Book Review: This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

This Promise of Change cover image

The story of how 12 black students integrated a public high school in Clinton, Tennessee, in 1956 is not as well known as other stories of children breaking down race barriers during that time. This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality brings that event to life, as it is told by one of the 12 to experience it: Jo Ann Allen.

Told in verse and co-authored with Debbie Levy, This Promise of Change reveals an incredible story of the author’s resilience and determination to bring about change. She and her black classmates endured everything from shoves and jabs in the hallway to threats of worse physical violence on their way to and from school. Outside protesters whipped up anti-integration emotions among locals.

Throughout the threats and the violence, arrests and protests, Jo Ann and the other students stayed the course. Looking back from the perspective that encompasses 60 years of history since that time, it’s hard to imagine high school students having to endure what this group and others like them endured. They started out only wanting equal access to education and activities and ended up paving the way for those who came behind them. Often, their courage created a toll on their families as well as themselves.

This Promise of Change brings up lots of issues to discuss around the integration of schools, what it means to take risks for something you believe in, and so much more. I highly recommend it for readers aged 10 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: From an Idea to Disney by Lowey Bundy Sichol

From an Idea to Disney cover image

From an Idea to Disney includes quotes from Walt, fun facts, and definitions and explanations of some of the more complicated concepts surrounding the Disney company, including what it means to offer public stock. The story goes past Walt’s life to include the current state of the corporation. It’s sure to be a hit with young readers who are interested in everything Disney as well as curious about how the world of business works. I recommend it for readers aged 10 to 12.

From an Idea to Disney by Lowey Bundy Sichol provides an interesting look at the story behind the Walt Disney Company, starting with the childhood of its founder. From the time he was young, Walt loved doodling animal cartoons on his classroom chalkboard and performing funny skits in front of his classmates. His journey from young illustrator to Hollywood icon and worldwide recognition included quite a few ups and downs before he found success.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: That Night by Amy Giles

That Night cover imageJess and Lucas each lost a brother when a mass shooting occurred at a theater. Their grief affects them and their families differently; Jess’s mother is depressed and unable to work, Lucas’s mom becomes overprotective. When the two start to work at the same job, they realize that talking about that night to someone who had a similar experience can help them handle the repercussions.

That Night by Amy Giles looks at tragedy and how it affects the whole family. The story explores feelings of grief, guilt, depression, and learning how to continue on and be happy again after a devastating loss. I recommend it for readers aged 14 and up.

Book Review: Crow Not Crow by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

Crow Not Crow cover imageWhen children know how to name the things they see in the world around them, it can be an important part of understanding how they fit into that world. Birds can be robins, crows, chickadees, or many other types. A picture book by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, Crow Not Crow helps young readers understand the role of observance in learning how to identify and name the myriad birds they are likely to see in their daily lives.

In the book, a young girl goes birding with her dad. She brings along child-size binoculars to help her see birds up close. Her dad teaches her to identify a crow by looking at its size and the color of its feathers, beak, eyes, and feet. When they encounter other birds on their outing, the dad asks the girl to determine if the new bird is a crow or not, simply by observing. It’s a great way to introduce the concepts of birding.

Illustrations by Elizabeth Dulemba show many different types of birds and various environments where they can be found. A guide at the back of the book gives detailed information about crows and all the other birds depicted on the pages of the books. There’s also a free book companion app, Bird QR, created specifically for Crow Not Crow and other books from the publisher where readers can listen to bird calls and learn more.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Come November by Katrin van Dam

Come November cover imageWhen Rooney starts her senior year of high school she’s looking forward to applying to Columbia University, the only school she really wants to attend. But first she has to make it through November, when her mom, younger brother, and other members of the New World Society expect her to leave a climate-changing Earth to start over with them on another planet.

Rooney doesn’t buy into the society’s propaganda, but her mom’s dedication threatens to ruin everything she’s dreamed of. Her dad and friend can help, but only if she lets them know her family’s true situation.

Come November by Katrin van Dam gives a glimpse of the ramifications when a parent gets drawn in to a kind of cult. Rooney believes the hardest part of her mom’s actions is waiting until November, when she’s sure her life will get back to normal after her mom stays rooted to the ground instead of leaving Earth. In reality, her troubles multiply.

While Rooney is responsible, working to earn money and make sure there is food in the house, she can’t tackle the enormity of the situation on her own. She’s not sure she can trust her dad, who left when she was young, and she’s having doubts about her best friend. Once she starts opening up to them, she finds the help she needs.

Come November shows the vulnerability that even older teens face when a parent is not responsible in the expected way. It also shows how teens can overcome a reluctance to share embarrassing or traumatic family events so they can get support when they need it. I recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs and all readers aged 14 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review and Giveaway: First Snow by Nancy Viau

If you’re looking for a great picture book to share with your children about having winter fun in the snow, Nancy Viau’s First Snow is a great choice. I have one copy to give away (courtesy of Albert Whitman and Co.) to a reader with a U.S. address. Just leave a comment about your favorite way to have fun in the snow by midnight (PST) on December 17 for a chance to win. Please note: the giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Marion on winning.

Now, here’s my review:

First Snow cover imageFirst Snow by Nancy Viau captures the joy of going out to play in the snow. Two children, a brother and sister, run to their window one morning to find the world outside has turned white. Soon they are bundled up in puffy jackets, scarves, mittens, clunky boots, and funky hats. They rush outside to join their friends. Together they make a snowman, ride sleds, have a snowball fight and more. At the end of the day they head home where warm cocoa and cozy pajamas wait.

First Snow inner pageBeautiful illustrations by Talitha Shipman show children laughing and having a great time. It’s the perfect kind of book for parents to read with their children when the weather outside is cold and wintry. In addition to children playing, the scenes include birds eating seeds from a feeder, snowflakes falling, housetops covered in white with smoking chimneys, and a pet dog that plays along. It’s all great fun.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders

Peaceful Fights for Equal RightsRob Sanders’ picture book, Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, provides a way to talk with young children about activism and how people can choose to peacefully make their voices heard to advocate for justice. It’s also a way to look at protest through the lens of the letters of the alphabet.

It starts with activities built around the letter “a”: Assemble. Take action. Create allies. Each activity can be public or private, as shown with the letter “m”: March. Mediate. Meditate. Motivate.

Cut-paper illustrations by Jared Andrew Schorr depict adults and children of all types marching with signs, going to the voting booth, even knitting for a cause. A glossary at the back explains words and terms. There’s also a page that talks about peaceful protests, beginning with those from the 1950s and 1960s on behalf of civil rights, and going on to what it means to peacefully protest today.

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights can provide a way into discussions about things children see or hear in the news as well as for talking about family values.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers

What Can a Citizen Do cover imageDave Eggers’ picture book, What Can a Citizen Do?, shows children how they can actively work to make the world around them a better place. Activities showcased include helping a neighbor, joining a cause, planting a tree, helping to change laws, and more. The actions taken show that being a citizen is a lot more than being able to vote, because it also means making an impact in big and small ways by taking action.

Shawn Harris’s cut-paper illustrations show children actively engaging with the world around them in ways that can make a difference. The book can be a great way for parents to talk with their children about what anyone, even children, can do to make a difference.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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