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Brave Like Mom by Monica Acker

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Brave Like Mom by Monica Acker, illustrated by Paran Kim, is a story of two young girls whose mom is battling cancer and her girls see her as strong and brave. They want to be like her and not shed tears. But these girls are strong when they strive to climb walls, ride horses, and so much more. But their mom reminds them that it is ok to be scared and to cry.

Acker does a good job of showing how mom is brave for her girls, but also how neighbors, their dad, and others help her every day. What the girls see is the actions of their mother, not the helping hands. The illustrations are simple and colorful.

What I wanted was less telling and more showing of this relationship between the kids and the mother and the family in general. Brave Like Mom by Monica Acker, illustrated by Paran Kim, does have a great story with advice for young children of parents struggling with illness.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Monica Acker is a writer and educator. She holds a BA in creative arts and a MAT degree in childhood education. Monica is a member of SCBWI, 12×12, and Children’s Book Insider. She lives in Reading, Massachusetts, with her family.

A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andre Ceolin

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andre Ceolin is a book for ages 4-8, but I bet there are some adults who could use this lesson in empathy and compassion. I loved that this picture book opens with a discussion of what it means to be human. It also explains what family means and that it doesn’t necessarily have to mean you are only related by blood. This opens the door to children, allowing them to see that adopted children and more are families, too.

Esenwine offers “pro tips” throughout the book to help kids navigate their emotions and social situations in which they normally would just react on instinct. He demonstrates how sometimes situations arise because of emotion and that we have to be able to recognize it and adapt to help others when we can. This ability to empathize will enable kids to show compassion for others. Compassion is something every child should learn at a young age, and some adults should be re-taught the concept.

The illustrations show a diverse group of students, which is another fantastic way to bring home the diversity of humanity. The Golden Rule is mentioned about mid-way through the book, but it does seem to come out of nowhere. So a little more contest or a child talking to a family member or a teacher about it, might have been less awkward in the narrative.

Overall, the illustrations where the kids are working out differences or situations themselves after learning these terms are the most effective. A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andre Ceolin, definitely provides young kids, their parents, and teachers with tools they will need to help children navigate social interactions and other situations.

RATING: Quatrain

**Be sure to enter the author’s giveaway***

About the Author:

Matt Forrest Esenwine is an author and poet from Warner, New Hampshire. His debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Books for Kids of 2017. His picture book Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021), co-authored with Charles Ghigna, was deemed “a necessary addition to picture book collections” by ALA’s Booklist. His poetry can be found in numerous anthologies including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015) and Construction People (Wordsong, 2020).

About the Illustrator:
André Ceolin studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has illustrated over twenty books for children. André lives in Brazil with his family.

Dear Wild Child by Wallace J. Nichols and Wallace Grayce Nichols, illustrated by Drew Beckmeyer

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Dear Wild Child: You Carry Your Home Inside You by Wallace J. Nichols and Dr. Wallace Grayce Nichols, illustrated by Drew Beckmeyer, is based on a letter from a father to a grown daughter after the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fires destroyed her childhood home on the Slow Coast north of Santa Cruz, California, following a brilliant lightning storm.

The book opens before the birth of the child in the story, as the parents are planning and designing their home in the redwoods. The illustration of the house as a patchwork of trees is beautiful and abstract. Opening up to the inside of the home, it’s cozy and filled with books and music and love. Like the strength of the trees making up the floors and walls of the house, the young girl grows stronger each day, learning to sing, and enjoy nature, and explore all that the woods has.

Beckmeyer lends his skills as an imaginative artist with crayons (or at least it gives that child-like impression). His illustrations are deep and textured, resembling the crayon wax that is left behind on the page when a child colors. This effect ensures readers will see the trees as three-dimensional and coarse with bark.

Dear Wild Child: You Carry Your Home Inside You by Wallace J. Nichols and Dr. Wallace Grayce Nichols, illustrated by Drew Beckmeyer, shares the beauty of a home filled with love, and though it may no longer exist in physical form, all of that love and those memories are carried inside that “wild child.” While loss can be extremely devastating, this books illustrates the beauty of memory and love, as well as that beauty in destructive forces.

RATING: Cinquain

***To help those communities impacted by these destructive wildfires, please consider helping After the Fire.***

About the Authors and Illustrator:

Wallace Grayce Nichols is a student of sustainable design, problem solver, and water lover. Her father, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, is a marine biologist and the author of the bestselling book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. Home is the slow coast of California. Drew Beckmeyer is a fine artist, illustrator, and elementary school teacher. He lives in Northern California.

My Dog, Hen by David Mackintosh

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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My Dog, Hen by David Mackintosh is a cute story about a boy and his new dog from the shelter. Hen is a “good as new” dog but he has some things to learn. He wants to chew everything in sight from the dog bowl to his bed and all of his toys. The chewing seems never-ending until the boy’s grandmother comes to the rescue.

The illustrations are simple sketches of the house, the dog, and the people. Many of the drawings resemble kids’ drawings when they are young. What I loved about this book was the message that not all old things should be discarded because they can be mended or made into something new with a different purpose.

The paragraphs are made up of simple sentences that young readers can easily read, though the paragraphs are a bit longer than in other picture books. This could be a bridge book for those who are struggling readers who need images and simpler sentences.

My Dog, Hen by David Mackintosh not only reminds us to be patient and repair the old, but it also reminds us that we all have things to learn when we’re young. We all need a little direction, even Hen.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

David Mackintosh loves books with pictures in them, flying, visiting cities, and being read to. His picture book Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School was short-listed for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal. He lives in London.

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 96 pgs.
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I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin takes a brief look at the amazing life of an independent woman, Gabrielle Chanel, a young girl left at an orphanage by a wandering father after her mother’s death. Chanel’s life took a positive turn in the convent when she learned how to sew.

In the section on her life in the orphanage, we found the gray background a little too dark for the black type to show well. We struggled to read that section in a dimmer lit room. Overall, the illustrations are fun, colorful, and characteristic of an artist finding her way in the world as an independent woman at a time when women were not necessarily encouraged to be businesswomen.

When Chanel worked in Moulins and joined the cabaret, one of her songs about a missing dog became her signature and ultimately led to her name change from Gabrielle to Coco. Chanel received a lot of support from men in her life but it was her innovative ideas and focus on comfort for women that really made her fashion work popular.

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin is a quick look at her fashion evolution and the growth of her business. I wanted a little more about her WWII years, but the focus of the book was on fashion and its evolution. Pin definitely provides children with enough information to get them intrigued about Chanel and her life, possibly leading to further interest in her life.

RATING: Quatrain

The Power of Architecture by Annette Roeder, illustrated by Pamela Baron

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 64 pgs.
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The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World by Annette Roeder, illustrated by Pamela Baron, offers a taste of what modern architecture looks like and can do. From a small city contained in a beehive-shaped apartment building to airport terminals shaped like birds, Roeder wants to explore the oddities and beauty of modern architecture.

The book opens with a map and key depicting where here 25 selected buildings are located, and she says right in the introduction that it was hard to choose just 25, but reminds readers that they are in no particular order of importance or favoritism. Surprisingly, my dad picked up this book first and leafed through it, which means it will likely appeal to more than one level of reader.

One thing I wish had been included in the book is a pronunciation key for some of the terms and building names because they are from different parts of the world and I would like to know how to pronounce them correctly.

I do love that Roeder provides information on what the architect was inspired by or thinking about when they created their structures, and each of them is beautifully rendered in water color. It would have have interesting to see a side-by-side of the water color depiction and an actual photo of each building or even just photos in the back of the book to provide readers with a sense of them being in a real place.

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World by Annette Roeder, illustrated by Pamela Baron, definitely showcases the infinite possibilities of architecture and the ability of the human mind to create something with a purpose in mind — whether that is reducing carbon emissions or incorporating the land or paying homage to a culture.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Annette Roeder, born in Munich in 1968, is an author, illustrator and architect. She has been writing picture books and children’s books, as well as novels for adults for over 20 years. Her 10-book series Die Krumpflinge (‘The Crumplings’) is much loved by children aged 6+, and she won the Kalbacher Klapperschlange prize for her book Vacations in the Closet.

About the Illustrator:

Pamela Baron is a watercolor illustrator who has a special love of architecture. She lives in a breezy town outside of San Francisco with her husband and twenty-one miniature fruit trees.

HAIR: From Moptops to Mohicans, Afros to Cornrows by Katja Spitzer

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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HAIR: From Moptops to Mohicans, Afros to Cornrows by Katja Spitzer is a look at hairstyle from as long ago as 300 years or more. In the opening pages, there are images that look like noodles, but they also could be clipped pieces of hair before you get to the title page. What’s clear from the start of the book is that humanity has been obsessed with self-expression through hair since the dawn of time.

I loved that the book started with information about why hair grows and what cells make up the color of our hair and why our hair grows gray as we age. From the tall hairstyles of the Rococo period to the Ancient Egyptians, readers will learn about hair and why certain styles became fashionable. The background about the Afro, however, focuses too much on why Blacks straightened their hair, which is important, but doesn’t really explain the hairstyle itself. Some sections are more detailed about how the style is created than this one.  One of the best parts of the book is that there’s a final page that kids can use to draw their own favorite hairstyle.

For a quick history lesson on hair styles, HAIR: From Moptops to Mohicans, Afros to Cornrows by Katja Spitzer can help young kids learn about the past, present, and future of hair, including beards and man-buns.

RATING: Tercet

A Room of Your Own by Beth Kephart, Illustrated by Julia Breckenreid

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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A Room of Your Own by Beth Kephart, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid, is a gorgeous book that explores all the different kinds of room we can find in our lives for creativity. Those rooms can be in the house, in the garden, in a barn, in a bath tub, in a cabinet, in a tree, under the bed, or even simply in the pages of a book.

Kephart was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own, to write this children’s picture book, which is beautifully illustrated by Breckenreid. The images are colorful and alive. Readers follow Virginia from her home and into the gardens where the steel sky gives way to blue. She sits and thinks and dreams and then comes the question for the reader: “Where do you go to think, to dream, to be?”

There’s an illustrated imagining of what those places could be and maybe are for many. And the illustrations bring these places to life and demonstrate that each place is important for each person and that no two places are alike, but all are vital for self, imagination, and more. Some of the rooms are not even rooms at all, but moments between action or in action. Below is my favorite illustration in the entire book:

A Room of Your Own by Beth Kephart, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid, is a delight, and I love that Virginia Woolf is here in these pages, but that the story gives way to the reader and explores the places they could have that are all their own.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of three dozen books in multiple genres and an award-winning teacher at the University of Pennsylvania. Her new memoir in essays is Wife | Daughter | Self (Forest Avenue Press). Her new craft book is We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class, from which this essay was adapted. More at bethkephartbooks.com.

Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman, illustrated by DeAnn Wiley

Source:
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman, illustrated by DeAnn Wiley, is a book in which Sarah goes with her dad to a protest for justice. Her father tells her that they need to stand up for people when the police don’t protect them. The simplified message is a strong one for young kids ages 5-8, and the illustrations are very realistic, particularly from the point of view of a young child.

Sarah learns what it means to protect others when a Monarch butterfly is swatted down and she saves it from a police officer who yells at her to get back. And although she loses her way for a bit, the crowd is welcoming and safe, protecting her until she can be reunited with her family. This part will be scary for young kids like it is for Sarah, but it is a reality kids will likely face in a protest.

Chapman’s overarching message is to stand up for justice and what is right, which is important. As a parent, I was concerned about Sarah being lost in a crowd of strangers. It is a little too simplistic to assume the crowd would protect her until she finds her family, but this also could be a discussion for parents to have with their children about the dangers of strangers and getting lost in a crowd.

Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman, illustrated by DeAnn Wiley, is a story about what it means to stand up for others, but kids will likely view Sarah’s being lost as the main point. This happened with my daughter, but their perspectives are often different than an adult perspective. She thought the point was to care for kids who are lost and return them to their loved ones, rather than about standing up for justice. Our conversation took a different turn than the author might have intended.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Ty Chapman is a Twin Cities-based author, poet, puppeteer, and playwright of Nigerian and European descent. He is passionate about art that speaks to the Black experience in America. His recent accomplishments include being named a Loft Literary Center Mirrors and Windows fellow and publishing poetry through multiple journals. Follow Chapman at these locations:

Web: tychapman.org

Twitter: @TyChapmn

Instagram: @ty_chapmn

Facebook: /TyChapmn

About the Illustrator:

DeAnn Wiley is a Detroit-based artist who has been painting traditionally for over five years. She recently broke into the digital art world and shares her artwork with a large online audience. She is an advocate for social justice and is dedicated to making art that is authentic and intentional in empowering Black, queer, fat, and disabled people.

Follow Wiley at the locations below:

Web: DeeLaSheeArtistry.com

Twitter: @DeelasheeArt

Instagram: @DeelasheeArt

Facebook: /DeeLasheeArtistry

Great Power, No Responsibility (Spider-Ham Original Graphic Novel) by Steve Foxe, illustrated by Shadia Amin

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Great Power, No Responsibility (Spider-Ham Original Graphic Novel) by Steve Foxe, illustrated by Shadia Amin, is classic Peter Porker! This Spider-Ham was seen in multiverse movie for the Spiderman franchise, and in this graphic novel, he is recognized by the city and the mayor gives him a key to the city in thanks. I was intrigued by this because I’ve loved comics since I was a kid, and Spider Pig, as I called him long ago before the Simpsons’ song, was a cartoon on television.

My daughter received this from her school’s Scholastic book club, and she was excited because Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is her favorite movie of late — she’s probably watched it about 10 times. She read this one on her own, but we did talk about what she read, and this story line was easy to follow for her.

Peter Porker has lost the key to the city. Has it fallen into the wrong hands? Of course, our favorite Marvel characters don’t look the same in this anthropomorphic universe — hulk as a giant green bunny? — but it made for some comical interactions. My daughter was often giggling while reading and pointing out some funny bits to me here and there.

Great Power, No Responsibility (Spider-Ham Original Graphic Novel) by Steve Foxe, illustrated by Shadia Amin, offers younger readers a fun story about responsibility with animal-looking characters they know from the Marvel universe. My daughter really enjoyed this book, and the illustrations are vivid and fun. The action scenes are easy to follow along, and she definitely recommends this to others.

RATING: Cinquain

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega, is a book for readers between ages of 7 and 12. My daughter read this one to herself over a week or so, and we’re using it as an experiment to check her comprehension when she reads on her own. After each reading session, I asked her about what she read. While there were occasions when she had to refer to the text, rather than remember it on her own, my assessment is that the book is written in a way that kids in her age group can remember what happened.

There are illustrations of Anne and her family, a map of the Frank’s journey away from Germany during WWII, and even an illustration of Hitler. The back of the book also includes a timeline exploring when Anne received her journal and its journey to publication, as well as a timeline of Anne’s life. My daughter enjoyed learning about Anne and even has asked about the diary, which is now a book. I told her that we’ll have to dig up my copy to read together.

We also loved the inspiring quotes that were pulled out into separate bubbles for your readers. They were positive and focused on the good things in the journey, rather than the bad. That is not to say that the author avoided talking about the persecution of Jews,the War, or even Anne’s death.

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega, is a great way to introduce young readers to Frank and her family. It will teach them about bigotry, persecution, Nazi’s, WWII, and more. The book also offers some things to think about or kids, though I wish at least one of those questions would have touched on what kids thought about the Nazi’s and their persecution of Jews.

RATING: Quatrain

The Haunted Library: The Hide-and-Seek Ghost by Dori Hillestad Butler

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Haunted Library: The Hide-and-Seek Ghost (book 8) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is another caper in which Claire and Kaz are called upon to uncover a ghost at a fellow classmate’s house. Trouble is, the classmate’s mom believes her son is making up the ghost stories so they don’t sell the house and move. Oh, and this classmate has a tendency to play pranks on other students. Kaz doesn’t trust that he is telling the truth about the ghost.

Further complicating the situation is Kaz’s parents, who still view Kaz and Little John as children to shelter, but they’ve been living their lives without them.

The Haunted Library: The Hide-and-Seek Ghost (book 8) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is another strong book in the series that will keep young readers guessing. We have more books in this series to read, but I think my daughter’s taking a break from the series as we work on her reading skills.

RATING: Quatrain