We All Play

Author: Julie Flett

Publisher: GreystoneKids

Release Date: May 25/21

Length: 40 pages

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you, Edelweiss+ and the publisher, for an eARC of this book.

Every time I read a new Julie Flett book, I have a deeper appreciation for her as an author and an illustrator.  We All Play is quietly beautiful if there can be such a thing.

Using two-page spreads, we see a variety of North American animals playing. Using natural muted colours, readers will see rabbits, seals and geese along with animals not as common, buffalos, bats and lynxes playing. After each set of three animals, Ms. Flett shares children playing similarly to the group of animals just showcased. Not only are land, water, and air animals depicted, but so are the seasons represented and animals active during the night.

As much that I adore the artwork in this book, it is the careful consideration of Julie Flett’s words that make this book stand out for me. There are only four words on each page, which means they have to stand out and stand out they do! The use of alliteration and vocabulary word building is one that educators will love to use as a mentor text. Ms. Flett delicately balances using familiar words (hide and hop) to ones not used as frequently (nudge and nuzzle). Again ending the set of three with children and the line “We play too!” until we are all tuckered out and need to rest.

The final copy of the book will include a glossary with all the animals in Cree and English. Another spectacular picture book, reinforcing that we are all connected and more the same than we are different. Classrooms and libraries need more books by Indigenous Peoples, sharing their perspectives on everyday life and events. Preorder this one that comes out in May.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Birdsong, Wild Berries and When We Were Alone

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Prek +

Maybe You Missed…Middle Grade Part 1

Next, to picture books, I love all things middle grade. The bulk of the books I read now are middle-grade books. One of my goals for 2021 is to create specific goals for the middle-grade books I read to ensure I read more Canadian authors. Hence this post focuses on Canadian middle-grade books, and then I will do another post featuring the rest of the middle-grade titles. So here are some books that maybe you missed.

Dragon Assassin by Arthur Slade, Narrated by Clare Corbett

I’m not a fan of dragons, but, oh, did Mr. Slade and Clare Corbette reel me in with this audiobook series. A well-developed world with a complex cast of characters, including a very sarcastic dragon name Brax and a fast-paced plot, had me listening to the wee hours of the night. Carmen, the main character, is a one-eyed assassin who makes a deal with a dragon to seek revenge on her twin brother, who has just tried to wipe out the entire Assasin School from which she just graduated. Just try to tell me you don’t want to find out how that all goes down. The only down part of this story is that you can only get the audiobooks on that platform that starts with A. The first three books are available as one via Scholastic, and fingers crossed, the rest of the series gets printed. That said, the audiobooks are incredible!

War Stories by Gordon Korman

A story that focuses on the intergenerational relationship between a great-grandfather (Jacob) and great-grandson (Trevor), yes, please. Trevor loves all things to do with war glamorizing it and desensitized to the realities of war, while Jacob is carrying a secret one he has kept for far too long. The emotional journey of both of these characters individually and their relationship is unique. The close relationship and the banter they have is not found in middle-grade books often. There is also the opportunity for readers who play war type video games to think more critically about the authenticity of the games and the real-life emotional connections that are not there.

Hatch by Kenneth Oppel

I easily could add Bloom to this list although, I did enjoy the second book Hatch, a little more. In Bloom, we saw the ecosystem developed, but in the second book, it’s all the different species that hatch, and yes, they are twisted and creepy. I love the imagination that Oppel uses in this series and the fast pace of the books. Readers not only get to see the conflicts between the newly hatched creatures and the world but also the characters themselves. I cannot wait to see how Mr. Oppel ties the series altogether – and that’s the power of his writing and imagination. I know there will be twists, but what will they be?

The Barren Grounds by David Alex Robertson

So many yeses to this book. An #ownvoice Canadian author, addressing the many stories that Canadians need to read. Morgan and Eli are live in foster care. Eli is experiencing foster care for the first time, while for Morgan, it is all she has ever known. Eli has ties to his culture and knows it connects to who he is, but for Morgan living in foster care all her life, she has lost this connection to her Indigenous roots. When they pass thru to the barren lands of Askí, via Morgan’s artwork, they meet Ochek (Fisher), who is the hunter for the starving community, Misewa. Misewa is in perpetual winter because a man stole green time from Misewa. Ochek teaches Morgan and Eli the ways of the Indigenous people, and then they agree to help Ochek retrieve “green time” from man to save the community. Elements of foster care, identity and colonialism are all themes evident and stepping stones to truth and reconciliation. Long overdue.

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman 

Louisa is being shipped off to the Tasmanian rainforest to stay with her uncle for the summer. It is the last place she wants to be with an upcoming audition. Louisa is a violinist, unlike her family of conservationists and animal lovers. A summer of self-discovery where maybe a trip half-way around the world shows just how connected you are to your own family. Another book with themes of friendship, family, conservation and a setting with animals that many will not be overly familiar with, this book gives any reader numerous ways to connect.

Peril at Owl Park (Aggie Morton #2) by Marthe Jocelyn 

The second in the series and paying tribute to murder mystery matriarch Agatha Christie, we find Aggie and her friend, Hector, trying to solve a murder at her older sister’s new home at Christmas. Readers have an opportunity to go toe to toe with Aggie and Hector to find out who killed one of the actors in the travelling show. Mysteries that are wickedly well-written and sophisticated and will challenge readers.

Sarah and the Search for Normal by Wesley T King

After receiving several mental health diagnoses, Sara wants nothing more than to be normal. A middle-grade story, providing insight into mental health that many readers live with or know someone living with one or more mental health conditions. False Alarms, Lead Ball and The Danger Game, are how Sara explains panic attacks, depression and schizophrenic episodes and may, for the first time, give this age group a deeper understanding of these mental health diagnoses and lead to greater empathy.  An opportunity to open doors and continue to remove the stigma of mental health.

Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson

Another intergenerational story that does so many things via the impact of a West Highland Terrier named Harvey. Colleen gracefully weaves three stories from the present and the past, using Harvey as the conduit. Maggie, Harvey’s owner, Austin who volunteers and finds Harvey at a senior’s complex and Mr. Pickering, a resident who thinks Harvey is his old dog. The tales of Mr. Pickering and the Depression are so vivid and captivating they steal the show and your heart.

Me and Bansky by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

I loved how the main character Dominica spent time questioning the privacy policies happening in her school and how she used project on artist Bansky to help share her message. Privacy, social media, digital citizenship are all topics that readers generally only have a surface knowledge. Any book that can begin conversations in that direction to get readers to start thinking critically, to reflect and perhaps change their current practices is a book worth promoting.

Let me know in the comments what Canadian books you enjoyed this year! Stay tuned for the rest of the Maybe You Missed Middle Grades…

Laurie

Maybe You Missed…Graphic Novels

In case you missed my post earlier in December, I discussed how in late November, early December, those “Best Lists” roll in, and yes, I admitted to looking at them, but it was more to see what I may have missed rather than see what others have deemed “best.” Since I am always on the lookout for new books to read, enjoy and share with others the past few posts, I have shared books that perhaps you may have missed and can add to your reading stack. I am trying my best to include 12 – one for each month of the year but, admittedly, I am not always successful. 

Today I am sharing graphic novels. I decided to separate the middle-grade graphic novels into genres and then added the young adult section. I provided details about the two Canadian titles that I read. Clearly, I need to read more Canadian graphic novels in 2021!

So here are the graphic novels that Maybe You Missed…

Middle Grade Animals & Fantasy

Kodi by Jared Cullum

Mellybean and the Giant Monster by Mike White

Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian by Tim Probert

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Bear by Ben Queen, illustrations by Joe Todd-Thanton

Middle Grade: Realistic, Historical and Biographical

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Trespassers by Breena Bard

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu

Twins by Varian Johnson and illustrated by Shannon Wright

I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic of 1912 by Lauren Tarshis and art by Haus Studio

Young Adult

As promised, here is some further details on the two Canadian graphic novels that in my opinion should be in every YA classroom and library.

If I Go Missing is the one title not published in 2020 but released in December of 2019. A haunting, powerful book to hiFrom the Roots Up is the second in the Surviving the City series by Tasha Spillet. It begins where Surviving the City left readers off, with Dez grieving over her grandmother, trying to adjust to life in a group home and living life as an Indigenous Two-Spirit person.  From the Roots Up focuses on Dez and her struggles to be accepted. From her best friend Miikwan not fully understanding what Dez is experiencing to Elder Linda still following protocols from when she was young,  readers see the challenges as Dez goes about daily life. Vibrant colours and the inclusion of elder spirits complement the storyline as those connected to Dez work together to make the world more inclusive. Having a Two-Spirit person as the main character and tackling the issues they face and resolving them provides mirrors and windows on a neglected but relevant issue. Everyone needs to see themselves in stories, and From the Roots Up is the first of its kind that I have read to share and inform readers about Two-Spirited people in a caring and informative manner. ghlight again, so more readers become aware of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The book contains excerpts from the letter sent by 14-year-old Brianna Jonnie to the Chief of Police in Winnipeg in 2016, who ponders why the police and media are slower to react when Indigenous females go missing versus white individuals. The novel with few lines outlining who she is as an individual and the many societal stereotypes she is not. With shades of black, grey and white with splashes of red, acknowledging the Red Dress movement, this graphic novel adds to the sombre tone of the sparse but powerful text. The ending drives home the inequities Jonnie feels. “If I go missing and the [Winnipeg Police Service] has not changed the behaviours I have brought to your attention, I beg of you, do not treat me as the Indigenous person I am proud to be.” If you are not familiar with this title, I urge you to read it and include it in your classrooms and libraries.

From the Roots Up is the second in the Surviving the City series by Tasha Spillet. It begins where Surviving the City left readers off, with Dez grieving over her grandmother, trying to adjust to life in a group home and living life as an Indigenous Two-Spirit person.  From the Roots Up focuses on Dez and her struggles to be accepted. From her best friend Miikwan not fully understanding what Dez is experiencing to Elder Linda still following protocols from when she was young,  readers see the challenges as Dez goes about daily life. Vibrant colours and the inclusion of elder spirits complement the storyline as those connected to Dez work together to make the world more inclusive. Having a Two-Spirit person as the main character and tackling the issues they face and resolving them provides mirrors and windows on a neglected but relevant issue. Everyone needs to see themselves in stories, and From the Roots Up is the first of its kind that I have read to share and inform readers about Two-Spirited people in a caring and informative manner. Another must have book for classrooms and libraries.

If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie with Naheni Shingoose, Art by Nshannacappo

Go With the Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneeman

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, Art by Gurihiru

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Art by Danica Novgorodoff

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Flamer by Mike Curato

From the Roots Up (Surviving the City Vol.2) by Tasha Spillett and illustrations by Natasha Donovan

Some of you may not agree with the placement of some titles in Young-Adult, feeling that perhaps you would have them as middle-grade or upper middle grade. I placed them here as the libraries I borrowed from or other libraries I checked placed them as young-adult. It would make for some interesting conversations – are there any you remove from the young-adult?

Next Thursday, I look forward to sharing the Middle-Grade books that Maybe You Missed. Til then, happy reading.

Laurie

Maybe You Missed… Chapter Books and Graphic Novels

I am pleased to see more and more graphic novels suitable for those chapter book readers, and today, I plan on giving them a bit of a spotlight! The elusive chapter books are tough ones to find and have specific characteristics that I looked for when purchasing;

  • short chapters and total page length that allows readers to build confidence
  • engaging topics and often a series with predictable plots to again improve a reader’s confidence
  • strong writing that will build vocabulary and prepare readers to transition into longer and more complex novels

So without further ado, here are some chapter books and graphic novels that I enjoyed this year and again would purchase for libraries and classrooms.

Some Canadian Considerations…

Hockey Night in Kenya by Eric Walters & Danson Mutinda, and illustrated by Claudia Dávila

Cooper and the Dragon Lady by Valerie Sherrard and illustrated by David Jardine

Willa the Wisp (Fabled Stories #1) by Jonathon Auxier and illustrated by Olga Demidova

High and Dry by Eric Walters and illustrated by Sabrina Gendron

Other Chapter Books…

Geeger the Robot Goes to School by Jarrett Lerner and illustrated by Serge Seidlitz

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timblerlake and illustrated by Jon Klassen

A Kitten Called Holly (Jasmine Green Rescues #6) by Helen Peters and illustrated by Ellie Snowdon

Graphic Novels for Younger Readers…

Please note Canadian graphic novels are in red text.

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song

King of the Birds (Arlo & Pips #1) by Elise Gravel

Peter & Ernesto Sloths in the Night by Graham Annable

PeaBee & Jay Stuck Together by Brian “Smitty” Smith

Dewdrop by Katie O’Neill

Fish Feud (Squidding Around #1) by Kevin Sherry

There you have it, my reader’s dozen of chapter books and graphic novels focusing on our younger readers. What titles or series would you add?

Laurie

Maybe You Missed…Picture Books

I get a wee bit passionate when I talk about books – emotional may be more like it, especially with picture books. When working, I was a picture book pusher, if you will, doing drivebys for teachers and students, dropping books into their classrooms and in their hands. When teaching senior students, I always tried to share a picture book tied to what we were learning. My mantra was and will ALWAYS be, E is for Everyone.  

So I am sure it will come as no surprise that it was tough to narrow down this group to twelve. So guess what I didn’t! Instead, I am sharing twelve+ Canadian and twelve+ other picture books that maybe you missed, and fingers crossed, please, pretty please, share the ones I missed in the comments!

The Canadian Dozen +

Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan and illustrated by Anna Bron

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott and illustrated by Sydney Smith

Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates by Kara Kootstra and Bobby Orr and illustrated by Jennifer Phelan

A Stopwatch from Grampa by Loretta Garbutt and illustrated by Carmen Mok

William’s Getaway by Annika Dunklee and illustrated by Yong Ling Kang

The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story by Thao Pao

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Violet Shrink by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Carmen Mok

The Baranbus Project by Eric Fan and Terry Fan and illustrated by Devin Fan

My Day with Gong Gong by Sennah Yee and illustrated by Elaine Chen

Terry Fox and Me by Mary Beth Leatherdale and illustrated by Milan Pavolić

The One With the Scraggly Beard by Elizabeth Withey and illustrated by Lynn Scurfield

Find Fergus by Mike Boldt

Other Reader’s Dozen

The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee and illustrated by Pascal Campion

An Ordinary Day by Elana K. Arnold and illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

Outside In by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Cindy Derby

Me and Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Evelynn del Rey is Moving Away by Meg Medina and illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder

In A Jar by Deborah Marcero

Old Rock (is not boring) by Deb Pilutti

The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Uzúa Kramer

Hike by Pete Oswald

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Kenneth Pak

The Invisible Alphabet by Joshua David Stein and illustrated by Ron Barrett

Favourite Finds for Everyone

November

It was hard to narrow the list down to ten books; I was fortunate to read so many stellar picture books this past month. There are just so many fabulous picture books! As promised, I will highlight some Canadian books today. So here they are in alphabetical order.

A Stopwatch from Grampa: by Loretta Garbutt, illustrated by Carmen Mok,
Kids Can Press 2020

A little boy who has lost his grandfather goes through the stages of grieving after losing his grandfather and receives his stopwatch to keep his memories with him. Dealing with the loss of a loved one with children is not an easy topic. A Stopwatch from Grandpa does it with sensitivity in the word choice and the illustrations that match the emotions of the child. I also appreciated the fact that the character was gender-neutral, so all children can see themselves, relate and connect to the child in the story.

Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates: by Bobby Orr & Kara Kootstra, illustrated by Jennifer Phelan, Penguin Random House

Author Bobby Orr takes us on a trip down memory lane, remembering when he wished for a brand new pair of skates only to receive hand-me-downs. It is a connection that we all have experienced; wishing for something and being disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Despite the disappointment, Bobby ends up loving his hand-me-downs and when he does get new skates, what happens to his second-hand skates? Illustrations make the story come alive, and those who live with winter will appreciate the outdoor scenes and descriptive writing. A book that not just hockey fans will enjoy and perhaps give other readers a trip down memory lane.

The Bug Girl: by Sophia Spencer & Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoët,
Penguin Random House

A story about following your passions no matter what others say and being true to yourself. As a small child, Sophie discovered a love of bugs. When Sophie started school, her friends were supportive, but as she grew older, she was teased and bullied so much that she put her interest in bugs on hold. The fact that a nine-year-old has written the book is powerful, and know young readers will be surprised and empowered by this fact. I liked the fact that she discovered other things she was passionate about and still returned to her bugs. A reminder to all of us, follow our passions and not worry about the opinions of others.

Find Fergus: by Mike Boldt, Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Fergus the Bear is trying to play hide and seek with the reader, except Fergus is not very good at it. Sometimes you need a book that makes you feel good, and this one made me laugh out loud. The illustrations, like the main idea, are fun and playful. Readers will enjoy making predictions about what Fergus will do to try to hide. I know this will be an engaging and fun read-aloud.

The Girl with the Cat: by Beverly Brenna, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan, Red Deer Press

A young girl named Caroline, new to town, and lonely visits the local art gallery and discovers a bronze sculpture of a girl (Nina) in a rocking chair with a cat (Sammy) on her lap. The sculpture becomes almost like a friend, with Caroline speaking to it on her weekly visits. On one visitation, a sign on Nina and Sammy states it is going to move soon. Caroline is distraught and determined to keep the bronze display. With Caroline’s letter writing and advocacy, the people of the city help her, and the sculpture remains in the gallery. Biased, as this is a true story where I live, so I have connections and am familiar with the art piece. That said, you don’t need to be from Saskatoon to celebrate the descriptive writing, the soft illustrations, the feeling of loneliness, and the power one voice can have to make a difference.

The One with the Scraggly Beard: by Elizabeth Withey, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield,
Orca Book Publishers

A little boy sees a man who appears to be homeless and questions his mother about it. Scenes that are common in cities and perhaps for many awkward to discuss with children, finally we are beginning to see books to help with these conversations. I appreciated that Ms. Withey used her experiences to share how she showed readers the many ways the boy and the man had things in common, showing readers that we are more similar than we are different and how everyone has their own path. The illustrations are not what one might expect as they are very colourful, with a few that have darker tones, for example, where the man is sleeping under the bridge. A compassionate and realistic situation, we need more stories like this one and available in classrooms and libraries.

The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story: by Thao Lam, Owlkids Books

This wordless book depicts the story of a Vietnamese family fleeing from their country due to war. A side-by-side story has ants experiencing the same events and emotions. When the family exits, they become separated, and the mother and child follow ants to the ocean. From this point, we only see the horrific journey the ants take and the suffering they endure. Once the surviving ants reach the shore, they start to build a new colony, and we see them once again in the home of the family members who survived. Like the ants, they too are making their way in the new city with other cultures that exist. The collage illustrations and sparse colour palette add to the turmoil and emotions. A book that will make readers think and ask questions.

Terry Fox and Me: by Mary Beth Leatherdal, illustrated by Milan Pavlović,
Penguin Random House

Terry Fox is a national hero, and many books have shared their story, none from the point of view of his best friend Doug Alward. From Doug’s perspective, we get to know a different side of Terry – as he was growing up, wanting to play basketball and being short, and how the two individuals not only became friends but how they pushed one another to do their best. The story takes us to the start of the Marathon of Hope, and the back matter includes more information about running and the Marathon itself. Another book that educators and readers will request, especially in September.

Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, illustrated by Eva Campbell, Groundwood Books

A mother and daughter are returning home from school, the mother missing the warmth of the country she calls home and the daughter reminding her of the beauty of what now is home. The bright illustrations show the beauty of living in a place with a lot of snow – the wintry setting is offset with reds and blues that sparkle and delight. Allowing the little girl to show her mother how to appreciate winter and where home is now is empowering.

When We Are Kind: by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt, Orca Books

Using single sentences, Ms. Gray Smith delivers a powerful message and reminder to its readers. The book begins with Ms. Smith sharing a variety of ways how we can be kind one to one another, including ourselves, then transitions into how we feel when others are kind to us and ourselves. I love how Ms. Gray Smith includes elders, the earth and ourselves as ways we can be kind but also how we feel when kindness is reciprocated.  

There you have it – a variety of some of the picture books from my month of reading. I hope you found some new titles to enjoy. 

Laurie

The Fabulous Zed Watson

Authors: Basil Sylvester and Kevin Sylvester

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: January 26/21

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the authors for sending me an ARC of this book to review.

This was my most anticipated read of 2021, and it exceeded my expectations. I first heard about it last year at NerdCampMI, when Kevin shared that he was writing a middle grade fiction book with his child, Basil. It was the same time that I learned Kevin’s picture book, Gargantua Jr., had a lot more depth than I realized because the main character’s gender was never discussed yet I had attributed one to them without realizing it. I was eager to read The Fabulous Zed Watson and see the world through the eyes of a nonbinary tween, not only for the perspective, but with the hope of expanding my own knowledge about the idea of gender. I was pleasantly surprised that the story did that, and also treated me to a funny, entertaining, and uplifting mystery about a road trip quest to discover the whereabouts of a long lost book.

Zed is part of an online fandom for The Monster’s Castle, a manuscript written by H.K. Taylor that was buried several years ago by the author when he was told the world was not ready for his book’s storylines. Zed and the other fandom members are left to try and crack the code of the poem left behind, unsure if the manuscript even truly exists, but full of hope that it’s waiting to be found. When a discussion leads to a breakthrough, Zed desperately wants to take a road trip to follow the clues and look for it. They team up with their neighbor, Gabe, and his sister, Sam, on her return trip to college to head off on their quest. Although the trip is far from easy with three very different personalities in a small space, the trio not only learn to accept each other’s idiosyncrasies but have a lot of fun (and SO much ice cream!) along the way. They discover they are on the right track, and have interesting experiences at each of their stops as they start to put together clues to the location of their final destination. But they discover they are not the only ones searching for the manuscript, and it becomes a race to see who can find the book first.

My favorite thing about this story was how positive and fun it was to read. I was expecting an “issues” book which often come across as heavy and serious, but this was a joy-filled adventure that still communicated who Zed is and what they experience. Zed has a big personality but Gabe accepts them and tries to understand them rather than judging them. Gabe struggles with having interests that aren’t accepted by everyone around him, but Zed provides support and respect for his interests. It’s a story about friendship, but also about identity and acceptance.

There are so few ownvoices middle grade stories with nonbinary characters, so I sincerely hope this book will make its way into as many classrooms, libraries, and homes as possible. Although this is Basil’s debut, Kevin has a wide range of books for kids all ages. My personal favorite is the science fiction MiNRS series, but his latest is a humorous chapter book series called Hockey Super Six about a team of hockey players with special powers. Both The Puck Drops Here and On Thin Ice are available now in Canada from Scholastic.

Recommended: Gr. 4-7

This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science Is Tackling Unconscious Bias

Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi 

Illustrator: Drew Shannon 

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Release Date: September 1/20

Page Length: 88 pages

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for a digital ARC of this book.

With everything that is going around in the world today, this is a book that not only middle grade and young adults need to read, but adults as well. Many may find a surprise when they discover that the award-winning author of this book is Canadian Tanya Llyod Sky, who is not new to writing nonfiction.

This is Your brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias,  start to finish is only 88 pages long (that’s including the table of contents, index and detailed sources for each chapter), but it packs a powerful punch of well-researched information. The fact that examples were not just American based but from around the world allows readers to understand that there are specific examples of how many countries around the world have to deal with this problem. 

Readers will learn various forms of discrimination tackling tough topics such as racism, sexism, homophobia and an often neglected area, ableism. Ms. Lloyd provides detailed information written so middle-grade readers will understand different terms related to stereotypes such as intergroup bias, dissociation and affective contagion.

Throughout the book, there are historical and current examples that demonstrate how our brain has hidden biases against many minority groups (LGBTQ+, women, and BIPOC are some examples mentioned). Concrete ways to acknowledge privilege and to expand our circles with people of all ages, gender and race to help rewire our brains are in the final chapter and conclusion.

The use of illustrations rather than photos for this book portrays the information as neutral without bias and break up the text, so readers are not overwhelmed. Text features include the usual table of contents, index and sidebars, and the back matter provides readers with a detailed list of sources and further reading material.

A book that is long overdue and needs to be in schools, libraries and homes.

OTHER TITLES BY THIS AUTHOR: Me and Banksy, Mya’s Strategy to Save the World  and DNA Detective 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Gr. 5+

Hatch

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: September 15/20

Reviewer: Kathie

This was one of my most anticipated fall releases, and it was even better than I had expected. It’s been a very long time since I read a whole book this size in one day, but I just couldn’t put it down.

Anaya, Petra and Seth discover they are part alien, and try to keep their physical manifestations of their DNA a secret. Unfortunately, their secret gets out and they are taken to a confined to a facility where they discover that there are other teens just like them. The more the group communicates, the more they realize what they’re capable of, and alliances start to change. Secrets are kept, others are shared with the wrong people, and before long no one is really sure who they can trust. They know they need to escape before the experiments being run on them take things too far, but are the ready for what the outside world has become in their absence? Are they capable of using their skills to save those they love, or will it only endanger them more?

This story reminds me of a dystopian YA novel like Divergent, and yet it works very well for a middle grade audience. The action is fast-paced, the stakes are high, and the shifting alliances and betrayals leave you questioning what’s going to happen next. Each of the characters deals with their own struggle to belong in some way, and I liked watching how their friendship was tested and responded to new challenges. This story felt more emotional to me than the first one, which is probably why I enjoyed it more.

Once again we are let in a cliffhanger for the third book, THRIVE, which is scheduled for a Spring 2021 release, and I already look forward to picking up where this story left off. In the meantime, you can check out any of the author’s other books while you wait. My favorites include THE BOUNDLESS and INKLING, but if you’re into creepy stories, I suggest you try THE NEST.

Recommended: Gr. 6-8

Hockey Night in Kenya

Authors: Danson Mutinda and Eric Walters

Illustrated by Claudia Dávila

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to Eric Walters for sending me an eARC of this story.

This is a story I will definitely be adding to my collection. It’s a chapter book set in Kenya where two boys, Kitoo and Nigosi, share with the reader what life looks like for them in their orphanage. Kitoo loves books and reading, Nigosi loves soccer and learning to fix trucks. Kitoo learns about hockey from a book about sports around the world, and dreams of playing some day. When he comes across a pair of broken and discarded roller blades, and some players offer to share spare parts, Nigosi helps fix up a pair of skates so Kitoo can learn how to play. One thing leads to another, and Kitoo’s dream of learning to play ice hockey may be closer than he thinks.

There are too few realistic chapter books with Black male protagonists, and I really loved that this book took a sport that many Canadian children take for granted, and shows readers a new perspective of it. Danson Mutinda, one of the authors of this books, grew up in Kenya, and I cannot think of another ownvoices chapter book that’s available to Canadian readers that would show them a world so different from their own. I also love how supportive Kitoo and Nigosi are of each other; though they have different interests, they respect and acknowledge what’s important to the other person.

This is a must add to school and public libraries in Canada, but I think it’s relatable enough that I’d love to see it find an audience beyond that our borders.

RECOMMENDED: Gr. 2-5