Friday, March 16, 2018

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War

Written by: Matt Faulkner

First line: Koji—why don't you turn on the radio while we do dishes?

Why you should read this book: Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American teen Koji Miyamoto never really thought about being biracial, but suddenly he looks like the enemy, and the people around him begin treating him like the enemy; he's even worried that his own father might actually be the enemy. He and his mother are surprised when he is called to an internment camp, and his mother decides to go with him, even though she is white, because she can't let him go alone. In camp, Koji faces another type of discrimination, because he's not Japanese enough, but, despite the betrayal by his government, Koji does his best to become an honorable person, and the book carries him through the end of the war and his reunification with his Japanese father.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're still in denial about what the American government did to its own citizens during World War II.

Hilda and the Bird Parade

Written by: Luke Pearson

First line: Morning, sleepyhead.

Why you should read this book: I've loved every volume I've read in this series about an irrepressible Norwegian girl who enjoys a series of surprising adventures with a variety of mythical creatures, and some mundane ones. In this book, sadly, poor Hilda has been pulled from her idyllic country home, where she is free to roam as she pleases, and dragged to the big city of Trollberg, where her mom won't even let her explore the neighborhood alone. Fortunately, magical creatures exist in the big city as well, and Hilda can't help but find, help, and befriend them.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You miss the countryside.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hidden Figures

Written by: Margot Lee Shetterly

First line: "Mrs. Land worked as a computer out at Langley," my father said, taking a right turn out of the parking lot of First Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia.

Why you should read this book: There is so much going on in this meticulous account of the women of West Computing, the racially segregated group of human computers that supported aviation technology during World War II with their incredible number-crunching abilities. The book follows the lives of several of the most high-profile black women who worked in this group and later for NASA and other agencies, but it's also a story about the civil rights movement, military history, engineering advances of the twentieth century, the Cold War, the space race, and dozens of humans who helped revolutionize air travel and eventually made the 1969 moonshot possible. This is a fast-paced book that tackles plenty of tough territory but makes its ideas accessible to lay readers with no background on any of the aforementioned subjects.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You'd rather watch the movie.

Everyone Loves Cupcake

Written by: Kelly DiPucchio and Eric Wight

First line: Everyone loves Cupcake.

Why you should read this book: The kids loved it a lot more than I did, and I'm not sure whether that was because they embraced its message about being oneself, letting go of perfectionism, and focusing more on being honest than on being impressive, or because the protagonist is a chocolate cupcake with pink frosting and sprinkles. Cupcake prizes the opinions of others so much that she becomes obsessed with being perfect, much to the annoyance of her former admirers. Only when her last friend can tell her the truth and encourage her to do the same can Cupcake learn to be honest with herself and win back the lost love.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It's about an anthropomorphic cupcake who marries a fortune a cookie in the end, and that's kind of hard to take seriously.

I Love Our Earth

Written by: Bill Martin Jr and Dan Lipow

First line: I love our earth...where green grasses ripple, and gray mountains rise, where blue oceans curl, and brown deserts swirl.

Why you should read this book: A crowd-pleaser for young readers, each page pairs a sweeping panoramic vista or up-close portrait of nature, paired with images of happy, active, multi-cultural children. There aren't a lot of words, but there are a lot of details, and the pictures are both beautiful and yet accessible. This book seems to make kids happy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You hate our earth.

Hug Me

Written by: Simoana Ciraolo

First line: Felipe was descended from an old and famous family who liked to look good and always behaved properly.

Why you should read this book: Slightly silly but very sweet and delightfully illustrated story of a cactus who has a lot of love to give. His attempts to receive love from his family fail and lead him to an ill-advised relationship with a helium balloon, which, obviously, ends badly, before he embarks upon a safer intimacy with a rock. I can't help but think this story is a metaphor for growing up as a WASP, and that all of the events have correlation in the real world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't like hugs.

Pitching in for Eubie

Written by: Jerdine Nolen and EB Lewis

First line: A big cloud of dust came winding down our road, like a tornado on wheels.

Why you should read this book: A really lovely story about family coming together and kids finding their way. When Lily's big sister, Eubie, is accepted to college in a full scholarship that covers everything except for three thousand dollars room and board, the family is mobilized to raise that money before the term starts. Everyone is working hard and raking in extra cash to help, but none of Lily's money-making schemes come to fruition, until at last, the right job comes along.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't believe in hard work.


Written by: Marcia Vaughan and Sascha Hutchinson

First line: It was a sun-hot, sky-dry day as Joey and Mama Roo stopped to drink at the edge of a the Tumba-Rumba River.

Why you should read this book: A light-hearted trickster-tricked type story, featuring a cast of Australian animals and the type of repetitive text that keeps kids focused on participating in the story. Little Joey talks a variety of animals into teaching him new games, despite the oppressive heat, but his inability to discern friend from foe leads the group of friends into the dark maw of an opportunistic crocodile. Includes a short glossary with additional information about Australian animals.

Why you shouldn't read this book: There's a certain degree of ridiculousness to stories where characters escape from inside the monster's mouth.

Crow Call

Written by: Lois Lowry and Bagram Ibatoulline

First line: It's morning, early, barely light.

Why you should read this book: It's a slice-of-life memoir of the author's experience in 1945, and it covers a lot of ground. There's the issue of a daughter whose father is a stranger to her, a girl who refuses to let other people's gender issues dictate her choice of clothing,  a child who is just starting to examine her own discomfort with hunting culture, and all sorts of nuance around families and communication. A sort of quiet and uplifting book about learning to understand others.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Hunting is a tradition more important than family, in your book.