Book review: Jasmine Toguchi: Drummer Girl, by Debbi Michiko Florence; pictures by Elizabet Vukovic

Florence, Debbi Michiko. Jasmine Toguchi: Drummer Girl. (Jasmine Toguchi series, book 3) Pictures by Elizabet Vukovic. Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2018. $5.99. ISBN 9780374308360. 116 pages. Ages 6-9. P7 Q8

Have you wanted to be really good at something, but others seem to excel more than you? Jasmine’s class is having a talent show and she wants to perform, but she isn’t sure what talent she has that she can share on stage. Her mother used to play the taiko, a Japanese drum. When her mom played the drum, she felt free, strong and happy and feels that Jasmine may feel the same way. Maggie, a classmate brags about how good she is, which makes Jasmine feel bad about herself. In the end, Maggie messes up on stage and Jasmine is a success. Jasmine encourages Maggie and makes her feel good about herself. Jasmine’s mom encourages her to practice, and if she makes a mistake, to keep on going. Told from Jasmine’s point of view, this book is in the Jasmine Toguchi series, but can stand alone. It contains simple Japanese words and Japanese culture. Illustrations are simple line drawings that add interest to the story. The end of the book contains the Author’s note explaining the history of the taiko, a Japanese drum. It also includes instructions to make your own hachi-maki, a headband worn to catch sweat and keep it from running into one’s eyes. There is a short sneak peak of the next book in the series.

Verdict: Rich in Japanese culture, fun and relatable, this story encourages one to practice, not give up and to find out what talent they have. It also shows forgiveness and reaching out to others, even if the other person has not been kind. I highly recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries.

May 2018 review by Tami Harris.

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Book review: A Prickly Problem, by Jacqueline Kelly, illustrated by Jennifer L. Meyer

Kelly, Jacqueline. A Prickly Problem. Illus. by Jennifer L. Meyer. [Calpurnia Tate Girl Vet series]. Holt, 2018. $15.99. 104p. ISBN 978-1-62779-875-4. Ages 7-9. P8Q9

The author of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, a Newbery Honor Book, and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate has made her popular protagonist accessible to younger readers in the Girl Vet chapter book series. Set in Texas during the turn of the 20th century, Callie gets involved in a variety of adventures, in this case a problem with the beloved but rowdy family dog that won’t take “no” from a prickly porcupine. The veterinarian is available for the dog’s first encounter, but Callie is alone for the second.

Verdict: A fun, quick read about a highly likeable character who loves education and the grandfather who helps her find it on the family’s ranch. Black and white drawings add to the understanding. Other books in the series: Skunked!, Counting Sheep, and Who Gives a Hoot? 

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Bundle of Nerves: A Story of Courage, by Mari Schuh, illustrated by Natalia Moore

Schuh, Mari. Bundle of Nerves: A Story of Courage. Illustrated by Natalia Moore. Millbrook Press, 2018. $25.32. ISBN 9781512486452. 24 pages. Ages 4-8. P6 Q8

There are many events children can worry about in a day. How can you help children have courage? With three short chapters, “So Very Nervous,” “Being Brave,”, and “Facing my Fear,” Luis discovers that he can have courage by riding a bus, asking for help and making new friends. Not only does he realize he is courageous, he ends up having fun along the way. Illustrations of children showing racial diversity add to the depth of the book. Narrative boxes containing explanations, such as “It takes courage to ask for help” emphasize the courage aspect that is being shown on the page. Some phrases are highlighted in red for emphasis. This book is in the Cloverleaf books: Stories with Character series. There is a courage activity at the back of the book along with a glossary, index, and book titles and websites about courage.

Verdict: The situations portrayed in this book are similar to what most children in school experience. Both relevant and relatable to children, I recommend this book for elementary school libraries. I will be using this book in my Character Ed class to teach courage. From a teacher’s perspective, this book is valuable in a classroom setting, once read to children, they will be more apt to pick it up and read it themselves.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: We All Have Value: A Story of Respect, by Mari Schuh, illustrated by Mike Byrne

Schuh, Mari. We All Have Value: A Story of Respect. Illustrated by Mike Byrne. Stories with Character series. Millbrook Press, 2018.  $25.32. ISBN 9781512486506. 24 pages. Ages 5-8. P6 Q8

Respect is something we wish to instill in children, but how can we help them understand the importance of treating others with respect? With three short chapters, “Waiting our Turn,” “Thinking of Others,” and “Showing Respect,” Idil and her friends discover what it means to be respectful. The illustrations of racial and ethnically diverse children are large and take up a large portion of the page, which shows the importance of the children and their relationship with each other. The facial expressions on the children shows how they are feeling. Narrative boxes containing explanations, such as “letting everyone join in is respectful” emphasize the respect aspect that is being played out on the page. Some phrases are highlighted in red for emphasis. This book is in the Cloverleaf books: Stories with Character series. There is a respect activity at the back of the book along with a glossary, index, and book titles and websites about respect.

Verdict: The situations portrayed in this book are similar to what most children in school experience. It is relevant and relatable for children. I will be using this book in my Character Ed class to teach respect. In addition to respect, it also encourages children to show empathy. From a teacher’s perspective, this book is valuable in a classroom setting, once read to children, they will be more apt to pick it up and read it themselves.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Nick the Sidekick, by Dave Whamond

Whamond, Dave. Nick the Sidekick. Kids Can Press, 2018. $14.99. 48p. ISBN 978-1-77138355-4. Ages 6-9. P7Q5

In this debut to a probable series, Nick grows tired of his peers’ ridiculing his oversize ears and decides that his phenomenal hearing abilities should make him suitable as an “assistant” to Super Fantastic Guy. The hero of the book is a jerk, and Nick must save him by rescuing Super from a bank vault.

Verdict: Bright colors are inviting, and some may consider the plot cute. Unfortunately, both main characters are self-centered and unlikable.

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Gordon: Bark to the Future, by Ashley Spires

Spires, Ashley. Gordon: Bark to the Future. (P.U.R.S.T. Adventure series). Kids Can Press, 2018. $15.99. 72p. ISBN 978-1-77138-409-4. Ages 6-8. P5Q6

With Binky the Space Cat captured, Gordon the pup takes center stage in a time-travel journey to save the house from encroaching aliens. The “bug” in the time machine has changed its setting, and Gordon finds himself five years earlier than expected with no support system.

Verdict: The story has a flat feeling with no dialog and the narration placed between the graphic panels, primarily in sets of three. Only bits of red (the pet’s food bowl), fuchsia, and the green of the aliens relieve the mostly black and brown tones.

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths, by Graham Annable

Annable, Graham. Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths. First Second, 2018. $17.99. 119p. ISBN 978-1-6267-2561-4. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

Peter and Ernesto are the odd couple of sloths. One wants to hang around in his tree with the other sloths, and the other wants to see the sky from every part of the world. The separation between the two of them stretches their limits as Peter decides to follow Ernesto despite quaking when he crosses the swinging bridge and meets the scary tapir. Ernesto loves his adventures—a ride on a whale and seeing the aurora borealis—but meeting the polar bear convinces him to return home. The alternating adventures between the two friends show the fretting Peter perched on a monolith where he finds help from crabs and monkeys to guide Ernesto back to the fold. The safety may not last long, though; the planned sequel for the two friends is The Lost Sloths.

Verdict: Clear Photoshop panels with simple artwork in the graphic novel show the movement, body language, and diversity of animals throughout the adventures. Silly charm highlights the value of friendship and concern about each other without being didactic. Absolutely delightful!

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.