Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México

Danza! tells the story of Amalia Hernandez, the founder of El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. She drew from local dance traditions throughout Mexico and combined them with ballet and modern techniques to create spectacular performances. The costumes are inspired by local tradition and when the company tours it takes more than three tons of costumes with it! Tonatiuh captures these beautifully by combining digital collage with his hand-drawn illustrations. I love this mixed-media approach which uses photographs to fill in fabric, hair, and other materials and adds a wonderful texture. Amalia's life and the spread of Mexian folkloric dance is an inspiring tale. I'm lucky enough to have seen the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico perform and recommend that you do too, but first read this book!

Danza! by Duncan Tonatiuh: buy it or check it out today!

Breathe Like a Bear review

Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere

This colorful and practical guide leads kids through a variety of exercises in mindfulness. The bright illustrations and simple language make it an engaging way to teach mindfulness to even the youngest kids. The exercises are broken down into five sections: Be Calm, Focus, Imagine, Make Some Energy, and Relax. Each exercise gets a fully illustrated two page spread with large text in appealing fonts explaining what to do in kid-friendly language. I love the squirrels with their kindness exercise and the wolf that leads the get your grumpies out exercise, but it's afternoon as I write this, so I am most drawn to the energizers. This example from that section certainly looks appealing to me. Just look at that lion!

Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey, illus. by Anni Betts: buy it or check it out today!

Bravo Review

Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics

Reading comforts me.
I find magazines in trash piles.
Reading leads to writing.
I find poetry in tomato fields,
and stories in the faces
of weary workers.

-from "Tomas Rivera" by Margarita Engle

This gorgeous collection of poetry highlights many lesser-known figures from artists to activist. The poems are short but inspiring and made me want to learn more about the people described. It would be a great class share, especially with the full-page mixed media illustrations that could each make beautiful posters on their own. Brief additional biographical information is included in the back, but you will probably want to do more research on your own after reading.

Bravo!: Poems about amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael Lopez: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Accident Review


When Lola spills orange juice all over a nice, white armchair she exclaims "I've ruined everything! I'll hide in the library! They have books and bathrooms. And I'll stay there till I'm a grownup." But on the way to the library one catastrophe follows another and soon Lola's gathered a large group. When everything seems to go wrong a little bird whispers "accident" and shows everyone how to own up to their mistakes make it all better again instead of running away.

I would have spent hours pouring over the details in these illustrations as a kid. There's so many small, humorous moments in the background. Above all I like that it emphasizes that accidents are okay and everyone from kids to adults can have them. The characters' overreactions are funny, but in the end the message that is clear that calmly admitting your mistake and helping to fix it is the way to go.

Adults might appreciate this episode from Hidden Brain talking about how language can influence the way we see the world. Part of it focuses on how our language around accidents affects where we place the blame and how we remember them.

Just look at all the hilarious details in one page of this book:

Accident by Andrea Tsurumi: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Under a Painted Sky Review

Book talk: One day Samantha had a happy, stable life running a dry goods store with her father and dreaming of moving to New York to play violin. The next her father and her home are lost in a fire, and when their land lord tries to take advantage of her, she kills him in self defense. Of course, no jury is going to side with a Chinese girl who killed a White man, so she's forced to flee or face the noose. Together with a runaway slave, Annamae, Samantha sets her sights on the freedom of the west. Traveling as two girls wouldn't be safe, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy. The trail holds more surprises than they anticipated, including two cowboys they team up with for safety. But will the four of them be able to make it out West, and what will happen if the boys discover their secret?

Rave: I confess that I love a good Western and it was nice to find one with POC leads. The characters are well drawn and the tension delicious as they start to develop crushes while being forced to maintain their gender masquerade. There's all the excitement you'd expect to find on the trail as well as interesting commentary about the times that you wouldn't find in a white-washed western. To top it all off, the prose is a beautiful.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 7th and up looking for historical adventure and gender swapping tales.

Topics and Trends: gender swapping, westerns, people of color, #weneeddiversebooks, #ownvoices, romance, musicians, violin

Bonus Quotes:

“No one ever injured an eye by looking at the bright side.”

“Maybe life just tastes sweeter after you’ve licked death.”

Source: school library

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee: buy it or check it out today!

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Scorpion Rules Review

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace, #1)

Book talk: When the UN gave responsibility for world peace over to an artificial intelligence, it came up with a solution that no one anticipated. Instead of using atomic bombs for deterrence it works on a smaller, more personal scale. Every world leader is required to give a child over to be raised and taught in the prefecture. All of their needs are seen to, they get a wonderful education among the elite, and if their parents declare war on another country, they are executed. Those in power have always been willing to send other people's children off to die in wars, but they are far more hesitant to sacrifice their own. The system worked. Until the sacrificed children decide to fight back.

Rave: This book has a lot of meaty moral questions to dig your teeth into, but the pace is never slowed by them. The diverse cast was created with care and they each shine in their own way. The AI running the place is perhaps the most interesting character of all. I absolutely adored this.

Every book its reader: I'd give it to students 8th & up looking for a science fiction adventure.

Topics and Trends: politicians, royalty, AI, dystopia


Bonus Quote:

“Did you know, the man who invented the atomic bomb once said that keeping peace through deterrence was like keeping two scorpions in one bottle? You can picture that, right? They know they can't sting without getting stung. They can't kill without getting killed. And you'd think that would stop them...But it doesn't."

Source: school library

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

This Song Will Save Your Life Review

This Song Will Save Your Life

Book talk: Elise's sophomore year of high school is not going as planned. Over the summer she dedicated herself to becoming popular. She studied popularity and all the latest trends like she would prepare for a final, but when school starts she fails so badly that her social standing drops even lower. She comforts herself by sneaking out of the house for late-night walks. When she stumbles on a secret, under-ground dance club she discovers a group of people who actually like her and a way to get out of her head and enjoy herself. Even more importantly, she discovers a passion for DJing. Soon she's leading a double life: social outcast high-school student by day, popular up-and-coming DJ by night. But she can't keep it up forever, and sparks will fly when the two halves of her life come crashing together.

Rave: The characters in this novel are so well drawn and I was completely sucked in by Elise's emotional journey. It captures adolescence and the messy path to self-acceptance perfectly.  I have never been one to frequent discotheques, but I enjoyed learning about this subculture and the world of DJs. Elise's narrative voice brings lightness and humor to a heavy subject.

Every book its reader: I'd give it to students looking for a realistic, character-focused book. It's particularly good for those with an interest in DJing. 8th and up.

Topics and Trends: DJ, club culture, depression, suicide, popularity, romance


Image result for this song will save your life

Image result for this song will save your life

Image result for this song will save your life

Bonus Quotes:

“Throughout it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable.”

“Sometimes you have to give up something you are to get to who you want to be.”

“I was smiling like a crazy person because I has just made a hundred people dance, I had just made a hundred people scream, I had just made a hundred people happy. I, Elise, using my own power, had made people happy.”

“Imagination is so often no match for the absurdity, the randomness, the tragedy of reality.”

Source: school library

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales: buy it or check it out today!