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 Coldfire Curse (Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly Book 1) by Jordan Quinn (graphic novel)
Gr. 1-3. Enter the kingdom of Wrenly in this dragon-filled graphic novel. Young Ruskin loves his life as the pet of the prince of Wrenly, but when another young dragon, Cinder, tells him that it is his destiny to save the kingdom, Ruskin reluctantly agrees to help. He wants to do his part–he just isn’t so sure he is the dragon everyone has been waiting for.

This was fun! I struggled with some of the other Little Simon graphic novels, but this felt fresh, with a good plot, interesting characters, and a simple enough story and vocabulary to still appeal to first and second graders. Dragons are always in demand, so this series will not struggle for readers.

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Don’t Hug Doug by Carrie Finison (picture book)
Gr. PreS – Gr. 2. Doug just doesn’t like hugs. No particular reason–he just doesn’t like them. And that is okay. But how do you know if someone is like Doug and doesn’t like hugs? You ask!

I see you Doug. I feel seen by you Doug. Some people love hugs and some people don’t, and I am so glad to see a book that says this is okay. A great starting conversation about consent.

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Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho (picture book)
Gr. PreS – Gr. 2. A young East Asian girl notices her eyes look different than her friends’ eyes. Instead of being big and round, her eyes kiss in the corners. But her eyes are just as special–they are her mother’s eyes, her Amah’s eyes, and her Mei Mei’s eyes–they are powerful and wonderful and beautiful.

A lovely, gorgeously illustrated book with lyrical, perfectly paced text. A must-read and recommend book that needs to be on your shelves.

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From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
Gr. 4-5. Zoe Washington just wants to succeed at her new baking internship, so she can audition for the cooking show, Kids Bake Challenge. But her priorities shift when she checks the mail on her twelfth birthday and discovers a letter from her birth dad–someone she has never met because he has been in prison for murder. Zoe doesn’t know what to think, but eventually she decides to write back. She discovers a kind man who wants to get to know her–and who says he is innocent. How is that possible? Aren’t people who go to prison guilty? And if he is innocent–what is Zoe going to do about it?

I feel like everyone I know has read this book already and rightfully so–it was a delightful read. Zoe is such an honest character, feeling genuinely 12, trying to balance her knowledge that she is not a kid anymore with her nerves about lying and sneaking around behind her parents’ backs (for a good cause!). Author Marks also touches on prejudice and racism, particularly in the legal system, in a way that would easily lend itself to discussion and research in a classroom. A great read for fans of Three Keys, A Good Kind of Trouble, or The True Definition of Neva Beane.

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Give It a Try, Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi (beginning reader)
Gr. 1-2. Yasmin is back for more fun! This collects four beginning reader book into a longer chapter book: Yasmin the Librarian, Yasmin the Scientist, Yasmin the Recycler, and Yasmin the Singer.

Yasmin the Librarian: Yasmin is so excited to help in the library this week that she even brings in her favorite book from home to share with the librarian. But when her book goes missing, Yasmin has to quickly retrace her steps to track it down. Bonus points for showing a Black librarian.

Yasmin the Scientist: Yasmin has to make a project for the science fair, but sometimes science can get a bit too messy for Yasmin. Can she make her project work before the deadline?

Yasmin the Recycler: Yasmin’s school is starting a new recycling program! Yasmin is excited to help, but her classmates don’t seem to care. How can she make them just as excited as she is?

Yasmin the Singer: Yasmin gets to attend a very special party! Everyone is dressed super fancy, and suddenly Yasmin feels shy. Can she move past her nerves and let her singing voice shine?

As always, Yasmin’s adventures are sure to delight. More please!

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A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong (graphic novel)
Gr. 7+.Luna returns to Ren’s life, acting like Luna didn’t just vanish after one amazing summer years ago. This isn’t just Ren and Luna’s story–soon five girls, Ren, Luna, Jetta, Neil, and So-Young, are brought together due to a common goal: making their new women’s high school basketball team a success.

This one meanders a bit, touching on many tough issues including self harm, death, toxic family relationships, racism, drug addiction, and more. The coloring sometimes added to the story, but other times made characters or plot points fade into the background (intentional, I’m sure, but it left me having to super-focus to keep up).

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Milo Imagines the World by Christian Robinson (picture book)
Gr. K-2. During a long subway ride, young Milo draws pictures of the imagined lives of his fellow riders. Milo is sure the boy who got on with his dad is off on a grand, fancy adventure, but when that boy gets off at Milo’s stop and heads to the same place as Milo, Milo begins to realize that maybe other people’s lives aren’t what we assume.

A powerful book about assumptions that makes you think about what we presume about others–and how little we really know about them.

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Pup Detectives by Felx Gumpaw
Rider Woofson and his team of sleuths are on the case to discover the conniving Lunchtime Bandit. Can they solve the case?

Super Turbo by Edgar J. Powers
Super Turbo, the pet in Classroom C at Sunnyview Elementary, teams up with other class pets to make a formidable superhero team that saves the school from evil.

I wasn’t thrilled with these, though I am wondering if I am struggling more with the direction of Little Simon graphic novel line than these particular novels. I’m glad to see more graphic novels for younger students, but this felt like it was filling off a checkmark of tropes that are deemed “popular” with kids rather than writing a fun, original, engaging novel. I’ve enjoyed other more recent graphic novels for young kids more, including Pizza and Taco, Beak and Ally, and Pea Bee and Jay. It feels like this might be aiming for Dog Man fans, but the humor in Max Meow, InvestiGators, and even Agent Moose does a better job for that audience.

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A Sled for Gabo by Emma Otheguy (picture book)
Gr. PreS-2. Gabo is so excited for the snow, but he doesn’t have all of the clothes and toys the other kids from his new school have. His socks aren’t wool, and his shoes aren’t waterproof, but his Mami helps him figure out ways to make what they have stretch. But, even once he is outside, Gabo still doesn’t have a sled of his own. Can someone in his neighborhood help?

A fun, family-filled book that touches on childhood shyness and socio-economic realities while telling a story of a boy who just wants to play in the snow. An adorable winning book that begs to be snuggled with on a cold winter day

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Time for Kenny by Brian Pinkney (picture book)
Gr. Toddler-PreS. Follow Kenny’s adventures in four simple, repetitive stories as Kenny gets dressed, Kenny defeats the vacuum cleaner, Kenny learns to play soccer, and Kenny eventually heads to bed.

Short and simple, but this one stands out in its simplicity and vibrant illustrations. Looking forward to more like this.

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