Bella’s Recipe For Success

They say the most successful people in life fail the most. I always try to remember this when I run into roadblocks in life, and today I want to share a book that illustrates this growth mindset perfectly for young readers. Bella’s Recipe for Success by Ana Siqueira is a wonderful picture book all about patience, practice, and polvorones.

Title: Bella’s Recipe for Success
Author: Ana Siqueira
Illustrator: Geraldine Rodríguez
Publisher: Beaming Books
Published: July 13, 2021

Bella’s Recipe for Success follows a young Latinx girl named Bella who is trying to figure out what she’s good at. Her sister is a talented gymnast and her brother is a talented musician, but Bella is struggling to find her hidden talent. She tries baking polvorones with her abuela, but her first attempt goes all wrong. Though she struggles, Bella learns that being good at something takes hard work, perseverance, and patience.

The illustrations by Geraldine Rodríguez are so fun! The way she captures the facial expressions of each character brings so much emotion and personality to every single page.

With Spanish vocabulary peppered throughout, Bella’s Recipe for Success would be a fantastic addition to classroom libraries. Plus, there’s a recipe for polvorones con dulche de leche that I can’t wait to try. My baking skills are not great, but I will take a lesson from Bella and practice.

Bella’s Recipe for Success is available next week (July 13, 2021), but you can preorder your copy 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!)

Thank you so much to Beaming Books for sending me a review copy of Bella’s Recipe For Success.

About The Author:

Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher and an award-winning children’s book author based in Tampa, Florida. Before Bella’s Recipe for Success, she published children’s books in Portuguese in Brazil and in Spanish for the foreign language educational markets. Ana is also a global educator, a PBS Media innovator, and an SCBWI member.

You can find Ana online on Instagram (@asiqueira1307), Twitter (@SraSiqueira1307), and at her website anafiction.com.

About The Illustrator:

Geraldine Rodríguez is a Mexican illustrator and digital artist who enjoys telling stories through colors and lines. In addition to Bella’s Recipe for Success, Geraldine is the illustrator of Cinco de Mayo and the Adventures of Samuel Oliver series.

You can find Geraldine online on Instagram (@geryrdzart) and Twitter (@GeryRdz).

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Lala’s Words: A Story of Planting Kindness

We are starting the week out with a beautiful picture book about two of my favorite things: kindness and plants. Gracey Zhang’s debut, Lala’s Words, teaches young readers a powerful lesson about the magic of kind words.

Title: Lala’s Words
Author/Illustrator: Gracey Zhang
Publisher: Scholastic
Published: July 6, 2021
Format: Picture Book

Lala’s Words follows a young girl named Lala, who is a bit messy and boisterous. Lala’s mother wants her to be stiller, quieter, and calmer, but Lala can’t help running around leaving a mess behind her. Her favorite place to be is a vacant concrete lot where weeds grow. While Lala hears discouraging words from her mother, she gives her plants nothing but kind words of encouragement. One day Lala’s mother has had enough, and she keeps Lala indoors all day. Lala worries about her plant friends all day, but wakes up in the morning to find that her plants have grown large enough to shade the whole neighborhood, cooling the summer day and showing Lala’s mother the power of positive words.

I absolutely adored the illustrations in Lala’s Words. Everything has a muted grey color scheme with vibrant pops of green and yellow that become more and more prominent as the story progresses. It’s such a genius way to provide young readers with a visual contrast between kind words and unkind words.

Lala’s Words officially releases tomorrow (July 6, 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!)

Thank you so much to Scholastic for providing me with a review copy of Lala’s Words. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share this wonderful book.

About the Author/Illustrator:

Gracey Zhang is an illustrator and animator with a love of storytelling and verse. She was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, and received her degree in Illustration from RISD. She is now based in Brooklyn, New York, where she can be found window watching from the train when she’s not scribbling away at her desk. Lala’s Words is her first picture book. You can visit her at graceyzhang.com.

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Princesses Can Fix It!

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).

You can find Tracy online at Instagram (@tracymarchini), Twitter (@TracyMarchini), and her website at tracymarchini.com.

About The Illustrator:

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.

You can find Julia online at Instagram (@juliachristiansart), Facebook (@juliachristiansart), Behance (@juliachristiansart), and her website juliachristians.de.

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Flashback Friday – Our Little Kitchen

Happy Friday! It’s time for another Flashback Friday, and today we’re talking about Our Little Kitchen, a stunning picture book by Jillian Tamaki that celebrates both food and community.

Title: Our Little Kitchen
Author/Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers
Published: September 22, 2020
Format: Picture Book

Following several neighbors as they work in a community kitchen to prepare a meal for their neighbors, Our Little Kitchen teaches young readers how to be a good neighbor and take care of the people around you. From gathering produce in the community garden, to finding a creative way to use cans of beans from the food bank, Our Little Kitchen encourages resourcefulness and sustainability.

The illustrations are fantastic, and they capture the chaos of a busy kitchen perfectly. The pages are filled with a diverse cast of characters preparing and eating lots of food. While Our Little Kitchen is a great pick to open up conversations about food access, sustainability, volunteering, and community, I wouldn’t recommend reading it on an empty stomach. You might need a snack after reading, because everything looks delicious!

Our Little Kitchen is a beautiful story of a community pooling their resources to care for one another, and would be a wonderful addition to any young reader’s shelf. You can pick up a copy 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!)

Abrams is donating $5,000 of their proceeds from Our Little Kitchen to the Greenpoint Hunger Program, which supports the community kitchen that inspired this story. I would like to thank Abrams both for the charitable donation and for providing me with a review copy of this lovely book.

About The Author:

Jillian Tamaki is an illustrator, author, and comics artist living in Toronto, Ontario. She is the co-creator, with her cousin Mariko Tamaki, of the young adult graphic novel This One Summer, which won a Caldecott Honor in 2015. She makes books and comics for people of all ages, including They Say Blue, a picture book about looking and thinking.

You can find Jillian online at: Instagram: @jilliantamaki Twitter: @dirtbagg Website: jilliantamaki.com

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Arlo Draws an Octopus

If you’re looking for a book that discusses creativity and self doubt, I have the perfect pick for you today! Arlo Draws an Octopus by Lori Mortenson is a humorous, uplifting picture book perfect for young readers who might be struggling to believe in themselves.

We follow along as a young boy named Arlo sets out to draw an octopus. He gets off to a rocky start when he thinks his octopus’s head looks too much like a hill, and he doesn’t feel any better about things as he draws the legs and suction cups. Despite his attempts, Arlo just can’t seem to draw his octopus quite the way he sees it in his head. I don’t want to spoil the twist in this one, so I will just say that Arlo thinks he can’t draw an octopus until he meets one in real life.

The illustrations by Rob Sayegh Jr. are wonderful and really bring the story to life. My favorite pages are the ones with Arlo’s drawings, but I really love the way the crayon drawings are incorporated throughout the entire book.

Arlo Draws an Octopus is told with humor and encourages young readers to roll with the punches when things don’t turn out how they expected. It is a great addition to any child’s library, but I think it would be a very helpful resource in classrooms. You can pick up your copy of Arlo Draws an Octopus 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!)

Lori Mortenson is an award-winning children’s author of more than 100 books who lives in Northern California. Please visit her website at lorimortensen.com to learn more about her work.

Rob Sayegh Jr. is an author, illustrator, and former toy designer based in San Francisco. To learn more about him and his work, please visit his website at robsayart.com.

Thank you to Abrams Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of Arlo Draws an Octopus. It was a delight, and I can’t wait to see what Arlo draws next.

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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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