For Kids

Writing and Illustrating Muslim characters in children’s literature: Interview and Giveaway with Author Saadia Faruqi and Illustrator Hatem Aly

I am thrilled to interview Author Saadia Faruqi and Illustrator Hatem Aly and discuss their new book – Meet Yasmin!  Saadia and Hatem talk about their experience developing a story with a Muslim main character and why diversity in children’s books matters.

 

Saadia, Yasmin is a brave girl who has a big imagination and loves adventure. Why is it important for you to write/illustrate the story of an empowering ethnic minority character?

 Saadia: So far we’ve seen brown characters mostly in issues books. They typically face a problem – or issue – that directly relates to their identity. For instance a Muslim main character facing Islamophobia, or an African American main character experiencing racism. Although I do believe that those sorts of books are helpful to our understanding of critical social and political issues, it also means that minority groups are otherized further, they’re seen as different, or only viewed in the context of that issue. Yasmin is the antidote to this problem: a Muslim girl in America, a brown first generation American, who is perfectly normal and average, facing all the issues every child her age faces, and having the same happy disposition we expect to see from all our children. It was really important to me not to make Yasmin or her family “the other” – someone different because of their skin color or their religion or ethnic background. There is a sort of empowerment in that normalization that only minority groups can truly understand.

 

Hatem, was it important for you to take the author’s background into consideration while creating the illustrations in the book?

Hatem: It is important, However, I didn’t have to work so hard on being familiar with Saadia’s background since I can relate to many elements of her background already being brought up in Egypt and Yasmin’s family seems so familiar to me in a broader sense. I did work on bringing up some Pakistani visual elements but illustrating Yasmin went organically harmonized with the author’s experience and my own as well.

 

In the recent times, literary agents and publishing houses for children and young adult books have made an open call for submissions from Muslim authors and illustrators. Can you explain why it matters to include diverse characters in children’s and young adult literature?

 Saadia: It’s really crucial to have as much diversity in all sorts of literature, not just in terms of characters but also stories. I actually come from an adult literary background, and I see the same calls for diversity in that age group as well, and it warms my heart to witness these changes in publishing. The reason this matters so much is two-fold (and something we in kidlit talk about constantly): mirrors and windows. My children need a mirror. They need to see themselves reflected in the pages of the books they read. Growing up in Pakistan I didn’t have that. I read exclusively white stories, by white authors, and my worldview was shaped with an extreme inferiority complex because of that. I don’t want my children to have the same, and I know nobody else does either. Also, other children need windows. They should be able to read and enjoy books that show a different sort of family than theirs, a different culture than theirs. This is the only way we can have a younger generation that’s more empathetic and understanding and aware than our previous generations were.

Hatem: It is critically necessary to show diversity in literature of all ages and to express a wider range of life elements in people’s lives. In my work I sometimes pay attention to some things that bothered me as a child but also that I found intriguing. For example, I remember almost all comics and story books took place in a sort of a suburban –house per family- neighborhood and I felt strange finding nobody living in an apartment like myself and most of the millions of people in Cairo alone or at least everyone I know. So I felt alienated but amused from a distance longing for something I can’t define. It seemed to me there was a generic way of living that needs to be challenged and I couldn’t put my finger on the issue exactly until I was older. It’s important for children to see themselves and to see others as well in books.

 

How can parents, librarians, and readers help support books like Meet Yasmin?

 Saadia: The key is not only to read the book but to discuss it. You could use the back matter which has some really good discussion guides for students, and there is also an educator’s guide for teachers. Finally, and for me most excitingly, Capstone has some very cool downloadable activities based on Yasmin, which kids are going to love. I encourage parents, librarians and teachers to take advantage of those as much as possible.

Hatem: The best thing is to read the book, and share it with others! Personally I feel that the most powerful way is to read it to students or story time at public libraries as well as parents to their younger children. I find that helps building bonds between children and books.  I love libraries, so I ask everyone to walk into their local public library and suggest that they buy a few copies for their shelves. Most libraries have book suggestion tools for their patrons, either online or in person. The same goes for your child’s school library.

 

Who are your personal author/illustrator idols?

 Hatem: It’s more of an emergence of inspiration fueled by a mix of interesting people. Many names come to mind, and many I will forget. Some whose work I enjoy and admire are Bill Watterson, Tove Jansson, Maurice Sendak, Jon Klassen, Luke Pearson, Marc Boutavant, Sempé, Zep, Jillian Tamaki, Lynda Barry, Vera Brosgol, Hayao Miyazaki, Naoki Urasawa, Edward Gorey, Kate Beaton, Carson Ellis, Oliver Jeffers and many more.

Saadia: Some of my favorite writers are my own peers, because I believe writing is best done as part of a community. In early reader and picture books I admire Hena Khan who’s been a trailblazer as far as Muslim representation in kidlit is concerned, and really carved a space not only for herself but for others as well. In terms of illustrators, I’m actually a big fan of Hatem Aly, haha! I feel very blessed that he’s part of Team Yasmin because it’s so important for me to have a person doing the art who really understands what it means to be Muslim, and first generation, and sometimes “the other”. He really gets my stories in a way that I think another illustrator wouldn’t have, and I’m very grateful for that.

 

What can readers take away from Meet Yasmin?

Saadia: Readers will enjoy seeing themselves in Meet Yasmin, even if they are very different in superficial ways to Yasmin and her family. Yasmin is literally the every-girl, and her family is the same as every other family. With everything that’s going on politically in our country at the moment, I hope that Yasmin can help readers understand that Americans come in all colors, and that there’s beauty and worth in diversity, despite what they may hear in the news sometimes.

Hatem: I believe that readers will have fun with Yasmin and recognize similarities despite some superficial differences. They will be inspired to be curious, creative, and believing in themselves all the way even if things go wrong sometimes. There are a lot of lessons a child can learn, but there’s also a lot of entertainment which is so important to develop in this age group of readers.

 

For more about Saadia and her work, visit her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter.

For more about Hatem and his work, visit his website. You can also connect with him on Twitter.

Thanks, Saadia and Hatem!

 

Want to own your very own copy of Meet Yasmin? Enter our giveaway by leaving a comment below! 

You may earn extra entries by blogging/tweeting/facebooking the interview and letting us know. The winner will be announced here on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 and will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (US/Canada only) to receive the book.

 

Indie Spotlight: da Shop, Honolulu, Hawai‘i

At long last Honolulu has an independent bookstore, da Shop,  featuring children’s books!  Hooray! Bess Press, a highly-regarded regional publisher in the Kaimuki district, opened da Shop (https//dashophnl.com) this spring and is carrying three main kinds of books: best sellers, Hawaiiana, and children’s and young adult. We’re talking today with David DeLuca, store manager.

MUF: After years of nimble marketing as successful regional publishers in Honolulu, what inspired you to go retail and turn your showroom space into a general bookstore ?
DD: – The impetus for creating an independent bookshop came from conversations from customers and community members. We often seek dialogue with the folks we aim to create books for and often times the conversation would turn to the desire for a local, community bookstore. That was something we felt too was lacking, predominately because of what this kind of retail represents; a place for gathering, conversation, a sharing space of knowledge and ideas for all ages. So we took the time to do some research and look at various book retailing models, traditional and contemporary, and came up with the concept for da Shop. And now three years later here we are with a 1,000sq ft bookshop that is focusing on celebrating literature, regionally, nationally and nationally.

MUF: Besides your own Bess Press books, what kinds of things are you featuring at Da Shop? How do you choose what to carry?
DD: As a 39-year old publisher, of education and popular interest content, it was important for us to highlight a book selection that was celebratory of the work done within our industry. All the titles we carry have received some special merit or recognition for the quality of editorial, design/illustration, or something else. Our goal was to truly have a selection divided into thirds that pulled, what we feel, a diverse selection of noteworthy titles. All our titles in our children and juvenile section for example, cover contemporary issues and dynamics and have received high praise from credible sources such as School Library Journal, American Library Association, or other reliable reviewers that most directly work with the age groups of readers those titles are targeted towards.
The other emphasis for us as a brick-and-mortar was to create a space that was hospitable, inviting, and intimate. To do this, we placed a high value on design so that we could maintain that “showroom” style, but also offer areas for kids, adults too, to sit down and explore a book. Reading and literature is meant to be experienced, so we wanted to make that come full circle from our curated title selection to the environment that offered those titles.

MUF: Earlier in the summer, you set up the on-site bookstore for the Biennial Conference on Literature and Hawaii’s Children at Chaminade, where you displayed and sold a great variety of favorite children’s fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. Will you being doing the same in the children’s section of your shop?
DD:
Our collective goal, as book buyers and staff is to routinely read through the reviews and nationally recognized works that come out each year. Emphasis for us is to provide a combination of classics and new titles that can be categorized together and also promote each other. We cannot make every title available, but by making ourselves knowledgeable of the variety of literature out there, we can better help inform our customers. We regularly rotate our title selection so that it can be seasonally appropriate, but also so that we can have titles available in the event we are able to participate in a conference or another event.

MUF: As middle-grade authors, we’re curious to know: what are some of the titles, new and classic, fiction and nonfiction you are currently selling or recommending to readers aged 8 to 12?
DD:
Well, being an independent bookstore in Hawaii we perhaps exemplify regional better than anywhere else. This idea simply due to our remoteness. So our emphasis is always to find interesting content that local readers can relate to or are interested in. After doing that, we then try to pair titles with similar or like themes that are on a national or international thread.
We are trying to capture a good variety of fiction and non-fiction as it relates to middle-grade readers, as well as capture the wide range of readability amongst this group. At the moment a handful of titles we are carrying that covers this range are:
A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Inside Out & Back Again by Thannha Lai
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Ghosts  and Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Pax by Sara Pennypacker

 Titles on the higher independent reader side include:
Vincent and Theo, The Van Gogh
Brothers
by Deborah Heiligman and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

MUF: Owner/founders of independent bookstores always have a bookstore ideal they try to make real. What’s your dream for your bookstore? What atmosphere do you want to create?
DD:
I think all business owners need to have a dream built into their philosophy and one that that they can routinely aspire towards. For me, and my co-owners, our dream was to create an environment that celebrates the entire book, from editorial conception through artistic design and print-production. We wanted to create a space that folks could gather in and have a conversation, or simply sit quietly and browse through a book.
By building da Shop so that it opens up into our book warehouse and packaging fulfillment, folks can see that “behind-the-scenes” reality of distributing books. This also allows for us to lend our space towards events that cater to the community and the bookshop as a community resource. Developing weekly events, that can make the themes presented inside the books we carry, we are striving toward regularly offering immersive experiences that provoke thought and discussion. To us, this celebratory concept combined with offering events helps us take one step toward our dream of opening an environment that encourages children, young adults and adults to engage and be readers who think.

MUF: Please tell us about events and activities coming up at Da Shop, particularly those that might be of interest to middle-graders.
DD: Well, our event calendar is constantly changing with new and interesting happenings, so it is important to check out our website’s events page to see what is happening currently. This next month a few things we are doing are with the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators workshop (August 18, details at hawaii.scbwi.org), a Yoga story time, and our middle-graders book club is beginning in September. There is more to come as we continue to develop partnerships with other business and organizations that offer services with subjects of interest to young readers.

MUF:  Thank you David.  One of the joys of doing these Indie spotlights is discovering even more books I need to read.  Think I’ll stop by tomorrow for a copy of Bao Phi’s A Different Pond.
Readers, when you visit Honolulu, be sure to check out da Shop!

 

 

August New Releases!

In some parts of the country, school is almost starting. In others, there’s a whole month left of relaxation. No matter where you live or what August has in store for you, here are some great reads that are sure to make it a fun month!

We at The Mixed-Up Files are particularly proud to feature several August releases written by our members: Jonathan Rosen, Jennifer Swanson, and Karen Latchana Kenney. (Mouse over the book covers for purchase information.)

 

From Sunset Till Sunrise by Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan Rosen’s newest is a follow-up to the hilarious Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, the first of his Dexter books. The novel continues the story of Devin Dexter and his cousin Tommy after they’ve saved the city of Gravesend from the menace of magical, malicious Cuddle Bunnies brought to life by the warlock, Herb. But there’s no rest for the wicked, as a new mysterious neighbor moves in across the street. At night. With a coffin. Tommy immediately jumps to conclusions as he thinks this can only mean one thing: Vampires.

Devin isn’t so quick to believe, as he is struck by the neighbor’s daughter, a girl his age. Even though Tommy points out that they have never seen her during the day. Yet when she invites him to a dance at her school–the Nosfer Academy of Talented Understudies–how can Devin say no? Tommy, though, realizes that this is an opportunity. After tackling a wizard last winter, surely they can protect Gravesend from some measly vampires, right?

 

Bridges! With 25 Science Projects for Kids by Jennifer Swanson, illus. by Bryan Stone

From the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Tower Bridge in London, bridges are a huge part of our life. But how are these amazing structures built? What forces keep it standing? What might cause it to fall down? And who decides which type of bridge to use?

In Bridges!, readers discover how these extraordinary feats of engineering are created, and apply what they have learned to hands-on, critical-thinking activities that include building different types of bridges, such as truss, cantilever, and suspension bridges, out of different materials and modeling different types of supports. They examine the natural forces that affect structure selection and appearance, and also learn about the types of support required for each. Trivia, cartoon illustrations, links to online videos and other sources, and clear diagrams round out this book and make it fun and interesting for class discussions. Following the guidelines set forth in the NGSS/NSTA engineering and design standards, teachers can feel comfortable using this book as a guide for targeted learning in their classrooms.

 

TV Brings Battle into the Home with the Vietnam War: 4D An Augmented Reading Experience by Karen Latchana Kenney

On-point historical photographs combined with strong narration bring the battles and controversies surrounding the Vietnam War to life. People saw the battles in real time, on the nightly news, changing forever how people viewed war.

Readers will see it as well, both in the text and in the accompanying video clips via the free Capstone 4D app, creating an augmented reality experience that brings the printed page to life.

 

Extreme Longevity: Discovering Earth’s Oldest Organisms by Karen Latchana Kenney

Meet the science experts who study specimens of extreme longevity in both the plant and animal kingdoms, such as the 80,000-year-old root system of Pando (a colony of male quaking aspens), 11,000-year-old deep-sea sponges, and 400-year-old sharks. Learn about technologies used to determine age and longevity, including DNA sampling, growth rings, and radiocarbon dating. See how scientists located these long-lived species were and why and how they resist disease and aging. And delve into how scientists are using what they know about aged plants and animals to research how we can promote longevity in humans.

 

 

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger. When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil — and herself. But she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

 

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson’s first middle-grade novel since the National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming celebrates the healing that can occur when a group of students share their stories.

It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat–by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them–everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.

 

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Chaya Lindner is a teenager living in Nazi-occupied Poland. Simply being Jewish places her in danger of being killed or sent to the camps. After her little sister is taken away, her younger brother disappears, and her parents all but give up hope, Chaya is determined to make a difference. Using forged papers and her fair features, Chaya becomes a courier and travels between the Jewish ghettos of Poland, smuggling food, papers, and even people.

Soon Chaya joins a resistance cell that runs raids on the Nazis’ supplies. But after a mission goes terribly wrong, Chaya’s network shatters. She is alone and unsure of where to go, until Esther, a member of her cell, finds her and delivers a message that chills Chaya to her core, and sends her on a journey toward an even larger uprising in the works — in the Warsaw Ghetto. Though the Jewish resistance never had much of a chance against the Nazis, they were determined to save as many lives as possible, and to live — or die — with honor.

 

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.

Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.

 

Royal Crown by Meg Cabot

It’s the first coronation of a female monarch of Genovia in 200 years, and Her Royal Highness, Princess Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison, is giving you the inside scoop in this newest (illustrated!) diary from New York Times―bestselling author and illustrator Meg Cabot!

Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison should be having fun. Her best friend is visiting from America, her sister’s royal coronation is only three days away (the first coronation of a female ruler in two centuries), and she’s even got a new boyfriend who is actually a very smart and charming prince!

But it’s hard to celebrate when her royal cousins are scheming to take over the throne. And with everyone running around, Olivia and her friends have been saddled with royal babysitting duties. Then, to make matters worse, Olivia’s snobby cousin Luisa insists on gossiping about her, especially about things that should be personal . . . it’s none of her business whether Prince Khalil and Olivia have kissed or not!

 

Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor

Mavis Jeeter is fearless and bold, but she has never lived in one place long enough to have a real best friend. Her flighty mother has uprooted them again to another new home and taken a job as a housekeeper for the Tully family. Mavis wants this home to be permanent―which means finding herself a best friend.

Rose Tully is a worrier who feels like she doesn’t quite fit in with the other girls in her neighborhood. Her closest friend is Mr. Duffy, but he hasn’t been himself since his dog died. Rose may have to break a few of her mother’s many rules to help Mr. Duffy―and find someone who really understands her.

Henry has run away from home, but he craves kindness and comfort―and doesn’t know where to look for them. When Mavis and Rose hatch a scheme to find Mr. Duffy a new dog, their lives and Henry’s intersect―and they all come to find friendship in places they never expected.

 

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illus. by Giovanni Rigano

A powerfully moving graphic novel by New York Times bestselling author Eoin Colfer and the team behind the Artemis Fowl graphic novels that explores the current plight of undocumented immigrants.

Ebo is alone.His brother, Kwame, has disappeared, and Ebo knows it can only be to attempt the hazardous journey to Europe, and a better life―the same journey their sister set out on months ago.

But Ebo refuses to be left behind in Ghana. He sets out after Kwame and joins him on the quest to reach Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his family.

 

Echo’s Sister by Paul Mosier

Twelve-year-old El has planned on making her first week at a new school fantastic. She won’t go by her given name, Laughter. She’ll sit in the back of the classroom where she can make new friends. She won’t even have time to think about all the fun her old friends are having without her. Everything will be great.

But when her dad picks her up after school and tells her that her younger sister, Echo, has a life-threatening illness, her world is suddenly turned upside down. And with her parents now pressed for time and money, El feels lost and powerless.

Then she befriends Octavius, the only other kid in school who gets what she’s going through. As El begins to adjust to her new life, she soon finds that maybe a little hope and a lot of love can overcome any obstacle.

 

Just Breath by Mallika Chopra, illus. by Brenna Vaughan

Just Breathe is a fully illustrated go-to meditation guide written by Mallika Chopra, wellness expert and daughter of Deepak Chopra. For kids ages 8 to 12, this book is full of specific exercises to help deal with day-to-day challenges and tips to lead a healthier, happier, and more connected life. The book includes practical advice on breathing techniques and guided meditations for a number of topics and scenarios, including:

Dealing with stress; getting to sleep; building self-confidence; focusing on school/tests/other work; and ridding oneself of anxiety.

Beginners will learn the basics of meditation and how to get started, and those more experienced will learn how to improve their practice. This book will also teach kids how to prepare their own meditation spaces.

 

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

In a debut historical novel about the Great Migration a boy discovers Chicago’s postwar South Side and the poetry of Langston Hughes.

When 11-year-old Langston’s mother dies in 1946, he and his father leave rural Alabama for Chicago’s brown belt as a part of what came to be known as the Great Migration. It’s lonely in the small apartment with just the two of them, and at school Langston is bullied. But his new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the local public library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston, a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him.

 

Totally Middle School: Tales of Friends, Family, and Fitting In ed. by Betsy Groban

From literary masterminds Lois Lowry, Gary D. Schmidt, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, Karen Cushman, Gregory Maguire, and more comes a timeless and inspirational anthology about the sometimes-challenging, always-rewarding coming-of-age years: middle school.

With eleven short stories told in text messages, emails, formal letters, stories in verse, and even a mini graphic novel, Totally Middle School tackles a range of important subjects, from peer pressure, family issues, and cultural barriers to the unexpected saving grace of music, art, friendship, and reading.

Brimming with heart and humor, these poignant stories from bestselling and award-winning authors shine a light on the moments when everything is thrilling and terrifying at the same time–in a way it will never be again.

 

If This Were a Story by Beth Turley

Tenacious. That means strong-willed. My mother calls me that. I wish I felt the same way.

If this were a story, I would discover I was a direct descendent of a famous soldier who won countless battles and protected hundreds of people. This resilience running through my veins wouldn’t be damaged by the notes; it would fight off bullies and prevent my parents from yelling at each other.

But this is not a story. This is real life. My life as ten-year-old Hannah Geller, who is the only girl in fifth grade to have little red bumps on her face, is unable to let the sad thoughts escape her mind, and leaves heads-up pennies wherever she can to spread good luck. And who also finds magic in the most unlikely of places.

 

So Done by Paula Chase

When best friends Tai and Mila are reunited after a summer apart, their friendship threatens to combust from the pressure of secrets, middle school, and the looming dance auditions for a new talented-and-gifted program.

Jamila Phillips and Tai Johnson have been inseparable since they were toddlers, having grown up across the street from each other in Pirates Cove, a low-income housing project. As summer comes to an end, Tai can’t wait for Mila to return from spending a month with her aunt in the suburbs. But both girls are grappling with secrets, and when Mila returns she’s more focused on her upcoming dance auditions than hanging out with Tai.

Paula Chase explores complex issues that affect many young teens, and So Done offers a powerful message about speaking up. Full of ballet, basketball, family, and daily life in Pirates Cove, this memorable novel is for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Jason Reynolds’s Ghost.

 

Toaff’s Way by Cynthia Voight

Toaff is a small squirrel full of big questions. Why must I stay away from the human’s house? Why shouldn’t I go beyond the pine trees? Why do we fight with the red squirrels across the drive? His sister shrugs–that’s just the way things are. His brother bullies–because I said so. And the older squirrels scold–too many questions! Can Toaff really be the only one to wonder why?
When a winter storm separates him from his family, Toaff must make his own way in the world. It’s a world filled with danger–from foxes and hawks and cats to cars and chainsaws. But also filled with delight–the dizzying scent of apple blossoms, the silvery sound of singing, the joy of leaping so far you’re practically flying. Over the course of a year, Toaff will move into (and out of) many different dreys and dens, make some very surprising friends (and a few enemies), and begin to answer his biggest questions–what do I believe and where do I belong?

 

Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley

After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away.

Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss.

 

Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos

In this funny, action-packed graphic novel adventure, a science-obsessed girl finds herself in the middle of one of her favorite monster movies. Can she invent her way out of disaster while also saving the monster who has become her friend?

Zoe’s favorite thing to do–besides invent and build robots–is watch classic monster movies. She has never been comfortable with kids her own age, and so she pretends she doesn’t need friends while inside she’s longing for connection. And then one day, Zoe finds a mysterious ring on her way home from school. She puts it on, gives it a twist, and–FRZAAKK There’s a massive burst of light The next morning, a familiar monster appears at Zoe’s window. He’s from one of her favorite kaiju movies, and he likes Zoe–he wants to be her friend. Has her secret wish been fulfilled? But it turns out that Zoe’s ring has brought more than just this friendly monster to life. More monsters have arrived, and they are hungry Now she’ll need to reach out to other people to help her save her town from destruction. Good thing she’s a robotics genius.