Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg

Just a Dream

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s lit

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: Walter doesn’t care about the environment, until he has a very spooky dream…

Review: I honestly just considered whether to put this into the horror/psychological horror genre, considering that Walter’s dreams are Too True and Too Close to Home.  I mean, his nightmares are pretty dang close to our reality.  And this was published in 1990.  Yikes.

I know this picturebook essentially teaches children that they have to actively participate towards a clean, environmentally-sound future, but Chris Van Allsburg can’t do all the work here!!  It’s a wonderful message overall, and this book would easily fit in perfectly with an Earth Day unit,  in the midst of any type of eco-activism you and your picturebook-loving pal are participating in!

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Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

Big Mushy Happy Lump

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Comics

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: Sarah narrates her life with some (mostly) autobiographical comics.  Also, cats.

Review: I love Sarah’s comics so much…they feel so personal because they are so.  Gosh dang.  Relatable.  They’re set up so neatly in ways that are consistent and totally readable, and her sense of humor is just hilarious.  Seriously.  This the second anthology of hers that I’ve read, and it’s just so funny.  Truly.  Where else can I find comics about periods, books, cats, significant others, and a really bad habit of drinking way too much coffee?  Also, the title on the cover is fuzzy.  So, if anything else, you should feel the cover.

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Jumanji

Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature, speculative fiction

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Two children stumble upon a board game and it is much more than they bargained for.

Review: So, my getting into reading Jumanji went a little like this…

My professor: So, everybody’s basically read Jumanji, right?

Everyone else: Oh my god, yeah, duh, of course

Me, 5 seconds later: Yes…I too have read the…Jimanju……..

And so when I finally found the book, I read it.  No longer would be the only person in my class who hadn’t read Jumanji.  Victory was mine!  Though I have to admit, I think it would have been a much better read if I had read it as a child.

While I definitely found it stunning art-wise and intriguing plot-wise (I’d seen the movie Zathura as a kid, so I was glad to see how the two differed), it didn’t have that nostsalgia-feeling that I think everybody else had.  It didn’t wow me as much as Van Allsburg’s other books, which bummed me out.  But still, it was pretty dang good.  I’d definitely read it to some kids, and/or my baby cousins.  I’m so glad this is a staple for everybody as a picturebook though, even if my childhood didn’t include it!!

June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner

June 28

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature, speculative fiction

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: A young girl sends up a couple vegetable seeds in the sky for a science experiment.  What comes down isn’t what she was expecting…

Review: I like to think of this book as a Vegan Book, or a Vook, if you will.  Because if I had the power to make huge vegetables float down from the sky, you bet I’d do it before anyone could snap their fingers.  Truly though, Wiesner does it again with his fantastic and speculative illustrations.  Who else could drum up an idea like this?  Something so strange and bizarre which he treats as so likely and plausible?  Okay, well, maybe not likely, but he does give us something to think about.  He does a fantastic job world-building with this new vegetable dilemma, and he does a wonderful job illustrating it.  Definitely a great book to read!!

Red Again by Barbara Lehman

Red Again

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Two more children find the mysterious red book…

Review: I opened a box to receive at my bookstore and saw this on top and I was like.  Huh.  This looks…different?  And lo and behold, this was published in 2017.  And so I devoured it (when I probably should have been working).  And holy shit.  It was.  So good.  Like.  It falls within the same theme as the first, hence the title but.  The ending???  Lehman did THAT and just messed with metafiction and intertextuality AGAIN.  I’m.  It’s too much.  These books are too much and I need MORE, please.  I am such a huge fan of the Red Books, and I will not be stopped.  They’re just too good.

Bird by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Shadra Strickland

Bird

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Mekhai loves to draw.  But something seems amiss as his grandfather’s health worsens and his brother leaves home…

Review: This was a beautiful and poignant book that struck so many chords within me that I didn’t even know I had.  Strickland’s illustrations are striking and powerful, and Elliott’s writing is impactful, impactful, impactful.  Truly, this book deals with topics that even I, an adult, find difficult to discuss.  And yet Elliott and Strickland do it in such a way that is both nuanced and completely understandable for those reading this book.  This book discusses death, drug abuse, and racism in beautiful, incredible ways that still render me bereft at points.

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

Du Iz Tak

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Something new is growing.  What is that?

Review: I thought about being really clever and doing my review entirely in what would be a mock-du iz tak-language, but then decided against it, because that would be too much work.  You know what’s not too much work??  Reading this book.  Even though the language is made up, it’s so easy to understand what’s happening, especially with the linguistic similarities between that language and Ellis’ illustrations.  It’s truly a genius book, and there is definitely a reason why people are buzzing about this book.  It’s just sweet, beautiful, and one of the most creative books there is.

Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

Water is Water

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature, non-fiction

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Two children learn about the water cycle as the seasons pass and water changes into different forms.

Review: I learned so much from this book, and relearned a great deal that I’d forgotten.  Miranda Paul does a wonderful job explaining the water cycle in detail that’s also easy to comprehend, and Jason Chin, as always, does an incredible job illustrating everything–what really stood out to me about his illustrations this time around was how the brother and sister interacted different ways with different sorts of water forms.  It was just really fun to follow as I continued reading.  Altogether, these two make a powerful combo who create a wonderful book!

The Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews

The Neighborhood Mother Goose

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Children’s literature

Medium: Hardcover

Synopsis: Mother Goose’s stories and rhymes retold in the middle of Brooklyn.

Review: Nina Crews does it again with her beautiful photography and collagework.  She takes Mother Goose’s rhymes and recreates them around her images featuring children of color and their experiences in a fun and vibrant way.  In all honesty, I like Mother Goose, but I just didn’t find her rhymes as engaging ever since I turned, like, 12.  And then Nina Crews does THIS and now I’m in love all over again.  What creativity!  I absolutely loved this and think that this is perfect for any home, classroom, or library.

Cuba on the Verge: 12 Writers on Continuity and Change in Havana and Across the Country, edited by Leila Guerriero

Cuba on the Verge

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, essays, anthology

Medium: Paperback, ARC

Synopsis: 12 writers, both native and non- to Cuba, discuss various topics as they are now (and sometimes before) in Cuba.

Review: Let me be honest.  I didn’t really know anything about Cuba before reading this.  I’m pretty US-centric most of the time, though I want to believe it’s truly unintentional.  So when I saw this ARC, I jumped on it.  Finally, something to read about Cuba by actual Cubans and not just random white journalists on the internet!

Now, let me be frank.  It was great.  I learned so much about the culture, the rise and fall of the government, about Havana, about taxi-drivers and coconut collectors and bookstores and dancers.  This anthology is a collection of lives and jobs and politics and it’s incredible.  It’s a smattering of topics that truly somehow encompass Cuba on both a larger and personal level.  And it’s so vibrant.  Nothing is spared in these accounts, and I felt like I could actually feel the sun beating down on my skin, or my eyes trying to adjust to a dim room where Havana-based dancers were performing.

If you want to break free from US-centric non-fiction books, this is definitely the collection for you.