All posts by lockehardy

We are married educators living in Massachusetts who are passionate about bringing anti-bias and social justice narratives to children of any age!

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Written by: Amy Spalding

Cover Photo by: Robyn Van Swank

Cover Design: Kate Gartner

For ages: YA (underage alcohol use)

Language: English

Topics Covered: LGBTQ, Growing Up, Art, Jobs, Relationships, Family Dynamics, Weight, Body Positivity, Fashion, Underage Alcohol Use. 

Summary: This is a fantastic book with both a queer and fat main character interested in fashion.  Abby scores an amazing summer internship, and on her first day learns that there is a second intern named Jordi and with whom she will be low key competing for a fall job against.  When Abby falls for Jordi, things get complicated.  At the same time, Abby befriends a lacrosse bro named Jax, who wants her help getting an app that his father developed off the ground (a restaurant app akin to Yelp).

I liked this book because of the complexity of Abby, who is at the same time a very believable narrator.  I really love books that have queer characters that focus on their lives post-coming out.  Coming out can be a very trying and emotional time, but that’s not all there is to the queer story.  Having queerness portrayed as a facet and not the entire experience is a very realistic tactic, and also normalizes the experience for the queer youth reading books today.  Abby is fat, and runs a fashion blog which is fairly well-known and established when the book begins.  She is fine with how she looks, but is still working on being the main character in her own life instead of the quirky best friend.  The book does a wonderful job of placing the reader within Abby’s life, it has been established and we are just along for the ride.  Fantastic read all around, I would definitely read a second book that takes place after she’s graduated and (hopefully) at her fashion school of choice in NYC!

About the Author:

0-2Amy Spalding grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles. She has a B.A. in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Webster University, and an M.A. in Media Studies from The New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

By day, she manages the digital media team for an indie film advertising agency. By later day and night, Amy writes, performs, and pets as many cats as she can.

When You Need Wings

Written & Illustrated by: Lita Judge

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Learning, Fear, New Places, Anxiety, Growing Up, Mindfulness, Coping Strategies. 

Summary: 

In this uncertain time, we know fear is at an all-time high for a lot of folks.  We’ve been making an effort to share books that focus on social-emotional learning and development, and coping strategies for big feelings.  When You Need Wings is all about a young girl starting a new school, and coping with her fear of being in a new environment.  Scared on the playground after her dad leaves, our main character takes some deep breaths and remembers that she has wings and can fly away using her imagination to find solace.

Being able to take a moment to ground yourself when in a moment of fear, anxiety, or uncertainty is a very powerful way to remain calm.  While starting a new school is the catalyst for this young girl to practice mindfulness strategies (and none of us are starting new schools anytime soon) this can be so helpful when getting overwhelmed about responsibilities at home, homeschooling, or the state of the world.  We’re also in love with the illustrations!

This book was kindly sent to us for review by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & Illustrator:

IMG_5913_hires_smLita Judge has had a fascinating life!  She was born in Alaska, interned as a paleontologist during the summer when she was a teenager, and has a myriad of critters in her home.  Check out the about me section of her website, we were sucked in immediately.  She’s been on so many adventures!  Lita Judge is the author and illustrator of 24 fiction and nonfiction books including, Mary’s Monster, One Thousand Tracings, Born in the Wild, Red Sled, and Hoot and Peep. Her book, Flight School, has recently been adapted into an off-Broadway musical which is currently showing in New York City and China. Awards for her books include the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, an ALA Notable, NCTE Notable Book, a Kirkus Best Book, and the Jane Addams Honor. Before she created art and books, Lita was a geologist and worked on dinosaur digs. But a trip to Venice Italy inspired her to quit her job and pursue a lifelong passion for creating art. Now, when not in her studio, she can be found backpacking through Europe with her sketchbook and easel in hand. Painting in the streets of Italy, France, Sweden, Russia and many other places have inspired her many of her books. The novel, Mary’s Monster, was inspired through reading Mary Shelley’s journals while exploring places she had traveled. This book created a rich opportunity to explore working in a completely new form, that of combining free verse with full page illustrations in novel form. Lita was drawn to capturing the interior world of Mary Shelley’s mind, as well as the realistic images of her life. Creating this book was a journey in itself and took five years to complete. Lita lives in New Hampshire.

Northwest Resistance [A Girl Called Echo Vol 3]

Written by: Katherena Vermette

Illustrated by: Scott B. Henderson, color by Donovan Yaciuk 

For ages: 12 years and up

Language: English, minor French. 

Topics Covered: History, First Nations, Military Action, Growing Up, Family, Fantasy, Time Travel, Métis History.

Summary: 

This is the third installment about the time-traveling adventures of Echo Desjardins, a Métis teenager learning about her own history. Echo is transported to 1885 in the heart of the conflicts between the Canadian government and Métis and First Nations people.  This graphic novel builds on both the historical struggles of this time period as well as Echo’s own journey.  Although the collective identity of Métis people is different from both European and First Nations people, they are identified as Indigenous people under Canadian law.  There is a very helpful timeline of events in the back of these books, which help to place events that Echo witnesses in the greater timeline of this point in Canadian history.

This book, along with so many others that Highwater Press publishes, are fantastic.  The melding of history and fantasy that focus on Own Voices is something the publisher does beautifully.  The historical struggles of marginalized and oppressed peoples, like the Métis, are crucial to learn about and understand now.  This graphic novel series are quick reads and can be the catalyst for further learning and study (like they were for us)!  We love learning about Indigenous, First Nations, and Métis history, and if you do too then this is a series that can’t be missed!

This ARC was kindly sent to us by Highwater Press, but all opinions are our own.  However, the book is out now!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

IMG_0777.JPGKatherena Vermette is a Métis writer from Treaty One territory, the heart of the Métis nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses Company) won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her novel, The Break (House of Anansi) was bestseller in Canada and won multiple awards, including the 2017 Amazon.ca First Novel Award.

Her second book of poetry, river woman (House of Anansi) and eighth children’s picture book, The Girl and The Wolf (Theytus) were both released last year. She is also the author of the picture book series, The Seven Teachings Stories (Highwater Press) and the graphic novel series, A Girl Called Echo (Highwater Press). And, along with a whole team of talented filmmakers, she co-wrote and co-directed the short doc, this river (NFB) which won the 2017 Canadian Screen Award for Best Short.

Vermette lives with her family in a cranky old house within skipping distance of the temperamental Red River.

scott_henderson-e1551823014971Scott B. Henderson (he/him/his) is author/illustrator of the sci-fi/fantasy comic, The Chronicles of Era and has illustrated select titles in the Canadian Air Force’s For Valour series and Tales From Big Spirit series, the graphic novel series 7 Generations and A Girl Called Echo, select stories in This Place: 150 Years Retold, Fire Starters, an AIYLA Honour Book, and Eisner-award nominee, A Blanket of Butterflies. In 2016, he was the recipient of the C4 Central Canada Comic Con Storyteller Award.

donovan_400-e1551823557966Since 1998, Donovan Yaciuk has done colouring work on books published by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse comics, and HighWater Press including A Girl Called Echo series and This Place: 150 Years Retold. Donovan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the University of Manitoba and began his career as a part of the legendary, now-defunct Digital Chameleon colouring studio. He lives in Winnipeg, MB Canada, with his wife and daughter.

Kaia and the Bees

Written by: Maribeth Boelts

Illustrated by: Angela Dominguez 

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Growth, Fear, Lying, Beekeeping, Environmental Conservation, Family, Education, Emotional Regulation.

Summary: 

Kaia’s family has a pretty unique hobby, especially for living in an apartment building.  Her dad keeps bees!  He is very passionate about beekeeping, and bee conservation, especially since honeybee numbers are dwindling globally.  Kaia knows it’s important, but unfortunately she has One Big Fear: bees! Kaia’s small interracial family has thousands of bees, and Kaia is quick to brag to her friends how she’s also a beekeeper like her dad.  They’re impressed…until a bee comes along and she panics.

This story is all about Kaia’s journey through fear, emotional regulation, and bravery.  Her dad doesn’t push her to be around the bees, but continually opens up opportunities for her to interact and help out with them.  I love how interwoven into this story of facing fears is a very real fear that many scientists have-that the bees will disappear and bring ecosystems to a screeching halt with the lack of pollination that bees provide.  This is an adorable story perfect for nature, environmentalism, or social-emotional units in a classroom, or at home!

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

About the Author & the Illustrator:

maribeth-boelts-2020-honey-01Maribeth Boelts has been writing stories since kindergarten and began writing for kids over 25 years ago when her own children were young. Lots of picture books and three children/four grandchildren later, Maribeth enjoys not only the process of story writing but also meeting kids and adults who like to write. Maribeth and her family took on the challenge of beekeeping, and enjoyed this fascinating hobby for several years. The stings aren’t fun, but the work that honeybees do in pollinating is absolutely essential, and they were thrilled to play a tiny part in it. She also loved harvesting honey! Maribeth is so happy any time she can be in the woods, on a trail, on a river, or watching a sunrise or sunset. Nature has a way of changing us, healing us, and giving us all sorts of creative ideas!

authorspic_websizeAngela Dominguez was born in Mexico City and grew up in the great state of Texas. She now resides on the east coast with her boyfriend, Kyle, and petite dog, Petunia.

She is also the author and illustrator of several books for children and a two-time recipient of Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. Her debut middle grade novel, Stella Díaz Has Something To Say, was a New York Public Library and a Chicago Public Library pick for Best Books for Kids in 2018, Sid Fleischman Award winner, and an ALA Notable. When Angela is not in her studio or visiting schools, she teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.

Angela is a proud member of SCBWI, PEN America, and represented by Wernick and Pratt Literary Agency. As a child, she loved reading books and making a mess creating pictures. She’s delighted to still be doing both.

Noodlephant

Written by: Jacob Kramer

Illustrated by: K-Fai Steele

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social Justice, Activism, Protest, Friendship, Community, Oppression, Community, Ingenuity, Peaceful Action. 

Summary: 

In our next installment of #sweetsandsocialjustice we have Noodlephant! I made some brown sugar cornmeal shortbread, inspired by Noodlephant making pasta from unique ingredients.  Follow the link in bio for the recipe, and tag us if you make this delicious treat!

This book is absolutely phenomenal and teaches readers about social justice, oppression, and community organizing.  Noodlephant is a lovely character for this humorous book that has so many lessons about activism embedded within its pages.  Protesting, campaigns, and the unfairness of treatment under an oppressive law is all covered in this glorious book.  A second book is coming out this year and we are SO excited to see the next installment!

Noodlephant is known for her love of pasta, and hosting lovely delicious parties for her friends.  When the kangaroos in charge start making more and more restrictive rules, like who can and can’t go to the pool, things start to change-and not for the better.  Soon, Noodlephant isn’t even allowed to eat noodles anymore!  Heartbroken, she sets to work to create a machine that will create her delicious and enticing noodly creations under the cover of secrecy.  When she is tried in a kangaroo court and sentenced to the zoo, how will Noodlephant cope?

So we don’t typically post a lot of animal books on here, but Noodlephant is absolutely incredible!  We were thrilled to find a copy for ourselves (spending our own money!) and snatched it up on a trip to our local Contemporary Art Museum, (the second shock of this post being that we actually bought something at a museum gift shop!).

Recipe: Brown Sugar Cornmeal Shortbread

1.5c All Purpose flour (I typically use Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 gf ap flour for myself)

1/2c cornmeal

1t salt

2 sticks butter

1/2c dark brown sugar

1/3c sugar (I use either maple sugar or white sugar)

1 egg

1t vanilla extract

1t cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla. Add dries and mix just until they are incorporated. For thicker shortbread, put all dough into 1 eight inch cake pan, or split into 2.  Bake at 300 for about 45-55 minutes.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Jacob+KramerJacob Kramer studied writing and filmmaking, and went on to work in community organizing and writing kids books. He tells stories in which people band together to build power and change their world.

If you must know a fun fact, know this: Penelope Taylor and Jacob trained Bags, the cat, to use the toilet using the Mingus Method. Follow Jacob on twitter: @jknotjk

k-fai_photoFrom illustrator’s K-Fai Steele’s website: “If you want to know how to pronounce my name, watch this book trailer for A Normal Pig. I use she/her pronouns.

A Normal Pig is my author-illustrator debut, and is published with Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. I also illustrated Noodlephant by Jacob Kramer (Enchanted Lion Books, 2019), and Old MacDonald Had a Baby by Emily Snape (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2019). In 2020 I’m illustrating Probably a Unicorn by Jory John, and Okapi Tale (the sequel to Noodlephant).

I’ve always loved art and books, and I’ve worked in museums and libraries as an adult. I was an Art Handler at the Museum of Modern Art in New York where I got to install Starry Night. I worked at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and later the National Writing Project on an IMLS/MacArthur initiative to co-design creative and educational spaces for young people in public access institutions.

I live in San Francisco and I’m a 2018-2019 Brown Handler Writer in Residence at the San Francisco Public Library. I’m the 2019 recipient of the James Marshall Fellowship at the University of Connecticut, and I received the Ezra Jack Keats/Kerman Memorial Fellowship in 2018 at the University of Minnesota.

I’ve presented at the American Library Association Annual meeting and Midwinter meeting, the Tucson Festival of Books, the Bay Area Book Fest, the Princeton Children’s Book Festival, EpicFest in Charlotte, NC, Kidquake/Litquake in San Francisco, the International Literacy Association annual conference, and the National Council of Teachers of English convention. In 2020 I’ll be presenting at the AISC LitFest in Chennai, India, the Turn the Page! Festival in Oakland, and I’m the featured author for the Danville-San Ramon (East Bay) KidsReads.”

Obsessive About Octopuses [released 4/7]

Written & Illustrated by: Owen Davey

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Ocean Creatures, Octopuses, Nature, Natural World, Conservation.

Summary: 

Folx, I’m not sure that I can adequately express how excited I am for this particular book to come out.  If you’ve been following our book reviews for a bit (which first of all, THANK YOU!) you will know what fans we are of this entire series by Owen Davey.  I honestly can’t choose my favorite one, and let’s be real it varies by the day and if I’ve seen a cool bug recently.  But this, THIS one…might be the best.  I know, big statement.  Let’s discuss!

I LOVE octopuses, and the ocean in general.  I have a half sleeve tattoo of the ocean, including several creatures (that all have names) but the first critter I got tattooed was an orange octopus named Hector.  Needless to say, I’m stoked to learn even more about this incredible animal that makes its home in all depths of the ocean. In this book is a plethora of information about intelligence, their diets, mimicry, and conservation.  I’m obsessed with the bright graphics and have been known to read it out loud to people at home (whether they were in the mood for a story or not) while excitedly pointing at illustrations.  Seriously, get your hands on a copy of this immediately and let’s talk.

This book was sent to us by Flying Eye, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & Illustrator:

owen-2-2Owen Davey is an award-winning Illustrator, living & working in Leicester, UK. He has a First Class BA(Hons) Degree in Illustration from Falmouth University. Davey is a primary Illustrator for TwoDotswhich has been #1 in over 70 countries, as well as the illustrator of iPad App of the Year 2015 game, The Robot Factory.  His work has been published in every continent except Antarctica, including picture books in UK, America, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, China, Sweden, Russia & South Korea!

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician

Written by: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Women in Science, Historical Figure, Space, Segregation, Racism, POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, Historic Events. 

Summary: Katherine was an incredibly intellectually gifted child, starting 2nd grade at age 6, and 5th grade the year after.  Her parents strongly valued education and moved the family closer to the West Virginia Institute, where Katherine started high school at the age of ten and college at the age of 15 on a full scholarship.  Years later, after graduation and teaching, she got a job in the segregated computing office at Langley Aeronautics.

Katherine was disciplined, hardworking, and brilliant.  She soon blazed her own trail as the only permanently working woman and woman of color in the office where she was originally placed on just temporary assignment.  She was instrumental in the Space Race and has inspired too many people to count, especially young women of color to embrace their intelligence and interest in STEM.

This is a fantastic book that describes just how pivotal Katherine Johnson was to American history during the Space Race of the early 1960’s.  Having these books that intellectualize women, especially women of color during segregation is crucial for students to have a comprehensive history of the United States.  Katherine Johnson was largely ignored until recently, and there is additional information about Katherine in the back of the book.  This is a great book for older children, especially after reading some of the other Hidden Figures books or watching the movie!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lesa_nola-2-2Lesa Cline-Ransome grew up in Malden, MA, a suburb just outside of Boston, the daughter of two nurses and the youngest of three. She considers consider herself very lucky to have grown up with a mother who loved to read. Each week Lesa’s Mom would take Lesa with her to the local library so that she could stock up on books. As Lesa grew older she would venture off into the children’s section and gather up her own collection to check out. Through her mother Lesa realized that reading could become a wonderful escape and writing even more so. When her mother gave Lesa a diary as a gift, she first filled the pages with the “very important” details of her life—adventures with her friends, secret crushes and the many ways in which her family drove her crazy. Then Lesa began creating my own stories! Lesa became interested in children’s books the year she married. Her husband, James was working on illustrating his first book which allowed both of them to look at picture books in a new way. When they’d browse books in bookstores, he studied the illustrations, she read the stories. Lesa eventually completed a graduate degree in elementary education and through coursework became truly immersed in children’s literature.

raul-colon-706247Raúl Colón is the award-winning illustrator of many picture books, including Draw! an ALA Notable Book and recipient of the International Latino Book Award; Imagine! an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids, and a Bookpage Best Book; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to DanceAngela’s Christmas by Frank McCourt; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.