Review: The Red Pencil

This illuminated novel in verse tells a story of internal displacement for middle grade readers.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane Evans.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2014.
Middle grade novel in verse, 331 pages including extras but not excerpts.
Lexile:  HL620L  (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 3.0 points)  .

Amira is a young village girl who dreams of going to school and learning to read the Koran.  But her mother desires a more traditional life for her.  Then the Janjaweed attack, and it seems like all dreams, and words, are gone forever.  Can a gift restore hope?

The Red Pencil cover resized

This one was a bit of a gamble.  I have yet to dislike a book by any of the Pinkneys – individually and collectively they are so talented that the name alone can sell me on a book.  Plus I have loved Shane Evans’ work, and the kids find his illustrations appealing too.

But.  This is a novel in verse.  I wasn’t actually aware that it was illuminated until after purchasing, and Shane Evans’s illustrations did take the edge off.  But as I’ve said before, novels in verse rarely work for me.  I love poetry and novels, but feel that the combination usually loses something.  For this reason, I don’t often seek those books out unless they come highly recommended or with an author/illustrator team I can’t ignore.

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Board Book Review: Shades of Black

Our 31st board book is a beautiful exploration of the many types of Black skin, hair, and eyes.

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney, photographs by Myles C. Pinkney.
Cartwheel Books, Scholastic, 2006 (originally published as a picture book in 2000).
Nonfictional picture book converted to board book format, 24 pages.

This book that validates the appearance of ALL black children, whether they have dark or light skin and blue or onyx eyes.

Shades of Black cover resized
Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney and Myles C. Pinkney.

The catch phrase here is “I am Black.  I am unique.”  These words open and close the book and separate the various sections.

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Web: The Pinkney Clan

Did you know that six members of the Pinkney family are artists, authors, or publishers?

I’m going to hope that everyone with an interest in diverse children’s books has at least heard of Jerry Pinkney.  However, did you know that much of the rest of his family is involved in art or literature as well?

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Review: JoJo’s Flying Side Kick

Brian Pinkney tackles bravery and Tae Kwon Do in this picture book about a girl with two big problems.

JoJo’s Flying Side Kick by Brian Pinkney.
First published by Simon and Schuster, 1995.
My edition Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile:  590L  .
AR Level:  3.2 (worth 0.5 points)  .
NOTE: This is a work of fiction, although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

JoJo’s happy living with her mother and grandfather and practicing Tae Kwon Do with her friends.  But she has two big problems.  The first is the scary tree at the end of her driveway, and the second is her yellow belt test, where she needs to break a board with her foot.

JoJo's Flying Side Kick cover resized

Pretty much I have the whole Pinkney family on auto-buy because there hasn’t been one of their books I’ve disliked yet.  They are usually a hit with students as well.  This is not the most popular one but a very solid addition to the Pinkney canon.

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Board Book Review: Pretty Brown Face

Our 44th board book has a wonderful message for brown-skinned toddlers.

Pretty Brown Face by Andrea and Brian Pinkney.
Red Wagon Books, Harcourt, 1997.
Board book, 16 pages.

A young child discovers the wonders of fir own face.

Pretty Brown Face cover resized

This simple but well made book is sure to appeal to a wide variety of families and childcare professionals.  There are only two characters – a small child encountering a mirror and a male caregiver (presumably father, but never named as such).  At first I assumed the child was male, but no pronouns or male references are used, so this book could work nicely for a child of either gender.

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Review: Only One Year

” ‘We have to go to work, go to school. We cannot pay so much attention to our little boy.’ Her voice cracks. ‘We have to do what is best for Di Di,’ she whispers, ‘not what is best for us.’ ” p. 8

Only One Year by Andrea Cheng, illustrations by Nicole Wong.
Lee & Low Books, New York, 2010.
Elementary realistic fiction, 97 pages.
Lexile:  620L  .
AR Level:  3.3 (worth 1.0 points)  .

Di Di is leaving to spend a year in China with his grandparents and extended family, but Sharon and middle sister Mary aren’t so sure about that.  A year is a long time, and they miss him at first, but then get busy with their own lives.  When Di Di returns, it is a difficult adjustment for everyone.

Only One Year cover

I actually was familiar with this idea through friends of mine, who lived in their family’s country of origin from the time they were weaned until preschool and then flew back each year to live there over the summer.  However, for many readers it will be new.  This topic is also briefly explored from a different perspective in American Panda.  In that book, the father decided to send the children to his family in China against their mother’s wishes, and it was challenging for the family.

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Board Book Review: Story of Rosa Parks

Our thirteenth board book, this simple biography of Rosa Parks proved more engaging and interesting than expected.

The Story of Rosa Parks by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrated by Steven Walker.
WorthyKids/Ideals, Nashville, Tennessee, 2007.
Board book biography, 26 pages.

This deceptively simple biography of Rosa Parks covers all the major events in her life in a manner appropriate for even the youngest children.

The Story of Rosa Parks cover resized
The Story of Rosa Parks by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrated by Steven Walker.

Honestly, I was surprised by this book.  We have several of Pingry’s religious board books, and they are solid additions to the church rotation but not especially moving.

If we teach kids about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. as toddlers, then by grade school they should be ready to learn about Lonnie Johnson, Fannie Lou Hammer, Dave the Potter, Mae Jemison, and more.  Then in middle school they can move on to studying people like Claudette Colvin, Misty Copeland, Ida B. Wells, and John Lewis.  That’s the ideal, right?

This book was purchased for Baby.  I did not expect the older kids to show any interest in it.  However, N picked it up under the guise of “reading to baby” and kept looking at it even after Baby went off for a diaper change.  My new reader wanted to use it for reading practice.  The kids sat through more than one reading of it.

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Review: Everything She Lost

“She didn’t think she’d ever be capable of hurting her children,and she couldn’t get over the fact that she’d gotten to a point where people felt they needed protection from her.” p. 72

Everything She Lost by Alessandra Harris.
Red Adept Publishing, Garner, North Carolina, 2017.
Adult thriller, 309 pages.
NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Nina Taylor is in recovery from a mental breakdown, and honestly, still suffering from an unexpected loss almost a decade ago.  Her best friend is single mom Deja Johnson, a woman with a tragic past of her own.  While Nina is wondering if a full recovery is even possible, Deja is wondering where her own life will go next.

Everything She Lost

I don’t review many thrillers, mainly because I haven’t found many good diverse ones yet.  The description of this one immediately sucked me in, especially since I’m always looking for new books about people of color with disabilities.

This book has alternating viewpoints, with one chapter from Nina’s point of view, and the next telling Deja’s part of the story.  Normally I’m not a fan of alternating viewpoints, but it worked well here.  The narration is from a third person limited point of view rather than first person, and the action moves so quickly that the back-and-forth worked.  This book takes place over only a few weeks.

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Review: Keeping the Dream Alive

A unique coffee table book with ample photos and information about legal work for justice.

Keeping the Dream Alive: The Cases and Causes of the Southern Poverty Law Center by Booth Gunter.
Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Alabama, 2014.
Non-fiction, 248 pages.
Not leveled.

This is a book with photographs and text from the history of the Southern Poverty Law Center, from its founding and earliest cases, to their current educational efforts.

Keeping the Dream Alive resized
Keeping the Dream Alive: The Cases and Causes of the Southern Poverty Law Center by Booth Gunter.

I love shopping at library sales and used bookstores.  This book was incredibly cheap and didn’t appear to even have been opened.  It’s not something I would have sought out, just a great random find.

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