Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Melodie Stacey

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Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Melodie Stacey
Published June 4th, 2024 by Cameron Kids

Summary: Else B. in the Sea is a poetic picture book biography about a daring and pioneering woman artist that combines themes of art and science from author Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrator Melodie Stacey.

Else Bostelmann donned a red swimsuit and a copper diving helmet and, with paints and brushes in hand, descended into the choppy turquoise sea off the coast of Bermuda. It was 1930, and few had ventured deep into the sea before. She discovered a fairyland six fathoms below the surface—fantastic coral castles, glittering sunbeams, swaying sea plumes, and slender purple sea fans. And fish! Flashy silverfish, puckering blue parrotfish, iridescent jellyfish.

Else painted under the sea! She painted what she saw with her own eyes, and, back on land, she painted the never-before-seen deep-sea creatures described by world-renowned scientist William Beebe on his momentous 1930s bathysphere expeditions for the New York Zoological Society’s Department of Tropical Research. It was a daring and glamorous adventure and a dream come true for Else B., who shared this new, unfathomable world with humankind.

About the Creators: 

Jeanne Walker Harvey is the author of many picture books, including Boats on the Bay, as well as the well-received picture book biographies Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas (winner of the 2022 Northern California Book Awards – Children’s Literature Younger Readers and Jane Addams Children’s Book Award finalist), Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, and Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines (a NSTA Best STEM Book of the Year). She lives in Sonoma, California. For free downloadable activities and more, visit her website,  jeanneharvey.com.

Melodie Stacey is a fine artist and illustrator whose work can be found in the picture book Beautiful Useful Things: What William Morris Made. She lives in Brighton, UK.

Instagram
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @jeannewharvey
Melodie Stacey: @melodiestacey
Cameron Kids/ABRAMS Kids: @cameron_kids and @abramskids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

Twitter/X
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @JeanneWHarvey
Melodie Stacey: @Melodiestacey
Cameron Kids/ABRAMS Kids: @abramskids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Pinterest
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

Review: I love learning about new people (to me) from history that expand my knowledge of the world. Else is such a cool character and to know she is a real person makes it even more intriguing and amazing. Else is definitely a person whose story should have already been told, and I am so glad that Harvey and Stacey are telling it now.

Like Harvey has done in all of her picture book biographies that I’ve read by her, she expertly mixes narrative and nonfiction to ensure the book not only teaches the reader about the person but also entertains and keeps attention along the way. This is so important to ensure that readers will gravitate towards hearing this story with a side effect of learning about an amazing person, in this case Else.

Stacey’s illustrations take Harvey’s words and make them sing off the page with illustrations that range from full page to small additions, keeping the eyes from ever wanting to stop exploring the art, just like Else explored the sea.

Tools for Navigation: There is so much to do in conjunction with this book in the classroom! After reading the book aloud, I would then make sure to read the author’s note and dive deeper into:

  • Deep sea creatures and what has changed in our knowledge of them since Else’s time.
  • How color changes when light is removed, including the underwater color spectrums.
  • Why women scientists were excluded normally during Else’s time and how including them affected how others viewed the expeditions that Else was part of.
  • How paint and salt water interact and trying to paint under water!
  • Other woman who took first steps that need to have their story told.
  • The science behind bioluminescence.
  • The math of the ocean.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do you think Else’s childhood and roadblocks early in her life affect her?
  • What does Else’s idea to practice painting the “ocean firsthand” and “descending as far as she could by herself” tell you about the type of person Else was? How about her ability to learn to paint underwater?
  • How has scuba gear changed over time?
  • Why did William Beebe have to kill animals to allow them to be studied/painted? What are your thoughts on this?
  • How did Else’s paintings of Beebe’s discoveries give “people a way to escape their worries”?
  • Why do you think Harvey wanted to tell Else’s story?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, Science, Ocean creatures

Recommended For: 

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

Educators’ Guide for Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts

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Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year
Author: Andrea Beaty
Illustrator: David Roberts
Published: November 7, 2023 by Abrams

Summary: Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year is a moving story starring the Questioneers’ teacher that’s all about kindness, learning to face your fears, and the profound difference that one brilliant educator can make in a child’s life, from author Andrea Beaty and illustrator David Roberts, the #1 New York Times bestselling creators of Aaron Slater, Illustrator and Ada Twist, Scientist !

Lila Greer is full of worries. Even the smallest things—from cabbages to cardboard—fill her with dread and what-if s. So when her family makes a big change—moving to a new town—the worry and what-if s only grow. What if things go wrong? What if no one likes her?

At first, Lila feels right to be worried. In her new home, everything is strange. The new kids, the new smells. Lila feels alone and invisible. But there’s one person who sees Lila’s teacher, Ms. Kern. Through some creativity, blackboard erasers, and—most of all—kindness, Ms. Kern finds a way to make Lila feel welcome and open to new experiences. A lesson that will resonate with Lila long after second grade.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Abrams for Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year on Abrams’s page.

Recommended For: 

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The Dinosaur in the Garden by Deb Pilutti

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The Dinosaur in the Garden
Author & Illustrator: Deb Pilutti
Published May 21st, 2024 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Summary: After waiting millions of years, a T Rex thinks a curious girl might just find the clues he left behind, making his story part of hers.

It’s been millions of years since this dinosaur has been so excited. There’s a girl—a curious girl—exploring the land right where he used to live!

Will she be the one to find the clues he left millions of years ago?

Could she be the one to bring his story back to life?!

This lyrical picture book captures the vastness of geologic time while also showing how close the traces of the distant past can be—as long as we are curious enough to look.

Praise: “The author of 2020’s clever and engaging Old Rock (Is Not Boring) tackles the theme of geologic time from another angle. . . [The book] ends with an enticing invitation to join in dinosaur research and study. . . An engaging suggestion that hints of the past are there for the finding, if we will but look.” —Kirkus

About the Author: Deb Pilutti wrote and illustrated Old Rock (is not boring)Ten Rules of Being a SuperheroBear and Squirrel Are Friends, and The Secrets of Ninja School, and illustrated Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt. Deb lives with her husband and their border collie, Wilson, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @dpilutti.

Review: Deb Pilutti, like she did in Old Rock, does a great job giving voice to things that may not usually be heard. I think we often hear from dinosaurs living in their own time, but not often do we hear from a dinosaur from the past; this is how the creator takes her book to the next level–this isn’t just another dino book! She also is great at creating really entertaining picture books with a scientific element, and although the messages of the book are clear, she does this without turning the book into a didactic narrative. Another really fun read by Deb Pilutti!

Tools for Navigation: This is a wonderful interdisciplinary text! It will make a great read aloud and will lend itself to amazing visual literacy analysis, but it also is a jumping off point for a lesson about dinosaurs!

First, I would use the book to have students look at different characteristics of the dinosaurs introduced and why the characteristics are what they are.

Second, I would have the students see if all of the dinos included are from the same time period and make a timeline of when they lived.

Third, I would change the conversation to talking about fossils and paleontology, utilizing some of the author’s notes in the back. (Also, it would be fun to look at if there are any fossils that have been found in your area!)

Fourth, I would would use our unnamed protagonist to start a conversation about what each student wants to be when they grow up (and maybe have them find a book connected to that career).

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the creator show you in the images when the dinosaur is alive versus when it is not?
  • What other clues do you pick up in the images that aren’t in the words?
  • Which dinosaur in the book is your favorite?
  • How are the dinosaurs the same? Different?
  • How did the dinosaurs become extinct?
  • How did the fossil in her backyard influence our protagonist?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Dinosaurs, science

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Aubrey at Penguin Young Readers for providing a copy for review!**

Speck: An Itty-Bitty Epic by Margaux Meganck

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Speck: An Itty-Bitty Epic
Author & Illustrator: Margaux Meganck
Published

Summary: Everything and everyone has a place in the universe, but for a little speck, lost at sea, it will take an extraordinary journey to find it.

Deep in a tide pool, too small to see,
Thousands of tiny specks go forth.
Each one searching
for a place to stay, and grow, and thrive…

The little speck does not know what it is, only that it wishes to find out. And so it embarks on a journey across the sea. From sun-flecked surf to darkest depths, past schools of fish, storm-tossed ships and hungry eels…. Until, at last, it finds exactly what it was looking a place to belong.

In vivid watercolor paintings, Margaux Meganck brings this tale to life, seamlessly shifting perspective to show how even the tiniest creatures—every barnacle, every child, every star in the sky—contributes to something greater than itself.

 “A poignant, reflective story that’s every bit as relevant to children as it is to adults. . . . Deeply moving.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

About the Author: Margaux Meganck spends her days dodging raindrops and drawing from her imagination in beautiful Portland, Oregon. Her author-illustrator debut, People are Wild, received two starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. Her illustration work has earned multiple accolades. Speck is the second book she has both written and illustrated. To learn more, visit margauxmeganck.com.

Instagram:
Margaux Meganck: @margauxmeganck
Knopf/Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

Facebook:
Margaux Meganck: N/A
Random House Children’s Books: Random House Children’s Books
Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media

Twitter/X:
Margaux Meganck: @Margaux Meganck
Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Review: This beautiful book is two fold. First, it is a fantastic ocean journey of a speck as it carried along the current and through the ocean, past so many creatures, and to its forever home. The journey is told in poetic verse that will be a great read aloud. Second, it is a story about being lost and figuring out where you fit in the best. Meganck brilliantly combined these two purposes. And the illustrations are another level of the book. They complement the lyrical tale of the speck’s journey, showing the reader all of the sea creatures and ecosystems within the ocean. This is a wonderful book.

Tools for Navigation: Because this book has a science and an social emotional learning aspect, it would be a wonderful inclusion into a classroom or library program because it can lead to all sorts of conversations including journeying into the ocean (pair with other ocean books, listed below) and then move to the theme and how the speck’s journey is an extended metaphor for our life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What creatures did the speck encounter along its journey?
  • Why do you think the author titled the book an “epic?”
  • What lesson can you take from the speck into your life?
  • Based on where the speck ended up, what sea creature was it?
  • What other specks are there in the sea?
  • How is the speck’s journey similar to life?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Puff: All About Air by Emily Kate Moon, Whale Fall: Exploring Ocean-Floor Ecosystem by Melissa Stewart, Kind by Jess McGeachin, In the Night Garden by Carin Berger, The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey by Jason Chin, Over and Under the Waves by Kate Messner

Recommended For: 

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

The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants by Philip Bunting

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The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants
Author & Illustrator: Philip Bunting
Published March 19th, 2024 by Crown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Take a peek under the rock, and discover what we can learn from the world of the ant, in this delightful blend of nonfiction and inspirational humor by author-illustrator Philip Bunting!

There are ten quadrillion ants in the world, and yet I bet you never thought they could teach you anything. But these tiny creatures can do big things when they work together–just like people!

With his signature humor and graphic illustrations, Philip Bunting delivers facts, laughs, and heart all in this special book that teaches that the answers to many of life’s biggest questions can be found in your own back yard (once you’re ready to look).

★ “This overview of ants combines cleverly designed graphics and a funny text to convey major concepts about the familiar insects.” —The Horn Book, starred review

About the Author: Philip Bunting is an author and illustrator whose work deliberately encourages playful interaction between the reader and child, allowing his books to create a platform for genuine intergenerational engagement and fun. Philip’s books have been translated into multiple languages and published in over thirty countries around the world. Since his first book was published in 2017, Philip has received multiple accolades, including Honors from the Children’s Book Council of Australia and making the list for the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2018. He lives with his young family on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Visit his website: philipbunting.com.

Instagram:
Philip Bunting: @philip.bunting
Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

Facebook:
Philip Bunting: N/A
Random House Children’s Books: Random House Children’s Books
Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media 

Twitter/X:
Philip Bunting: N/A
Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Review: This book is a joy! Anyone who has read a book by Philip Bunting knows that his work excels at bringing play into the reading to make the book a bit silly, interactive, and full of informational magic. The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants is the same. I loved the little jokes throughout the book that will definitely get readers giggling, the illustrations are just so playful and perfect for the book, and I learned so much about ants! It definitely is a multi-purpose book, for pleasure and for learning, which will be a winning read aloud!

For more about the book and to hear from the author, visit his interview, “Using Well-Placed ‘Humour’ as a Trojan Horse for Information,” on Fuse 8.

Tools for Navigation: There is so much in this book that is PERFECT for science which makes it an amazing cross-curricular tool. My first though is I think it would be awesome to see students use this book as a mentor text to create their own book about another insect which would include research, science, creative writing, and visual art.

The vocabulary in this book is wonderful as well, both when it comes to science and just tier 2 words such as nuptials, mandibles, reproduces, fragrant, and more.

Oh, and math, there is something here for you too! When looking at the number of ants, it compares human vs. ant weight which would be a fantastic math problem!

Discussion Questions: 

  • If there are ten quadrillion ants in the world and 8 billion people in the world, and they weigh about the same, how much do each set weigh?
  • Do you think the queen is the most important ant in the colony?
  • Why are ants so important for the world?
  • What can we learn from ants?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Informational books with humor

Recommended For: 

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

There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables by Kyle Lukoff, Illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

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There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables
Author: Kyle Lukoff
Illustrator: Andrea Tsurumi
Published February 27th, 2024 by Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: A hilarious new picture book that exposes vegetables for what they truly are—leaves, roots, flowers, and stalks—by National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor winner Kyle Lukoff, perfect for fans of the Our Universe series.

Chester plans to have a salad for lunch, but in order to do that, he’ll need vegetables. So, off he goes to the community garden, except he quickly learns that he won’t be dressing a salad anytime soon. Instead, the vegetables start dressing him down. According to them, “vegetables” don’t exist!

I know what you are thinking: What the bell pepper? Vegetables are totally real! But here’s the thing: Kale is just a leaf, broccoli is a flower, potatoes are roots, and celery…well, stalks. Thanks to a lively, sassy cast of talking “veggies,” Chester learns a valuable lesson about categories and how they shape our understanding of the world.

With a slyly informative text and illustrations that will crack readers up, the schooling in There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables will be easy to digest and is a total treat.

About the Creators: 

Kyle Lukoff is the author of the Newbery Honor-winning, National Book Award finalist, Too Bright to See, the Stonewall Award winner When Aidan Became a Brother, among other titles for young readers. While becoming a writer, he worked as a bookseller and school librarian. He lives in Philadelphia, and hopes you’re having a nice day. (kylelukoff.com)

Andrea Tsurumi(they/them) is an author, illustrator and cartoonist originally from New York who now lives with their spouse and dog in Philadelphia. A gigantic text and image nerd, they studied sequential storytelling for an English BA at Harvard and an illustration MFA at the School of Visual Arts. While working in publishing for several years, they dove into their two big loves: indie comics and children’s books. Their first book, Accident! was an NPR Great Read and their second book, Crab Cake, won the Vermont Red Clover Book Award. When they’re not inventing croissant-based animals, they like reading about ordinary and ridiculous history. (andreatsurumi.com)

Review: This book IS slyly informative, and I love it! What seems at the surface like a silly book about vegetables setting a young child straight about their really identities is actually a look into scientific classification. The book definitely will bring the giggles while also getting kids thinking about what makes something what it is called. This book is a must have for classrooms and libraries as it is a great read aloud and will move perfectly into an educational discussion, especially when the author’s note is added to the read aloud.

Tools for Navigation: This book is perfect for talking about classifications–both scientific and social. I can imagine it being used in a life science class mostly because they could start with the vegetable extended example and expand from there. Though within the book, the vegetables also share money, countries, and words as examples of social constructed categories, so these would be fascinating to extend into math/economics, history/geography, and language arts.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Are there vegetables?
  • Who decides what something is classified as?
  • Why are fruits real but not vegetables?
  • How would you define a vegetable? Do you think Chester’s definition is correct?
  • What other things are classified certain ways but you aren’t sure why?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Humorous picture books that also educate

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer PR for providing a copy for review!**

Remember Us by Jacqueline Woodson

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Remember Us
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Published October 10th, 2023 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson brings readers a powerful story that delves deeply into life’s burning questions about time and memory and what we take with us into the future.

It seems like Sage’s whole world is on fire the summer before she starts seventh grade. As house after house burns down, her Bushwick neighborhood gets referred to as “The Matchbox” in the local newspaper. And while Sage prefers to spend her time shooting hoops with the guys, she’s also still trying to figure out her place inside the circle of girls she’s known since childhood. A group that each day, feels further and further away from her. But it’s also the summer of Freddy, a new kid who truly gets Sage. Together, they reckon with the pain of missing the things that get left behind as time moves on, savor what’s good in the present, and buoy each other up in the face of destruction. And when the future comes, it is Sage’s memories of the past that show her the way forward. Remember Us speaks to the power of both letting go . . . and holding on.

About the Author: Jacqueline Woodson (www.jacquelinewoodson.com) received a 2023 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. She was the 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and in 2015, she was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She received the 2014 National Book Award for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award, and a Sibert Honor. She wrote the adult books Red at the Bone, a New York Times bestseller, and Another Brooklyn, a 2016 National Book Award finalist. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She is the author of dozens of award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a four-time National Book Award finalist, and a three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her books include Coretta Scott King Award and NAACP Image Award winner Before the Ever After; New York Times bestsellers The Day You Begin and Harbor MeThe Other Side, Caldecott Honor book Coming On Home Soon; Newbery Honor winners FeathersShow Way, and After Tupac and D FosterMiracle’s Boys, which received the LA Times Book Prize and the Coretta Scott King Award; and Each Kindness, which won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Jacqueline is also a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Review: Remember Us may be a historical fiction book, taking place in the 1970s, but Sage’s story is timeless. In the book, you have so many layers to look at. First, Woodson’s vignettes are beautifully crafted which makes the book such a wonderful read. Then you have the layer of the fires in Sage’s neighborhood and fire in her own life. There is also her love of basketball, and her amazing talent, as well as the questioning about her identity this leads to. Finally, it is a story of family and friends with Sage’s mom and Freddy playing star roles. All of this leads to a multi-layered novel that is a truthful look at growing up and remembering the past.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: Check out this Educator’s Guide from Penguin Random House!

Flagged Passage: 

After the year of fire
vines rise up
through the rest of our lives
of smoke
of flame
of memory.
As if to say
We’re still here.
As if to say
Remember us.

1

The moon is bright tonight. And full. Hanging low above the house across the street where an orange curtain blows in and out of my neighbors’ window. Out and in. And past the curtain there’s the golden light of their living room lamps. Beyond that, there is the pulsing blue of their tele­vision screen. I see this all now. I see a world continuing.

And in the orange and gold and blue I’m reminded again of the year when sirens screamed through my old neighborhood and smoke always seemed to be billowing. Somewhere.

That year, from the moment we stepped out of our houses in the morning till late into the night, we heard the sirens. Down Knickerbocker. Up Madison. Across Cornelia. Both ways on Gates Avenue. Down Ridgewood Place. Rounding the corners of Putnam, Wilson, Evergreen . . .

Evergreen. Sometimes a word comes to you after time has passed. And it catches you off guard. Evergreen. The name of a family of trees. And the name of a block in Brooklyn. Evergreen. Another way of saying forever.

That year, nothing felt evergreen.

Palmetto. A word that has never left me. A word that in my mind is evergreen. Palmetto. The name for both a stunning tree and an oversize cockroach. Palmetto was also the name of a street in my old neighborhood. And that year, Palmetto Street was burning.

2

That was the year when, one by one, the buildings on Palmetto melted into a mass of rock and ash and crumbled plaster until just a few walls were left standing. Walls that we threw our balls against and chased each other around. And at the end of the day, when we were too tired to play anymore, they were the walls we simply sat down by and pressed our backs into, staring out over a block that was already, even as we stared at it with our lips slightly parted and our hands shielding the last of the sun from our eyes, almost gone.

We said Well, nothing lasts for always, right?

We said One day even the whole earth will disappear.

We were just some kids making believe we understood.

But we didn’t. Not yet.

We didn’t understand the fires. Or life. Or the world.

But we knew that neighborhood was our world.

And we knew . . . our world was burning.

Read This If You Love: Jacqueline Woodson’s books such as brown girl dreaming and Harbor MeTroublemaker by John Cho, The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, The Unsung Hero of Birdsong USA by Brenda Woods

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for providing a copy for review!**