Vol. 1 Issue 9, September 2021

Feelings- about the world, about ourselves, about the future. Our adult feelings aren’t that different from the ones we had as a child. Chances are if you are scared, unsure, feeling alone or looking to be understood, there’s a child who is feeling the exact same way. Our featured book reviews this month highlight stories of characters dealing with challenges and triumph. Characters who feel alone, confused, scared, uncertain yet triumph. We also feature several nonfiction titles to help steer children to better understanding and helpful techniques when dealing with the world’s current events and anxiety.

To honor Latinx Heritage Month, we share information about the International Latino Book Awards. One of the largest book award organizations, these awards are on the forefront of recognizing Latinx stories for all ages.

Shelley Oakley
Director, Children's Literature

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ChildrensLit Notable Reviews

What to Do When the News Scares You: A Kid's Guide to Understanding Current Events
By: Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD
Illustrated by: Janet McDonnell
Publisher: Magination Press
ISBN: 9781433836978
Reviewer: Greg Romaneck

We live in an age in which various news platforms, operating in an around-the-clock media environment, bombard people with information that can easily become overwhelming. Whether shared through cable news networks, online platforms, print media, or word-of-mouth, news stories (both good and bad) almost assume a life of their own as they are repeated time-and-again across days, weeks, or months. Add in the easy access to news providers who are all too often biased, inaccurate, or editorial in nature rather than focused on reporting facts, and you have a media-dense environment that can be challenging to deal with. While this news congestion can be upsetting to adults, it can be terrifying to children who sometimes do not have the emotional skills needed to separate or compartmentalize fact from fiction. In far too many instances, children and adolescents are subjected to an avalanche of information about terrible happenings in ways that can easily cause not only stress but fear as well. Add in the conscious efforts to mislead people via online algorithmics or slanted editorial perspectives, and you have a news environment that can propagandize, enrage, and frighten youngsters. It is this anxiety-inducing news environment that Dr. Toner addresses in this helpful guidebook, designed to assist children and adults to work to together to calm down the troubled waters that inappropriate news coverage can stir up. In her book, Dr. Tomer offers helpful activities that youngsters can carry out to better understand what news actually is as well as perspectives for adult caregivers to consider. Helpful tips about limiting exposure to destructive stories, modifying viewing habits, or recognizing the viewpoint of the reporter are helpful to both children and adults. In the end, this book is one that will be beneficial both to younger readers and the adults who are responsible for them.

Brilliant Bea
By: Shaina Rudolph and Mary Vukadinovich
Illustrated by: Fiona Lee
Publisher: Magination Press
ISBN: 9781433837418
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

Even though her head is filled with stories, putting them down as written words is an elusive challenge for a young girl named Beatrice. Every day at school, Beatrice struggles to read and write at the same level as her classmates, often ending up “stuck” in the classroom while everyone else gets to go outside for recess. She actively avoids reading aloud, often by requesting to visit the nurse's office or by sharing an intentionally distracting, long-winded oral story. When Beatrice’s teacher offers her an unconventional alternative to traditional reading and writing, Beatrice’s stories begin to leap off the page, enhancing her creativity, self-esteem, and sense of connection to her classmates. A publication of the American Psychological Association, this book serves as both an engaging narrative and an introduction to dyslexia. Printed in a dyslexia-friendly font, Beatrice’s story unfolds easily, in accessible chunks of text that show her growth from an aimless student to a more confident one. At the end of the book, a lengthy note a noted psychologist explains not only what dyslexia is and how it is assessed, but how people can work together to mitigate the difficulties people with dyslexia face every day. Dynamic illustrations in a limited, earth-toned color palette depict Beatrice’s narrative; images of the comic book she creates within the story appear as the endpapers. Approachable, full-color views of Beatrice’s tangible world couple with monochromatic outlines of the vivid scenes her imagination creates when free from the confines of the written word. This lovely story connects readers of all abilities with the realities of dyslexia and encourages support of others, no matter their background. It is a noteworthy addition to library collections for elementary school-aged readers and their guidance counselors.

Finish Strong: Seven Marathons, Seven Continents, Seven Days
By: Dave McGillivray with Nancy Feehrer
Illustrated by: Shululu
Publisher: Nomad Press
ISBN: 9781647410391
Reviewer: Tara Baker

In just twenty-nine brief pages, runner and race director McGillivray makes the impossible seem possible. In his autobiographical account of running seven marathons, on seven different continents, in seven consecutive days, McGillivray manages to both share a significant life event and provide readers with a truly inspirational story. McGillivray’s account will appeal to runners and non-runners alike. The book is filled with motivational statements for every leg of his journey and includes geographical content so readers can learn about different locations and cultures around the world. The story of his World Marathon Challenge, supported by Shululu’s vibrant illustrations, transports the reader to each continent, giving them the sense they are running the race with McGillivray for that moment in time. The journey of McGillivray is easy to follow, from race to race and continent to continent. Appeals to readers of all ages who are looking to read a true story of encouragement and reminds them to always finish their journeys, no matter what.

Your Future is Bright
By: Corey Finkle
Illustrated by: Shelley Couvillion
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 9781250621443
Reviewer: Judy Liu

Despite the frequency and enthusiasm with which it is asked, the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” does not usually end in a meaningful conversation and can result in anxiety over wonderment. This picture book changes that. Dive in and follow a group of children as they learn the ways in which clues like their personality traits and interests today can grow into their occupational endeavors tomorrow. Collectively, they discover that their tomorrow’s can include being an athlete, detective, baker, creator, healthcare professional, politician, professor, biologist, architect, nurse, astronomer, accountant, mechanic, librarian, and vet. This positive message of hope is told using fun rhymes with no more than two sentences on each page. The narrative is coupled with Couvillion’s equally bright and colorful illustrations that notably depict non-stereotypical archetypes, such as a female mechanic and a male librarian. All caring adults aspire to support a child in finding their spark in life, yet too often that intention is executed with subconscious pressure and projected aspirations. Thus, taking on such a feat in a picture book could have easily resulted in an empty string of occupational vocabulary words or run the risk of painting a romanticized picture of how selecting a career actually works. However, in addition to providing a diverse list of existing jobs, Finkle manages to acknowledge that interests change over time, that the possibility to create one’s own career exists, and that perhaps the choice itself does not ultimately matter, so long as one remains guided by one's heart and prioritizes being kind to others along the way.

Find Your Fierce: How to Put Social Anxiety in Its Place
By: Jacqueline Sperling, PhD
Illustrated by: Anya Kuvarzina
Publisher: Magination Press
ISBN: 9781433833625
Reviewer: Kate Kupiec

It can be hard to speak up and ask for help, particularly when social anxiety is getting in the way. As isolating as it can feel when mental health is at stake, this book can offer a first level of comfort to tweens and teens who may not know how to overcome their internal blocks and begin sharing their feelings. As a whole, this is a great introduction to understanding social anxiety, even when conversation might be difficult. It shares common features of anxiety, coping strategies, and empowering personal growth. This challenging topic is made more accessible by breaking it into understandable chapters: social anxiety and emotions, mindfulness and relaxation strategies, and exposure events supplemented by self-care. Examples and activities serve as a relatable support rather than another uncomfortable lecture. While this book would be most helpful paired with adult or professional advice and shouldn't be considered an exclusive tool, this is an outstanding resource for helping to equip anxious minds to find confidence and personal joy. Dealing as it does with sensitive topics, this book could at first overwhelm; thus, it should be given with care and support. A practical resource for a school guidance counselor.

I Love You, Fiorella, Flaws, and All!
By: Cindy A. Bell
Illustrated by: Emily House
Publisher: Suzy and Scout Publishing, LLC
ISBN: 9781737368908
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

Fiorella and Mama Rose love living with their guardian Doc on a farm where they have ample space to run and play. One day, Doc loads the two dogs into his truck and leaves them at an animal shelter, unable to care for them any longer. Though Fiorella and Mama Rose have each other, they do not understand why Doc gave them up, and Fiorella cannot help but think it has something to do with her. After attempting to change her behavior, Mama Rose assures Fiorella she is perfect just the way she is, and the two continue to wait for a new guardian to adopt and love them. Though this story features two dogs, their feelings of abandonment and loss are real for humans, as well. Short phrases blend with a balanced amount of dialogue and internal reflection to create a narrative that is accessible to a range of ages. Playful font appears from time to time as Mama Rose sings to Fiorella, standing apart from the rest of the words and adding another visual layer to the story. The text and images are well designed, creating a presentation that is appropriately suited to the target audience. Cheerful colors are used throughout the story, appearing within illustrations that incorporate both soft and clean lines to depict Fiorella’s dynamic world. Adult human faces are rarely pictured, as the focus is primarily on the dogs and children they interact with. Everyone struggles with relationship challenges at some point in their life, and just as relationships can bring pain, so too can they heal that pain in time. This is an excellent story to share with young children, especially as they are discovering their unique worth in a world that sometimes hides it from them.

Tiny Tales: Shell Quest (I Can Read! Comics)
By: Steph Waldo
Publisher: HarperAlley
ISBN: 9780063067820
Reviewer: Lisa Jacovsky

This adorable story lays out a message of self-acceptance in a comic book format. The text and complexity of this book are designed to be simple and easy-to-read, for children who are a little younger than the usual adolescent comic book reader. The story is centered on a young snail who is lonely and does not have a shell yet. He meets other snails that already have their shells, but they tell him they cannot be friends until he finds his own shell. The snail goes on a quest to find a shell and comes back with many different items. Unfortunately, none are quite right. When he does find the shell, it cracks. Then, one of the other snails offers to help him find a better shell. The story shifts from an individual's attempts to fit in to the development of friendship. This story is a good discussion-starter for themes of acceptance and assistance, community, and friendship, and has high appeal for independent child readers.

The Kate in Between
By: Claire Swinarski
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
ISBN: 9780062912701
Reviewer: Kasey Giard

Twelve-year-old Kate wants to live anyone else's life but hers. Since her mother left town to chase make-up selling dreams, Kate has been living in a tiny apartment with her dad. Even her relationship with her best friend Haddie, who's completely oblivious to what anyone else thinks, becomes strained when Kate finds an opening to become friends with her school's most popular girl. What at first feels to Kate like a fresh start quickly becomes complicated when Kate's new friends pick on Haddie, causing an accident that threatens her life. The video of Kate rescuing Haddie goes viral. Before she knows what's happening, Kate is hailed a hero. Kate knows there's more to the story than the viral video shows, and once the full video goes public, everyone will know she's not the hero they thought. Caught between the truth and the story people believe, between her love for her missing mom and the pain of being left behind, and between two best friends who don't get along, Kate must decide who she is, what she wants, and what she's willing to do to get it. Swinarski (What Happens Next, 2020) again creates a story with a rich emotional landscape and complex, dynamic relationships centered around a character learning to find her place in the world. Every character has layers that show in the way they speak and behave. Kate's relationships with her parents are realistic and moving. Her struggles to navigate friendships are both believable and ultimately inspiring. The story explores bullying, how quickly a situation can escalate, and what happens when someone makes the choice to stand idly by while it happens. It reminds us that we can all make mistakes, and that coming forward to accept responsibility takes courage and resolve.

Children's Literature Reviewer Spotlight

Tara Baker

In March of this year, Tara Anne Baker fulfilled a dream and joined the Children’s Literature team of reviewers. “Being a children’s and young adult book reviewer is a dream come true for me! I love receiving the books, reading the books, analyzing the books with a reviewer’s lens, and then sharing the books I’ve reviewed with my middle school students.”

In addition to book reviewer, Tara is a middle school reading teacher with a doctorate specializing in reading, literacy, and assessment (EdD). She enjoys historical fiction/WWII, autobiographies/biographies/memoirs, and books she thinks her students will love. Besides reading and teaching, Tara loves being outside in her garden, hiking, and kayaking. She also enjoys exploring and experiencing new places, both near and far.

Book Awards You Need to Know

Empowering Latino Futures’ International Latino Book Awards

The International Latino Book Awards recognize and honor Latinx people in literature. The awards recognize both Latinx and non-Latinx authors, translators, and illustrators for their books written either in English, Spanish, or Portuguese. Entries can be submitted by major, medium-sized, and small publishers or be self-published books. There are 105 categories in the 2021 awards, covering books for all ages. Some categories for children’s and YA include the Alma Flor Ada Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book Award, Best Youth Latino Focused Chapter Book, Mariposa Awards Best First Book, Best Children’s Picture eBook, Best Young Adult Book in Portuguese (Originally in Portuguese), Best Children’s Picture Book Translation - Spanish to English, and Best Children’s & Youth Poetry Book. For listings of all the categories and past winners, visit https://www.latinobookawards.org/award-winners. 2021 winners will be announced Oct. 16-17, 2021.

2020 Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – Bilingual

FIRST PLACE: Sing with Me / Canta conmigo by José-Luis Orozco

Come along and sing with me! Sing along to your child's favorite songs, from "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to "The Wheels on the Bus," in English and in Spanish! Accompanied by joyful, charming illustrations by Pura Belpré award winner Sara Palacios, this book is for every child who loves to sing, dance, and play.

SECOND PLACE: The Adventures of Mr. Macaw / Las Aventuras del Sr. Macaw by Leticia Ordaz

Maxton and Bronx love their trips to Mexico. And the siblings can barely contain their excitement when they’re given their Abuelito’s magical kite, Mr. Macaw. But when they take him out to fly in an approaching storm, the boys are alarmed when the mischievous toy dances away in the wind! Excited to be off on a grand adventure, Mr. Macaw can’t wait to check in on his beloved townspeople and their village. And every time someone tries to catch his dangling string, he cheekily swoops just out of reach on a blast of the breeze! Will the boys and Mr. Macaw ever be reunited?

Honorable Mention: WOMAGIS United States of America by Marta Villegas

Womagis is the first book for children displayed in 18 different languages simultaneously, therefore it is perfect for sharing with other kids from other cultures that one may find during their life journey, reading the content together and understanding at the same time the concept of the book. Womagis inspires kids to create their own language, an entire Universe of their own, developing their creativity and imagination while they play. Learning about the diversity that the world has to offer, teaching them alphabets and words from different places, connecting them with other kids, learning together and growing together in acceptance and friendship.

2020 Best Children’s & Youth Poetry Book

First Place: Babies Nurse / Así se alimentan los bebés by Phoebe Fox

Babies—whether pandas, puppies, or people—nurse. This bond is precious; this process, a natural art. Luminous illustrations and lyrical text will inspire conversations about caretaking in the natural world, while the bilingual format makes this charming book accessible to speakers of both Spanish and English. The luminous illustrations and lyrical, bilingual text give children a glimpse into the worlds of 13 different mammal babies. Compelling childhood facts broaden the reader’s knowledge about each species. The overarching theme of breastfeeding inspires conversations about parenting, biology, habitats, survival, and more, making this book an engaging choice for young children as well as elementary school readers.

Second Place: Dancing Fruit, Singing Rivers/ Baila la Fruta, Cantan los Ríos by José Chávez

An excellent book for learning to read as it provides rhythm, repetition, and oral practice that students need. In an era of Climate Change, themes about healthful eating and taking care of our Mother Earth enhance the reading experience for students, teachers, and parents.

Honorable Mention: They Call Me Güero by David Bowles

They call him Güero because of his red hair, pale skin, and freckles. Sometimes people only go off of what they see. Like the Mexican boxer Canelo Álvarez, twelve-year-old Güero is puro mexicano. He feels at home on both sides of the river, speaking Spanish or English. Güero is also a reader, gamer, and musician who runs with a squad of misfits called Los Bobbys. Together, they joke around and talk about their expanding world, which now includes girls. (Don’t cross Joanna—she's tough as nails.) Güero faces the start of seventh grade with heart and smarts, his family’s traditions, and his trusty accordion. And when life gets tough for this Mexican American border kid, he knows what to do: He writes poetry.

ChildrensLit Highlights

ChildrensLit Now is accepting proposals for articles from children’s and YA literature professors. Proposals may include but are not limited to: current book trends within children’s and YA literature, children’s and YA author/illustrator analysis, representation in children’s and YA literature, the benefits of reading on the growing child. Email your proposal to shelley.oakley@childrenslit.com
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