle from the monkey bars for hours), and friends who are better than her at a million other things. Nalvana thinks she must be the only kid in town without a superpower. But then her mom shows Nalvana that she is unique and special—and that her superpower was right in front of her all along.

“Nalvana always thought about what it would be like to have superpowers…”

What’s My Superpower?, written by author Aviaq Johnston (Those Who Run in the Sky) and illustrated by Tim Mack, is an utterly charming, wonderfully optimistic story about one young girl’s search for her superpower and what happens along her journey.

The picture book centers around Nalvana who wears “a yellow cape made from a blanket and a pair of snowmobiling goggles resting on her head” everywhere she goes. A seemingly adventurous, buoyant person, Nalvana wonders about the possible answer to a rather big question: what is her superpower? As Nalvana goes about trying to discover her superpower, however, she begins to recognize some of her classmates’ impressive superpowers! For example, one day at the playground, Nalvana sees her friend Maata swinging high on the swing set and suddenly fly to her landing! Maata can fly! On another day, Nalvana sees her cousin Joanasie building an inuksuk at the the top of a hill. While talking to Joanasie about all the things he can make, she tells him that his superpower must be being able to build “whatever he can think of”! Joanasie can build anything in the world! But…what about Nalvana herself? What if she is the only one left without a superpower? As Nalvana recounts Maata’s, Joanasie’s and other encounters and happy discoveries of friends’ superpowers with her mom, a happy realization is made about what Nalvana’s pretty incredible superpower might just be.

Overall, what a lovely, heart-warming picture book! Nalvana’s story is one of sharing kindness, holding onto one’s own kernels of hopefulness and determination, and the excitement in finding your own happy and cool discovery along the way. Mack’s illustrations are strong and vibrant with their unique yellow and green-focused palette; it is interesting, graphic novel-like artwork that works so well to compliment and enhance Johnston’s winsome, wholly approachable storytelling style. What’s My Superpower? also contains an Inuktitut Glossary at the back, so readers and audiences will be engaging and learning even further as they go!

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

Must Read Monday (79): Children’s Titles from Angela Dominguez, Tae Keller, Jarrett Lerner, Dana Simpson & more!

Welcome to another 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!

 

This week: children’s fiction, including graphic novels and middle grade fiction! We have the Zoey and Sassafraas series by Asia Citro and Marion Lindsay; Susan Tan and Dana Wulfekotte’s Cilla-Lee Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire; Angela Dominguez’s Stella Diaz Has Something to Say— I have been hearing and reading terrific things about these titles from authors and illustrators I follow on Twitter! Next up are children’s fiction titles EngiNerds from Jarrett Lerner, and The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller. Last but definitely not least, we have new entries into series I adore: Judd Winick’s HiLo, Dana Simpson’s Heavenly Nostrils, Elise Gravel’s Olga, and the third and final entry in Chronicles of Claudette by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado.

Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras #1) by Asia Citro, illus. Marion Lindsay
Publication: March 14, 2017 by The Innovation Press (paperback)
Book Description:

With magical animals, science, mystery, and adventure — the brand new series Zoey and Sassafras has something for everyone! Easy-to-read language and illustrations on nearly every page make this series perfect for a wide range of ages.

In the first book of this series, Zoey discovers a glowing photo and learns an amazing secret. Injured magical animals come to their backyard barn for help! When a sick baby dragon appears, it’s up to Zoey and Sassafras to figure out what’s wrong. Will they be able to help little Marshmallow before it’s too late?

 

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan, illus. Dana Wulfekotte
Publication: March 28, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Priscilla “Cilla” Lee-Jenkins is on a tight deadline. Her baby sister is about to be born, and Cilla needs to become a bestselling author before her family forgets all about her. So she writes about what she knows best—herself! And Cilla has a lot to write about: How did she deal with being bald until the age of five? How did she overcome her struggles with reading? How do family traditions with Grandma and Grandpa Jenkins differ from family traditions with her Chinese grandparents, Nai Nai and Ye Ye?

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire is a novel bursting with love and humor, as told through a bright, irresistible biracial protagonist who will win your heart and make you laugh.

 

EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Aladdin
Book Description:

Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.

They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.

At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?

But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!

 

HiLo Book 4: Waking the Monsters (HiLo #4) by Judd Winick
Publication: January 16, 2018 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

DJ and Gina are TOTALLY ordinary kids. But Hilo isn’t! Has Hilo finally met his match? Not if D.J. and Gina can help it! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! Mega Robot Monsters are suddenly waking up all over and they’re TOO BIG and TOO STRONG for Hilo to fight on his own! Luckily, he doesn’t have to! He has GINA and some brand new SUPER POWERS on his side! Being heroes can be super fun-but it can also be SUPER dangerous! And the closer Hilo and Gina get to saving their world from the monsters–the closer Hilo gets to the dark secret of his past. Does he really want to know? Do WE?!

 

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez
Publication: January 16, 2018 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

In her first middle-grade novel, award-winning picture book author and illustrator Angela Dominguez tells a heartwarming story based on her own experiences growing up Mexican-American.

Stella Diaz loves marine animals, especially her betta fish, Pancho. But Stella Diaz is not a betta fish. Betta fish like to be alone, while Stella loves spending time with her mom and brother and her best friend Jenny. Trouble is, Jenny is in another class this year, and Stella feels very lonely.

When a new boy arrives in Stella’s class, she really wants to be his friend, but sometimes Stella accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and pronounces words wrong, which makes her turn roja. Plus, she has to speak in front of her whole class for a big presentation at school! But she better get over her fears soon, because Stella Díaz has something to say!

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say introduces an infectiously charming new character with relatable writing and adorable black-and-white art throughout. Simple Spanish vocabulary is also integrated within the text, providing a bilingual element.

 

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
Expected publication: March 6, 2018 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

How do you grow a miracle?
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie’s botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that’s important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.
Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She’s going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids–flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it’s up to kids to save them, right?

An extraordinary story about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too, and that talking about problems is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

 

Monsters Beware! (Chronicles of Claudette #3) by Jorge Aguirre, illus. Rafael Rosado
Expected publication: March 13, 2018 by First Second
Book Description:

Claudette is back AGAIN, and she’s ready to kick major monster butt!

She’s fought giants, clobbered dragons, and now Claudette faces her biggest challenge yet… herself! Well, that and a gang of vile monsters. It all begins when Claudette’s town hosts the annual Warrior Games. After some sneaky maneuvering, Claudette manages to gets herself, Marie, and Gaston chosen as her town’s representatives. But none of Claudette’s past battles has prepared her for this. And to make matters worse, they must stop the vicious Sea Queen and her evil children from using the Warrior Games to free the dark Wizard Grombach and conquer the world!

In Monsters Beware!, the third and final book of the Claudette graphic novel series, Claudette is put to the ultimate test. With her honor on the line will she learn that there’s more to a fight than just winning?

 

Olga: We’re Out of Here! by Elise Gravel
Expected publication: March 13, 2018 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

Animal lover and kid scientist Olga is back! Great for fans of the acclaimed graphic novels Real Friends and Invisible Emmie.

In this second installment of a series Franny K. Stein creator Jim Benton called “great, kooky, monstrous fun,” Olga wants to leave earth in search of Meh’s home planet, but first she’ll have to discover why Meh is acting so strange.

Olga: We’re Out of Here is jam-packed with facts and fun: Elise Gravel’s classic comic illustrations, hilarious word bubbles, space travel facts, and a diverse cast of memorable characters.

 

Unicorn of Many Hats (Heavenly Nostrils #7) by Dana Simpson
Expected publication: March 20, 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Book Description:

In this installment, Phoebe decides to start the school year off right by offering a peace treaty to frenemy Dakota, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils becomes the unlikeliest of babysitters, and Phoebe is totally surprised to find out that her Secret Santa isn’t Dakota or Max!

Picture Book Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan & Tom Knight

9780374301231Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illus. Tom Knight
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Book Description:

From the creator of the Honest Toddler blog, The Big Bed is a humorous picture book about a girl who doesn’t want to sleep in her little bed, so she presents her dad with his own bed – a camping cot! – in order to move herself into her parents’ big bed in his place. A twist on the classic parental struggle of not letting kids sleep in their bed.

Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight’s The Big Bed is a witty and funny story about a savvy young girl who attempts to- not so subtly!- move her dad out of the ‘big bed’ so she can sleep with her mom. As a mom with a three year old who would often like nothing more than to sleep in our ‘big bed’, I could absolutely relate and happily giggled my way through the picture book.

In The Big Bed, we meet our young protagonist who has a major issue she needs to discuss with her father: who gets to have Mommy during the night? The young girl presents her father with all the ways he’s great during the daytime, but nighttime is another matter. The little girl wants to sleep in her parents bed- well, in the big bed with her mommy- and cannot fathom why this might be a problem. Why, the girl wonders, can’t her grandma tuck her father in at night? Why does her father mind when she accidentally pees a little in bed? A little pee-pee never hurt anyone- and in fact, readers learn, pee-pee will keep scary bears away! Why can’t her daddy just- maybe, possibly- let her sleep in the big bed along with mom while he sleeps on….a cot? A COT! Yes, the perfect solution for EVERYONE, the girl thinks! We’ll even buy new nice sheets for the cot for daddy to enjoy! As her mom laughs hysterically at the idea and dad smiles (and probably marvels) his way through his daughter’s detailed presentations, readers get to go along for a very entertaining story.

Overall, what a fun read; cleverly written and perfectly matched with bright, wonderfully expressive and lively illustrations! Parents with young kids who are facing sleeping issues might especially relate and find great humour in Laditan and Knight’s story, but The Big Bed stands on its own as a genuinely witty picture book.

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

A Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway!

Something heartwarming and lovely for Valentine’s Day: a chance to win one of four adorable picture books! Courtesy of the generous folks at Raincoast Books, I have four reads to share with you; one lucky Canadian reader will have the chance to win their top picture book or board book pick. The details for the Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway are at the bottom of the post, so please read on!

Let’s take a closer look at the beautiful books:

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends

This book is about your heart. (the little bit inside of you that makes you, you!)
The words we listen to can affect how we feel.
Some words can do amazing things and make us happy.
And some words can really hurt us (we all know what sort of words those are).
Our words have power, and we can choose to use them to make the world a better place.

Simple, direct, and emotive, Words and Your Heart ‘s message is that words have extraordinary power-to harm and to heal; to create and to destroy; and to spread love.

“How about we use our words to look after each other’s hearts?”

Kate Jane Neal, the writer and illustrator of Words and Your Heart, has crafted something potent and poignant here. Message books for children can be tricky to pull off- I find anything too preachy or didactic tends not to land- but Words and Your Heart is a treasure. Straightforward and open, elevated by a sophisticated black, white and red colour palette, a simple but seriously important message lies in this picture book: “your words are amazing and powerful”. As readers learn, words can build someone up, tear them down, make them feel brave, make them feel scared or sad…Neal’s book asks readers to (please!) carefully consider your words and how they effect the heart of another. Fitting for Valentine’s sure, but also terrific for a storytime or read aloud on the subject of feelings and friendship!

 

This Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins, illus. Lucy Ruth Cummins
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Chronicle Books

This book is not a valentine. It doesn’t have lacey edges or sugary hearts. But it is full of lucky rocks, secret hiding spots, and gumball machine treasures. This is a book about waiting in line and wishing for cinnamon buns. About recognizing that if you care so much about someone not thinking you care, maybe you really do. But wait-isn’t that exactly what love is about? Maybe this book is sort of a valentine after all. A testament to handmade, wacky, bashful, honest love-sure to win over the hearts of all readers-this offering from debut picture book author Carter Higgins and children’s book veteran Lucy Ruth Cummins is the perfect gift to celebrate every relationship, from parent to child, sibling to sibling, partner to partner, crush to crush.

Even though it will likely protest this statement, This Is Not a Valentine might just be the most perfect Valentine! Readers, through the eyes of an adamant young protagonist, get to learn about all the ways that certain things (kinds of flowers, kinds of hand drawn pictures, grocery store rings in plastic cases that match your favourite shoelaces, hand-folded paper airplanes, etc.) are definitely, absolutely NOT Valentine’s… As our young protagonist explains his way through how his (actually extremely heartwarming, thoughtful and considerate) gifts to a classmate in his school are NOT Valentine’s, readers will likely feel their hearts start to soften, and their mouths turn up in a goofy, happy grin. (One of my favourite parts of This Is Not a Valentine is when we’re told that this is not a Valentine because “I like you all the days”, not only for today). So wonderfully written and matched with perfect illustrations, Carter Higgins and Lucy Ruth Cummins have knocked it out of the park with This Is Not a Valentine!

 

I Love Kisses by Sheryl McFarlane, illus. Brenna Vaughan
Publication: December 26, 2017 by Sourcebooks

I love kisses.
I’ll bet that you do too!

Wake up sleepyhead kisses
Raspberry jam and bread kisses…

There are lots of kinds of kisses in the world, and they all say something different. Award-winning author Sheryl McFarlane’s new book celebrates the best part about kisses; while each one is unique, they all say I love you!”

I Love Kisses is a very sweet and simple picture book all about…you guessed it- kisses! From “sloppy licking pup kisses”, to “baby brother drool kisses”, McFarlane and Vaughan’s totally adorable read is a perfect ode to love, families and friends, and perfect for Valentine’s Day! Easy to read text, repetition, and full colour cuddly illustrations make this one just right for toddlers, or for curling up and reading aloud with wee ones.

 

Kiss It Better by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illus. Sarah Massini (board book)
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA

Every day has its ups and downs
Sometimes you giggle, sometimes you frown.
But the thing to remember, the secret, is this . . .
Everything feels better with the help of a KISS.

There are go-to-sleep kisses, I’m-sorry kisses, I-love-you kisses, and more. For every time of day there’s a kiss to go with it, and whether you’re big or small, young or old, it always makes you feel better. So the next time you see someone you love, just remember . . . a kiss is the very best gift of all!

A tender expression of love, Kiss It Better is the perfect gift for every parent and child who love Nancy Tillman and Marianne Richmond.

Similarly to I Love Kisses mentioned above, Kiss It Better is another lovingly sweet, encouraging (but not cloying!) read just right for Valentine’s Day. Kiss It Better, illustrated with darling bears of all kinds by Sarah Massini, takes readers through all kinds of kisses. Everything from “get-well-soon” kisses, to “I’m-sorry” kisses lets readers know that kisses can say so many different things, and help us when we’re in need. Prasadam-Halls text is light and lyrical, genuinely sweet, and any readers who enjoy their Valentine’s reads cuddly and heartening might especially appreciate this lovely board book.

 

 

Giveaway Info:

The Valentine’s Day Picture Book Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up. The giveaway will run from January 31, 2018 to February 12, 2018. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via Twitter or by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their one book prize pick. If the first drawn winner does not contact me within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Thank you to all who participated!

The new winning draw is: KAM P.! Winner has confirmed- thank you again, everyone!


Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

I received copies of the four titles from Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided courtesy of Raincoast Books.

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.