BookPair: The Refugee’s Journey

It might be easy for us in the United States to ignore the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, but according to the UNHCR, there are almost 20 million refugees worldwide, with a total of almost 60 million people forcibly displaced from their homes. From Syria alone, there are nearly 5 million registered refugees–more than half of whom are children. And even right here in the United States, thousands of refugees (most of whom are women and children) are fleeing extreme violence in the “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Honduras.

What does it feel like to have to leave everything behind? To know that you might never see the land or people you know and love again? It’s hard for most of us to imagine. The thought of anyone, especially children, being uprooted by the violence of war and unrest, is a harrowing one. But it is happening all around the world.

There are at least two picture books coming out this fall that address the dilemmas refugees face during their journeys in the most kid-perfect way. For many kids, these books will help them begin to understand what it means to be a refugee. Those kids who have experienced forced migration might find in these books the comfort that they are not alone; that someone is listening to their story.


The Journey

by Francesca Sanna

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Oh, my. This book. What a beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful, necessary book. A young refugee’s view of their world as it descends into the darkness and loss of war and then into a journey across unknown lands and waters to seek safety, The Journey is ultimately a superbly-done, empathic tale of the plights of too many people in our world right now. The fairy tale-like setting and touches of the fantastical makes a deeply serious story resonate at just the right tone for young readers, and Sanna’s richly detailed art is haunting and graceful, a perfect complement to her poetically moving text. Every child, every adult, should read this book, immediately.

Ages 4 & up.

Out September 13th!

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Teacup

by Rebecca Young, illustrated by Matt Ottley

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Teacup is a lyrical, diaphanous tale of the refugee’s journey–it evokes the loneliness, anxiety, and sadness of leaving everything you know behind to begin anew, tinged with a silver lining of hope for that “speck on the horizon.” Ottley’s textured, breathtaking oil paint illustrations are both incredibly realistic (those clouds!) and beautifully dreamlike, adding gentleness and whimsy to this subtly-told story. Young’s minimal text allows the reader’s imagination to run wild, and unfolds the drama at a perfect pace. Teacup is a book to linger over, appreciating the beauty to be found in the persistence and strength it takes to grow a new life in an unfamiliar place.

Ages 4 & up.

Out October 4th!

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More…

  • If you’re looking for more ways to explore this topic with kids, check out The Guardian’s great teaching resource here.
  • If you’d like to donate to help refugee children, consider an organization like Save the Children or the International Rescue Committee.

 

Good Deeds, Good Friends

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If only we could all look at the world the way Kate DiCamillo does–she finds beauty and wonder in even the minutest and mundane of details, and her books resonate with readers for this very reason. I’m so, so glad that Raymie Nightingale, her latest middle grade novel, is out in the world for others to hold and read and love.


My Review

Friendship, like bravery, can make its appearance at the most unexpected times. Kate DiCamillo’s new yarn is one to treasure–light and jocular on the surface, RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE belies a deeper, truer, more aching heart than at first it might seem, beating its broken rhythm with absent parents, poverty, and loss. Raymie, our spunky heroine, finds friendship among two girls who are battling the familiar childhood foes of loneliness and powerlessness. These “Three Rancheros” together light the way through their individual struggles, their solidarity aglow like Florence Nightingale’s lamp or Mrs. Sylvester’s sunlit jar of candy corn, rescuing each other from the darkness. DiCamillo has a magic way of noticing all the little nuances who make us what we are, creating characters that are equal parts weird and relatable, and her skillful intertwinement of humorous and heavy weaves pure poetry out of the ordinary. This book is one huge good deed destined to become a classic.

Out now!

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More Raving about Raymie

Check out Matthew Winner’s wonderful conversation with Kate DiCamillo on his All The Wonders Podcast! It’s 38 minutes that I guarantee will improve your day.

I like that NPR spotlights children’s literature so often–and they interviewed Kate DiCamillo a couple of days ago on All Things Considered. “It takes a lot of bravery to be kind,” indeed.

Choices, Intentions

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Sometimes you read a book, and you cannot get it out of your mind, even long after you have finished it. It stays with you. For me, it is usually a picture book that does this; all the more impressive for the punch it packs into a tiny, concise package.

On a whim, I read a copy of Choose Your Days by Paula Wallace. I paused on each page, breathing in the beauty. And then I read it again. And again. I’m still reading it. And you should, too.


My Review

“Choose your days, make them sunny or gray,” says Old Bear, “the keeper of time and keys,” to little Corky. The days fly by quickly, with Corky growing old over just a few pages. As she reaches the end of her time, she pleads for more of it, for the “work undone… play postponed… music unsung.” But like us all, Corky cannot evade death, which she meets willingly–opening the door and walking into the arms of her friend, Old Bear.

Choose Your Days is a spare yet achingly beautiful meditation on impermanence–we “hold the key[s]” to our time, and only we have the power to give it the attention and gratitude it deserves. Wallace’s illustrations have a timeless, homespun aura, lending a gentle grace to a tale that takes on serious themes. Her depiction of death as a cottage full of starry sky and old friends is one that is as comforting as it is stunning.

This is my new favorite picture book, one I will be turning to again and again for the quiet reminder it offers. Young readers will have a lot to explore and process here–but this book offers a safe space to wander and wonder about the magic in each moment.

I want to give this book every single star in the sky.

Ages 3 & up.

Out April 12th!

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Marvelous March Middle Grade

Recently, I have been hooked on wonderfully dark, twisty tales of unexpected magic and intrigue featuring heroines who are strong, uniquely bright, and wholly inspiring. These are perfect, empowering reads for Women’s History Month (or ANY month).

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The Keepers #2: The Harp and the Ravenvine

A fantastic follow-up to a near-perfect book–so good, in fact, that I loved it more than the first–how is that even possible? In The Harp and the Ravenvine we follow more (dangerous) adventures of Keepers Horace and Chloe, and we meet a new Keeper, April, whose Tan’ji holds a most spectacular power, even as it draws danger closer to the Warren and the rest of the Keepers. Sanders uses brilliant pacing and some of the strongest character building (and most delightfully terrible villains) I’ve met in a novel to masterfully construct a world where bright children form bonds with singular objects that are sought after (and fought for) by an ancient, merciless people.
This series is perfect for readers who love the depth and detail of Harry Potter and the off-kilter, dark fantasy of Neil Gaiman.

Ages 10 & up.

Out now!

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♀ Meet the Heroines: Chloe and April

I loved Chloe from the first moment she entered the first Keepers novel, The Box and the Dragonfly. She’s smart, witty, sarcastic, and braver than most superheroes. She’s fiercely loyal to her friends and family, and though she can be rough around the edges, she genuinely cares for those she brings into her inner circle. And her Tan’ji (the word for objects the Keepers are bonded to)? A dragonfly charm, which allows her to become incorporeal. Pretty cool, right?

New to the Keepers, April is what the Wardens call an empath, or “a Keeper whose Tan’ji can read the minds of nonhuman animals.” This means she can see (or hear, feel, taste) the world like a dog, a raven, or even the tiniest of insects. What a beautiful, subtly powerful ability–to understand the world the way another being does. Her Tan’ji is the Ravenvine, a beautiful but damaged instrument. She follows the call of the missing piece to join forces with Horace, Chloe, and the rest of the Wardens to fight the terrible Riven and their allies.


 

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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle is a wonderfully spooky historical fantasy that will appeal to readers who love their stories cloaked in misty mystery and full of hidden passages and ghostly secrets. Fox’s skillfully builds tension as the chapters switch between the distant past and WWII-era present, twist and turn together, intertwining in a dance, revealing flashes of hints and clues to the puzzle that clever readers will relish putting together. Add in a protagonist who will warm your heart with her steadfast commitment to protect her family and friends, and an antagonist who will chill your core and haunt your dreams, and you have a fantastically eerie tale worthy of a place on the shelf next to Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Auxier’s The Night Gardener.

Ages 10 & up.

Out March 15th!

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♀ Meet the Heroine: Kat

Keep calm and carry on.” Not just the ubiquitous motivational poster (actually little-used during WWII), this phrase is a type of mantra for young Kat, who escapes the Blitz in London with her siblings to board in a Scottish castle that holds more secrets than doors to hide them behind. Not unlike Horace, the star of The Keepers series, Kat thinks scientifically and outright refuses to believe in magic–at first. A strong-minded, logical skeptic like Kat, however, does not let her disbelief blind her to the reality that something is very, very wrong at Rookskill Castle, and that something has quite a lot to do with Lady Eleanor, who rules over the castle with an iron fist. She knows that above all, she must keep her family together and make her father (a spy for MI6 overseas) proud.

Sleeps, Squeeks

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Greg Pizzoli’s wonderful picture books (The Watermelon SeedNumber One SamTempleton Gets His Wish, etc.) are storytime-savers–with engaging text, perfect page turns, and large, vibrant illustrations, it’s no wonder that his books are a favorite among adults and kids alike. His upcoming book, Good Night Owl, is no different, and it is a welcome addition to any little one’s bedtime reading repertoire.


 

My Review

Have you ever read Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel? Pizzoli’s wonderful new picture book recalls the story “Strange Bumps” in the best way possible. In Lobel’s book, Owl is settling into bed when he is alarmed by the two “strange bumps” (his feet) under the covers of his bed. Chuckle-inducing antics ensue as Owl fearfully tries to escape the bumps and get some rest. In Pizzoli’s book, Owl is settling into bed when he hears a, “SQUEEK!” Like Lobel’s story, readers are almost immediately privy to the source (a wee mouse, in this case), and the clever dramatic irony as Owl tears his house apart trying to find the tiny noisemaker makes this book a winner, especially for reading aloud to younger audiences. Beautifully paced and boldly illustrated in Pizzoli’s signature screen print style (and pay attention to all the little objects in Owl’s house, referencing Pizzoli’s other books!), this book is a definite must for bedtime laughs.

Ages 3-6.

Out April 16th!

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Psst… If you haven’t read Owl At Home, do yourself a favor and do it. Now. Strange bumps and tear-water tea and an ice-cold houseguest–all the perfect blend of hilarity, weirdness, and poignant loneliness.

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Book Trailer

Beginnings, Ideas

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I’ll admit it: I’ve been that person who stopped doing what she loved because she didn’t have time. Because she was all out of ideas. I had been blogging about children’s books for a couple of years, and late last year, I hit a wall. Everything I wrote felt stale, stagnant, tired. I was in the midst of a job change, and my life transformed tremendously (and fantastically).

And now here I am, over a month into 2016, and I after one new beginning, I am so very ready for another. So welcome to The Bimulous Bookshelf–my new home for book reviews, musings, and yes, ideas. My old, beloved home was here.

I read Philip C. Stead’s new wonder of a book last night, and let’s just say it was a spark of creative inspiration; a gentle nudge toward the realization that the things that bring you joy should always be given attention.

My review:

Ideas Are All Around is a beautiful, meandering, wholly unique picture book that straddles the line between reality and fantasy in a most meditative way. “I don’t have any ideas today,” Stead begins. As he walks with Wednesday, he (and the reader) revel in the beauty that is the process of creating—ideas are out there (they are, in fact, all around), and they are just waiting for us to notice them, to imagine them. Fans of previous Stead books will delight in the winks and nods littered throughout the book: see the animals sitting on the train, reminiscent of the bus spread in Amos McGee; and you just might spot some familiar friends from Hello, My Name is Ruby hanging out in the branches. The collaged art, rendered from polaroids and prints and etchings and other media, are a breath of fresh air that make each page turn an exciting surprise. This is a book to linger over, relishing all of the little details and quiet revelations about the gentle power of imagination.

Ages 5 & up.

Out March 1st!

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Favorite Line:

There are a lot of birds out today.
I can hear them
but I’m not good at seeing them.

I have to imagine what they look like.