Vol 2, Issue 3 March 2022

At Children’s Literature, we’ve reviewed some fascinating and enjoyable books this past month. It becomes harder to narrow down which to use for our newsletter every month! While reviewing, we noticed many had an underlining theme- arriving and acclimating to a new environment. With that in mind, we have included several book reviews about characters helping each other out, many in times when a character feels alone. Each book would make a powerful addition to school and public libraries. We hope your collection budget has room for the books we share this month. Each provokes understanding and good conversation with children.

Shelley Oakley
Director, Children’s Literature review source

Subscribe to ChildrensLit Now Newsletter

ChildrensLit Notable Reviews

By: Young Vo
Publisher: Levine Querido
ISBN: 9781646141104
Reviewer: Shelley Oakley

One of the most genuine books using story and illustrations to demonstrate the challenges of being a new kid in a foreign school. After a long journey from abroad, Dat will begin his first day of school. His mother tells him he will hear gibberish all day as he does not speak the same language as the students and staff at his new school. Readers will understand Dat's frustration with hearing gibberish all day as all the words spoken by the teacher and other classmates are presented as gibberish text- a mix of icons and letters in different fonts. Facial expressions show Dat's confusion, and the cartoonish alien classmates reiterate how different and frustrated Dat feels from everyone else. It isn't until one student finally tries to communicate with him that Dat's feelings start to change. The other student begins by simply playing with Dat during recess. Later, the other student sits beside him on the bus, draws simple items, and says the English words they represent. As Dat begins to connect the news words with the drawn items, Dat's view of the other student changes as well. The student begins to shed the cartoonish look and appear more human. It is as if the revelation of understanding brings about the truth. While Dat doesn't suddenly understand everything, he realizes he can. While intended for ages 4 to 8, this book would be helpful in all elementary grades. The honest way the story is presented will appeal to every child. Children will either see themselves as Dat or the other students with someone like Dat in their classroom. Readers will step away with an understanding of how important it is to be empathetic to students experiencing a new and strange world. Highly recommended.

Little Wonder
By: Claire Keane
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 9781797208121
Reviewer: Kate Kupiec

Waking up, every day is a new adventure for Little Wonder, and this book portrays itself as a love letter from mother to Little Wonder. Nowhere and no dream is too out of reach. While adventure joins in with every step along the path, guided by curiosity, it is Little Wonder's decision of what new worlds to explore. Even when there are strange or frightening places, Little Wonder's mom will always be in his corner. More than that, he is reminded that he himself has the courage to make it to the other side. He is encouraged through these ups and downs by his mother sharing that when he gets through the dark or scary moments, he will find new treasures, friends, and wonderful activities on the other side. Going further and higher than ever expected, Little Wonder will collect so many stories before heading home and sharing them all with his loving and supportive mom, who is just as excited to get to hear all about his day as he is to experience it. While the clever illustrations show us the story of one Boy's underwater journeys to coincide with the words, each and every one of us is a Little Wonder, making the text suitable for anyone and its message to embrace life important for everyone to hear, child to adult.

Martin and the River
By: Jon-Erik Lappano
Illustrated by: Josée Bisaillon
Publisher: Groundwood Books
ISBN: 9781773064444
Reviewer: Greg Romaneck

Martin loves nature, especially the landscape along the river near his home. Every available moment, Martin goes to the river to watch the animals and plants that live along it. There, Martin sees ospreys diving for fish to eat, otters playing in the water, herons fishing along the shore, and any number of birds that live along the stream. Then, Martin's parents inform him that the family will be moving to a nearby city. At first, Martin is heartbroken to leave his river and the home he loves. Then, while visiting the city, Martin discovers a small creek that flows through parkland. Martin explores the creek and encounters a fascinating environment filled with new adventures. Returning home one last time, Martin takes a keepsake from the river he grew up exploring and transports it to the new stream he will try to love as much. Told with great pathos, this picture book captures the joy that nature can provide, as well as how painful transitions can be. In Martin, we see a boy who has a passion for nature but also the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Told with heart and featuring charming illustrations, this is a story that touches on a number of themes that are important for young children attempting to cope with transition, loss, and change.

The Gift
By: Alain Serge Dzotap
Illustrated by: Delphine Renon
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780802855831
Reviewer: Kate Kupiec

Right away, readers are introduced to a young leopard named Leo on his birthday. Among the wonderful gifts he receives, Leo's favorite is a pen. He isn't quite sure about it yet though. When Papa gave it to him, he told Leo that many beautiful things were inside, but he was off to the market before having time to show any of them to Leo. Without any success, Leo tries to get the beautiful things out. When his big sister helps, ink drips out, but that's it. Leo sets off to his other animal friends, but Coco-Tembo doubts a pen is big enough to have anything beautiful inside, and Super-Zombo tries to play it like a flute. Nothing worked. Finally, Leo asks Mama if she could show him the beautiful things inside. She holds the pen with him and guides his paw to write 'Leo' before going on to write all the words they can think of. On his own, Leo draws picture after picture (captured in relatable child-like illustrations), and when Papa returns from the market, he compliments the beautiful things Leo has discovered, and brought to life, from his pen. This book is a wonderful read with its short and sweet, yet important, message: the gift of self-expression is beautiful and there are ways to use words and pictures to do so. A solid standalone read, this book could also be paired well as an introduction for slightly older children to journaling, art, or just reflecting on discovery and the beauty we can create with the tools around us.

Badger is Bored
By: Moritz Petz, Translated by Marshall Yarbrough
Illustrated by: Jackowski Amélie
Publisher: NorthSouth Books
ISBN: 9780735844797
Reviewer: Lisa Czirr

What’s a poor, unfortunate badger to do when a case of boredom strikes? In this not-so-boring picture book, Badger eventually finds out. As the day starts, Badger really doesn’t know what to do with himself: he’s extremely bored. When his friend Fox comes by, they build a den together, but even that doesn’t hold off the monotony for very long. More friends come over, and one by one, their usual favorite activities are all struck down by the very contagious ennui that’s enveloped them all. Eventually, inspiration strikes the friends in an unexpected way, and a new adventure begins. Throughout, the illustrations of the animal companions and their surroundings are filled with creative details. It’s a cartoonish and colorful style that works perfectly with the story. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly dull topic, either: this book is actually a very fun read. It presents a relatable situation that every kid goes through sooner or later, even with so many ideas and options at their fingertips. Sometimes, all it takes is a little imagination to break that tedium!

I Am Mozart, Too: The Lost Genius of Maria Anna Mozart
By: Audrey Ades
Illustrated by: Adelina Lirius
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374314767
Reviewer: Molly Callender

Everyone knows the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but very few people have ever heard of his brilliant older sister. Maria Anna Mozart, known to her family as Nannerl, was just as talented as her younger brother. She loved to play the harpsichord and often duetted with her little brother, Wolfie. Their father realized their amazing talent and arranged for them to play concert halls all over Europe. Her father often bragged that Nannerl was the best child musician in Europe. Not only did Nannerl perform, but she composed. Music flowed out of her, begging to be free. However, as she grew older, her father grew stricter. He forbade her from making any kind of music publicly. Although Nannerl and Wolfie begged him to reconsider, their father was resolute. As her brother performed more and more, Nannerl was excluded. Instead, she married a man who had no love of music. However, after his death, she laid her fingers once again on the beautiful keys and remembered her true love. The music flowed once more. This creative nonfiction story about a very real woman and her personal struggle is beautifully written and illustrated. Every page has engaging pictures that tie beautifully to the text and draw readers into Nannerl's story. To better help young readers, the author has included a note at the end explaining about life for women during Mozart's time. Also included is a glossary and timeline of the Mozart family. This book is recommended for any elementary-aged child who is ready to be swept away by a story that tells what was, and the hope for what could have been.

Friends Are Friends, Forever
By: Dane Liu
Illustrated by: Lynn Scurfield
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 9781250778185
Reviewer: Kate Kupiec

It's winter, nearly the Lunar New Year, and Dandan tells her best friend Yueyue that she's moving. Rather than lament the news, the two best friends embrace their last Lunar New Year's Eve together. They eat dumplings as Dandan commits the moment to memory, from her Nainai's stories to the garlic and ginger delighting her senses. After dinner, Dandan and Yueyue cut out paper snowflakes, sink them in water, and take them outside to freeze. Come morning, they knock their new frozen ornaments out of the trays and hang them on the tree. Yueyue gifts Dandan a set of red paper and string so that she could make snowflakes with her new friend when she gets to America, and the two girls hug tightly. When Dandan gets to America, it feels lonely and quiet compared to her life in China. Nobody wants to be her friend, but she keeps trying. When her birthday arrives, she wears a traditional satin dress to school; while many of her classmates snicker, Christina loves Dandan's dress. They become quick friends, sharing lots of moments and giggles. When the Lunar New Year comes around, Dandan introduces Christina to her family traditions, from the delicious dumplings to the frozen paper snowflakes. The last spread of the book has a note about Lunar New Year and a how-to guide for cutting out paper snowflakes. A great story about moving, friendship, and the Lunar New Year. The illustrations capture the emotions well and make it easy to empathize with Dandan as she leaves the familiar, both people and culture, and has to let time take care of the new. Then she embraces it.

Book An Author

Giles M. Laroche

As a child, Giles enjoyed looking at maps, reading about faraway lands, and dreaming of one day traveling to the places he was most fascinated by. This interest in world cultures soon found its way into his first attempts at making art as a theme, one that still inspires him today. In 1985 Giles began illustrating children's books in a style he calls paper relief. It combines drawing, painting, and paper collage with spacers placed between layers creating a dimensional effect. It's the perfect medium for the subject of his books. Giles has illustrated eleven books, written and illustrated three, and creates his work in studios at his home in Salem, Massachusetts and Washington, New Hampshire. His most recent book is LOST CITIES, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

Giles' one-hour presentations involve showing the original cut paper relief art as Giles reads from one of his books. His presentations are perfect for getting children excited about books and art.

Patricia Newman

Patricia Newman's books show young readers how their actions can ripple around the world. Using social and environmental injustice as inspiration, she empowers young readers to seek connections to the real world and use their imaginations to act on behalf of their communities. A Robert F. Sibert Honor recipient, Patricia's books have received starred reviews, ALA Notable recognition, Green Earth Book Awards, an Outstanding Science Trade Book Award, a Parents' Choice Award; been honored as Junior Library Guild selections; and been included on Bank Street College's Best Books lists. One librarian recently wrote, "Patricia is one of THE BEST nonfiction authors writing for our students in today's market, and one of our MUST HAVE AUTHORS for every collection." Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change.

Patricia's developmentally appropriate programs weave elements of the writing process together with her passion for STEM, the environment, and global citizenship.

Want to book Giles or Patricia for your library's summer or fall programs? Directly connect with them through Children's Literature's Booking Service. Children's Literature's Booking Service provides direct contact with each listed author and takes no commission fees from authors or event coordinators.

Book Awards You Need to Know

Children's Peace Literature Award

The Children's Peace Literature Award is an Australian book award given to a children's book in which the main character resolves a conflict through actively choosing peaceful as opposed to violent methods. The award aims to encourage and publicize such books so that children have peaceful models on which to base their own behavior. This award is given in odd-numbered years.

2021 Winner

How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life by Fiona Hardy

Murphy Parker is going to be a songwriter – if she can ever find the courage to let anyone hear her music. When Murphy dares to play one of her songs in a music class, she's shocked by how much her classmates love it. And her. That is, until the next day, when they hear a suspiciously similar tune and accuse Murphy of stealing. Someone is playing Murphy's music and claiming it as their own. But who? And why? Desperate to clear her name and reclaim her songs, Murphy makes an unlikely alliance. But it turns out that friendship might be even more complicated than tracking down a song thief…


2019 Winner

Missing Marvin by Sue DeGennaro

Marvin loves his job. He has never missed a day of work. Sometimes his friends play jokes to pass the time. Sometimes the jokes are on Marvin. Then, one day, Marvin isn't where he usually is. Where is Marvin?


2017 Winner

Boy by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries

The king's battles with the dragon were always mighty and loud. Boy lived in silence and couldn't hear the fighting. But Boy could see the fear around him… and how everyone would be much happier without it.
Are you an author of a children's or YA book and need a professional review? Find out more about Children's Literature's Indie Author Promotion Service at https://www.childrenslit.com/indie-authors.
Do you know a school librarian or public librarian who would benefit from our newsletter? Pass it on!
© All rights reserved.