Strollercoaster

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.

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Jenny Mei Is Sad

Jenny Mei Is Sad by Tracy Subisak is a heartfelt picture book that discusses the complexities of sadness and how friends support one another through hard times. With each spread averaging one sentence, this is a deceptively simple book with so much heart!

In Jenny Mei Is Sad, our narrator introduces us to her friend Jenny Mei and explains that it’s not always easy to tell when she’s sad. Some days, Jenny plays well with others; other days, not so much. But luckily our narrator knows how to support a friend in need. Whether it’s waiting patiently while Jenny talks to an adult or sharing her favorite food on the long walk home, the narrator provides a wonderful example of friendship for young readers.

The illustrations are absolutely wonderful. They beautifully capture all the complex emotions we feel throughout a single day, “the fun and not-fun and everything in between”.

Jenny Mei Is Sad is the perfect selection to teach young readers about friendship, empathy, and caring for the people they love. It officially releases tomorrow (June 15, 2021), 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!)

Tracy Subisak is an author and illustrator based in the Pacific Northwest. Though she has illustrated many books, Jenny Mei Is Sad is her author/illustrator debut. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at tracysubisak.com.

Many thanks to Little Brown Books for Young Readers for generously providing me with a review copy of Jenny Mei Is Sad. It is such an important lesson for young readers, and I’m so grateful to be able to share it today.

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Flashback Friday – When We Are Kind

I am so excited to announce an additional feature here on Mutually Inclusive called Flashback Friday! I know so many amazing books were released during the pandemic, but because everyone’s life was turned upside down, many titles didn’t get the level of attention they deserved. So starting this week, I will share a review for a previously published title every week. I think this will be a wonderful reminder about those books that might have flown under the radar, especially with the chaotic year and a half we’ve all had.

My first Flashback Friday selection is When We AreWhen We Are Kind / Nihá’ádaahwiinít’íigo by Monique Gray Smith. Originally published back in October, this wonderful bilingual picture book provides examples of kindness for young readers with text in both English and Diné (translated by Mildred Walters).

Funny story: I actually wanted to request When We Are Kind back when I first started Mutually Inclusive, but I was just figuring out how review copy requests worked, and I thought I missed out because I didn’t request it before the publication date. I’m so glad I was wrong!

In this precious picture book, we follow a group of Indigenous children as they tell us all the ways they give and receive kindness. When We Are Kind encourages readers to be kind to our families, our communities, our elders, the earth, and ourselves, but I love that it also talks about how being kind makes us feel. I feel like we often tell children to be kind for the sake of others’ feelings, but we overlook the way being kind to others can be a kindness to ourselves. When We Are Kind encourages young readers to evaluate their own feelings, creating an awareness that it so necessary for social and emotional development.

The illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt are wonderful! I love the way they capture the connections we all have to our families and our communities. You can feel the love and kindness on every page.

You can pick up your copy of When We Are Kind 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!)

Monique Gray Smith is a mixed-heritage woman (of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish ancestry), an international speaker, and an award-winning author based in Victoria, British Columbia. Please visit her website at moniquegraysmith.com to learn more about her and her work.

Nicole Neidhardt is a Diné (Navajo) artist of the Kiiyaa’áanii Clan based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at nicoleneidhardt.com.

I want to thank Orca Book Publishers for sending me a review copy of When We Are Kind. I’m so grateful to have a second chance to review this beautiful book.

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A Day For Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day

I can’t think of a better selection for Memorial Day weekend than A Day For Rememberin’ by Leah Henderson. This beautiful picture book is a fictionalized account of a true historical event that many believe to be the first celebration of Memorial Day. Though today we honor veterans of all wars, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in Charleston, South Carolina when newly freed citizens marched to honor the Union soldiers who fought for their freedom in the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the Confederate Army converted the Washington Race Course in Charleston into a prison. They imprisoned captured Union soldiers and subjected them to inhumane treatment. Though the prison was only open for seven months, 257 Union prisoner died there due to exposure, disease, and starvation.

Shortly after the end of the civil war, twenty-eight newly freed men volunteered their time and labor to create a permanent resting place for the Union soldiers who fought for their freedom. On May 1, 1865, the first free May Day – in a time when Black people weren’t allowed to congregate freely – 10,000 Charleston residents gathered to march, sing, and spread flower petals to honor the lives of those soldiers. While some may not agree with Leah Henderson’s assertation that this was the first Memorial Day celebration, it’s hard to argue with the dates.

In A Day For Rememberin’ we follow ten-year-old Eli, a (fictional) son of one of the men who worked to build the cemetery. Eli longs to join his father in his work, but he must attend school, now that he has the freedom to do so. On the tenth day, Eli and other boys his age are allowed to help whitewash the fence. The next day, newly freed citizens, abolitionist, missionaries, and more all gather at the racecourse to honor the fallen soldiers.

A Day For Rememberin’ is an essential history lesson with a whole lot of heart. The back matter contains a fantastic Author’s Note, further detail about the history of Decoration Day, and a timeline. I would highly recommend this title for classrooms and school libraries.

The illustrations by Floyd Cooper are fantastic. They perfectly capture Eli and all the residents of Charleston, taking readers back in time.

A Day For Rememberin’ 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!)

Leah Henderson is an award-winning author of multiple titles for young readers, including one of my personal favorites: The Teacher’s March. Please visit Leah’s website at leahhendersonbooks.com.

Floyd Cooper is the award-winning author and illustrator of Max and The Tag Along Moon, Jump, and many other children’s books. To learn more about Floyd and his work, please visit his website at floydcooper.com.

Thank you so much to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sharing a review copy of A Day For Rememberin’ with me. I am so honored to share this story with my readers today.

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Anita and The Dragons

I’m happy to announce that another selection from my Most Anticipated Titles of 2021 has lived up to my expectations. Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona and Anna Cunha is a gorgeous picture book following a young Dominican girl named Anita as she prepares for her family’s immigration to an unnamed country.

Anita tells us about the dragons in the sky over her home – how they will carry her away today, and how her brother calls them planes. She doesn’t really believe the dragons are real, but she does believe she will always be the princesa on her island, even when she is far away from it. She will miss her home, and her Abuela, who is staying behind. Even the promise of hot water, a real dryer, and restaurants doesn’t seem to shake Anita’s doubt.

But with the help of her family, and the realization that she will one day return to her home, Anita bravely enters the belly of the beast and flies to her new home. Anita and the Dragons is a wonderful story of love for your home and bravery in the face of tough transitions. It provides both a window for children who have not immigrated, and a mirror for those who have.

The illustrations are absolutely wonderful. I’m a huge fan of Ann Cunha’s style and can easily see why she won the AEILIJ Prize for her previous work. The pastel color scheme is so lovely and provides a calming backdrop for all of Anita’s anxieties.

Anita and the Dragons 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!)

Hannah Carmona is a writer, actor, director, and children’s book author based in Tennessee. Please visit her website at hannahcarmona.org to learn more about her and her work.

Anna Cunha is an award-winning artist based in Brazil. You can learn more about Anna and her work by visiting her website at www.annacunha.com.

Thank you to Lantana Publishing and Publisher Spotlight for sending me a review copy of Anita and the Dragons. I’m so grateful to share this beautiful story.

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Llama Glamarama

I have to be honest with y’all, I didn’t plan on covering Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and Garry Parsons due to my strict “no animals” rule. But my mind was changed when Alessandra at Read with River shared such a thoughtful #LibrarianFightClub post, arguing that animal books aren’t really the reason for the lack of diversity in children’s books.

It really got me thinking. Who am I to tell folks that they shouldn’t tell their stories with animals? Am I excluding books by or about marginalized communities? Should I perhaps adopt an “almost always no animals” rule? The post specifically made me think of an ARC I had read a few weeks prior called Llama Glamarama.

In this rhyming picture book, we meet Larry the Llama, who lives in a barn with lots of straight-laced, rule-following llamas. But Larry is keeping a secret – he loves to dance. When his friends suspect he might be dancing, Larry runs away from his barn. While he is away, he discovers a poster for a carnival called the Llama Glamarama. Larry is stunned to find a huge crowd, music, and llamas dancing. He realizes he is not alone, which gives him the courage to go back home and tell his friends his truth, who in return reveal a few secrets they’ve been keeping.

Llama Glamarama is a bit campy and flamboyant in all the right ways. Adults will catch references to LGBTQ+ themes, though they are never directly mentioned. While this book isn’t specifically about the queer experience, it absolutely encourages young readers to celebrate their differences. It also builds a firm foundation of both acceptance and confidence in your identity – two skills all children need. So while yes, there is an animal at the center of Llama Glamarama, it still provides us with an opportunity to have conversations with the youngest readers about being themselves unapologetically and celebrating others who do the same.

I am so thankful to Alessandra for challenging my stance on animal books, because I would have missed out on sharing this delightful story. At the end of the day, Llama Glamarama is an entertaining picture book with fun illustrations that I’m sure lots of children will enjoy. Who doesn’t love llamas and rainbow boas?

Llama Glamarama officially releases next week (June 1, 2021), 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!)

Simon James Green is an award-winning author of young adult titles based in the UK. LLama Glamarama is his picture book debut. Please visit his website at simonjamesgreen.com to learn more about him and his work.

Garry Parsons is a UK-based illustrator of many children’s books, including the bestselling series The Dinosaur That Pooped by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter. To learn more about Garry and his work, please visit his website at garryparsons.co.uk.

Thank you so much to Scholastic for providing me with a review copy of Llama Glamarama. It was such a fun read, and has a great message…even without human characters.

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Pride Puppy

I have another perfect pick for Pride month for you all today! Pride Puppy by Robin Stevenson is a precious LGBTQ+ rhyming alphabet picture book. Unlike most alphabet books, Pride Puppy is not just a collection of words starting with every letter of the alphabet, but a story featuring a family as they attend a Pride parade.

Our story starts with the family waking up and preparing for their big day – packing everyone in the car, including their pup with a cute little rainbow bandana. But during the festivities, there’s an accident and their puppy gets lost, making a big mess of things as everyone tries to catch him. I won’t spoil the ending, but I’ll just say that by the time they get to Z, young readers will be pleased.

I absolutely LOVED the representation in this book. The illustrations have rainbow flags, trans flags, bi flags, two spirit flags, and more. We see folks with a wide range of ages, abilities, races, and genders all celebrating together. There is even representation for colored hair and tattoos! The level of detail and inclusion is absolutely lovely to see, and all the fun bright colors are just icing on the cake.

As someone who is bi, seeing that flag meant the world to me. I have to admit, this is the first time I remember seeing bisexuality specifically represented in children’s literature. I don’t have the words to describe how much it means to me to point to that flag while reading this book with my son and proudly tell him what it means.

Pride Puppy 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!)

Robin Stevenson is an award-winning author of over twenty-five books based in Victoria, Canada. Please visit her website at robinstevenson.com to learn more about her and her work.

Julie McLaughlin is an award-winning freelance illustrator based in Vancouver Island, Canada. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at whatwouldjuliedraw.com.

I’m so happy to see more books centering the queer community being published today. I want to thank Orca Book Publishers for sending me a copy of this wonderful book. Now I’m going to cry tears of joy because I get to take my son to his first pride parade this year and I have the perfect book to prepare him for it.

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We Move Together

I’m a little late to the game, but that won’t stop me from sharing We Move Together by Kelly Fritsch and Anne McGuire with you all today. Released last month, this beautifully inclusive picture book focusing on disability justice is a perfect example of what Mutually Inclusive is all about.

We all move through the world in different ways, and it’s so important to provide young readers with visible examples of the many assistive devices people with disabilities use on a daily basis. Normalizing characters with disabilities in children’s literature is such a great way to accomplish this goal, and We Move Together does it flawlessly.

In We Move Together, we follow a diverse group of mixed-ability children and their families as they overcome everyday barriers and come together to connect with the disabled community. Whether it’s solving accessibility issues or preparing for a protest, We Move Together provides young readers with a wonderful example of a community working together to ensure everyone’s needs are met.

We Move Together offers more disabled representation than I’ve found in any other book. Children who use crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, ventilators, sign languages, and more will see themselves represented on every spread. The bold, colorful illustrations by Eduardo Trejos are fantastic! The careful attention to detail and accuracy in depicting all the assistive devices on each page is a wonderful example of the respect and care We Move Together shows the disabled community.

We Move Together is also an amazing resource for classrooms and school libraries. The back matter contains lots of additional information about accessibility, ableism, and the disability community.

Be sure to pick up your copy of We Move Together 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!)

Dr. Kelly Fritsch is a disabled writer, educator, parent, and feminist disability studies scholar based in Ottawa, Canada. Please visit her website at kellyfritsch.ca to learn more about her and her work.

Anne McGuire is a disability studies scholar and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her Twitter.

Eduardo Trejos is a Costa Rican graphic designer, visual artist, and illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. Please visit his website at edtrejos.com to learn more about him and his work.

I also want to thank AK Press for publishing such a wonderfully inclusive book, and sending a copy my way.

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Already A Butterfly: A Meditation Story

Did you know that today is World Meditation Day? In celebration, I would like to share Already a Butterfly by Julia Alvarez with you all today. The calming, gentle picture book follows a young butterfly name Mari Posa, as she buzzes about her busy days.

With so much to do, Mari finds she may not be paying enough attention to her days, as everything becomes a blur of activity. Her mind races about the things she needs to do, and she doesn’t seem to rest or enjoy her accomplishments at the end of the day.

One day, Mari meets a new friend who helps her recall the peaceful feelings she had inside her chrysalis. He teaches her how to go back to that calm place in her mind through controlled breathing and meditating, before he makes a transformation of his own.

I was really surprised to find myself relating to Mari Posa. I’ve always known that I have a lot of irons in the fire being a mom, a writer, a reviewer, and having a day job. But I never really thought about the way I might not be sitting with each of those activities and enjoying them in the moment. Already a Butterfly inspired me to set some time aside for yoga and meditation every week, to make sure I’m being a bit more mindful. I always love when a children’s book teaches me a lesson!

The illustrations by Raúl Colón are beautiful. They reminded me of classic illustrations from the books I read as a child, and they bring such a calming energy to Mari Posa’s story.

You can pick up your own copy of Already a Butterfly wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. I will also be partnering with Blue Slip Media to giveaway a copy on Instagram to celebrate World Meditation Day, so be sure to enter over there. (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!)

Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American poet, novelist, essayist, and the recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award and National Medal of Arts. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at juliaalvarez.com.

Raúl Colón is an award-winning illustrator based in New York. Please visit his Instagram to learn more about him and his work, including one of my personal favorites Counting The Stars by Lesa Cline-Ransome.

Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing me with a review copy of this beautiful book. I hope you all enjoy your World Meditation Day celebrations and find a bit of peace in your busy days.

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The Collectors

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!

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