Book Review: Mascot by Charles Waters & Traci Sorell

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What happens when students of a public school see the sports mascot as racist and others see it as a tradition to be upheld? That’s the question asked in the middle grade novel Mascot by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell.

Told in verse from the viewpoint of six eighth-grade students and their teacher in an honors English class, Mascot looks at this often-contentious issue from multiple viewpoints. The students come from different backgrounds, representing communities that are Native American, Black, white, Latino and Indian American. They come from different socio-economic backgrounds. All have strong opinions about the school mascot and what it stands for.

The teacher assigns a research topic on the mascot and what it means to different people, and she pairs students up to argue for or against changing it. Students are assigned a viewpoint, which doesn’t necessarily match what they believe.

Reading about their process of discovery is interesting. And while the book leads readers to agree with one side more than the other, it also honestly presents both viewpoints. As the story unfolds, some students change their thinking on the issue, some do not.

Sports teams at all levels grapple with this hot-button issue, and Mascot provides a way for readers aged 10 and up to think critically about it.

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

Review: She’s a Mensch! by Rachelle Burk & Alana Barouch

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Mensch is a Yiddish word that refers to someone who has integrity, and whom others consider to be good, possibly a role model. Authors Rachelle Burk and Alana Barouch, a mother-daughter team, have highlighted several Jewish women through history who fall into this category in their picture book, She’s a Mensch!

The book features highlights and accomplishments from the lives of each woman listed. It also includes pop-outs with a “Fun Fact to Mensch’n” and questions for young readers to reflect upon. For instance, part of the fun fact about Emma Lazarus, the poet who wrote a famous poem about the Statue of Liberty, is that she was a Sephardic Jew whose ancestors came to America before the American Revolution.

Arielle Trenk’s illustrations are nicely done portraits of the mensches and what they are known for. Rhyming verse also sprinkles the text. Here’s an example:

Jewish women ’round the world have talent, strength, and smarts. They shine like stars in every field from science to the arts.

As young readers read about these women and how they have contributed to society, they also learn about history. Other mensches featured include, Shari Lewis, a beloved puppeteer, Golda Meir, former prime minister of Israel, author Judy Blume, and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The list includes athletes, spies, performers, scientists, and more. The timeline of the lives lived spans from 1883 to 2019.

She’s a Mensch! is a great book for anyone wanting to introduce their children to Jewish women’s contributions to society during this time period.

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

Review: Bees Are Our Friends by Toni D’Alia & Alice Lindstrom

Bees are so important for pollinating the food we eat and the flowers we love to smell, as well as for so many other reasons. Bees Are Our Friends, a picture book by Toni D’Alia and Alice Lindstrom, introduces young readers to the work bees do and helps them to see how bees benefit the world.

Gorgeously illustrated with paper collage using a cut-and-paste technique, the book follows a honeybee as she goes about her day. The words rhyme, and flow on the page.

“Down in the garden, up high in a tree,

is a busy beehive and one little bee.”

When the words are read out loud, the cadence matches perfectly with the flight of a bee. She flies along collecting nectar from flowers and helping to pollinate a vegetable garden so it will grow. She stores nectar to make a honeycomb in her hive.

The book ends with an illustration of happy honeybees asleep in their cells within the hive. The image makes for a great end to a bedtime book.

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

Book Review: Draw This! by Marion Deuchars

Draw This! Art Activities to Unlock the Imagination by artist Marion Deuchars, is a small book designed to help budding artists tap into their creativity and make some art. Known for her Let’s Make Some Great Art series, Deuchars helps make the process of turning simple lines and squiggles into animals, insects, and other creatures that young minds can dream up.

Simple materials like pens, pencils and colored pencils are all that’s needed to follow the instructions. Some of the instructions are open ended, like when Deuchars asks, “What’s that hiding behind the clouds?” on two pages filled with puffy white clouds in a blue sky. Others are more intentional, like the steps on how to draw a cartoon rabbit.

Draw This! is sure to provide hours of entertainment and support kids’ imaginations as well as their confidence and joy in making art. I recommend it for ages six and up.

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

Review: The Case of the Missing Tarts by Christee Curran-Bauer

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The Pigeon Private Detectives have a new case: someone stole a plate of tarts from the precinct. Crumbs and clues are dropped all over the office, and they’ll have to investigate them closely to find the culprit.

Book One of the Pigeon Private Detectives series, The Case of the Missing Tarts, finds the three sleuths hungry as they go follow the trail of clues. Their work takes them to a hot dog stand, a pond in the park, and a bakery. Readers get snippets about the tart thief that can help them figure out who did it.

The Case of the Missing Tarts is a cute story that should catch the interest of budding sleuths and beginning readers aged 6 to 8.

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

Review: Night Owl Night by Susan Edwards Richmond

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Sova’s mom is a scientist who studies owls. During migration time, she works at night, catching and banding saw-whet owls before sending them on their way. Sova wants to go with her, but she must be patient and wait until she’s older. When the night finally comes for Sova to go into the forest with her mom, she learns about many creatures who live there, including the owls.

Night Owl Night by Susan Edwards Richmond captures the magic of learning about wild things and how they live while also introducing young children to scientific methods. Maribel Lechuga’s illustrations have a dream-like quality to them. The soft colors and flowing lines make readers feel they are on an adventure along with Sova on a fall night.

The story is sweet, too. Sova wants to know more about her mom’s work, and as she learns about it, she also understands the importance of it. The back of the book features more information about types of northern forest owls as well as a not on owl banding.

Night Owl Night is a great book to help young readers learn about owls and the natural world.

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

Review: Schonzzer & Tatertoes Take a Hike!

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Schnozzer & Tatertoes are two pup buddies who decide to set off on an adventure to find Tatertoes’s mother. They know the name of the farm where he was born, and they have a map. But they lose the map and must rely on getting directions from characters they meet along the way.

In Schnozzer & Tatertoes Take A Hike! by Rick Stromoski, those characters happen to be familiar ones from well known fairy tales. There’s a wolf and a little girl in a red cloak, two children dropping breadcrumbs, a witch with a cauldron, and more. In each case Stromoski adds a twist to the usual story that will certainly be fun for young readers to discover.

There’s also a small mystery. Everyone keeps telling the duo to follow their noses. They don’t understand what that means until they arrive at their destination in Buzzard’s Breath. It’s all lots of fun in a graphic novel form. I recommend this adventure for readers aged 6 to 10.

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

Review: Hands-On Science: Matter by Lola M. Schaefer

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Young children love science, even if they don’t know that’s what to call their experiments. Hands-On Science: Matter, by Lola M. Schaefer, can help bring the science concept to life with the introduction of a chemistry lab in a way that’s easy to understand.

Hands-on refers to the way young readers are expected to handle the book, as well as how experiments are conducted. Readers are told to smash the drawing of clay on the page, squeeze drawings of cherries to get juice, tilt the book to pour the juice, and more. Illustrations by Druscilla Santiago have a muted-tone retro look with pops of color that really catch the eye.

The steps outlining how solids can turn to liquids and then to gas are easy to understand and fun to think about. And it’s easy for parents to gather a few ingredients and follow of the steps at home with real cherries. Hands-On Science: Matter is a great combination of fun and educational.

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