Book review: I’m In Charge!, by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Jarvis

Willis, Jeanne. I’m In Charge! Illustrated by Jarvis. Nosy Crow/Candlewick Press, 2018. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN 978-1536202595. Ages 2-6. P7 Q8

Little Rhino runs around telling all the animals that he is in charge, being sort of a bully. He says he makes the rules and he doesn’t want to share. But things happen that change his mind. The colors and simple illustrations are fabulous-very simple yet effective artwork. The words are ones that are best said aloud at story time with great volume as little rhino shouts a lot. The lesson is lightly given at the end.

VERDICT: This was mostly fun for the artwork and joy of reading it aloud. Very young children will enjoy this book. It gives a reason to chat about why being a bully isn’t a good thing.

January 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: The Little Guys, by Vera Brosgol

Brosgol, Vera. The Little Guys. Roaring Book Press, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99 ISBN 9781626724426. Ages  5-7. P7Q7

Strength and courage can come in any size! From beginning to end The Little Guys in an inspirational book that encourages teamwork and perseverance. From marching through the dark forest unafraid to climbing the tallest trees the little guys can do it all bravely and most importantly together. Beautiful, silly and colorful illustrations make this book a fun book to read for young children. The little guys also wreak a little havoc on the other woodland creatures along the way in silly and unique ways that will keep children laughing and engaged.

Verdict: There is a mild semi-bullying related page in the book that might turn off some teachers or parents. Other than that The Little Guys is a catchy book with words of encouragement teaching children that even if you may be small you can still be mighty.

October 2019 review by Melissa Roberts.

Book review: Cicada, by Shaun Tan

Tan, Shaun. Cicada. Arthur A. Levine. 2019. $19.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-338-29839-0. Ages 7-10. P9Q10

After 17 years of dedicated work as a data entry clerk, Cicada retires with no appreciation for his willingness to have no resources—not even permission to use the bathroom. He heads to the roof to say “goodbye” only to shed his husk and fly off into the forest. Black and white oils on canvas and paper are highlighted only by Cicada’s green head until he and the other cicada nymphs shed their skins and fly away as orange adults.

Verdict: The strong symbolism of corporate bullying blends with the sense of freedom after retirement with the 17 years representing the time required for cicadas to develop. Another magical book from this creator.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: I Love My Colorful Nails, by Alicia Acosta and Luis Amavisca, illustrated by Gusti

Acosta, Alicia and Luis Amavisca. I Love My Colorful Nails. Illustrated by Gusti. English translation by Ben Dawlatly. (Egalite series.) NubeOcho, 2019. Translated by Ben Dawlatly. $15.95. ISBN 9788417123598. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P6 Q6

Ben loves painting his nails cheerful colors. His friend, Margarita also has amazing nail polish and they paint their nails together. Ben’s classmates make fun of him and call him a girl. Margarita is an upstander and tells her classmates to leave him alone. Ben paints his nails only on weekends so the kids at school will not laugh at him. Without his nails painted, he no longer feels bright or cheerful. To support Ben, his dad paints his nails. For his birthday, Ben receives a gift that is both affirming and makes him feel colorful again. The illustrations are a classic early 1970’s look with black lines and flat solid colors. The color palate is terra cota, ecru, brick red and muted colors. The eyes are early 70’s style smiling eyes which make the people look like their eyes are closed or looking down. One illustration shows an upside-down ice cream cone and Ben sitting down with his head buried in his knees showing his sadness. The illustrations show ethnic diverse children. The author refers to Ben’s mom and dad as mommy and daddy which makes Ben seem younger or shows a tight bond between them. This book was inspired by a true story. The original title was Vivan las unas de colores! The text was translated into English. In the Egalite series, Values Fun & Diversity.

Verdict: Children who love colors and do not fall into the stereotypical gender roles will enjoy this book affirming self-expression. I Love my Colorful Nails validates children to express themselves as they desire and models being an upstander. Earlier this year, I had a student who painted his nails and was laughed at by his peers. I told him that he is perfect just the way he is and he can express himself in any way he wants. Because of that experience, this book caught my eye. He will enjoy this book, knowing that he is not alone in painting his nails.

April 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram

Khorram, Adib. Darius the Great is Not Okay. Dial Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780525552963. 314 pgs. Ages 12+. P8Q9

Darius Kellner, a “Fractional Persian,” is a clinically depressed sophomore in Portland, Oregon. Like many mixed culture kids, Darius doesn’t feel like fits into either culture. In fact, he feels more at home with Klingon and Hobbit culture and language than Iranian. When his grandfather (who lives in Iran) becomes very ill, the family makes a trip to see him. The trip to Iran is a life-changing experience for Darius. He makes a real friend, a neighbor boy named Sohrab, and for the first time, feels like someone understands him. This book deals with many issues- cultural identity, cultural adjustment, bullying, mental illness, body issues, friendship, father-son relationships, etc. Khorram does a wonderful job of making the readers feel like we know and identify with Darius, especially with his struggle with depression and his feelings that he just isn’t good enough. I also loved the portrayal of Darius’ relationship with his father (always difficult, though he begins to have some understanding for him by the end), his sweet relationship with his little sister, and new-found love for his grandparents, and his positive experience in Iran.

VERDICT: I think most people will find something to like in this book. I highly recommend it for high school and public libraries.

Winner of the William C. Morris YA Debut Award (2019) and the  Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Literature for Young Adult Literature (2019)

March 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, by Leslie Connor

Connor, Leslie. The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780062491435. 326 pgs. Ages 8-12. P7Q8

Mason, a kind, honest and compassionate boy, finds life very challenging. He is the biggest kid in his class, has a family with financial troubles, struggles with reading and writing, sweats horribly, and is tormented by the local bullies. His best friend Benny died in an accident, and since that time, everyone in town treats Mason, who was the last person to see him, differently. When he and a new kid (Calvin) become friends, things begin to change for Mason. I really liked Mason’s character- he is sweet and unsure of himself at the beginning, but through the events in the story, begins to find his place. Eventually we find out what happened to Benny and who was responsible for his death.

February 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Chasma Knights, by Kate Reed Petty, illustrated by Boya Sun

Petty, Kate Reed. Chasma Knights. Illus by Boya Sun. First Second, 2018. $17.99. 112p. ISBN 978-1-62672-604-8. Ages 5-8. P7Q6

Bullying is the focus in this story of tormented pink Beryl, a Neon Knight, who cannot “catalyze” toys like the other knights of Chasma such as Sulfurs and Oxygens who blend their own powers with those of cute little creatures. Unbeknownst to the bullies, however, Beryl takes broken toys that the others have thrown away and makes them into different objects. Yellow Coro, an Oxygen knight, learns of Beryl’s abilities but disobeys orders not to catalyze them. The ensuing disaster briefly breaks up the friendship, but they learn to appreciate each other and spin off on each others’ skills.

Verdict: Brightly colored, graphic novel about jealousy and bullying evolves into cute and far too sweet. The illustrations also depict the living broken companions as alive, but no one does anything about the problem. They are just discarded. The knights are elements, but no science information ensues, and the plot lacks any motivating factors.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.