Shaunta Grimes’ Center of Gravity (2020) is steeped with references to 1980s culture and aesthetics. Tessa, the novels twelve-year-old protagonist, is losing everything: her mother, her best friend, even her home in Colorado. She’s also gaining things shCenter of Gravity Chapter 1e doesn’t want: a twenty-three-year-old stepmom who is pregnant and a beach house in California. Her pre-existing anxiety is amplified amidst all the uncertainty and change.
Once in California Tessa bonds with some local boys with trouble of heir own. This helps put her own in perspective as she slowly begins to process the changes in her life that she has no control over.
Center of Gravity is a beautifully written middle-grade novel. The themes explored, including parental loss and child abuse, are expressed though the perspective of pre-teens whose lives are tethered to those of adults in their lives. This allows for critical reflection on adult-child relationships and constraints on youth agency.
Isla’s Family Tree (2020), written by Katrina McKelvey and illustrated by Prue Pittock, is a warm and inviting story that manages to be both minimalist and richly specific. The red-haired title character is not excited that her mother is about to give birth to twins. She tells her parents that their family is large enough as is. Her mother patiently and lovingly explains that families, like trees, grow. Continue reading
The Adventures of Princess Pudding Pie (2020), written by Saureen Naik Desai and illustrated by Marco Mazzarello, follows a round-faced little girl with black pigtails and tan-colored skin on a journey around the world. The little girl, Princess Pudding Pie, introduces readers to brief greetings and yummy delicacies from a variety of countries including the USA, France, Kenya, and Japan. The illustrations feature popular landmarks and regionally-specific clothes from the countries explored. Desai’s subtle lyricism makes reading aloud enjoyable for children and adults. Continue reading
I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now and I get “book mail” often. In fact, my four-year-old always asks if the package I’m opening contains something we can read together, and it usually does. When I received Sumo Joe, Mia Wenjen’s debut picture book, the two of us did what we usually do – we cuddled up on the couch and read the book. Then we read it again, and again, and again. You get the idea.
This book is many things: 1) a lyrical kid-friendly introduction to sumo, 2) a story about sibling love (and competition), 3) clever and accessible commentary about gender and cultural traditions, and 4) an empowering story that reminds young readers that size doesn’t always matter, even in competitive fighting. Continue reading
A Puggle in Paris (2018), written by Dena Fitzpatrick and illustrated by Amelia Gossman, takes readers on a charming romp through Paris, France. Pretty pastel colors, dominated by pink, set the scene with feminine flair as Lucy, a beret wearing puggle, journeys alone to France. Lucy enjoys lunch at the Eiffel Tower, shopping along the Champs-Élysées, and viewing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Less well-known attractions like Sacré-Cœur, the Catacombs, and Napoleon’s Tomb are also on Lucy’s itinerary. Continue reading
In one of Penny Candy Books’ newest publications Bianca Stone shapes Gertrude Stein’s modernist poem “A Little Called Pauline” into a beautiful story about a woman’s motherhood journey. It is a challenging and pleasurable book that little readers and their grown-ups can get lost and found in as they laugh at the silly lyrical sounds that Stone coaxes into something akin to sense. Continue reading