L.I. Forsete’s Gabe Faces Ignorance

Sugar Free Books‘ inaugural publication, Gabe Faces Ignorance, is the first children’s picture book I’ve read that tackles Islamophobia. Written by L.I. Forsete and illustrated by Gemma Gould, the story focuses on the friendship of Gabe, a white Christian boy, and Sophie, a tan-skinned rosy-cheeked Muslim girl. The two classmates and neighbors walk home from school together every day. The story is told from Gabe’s point-of-view, but Sophie’s feelings are present through Gabe’s increasing awareness of them as well as confrontational dialogue between the children. Continue reading

Shaunta Grimes’ Center of Gravity (2020)

Center of Gravity

Shaunta GrimesCenter 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.

Check-out Center of Gravity Chapter 1 (attached) and click here to purchase your copy today!

Mia Wenjen’s Sumo Joe

Sumo JoeI’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

Dena Fitzpatrick’s A Puggle in Paris (2018)

Puggle in ParisA 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

Dinobibi’s Travel for Kids Series

Dinobibi publishes an exciting interactive non-fiction series of travel books for children. The Travel Series is accessible to school age children and each book comes at $12 price point that parents will appreciate! Countries available to explore include Spain, China, Italy, and South Korea.

Dinobibi sent me two titles to review: France and Mexico. Each book is jampacked with information about the highlighted country, including history, weather, flora and fauna, food and culture, famous people, and major cities and attractions. They are professionally written, illustrated, and edited with the clear aim of engaging young readers. Each book includes a variety of photographs to help introduce readers to each country’s rich diversity.

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Lisa and Michel Zajur’s The Piñata Story (2018)

The Pinata StoryThe Piñata Story (2018), written by Lisa and Michel Zajur and illustrated by Samira Mobayed Murray, explores the cultural history of piñatas while introducing young readers to Spanish vocabulary.

Mobayed Murray’s luscious illustrations of brightly colored homes and storefronts transport readers to an idyllic pueblo in Mexico where they are introduced to a young boy named Pepe. Pepe recently developed some bad habits and is ignoring his parents. Concerned with Pepe’s behavior, his parents seek wisdom through prayer at the iglesia. Continue reading

Natalie Lloyd’s Over the Moon (2019)

Over the MoonNatalie Lloyd’s Over the Moon (2019) will have readers immediately rooting for Mallie, the middle-grade fantasy novel’s twelve-year-old protagonist. Mallie lives with her parents and younger brother in Coal Top, a bleak town where joy is scarce. Coal Top’s inhabitants have no hope for a better future. Serving inhabitants of the wealthy valley below is the only option for girls and boys must work in coal mines where they eventually lose their sight, like Mallie’s father. Mallie has already begun serving a family in the valley but she is fiercely protective of her young brother and will do whatever she can so he can avoid toiling in the coal mines. Continue reading

Cordelia Jensen & Laurie Morrison’s Every Shiny Thing

Cordelia Jensen & Laurie Morrison’s Every Shiny Thing shifts between verse and prose as well as between the point-of-view of Lauren, a wealthy girl whose beloved brother moves to a therapeutic boarding school for teenagers on the autism spectrum, and Sierra, a girl whose experienced poverty and is currently placed in a foster home in Lauren’s neighborhood. The girls attend the same private Quaker school and have an at times awkward and uneven but ultimately caring friendship. As Lauren’s friendship with Sierra develops, she is drifting away from her best friend of many years. Continue reading

Carlos Hernandez’s Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (2019)

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (A Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 1)

I love Carlos Hernandez’s Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (2019). It is a roller-coaster ride of a sci-fi adventure featuring amazing characters who are all exceptionally kind and utterly quirky. Sal, a young magician, has just moved to Miami with his dad and stepmom. He’s enrolled in a school for talented youth where he ends up spending more time in the principal’s office than the classroom. Readers learn pretty early that Sal is able to transport objects, including iterations of his deceased mother, from one dimension to another. His father is a scientist trying to figure the whole thing out. Although the science is never detailed it’s present throughout.

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Geoff Rodkey’s We’re Not From Here (2019)

We're Not from Here

Geoff Rodkey’s We’re Not From Here (2019) begins on Mars as a small group of kids trade rumors they’ve heard about the fate of humanity. Earth is on the brink of destruction and the surviving humans must find a new home.

After securing permission to move to Planet Choom as refugees a small group of desperate humans enter biosuspension for twenty years, which is how long it will take them to get to what they anticipate will be a welcoming albeit completely alien new home.

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