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Kat and Juju
Author: Kataneh Vahani
Published July 1st, 2020 by Two Lions

Summary: An unlikely duo star in a charming story about being different, finding courage, and the importance of friendship in the first book in a new series from an award-winning animation director.

Kat likes doing things her very own way, but sometimes she doubts herself. So when a bird named Juju arrives, Kat hopes he’ll be the best friend she’s always wanted. He’s outgoing and silly and doesn’t worry about what others think—the opposite of who she is. Bit by bit, with Juju’s help, Kat discovers her strength, and how to have a friend and be one—while still being true to herself.

Praise: “This debut gently encourages personal growth while reinforcing the value of being different.” —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author: Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also saves fallen baby birds and rescues them. Together with her students, they have raised over 13 fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other.

Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju.

Kellee’s Review: Kat feels like she doesn’t fit in with her peers: she worries, follows the rules, and doesn’t know how to let go and have fun, so she hopes and hopes that her birthday animal best friend will finally give her someone to play with and feel included; however, the problem is Juju, her new animal friend, is nothing like her. But it is through their time together that Kat realizes that her and Juju can be friends even if different and Kat even finds it in herself to do her own happy dance!

I do hope that the message that comes across to readers is that everyone should be whomever they are and others will accept you. I could see some reading it as Kat needing Juju to change her to get others to like her, but I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as Juju just showing and helping Kat see what an amazing person she is.

One of my favorite things about this book is the illustrations–the way that color is used so intentionally and are just so fun!

Ricki’s Review: I think we all have this yearning to be more ____ or more ____. As an adult, I really identified with Kat. As I always work to improve myself, I try to be more like other people I admire. This made for a phenomenal conversation with my children. We talked about people who we admire and how we can take slivers of these people to be better versions of ourselves, but we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) be these people. We are individuals with our own strengths.

This book is beautifully written and it is clear to readers the care and precision the author took to characterize Kat and Juju. I felt like the author was deeply connected to and understanding of the emotions that kids face. The friendship between these two characters is quite magical. I am looking forward to and excited about reading other books by this author.

Please Note: Together, we did find one aspect of the text that we wanted to comment about. We were concerned with an image of the characters wearing sombreros and playing instruments traditionally attached to mariachi music. For us, this felt like cultural appropriation. We would encourage all authors to avoid images where characters dress up in costume like this (see, for instance, the Clifford the Big Red Dog Halloween book where Clifford dresses up like a Native American). We write this not as a critical attack of the book but instead, as a way that we think all of us (authors, illustrators, teachers, publishers, etc.) can work together to think carefully about the images we portray. This does not take away from our desire to read more adventures of Kat and Juju.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Along with a read aloud of this book, great discussions could happen focusing on self-esteem, worrying, and friendship. It could also offer opportunities for critical thinking about the concept of cultural appropriation.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were going to have an animal best friend, what type of animal would you want? What would its personality be like?
  • Why was Kat so worried that others wouldn’t like her? Should anyone ever feel that way?
  • Were there times in the book that Kat’s peers could have been more interactive to make Kat feel more accepted?
  • Why is it important to have all sorts of different types of people in the world?
  • Is it okay to worry? If you are worrying too much, what should you do?
  • How are Kat and Juju like other two-character, opposite friends books like Elephant and Piggie or Frog and Toad?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival, I’m Bored series by Michael Ian Black, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton

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The Blue Giant
Author & Illustrator: Katie Cottle
Published May 26th, 2020 by Pavilion Books Ltd.

Summary: A poignant and timely picture book introducing children to the issue of ocean pollution, with ideas to help the world become a better, cleaner place.

Coral and her mom are enjoying a break at the seaside. Until a creature emerges from the waves! It’s a giant. A blue giant. It is made of water, fish, and sea plants and has a stirring plea to help clean up the ocean.

Coral and her mom agree to help, donning their scuba-diving outfits and setting off to sea. But they can’t do it alone…can they?

This stunning follow-up to Katie Cottle’s debut picture book The Green Giant is another entertaining and beautiful eco-tale from the 2017 winner of the Batsford Prize. It introduces children to the issues of pollution, waste management, and the oceans, with suggestions of lifestyle changes to help clean up our seas.

About the Author: Katie Cottle is an illustrator and printmaker living and working in Bristol, U.K. Her work is often informed by the marks and colors created through traditional lithography. She also works digitally, using an iPad, and occasionally paints with gouache. The Blue Giant is her second book, following on from The Green Giant.

Review: Katie Cottle has caught onto something big with the format of this and her Green Giant book: it truly brings our environment to life and shows the harm that we are doing to it. The anthropomorphism of the ocean makes it even easier to connect to it as an entity as it shows how we are hurting it, and it shows what Meera DOES to try to reverse the effects we’ve caused.

In addition to the theme and story, I also really liked the illustrations. The author’s use of line is used expertly to show movement, and I loved all of the colors to really bring the story to life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is perfect for any discussion of water pollution and the environment. It shows a problem, a potential soultion, and hope for the future. It also specifically talks about single-use plastics which may be a new topic for many students.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is something you can do to help the ocean?
  • What does Meera do to help the ocean?
  • How does our actions effect the ocean?
  • What is an animal that is effected by our pollution?
  • What is a single-use plastic that you use that you could replace?
  • What was the author’s purpose in writing this book?
  • Why did the author give the ocean a voice in the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Learning about the environment

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**Thank you to Media Master Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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We’re excited to share Camp Candlewick, a new online reading program! Over the course of twelve weeks, young people of all ages will be encouraged to take part in shared reads, activities, and virtual events with prominent creators.

Via website content (at https://stayhome.candlewick.com/) and email newsletters as well as robust support resources on sites such as Pinterest, “campers” will be alerted to reading suggestions, prompts, and activities for the “cabins” appropriate for their age.

Here are the four cabins! Each are hyperlinked to take you to the cabin’s Pinterest board:

From the press release: The idea for the summer camp grew out of the success of the publisher’s Stay Home with Candlewick Press initiative, which has provided resources and support to families during the transition to remote learning. “We realized that families might feel even more in need of diversion over the summer, when the school year has ended and many camps will be closed,” said Kathleen Rourke, executive director of educational library sales and marketing at Candlewick.

“Preventing the loss of skills is more critical than ever this year,” Rourke said. “We hope that these 12 weeks of activities will provide connection and enrichment when young readers need it most.”

We look forward to our sons taking part in Camp Candlewick as well as sharing the opportunity with our students!

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Don’t Stop, song lyrics by Christine McVie, illustrations by Nusha Ashjaee
Good Vibrations, song lyrics by Mike Love and Brian Wilson, illustrations by Paul Hoppe
We’re Not Gonna Take It, song lyrics by Dee Snider, illustrations by Margaret McCartney
African, song lyrics by Peter Tosh, illustrations by Rachel MossAuthor:

Published June 2, 2020 by Akashic Books

LyricPop Summary: LyricPop presents your favorite song lyrics by renowned songwriters as illustrated picture books, instilling a love of music and song among young readers.

“LyricPop represents two things I’m passionate about—music, and books for children,” said Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books. “As both a musician and a publisher, I hope LyricPop will inspire parents, grandparents, and others to read (and even sing!) these books aloud with the children in their lives.”

After these four initial books are released, October 6th We Got the Beat, Respect, and Move the Crowd will be published. Then March 2, 2021 will bring us (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, Humble and Kind, and These Boots are Made for Walkin’.

Don’t Stop Summary: Don’t Stop is a beautifully illustrated picture book based on Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac’s enduring anthem to optimism and patience. The song was one of the singles on Fleetwood Mac’s megahit album Rumours, which spent thirty-one weeks at number one on the Billboard charts and went on to sell over forty million copies worldwide.

With lyrics by Christine McVie and illustrations by Nusha Ashjaee, this touching picture book imagines a rabbit willing her hibernating friends out of a long and dark winter and into joyous spring. Don’t Stop is a great opportunity for fans of Christine McVie and Fleetwood Mac to introduce their favorite band to their young children, and for parents looking to share a bright message in song.

• Debuting in 1977, this song is one of the most identifiable of that decade
• A classic rock radio staple
• A top-five single in the US, and one of the band’s most enduring hits
• Written by band keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie
• Sung as duet between Christine McVie and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham
• Appears on the Grammy-winning album Rumours, which as of 2019 is the RIAA-certified tenth all-time best-selling album in the US
• It was the theme song for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign

Good Vibrations Summary: Good Vibrations is a lively picture book based on Mike Love and Brian Wilson’s number one hit about absorbing positive energy from the people around them. Often praised as one of the most important compositions in rock, the Beach Boys’ original version of this song was their third number one Billboard hit. With lyrics by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, and illustrations by Paul Hoppe, this picture book follows a girl and her dog as they make their way down to the beach, sharing good vibrations all along the way. Parents and children alike can share and enjoy one of rock’s greatest hits through the colorful pages of Good Vibrations.

• Released in 1966, this is one of the defining and iconic songs of the era
• The recording involved the then-revolutionary process of tape-splicing, cutting up and editing pieces of the master tape together
• The musicians used in the recording of the song included members of the Wrecking Crew, the legendary set of Los Angeles session studio players
• Beach Boys publicist Derek Taylor described the song as a “pocket symphony” (Derek was the former press officer for the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and worked with the Byrds and the Mamas & the Papas, among others)
• The unusual sound featured in the song’s chorus was produced by an electrotheremin
• The song was a transatlantic number one, reaching the top spot in both the US and the UK
• The song was the last US number one the Beach Boys achieved in the 1960s
• Inducted into both the GRAMMY and Rock & Roll Halls of Fame
• Rolling Stone ranked the song at number six on its 2010 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
• In 2001, the RIAA and the National Endowment for the Arts published their Songs of the Century list, with “Good Vibrations” at number 24
• The song is part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s permanent exhibition, 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

We’re Not Gonna Take It Summary: We’re Not Gonna Take It is a playful picture book echoing 1980s hair band Twisted Sister’s most popular antiestablishment anthem. As part of their triple-platinum album Stay Hungry, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” spent fifteen weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching number twenty-one. With lyrics by Dee Snider and illustrations by Margaret McCartney, this picture book follows three toddlers on a mission to defy their parents, whether it be lunchtime, bath  time, or bedtime. We’re Not Gonna Take It is a story both parents and children can relate to, and a song they can enjoy together.

• Released in 1984, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is a signature rock anthem of the 1980s
• The song was a Hot 100 top forty hit and reached the top ten on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart
• The album it appeared on, Stay Hungry, was the band’s breakthrough and a US top twenty hit
• Its anthemic quality has propelled the song to become a US pop culture touchstone
• The song has an iconic music video

African Summary: African is a children’s book featuring lyrics by Peter Tosh and illustrations by Jamaican artist Rachel Moss. The song “African” by Peter Tosh was originally released in 1977 on his second solo record, Equal Rights. He wrote the song during a time of civil unrest in Jamaica as a reminder to all black people that they were part of the same community.
The album is considered one of the most influential reggae works of all time.

• A key song from the classic 1970s era of reggae
• Peter Tosh was one of the founding members of the iconic reggae group the Wailers

Review: All four of these classic songs are ones that as soon as you hear the title you start humming the melody or reciting the lyrics and LyricPop books is a great way to introduce these to a new generation of kids. All four are very different songs and illustrations which shows the extension of this new picture book series.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In the classroom, I would have so much fun with these. I would love to group my students in four different groups (or more if it is after more LyricPop books have come out), have them listen to the songs these books are based on, and create their own picture book. Then, after they do so, they can read the LyricPop books and compare and contrast. This would be a great way to discuss interpretation, figurative language, illustrator choices, etc.

There’s another option too: Have students read the lyrics first without listening to the song and create a book. Then, after listening to the song, ask how they would change their book.

When done with the songs from LyricPop, students could then pick their own songs and make their own books!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think the illustrator interpreted the lyrics the way they did?
  • Do you think of the lyrics the same or different?
  • What is the main theme of the song?
  • (Before hearing the song) How do you imagine the song is going to sound?
  • (After hearing the song) Does the book fit the sound of the song?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Music

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The Refuge
Author: Sandra Le Guen
Translator: Daniel Hahn
Illustrator:  Stéphane Nicolet
Published June 1, 2020 by Amazon Crossing Kids

Summary: “There’s a new girl at school. She never stops looking up at the sky! She likes the stars and comets.”

Jeannette tells her mom about her new classmate, who also loves astronomy but seems sad. She realizes it’s not easy to move to a new place. So the next day, at recess, Jeannette asks Iliana to play.

At first, it’s a little hard to communicate because Iliana is learning a new language. The girls have to use their hands and their drawings. But they keep trying, and, soon, Iliana tells Jeannette about her difficult journey as a refugee who had to leave her country. Then their families meet, and Iliana’s parents share their story too. The girls’ friendship blooms, as limitless as the sky and their imaginations.

Originally published in France and brought to life with wonderfully expressive artwork, this is a book about sharing stories and finding refuge in friendship, family, and a new home.

Kellee’s Review: This book is beautiful. It shows pure empathy for a young girl, and her family, who needs all love in the scary new situation she is in. Their journey was harrowing and being in a new place where they do not speak the language must be completely overwhelming; however, this was something they felt no choice in doing because of the horrors of war back at their home. But sadly, refugees have been villainized–once again fear winning over empathy. However, The Refuge puts a narrative to the journey that many children and families face just to stay safe. And it is such a well-crafted narrative with beautiful illustrations–just an overall excellent book. A must read for ALL ages. 

Ricki’s Review: Magnificent. This book is truly and utterly magnificent. I am quite hopeful it will win some of the major literary awards. Whew! The writing depicts the myriad emotions that Iliana might have experienced on her journey, and Jeannette has such deep empathy for her classmate. The illustrations take the book to the next level. I would purchase a spread of this book and frame it for the wall in my office—the illustrations are that captivating. We share some of the illustrations below. There’s one illustration in which Iliana is carrying a giant boat on her back, and a star hangs from a string on the front. Two small children walk up the top of the steep boat. The words match the illustrations, and yet the illustrations have deeper, metaphoric meaning. This would be a terrific book to study at the high school and college level. It would sustain several classes of discussion. I plan to purchase a copy to use in my Teaching Reading class. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it highly.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Metaphor is powerfully used in this text (both in the writing and illustrations). This would be a magnificent text to use as a mentor text for the instruction of metaphor. Students might select a written metaphor to illustrate and an illustrated metaphor to write in words to consider the flexibility and power of the use of metaphor. Then, they might craft their own metaphors related to the story.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Choose one illustration that you like. What is the surface level meaning? What is the deeper meaning attached to the image?
  • How does Jeannette demonstrate empathy for Iliana?
  • What did you learn about refugees?
  • Why do you believe the author titled the book The Refuge instead of Refugee?
  • How do the illustrations and writing work together?
  • What creative techniques does the author use?
  • What creative techniques does the illustrator use?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Arrival by Shaun Tan, Refugee by Alan Gratz, Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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**Thank you, Barbara at Blue Slip Media, for providing copies for review!**

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It Is (Not) Perfect
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Expected publication: May 12th, 2020

Summary: Two fuzzy creatures are happily putting the finishing touches on their sandcastle when each of them thinks of something that would make it even better. As they work furiously to incorporate each new change, their tiny sandcastle becomes an over-the-top palace…but is it really perfect?

This latest book in the beloved series featuring the pals from Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small reminds us that perfection is in the eye—and heart—of the beholder.

Praise:

“Colorful cartoon illustrations add a lightheartedness to what could be a stressful real-life situation for kids. Another life lesson neatly packaged in child centric humor.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This award-winning duo have created a lovely tribute to the old adage that perfect is the enemy of good. Recommended for purchase for all collections.” —School Library Journal

About the Creators: Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small as well as series titles That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. They also wrote and illustrated Eraser, Can I Tell You a Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher’s work can also be seen in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.

Twitter: @annakang27 @chrisweyant05
Instagram: annakangbookschristopherweyant
Facebook: Anna Kang – Author; Christopher Weyant

Review: This series is one of my favorites. Although the simplicity of the texts makes the books seem straightforward, they are actually multi-tiered and can be used for so many different ages to discuss illustrations as part of the narrative, moral issues, friendship, perspective, and much more. All while following the stories for two super cute monster friends!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What ended up actually being perfect?
  • What did trying to please all cause?
  • Who gets to decide what is perfect?
  • Does everything you do need to be perfect?
  • How did trying to make it perfect ruin the fun?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Not series by Kang and Weyant including You Are (Not) SmallThat’s (Not) MineI Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends; How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk, Dexter series by Lindsay Ward including Don’t Forget Dexter and It’s Show and Tell, Dexter

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Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence
Author: Jacqueline Jules
Illustrator: Iris Deppe
Published April 1st, 2020 by Albert Whitman & Company

Summary: Whether just trying out for the team or reaching for the Olympics, there’s something for every reader in this playful poetry collection! From baseball, basketball, and football to double-dutch, mini-golf, and turning a cartwheel, these poems look at facing fears, dreaming big, and never giving up. This well-rounded collection explores sports and play across all abilities and backgrounds.

About the Author: Jacqueline Jules has been writing poems since middle school. Her poetry has been published in over a hundred publications. She is also the author of more than forty books for young readers, including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, and Duck for Turkey Day. She lives in northern Virginia and enjoys giving poetry workshops to students, teachers, and anyone else who loves poetry as much as she does. To learn more, and to download free classroom materials, visit her online at jacquelinejules.com.

Praise: 

“Jules presents a plethora of possibilities as the theme of children at play provides the structure for a collection of poems that encourage and applaud. . . . Fun and games, with something deeper to think about.” —Kirkus

“If you are looking for lighthearted, joyous, and youthful poems about childhood, this is the perfect selection for your bookshelves.” —Booklist

Review: Happy National Poetry Month! To celebrate, I knew I had to highlight this wonderful poetry book for two reasons:

1) It combines playing and poetry which will help with the engagement of reading poetry. It also teaches great lessons.

2) During this time of sheltering in place, play and persistence are both things we definitely need to encourage!

Jacqueline Jules does such a fantastic job with adapting each poem to the activity she is writing about and the fun illustrations by Iris Deppe bring the play to life. This is a poem book I recommend specifically now but also for all classrooms to use and have to explore this playful poetry.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: While Jules’s book represents many playground and outdoor activities, it doesn’t include everything. Have students write their own poems of play about the activity they love to do the most. To challenge them, ask them to put a conflict in the poem that must be overcome, so the poem includes a lesson of persistence.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Pick one of the activities written about that you have never done (that is reasonable to do). Do it then write a journal reflecting what it was like–maybe even try writing a poem about it!
  • Find examples of figurative language, such as imagery or personification, in one of Jules’s poems.
  • Which poem’s activity did you connect with the most?
  • Which poem’s lesson did you connect with the most?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Poetry, Sports

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