Book review: We Really Do Care, by Tami Lewis Brown, illustrated by Tania de Regil

Brown, Tami Lewis. We Really Do Care. Illustrated by Tania de Regil. Philomel Books, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781984836304. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

A redheaded child has a ball, pets, and family and he doesn’t care that others do not have them. At the park, he notices a child who is sitting on a teeter totter looking sad. The child realized that the other child is lonely and does not have what he has. The child approaches the other child and asks, “Where is your family? Are you alone? Are you afraid?” The children play together and the first child realizes that they really do care about others. The child shares many ways in which one can care, including “with our voices to shout and our hands to write, with our arms to lift and our feet to march.” Illustrations show a wide diversity of children, including a child in a wheelchair, diverse races, and a child wearing glasses. The book ends with “we really do care, do you?” challenging the reader to think about ways they care for others.

Verdict: Focusing on how similarities draw children together, this book teaches empathy and how one can befriend others. It can also start a discussion on why people lead rallies, sign petitions, write to leaders and go out of their way to let their view be known.

December 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Solo Pregunta!: Se Diferente, Se Valiente, Se Tu, Sonia Sotomayor, ilustrado Rafael Lopez

Sotomayor, Sonia. Solo Pregunta!: Se Diferente, Se Valiente, Se Tu. Ilustrado por Rafael Lopez. Philomel Books, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780525515500. Unpaged. Ages 5-10. P7 Q8   Spanish edition of Just Ask!

This is the Spanish edition of the book Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. Teresa Mlawer has translated more than 500 books from English into Spanish, ranging from classics, children and youth books. She respects the voice of the author and her traditions when she translates books. She feels it is important for children to see their culture represented in books. This book is translated well–not word for word, but it keeps the same meaning and embraces the culture. The illustrations in both English and Spanish versions are identical. Here is a link to an article featuring Teresa Mlawer and the books she has translated.

Verdict: I highly recommend this Spanish version. Children will benefit from hearing this story in their native language.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Sotomayor, Sonia. Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. Philomel Books, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780525514121. Unpaged. Ages 5-10. P7 Q8

Sonia and her friends are planting a garden. Explaining how plants are different but bloom together sets a framework for how children can be different but still be friends and appreciate each other. The author encourages, “we each grow in our own way, so if you are curious about other kids, Just Ask!” Each page features a child who are differently able, including: diabetes, asthma, wheelchair, blind, deaf, dyslexia, autism, stutter, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, allergy to nuts, and Down syndrome. Statements and questions in colored text make the book interactive. At the end of the book, Sonia challenges the reader, “we all have unique power to share with the world to make it more interesting and richer. What will you do with your powers?” The end pages show children doing different activities on green paper, emphasizing the garden theme. The author was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was seven years old. Sometimes she felt different because she had to do things that others didn’t have to do, like give herself a shot. She wrote the book to explain how differences make us stronger in a good way. Instead of fearing differences, we can recognize what we have in common. The author encourages readers to ask when they see someone doing something different. The questions are positive, such as “What do you like to talk about?”  “Are you really good at something?” “how do you use your voice?” and my favorite, “What will you do with your powers?” This picture book focuses on the positive quality’s kids share. The author includes children from a variety of races. The author, Sonia Sotomayor, is a US Supreme Court Justice.

Verdict. This book was recommended to me by a fellow teacher. She said that she reads to her classes every year and thought it would be a good addition to our school library. I agree with her, it opens children’s eyes to children who are differently abled. It also encourages children to see what they have in common and to ask when they are curious. This book is thoughtful, mindful, and a confidence builder, while giving children empathy for others.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Way the Light Bends, by Cordelia Jensen

Jensen, Cordelia. The Way the Light Bends. Philomel Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780399547447. 393 pages. Ages 12+ P7 Q7

Linc and Holly have grown up like twins, though Holly is adopted from Ghana and Linc is her parent’s biological daughter. When they were younger, Linc and Holly were very close, but now that they are teenagers, they have drifted apart. Linc desperately wants her parents to see her artistic talents, but they only have eyes for Holly, who does well academically. Linc pursues her dream of going to an art school, but she has to do it behind her parents’ backs. The story is written in verse-poem form and is from Linc’s perspective. This novel is a quick read, but will evoke deep emotions in the reader. It is often hard to find out where we fit in life and how to show others that our differences are assets. In the end, she has an honest talk with her mother and realizes that things are not as they seem. In the beginning of the book, Linc tried hard to get her parents approval, but she didn’t take the time to tell her parents how she felt. Once she talked to about her dreams and how she felt compared to Holly, then she was able to develop a closer relationship with her mother.

Verdict: Teens will relate to the struggle of figuring out where they fit in and hoping that others recognize their strengths. This book will help teens see situations from others perspective and realize that more may be going on then what it looks like on the surface. I recommend this book for middle school, high school and public libraries.

February 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Big Brother Peanut Butter, by Terry Border

Border, Terry. Big Brother Peanut Butter. Philomel Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781524740061. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

What does it meant to be a big brother? Peanut Butter’s parents tell him he is going to be a big brother. This leads Peanut Butter on a journey to figure out what it means to be a big brother. He tries to be as good as his friends Apple Pie, Cucumber, and Cheese. From his conversation with Jelly, he realizes he doesn’t have to change who he is, he just has to love his new brother or sister. As Peanut Butter and Jelly return to his house, he hears a baby crying. Is it twins or more? A section of the text is repetitive, which emphasizes that Peanut Butter wants to be a good brother. The illustrations are actual pictures of food with wire to make them into characters. Food related humor adds to the story.

Verdict: This fun, read aloud is perfect for children who are expecting a sibling. Loving others is the best thing one can do. I recommend this book for libraries for elementary aged children.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Pasando Páginas: La historia de me vida, by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Lulu Delacre, translated by Teresa Mlawer

Sotomayor, Sonia. Pasando Páginas: La historia de me vida. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre. Translated by Teresa Mlawer. Philomel Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780525515494. Unpaged. Ages 7-10. P9 Q10

In the Spanish version of Turning Pages: My Life Story, Sonia Sotomayor shares the story of her life and all she experiences that leads up to her becoming the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. In the English edition, she explains the meaning of cultural words while in the Spanish version, no explanation is needed. In the English edition, it mentions the Catholic High School she attended while the Spanish edition omits it. The phrases in the Spanish edition create a more positive message, for example, the English edition reads, “Fix and try harder to be better” while the Spanish edition reads, “Put things right and try harder.” The ending differs in the following way, “It is what I am” and “This is my responsibility.” The translator took liberty with sentence structure and wording. While the words are not exactly the same, the same image appears in one’s mind. The idiomatic phrases are unique to each language. The words in the Spanish edition flows better than the English edition, even though the English edition was written first. Having read both the English and Spanish editions, I would prefer the Spanish edition since it comes across as warmer and more familial in Spanish. The illustrations are the same in both editions and work equally well.

Verdict: This book contains a lot of information and may be difficult for some children to read. Children may not gravitate on their own to this book, but they may find it interesting if an adult read it to them. This is an inspirational book on starting out with very little and creating, with hard work, a life that greatly influences others. I recommend this book for elementary school libraries.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Boying Up: How To Be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant, by Mayim Bailik

Bailik, Mayim.  Boying Up: How To Be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant. Philomel Books, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 9780525515975. 200 pages.  Ages 12+. P7 Q9

The journey through puberty can be awkward, embarrassing, and confusing. Do you wish you had a handbook to guide you through it? Well now you do! Bailik writes in a simple relatable way, but at the same time, she packs the book full of helpful information. She covers how boys’ bodies work, how they grow, learn, love, cope, and matter. She includes the importance of education and why school is valuable, but at the same time she validates a variety of paths boys can take after high school including college, military, trade school, and work. I appreciate the fact that she emphasizes that boys need to have consent before they engage in sex, which is important. Illustrations include realistic simple sketches of a variety of penises and scrotums, the male and female reproductive systems, and different body types. This book is very well rounded. While scientific, it is still easy to read and understand. The last chapter delves into how boys’ matter, featuring six men who matter and how they made the world a better place. Bailik writes, “Part of the process of Boying Up and becoming a young man who is compassionate, kind and confident involves finding ways to make impacting others in a positive way a significant part of your life.”

Verdict: I don’t know if boys would actually pick up this book and read it, but if they did, it would provide them with valuable information. Parents may want to read it with their boys as they are starting the journey through puberty. I highly recommend this book for personal libraries, middle school and high school libraries along with the public library.

May 2018 review by Tami Harris.