Once upon a time, on the island of music, there was a girl who loved to drum, but only boys were allowed to become drummers. A lyrical, lushly illustrated book inspired by Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, the Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s taboo on against female drummers. Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet and her words shine in Drum Dream Girl. Rafael Lopez won the Pura Belpré Medal for his beautiful illustrations in this book. Such a delightful read!
This is my absolute favorite book for new babies and I recommend it to everyone. It’s not a book specifically for queer families, so much as it is a book that is super inclusive of all kinds of babies and families. A rhyming tale of what babies do.
Pros: Inclusive – there are two moms zonked out with a newborn, there are white grandparents holding a brown-skinned baby, there are dads being dads (i.e., involved and awesome) just as muchas there a moms being moms. Marla Frazee is one of my absolute favorite illustrators and the pictures here are just a delight. Love it.
Cons: There are no cons. Okay, that’s not totally true – for a super inclusive book, it’s surprising to me that there are no illustrations with a kid or parent with a visible disability.
The Bottom Line: So lovely. Buy it, read it, love it, give it away.
Looking for more books about queer families? You can find the other books I’ve reviewed here.
An introduction to the five senses, Rachel Isadora’s I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch & Taste It, Too!) talks about all the things we do (and don’t) hear, see, smell, touch, and taste. We don’t hear a worm, for example, but we do smell stinky cheese! Simple and cute, and a repeat request – mostly during playtime as Frances likes to eat a pickle (or two) while reading. Cute illustrations – and in the tasting section, there is a little girl with a peanut butter allergy (she tastes a jelly sandwich), in case that’s representation you were looking for!
So You Want to Be President? takes a humorous look at the lives, personalities, and commonalities among the first 42 presidents. A basic, non-fiction overview of the presidency, geared toward mid-to-late elementary schools.
The book was written by Judith St. George, who wrote over 40 books – both fiction and biographies for children focused on American History. She published her first book in 1970, and the last in 2009 – a forty year writing career! Judith St. George passed away in 2015 at the age of 84.
The illustrations in So You Want to Be President? are humorous, full of fun details. David Small is one of my favorite illustrators, and he has been nominated for the Caldecott Medal two other times – once for The Gardener (written by his wife, Sarah Small) in 1998 and then again in 2013 for One Cool Friend (written by Toni Buzzeo). He has illustrated over 30 books, 8 of which he also wrote. He has illustrated six books written by his wife, and I must admit those are my favorite.
So You Want to Be President? suffers from one common problem of historical surveys – it was almost immediately out of date. The line that “No person of color has ever been President” seems especially egregious. I wouldn’t choose it to read to a class or kids today for that reason – I’d rather have something up-to-date, or focused on just one historical President. But the illustrations don’t disappoint!
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my eighth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.
Bright, silly rhyming fun! What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virjan is perfect for kids who are building their reading skills – apparently learning to rhyme is an important step towards literacy! Bonus, this is such a quick read, which means I love when it gets picked up at bedtime (Frances gets three books – it’s nice if they aren’t all super long).
I read 12 books in January – 10 were fiction, 2 were non-fiction. 3 were on the Kindle, 9 were in print. Two were by writers of color (gotta work on that).
The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life from a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook by Ellen McCarthy (2015).
I got this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. I found it occasionally trite, as books about love can sometimes be, but I also found lots of great food for thought in this slim volume. I really enjoyed it and it was a quick read!
For Your Love: A Blessings Novel by Beverly Jenkins (2015).
This was another Early Reviewer book! Beverly Jenkins has written over 30 books (including 5 in this Blessings series), but this is the first I’d read – and it was delightful. It sort of reminded me of Maeve Binchy books I’ve read – just about a small black community in Kansas, focusing equally on a bunch of different people and their parts in the cohesive whole of the town. I really enjoyed it. Will definitely read more.
Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson (2015).
I’ve been meaning to read this series for a while and when I saw Task 17 of the Read Harder 2016 challenge (Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years), I knew this would be a perfect match for that. I LOVED it – this comic is set at a girls summer camp and has adventure, mystery, supernatural creatures, and just a hint of budding lesbian love. Will totally be reading them all.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (2015).
Picked this up based on a NPR Book Concierge recommendation and it did not disappoint. I totally loved this tale of a village girl, Agnieszka, who lives on the edge of an enchanted wood and is selected by the local wizard (known as the Dragon) to be his servant (he picks a new girl every 10 years). Rather than a live of servitude, Agnieszka discovers her own magical powers and soon needs to join together with the other witches and wizards in the kingdom to battle the Wood. Great strong female protagonist and wonderful world building. I will definitely need to check out what else Novik has written.
Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein (2016).
I read and enjoyed the first Mr. Limoncello book (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library back in 2013, so I snatched this one right up when I saw it in the library’s new books display. It was equally delightful – a nationwide competition of library skills. So fun! I used this one for Task 5 of the Reader Harder Challenge (Read a middle grade novel) – although it is certainly not the last middle grade novel I will read this year!
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (2015).
After Astrid’s mom takes her and her best friend, Nicole, to the roller derby, Astrid decides she wants to sign up for Junior Roller Derby camp that Summer – despite having no roller skating experience! Nicole prefers to go to ballet camp, and so Astrid finds herself navigating roller derby alone, while also worrying about the possible loss of her best friend. A great middle grades graphic novel, sure to be enjoyed by fans of Raina Telgemeier. This is the first graphic novel that I read on my Kindle and I… didn’t hate. Will probably still mostly stick to print though!
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson (2015)
Man, do I love Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, NJ teenager and superhero saving the world, or at least, Jersey City. Another great entry in the series. Really love how Marvel seems to have realized there is a market for kickass female superheroes.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North (2015).
Continuing my snowy graphic novel weekend, I finally checked out The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and I totally LOVED it. Squirrel Girl is upbeat, fun, and unbeatable. She’s also totally normal girl sized (yay, for a superhero that is not Barbie-like). Love, love, love.
Princeless: The Pirate Princess by Jeremy Whitley (2015).
The third in the series about a princess who rescues herself and her sisters from patriarchy and dragons. The one introduced Raven, the pirate princess, who gets her own spinoff series – yay, more graphic novels to add to the list!
Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson (2015).
The second Lumberjanes book, just as weird and wonderful as the first.
March: Book One by John Lewis (2013).
Graphic memoir by Congressman and civil rights hero, John Lewis about his childhood and introduction into the civil right movement. Exceeded my expectations. I look forward to reading book two!
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (2015).
YA fantasy at it’s best – magical powers, a gang of thieves, an impossible heist. Great characters, world building and adventures. Recommend.
We read this sparse, lyrical book about the water cycle for bedtime last week and I knew right away I was going to post about it. First of all I love that Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul is a science book that is readable as a bedtime story. Yes, please! Second the illustrations by Jason Chin are BEAUTIFUL. I think this is the first book we’ve read illustrated by him, but I will definitely be on the look out for more. Third, the book features a biracial family (black dad, white mom, two kids) which can be hard to find in picture books, especially ones that aren’t specifically about different families. A win all around.