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Tidesong
Author and Illustrator: Wendy Xu
Published November 16, 2021 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: Perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli and The Tea Dragon Society, this is a magically heartwarming graphic novel about self-acceptance and friendship.

Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother pressure her to attend the Royal Magic Academy–the best magic school in the realm–even though her magic is shaky at best. To train for her entrance exams, Sophie is sent to relatives she’s never met.

Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan seem more interested in giving Sophie chores than in teaching her magic. Frustrated, Sophie attempts magic on her own, but the spell goes wrong, and she accidentally entangles her magic with the magic of a young water dragon named Lir.

Lir is trapped on land and can’t remember where he came from. Even so, he’s everything Sophie isn’t–beloved by Sophie’s family and skilled at magic. With his help, Sophie might just ace her entrance exams, but that means standing in the way of Lir’s attempts to regain his memories. Sophie knows what she’s doing is wrong, but without Lir’s help, can she prove herself?

* Featured on the Today Show * An SLJ Best Book of the Year * A Nerdist Best Comic of the Year * A BookRiot Best Book of the Year *

About the Author: Wendy Xu is a bestselling, award-nominated Brooklyn-based illustrator and comics artist.

She is the creator of the middle grade fantasy graphic novel TIDESONG (2021 from HarperCollins/Quilltree) and co-creator of MOONCAKES, a young adult fantasy graphic novel published in 2019 from Oni Press. Her work has been featured on Catapult, Barnes & Noble Sci-fi/Fantasy Blog, and Tor.com, among other places.

You can find more art on her Instagram: @artofwendyxu or on twitter: @angrygirLcomics

Review: Whenever I read that something is reminiscent of Studio Ghibli, I get skeptical because Studio Ghibli’s work is just so magical; however, I had no reason to worry when it came to Tidesong. I can see why the publisher compares it to the Studio’s work–it is similarly illustrated (but with a Wendy Xu touch, which I love!), colorful, magical, and has that little extra sense of whimsy that’s hard to describe that I love in fantastical stories.

Sophie is such a great character, too! She represents so many who want to meet the expectations of those around her and whose positivity is crushing under that pressure. And Lir doesn’t seem like he will help her because he is PERFECT, but as we know, you can’t judge people without actually getting to know them.

What a fun and meaningful graphic novel–it is a favorite, and I am so excited to share it with students!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be in my school library, and it should be in yours, too! (Or your classroom library or public library!) Your fantasy/magical loving readers will devour this!

Discussion Questions

  • Why does Sophie not feel confident in her magic?
  • Why is Sophie forced to move to her great aunt’s house?
  • How does Lir make Sophie feel? How does Lir change the narrative of the story?
  • What was your first impression of Sophie’s great aunt? What do we learn about her that changes that impression?
  • How did Sage and Great Aunt Lan differ in their welcoming of Sophie?
  • Why is this graphic novel compared to Studio Ghibli?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux, Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani, Long Distance by Whitney Gardner, Little Witch Academia by Yoh Yoshinari, This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson

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**Thank you to SparkPoint Studio for providing a copy for review!**

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The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Laura Freeman
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Publication Date: January 11, 2022 by Random House

Summary: Congressman and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings dedicated his life to public service. This comprehensive and visually stunning biography details his humble beginnings and unwavering faith as he waged an endless battle for truth, justice, and equality.

We can do better.

When Elijah Cummings was a little boy, he struggled in school. His teachers thought he talked too much and asked too many questions. They said he’d never be able to read or write well.

Despite his difficulties, Elijah never gave up. He persevered, having faith that with hard work, he’d be able to achieve his goals.

Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change.

Carole Boston Weatherford and Laura Freeman marry words and images beautifully in this picture book biography of politician and civil rights champion Elijah Cummings, detailing his inspiring journey–from his humble beginnings as the son of former sharecroppers to his unwavering faith as he became a lawyer, state legislator, and leading congressman. Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change.Discussion

Ricki’s Review: This book had phenomenal pacing. I felt like I really came to understand Elijah Cummings’ life story, and I learned a lot. It includes information about his childhood through his adulthood, which I really appreciated. All three of my children loved reading it, and even my two-year-old sat for the entire book and asked questions.

In classrooms, some stories are highlighted and emphasized every year, and I was glad to read a book highlighting Elijah Cummings’ story and his impact on the Civil Rights movement. He was a phenomenal human being who contributed greatly to the world, and this story beautifully depicts his story.

Kellee’s Review: You can always trust Carole Boston Weatherford to write a beautiful, researched, and well done piece of art, and this is no exception. Elijah Cummings was called the North Star of Injustice because he was a beacon for others to follow in what was just.

However, unlike other civil rights leaders, his history is less known, so this book will perfectly serve as an introduction to Cummings’ life from childhood to death. It shows how his foundation for faith and justice built him up to be the man he was.

I also loved the shout out to the library and librarians! (Though the story of his school counselor telling him he couldn’t be a lawyer was devastating, and I am so glad he proved them wrong!)

And I cannot talk about this book without talking about the beautiful illustrations. Freeman’s art brings the story to life and is so realistic!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn about Elijah Cummings?
  • How did Elijah Cummings’ early life impact his adulthood?
  • What contributions did Elijah Cummings make on the Civil Rights Movement?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction picture books, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, We March by Shane W. Evans, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

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**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

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Waffles and Pancake: Planetary-YUM
Author: Drew Brockington
Published October 26, 2021 by LBYR

Summary: Inspired by his beloved Catstronauts series, Drew Brockington is going back in time to when everyone’s favorite Catstronaut, Waffles, was a kitten!

One very special Saturday, Dad-Cat decides to take Waffles and his sister Pancake to the big city to go to the science museum! While they’re there, the kittens see extraordinary things, like dino-cats, hairballs in 4D, and even the planetarium. But as the kittens learn about constellations and Neil Pawstrong, they get separated from Dad-Cat. Oh no!

Will the kittens be able to find their (possibly invisible) Dad-Cat? Or will they get stuck living in the museum and eating star tots and tuna melts fur-ever?!

Ricki’s Review: The Catstronaut series is a huge hit in our house, so I was thrilled to receive this book. This prequel is so fun, and I love talking about prequels with students. It inspires so many questions and also reminds readers to think about story context in magnificent ways. My kids love to read books that offer interdisciplinary and nonfiction information, so I was very pleased with this book. It allows for rich opportunities for inquiry. Teachers will find easy connections and teachable moments within this text. 

The humor of this text makes it a very fun book to read with kids. My two boys (ages 5 and 8) absolutely loved it.

Kellee’s Review: First, I must share how much Trent loves the Catstronaut series. It was the first series that he found on his own, loved, and even asked his librarian to get the rest of the series for him. When he heard I was going to get and review a Catstronaut prequel, Trent was SO EXCITED! And he loved it, too.

This prequel sets up the stage for the Catstronaut books. It shows where Waffles and Pancakes got their love for science which is a great set up for the main series. I also love that this book is for younger readers so will be a great scaffold.

I also really liked the cross-curricular aspect of the graphic novel. It adds an extra element to it that will lend to it being a great addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:

  • Read Waffles and Pancake and have students guess what they think the kittens will do when they grow up. Then read the first Catstronauts book, and have students check their prediction.
  • There is a lot of science in this little book! As reading it, connect science lessons with the book. Topics include: Electric charge, astronomy, constellations, moon landing (history, too!), meteors/meteoroids/meteorites.
  • Have students look up the closest science museum to them and look at the map. Compare/contrast with the Big City Science Museum. (This read aloud would also be a fun reason to go on a field trip!!)

Discussion Questions: 

  • Waffles and Pancake lose their dad when at the science museum. What did they do that you should always do if you lose your adult?
  • The author created Waffles as a puppet, who stars in the author’s YouTube drawing show, “Let’s Do Fun Stuff Together.” How does this show inspire you? What kinds of characters can you imagine?
  • This book is a prequel. If you have read the Catstronaut series, is this what you imagined for the prequel? How might you imagine it differently?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: the Castronaut series, the Narwhal & Jelly series, the Elephant & Piggie series

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**Thank you to Julia at Wunderkind PR for providing a copy for review!**

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Robin Robin
Authors; Dan Ojari & Mikey Please
Illustrator: Briony May Smith
Published November 2nd, 2021 by Red Comet Press

Summary: The irresistible story of a robin and her adopted mouse family is the perfect treat from the creators of the holiday-themed film Robin Robin, created by Aardman for Netflix. This picture book version of the story, beautifully illustrated by Briony May Smith, is perfect for sharing with young children.

The mouse family all love Robin, and she is so keen to fit in she pulls her feathers into ears…but nothing can make a noisy, rather clumsy bird, good at sneaking crumbs for the family without disturbing the dreaded cat! After several attempts and with the help of a friendly magpie, she finally realizes that her special bird talents of singing and flying can be put to good use: Robin can be true to herself and a much loved member of the family.

Robin Robin is a heartwarming and humorous story with themes of diversity, community, inclusion and acceptance – it will win the hearts of families everywhere.

Streaming worldwide from Christmas 2021, Robin Robin is the new collaboration between Aardman, the animation studio behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, and Netflix. Golden Globe® winner Gillian Anderson and Oscar® nominee Richard E. Grant lead the cast which also includes Bronte Carmichael and Adeel Akhtar.

About the Creators: 

Dan Ojari and Mikey Please are co-founders of the BAFTA® Award-winning Parabella animation studio which is based in East London. They co-directed Robin Robin, the first production in association with Aardman and produced exclusively for Netflix. Together they authored an adaptation of the script of the Robin Robin holiday special to create the book. They both live in London. Learn more about Mikey Please at mikeyplease.co.uk and Dan Ojari at www.danojari.com.

Briony May Smith is a British illustrator who has published titles in the US and the UK, including Stardust, written by Jeanne Willis (Nosy Crow, 2019). She also wrote and illustrated Imelda and the Goblin King (Flying Eye Books, 2015) and Margaret’s Unicorn (Schwartz and Wade, 2020), a Fall 2020 Indie Kids’ Next List selection. She lives in Devon, England. Learn more at brionymaysmith.com.

Red Comet Press
Facebook: Red Comet Press
Twitter: @redcometpress
Instagram: @redcometpressbooks

Watch the Netflix special on November 24!

Review: There is no way you can read this book without loving Robin Robin. Robin means well, tries their best, and never gives up, and just look at that silly walk in the flagged passages (they’re trying to walk like a mouse)–how can you not love Robin?! And the love for characters won’t stop there when it comes to the wonderful cast of characters that Kirkus says “any character in this picture book could be a main character in a different book.” I cannot wait to see the Netflix special because I know that I am going to fall in love with it, too!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is so fun to read aloud, and with the themes it has and a Netflix special, there is so much that can be done in the classroom: theme, how an individual’s presence affects the plot, analyze the structure, and compare/contrast/evaluate content in diverse medias and formats. There’s just so much that can be done.

Flagged Passages: 

Official Trailer for the Musical:

Read This If You Love: Picture books staring animals, with repetitive text, or with a moral

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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A Sari for Ammi
Author: Mamta Nainy
Illustrator: Sandhya Prabhat
Publication Date: November 9, 2021 by Amazon Crossing

Summary: Ammi weaves the most beautiful saris but never gets to wear any of them. Her two little daughters decide to do something about it—break their piggy bank! But when there isn’t enough money to buy Ammi a sari, the two girls must work together to find a solution. Will they be able to buy Ammi the gift she so deserves? With a text full of heart, and bright, cheerful artwork, this story brings readers into the home of a weaver’s family in Kaithoon, India, where the creation of saris is an art form. The book includes a glossary of Indian terms and a note about the saris made in this region.

“This delightful picture book shines a spotlight on a rural, underrepresented Indian Muslim community.” —Kirkus Reviews

Mamta Nainy is a children’s writer, editor, and translator based in New Delhi, India. She is the author of many children’s books, including A Brush with Indian Art, illustrated by Aniruddha Mukherjee, which won the Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award in 2019; and Bioscope, illustrated by Shanti Devi, which was named to the IBBY Honor List in 2012. Follow the author on Instagram @mamtanainy.

Sandhya Prabhat is an independent animator and illustrator from Chennai, India, who resides in the United States. She has a master’s degree in animation and digital arts from New York University. She has illustrated nearly a dozen picture books, including her recent book I Am Brown, written by Ashok Banker. She animates for TV and movies and creates content for social media websites such as Facebook, Google, and Snapchat. Follow the artist on Instagram @sandhyaprabhat.

Review: This is one of those books that makes readers want to be better people. The two sisters in this book have so much heart and so much love for their mother that they are determined to buy her a sari. It is clear that their mother is so beautiful of a person that they feel she must own a beautiful sari. I love, love this book and really enjoyed reading it to my children. Afterwards, we talked about the many ways we can be better people.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book invites readers to take action. After reading the text, I might ask students the ways in which they can show their gratitude for the people in their lives. Then, we might begin a community action project together.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why doesn’t Ammi own a sari?
  • What do her daughters decide to do? What do they learn along the way?
  • How might you show your gratitude for the people in your life?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Each Kindness by Jacqueline WoodsonI Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët, Normal Norman by Tara LazarAdrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers

Giveaway:

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Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

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The Troubled Girls of Dragomire Academy
Author: Anne Ursu
Published October 12, 2021 by Walden Pond Press
Happy book birthday!! 🎉

Summary: If no one notices Marya Lupu, it’s likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in Illyria may possess the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread. For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy — a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself — things that threaten the precarious balance upon which their country is built.

Praise:

A wonderful and inspiring feminist fantasy.” – Kirkus, starred review

“An accessible, timely school story with a rather Transylvanian flavor to its fantasy setting. Ursu explores girls’ conditioning in timidity and shame in a male-dominated world and, ultimately, envisions a hopeful, female-determined future of magical ability.” – Horn Book Magazine

“A suspenseful tale woven with secrets and magic, with a gasp-worthy twist at the end, The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is everything I love about fantasy. Spell-binding.” – Christina Soontornvat, Newbery Honor-winning author of A Wish in the Dark

“Anne Ursu practices her own brand of sorcery—the ability to craft wondrous, magical stories that are unlike anything you’ve ever read. Another extraordinary tale from a remarkably talented author.” – Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe

“A thoughtful and incisive story of lies told to control people and the complicated girls who ask questions, push back, and keep fighting.” – Tui Sutherland, New York Times-bestselling author of the Wings of Fire series

“It’s no secret that Anne Ursu is a gifted storyteller. The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is intricately plotted and compulsively readable, with characters who will stay with you long after you stop reading. I could not put it down.” – Aisha Saeed, New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy manages the particular magic of being both a true fantasy novel and a clear-eyed reflection of the here-and-now. Bighearted, generous, and outstandingly original, this is a story only Anne Ursu could write.”- Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of The House That Wasn’t There

About the Author: Anne Ursu is the author of the acclaimed novels The Lost Girl, Breadcrumbs, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. The recipient of a McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, Anne is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at www.anneursu.com.

Review: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This book is a loud cry for all the times females have been told they were trouble or too loud or had too many opinions or talked too much or asks too many questions or is too bossy or… or… or… Because of the patriarichal nature of our society, many girls will hear these thrown at them over and over again because in society’s eyes, it is our job to comply. Marya lives in a society that her job is to not only comply but to also fade into the background, so many of those who read will automatically connect with Marya’s plight and her personality trait of wanting to push back. Marya doesn’t want to just be in the background.

I do not want to share much more about the book than what the summary includes because it was such a pleasure to read–I am envious of all of you who get to read it for the first time! Anne Ursu’s ability to craft a fantastical world that is easy to imagine, write lyrically yet precisely, and create this narrative filled with twists, turns, and a protagonist you will be rooting for lends itself to just a fantastic read. This will definitely be one of my favorite reads of the year!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Walden Pond Press has shared a teacher-created educator guide with discussion questions, classroom activities, and extensions!

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1: The Girl in the Coop

There were few women pictured in the great tapestries of Illyria–besides the witches, of course. The tapestries depicted moments of heoism, epic battles of good and evil, of powerful sorcerers and brave noblemen protecting the kingdom from the monsters that had threatened it through its history.

That is not to say that girls and women did not matter to Illyria: behind every great tapestry was a woman who wove it, just as behind every great sorcerer was a wife to tend to his domestic affairs, a governess to teach his children, a cook to warm his gullet, a maid to keep his fires lit.

And behind every boy who dreamed of being a sorcerer was a mother who raised him to be brave, noble, and kind. And perhaps that boy even had a sister, who right before the Council for the Magical Protection of Illyria finally visited his humble home to test him for magical gift, made sure the chicken coop was clean.

Read This If You Love: Kingdom of Secrets by Christyne MorrellRaybearers by Jordan Ifueko, A Tale of Magic by Chris Colfer, The Spinner of Dreams by K.A. Reynolds, The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra

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Other Blog Tour Stops:

October 12 A Nerdy Bibliophile in Wanderlust
October 13 Read Wonder
October 14 Nerdy Book Club
October 15 A Library Mama
October 16 Maria’s Mélange
October 17 By Singing Light
October 18 Bluestocking Thinking
October 20 Insatiable Readers

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

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What is Love?
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publishing December 28, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: A beautiful fable about the nature of love, from beloved, award-winning picture book creators Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis.

“What is love?” a young boy asks. “I can’t answer that,” his grandmother says, and so the boy goes out into the world to find out. But while each person he meets—the fisherman, the actor, and others—has an answer to his question, not one seems quite right. Could love really be a fish, or applause, or the night? Or could it actually be something much closer to home? This tender, funny tale is an original take on the “I love you” story, a picture book treasure for all ages to read and cherish.

A CLASSIC LOVE STORY: A wonderful narrative voice and spectacular pictures give this book the feel of a modern classic. Fans of The Runaway Bunny, Guess How Much I Love You, and Love You Forever will adore this book.

A BOOK THAT KIDS AS WELL AS PARENTS WILL ENJOY: Many books about the love between parents and children are told from an adult’s point of view. This book begins from the child’s perspective, and it’s funny and unexpected in ways that children can relate to, while being thoughtful in ways that adults will appreciate. Like all great children’s books, this book can be understood on many levels.

A BOOK ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF: The boy’s journey takes him to many different people, whose descriptions of what love means to them is very much about how they see themselves and their lives.

A GREAT READ-ALOUD: The engaging text is full of surprises and the distinctive voice of the narrator invites audiences to respond.

STAR TALENT: Mac Barnett is a New York Times bestselling author and a beloved figure on the school speaking circuit. Carson Ellis is a Caldecott Honor-winner and illustrator of some of the most interesting and beautiful children’s books published today. They’re an incredible creative duo and long-time friends, working together for the first time on this book.

Review: What is love? Adults and children will have a hard time defining it. It’s an abstract concept that is difficult to describe. A boy sets out to try to find the answer to this question. What I loved most about this book was that it wasn’t entirely serious—instead, this charming story has dabs of humor in it. Mac Barnett is just incredibly talented, and I’ve always loved the ways in which Carson Ellis’s illustrations capture the hearts of kids. I adored this book and think it will be one that readers of all ages will appreciate. It will leave them pondering—what is love to them?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers words and images which attempt to describe an abstract concept. Readers might write their own versions of this book with a different concept. For instance, “What is joy?” or “What is hope?”

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is love?
  • What answers does the boy find?
  • How do the author and illustrator add humor to the story?
  • Which spread was your favorite, and why?
  • Why is love defined differently by each person he asks?
  • Although the boy said he didn’t find an answer, he tells his grandmother he did–what is his answer?

Flagged Passages: 

“She picked me up in her arms and said,

‘I can’t answer that.’

‘Who can?’ I asked.

‘If you go out into the world,

you might find an answer.'”

Read This If You Love: Books about Love

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**Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!**

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