Category Archives: friendship

I Will Dance [released 5/26]

Written by: Nancy Bo Flood

Illustrated by: Julianna Swaney

For ages: 4 years and up 

Language: English

Topics Covered: Dance, LGBTQ Families, Cerebral Palsy, Disability, Friendship, Acceptance, Goals, True Story. 


This is an absolutely beautiful story about a real girl who yearned to find a dance company that would accept her.  Eva has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.  She’s worried she won’t ever be able to dance onstage, because there isn’t adequate representation of dancers with differing styles and abilities.  One day Eva’s mothers (yes, she has 2!) take her to a dance studio (that’s modeled on a real dance program called Young Dance) and Eva finds a group that welcomes her with open arms.

The book is written in first person, and a lot of Eva’s narrative is fear that she won’t find a place to dance.  It shies away from an inspiration-disability narrative, which I was so pleased about.  The story is about finding a place where Eva feels comfortable and valued, which is something that all humans want.  Throughout the story Eva hears things like “pretend you’re dancing” but it’s not good enough for her (nor should it be) because she deserves to be included and have the hobbies she loves. When Eva finds her Young Dance community, she feels at home.

Another detail about the book is that it’s not even mentioned that Eva has 2 moms, it completely normalizes this family structure by just having it in the background. The illustrations are beautiful and diverse, as well as convey flowing movement of every character in the story.

The author of this book is able-bodied (to the best of my knowledge) but has worked with schools and families to create inclusive programming for disabled children. There is also a note in the back from the director of Young Dance, telling more about the organization.

This book was kindly sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own. It’s to be released tomorrow, 5/26!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Nancy-Bo-FloodThroughout Nancy’s  life she has enjoyed reading, writing, and sharing stories.

In college Nancy wanted to learn about the brain. How do we remember; why do we forget; why we want to try new things? Just how does our brain work? So she became a research psychologist and studied brain development at the University of Minnesota and as a post-doctoral scientist at the University of London. That might seem like a long way from writing books for kids, but it’s not.

Her work has always focused on children and young adults – as a researcher, counselor, teacher, parent, and now as a writer. Nancy has conducted workshops on child abuse, learning disabilities, play therapy, and creative writing. Her work and research has allowed Nancy to live all over the world – in Malawi, Africa, Hawaii, Japan, the western Pacific, and, most recently, the Navajo Nation where she hikes, rides her bike and attends local rodeos.

tumblr_inline_pxbgbzHGWX1qztu8g_500Julianna Swaney is a freelance illustrator whose work is inspired by whimsical details of daily life and the fairy tales she loved reading as a child. Julianna grew up homeschooled which allowed free range for her imagination and interests in folklore, animals, nature, and history. She studied printmaking at Maine College of Art (BFA 2005), and now lives in Portland, Oregon.

All of Julianna’s drawings are created with pencil and watercolor or gouache on paper.

My Undead Life: Really Rotten Drama

Written by: Emma T. Graves

Illustrated by: Ellie O’Shea (Binny Boo)

For ages: 8-12 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Zombies, Growing Up, Family, Friendship. 


I really enjoyed this book!  It’s the second in the series, but there was a quick recap of the first book at the beginning.

What really drew me into this book was a double-hit of a POC main character, and a plot that allowed girls to be gross.  Think about it, when are girls actively encouraged to be gross and disgusting?  Behold, an entire series about a zombie girl that’s rotting from the inside out and described very creatively (and stinkily)! Tulah is a middle-school zombie, and she’s trying to keep it a secret.  Along with this big smelly secret, Tulah has the regular drama to deal with like best friends and kisses with boys (in the school play)!

This is a quick read that is interspersed with a few comic panels, which is a really unique layout that I enjoyed.  It has some typical YA/middle grade story tropes of BFF arguments and crushes but I really liked the gross twist of Tulah being a zombie, and can’t wait to read more!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Emma T. Graves has authored more than 90 books for children, and has written about characters both living and dead. When she’s not writing, Emma enjoys watching classic horror movies, taking long walks in the nearby cemetery, and storing up food in her cellar. She is prepared for the zombie apocalypse.

a05198938c6ca8cd56289c6dba6bb8aaa68dfe8e0d7a37df2fb76e48eeba4244Ellie, a coffee addict, an avid snowboarder and bad joke-teller. Completed her degree in Illustration in Plymouth and now living in Worcester with her (equally bad joke-telling) boyfriend. They both love lazy Sundays watching cartoons all day, Ellie‘s biggest inspiration for drawing! She has always loved watching cartoons and when was around 8 she decided, “Hey, I want to draw like that!” So she picked up her pencil, and here we are. Ellie loves writing and illustrating children’s books. Starting with scribbles before drawing and colouring up in Illustrator and Photoshop. When she‘s not doodling or drinking coffee, you will usually find her shopping for makeup, binge-watching cartoons or watching pug videos on Youtube.

David Jumps In

Written by: Alan Woo

Illustrated by: Katty Maurey

For ages: 4-7 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: History, Games, Friendship, Social-Emotional Learning, Moving, New School, Own Voices.


It’s David’s first day at a brand new school and he’s feeling a little anxious about making friends.  The book follows his wander around the playground seeing what everyone else is doing, and looking for someone to play with.  But David has something in his pocket that might be able to help him.

I like how the title is descriptive of the game David has in his pocket, and also a metaphor for being in a new environment.  The illustrations of the playground are pulled back, making it seem almost endless.  David doesn’t necessarily seem scared, but he takes his time checking out the new playground and deciding who to invite to play the game he has in his pocket-elastic skip (also known as Chinese jumprope or Elastics, there are many different names) and make some friends.  This is a sweet and gentle book that also introduces a game to play, which would be a fun extension activity for a classroom!

This book was kindly sent to us by Kids Can Press, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

alan_wooAlan Woo was born in England, came to Canada when he was a young boy and grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he still lives. He always wanted to be a writer, and gets his inspiration from his Chinese-Canadian heritage, friends and family, reading lots of books, going to live theatre, meeting new people, traveling and playing with cats! His work has been published in Ricepaper magazine and Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine.

katty_maureyKatty Maurey is an illustrator working from Montreal.

Born in Paris to a Chinese mother and a French father, she grew up in Hong Kong and later Paris before calling Montreal her home. She has always loved illustrated books and make-believe worlds. As a young girl, she could spend hours absorbed by details in the pictures that made stories come to life. Loving both nature and the city, Katty developed a fascination for the vivid colors around her. In her subtle way, she strives to express the small things in life that turn our everyday world into a fantastical one.

Later on, she studied graphic design at UQAM. She then went on to work professionally as an illustrator for various books published by Kids Can Press, Owl Kids, la courte échelle and la Pastèque. Her books are published in both French and English, and have been translated to Spanish, Catalan, Korean and Japanese. Among other distinctions, she was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for French-language children’s illustration.

When not in her garden, Katty spends her artistic time between illustrations for books and working on multimedia shows, coming up with fun costumes and lavish set designs where she can let her imagination run wild. Among the many things that occupy her time, she always tries to make room for her lazy dog and her very slow-blooming orchids.

Following an extensive stay in Rome in the winter of 2019, she is currently working on an illustrative
project that draws inspiration from Greek mythology, Roman history and tales of the ancient world.


Good Morning, Farmer Carmen! [Katie Woo’s Neighborhood]

Written by: Fran Manushkin

Illustrated by: Laura Zarrin

For ages: 5-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Farming, Farmer’s Markets, Teamwork, Friendship. 


Do you know how refreshing it is to see a farmer in a book that isn’t a white man? I am truly excited about it. In this beginner chapter book, Katie gets to spend the night on a farm, owned by her friend Pedro’s aunt Carmen.

In the book, Katie helps to pick the vegetables and go to the farmer’s market for the day, helping to sell the vegetables.  As a manager of my own town’s farmer’s market, I was excited to see this representation and focus on support of small business owners! Sweet, simple, no reader is going to get bashed over the head with a moral to the story.  Just some good representation!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

franm_0-2Fran Manushkin is a prolific writer that has been at it for many years!  Here is an excerpt from her website, so you can get to know a little more about her:

“I wasn’t born in a log cabin, although I do come from the Land of Lincoln–Illinois. I grew up in Chicago with five brothers and sisters and one dog, Snowball. I loved to read, but had absolutely no inkling that I could grow up to be a writer. I thought all writers had triple names, like my favorite, Maud Hart Lovelace, and that they had entire books waiting in their heads, and simply wrote them down, lickety-split.

I always knew I wanted to work with children, so I got a B.A. in education from Chicago Teacher’s College. After graduation, I moved to New York City. My great good fortune came when I met Ezra Jack Keats (author-artist of THE SNOWY DAY), who told me about an editorial assistant’s opening in the children’s book department of Harper & Row. I was hired, and for ten years I worked with two of the most brilliant editors in publishing: Ursula Nordstrom and Charlotte Zolotow.

After  becoming a junior editor, I soon had the great pleasure of discovering new talent: I did Bruce Degan’s first book, AUNT POSSOM AND THE PUMPKIN MAN, Myron Levoy’s classic, ALAN AND NAOMI, and  I also worked with Lillian Hoban on her first Arthur books.

It was Charlotte Zolotow who urged me to write my own stories, and my first book BABY (later titled BABY, COME OUT!) was published in 1972. Since then I’ve written many many books, but no thrill has ever matched that moment when I became a writer.

Because I was such a late bloomer, I am always eager to help children recognize and appreciate their gifts and begin using them NOW. When I speak at schools, I show children my messy manuscripts, the artist’s many sketches, and talk about how much stubbornness and good humor it takes to accomplish anything in life, including writing.”

laurazarrinLaura Zarrin spent her childhood in the St. Louis area exploring creeks, woods, and attic closets, with plenty of tree climbing and digging for artifacts in the backyard all in preparation for her future career as an archeologist. She never became one because she realized she’s much happier drawing in the comfort of her own home while watching TV. Obsessed with the Little House books and Native American cultures, Laura drew lots and lots of pioneers and studied pictographs and books about that time period. When she was 12, her family moved to the Silicon Valley in California where she still resides with her very logical husband and teen sons, and their illogical dog, Cody.

Freda and the Blue Beetle [released 4/15]

Written & Illustrated by: Sophie Gilmore

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Friendship, Independent Thought, Courage, Freedom, Discovery, Wonder, Intuition, Bravery. 


This book is SO amazing. Freda is a free spirit that values discovery and adventure, much to the dismay of the other villagers who are often warning her about what could happen.  One day she befriends a beetle with a broken wing, names him Ernest, and they become inseparable.  The villagers are skeptical, but eventually begin to take advantage of Ernest’s good nature and strength and give him many tasks around the village.  The villagers are happy to exploit his strength but get upset when he needs to eat a lot.

What I love about this book is the complexity, both in the plot and Freda herself.  The world she lives in is fantastical, she shares plums with trees and reads books on a roof with a massive beetle.  The underlying message of this story is about standing up for yourself, especially while scared, when it goes against the status quo.  The bravery that it takes to listen to yourself and what you know is true is a skill that is sometimes honed by making a mistake or two along the way.

This book was generously sent to us by Owlkids Books, but all opinions are our own! Freda and the Blue Beetle is a lovely story, and will be released on April 15th!

About the Author & Illustrator:

workingSophie Gilmore is an illustrator and writer of picture books, currently living in Italy for a little while.

She lived in various places in New Zealand until she was 8, usually standing on rusty nails in her bare feet or having to be de-wormed after spending too much time grubbing around with chickens or guineafowl or something. Then she moved to Scotland, where there were duffel coats and cold Christmases, and stayed there (except for a handful of rogue years after high school spent back in NZ) until she graduated in illustration at the art school in Edinburgh.

She has pretty much stuck with watercolour and pen since day one, and uses an upturned pot as a footrest (see above). Most of her work stems from the curiousness of human nature, the magic in a friendship between children and animals, and usually includes a handful of other creatures just being a bit suspicious.

Occasionally she chats to people in the outside world, you can read a couple of recent conversations about work in general here, and her debut book Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast, here. And here is a link to a review in the New York Times, just because that’s a little thrilling to say.

Thukpa for All

Written by: Praba Ram & Sheela Preuitt

Illustrated by: Shilpa Ranade

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English & some Tibetan 

Topics Covered: Friendship, Community, Disability, Cooking, Family, Global Community, Problem-Solving, Tibet, Ladakh Region.

Summary: Tsering, our main character, is walking home.  He is excited to eat some delicious thukpa, a hearty and spicy soup.  Tsering is blind, and moves a white stick in front of himself while walking so Tsering knows what’s in front of him.  As he walks, Tsering listens to the sounds of his village and invites his friends over for some thukpa as well.

Tsering in this story is very much an active-doer.  He helps people along his journey, is kind to his neighbors and friends, and is embedded in the community as a kind and helpful person.  Tsering is given tasks to complete and asked why he is always walking so quickly.  This narrative is really refreshing for a blind character, especially a protagonist.  Tsering is the one finishing projects, finding lost lambs, and gathering vegetables for the thukpa.   The sensory elements of the story add to the read-aloud experience, and make the entire story experience very detailed.  The reader can immerse themselves in the experience of Tsering’s daily life, and the strong friendships he has with other individuals that live in the village.  I especially love the part of the story where Tsering is the problem-solver when the power goes out.  It doesn’t matter to him!  He finishes cooking the meal for everyone until the power comes back on.

At the end of the book is more information about Ladakh, a desert in India where the story takes place.  There is also a glossary of the Tibetan words used in the story, and a thukpa recipe so the reader can make their own soup!

About the Authors & the Illustrator:

prabaram-257x300Praba Ram is a children’s writer, a reading specialist and an early literacy advocate. She is the founder of the kid-lit blog, Saffron Tree – an award winning site dedicated to recommending and reviewing children’s books from India and the US. Praba believes in the power of books and its positive impact on children, especially when introduced in the early years of childhood. While in the US, she got involved as a Storytime Facilitator for the Ready-to-Read Program implementing story hours for children with limited library access. During those two years, Praba planned several fun read-aloud programs incorporating an array of themes and books, which never failed to delight children. She enjoys reading-aloud and interacting with babies/toddlers, preschoolers and children in early school age. As for writing, she enjoys writing about environmental and cultural themes. She has also co-authored four books for children, her most recent one being “The Endangered Animals of India” published by Mango Books of Cochin.

Praba has always been passionate about the public sector and has had several short stints at many NGOs and non-profits focusing on education issues primarily. She has an undergraduate degree in Management Studies from BITS, Pilani and a Masters in Public Policy from University of California at Los Angeles. Having recently moved back with her family from the East Coast of the US to the East Coast of India, this chai & travel-loving mother is happy to be raising her two daughters in the culturally rich, but known near and far for its forever-hot-and-humid weather that is the city of Chennai.

34077Sheela Preuitt enjoys writing nonfiction books on STEM topics for children. She is awed by the unfathomable magnitude of our universe and loves to share that admiration with the young readers through her books. She has a masters in Science Education, a masters in Computer Science, and ten published books.




ShilpaRanadeShilpa Ranade is also a film maker and an Associate Professor at the Industrial Design Centre at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Her most recent animation film, ‘The World of Goopi and Bagha’ (‘Goopi Gawaiyaa Bagha Bajaiyaa’) premiered at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival in September. The film is an adaptation of one of the most cherished Indian children’s classics, Upendrakishore Roy’ s Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne. Supported by the Children’s Film Society of India and featuring music by 3 Brothers & A Violin, the film features many twists and turns that aren’t present in the original work.

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.