The Fire of Stars: by Kirsten W. Larson is a must-read for anyone who loves science and is passionate about exploring the universe. It’s a fascinating and beautifully illustrated biography of Cecilia Payne, the first person to discover what burns at the heart of stars.
Author: Kirsten W. Larson Illustrator: Katherine Roy Publisher: Chronicle Books Published: February 7, 2023 Format: Picture Book
This was one of my 23 Most Anticipated Picture Books of 2023 , and I’m happy to report it did not disappoint! The book is a real gem, with lyrical and evocative text by Kirsten Larson and stunning illustrations by Katherine Roy. The text captures the excitement and thrill of scientific discovery while the illustrations showcase the beauty of space and the wonder of a star’s birth.
I personally loved how this book parallels the birth of a star with the journey of Payne’s own curiosity and scientific career. It’s a great reminder of the power of science and the spirit of adventure that drives so many of us to explore and discover.
I highly recommend The Fire of Stars for classroom, school libraries, and bookshelves everywhere. It’s a Junior Library Guild Selection, and a must-read for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of science and the power of human curiosity.
It’s no surprise that this book has received high praise from critics and reviewers. Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly have all given it a starred review. Critics have praised the book’s “luminous thematic pairing” and its ability to emphasize Payne’s accomplishments, highlighting her impact on astrophysics.
The Fire of Stars officially releases next week but you can preorder your copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. However, all opinions and recommendations expressed in this post are our own and are not influenced by any affiliations or compensation received.
Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid by Katherine Mazeika is an inspiring picture book biography of a woman who is often overlooked despite her trailblazing accomplishments in sports, dance, film, and design.
Author/Illustrator: Katie Mazeika Publisher: Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster) Published: September 13, 2022 Format: Picture Book
Following Annette Kellerman’s fascinating life, from her childhood in Australia to her many globe-trotting careers, Annette Feels Free provides young readers with a wonderful role model of an independent and determined young woman.
When Annette fell ill as a child, her legs became weak and she required braces to walk. Annette could no longer dance with her braces until she found swimming. In the water, Annette was free to kick, swim, and dance. She became a strong swimmer, and eventually, her legs were strong enough to walk without braces. But Annette would not stop swimming.
She competed across the globe, even racing against men. She performed dives and dances in the water in front of hundreds of people. She even swam in the English Channel!
Annette was free in the water, except that she couldn’t wear the same streamlined swimming suits as the men she raced against. The full skirt and pantaloons she swam in were restricting, so Annette made her own swimsuit. Everyone took notice, and Annette was even brought to court, but she won. Because of Annette, women and girls everywhere are allowed to swim in whatever makes them feel comfortable!
Annette Kellerman’s story is absolutely fascinating, and Katie Mazeika has paired it with wonderful illustrations. I love the way the water is captured on every page, allowing readers to feel the freedom it brought Annette.
Educators, don’t miss out on the free curriculum guide provided on Katie Mazeika’s website at katiemazeika.com. With discussion questions and multiple activities for students, this free resource makes this a fabulous addition to any classroom library.
Annette Feels Free officially releases tomorrow (September 13, 2022) 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!)
I’m so sorry to say that I had never heard of Annette Kellerman before reading Annette Feels Free, but I won’t be forgetting her story anytime soon. Thank you so much to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a review copy of Annette Feels Free with me. I’m so thrilled to be able to share Annette’s inspiring story with you all today!
About The Author/Illustrator:
Katherine Mazeika is an author, illustrator, and designer with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs.
On Today’s Author Spotlight we are chatting with Mollie Elkman about her debut, The House That She Built – an empowering picture book that educates young readers about the people and skills that go into building a home.
Mollie, thank you so much for making this interview possible! I am thrilled to chat with you about The House That She Built, but before we dive in, would you like to introduce yourself?
Hi! I’m Mollie Elkman. Mom to Zachary (10) and Zoey (4). I own group two, a marketing company for home builders.
The House That She Built is your first picture book. What inspired you to write the book?
One of my favorite builders (Kristi Allen) who has become a close friend of mine asked us to help do the marketing for an ambitious project she was part of. An all-women-built home.
Being exposed to over 100 women in building throughout the project and learning about their different stories and paths into careers in construction was incredibly inspiring. These women are amazing and have great careers, yet most people don’t think of women when they think of construction jobs.
Title:The House That She Built Author: Mollie Elkman Illustrator: Georgia Castellano Publisher: Builder Books Published: September 14, 2021 Format: Picture Book
Some people may wonder, “Why do we need a home built entirely by women?”. How do you answer those types of questions and help folks understand the importance of the project?
Right now there is a skilled labor shortage, which is only projected to get worse. With less than 3% of construction jobs being filled by women, it’s really important to show that women are completely capable of having very successful careers in construction. We want all underrepresented communities to know there are many different opportunities and paths to success.
What was the research process like for The House That She Built? Did your experience as a second-generation business owner in housing help you along with the research?
So many women like myself were brought into the housing industry by a father or grandfather. We would love to help break that cycle by making more women aware of these career opportunities. One of the most moving experiences for me while working on the book was being in the garage of the project that inspired the book. The walls were filled with pictures of all the women who had worked on the home during all stages of the build. Most of these women are used to being the only woman on the average jobsite, so this project was really special because it emphasized that not only are they not alone, but there is room for so many more!
I love the way The House That She Built highlights the variety of skilled jobs needed to build a home. Even as an adult, I never really thought about how many people are involved in building a home. Are the 18 jobs found in the book the original lineup, or did you have to narrow down from a larger scope?
Ah I love this question! No one has asked this yet. We absolutely had to narrow it down and there are many additional careers that are important and necessary. We tried to focus on the logical order of jobs from the planning stage all the way to the final touches to show the progression. There are so many other roles happening at the same time, though like installing the windows and doors! The intent was to get kids thinking about the space around them and the different skills and people that went into creating that space.
I know that Georgia Castellano, the illustrator, is the creative director at your company, Group Two. Did you two work closely throughout the illustration process?
We did! Not just through the illustration process but really the entire process of marketing and publishing. Georgia is extremely talented and we work really well together. Beyond that, we are friends which made this experience really fun.
Do you have a favorite spread? If so, which one?
I would say my favorite is the General Contractor because she is based on Kristi Allen who I mentioned before. I feel like she gave me this amazing gift by bringing me into the project she was working on and it makes me happy to see the cartoon version of her represented in the book.
Is there possibly another book in your future?
Next up, we will have an activity book to go along with the book. It’s incredible and I can’t wait to share it. From there, I really want to develop some curriculum for schools that highlight the different skills in the book. There has been a real emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) and this book fits really well into the conversation.
Is there anything else you’d like for Mutually Inclusive’s Readers to know?
Yes! This is a mission based initiative so all proceeds support workforce development initiatives in the homebuilding industry.
I would love to offer your readers a coloring page to download and print! It’s really fun to see how different kids can take the same image and create a completely unique finished piece.
I’m so excited to share my review of Princesses Can Fix It! by Tracy Marchini, a delightful retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses with a STEM/STEAM spin, complete with princesses, alligators, and a king with pink hair.
Title:Princesses Can Fix It! Author: Tracy Marchini Illustrator: Julia Christians Publisher: Page Street Kids Published: May 4, 2021 Format: Picture Book
Princesses Can Fix It! follows the Princesses Margaret, Harriet, and Lila as they attempt to help their father solve his alligator problem. The King does not approve of princesses who build, invent, or experiment, but fortunately, the Princesses have a secret lab where they get to work on a solution for the alligator problem.
As the Princesses toil away day after day, showing up for breakfast sleepier and sleepier, the Prince (who has his own problems with their father’s gender stereotypes) tries to provide the King with proof of the Princesses inventions. Despite the King’s doubt, the Princesses come up with the perfect solution to get all the alligators back in the moat—the King sees the error of his ways and allows all of his children to be themselves unapologetically.
Sure to please lovers of fairy tales, science, and technology, Princesses Can Fix It! is a wonderful selection to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage more modern ideas about gender roles. The illustrations by Julia Christians are absolutely delightful! They are so expressive and capture the personalities of each character, even the alligators.
Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, Princesses Can Fix It! 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!)
I would also like to thank Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Princesses Can Fix It! It was such a treat!
About the Author:
Tracy Marchini has worked in many areas of the children’s book industry, including as a freelance editor and a children’s book reviewer, and currently as a literary agent and author. She received her MFA in writing for children from Simmons College, and is the author of Chicken Wants a Nap (which received a starred review from Kirkus).
Julia Christians studied communications design at the University of Art in Brunswick, focusing on illustration, and works as a full-time illustrator. She lives with her husband, kids, and a pack of dogs in a small town in the Harz Mountains of Germany where she grew up.
Buckle up and get ready for a ride! Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler is a fun-filled picture book featuring a dad and daughter duo who take an exciting stroll through their neighborhood to shake a cranky mood.
I think all my fellow parents know how important time outside is after the lockdowns we all experienced during the pandemic. I don’t know about you, but daily family walks have become one of my favorite ways to take a break from the day, and Strollercoaster captures the fun of a neighborhood stroll perfectly!
With lots of clicks, clacks, and whooshes, we follow along as the father and daughter discover their diverse urban neighborhood with a narrative that mirrors the ups and downs of a roller coaster. The ride comes to an end as the pair arrive back home just in time for a nap.
The illustrations by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay are fantastic! Every page is so fun, from the vibrant colors, all the way down to the font for the onomatopoeia. I love all the detail they put into the neighborhood, especially the Spanish words throughout the illustrations!
Strollercoaster would be such a fun read for Father’s Day coming up this weekend. You can pick up a copy of your own 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!)
Matt Ringler is a children’s book author and Executive Editor at Scholastic Books. To learn more about him and his work you can visit his Twitter @doesntmattr.
Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay have been making art together since they met. Raúl is an award-winning illustrator and author, and Elaine is multi-disciplinary artist and colorist. They are both based in Boston where they live with their son. Please visit raulthethird.com to learn more about their work.
Thank you so much to Little Brown Books For Young Readers for providing me with a review copy of Strollercoaster. It was an exciting ride and I can’t wait to share it with my favorite little stroller partner.
The Collectors by Alice Feagan is an adventurous picture book following two young girls named Winslow and Rosie as they set out to find the ultimate piece for their collection of natural wonders.
With Winslow’s bravery and Rosie’s cleverness, the duo has already collected specimens of insects, leaves, fungi, and more. But with just enough room for one more item, they set off into the forest to find the perfect addition to their collection. They find plenty of extraordinary things on their journey, but none of them seem quite right. They return to their treehouse and work through their feelings of disappointment, only to discover that something extraordinary was right under their noses the whole time.
The Collectors is a wonderful female-led adventure tale with lots of STEM and nature talking points, but what I really loved about it was the way it handles the disappointment of not achieving a goal. As someone who was a perfectionist as a child (okay, and maybe a little bit as an adult, too), I often put so much pressure on myself to achieve a goal that I missed out on the experience of achieving it. This is a wonderful resource to discuss “failure” with young readers, particularly young girls who often feel the weight of perfectionism early on.
The illustrations are absolutely wonderful! Even with so much to look at on each page, the muted neutral color scheme reminded me of the minimalist warmth of a museum, and I wanted to peruse the girls’ treehouse for hours.
The Collectors is available 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!)
Alice Feagan is an illustrator based in Colorado, and The Collectors is her authorial debut. Please visit her website at alicefeagan.com to learn more about her and her work.
Thank you to Kids Can Press for providing me with a review copy of The Collectors. I absolutely adored this one!
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.
When I first heard about Definitely Dominguita, the new chapter book series by Terry Catasús Jennings, I knew I had to read it!
Illustrated by Fatima Anaya, each book in this series is inspired by our main character Dominguita’s love of her collection of classic literature; a collection her abuela brought all the way from Cuba and gifted to Dominguita before moving away to Florida. Dominguita misses her abuela, and reads her stories often to feel close to her.
The series begins with Knight of The Cape, where we are introduced Dominguita and her family. We follow her on a journey, inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, to prove to a bully at school that girls can be knights too. The adventures continue in the second book, Captain Dom’s Treasure, as we follow Dom and the friends she made in the first book on a treasure hunt inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Now I have to be totally honest with you all: I actually have not read either of the classic titles that inspired Dominguita (Though I did watch Muppet Treasure Island at least a thousand times during childhood. That has to count for something, right?), but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the books at all! While this series will be great for young readers who are already familiar with classics, I believe it will also be a great tool to introduce classics to children who haven’t read them yet.
Both Knight of The Cape and Captain Dom’s Treasure are filled with fun adventures, and gently touch on themes like family, friendship, bullying, diversity, and disability without distracting from the story. Dom and her friends are a lovable group of kids that I’m sure many readers will relate to. I absolutely adored this series and I would highly recommend it to any adventurous young readers.
Both Knight of The Cape and Captain Dom’s Treasure are available now, and the third book in the series, All For One (Inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers), will be available in August, but can be preordered today. You can look for them 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 continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)
I will also be hosting a giveaway for both Knight of The Cape and Captain Dom’s Treasure over on Instagram, so be sure to enter!
Terry Catasús Jennings is an award-winning author who ‘s family moved from Cuba to the United States when she was eleven. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at terrycjennings.com.
Fatima Anaya is a graphic designer and illustrator who loves working on projects about diversity, family, love, and friendship. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at fatimaanaya.com.
I would like to thank Blue Slip Media and Aladdin/Simon and Schuster for kindly providing me with review copies. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about Dom’s adventures, and am so glad to be able to share them.
I am beyond thrilled to share Rainbow Boy by Taylor Rouanzion with you all today, because it’s the perfect pick to discuss something that has been weighing on my heart a bit lately.
Last week, I was speaking to someone I love very much, and she told me that her son (who is expecting a child) “would not let” the child have a yellow blanket if it is a boy. Yellow. The color of taxis, bananas, ducklings, and lemons. Not appropriate for a boy? I was floored. I couldn’t help but hope his child arrives and challenges every notion this man has about gender.
This is, of course, just one example of the ways we put our children into boxes before they are even born. If we offer or refuse things like books, toys, clothes, and colors according to our child’s assigned gender, we are not only limiting their horizons, but reinforcing harmful stereotypes that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Books like Rainbow Boy are the perfect way to challenge these stereotypes at a young age.
This lovely picture book introduces us to a young boy who is often asked “What’s your favorite color?” As a former child who also hated this question, I love our young narrator’s answer. He tells us how much he loves every color in the rainbow, and how he has a new favorite for every day of the week.
Rainbow Boy was one of my most anticipated titles of 2021, and it did not disappoint. This is a great book to teach the youngest readers about colors and the days of the week, but it also presents an opportunity to have deeper conversations about gender. Rainbow Boy provides the perfect example of a young boy who loves pink or blue, and dolls or basketball. His interest are his own and are not based on society’s expectations for him.
The gorgeous illustrations from Stacey Chomiak capture our Rainbow Boy’s personality and imagination in such a fun way. And of course, the colors are stunning.
You can grab your own copy of Rainbow Boy 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 continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)
Taylor Rouanzion is a children’s book author who was inspired to write to ensure children like her gender non-conforming child can see themselves in the books they read. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at taylorrouanzion.com.
Stacey Chomiak is an artist and illustrator who identifies as a gay Christian and loves to advocate to the LGBTQ community. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at staceychomiak.wixsite.com.
I would like to thank Beaming Books for providing me with a review copy of this amazing book. I can’t wait to add it to my arsenal of supportive books to teach my son to unapologetically love the things he loves, even when the world tells them they are not for him.
Galentine’s Day is the brilliant creation of Leslie Knope, a lovable character on the show Parks and Rec. While the horrible behavior of two actors on the show may have ruined re-watching the show for me, I won’t let them take away Galentine’s Day. Galentine’s Day comes every year on the day before Valentine’s Day, and it’s a day dedicated to showing your love for all the women and girls in your life that support you day to day. So in the spirit of celebrating women, I want to share A Girl’s Bill Of Rights by Amy Mucha with you all.
This picture book is all about girls standing up for their right to confidence, freedom, and consent. A Girl’s Bill Of Rights reads a bit like a lyrical affirmation, and to be honest, it has a few lines I should probably be speaking into the mirror every once in a while. This book pushes back on the many societal expectations women, girls, and other femmes are faced with, like the pressure to avoid making people “uncomfortable” with your feelings, or to shy away from being proud of your achievements.
Despite the depth of the subject matter, the illustrations by Addy Rivera Sonda are so fun, and I love that they depict such a diverse cast of characters.
I also love that A Girl’s Bill Of Rights can be used to teach children both how they deserve to be treated, and how they should be treating others. While this is a great book for encouraging girls to stand up for themselves and speak up about how they feel, I think it is an equally important read for boys. I can’t wait to start reading this book to my son so he will know from an early age how I expect him to treat women.
If you’re looking for an empowering book to introduce human rights, I would highly recommend A Girl’s Bill of Rights. It is available now wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These 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 continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)
Amy Mucha is a children’s book author based in Chapel Hill, NC who is passionate about empowering women and girls. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at amybmucha.com.
Addy Rivera Sonda is an illustrator, animal lover, vegan, and avid activist in various animal rights groups like Animal Save, Anti-Speciesist Action, and Casa Animal “Animal House”. To learn more abotu her and her work, please visit her website at addyriverasonda.wixsite.com.
Thank you so much to Beaming Books for sending me a review copy of A Girl’s Bill of Rights. It was an absolute delight to read!