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!**

You Are Not Alone by the Alphabet Rockers, Illustrated by Ashley Evans

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You Are Not Alone
Authors: Alphabet Rockers; Illustrator: Ashley Evans
Published: January 11, 2022 by Sourcebooks

Summary: From the Grammy award-nominated hip-hop group Alphabet Rockers comes an empowering picture book that invites kids to to love themselves, stand up to hate, and foster inclusivity among their peers!

When I say something is unfair to me, but it’s fair for you, what does that make it?
When I meditate, it all gets clear.
And if you listen, you will really hear.
I am not alone. I am enough.

It can be scary to feel like you’re all on your own, especially in the face of prejudice. But always remember: you are not alone. Inspired by the Alphabet Rockers’ empowering song “Not Alone,” this uplifting picture book reassures kids that they belong and encourages them to love their beautiful selves and their identities, use their voices against hate, and step up for one another and have one another’s backs no matter what.

Review: I dare you to read this book and not read it aloud. It’s packs such a punch. It’s lyrical and powerful. I’ve now read it aloud to four different children, and every time, they end up shouting, “You are not alone!” right along with me. Loneliness is a feeling that so many children experience, so I am very grateful for this book. It reminds us all (adults, too) that we are aren’t alone and others are feeling the same emotions as we are. It reminds kids to tell their stories and ensure that their stories are heard. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to ask kids to write their own spreads, similar to a spread they saw in the book. They might share an experience that made them feel alone, and then, at the end, write in big letters, “You are not alone!” They don’t need to share them publicly, but it offers a reflective experience for students that could be meaningful.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which spread impacted you most? Why?
  • When are some moments that you felt alone? (No need to share them aloud.)
  • How do the spreads work together to form a powerful message?

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Love: All Because You Matter by Tami Charles; I Am Enough by Grace Byers; The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig; The Red Tree by Shaun Tan; 

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**Thank you to Sourcebooks for sending 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

Recommended For: 

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

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: The Friendship War by Andrew Clements

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Sofia is a 10-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer, who started with us when she was 8 years old. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

I present to you…The Friendship War by Andrew Clements! This is a definite must-read! You might have heard of Frindle by the same author and maybe even read it and thought it was good but I must say this book is even better than Frindle! This book would make an amazing read aloud story! It is not extremely long and it’s super interesting! I definitely recommend this book! This book is for ages 8-12!

Grace has an addiction to collecting things. She has all types of things strewn all over her room. When her grandpa invites her over for the summer, she gets to see his old mill that he just bought. He lets Grace explore inside of it and the mill is pretty run down because it hasn’t been lived in for 15 years. Her grandpa explains that the mill used to be many different things over the years. While exploring, she finds a closet full of big boxes that are filled with buttons! She suddenly feels an itching to have them and asks her grandpa if he can ship her all of the boxes. He agrees, laughing a little because his granddaughter wants to keep buckets of buttons.  Just then Grace makes a decision to keep all of her buttons a secret from everybody outside of her family.

When school starts up again Grace continues to keep the secret from everybody, even her best friend! On that first day of school, her teacher talks about social studies and she volunteers to share some of her pictures and objects with her classmates that she collected from the mill. Later that day at lunch, her best friend, Ellie, suggests that everybody brings as many buttons to lunch as they can and they will compare who has the most buttons. Everybody agrees and Grace is excited because she knows she is going to win with her 24 boxes full of buttons that nobody knows about! When she gets home she fills five plastic baggies with buttons and stuffs them into her backpack. At lunch she decides only to bring one plastic baggie to the lunch table. Everybody shows off their buttons at the lunch table and some other kids come to watch around the table. Grace lets everybody take at most six of the buttons she has on her tray.

When she comes back to school the next day, she discovers that there is a button fad! People are trading buttons at her school like crazy and trading button jewelry and other button-made things. Grace and Ellie find somebody who is willing to trade a beautiful button and Ellie offers one of her button bracelets and Grace offers some really special buttons. Grace ends up getting the button and Ellie gets really mad. So mad that she doesn’t want to be friends anymore! To read more about this one of a kind tale, read the book!

I love this book because it is such a quick and fun read! Even as a 10-year-old, this book taught me some things and I think that this book should be a part of everybody’s life! This is a really amazing book! Another thing that is just nice about this book is that it is short. It has 168 pages and makes for a quick read. That is probably why I would recommend it highly for a read aloud book! As a reader who reads books that usually fall under the 250-600 page category, it is good to read a short story once in a while! Have fun reading the book!

**Thanks so much, Sofia! We love a good read-aloud!**

 

A-Okay by Jarad Greene

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A-Okay
Author: Jarad Greene
Published November 2nd, 2021 by HarperAlley

Summary: A-Okay by Jarad Greene is a vulnerable and heartfelt semi-autobiographical middle grade graphic novel about acne, identity, and finding your place.

When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!

Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and–to top it off–Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him.

Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?

Praise:

A compelling depiction of teenage uncertainty. –Kirkus Reviews

Supported by expressive, well-drawn, and colorful illustrations, this compelling graphic novel will appeal to fans of middle-grade graphic memoirs. Booklist

Greene’s use of color, line, and composition in his comic-panel layouts enhances the humor and angst of this particular slice of adolescent life. -The Horn Book

Jay’s arc is distinct and refreshing, and the story’s emphasis on friendships and body image issues is likely to resonate with any reader who has wished to jump out of their skin. Publishers Weekly

A story about kids learning to feel good about themselves on their own terms is no small thing, and Jay is a low-key, lovely protagonist. Greene’s simple, bubbly color illustrations are friendly and accessible, matching the content perfectly. An earnest exploration of adolescence, recognizable and relevant to middle schoolers coming into their own. -School Library Journal

About the Author: Jarad Greene is a cartoonist originally from Lutz, Florida, who now lives in the curious village of White River Junction, Vermont. In addition to his own comics, Jarad works on staff at the Center for Cartoon Studies and has helped color many graphic novels for younger readers. He is also the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Scullion: A Dishwasher’s Guide to Mistaken Identity. Find him online at www.jaradgreene.com.

Review: My students and I really love middle school memoir (or memoir-esque) graphic novels–I cannot keep them on the shelf, and A-Okay is going to fall right in with that group. What makes a book like this so popular is that it takes something that students need to connect with or that they need to understand and shines a spotlight on a likeable character working their way through the challenge. A-Okay fits this perfectly with Jay’s wonderful character arc as he makes his way through 8th grade figuring out his passions, true friends, and sexual identity; with the focus on Jay’s acne which many middle schoolers deal with but may never have seen in a book; and with the very realistic middle school friendship drama that happens as childhood friends begin to become their own person. This engaging storyline along with Greene’s colorful, detailed, and distinct illustrations will make this a graphic novel I know will never be on my school library’s shelf.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: HarperCollins created a Classroom Conversations page for A-Okay which includes a book talk and five topics with questions for group discussion:

It can also be accessed through the publisher’s A-Okay page. 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Middle school memoirs like Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Guts by Raina Telgemeier, New Kid by Jerry Craft, and The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley

Recommended For: 

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Signature

**Thank you to SparkPoint Studios and the publisher for providing a copy for review!**

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: The Double Life of Danny Day by Mike Thayer

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Sofia is a 10-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer, who started with us when she was 8 years old. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

GET READY TO READ THE BEST BOOK EVER! Introducing The Double Life of Danny Day by Mike Thayer! Danny is no normal kid! He lives every day twice, which means he can improvise on the first run of the day! During his “discard days” he does crazy things because he knows anything that discard Danny does will be erased from people’s memories at the stroke of midnight. This is the kind of book that would make reluctant readers hooked. This book is recommended for ages 8-12.

Danny has always had the ability to live every day twice. When he was a little kid and did not know to keep the double day thing a secret his parents thought he was crazy. Only after going to a psychologist for a few years, he now knows how to keep it a secret. Maybe he got this “power” by being born on February 22 at 2:22 am (2/22 at 2:22 am!) At his new school Danny sits with a girl named Freddie. On a discard day Danny plays a game called the brown bag game. It is a game where kids play a video game at lunch and whoever wins gets all the money the other people put into a brown bag under the lunch table. The money that the winner gets is the money that the kids pay as “entrance fee” which is two dollars. But Danny and Freddie suspect foul play when one kid wins every day. By now you might know why Danny mostly plays on discard days. At some point Danny starts to feel like he should tell somebody about the double day. Do you think Danny will tell somebody, and most importantly, who will he tell?!

I love this book because it is so funny and it keeps you reading. I love the idea of living every day twice and was enchanted by this book. It was so amazing to see how much a person can change on a discard day. I would really recommend this book to anybody! I hope you enjoy this fantastic book!

**Thanks so much, Sofia! Now we need to get our hands on this book!**

 

Inside Cat by Brendan Wenzel

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Inside Cat
Author: Brendan Wenzel
Published: October 12, 2021 by Chronicle Books

GoodReads Summary: Told in rhyming text, Inside Cat views the world through many windows, watching the birds, squirrels, and people go by—but when the door opens it discovers a whole new view.

Review: Brendan Wenzel regularly impresses me. I use his They All Saw a Cat to teach about perspective, and it reminds us of the value of picture books at all levels of class instruction. I was really excited to read Inside Cat because I knew it would be just as compelling—and it was! Inside Cat can see the world in so many ways. It travels around the house and sees so much. I don’t want to give a spoiler, but the last page of this book will make you gasp.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should be paired with They All Saw a Cat to teach perspective. Both offer different angles to questions of perspective. I think it could also be used to teach about authorship (as in authority and authenticity). Teachers might ask students to think critically about what perspectives we do or do not hold.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Inside Cat do?
  • What does Inside Cat see?
  • How do the images on the page work together?
  • What does the surprise ending teach you?

Read This If You Love: They All Saw the Cat by Brendan Wenzel, The Journey Trilogy by Aaron Becker

Recommended For:

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RickiSig

**Thank you to Eva at Chronicle for providing a copy for review!**