Category Archives: New Releases

I Dissent – Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark



I Dissent – Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Written by Debbie Levy

Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

I Dissent uses the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman on the US Supreme Court, to tell a powerful story speaking up for what is right. The book tells Ginsburg’s story, from her humble upbringing to her numerous accomplishments as a judge, celebrating each and every disagreement that shaped her legacy. Ultimately, readers of this book learn that making a difference requires hard work and a willingness to question the status quo.

One part of the writing style that makes I Dissent both compelling and engaging is that it is told through a collection of anecdotes that help the reader to gain a sense of Ginsburg’s character. Some of the stories it tells are small – like when Ginsburg protested by writing with her left hand or was kicked out of the chorus because of her poor singing skills – while others are key events in her life – like when Ginsburg chose to go to law school, even though there were very few girls in her class. These stories help young readers to relate to the future Supreme Court justice, and see that they are never too young to take a stand.2016-12-08-19-59-493

In addition to telling Ginsburg’s story, I Dissent provides an introduction to the workings of the Supreme Court. It explains how Ginsburg became a justice, and her role in writing the opinions during cases. The book also exposes readers to an array of courtroom vocabulary – throughout her story, Ginsburg dissents, objects, resists, disapproves, and disagrees. Further, the book refers to real-life court cases that are meaningful to even the youngest readers, such as racism and discrimination. I Dissent exposes its readers to the significance of the judicial branch – a topic that may seem distant or abstract to children.2016-12-08-19-59-494

The images presented in this book are extremely powerful because of their variety. On one page, Ginsburg is shown as a kind and loving mother, and on the next, a determined justice who is unwilling to conform to societal standards. At the beginning of the book, she is illustrated as a spunky yet ordinary little girl. At the end, she takes on the posture and demeanor of a superhero, complete with word art that mirrors the style of comic books. The diversity of ways in which Ginsburg is presented is important because it shows that none of these identities are mutually exclusive. Ginsburg does not need to sacrifice her family to be successful in her career, and she does not need to be timid to be kind. Through Baddeley’s illustrations, Ginsburg is presented as a real and well-rounded individual to which any child can aspire.2016-12-08-19-59-492

I Dissent would be a perfect book for teachers to bring into their classroom, because it provides a human view of government that will engage students in a way that their textbooks may not. Teachers can also use the text to talk about relevant social issues: I Dissent illuminates issues like racism and sexism, and encourages students to think about what laws and social norms in their own lives they might disapprove of. In this way, I Dissent could accompany a powerful lesson for middle grades students that strengthens their critical and evaluative thinking skills. Finally, the book sends an important message, especially to young girls, that speaking up does not make you stubborn, bossy, or disagreeable. Rather, having the courage to disagree is necessary in making a difference.2016-12-08-19-59-491

Post by Sami Chiang

Teddy the Dog: Be Your Own Dog



Teddy the Dog: Be Your Own Dog definitely falls under the category of Marvelous New Picture books. Published earlier this year (2016), it was written by Keri Claiborne Boyle and illustrated by Jonathan Sneider. This picture book follows Teddy on an adventure after he receives an unexpected package.

Teddy seems to have it all. He loves living in Teddyville by the motto “Be Your Own Dog”. This all gets turned upside down when he receives a package from his Aunt Marge containing none other than a cat! It seems as if Teddy and this cat just cannot get along no matter what they do, and it drives him crazy!


However, in this charming book about friendship and accepting others despite their differences, Teddy and Penelope eventually begin to get along. Sometimes our differences are the most important part of our friendships. A friendship between two people who are exactly the same would be pretty boring! Boyle does an excellent job of portraying the idea that we are not going to get along with everyone that we meet, but all friendships involve some sort of compromise.


Teddy is able to recognize that although he and Penelope have different interests, it does not mean that they cannot be friends. He changes his motto to “Be your own dog…even if it means being a cat”. This picture book teaches important ideas of love and acceptance through relatable (and very cute!) characters. These are critical life lessons that can be taken with them wherever they go: school, the park, soccer practice, or anywhere else!

Post by: McKenzie Scott

Trendy Tuesdays: Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson


Cover page #0Can you have too much of a good thing? Not according to Rabbit. He loves carrots so much that he begins hoarding them, and soon there is no space for him to live in his little burrow. Tortoise sees Rabbit’s plight and offers to share his shell with his homeless friend. Within the fantastical world of children’s literature, this suggestion would have worked well, if only Rabbit hadn’t brought so many carrots 2016-03-29 00-10 1 page #0

with him. The friends take a tumble down a hill, and Tortoise’s shell gets fractured. Now both friends need a place to sleep. Rabbit continues to bring too many carrots to his friends’ homes, and proceeds to break the homes of Bird, Squirrel, and Beaver.

With his helpful friends now without homes and downcast, Rabbit is forced to consider how his selfishness impacts those around him. Realizing that he still has both his home and his carrots, Rabbit finally conquers his selfishness and sees that “carrots weren’t for collecting — they were for sharing!” The friends have a cozy party in the now spacious burrow as they eat carrot pies, juices, and cupcakes.2016-03-29 00-12 page #0

Too Many Carrots is the perfect addition to any child’s easter basket. Hudson’s vivid watercolors and endearing animals will catch children’s eyes and keep them engaged. The brightness of the book’s beginning is contrasted well with the gloomy rain and flood later on, giving young readers a visual depiction of the pain selfishness can cause. As children head out to Easter egg hunts, Too Many Carrots will remind them that kindness and sharing are vital parts of friendship. I would recommend this book to children from 2 to 6, and I know it will be a book I return to often.

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Rebekah Moredock

Trendy Tuesdays: Searching for the Spirit of Spring

Trendy Tuesdays: Searching for the Spirit of Spring

The need for multicultural books and books with female protagonists is rising exponentially as more minority and female children enter the educational system around the world. The book Searching for the Spirit of Spring, written by Mosa Mahlaba, illustrated by Selina Morulane, and designed by Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, is a story of a brave young girl named Nkanyezi who journeys to bring the spirit of spring back to her village in Swaziland. Nkanyezi’s favorite day of the year is the day that her entire village gathers together to celebrate the spring festival. The festival, which is meant to welcome in the spring season and to unite the community is filled with joy, laughter, music, and dance. When Nkanyezi overhears some of the village elders gossiping about how the villagers are not excited for the spring festival this year, she decides that she must act. “The people of Ndlovu have lost their spirit of celebration. How can we have a Spring festival in a village that has forgotten how to celebrate?” With the well wishes of her elders, she adventures off to search for items that can help replenish the spirit of celebration for her village and family. Nkanyezi crosses rivers, climbs mountains, and treks through forests as she journeys across Swaziland in search of this spirit.


While on her quest, Nkanyezi encounters people from other villages who offer her special items that will help her find the missing spirit. Through these encounters, she learns about happiness, generosity, and community, and how the three intertwine. Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.03.21 PM.png

One of the most fascinating elements of this book is how it was created. It was written and illustrated in June of 2015 in only twelve hours! The creators of this book are part of an organization called Book Dash (an organization that creates and gifts books to children). In June, Book Dash hosted an event with another organization called African Storybook (an organization that promotes multilingual literacy expansion) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together, they arranged teams of forty volunteer writers, illustrators, and designers, to create African story books that are then printed and distributed to children in need for free! This book is also unique in that it is posted for free public use and print . The wonderful people in this organization host book dashes every few months, with their ultimate goal being that “every child should own a hundred books by the age of five.”

This is a fabulous book about a courageous, motivated, and strong young girl who goes on an adventure to bring happiness to people that she loves. It’s a great story for children ages three to six, although children older can still benefit from its beautiful portrayal of selflessness and generosity. The illustrations are beautiful and accurately depict the village of Ndlovu (which is a real village in Swaziland).

If you’re interested in more African story books written by South African authors to introduce in your classroom or to read to your children, they are periodically posted here as they are written. Some of my personal favorites are: Londi: The Dreaming Girl (a girl with a huge imagination), Why is Nita Upside Down? (a girl learning to love herself), and Sizwe’s Smile (the tale of a contagious smile).

-Devyn O’Malley

(Possible) Winner Wednesday: Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!


robots cover

Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! by Todd Tarpley and illustrated by John Rocco, while not yet a winner of any awards, definitely has the potential. Released this September, this unique bedtime storybook features a boy who has trouble getting his three robots to go to sleep (I bet that never happens at your home, right?). His frustrated reaction to their inability to listen can easily be used to help children relate to how their parents feel when they won’t go to bed.

robots inside page

Each page features rich, full color illustrations. The detail in each scene is exquisite, from a solar system clock to a couple of family portraits, and bring the book to life. Children and adults alike can immerse themselves in the fun family dynamic of a boy and his lovable, though mischievous, robots (and a friendly mouse!).

robots bath

The onomatopoeias of all the different sounds that robots might make when they are not sleeping are hilarious, and are wonderful to read out loud with children (or without children – try to keep yourself from laughing either way).

A clever rhyme scheme that makes use of a variety of different robot-themed terms makes this an infinitely cuter read and the repetition makes it easy to follow along with the plot and to predict what will happen. Together, the rhyming and repetition make this the perfect bedtime poem.

3robotsI’ll admit that the fact that this book is about robots was a bit off-putting to me at first. I was afraid that this book would not be appealing to any group other than young-boys-who-love-robots. While some of the specific robot parts may need to be explained to children who aren’t that in to robots, I think that all children will still surely appreciate the creativity and they will likely find these ‘bots as cute as I do (did your child like PIXAR’s WALL-E and EVE? If so, they will be fans of the three little robots!). As for those kids for whopercym robots are “their thing,” good luck pulling them away from this book! This book is as gender inclusive and interest inclusive as a picture book about robots can get. It definitely helps that the illustrations are not too stereotypically “boyish.” In fact, illustrator John Rocco has also illustrated for Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, a mid-grade fantasy series that also appeals to children of all genders (trust me – when I was in 8th grade, this series was quite popular with me and the other girls my age as well as all of the 3rd and 4th grade boys).


robots end pagep.s. This book has adorable end pages! Both are designed to look like soft, inviting wallpaper when the lights are on and when they are off. The author’s dedication is “cross-stitched” and hung from the “wall,” and below it the illustrator has “drawn” his dedication in crayon. There is no end to the many ways in which this book wins over my heart ❤

~Reviewed by Katie Goetz

Marvelous New Picture Books: The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski


The Whisper by two-time Caldecott Honor winner Pamela Zagarenski is a book that explores the joy and creativity of stories! Zagarenski writes with the elegance of a masterful storyteller. The sentences flow together, and this picture book is definitely appropriate for both young and older elementary grades.  the whisper title

A little girl borrows a book from her teacher, excited to read it the moment she gets home. But when she races back to her home, the words literally fly out of the page!

the whisper 2

The words fly out of the book and into the net of a familiar fox…

Devastated to find no words in the book by the time she gets to read, the little girl suddenly hears a whisper. The whisper encourages her to make up her own stories based on the illustrations, reminding her there is no wrong in imagining a new beginning, middle and end:

“Dear little girl, don’t be disappointed.
You can imagine the words.
You can imagine the stories.
Start with a few simple words and imagine form there.
Remember: beginnings, middles, and ends of
Stories can always be changed and imagined differently.
There are never any rules, rights, or wrongs in imagining—
imagining just is.”

Each two-page spread that follows is an incredible picture of dynamic action, filled with rich colors and intricate patterns. This book is pure eye candy.
For each spread, our lovely protagonist begins to narrate her own story, but Zagarenski purposefully leaves it hanging so that her readers can continue the story using their own imagination. That being said, this book is appropriate for all ages and is welcoming — especially for struggling readers who become easily frustrated. This book is a great way to reinforce the love and joys of reading and stories!

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One of my favorite spreads found in the book. Do you see the fox hiding behind the trees?

This book also is a great resource to introduce more advanced literary devices for children. In each spread, the fox (from Aesop’s Fox and the Grapes) and a swarm of bees are hiding somewhere within the scenery. Additionally, as the girl gets deeper and deeper into the book, she receives a floating crown on her head– the same crown found on the book’s cover. Using these illustrations as examples, teachers may begin to discuss the aspects of symbolism, and how it can give a richer level of meaning to a story. (ie. The crown represents imagination and empowerment that comes through creativity and storytelling.) Teachers can also discuss the idea of allusion, especially with Aesop’s Fox interacting so heavily with the main plot of the story.

The Whisper is also the first picture book that I have seen use its end pages to provide an epilogue. Even though the girl’s story is finished, Zagarenski gives a snippet of the Fox’s ending:

the whisper 3

The fox also imagined her story differently + finally got her grapes!

In all, this book possesses a creative storyline that is accompanied by outstanding illustrations. The different format of the book is definitely worth looking into, and I think kids will love how unique it is! The girl’s love for stories and reading is almost infectious– and many children will embrace the freedom and empowerment this book gives them in constructing their own rules for storytelling.

By Sunny Kim

Marvelous New Picture Books : Thank You and Good Night


This weeks Marvelous New Picture Book is Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell. McDonnell is a New York Times bestselling author and Caldecott Honor artist. This is his first bedtime book which captures the magic of a sleepover and to cherish the little and simple things in life.


“It’s a very special night.

Clement, Jean, and Alan Alexander

are having a pajama party! But after

playing, dancing, and gazing at the stars,

everyone is getting sleepy……

Is it time for bed yet?


First, it’s time to say

thank you.”

This book tells a story about Maggie’s friend Clement and how she throws him a surprise pajama party. Two of Clement’s friends, Alan Alexander and Jean, come over and they do events like jumping on the bed, looking at the stars, playing hide and go seek, learning the chicken dance, and making funny faces. Eventually they get so tired that it was time for them to get ready for bed and listen to the bed time story read by Maggie.


The illustrations throughout the book were done in pen and ink, pencil, and watercolor on handmade paper. These illustrations were very cute and couldn’t help but make me smile. They may have not been the most extravagant illustrations ever seen in a children’s book but it was perfect for this book and to show the children the story. Some of my favorite pages were honestly the most simple and they were when the three friends learned the chicken dance, did a funny face contest and practiced yoga.


My favorite thing about the picture book was basically the end of the book right after they were told bedtime stories. Maggie says to Clement, Jean, and Alan Alexander: “Now, before we go to sleep, let’s all say what we were thankful for this day”. After Maggie asked them what they were thankful they came with a lengthy list then got their goodnight kisses and went to bed.

I think this is a positive lesson/theme that was shown in this book and I believe it should be shown through more books. Being thankful is an important lesson for everyone to learn and especially for children to learn it when they are young so they know how to be thankful throughout their lifetime. This can be taught through books, lessons, and just talking about it. Being thankful is something one should be everyday of their life regardless what happens and I believe this bedtime story is one of the ways a child can learn this lesson.

-Kendall Shaw