WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: A Big Mooncake for Little Star

A Big Mooncake for Little StarA Big Mooncake for Little Star, by Grace Lin, will become a classic read aloud to children for generations to come. The endpapers show Little Star and her mama making a Big Mooncake. When it is baked, Little Star’s mama lays it in the night sky to cool. Little Star’s Mama says “your Mooncake took us a long time to bake, so let’s see if you can make it last awhile. Can you remember not to touch this Big Mooncake until I tell you to?” Little Star replies, “Yes, Mama.” “But in the middle of the night, Little Star woke. She forgot what her mama had said and only remembered the Big Mooncake.” So her little feet went “Pat, pat, pat.” across the sky to take a tiny nibble of the brilliant yellow Mooncake. Over the next nights she takes nibbles out of the Mooncake until it is a narrow crescent. A two page spread shows twelve phases of the shrinking moon with Little Star taking a nibble out of each one until it is a crescent. One night Little Star’s mama goes to look for the Big Mooncake and finds it is gone. Mama asks Little Star, “You ate the Big Mooncake again, didn’t you.” “Yes, Mama,” says Little Star. “Now let’s go make another one.” On the final endpapers, the story ends as it began with Little Star and her mama making a new Mooncake to place in the sky. It is a circle story. The story started with the making of the Big Mooncake and finishes with a new cake being made. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Stars at Oktober Bend

The Stars at Oktober BendImbued with lyrical and poignant language, readers of The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard are invited into 15-year-old Alice Nightingale’s wonder and promise-filled world even as she remains on the margins. Alice attempts to manage a broken life and family after being attacked, leaving her with brain damage that may result in her being “twelveness” for the rest of her life. But Alice is resourceful and starts to grow away from her twelveness by relearning language through writing poetry in her Book of Flying, by connecting with Emmanuel (Manny) James, who also has been damaged by the world, and by remaining true to never forsaking her younger brother Joey and “Grandma Glorious.” Alice’s father is dead, and her mother left the country to pursue her career. Grandfather Papa is in prison for killing the men who attacked Alice, leaving the family of three living outside of their Australian town, hidden away from most of the world. Alice is artistic and fills her days with making fishing lures and writing while Joey goes to school bringing books and information for Alice to learn. Because she is often overwhelmed by typical human interactions, Alice cannot attend school and thus spends much of her time alone–until she sees and is seen by Manny. Readers venture with Alice as she grows into her adolescence, hoping for love and connection outside of the family. And as Alice’s world becomes more and more precarious, readers will fall in love with Alice and Manny as they share their pain and love with each other in hopes of overcoming. -Recommended by Holly Johnson. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and BoneLet’s talk about Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a YA fantasy that opens with a lynching and ends with an author’s note urging readers to rise. In between is nothing but action, emotional turmoil and rarely a chance to breathe. Emphasizing this occurrence, Adeyemi repeatedly echoes Eric Garner’s words, “I can’t breathe.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Mommy’s Khimar

Mommy's KhimarThe sparkling picture book, Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow with illustrations by Ebony Glenn, is a delightful, warm story about an African-American, Muslim family. The girl who tells the story celebrates her love for her mother and the khimar that her mother wears. On the first page she tells us, “A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears. Before she walks out the door each day, she wraps one around her head.” The girl loves to play dress-up or pretend games wearing her mother’s yellow khimar. She becomes a queen with a golden train, a shooting star, a mama bird or a super hero in a cape, “dashing from room to room at the speed of light. Daddy snatches me up and I fly. Mommy can’t stop laughing when his bristly beard tickles my cheek with a kiss.” Sometimes Mom-Mom (her grandmother) visits after her Sunday service when the girl wears the khimar, Mom-Mom “sings out ‘Sweet Jesus’ and calls me Sunshine. Mom-Mom doesn’t wear a khimar. She doesn’t go to the mosque like Mommy and Daddy do. We are a family and we love each other just the same.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Chef Roy ChoiIn this spicy picturebook biography, Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix, authors Jacqueline Biggs Martin and June Jo Lee and illustrator Man One celebrate immigrants and offer a love letter to the remix of cultures through food in Los Angeles. The first lines offer a promise of the zesty text to come. “Chef Roy Choi can chop an onion in an instant, carve a mouse out of a mushroom. He’s cooked in fancy restaurants, for rock stars and royalty. But he’d rather cook on a truck.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Escape from Aleppo

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. SenzaiEscape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai serves as a primer on the horrible war that has raged in Syria for 7 years. The novel seems right out of the headlines, but also gives the reader a background of the history of Syria and why its people cherish their country. The story is about 14-year-old Nadia who is separated from her family after their home and neighborhood is bombed. She knows that her family is trying to escape to Turkey, but she is not certain how to get there through the destroyed city. The family leaves messages that help her. Senzai fleshes out the story with flashbacks that fills in Nadia’s background and experiences. I marvel at the characterizations, especially the elderly, mysterious man, Ammo Mazen, who takes on the responsibility of guiding Nadia to find her family. Ammo makes stops as they travel through the city that are intriguing. In one place, he and Nadia encounter people trying to save and preserve artifacts from the city’s libraries and museums. Nadia’s character is also well-drawn. Her growing grit and courage make the reader root for her. In spite of the difficulties Nadia suffers, she helps other–even protecting and taking along on the journey an orphaned 8-year-old boy she finds abandoned. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Mary’s Monster

Mary's Monster by Lita JudgeWriting in free verse and illustrating in stark black-and-white watercolors for Mary’s Monster, Lita Judge tells the story of Mary Shelley, the pregnant teen runaway who authored the first Gothic horror story, Frankenstein. Lord Byron’s challenge to write a horror story may be the often-cited reason Shelley wrote her book, but Mary’s Monster demonstrates the way the author drew on elements of her own difficult life to create the story of an experiment gone awry. Judge tells the story through Mary’s voice. Her sparse verse weaves the story of Mary’s own rejection with her creation of a monster rejected by society. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Freedom Over Me

Freedom Over Me by Ashley BryanIn Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life, Ashley Bryan created a treasure of a book that deeply moves the heart, informs and influences our humanity. Following the January publication of Teaching Hard History: American Slavery by the Southern Poverty Law Center, multiple articles looked into the need for students to learn more about the experience of slavery. Bryan’s book, which appeals to ages 11 and up, helps accomplish this. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Book of Dust

The Book of Dust by Philip PullmanIf you were enthralled by Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series, you will welcome his new book, The Book of Dust: Volume One La Belle Sauvage. It is a prequel to the first book in the previous series, The Golden Compass. When I read the first chapter of this new book I relished the feeling of reentering Pullman’s familiar fantasy world. Pullman is a master storyteller. In this story, he weaves another powerful and fantastic adventure saga. The star of this book is Malcolm, an 11-year-old boy whose parents run an Inn in Oxford. Malcolm helps out there and in the Priory across the river from the Inn. At the Priory, Malcolm meets the baby, Lyra, whose father, Lord Astrial, left her there to be protected by the nuns. After he meets the 6-month-old Lyra, he becomes “her servant for life.” Later Malcolm saves Lyra from a danger that threatens her life. To keep her safe he undertakes a heroic journey in his canoe. When a terrible flood changes the landscape, Malcolm battles against horrific odds to protect Lyra. Along the way, Pullman strews nuggets of wonder that enthrall the reader. When we reach the end of that journey and the book on page 450, there is a promise: “To be continued.” Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long to re-enter the world of Pullman’s Dark Materials, since two more books are planned. -Recommended by Marilyn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Emily Carroll’s Graphic Novelization of Speak

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily CarrollSpeak: the graphic novel, written by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Eisner Award-winning artist Emily Carroll, takes a probing look at sexual assault and its consequences for adolescents. Melinda Sordino, a freshman at Merryweather High, is raped at a party and unable to speak out against her attacker. Instead, she expresses her feelings in the haven of art class, where her teacher challenges her to dig deep and voice her feelings artistically. Her struggle to cope with and communicate her depression is echoed in the stark, unforgiving greyscale of Carroll’s artwork. Melinda finds comfort in creating a space all her own, regains her confidence with the help of new found friends and is ultimately able to speak up against her attacker. This emotional novel challenges the reader to understand the reality and repercussions of sexual assault and the difficulty of seeking justice. –Recommended by Angel Stone, WOW Intern, University of Arizona Continue reading