Red: A Crayon’s Story

Red: A Crayon's StoryRed: A Crayon’s Story
by Michael Hall
Grades K & up

Red can be read as a simple story about a mislabeled crayon, but it can also be looked at on a much deeper level. The reader sees right away that although Red is labelled “red” and is in a red wrapper, it is clearly a blue crayon. No amount of trying harder or advice from well-intentioned teachers and relatives is going to transform this blue crayon into a red one. It is not until another crayon comes along and appreciates what Red can do (draw things in blue) that Red begins to feel some self-worth.

Red can be looked at as any child who is judged by their outside instead of their actual feelings and abilities. This story can even be used as a way to explain transgender to children — someone who is labelled one way on the outside but is something else entirely on the inside. It is an important read for both parents and educators who often see children as they wish them to be, not as they actually are. I am sure that many children will be able to relate to the feeling of being in the wrong wrapper. Highly recommended for all grades, K & up.

Fish In A Tree

Fish In A TreeFish In A Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Grades 4-7

Because her father is in the army, Ally has moved from school to school, which allowed her to keep the biggest secret of all. She can’t read. Now in sixth grade, Ally spends her time in class drawing. She is an excellent artist, and can do math in her head, but it doesn’t make up for the basic skills she lacks. She causes trouble to get herself sent to the office when she cannot complete an assignment, and thinks of herself as stupid. She knows that she doesn’t fit in, and the mean girl in her class reinforces that every day. But when her teacher goes on maternity leave, a long-term sub steps in and begins to see her for who she is. Under his gentle care, she begins to blossom and even believe in herself. This story is touching and humorous. Readers will find themselves rooting for Ally. A must-read for teachers and anyone struggling in school. Highly recommended for grades 4-7.

Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs

Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of EarmuffsEarmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs
by Meghan Mccarthy
Grades 1-4

This engaging picture book about the “inventor” of the earmuffs tells the history of earmuffs and how Chester Greenwood, who improved upon their design, is credited with inventing them. It includes an age-appropriate discussion of how patents work and how the people we find credited for inventions may not have been the ones who thought up the idea, but rather who improved it into what we actually use today.It finishes by explaining how history chose to remember Chester Greenwood. Recommended for grades 1-4.

The Box and the Dragonfly

The Box and the Dragonfly (The Keepers, #1)The Box and the Dragonfly
by Ted Sanders
Grades 4-7

When Horace’s bus takes a different route, he discovers the mysterious House of Answers (though truly it brings more questions than answers). Once there, he learns of the mysterious world of the Tanu — magical objects that choose one person as their Keeper. The bond between the Keeper and the Tanu is strong and should never be broken. A magical box has called to Horace. Through trial and error he discovers what the box can do and finds himself growing more and more dependent on it. There are beings out there who are trying to take the Tanu, though, and Horace and his new friend Chloe (also a Keeper) are in danger.

This book got off to a slow start. It took almost halfway into the book before the pace picked up and the story drew me in. Once in though, this world is worth exploring. I am looking forward to the second book in the series. Recommended for grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher.

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Juna’s Jar

Juna's JarJuna’s Jar
by Jane Bahk

Juna is so sad when her best friend Hector moves away unexpectedly and without saying good-bye. To cheer her up, her brother helps find things for Juna to put into her special kimchi jar. Each night, Juna imagines an adventure with item in the jar, until she is finally able to say good-bye to Hector. A sweet story about dealing with the longing for a lost friend. Recommended for grades K-2.

The Honest Truth

The Honest TruthThe Honest Truth
by Dan Gemeinhart
Grades 4-7

Mark is on a mission. He is clearly no spur-of-the-moment runaway. Every step is calculated and planned out, from the misleading clues to his final destination. But Mark, of all people, should know that life doesn’t always go the way you plan it, and he hits several unexpected snags along the way. There are people he meets who both help him and hurt him, as well as those who want to help but he won’t let them. And of course there are people who he helps as well. As he gets closer to his final destination, we also feel the his parents’ pain as well as that of his best friend, Jessie — the only one who has figured out his plan. But he once asked her to be his secret keeper, so surely she cannot tell this one, the biggest one of all. As Mark gets sicker and the winter storm gets worse, readers will be hoping for a happy ending but fearing the worst, just like Jessie and his parents. Recommended for grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher.

Gone Crazy in Alabama

Gone Crazy in Alabama (Gaither Sisters, #3)Gone Crazy in Alabama
by Rita Williams-Garcia
Grades 4-7

In this third book about Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, they are off to spend the summer of 1969 down home in Alabama with their grandmother Big Ma and their great-grandmother, Ma Charles. The main focus of this book is family, as Delphine finds it harder and harder to get along with Vonetta. The three girls also become embroiled in a decades old family feud between Ma Charles and her “over the creek” half sister, Miss Trotter. While there has been certainly been tragedies in the past, their family story is told with love, laughter, and a hope for the future. The contrasts between their life in Brooklyn, their mother’s life in Oakland, and what life is still like in Alabama are drastic but believable. Readers of the first two will not want to miss this final installment. It does stand alone but readers will appreciate it much more if they have read the other two. Recommended for grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens

The Book That Proves Time Travel HappensThe Book That Proves Time Travel Happens
by Henry Clark
Grades 4-7

Ambrose and his best friend Tom are on their way to the fortune-tellers’ tents at the travelling carnival when Ambrose learns that his history teacher father is in danger of losing his job for being a “Trans-Temp” — someone who dresses outside of his/her own time period. At the carnival, Ambrose meets Frankie, Madame Janus’s daughter, who persuades him to help her on a dangerous mission. The three middle schoolers set off to rescue Frankie’s family heirloom, and find themselves in 1852. They are almost immediately captured by slave catchers and must find a way to return to the present without disrupting history. They use both the ancient Chinese fortunetelling book the I-Ching and the Morse code hidden in the hexagrams to help with their decisions.

If you are a stickler for time-travel standards, this book does bend the rules of time-travel as it is usually portrayed. It is necessary for the plot, and will not bother most casual readers. More disturbing to me were some of the stereotypes used towards the beginning of the book, particularly the Chinese “Tiger Mom” and the use of the word Kemosabe (once). As I continued reading, I realized that the author purposefully included these and other examples of disrespect and intolerance to make the message of the book that much stronger. It is an exciting adventure that also drives home the point of acceptance and the importance of diversity. As an adult the message feels a bit heavy-handed, but I do not believe that the intended audience will see it as such. There are a lot of conversations to be had after reading this book.

Recommended for grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher.

Listen, Slowly

Listen, SlowlyListen, Slowly
by Thanhha Lai
Grades 4-7

Mia’s summer is ruined. Instead of hanging at the beach in Laguna with her best friend and the boy she likes, she has to travel halfway around the world with Ba, her grandmother, to the small Vietnamese village that her family came from. There she is Mai, reluctant to speak Vietnamese but understanding much more than she lets on, while she tries to survive the humidity, mosquitoes, and lack of Internet. As she slowly begins to appreciate village life and her many maybe-relatives, she also has to help her grandmother come to terms with her grandfather’s disappearance during the war. This book will draw readers in immediately, as they feel Mai’s frustration at being ripped away from everything that is important to her. There is an excellent combination of humor, poignancy, and adventure as we join Mai and her Ba on their journey. Highly recommended to grades 4-7.

ARC provided by publisher

Spic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen

Spic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth's Wonder KitchenSpic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth’s Wonder Kitchen
by Monica Kulling
Grades 2-4

Lillian Moller Gilbreth and her husband Frank were efficiency experts in the early 1900s. They analyzed how workers performed their jobs and made suggestions on how to make the work flow more smoothly. When Frank died suddenly, Lillian had to reinvent herself in order to support their 11 children. She is best known for improvements to the modern kitchen that would make life easier for the women in the house. She not only redesigned kitchen layouts, but invented the electric mixer, the garbage can that opened with a foot pedal, and the storage compartments that we find on refrigerator doors today. In 1965, she was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering. A fascinating story about a woman who has made all of our lives easier. Recommended for grades 2-4.