Hi Kid Lit friends,
As we approach Independence Day in the United States of America, I find myself thinking about that poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, and she wrote it for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits.
Sponsored by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic
The first book in Jeff Smith’s New York Times bestselling, award-winning graphic novel series featuring an unlikely hero who must save an idyllic valley from the forces of evil.
After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins — Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone — are separated and lost in a vast, uncharted desert. One by one, they find their way into a deep, forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures. Eventually, the cousins are reunited at a farmstead run by tough Gran’ma Ben and her spirited granddaughter, Thorn. But little do the Bones know, there are dark forces conspiring against them and their adventures are only just beginning!
This is the poem in its entirety:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Given the news and the upcoming Independence Day holiday, I thought I would round up some new children’s books with immigration themes. All descriptions from Goodreads.
A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui
A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event―a long-ago fishing trip. Graphic novelist Thi Bui and acclaimed poet Bao Phi deliver a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son―and between cultures, old and new. As a young boy, Bao and his father awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam.
Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Eggers
If you had to name a statue, any statue, odds are good you’d mention the Statue of Liberty.
Have you seen her?
She’s in New York.
She’s holding a torch.
And she’s in mid-stride, moving forward.
In this fascinating and fun take on nonfiction, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America’s most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty’s right foot is the powerful message of acceptance that is essential of an entire country’s creation.
God Bless America: The Story of An Immigrant Named Irving Berlin by Adah Nuchi, illustrated by Rob Polivka
Persecuted as Jews, Izzy Baline and his family emigrated from Russia to New York, where he fell in love with his new country. He heard music everywhere and was full to bursting with his own. Izzy’s thump-two-three, ting-a-ling, whee tunes soon brought him acclaim as the sought-after songwriter Irving Berlin. He ignited the imaginations of fellow countrymen and women with his Broadway and Hollywood numbers, crafting tunes that have become classics we still sing today.
But when darker times came and the nation went to war, it was time for Irving to compose a new kind of song: A song for America. And so “God Bless America” was born, the heart swelling standard that Americans have returned to again and again after its 1918 composition.
Middle Grade Books
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say! by Angela Dominguez
Stella Diaz loves marine animals, especially her betta fish, Pancho. But Stella Diaz is not a betta fish. Betta fish like to be alone, while Stella loves spending time with her mom and brother and her best friend Jenny. Trouble is, Jenny is in another class this year, and Stella feels very lonely.
When a new boy arrives in Stella’s class, she really wants to be his friend, but sometimes Stella accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and pronounces words wrong, which makes her turn roja. Plus, she has to speak in front of her whole class for a big presentation at school! But she better get over her fears soon, because Stella Díaz has something to say!
Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.
The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly
Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died, and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. After her father leaves, all Sol and Ming have is their evil stepmother, Vea. Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Can Sol protect Ming from this impossible hope?
The Sky at Our Feet by Nadia Hashimi
Jason has just learned that his Afghan mother has been living illegally in the United States since his father was killed in Afghanistan. Although Jason was born in the US, it’s hard to feel American now when he’s terrified that his mother will be discovered—and that they will be separated. When he sees his mother being escorted from her workplace by two officers, Jason feels completely alone. He boards a train with the hope of finding his aunt in New York City, but as soon as he arrives in Penn Station, the bustling city makes him wonder if he’s overestimated what he can do.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.
Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.
Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.
Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?
It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?
Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is.
The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye
Aref does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Sidi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase—but he refuses. Finally, she calls Sidi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Sidi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Sidi’s roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Sidi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref’s suitcase—mementos of home.
Refugee by Alan Gratz
JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .
ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .
MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .
All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers — from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.
One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman
It’s hard to start at a new school . . . especially if you’re in a new country. Back home, Anais was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she feels like she doesn’t know English at all. Nothing makes sense (chicken FINGERS?), and the kids at school have some very strange ideas about Africa. Anais misses her family – Papa and grandmother Oma and big brother Olivier because here in Crazy America there’s only little Jean-Claude and Mama. So she writes letters to Oma – lots of them. She tells her she misses her and hopes the fighting is over soon. She tells her about Halloween, snow, mac n cheese dinners, and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself.
* For more recommendations, check out this post I wrote for Book Riot in 2016.
All of these books release this Tuesday unless otherwise noted. The book descriptions are from Goodreads, but I’ll add a if I particularly loved a title.
Picture Book New Releases
Food Fight Fiesta: A Tale About La Tomatina by Tracey Kyle, illustrated by Ana Gomez (Sky Pony Press)
Every year, the town of Bu?ol in Spain holds La Tomatina, a grand fiesta featuring the world?s BIGGEST food fight! Join in the fun! Afer putting on goggles and grabbing some squishy tomates, it’s time to toss fruit like there’s no tomorrow. Soon, the entire town is flowing in crimson. Juice flows down ears, drips off noses, runs down ankles, and spreads through toes. And the tomatoes are still flying until . . . BOOM! The cannon is fired, and it’s time to stop for the day, clean up, and go to bed, to dream of all of the fun next year.
Hello School! by Priscilla Burris (Penguin Random House)
A diverse class of excited youngsters are about to start school and experience all its wonders! Small moments like discovering one’s own cubby space and big moments like a first nature walk are all brought to life with inviting artwork. This is a great book to help familiarize children with all the activities they can expect at school, from circle time to snack time to goodbye time, all the while sharing the experiences with lots of great new friends.
Picnic with Oliver by Mika Song (HarperCollins)
The two friends are going on a picnic—but not everything goes as planned. First their cart breaks, and Philbert must find a solution: a bagel wheel! Then Philbert goes sailing and Oliver has to save him from a storm using some equally clever thinking. When trouble is near, Oliver and Philbert help each other. Because that’s what best friends do!
Go Fish! by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Zoe Waring (HarperCollins)
Goose and friends are off to the pond to fish. They have their rods, the perfect bait, and fishing gear—but when they cast their lines and GO FISH, there are NO FISH to be found! Maybe ONE FISH . . . but he’s awfully big!
Chapter Book New Releases
Tale of a Scaredy Dog by Bea Garcia (Penguin Random House)
Bea Garcia is an artist and her favorite subject is Sophie, the smartest dog in the world. Sophie is also Bea Garcia’s best friend ever. They both love peanut butter cookies and hanging out in the crabapple tree in the backyard. They also like to snuggle together and dream of all sorts of adventures. Bea and Sophie also share a strong dislike for Bert, the monster next door. When Bea’s teacher makes her visit Bert for a school assignment, Bea brings Sophie along for extra security and comfort. But even monsters have pets, and Bert has a terrible one: Big Kitty. When Big Kitty attacks, Sophie jumps out a window and sprints away—far from Bea! Bea goes on a frantic search for her best friend but Sophie is nowhere to be found. Will Bea’s best friend ever come home again?
Survivor Diaries: Lost! by Terry Lynn Johnson (HMH Books for Young Readers)
An ancient myth about a statue leads eleven-year-old Carter and twelve-year-old Anna down a trail deep into the Costa Rican jungle. They get turned around, then chased by howler monkeys. Carter and Anna try to find their way back to the familiar path, but the tangle of vines and trees all look the same. They are . . . lost!
Heartwood Hotel: Home Again by Heartwood Hotel: Home Again (Disney-Hyperion)
It’s summer at the Heartwood Hotel, and everyone is in a flurry getting ready for Ms. Prickles’s wedding to Mr. Quillson! Meanwhile, a new mouse guest named Strawberry comes to stay. She’s sweet and soft-spoken like Mona, and gifted in the kitchen just as Mona’s mother was-could Strawberry be a long-lost relative? But when lightning strikes part of Fernwood Forest and starts a fire, all thoughts go to the guests and staff hurrying to leave to make sure their homes and families are safe. Mona works to protect the Heartwood from harm, but as the fire rages on, it’s becoming dangerous to stay. Can Mona and her friends save their home before it’s too late?
Middle Grade New Releases
Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls: Power Play by Beth McMullen (Aladdin)
Everyone at The Smith School is obsessed with Monster Mayhem, the latest reality video game craze. But when Drexel Caine, the mastermind behind the game is suddenly kidnapped, it becomes clear that the kidnappers are playing for more than just special badges. After Drexel’s son—who is Abby’s friend, Toby—receives a cryptic message, Abby and her friends discover the kidnapping is part of a bigger scheme that could take down The Center for good. With the help of Abby’s frenemy (and reluctant mentor), Veronica Brooks, the group tackles their first official Center Mission.
Stu Truly by Dan Richards (Yellow Jacket)
When Stuart Cornelius Truly first sets eyes on the new girl, Becca, he staples his finger to his seventh-grade history assignment. The second time he sees her, he coughs up a bite of her lunch-a vegetarian roasted pepper sandwich-all over her sweater, and promptly lies, claiming that he, too, is a vegetarian. Their third encounter goes more smoothly, but Stu’s lie turns out to be harder to keep than he expected, especially since his family owns a butcher shop.
Dreaming Dangerous by Lauren DeStefano (Bloomsbury)
Tucked deep in the woods and surrounded by a great iron fence lies Brassmere Academy for the Extraordinary, a school for orphans with strange and wonderful gifts. Twelve-year-old Plum has lived there for as long as she can remember. Each night, she ventures into her dreams alongside her three best friends, Vien, Gwendle, and Artem to fight monsters and journey on dangerous quests. But one night, Plum gets a mysterious warning that she and her friends are no longer safe. And the next morning, Artem is nowhere to be found. As Plum, Vien, and Gwendle search for their friend–in both the dreaming and waking worlds–they start to uncover alarming secrets about Brassmere and its intentions. Will they be able to find Artem before it’s too late, or will they be next to disappear?
Life According to Og the Frog by Betty G. Birney (Penguin Random House)
When Og the Frog first comes to Room 26, he doesn’t know what to think. He misses his friends from the pond, there are all kinds of strange noises, and the water is his tank just might be too clean (you know, a little muck never hurt anyone). But the furry, squeaky fellow living next to him is endlessly entertaining, the kids sure are friendly, and–BING, BANG, BOING!–they put big fat crickets right into his tank. All of this gives Og lots of ideas for one of his favorite passtimes–making up poems and songs. But he gets stumped when talk turns to sending him back to the pond. Will he have to say good-bye to Tabitha whose whole life just changed like his? Or Mandy who just started seeing the bright side of things with his help? And Humphrey, who he’s finally beginning to figure out?
Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin (HarperCollins)
When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time. With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations. But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.
Thrilling Thieves: Liars, Cheats, and Cons Who Changed History by Brianna DuMont (Sky Pony Press)
Follow the trail of twelve troublemakers to learn what really made the Mona Lisa the most iconic painting in the world, meet the most powerful pirate from history (it’s probably not who you’re expecting), and watch empires rise and fall with the theft of a simple tea plant. Turns out our world owes a lot to those who dabble on the dark side.
Margot and Mateo Save the World by Darcy Miller (HarperCollins)
When Margot Blumenthal removes a bright blue slug alien attached to Mateo Flores’s back, the school play co-stars know it’s definitely not going to be a regular day at West Cove Middle School. They reluctantly team up and soon discover that the mayor and countless other adults, including Mateo’s dad, are infected—which means that West Cove, and possibly all of Earth, is in danger. What will they (and their new scientist friend) do? Ditch class and protect humankind, of course—because one unexcused absence doesn’t matter when the world is at stake!
Once Upon a Slime by Andy Maxwell, illustrated by Samantha Cotterill (Little, Brown)
Once upon a time--gloooooooorp! Ew, gross! Who slimed Goldilocks? Was it the Three Bears, exacting revenge? Not a chance! They’re next on the list of fairy-tale sliming victims! Red Riding Hood, the Wolf, Rapunzel, the Three Pigs…they’re all under attack. Who could be the mastermind behind this icky, sticky plan? Young detectives can look for clues and solve the mystery in this picture book whodunnit that’s positively oozing with wit and charm, perfect for fans of Patrick McDonnell’s A Perfectly Messed-Up Story.
Ocean: A Visual Miscellany by Ricardo Henriques and Andre Letria (Chronicle)
Half of our planet is covered by the ocean, yet we’ve only explored 5 percent of this vast underwater realm. Originally published in Portugal, and awarded a highly coveted BolognaRagazzi Mention by the Bologna Book Fair, this visually compelling miscellany offers readers a tsunami of aquatic facts. Which ocean is the largest? Who was the first explorer to sail around the world? Is the ocean truly blue?
Star Wars Maker Lab by Liz Lee Heinecke and Cole Horton (DK Publishing)
With 20 amazing projects, Star Wars™ Maker Lab teaches your budding Padawan how to become a Master of science, in both the real world and the Star Wars galaxy. Using clear step-by-step instructions, the book guides home scientists and makers through each exciting experiment–from making Jabba’s gooey slime or a hovering landspeeder, to an Ewok catapult and a glowing Gungan Globe of Peace. Each experiment has fact-filled panels to explain the real-world science as well as the Star Wars science fiction from the movies.
Flor and Miranda Steal the Show by Jennifer Torres is a sweet middle grade story that takes place all in one day and written in two points of view. It’s a great summer friendship story!
The new Princess in Black book is set during a science fair. When a run-of-the-mill erupting volcano experiment reveals a hidden monster living inside the volcano, the Princess in Black (and her friends) need to save the day.
Before I leave you, I have exciting news to share! We are bumping up The Kids Are All Right newsletter to two emails per week, meaning you’ll be receiving double the amount of bookish kid lit goodness. On Sundays I’ll be sharing themed book lists, and on Tuesdays I’ll send a round-up of new releases. Thanks for subscribing and for sharing the kid lit love!
Until next week!
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