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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The Best Worst Poet Ever by Lauren Stohler (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Pug and Cat are both determined to become the world’s best poet–though they have vastly different poetic styles. A battle of wits and words ensues, with rapidly increasing hilarity, until the two realize that maybe they would work better as a team.

This was so much fun! I would have a lot of fun reading this to an elementary school classroom, but I am really looking forward to turning this into a reader’s theater script.

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Danbi Leads the School Parade by Anna Kim (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Danbi just moved to America from Korea, and she is thrilled to start school! Except, when she gets there, she doesn’t understand what her teacher says. She figures out that her teacher wants her to write her name, so she does–in perfect Korean, not English. The kids dance and play games that Danbi has never seen. Danbi is sure that she knows what to do at lunch, but even her food is different than everyone else’s. Can Danbi figure out how to make new friends?

This adorable, upbeat book shows young Danbi’s genuine excitement at starting school, even with obstacles in her way. I really appreciate that Danbi always stays positive, showing her classmates how to use chopsticks, leading her own musical parade, and making a friend when she is surrounded by so many new things. The illustrations show the wonderful chaos of an elementary school classroom. Lots of fun!

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Everything Awesome About Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures! by Mike Lowery
Gr. 2-4. Learn everything you can imagine about sharks, oceans, and underwater creatures in this kid-friendly fact book.

Over 100 pages of fun illustrations and quick facts will make this book appealing to kids of all ages. A ton of great information fills the book, including the differences between each ocean, profiles on each shark species, and many a poop or snot related fast fact box. The book ends with really simple how to draw instructions for various sea creatures. The well-thought out design (with kids in mind) will make this book a winner.

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Ginger and Chrysanthemum by Kristen Mai Giang
Gr. 1-2. Cousins Ginger and Chrysanthemum love each other, but they each approach life a little differently. Ginger is spontaneous and loves to move fast and try new things. Chrysanthemum is more careful and loves plans and lists. The two enjoy their time together, preparing for their grandmother’s birthday, until they are tasked with making the birthday cake–together. Personalities clash, and soon everything is ruined.

A fun story about teamwork, friendship, and siblings (even if these two characters are cousins). A nice author’s note reflects on how traditional Chinese food (like ginger and chrysanthemum) have warm or cool characteristics. When brought together, they create balance, just like when our two cousins figure out how to work together. A good book to pair with Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao or Bilal Cooks Daal when working with older readers.


I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
Gr. 4-5. Edie doesn’t really ask about her Native American heritage. Edie’s mom was adopted as a baby by a white couple, and other than an annual visit to a nearby reservation to purchase fireworks, her parents tend to redirect any questions she has about their extended family. When exploring the attic with friends, Edie discovers a box filled with letters signed “Love Edith.” When Edie asks her mom who Edie was named after, Edie’s mom freezes up and lies to Edie’s face. Edie has a lot of questions–who was Edith? Why hasn’t Edie met her? And what secrets are her parents keeping?

This book was sweet, though heart wrenching. A family mystery seems like it will end with Edie learning about a death, but the painful reality is worse in a lot of ways–especially because of the very real women who went through the exact same trauma as Edie’s grandmother. I expected to have more of a glimpse into Native culture in this title, and that isn’t really present, but I did come away with new characters I will miss, knowledge about an atrocity faced by Native people just decades ago, and a new author to look out for.

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Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (graphic novel)
Gr. 6+. Will’s older brother was shot and killed outside of their apartment building. Will is determined to follow the rules passed down to him by his brother: (1) no crying, (2) no snitching, and (3) get revenge. Will has his older brother’s gun and, early the next morning, starts down their building’s elevator to get revenge on the person he is sure is his brother’s killer. But this elevator trip is like no other, with each floor revealing a new ghost from Will’s past, all with something to say.

I love how unique all of the adaptations of this book are. I love the original, I love the audiobook, and I also love the graphic novel. Each serves a purpose and shows this story in a slightly different light. Danica Novgorodoff did an amazing job with the watercolor illustrations that brought this to life. Wonderful.


Melly Bean and the Giant Monster by Mike White (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Lovable pup Melly Bean loves to play games, even if her three cat housemates prefer to nap while their humans are away. While preparing to bury a shoe in the backyard, Melly discovers that her hole is a bit deeper than she could have imagined. She slips through into a magical world filled with kings, knights, and even a humongous rabbit named Narra. Narra isn’t so fond of humans, as they spend their time hunting her for the gold that flakes out of her eyes. But Melly is sure not all the humans in this magical world are bad–maybe they just haven’t yet discovered the power of a Good Sit.

This was adorable. Melly has all of the expected energy and personality of a cute puppy, and her positive attitude seeps into the way she jumps right into adventure in the world she stumbles into. Lots of low-key adventure with high stakes, but the illustrations and story lack the depicted violence in many fantasy graphic novels for kids–a good thing here, making this a great book to hand to second or third graders looking for something fun but not scary. Hoping for more!

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Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane (nonfiction)
Gr. 3-5. Learn about the history of celebrations of Indigenous song and dance–powwows. Author Pheasant-Neganigwane explores powwow history and culture in all of North America, with a focus on Canada. Her words are paired with beautiful photographs, creating a rich book that will serve as a wonderful introduction to these events for young readers. While I wish there was an equivalent title with a bit more focus on the United States, I am happy this book exists at all. Will be recommending.

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Rescuing Mrs. Birdley by Aaron Reynolds (picture book)
Gr. K-1. Young Miranda Montgomery loves the Nature Joe Animal Show. Every day, she watches Nature Joe rescue hurt animals and return lost animals to their natural habitats. When Miranda visits the grocery store, she finds something very grave–her teacher! Obviously, her teacher has escaped her natural habitat (their classroom), and it is up to Miranda to use all of the skills she has learned from Nature Joe to safely bring her teacher home.

This was so much fun! Taking the “Where do teachers live?” question to a whole new level with young Miranda’s very logical comparison of her teacher to a wild animal escaped from its natural habitat. Miranda sets traps and does her best to safely and carefully place her teacher where she will be safe. A fun storytime read when visiting an elementary school classroom.

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Wherever I Go by Mary Wagley Copp (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. Abia has been at the Shimelba refugee camp longer than any other kid. She is proud of her seven years and counting, ruling over the other kids like a queen. Her parents think they have been at the camp much too long, but Abia knows that wherever they go, she will always remember her days as queen of the camp.

A moving, approachable refugee story told in a slightly different perspective, focusing on a child’s nerves about leaving camp instead of their experiences after moving to a new country. Wonderful illustrations make young Abia shine while also not hiding the harsh realities of camp life.

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Work It, Girl: Run the Show Like CEO Oprah Winfrey by Caroline Moss (biography)
Gr. 3-4. Learn about the life of Oprah Winfrey, from her childhood as a little girl preaching at her grandma’s church (at the age of four) to her more tumultuous teenage years being shuffled between parents and her breakthrough into the world of television.

The Work It, Girl biography series is a ton of fun. While the content isn’t deep or overly thorough, these books provide a great introduction to famous individuals. Their physical design makes them particularly appealing, with well organized layouts and gorgeous paper cut illustrations.

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