Daddy & Dada

When Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster started looking for books for their daughter showing families with two dads (like theirs), they discovered the massive hole in the market for LGBTQ+ representation in children’s books. Fortunately for all of us, they decided to address the issue by writing their own book, Daddy & Dada, and I’m thrilled to share it with you all today.

This sweet picture book follows a young girl named Rumi as she introduces us to her family, including her two dads, baby brother, and dog. Rumi narrates in a straightforward, conversational voice (like most four-year-olds would) and highlights a number of diverse family structures, creating both a window and a mirror for young readers. Just in time for Father’s Day and Pride Month, Daddy & Dada is a wonderful celebration of all families, and the many combinations of people that make a family.

The illustrations by Lauren May are absolutely adorable. The bold colors reminded me of Saturday morning cartoons during my childhood. Lauren truly captured the love of a happy family and brought the warmth of a happy home to the pages.

Daddy & Dada officially releases tomorrow, but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

To learn more about Ryan, Issac, and their family, be sure to follow them on Instagram: @rybrockington and @realisaacwebster.

Lauren May is a freelance illustrator based in New England. Please visit her website at monstertea.party to learn more about her and her work.

Ryan and Isaac’s story really spoke to me, because it reminds me of my journey to create Mutually Inclusive to make a space for all families to find themselves in books. So I want to make sure I thank both Little Brown Books For Young Readers for providing me with a review copy of Daddy & Dada, and Ryan and Isaac for creating such an inclusive book for children to see their families in. I’m so happy to “meet” their family and to share Daddy & Dada with families looking for representation in children’s books.

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Kuan Yin: The Princess Who Became the Goddess of Compassion

If you’re looking for a unique picture book about princesses, sisters, or compassion, I’ve got you covered today! Kuan Yin: The Princess Who Became the Goddess of Compassion by Maya van der Meer is a stunning retelling of an ancient Chinese Buddhist tale with a delightfully modern message.

Kuan Yin follows the story of Princess Miao Shan and her younger sister Princess Ling. Much to their father’s chagrin, Miao Shan has chosen a spiritual path for her life, rejecting the duties of her royal title. Her heart is filled with love and compassion, and she wants to share it with the world. Though Miao Shan and Ling are separated during their journey, their love continues to bring them back together. Ling overcomes her own doubt and loneliness while witnessing her sister’s path to enlightenment. Together they accomplish impossible tasks and realize the true power of love.

I really appreciated the relationship between the sisters in Kuan Yin and the way they support one another. As someone who didn’t learn to get along with her sister until adulthood, I love a positive example of sisterhood for young readers, and Kuan Yin does not disappoint.

The incredible illustrations by Wen Hsu are inspired by the Tang Dynasty, and they truly bring the sisters’ adventures to life. Every page is beautifully detailed, and the colors are absolutely stunning.

Kuan Yin is out now and available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

I am also giving away a copy of Kuan Yin over on Instagram this weekend, so be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win!

Maya van der Meer is an author, educator, environmentalist, and long-time Buddhist practitioner based in Woodstock, New York. Please visit her website at mayavandermeer.com to learn more about her and her work.

Wen Hsu is an award-winning Taiwanese-Costa Rican illustrator who has illustrated stories for children in a number of countries, including Japan, Korea, Guatemala, India, Nicaragua, and more. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her Facebook page.

I want to thank Bala Kids for kindly providing me with a review copy of Kuan Yin: The Princess Who Became the Goddess of Compassion. This beautiful book is an absolute delight and I’m honored to be able to share it today.

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Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks

Sarah and the Big Wave by Bonnie Tsui is a wonderful picture book biography that tells the story of Sarah Gerhardt, the first woman to surf Mavericks.

Young readers will learn about Sarah’s journey to become a pioneer for women in surfing, including her challenges, such as finding gear in the right sizes and finding a welcoming group of friends to share her passion with. Sarah and the Big Wave shares a wonderful lesson of following your passions and persevering through challenges. And of course, this is a great pick for young surfing enthusiasts.

I really love the illustrations by Sophie Diao! The way she captured both the beauty and movement of the ocean was really stunning.

The back matter also contains a wonderful timeline of the history women in surfing from the 1600’s to 2020, making it a great resource for educators.

Sarah and the Big Wave is officially out next week, but you can purchase it anywhere books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Bonnie Tsui is an author and journalist who lives, swims, and surfs in the Bay Area. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at bonnietsui.com.

Sophie Diao is an artist and illustrator based in San Francisco, California. Please visit her website at sophiediao.com to learn more about her and her work.

I also want to thank Henry Holt Books For Young Readers for proving me with a review copy of Sarah and the Big Wave. I loved learning about Sarah, and I’m so glad to share her story with you all.

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New Release Round Up – May 11, 2021

Happy Tuesday, everybody! It’s time to talk about new releases again!

I’m so excited to share the new releases I am most looking forward to this week with you all. As always, these titles will have inclusive characters (think racial and cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, diverse family structures, disability representation, and more), and fall into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories.

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission from purchases made, with no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.

Board Books

City Baby by Laurie Elmquist, Illustrated by Ashley Barron (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Bustling streets, lively squares and busy restaurants are baby’s playground when they are in the big city. So much to see and do as baby’s stroller navigates the crowded avenues or baby takes a break in a quiet park to blow bubbles and chase pigeons. Ashley Barron’s paper-collage illustrations are a joy to behold, bringing energy and life to this delightful board book. Rhyming verse from Laurie Elmquist takes the reader on a journey through a festive big city.”

Hello From Here by Pamela Kennedy, Illustrated by Mackenzie Haley (Bookshop | Amazon)

“It’s difficult to be separated from those we love, and sometimes it’s hard to feel connected when we can’t be together in person. This board book helps fill that need to connect, with a simple message: I’m still here, even though I’m not right there beside you. A series of scenarios depicts a narrator employing various forms of communication—from video calls and letters to dolphin-messengers and skywriting—to say a simple “hello” to someone far away. Exploring the idea of connecting over distance, whether it’s through a pane of glass or across a continent, this book delivers its earnest message in a lighthearted way, engaging children’s imaginations in thinking of delightful new ways to say “hello.” The book will remind them that they are loved by those they can’t always see. Instead of emphasizing what we can’t do when we’re apart, this book takes a positive view and makes a game out of finding new ways we can communicate.”

Picture Books

Sarah And The Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks by Bonnie Tsui, Illustrated by Sophie Diao (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Have you ever seen a big wave? One that’s twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty feet tall? Here’s a better question: Would you ever surf a big wave? Sarah Gerhardt did―and this is her story.

This tale of perseverance and indomitable spirit is about the first woman to ride the waves at Mavericks, one of the biggest and most dangerous surf breaks in the world.”

Peace Train by Cat Stevens, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Bookshop | Amazon)

Hop aboard the Peace Train in this picture book adaptation of Cat Stevens’s legendary anthem of unity and harmony in time for the song’s 50th anniversary! With illustrations by New York Times bestselling illustrator Peter H. Reynolds.

“Now I’ve been happy lately
Thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be
Something good has begun

Oh, I’ve been smiling lately
Dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be
Someday it’s going to come”

Readers are invited to hop on the PEACE TRAIN and join its growing group of passengers who are all ready to unite the world in peace and harmony.

Featuring the timeless lyrics of Cat Stevens’s legendary song and illustrations by New York Times bestselling artist Peter H. Reynolds, this hopeful picture book inspires tolerance and love for people of all cultures and identities.”

A Day For Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day by Leah Henderson, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Bookshop | Amazon)

A moving tribute to the little-known history behind the first Memorial Day, illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award winner Floyd Cooper

Today is a special day. Eli knows it’s important if he’s allowed to miss one second of school, his “hard-earned right.”
Inspired by true events and told through the eyes of a young boy, this is the deeply moving story about what is regarded as the first Memorial Day on May 1, 1865. Eli dresses up in his best clothes, Mama gathers the mayflowers, Papa straightens his hat, and together they join the crowds filling the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, with bouquets, crosses, and wreaths. Abolitionists, missionaries, teachers, military officers, and a sea of faces Black, Brown, and White, they march as one and sing for all those who gave their lives fighting for freedom during the Civil War.
With poignant prose and celebratory, powerful illustrations, A Day for Rememberin’ shines light on the little-known history of this important holiday and reminds us never to forget the people who put their lives on the line for their country. The book is illustrated by award-winning illustrator Floyd Cooper and includes archival photos in the back matter, as well as an author’s note, bibliography, timeline, and index.”

Fearless World Traveler: Adventures of Marianne North, Botanical Artist by Laurie Lawlor, Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander (Bookshop | Amazon)

Scientist. Artist. Rule-breaker. The vibrant and daring life of Marianne North by the award-winning author of Super Women and Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World.

In 1882, Marianne North showed the gray city of London paintings of jaw-dropping greenery like they’d never seen before.

As a self-taught artist and scientist, Marianne North subverted Victorian gender roles and advanced the field of botanical illustration. Her technique of painting specimens in their natural environment was groundbreaking. The legendary Charles Darwin was among her many supporters.

Laurie Lawlor deftly chronicles North’s life, from her restrictive childhood to her wild world travels to the opening of the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens to her death in 1890. The North gallery at Kew Gardens remains open to the public today.

Becca Stadtlander’s award-winning lush, verdant artwork pairs wonderfully with the natural themes.”

Nosotros Means Us: Un Cuento Bilingüe by Paloma Valdivia (Bookshop | Amazon)

“A moving bilingual ode to the unshakeable bond between a parent and child in the tradition of Runaway Bunny and The Wonderful Things You Will Be.

If I were a sheep, you would be a lamb.
If I were a bear, you would be a cub.
As a mother holds her toddler, they muse over the way their love would translate if they were different animals. But no matter how they change, they will always be “us.” This bilingual story is a timeless ode to the unshakable bond between parent and child.

Si yo fuera una oveja, tú serías un cordero.
Si yo fuera una osa, tú serías un osenzo.
Con su niño en brazos, una madre contempla cómo sería elamorentre ellos si fueran diferentes animales. Pero por mucho que cambien,no importa. Siempre serán“nosotros”. Este cuento bilingüe es una oda eterna al lazo irrompibleentre madre e hijo.”

Cranky Right Now by Julie Berry, Illustrated by Holly Hatam (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Sometimes we’re all cranky, and that’s okay! Cranky Right Now shows kids how to deal with those cranky days.

Cranky Right Now brings a much-needed message to kids: sometimes we’re all cranky. Maybe we’re tired, we’re hungry, or we’re just feeling grumpy. Dealing with emotions can be hard. Cranky Right Now is a fun and funny ride through the ups and downs of being cranky, helping kids process difficult feelings, frustrating relationships, and things that just make them mad.

Award-winning author Julie Berry talks about reasons kids can feel cranky and how to recognize those feelings and acknowledge them. She then gives simple practices for moving through crankiness. She shows that it’s okay to be in a bad mood sometimes―just not to take it out on others―and that cranky days will eventually give way to happy ones.

A companion volume to Happy Right Now, with Holly Hatam’s bright and playful illustrations, Cranky Right Now helps you embrace, understand, and move through cranky in a whole new way.”

Secret, Secret Agent Guy by Kira Bigwood, Illustrated by Celia Krampien (Bookshop | Amazon)

Send little spies to sleep with this hilarious, tongue-in-cheek lullaby set to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Dear Fellow Agents:

Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to join Secret, Secret Agent Guy on his bedtime assignment, code name: Operation Lollipop. Equipped with night-vision goggles, a jetpack, and grappling hook, he is prepared for every eventuality…or is he?

Will this 007-year-old complete his covert quest, or will he be outsmarted by an adversary he never saw coming?”

No Pants by Jacob Grant (Bookshop | Amazon)

Laugh-out-loud father-son drama in which the dad learns an important and timely lesson–pants are NOT for everyone!

Pablo and his dad are ready for a great day. It’s party day! A cookout with the whole family. All they need to do is get ready. Eat breakfast. Brush teeth. Put on pants. And they’ll be ready to go!
Only Pablo has another idea: No Pants!
Suddenly it’s looking as if party time is a ways off after all.
Here’s a hilarious and warm-hearted look at a father-son relationship that shows there is more than one way of wearing–and thinking about–pants!”

Roots and Wings: How Shahzia Sikander Became an Artist by Shahzia Sikander, Illustrated by Hannah Barczyk (Bookshop | Amazon)

Pakistani-American artist Shahzia Sikander recounts how growing up as a tomboy in a multicultural home in Pakistan inspired her to become an artist

Growing up in a multigenerational, multicultural home in Lahore, Pakistan, where her family’s Muslim traditions are filled with food and rituals, Shahzia is surrounded by stories of all kinds. At the Catholic school she attends, she studies Western literature, and at home, her father regales her and her siblings with fantastical tales from a Russian storybook on animals. Shahzia’s love for books leads to a fascination with illustrations, like the ones she sees in illuminated manuscripts and South Asian miniature portraits, and she discovers a talent for drawing. Through art, Shahzia is able to create the different worlds she reads about, using her imagination to take her beyond the walls of the home she grows up in.
Written by artist Shahzia Sikander with award-winning author Amy Novesky, and featuring artwork, Roots and Wings is a colorful introduction to a multicultural perspective that will inspire young readers to use art and imagination to explore new worlds.”

Chapter Books

Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You by Sonja Cherry-Paul, Jason Reynolds, and Ibram X. Kendi, Illustrated by Rachelle Baker (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This chapter book edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller by luminaries Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds is an essential introduction to the history of racism and antiracism in America

RACE. Uh-oh. The R-word.
But actually talking about race is one of the most important things to learn how to do.

Adapted from the groundbreaking bestseller Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, this book takes readers on a journey from present to past and back again. Kids will discover where racist ideas came from, identify how they impact America today, and meet those who have fought racism with antiracism. Along the way, they’ll learn how to identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their own lives.

Ibram X. Kendi’s research, Jason Reynolds’s and Sonja Cherry-Paul’s writing, and Rachelle Baker’s art come together in this vital read, enhanced with a glossary, timeline, and more.”

Mission to Mars (Astronaut Girl #4) by Cathy Hapka and Ellen Vandenberg, Illustrated Gillian Reid (Bookshop | Amazon)

Can Astronaut Girl save the day with a little help from science? Find out as she and her space crew blast off on new adventures in this chapter book series!

When Val’s teacher gives her class a science assignment to build terrariums, Val can’t wait to get started! She’s picked Wallace and her two friends, Ling and Abby, to join her group, and she expects to be in charge…after all, she is Astronaut Girl! But Val soon discovers it’s impossible for them to agree on anything. And things don’t get much better when the group and the Astro Crew zoom off to Mars for an outer-space adventure. Can the group finally put their heads together in order to save themselves from a giant sandstorm, or will they be stranded on Mars forever?

Exciting, easy-to-read books are the stepping stone a young reader needs to bridge the gap between being a beginner and being fluent.”

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend (Jo Jo, 1) by Dawn Quigley, Illustrated by Tara Audibert (Bookshop | Amazon)

Hello/Boozhoo—meet Jo Jo Makoons! Full of pride, joy, and plenty of humor, this first book in an all-new chapter book series by Dawn Quigley celebrates a spunky young Ojibwe girl who loves who she is.

Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn—about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly.

Even though Jo Jo loves her #1 best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she’s worried that she needs to figure out how to make more friends. Because Fern, her best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore…

The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

Middle Grade

Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (Bookshop | Amazon)

A moving middle-grade debut for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t belong

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be normal again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team, even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .
But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves and each other.”

Unsettled by Reem Faruqi (Bookshop | Amazon)

“For fans of Other Words for Home and Front Desk, this powerful, charming own voices immigration story follows a girl who moves from Karachi, Pakistan to Peachtree City, Georgia, and must find her footing in a new world. Reem Faruqi is the ALA Notable author of award-winning Lailah’s Lunchbox.

When her family moves from Pakistan to Peachtree City, all Nurah wants is to blend in, yet she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts.

And in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais—who is going through struggles of his own in the U.S. Yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates.

Ultimately Nurah slowly gains confidence in the form of strong swimming arms, and also gains the courage to stand up to bullies, fight for what she believes in, and find her place.”

Planet Omar: Incredible Rescue Mission by Zanib Mian, Illusrated by Nasaya Mafaridik (Bookshop | Amazon)

Omar has to solve the mystery of his missing teacher in the third installment of this highly-illustrated middle-grade series starring a Muslim boy with a huge imagination.

Omar is going on his biggest adventure yet–a trip to Pakistan! But his excitement about the trip is interrupted by some shocking news: his amazing teacher is not coming back to school, and no one will say why.

When Omar and his friends start investigating, the hints they overhear and clues they find lead them to an alarming conclusion–it must be aliens!

Omar has a huge imagination, but saving his teacher from aliens seems far-fetched even to him. He’s going to need out-of-this-world creative thinking and a huge spirit of adventure to solve this mystery!”

I hope you all enjoyed reading about these new releases, and hopefully you found one or two to add to your young reader’s shelves!

Did I miss any releases you’re excited for? Be sure to share in the comments below!

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How Old Am I?

I had not heard of this title before it arrived on my doorstep, but now I am absolutely obsessed with How Old Am I? by JR and Julie Pugeat! Inspired by JR’s Inside Out Project, this fascinating visual reference book contains 100 portraits of 100 different people from 100 different countries, ranging from ages 1 to 100.

Each portrait is paired with with a little information about the subject, including a translation of “Hello” in their language, their name, age, where they live, where they were born, and some of their personal experiences. How Old Am I? is an amazing resource offering young readers several lessons, from counting and geography to celebrating art, aging, and diversity – making it the perfect addition to classrooms and school libraries.

The black and white portraits included are absolutely stunning, and I really love the contrasting bright colors and dots used as backgrounds throughout the book.

How Old Am I? officially releases later this week (May 12, 2021), but you can preorder it today at your local bookstore, Bookshop, or Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

JR is a Parisian artist and activist known for his large scale public photography projects. To learn more about him and his work, visit his website at jr-art.net.

 Julie Pugeat is a studio director and mother of two, based in France. To learn more about her, please visit her Instagram.

Thank you so much to Phaidon for sending a review copy of How Old Am I? my way. It was a wonderful surprise and I’m beyond excited to share it with all the young readers in my life.

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The Neighborhood Surprise

Sarah van Dongen’s debut, The Neighborhood Surprise, is a lovely picture book, but be warned – don’t read it when you’re hungry. This sweet book is all about food and some of the different ways it can be prepared.

In The Neighborhood Surprise we are introduced to a young girl named Koya, her friends Hassan and Alex, and their favorite neighbor, Mrs. Fig. When the trio of children hear that Mrs. Fig is moving to a retirement home, they plan a surprise going away party for her. The whole neighborhood gets involved, and they are all sure to include vegan and vegetarian options for the vegan and vegetarian households in their neighborhood. With a cute surprise ending, The Neighborhood Surprise really captures the warmth of a closely knit community and the way neighbors can support one another.

This is also a fantastic resource for children who are curious about veganism and vegetarianism. The author’s note in the back offers a few definitions along with reasons people might eat this way, opening the door to further conversation.

The illustrations are really fun, and I especially enjoy the detail in the spreads where we see neighbors cooking with their families. Each spread gives a wonderful glimpse into each home in the neighborhood, providing us with lots of visual character development.

The Neighborhood Surprise is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Sarah van Dongen is a debut children’s book author and illustrator. You can learn more about her and her work at sarahvandongen.com.

I would also like to thank Tiny Owl and Myrick Marketing and Media for providing me with a review copy of this lovely book.

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Last Gate Of The Emperor

If you’re looking for a book for a middle grader, I have a treat for you today.

Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen could be described as Black Panther meets Ready Player One set in a mythical Ethiopia in outer space. With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, this page turning Afrofuturist tale follows a young boy named Yared as he joins the Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk – an augmented reality game that will change his life forever.

Yared lives a lonely life in the city of Addis Prime. He was raised by his nervous Uncle Moti, who moved them around a lot growing up. Uncle Moti tells him tales of an empire called Axum and war that spans the galaxy. Yared’s only friend is the bionic lioness Bessa gifted to him by his uncle when he was a small child. Despite his isolated life, Yared is a typical quick-witted kid, full of bravado.

Our story begins as Yared sneaks out of school to join The Hunt For Kaleb’s Obelisk. He learns that some of the rules have changed – not only is he required to enter his real name into the game to play, but he is also forced to partner up with his biggest rival in the game, a young girl called the Ibis. Suddenly, nothing goes according to plan, and instead of jumping to the top of the leaderboards, Yared and the Ibis find themselves in the middle of an attack on the city.

The stories Uncle Moti has been telling Yared for years seem to be coming to life, but as Yared starts putting puzzle pieces together, he realizes his Uncle has disappeared. Yared and the Ibis decide to work together to find Uncle Moti, and along the way, Yared learns that his life as he knows it may not be exactly what it seems.

I don’t want to give everything away, but I have to tell you: this book as fantastic. I can easily see this becoming a very successful series, and even having comics, cartoons, or movies. The characters are all very relatable and likable (for the most part anyway).

With nods to Prince Joel Makonnen’s childhood experiences growing up as the great-grandson of the last emperor of Ethiopia, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, readers will learn about Ethiopia’s rich history in unexpected ways. I specifically appreciated the afterword that sheds light on that history and points out all the ways it influenced the book.

Last Gate of the Emperor is available now wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Kwame Mbalia is a New York Times bestselling author who lives in North Carolina with his family. Please visit his website at kwamembalia.com to learn more about him and his work.

Prince Joel Makonnen is a direct descendant of Ethiopian royalty, Co-Founder and CEO of Old World // New World, and a lawyer based in Washington DC. To learn more about him, please visit his website at princeyoel.com.

Thank you so much to Scholastic Books for sending a review copy of Last Gate of the Emperor. I can’t wait to see if the adventure continues in a sequel!

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On the Trapline

I have another wonderful intergenerational story for y’all today.

From David A. Robertson and Julie Flett, the creators of When We Were Alone, On the Trapline is a stunning picture book that highlights indigenous values, including the deep connections to family and the land.

In this book, we meet a young Cree boy who is accompanying his Moshom (grandfather) on a trip to visit a place that is dear to his heart. They are going to the trapline, a place where his grandfather grew up hunting game with his family.

Throughout the book, the boy sees the places his grandfather grew up, listening to the stories of his childhood. He sees the house by the lake that his family stayed in, the school his grandfather attended, and finally, they reach the trapline. He learns about the way the entire family slept in a tent, the food they ate, and the animals they trapped. On each page, young readers learn a Swampy Cree word, with pronunciation guides provided in the back matter.

As always, Julie Flett’s illustrates are absolute perfection. I really appreciated the way she captured both the past and present in the illustrations. My personal favorites are two mirrored illustrations in which one page captures the grandfather’s story of sneaking into the bush at school to speak Cree, and the next page shows our narrator, his Moshom, and his Moshom’s old friend in the same bush years later. I found myself turning the pages to compare the landscapes, noting how trees and mushrooms had grown in the grandfather’s absence.

The back matter contains both an Author’s Note and Illustrator’s Note detailing their personal connections with this story, highlighting the authentic voices that are present throughout the book.

On the Trapline would make for an amazing Father’s Day gift. It is available now wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

David A. Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation and an award-winning children’s book author based in Winnipeg. To learn more about him and his work, please visit his website at darobertson.ca.

Julie Flett is an award-winning Cree-Metis author, illustrator, and artist based in Vancouver. Please visit her website at julieflett.com to learn more about her and her work.

Thank you so much to Tundra Books for generously providing me with a review copy of this wonderful book. It was an absolute delight and I know I will be revisiting it many times.

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Nosotros Means Us: Un cuento bilingüe

Nosotros Means Us: Un cuento bilingüe by Paloma Valdivia is a beautiful bilingual picture book highlighting the unconditional love between a mother and a child, told in both English and Spanish.

In this precious book, we follow along as a mother tells her child all about the ways she would love them if they were different animals. On the first few pages, our little family is depicted as matching animals, like a sheep and lamb, but there is a twist. The mother tells her child that one day they will leave, and both mother and child will grow into something else, but the child should know that she will always love them. Because they will always be mother and child.

I love the way Nosotros Means Us uses translated words to talk about the way the mother and child’s relationship would translate if they were different animals. I found it to be a very clever way to add a more complex layer to a perfectly simple concept, and it made such a powerful storytelling technique.

The illustrations are marvelous. I love the depictions of the different animals, but the color scheme is my absolute favorite. I love the perfectly minimalist style and the way the colors jump off every page.

Nosotros Means Us officially releases next week (May 11, 2021), but be sure to preorder this one as a Mother’s Day gift for the mothers in your life. You can preorder today anywhere books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Paloma Valdivia is a children’s book author and illustrator based in Chile. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at palomavaldivia.cl.

I want to thank Knopf Books For Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books for providing me with a review copy of this wonderful book. I can’t wait to read it with my little one!

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New Release Round Up – May 4, 2021

Happy Tuesday, everybody! The first week of May has a TON of new books hitting the shelves, so it’s time to talk about new releases again! Let’s jump right in!

As always, these titles will have inclusive characters (think racial and cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, diverse family structures, disability representation, and more), and fall into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories.

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission from purchases made, with no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.

Board Books

Glow by Ruth Forman, Illustrated by Geneva Bowers (Bookshop | Amazon)

A joyfully poetic board book that delivers an ode to the beautiful light of African American boys.

I shine night too
smooth brown
glow skin

This simple, playful, and elegant board book stars a young boy who joyfully celebrates his dark skin with a bright moon at the end of a perfect day.”

The Gay B Cs by M. L. Webb (Bookshop | Amazon)

Now in board book format, a joyful alphabet book of LGBTQ+ vocabulary for kids of all ages!

A playdate extravaganza transforms into a joyful celebration of friendship, love, and identity as four young friends sashay out of all the closets, dress up in a wardrobe fit for kings and queens, and discover the wonders of their imagination. In The GayBCs, M. L. Webb’s playful illustrations and lively poems delight in the beauty of embracing one’s truest self—from A is for Aro and Ace to F is for Family to T is for Trans.”

Mermaid Dreams by Kate Pugsley (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Mermaids come in all shapes and sizes! In this sweet picture book, a shy little girl goes on a magical underwater adventure filled with adorable mermaids, silly sea creatures, games with new friends and wonderful surprises!

One sunny Saturday, Maya and her parents visit the beach. Maya loves the beach: the warm sand feels wonderful between her toes. But it would be more fun if she had a friend. Too shy to say hello, Maya watches the kids play nearby, and slowly her eyes droop closed . . .

When Maya awakens she has been transported to a magical underwater world. Maya admires the sea creatures flitting around her, and she discovers that she too has a beautiful tail. Maya is a mermaid! But who is calling out a greeting from behind that coral? Whose bright eyes are peering at her from the sea grass? Whose laughter does she hear? Could it be a new friend? Or just another sea creature?

This adorable picture book will delight the youngest daydreamers and shows us that making new friends may not be as hard as you think — if you have a good imagination!”

Picture Books

Many Shapes Of Clay: A Story of Healing by Kenesha Sneed (Bookshop | Amazon)

In this modern-day fable about grief, diversity, and family connections, a young girl discovers the joys–and pain–of the creative process.

Eisha lives with her mother, a ceramic artist, who helps her make a special shape out of a piece of clay. The shape reminds Eisha of her father, of the ocean, of a lemon. As Eisha goes through her neighborhood doing errands with her mother, the piece of clay hardens and then shatters into pieces when Eisha taps it. In poignant and powerful words and pictures, Kenesha Sneed shows how Eisha learns to live with the sense of loss and of the joyful power of making something new out of what is left behind. Illustrated with Sneed’s bold colors, graphic lines, and gestural textures, the book celebrates diversity and shares a gentle message that we all have the ability to heal and create.”

You can also read my full review of Many Shapes Of Clay for more detail.

Hair Twins by Raakhee Mirchandani, Illustrated by Holly Hatam (Bookshop | Amazon)

A Sikh father and daughter with a special hair bond proudly celebrate and share a family tradition in this charming story perfect for fans of Hair Love and I Love My Hair!Every morning Papa combs through his daughter’s waves like he does his own—parting it down the middle, using coconut oil to get all the tangles out.

Some days he braids her hair in two twists down the side of her face. Other days he weaves it into one long braid hanging down her back, just like a unicorn tail. But her favorite style is when he combs her hair in a tight bun on the top of her head, just like the joora he wears every day under his turban. They call this their hair twin look!”

Kuan Yin: The Princess Who Became the Goddess of Compassion by Maya van der Meer, Illustrated by Wen Hsu (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Two sisters discover the power of love and the true meaning of compassion in this princess-adventure story based on an ancient Chinese tale.

Miao Shan isn’t your typical princess. She likes to spend her time quietly meditating with the creatures of the forest or having adventures with dragons and tigers. Miao Shan’s heart is so full of love that her dream is to spread happiness throughout the land and help people endlessly. But her father has other plans for her–he intends to have her married and remain in the palace. With the help of her little sister Ling, Miao Shan escapes and begins her journey to discover the true meaning of compassion.

During their adventure, Ling and Miao Shan are eventually separated. Ling must overcome doubts, fears, and loneliness in order to realize what her sister had told her all along–that love is the greatest power in the world. After the sisters’ reunion, Miao Shan realizes her true calling as Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion. A princess-adventure story like none other, this ancient Chinese tale of the world’s most beloved Buddhist hero is a story of sisterhood, strength, and following your own path.”

We Move The World by Kari Lavelle, Illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (Bookshop | Amazon)

An inspiring and empowering picture book about the small things kids do that have the potential to change the world!

Meet some of the world’s most beloved movers, shakers, scientists, activists, dreamers, and doers from the past and present who model what every childhood first can lead to! Neil Armstrong, Misty Copeland, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and more were once kids—they grew up to lead us to the moon, dance in the ballet, and break barriers.

From first steps to solving puzzles and learning the alphabet, all the small things are only the beginning: they can lead to future activism and innovation that just might change the world!

Featuring fresh and accessible text paired with vibrant illustrations, We Move the World gives young readers a chance to see how much is possible just because of the things they already do. Includes robust backmatter that gives further context on each figure and historical moment, including the most recent COVID-19 pandemic.”

Halal Hot Dogs by Susannah Aziz, Illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Bookshop | Amazon)

Musa has the perfect idea for his special Jummah treat, but things don’t go according to plan. Will Musa be able to get a yummy Jummah treat for his family?

Every Friday after Jummah prayer at the masjid, Musa’s family has a special Jummah treat. They take turns picking out what the treat will be, but recently the choices have been . . . interesting. Week one, Mama made molokhia. It’s perfect for sharing, but gives us molokhia teeth for days! Week two, Baba burned the kufte kebabs on the grill. Week three, Seedi made his favorite riz b’haleeb-creamy rice pudding with pistachio sprinkled on top with an unexpected ingredient. Last week, Maryam brought jellybeans. . . . Finally, it’s Musa’s turn to pick, and he picks his favorite-halal hot dogs! But actually getting to eat this deliciousness turns into a journey riddled with obstacles. Will he ever get his favorite tasty treat?”

Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory by Julie Abery, Illustrated by Chris Sasaki (Bookshop | Amazon)

“The inspirational and little-known story of a dedicated teacher who coached Hawaiian swimmers all the way to the Olympics, beautifully told in simple rhyme.When the children of workers on a 1930s Maui sugar plantation were chased away from playing in the nearby irrigation ditches, local science teacher Soichi Sakamoto had an idea. He offered to take responsibility for the children — and then he began training them how to swim. Using his science background, Sakamoto devised his own innovative coaching techniques: he developed a strict practice regime for the kids, building their strength and endurance by using the ditch water’s natural current. The children worked hard under the dedicated Sakamoto’s guidance, and their skills improved. They formed a swim club and began to dominate in swimming events around the world. And then one day, the proud Sakamoto saw an impossible dream come true — Olympic gold!”

You also read my full review of Sakamoto’s Swim Club for more detail.

Josie Dances by Denise Lajimodiere, Illustrated by Angela Erdich (Bookshop | Amazon)

Josie dreams of dancing at next summer’s powwow. But first she needs many special things: a dress, a shawl, a cape, leggings, moccasins, and, perhaps most important of all, her spirit name. To gather all these essential pieces, she calls on her mom, her aunty, her kookum, and Grandma Greatwalker. They have the skills to prepare Josie for her powwow debut.

As the months go by, Josie practices her dance steps while Mom stitches, Aunty and Kookum bead, and Grandma Greatwalker dreams Josie’s spirit name. Josie is nervous about her performance in the arena and about all the pieces falling into place, but she knows her family is there to support her.

The powwow circle is a welcoming space, and dancers and spectators alike celebrate Josie’s first dance. When she receives her name, she knows it’s just right. Wrapped in the love of her community, Josie dances to honor her ancestors.

In this Ojibwe girl’s coming-of-age story, Denise Lajimodiere highlights her own daughter’s experience at powwow. Elegant artwork by Angela Erdrich features not only Josie and her family but also the animals and seasons and heartbeat of Aki, Mother Earth, and the traditions that link Josie to generations past and yet to come.”

Our Shed: A Father Daughter-Building Story by Robert Broder, Illustrated by Carrie O’Neill (Bookshop | Amazon)

A sweet, nostalgic father-daughter story, Our Shed celebrates DIY families as well as the unique creativity and spontaneity of each individual child.

This lovely story is about a father teaching his daughter how to build a backyard shed for storing the necessities of family life–a lawn mower, sprinkler, sleds, kid toys. For each practical element the dad brings to the project, his daughter adds her own imaginative creative spin. In the end, they are both happy with their collaboration.

And, just as dad passes building skills on to his daughter, so does his daughter eventually pass those skills on to her own son when they fix up the peeling shed at the end of the story.

Kids love tools, building things, and spending time with parents. This story hits all those points with love and humor.”

On The Trapline by David A. Robinson, Illustrated by Julie Flett (Bookshop | Amazon)

A picture book celebrating Indigenous culture and traditions. The Governor General Award–winning team behind When We Were Alone shares a story that honors our connections to our past and our grandfathers and fathers.

A boy and Moshom, his grandpa, take a trip together to visit a place of great meaning to Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt and live off the land, and it was where Moshom grew up. As they embark on their northern journey, the child repeatedly asks his grandfather, “Is this your trapline?” Along the way, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago — a life that appears to be both different from and similar to his life now. This is a heartfelt story about memory, imagination and intergenerational connection that perfectly captures the experience of a young child’s wonder as he is introduced to places and stories that hold meaning for his family.”

Arlo Draws an Octopus by Lori Mortenson, Illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr. (Bookshop | Amazon)

An empowering picture book about creativity, making mistakes, and changing your perspective

When Arlo decides to draw an octopus, he can’t help but think that maybe he’s just not an octopus drawer. His drawing has a head that looks like a hill and eight squiggly arms that look like roads. It’s an octopus disaster-piece! But just as Arlo vows to never draw an octopus again, he makes a discovery that changes his perspective about his drawing . . . and much more.
This endearing and relatable story gives readers of all ages a gentle reminder that we’re better than we may think. Sometimes all it takes is a second look.”

The Neighborhood Surprise by Sarah van Dongen (Bookshop | Amazon)

“All the children in the neighborhood like Mrs. Fig. She tells them stories, makes them costumes, and bakes delicious cookies. When children find out that Mrs Fig is leaving for a nursing home, they organise a surprise street party for her. Only to find out she’s moving to the other side of the street! Food brings the neighborhood together in this charming book about life-styles, veganism and vegetarianism.”

Two Grooms On A Cake by Rob Sanders, Illustrated by Robbie Cathro (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This is the story of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell and their inspiring story becoming the first married gay couple in the US fifty years ago.

Long before marriage equality was the law of the land, two grooms stood on a wedding cake with their feet firmly planted in fluffy white frosting. That cake belonged to Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who were wed on September 3, 1971, becoming the first same-sex couple in America to be legally married. Their struggle to obtain a marriage license in Minnesota and their subsequent appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States is an under-told story of LGBT history. This beautiful book celebrates the love story of two pioneers of marriage equality for all through the baking of their wedding cake!”

Small Room, Big Dreams: The Journey of Julián and Joaquin Castro by Monica Brown, Illustrated by Mirelle Ortega (Bookshop | Amazon)

“An informative, inspirational picture book biography about twins Julián and Joaquin Castro, who rose from poverty to become leaders for positive change in America.

The story of political powerhouse twins Julián and Joaquin Castro began in the small room that they shared with their grandmother Victoriana in San Antonio, Texas. Victoriana crossed the border from Mexico into Texas as a six-year-old orphan, marking the start of the family’s American journey. Her daughter Rosie, Julián and Joaquin’s mom, was an activist who helped the barrio through local government.

The strong women in their family inspired the twins to get involved in politics. Julián and Joaquin have been working at the local, state, and national level—as a former presidential candidate, mayor and member of President Obama’s Cabinet, and a U.S. Congressman, respectively—to make the country a better place for everyone.

Acclaimed author Monica Brown and illustrator Mirelle Ortega depict the Castros’ political and personal accomplishments in this must-read picture book biography.”

Chapter Books

She Persisted Nellie Bly by Michelle Knudsen, Illustrated by Gillian Flint (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds!

In this chapter book biography by New York Times bestselling author Michelle Knudsen, readers learn about the amazing life of Nellie Bly–and how she persisted.

Nellie Bly was a journalist and one of the first investigative reporters ever. She went undercover to expose wrongdoing and famously raced around the world so she could write about the experience for her newspaper. Reaching for her dreams wasn’t easy. But Nellie never gave up, no matter how many obstacles she faced–and she helped others along the way.

Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton!”

Home Sweet Forever Home (The Invincible Girls Club #1) by Rachele Alpine, Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Lauren and her three BFFs find creative ways to help shelter dogs get adopted in this first installment of the relatable and empowering The Invincible Girls Club chapter book series—featuring backmatter with profiles on real-life animal activists!

Lauren is a huge dog lover and is over-the-moon excited when she gets to go to the local shelter to read to the dogs. While there, she learns that the older dogs are often not adopted, so she and her friends set out to find them homes.

Together, Lauren, Ruby, Myka, and Emelyn create a brilliant event, where attendees can eat delicious cupcakes while meeting adoptable dogs. But on the big day, it seems like everything goes upside down. Can the girls save the event and make sure their four-legged friends get a chance at their fur-ever homes?”

Stoop Sale Treasure (Hand Me Down Magic #1) by Corey Ann Haydu, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Bookshop | Amazon)

DEL loves LOTS of things! The Curious Cousins Secondhand Shoppe. Ginormous family dinners. And of course, her best-friend-cousin, Alma.

ALMA loves her abuelita’s tasty empanadas. Her old home by the lake. And soon, she’ll love living in the same place as her best-friend-cousin, Del.   

Yet despite having Del by her side, Alma isn’t quite sure she fits in with their family at 86 ½ Twenty-Third Avenue. It’s a new life and it’s all so different. When Del finds a special item at a neighbor’s stoop sale, she gets so excited by the magic luck it brings—but doesn’t see that it’s driving the two best friends apart. Will family, friendship, and maybe a little everyday magic be enough to make things right again? 

Brimming with adorable illustrations and short, easy-to-read chapters, this is sure to be an instant favorite for fans of Ivy and Bean and Dory Fantasmagory!

Middle Grade

Last Gate of The Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel David Makonnen (Bookshop | Amazon)

“From Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel David Makonnen comes an Afrofuturist adventure about a mythical Ethiopian empire. Sci-fi and fantasy combine in this epic journey to the stars.

Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime — a hardscrabble city with rundown tech, lots of rules, and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa are his only family… and his only friends.

Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth, those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk. But when a change in the game rules prompts Yared to log in with his real name, it triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Uncle Moti disappears.

Suddenly, all the stories Yared’s uncle told him as a young boy are coming to life, of kingdoms in the sky and city-razing monsters. And somehow Yared is at the center of them.

Together with Besa and the Ibis — a game rival turned reluctant ally — Yared must search for his uncle… and answers to his place in a forgotten, galaxy-spanning war.”

Her Epic Adventure by Julia De Laurentiis Johnston, Illustrated by Salini Perera (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Thrilling true stories of female adventurers who never stopped believing in themselves — and achieved the unimaginable! Throughout history, women eager for adventure have long faced obstacles and opposition. But here are the stories of 25 remarkable women — from pilots to mountain climbers, deep-sea divers to Antarctic explorers — who defied expectations and made their mark on history. Included are Bessie Coleman, famously known as the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license (two years before Amelia Earhart!). But readers also learn about lesser-known women, such as Diana Nyad, who, at age 64, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, and Arunima Sinha, the first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest. The women’s experiences are all different, but they have one thing in common: they didn’t let anything get in the way of their dreams! This highly readable and inspiring book — organized by sky, peaks, ice, land and water adventures — describes the achievements of a diverse group of female adventurers from around the world, including women of color, Indigenous women, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities.”

I hope you all enjoyed reading about these new releases, and hopefully you found one or two to add to your young reader’s shelves!

Which titles have you been looking forward to the most? Be sure to share in the comments below!

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