Vol 3, Issue 1, January 2023

Welcome to the third year of our Children's Literature newsletter! This year, we are excited to bring you a unique selection of book reviews and information you won't find in other newsletters.

We aim to provide a diverse range of book reviews, from indie authors and small presses to large publishing house titles, that cater to a variety of readers and their specific needs. Whether you're a parent looking for a book about bullying or a school librarian searching for a book about life cycles, our newsletter has got you covered. When certain book topics are being suppressed, it is more important than ever to access a diverse range of literature and authentic, authoritative reviews from a trusted source. We understand the pressure librarians and parents face in providing books for their children and teens, and we hope to support them with our newsletter.

ChildrensLit Now also aims to support authors and educators by introducing lesser-known authors and unique book/curriculum tie-ins to readers and educators. In a world filled with wonderful and diverse stories, we strive to provide a space for those stories to be heard and received.

Your time and readership are important. Our 2023 ChildrensLit Now newsletters aspire to provide relevant, interesting, and valuable insights on children's and young adult books to assist you in making informed decisions on what to read and purchase.




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ChildrensLit Notable Reviews

Lola's Nana-Bibi Comes to Visit
By: Anna McQuinn
Illustrated by: Rosalind Beardshaw
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 9781623543358
Reviewer: Karina Hernandez

In McQuinn's newest "Lola Reads" book, Lola is excited for her grandmother, her Nana-Bibi, to arrive. Her Nana-Bibi lives so far away she has to take a plane to visit, so when they are able to spend time together, Lola is full of joy. Once Nana-Bibi arrives, the family doesn't waste a second; right away, they begin the fun activities they planned. Together they go out to eat, go shopping, make delicious mandazi doughnuts, do each other's hair, dance, and plant seeds in the garden. Lola loves her Nana-Bibi and they get together. Once again, McQuinn writes a beautiful story that any family can enjoy. Alongside Beardshaw's warm illustrations, this edition celebrates multigenerational relationships and portrays the love between a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter. McQuinn also promotes diverse family structures by depicting how some families live far apart but maintain special bonds. This book is perfect for younger readers.

Abena's Big Dream
By: Cynthia Addae, Ph.D.
Illustrated by: Remi Bryant
Publisher: Playpen Publishing
ISBN: 9781954529205
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

Abena loves the idea of becoming a teacher and helping young children achieve their dreams. But she has a persistent stutter, which is making school increasingly challenging for her as a student. Every time Abena is asked to read aloud, her stutter comes to the forefront. Her peers use it as fodder to bully her. Luckily, Abena's grandmother is especially supportive of her desire to speak with more ease, and the pair work together to achieve her dreams through effort and dedication. This empowering picture book celebrates those with the ambition to dream big, no matter what obstacles stand in their way. Intended for an elementary school audience, this book incorporates both an appropriate amount of text and a social-emotional component that will be familiar to readers around the globe. A good deal of time is focused on the emotional toll of the bullying, and readers will celebrate alongside Abena as she works diligently to overcome her stutter. Colorful images support the text and show Abena at her home and school in Ghana, West Africa. Vibrant hues, expressive faces, and detailed backgrounds place readers squarely in Abena's world while the context of the narrative itself remains universally accessible. Additionally, the positive, intergenerational relationships between Abena and both her teacher and her grandmother are lovingly rendered, and they reinforce the message that people care for Abena even when her peers are cruel to her. Whether read aloud in a classroom setting or more quietly at home, this is a story that will resonate with readers of all ages while inspiring constructive conversations. This carefully crafted picture book is a good addition to classroom collections that champion the traits of both acceptance and ambition.

The Littlest Elephant
By: Kate Read
Publisher: Peachtree
ISBN: 9781682634943
Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer

Ellie, the littlest elephant, has just learned to swim, so she is in a hurry to get to the pool. In her haste, she unwittingly causes havoc along the way. She breaks the tree limb supporting the chameleon. She smashes the monkeys' mangoes. She scatters the butterflies. The birds warn her not to step on the sleeping tiger's tail, but she doesn't listen. Finally, a tiny mouse gets her attention and shares word of what has happened. Mouse, thankfully, gets Ellie to slow down and pay attention to where she's going. Ellie apologizes, and all the other animals join her in walking patiently toward the pool. Newly observant, Ellie notices a turtle in distress and stops to help. All of the animals reach the pool at the same time and agree to jump in together. The colorful illustrations feature a variety of animals with relevant expressions showing, first, dismay and then acceptance of Ellie and her antics. A good choice for story time, sparking discussions about consideration of others.

Aria & Liam: The Coded Papyrus
By: Alizee Monsarrat
Publisher: Apicem Publishing
ISBN: 9781959814009
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

Thirteen-year-old best friends Aria and Liam get along well, but they have very different interests; while Aria relishes the pages of history books, Liam would rather be investigating computers and writing code. So, when their teacher Mrs. Thompson sets an assignment to present about ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, Liam turns to Aria to provide him with some assistance. As the companions are preparing the presentation, however, they are inexplicably transported back in time to step in and protect Egypt at a pivotal moment in its history. This fast-paced novel is a strong selection for upper middle grade readers both for the conciseness of its delivery and the fact that the protagonists are both thirteen years old. Short chapters and ample white space also make this book accessible, particularly for readers who have graduated from series like The Magic Treehouse but are not quite ready for more complex middle grade or young adult novels. Occasional uses of strong language are found within the book, which stands out against the middle grade feel of the story but amplifies the intensity of the novel for older readers. The narrative is told in the present tense through several points of view, and these choices help bring the world of ancient Egypt to life in the minds of readers. Frequent mentions of ancient Egyptian deities and customs make the setting equally palpable, and a map and illustrations of the primary characters at the beginning of the book serve as helpful references as the story progresses. The first in a series of books featuring Aria and Liam, this book sets the stage for further first-hand investigation of history by the two companions in installments to come. This is an engaging and fast-paced addition to library collections for older middle grade readers.

Michi Challenges History: From Farm Girl to Costume Designer to Relentless Seeker of the Truth: The Life of Michi Nishiura Weglyn
By: Ken Mochizuki
Publisher: Norton Young Readers
ISBN: 9781324015888
Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung

In 1968, remarks from the U. S. attorney general on a televised program struck a chord with Michiko Nishiura Weglyn. The claim that the United States never had concentration camps went against her experience in 1942 when Michiko, her parents, and her younger sister were ordered to go to the Gila River War Relocation Center. Executive Order 9066 evacuated the Japanese in America to relocation centers and then sent them to camps. This biography includes descriptions of Michiko’s life from childhood to events that led to her research to uncover the truth about the camps. Black and white photographs with captions along with some documents are located throughout the book. Each chapter begins with a quote that sets a tone. The author’s notes (located at the back of the book) acknowledge the sources for the information and quotes used in each chapter. For further information, students may wish to explore the list of books, locations, and websites. Teachers may wish to use this book for a history unit on World War II or social justice/activism.

April & Mae and the Sleepover: The Friday Book
By: Megan Dowd Lambert
Illustrated by: Gisela Bohórquez
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 9781623542634
Reviewer: Kasey Giard

April and Mae are best friends, and so are their cat and dog. Every day, they do an activity together. On Fridays, they have sleepovers. On one Friday, April wants to try an outdoor campout, while Mae worries that sleeping in a tent won't be comfortable. Making s'mores, singing songs, and telling scary stories all sound like fun to her. The girls decide to give their campout sleepover a chance. Both work hard to make sure it goes well. Simple, colorful illustrations add to the upbeat, fun feeling of the text as the two best friends get ready for their sleepover. The story keeps a positive, gentle tone as it explores how to navigate friendship challenges. When Mae says she's uncomfortable, April responds by acknowledging how her friend feels and compromising so that Mae feels better. Short sentences and clear illustrations make this a perfect book for readers transitioning from picture books to chapter books. Recommended.

More reviews can be found on our website, https://www.childrenslit.com/reviews.

A World of Gratitude
By: Claire Saunders
Illustrated by: Kelsey Garrity-Riley
Publisher: Kane Miller
ISBN: 9781684644575
Reviewer: Elisabeth Greenberg

What is gratitude? Where do we find it? The superpower of thanks crosses all borders and take many forms. On the five pages describing how to say “thanks” in several languages, readers can practice wrapping their mouths around the various words' phonetic spellings. In a classroom, children could practice a different language’s word for thanks every day for a month or two! However, words are not the only thing used to say thanks. Pictures and text show how different cultures use their hands, their heads, and even sometimes their knees to show gratitude—always with a smile. An especially lovely two-page spread depicts neighbors around the world thanking nature through dancing and music, through harvest meals, through respect for the moon, the sun, and the animals. Readers are encouraged to show gratitude and give thanks more often with suggestions for ways of doing so, including giving small gifts and notes, keeping a gratitude journal, or going on a sensory-filled gratitude walk. School and public libraries should have this book on hand for the holidays, for a rainy day that needs to be brightened, and for any child who needs a quiet restful read and happy pictures.

Books & Authors

Nicholas J. Nawroth, author of The Everyday Adventures of Papa & Paws®


We're delighted to start 2023 by speaking with Nicholas J. Nawroth, author of The Everyday Adventures of Papa & Paws®. Nicholas started the Papa & Paws series in 2020 and now the series is seven books strong, with more on the way.


Hi Nick, tell us a little about how the idea for the Papa & Paws series came to you.

The idea for the books was inspired by two of our doggies. Our Yorkie Gracie passed away in 2015. She had small dog encephalitis and was blind. Yet, in the time I knew her, she moved to three new houses and ran and played with her two sisters just like any other dog. You would never have known she was blind. She was so special, and after she passed over the rainbow bridge, I kept thinking to myself that I should write a book about "The Little Yorkie That Could."

Our Molly Paws (yep, that's really her name!) bonded with me, and she is my constant companion to this day. When I run errands, I sometimes take her with me on what we call "Papa Paws Adventures." One day while I was on the phone, I was doodling, and I drew something that kind of resembled her. This doodle I did sparked the idea: why not write and illustrate the everyday adventures of Papa & Paws? I have a very long list of story ideas, with new ones popping up every day as our dogs do something funny or interesting.


Nicholas, since you are both the author and illustrator of the series, we are wondering: Which is the most challenging?

Both are challenging for different reasons. I'm trained as an artist but capturing the personality of our doggies in the illustrations takes time and practice. For this, I usually find a few of my favorite photos that I've taken of each dog. Then I use those images as references when I start sketching in pencil. Once I've got a good version in pencil, I scan it into the computer and trace over it digitally. Then I go in and add flat colors. The final step is adding the textures that bring the illustration to life.

The writing is challenging because of the target age group. I typically work up a mostly complete version of the book, and then my wife reviews it. So we work together to find the right words that work for the kids in our age group.


What age group is the Papa & Paws series geared towards? What type of reader will enjoy Papa & Paws the most?

Kids 0-5 love our books. Some a bit older have enjoyed them as well, but our main readers are toddlers (well, their parents/grandparents). We have a Superfan in Florida who just turned one and he LOVES the pictures of the doggies. Our stories are all based on real-life events. Each one is a heartwarming story with some humor that both kids and adults will enjoy.


Where can our readers purchase the Papa & Paws series?

Our books may be purchased at Amazon in eBook, paperback, and hardcover editions.


One last question: Does Molly Paws let being a children's picture book star go to her head?

The answer is nope. Molly Paws is a Papa's girl who still loves to nap, play with her sisters, nag Papa for her evening treat, and go on our Papa Paws adventures to Nana's or other errands.

Be sure to visit the Papa & Paws website (www.papaandpaws.com) for a FREE eBook and coloring pages for the whole Paws family.

Books & Curriculum

7 Stories About the Lasting Impact of the Holocaust

On Friday, January 27, we honor the lives lost in the Holocaust. This list of middle grade and young adult books to read in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day make for thought-provoking class discussions. Some of these stories are memoirs written by survivors. In others, authors share stories inspired by their family history or stories in which present-day characters continue to experience the impact of the Holocaust on their lives. Contributor: Kasey Giard, Children’s Literature reviewer and https://thestorysanctuary.com/.

28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto
By: David Safier
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
ISBN: 9781250237149

When she learns of plans to murder everyone living in the Warsaw Ghetto, sixteen-year-old Mira joins the resistance, holding the Ghetto for 28 days. Based on the author's family history.

37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939
By: Barbara Krasner
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
ISBN: 9781541579125

When the ship that twelve-year-old Ruthie and her family boarded to escape Nazi Germany is refused entry to docks in Havana, and a Nazi is discovered on board, Ruthie and a friend must take action to ensure they and the other passengers have a chance at a new life. A novel in verse.

The Boy from Buchenwald
By: Robbie Waisman and Susan McClelland
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
ISBN: 9781547606009

Romek Wajsman and 472 other boys (including Elie Wiesel) who survived imprisonment in Buchenwald find hope when Albert Einstein and Rabbi Herschel Schacter bring them to a home for rehabilitation. A memoir by Wajsman, now Waisman, humanitarian and Canadian governor general award recipient.

Broken Strings
By: Eric Walter and Kathy Kacer
Publisher: Puffin Reprint (Sept 2020)
ISBN: 9780735266261

A violin discovered in the attic sends Shirli on a quest to unravel a long-kept family secret and understand the power of music.

Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II
By: Lia Levi
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780063065086

In 1938 Italy, six-year-old Lia's life is turned upside down by war and new laws prohibiting Jewish people from work and school. As danger grows, Lia and her sisters are sent into hiding at a convent, where she grows into a young teen, waiting for the day she can be "just a girl" again. A memoir adapted for young readers.

The Length of a String
By: Elissa Brent Weissman
Publisher: Dial Books
ISBN: 9780735229471

Imani, an adopted girl, discovers her grandmother's diary in her search for her birth parents. In it, she discovers the story of Anna, her great-grandmother, a Jewish girl who fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg to the US, where she was adopted herself.

Letters from Cuba
By: Ruth Behar
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
ISBN: 9780525516477

After fleeing to Cuba with her father, Esther writes letters to her sister, who remains in Poland with the rest of the family. She records all her experiences as she waits, desperately hoping the rest of her family will be able to make their escape from the Nazis as well. Based on the author's family history.

ChildrensLit Highlights

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Was there a book published in 2022 that you incorporated into a classroom lesson? If so, we'd love to share it with other educators and librarians! Email shelley.oakley@childrenslit.com to get your successful lesson in ChildrensLit Now.