Chainani S. (2013). The School for Good and Evil. NY: HarperCollins.
What if all the fairy tale villains and heroes that we all love and hate come from one place? And what if that place was a school where the heroes and villains trained to be good or bad and where they learned chivalry and hexes. What if that place was called The School for Good and Evil? Sophie and Agatha are best friends. Sophie is the ‘princess,’ pretty, kind, energetic, and beautiful. Agatha is the hag, the witch’s daughter, ugly, and sour. They live in a village where every year two children are kidnapped. One is a good person that everybody loves and the other is the ugly, unlikeable person that nobody likes. And every year the village receives new fairy tale picture books that sometimes have characters inside that look uncannily similar to children kidnapped years ago. So when it’s Sophie’s and Agatha’s year to potentially be kidnapped, Sophie is sure that she’ll be put into the School for Good and Agatha will be put into the School for Evil. Sure enough, one dark night Sophie and Agatha get kidnapped. But somethings strange happens, Continue reading
Coles, J. (2018). Tyler Johnson Was Here. NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Jay Coles writes from the heart, he writes well (every sentence is handsomely and seductively infused with Black culture), and he has produced 2018’s fast-paced picture of American police brutality, of the systematic corruption rampant in its justice system, and of how racism impacts and traps people.
What a compelling cover!
Trevor Johnson is shot by a white policeman simply for the colour of his skin – all of this caught on videotape – leaving a grieving mother and twin brother, who together make their way through each day even though their grief is overwhelmingly painful and raw. Continue reading
Turtschanioff, M. (2017). The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi. London: Pushkin Press.
This smart fantasy brings us to an island, a safe haven from harm, where women live together. The book opens with seventeen year old Maresi writing about the events that happened while she was thirteen. Back then, she was carrying out a content existence as a novice at the Abbey working under Mother. Beginning with a lot of description, the first book in The Red Abbey Chronicles does a good job of world-building, notably incorporating vivid descriptions of seasonal foods. I love books with maps in the front, and this one is especially helpful to gain a sense of their world: the silo-shaped Moon House, the centralized Temple of the Rose, the stone Novice House, etc.
However, the pace of the book picks up and
we are swept into a suspenseful whirlwind after Jai arrives torn and tattered, fleeing from danger. Maresi and Continue reading
Kaneko , M. (2016). Are You An Echo? Seattle: Chin Music Press Inc.
edited by by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi
I’m going to start with the drawings so they don’t get lost. Toshikado Hajiri’s illustrations in the children’s picturebook, Are You An Echo? are beautiful and make me stop long enough to recognize the beauty not only in the pictures, but before me in my life. Fitting, for the poetry of Misuzu Kaneko is childlike, clear, and feels strong enough to stop time.
It was powerful enough to make Setsuo Yazaki research sixteen years for the Kaneko’s lost poetry. For all he could find was a poem that delighted him. How could someone understand how fish felt? Big Catch: Continue reading
Engle, M. (2015). Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Through verse, Engle tells how she and her family used to travel from home in California to her mother’s native Cuba where they spent gorgeous summers. With the onset of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, their trips to Cuba abruptly ended along with the ties to her mother’s family, Cuba’s culture, and language. Engle’s poetry shows us travel between countries, travel between two sides of her family, and eventually travel from childhood to young adulthood.
Lin, G. (2016). When the Sea Turned to Silver. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
Folk tales are told through the spine-tingling adventures of Pinmei and her trusted family friend, Yishan. When the Sea Turned to Silver opens with Pinmei and her grandmother, the village’s storyteller, talking at home one night. Her grandmother tells Pinmei that even though she is a very quiet child, when it is time for you to do something, you will do it. Later that night, soldiers burst into their hut to kidnap the grandmother! Pinmei and Yishan urgently set off for one escapade after the next in a venture to find and bring her home.
This instant classic holds so much substance; it begs to be read and reread, saved in a special spot up on the bookcase. Each chapter heading has an illustration relating to one of the fifteen Continue reading
Gayton, S. (2015). Hercufleas. London: Andersen Press Ltd.
Hercufleas is an original and touching fable of hope, courage, size, and much more. When Greta needs an ally to fight a giant, she recruits Hercufleas, a large flea. After being separated from his fleamily, this unexpected hero-to-be joins forces with Greta, together embarking on a journey to save the girl’s hometown of Tumber. Many adventures challenge them, but Hercufleas and Greta show that Continue reading