Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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#Baby by Michael Joosten (board book)
Baby-Toddler. Adorable board book in it for the laughs. Each spread is simply a photograph of a baby paired with a hashtag–#lewk, #foodie, #fashionista, and my personal favorites #mondays and #holidayspirit:

This board book is the perfect mix of adult humor combined with those beautiful photographs of baby faces that will appeal to the intended audience. Quite a collection of diverse babies too! Not quite my storytime style, but this will definitely have a lot of audience appeal.


Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson
Gr. 4-6. Cassius Clay was a kid, just like most kids. He struggled in school and dealt with bullies, but after his new bike was stolen when he was twelve, Cassius started training as an amateur boxer. Dual perspectives follow Cassius through his teens, with readers following his story from both Cassius’ point of view and the point of view of his best friend, Lucky. A final chapter, from the point of view of his friend, quickly sums up Cassius’ adult life and his transformation into Muhammad Ali.

A powerful, fun read showing Cassius discover confidence and strength. I am not a sports reader, and this book kept me fully engaged with so many humorous anecdotes that painted a beautiful picture of Ali’s childhood and teen years.

Unfortunately, this is the first title in a while that I wish I hadn’t listened to on audio. I feel bad starting a review that way, but due to the narration choices, I was very confused for the first half of my listen–I wasn’t entirely sure there were two perspectives since the voices were indistinguishable, and I just kept getting confused as we shifted from Cassius being described in the first and third person. I also missed out on the illustrations I see mentioned in many reviews–I will be tracking down the physical book soon to get a more complete view of this title.

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Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins (picture book)
Gr. 2-4. Siblings Maria and Juan are thrilled to head to the US-Mexico border to visit their grandmother and celebrate Las Posadas with her. Even though they are divided by a fence, they are excited to swap stories, but when it comes time to leave, they realize that their presents won’t fit through the fence. Maria creates a cunning plan to get her younger brother’s beautiful picture across the wall.

A beautiful, heartwarming story about families, love, and celebrations that also highlights the conditions of families separated by a border wall, trying to celebrate the holidays together. A soft color palette makes the harsh realities of the story more palpable for young readers.

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Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade by Rob Sanders (picture book)
Gr. K-1. Blaine loves everything sparkly. Sue loves orange; Alberto loves high-tops; Marvin loves hoodies; and Blaine loves bling. While his classmates embrace Blaine’s love of bling, not everyone else does. After some bullies make fun of his accessories, Blaine decides to leave the bling behind. Can his classmates stand up for Blaine and help Blaine get his groove back?

A cute story about identity and gender norms. The understanding and support from Blaine’s classmates is fantastic. Illustrations are colorful and show a diverse collection of students and teachers. Back matter talks about what it means to be an ally and how you can practice standing up for others.

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The Chicken Who Couldn’t by Jan Thomas (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Chicken just CAN’T win a ribbon at the fair, CAN’T fly, CAN’T walk all the way home–chicken couldn’t possibly accomplish these things! With some help from new friends, chicken develops self-confidence that allows him to defeat the hungry fox that likes to eat chickens that walk down the road.

Lots of Jan Thomas humor. This book is entirely dialogue, making it a bit of a difficult read aloud choice. May work well as a reader’s theater script. Filled with Thomas’s standard, colorful, child-friendly illustrations.

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Craftily Ever After: Making the Band by Martha Maker (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Craft-loving friends Maddie, Bella, Emily, and Sam have to figure out an act for their school’s talent show! They are sure they can find some way to showcase their crafting talents on stage, but all of their ideas are just okay until Sam is inspired to start a band using instruments they make themselves.

This is an adorable series, brimming with diversity and happy, positive messages about caring about the environment, being kind to others, making new friends, and embracing the activities you love. This particular title stands out for the kids’ perseverance after their first instruments are destroyed by rain. Also a good place to find lots of creative DIY ideas for young crafters.

Diary of an Ice Princess by Christina Soontornvat (first chapter)

The Big Freeze. Gr. 2-3. Lina has got a lot to figure out in just a few days! Her teacher at her human school wants her to create a piece of art representing Lina. Lina loves science and magic–but science won’t work for her project, and she can’t reveal her magical secret at her human school. Lina is stumped, but she doesn’t have too much time to focus on her art project because her grandfather wants Lina to pick her magical forever task. Her grandfather directs wind currents. Her mother brings the spring rains. Her cousin, Jack, makes intricate lace-like artwork out of ice. What does Lina want to do? And is she really ready to pick the job she wants to do…forever?

Slush Puppy. Gr. 2-3. Lina wants to get the perfect present for her best friend’s birthday. Claudia really, really wants a dog, and, luckily enough, Lina discovers that her winter magic can bring snow to life! Lina makes the most adorable snow puppy…but the puppy turns out to be a bit more trouble than the girls imagined. How to you train a magical dog made of snow?

This series is fun with a great combination of humor, everyday school adventures, magic powers, and a lovely message of self-acceptance. Plus, this series stars a biracial main character, is written by a diverse author, AND is a fantasy series–a combination very hard to come by in first chapter books. Recommending to anyone and everyone.

Ellie Ultra by Gina Bellisario (first chapter)

An Extra-Ordinary Girl. Gr. 2-3. Ellie Ultra is a superhero! She has spent her first eight years training in supervillain identification, combat skills, flying, and more, but now her parents think it is finally time for Ellie to start regular school. Ellie is thrilled–until she realizes that none of the other kids have superpowers. If Ellie wants to blend in, she is going to have to become a little less super. But is fitting in the best choice for Ellie?

Team Earth Takeover. Gr. 2-3. Ellie Ultra is a superhero! Ellie regularly uses her superpowers to stop supervillains, but this time she is faced with a different challenge: working with her classmates to help save the environment. Ellie and her best friend Hannah decide to build an animal habitat. Ellie loves the idea, but, as a superhero, she knows that she must really do all of the work–all of the earth saving–all by herself. It’s her superhero duty after all! Though, if she uses her dad’s cloning machine to make two Ellies that just means two superheroes will accomplish even greater results! Right?

Ellie is a cute, spunky young superhero. I prefer Mia Mayhem’s everyday adventures to this series, but, reading level wise, this is a good step up from the Mia Mayhem books. Lots of kid appeal, and I appreciate any diverse young superheroes.

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Fiona, It’s Bedtime by Richard Cowdrey (picture book)
Gr. Toddler-Pres. Howl! Roar! Squawk! Coo! The sun is setting at the zoo. Fiona travels around the Cincinnati Zoo to say goodnight to all of the animal families, including the cheetahs, sloths, tortoises, and more before falling asleep herself.

Come on…it’s an animal book with adorable illustrations about the baby hippo internet sensation that lives just a few hours away from my house. How can I not love it? The rhyme scheme and large illustrations (plus the local familiarity with Fiona) make this title a good storytime contender. Lots of animal identification and guessing as we turn each page and explore the zoo with Fiona.

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I Love My Fangs! by Kelly Leigh Miller (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Little Dracula loves his two, pointy, beautiful fangs! He brushes and flosses them every day, but suddenly one starts to wiggle. And then–oh dear–it falls out! How can Dracula be a vampire with just one tooth? He tries tape, string, and bubblegum to get his fang to reattach, but it just won’t go back in. How can he face the world with just one fang?!?

Lots of humor and drama surround our adorable young vampire including a hilarious battle with the tooth fairy. Bright, colorful illustrations will keep the youngest readers engaged. A great explanation about teeth for little ones soon to be visited by the tooth fairy themselves. Hoping for more adventures starring this little guy.


I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee (teen)
Gr. 5-10. Skye has been told she is fat her whole life. For a while, she participated in her mom’s crazy diet schemes, but, since then, Skye has accepted herself as she is, even if her Korean mom and much of the Korean-American community find her body size alarming. Skye doesn’t have time to worry about the number on a scale because she is too busy preparing for auditions for a prestigious, televised Kpop competition. Skye knows she has the vocals and the dance moves to succeed–but will anyone in this stereotypically skinny field take her seriously? And why is hot, Instagram model Henry Cho auditioning anyway? And why is he so interested in Skye?

THIS BOOK! I powered through this title in just a few hours. This book is great mix of girl-power, strength, confidence, and pure awesomeness with a plus-sized, bisexual main character; an adorable love interest; and wonderful side characters. I love a good romance, and Henry Cho is adorable, but this book would have been just as successful without the romance because of the strength of the main character. I love the new trend in books featuring plus-size characters who are fully confident in their size. Skye is a force to be reckoned with–when she is body shamed, her confidence in herself and her appearance simply grow. Will be recommending.


A Journey Toward Hope by Victor Hinojosa and Coert Voorhees (picture book)
Gr. 1-2. Children Alessandra, Laura, Nando, and Rodrigo travel, unaccompanied, north from Central America, nearly 1,000 miles through Mexico, to seek asylum in the United States. Although the children don’t know each other when the book begins, and language differences sit between them, they become fast friends as the band together to make the dangerous journey north.

Based on the true stories of the 50,000 children who make this journey each year, A Journey Toward Hope provides a unique view into these children’s experiences. Paired with four pages of back matter giving more details on the real kids who make these trips each year and information on how to help.

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Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (graphic novel)
Gr. 10+. Juliet is leaving the Bronx and moving to Portland to intern for her favorite feminist author, Harlowe Brisbane. Just before leaving, Juliet came out to her Puerto Rican family and the results were…not exactly great. Juliet hopes that Harlowe will help Juliet figure out what it means to be a lesbian and Puerto Rican, but, while Harlowe definitely has a lot of ideas, Harlowe doesn’t really understand Juliet’s perspective. Even with a few bumps in the road, Juliet is sure that her experiences in Portland will help her figure out her place in the world.

Juliet is fun, vibrant character, and this is a lovely queer coming of age story that touches heavily on race and identity. I haven’t read the original book, which may have made the graphic novel experience feel a little disjointed at times. Many of Juliet’s Portland experiences felt a touch too quick, and I would have appreciated a little more detail (perhaps I just would have enjoyed this book better in novel form instead of as a graphic novel). The art is vibrant, with the colors matching the pace and setting of the story.

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The Last Kids on Earth and the Skeleton Road by Max Brallier
Gr. 3-5. Newest addition to the Last Kids on Earth series! This time, Jack, Quint, June, and Dirk are on the road trip of their lives, determined to track down and stop the evil Thrull. The team finally have a lead that might take them to Thrull’s Tower (a portal to bring Rezzoch, Destroyer of Worlds, to Earth). But, of course, a road trip in this series combines new monsters and constant danger with a ton of snacks, lots of humor, and many, many kitschy roadside attractions.

I adore this series–a perfect mixture of humor, action, crazy fantasy, friendship, and sarcasm. Looking forward to more, particularly additional June standalone adventures.


The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (nonfiction)
Gr. 4-8+. A beautiful collection of thirty short stories, poems, letters, and essays from an amazing group of diverse authors and illustrators about how they talk to young people, most often their children, about race.

Each story was unique and poignant, though for me, personal standouts include “Handle Your Business” by Derrick Barnes, “Mazes” by Christopher Myers, and “Our Inheritance” by Adam Gidwitz. In the first, Derrick Barnes’ son comes home and in passing talks about his teacher doing an entire unit on the book Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. A kid in class asks Derrick’s son if he is happy that they are finally reading a book with a character that looks like him. While the child stands up for himself and his history, this one really hit home why proper representation is so important. Myers talks about the story of the Minotaur and how stories are twisted by the tellers to create a view that most benefits them. Gidwitz talks about explaining to his young daughter how their white family has benefited from racism–historically and in the present–giving a sharp reminder that these “talks” about racism should not be limited to diverse parents warning their kids about what they will face now and in the future.

There is so much to unpack here–it isn’t really possible to write decent summaries of some of these stories, as they each have so many layers and nuances. An excellent book to read together as a family, one story at a time. A title I will be recommending to teachers, parents, librarians, and more.

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Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper (picture book)
Gr. 1-2. The day after a blizzard, young Lina awakens to silence–the silence created by a heavy layer of snow. Lina decides to walk to her grandmother’s house to make a special meal. Her grandmother can’t see very well, so as Lina walks, she focuses on listening to the sounds of the world around her, discovering ten different ways to hear snow.

A beautiful story with stunning illustrations and a great point of view. Lina and her grandmother have a wonderful relationship, and the blending of story, diversity, and even a science lesson about your senses would make this a wonderful storytime or classroom read.

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