“Agua, aquita”: “Water, little water” Jorge Tetl Argueta

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Piñata Books.

AguaAguitaA little droplet of water narrates its birthplace travels from deep within Mother Earth, describing how it becomes “a river, a lake, an ocean. Drop by drop.” Young readers can use scientific guesses and observations to figure out why water is “one color in the morning and another in the afternoon. And then at night another color.” The interesting riddle of how water can be many colors, yet be colorless; have all flavors, yet have no flavor, and be all shapes yet have no shape will leave them intrigued.

Through full-page colorful illustrations and simple text, the enormous impact water has on the world is unveiled to its readers. The full poem about this water droplet, written in the author’s native language of Nahuat, (spoken by the Pipil-Nahua Indians, a San Salvadorian tribe) closes out this informative book.

Highly recommended for ages 5-9.


“Mayanito’s new friends”: “Los nuevos amigos de Mayanito” Tato Laviera

Rated 3 stars *** 2017. Arte Público Press.

MayanitosNewFriendsPrince Mayanito, who lives on a mountain high above the clouds, was looking down on the western hemisphere. Children from other countries, formed out of raindrops, became his friends until they turned into flowers when the sun came out. Determined to search for them, Mayanito began an adventure with all sorts of rainforest creatures, leading to a joyful reunion with his friends. Through rich watercolors in full-page illustrations, Mayanito’s journey comes to life.

Though this bilingual picture book can be used to help teach about the rainforest and other countries, I feel it would have been beneficial to include information about the Mayan culture – especially since Mayanito is Mayan. It also seemed as if the story was incomplete, as it started and ended abruptly.

Despite my misgivings about its incompleteness, I will still recommend it because of its ability to lead to teachable moments.

Recommended for ages 5-9.

“Step up to the plate” Maria Singh

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Tu Books. (Lee & Low). 276 p.

StepUpToThePlateIt was 1945 and, with World War II going on, all nine-year-old Maria wanted to do was play baseball. Her aunt built planes and women were starting to play professional ball so, when her teacher started an all-girls team at her school, Maria was thrilled. Unfortunately her Mexican mother and Indian father had old-fashioned ideas about what girls could do, so she knew it would be hard to convince them to let her play.

As she learns about teamwork and baseball, Maria also starts to learn about prejudice and racism when her little brother is beat up for being different and a German classmate lashes out at her. When she finds out her father can’t become a U.S. citizen or own the land he’d worked for years, through the confidence earned from playing the game she loved, Maria learns to speak up and make a difference in her world.

This book is an important introduction to the inequalities and discrimination faced by specific immigrant groups, many of which still go on today. Readers are also given insight into the world of adha-adha “half and half,” (Mexican-Hindu families) which also serves to educate. It should be in every elementary and middle school library, and would make for excellent discussions as part of a book club.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Martí’s song for freedom: Martí y sus versos por la libertad” Emma Otheguy

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Children’s Book Press (Lee & Low). Includes “Afterword,” “Author’s Note,” and a “Selected Bibliography.”

Marti'sSongForFreedomJosé Martí (1853-1895) was born when Spain ruled Cuba with an iron fist. Slave labor on sugar plantations allowed the rich to become richer, oppressing natives of all races. Determined to free his people José advocated for freedom from Spain, which led to imprisonment and deportation. Despite being away from the island he loved, José continued his fight to abolish slavery from his new home in New York through poetry and speeches. Ultimately he gave his life for his country, remembered for the words he left behind which deeply illustrated his love for freedom and justice for all.

Otheguy’s well-researched bilingual picture book tells the story of Cuba’s greatest poet and patriot, as Vidal’s simply drawn, yet colorful paintings, illustrate his struggle in a clear, straightforward manner. It will appeal to older elementary readers, especially those in grades 3-6, and may well be a contender for the upcoming Pura Belpré award. If it wins or places, remember that you read it here first.

Recommended for ages 8-11.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“The vanishing coin (The magic shop #1)” Kate Egan with Magician Mike Lane

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Feiwel & Friends. 142 p.

TheVanishingCoinTeachers always send Mike to the principal because he can’t sit still or focus on work. He needs to be moving and, when he’s not, he gets upset. His parents have been working with him on coping strategies, but they don’t seem to work. The fresh start he’d hoped for in fourth grade seems to be gone. On top of everything else, he’s being bullied again by Jackson, a neighborhood bully and his parents are making him hang out with Nora, a gifted kid, every day after school.

Just when things seem to be at their worst, Mike discovers magic. Suddenly he finds something he’s good at, and is ready to do what it takes to be the best magician he can be.

I enjoyed this book, and know my fourth graders will too.


“Mama and Papa have a store” AND “La tienda de mamá y papá” written and illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling

Rated 4 stars **** Lee & Low. 2016. (First published in 1998 by Dial.)

mamaandpaphaveastorelatiendademamaypapaLee & Low republished these out-of-print editions in both English and Spanish.

In 1938, the author’s parents fled their village in China before the Japanese invaded at the advent of World War II. Settling in Guatemala City, they raised their six children in the back of a grocery store, which sold all sorts of sundries.

Through detailed watercolor drawings, the author shares her memories of a typical day spent playing in the store with her brothers and sisters, meeting Mayan Indians who came from their faraway village to buy colorful thread, and interacting with Guatemalan and Chinese patrons. By the end of the book, readers will have a clear idea of what it was like for a hardworking Chinese immigrant family to make their way in a new world.

I would have preferred to have both the Spanish and English versions in a single book, rather than in two different books, as it would’ve been easier for children learning each language to see the opposite language as they practiced.

Recommended for ages 6-10.



“One half from the East” Nadia Hashimi

onehalffromtheeastRated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Harper Collins. 256 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

In Afghanistan, there exists a tradition called bacha posh.” If a family doesn’t have a son, and are down on their luck, they are encouraged to change a daughter into a bacha posh, which brings good luck. The daughter must be young enough to not have reached puberty because she is expected to look and act like a boy. Gone are long skirts, headscarves, and all dainty girl behaviors. As a bacha posh, she is free to run, get dirty, and do things girls would never be allowed to do in Afghani society.

Ten-year-old Obayda becomes her family’s bacha posh after her father loses his leg in a car bombing and is unable to work. With only four daughters, the family desperately needs the luck a bacha posh can bring them. At first Obayda is terrified of her new role, not sure how to be a boy. However, with the help of Rahima, a thirteen-year-old bacha posh, Obayda soon comes to love the freedom of being a boy. Unfortunately they can’t remain a bacha posh forever. Soon they must change back into a girl and forget they were ever boys, but how does one go from freedom to shackles?

The world of gender inequality is explored in “One half from the East,” while readers are also introduced to the culture of Afghan people. It is sure to be a conversation starter, and offers great lessons on gender roles and expectations.

Recommended for ages 9-14.