Wave by Diana Farid, Illustrated by Kris Goto

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Wave
Author: Diana Farid
Illustrator: Kris Goto
Published March 29th, 2022 by Cameron Kids

Summary: A coming-of-age novel in verse set in 1980s Southern California, about a Persian American girl who rides the waves, falls, and finds her way back to the shore.

Thirteen-year-old Ava loves to surf and to sing. Singing and reading Rumi poems settle her mild OCD, and catching waves with her best friend, Phoenix, lets her fit in—her olive skin looks tan, not foreign. But then Ava has to spend the summer before ninth grade volunteering at the hospital, to follow in her single mother’s footsteps to become a doctor. And when Phoenix’s past lymphoma surges back, not even surfing, singing, or poetry can keep them afloat, threatening Ava’s hold on the one place and the one person that make her feel like she belongs. With ocean-like rhythm and lyricism, Wave is about a girl who rides the waves, tumbles, and finds her way back to the shore.

Praise: 

“Processing her feelings through music empowers Ava and gives her a new understanding of home and the connections she shares with others. Raw and powerful, this free verse novel honestly explores issues of identity, culture, grief, and hope… Rich, layered, and heart-rending.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Farid’s poetry rides the page like a wave, charting the ups and downs of Ava’s emotions. . .The verse format makes this text extremely accessible, and readers will be delighted to find elements of Ava’s Persian heritage and 1980s childhood also woven throughout.” ―School Library Journal

“Farid brings her expertise as an MD to Ava’s story, simplifying the complexity of lymphoma while packing an emotional punch with the musical references that Ava uses to cope.” ―Booklist

About the Creators: 

Diana Farid is the author of When You Breathe, published by Cameron Kids. She is a poet and a physician at Stanford University. She lives in the Bay Area.

Honolulu-based fine artist Kris Goto was born in Japan. She spent most of her adolescence in Hong Kong and New Zealand, where she became inspired by the outside world and a passion for manga.

Review: This book is actually hard for me to write about because it is just so beautiful in all the right ways. It is full of so many emotions, beautiful writing, important topics, characterization, and 80s references. The author’s inclusion of such a specific setting and pop culture references could have easily turned off a reader, but Farid seamlessly blends it into Ava’s story to where it is all part of one amazing package. A package that includes a lot but that is because a 14 year old Persian girl growing up in California would have dealt with a lot: identity, self-love vs. loathing, immigrant experience, expectations, friendship, hobbies, school, racism, family… and on top of that Ava has Phoenix’s and (my favorite character) Room 509’s health to think about, her own broken leg, surfing, music, and a single parent. Add to all of this plot poetry that is robust in its rhythm and variety in a way that makes reading the book an experience, a wonderful reading experience.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to all of the reading discussion that can happen with this book, it is also a wonderful poetry writing mentor text. Each poem has its own format, personality, mood, tone, etc. so students have so many choices about which they would want to be inspired by. Goto’s illustrations show how art can add to poems as well, so students could create their own drawings to accompany their poems. Also, with the inclusion of music, students could turn their poems into songs.

Students could also make their own mix tapes for different characters in the book using Ava’s and Phoenix’s as examples. Students could then explain why they chose the songs they did for the characters.

The inclusion of Rumi’s poetry could also lead to a poetry study of his poetry which could include historical instruction as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author format __[poem]__ the way she did?
  • How did music influence Ava’s time during this point in her life?
  • How do you think Ava’s summer would have been different if she hadn’t broken her leg?
  • How did Phoenix and Ava’s friendship change over time? What caused their friendship to evolve?
  • Why does Ava blow up at Phoenix and Naz at the beach?
  • How does Room 509 play a part in Ava’s summer? What do you think the purpose of this character is?
  • How did Ava’s mother’s decision to leave Iran to go to medical school transform her life?
  • Farid included instances of racism in the book. Why is it important that she includes these? What does it show us about our country?
  • Do you believe Ava has OCD? What parts in the story show you this?
  • How does Ava both embrace her Persian culture but also resent the pressure it holds?
  • The author included Farsi throughout the book. Why is this translanguaging important to include when telling Ava’s story.
  • Find an example of when Farid captured the rhythm of the ocean in her poetry.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar, Starfish by Lisa Fipps, Benbee and the Teacher Griefer by KA Holt, Open Mic edited by Mitali Perkins

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

Bright Star by Yuyi Morales

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Bright Star
Author and Illustrator: Yuyi Morales
Published September 7, 2021 by Neal Porter Books

Summary: A Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book

Inspiring, reassuring, and beautifully illustrated, this new story from the creator of the New York Times bestseller Dreamers is the perfect gift for every child.

New York Times Best Children’s Book of the Year

With the combination of powerful, spare language and sumptuous, complex imagery characteristic of her work, Yuyi Morales weaves the tale of a fawn making her way through a landscape that is dangerous, beautiful—and full of potential.  A gentle voice urges her onward, to face her fears and challenge the obstacles that seek to hold her back.

Child, you are awake!
You are alive!
You are a bright star,
Inside our hearts.

With a voice full of calm, contemplative wisdom, readers are invited to listen and observe, to accept themselves—and to dare to shout!

In a world full of uncertainty, Bright Star seeks to offer reassurance and courage. Yuyi Morales’ first book since her New York Times bestseller Dreamers explores the borderlands—the plants, animals, and insects that make their home in the desert, and the people who live and travel through this unique and beautiful part of the world.

Created with a combination of techniques including hand-embroidered lettering, painting, sketching, digital paintings with textures from photographs of the Sonoran Desert, this stunning book is full of beauty—from the handwoven blanket of the endpapers through the last inspiring spread of young families facing their future with determination and hope.

A Spanish language edition, Lucero, is also available.

Ricki’s Review: I took a deep breath after I finished this book. It’s really quite magnificent. The words, the use of language, the mixed media of the illustrations—it all works together to offer a warm embrace for readers. I felt as if Yuyi was speaking directly to me, as the reader. This is a book that will resonate with all readers. It share the beauty of the borderlands and demonstrates Morales’ flexibility to maneuver language and illustration in ways that are, quite simply, captivating. Typically, I donate my books after I read them, but this is going to be one that I have a hard time giving away. I want to read it again and again. I might just need to buy copies for everyone I know. Most of all, I love how this book offered great hope.

Kellee’s Review: This beautiful book is a guide to life and an ode to parenthood & community. The use of second person engages the reader in a way that wouldn’t have happened without this choice. This moves the reader and really sets the mood of the book and makes it an excellent read aloud! The book is alsoabout facing fears, all types of fears that may come a child’s way during their life. But it also promotes students advocating for their feelings and using their voice to share what they feel. All of this in a beautifully illustrated, scarcely (but specifically) worded text. This shows what a brilliant author and illustrator Yuyi Morales is.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to share out the many ways that they can layer literacies—through images and language. Then, they might try to layer literacy themselves. Perhaps they could translanguage or offer images layered in text.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the use of second person point of view draw you into the text?
  • What types of illustration and imagery does Morales use?
  • What did you learn about the borderlands?
  • What did you learn about yourself?

Flagged Spread: 

Read This If You Love: 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

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**Thank you, Sara at Holiday House, for providing copies for review!**

Tidesong by Wendy Xu

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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

Recommended For: 

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

What is Love? by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Carson Ellis

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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

Recommended For: 

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

Violets are Blue by Barbara Dee

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Violets are Blue
Author: Barbara Dee
Published: September 28, 2020 by Aladdin

Summary: From the author of the acclaimed My Life in the Fish Tank and Maybe He Just Likes You comes a moving and relatable middle grade novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school’s upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren’s mom isn’t doing so well. She’s taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what’s worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren’t going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem—a problem that can’t be wiped away or covered up.

After all the progress she’s made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?

Ricki’s Review: This book ripped me apart and put me back together. It is unflinchingly honest, and it is a book that so many middle grade kids need. The characterization is beautiful, and the book would make for a great study on the relationships between humans and a general study on humanity. No character in this book is perfect—all are flawed, and this reflects who we are as people. I stayed up late at night reading this book (when I should have been sleeping), and I cannot recommend it highly enough. We all deserve to reinvent ourselves, and this book gives us permission to do so.

Kellee’s Review: Barbara Dee is so wonderful at writing such relatable middle school books with characters that deal with the real issues that middle schoolers are dealing with today. This book is no different as we get to watch Wren deal with her own identity, dealing with divorce & remarriage, moving, finding new friends, and just learning how to be happy. All of this in addition to what Wren ends up needing to work through when it comes to her mom. Dee does a great job balancing all of these plot points while also building such full characters. All characters in the main characters in the book are well developed and are truly themselves–flaws and all!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book works beautiful to teach about characterization. Students might select a character to study in a group and then work individually to study a person in their own lives (personal or famous). This offers opportunities for rich discussions about imperfection and the flaws in all of us.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does Wren’s hobby with makeup reflect her life? How does it connect with the story?
  • How does Wren’s mother evolve in the story, and why do you think she makes specific decisions in the text?
  • Why do we keep secrets? How does secret-keeping impact others?
  • What did you learn from this story? What will you take with you?
  • How does Wren and her mom moving change the trajectory of the story?
  • Were there clues about Wren’s mom earlier in the book?
  • Why is it that people have such a hard time with girls and boys just being friends with each other?

Flagged Passage:

Chapter 2: Changes: “The day Dad left us, just a little over nine months ago, it all happened so fast. One gray Saturday morning in February, when we were still living in the house in Abingodon, I woke up to the sound of loud arguing in the kitchen. Yelling, actually, which happened a lot those days, followed by a car zooming out of our driveaway.”

Chapter 9: Nebula “[CatFX’s YouTube Channel] Here’s my secret message to you guys: fantasy is not the opposite of truth.”

Read This Book If You Loved: My Life in a Fish Tank by Barbara Dee; The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner; Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm; Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

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  RickiSigand
**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!

Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston by Alicia D. Williams, Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

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Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
Author: Alicia D. Williams
Illustrator: Jacqueline Alcántara
Published January 12th, 2021 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Summary: A picture book that shines the light on Zora Neale Hurston, the writer and storycatcher extraordinaire who changed the face of American literature.

Zora was a girl who hankered for tales like bees for honey. Now, her mama always told her that if she wanted something, “to jump at de sun”, because even though you might not land quite that high, at least you’d get off the ground. So Zora jumped from place to place, from the porch of the general store where she listened to folktales, to Howard University, to Harlem. And everywhere she jumped, she shined sunlight on the tales most people hadn’t been bothered to listen to until Zora. The tales no one had written down until Zora. Tales on a whole culture of literature overlooked…until Zora. Until Zora jumped.

About the Creators:

Alicia D. Williams is the author of Genesis Begins Again, which received a Newbery and Kirkus Prize honors, was a William C. Morris Award finalist, and for which she won the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award for New Talent. A graduate of the MFA program at Hamline University, and an oral storyteller in the African American tradition, she is also a teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jacqueline Alcántara is the illustrator of the critically acclaimed The Field and Freedom Soup. Her favorite days are spent drawing, painting, writing, and walking her dog. In 2016, she was awarded the inaugural We Need Diverse Books Illustrator mentorship. Find out more at JacquelineAlcantara.com.

Praise: 

*”A lively, joyfully rendered portrait of a literary legend.” – Publisher Weekly, starred review

* “Williams’ narration is a readaloud dream….it will be a joyful guide for folklore enthusiasts” – BCCB, starred review

* “This introduction to an American icon feels just right.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “A welcome addition to any picture book biography collection.” – School Library Journal, starred review

Review: Zora Neale Hurston has a special place in my heart as Eatonville is right around the corner, and I love the opportunity to be so close to Zora’s home, be inspired by her story, and learn from her. If you are ever here, stop by the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts!

Alicia D. Williams does a beautiful job capturing the spirit of Zora and showing how truly special she was as a person and story teller. And I loved learning new things about her that I hadn’t known before (like that she graduated from high school at 28 and that she may have been lost to white-washed history if not for Alice Walker). And Alicia’s words mixed with the colorful and active illustrations of Alcántara, Zora is brought to life through the pages of this book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher provided Curriculum Guide is the best resource for using this book in your classroom:

Discussion Questions: 

  • How are the end pages representative of Zora?
  • How were Zora’s stories important to American literature?
  • Why did the author call Zora a “storycatcher?”
  • How did the author integrate fictional characters and stories within her nonfiction biography of Zora Neale Hurston?
  • Why was some of Zora’s storytelling looked down upon?
  • What does the figurative phrase “reach/jump to the sun” mean?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Zora Neale Hurston, Picture book biographies

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster for a copy of the book to review!**

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

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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.

Discussion Questions: 

  • 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?

Flagged Passage: 

“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.

Recommended For: 

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