Gear up for some great summer reading! This month's issue includes fun picture books and nonfiction geared towards younger readers, a collection of YA novels celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and our interview with debut author Elaine Kachala. So, pick a few titles from our lists and add them to your reading list for a summer of enjoyment.
With a blue hand printed on the first page inviting the reader to place their hand right on top of it, the invisible narrator, like a dance instructor, instructs the reader to close their eyes and concentrate. Instructed to gently wiggle the fingers, the dancer warms up, tapping three times, and is told that it is preparing for the show to start. Using the book's spread as a stage, the dancing fingers are guided to move around in a circular motion in various directions while entertaining the words that describe the movement and joy. Joined by other dancing hands in red, yellow, and light blue, the original dancing fingers happily jump on all the dots. But soon the pace picks up, and with big, bouncy, elegantly executed leaps the dancer moves from one corner of the book to the other. The full hand is now invited to join back in and instructed to jump, bounce, twirl, land, dart, and more, mimicking objects and animal movements. Following a natural and versatile tempo throughout the story, the show eventually comes to an end, and like a leaf falling from a tree, the dancer can now rest, bow, and welcome the round of applause. And then it can start all over again. Art, dance, and bliss are all found in this genuine and elegantly coordinated act. Tullet, a gifted artist and writer, once again has delivered an extraordinary book in which readers of all ages can interact, pretend, play, enjoy, and participate in the reading/art-making process. The delivery of the instructions through poetic language, alongside the perfectly matched illustrations, wonderfully manifests the power of imagination and art through reading. With the large print format, bright colors, varying thick and fine strokes, and explicit, easy-to-follow illustrations, this is a book that is inclusive and encouraging. All hand sizes can participate and become part of the performance while showcasing their own inner dancer. This book can be used in a wide range of class levels, from preschool to high school or beyond. It is a tool that can enhance fine motor skill development, spotlight art awareness, manifest the power of the imagination, encourage participation, and assist in developing creative language, and more. This book is filled with lively interactions between the reader and the story – defying age, time, and depth of knowledge. A must-have experience!
Pirate Drew and his crew are sailing and simultaneously prepping for Passover. He gives them all jobs to do while he prepares their Seder plates. Mixed media illustrations and text show what's involved in it for those who are unaware. A storm comes up suddenly and they lose their feast. Fortunately, the crew and ship wash ashore all intact. The pirates find a house with a conveniently open door where the family is celebrating Passover. The polite pirates are invited in to share. The parrot who can talk even joins in and tells the story of The Four Questions. They also play games and sing in celebration. Once the weather clears, the pirates wave goodbye to their new friends and head back to their ship. A good choice for read-alouds and for libraries or other venues such as churches, bookstores, and community organizations needing more materials on this holiday for younger readers. While not a detailed exploration of Passover and its customs, this story may be just right to help young readers get their feet wet, and the utilization of pirates to tell the story may appeal to them as well.
This is a great book to introduce or review the half note, as well as other musical terms to your budding music student! In the story, Half Note decides to take off, feeling that she is not needed in the composition and will not measure up to her friends, the other note values in the piece. When she hears the famous piece, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and it is completely dissonant, she confronts the composer as to why the piece sounds so bad. The composer tells her there is nothing that he could do since she was not there to fill in the gap. At this point, Half Note realizes her importance in the music and comes back to fill her place. The story has a beautiful development, which also describes other note values and musical terms along the way. The beautiful pictures make this even more engaging to read. Highly recommend this for a young, budding musician! Perfect for elementary music classes.
Figure-skater Nathan Chen achieves gold in his autobiographical fiction picture book inspired by his recent Olympic experiences. Rather than focusing on medaling, the story captures what it means to be a true champion, an artist in the zone. Wei has been figure-skating since toddlerhood, pursuing his passion. On the brink of a competition, he worries about his performance, questioning whether he can realize his dreams, or if he will disappoint everyone. Fortunately, Wei has a strong support system to lean on. His mother's tender encouragement affirms that he is special and loved, with or without a medal. He triumphs in conquering fear, using his senses to savor the moment. An excellent resource for promoting socioemotional development, the book reminds children to adopt a hopeful mindset and draw on inner strength when dealing with anxiety, rather than pursuing perfection. Children will relate to Wei's nerves and relish the text's immersive figurative language and onomatopoeia. Like Wei, they will feel like they are soaring. Keeping momentum, the story builds up to its climax, like the apex of a jump. Beyond prizing physical fortitude, the story celebrates emotional resiliency, healthy self-esteem, and mental agility. A testament to tenacity, Chen's ode to the love of sport and family will inspire readers to share their talent and enjoy the process of continually trying, rather than concentrating solely on their efforts' outcome. Luminous illustrations communicate closeness, the coolness of the ice arena offset by the warmth of Wei's family, and community members' kindness in helping each other. Exuberant skating scenes reflect Wei's emotional growth, demonstrating what it means to pivot, literally and figuratively. Capturing figure skating's magic, whirling endpaper illustrations convey athleticism. An author's note provides background, though a glossary of figure-skating terms would have expanded upon the text, further enhancing learning opportunities in math, science, and wellness.
Angel Island, sometimes referred to as The Ellis Island of the West, was an immigration station from 1910 to 1940. Most of the immigrants who were processed on Angel Island came from Asian countries. Author Kim shares the history of this west coast immigration station located in the San Francisco Bay and captioned photographs are located throughout the book to enhance the narrative. Readers will learn about the interview questions and "paper children" that were involved in the process. "Reflect" sidebars provide questions for thoughtful discussion. The chart comparing statistics of Angel Island and Ellis Island lends itself to critical thinking; the source of the figures is not directly noted on the page. This title is a part of the "Left Out of History" collection of the Read Woke Books which critically examines history and provides a perspective that is lesser known. At the back of the book, readers will find a glossary, source notes, additional resources, and an index. Teachers will find this text to be a good addition to a unit on immigration.
Dim sum is a special Chinese meal comprised of many dishes for sharing and in this book, the young narrator tells the story of her family's weekly dim sum experience. Three generations meet on Sundays to eat dim sum together at a restaurant. As they wait for a table, the children learn about some of the different good luck symbols in the restaurant. Once the table is available and ready, the group is seated. The family begins selecting the different dishes from the food carts that are pushed by servers. The narrator names her favorite dish while also informing readers about some of the customs associated with this special meal. The watercolor and colored pencil illustrations support different scenes in the story. The front end pages have 18 different dishes and the back end pages have empty plates with comments about the foods. Sharing is one of the themes in the story and children may enjoy sharing their culinary experiences with their families after reading this story. Teachers may want to use the book to supplement a unit on family and culture as well.
Honey bees are beautiful creatures and very important pollinators, which Basu successfully highlights in her nonfiction book. Basu includes plenty of interesting facts about bees, ranging from their anatomy to their behavior, to how they make honey. In addition to facts about bees, Basu also includes information on how honey bees are threatened both in the wild and by humans. She also offers ways that people can help preserve honey bees for the betterment of nature and ourselves because of how important they are for pollinating many foods and other plants. The illustrations to accompany Basu’s information are also brilliant, colorful, and fun to look at. Basu does a great job of portraying all of the crucial information about how bees work, live, and behave. The writing is easy to understand and would be suitable for most children above age 7, but some of the organization is slightly messy and could be confusing for some. The importance of honey bees is touched upon slightly in certain sections, but the book mostly focuses on facts about honey bees rather than why they are so important. However, this book could still act as a very helpful and inspirational guide to honey bees for any child who is interested in, or even afraid of, bees.
Elaine Kachala Discusses Superpower?: The Wearable-Tech Revolution
Author Elaine Kachala takes readers through all the facets of wearable technology in her debut novel Superpower?: The Wearable-Tech Revolution. With 20+ years’ experience researching and writing health reports for governments and agencies, Kachala has crafted an informative and fascinating read. While geared towards ages 9 through 12, her book can be an asset for middle school libraries as well, just like other titles in the Orca Think series.
Hi Elaine! What drew you to write about wearable technology?
I was deep into the research about various technologies impacting the world and our lives when I reflected on what I saw in my job in the health field—wearables were helping people with disabilities and illnesses in incredible ways. As I delved further into the research on wearable computing, two things hit me: this multifaceted topic has a lot to do with health, well-being, and equity—issues that are important to me and are at the core of my professional work. And, beyond the blow-your-socks-off cool factor, our society faces many challenges with wearables as these sophisticated devices go mainstream.
The fantastic mix of benefits, risks, and ethical conundrums struck me. I wanted to write a critical thinking book for young readers. I didn't want to write a book about technology alone; the implications of technology really hooked me; this topic was it! Plus, wearable tech is relevant to kids' lives, so the book could be a valuable resource for helping kids connect the STEM topics they're learning about in school with the impacts of technology on their lives in the real world.
The book taps into the thoughts of teenagers on this topic. Why was it important for you to include their voices?
Including young inventors' voices and stories was top of mind when writing this book for two main reasons.
I want the book to excite young readers about STEM/STEAM learning and spark their interest in building, tinkering, and creating. Readers seeing pre-teens and teens exploring, trying to solve problems, and inventing would be inspiring by helping them to embrace their curiosity and pursue their creative ideas. The possibilities of wearables are infinite!
Also, I hope the book will encourage young readers to evaluate and critically think about the implications of wearable technologies and what's ahead for their generation. It was important for me to understand their opinions and to include them for readers. Interviewing young inventors was my favorite part of the research. Two things struck me: their genuine passion for building technology that will help people and make the world better and their keen awareness of the benefits and risks of technology. Some even told me that involvement in STEM programs made them more aware of potential risks. By knowing how technology works or being able to code or build robots, for example, they have a deeper appreciation; they see devices as more than fun gadgets. Sure, like most of us, they're blown away by technology's cool factor, but because of their insights, they've become empowered creators, not just consumers of technology. By including their voices, I hope their messages will come through.
What do you think readers will be most surprised about?
I'm hearing two things from readers. First, they can't believe the range of available wearable devices, their capabilities, and the limitless ways wearables are changing our lives. They're also surprised by the ethical issues behind these technologies and their controversial nature.
While researching, what surprised you the most about wearable technology?
What I am hearing from readers about what surprised them is what surprised me too. I'll also add that learning about how a "move fast and break things" culture drove tech development surprised me. So, learning about the responsible design movement afoot was also a surprise and a welcome one!
The book discusses the ethics and challenges – pros/cons – of this type of technology. Did you find your own feelings about technology changing after writing the book?
Yes! My feelings swung from one end of a continuum to another as I learned new information. I went from being enamored by the possibilities to being worried about the risks, back to enamored, back to worry, back to… Writing the last chapter, How Do We Design Responsible Technology? gave me hope and peace of mind because there are concrete steps to get going in the right direction, but we all need to stay vigilant. One teacher/parent reviewer said it best: "We should all be entering the new world of tech with optimism and careful reflection." So, I think this phrase captures where I landed after writing the book.
Any ideas for how educators can use the book in the classroom?
Yes, lots! Educators can download a free Discussion and Activity Guide from my website: https://www.elainekachala.com/copy-of-learning-resources. The Guide aligns with Common Core & National Generation Science Standards Grades 4-7. A STEM Educational Consultant developed it and included a thoughtful mix of pre-reading and post-reading discussion questions and activities that align with each chapter. The questions and activities will help to activate students' background knowledge and build upon this knowledge to extend learning, as well as excite them about the subject of wearable technologies. I hope the book is a valuable curriculum resource that helps students connect STEM/STEAM topics they're learning about in school with the impacts of technology on their lives and the world.
As a debut author, what did you find the most fun/exciting about writing a book for the 9 to 12 age group?
I loved how I could delve into the issues and explore the complexity of the topic while still writing an engaging book. Middle-grade readers are mature, thoughtful, intelligent, and enthusiastic to read more and discover the world. Being able to interview them and include their voices was a real bonus. As I mentioned above, these young inventors are bursting with excitement for inventing and solving problems with technology. I loved hearing their opinions, learning about their perspectives, and witnessing their hopefulness about the possibilities for wearables to improve lives; without a doubt, they helped me to manage my skepticism. I also did photo research for the book, which was a lot of fun. Finally, writing nonfiction books these days is thrilling because seeing the illustrator's work and the publisher's book design bring your words alive is incredible!
Any plans to continue writing other books on technology? Are any new books in the works for you?
Yes! Thank you for asking. I've just signed another contract with Orca Book Publishers. The working title is Building Homes for All: How Technology Can Help Create a Fairer Future. It will be published in the Fall of 2025. Like Superpower? the book is nonfiction for middle-grade readers (ages 9-12) and part of the popular Orca Think series.
Building Homes for All explores current challenges around housing affordability and accessibility and how new technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, and other Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies can help to build homes faster, better, safer, cheaper, and greener! But more than technology is needed to solve our complex housing challenges. So, the book will showcase fantastic stories about how creative thinkers, leaders, and innovators are stepping up and teaming up with engineers, architects, builders, governments, corporations, and communities to challenge old rules, ideas, and attitudes to create a fairer housing future for everyone. Great things happen when social action meets tech innovation!
For Elaine's learning resources, videos and book trailers, and to keep up with Elaine, visit https://www.elainekachala.com/. You can also check out Children's Literature's full review of Superpower?: The Wearable-Tech Revolution on our Featured Reviews page at https://www.childrenslit.com/reviews.
May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. While the month is almost over, we want to encourage readers to continue appreciating Asian/Pacific American stories and authors throughout this and every year. These seven amazing novels are great to start. Contributor: Kasey Giard, Children’s Literature reviewer and https://thestorysanctuary.com/.
An orphaned strategist sent behind enemy lines to protect the warlordess she serves learns not all the players in the game are human. Inspired by Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Classics of Chinese Literature.
On his first trip to Iran to meet family, a boy explores what it means to be both American and Iranian and makes his first true friend.
A Korean American girl's perfect summer plans get upended when her boyfriend breaks up with her and her former best friend returns, leaving her grappling with her feelings for him.
In a city surrounded by an unending storm, the daughter of failed revolutionaries uses dangerous experimental magic to infiltrate the prince's most trusted guard and save her father from execution.
Painful pasts and the possibility of new love collide when Santi joins the marching band at a new school where Suwa attends. Filled with explorations of music, family, and identity.
A girl visits Vietnam and her estranged father only to discover the French colonial home he's restoring is trying to destroy them in this atmospheric horror novel sweeping bestseller lists.