It! Is! Summer! Vacation! I am so happy to be home for the summer, where in between all of the daily tasks like forcing my kid to grind his way through summer school or hauling him back and forth to work, there is plenty of time for me to read. We are still living that relatively low-key pandemic lifestyle—not a ton of human interactions or travel for us this summer (which, let me be honest, as introverts we don’t mind at all!)—so I really am burning through the books that have accumulated here.
Post-it Note Reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.
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All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the Post-It notes are below each description. Reading those is your best bet—carpal tunnel has made my handwriting mostly a disaster.
This post also features my cute dogs and my favorite tattoo!
Calvin by JR Ford, Vanessa Ford, Kayla Harren (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593108673 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/09/2021, Ages 4-8)
In this joyful and impactful picture book, a transgender boy prepares for the first day of school and introduces himself to his family and friends for the first time.
Calvin has always been a boy, even if the world sees him as a girl. He knows who he is in his heart and in his mind but he hasn’t yet told his family. Finally, he can wait no longer: “I’m not a girl,” he tells his family. “I’m a boy–a boy in my heart and in my brain.” Quick to support him, his loving family takes Calvin shopping for the swim trunks he’s always wanted and back-to-school clothes and a new haircut that helps him look and feel like the boy he’s always known himself to be. As the first day of school approaches, he’s nervous and the “what-ifs” gather up inside him. But as his friends and teachers rally around him and he tells them his name, all his “what-ifs” begin to melt away.
Inspired by the authors’ own transgender child and accompanied by warm and triumphant illustrations, this authentic and personal text promotes kindness and empathy, offering a poignant and inclusive back-to-school message: all should feel safe, respected, and welcomed.
(POST-IT SAYS: What a dear, affirming, loving book. Parents, grandparents, friends, and school staff all validate Calvin and the acceptance makes him feel so safe and happy. A great addition to the small field of picture books about transgender children.)
Kapaemahu by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, Daniel Sousa (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593530061 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/07/2022, Ages 4-8)
An Indigenous legend about how four extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit, or Mahu, brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaii, based on the Academy Award–contending short film.
In the 15th century, four Mahu sail from Tahiti to Hawaii and share their gifts of science and healing with the people of Waikiki. The islanders return this gift with a monument of four boulders in their honor, which the Mahu imbue with healing powers before disappearing.
As time passes, foreigners inhabit the island and the once-sacred stones are forgotten until the 1960s. Though the true story of these stones was not fully recovered, the power of the Mahu still calls out to those who pass by them at Waikiki Beach today.
With illuminating words and stunning illustrations by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, and Daniel Sousa, KAPAEMAHU is a monument to an Indigenous Hawaiian legend and a classic in the making.
(POST-IT SAYS: Fascinating, beautiful, and moving, this story of healing, history, tradition, and two-spirit/third-gender identities is unlike anything I’ve read, especially with the inclusion of text in Olelo Niihau. Powerful.)
Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, Alex Bostic (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781454943747 Publisher: Union Square Kids Publication date: 05/24/2022, Ages 4-8)
This lyrical celebration of Juneteenth, deeply rooted in Black American history, spans centuries and reverberates loudly and proudly today.
After 300 years of forced bondage;
hands bound, descendants of Africa
picked up their souls—all that they owned—
leaving shackles where they fell on the ground,
headed for the nearest resting place to be found.
Deeply emotional, evocative free verse by poet and activist Sojourner Kincaid Rolle traces the solemnity and celebration of Juneteenth from its 1865 origins in Galveston, Texas to contemporary observances all over the United States. This is an ode to the strength of Black Americans and a call to remember and honor a holiday whose importance reverberates far beyond the borders of Texas.
(POST-IT SAYS: A simple but lovely look at the joys and hardships that came with freedom. An emotional poem with beautiful, warm artwork. A good introduction to the celebration/holiday.)
All My Friends by Hope Larson (ISBN-13: 9780374388669 Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication date: 01/25/2022 Series: Eagle Rock Series #3, Ages 10-14)
From New York Times-bestselling and Eisner Award-winning creator Hope Larson comes All My Friends, the final standalone book in a middle grade graphic novel trilogy about friendship, family, and music. Perfect for fans of Real Friends by Shannon Hale.
Middle-schooler Bina has everything she’s ever wanted. She has new friends and a new band whose song is about to be featured on her favorite television show.
But being in the spotlight is hard. When Bina and her band are offered a record deal, her parents are not thrilled. Now, Bina is barely speaking to her mom and dad. To make matters worse, Bina and her best friend, Austin, are still awkward around each other after their failed first date.
Can Bina untangle the various melodies in her heart? Or will fame go to her head?
(POST-IT SAYS: Make sure to read the two books that come before this! I adore this series about cool punk rock middle school girls making music and finding their own way through the scene—and through adolescence.)
Break This House by Candice Iloh (ISBN-13: 9780525556237 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/24/2022, Ages 14-17)
From Printz honoree and National Book Award Finalist Candice Iloh, a prose novel about a teenager reckoning with her family’s—and her home town’s—secrets.
Yaminah Okar left Obsidian and the wreckage of her family years ago. She and her father have made lives for themselves in Brooklyn. She thinks she’s moved on to bigger and better things. She thinks she’s finally left behind that city she would rather forget. But when a Facebook message about her estranged mother pierces Yaminah’s new bubble, memories of everything that happened before her parents’ divorce come roaring back. Now, Yaminah must finally reckon with the truth about her mother and the growing collapse of a place she once called home.
(POST-IT SAYS: What happens when what you think you know turns out to be totally incorrect? Minah takes an unexpected journey into family history, addiction, grief, community, and loss. A heavy story that’s not an easy read.)
What Can I Say?: A Kid’s Guide to Super-Useful Social Skills to Help You Get Along and Express Yourself; Speak Up, Speak Out, Talk about Hard Things, and Be a Good Friend
by Catherine Newman, Debbie Fong (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781635864342 Publisher: Storey Books Publication date: 05/24/2022, Ages 10+)
Make your voice heard!
Learn the skills and gain the confidence to express yourself well in any situation—no matter how unfamiliar, challenging, or scary. Real-life scenarios show how to:
- Introduce yourself
- Express empathy
- Be persuasive
- Ask for help
- Show curiosity
- Be grateful
- Ask someone out
- Comfort a friend
- And more!
(POST-IT SAYS: Honestly, I know plenty of adults who could benefit from this book. The appealing design and many topics/subtopics make it perfect to flip through. Really does show readers how to be their best, most empathetic and inclusive self. Great jumping off points for so many conversations and situations.)
Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee, Pascal Campion (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593375495 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 06/14/2022, Ages 4-8)
In this diverse picture book, a young immigrant from South Korea finds community and friendship in an apartment house filled with other newly arrived kids.
When Jae looks out the window of his new home, he wishes he could still see his old village, his old house, and his old friends. But his new apartment feels empty and nothing outside is familiar. Jae just arrived from South Korea and doesn’t even speak the new language.
Yet, making friends is the same wherever you go and he soon meets a girl with a colorful bird perched on her shoulder. Rosa knows just how Jae feels and the two become fast friends. Not only does Rosa show Jae his new neighborhood but she shows him how his imagination can bring back memories of his old home. Then Rosa leaves unexpectedly one night but leaves her parrot for Jae. He thinks about the song that Rosa would sing: “When I fly away, my heart stays here.” And when Jae meets two other newly arrived kids, he teaches them Rosa’s song and becomes their guide to this new world.
From the creators of the highly acclaimed The Paper Kingdom, comes a new book about the importance of community and demonstrates how a simple act of kindness can be passed along to others.
(POST-IT SAYS: This story is a delicate mix of sadness and sweetness. Explores and validates feelings of loss and loneliness when moving somewhere new and when a friend suddenly moves away.)
Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun by Hena Khan, Wastana Haikal (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781534497580 Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 04/19/2022 Series: Zara’s Rules #1, Ages 7-10)
From the beloved author of Amina’s Voice comes the first book in a humor-filled middle grade series starring a young Muslim girl with an endless list of hobbies who searches for ways to maximize fun for her family and neighborhood friends.
Meet Zara Saleem, the queen of the neighborhood.
Zara’s in charge of it all: she organizes the games, picks the teams, and makes sure everyone has a good time…and they always do.
When a new family moves in across the street, suddenly Zara’s reign is threatened by Naomi, who has big ideas of her own about how the neighborhood kids can have fun. To get everyone to notice her again, Zara decides she’s going to break a Guinness World Record—if her little brother Zayd doesn’t mess things up.
But when she finds herself increasingly alone in her record-breaking quest, Zara starts to wonder if sharing the crown and making a new friend might end up being the best rule of all.
(POST-IT SAYS: As a Ramona superfan, I got the Cleary vibe big time here. Neighborhood fun, a main character bursting with personality, and a warm, fantastic family. Short chapters, a diverse cast of kids, and lots of big, lively illustrations. A hit!)
Beatrice Likes the Dark by April Genevieve Tucholke, Khoa Le (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781643751573 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 09/13/2022, Ages 4-8)
Beatrice likes the dark. She likes black clothes, graveyard picnics, and a sky full of stars. Her sister, Roo, likes the light. She likes bright clothes, picking strawberries, and hot, sunny days. Beatrice and Roo are nothing alike and don’t understand each other. Can Beatrice help Roo love the dark as much as she does? Can Roo help Beatrice love the light? Or are they simply too different to get along?
With lushly detailed artwork, award-winning illustrator Khoa Le brings to vivid life acclaimed author April Tucholke’s heartwarming, slightly spooky tale about two very different sisters who learn to celebrate their individuality, understanding that love runs deeper than their differences.
(POST-IT SAYS: Absolutely stunning art brings this story of differences, interests, and understanding to life. I love both Beatrice and Roo. Wide appeal, but especially for those who embrace the strange and unusual.)
Adventuregame Comics: Leviathan by Jason Shiga (ISBN-13: 9781419757792 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 08/02/2022 Series: Adventuregame Comics, Ages 8-12)
Make choices to defeat a mysterious sea monster in the first of a new series of innovative, interactive graphic novels from the award-winning creator of Meanwhile
Adventuregame Comics is a new series of interactive graphic novels in the vein of Jason Shiga’s hit graphic novel Meanwhile. Readers follow the story from panel to panel using tubes that connect them, and sometimes the path will split, giving readers the chance to choose how the story unfolds.
Leviathan is set in a medieval coastal village, where residents live in fear of a giant sea creature. Your goal as a reader is simple: defeat the Leviathan! As you wander through the open world, the town’s backstory is revealed. You can attempt to visit the library to try and learn why the Leviathan destroyed it years ago. You can stop by the castle to discover the town was once riddled with crime and theft—and how that’s stopped as the Leviathan will wreak havoc on the town for the smallest misdeeds. If you’re lucky, you may find your way to the old wizard who may possess the one thing that could keep the Leviathan at bay. But not everything is as it appears in this village. Can you discover the secrets and stop the Leviathan before it’s too late?
(POST-IT SAYS: Graphic novel meets Choose Your Own Adventure! I had fun flipping through so many options. Readers should definitely read the instruction page to understand how to follow the tubes. Neat idea—this one will fly off shelves!)
Two Dogs by Ian Falconer (ISBN-13: 9780062954473 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/28/2022, Ages 4-8)
From Ian Falconer, Caldecott Honor winner and #1 New York Times bestselling creator of the Olivia series, comes a dashingly delightful picture book about two unforgettable dachshunds and their search for fun!
Dachshund brothers Perry and Augie are home alone and desperately want to get outside and have a good time. Augie is the cautious one, the worrier; Perry is pure joy and excitement. When they finally manage to open the back door, mischievous adventures begin! Soon they’re diving into the swimming pool, digging an enormous hole, and more! Will all return to normal before their owners come home?
This witty and utterly heartwarming story plays perfectly off the exquisite illustrations. These are Ian Falconer’s first all-new characters since Olivia, and Two Dogs is sure to equally capture the hearts of readers everywhere.
Perfect for fans of imaginative dog books like Bark, George and A Ball for Daisy!
(POST-IT SAYS: Unless you are brand new to reading TLT, you know I have had and loved dachshunds my entire life. What a delightful story of what two dogs get up to when left alone. Those expressive faces! I’m in love.)
Filed under: Book Reviews