WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Okinawa

Cover of Okinawa, which has the title written vertically down the middle no an orange strip. The background is blue at the top and moves into green then yellow as it goes towards the bottom.Originally published in Japan, Susumu Higa’s historical fiction manga Okinawa brings to life the experiences of Okinawans during World War II and the post-war experiences of both younger and older generations. This book binds together two of Higa’s previously published works: Sword of Sand (1995) and Mabui (2010). These narratives are told through illustrations and dialogue, along with onomatopoeia to emphasize actions, in the format of manga. Telling these stories through manga, a Japanese-style of visual storytelling like comics or graphic novels, combines the unique experiences of Okinawan people with the popular Japanese style of storytelling, bringing international readers both the popular culture of the dominant mainland Japan and the voices of a smaller, lesser known community. The United States Board of Books for Young People (USBBY) named Okinawa one of the Outstanding International Books (OIB) of 2024. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Blue Book of Nebo

A lonely house on a cliffside. The image is all in different shades of blue.The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros is a profoundly moving young adult novella. Originally written in Welsh, it is a gentle and raw tale of a family’s survival in an isolated house in Northwest Wales after some kind of horrific disaster. The story is told through alternate journal entries written by Dylan, a young teenager, and his mother, Rowenna. They share a journal, which they call The Blue Book of Nebo, but they agree not to read each other’s entries. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Welcome to the Wonder House

A blue cover wth a small figure in the bottom left corner looking up through a telescope.In Welcome to the Wonder House, a book of poetry by noted poets Georgia Heard and Rebecca Kai Dotlich, readers are invited to explore twelve rooms filled with poems and objects. The poems will inspire creativity and wonder in young readers. In each room, readers can become historians, scientists, mathematicians, astronauts, architects, geologists, artists or writers while contemplating topics such as nature, space and ancient history, as well as ordinary items. For example, in the Curiosity Room, poems and yellow tinted and cream-colored pictures of dinosaur fossils, planets and meteor collisions spark readers’ interests in natural resources and planets. The poem titles demonstrate the span of resources: Why do diamonds wink / and shine?/ What is quartz?/ What is lime? / What fossils still / sleep underground? / How does our Earth keep spinning around? (p. 4). In the Nature Room, readers explore a stormy sky with rain and thunder: Thunder drums the skin of sky, / striking / an / electric / scar / from cloud to cloud. (p. 12). All poems cover science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) topics and will be a great addition to STEAM lessons for all age groups. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Kingdom Over The Sea

A young girl on a red flying carpet flies towards a Middle Eastern castle over the sea.The Kingdom Over the Sea by Zohra Nabi is a fantasy adventure that begins in an ordinary seaside town in the U.K. and quickly (and chaotically) sails away to Zehaira, a world of alchemy and sorcery. At home in the U.K., 12-year-old Yara and her mother share a language and culture seemingly to themselves. Yara’s documents indicate a start in Iraq, but Mama has been vague about their past. The more Yara asks, the more painful it becomes for Mama to answer. She promises to tell Yara when she gets older.

But then Mama dies, leaving a cryptic letter with instructions and no answers. Yara must leave the home she knows. As she flees town, Yara encounters racism and xenophobia directed towards an Iraqi family on the bus. When the conflict passes, Yara realizes they do not speak the special language she shares with Mama. The experience reinforces Yara’s feeling of not belonging. Yara is left alone to discover the truth about her past and heritage in a magical new world. To get to Zehaira, Yara is swept off by a frightening ferryman over a storming sea that Nabi likens to the twister that takes Dorothy to the world of Oz. Like Dorothy, Yara searches for home, only it’s a home she’s never known. In her effort to retain her cultural identity when home is fragile, Yara desperately searches to understand her heritage and to find community. Continue reading

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WOW Recommends: The Patron Thief of Bread

A gargoyle on top of a cathedral. The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar is the story of eight-year-old Duck, who was found in a river as a baby and “adopted” by and cared for by a band of street urchins in Medieval France. The Crowns, a band of young thieves, are the only family Duck has known and even though Gnat, the group’s leader, is not especially fond of her, the group is her family, and they survive by stealing money and food from vendors in street fairs and town markets across their region. Orphaned children were often overlooked, abused, or ignored and thus had to fend for themselves, regardless of how young they were. However, the Crowns were skilled at stealing and thus a threat to other bands. They move from town to town as a way of avoiding bands of older orphans as well as punishment by a town justice once they become too visible in any particular place. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Cave Art

A group of people looking up at cave drawings, illuminated by flashlights.Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Cave Art by Hannah Salyer is an exceptional book that grabs the reader’s attention immediately. After capturing the reader with an intriguing beginning, the author/illustrator continues to engage the reader with a brief but informative text and brilliant, full page illustrations. She refers to cave art as time capsules, “ancient rock paintings, drawings and etchings.” She describes the rock artists as our ancestors who are Homo sapiens, and also Neanderthals, a different species. Salyer shows in her illustrations and text how “some of the markings and creatures shown in the art are symbols.” She also portrays the numerous animals shown in the cave art, with some of those animals, “long extinct.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Girl Who Heard The Music

A young girl plays the piano, which shows the scene of Rapa Nui island at night.The Girl Who Heard the Music, How One pianist and 85, 000 Bottles and Cans Brought New Hope to an Island, is the true story of musician Mahani Teave and her island home, Rapa Nui. The authors, Marni Fogelson and Mahani Teave, weave together the themes of the love of music, environmental concerns, and life on a remote island, a thousand miles away from other populated areas. The story opens by describing the music of nature and the ancestral songs that surround Mahani as she grows up. Sometimes visitors to the island would bring musical instruments and give lessons. Once a retired music teacher came with her piano, the only one on the island, and Mahani was quickly able to learn how to play. Her talent was later recognized by a visiting Chilean pianist who convinced Mahani to leave home in order to study at conservatories. She became an accomplished pianist who now plays concerts around the world. However, she returns to her island home whenever she can. Continue reading

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WOW Recommends: Corner

A crow stands on a ladder in the corner of a concrete room, holding chalk.Corner is a whimsical, almost wordless picture book by Korean author and illustrator, ZO-O.

The story is about a crow who makes a cramped corner into a space for living and loving – a home. The crow starts a new life in an empty corner. After a while, the crow begins to gather objects: a bed, a bookshelf, a rug. A shelf appears with books and a lamp to read by. Lastly, the crow brings a small plant to complete the corner. The plant flourishes with the crow’s loving care. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Be a Good Ancestor

Two figures look over a forrested valleyIn Be a Good Ancestor, Canadian authors Leona Prince and Gabrielle Prince, issue this simple, four-word request to readers as an inspiring call to action. The authors, who are sisters, have written a poignant picturebook with themes of interconnectedness and stewardship that will resonate with readers of all ages. The repetition of the phrase, “Be a good Ancestor,” in each stanza invites readers to contemplate their roles as ancestors of future generations. Readers will hopefully recognize that the actions (or inactions) they take today have consequences that will last for decades to come. Each double-page spread features a unique call focused on the environment and on living beings, both human and non-human:

Be a good Ancestor with water
Be a good Ancestor with the land
Be a good Ancestor with living things that swim

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WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Wildoak

A sihlouette of a girl is filled in with starry night sky. A snow leopard fills the space of her shoulders.It’s London, 1963 and Maggie Stephens stutters. Because she stutters so badly, Maggie rarely speaks and finds all kinds of ways not to have to speak or read in school. Interestingly, Maggie does not stutter when she speaks to animals. Her parents, concerned (and perhaps a bit embarrassed) about her behavior, wonder if she needs to be treated at Granville, a school for children who don’t seem to fit in to the typical school. Granville is terrifying to Maggie who has heard rumors about how children are beaten if they cry. Looking for a way out of the Granville plan, Maggie agrees to an alternative plan to spend time with her grandfather in Wildoak Forest. Continue reading