Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Written by: Andrea Beaty

Illustrated by: David Roberts

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English, minor Spanish. 

Topics Covered: Community Action, Environmentalism, Girls Outdoors, Creativity, Feminism, Girls in Leadership, Latinx, Activism. 

Summary: 

Sofia Valdez loves her community, and she especially loves helping her community be better.  When her Abuelo injures his ankle slipping on trash and can’t walk Sofia to school anymore, she decides to do something about it and open a park for the neighborhood to enjoy.

We love that this book addresses fear that Sofia has about speaking in front of adults alone, when she’s a second grader.  But she believes in her cause and summons the courage despite being scared.  We really love this series, and in particular this book has very diverse illustrations.  The mayor is a person of color in a wheelchair, someone on the city committee is wearing all pink with fancy painted nails and a beard, another individual has a cochlear implant.  One of Sofia’s classmates is shown picketing and wearing a patka!  These illustrations are normalizing so many different ways of moving throughout the world, and they’re gorgeous.  Different body types are represented, and it doesn’t feel othering or tokenizing to have these diverse cast of characters living in Sofia’s neighborhood.  Ada, Iggy, and Rosie even make an appearance!  Overall, we’re so pleased to see where this book series is headed, and excited to see what comes next!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

andrea-beaty-photoAndrea Beaty was raised in southern Illinois in a town so small she knew everybody and their pets. And they all knew her. Andrea was one of six kids and we spent our summer days traipsing through the fields and forests hunting for adventure.  Always, it was fun and often, they laughed so hard they blew Orange Crush or Grape Nehi Soda out their noses. She still avoids Grape Nehi … just in case.

Andrea was a big reader as a kid and LOVED Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon Mysteries.  Then she moved on to Agatha Christie books and then the classics.  Don’t tell anyone, but her secret ambition is to star in a Broadway musical and Andrea is often tempted to break into song and dance at very odd moments. Mostly in the frozen food section of her grocery store!  They have very good lighting.

Andrea attended Southern Illinois University and studied Biology and Computer Science. After that, she worked for a computer software company. Andrea helped people with their computer problems (“Did you try turning it off and on again?”) and some technical writing. Andrea didn’t know at the time, but tech writing was great training for writing for kids because it taught her to be a fierce self-editor.

Now, she lives in Chicago with her family. Andrea visits lots of schools each year to share her love of reading and her writing journey with kids and educators.

davidroberts_website-2When David Roberts was at school, he claims he wasn’t very good at anything so the teacher would give me projects to produce big pictures for the school hall. He remembers doing one of Death rowing in a boat on the river Thames with a dead dog floating past!

David has always been drawing ever since he was a very small child and then when he left school at 16, he went to Art College. There, David did a foundation course trying out all different types of art practice. The thing David thought he wanted to do the most was costume and fashion design so he did a degree in fashion design.

David ended up being a children’s book illustrator and it was always his dream to do this! Although David tried to pursue a career as a fashion illustrator first. When he met Christine of Artist Partners she pointed out to him that he was drawing characters and perhaps he should focus more on publishing and in particular children’s books.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph

Written by: Brandy Colbert

For ages: YA (underage alcohol use, marijuana use, sex, substance use/addiction)

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, Growing Up, Chicago, Relationships, Dating, Family, Police Interaction (racist treatment), 

Summary: In the summer between sophomore and junior year, Birdie’s aunt Carlene unexpectedly shows up at their apartment above the hair salon that Birdie’s mother Kitty owns and operates.  Birdie has been forced to give up soccer and misses it terribly, and is in a fledgling relationship with a boy named Booker who her parents wouldn’t approve of.  Birdie’s aunt has battled with substance use for the majority of her life, and it seems that everyone feels it’s only a matter of time before she relapses once again.

Birdie becomes frustrated trying to please her strict and overprotective parents, as well as trying to deal with the growing suspicion that there’s a family secret that may involve her.  could be described as a coming of age novel.  Birdie is trying to live her own life and make decisions for herself, feeling hindered by the expectations her parents have placed on her.  The author brings it about in an accessible way, it would be easy for readers to relate to the pressure Birdie feels.  She also has a pile of secrets that keeps growing as she schemes how to sneak out and see Booker.

We love that LGBTQ characters rethreaded throughout the book as well, normalizing the friendships between straight and queer people and having queer family members.  There is a strength to the family, especially in the way that Kitty doesn’t give up on her sister Carlene.

About the Author:

brandy-colbertBrandy Colbert is the award-winning author of Little & Lion, Finding Yvonne, Pointe, and the forthcoming The Revolution of Birdie Randolph (August 20, 2019). Her short fiction and essays have been published in several critically acclaimed anthologies for young people. She is on faculty at Hamline University’s MFA program in writing for children, and lives in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

Work it, Girl: Michelle Obama [released March 3]

Written by: Caroline Moss

Illustrated by: Sinem Erkas

For ages: 8-12 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Black Culture and Identity, Historical Figure, Feminism, Growing Up, Biography, Trailblazer, Lawyer. 

Summary: 

This is an amazing upper elementary series that has chapters, but also a ton of beautiful papercut illustrations!  The book is jam packed with information about Michelle’s life from childhood to the end of her terms as FLOTUS, giving a comprehensive look at her drive and passion for the education of herself and others!

Michelle was a young student that always wanted to focus on learning and lived with her large family in a Chicago apartment.  She was driven and focused, achieving her goals and becoming a successful lawyer before meeting her husband Barack when she was his advisor at work!  After Michelle’s father died, she reevaluated what she wanted from life and got into community organizing and worked for Chicago City Hall.

Many of know Michelle as Barack Obama’s husband, but she is so much more than that.  The two of them have an incredibly loving relationship of mutual support and tenderness.  Michelle is an icon that we can all look up to for believing in our own power and stepping up to do the hard work to achieve our goals.  In the back of the book are some self-reflection questions, 10 key lessons for readers to learn from Michelle’s life, and a list of further reading.  It is so important for there to be role models for everyone, and having a strong Black woman that is highly educated can normalize the goals for women that may not see themselves in our media very often, especially in law.  This book is an awesome addition to any shelf, and Michelle is a fantastic inspiration for the benefits of studying hard and doing community-driven work that benefits others.

This next volume in the Work It Girl! series will be out on March 3rd! This book was sent to us by Quarto, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Benjamin PuCaroline Moss began her writing career as a technology and culture reporter at Business Insider, where she rose the ranks to deputy editor over two and a half years at the company. Caroline covered viral content, YouTube and social media stars, and internet trends before leaving to write “HEY LADIES!” with Michelle Markowitz, a book based on their popular series at The Toast. A few years later she joined BuzzFeed News to help produce their morning show, AM to DM, and it was there that Caroline wrote the first two books in the “Work It, Girl!” series.

In between, she has written for The New York Times, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, The Hairpin, Racked, VICE, and more. Caroline’s books have appeared in The New York Times, Refinery29, Bustle, and more.

thumbweb-xoxoSinem Erkas is a graphic illustrator and art director with an appetite for experimentation and a good sense of fun.

Her practice ranges from digital artworks to 3D photo-illustrations and her favourite projects involve creating playful and bold imagery that make you look twice.

Based in London, she graduated from CSM in 2008 and has since acquired numerous design awards and clients that include Profile Books, Elle Decoration, Hachette Publishers, Google, SHOWstudio and Warp Records amongst many others.

Sinem’s first illustrated book The Girl Guide has been published in 16+ languages and she is currently working on a series of illustrated biographies Work It, Girl.

Reading Beauty

Written by: Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by: Meg Hunt

For ages: 3-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Literacy, Fairy Tale, Problem-Solving, Feminist, Independent Thought, Kindness, Family, Love, Pets, Space, Rhyming. 

Summary: This is the next book from the pair that brought you Interstellar Cinderella, which we loved very much!  Both of us are so excited to get this one, we’ve been waiting with bated breath for it to arrive at our local library.

Princess Lex loves to read!  On the morning of her 15th birthday she wakes up to find that all the books in the kingdom are gone, removed because of a curse that was put upon Lex at her birth.  In order to get her beloved books back, she sets off to find the fairy that cursed her.

This book is great, not only do we see a princess and kingdom that is predominantly POC,  but Lex herself takes initiative to solve the problem of the kingdom’s curse-and uses books to do it! When she does find the fairy that cursed her, Lex treats her with kindness.  A lovely book, with a feminist twist of true love’s kiss!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

60356-2Deborah Underwood has worked as a street musician and at an accounting firm but for years has been a full-time writer who occasionally plays the ukulele. She is the author of several picture books, including New York TimesbestsellersThe Quiet Book and Here Comes the Easter Cat, as well as Monster & Mouse Go Camping, Interstellar Cinderella, and Bad Bye Good By

 

 

 

 

megbio-2Meg Hunt is an illustrator, educator and maker of things. She lives and works in the wooded city of Portland, OR. Her goal is to fill the world with my creations, and make people happy in the process. Her first picture book Interstellar Cinderella was published by Chronicle Books in 2015 and has been given starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly, who also listed it as one of their best summer books of the year. She was featured as one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Flying Starts for Summer 2015 as well. In 2015, she received a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators for Illustrators 58, Uncommissioned category. Currently, her focus is creating charming and colorful character-based illustrations, lettering and patterns for editorial/publishing/product markets.

The King of Kindergarten

Written by: Derrick Barnes

Illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For ages: 4-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: School, Social-Emotional Learning, New Places, POC-Centric Narratives, Friendship, Kindness, Own Voices. 

Summary: This book is the cutest!  It is adorable, upbeat, and makes a first day at school seem like no big deal.  Speaking about the daily routine at school in an embellished and royal way is reminiscent of I Will Be Fierce! which turns the ordinary and potentially scary into a fun adventure.

Our main character wakes up excited to tackle the first day, assured by his family that he will be the king of kindergarten.  After brushing his royal teeth, our king begins the journey to school and meets the kingdom, have important discussions, and play outside.  This book is precious in it’s character’s self-assuredness that school is a place for him, he will be seen, heard, and respected.

This is especially important given that he is a young boy of color, where in the “real world” there are disproportionate statistics of these young children being suspended and expelled.  Every classroom is obligated to not only ensure the social-emotional learning to tackle new and potentially anxiety-inducing situations, but to also actively work against these myths that young boys of color are somehow more out of control and/or deserving of punishment than any other child in the classroom.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

cropped-img_8599-2Derrick D. Barnes is from Kansas City, MO. He is a graduate of Jackson State University with a BA degree in Marketing. He is the author of the critically acclaimed picture book CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books/Agate Bolden) which recently won the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Award. It was also a HUGE winner at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, taking home FOUR Honor awards: the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Newberry Honor, and the Caldecott Honor. His first two books were published by Scholastic; Stop Drop and Chill, and The Low Down Bad Day Blues.  His first YA novel, The Making of Dr. Truelove was published by Simon Pulse which was recognized by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick For Reluctant Readers. He is also the author of the best selling chapter book series entitled Ruby and the Booker Boys (Scholastic). His 2011 middle grade hardcover classic We Could Be Brothers was rereleased in paperback in 2017 by Just Us Books. Prior to becoming a published author, Derrick wrote best-selling copy for various Hallmark Card lines and was the first African American male staff writer for the company. He is the owner of a creative copy writing company, Say Word Creative Communications.  He is also the creator of the popular blog Raising The Mighty, where he ‘chronicles the experience of bringing up four beautiful Black boys in America’. His next book, entitled The King of Kindergarten, will be published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Derrick resides in Charlotte, NC with his enchanting wife, Dr. Tinka Barnes and their four sons, Ezra, Solomon, Silas, and Nnamdi (Nom-dee).

vanessa-new-225x300-2-2Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

​Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.

The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.

Around the Table that Grandad Built

Written by: Melanie Heuiser Hill

Illustrated by: Jaime Kim

For ages: 3-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, Cooking, Cultural Identity, Traditions.

Summary: This is a very sweet book about the preparations of a large family dinner.  Each piece of the meal, starting with the table that grandad built, tells a story of significance and family meaning.  The kids busily set out plates from a wedding, handmade cloth napkins, and carry foods that are traditionally made every year like samosas, tamales, and vegetables.  The illustrations are adorable and diverse, showing a blended family excited to spend time together.

We see this book a lot around the big holidays in the fall and winter, but the book itself doesn’t have strong holiday themes.  It would be great to use all year round because of the focus on family traditions and spending time together.  We like these books that can be applied to a wide range of events, because not everyone celebrates specific holidays.  Perhaps the characters in the story have this meal together weekly, or monthly!  The story itself builds on past pages, when each new item added to the table, it is reiterated with past items ending with the table that grandad built.  It’s very cute, and we love the art style!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

ph_hill_melanie_240px_72dpi_rgbMelanie Heuiser Hill is a graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in writing for children and young adults. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and children. Giant Pumpkin Suite was her debut novel. Her first picture book, Around the Table That Grandad Built, was published in Fall 2019.

 

 

 

JKIM_headshotJaime Kim was “born and raised in South Korea before moving to the USA when she was 18.

Although she was a timid child who was afraid of just about everything, she discovered a sense of serenity in drawing. As a grown-up, Jaime finally stopped being afraid of everything, but kept on drawing and painting. She works with gouache, watercolors and acrylics to create nostalgic and dreamlike illustrations, inspired by childhood memories of her family, as well as movies, art, and the outside world. Her favorite things are the sun, the moon, the sky and stars – which is why they always creep into her artwork. Her debut illustrated picture book, Take Heart, My Child, was a #1 New York Times-bestseller.”

Firu’s Forest

Written by: J. Leigh Shelton

Illustrated by: Danica Jokic

For ages: 5-10 years old

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Friendship, Social-Emotional Growth, Nature, Natural World. 

Summary: This book is a collection of 3 stories, connected by cameos and the rainforest.

The first story is about a boy named Sebastian, who lives with his grandmother and loves bananas very much.  He plants a banana plant and when his grandmother asks if he plans on sharing the bananas, Sebastian assures her he won’t be able to because he will eat all of them.  Once the tree starts producing fruit and Sebastian makes a new friend, will he be able to stick to his word and decide not to share?

The second story is about two cats, one very friendly and one very scared.  The black cat is extremely cautious, because it had been hurt before.  The two cat friends discuss what it means to be fulfilled in life, and how to be like the smiling sloth even through hardship.  Can the black cat let go of the past and make new friendships?

The third story is about a dog, the titular character Firu.  Firu has the honor of his fur being used to help build a hummingbird nest, thus beginning a close friendship with the tiny egg and subsequently tiny bird that hatches out of it.

These three stories are woven together by both the rainforest setting and the social-emotional growth of the characters that takes place within the stories. What I also like about the three stories in one book is that it allows for conversations with a group about the intertwined storylines, and inferencing about how else the characters might know each other outside of the stories.  The illustrations are beautiful, and we enjoyed the longer text.  The stories are a bit longer than typical picture books, which enabled the reader to know the characters better by the end of the story.  This book could also be used to talk about the environment, preservation, and why we need to be conscientious of how to treat others.

This book was generously sent to us by the author, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

0J. Leigh Shelton is the author of Firu’s Forest and a freelance writer living in Florida.

 

 

 

 

20181030154329643Danica Jokic is the illustrator of Firu’s Forest! She also lives in Florida.