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Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas

Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas

Juana & Lucas

I had a blast reading Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas. Author and illustrator Juana Medina, like the main character in her book, is from Bogotá, Columbia. I know some bilingual teachers who would be uncomfortable with the code switching in this book; I love it. For me, inserting some Spanish words in places where the context or illustrations make the word meanings plain adds color and flavor to this chapter book written mainly in English.

Juana, her Mami, and her dog Lucas have an almost perfect life together. They have a routine and a support group of family and friends that keep them happy. Things start to change when Mami gets a new hairstyle and starts wearing more perfume. The new man in Mami’s life is Luis, an architect. Juana likes him but she doesn’t want things to change, and she doesn’t want Mami and Luis to get married. We learn about Juana’s dad who passed away and about the sadness of not having a father. We share in the characters’ preparations for the wedding and the move. All of this is portrayed sensitively, but also with humor. The illustrations fit the book well.

I learned about a favorite Columbian soup, ajiaco. It is creamy and made of several types of potatoes that cook to various consistencies. It has corn on the cob, capers, chicken, sour cream, and herbs, and is topped with a slice of avocado. The other unfamiliar food to me is chocolate con queso. This special treat consists of hot chocolate with chunks of cheese—chihuahua, queso fresco, or mozzarella. Evidently it is a delight of sweet and salty and is served with bread. I’m ready for a trip to Columbia!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Candlewick for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes:  Age Range: 5 – 8 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Publication:  May 14, 2019—Candlewick

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Penguin Days–autism spectrum disorder

Penguin Days

by Sara Leach

Illustrated by Rebecca Bender

Penguin DaysLauren’s family makes a difficult two day car trip to North Dakota for Auntie Joss’ wedding because flying has been a disaster before for Lauren who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is learning how to control her reactions to changes and to certain things that make her uncomfortable. She takes things literally and doesn’t always understand jokes or react instinctively to facial expressions or body language. She is, however, an intelligent child with a passion for reading and insects.

Several problems arise in Penguin Days with the whole wedding scenario. Lauren is under the impression she will be the only flower girl when, in fact, she is one of three. She doesn’t like her dress because it isn’t comfortable and itches. Without meaning to, Lauren ruins the dress. Lauren’s mom has several solutions up her sleeve because she works hard to understand what Lauren is thinking. You’ll enjoy learning how the parents solve these problems and enlist the help of extended family members. Lauren even begins to make friends with her cousins as the story comes to a close.

If you are ever in public and you see a child having a meltdown, don’t judge. Maybe he is a child who needs more discipline and boundaries, but maybe, just maybe, you are witnessing a child on the Autistic Spectrum. If the child is lucky, like Lauren, she is receiving professional help to learn how to control her inner fireworks and to interact with others socially. In the U.S., where for whatever reason autism is on the rise, we are becoming more aware of autism and learning how to manage its effects better. Not everyone, however, has the money or skills to navigate that system. Also, the intervention is most effective when it happens early, and the changes do take hard work, consistency, and time. Meanwhile, Penguin Days is a wonderful, sensitive tool to help the child with autism and the rest of us to understand how autism plays out on the inside and manifests itself on the  outside of the child on the Autistic Spectrum.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: 1. Very good illustrations

  2. Sensitive book sharing the perspective of both the autistic child and her family.

Publication:   January 18, 2019—Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing)

Memorable Lines:

“You’re precious.” “Gems are precious,” I said. “I’m not a gem. But I would like to be an amethyst. They are purple.”

Mom and Dad always say my brain works differently than other people’s brains because I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say my different brain is one of the things they love about me.

The barn got really noisy. Mary Lou mooed. Kevin yelled. And somebody was screaming. I lay on my back in the prickly hay. Mary Lou stepped toward me. I curled into a ball, covered my head with my arms, and started rocking back and forth.

The Library of Ever–unforgettable library adventures

The Library of Ever

by Zeno Alexander

The Library of EverLenora is a rich, privileged, eleven year old, cared for by a nanny in the absence of her vacationing, neglectful parents. With a nanny absorbed by shopping and tech devices, Lenora is understandably bored, but that changes quickly when she escapes the nanny’s unwatchful eye in the LIBRARY. To her delight, she is hired to work there. What follows is a series of magical librarian adventures. With each one of them, Lenora proves her worth and advances from Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian up through the ranks.

The adventures are fun and scary in this amazing library created by Zeno Alexander in The Library of Ever. Lenora is set on tasks by Malachi, the Chief Answerer, and she bravely confronts the Forces of Darkness who want to destroy Light in the world by destroying knowledge. The scary features are appropriate to Middle Grade readers with transporting by tubes, shrinking and unshrinking, dark caverns, holes that suddenly appear, evil men in bowler hats who can chill a room, and robots with spinning swords for arms.  There are lighter moments too. Lenora becomes a cat in a diorama to rescue a lost kitten. Lenora is ever helpful, for as a librarian that is her job. Her good deeds include resettling a colony of penguins and helping a kindly robot find a lost memory. The plot moves quickly from adventure to adventure and is an appropriate length for Middle Grade readers. As an adult reader I enjoyed it too, smiling over antics and anticipating each new adventure along with each promotion for Apprentice Librarian Lenora who has always enjoyed the adventures to be found in books.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Middle Grades

Notes: Ages: 8-11

  Grades: 4-7

Publication:  April 30, 2019—Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Memorable Lines:

Malachi burst onto the scene looking rather disheveled, meaning a wisp of hair had escaped from her bun and her badge was ever so slightly askew.

“This isn’t the Complaints Desk,” said Lenora shortly. “The Complaints Desk is down the stairs, across the hall, over the bridge, past the waterfall, then you take the fifth left after the third right and straight on ’til morning.” Lenora had no idea if there was a Complaints Desk. “You’ll also need ice skates.”

Remember, Lenora, you are not alone in this fight, even if it will feel like that sometimes. You have allies, and you can rely on them to help you with the battles you are not yet ready to fight.

THE CURIOUS SPACE QUEST

Hunt with Newton: What are the Secrets of the Universe?

by Julia Golding with Andrew Briggs and Roger Wagner

Illustrated by Brett Hudson

Hunt with NewtonHunt with Newton is interesting and informative at the same time.  Part science fiction, part theological inquiry, and part historical information about science, Julia Golding’s book takes children on a time travel adventure with a tortoise and a cat. The writing in that part of the story is somewhat strained. Anecdotes about the scientists are more interesting. Readers will also appreciate the inclusion of fun do-it-at-home science experiments. There is a timeline of 17th and 18th century discoveries that might have been better placed as an addendum, because it is dry without the depth needed to hold the reader’s interest. In discussing the scientists, the author jumps about a bit in time periods making the book somewhat disjointed. The connections made between science and religious thinking are interesting.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lion Hudson Limited for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. No grade level indicated for intended audience

  2. Part of a series: The Curious Space Quest

Publication:  February 1, 2019—Lion Hudson Limited

Memorable Lines:

“The point I’m trying to make, Milton, is that, like many people at the time, he didn’t see a difference between science and magic.”

“The big step forward for science is that Pascal decided you could test if this idea is correct…”

Rocky Road to Galileo: What is Our Place in the Solar System?

by Julia Golding with Andrew Briggs and Roger Wagner

Illustrated by Brett Hudson

Rocky Road to GalileoIn a previous book, Harriet, a time traveling tortoise, was “tortoisenapped”by an Alexandrian scientist. As Rocky Road to Galileo opens, Milton, her feline time traveling companion, sets about to rescue her using the time machine. He discovers a Muslim invasion of Egypt has caused a dispersion of scientists, and with them Harriet.

There is a discussion of the Islamic Golden Age extending into Spain, a timeline of science in medieval Europe, and a look at the development of the scientific method along with a number of new technologies. Featured in this book is “Milton’s Notebook” in which the cat records some of his thoughts about what he is seeing and learning on their time travels.

The time traveling duo visit Friar Roger Bacon who emphasizes experimentation over reasoning and debate. Most of the scientists, both Muslim and Christian, had ideas about science and its relationship to religion. The cat and tortoise continue to jump about in time and land in Germany in time to see the first book printed on the Gutenberg press. They later go to Poland in 1510 to meet Copernicus who challenges rational earth-centered thinking. Other thinkers visited along the way are Martin Luther, William Shakespeare, and Galileo.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lion Hudson Limited for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. Includes website suggestions for more information

  2. Part of a series: The Curious Space Quest

Publication:  February 1, 2019—Lion Hudson Limited


 

Just Like You–alike or different?

Just Like You

by Sarah J. Dodd

illustrated by Giusi Capizzi

Just Like You.jpgJust Like You is the perfect story for teaching children to appreciate commonalities in their friendships. Miki the Meerkat makes a new friend when Raffa the Giraffe becomes Miki’s new neighbor at the zoo. At first the two focus on their differences. Later they discover that they both like to watch the moon when they have trouble sleeping and they’re both scared of lightening and thunder. Soon they learn to appreciate their different perspectives and become fast friends.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lion Hudson Limited for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes:  Age Range: 3 and up 

  Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten

Publication:   March 23, 2018— Lion Children’s Books

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog–introduction to the animal shelter

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog

written and illustrated by Lisa Papp

Madeline Finn and the Shelter DogIf you like kids and reading and you have a heart for shelter dogs, then you will enjoy sharing Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog by Lisa Papp with a child in your life. The storyline is simple. A little girl, Madeline, begs her mother for a puppy. Mrs. Dimple, who volunteers at a shelter, has a rescue dog, Bonnie, with some pups. Madeline is allowed to choose one, and in the process she learns about shelters where animals wait for their forever homes as well as how to care for her new puppy. Madeline is a girl of action. She not only helps at the shelter, she also rallies her community to bring blankets and books to read to the shelter animals. Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog is a sweet read with gentle and engaging illustrations.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Peachtree Publishers (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Publication:  March 1, 2019—Peachtree Publishers (Myrick Marketing)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The Poetry of Mister Rogers

Lyrics by Fred Rogers and Josie Carey

Music by Fred Rogers

Illustrations by Luke Flowers

A Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodMr. Rogers (Fred McFeeley Rogers) influenced several generations of children with his kind and gentle ways in his television neighborhood. He understood that children need routines to feel safe so he started and ended his show the same way each day. Now we have a compilation of his poetry which, as a trained composer, he put to music as well.

I enjoyed reading his poems. They have a wide range of topics, but contain reassuring verses to help children understand their feelings, and the world around them. He is not shy about sharing his love and encouraging children to do the same. Other topics he addresses include positivity, doing your best, feeling good about yourself just the way you are, and parents. One poem that I think particularly demonstrates his understanding of childhood fears is “You Can Never Go Down the Drain.” 

I think this would be a fun book to share with children, choosing poems at random or when a child has a particular need. The illustrations are colorful and reflect the magic of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. This book ends with a brief biography for adults of a fascinating man who has influenced so many in a positive way.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Quirk Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction, Poetry

Publication: March 19, 2019—Quirk Books

Memorable Lines:

You’ve made this day a special day by just your being here.

 

It isn’t by size that you win or you fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

 

It is the people you like the most

Who can make you feel the maddest.

 

It’s you I like. 

It’s not the things you wear. 

It’s not the way you do your hair. 

But it’s you I like.

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