Review & Giveaway: Playing with Lanterns by Wang Yage, Illustrated by Zhu Chengliang, Translated by Helen Wang

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Playing Lanterns
Author: Wang Yage
Illustrator: Zhu Chengliang
Published January 11, 2022 by Amazon Crossing Kids

Summary: Zhao Di wishes the New Year would never end!

Zhao Di and her friends are excited to go out at night with their paper lanterns and celebrate Chinese New Year. Each holding a unique colorful lantern with a lit candle inside, they admire the breathtaking colors while doing their best to avoid the wind and the sneaky boys in the village. Every night, until the fifteenth day of New Year, Zhao Di and her friends take part in this fun tradition, experiencing the thrill of nighttime in their village. And then—it’s time to smash the lanterns!

In this cheerful book first published in China, readers are invited along with Zhao Di and her friends as they experience all the joy and excitement of this folk Chinese custom. Details about the paper lantern tradition are also included in an author’s note at the end of the book.

Praise:

“A colorful wintry tale ushers in Chinese New Year over two weeks…A charming illustration of childhood memories during the holiday season.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Quiet, elegant passages stud the text…Tenderly detailed gouache paintings by Zhu render the children as small, patterned bundles frolicking against expanses of snow…A quiet celebration of a Northwestern Chinese tradition.” ―Publishers Weekly

About the Creators: 

Wang Yage was born in Shaanxi, a central and historical province of China, where the custom of playing with lanterns was once a popular Chinese New Year tradition. A doctor of classical Chinese literature, she teaches at the University of Tibet. Playing with Lanterns is her first picture book. First published in China, the book made the prestigious White Ravens international book list.

Zhu Chengliang is an award-winning Chinese illustrator. Born in Shanghai and raised in Suzhou, he studied at the Department of Fine Art, Nanjing University, and has worked as an author, illustrator, editor, and designer. He was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2016, which is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of children’s books. His books have been named one of the Ten Best Illustrated Books by the New York Times and to the IBBY Honor List.

Helen Wang is a writer and translator from the UK. In 2017 she was given a Special Contributor of the Year honor as part of the Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Awards for her work in bringing Chinese children’s literature to English-speaking audiences. Wang has translated novels, picture books, and graphic novels, including Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower, which won the Marsh Christian Award for Children’s Literature in Translation.

Review: What a beautiful celebration of the Chinese New Year and the sharing of a folk tradition! The author takes us through all of the celebrations with imagery that makes the reader feel they are celebrating too as the cracking and popping of fireworks explode, the colorful lanterns swing, and the lantern fire glow in word and in illustration.

I also loved learning about a new tradition that I did not know about! Learning about others’ celebrations and lives is one of my favorite things, and I think it is so important for kids to build a world and empathetic view–Playing with Lanterns will do that as well!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a brilliant mentor text for imagery as well as how illustrations & words work together as one to create mood and tell the full story. All of this will make it a wonderful read aloud and an addition that all elementary school & class libraries need!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the author use color in the text? How does it affect the reading?
  • How did the author’s use of imagery add to the story?
  • How did the imagery and the illustrations work together to create the celebratory mood in the book?
  • How was the author’s note at the end of the book important for the readers?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Picture books about celebrations or winter holidays

Recommended For: 

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Giveaway: 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Playing with Lanterns, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses).

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review & Amazon Crossing Kids for providing a copy for giveaway!!**

Review and Giveaway!: A Sari for Ammi by Mamta Nainy, Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Flagged Passages: 

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

Giveaway:

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

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Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste, Ilustrated Amber Ren

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Looking for a Jumbie
Author: Tracey Baptiste
Illustrator: Amber Ren
Published September 21st, 2021 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Tracey Baptiste and acclaimed illustrator Amber Ren take readers on a fun, creepy, storytime-ready romp through a forest filled with creatures from Caribbean folklore.

I’m looking for a jumbie, I’m going to find a scary one.

But Mama says jumbies exist only in stories. So Naya sets out on a nighttime adventure to find out for herself.

No such thing, say the friends she makes along the way.

But Naya is sure that jumbies are real. Some have big mouths. Or thick fur. Or glowing skin. Or sharp teeth. Kind of like her new friends….

Looking for a Jumbie is a gentle, bouncy, and creepily fun read-aloud inspired by traditional Caribbean tales.

Praise:

“A vibrant and entertaining tale filled with mythical creatures from Caribbean stories that is perfect for Halloween and year-round.” -School Library Journal

“The illustrations are colorful and dreamlike, and Ren pays special attention to accentuating the features of characters. A nice addition to offerings on being afraid of the dark, monsters, or nighttime adventures.” –Booklist

About the Author: Tracey Baptiste is the New York Times bestselling author of the middle grade novels Minecraft: The CrashThe JumbiesRise of the Jumbies, and The Jumbie God’s Revenge. A former elementary school teacher, Tracey is now on the faculty at Lesley University’s creative writing MFA program. Raised in Trinidad until she was fifteen, she now lives with her family in New Jersey. You can visit her online at www.traceybaptiste.com.

About the Illustrator: Amber Ren is the illustrator of Because by Mo Willems, a New York Times bestseller. She is also a visual development artist, and her work has been featured in the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art’s first online exhibition, “ART in PLACE: Social Distancing in the Studio.” You can find her online at www.amber-ren.com.

Kellee’s Review: This book is equally compelling, spooky, and fun! Trent and I had a great time chanting the “I’m looking for a jumbie…” part of the story (great repetition & rhythm!) and meeting all of the jumbies that Naya meets along the way. The illustrations were also perfect for the story! I loved the way that Ren was able to bring such beautiful coloring in even in a story happening at night. After we were done, we went on a Google hunt to learn more about jumbies, and I introduced Trent to Baptiste’s middle grade Jumbies books too–he says he can’t wait to read them when he is older!

Ricki’s Review: This book feels like an instant classic to me—it is one that I will read and enjoy with my kids again and again. There are so many different ways to approach this text for kids, and it offers so much potential for classrooms. I love the ways in which the jumbies are made approachable for kids. It offered wonderful conversations in my family about fears and bedtime scary things. This is a book that belongs in every home. I think it will find a place in all readers’ hearts.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a great addition to lessons about mythology/folklore for young readers! Looking for a Jumbie is a perfect introduction to Caribbean folklore and can start a delve into more stories.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which Jumbie would you like to meet?
  • Why was Naya never scared of the Jumbies?
  • Was Mama right or wrong about the Jumbies?
  • How did the illustrator leave clues about the upcoming Jumbie?
  • What is the mood of the book? How did the illustrations add to the mood of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Activity Guide:

Read This If You Love: Folklore & Mythology; Magical Stories

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to SparkPoint Studio for providing copies for review!!**

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner

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Long Distance
Author: Whitney Gardner
Published June 29th 2021 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

GoodReads Summary: From the creator of Fake Blood comes another exceptionally charming middle grade graphic novel about friendships both near and far, far away.

Vega’s summer vacation is not going well.

When her parents decide it’s time to pack up and leave her hometown of Portland, Oregon, behind for boring Seattle, Washington, Vega is more than upset—she’s downright miserable. Forced to leave her one and only best friend, Halley, behind, Vega is convinced she’ll never make another friend again.

To help her settle into her new life in Seattle, her parents send Vega off to summer camp to make new friends. Except Vega is determined to get her old life back. But when her cellphone unexpectedly calls it quits and things at camp start getting stranger and stranger, Vega has no choice but to team up with her bunkmates to figure out what’s going on!

Ricki’s Review: I read this book with my 7-year-old (he is not the target audience), and we really enjoyed it. The book has a very drastic twist towards the end of the book that will shock readers. The illustrations are wonderful, and the characters are quirky and fun, and I am glad that I read the book. It teaches about the layers of friendship, and the different ways in which we judge (and don’t judge) humans. Long Distance will offer teachers and students rich opportunities to discuss and consider how we think about others, and how we engage and participate in friendships.

Kellee’s Review: What a fun new graphic novel to add to my library! This book is going to have no trouble finding readers because it has a great mix of realistic (moving, friendship), information (all the science), and sci fi (you’ll see!). Because of these three factors, it is going to have a wide range of readers. The diversity of characters will help with the reach also: Vega is a girl of color, she has two fathers who are both people of color, and the twins at camp are characters of color also. Additionally to the diverse representation of identities, the characters area all quite different personality-wise, so every reader is going to find someone that they are rooting for or connect with. 

You’ll see below in the “Flagged Passages” that the illustrations are super colorful and eye catching, but not so busy that you lose focus. This is a huge benefit, specifically in middle school, because students love a color-filled graphic novel. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As described above, the twist in this book drastically shifts the storyline. Teachers might ask students to rewrite the twist to shift the story’s ending in a different direction.

The book also has a great SEL opportunity to look at how to make friends, using George as a great example of how not to. 

The text could also be used for prediction as the reader is as ignorant about the facts of the camp as Vega is but there are clues to something odd going on. As you read, students can look at the clues and try to make guesses about what the truth about the camp is. 

Also, the book has many cross overs with science! If you look at the “Flagged Passages” below, you’ll see that Vega is gifted a star chart by her friend and the author uses the opportunity to talk about what a star chart is. This happens a handful of times within the book with topics including astronomy, geology, and electrical engineering. In addition to the sidebars with info, there is science strewn throughout the narrative! 

Finally, Simon & Schuster has created “Drawn to Reading: A S&S Guide to Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom” which might assist you in utilizing this book with students. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Vega learn about friendship?
  • Which camper was most interesting for you? What did you find interesting about them?
  • Many of the characters have different hobbies. What are your hobbies, and how do they compare with those of the characters in the book?
  • How did the author tie science into this science fiction graphic novel? 
  • How does Vega’s interest in stars and space help her discover the truth about the camp? 
  • If you had been in Vega’s position, would you have stayed with George? 
  • How did Halley figure out where Vega was? 
  • What scientific information that was shared in the book would you like to learn more about? 
  • Do you think we are alone in this universe? 

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence, HiLo series by Judd Winick, Katie the Catsitter by Colleen A.F. Venable, Real Friends series by Shannon Hale, Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, Drama by Raina Telgemeier, Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

Recommended For:
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**Thank you, Audrey, at Simon & Schuster, for providing copies for review!**

Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong

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Kyle’s Little Sister
Author & Illustrator: BonHyung Jeong
Published June 22nd, 2021 by JY

Summary: My name is Grace, not “Kyle’s little sister!”

Having a good-looking, friendly, outgoing older brother sucks—especially when you’re the total opposite, someone who likes staying home and playing video games. Your parents like him better (even if they deny it!), and everyone calls you “Kyle’s little sister” while looking disappointed that you’re not more like him. I was really hoping I’d get to go to a different middle school, but no such luck. At least I have my friends…until he finds a way to ruin that, too…! Argh! What do I have to do to get out of his shadow?!

About the Author: BonHyung Jeong (Bon) studied Cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and Kyle’s Little Sister is her debut graphic novel, made possible with the help of numerous people. She hopes to make connections with others through relatable stories. Currently living in Korea, she’s always busy playing console games – exactly like someone in the book!

Review: As an oldest child, I never knew what it was like to be compared to a sibling in the same way Kyle and Grace are compared, but I definitely empathize with Grace’s feelings of being compared to a more successful sibling! Although many reviews said Grace seemed like a brat, I didn’t see it like that. I saw it as someone who just truly wants her own identity and to be valued for what she is not what she isn’t (Kyle). This is tough in middle school in general much less when you feel overshadowed by someone else. It definitely made me think about how I react when I teach a sibling of a past student!

I found the crushes and friendship drama all very realistic to middle school, especially 6th grade as kids figure out who they are as adolescents. I also enjoyed that the book did not show middle school as this daunting thing you should fear–Grace was excited to start middle school! Too often just the starting of middle school is blamed for drama, but this book focused more on friends who may be a bit different figuring out how to remain friends despite the differences.

This is a graphic novel that will find love with fans of Raina Telgemeier, Svetlana Chmakova, and Terri Libenson, so it is definitely worth adding to your collection. However, I do want to share that there was one real part that I hope kids reflect on instead of do what Grace does: When she stops being friends with Amy, her new “friend” starts ohysiclly and mentally bullying her, and Grace does nothing. I think Jeong did a good job showing why she did nothing, but I also hope that watching this bullying will make readers want to stand up to a bully the next time they see one!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What should Grace have done when Cam started picking on Amy?
  • Why is Grace so resentful of her brother? Are there incidences in the book that make you empathize for her resentment? How does Grace feel like Kyle’s shadow at home? At school?
  • Why does Amy yell what she does when she fights with Grace?
  • Why is what Amy was doing to Jay inappropriate?
  • How is Cam’s relationship with Grace another type of bullying?
  • Why does Kyle stand up for Grace even though he says she’s annoying?
  • How is Grace’s mental health affected as she questions her identity?
  • How did the author use illustration and color to portray mood?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Middle school friend and family drama graphic novels

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity and JY of Yen Press for providing a copy for review!**

Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi

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Secondhand Dogs
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Melissa Manwill
Published July 6th, 2021 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Miss Lottie’s home was for second chances.

When she adopted Gus, Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie, Miss Lottie rescued each member of the pack—including herself, her helper, Quinn, and her reclusive cat, Ghost—and turned them into a family. But when a new dog, Decker, arrives and tries to hoard Miss Lottie’s heart and home for himself, the pack’s future is threatened.

At first, Gus, the insecure pack leader, only notices little things, like tiny Moon Pie being kicked out of the bed and Ghost acting spooked (then again…Ghost is a cat). But things soon go from bad to worse as Decker’s presence causes disharmony in the group.

When Decker convinces Moon Pie to embark on an impossible journey, it’s up to Gus to gather his courage, rally his splintered pack, and bring Moon Pie home. And with coyotes and cars on the loose, the pack must push through obstacles and dangers to reunite with Moon Pie before he can get hurt—or nearly as bad, get his heart broken.

A heartwarming—and heart-tugging—middle grade novel about love, loyalty, and what to means to be part of a family, featuring a motley pack of rescue dogs—from author Carolyn Crimi, with adorable illustrations by Melissa Manwill. Perfect for fans of A Dog’s Life and Because of Winn-Dixie.

Praise: “Pervading themes of bullying, leadership, loyalty, and family—among humans and canines alike—raise important issues while the comic-style illustrations feature character cameos and highlight key scenes. A sensitive, satisfying, and intriguing canine tale” –Kirkus Reviews

About the Author: Carolyn Crimi received her MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College in 2000. She has published over 15 books, including Dear Tabby, Don’t Need Friends, Boris and Bella, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where’s My Mummy?, and I Am the Boss of this Chair. Her book, There Might Be Lobsters, won The Golden Kite Award in 2018 for Best Picture Book Text, and her middle grade debut, Weird Little Robots, was named a BEA Book Buzz pick. Carolyn has received over thirty state awards and award nominations and was given The Prairie State Award in 2012 for her body of work. You can visit Carolyn at carolyncrimi.com.

Facebook: Carolyn Crimi
Twitter: @crims10

Review: First, I must say: kids are going to love this book. Seriously. Go pick it up for the kid(s) in your life.

I always go hesitantly into dog books because, as I am sure it is with all of you, the emotions when it comes to animal books are on high alert! And please know that your emotions are going to be going on a roller coaster of emotions in this one! 

The first emotion you are going to feel is love. As soon as you hear Gus’s voice, you know that he is a dog you can trust. Then as you meet each of the pack, they automatically go into your heart. Crimi does an amazing job telling the current narrative while also flashing back to show the dogs’ (and Miss Lottie’s, Quinn’s, and Ghost the cat’s) past. This allows you to jump into the story while also learning about how the pack gets together.

The next emotion you are going to feel is anger. Decker is a challenger to the pack. The way he manipulates and bullies, specifically Moon Pie, is devastating. It is true manipulation. You will definitely feel anger. Also, you learn more about Quinn’s life which will definitely make you feel angry.

Then comes the feelings of suspense, sadness, happiness, pride, and more! I can’t get more into the story because I don’t want to spoil! It is a good ride, I promise!

Teachers’ Tools for Instruction: First, this book is going to make an awesome read aloud!! Great topics and themes will lead to wonderful conversations.

But I think a huge asset for this book in the classroom is the different point of views that the author tackles. It is a wonderful mentor text for looking at voice. Each dog, cat, and person, although in 3rd person, had a different distinct tone and voice. It would be a great activity to have your students write a story from a certain POV then rewrite it from a different. Then they can even change 1st person to 3rd or vice versa. 

There is also a publisher-provided curriculum guide that is an awesome resource:

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the pack lie to Moon Pie and was it okay?
  • Why was Dexter the way he was?
  • Why did Roo originally side with Dexter?
  • Each of the dogs had a special skill: What would your special skill be?
  • What are some times during the book that shows you Quinn is special?
  • How does Quinn finally stand up to his brother?
  • What does Gus’s choice about what he did with the coyote tell you about him?
  • Why is the book titled Secondhand Dogs?
  • What is the differences between Dexter and Gus as the pack leader?
  • What does Miss Lottie’s choice about what she did with Dexter tell you about her?
  • How did the ending make you rethink Dexter’s character?
  • Who do you think was the hero of the book?

Flagged Passages: Gus: The new dog walked calmly next to Miss Lottie. His ears and his tail were both up. Alert, but not alarmed.

He wasn’t nervous. Not like the other dogs had been when they first approached the pack.

He was sizing them up, Gus decided. Gus didn’t know what to think about that. Usually new dogs pulled back a bit, or wiggled a little too much, or stood their ground and barked.

Not this dog.

Gus sniffed the air again. The scent that wafted off the new dog was bright and cold, like the metal water bowl in Miss Lottie’s kitchen.

Gus had always hated that bowl.” (Chapter 2)

Read a sample: https://preview.aer.io/Secondhand_Dogs-Mzk3MzU1?social=0&retail=0&emailcap=0

Read This If You Love: The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate, Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart, Granted by John David Anderson

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