Sticks and Stones by Patricia Polacco; illustrated by Patricia Polacco. 2020. Two and six B pencils and acetone markers. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Younger Readers.
Brief summary: Trish is going to spend a year of junior high with her father in Michigan instead of with her mother in California. Unfortunately, she breaks out with a red rash all over her face on her first day and is given the name “Cootie” by one of the bullies. As the school year progresses, she befriends two kind and gifted students the bullies have nicknamed “Sissy Boy” who is a remarkable dancer and “Her Ugliness” who is a talented artist. They become best friends and conquer the cruel remarks together.
Comments: It was wonderful to read the author’s letter in the back telling the young readers how the three friends in the story are actually real friends and have prospered with their gifts despite the unkind words of Billy.
Patricia Polacco’s stories never fail to delight.
The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers. 2020. Graphite and colored digitally. Published by Penguin Random House.
Brief summary: Barnabus is a combo of a mouse and an elephant. He lives in a secret lab underneath the Perfect Pets store. Barnabus is one of many failed projects living in bell jars dreaming of the world above thanks to the descriptions of it by a cockroach named Pip. One day Green Rubber Suits come down poking and talking about each creature in a bell jar while putting red stamps on all of the jars…FAIL. Before, they had no idea they were failed lab projects until Pip tells them that they indeed are and that there are better versions of themselves above. The creatures are going to be recycled. Barnabus decides he wants to go up now and see that wonderful world the cockroach tells everyone. All the creatures decide to join Barnabus and their adventures begin with figuring out how to get above. What will they discover?
Comments: I love the imagination and creativity of this book. The Perfect Pets Store is hilarious. Young readers can empathize with the failed projects and the desire of the creatures wanting to escape to live freely in a new world.
The Fan Brothers never fail to share a unique and creative story.
Cozy by Jan Brett; illustrated by Jan Brett. 2020. Watercolor and gouache with airbrush backgrounds. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Brief summary: Cozy, a large musk ox, is separated from the herd in the cold Alaskan tundra. A lemming and her pups come across him standing in the snow and decide to warm themselves next to his foot being very quiet so they are not noticed. A snowshoe hare comes up to Cozy and asks if he could seek shelter under his fur from the snow storm. Cozy agrees asking him to please keep the noise down.
More Alaskan creatures take sanctuary under Cozy all trying very hard to get along so they are not thrown out into the cold. The snow begins to melt. A large hunk of the ox’s fur comes off meaning that spring has come. The animals leave saying they should get together again next winter.
Cozy is happy to find his herd family again.
Comments: Cute story of how to get along. Great story to share when doing the tundra unit with primary students.
Bunheads by Misty Copeland; illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey. 2020. Sketch and painted digitally. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Brief summary: During Misty’s first ballet class, her teacher, Miss Bradley, told the story of Coppelia explaining it would be what they would dance for their first recital. Misty loves the story of the toy maker that created a life-size doll called Coppelia that a boy named Franz fell in love with to the dismay of his sweetheart, Swanilda. The toy maker decides to use the love of Franz to turn the doll into a real girl, but Swanilda becomes aware of the plan and changes her clothes and self to look like the doll. Franz realizes what is happening and marries Swanilda.
Cat is a new friend of Misty’s, and they grow closer competing with the various dance movements. They audition and Cat gets the role of Coppelia, and Misty will be Swanilda. The girls are excited and encourage each other for the recital.
Comments: Misty Copeland is the principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. She also wrote Firebird. I look forward to more ballet books from her.
Nice story of how competition did not make the girls jealous or catty with one another, but instead, supportive.
Rain Boy by Dylan Glynn; illustrated by Dylan Glynn. Watercolor, pastels, cut paper, and colored pencils. Published by Chronicle Books.
Brief summary: Wherever he goes, Rain Boy, a cloud that brings “wet,” cannot get anyone to like him. His classmate, Sun Kidd, is popular because wherever she goes, she brings sunshine. She has a birthday party and invites Rain Boy who makes everything wet. “Rain, Rain, go away,” the classmates shout. Rain Boy sadly causes a storm. He stays inside for months causing everything to be dark and rainy.
Sun Kidd was so upset, that she too stayed away from school. After a bit, the classmates began to see how the rain is actually beneficial. The flowers and trees grow. They play in the puddles. Rain Boy decides to go outside, and after awhile, Sun Kidd joins him showing they could coexist.
Comments: I like how the watercolors used to represent rain and sun helped set the mood of the story. The children changed their minds about their classmates by having more information that helped them see the benefits of both.
Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away by Meg Medina; illustrated by Sonia Sanchez. 2020. Digitally created. Published by Candlewick Press.
Brief summary: Daniela’s best friend, Evelyn Del Rey, is moving. The girls meet on moving day to spend one last time together while remembering the times they had together and talking about what Evelyn’s moving away will mean to their friendship. They hug goodbye and promise to keep in touch.
Comments: This book would be PERFECT to share in the classroom(or a parent-child talk) when one of the students is moving! It could help bring closure for all.
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.
Zero Local: Next Stop: Kindness by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow. 2020. Largescale graphite drawings are taken from photos, actors, and handmade sets in a studio. Published by Candlewick Press.
Brief summary: An artist rides on the train drawing while a young girl watches. Upon leaving the train, the artist gives the thank-you drawing to the engineer. This happens a few more times delighting the recipients. The young girl is on a train where there is some scuffling. Upon leaving, the child gives them origami gifts she made to show them a little love. This gesture unites them just like it did when the artist the little girl watched earlier in the story.
Comments: This story without words in black and white colors accents the characters with yellow who are trying to show kindness despite tension on the train. When the kindness is shared, the recipient turns yellow. Inspired by a true story.
Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield; illustrated by Alleanna Harris. 2020. Published by Little Bee Books.
Brief summary: Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe had a lot more in common than people may have thought at a first glance of the two friends sitting together. Both had hopes, dreams, and the wish of what could happen. Ella was making herself famous through her beautiful singing voice and style. Marilyn was starring in Hollywood movies that were making her famous from her good looks and smile. They both experienced prejudices that were preventing them from furthering their careers.
Marilyn wanted to be taken more seriously than the roles she was being cast based on her physical appearance. She was given a script that would require her to sing. She listened to Ella’s records and was able to find a way to sing from the great jazz musician’s influence. Marilyn’s new movie was a success, so she wanted to thank Ella in real life. Marilyn was able to talk with her idol in person. They became friends. Marilyn was able to help Ella with her career by attending the singer’s performances and bringing the press in to see the talented Ella FitzGerald.
Comments: Had no idea these two were friends! The Author’s Note continues and fills in the story of the two friends with their backgrounds. Both were judged by their appearances. Marylin was able to help Ella stand up to racial discrimination. Beautiful story. Love the photo in the back of them together. You can see in their faces how much they liked each other.
The back pages also have Primary Sources and Secondary Sources.
The Three Billy Goats Buenos by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Miguel Ordonez. 2020. Published by Penguin Books.
Brief summary: This is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and is infused with rhyming Spanish words. Young readers will be delighted by the alternative ending for the troll when they learn why the troll is so grumpy.
Comments: Glossary with punctuation is located at the front of the story. A funny read aloud.