Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow; illustrated by Luisa Uribe. 2020. Published by The Innovation Press.

Brief summary: A girl has a bad first day because no one could say her name correctly. On the walk home from school, her mother explains to her daughter that names can be said like songs. She sings various names so her little girl hears them. The mother taps out the rhythm of a name as well as emphasizing where the accent goes by tapping it louder than the others. Soon, the girl becomes confident with her name and can’t wait to go back to school to share her song.

When it is time for Ms. Anderson to do the roll call, the teacher stalls trying to make sure she says the girl’s name correctly. The little girl takes the opportunity to teach her teacher and fellow classmates the song of each of their names before saying her own: Kora-Jalimuso. Soon each child sings her name back to her. “KO-rah DJAAAA-lee-MOOOO-so

Comments: This is the book I would have read to my students at the beginning of the school year when we were getting to know each other if I weren’t already retired. What a great opening to share each other’s names like Kora-Jalimuso did!

I always appreciated it when the ESL teacher gave each of us “special” teachers a list of new students including how their names were phonetically said. Many students had a hard time at first saying my name correctly until I made a poster with my name with the phonetics underneath and two red photos of Ferraris.

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow shares the pronunciations of the names featured in her story, Your Name is a Song.

Stick and Stones by Patricia Polacco

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

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.

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann; illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann. 2020. Pencil on tracing paper and then digitally collaged and painted. Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: Ernestine excitedly goes camping for the first time ever with her Aunt Jackie and Cousin Samantha. She excitedly packs her clothes ready for the long drive to the country. The girls decide to put up their own tent. Ernestine learns that it is not like making a fort at home. After getting sweaty, the two girls go the pond to fish where Ernestine is afraid the fish will bit her, but Samantha confirms that they do not.

It is time for all three to take a hike and have a picnic. The girls discover the Nature around them. They have a campfire in the evening when they learn to make smores before going to bed. It is very dark and Ernestine wants to talk to her father, but there is no reception.

After a good night sleep, Ernestine is able to really enjoy the rest of the camping.

Comments: Some of the story is in comic book blocks. Cute story of two cousins enjoying camping.

Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses

Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses; illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. 2020. Jimmy Patterson Books; Little, Brown and Company.

Brief summary: A young girl and her guitar-toting father adventure into the countryside to get her mother at the farmer’s market before all three head to the fairgrounds where they sing together on stage.

Comments: Beautifully illustrated!

Note: Keep in mind that this book’s interpretation of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses has a different storyline. The song was about Axl Rose’s girlfriend, Erin Everly. Before I knew the original story behind the song, I always thought it was talking about a parent’s love for his child just like the illustrations do in this picture book.

Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham

Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham; illustrated by Bob Graham. 2020. Watercolor and ink. Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: Ellie finds a baby dragon and calls him Scratch. She makes a bed for him. When she asks her mother for some matches for him to eat, her mother can only see an empty matchbox and cotton balls. Ellie places Scratch in her dollhouse and cares for him by feeding him hot related foods. She takes him to preschool and shares him with everyone. When she attends kindergarten, she forgets to take him to school with her and misses Scratch’s first flight. As Ellie grows older, she spends less time with her dragon, missing his growing and important days until one day, he leaves. Once in a while, Ellie thinks she sees him. Does Scratch really exist?

Comments: Love the end pages that begin and end the story. So much better than blank white ones. Clever way of explaining how we outgrow things as we get older.

Cozy by Jan Brett

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.

A Ben of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin by Michael J. Rosen

A Ben of All TradesA Ben of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin by Michael J. Rosen; illustrated by Matt Tavares. 2020.

Brief summary: This narrative nonfiction biography is a glimpse in the boyhood of Benjamin Franklin. Young readers can see another side of the famous man through his character as a boy. His grit to persevere when trying to solve a problem or improve an invention is a good model for young readers. It will also have children laughing with Benjamin’s antics especially when trying to figure out how to swim faster.

Ben’s father notices that his son excels at each of the tasks given to him by several different tradesmen. It’s just that Ben was not enjoying doing the same thing over and over. Hoping for his son to find a career, Benjamin is sent to his older brother, James, who works in a print shop. Benjamin enjoys printing and excels with this new skill.

Comments: This book gave us a glimpse of his personality as a child…full of imagination and curiosity and wonderment.

Notes are in the back.

When Winter Comes: Discovering Wildlife in Our Snowy Woods by Aimee M. Bissonette

When Winter Comes: Discovering Wildlife in Our Snowy Woods by Aimee M. Bissonette; illustrated by Erin Hourigan. 2020. Published in Sasquatch Books.

Brief summary: A family goes playing in the snow sharing with young readers what is under the snow such as hibernating animals and animal homes that live in the winter wilderness. They go ice fishing and share what is under the frozen ice. They go skiing and comment about the creatures in the trees. We learn what animals and humans do when Winter comes.

Comments: I like how the family is shown living in the snow and how the animals are coexisting. This would be great to share with a winter unit.