All You Knead is Love

Author: Tanya Guerrero

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Release Date: March 31/21

Reviewer: Kathie

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

I loved the author’s debut book, How to Make Friends With The Sea, so I was delighted to get a chance to read this book before its publication date. There are many things I enjoyed about this upper middle grade story, including all the BREAD!

Alba’s mother unexpectedly sends her to live with her estranged grandmother in Spain for a while. Feeling rejected, Alba is surprised to arrive in Barcelona and find a welcoming and loving grandmother who accepts Alba’s short hair, rock band T-shirts, and desire to dress for comfort rather than fashion. Alba also befriends a baker whom she later discovers was her mother’s childhood best friend. He mentors her in the kitchen and gives Alba an opportunity to focus on learning the art of breadmaking while providing support Alba never received from her own father. Just when Alba thinks her life is turning around, her mother shows up and announces that she’s left Alba’s father, who has been abusing her for several years. Alba struggles with learning about her mom’s past, reconciling that with the parent that’s raised her, and finding a way to move forward with the one her mother now wants to be. In the midst of all this, the bakery that Alba loves is threatened with closure, and she desperately wants to find a way to hold on to a place that matters so much to her.

I loved Alba’s grandmother, Abuela Lola, and her strong, loving presence in Alba’s life. Alba blossomed in her home, and the supportive community of people with whom she was connected offered Alba the acceptance and support she so desperately needed. I also really enjoyed how much culture there was in this story, and how beautifully it was described. The streets of Barcelona really came alive for me with the sights, sounds, and smells that were described. Food was a integral part of the story, and not only did Alba connect to her Filipino heritage, but Spanish and Chinese dishes play important roles in fostering community. I appreciated that Abuela Lola asked Alba shortly after she arrived what gender she identified with, and Alba communicated that she identified as a girl but dressed the way that made her comfortable.

I think young readers will find many ways to relate to Alba and her trust issues, while also finding hope from her story.

Recommended: Gr. 5-7

Favourite Finds for Everyone!

I am hoping that along with a regular Noteworthy and Nourishing post that I began last week that I can do the same for the stacks of picture books that I read. Some will be new releases, some upcoming releases and others will be older books that I have recently discovered, listed in alphabetical order.

Author: Antoinette Portis

Publisher: Neal Porter Books

Release Date:

April 14/20

Riddles with rich vocabulary all revolving about nature, one page provides the poetic riddle, with the following page providing the answer. I love the way Antoinette Portis reveals a new way to look at things with her words and the illustrations. Many may think that this book is one for younger readers, but I know the #classroombookaday teachers will look at the author’s craft of the language used to evoke beauty and a new perspective.

Author: Fan Brothers

Publisher: Tundra

Release Date: Sept. 1 -20

Waaaay beneath the surface of the Perfect Pets store where children can buy genetically engineered pets lives Barnabus, a Failed Project. Half mouse and half elephant, Barnabus dreams of the world above that his friend Pip the cockroach has shared with Before they are recycled by the people in green suits, the other Failed Projects band together to escape.

As with all other Fan Brother books, the illustrations alone are worth the purchase. This one packs an extra punch with its message of following your dreams and staying true to yourself. A definite book to add to your classroom and libraries.

Author: Jonathan D. Voss

Publisher:Henry Holt and Co.

Released: 2018

A delightful story about friendship, where Olive likes her adventures in books and Hoot the stuffed Owl prefers to experience his outside. Stunning illustrations, with some memorable lines such as, “As long I’m here and you’re there, and here and there aren’t very far apart, we can never be lost.” make this book the perfect older published find.

Author & Illustrator: Nelly Buchet & Andrea Zuill

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books

Release Date: April 28/20

Almost wordless, this is the story of two families coming together and figuring things out. Andrea Zuills’s subtle details in the illustrations capture so many emotions – one example is how the woman is standing on her tiptoes to hug the man upon arrival. The captured expressions on the animals are priceless and recognized by dog and cat owners. I loved this unique way to talk about becoming a blended family and will allow readers to share their experiences using an animal character.

Author: Katrina Moore

Illustrations: Xindi Yan 

Publisher: little bee books

Release Date: April 7/20

A story about a granddaughter meeting her grandfather for the first time, I love how BOTH of the characters overcome their language and cultural differences and begin to bond with one another. The expressions on Yeh-Yeh are spot on of what appears to be a cantankerous senior, and yet he is trying to get to know his granddaughter. Lots of ways to unpack this story and appreciate the recipe at the back so readers can experience how Daisy and Yeh-Yeh finally connected.

Author: Charlene Chua

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Release Date: Sept. 1/20

A cat coughs up a hairball and proceeds to say to the girl that he is not feeling well. The girl asks if the cat would like a hug, and he replies, yes. Animal after animal – come asking for a hug until a unicorn comes by and she asks if it too would like a hug and replies, no, I’m good. The little girl continues to be accosted by various animals for a hug until she finally has had enough and yells. A humorous looking at boundaries and personal space, asking for something and being okay to reply No. Lots of variety of animals and expressive illustrations will make this one a fun read-aloud.

Author & Illustrator: Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James

Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books

Release Date: Sept. 1/20

A beautiful, beautiful book that inspires and provides hope. Our narrator expresses all the good things he is including the times when he has fallen, been there for others who needed a hug and the reality of how others see him and call him names. The illustrations that capture the fun, the sad and the love are breath-taking. It is hard to come up with something new and original about this book as people more eloquent than I have expressed the power of this book. No other way to say it, read this book and then share it.

Author & Illustratoe: A.E. Ali & Rachele Jomepour Bell

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: June 30/20

A kindergarten class bonds, by sharing their favourite day over the school year. The choices of the favourite days often reflect different cultures, and there are opportunities lost to provide more information about the individual days and the pronunciations. I was pleased to see days that also included non-cultural days, so it is inclusive. There is a family that celebrates science, and so they talk about March 14 and Pi. This book shows another way to build relationships year-round, not just with the students in the class but to include families as well.

Author: Sarah Kurpiel

Publisher: Grennwillow

Release Date: May 12/20

I found out about this book through my TL friend Megan and who also personally can relate to the story as two of her pack are huskies. Maple is a husky who is often mistaken for a wolf and then begins to question her own identity. Confusion about who you are, how you fit in and trying to be someone you are not are common themes, and everyone will be able to relate to this story. Also important to note is the power wheelchair used in the book is the author representing herself, reaffirming everyone needs to see themselves in books.

Author & Illustrator: Miranda Paul & Ebony Glenn

Publisher: Clarion Books

Release Date: July 7/20

Another excellent way to share the many ways one can speak up. The book told in rhyme shared a variety of situations when you need to find your voice and speak up. I liked that it included mental health, the environment but also not following the pack when you know it is not the right thing and leading others away from a possible choice by offering an alternative. The back matter in this book is helpful by sharing ways for quieter individuals to have a voice without having to be the center of attention along with kids who spoke up to lead change.

So ten of my favourite picture books read this past month. I’d love to hear of your favourite finds this month in the comments.

From The Roots Up

Author: Tasha Spillett

Illustrator: Natasha Donovan

Publisher: Highwater Press

Release: October 27/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC of this book.

I was very excited to get a chance to read this YA graphic novel sequel to Surviving The City. The series is set in Winnipeg, and it’s an important book for readers not only for its insightful and honest depiction of what many Indigenous youth face, but for greater empathy and understanding about the Two-Spirit person experience.

In this story, Dez is living in a group home after the death of her kokum. She and Miikwan are still best friends, but they’re both exploring relationships with other people. Dez is discovering that she is a Two-Spirit person, but she isn’t sure how to tell Miikwan. Miikwan is attracted to a new boy at school named Riel, and invites him to take part in an after school program for Neechi students. When Dez wants to take part in the drumming that is traditionally a male-only activity, the Elders are faced with addressing change and expanding their understanding of the gender roles with which they were raised. Riel’s Auntie Alex, who is a Two-Spirit person, attends one of the group’s meetings and talks about their experience, and the fact that many nations have had individuals who have different genders or sexualities, but that it’s a part of their cultures that were also taken from them. As Dez begins to connect to a new identity, each person in the story is affected by it.

I think this story is so important because I have never read a story for young people that addresses Two Spirit people, and how they can feel like they belong just as they are. Not only does the author teach the reader, but she does so in a way that’s relatable and respectful of teens and their relationships. I loved the older and supportive female characters such as the group mom, Karen, and Elder Linda, who help Dez and accepted her period of self exploration. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and add so much depth to the story.

This book is an essential addition to classroom and libraries not only in Manitoba, but also across Canada and the US. Please make sure you also have the first book in the series, Surviving the City.

Fish Out of Water

Author: Joanne Levy

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Release date: September 22/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the author for sending me an eARC of this book.

I really enjoyed this story about Fishel (aka Fish), and his desire to learn to knit when not everyone around him supports his interest.

Fish’s Bubby knits the most wonderful socks; he thinks they feel like a hug. When he decides he wants to learn how to knit socks for his bar mitzvah project to do good deeds, he asks his Bubby to help him, but she says that knitting is not for boys. He starts to think the idea might be too difficult to achieve until he discover that the knitting club meets at school during the lunch hour. When he tells his best friend, Seth, that he’s going to join, Seth makes fun of him for wanting to be a girl and rejects him for other friends. Fish can’t understand why wanting to pursue this interest is frowned up, and why he can’t just do the activities that interest him regardless of his gender. He also runs into resistance in his family when his step-dad wants him to play water polo, and Fish secretly switches to a Zumba class for seniors because he loves to dance. As he continues to do what he likes, he finds supportive people who encourage him, and help him turn his project into something he never could have imagined.

What I liked most about this story is the way it addresses gender stereotypes, and how it demonstrates that labeling as behavior as “for girls” is a sexist comment. I think it’s extremely important that kids are encouraged to pursue their passions without being teased or ridiculed for them, and we need to challenge those assumptions and the language used to make them more inclusive for everyone. Not only does this story help Fish broaden the minds of those who believe in more traditional gender roles, but it also shows the willingness of people to change (and a long kept secret comes to light as a result that supports Fish and those important to him). I also really enjoyed the ownvoices Jewish representation in the story.

The Orca Currents books are contemporary, high interest books that are short in length for developing readers. This one is recommended for readers age 10-14 who are not reading at grade level. If you aren’t familiar with these books, I highly recommend you check them out. Many well known Canadian writers contribute to Orca Currents, and a couple other titles I have really enjoyed are EMBRACE THE CHICKEN by Mahtab Narsimhan and DEATH BY AIRSHIP by Arthur Slade.

A Place At The Table

Authors: Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan

Publisher: Clarion Books

Release Date: August 11/20

Reviewer: Kathie

I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this story told in two different voices. Sara is Pakistani-American, and her mother is teaching a South Asian cooking class after school that she attends. Elizabeth is British-American and attends the class with the hope of learning how to make better meals for her family. The girls discover that both of their mothers are preparing to take their U.S. citizenship test, and bring them together with the hope that they can help each other study and prepare. In the process, they become tentative friends who have to learn how to trust, support, and understand each other and their respective cultures, and its effect on them as individuals.

What I loved most about this story is how Sara teaches Elizabeth what it truly means to be an ally, and what that looks like. I think that’s a valuable lesson for young readers (as well as adult ones) who don’t understand what that term means and how to support a friend whose race is different from their own. I also love that food is such a big part of this story, and that the girls explore how to create a culinary fusion for the international cooking contest they enter. There is a lot of excellent discussion material in this story on big topics such as race, religion and immigration, but also friendship, family, and how to make choices to be the type of person you want to be.

I have a copy on its way for our library’s collection. Both of these authors have written others books I really enjoyed and suggest you check out. Saadia writes the Yasmin series of chapter books, illustrated by Hatem Aly, and has an upcoming middle grade book called A THOUSAND QUESTIONS that I’ll be reviewing soon (spoiler: it’s a 5 star read). Laura is the author of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY AND TAKEDOWN, both middle grade stories I highly recommend.

Recommended: Gr. 4-7