Review: Lone Wolf

Summary

Maple loves being the Parker’s family dog, but she continues to encounter people who think she must be a wolf. She always thought of herself as a dog, but she starts to question her identity as a dog and tries being a wolf for a day to see if it fits. After failing at her wolf activities in the wild, she realizes she isn’t a wolf at all and returns to her life with the Parkers more confident about who she is.

 

Review

Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel is an empowering story about discovering yourself and not letting others define you. Children may be able to map their own experiences of not quite fitting into the definitions or expectations of others onto Maple’s experience of repeatedly being told she must be a wolf and may be inspired by her self-discovery to feel more confident in being themselves and finding their ‘pack’. With only a few sentences on each page and a nice cadence, the story lends itself to reading aloud quite well. The illustrations are charming and make use of dotted lines to show movement and bring extra energy to the story. They are large enough to be seen from a distance, but there are also plenty of details to be enjoyed close-up. Avery, one of the children in the Parker family, is illustrated to use a power wheelchair and is a nice addition to help normalize disability for children. 

About the Author-Illustrator

Sarah Kurpiel is a librarian and artist living in Illinois. She uses a power wheelchair and considers her disability to be an important part of her identity. 

Helpful Links

May 19 – It’s National Pet Month and Interview with Sarah Kurpiel – Celebrate Picture Books

Book Details

Title: Lone Wolf

Author-Illustrator: Sarah Kurpiel

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Year Published: 2020

ISBN: 9780062943828

Review: Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas

Summary

Shanté Keys visits her grandmother to celebrate the New Year. Her grandmother has prepared lots of food but forgot the black-eyed peas. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s is a tradition to bring good luck for the year for many Black American families, so Shanté visits her neighbours to try to borrow some black-eyed peas to ensure her family can participate in the tradition this year too. Each neighbour introduces Shanté to their own culture’s lucky New Year’s foods, covering traditions from China, Scotland, Latin America, and India. Shanté finally finds some black-eyed peas and returns to her grandmother’s to cook them, only to find her neighbours have joined in for dinner too!

Review

I have sought long and hard for a quality New Year’s book for storytime, and this is by far and away the best one I have found. It has all of the hallmarks of a great storytime book: the story is told in rhyme and has a lovely rhythm to it, the repetition of Shanté visiting each neighbour’s house helps children catch on to the narrative and make predictions, the illustrations are clear and expressive even from a distance, and the story is just the right length for squirmy little ones. 

On top of being an excellent storytime pick, I found the book to be a really joyful celebration of diversity and a thoughtful demonstration of the common celebration of good luck for the New Year across the globe. It is a great invitation for children to consider and share their own New Year’s traditions while learning about those from other families and cultures too. The author’s note in the back of the book goes into deeper detail about the traditions mentioned in the book and provides additional examples of lucky food traditions for New Year’s around the world. 

There are plenty of educational tie-ins for this book, but one that I always love is the STEM connections with cooking. You can refer to the recipe for “Grandma Louise’s Hoppin’ John” in the back to kickstart some math activities. 

About the Author

Gail Piernas-Davenport is a creator and “Chicago girl” who always makes sure to have black-eyed peas for New Year’s.

About the Illustrator

Marion Eldridge is an artist and illustrator living in Massachusetts. 

Helpful Links

K-4 Activity Guide for Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas – compiled by Gail Piernas-Davenport

New Year’s Dates – compiled by Gail Piernas-Davenport

Book Details

Title: Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas

Author: Gail Piernas-Davenport

Illustrator: Marion Eldridge

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Year Published: 2007

ISBN: 9780807573310

Review: Precious and the Boo Hag

Summary

Precious stays home with a stomach ache while her family goes out to plant corn for the day. Her mother warns Precious before she leaves: “Now remember, don’t let nothing and nobody in this house — not even me, ‘cause I got a key.” Precious is feeling like a big girl ready for her day at home alone until her brother warns her about Pruella the Boo Hag, who will do almost anything to get inside. Pruella attempts to trick Precious into letting her inside using various disguises, but Precious sees through her every time and sings, “Pruella is a Boo Hag — she was right outside my windows. She’s tricky and she’s scary, but I didn’t let her in!”

“Pruella is a Boo Hag — she was right outside my windows. She’s tricky and she’s scary, but I didn’t let her in!”

Review

Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack and Onawumi Jean Moss is a delightfully spooky story based in Gullah folklore. While a bit longer than my average read aloud choices, I believe this book has the power to engage squiggly audiences with its creepy (and honestly a bit silly!) villain Pruella’s repeated attempts to outwit the brave heroine Precious. There is plenty of repetition in Pruella’s visits as well as Precious’ sing-song victory chant that will help children keep up with the narrative, but Pruella’s disguises and tricks change enough each time to keep little ones guessing. Kyrsten Brooker’s larger-than-life illustrations help make the Boo Hag appear more silly than frightening, helping to tone down potential scares for younger children. Overall this is a very fun story that will have children cheering for Precious’ victory over Pruella. This title fits perfectly in any Halloween storytime rotation.

About the Authors

Patricia C. McKissack was a children’s author who chronicled African American history and Southern folklore in more than 100 early reader and picture books. She lived in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Onawumi Jean Moss of Amherst, Massachusetts is a storyteller, narrator, keynote speaker and author.

About the Illustrator

Kyrsten Brooker is a children’s book illustrator living in Edmonton, AB. 

Helpful Links

Helping Kids Rise: Precious and the Boo Hag: A Not So Scary African American Tale

Book Details

Title: Precious and the Boo Hag

Authors: Precious C. McKissack, Onawumi Jean Moss

Illustrator: Kyrsten Brooker

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Year Published: 2005

ISBN: 9780689851940

Review: A Likkle Miss Lou

Summary

A biography of Jamaican poet Louise Bennett Coverly’s early life in Jamaica, including how she drew inspiration from the sounds of Jamaican patois and eventually overcame her fear of sharing her poetry with others. The book includes some writing samples by Miss Lou, an extended author’s note covering the life and legacy of the poet, and a glossary of Jamaican patois terms used in the book.  

Review

A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverly Found Her Voice by Nadia L. Hohn is a well-researched, inspiring, and lyrical biography of Jamaican poet Louise Bennett Coverly. It is fitting that Nadia L. Hohn has written this biography of Miss Lou, a woman captivated by the sounds of words, in such a poetic style. The story sends an inspiring message to readers to find courage to share their true selves and lean into what they love. Both Hohn’s use of language and the storyline may encourage some budding poets to emerge in its young readers!

“Louise Bennett loved words. She played with them. She ate them up for breakfast, served with roasted breadfruit, ackee, and saltfish. She swallowed each word whole.”

– Nadia L. Hohn, A Likkle Miss Lou

Eugenie Fernandes’ illustrations are bright, clear, and expressive, and support reading this biography in a group setting for school age children. A Likkle Miss Lou offers many opportunities for educational tie-ins, from Black history to women’s history, from language to geography, from poetry to the craft of biography itself. Miss Lou’s impact as an icon across the Jamaican diaspora makes A Likkle Miss Lou a perfect fit for shelves all over the world, but this title by a Black Canadian author about a Black woman living in Canada is especially vital in Canadian schools and libraries where biographies of Black American figures often dominate children’s non-fiction collections.

About the Author

Nadia L. Hohn is a first generation Canadian, born to parents with Jamaican ancestry. She lives in Toronto. 

About the Illustrator

Eugenie Fernandes grew up in Long Island, NY, and now lives near Peterborough, ON. 

Helpful Links

Behind the Book: A Likkle Miss Lou Author Nadia L. Hohn

Socamom: Book Review: A Likkle Miss Lou

Toronto Star: Miss Lou’s sweet Jamaican patois speaks to a whole new generation

CBC Books: A Likkle Miss Lou

Book Details

Title: A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice

Author: Nadia L. Hohn

Illustrator: Eugenie Fernandes 

Publisher: Owlkids

Year Published: 2019

ISBN: 9781771473507

Review: Keeshig & the Ojibwe Pterodactyls

Summary

Keeshig and his family go to the beach, and he tells his mother stories about Nanaboozhoo (commonly referred to by settlers as Sleeping Giant) who he sees in the distance. To his mother’s delight, Keeshig muses about what he calls ‘Ojibwe pterodactyls’ and considers where they live and what they eat. He then shares that the Ojibwe pterodactyls are thunderbirds and their thunderous wingbeats are really the heartbeat of Nanaboozhoo. His mother tells Keeshig how grateful she is for his story. 

Review

Keeshig & the Ojibwe Pterodactyls is a beautiful example of what can happen when a family creates together. It is a family project with Celeste Pedri-Spade writing the story as told to her by seven year-old Keeshig Spade, and Robert Spade and six year-old Kiniw Spade creating the accompanying illustrations. Readers will find this story told through the eyes of a child a fun and accessible lens into Anishinaabe storytelling, and there are plenty of opportunities for educational tie-ins about Indigenous language, cultures, and geography, as well as storytelling and creative writing. The illustrations by Robert Spade are vivid and stunning, and those by Kiniw Spade help bring the reader back to Keeshig’s childlike perspective. This heartwarming story is an absolute treasure for any picture book collection. 

About the Authors

Keeshig Spade (Keeshigbahnahnkut) is a seven year-old Anishinabe from Lac des Milles Lacs First Nation and currently lives with his family in Sudbury, ON. 

Dr. Celeste Pedri Spade (Anang Onimiwin) is an Anishinabekwe from Lac des Milles Lac First Nation.

About the Illustrators

Robert Spade (Keeshigooninii) is an Anishinabe from Northern Ontario (Fort Hope First Nation).

Kiniw Spade (Nitaw Gamik) is a six year-old Anishinabe from Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation and currently lives with his family in Sudbury, ON.

Helpful Links

Anishinabek News: Sudbury-based family creates Indigenous children’s book, telling a simple, true story

Book Details

Title: Keeshig & the Ojibwe Pterodactyls

Authors: Keeshig Spade as told to Celeste Pedri-Spade

Illustrators: Robert Spade & Kiniw Spade

Publisher: Kegedonce Press

Year Published: 2019

ISBN: 9781928120209

Review: The Peanut Fart

Summary

Shelton the snail usually eats green vegetables, but one day he eats a peanut and lets out a peanut-shaped fart. All of the snails laugh at Shelton as the fart follows him around, so he captures the fart in a bottle and pushes it down the river — only to begin worrying about its well-being and going on his own adventure to track it down.

Review

The Peanut Fart by Xiaoming Wang is a rare picture book that is both laugh-out-loud funny and thoughtful (and surprisingly emotional for a book about farts!) It is a great title for English readers, Mandarin learners, or fluent Mandarin readers, as it has both Simplified Chinese characters and pinyin (text that helps translate Chinese sounds into a Latin alphabet) side-by-side throughout the story and an English translation in the back pages with miniature illustrations. The coloured pencil illustrations are cute, expressive, and can be seen from a distance for larger groups — but there is enough happening in each image that readers will want a closer look. This book is an overwhelming joy from start to finish and a great addition to any collection of picture books in translation.

About the Author-Illustrator

Xiaoming Wang is the creator of numerous award-winning picture books.

About the Translator 

Adam Lanphier grew up in Washington, D.C., lived in Beijing from 2005 until 2008, and currently lives in New York City. 

Book Details

Title: The Peanut Fart 

Author-Illustrator: Xiaoming Wang

Translator: Adam Lanphier

Publisher: Paper Republic LLC, by arrangement with Jieli Publishing House Co. Ltd.

Year Published: 2016 (English translation), originally published 2013

ISBN: 9781945295034

Review: My Cat Looks Like My Dad

Summary

The narrator compares all of the ways their large fluffy yellow cat is similar to their light-skinned blonde dad (i.e. “They both love milk. And sardines. Ewww…”) and closes the story by showing how they themselves are similar to their mom. If readers are paying close attention to the illustrations, they might catch on to the twist that the narrator isn’t who we expect them to be!

Review

Thao Lam inserts so much humour in her papercraft-style illustrations — this simple but charming story showcasing the similarities between the narrator’s dad and their family’s large fluffy yellow cat is sure to leave readers with a smile. My Cat Looks Like My Dad offers opportunities for tie-ins with themes around family or pets and provides an excellent starting place for young readers to begin thinking about point of view in stories. A quietly funny book with a heartfelt message about families coming in all shapes and sizes that would work well in smaller group settings where children can more closely explore the illustrations, but could also be infused with extra energy for larger groups by having children repeating actions described in the book (i.e. stretches, belly rubs, etc.). 

About the Author-Illustrator

Thao Lam is Vietnamese-Canadian and lives in Toronto, ON.

Book Details

Title: My Cat Looks Like My Dad

Author-Illustrator: Thao Lam

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Year Published: 2019

ISBN: 9781771473514