Hoffman, Sarah and Ian Hoffman. Jacob’s Room to Choose. Illus. by Chris Case. Magination Press, 2019. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4338-3073-0. Ages 4-7. P8Q8
In this sequel to Jacob’s New Dress, Jacob and Sophie are chased out of the restrooms by bullies because their appearance doesn’t match traditional expectations. An understanding teacher, however, keeps watch in the hall after ushering them into empty bathrooms before she presents a simple, age-appropriate lesson to her classroom about gender.
Verdict: Like the first book about Jacob, the message is about acceptance. Simple lyrical writing introduces the setting and the characters from the opening lines: “The carpet was warm. The bunnies were funny. Jacob and Sophie loved library time.” And the message is vital, especially for this young age group. The Hoffman’s book comes from their hearts, perhaps because they have a gender variant son.
February 2019 review by Nel Ward.
Coombs, Kate. Monster School. Illustrated by Lee Gatlin. Chronicle Books, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781452129389. Unpaged. Ages 8-12. P7Q7
This is a book about Monster School. Children will see something of their own school experiences in this dark book- for example classmates with a variety of characteristics and personalities, odd teachers, horrible homework, and new kids. Each poem or piece is set against gloomy, detailed (digital?) artwork.
VERDICT: Older kids will enjoy this book in the fall when they’re getting ready for Halloween. I found some spreads to be too crowded with text for young readers, but the humor will carry it for most.
November 2018 review by Carol Schramm.
Rylant, Cynthia. Rosetown. Beach Lane Books, 2018. 149 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9781534412774. Ages 8-12. P7Q9
In 1972, life in small town Indiana is good for 9 year old Flora Smallwood, but change comes with the death of her dog, her parents’ decision to have separate households, and entering fourth grad. Even the three times a week visit to her favorite used bookshop fails to cheer her up. With the help of her old best friend and a new friend from Ukraine, Flora finds her way.
Verdict: Flora is a bookish girl, not quite secure in dealing with children of her own age, and anxious about the changes in her life. She reminds me of Paulette Bourgeois’ books about Franklin the Turtle, a child who is not quite ready for the developmental hurdles the rest of his class seems to approach with ease. Fortunately, Flora has the support of her parents, friends, and teacher to accomplish what she needs to do. Gorgeous prose by Newbery and Caldecott Medal winner Cynthia Rylant delivers this gentle historical fiction story of a girl growing up in the white culture of small town Indiana. Though it does not quite do for Indiana what her 1995 release, The Van Gogh Café, did for Kansas, it is still worth reading. Recommended for elementary school and public library collections.
December 2018 review by Jane Cothron.
Gardner, Whitney. Fake Blood. Simon & Schuster, 2018. $21.99. 333p. ISBN 978-1-4814-9556-1. Ages 9-12. P8Q7
In his attempt to attract Nia, 11-year-old A.J. pretends to be a vampire, but he doesn’t know that she wants to be a vampire slayer. Shy to the extreme, A.J. is also convinced that his two extroverted best friends, Ivy and Hunter, have a much more exciting life than he does—until he discovers that they made up their summer adventures. Discovering a real vampire brings Nia and A.J. together
Verdict: The graphic novel format that this debut author/illustrator uses is perfect for the middle-school angst as A.J. goes to humorous extremes in his crush on Nia, sprinkling himself with glitter and covering his gums with fake blood. Fans of Raina Telgemeier will enjoy this read.
Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.
Border, Terry. Peanut Butter’s First Day of School. Penguin Young Readers, 2018. $14.99. ISBN 9781524784850. 32 pages. Ages 6-8. P7 Q6
It is common to feel anxiety about the first day of school. Peanut Butter is wondering what he should do to get ready for the first day of school, so he asks his friends for advice. Each of his friends has a different idea, but none of the ideas work for Peanut Butter. On the first day of school, Peanut Butter spends the day with his friends. At the end of the day, they walk home together. If this is the first book you have read about Peanut Butter, you may enjoy the story and realistic food illustrations. However, if you have read Peanut Butter and Cupcake, you will be disappointed. The illustrations are repeated straight from Peanut Butter and Cupcake and Milk Goes to School. This book is a Level 2 progressing reader.
Verdict: If you have not read Peanut Butter and Cupcake and Milk Goes to School, I recommend this book. The themes of friendship, celebrating individuality and including others along with the food illustrations will appeal to children. However, if you have read Border’s other books, the illustrations repeat and this volume is not worth purchasing. I was expecting new illustrations that matched the story.
June 2018 review by Tami Harris.
Burris, Priscilla. Hello School! Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018. ISBN 9780399172021. Unpaged. Ages 3-5. P7Q8
This adorable book begins with the first day of school and progresses through the days of fall. The illustrations are soft and pastel and feature many diverse children who are learning how to listen, share, and how to be a good friend. Each page has a title explaining what the children are learning. The “Counting is fun!” page shows six children with increasing numbers of acorns in front of them, holding a sign in one hand showing the number, and the other hand is holding up fingers displaying the number. A great visual to teach numbers! Pages include simple text, and dialogue bubbles of the children conversing.
Verdict: This book would be a perfect book for starting preschool or kindergarten as it shows children what to expect and how to behave at school. It is a very welcoming introduction to the classroom.
November 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.
Barrett, Kendra J., Jacqueline B. Toner, and Claire A. B. Freeland. Yes I Can! A Girl and Her Wheelchair. Illustrated by Violet Lemay. Magination Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781433828690. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7
We all want our children to build positive and empathetic relationships. Yes, I Can! Follows the story of Carolyn, who is a first-grader who just happens to be in a wheelchair. Children may wonder about children who are in a wheelchair or have disabilities. Carolyn shows that she is just like other children her age, she is helpful to her parents and teachers. She can do what others do with a little help. Friends at school go out of their way to make sure she is included. She can be a part of things, even if she cannot not do what her friends are doing. Even when activities are frustrating or difficult, she responds with, Yes, I can! The words, “Yes, I Can!” are bold and in a different colored font, which help them stand out. The end of the book has a note to parents, caregivers, and teachers, with questions and answers about disabilities. The illustrations show Carolyn living her life, the same as others her age do. The illustrations add to the text.
Verdict: This book accurately and inspirationally shows how children who have disabilities can live full lives just like other children. I highly recommend this book.
September 2018 review by Tami Harris.