It Fell From the Sky
By the Fan Brothers
Published: September 28, 2021 by Simon & Schuster
Summary: From the creators of the critically acclaimed The Night Gardener and Ocean Meets Sky comes a whimsical and elegantly illustrated picture book about community, art, the importance of giving back—and the wonder that fell from the sky.
It fell from the sky on a Thursday.
None of the insects know where it came from, or what it is. Some say it’s an egg. Others, a gumdrop. But whatever it is, it fell near Spider’s house, so he’s convinced it belongs to him.
Spider builds a wonderous display so that insects from far and wide can come look at the marvel. Spider has their best interests at heart. So what if he has to charge a small fee? So what if the lines are long? So what if no one can even see the wonder anymore?
But what will Spider do after everyone stops showing up?
Review: I cannot get enough of this book. I just want to hug it every time I see it. The story and illustrations work in a way that is simply magical. Their talent is simply remarkable. When an object falls from the sky (“A marble!” -My 7-year-old), the insects are convinced it must be from another world. Spider decides to develop a display and invites the insects far and wide. They merely need to pay a leaf to see the object. But spider learns an important lesson—one that serves as a good reminder to all of us. I loved this book and expect it to see some awards. It dazzled me.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might to ask students to choose an object to examine from a different perspective than their own. They could write their own picture books.
- How do the creators of the book use color to enhance their story?
- How do the creators of the story use personification to teach a lesson?
- What do we learn from this story? What does the spider teach us?
Read This If You Love: The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers; What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada; What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada; What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada; Magic Candies by Heena Baek; The Caiman by María Eugenia Manrique; Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
**Thank you to Beth from Simon & Schuster for Providing a Copy for Review!**
Author: Heena Baek
Translator: Sophie Bowman
Published: September 1, 2021 by Amazon Crossing Kids
Summary: A quirky story about finding your voice, from internationally acclaimed author Heena Baek.
Tong Tong could never have imagined what everyone around him was thinking. But when he gets hold of some magic candies, suddenly there are voices everywhere. He can hear how his couch feels, what upsets his dog, that his demanding dad loves him. He even gets to catch up with his dead grandmother. It turns out, these voices in Tong Tong’s life have A LOT to say! Is Tong Tong ready to hear it?
At turns funny, weird, and heartfelt, this imaginative picture book from award-winning Korean author Heena Baek will take readers along on Tong Tong’s journey as he goes from lonely to brave.
★“Show-stopping spreads by Baek, similar to art by Red Nose Studio, feature molded, emotive figures in meticulously constructed scenery with miniature furniture, photographed under dramatic lighting—an effect startlingly close to animation. It’s a fully realized world that considers discerning meaning and making friends, while offering artwork that lingers in the memory.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“The enhanced artwork establishes depth and perspective…depictions of facial expressions are skillful and endearing, and the interplay between text and illustrations will cause readers to linger and ponder. An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Deeply touching, funny, and incredibly odd, this is the kind of picture book that gets you excited about picture books all over again…Magic Candies is so remarkable…a book that is both about giving voice to the voiceless and finding your own.” —Betsy Bird, School Library Journal
Heena Baek is an acclaimed picture book author and illustrator from South Korea. She won the 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, a huge international award honoring the body of work of children’s book creators. She studied educational technology at Ewha Womans University and animation at the California Institute of the Arts. Utilizing her diverse animation production experience, Heena creates powerful and interesting picture books, often sculpting characters and building sets. She is the author and illustrator of a number of picture books, many of which have been translated and have received awards from South Korea and internationally. Follow her on Twitter @heenastory. On Instagram: @baekheena
Sophie Bowman is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, studying Korean literature. She was awarded the ICF Literature Translation Fellowship at Ewha Womans University. In 2015, she won the Korea Times Modern Korean Literature Translation Award grand prize for poetry with her translations of Jin Eun-young and co-translated Kim Bo-Young’s I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories. Follow her on Twitter @SophieOrbital.
Review: I was fortunate to receive this book about a month ago, and I have read it at least one hundred times to my children. They just can’t get enough of the quirkiness, and neither can I. After my very first reading, I immediately flipped to the first page to read it again. It’s a really neat book that sparks readers’ imaginations. The kids and I love to debate about which sculpture/illustration is our favorite. This book reminds me why I love picture books so much. It’s difficult to describe, but it offers a sense of magic for me. The main character’s words and actions bring out so many emotions for me. I felt simultaneous humor and sadness when he speaks to his grandmother through bubble gum under the table, for instance. The book is such a fascinating concept, and the author/illustrator is incredibly talented.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might to ask students to use clay to sculpt and write a missing spread with a different colored candy in the book.
- How does the author make the narrator come alive?
- How does the candies differ? Evolve?
- What is the dog’s name? Why is this interesting?
- What does this book teach you about being human?
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for Providing a Copy for Review!**
Zonia’s Rain Forest
Author and Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal
Published March 30th, 2021 by Candlewick Press
Summary: A heartfelt, visually stunning picture book from the Caldecott Honor and Sibert Medal Winner illuminates a young girl’s day of play and adventure in the lush rain forest of Peru.
Zonia’s home is the Amazon rain forest, where it is always green and full of life. Every morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia, and every morning she answers. She visits the sloth family, greets the giant anteater, and runs with the speedy jaguar. But one morning, the rain forest calls to her in a troubled voice. How will Zonia answer?
Acclaimed author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal explores the wonders of the rain forest with Zonia, an Asháninka girl, in her joyful outdoor adventures. The engaging text emphasizes Zonia’s empowering bond with her home, while the illustrations—created on paper made from banana bark—burst with luxuriant greens and delicate details. Illuminating back matter includes a translation of the story in Asháninka, information on the Asháninka community, as well as resources on the Amazon rain forest and its wildlife.
⭐“At its simplest level, this is a beautiful story about a child who loves her home and the animals she with whom she shares it. Martinez-Neal’s rounded, soft-textured illustrations are wonderfully inviting and involve linocut and woodcut leaves and fronds printed on natural banana-bark paper… The text is kept to two short sentences per double-page spread, reflecting Zonia’s uncomplicated and innocent view of the world, which is shaken when she stumbles upon a large section of clear-cut forest.” – Booklist (starred review)
⭐“This beautiful look at a young girl’s life and her determination to save her home is a perfect read for young environmentalists.” – School Library Journal (starred review)
“In Juana Martinez-Neal’s Zonia’s Rain Forest, super-cute critters are out in full force…A girl who lives in the rain forest begins each day by greeting her animal friends in this exuberant picture book crowned with an environmental message.” – Shelf Awareness
About the Author: Juana Martinez-Neal is the Peruvian-born daughter and granddaughter of painters. Her debut as an author-illustrator, Alma and How She Got Her Name, was awarded a Caldecott Honor and was published in Spanish as Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre. She also illustrated La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, for which she won a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, which won a Robert F. Sibert Medal. Juana Martinez-Neal lives in Arizona with her family. Visit her online at www.juanamartinezneal.com.
Review : Zonia’s story starts as a story of family. We meet her mother and baby brother and the love between them is evident in the words and illustrations.
The book then moves to Zonia’s adventures visiting her friends throughout the rain forest. We get to meet all of her animal friends. With backmatter introducing the type of animals, Trent and I went on a research exploration of the different rain forest animals that Martinez-Neal introduced to us.
The book ends with a call to action. Zonia is Asháninka, Indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, so the rain forest is her home. Her family’s home. The book ends with Zonia running across deforestation near her home and realizing that the forest needs her, and all of our, help.
And finally, the backmatter of the book is incredible. Juana Martinez-Neal, who is Peruvian, is not Asháninka, so I am not sure of the accuracy of the portrayal, but the backmatter shows the work she did to do justice to them and their home. The back matter includes a translation of the entire book to Asháninka, information about the Asháninka People, a few facts about the Amazon, threats to the Amazon, and Zonia’s friends we met in the book. Finally, especially useful for in the classroom, she includes selected sources and resources, all which can be viewed at https://juanamartinezneal.com/books/zonia/.
With Martinez-Neal’s ability to craft the simplistic text in a beautiful way mixed with her signature illustrations, full of movement, color, and personality along with the rain forest elements, Zonia’s Rainforest is a perfect book for story time, science cross-curricular reading, a jumping off point for inquiry, or a mentor text.
Read “The story behind Zonia’s Rain Forest” by Juana Martinez-Neal here.
Watch an interview with Juana Martinez-Neal about Zonia’s Rain Forest:
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: Julia Torres created a Teacher’s Guide for Zonia for Candlewick Press, and it is the best resource for teaching Zonia. It includes 7 Discussion Questions and 8 Classroom Activities.
**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review!**
Author: María Eugenia Manrique
Illustrator: Ramón París
Translator: Amy Brill
Published: July 1, 2021 by Amazon Crossing Kids
Summary: The unforgettable story of a man and his alligator.
When Faoro the clockmaker adopts a baby alligator, he has no idea that someday their story will travel far and wide. But the town of San Fernando de Apure would never forget this kind young man and his adoring alligator, who played with the neighborhood children, took part in Faoro’s wedding, and, eventually, mourned his loss. Now their story is being shared with the world.
In this delightful picture book first published in Venezuela, the author brings us back to her own childhood in Venezuela, as one of the children who used to visit this famous caiman, to tell the story of a man who loved animals and how his friendship with his alligator sparked a lasting legacy.
A New York Times Globetrotting Pick!
★“The striking illustrations…have a wild and whimsical feel about them, featuring lush foliage and expressive characters, including the eventually enormous caiman. It’s a memorable and unexpected demonstration of the universality of love, grief, and kindness.” —Booklist (starred review)
María Eugenia Manrique is one of the girls portrayed in this story. She rode the caiman when she visited her family in San Fernando de Apure. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. She studied fine art in Mexico City, specializing in xylography and engraving; Eastern painting at Nankín University, China; and sumi-e and calligraphy at the Nihon Shuji Kyoiku Zaidan Foundation in Japan. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. The Caiman is her first children’s book. For more information, visit her website: https://mariaeugeniamanrique.
Ramón París was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and as a child lived in Barinas, a plains state like Apure, where he also heard the story of the caiman. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. Hismost recent book for children, Duermevela, was selected for the Bologna Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition. His books have been recognized with honors including Los Mejores del Banco del Libro and the IBBY Honor List, among others, and they have been translated into numerous languages. Visit him at: ramon.paris.
Amy Brill’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications including the Washington Post, Medium, Real Simple, Oprah.com, and One Story. Her first novel, The Movement of Stars, was published by Riverhead Books. A native New Yorker, Amy lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.
Ricki’s Review: It’s NONFICTION. I read this book and couldn’t believe that the story was true, and it made me love it even more! The author beautifully tells the story of Jose Faoro, who adopts a baby alligator when it is just days old. My children have always dreamed of adopting a large animal such as this, so it offered a wonderfully intriguing read. Although, I might add that they now think that we can take in an alligator in our house (ha!). This is the story of a great man who loved animals and loved those around him. I absolutely adored the gentle telling, and it felt like a book that would be translated because children all over the world would be captivated by this story. The illustrations stand out to me because they are timeless. They feel contemporary to my boys, but they also filled my heart with a softness because they reminded me of the classic illustrations of the stories I read and loved as a child. Ahhh, I just adore this book.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is accessible to all levels, but I’d love to see it in elementary school classrooms, where teachers ask their students to research examples of other people who did something out of the ordinary. They could write their own picture books.
- How do the words and illustrations work together to form a cohesive story?
- Does Faoro’s story surprise you? Why or why not?
- What does Faoro’s life tell you about him?
- What did you learn from the story?
Read This If You Love: Nonfiction Picture Books; Timeless Stories; Books about Animals
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for Providing a Copy for Review!**
Charming as a Verb
Author: Ben Philippe
Published October 13, 2020 by Balzer + Bray
Summary: Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.
There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .
This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.
Review: This is one of the best examples of characterization that I’ve read in a book. I fell in love with so many characters (even minor ones!), which drew me into the story even more. Henri reminds me of some of my favorite students that I’ve had. He’s charming, driven, and likable. There’s a lot that happens in this book that I don’t want to spoil—but I should write that it teaches an incredibly powerful lesson. There’s one scene that made my stomach do flips, and I will think of that scene often. This would be a great text to use to explore concepts of ethics. It also offers a lot of insight about the college prep experiences for teens. I highly recommend this book to readers. It’s a powerful story and one that will stick with me.
- How does the characterization of the text add to the story? Who were your favorite characters, and why?
- Which minor characters really stand out to you? How does the author make them so noteworthy?
- What did you learn from this book?
- What does this book teach us about ethics? About humanity?
“There’s no use complaining about it and wishing the world was different. This isn’t how we change things for ourselves.”
Read this if You Loved: Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson; The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe; I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
Love is a Revolution
Author: Renée Watson
Published February 2, 2021 by Bloomsbury
Summary: From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Renée Watson comes a new YA–a love story about not only a romantic relationship but how a girl finds herself and falls in love with who she really is.
When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.
In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.
Ricki’s Review: There is so much to write about this book! First, I loved the way it elevated body positivity. The comments (implicit and explicit) about Nala’s size felt, at times, infuriating. I was so proud of the way she handled these comments. I also loved the idea that everyone doesn’t need to be a loud activist to be doing amazing work. Nala was keenly focused on her family, and the work that she did was important work. I admired her greatly. The book made me think a lot about my own convictions and what I value most. This is a book that belongs in all classrooms, and I recommend it highly.
- How is Nala different from the other characters in the book? What do we learn from her?
- What does Tye value? What do we learn from him?
- How is Nala and Tye’s relationship perceived?
- How do different characters in this book perceive family? Which characters reflect your own values, and why?
“I can’t stand when people don’t follow through. Make a plan, stick to it. Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Read This If You Love: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson; Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado
Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Published March 5, 2020 by HarperTeen
Summary: In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Ricki’s Review: I was so happy to see that this book won the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. It is one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read. It made me laugh, it made me weep, and it filled me with so many emotions and so many wonderings. The book is beautifully lyrical, and the voices are so strong. There’s a scene in the book that simply took my breath away. If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend you head out and purchase it now. It’s absolutely magnificent.
- How do the two perspectives of the story work together? How did it enhance your reading of the story?
- How does place function in the story?
- Where is home for the characters?
- How do the characters in the story grieve? What understandings did it offer about grief and loss?
- How do the characters in this book show strength in many different ways?
“Can you be from a place
you have never been?
You can find the island stamped all over me,
but what would the island find if I was there?
Can you claim a home that does not know you,
much less claim you as its own?”
Read This If You Love: Books. Seriously, it would be very difficult not to see the beauty of this book. Elizabeth Acevedo is one of the greatest writers of our time.
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