Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, January 28, 2022

Poles Apart , But . . .

It is safe to say the phrase "opposites attract" will continue to be researched and debated for many years to come.  There are supporting factors on both sides.  If you think about it, as I have, what a loss for our world if there were no "opposites".  What if we walked outside to discover all snowflakes were alike?  What if scanning the forested hills in autumn, there was only a single color?  What if our planet was populated in a single species in one color, one size and one shape rather than the abundance of species in a multitude of colors, shapes and sizes, flourishing in a variety of habitats in various seasons?  

Can not the same be said for the individuals in our lives?  This does not mean we don't feel a certain joy in spending time with kindred spirits. We do, but is the joy any less when we feel a rapport, sometimes for our entire lives, with someone deemed to be our opposite?  In Cornbread & Poppy (Little, Brown and Company, January 4, 2021), a new early reader series, Caldecott Medalist (Wolf In The Snow) Matthew Cordell explores in three chapters the enduring friendship of two mice who approach many things differently except for one thing.

The First Snow
It was winter.  The first snowflake had fallen.

Cornbread, snug in his home, was organizing all the food he had collected in autumn.  He tucked away fruit preserves, grains, and cheese.  He worried and planned to make sure he had enough to last the long winter.  

Poppy, his friend, did not worry or plan.  She was a carefree soul, preferring to spend her time biking, hiking and seeking out all kinds of adventure.  She did not gather fruit, grains, or cheese.  Her food, even at this early date, was nearly gone.

Now her phrase,

Nah, I'll do it later!

was coming back to haunt her.  Cornbread went with Poppy to all the vendors and nearby neighbors.  They had no food.  When Poppy suggested they travel up Holler Mountain, he grew frantic.  (Even daring Poppy had misgivings about trekking up the mountain, but she needed to eat.)

Cornbread offered a series of reasons not to go up the mountain.  The most serious one was the disappearance of the last mouse to scale the heights, but Poppy was his best friend.  They packed essentials in Poppy's wagon, donned warm clothing, and began to climb in the rapidly increasing snowfall.

To say, they found food on the steep ascent would not be true.  To say, they did not meet their mortal enemy, an owl, would not be true.  To say they had not one but several shocking encounters would be totally true!  There were a lot of surprises on Holler Mountain (and afterward), but the best thing about this risky wintery endeavor was the one thing Cornbread and Poppy always had in common, their affection for each other.

After having read this charming title several times, I can say with certainty the pacing is pure perfection.  The blend of narrative and conversation done with a keen sense of humor by Matthew Cordell had me bursting aloud with laughter more than once.  In these three chapters, Matthew Cordell establishes the personalities of the two friends through a rhythmic presentation of their opposite habits and life views.  He takes you to the edge of a situation with you expecting it to go a certain way and when it does not, you are drawn further into the story of Cornbread and Poppy.  Here is a passage.

The snow crunch. . .crunch. . .crunch. . .crunched
around them.  The owl had landed.

Sniff. . .sniff. . . "Is that mice I smell?" said a

Cornbread and Poppy shivered.  The shrub

"I like mice!" said the voice.

The shrub shivered.

Poppy grabbed a stone and stood up.

"I'll save you, Cornbread!  Run!"

One of the first things you notice about the open and matching dust jacket and book case is the signature lines and intricate details often found in the artwork of Matthew Cordell.  The clothing, shoes, scrollwork on the furniture, the artwork on the walls, and Holler Mountain in the distance through the window are all clues to the adventures which are to follow in the pages of the book.  Do you notice how the tea in Poppy's cup is splashing out?  That's probably because she rarely sits still.  And what is flying near the peak of Holler Mountain?  The color palette shown here is used throughout the book.

To the left of the spine, on the back, Cornbread and Poppy, now wearing skis with poles, are gliding through evergreens down a snowy slope.  Why are they wearing backpacks?  And is cautious Cornbread smiling?  You can feel your anticipation growing.

The opening and closing endpapers are a bright, light turquoise like the sky over Holler Mountain.  After the title page which shows us portraits of Cornbread and Poppy against the majesty of Holler Mountain, we read the dedication above a picture of the duo standing together.  It says:

To Julie---
the Poppy to my Cornbread

The illustrations rendered

in pen and ink with watercolor

shift in size to complement and elevate the text.  They fill portions of a page, an entire page with loose framing, or are grouped together to show the passage of time.  There is one two-page wordless visual.  Sometimes tiny sound effects are included.

If the pictures represent a thought or memory, a scalloped border outlines the scene.  The elements in the images ask you to pause.  The signs for each of the merchants reflect what they sell and the current status of their goods.  The town grump has a doormat reading NOPE.  The expressions on the faces of the characters leave no doubt as to their emotional state.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single page picture, loosely framed.  Within the frame is Holler Mountain.  Standing, side by side, with most of their bodies in the frame are Poppy and Cornbread.  They are staring up at the mountain at its base.  Their feet are outside the frame as is Poppy's wagon.  This is not just a picture of a mountain two mice are about to climb.  This represents everything about Cornbread and Poppy.  No matter what they have to scale in life, they will do it together, regardless of the reason for them being where they are.

After reading this first book in a new early reader series, Cornbread & Poppy written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, you'll want to climb to the top of Holler Mountain and shout out how wonderful it is.  Not only is it engaging from beginning to end for an individual to read, but as a read aloud your listeners will be asking you to read it repeatedly.  And you will, because each time is like the first time.  I highly recommend you have a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves.  AND the next book in the series, Cornbread & Poppy at the Carnival, is set to release toward the end of June, 2022.

To learn more about Matthew Cordell and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name.  Matthew Cordell has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can (and will) enjoy listening to a podcast with Matthew speaking about this book.  Matthew Cordell and this book are highlighted at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  There is process artwork.

Matthew Cordell Presents CORNBREAD & POPPY from LB School on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Erasing Injustice

When you hear the word erase, depending on your life experiences, it can have different meanings.  A wave can erase an afternoon of sandcastle building.  A heavy snowfall can erase deer tracks across your yard or wet paper toweling can erase muddy pawprints on a wood floor.  If using a pencil, you can erase a written mistake.  As an artist, depending on your medium, you can usually erase a wrong color or line or element out of balance with the whole.  The delete key can erase something in a matter of seconds, much to your horror sometimes.

Injustice is much harder to erase.  It can take decades to right a wrong and then, some people don't see, understand or accept that a change has happened.  To them, there was nothing to erase.  Evicted!: The Struggle For The Right To Vote (Calkins Creek, an imprint of Astra Books For Young Readers, January 11, 2022) written by Alice Faye Duncan with art by Charly Palmer is about a pivotal time in American history.  It focuses on the injustices happening in Fayette County, Tennessee concerning voting rights and specifically the Tent City Movement. You won't be able to turn the pages fast enough as the stories of key figures unfold, intertwine, and challenge oppression.

Prologue to Freedom
This is the story of a battle, a boy, and his broken-hearted blues.
It is James Junior's journey through turbulent times in Fayette County, Tennessee.  The people in Fayette County lived apart. Black and white children went to separate schools.  Jim Crow signs hung high.

This initial paragraph of five is preceded by a moving dedication page, acknowledgements which read like an author's note, a quotation by William Herbert Brewster, sections titled Mapping a Movement and Tent City Profiles and a contents page listing twenty-two portions in this profound, intentional narrative.  Fourteen people are named in the Tent City Profiles along with their birth and death dates.  Some are living today.

For the remainder of Prologue to Freedom, we read of voter suppression due to fear of retaliation by the Ku Klux Klan or White Citizens Council.  We read of Black land owners, John McFerren and Harpman Jameson who rallied, in the face of fear for their lives, to form voter registration drives.  We read and are asked to remember the men, women, and their families who were a part of this movement.

In each of the narrative sections, James "Junior" Jamerson is a thread tying them together from an early age to his mid teenage years.  We read how he and his younger sister were rescued by their grandmother, Golden Jamerson, and taken to live with their uncle, Harpman Jameson.  In The Legend of Burton Dodson, we marvel at a man who escapes a rain of bullets only to be later tried and sent to jail for a crime he did not commit.  There was no jury of peers for him.  You had to be registered to vote to be a part of the jury.  This was a call to action for John McFerren, a local farmer.  John formed and was the president of the Fayette County Civic and Welfare League.

We hardly dare breathe as we read a poem in the voice of Thomas Brooks, now a ghost.  He was lynched. (The newspaper article account of this is listed in the bibliograhy.  It is haunting to read.)  Harpman, a World War II Navy veteran, decided to join with John McFerren.  Being a father to Junior (Anne died at age six) changed him.  His wife, Minnie, also joined, but she lost her teaching position ofr registering to vote.  For others that registered, after the crops were harvested they were evicted from their homes.

By now a federal lawsuit had been filed by attorney James Estes on behalf of the League.  Black registered voters had been blocked from voting.  They were also named on a "blacklist" and denied medical services, insurance on homes and cars was canceled, and the purchase of groceries and gasoline was prohibited.  A compassionate Black landowner, Shephard "Papa" Townsend, set up army surplus tents purchased from an anonymous white merchant for the evicted people.  The tide was about to turn.

Up until now, not many people knew what was happening in Fayette County.  The photographs of Ernest Withers of the people living in Tent City changed everything.  Prominent national newspapers sent people to cover the story.  The federal government sent people to investigate.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy now knew.  College students began to spend their summers assisting with voter registration and protesting for civil rights.  In 1967, quiet James "Junior" Jamerson graduated from Fayette County High, having integrated it in 1966. 

The poetry and prose written by Alice Faye Duncan is powerful and engaging from the first words we read to the last words in the Epilogue.  Her meticulous research, including many phone and in-person interviews, is evident in each line we read.  She wants us to know and understand the fourteen people in the profile section.  Her highly-descriptive essays on them with personal facts bring them to life for readers.

Alice Faye Duncan's choice of words for her sentences convey time, place, motivation and mood with excellence.  We are there with these people.  We are able to get a sense of what was happening and what they were feeling.  Here are two portions of longer passages, chapters.  

RAP-TAP-TAP! His grandmother knocked.  A grumbling in her feeble mind made her remember the children.  She stood on the porch in a blue work jacket, and mismatched brogan boots.  She wore a crumpled old church hat with a silver cross around her neck.  Golden was her name.

When Mama Golden opened the unlatched door and shuffled toward the bed, James Junior shot up to hug her with all his strength.  Baby Ann stretched out her arms for Golden to pick her up.  Golden helped the children button their clothes over frayed pajamas.  She tied their scuffed-toe shoes, and they all sat on the bed, watching black storm clouds gather and waiting on a savior.

While his shelter was sure, James Junior worried for friends.  He was especially fearful for Jo Nell Johnson, a girl in his fifth-grade class.  Her parents had seven children and worked for a white landlord with an evil reputation.

One evening as Junior walked the lonely path home from school and whizzing snow cleaved to his hat and coat, he followed rabbit tracks along the trail and posed a question to the listening trees.

"If the Johnsons go register, what's gonna happen to poor Jo Nell?"

(I am working with an F &G.)
When you open the dust jacket, the artwork of Charly Palmer spreads from left to right across the spine in a two-page visual.  It features families living in Tent City, the tents in the background.  They stand shoulder to shoulder, side by side, somber but determined expressions on their faces.  Each brush stroke is filled with emotion.  We are brought into this scene through the placement of shades of red in the clothing and in the nearby flowers.  They join with the red used in the first word of the title text.  

The opening and closing endpapers are a dark, but bright spring green, elevating the colors on the title page and the pastel hues on the last page of the book.  Each painting spans two pages, supplying space through a wash of color for the text.  Charly Palmer's pictorial interpretation of the text is stunning.

He takes us into the peoples' lives represented in the pages of this book.  He takes us to the places in their lives.  He takes us back in time.  He takes us to spaces, not necessarily mentioned in the text, that symbolize the people, places and time.  For example, the image for the quote by William Herbert Brewster, which makes no reference to a residence, depicts the home of a sharecropper.  We are brought close to this representation so we can see every portion of its structure.  The contents' text is placed deep inside a cornfield, representing the work of the people. 

These illustrations rendered

in acrylic on illustration board

do shift their perspective to accentuate the text or Charly Palmer's interpretation of it.  For the pages speaking about the Tent City, we are first given a more panoramic, birds-eye view.  We shift to a close-up scene of a wagon loaded with possessions moving among the tents.  Then, we see families at work in their daily lives there.  A man is chopping wood.  A woman hangs up laundry.  Two children stand silently and two dogs romp.

One of my favorite illustrations is toward the end of the book.  James Junior is seated on a sofa with his grandma Golden.  Their backs are to us.  They face the television set in the living room.   A plant is placed on top of the television set with a small table and lamp off to the side.  Framed artwork hangs on the wall on either side of the television.  James Junior and his grandmother are watching the broadcast about the attacks by white state troopers on the nonviolent activists marching on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965.  The first sentence of this section titled Golden reads:

James Junior remembered 1965 with a furious clarity.

Surely, every student of United States history should read Evicted!: The Struggle For The Right To Vote written by Alice Faye Duncan with art by Charly Palmer.  This book serves two purposes.  It documents history with purpose and facts and it is a call to action.  The right to vote should never be taken for granted.  It is to be protected and preserved.  At the close of the book are seven pages dedicated to the Fayette County Timeline.  Photographs are used here.  This is followed by a Resource Guide including Books Of General Interest, Music, Documentary Films And Websites, and Places To Visit. There are then and now photographs of James "Junior" Jamerson.  There are pictures of Mary M. Williams and Levearn Townsend.  There is a two-page bibliography, an author's note and an illustrator's note.  I highly recommend a copy of this title for your professional and personal collections.  Please, take the time to read this book.

To learn more about Alice Faye Duncan and Charly Palmer, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Alice Faye Duncan has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Charly Palmer has active accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website, there is a discussion guide.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.  At School Library Journal, A Fuse # 8 Production, Elizabeth Bird gives her insights about the book and interviews Alice Faye Duncan.  Alice Faye Duncan is interviewed recently by author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson at Chapter 16, A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Gifted With . . .

When we enter this world, we have undiscovered potential.  Those closest to us, our family members, may try to steer us toward a generational family tradition or occupation.  They may see us as the next great beekeeper, politician, educator, doctor, grocer, carpenter, chef, clothing designer, gardener, or musher.  Even though the choices seem limitless, the path we follow, according to them, is already defined.

Our gift or gifts do not always align with their desires.  Sometimes, they are the exact opposite of family expectations.  If we are fortunate, we will be supported regardless of which direction we take.  As the monster in Anzu The Great Kaiju (Roaring Brook Press, January 11, 2022) written and illustrated by Benson Shum discovers, sometimes such approval is not quickly or easily earned.

All great kaiju are born with a superpower
to strike fear in the heart of their given city.

Anzu desires to follow in his family's footsteps.  He does have a conspicuous dilemma.  It is hard to 

strike fear in the heart of 

your city when your superpower is of the floral variety.  Yes, Anzu has flower power!  He sees and summons loveliness everywhere.

When Anzu reaches a certain age, he is assigned a city.  He can hardly wait to cause chaos.  His mother and father decide to first demonstrate by example what he needs to do.  He must unleash wild weather and earthly upheaval.

Alas, Anzu conjures up wreaths and necklaces of flowers and a playground appears when he uproots a huge tree.  The residents in his city are wildy ecstatic.  No matter what he does, they get happier and happier.  There is a contrast in the air between  the despondency of some and the pure bliss of others.  What is Anzu to do?

Now, Grandmother steps on the scene.  She tells him to dig deep into the powers passed to him from those of his past.  Anzu does this and there is an enormous resonating sound.  No one is more surprised than Anzu at this result.  Anzu has a decision to make.  Only his heart has the best answer.

With his first sentence, author Benson Shum fills us with anticipation.  When we learn of Anzu's superpower, in light of this statement, we are struck by the incongruity of this monster's situation.  It is a bit humorous, and a lot wonderful.

Anzu's story is told with a mix of added sound effects, conversation, and narrative.  Benson Shum's word choices not only convey the mood of the moment, but bring us into the action with their welcoming cadence.  Each of the family members speaks their truth with affection for one another.  In keeping with the back and forth between rumble-tumble turmoil and flower-power glee, we are privy to the conflict facing Anzu between pleasing one's family and staying true to yourself.  Here is a passage.


Vines and flowers erupted,
twirled and swirled into a
jungle of seesaws and slides.

"A great kaiju should unleash havoc," Dad said.
"NOT happiness."

How can you not want to reach out and hug bold yellow and orange Anzu when seeing him perched on the framed title on the dust jacket?  His happiness is contagious to everything around him as color bursts forth in the form of flowers and butterflies while the tiny residents of his city enjoy the effects of his superpower.  Anzu and the title text box are varnished on the front of the dust jacket.

To the left of the open dust jacket, on the back, is white space.  Above the ISBN at the bottom, two teeny residents are laughing as they balance on a seesaw.  Above them a cascade of flowers spin from left to right.  Toward the top Anzu is placed in a rectangular frame with a teal background.  He is exclaiming 


as flowers come from his mouth.

The book case is a vibrant spring green.  Covering the back and a large portion of the front is an array of flowers in shades of red, purple, pink and yellow with glossy green leaves.  On the front Anzu is lying on his back, smiling and looking at the wonder his superpower has created.

The opening and closing endpapers appear to be an open guidebook on monster superpowers.  Opposite each depiction of the monster is a list of their superpowers.  There are circles around some of the superpowers.  Throughout the pages are hand-drawn stars, hearts and other doodles.


with watercolor and ink and compiled digitally

these illustrations are as spirited as Anzu.  Colorful backgrounds showcase the other cheerful hues.  Black lines accent the glorious selected shades.  Sometimes, on a crisp white background wider lines will frame the text and an image.  A smaller framed visual and text are placed on a double-page picture for maximum effect.  The image sizes reflect the text and focus on the facial expressions and body postures of the characters superbly.  The final two-page picture is wordless and represents the marvelous conclusion.

One of my many favorite illustrations is after Anzu's first attempt at terrifying the citizens of his newly acquired city.  The background is sky blue.  There is a dirt and grassy dirt mounds along the bottom.  Garlands of flowers are floating from the sky in bright colors.  The tiny beings are dancing.  One shouts Hula!  Garlands are on the ground and hanging from the mounds.  Anzu's mother stands to the right of all this merriment, holding a garland and looking distressed.  She is a lot taller and thinner than Anzu, a light teal in color with large white spiny plates down her back.

There comes a time, many times, in our lives when we have to decide what is best for us and best for those around us.  This title, Anzu The Great Kaiju written and illustrated by Benson Shum, shows readers with great joy how to be guided by your heart and to stay true to yourself.  I highly recommend you place a copy in both your personal and professional collections.  This is to be shared often and widely especially as a read aloud.  

To learn more about Benson Shum, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Benson Shum has accounts on multiple social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Benson Shum wrote a guest post this month on author Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) during StorystormBenson Shum is interviewed about his work and this title on author Erin Daley's site, author illustrator Jena Benton's site, writer Vivian Kirkfield's site, and Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez's Math is Everywhere.  At the publisher's website you can view multiple interior images.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Happy New Year 2022 One Little Word Nonfiction

A little more than an hour past sunset today (Eastern Standard Time), January 17, 2021, the first full moon of 2022 will be at its best.  For moon watchers with clear skies, it should be spectacular.  Our natural world is always offering something wondrous for us to enjoy.  We know about these things, big and small, once in a lifetime, or everyday, because of people dedicated to seeking and sharing information.  These individuals are not only found in the realm of science.  They highlight events, people, and places, past and present.  Many of these pursuers of information are authors and illustrators dedicated to providing the best kind of nonfiction for readers.

For each title selected for this post, there will be a link to the publisher's, author's, and illustrator's websites (or social media accounts).  Other pertinent and helpful resources may be included.  There will be a short summary and an initial passage from the narrative.  As in prior posts, one little word will be given for each title.  These books are listed in order of release date.  It is my hope you find a new title to enjoy.


What's Inside A Flower? And Other Questions About Science & Nature (Crown Books For Young Readers, February 2, 2021) written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky (her picture book debut)

At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations.  There is a Brightly Storytime Read Aloud there also.  At the author's website are additional interior pictures.

Flowers live everywhere.

They bloom in . . .

bustling cities,

lush jungles,

soggy swamps

blistering deserts,

and high up on
rocky mountaintops.

They are cultivated by humans and Mother Nature.  We are shown examples of their many colors, shapes, and sizes. The corpse flower is larger than three feet around.

First, the basic parts of a flower are identified.  Then, we start with a seed, usually underground.  All those living things which aid in its growth are explained.  We learn about decomposers.  We closely examine the roots and the assistance supplied by water and minerals.

From the roots we move upward to the stem and the leaves.  The extraordinary function of leaves is explained clearly.  After water, minerals, and the sun help the roots, stem, and leaves, a bud grows, and grows, and grows until it blossoms into a flower.  All the parts of a flower are presented in details and descriptions.  

Pollination is discussed including pollinators.  The formation and purpose of seeds is explored as well as their forms of travel.  What we have learned is briefly addressed and we are asked what we will now do.

The exquisite artwork elevates the text beautifully.  Readers will pause at every page turn to study all the elements, read the captions, labels and dialog of the bees, ladybugs, flower, mouse, and bird.  Sources, books, websites, and places the author illustrator visited are listed as well as websites and books for further reading for readers.


Butterfly for a King (Lee & Low Books Inc., February 9, 2021) written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore and collages by Susan L. Roth

At the publisher's website, you can view interior artwork.  There is also a teacher's guide and a book trailer at the publisher's website.  At the Lee & Low blog, Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore speak about their four-book collaboration, including this title.

A spiny caterpillar becomes a magnificent butterfly.  The
butterfly lays eggs that become spiny caterpillars.  The cycle
goes on and on.  But what happens when the cycle is broken?
What if the butterflies start to disappear?

Using two forms of text, narrative in larger font at the top of the page, and informational text along the bottom in smaller font, we are told how the Hawaiian Islands formed.  After their formation, plants grew and a butterfly flourished.  It is only found in Hawaii.  It is orange, black, and white in color.

A comet, it was said, foretold a great leader would be born.  This leader, King Kamehameha, united all the tribes on the islands.  The butterfly was given his name.

In 2009, six fifth grade students in Hawai petitioned the leaders in the state to make the Kamehameha butterfly the state insect.  They won through factual presentations and a desire to protect the butterfly, whose numbers were shrinking.

After the law was passed to make the Kamehameha butterfly the official state insect, people began another project, the Pulelehua Project.  Professional scientists and citizen scientists worked together.  Citizen scientists looked for signs of the butterfly in all its stages of life, gathering data.  (All the stages are described in great detail.)  Scientists were also breeding the butterflies in insect labs and citizen scientists made the world ready for their release.  Scientists have another way to increase the population of the butterflies.  What do you think it is?

There is a four-page Afterword with photographs.  There is an illustrator's note describing the process for creating the stunning collages. There is a large list of authors' sources.


The Last Straw: Kids vs. Plastics (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, February 16, 2021) written by Susan Hood with illustrations by Christiane Engel

At the publisher's website, you can access a teacher's guide.  There is a video with Susan Hood reading from the book and discussing possible ways readers can help.  At the author's website, there is additional information about this title on its page.  At both the author and illustrator websites, you can view two double-page pictures.


Hi! My name is Milo.
When I was nine years old, I noticed something whenever I
ordered a drink, it came with a plastic straw, whether I wanted one or not.

This seemed like a huge waste, because I don't usually need a
straw.  It made me wonder how many straws are used each year.  Too many!  Lined up end to end, the straws we use in America each year would circle the Earth twice!

So begins the introduction and this book, spoken by Milo Cress, founder of BeStrawFree.orgIt is followed by seventeen poems, factual poems illustrated in full color using acrylics, watercolour, and Adobe Photoshop.  Embedded within the artwork of the poem is further information addressing the main theme of each poem.

The first poems focus on how plastic is in every part of our life.  We are not aware how prevalent it is. The next poems turn to the oceans and seas and the injury caused by too much plastic.  It is hurting the creatures who live there and it is finding a way into the food chain everywhere.  One of the poems is devoted to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The remaining poems shift to the work of children in combating the over-abundance of plastic.  It can be refusing to use plastic bags when grocery shopping, it can be collecting bottle caps to melt to make a buddy bench at your school, it can be gathering plastic bottles to insulate the wall of your school building or to design a system for heating water on rooftops using the sun. 

At the close of the book is a two-page author's note.  There is a two-page timeline of plastic beginning in 1836!  There is a page showing you what to use instead of plastic, a page of the Top Ten Ocean Polluters. There are four pages of sources and more.  There are three pages of Poetry Notes, Further Reading, and News You Can Use.


Fourteen Wolves: A Rewilding Story (Bloomsbury Children's Books, April 15, 2021 UK) written by Catherine Barr with illustrations by Jenni Desmond (I believe this is to be released in the US under the title The Wolves of Yellowstone: A Rewilding Story on April 5, 2022)

At the author's website, you can view three two-page images found within the book.  


The wolf is admired and
feared in equal measure.

After the brief introduction, two two-page chapters are devoted to explaining the splendor of Yellowstone National Park and how the loss of the wolf population completely altered its fabric of life.  In 1995, it was decided to return wolves to the park.

The next ten chapters under Part One Coming Home relate the darting of Canadian wolves and their transportation to Yellowstone park.  For ten weeks, the wolves are held in three separate sections of the park prior to their release.   The wolves have been assigned numbers and are wearing radio collars.  They form four packs.

The wolves' hunger sends them through the deep snow to the herds of elk.  They hunt.  In the spring, all the animals including the wolves have young.  As spring turns to summer, the wolves seek a new residence within the park.  As the years pass, this scenario is repeated.  The landscapes' flora and fauna is being altered positively by the presence of the wolves.

The following eight two-page chapters of Part Two A New Yellowstone clarify how some animal species multiple or diminish because of the wolves.  Different trees appear.  The sound of songbirds are heard again.  Beavers get busy.  Other animals, large and small, find food left by the wolves' kills.  Two pages list the first fourteen wolves by number and supply their status.

The three portions of Part Three, Understanding How Nature Works, Rewilding And Conservation and Why Predators Matter, provide further insight.  Readers will marvel at the stunning artwork throughout this book.  In fact, this title is listed with others for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2022.  At the beginning of the book, thanks is given to Leo Leckie, Yellowstone wolf historian and storyteller, Sian Jones, longtime Yellowstone Wolf Watcher, UK Wolf Conservation Trust and Melanie Newton.


30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (Worthy Kids, May 4, 2021) written by Amanda Davis with illustrations by Sally Wern Comport

There are additional resources (print and video) at both the publisher's website and the author's website.  The author shares her StoryStorm Success Story on author Tara Lazar's blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).  This book and author interviews are featured at author Vivian Kirkfield--Writer for Children, Math Is Everywhere (Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez), Critter Lit (Lindsay Ward), Rosie J. Pova Children's Author, Kidlit 411, Cynthia Mackey Kid Lit Village blog, and at librarian, lecturer, and writer John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read.  Amanda Davis wrote a post about this book at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum blog. Amanda Davis is also interviewed by Maria Allen for South Shore Home, Life & StyleHere is the link to the virtual launch of this book.

On September 11, 2001, New York City was attacked.
Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center.
The Twin Towers collapsed, and thousands of
people lost their lives.

It was a tragic day in American's history.

After this event, construction workers hung an American flag above the devastation.  It was thirty feet wide and twenty feet tall.  It remained there until, the worse for wear, it was taken down and stored.

In Greensburg, Kansas, six years later, a tornado destroyed the town.  Assistance from many states was offered and accepted.  The volunteers from New York City brought that stored American flag as a memento for a memorial park the people of Greensburg, Kansas planned to build.

A group of people in Greensburg decided to repair the flag with portions of flags torn in the tornado in their community.  As a result of these actions, it was decided the flag would be sent to all fifty states to be repaired.  

At each location, a new piece of fabric was added.

As this story unfolds, the author adds single separate sentences about the "fabric of America".  The illustrations present first, as large memorable collages, and then as smaller images stitched together.  At the close of the book are sections titled--- More About the Flag, The Flag Comes Down, A Trip Across 50 States, Return to New York, The Restoration Process, Author's Note, Special Thanks, Sources (personal interviews, books, and websites), and Reflections on the Flag.


This Very Tree: A Story of 9/11, Resilience, And Regrowth (Henry Holt And Company, May 11, 2021 written and illustrated by Sean Rubin

At the publisher's website, you can view multiple interior images, poignant frameless panels.  This title is highlighted at librarian, lecturer at Rutgers, and writer John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read. with an interview.  At The Children's Book Review there is an extensive look and chat with Sean Rubin inside his studio about his artistic process.

IN NEW YORK CITY there once stood two towers.
For a time, they were the tallest buildings in the world.
Below the towers was a busy plaza.

That's where I was planted.

So begins this narrative told through the voice of the Callery pear tree placed in the plaza nearly thirty years earlier.  We are told about the people who pass through the plaza, most on their way to work.  The tree speaks about its tasks.  It supplies shade and a place to rest.  It is the first tree to blossom heralding the arrival of spring.

The tree tells us September 11, 2001 is like most other mornings until it changes drastically.  What is left of the tree, after those horrible events, survives in darkness for weeks until it is found.  It is removed to another space in a park.  There no one is sure it will have leaves again.  It does.

As the years pass, the tree speculates on whether the plaza is growing back like it is.  The tree enjoys the comfort of the other trees in the park.  One day, it knows it is strong enough to do its previous job.  It is transported back to the plaza, but worries about being away from the sanctuary of the other trees in the park.  It need not have worried.  It is one among many, still blooming first in the spring.

At the close of the book are pages titled Author's NoteA Brief History Of The World Trade Center, 9/11, And The Survivor Tree and A Note On The Illustrations.  There is A Note on Design and Selected Sources.  The dust jacket, book case, and interior illustrations tell a heartbreaking but hopeful true tale, never to be forgotten.


Begin with a Bee (University of Minnesota Press, May 25, 2021) written by Liza Ketchum, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Phyllis Root with illustrations by Claudia McGehee

At the publisher's website, there are eight pages of educational activity sheets, eighteen songs on a Spotify playlist, and an Instagram video of the illustrator working on a picture of a bee.  At author Liza Ketchum's website is a video from a bookshop event hosting the creators.  At author Jacqueline Briggs Martin's website you can view interior images on the page for this title.

What's inside this hole in the ground?

Inside the hole in the ground is one bee, a queen rusty-patched bumble bee.  She has been here all winter long.  She waits for spring.  She is not alone.  There are other things underground waiting for spring.

After waiting for spring, those things grow and bloom, and the queen leaves the hole eating all the nectar and pollen she can.  She then locates another underground place to nest.

For weeks, this queen works alone laying and caring for her eggs.  From this single soul comes female worker bees, again and again, until in late summer the male bees and new queen bees emerge from the eggs.  As autumn moves to winter, the cycle begins again.  In concise text, using a question and answer format, we are presented with facts about this particular kind of bumble bee.  The stunning scratchboard artwork elevates the text using various perspectives.  Flora and fauna are presented in gorgeous displays.


Breaking Waves:  Winslow Homer Paints the Sea (Neal Porter Books Holiday House, June 1, 2021) written by Robert Burleigh with paintings by Wendell Minor

At the publisher's website, there is an event kit (activity sheets) and educator's guide (discussion questions) available to download. At Penguin Random House, you can view the first two interior images.  At Wendell Minor's website, there are additional interior paintings to view.

Sea spray flying up into mist!

Winslow looks at the sea.

Prouts Neck, Maine.  Halfway down a rocky slope at the coast's edge,
the artist gazes out, watching intently.  He sees the dark, restless ocean
stretching far into the blue-gray horizon.

In a small notebook Winslow writes about the scene before him.  He will paint, try to paint, what he remembers.  Blue, white, and green blend together with strokes of his brush.  Other colors are added to capture the essence of the sea.

From season to season, walking, pausing, and watching, Winslow records in words, sketches and on his canvas what he sees.  Through poetic text at each section and the subsequent highly descriptive narrative, we become Winslow Homer as he studies the vast expanse of water in all its many moods and each canvas he paints.  Quotations by the artist are woven into the text.

The paintings of Wendell Minor are as breathtaking as those of the subject explored.  The man and the sea he studied are so real, you can feel the changing of the seasons, the wind, cold and warmth. (Winslow Homer had a dog, Sam, that was his constant companion for many years.  A dog is featured by his side in several of these illustrations.)  At the close of the book are four pages dedicated to More About Winslow Homer.   There is also a bibliography and places listed where you can see the work of Winslow Homer.


Child Of The Flower-Song People: Luz Jimenez, Daughter Of The Nahua (Abrams Books For Young Readers, August 17, 2021) written by Gloria Amescua with illustrations by Duncan Tonatiuh

At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  There is also a fall-winter preview video including this title as well as a link to a TeachingBooks. net recording with Gloria Amescua.  Gloria Amescua talks about her work at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations.

A girl stared at the stars sprinkling the hammock of sky.
Like many other nights she listened to the
whispering of the ancient Aztecs in the wind.
She heard their xochicuicatl, their flower song.

This girl, Luiz Jimenez, listened to the tales of her people passed from one generation to the next.  She learned from her father and mother to carry on the traditions of the Aztec people, remembering how they used and took care of the land, and how they cooked food and made what they needed.  Their language was music in her mind.

Luiz longed to learn to read and write and she was given the opportunity, but not the way she desired.  It was demanded she forget the old and only learn the new, but Luiz did not.  Her secret dream to become a teacher fled when the soldiers of the Mexican Revolution killed all the men in her village and destroyed all their buildings.
She and her siblings and her mother ran.

In Mexico City, Luiz became a model.  The artist community wanted to feature native people and Luiz was a beautiful young woman of the Nahua.  She was a keeper of the past and in the new present, she returned to her beloved Milpa Alta, her dream now a reality.  At the close of the book is an author's note and an artist's note.  There is a timeline, glossary, notes, and a select bibliography.  The artwork of Duncan Tonatiuh, his signature style a tribute to Pre-Columbian art, and the words of Gloria Amescua bring into the light the accomplishments of this woman. 


Einstein: The Fantastic Journey of a Mouse Through Space and Time (North|South, September 7, 2021) written and illustrated by Torben Kuhlmann, translated by David Henry Wilson

At the publisher's website, there is a large variety of resources, a lengthy teacher's guide, bookmarks and coloring pages to download, a Making of Einstein video, screensavers and a reading preview of fifty pages.  At Simon & Schuster, there are additional interior images to see.  At Teaching Books, there is the Meet-the-Author Recording with Torben Kuhlmann focusing on this book.  The book trailer was premiered along with an interview with Torben Kuhlmann by author, lecturer at Rutgers, and writer John Schumacher on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.

Three hands wandered over the dial of the mouse's pocket watch.  The small cog-
wheels inside the brass casing produced a soft and regular tick-tock.  The thinnest of
the three hands moved fastest and was just about to start another round.

This mouse had been watching and marking time with a human's pocket watch and a human's day-by-day calendar.  This mouse was waiting for an epic event, a great cheese fair, to be held in Switzerland.  He traveled by train, but when he arrived in the great hall he discovered the great cheese fair was held the previous day.  How did this happen?  Could he turn back time like the chunky mouse, who had enjoyed too much cheese, suggested?

The mouse began conducting a series of experiments with an assortment of time pieces, small like wrist watches, medium-sized like alarm clocks, and gigantic like the clock in the town's tower.  Time cannot be turned back by any kind of clock.  He then engaged in conversation with a mouse clockmaker about the true definition of time.  A history and family lesson ensued.  Our protagonist still did not have an answer but he had a hint.

Too many hours to count in another building, a special office, left the mouse frustrated until a large book and a bump on the head altered everything.  Construction began.  A round of riddles with a great mind and another trip was taken.  Cheese.

At the close of the book is a thoughtful paragraph concerning Einstein and imagination.  It is followed by pages titled Albert Einstein, Albert Einstein and Relativity, Thought Experiments, Einstein's time travel, A new image of space and time, and Differently ticking clocks.  Readers will be dazzled and intrigued by the artwork.  The numerous wordless images elevating the story, the highly detailed endpapers, and the beautiful technical illustration are incredible.


Over and Under the Canyon (Chronicle Books, September 7, 2021) written by Kate Messner with illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal

At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  They also post a discussion, a series of thoughts, on the value of the book in various settings.  At the artist's website, you can see one new interior illustration.

High above, Swainson's hawks soar,
circling in the morning-blue sky.

This first sentence leads to three others.  In those four sentences, you have been transported to the canyon.  A child and their mother decide to discover what is to be found after climbing down the rocks.  What is seeking shelter from the sun?

They wander along narrow paths through walls stretching toward the sky.  They see a gecko and a tarantula.  Above them a kestrel and a golden eagle glide.  A jackrabbit barely escapes that eagle's talons.

Prey and predator provide action during a snack break.  Walking through the sand shows the tracks of another.  Every place they wander, wildlife moves.  Back at camp and after dinner, the darkness reveals more life over and under the canyon.  Night creatures come awake.

At the close of the book is an author's note speaking about the inspiration for this book.  It is followed by several pages devoted to About Animals and Plants mentioned in the text.  There is a list of books and websites for further reading.  The artwork brings readers solidly into the canyon during the day and shifting to night.  Alternating between panoramic views and close-up visuals, it is as if we are there.


King Of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, September 14, 2021) written and illustrated by Stephen Costanza

At the publisher's website, there are interior illustrations to view including the open dust jacket.  At the author illustrator website is the official book trailer.  There, too, you can view multiple images from the book.  One of the interior pictures announcing Ragtime is placed on the book case.  Stephen Costanza and this book are showcased at Book Q&As with Deborah KalbAt author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast this title is highlighted.  You can listen to Stephen Costanza chatting about this book on Foreword: Island Readers & Writers podcast.

In the valley of the Red River,
where the soil was as rich
as most folks were poor,
four states sat side by side
like colors on a quilt
sewn from cotton picked
by black hands, brown hands,
tired and worn---but oh!
How they clapped at night,
as voices lifted to the stars.

As a child, Scott Joplin was quiet, born into a family of music-loving people.  Although he was quiet, music filled him on the inside.  He heard music everywhere he went.

Scott's father found work laying railroad tracks.  Scott's mother worked as a housemaid.  And in that house was a piano.  Soon Scott had composed a musical piece for every chore completed in that house.

His supportive parents recognized his talent, longing to purchase a piano for him.  Scott took lessons from Julius Weiss, expanding his repertoire.  Time passed and Scott and his piano playing flourished.  Instead of laying railroad tracks, Scott took the train from Texarkana to the mighty Mississippi, playing wherever he went.  He found himself in Chicago during the 1893 World's Fair.  Ragtime was born!  Now in Sedalia, Missouri, Scott taught, studied, and wrote music.  The "Maple Leaf Rag" turned the tide for this musical genius.  

The words written by Stephen Costanza sing off the pages with the same certainty as Scott Joplin's tunes, employing sound effects with excellence.  His illustrations are colorful, memorable, and ask readers to savor the experience.  Masterful.



Nina: A Story of Nina Simone (Putnam G. P. Putnam's Sons, September 28, 2021) written by Traci N. Todd with pictures by Christian Robinson

At the publisher's website, you can view a few interior images.  There is also an audio sample of the book being read aloud.  This title is highlighted at TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour.  It is featured at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast by author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson.  At School Library Journal A Fuse #8 Production Traci N. Todd is interviewed by librarian, author, reviewer, and blogger Elizabeth Bird.

Eunice Kathleen Waymon came into this world on
February 21, 1933, in the small town of Tryon, North Carolina.

At an early age, her gift for playing the piano and singing was evident.  Her mother, a minister, preferred she play hymns.  Her father introduced her to jazz.  As her playing improved, she learned to match the tempo and sound to those around her.

Mrs. Miller, where her mama also worked as a maid, arranged for her to take lessons from Muriel Mazzanovich.  Miss Mazzy took her talent and added in classical music.  The older Eunice was, the more she observed the prejudice against Black people.  It confused her.  It hurt her.  It angered her.

For a time, Eunice gave up music until an opportunity presented itself.  The more she played in this Atlantic City club, the more people came.  Out of respect for her mother not appreciating the kind of music she played, she changed her name to Nina Simone.

As her fame grew, she performed at Carnegie Hall in 1963.  The Civil Rights Movement was gaining in strength and Nina sang out loud and strong in support.  Her words and her music rang with truth.

At the close of the book, the author fills five more pages with a discussion about Nina Simone as well as the part she played in her life.  There is a bibliography of books, movies, and a video.  The artwork of Christian Robinson, acrylic paint, collage, and a bit of digital manipulation, is as vibrant as the music of Nina Simone.  It speaks of her life, her work, her struggles, and her music.  Historical events are embedded in some of the images of Nina playing her piano and singing.  The dust jacket, book case, and endpapers are exceptional.

Traci N. Todd and Christian Robinson introduce NINA from Penguin Classroom on Vimeo.


Set Your Alarm, Sloth!: More Advice for Troubled Animals from Dr. Glider (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., September 21, 2021) written by Jess Keating with illustrations by Pete Oswald

At author Jess Keating's website she features the first book in this series, Eat Your Rocks, Croc: Dr, Gilder's Advice for Troubled Animals.  There she includes multiple interior images, an introduction to readers of Dr. Gilder, an activity and discussion guide, and a video about the book.  This gives you a more visual idea of how the format of the second book, this book, is presented.

It's another beautiful day
and my patient list is full!
Ready to help some animal
friends?  Away we go!

First, we visit the Arctic and learn along with Helen Beluga about her ability to hear the food she needs to eat.  Through echolocation and her melon (fatty area on her head), she can locate prey and predators.  

We visit the Galapagos Islands, Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Sydney, Australia, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Africa, Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Nantucket, Massachusetts, Ladakh, India, Limon, Costa Rica, Indonesian Archipelago, Indonesia, Padang, Sumatra, Kauai, Hawaii, Cape York Peninsula, Australia and Mackenzie Delta, Northwest Territories, Canada.  In each place Dr. Glider has a conversation with a resident animal.  Through their perceived problems, we learn about each animals' unique characteristics.  We now know why iguanas sneeze, why bowerbirds fashion fancy nests, why okapis have sounds in their heads and ghost crabs have sounds in their stomachs, why sloths turn green and why the eye color of reindeer change with the seasons.

On the right-hand side of each two pages for each animal are four small boxes with text and illustrations addressing the animal's concern.  The illustrations are comical, but depict truthful settings and their inhabitants.  At the close of the book are sections titled---About Dr. Sugar Glider, Words to the Rescue, and on the closing endpapers are portraits of Dr. Glider's Patients.  The opening endpapers are inside Dr. Glider's office.  On the book case Dr. Glider is engaged in all sorts of activities.


How to Make A Book (About My Dog) (Millbrook Press, October 5, 2021) written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Sarah Horne

At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations.  There are additional resources about this title at the author's website.  On The Lerner Blog, Ernie (the dog) participates in a question and answer post.  At Booklist there is The Shelf Care Interview Chris Barton by Ronny Khuri.  I am grateful to Elizabeth Bird, librarian, author, reviewer, and blogger for her 31 Days, 31 Posts 2021 Autobiographies for Kids! at School Library Journal, A Fuse # 8 Production for introducing me to this title.

Hi There!
I'm Chris Barton . . .
I'm an author of books for kids and a big part of
my job is visiting schools and talking to students.

And here's Ernie.  A big part of his job is greeting
me when I get home.

In this book, two questions Chris Barton gets asked the most are answered.  He is asked how he makes his books and whether he is going to write about his dog.  First, he tells us how a crew of people contribute to the making of a book, but then he states a nonfiction book involves loads of research.  Multiple sources are consulted.

Next, the writing begins.  It can come easily, or not so easily, at any time or place.  Carrying a notebook helps to jot down ideas.  We learn about manuscripts and agents and editors and revisions.  

Now, the art director steps in to select an illustrator.  The illustrator reads the manuscript determining how the pictures will be made.  There might be further research on their part.  Sketches are made and sent to the team.  They offer comments.  

During this entire process there are many more questions which need answers.  There are deadlines to be met like

When will 
someone throw
my squeaky

The final versions are looked over repeatedly before going to the printer who then sends them to the publishing house who then sends them to bookshops and libraries.  And then, this begins again for the next book.  At the close of the book are pages labeled How To Find Out More About How To Make A Book (About My Dog)(And Everything Else) and Timeline Of Making This Book.


Disasters By The Numbers: A Book Of Infographics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 26, 2021) written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

At HarperCollinsPublishers you can view interior artwork.  It is with sadness that I include a link to The New York Times article about Steve Jenkins, his work, and his death on December 26, 2021.  He will be greatly missed, but readers are extremely grateful for his contributions to the world of literature for children of all ages.

The earth is a restless planet.
Continents collide in slow 
motion, causing earthquakes 
and volcanoes.  Mountains
rise and fall, and violent storms come
and go.

This book is divided into disasters caused by earth, weather, life, and space.  There are twenty-three different one-page and two-page chapters brimming with mind-boggling facts and diagrams.  Did you know there was a volcanic eruption in April of 1815, Mount Tambora, that lowered the height of the mountain by 4,746 feet?  The sound was heard more than one thousand miles away.

Perhaps you have heard of the scale for measuring the severity of earthquakes, but did you know there is also a scale for measuring volcanic eruptions?  The largest tsunami ever seen was in Alaska in 1958.  The wave was 1,720 feet high. Avalanches can move as fast as 200 miles per hour.  Thankfully, the uncommon disasters listed do not happen often.  A magnetic flip or a megatsunami reads like a nightmare.

Did you know tropical storms rotate differently in the two hemispheres?  Even though tornadoes are smaller than hurricanes, their speed can be greater.  China has had more deadly floods than any other country on our planet.  Did you know?

At any given time, there are about 2,000 thunderstorms happening around the world.

Statistics, causes and effects are related under the topics of blizzard, drought, extreme heat and cold, fire, insect plagues, pandemic, near-earth objects, happenings in space, and climate change.  Every image in Steve Jenkins' signature style is carefully labeled.  At the close of the book is a glossary and a bibliography.  This is a book to read repeatedly.  It will be shared widely and often.  In a word, it is outstanding.


XO, Exoplanet (Little, Brown And Company, November 16, 2021) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Jorge Lacera

There is a three-page Teaching Tips link at the publisher's website.  

The planets were swirling around the sun, as usual,
when Neptune discovered something.

Neptune found another planet circling another star a great distance from our solar system.  Jupiter gathered the planets together for a meeting declaring they should write a letter of greeting.  When Mercury asked what they should call the planet, Jupiter replied it was an exoplanet because it existed outside our solar system.

A letter was sent.  It took a lot of time to get a reply.  In the reply the exoplanet wanted to know what an exoplanet was.

The letter our planets sent with an explanation was not well received.  The exoplanet had its own sun and our planets were not revolving around that sun, so our planets were called exoplanets.  A heated exchange of letters flew across the universe.

Jupiter was furious and sent a letter dictated to Mercury asking the exoplanet to not send any more letters.  It was quiet in the solar system.  Too quiet.  A passing comet offered perspective to our planets in this solar system.  A letter was sent.  A letter was received.  

In this narrative we do learn about exoplanets which is nonfiction, but the story is fiction.  In an author's note we learn more about exoplanets and why Pluto was mentioned.  The personalities assigned to the planets through the colorful, comic and highly animated artwork of Jorge Lacera will have readers pausing at every age turn.  His double-page picture showing planets have a lot of time is hilarious.

The 1619 Project Born on the Water (Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, November 16, 2021) by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson with illustrations by Nikkolas Smith

At the publisher's website, you can view the opening and closing endpapers.  There is also a twenty-seven page educator's guide to download.  Here is a link to The 1619 Project website.

My teacher gives us an assignment. ''Who are you?'' she asks.  ''Trace your roots.
Draw a flag that represents your ancestral land.''

The other students seem to have no problem tracing their family back for many generations.  This little girl can only go back three generations.  That evening after talking with her grandmother, her grandmother speaks to the family.

Grandmother speaks about the life their people had in Africa before the ship, White Lion, took the people in 1619.  There they were free.  They had their own language, Kimbundu.  They lived in the Kingdom of Ndongo.  The people were clever and capable of creating much with their hands.

Through a series of fifteen sections, fifteen beautiful, happy, heartbreaking, and powerful poetic essays that speak of this child's history, of many children's history, we learn of their terrible journey.  We learn 

why the people say,
We were born on the water.
We come from the people who refused to die.

We learn of their back-breaking labor in the tobacco fields of Virginia.  We learn of their resolve to hold fast to their remembering.  We learn of the birth of William Tucker, son of enslaved Anthony and Isabella.  We learn of resistance over hundreds of years.  We learn of survival.  So does the little girl with the school assignment.  She finishes with hope and pride.

There is an author's and an illustrator's note at the end.  Every mood, every emotion, every word is reflected and elevated by the single-page and double-page paintings.  Every brush stroke adds a layer to the story.


I Am American The Wong Kim Ark Story (Little, Brown And Company, November 23, 2021) written by Martha Brockenbrough with Grace Lin with illustrations by Julia Kuo

There is a single interior image at the illustrator's website.  There is an interview with Martha Brockenbrough, Grace Lin, and Julia Kuo at the We Need Diverse Books blog.

Long ago, a boy was born in an apartment
above a shop in San Francisco.
His name was Wong Kim Ark---and
he believed something that would change
this country.
I am an American.

When he gazed out the window of his apartment, Wong Kim Ark could see Chinatown spread before him with its sights, sounds, and smells.  Regardless of the names given to the street where he lived, Wong Kim Ark believed

I am an American.

Wong Kim Ark's parents immigrated to California from China, but Wong Kim Ark was born here.  The blame for a weakened economy was placed on the Chinese.  A new law was passed.  Wong Kim Ark's parents could not become citizens.  They moved back to China.  Wong Kim Ark visited them there, traveling to China for the first time.  Several years passed and Wong Kim Ark took a chance and visited them again.  

Before he left, Wong Kim Ark prepared all the necessary paperwork to enter America again.  A customs official refused him entry when he returned.  He was locked inside a ship and moved from ship to ship, imprisoned for more than four months.

Thankfully, Wong Kim Ark had people who believed him, people who helped him get freedom from the ship.  His case for citizenship went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  On March 28, 1898, the decision was made in his favor.  

At the close of the book are headings titled More About the Story, The Fourteenth Amendment, How can a person become a US citizen?, Arguing against Wong Kim Ark, Arguing for Wong Kim Ark, and Acknowledgments.  There is a timeline along the bottom of these four pages.  The chief color palette is red, white, and blue, chosen with intention.  It presents a strong sense of place and time replete with many details.  Most of the pictures are two-page illustrations.  On the opening and closing endpapers is an overview of the streets where Wong Kim Ark was born.

Martha Brockenbrough Presents I AM AN AMERICAN from LB School on Vimeo.

Book Chat with the Illustrator featuring Julia Kuo on I AM AN AMERICAN from LB School on Vimeo.


The Big Book Of Belonging (Thames & Hudson, November 23, 2021) written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer

If you follow the link attached to Yuval Zommer's name it takes you to his Instagram account.  It is full of images from his books and ideas he has for extending what is offered in his books.

The Big Book of Belonging is my way of
celebrating the wondrous connections between
us humans and the natural world.

From the air that we breathe, the food we eat,
the adventures we seek, to the joy we experience,
you will find a connection to nature in every 
single part of our being.  And the more we can
reconnect with nature, the more we can reconnect
with ourselves.

So begins this newest offering in The Big Book of series.  As he does in the other books, at the start we are challenged to find fifteen footprints scattered throughout the book.  In the contents, What's Inside?, there is a list of twenty-six two-page chapters.  

Introductory sentences in each chapter explain the human experience.  This is followed by six small paragraphs connecting to the natural world.  The facts shared in each of those six paragraphs invite further research and discussion.  

We know no two snowflakes are alike, but how many of you know the stripes on zebras are unique?  Caribbean reef squid change colors to talk with each other.  The world's oldest animal to date is a clam, 507 years old!  There is a scientific reason digging in the dirt makes us happy.  Did you know Canada geese molt all their feathers at once?

Yuval Zommer's artwork is as lovely as ever in this title.  Some of his two-page spreads are vertical, asking readers to turn the book.  There are teeny, tiny details on every page, welcoming a pause in your reading.  Diverse human, animal, flora and places are represented.  At the close of the book is a small glossary and an index.  


Mambo Mucho Mambo!: The Dance That Crossed Color Lines (Candlewick Press, November 23, 2021) written by Dean Robbins with illustrations by Eric Velasquez

At the publisher's website is a teacher's guide you can download.  At Penguin Random House, there are interior illustrations for you to see.  Author Dean Robbins wrote an essay for the Nerdy Book Club about him, his writing process, and this title.

Millie whirled.
Her arms waved and knees wiggled.
She danced to smooth jazz songs
in her Italian neighborhood.

In his Puerto Rican neighborhood, Pedro moved to Latin songs.  Both Millie and Pedro were the best dancers in their neighborhoods.  All over New York City people danced, but they never danced together.  They did not mix.  This was the way it was. 

Everyone danced in their own places.  That changed with the arrival of Machito and His Afro-Cubans.  They played a special music called Latin jazz.  

Latin jazz was music for the head,
the heart, and the hips.

Everyone danced to this music in their own places.  Would they ever dance together to this music they all loved?  In 1948, the owner of the Palladium Ballroom decided to ignore the neighborhood rules.  Everyone was invited to dance together!  It was here they danced the Mambo.  Mambo Mucho Mambo was shouted from the bandstand by Machito.  It was here that Millie and Pedro started to dance together, creating their own moves to this music.  They become the best in the United States!

At the close of the book is an author's note and a list of thirteen resources.  If the words don't have you dancing, the illustrations will have you leaping up and moving wherever you are.  The oil paint on hot press watercolor paper illustrations bring the people, places and time to you with a vibrancy and luminosity.  Let's do the Mambo!

Eric Velasquez discusses ¡Mambo Mucho Mambo! The Dance That Crossed Color Lines from Candlewick Press on Vimeo.