I Promise by Lebron James; illustrated by Nina Mata. 2020. Adobe Photoshop. Published by Harper
Brief summary: Young readers will learn about promises they can make to be the best they can be. Success begins with them.
Comments: I like the philosophy of this book and the LeBron James Family Foundation’s I PROMISE School in Akron, Ohio where children make say a list of promises each morning. “Remember, Nothing is given; everything is earned.”
Bright illustrations. In rhyme.
The #striveforgreatness would be an excellent and simple program other schools could follow. There is a list of promises students could make and recite each day to be successful…always.
Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka; illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. 2020. Charcoal and digitally colored. Published by Candlewick Press.
Brief summary: Dandelion leaves the meadow of yellow flowers and rides on a train where she continues her journey on the back of a sheep. She keeps traveling until she reaches the city. Dandelion watches a film about airplanes which encourages her dream to ride on a real one. Dandelion changes which allows her to fly to the moon.
Comments: Dandelion is a flower that has four paws, a tail, and a lion’s head. I’ll probably see this character every time I come across a dandelion growing in my yard.
This picture book is a story without words.
Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko; illustrated by Selina Alko. 2020. Published by Harper Collins Children’s Books.
Brief summary: Roberta Joan Anderson painted and played the piano as a child. At ten years old, she contracted polio but was still able to sing and write songs. As a high school student, Roberta painted in addition to playing music on a ukulele that she bought on her own after saving up money from modeling.
She moved several times in Canada and never lost her love of expressing herself through art.
When she was in her early 20s, she married Chuck Mitchell and changed her name to Joni Mitchell. She now lived in America and began to write her own folk songs and performed them around the continent becoming more and more famous.
Comments: I always like to see a photograph in the back pages but there was not one included, however, there are a discography and an author’s note.
This is a very basic biography of Joni Mitchell’s life full of accomplishments.
This narrative nonfiction biography could be shared in music class, women’s history month, or a biography unit. Students will really understand this iconic Canadian folk singer and songwriter if this book is paired with her live performances which truly capture her musicality and words that made her so well known in the 1960s and 1970s.
The detailed and montage illustrations capture the folklore style.
Outside In by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Cindy Derby. 2020. Watercolor with powdered graphite on cold press paper; dried flower stems and thread soaked in ink were used form some of the lines. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.
Brief summary: A young girl plays outside and misses Nature when she is inside. When she is inside, the girl sees and feels Outside through the sunshine rays warming the house, the cotton clothing she wears, and the chair that once was a tree.
Young readers will also notice how Outside is inside in many ways.
Comments: I liked how the story compared how Mother Nature is inside our houses. I think that young readers may not be aware of that and adults may forget. A friendship.
I though the word play was keen. We usually say “inside out”.
Outside is with a capital “O” throughout the story to signify a friend with a proper name and perhaps, to signify how we always capitalize Mother Nature in the same way.
At the Pond by Geraldo Valério; illustrated by Geraldo Valério. 2020. Graphite pencil, color pencil, acrylic paint, latex pain, color markers, and a little bit of gouache paint. Published by Groundwood Books.
Brief summary: A boy walks his dog on a chain leash in the woods to the pond of swans. The boy rides on the back of one of the swans. The pond is full of birds and other animals with beautiful flowers growing on the shore.
The boy takes off the dog’s leash so it could play with the butterflies. The little boy puts it around the neck of the swan instead which causes the pond to turn gray and all of the swans to fly away.
The boy takes off the chain and drops it into the pond which brings all of the colors and animals back to the pond.
Comments: A simple but excellent story without words for children to learn about the respect and empathy of Mother Nature’s animals. Using the bright colors to symbolize happiness and the black and white section to equal imprisonment and unhappiness helps readers understand the story.
Run, Sea Turtle, Run: A Hatchling’s Journey by Stephen R. Swinburne; illustrated by Guillaume Feuillet. 2020. Illustrated with photography. Published by Millbrook Press.
Brief summary: A sea turtle hatchling narrates her life’s beginning on a warm beach. Young readers learn how the sea turtle gets out of an egg, her struggle to climb out of the nest’s hole, and finally, crawling along the sand with her many brother and sisters to get to the ocean.
She grows bigger each day planning to return to the beach to lay her eggs.
Comments: First-person narrative. Back pages include “Sea Turtle Life Cycle”, “How You Can Help Sea Turtles”, “Sing a Song About Sea Turtle Hatchlings, and “Further Reading”.
One Earth by Eileen Spinelli; illustrated by Rogerio Coelho. 2020. Published by Worthy Kids.
Brief summary: This rhyming counting book celebrates the earth by showing young readers nature conservation in the way of recycling, upcycling, energy conservation, gardening, and nature appreciation.
Comments: The colorful illustrations and rhyming are a great mix. A counting book of going up to ten and back down again are always appreciated by teachers and young readers.
I always look forward to an Eileen Spinelli book.
Almond by Allen Say; illustrated by Allen Say. 2020. Illustrated with charcoal, pastel, and photographs. Published by Scholastic Press.
Brief summary: A New Girl arrives at school and shares her beautiful violin talents. Almond can imagine the flight of the bumblebee getting faster as her new classmate gets better practicing every day. Almond asks her mother what her talent could be since the only thing special about her was her long hair. Almond’s teacher announces that there will be a class play where Almond will play Rapunzel.
As Almond is pretending to be a princess in a tower, she can hear the New Girl below play her violin with a new song. Almond finally realizes what her talent is by the compliments she receives after the play. It was not her hair that was special, but her imagination to pretend to be different things.
Comments: I think this is a great book to share with young readers to help them examine and figure out what they are good at doing. Everyone has something that they can do well.
Lift by Minh Lê; illustrated by Dan Santat. 2020. Published by Hyperion.
Brief summary: Iris’s job is to push the lift’s button for her family every day until one time her little brother surprisingly does it. She does not like that. The next time the family stands in front of the elevator, Iris darts out front and pushes the button for it to arrive and then all of the buttons inside of the elevator. A few days later, she notices that the maintenance man is fixing a broken elevator and throwing away the button. Iris takes it and runs up to her room where she tapes it by her closet’s door and pushes it. It dings. She goes into another world and then another. Iris decides it would be more fun to share the adventures with her little brother.
Comments: I love that the end pages have the beginning and end of the story on them instead of being the usual white.
The story is mainly told with detailed graphic illustrations.
This is the second picture book of the duo.
Drawn Together is their first, published in 2018.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; illustrated by Michaela Goade. 2020. Published by Roaring Brook Press.
Brief summary: A young female water protector shares how important water is for not only humans but also for various creatures. She foretells how the black snake will destroy the sacred water, so rallies for her people to stand up against its poison. It is their job to protect those who cannot fight against the monster.
Comments: “In Ojibwe culture, women are the protectors of the water…” The story does not tell that the black snake is an oil pipeline. Metaphorical. Lyrical. Beautifully illustrated.
Back pages–“More on Water Protectors, Further Reading, Glossary, and Illustrator’s Note, Pledge