Review: Major Taylor

“Asked by reporters how he managed to keep calm despite attacks by other cyclists, Marshall answered ‘I simply ride away.’ ” page 19

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Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Antheneum Books for Young Readers imprint, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2004.
Picture book biography, 32 pages.
Lexile:  AD1020L  (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  5.7 (worth 0.5 points)

Major Taylor became the World Champion of cycling in the early 1900s.  He combined perseverance, an incredible athleticism, and a little luck to set world records and popularize the sport of bicycling in America.  Yet his story is largely unknown today.

Major Taylor cover resized

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Review: Visiting Day

“I go to sleep and don’t wake up again until the bus pulls up in front of the big old building where, as Grandma puts it, Daddy is doing a little time.” page 19

Visiting Day, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Puffin Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2002.
Realistic fiction picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile:  AD1150L  .  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  3.6 (worth 0.5 points)  .

An unnamed little girl describes her favorite day of the month, when she and her grandmother visit her father in prison.

Visiting Day resized
Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome.

If you had to visit a prison, it probably wouldn’t be your favorite day.  But what if your very favorite person was in prison?  What if your Daddy that you loved more than anyone in the world was a person you only got to see once a month?  For this little girl and her grandmother, Visiting Day is a celebration that causes them to wake up with a smile, and sadness only comes when they get off the bus home, alone without Daddy.

This book is full of vivid imagery that engages all the senses as grandma passes peppermints and kisses.  Teeth are brushed and hair done in preparation for the visit.  Woodson’s writing is, as always, lyrical and beautiful.  Although it’s not presented as poetry, this book would also make a wonderful poem.

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Review: The Answer

“But that was what was supposed to happen, so Sapphire didn’t mind. Sapphire had already accepted everything that would ever happen to her.” page 6

The Answer, written by Rebecca Sugar, illustrated by Elle Michalka and Tiffany Ford.
Cartoon Network Books imprint, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
Fantasy picture book, 30 pages.
Not yet leveled.

This is the story of Sapphire, a wise gem who knows the future, and Ruby, a brave little gem who fights to the end.  Sapphire would say it’s a short and sad story, but Ruby disagrees.

The Answer resized

While the Steven Universe TV show’s mythology and storyline bring some hefty worldbuilding to this picture book, you can read and enjoy it with no prior knowledge.  We rarely watch TV, so I learned about the show from writing this review.

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Review: This Day in June

My thoughts about this book were complicated. It has great promise but falters in some of the execution.

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten.
Magination Press, American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., 2014.
Informative fiction, 36 pages.
Not leveled.

The story of Pridefest presented through a parade for family discussion.

This Day in June
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten.

This was one of the picture books Husband bought that I mentioned before.  I struggled reviewing it since my feelings are mixed.  While characters of color are included in this book, it struck me that all the couples included seemed to be either white, or of mixed race.  None of the families had two adults of color.

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Review: Dave the Potter

“To us / it is just dirt, / the ground we walk on. / Scoop up a handful. / The gritty grains slip / between your fingers.” page 3

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Little, Brown, and Company Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Picture book biography, 40 pages including end notes.
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 2011.
2011 Caldecott Honor recipient.
Lexile:  AD1100L (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  6.0 (worth 0.5 points) .

Dave the Potter was a real-life African-American slave and artist.  He must have been incredibly strong, because he was able to successfully make pots as large as forty gallons.  He knew how to read and write, because he marked poems into the sides of some of his pots.  Beyond that we may never know many of the details of his life.

Dave the Potter Cover resized

This book came up several times before I bought it.  The first time, it was mistakenly labeled as fiction.  Later I realized it was non-fiction and added it to the bottom of my TBR.  After reading When the Beat Was Born by the same author, I decided to purchase this book, knowing that the writing would be excellent.  And I loved it!

Since so little is definitively known about Dave, this book focuses on the process of making his pottery that Dave would likely have gone through, using sparse poetry, detailed and realistic images of the process, and collage backgrounds imagining the world he inhabited.

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Review: We’re All Wonders

“I know I can’t change the way I look. / But maybe, just maybe… / … people can change the way they see.”
pages 23-25

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio.
Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
Picture book, 27 pages
Lexile:  Not yet leveled.
AR Level:  Not yet leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

This picture book follows a young Auggie, main character of the chapter book novel Wonder, through the park and beyond as he reminds us that we’re all wonders.

We're All Wonders

I’ve seen this in pre-order for a while now, and was interested but also a little worried that the author is just tapping into her previous successful novel rather than doing anything original.  Then I saw it at Target and decided to buy it for my diverse targetpick of the month.  Interestingly, Z picked this off of the shelf and requested that I read it to him.  (I didn’t put it in his bookbin, it was on a family shelf and not in the kids reading area.  Also, yes, our littles have their own bookbins.  #teachernerdparent)

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Review: Who Are You?

THE non-fiction picture book for discussing gender with kids from age three up.

Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, illustrated by Naomi Bardoff.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, 2017.  (First pub in the UK, London.)
Informative non-fiction picture book, 30 pages.
Not yet leveled.  (I would read it aloud or rate it at about a third grade level due to difficult words like assigned, expression, identity.)

This simple picture book is a child’s first guide to gender identity, whether trans or cis or in-between!

Who Are You cover
Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, illustrated by Naomi Bardoff.

As we prepared for the first Pridefest celebration with kids in tow, Husband ordered a bunch of books to read with them.  Some were (unbeknownst to him) straight off my wishlist, while others, like this delightful guide to gender, were new to me.

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