Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers edited by Rose Brock

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Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers
Editor: Rose Brock
Published: May 10, 2022 by Philomel

Summary: In a collection of personal stories and essays, award-winning and bestselling artists from Matt de la Peña and Veera Hiranandani to Max Brallier and R.L. Stine write about how hope always wins, even in the darkest of times.

Where does hope live?
In your family?
In your community?
In your school?
In your heart?


From a family restaurant to a hot-dog shaped car, from an empty road on a moonlight night to a classroom holiday celebration, this anthology of personal stories from award-winning and bestselling authors, shows that hope can live everywhere, even–or especially–during the darkest of times.

No matter what happens: Hope wins.

Contributors include: Tom Angleberger, James Bird, Max Brallier, Julie Buxbaum, Pablo Cartaya, J.C. Cervantes, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Stuart Gibbs, Adam Gidwitz, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Hena Khan, Gordon Korman, Janae Marks, Sarah Mlynowski, Rex Ogle, James Ponti, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Ronald L.Smith, Christina Soontornvat, and R.L. Stine.

Ricki’s and Kellee’s Review: We love that Rose Brock decided to take the idea of Hope Nation and create a version for younger readers because all ages need to hear stories from those they look up. This is especially true about stories that are filled with adversity and hope. Usually with anthologies from various authors, we find ourselves liking only some of the stories and finding that others are dragging; however, with this text, we found that each story fit purposefully in the book. And because of the purposeful choices, every reader will find something in the book to connect with and will learn a little bit of something from each story.

Although we liked all the stories, we did have some favorites:
-Pablo Cartaya speaks from the heart and definitely made us cry (and clap for the young lady who we know inspired one of Kellee’s favorite books, Each Tiny Spark);
-James Bird shows that there is hope even in the darkest of times and the power of a strong support system;
-J.C. Cervantes shared how a teacher changed everything even if the teacher nor the student realize it at the time;
-Adam Gidwitz writes about what so many of us have felt at one time or another, and we felt it deep in the gut;
-Christina Soontornvat shows what life can teach that school cannot;
-Stuart Gibbs tells the truth about adversity and absolute grief;
-Janae Marks speaks to how hopes and dreams can lead to different hopes and dreams, you just need patience;
-Gordon Korman speaks about that feeling of revision and the emotional roller coaster that come with it;
-Hena Khan speaks about what it means to feel different and to want to share a piece of ourselves with others;
-Sarah Mlynowski writes about the powerful bond of sisterhood and the feeling of being far from those we love; and
-James Ponti showed how even in middle school you can stand up for who you want to be, and the power of names and naming.

Although the diversity of stories and authors is vast and all readers will find something to connect with, we did wish there were a few more queer stories in the collection. With the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, we are particularly thinking about this topic. This could be supplemented by teachers with other essays beyond the collection.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This book easily lends itself to a personal narrative unit or a college essay unit. Both of these are very prevalent in curricula, which makes this book a phenomenal fit. Ricki showed the first chapter to her neighbor who is writing her college essay, and it inspired a great discussion.

Discussion Questions:  

  • What is hope?
  • Where and how do we seek hope?
  • When have you found hope in your life?
  • Which stories resonated with you? Why?

Flagged: “The daily reminder of how our own lives can be turned upside down made me realize why it’s so important to hang on to hope. It’s not always an easy thing to do—sometimes, it feels downright impossible—but the thing I know is that difficult times in life come and go; with those experiences, we grow as people. The key is to find ways to motivate and inspire our spirits—stories of hope can do that” (n.p.)

Read This If You Love: Hope Nation edited by Rose Brock; The Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul series; Essay Collections; Anthologies; Middle Grade Authors

Recommended For: 

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RickiSigand

Odd Birds: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Flock by Laura Gehl, Illustrated by Gareth Lucas

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Odd Birds: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Flock
Author: Laura Gehl
Illustrator: Gareth Lucas
Published June 14th, 2022 by Abrams Appleseed

Summary: Meet nature’s oddballs in this charming board book about some of the most unique birds in the world!

Backyard birds—move over! Odd Birds introduces babies and toddlers to unusual bird species, including the magnificent frigatebird with a bright red throat pouch and the California condor—the largest flying birds in North America! Gentle rhyming verses provide the comforting repetition that little ones crave, even as their minds are opened to new and fascinating creatures from around the world. At the end of the book, readers will find photographs of each bird, along with more detailed factual information. The eight birds featured are the magnificent frigatebird, blue-footed booby, shoebill stork, ostrich, hoatzin, oilbird, California condor, and burrowing owl.

About the Creators: 

Laura Gehl is a former science teacher who still loves getting kids excited about science and nature . . . now through her books. Ever since reading about a poop-shooting caterpillar many years ago, Gehl has spent time researching and writing about interesting creatures and their behaviors. She is the author of more than two dozen books for young readers, including the Baby Scientist board book series, Odd Beasts, Happy Llamakkah!, Apple and Magnolia, and Happy Owl-Oween!. Gehl lives with her husband and four kids in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where she enjoys observing and exploring in the woods near her home.  Visit Laura at lauragehl.com.

Twitter: @AuthorLauraGehl
Instagram: @authorlauragehl
Facebook: @AuthorLauraGehl

Gareth Lucas is an illustrator and designer living in Essex, England, with his wife and five children. After studying at the University of Brighton School of Art and Central Saint Martins, he has worked on a variety of projects but enjoys nothing more than illustrating animals, birds, and the natural world. When he is not working, he can be heard indulging his other love—the banjo!

Twitter: @GarethLucas
Instagram: @garethlucasart

Review: When I first read about Odd Birds, I had no idea it was a board book. Based on the illustrations I saw and the summary, I assumed it was going to be a longer nonfiction book, but instead it is everything you’d find in nonfiction picture book but put in a small package.

First, scroll down a little bit. LOOK AT THOSE ILLUSTRATIONS! They are beautiful! Lucas has stepped away form the cartoon-ish style of many board books and focused on the realistic beautify of each of these odd birds.

Second, THIS BOARD BOOK HAS BACKMATTER! This is going to add some super longevity to it because it will allow it to be a fun read aloud to the youngest of kids and a learning tool for older kids. And Gehl has not held back in the inclusion of information in the back matter; it is so informative and interesting.

Third, the text is so catchy with great rhythm and rhyme sequence that makes it a wonderful read aloud and will make it a quick into the read aloud rotation.

Check out Betsy Bird’s Fuse 8 post for an amazing in-depth review!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Use this book to lead you and your reader into learning about more odd animals!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the odd birds are your favorite?
  • What did you learn from this book?
  • What do you wish you’d learned about the birds?
  • Which illustration was your favorite?
  • How are some of the birds the same? Different?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction books, Birds

Recommended For: 

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 6/20/22

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
Sharing Picture Books, Early Readers, Middle Grade Books, and Young Adult Books for All Ages!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop co-hosted by Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts which focuses on sharing books marketed for children and young adults. It offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!

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Tuesday: I Want to Be a Vase by Julio Torres, Illustrated by Julian Glander

Thursday: Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee, Illustrated by Pascal Campion

Saturday: Guest Review: Sulwe by Vashti Harrison

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

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Kellee

As you may have noticed, I post every other week now (and you’ll see Ricki is going to rotate with me so we’re usually sharing something), so here is what I’ve read since 6/6 (yay! Summer vacation and lots of reading time!):

Cursed by Jen Calonita Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina Merci Suárez Can't Dance by Meg Medina Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

  • Cursed by Jen Calonita: I loved this fractured fairy tale series! The ending was satisfying for all characters which made me like it even more. I highly recommend it to any Land of Stories or Whatever After fans!
  • Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina & Merci Suárez Can’t Dance by Meg Medina: I am so looking forward to reading the third book in this series this summer, so I reread the first book (which I LOVE and wrote the teaching guide for!) and read the second book for the first time. I like that Merci’s story balances school/friend and family stories in a beautiful way that seems so realistic.
  • Flying Lessons and Other Stories from We Need Diverse Books, edited by Ellen Oh: I didn’t know until I read the afterword of Can’t Dance that Merci started as a short story in Flying Lessons which is a short story collection that I owned but hadn’t read yet, so I picked it up and read all of the amazing stories AND got to read Merci’s origin story. It is so interesting to see what Meg Medina changed and kept when turning the short story into a novel.
  • All Four Stars by Tara Dairman: This is one of my #mustreadin2022 books that was recommended by a student (thanks, Maria!), and I am so glad she shared this new-to-me series with me that is about a young girl who has a passion for cooking and reviewing food, but doesn’t have the parent support she needs to excel; however, then something extraordinary happens that lends to Gladys being able to share her love, if only she can make it work!

The Resolutions by Mia Garcia Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak

  • The Resolutions by Mia Garcia: Another student recommended title (thanks, Leticia!) which I was so happy was shared with me. This YA novel is about 4 friends who are all trying to keep the friendship alive while also figuring out their futures as they finish up junior year so they give each other New Year’s Resolutions to help each other find their passions and also grow closer to each other. A fun and insightful read with great inclusive representation.
  • Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri: Nayeri’s prose were just so beautiful while he mixed myth and memoir, far past and recent past. This is unlike any book I have read, and I can definitely see why the Printz honored it.
  • To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo: Another student recommended title (thanks, Ana!). I can see why Lira is some people’s favorite anti-heroine! She is truly a misunderstood monster. In this truly twisted siren and pirate tale, adventure is on every page and it definitely keeps you wanting to turn the pages! And I like that it is a standalone fantasy novel!
  • Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak: Another #mustreadin2022 novel which was recommended to me for my middle school library, but I wanted to read it before adding it into my collection. This book jumps between a summer that changes everything and the fall after the tragedy that has changed the Sawyer family forever; it looks at grief from different points of view and how to heal from something that no one should have to endure.

Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez Across a Field of Starlight by Blue Delliquanti Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci Cat's Cafe by Matt Tarpley

  • Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Illustrated by Gabriela Epstein: I am so excited because Christina Diaz Gonzalez is our 2022-23 visiting author for my school! Invisible is her new graphic novel which comes out in the fall, and I cannot wait to share it with my students–they are going to love it!
  • Across a Field of Starlight by Blue Delliquanti: Anne Ursu challenged us on her birthday to go to a book store and support queer authors/books, so off I went to Barnes & Noble with my dad where I found this amazing graphic novel full of science fiction epicness. I know students are going to ADORE this book!
  • Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci, Illustrated by Sara Varon: My sister and nephew found this book at the library and LOVE it. Though I had read it in the past, it had been a very long time, so I picked it up after Trent and my sister started talking about which Duck I was. I am so glad I reread it because it is just a joy!
  • Cat’s Café by Matt Tarpley: I went to the library with my sister and when checking out the kids graphic novel section, I found this that I had not seen before, but I knew that cats + graphic novels = Trent win! And guess what–I was right! Trent loved it so much, he asked me to read it after him, and it was so funny and cute and everything you want in a book like this.

Hold Hands by Sara Varon The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen Are You a Cheeseburger? by Monica Arnaldo

Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason  Reynolds Inheritance by Elizabeth Acevedo

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover Book Lovers by Emily Henry If the Shoe Fits by Julie   Murphy

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke: My dad bought this book for me after he read it because he felt that I would love it, and you know what? He was right. This magical little book was more than I could even expect. Piranesi is one of two people in his world; a world filled with beautiful sculptures in a spectacular maze. But the world is so much more than it seems! Just read it.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Wow–I definitely know why this book is so popular now. The intertwining of Evelyn’s and Monique’s stories was done so well. I really liked this book; glad it was recommended to me. And it has sent me on a romance book kick!
  • It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: Another recommendation that lived up to the expectation and I cannot wait to read the sequel; I can see why Colleen Hoover has such a book following.
  • Book Lovers by Emily Henry: I really liked this rom com–it was fun, all about books, and just romance-y enough!
  • If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy: What a great twist on Cinderella and The Bachelor! I read this all in one sitting!

I have finally made a small dent in my #mustreadin2022 list! So far I have enjoyed them all, and they all have been so different!

To learn more about any of these books, check out my 2022 Goodreads Challenge page  or my read bookshelf on Goodreads.

Ricki

Because Kellee is rotating weeks, I am going to do the opposite week to make sure we are sharing lots of books each week!

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Kellee

I’m reading The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory now then will read A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

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Tuesday: Odd Birds: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Flock by Laura Gehl, Illustrated by Gareth Lucas

Thursday: Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers edited by Rose Brock

Saturday: Guest Post: Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

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Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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Guest Review: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

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Guest Reviewer: Brian, UCF Elementary Education Student

Sulwe
Author: Lupita Nyong’o
Illustrator: Vashti Harrison
Published October 15, 2019 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

About the Creators: 

Lupita Nyong’o is a Kenyan actress and producer. Her first feature film role was in the film 12 Years a Slave, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as multiple accolades, including the Screen Actors Guild Award, the Critics’ Choice Award, the Independent Spirit Award, and the NAACP Award. She has since starred in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ryan Coogler’s record-breaking box office hit Black Panther, and most recently in Jordan’s Peele’s critically acclaimed horror film Us. Nyong’o earned a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in Danai Gurira’s play Eclipsed. She lives in Brooklyn.

Vashti Harrison, author and illustrator of the bestselling Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, is an artist, author, and filmmaker with a passion for storytelling. She earned her MFA in film and video from California Institute of the Arts, where she snuck into animation and illustration classes to learn from Disney and DreamWorks legends. There she rekindled a love for drawing and painting. Now she uses her love for both film and illustration to craft beautiful stories for children.

Review: This book was just amazing! The story, the art, the lesson–everything was perfect. The message that is written in this story is not just for kids, even though the intended audience is children. The book talks about colorism and how one should love themselves just the way they are. We are all unique and special, and we should not try to change ourselves for nobody. In the world we live in today, there is so much negativity, but with this book for children, they can learn to be the light in the midst of darkness, no matter what the color of your skin is. Sulwe’s skin is the color of Midnight, but to me she shines the brightest in her family. Without midnight, everyone else’s shine would be pointless. I hope that when children read this book, they will appreciate who they are and be confident in themselves. This is a story I would definitely keep in my classroom. My favorite quote from the story, “When you are darkest is when you are most beautiful. It is when you are most you.” This left me very emotional and I’m a grown adult now. I should not be tearing up like this!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Sulwe has many topics that can be discussed and is a great read aloud to teach social emotional learning; it can also be used to teach a variety of literacy skills. Here are some ideas that can be used to incorporate Sulwe into the lesson plan:

The first thing the students can do would be to practice their compare and contrast skills by discussing how the character changes and feels throughout the story. Another activity the students can do would be to practice descriptive writing by having them describe their own appearance. The last activity that can be done is having the students practice writing book reviews after they have read the story. If none of these activities work for you or aren’t that interesting, asking questions about the story to the students is always an option. Here, the teacher can discuss important topics like bullying, appreciating others, respect, and loving oneself.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does the name Sulwe mean?
  • How are the pet names for “day” and “night” different?
  • What types of food did Sulwe eat to try and change her color?
  • What appeared through Sulwe’s window?
  • Why did Sulwe want to change the way she looked?
  • Have you ever been teased because of the way you look? How did that make you feel?

Flagged Passages: 

When you are darkest is when you are most beautiful. It is when you are most you.”

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry or Eyes that Kiss in the Corner by Joanna Ho

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Brian, for your review!

Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee, Illustrated by Pascal Campion

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Rosa’s Song
Author: Helena Ku Rhee; Illustrator: Pascal Campion
Published June 14, 2022 by Random House Studio

Summary: A young immigrant from South Korea finds community and friendship in an apartment house filled with other newly arrived kids.

When Jae looks out the window of his new home, he wishes he could still see his old village, his old house, and his old friends. But his new apartment feels empty and nothing outside is familiar. Jae just arrived from South Korea and doesn’t even speak the new language.

Yet, making friends is the same wherever you go and he soon meets a girl with a colorful bird perched on her shoulder. Rosa knows just how Jae feels and the two become fast friends. Not only does Rosa show Jae his new neighborhood but she shows him how his imagination can bring back memories of his old home. Then Rosa leaves unexpectedly one night but leaves her parrot for Jae. He thinks about the song that Rosa would sing: “When I fly away, my heart stays here.” And when Jae meets two other newly arrived kids, he teaches them Rosa’s song and becomes their guide to this new world.

From the creators of the highly acclaimed The Paper Kingdom, comes a new book about the importance of community and demonstrates how a simple act of kindness can be passed along to others.

★ “Striking and raw…. Readers will share the sadness of Jae’s loss, but only after seeing Rosa and Jae’s joyful playing—a happiness that’s distinct to childhood.” —Booklist, starred review

About the Author and Illustrator:

Helena Ku Rhee grew up in Los Angeles, but has also lived in various parts of the U.S., Asia and Europe. She has a soft spot for small, stout animals and loves to travel far and wide across this beautiful planet, counting among her favorite journeys a camping trip in the Sahara Desert, a swim with elephants in Thailand and a horseback-riding tour of Easter Island. She is also the author of The Paper Kingdom, which was included on many year-end Best Books lists, including NPR, BookPage, Kirkus, Parents Magazine, the Los Angeles Public Library, and Amazon, among others. Helena works at a movie studio by day, and dreams up story ideas in her spare time. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Visit her at helenakrhee.com.

Instagram: @helenakurhee

Twitter: @HelenaRhee

Pascal Campion is a prolific French-American illustrator and visual development artist whose clients include: DreamWorks Animation, Paramount Pictures, Disney Feature, Disney Toons, Cartoon Network, Hulu, and PBS. Working in the animation industry for over 15 years, he has steadily posted over 3,000 images of personal work to his “Sketches of the Day” project since 2005. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Instagram @pascalcampionart or Twitter @pascalcampion.

Ricki’s Review: There is so much for kids (and adults) to connect with in this book: Feelings of loneliness, worries about making friends, sadness from missing a place or time, magic from developing a new friendship, and loss of something or someone important. This book simultaneously offers readers windows and mirrors. The book offers a steady calmness amidst a swirling storm. It reveals human emotions in ways that are magnificent—despite the magnificent sadness that Jae experiences in the story. I love this book, and it belongs in every classroom, library, and home. It exists within a circle of knowledge—Jae takes Rosa’s song and shares it with others, and they will, the reader can assume, share it with others, as well.

Kellee’s Review: I love this beautiful book about discovery: Discovery of friendship, discovery of other cultures, discovery of exploration, discovery of loss, and discovery of purpose. Jae and Rosa represent so many students in our classrooms and all of the emotions that come with being new somewhere. Also, with the loss at the end of the book, it touches on a subject that many kids are affected by but books normally stay away from–it is important to talk about tough subjects with kids, and books are the best way to introduce them. I think my favorite part of the book is the ending though when Jae takes what he has learned and passes it on.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We would love to use this book in literature circles. Specifically, we could see it in a literature circles with a theme of new beginnings, immigration, kindness, and/or friendship. Below, we list some books in the “Read This if You Loved” section that we believe would pair well with this text.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is Rosa’s song given life in the story?
  • What does Jae miss from his old home? What does he find in his new home?
  • When have you experienced something that reminds you of what Jae experiences in this story? Select a page that allowed you to make this connection.

Flagged Spread: 

Read This If You Love: Bright Star by Yuyi Morales; Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, The Refuge by Sandra Le Guen, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, Refugee by Alan Gratz, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Recommended For: 

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

I Want to Be a Vase by Julio Torres, Illustrated by Julian Glander

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I Want to Be a Vase
Author: Julio Torres
Illustrator: Julian Glander
Published June 7, 2022 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

Summary: Former SNL writer and comedic rising star Julio Torres takes readers on a journey through the lives and intimate dramas of some of the unsung shapes of our time in this picture book inspired by his HBO special My Favorite Shapes.

Shapes. You’ve heard of them. You might have even interacted with a few. But do you really know them? From plucky Plunger, who wishes to defy his shape and become a beautiful vase, to other household objects with dreams of a life beyond their predestined roles, I Want to Be a Vase takes readers on an essential and visually stunning journey through the lives and intimate dramas of often-overlooked household appliances.

Press Release: Julio Torres is a comedic genius that pairs a dry, absurd humor with earnestness. I WANT TO BE A VASE is out there, wacky, bonkers, but ultimately grounded in the honesty of sense of self and the dream of defying expectations. The book explores the intricate, complicated emotions of childhood (belonging, jealousy, fear of change, excitement) through humor and metaphor, appealing to a crossover audience while being primarily directed towards a young readership. Kids will see their emotions reflected in plucky Plunger, nervous Vacuum, sassy Sink, and helpful Hair Dryer. It’s perfect for fans of the irreverent playfulness of B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures or Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’s The Day the Crayons Quit, which take seemingly basic childhood concepts and subvert tropes with wit, insight, and parallels to the human condition.

While this picture book is a hilarious, quirky tale first and foremost, it’s also a story about being your truest self no matter your publicly-ascribed role—in that sense, there’s a gentle pro-trans message to be found here. Julio is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and many of his works have been heralded as subtly queer and progressive. This book is no exception to that standard!

Julio’s voice is unique and authentic, and, despite the absurdist spark to his work, he connects with his audience on a deeply human level. As a self-proclaimed Aquarius with synesthesia, Julio is also quite the aesthete, and his involvement with the visual component of his book guarantees that it will be like anything you’ve ever seen (while maintaining his dazzlingly fun, bright style which is certain to appeal to young eyes!). 3D artist Julian Glander is the perfect, offbeat other half of this whimsical picture book pairing. A darling of the design world, Julian is a welcome new voice in children’s publishing, though he has experience working in children’s animation. His bright color palette and toylike models perfectly complement Julio’s surreal style.

Julio told The Hollywood Reporter: “Had I followed convention, I would probably have a reasonable job and be married with kids in El Salvador, where I’m from. That sounds nice, except I wanted to be an experimental comedian, prolific writer, and so-so actor in New York. At first, I was on a path to be one sort of person, when I really wanted to be another. I wanted to pursue things I wasn’t supposed to, and had the courage to do it, thanks to my parents never saying, ‘That can’t be,’ but instead asking, ‘Well, why not?’ So this book is about a plunger who wants to be a vase. Because, well, why not?”

Praise: 

★“A toilet plunger yearns to be a vase in Torres’s moving object lesson of identity and purpose … A thoughtful and broadly applicable fable with saturated, 3-D-style art by Glander.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review“

The premise is odd but comical and certainly original; children will giggle contemplating different uses for everyday gadgets. Kids are great at pretending and playing imaginative games, so they won’t have trouble buying into the whimsy on offer. They’ll appreciate the reassuring, empowering message to be who you are if that makes you happy, and the collaboration and acceptance themes will resonate. The colorful digital illustrations, featuring dollhouse like miniatures representing common household goods, are very appealing… Hilarious … Great for stimulating creative thinking and art activities: What else can ordinary objects be?” –Kirkus Reviews

About the Creators: 

JULIO TORRES (he/him) is a comedian, a former writer on Saturday Night Live, and one of the masterminds behind Los Espookys, HBO’s Spanish-language comedy about a group of horror enthusiasts, produced by Fred Armisen. Julio is also the creator of the HBO special My Favorite Shapes. Released In 2019, this Lorne Michaels-produced special immediately garnered a cult following. In it, Torres conducts an elaborate show-and-tell that offers a backstory to a wide array of “shapes.” With its unusual, absurdist humor and decidedly human narratives explored within the framework of a universal concept, Torres’ performance is the perfect inspiration for a picture book that completely upends expectations about the everyday shapes and objects in our own lives. While I WANT TO BE A VASE is not a direct interpretation of that special, the connection between that piece of work and this story of household objects will be evident to his many fans. Visit him on Instagram @SpacePrinceJulio.

JULIAN GLANDER(he/him) is a 3D animator, designer, and illustrator. Mostly self-taught, he has created work for Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Adult Swim, and The New York Times. He is also the creator of the video game Art Sqooland the squishy comics collection3D Sweeties. Visit him at Glander.co.

Review: There is so much to figuring out who you are, what your identity is, what you enjoy, etc. Plunger is all for trying new things and being a bit different than what is expected of them. However, vacuum cannot handle the lack of order, questioning of ideals, and change. So what will take vacuum to see that it doesn’t matter who everyone is as long as everyone is happy?

I do think Torres was trying to have an extending metaphor about identity specifically, but there is a moment where the characters also mention jobs and liking what they do, so I think that this book will comfort anyone that feels like they don’t fit exactly where everyone expects them to be, either in their identity, how they act, how they dress, what they like to do, etc. And it is pretty silly and fun in so many ways!

And I loved the illustrations by Glander! The 3D art that is clay animantion-esque just brings the characters and setting to life! A perfect combination.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: Like the Kirkus reviewer mentioned above, I’d love to see what creative thinking this will bring out with students. The discussions and writing that could come from these questions would be fantastic!

  • Pick an every day object–what else could it be?
  • If you were an every day object, what would you pick?
  • Other than what that every day object does, what else could you do if you were that every day object?
  • What is something about you that doesn’t fit your “definition”?
  • Is there ever a time where you feel like you are a different shape than others expect you to be?

I think conversations about author’s purpose, comparison/contrast, and symbolism could also be started based on this book.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: My Shadow is Purple by Scott Stuart, I’d Like to be a Window for a Wise Old Dog by Philip C. Stead, Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima, Picture books by The Fan Brothers

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

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**Thank you to Alex at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division for providing a copy for review!**

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 6/13/22

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
Sharing Picture Books, Early Readers, Middle Grade Books, and Young Adult Books for All Ages!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop co-hosted by Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts which focuses on sharing books marketed for children and young adults. It offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!

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Tuesday: Luli and the Language of Tea by Andrea Wang, Illustrated by Hyewon Yum

Saturday: Guest Review: The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca, Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

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Kellee

This is my week off of long IMWAYR posts, so I’ll see you next week. But, as always, you can see what I’m reading by checking out my 2022 Goodreads Challenge page  or my read bookshelf on Goodreads.

P.S. IT IS MY BIRTHDAY WEEK! WOOT!

Ricki

I learned so much from Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall. My colleague and I are adopting it as a text to use in our co-taught class next semester. If you haven’t read this book, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

My goodness. This book is just so well-written. I was sucked into Sabaa Tahir’s All My Rage. I found it difficult to stop reading because the stories felt so real to me. This is another book I am using next semester. It’s a masterpiece.

I read the graphic novel The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor in one sitting. I literally could not get off the couch until I finished it. I recommend this graphic novel for all ages, but I think it is extra special for the middle grades.

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Ricki

I just started listening to Indivisible by Daniel Aleman.

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Tuesday: I Want to Be a Vase by Julio Torres, Illustrated by Julian Glander

Thursday: Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee, Illustrated by Pascal Campion

Saturday: Guest Review: Sulwe by Vashti Harrison

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Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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