Tag Archives: Social-Emotional Learning

What Stars Are Made Of [released 3/31]

Written by: Sarah Allen 

For ages: Middle Grades, 5th and up.

Language: English

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Own Voices, Turner Syndrome, Neurodiversity (NLD), STEM, Women in STEM, Friendship, Social-Emotional Growth & Development.

Summary: 

Hot damn, I’m glad this book exists.  This middle grade novel follows 12 year old Libby over the course of a school year.  Libby has difficulty making friends, and talks to famous women in science that she’s learned about inside her head.  When Libby’s sister Nonny moves back home because her husband Thomas is on a longterm job in another state and Nonny is pregnant, Libby is both excited and worried.  Libby has Turner syndrome, and because of this she has some complications like giving herself shots daily, and sterility.  She’s worried that the baby might need extra help too.

This book covers a wonderful amount of topics throughout the story, and I seriously could not put it down.  Libby navigates family dynamics, making friends with a new girl at school, and figuring out how to win a Smithsonian contest with a 25k grand prize (that could really help Thomas and Nonny). Libby has a good relationship with her teacher Ms. Trepky who encourages her to submit the essay and works with her on editing.

There is a particularly beautiful part of the book that really stuck with me after finishing it.  Libby and Ms. Trepky are in the classroom, discussing how the world is shaped by individuals, but the individual that changes the world is also shaped by an innumerable amount of people themselves.  Libby takes a moment of reflection and comprehends the magnitude of the fact that “the world was shaped by billions and billions of unknown hands…that meant [she] could sculpt and write on the DNA of the universe from [her] little corner of it, too, no matter [her] smallness or genetics or scars” (p137 of ARC).  This is a profound realization for a middle schooler, and a mindset that we have sought to emulate by creating ripples of change wherever we can.  For us, that means sharing stunning Own Voices texts such as this one.  This book comes out on March 31st and please do yourself a favor and devote a few hours to this splendid read, you will absolutely not regret it.

This book was generously sent to us by Macmillan, but all opinions are our own! Note: the quote we cited may differ slightly from the published edition, we will be checking for correctness once the edition is actually published.

About the Author:

Headshot-cred Sarah AllenSarah Allen got her MFA in creative writing from BYU and while Utah will always be her home, Sarah moved around a bit and currently lives in the Seattle area.

Pretty much every area of writing interests her, and regularly submits short stories, poetry, articles, and other fun things. Sarah is a Slytherin (with a Hufflepuff exterior), overenthusiastic about most things, and a shmoosher of dog faces. Her superpower is speaking fluent movie quotes.  Sarah is also a major lover of Pixar, leather jackets, and Colin Firth.

The Day Abuelo Got Lost

Written by: Diane de Anda

Illustrated by: Alleanna Harris

For ages: 4-8 years old

Language: English, some Spanish.

Topics Covered: Family, Dementia, Aging, Latinx (Mexican family origin), Social-Emotional Learning, Growing Up, Change.

Summary: 

This is a sweet story about a young boy named Luis and his Abuelo, who has always lived with Luis and his parents.  Usually, Luis and Abuelo spend time together after school, cooking and building models together.  Slowly, Luis realizes that Abuelo starts to forget things and the pair can’t use the stove anymore.  One day, Luis returns home from school and Abuelo isn’t there.  He had gotten lost on a walk, and Luis’s parents found him.

This book addresses in a way that is understandable to children what happens when a grandparent or older family friend ages.  It talks about real feelings that the reader can identify, like Luis.  Things are changing with Abuelo but in small ways that don’t seem to change much on their own, but the sum of the parts mean that Abuelo will spend time with other older adults that can’t remember so well while their families are at work.  What Luis learns is that they will always love each other, and they can still spend time doing things that they love together.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Image result for Diane de Anda

DIANE DE ANDA is Professor Emerita in the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research. Her most recent books are entitled Violence: Diverse Populations and Communities and Social Work with Multicultural Youth.

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ALLEANNA HARRIS is a US illustrator who has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a little kid, she would draw on every page of her mom’s legal pads, doodle on her notebooks at school and on the programs at church.

She graduated from the University of Arts with a BFA in Animation with Honors, and it was during this time she realised her love for illustration. Alleanna finds inspiration in the beauty in everyday things. Everything inspires her. In her work, she seeks to create images that are immersive, rich in color and have a sense of warmth. She lives in NJ.

An Ordinary Day [released March 10]

Written by: Elana K. Arnold

Illustrated by: Elizabet Vukovic

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, Social-Emotional Learning, Grief, Loss of Pet, Cochlear Implant Visibility, Home Birth, Childbirth, Love. 

Summary: 

Wow. Wow wow wow.  This book is absolutely breathtaking and caught me by surprise upon reading.  I was looking forward to reading this book, since author Elana K. Arnold wrote another one of our favorites (What Riley Wore) and this newest story did not disappoint.

Let’s begin this praise-a-thon with the diversity of the characters and dreamy illustrations.  The story centers around two families, one headed up by an interracial lesbian couple and the other by a POC couple, one of which has a cochlear implant.  Both doctors are of color; each family is changing on this ordinary day-one is losing a member and one is gaining a member.  This book celebrates how the extraordinary and ordinary blend together, different families experience joy and loss simultaneously and cope with big changes and emotions.  Moments the radically shift some lives don’t impact others, as shown by a neighbor mundanely watering flowers, unaware of the goings on inside neighboring houses.

Something that also makes this book special is that a home birth is featured, I honestly cannot think of another book that has one.  Also, I don’t think this is giving too much away, given the gorgeous cover art! Anyway, all around this book outshines a lot of others that dance around delicate and emotional topics.  An Ordinary Day is a beautiful tribute to family and the moments in life that make it special.

This book was sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own!  This book is out on March 10th.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

elana-e1484018914417-200x200ELANA K. ARNOLD is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets. 

img_4560Elizabet Vukovic is an illustrator from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and she graduated from the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco, California.

Her main interest is children’s book illustration but she also experiments in other directions of art as well (character design, concept art, fashion illustration and decorative art).

The Paper Bag Princess

Written by: Robert Munsch

Illustrated by: Michael Martchenko 

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Freedom, Self-Confidence, Social-Emotional Learning, Feminism, Fractured Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Independent Thought, Stereotypes, Girls Outdoors,. 

Summary: 

“Ronald,” said Elizabeth, “your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.”

This sick burn (pun fully intended) is the crowning achievement of Princess Elizabeth’s journey of self-discovery that takes place in The Paper Bag Princess. Despite the complete destruction of her home, her belongings, and everything she knows, Elizabeth doesn’t give up. Instead, her compassion leads her down the path of “burnt forests and horses’ bones” (we love an obvious villain). Once she reaches the dragon’s door, she refuses to leave. Using the skills undoubtedly gleaned from being raised female, her scheme uses the dragon’s bravado against him. She tires him out, and once he is sleeping, she completes the task of rescuing her betrothed.

It is here where The Paper Bag Princess turns everything on its head.

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Ronald is neither appreciative nor understanding of the trials that Elizabeth has gone through, and instead he focuses in on her outward appearance (sound familiar?) and immediately talks down to her.

This tennis-racket-carrying nonce can’t get out another word before Elizabeth delivers the thorough beat down that he deserves.

The princess has shown generations of readers, both male and female alike, that the “happy ending” we’ve been promised by Disney movies and romantic novels is really only the beginning. The reader is left imagining the adventures that Elizabeth will have as she scampers into the sunset, and if her exploits with the dragon are anything to go by, the rest of the kingdom had better watch out!

May we all carry ourselves with the grit and confidence of The Paper Bag Princess. 

This beautiful 40th anniversary edition of the book was sent to us by Annick Press, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

robert-munschRobert Munsch is a storyteller. From his website: “I write books for kids, I talk to kids, and I listen to kids.

But that is not all that I am. Several years ago I was diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive and manic-depressive. Those challenges have led me to make some big mistakes.

I have worked hard to overcome my problems, and I have done my best. I have attended twelve-step recovery meetings for more than 25 years.

My mental health and addiction problems are not a secret to my friends and family. They have been a big support to me over the years, and I would not have been able to do this without their love and understanding.

I hope that others will also understand. I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.”

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Michael Martchenko has illustrated dozens of books, and is most famous for his work with Robert Munsch including Smelly Socks, Makeup Mess and We Share Everything!. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx

Written & Illustrated by: Joe Todd-Stanton

For ages: 5-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Adventure, Girls Outdoors, Family, Strength, Fear, Social-Emotional Growth.  

Summary: This is the tale of Marcy, daughter of Arthur from the first Brownstone’s book. Marcy is very afraid of the dark, and also very skeptical that her father ever had a wild life of adventure (after all, he’s so old now!).

Arthur decides to go and try to obtain a book of secrets in hopes of curing Marcy’s fear.  Unfortunately, he is taken captive by a large snake inside a pyramid during his quest.  Marcy must go on an adventure to help save her father, and hope that her fears are conquered in the process.  This book is great in showing that girls can be problem-solvers and outdoor adventurers!  Marcy must decide for herself who to believe when she meets various Egyptian gods and goddesses, and how best to free her father.  The story is helpful in that it discusses what the gods and goddesses rule over, making it an educational adventure that Marcy goes on.  The characters are not incredibly diverse, but the only human characters are Marcy and her parents.  Arthur and Marcy do end up leaving the book he was searching for in the pyramid, which honestly made us feel better given the colonial history of pillaging Egyptian artifacts.

Of the Brownstone’s books, I really like how the heroines are strong and independent!  They face their fears in order to help others, being a role model for social-emotional development and growth.  I am also such a fan of the illustrations, they’re adorable and reminiscent of comic books (something I really like).  There are lots of little humorous details to discover on the pages, an aspect that makes Joe Todd-Stanton’s style unique.

This book was generously sent to us by Flying Eye Books for review. All opinions are our own! The hardcover version was originally published in 2017, but the softcover edition will be available in early March of 2020.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Headshot_BW_croppedJoe Todd-Stanton grew up in Brighton and studied at UWE Bristol, receiving a first class degree in Illustration. Joe has been commissioned to work for clients such as Oxford University Press, Usborne Publishing and Aquila magazine.

To find out a little more about his work, Flying Eye asked Joe the following questions:

What inspires your work?
I normally find inspiration through reading or conversations. It’s rare that I get a fully-formed image in my mind but I will read about something strange that interests me and I will research it to see if anything grabs my attention. Normally by the time I have finished the work it has complete changed from the thing that influenced it but I think that is what makes it interesting.

Tell us a bit about your process…

I try and keep plenty of sketch books and fill them up with weird characters and life drawings so when it comes to making an actual piece of work or commission I already should have a few relevant drawings and I’m not just starting from scratch. Once I have a finished drawing I use Photoshop to colour and tweak things around.

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.

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.