Book Review Tuesday

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

49946473. sx318

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha (picture book)
Gr. 2-4. While many were fleeing war torn Aleppo, Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel stayed behind, working as an emergency responder. In addition to saving human lives, he soon realized that the cats of the city also needed help. Abandoned when their families fled or were killed, the pets were desperate and hungry. Alijaeel used the little resources available to create a sanctuary for lost animals and a spot of joy in the city.

A moving, beautiful, true story showing the strength and kindness of people around the world.

52516332. sx318 sy475

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (teen)
Gr. 8+. Camino Rios loves the summers she spends with her father when he visits the Dominican Republic. They both spend hours at the beach, enjoying the water and talking about Camino’s dreams to go to college in the United States and become a doctor.

Yahaira Rios doesn’t see her father as often as she would like. They used to be close, particularly when practicing for Yahaira’s highly competitive chess tournaments. But a few months ago, Yahaira discovered a marriage certificate in her dad’s papers–a marriage certificate between her father and a woman who isn’t Yahaira’s mother.

Their worlds collide when their father’s plane crashes on its way to the Dominican Republic. While mourning their father and comforting their loved ones, Camino and Yahaira learn about each other–their father’s other daughter. Emotions soar as the girls re-examine their world through the lens of the very complicated man that they both loved.

Elizabeth Acevedo is brilliant. The emotions depicted in her verse carry an amazing story–from both girls’ mourning to their fears for the future and their confusion, hurt, and hope when they discover one another. The connections to a very real plane crash make this all the more meaningful. A must read!

44286258. sy475

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (teen)
Gr. 8+. Nishat’s parents tell her that Muslim girls simply aren’t lesbians–so liking girls isn’t an option. Nishat is angry about hiding who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her family. Nishat is struggling to figure out how to make her parents come to terms with her sexuality, but things become much more complicated when Flavia moves back into town. Flavia and Nishat knew each other when they were young, but now that they are older, something more than friendship sparks between them.

Flavia is cousins (and friends) with Nishat’s sworn enemy though, and the two girls struggle to have a conversation. Nishat is trying to come up with a way to make things work when Flavia decides to create a henna business for a school competition. Flavia is appropriating Nishat’s culture for profit, and Flavia doesn’t see the problem. Soon, a budding romance turns into a business war filled with sabotage and anger.

I loved the representation in this book, including Nishat’s struggles with her identity and her family. The nuances of Nishat’s relationship with her sister and her friends, as well as her feelings for Flavia, carry the book. I did struggle with the discussion (or lack thereof) of cultural appropriation. Nishat is rightfully upset about Flavia making a business around something that is attached to a culture she doesn’t belong to, but Nishat never fully explains her feelings. This issue is wrapped up with a little bow when Flavia apologizes–but the apology also doesn’t make it feel like Flavia completely understands (she makes no effort to actually correct the problem).


How to They/Them: A Visual Guide to Nonbinary Pronouns and the World of Gender Fluidity by Stuart Getty (nonfiction)
Gr. 6+. Learn about the differences between sex assigned at birth, gender identity, and sexual orientation in a fun, humorous guide.

This book was delightful! The book is designed in a way that is appealing to look at and makes you want to keep reading. The text is humorous and disarming–not here to preach but here to teach and engage (though preaching is sometimes needed when talking about pronouns). While the guide feels simple, its content is deep and centered in the idea that everyone deserves the freedom to be themselves.

36064859. sx318

I’m Not a Girl by Maddox Lyons (picture book)
Gr. PreS-2. Nobody understands that Hannah is not a girl. His parents get frustrated when Hannah doesn’t wear cute, frilly outfits. His friend tells him he is a tomboy. But with courage, Hannah talks to his parents and gets them to understand who he really is.

Based on the author’s own story, this own voices picture book is a simple, but great choice to begin a conversation about gender identity with a child. Add this to your library shelves!


King and the Dragonflies by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha (picture book)
Gr. 5-8. Teenage boys don’t suddenly die of heart attacks–but that is exactly what happened to King’s older brother. King is convinced that Khalid is now a dragonfly, and King regularly visits the nearby swamp to feel closer to his brother. But while he desperately misses his brother, King is also a little confused and a little mad–a few months before he died, Khalid told King he shouldn’t hang around with another local boy, Sandy Sanders. Because Sandy was gay, and “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?”.

King listened to his brother and stopped talking to his best friend. Now, Sandy is missing, and King discovers not just Sandy’s hiding place, but the reason Sandy ran away in the first place. King isn’t sure what to do anymore–about the secrets he holds, what he is learning about his own identity, or his growing feelings for his best friend.

Heartbreaking, poignant, and sweet. I spent the whole book wanting to give King (and Sandy) big hugs. Author Callender does an amazing job creating this small town world, digging into King’s fears and emotions, and the added complexity of being both black and queer (particularly in a small town in the south). Lovely, quiet, and impactful.

48854699. sx318

The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. Dayeon longs to be a haenyeo “mermaid” just like her grandmother. Generations of Korean women–mostly in their 50s-80s–dive off the cost of Jeju Island, with no breathing equipment, as deep as twenty meters, looking for various sea creatures they catch and cook or sell. Dayeon is nervous about diving so deep and being able to hold her breath as long as she needs to.

A physically beautiful book that uses brilliant color to show the world above and below the ocean (including the changing time of day). The illustrations are paired with a unique story based on the real women who dive twenty days a month, hunting for octopuses, sea cucumbers, abalone, seaweed, snails, sea urchins, and more.

51075471. sx318

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Neighbors come together to feed their community, preparing a plethora of dishes using ingredients they have on hand or were donated. You can hear the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, and even with little text, you get a feel for these characters in the nuances of the illustrations. Tamaki’s illustrations reflect real people living and giving back. Unique endpapers are always a delight, and these feature visual recipes for vegetable soup and apple crumble.


Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito (picture book)
Gr. 1-2. Georgia Gilmore had already been boycotting the Montgomery buses when Rosa Parks was arrested. Now that the movement was much larger, Georgia wanted to do her part. She organized a group of secret bakers–women who made delicious foods that Georgia sold to local businesses and families to raise money for the cars and gas needed to sustain the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

A wonderful picture book biography that partners well with a book about Rosa Parks or completes an elementary storytime about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Gilmore is a fantastic, lesser known activist with a fantastic story (paired with beautiful illustrations).

48854307. sx318

Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math by Rajani LaRocca (picture book)
Gr. K-1. In ancient India, Bhagat travels to the city hoping to change his family’s fortune by being selected as a singer for the rajah. He takes his family’s fortune with him–one rupee and a chain of seven golden rings. But the innkeeper wants a ring for each night Bhagat stays there, and every broken link costs one rupee. How can Bhagat break the chain, pay for his room, and never give away more than he has to?

A fun story mixing the feel of a fairy tale with math. A great choice for an elementary classroom or a storytime where kids stop reading when Bhagat is faced with his math problem and try to figure out a solution themselves.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: