Tag Archives: grief

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

Written by: Lyla Lee

Illustrated by: Dung Ho

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & some Korean

Topics Covered: Parent Loss, Korean-American Experience, New Experiences, Moving, Growing Up, Family, Social-Emotional Learning, Friendship, Single-Parent Families.

Summary: 

This is an adorable early chapter book that we are so excited to bring you on Korean-American Day! Min-jung Kim, who also goes by Mindy, has just moved with her father from California to Florida.  The book follows Mindy trying to make friends and fit in, using her classmates’ interest in her seaweed snacks to start a business.

I really enjoyed this book!  Mindy is a clever and enjoyable narrator, I found myself chuckling at her phrasing of things.  This series is an important contribution to chapter books in this age group because it introduces a lot of the reasoning behind social-emotional skill development.  Mindy thinks about what she says and does, and the reasoning behind doing something that she doesn’t wholly want to do (like apologizing to a friend).  Mindy also takes careful note of how she’s treated by her teacher, which can open up opportunity for discussion about microaggressions and being a minoritized student.  There is definitely a void in Own Voices literature about the Korean-American experience, and maintaining one’s cultural identity when faced with disdain or confusion from peers.  Mindy is also coping with the loss of a parent, another family situation that isn’t common in many books that we’ve read.  Overall, this book is a fantastic resource for multiple experiences and opportunity for classroom and family discussion about tricky topics.

This book was generously sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own.  This book comes out TOMORROW!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lyla-lee_author-photo-e1563250956805Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

7ef4bf2895977.57c98c564f341Dung Ho is an illustrator based in Viet Nam. They are focused on children books, game design, character design.

Barely Missing Everything

Written by: Matt Mendez

Cover Art by: Dana Ledl

For ages: Young Adults

Language: English

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Latinx Identities, Racism, Sports, Alcohol & Marijuana Use, Family, Incarceration, Filmmaking, Friendship, Police Brutality, Pregnancy. 

Summary: This book was one of those stories that everything I anticipated to happen did not happen, I was constantly surprised at the deft storytelling of Mendez’s plot line.  Told from three viewpoints, the reader gets the full scope of what life is like for these characters.  Barely Missing Everything is a text that normalizes the experiences of working Latinx families barely making it, and the dreams that accompany hardly making ends meet.

Juan and his best friend JD are almost out of high school, and both love basketball. (I don’t particularly even like sports, but this book is incredible!)  Fabiola is Juan’s mom, and she’s just holding on while trying to balance raising Juan, their awful landlady, a surprise pregnancy, and Juan getting arrested after a party he attended got broken up by police.  So many of these moments in the book made me cringe and think “No! Why that decision?!” but the plot is so believable the reader can imagine knowing these characters and caring about them, wanting what’s best for them in the long run, which led to those protective thoughts.

Each character we come across has hopes and dreams, desperately wishing to escape their situation for a better one.  This is a book that normalizes the experiences of marginalized populations, and allows for diverse experiences to be broadcast to a wide audience.  Barely Missing Everything is emotional, raw, and impossible to put down. I mean Jason Reynolds said the book is “sure to bring a quake to the literary landscape” so really what else can we say to convince you to read it?

Simon and Schuster were kind enough to send us this book, but all opinions are our own along with the decision to review the book!

About the Author & Cover Artist:

rs=w-1240,h-620,cg-trueMatt Mendez has worked on airplanes all of his adult life and is the author of the YA novel Barely Missing Everything and the short story collection Twitching Heart.  He earned his MFA from the University of Arizona where he also taught creative writing.  His work has appeared in Pank, The Literary Review, Huizache, and other places.  Matt is from El Paso, Texas but now lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona.  You can visit him at mattmendez.com or follow him on Twitter @mgmendez.

 

me-ondrej-szollos_1000Dana Ledl is the cover artist for Barely Missing Everything! She lives in Prague, and is a freelance graphic designer.

Patina

Written by: Jason Reynolds

Cover Art by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For ages: YA Middle Grades

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, Grief, Death, Social-Emotional Growth, Sports, Women in Sports, Growing Up, Coping, Friendship, Black Culture & Identity.

Summary: Patina is just trying to do her best at a new school and on a new elite track team that she is now a part of.  Patina, or Patty for short, can run like a flash.  But what is she running from?  A lot of things.  She’s running to deal with the new rich kid school she now attends, ever since her aunt and uncle adopted Patty and her younger sister Maddy. She’s running because her mom doesn’t have legs anymore, and that’s why she can’t care for Patty and Maddy anymore (even though they see her regularly).  She’s running to prove to everyone that she belongs on the team.

This book is fantastic.  It is the second of a four-part series about the track team Patina is a part of, each book profiling a different member of the team in the same friend group.  Patty is dealing with a lot in her life: a new family structure, caring for her sister and both of their hair (since their aunt who they call Momly (mom+Emily) is white), a brand new school AND a crummy group project.

The reader is privy to Patty’s innermost thoughts, and how she just wants to successfully navigate her life and responsibilities.  Her father’s death and her mother developing the diabetes that eventually took her legs is still very raw.  Patina is struggling to understand that her mother developed diabetes because during the grieving process she would bake all of Patty’s father’s favorite treats constantly, eventually losing toes, feet, and legs.  When Momly and Maddy get into a car accident, can Patina imagine life without them both?  The accident and subsequent injuries coupled with a huge track meet for Patty is the culmination of the plot, and leaves the reader wanting to immediately begin the next book in the series!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

180314_FastCompany_JasonReynolds-7Jason Reynolds is one of the most important YA authors right now, he has such finesse and talent with words.  Here is the About section from his website, because we can’t say it any better than he already has:

“Well, if you’ve made it here, that means you’ve survived the huge picture of my face! Congrats! And to reward you, I’m going to tell you all about…me. Sorry. No cake. No confetti. No money falling from the ceiling…this time.

So, I’m a writer. And when I say I’m a writer, I mean it in the same way a professional ball player calls himself an athlete. I practice everyday and do the best I can to be better at this writing thing, while hopefully bringing some cool stories to the world. The stories are kinda like my slam dunks. Except, I’m dunking words. In your FACE! Ha!

I graduated from the University of Maryland (where I spent about 65% of my time writing and reciting poetry all over campus…yeah, that was me) with a B.A. in English, then packed my bags and moved to Brooklyn because somebody told me they were giving away dream-come-true vouchers.

And if I ever find the person who told me that… let’s just say, no one was giving away anything. ANYTHING. Lucky for me I had all these crazy stories to keep me going. Ten years later, here I am, doing my best to string together an “ABOUT” section on my own website about my own books. Crazy.

Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

vanessa-new-225x300-2Vanessa 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.

The Immortal Jellyfish

Written & Illustrated by: Sang Miao

For ages: 5-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, Grief, Loss, Love, Social-Emotional Growth & Development, Death.

Summary:  

This is a beautiful book in both storyline and artwork.  Our main character is a small boy who is told about a jellyfish that can revert back to the polyp stage and grow up again, thus being essentially immortal. The child wonders if people are immortal, and his grandfather says no.  Then, the child doesn’t see his grandfather for a bit.  His parents tell him that his grandfather died, and he won’t get to see him anymore.  The child cries, and falls asleep thinking of his grandfather.  Suddenly, his grandpa appears and the pair fly into the air on a mission to become immortal.  A fantastical adventure ensues in which the pair end up at the Life Transfer City and meet some of the individuals there.  We won’t spoil the ending, but do you think the young boy will see his grandpa again?

The book is a beautiful take on grief and remembering a loved one that has passed on.  The whimsical illustrations convey the dreamscape adventure that the protagonist goes on, and we can’t get enough!  Grief is a difficult concept for young children to fully grasp, and this does a great job of explaining how a person can always be around in memories and dreams.  What we also love about this book is the way it tackles both losing a family member and the fact that everything ends up passing on, maybe at the Life Transfer Station!

 This book was sent to us by Flying Eye Books, Nobrow in the UK, but all opinions are our own!

Reflection Questions:

  • Who is an important person in your family?
  • Do you ever have dreams about your family or friends?
  • Do you have any other questions about the jellyfish, Life Transfer Center, or any of the other topics that the book talked about?

About the Author & Illustrator:

619303HmNrL._US230_Sang Miao is a freelance illustrator who recently graduated form the University of Brighton in the UK. She has since been doing work for numerous fiction and children’s book projects, including Sang’s first project with Flying Eye Books, Out, Out, Away From Here. She currently lives in China.  Visit her Instagram!

King and the Dragonflies

Written by: Kacen Callender

Cover Art by: Tonya Engel

For ages: YA

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, LGBTQ, Death, Relationships, Friendship.

Summary: We got this book from a friend who received a pre-release copy from the ALA Conference!  We are so excited to have been able to both read and review the book before the release date, because it was incredible!

King’s brother, Khalid, has just died.  He died abruptly, and King’s family is in shambles.  King is also trying to reconcile with who he is as a person along with the grief consuming him.  A few months before Khalid’s death, Khalid overheard King and his friend Sandy talking late one night during a backyard camp out.  Sandy had confessed to King that he was gay, and King responded that he might be gay too.  Khalid told King the next morning that he heard them in the tent, and that King shouldn’t hang around with Sandy anymore or people would start to think that King was gay too.  So King stopped being friends with Sandy, but King misses him and is filled with guilt about the ordeal.

King is also convinced that Khalid is now a dragonfly, that he shed his human skin and is now travelling the world as a jewel-toned bug.  On his way to the bayou to look for Khalid the dragonfly, King runs into Sandy for the first time in a few months and also the first time since Khalid’s death.  They have a brief conversation, and part ways.  When Sandy turns up missing, King is worried he’ll be implicated if anyone finds out that he was possibly the last person to see Sandy.

It takes a trip to Mardi Gras, letting go of secrets, and a wonderful Auntie to help the James family become close again.  Nothing we can write about the book can do the plot justice, and convey the emotion and strength in Callender’s words.  Highly recommend, I read this in a single afternoon!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

79veuN9R_400x400Born and raised in St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, Kacen Callender is the award-winning author of the middle-grade novels Hurricane Child and King and the Dragonflies, the young-adult novels This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story and Felix Ever After, and the adult novel Queen of the Conquered.

Kacen was previously an Associate Editor of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, where they acquired and edited novels including Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles, the New York Times bestseller Internment by Samira Ahmed, and the Stonewall Honor award-winning novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake.

They enjoy playing RPG video games in their free time, and they really wish they had a dog.

Kacen currently resides in Philadelphia, PA.

Tonya Engel is the cover artist for this stunning book!

ArtistStatementJune2016-823x498

A Stone for Sascha

Written & Illustrated by: Aaron Becker

For ages: 5 and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, POC-Centric Narratives, Loss, Grief, Historical Fiction, Love, Pets.

Summary: This book actually has no words, just pictures.  A family loses their dog, Sascha, just before going on vacation.  While on vacation at the beach, one of the children finds a shiny gold rock.  Suddenly, the reader is transported back throughout history and sees just exactly how the gold rock got into the water.  The gold rock takes many forms and uses throughout history, before finally ending up at the bottom of the sea and being found washed up near the shore.  The gold is then used to decorate the grave of Sascha.

This book is a beautiful reminder of how life cycles keep moving throughout the rise and fall of societies.  Inanimate objects have many lives before coming into ours, and remembering the past can be a beautiful memory.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think the main characters feel when they have to go on vacation without their beloved pet?
  • Is it easy to tell what’s happening in the story without words?
  • What’s your favorite moment in time that’s depicted in the book?
  • When is a time that you were grieving, and what made you feel better?
  • How could you help a friend that is feeling sad, or a sense of loss?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Write a letter to someone you miss.  It can be someone that is no longer with you, maybe they moved away or have passed on.  It’s important to release feelings, even if the person the letter is addressed to will never read it.
  • Think about an object you’ve found.  What do you think it’s story is? Draw a comic strip about how the object came to be, and how it got to you!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Aaron_Becker,_Author_and_Illustrator,_aaron_beckerYears ago, after working as a designer in San Francisco’s dot-com craze, Aaron Becker quit his job and headed to Monterey, California for a children’s book conference. At the time, Aaron had a vague idea of why he thought it’d be fun to write and illustrate books. After presenting some hazy ideas to a guest editor from Candlewick Press, he left the conference content to wander. Aaron traveled. He returned to art school and earned his chops. Aaron worked in the Bay Area with some of his heroes in film design for nearly a decade. But eventually, the children’s book bug returned. This time, Aaron had some real drawing skills and a much greater understanding of why these books might matter. After all, Aaron had his own child by this time, and it was becoming clear to him that there’s no purer form of story-telling for an illustrator than creating their own book full of pictures. Luckily, children seem to like this kind of stuff. And publishers will go along with it as well if the idea is up to snuff. When Aaron’s agent gave him the good news that his first book had a solid offer, the name of the editor sounded eerily familiar. It was none other than the same editor he had met in Monterey nearly fifteen years before.

Aaron now lives in Amherst, Massachusetts where every day, he returns to that place of being a kid again, ready to fly into outer space with a ship of his own design. He’s fortunate to have a job that lets me keep doing this, and would imagine that even in the darkest of his creative slumps, surely this must beat astronaut boot camp.