Image: A collage of book covers. Clockwise from top left: Antiracist Baby, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Pippa Park Raises Her Game, Look for Ladybug in Ocean City, and When Aidan Became a Brother.

June Grab Bag!

It’s time for another kidlit grab bag! This is the space where I tell you about the wonderful books I’ve read that aren’t spooky like the books I usually review. There are some great titles this month, and I hope you find some books to add to your TBR! If you’ve read any of these already, please let me know what you thought. Now, let’s check out some books!


Antiracist Baby

Image: A baby with brown skin and black hair sits with their arms raised in a yellow carrier against the chest of a person with brown skin and black facial hair. Text: "Antiracist Baby. Ibram X. Kendi. Illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky."

Synopsis

Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or rather, follow Antiracist Baby’s nine easy steps for building a more equitable world.

With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.

Details

  • Title: Antiracist Baby
  • Author: Ibram X. Kendi
  • Illustrator: Ashley Lukashevsky
  • Cover Artist: Ashley Lukashevsky
  • Publisher: Kokila
  • ISBN: 0593110412
  • Publication Date: June 16, 2020
  • For Ages: 0-3
  • Category: Board Book

I’d like to thank Kokila for providing a copy via Edelweiss+ in exchange for review consideration.

Review

Antiracist Baby is a vibrant and hopeful board book that helps lay a strong foundation for children to respect all people and recognize systemic racism. Listing steps toward continual growth in the pursuit of antiracism, the rhyming couplets teach young readers (and their guardians) that working toward equity and justice is a vital, lifelong pursuit. The bold, colorful illustrations simplify complex concepts like discriminatory incarceration policies and the fallacy of “not seeing color” in creative, engaging ways. It’s never too early to talk to kids about race, and this book is a great way for babies and adults to learn about working toward a just, antiracist society.


Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little People, BIG DREAMS)

Image: A young boy with brown skin and black locs faces the camera with a smile. He wears a jacket and tie with paint splatters on the lapel. Two spray cans sit next to him. Text: "Little People, BIG DREAMS. Jean-Michel Basquiat. Written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara. Illustrated by Luciano Lozano."

Synopsis

Discover the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the graffiti street art movement pioneer.

Jean-Michel was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Puerto Rican mother and Haitian father. When he was eight and recovering from an accident in bed, his mother gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, which sparked his interest in the human form. As a teenager, he gained recognition as part of the graffito duo SAMO that spray-painted cryptic messages and images around the landscape of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He eventually made his way to the New York gallery scene and on to international acclaim. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the brilliant artist’s life.

Details

  • Title: Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Series: Little People, BIG DREAMS
  • Author: Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara
  • Illustrator: Luciano Lozano
  • Cover Artist: Luciano Lozano
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
  • ISBN: 0711245800
  • Publication Date: June 16, 2020
  • For Ages: 4-7
  • Category: Picture Book

I’d like to thank Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.

Review

Vibrant, expressive art filled with depth and warm humor partners with inspirational text celebrating Jean-Michel Basquiat’s unique talent and ambition. Young readers will learn about the importance of believing in yourself and finding like-minded people to support and challenge you, and they will delight in the story of this iconic artist.


Look for Ladybug in Ocean City

Image: A colorful, busy underwater scene of sea creatures in various hiding places. Text: "Look for Ladybug in Ocean City. Katherine Manolessou. With hundreds of things to spot!"

Synopsis

Join in the hunt and help look for Ladybug!

Daisy and Basil and Ladybug set off on a much needed holiday, away from the busy detective agency. They decide to go scuba diving, but as Sally the instructor teaches them how to dive, Ladybug sneaks away in a submarine and off into Ocean City. Can the pair find Ladybug?

Follow Daisy and Basil as they look for Ladybug all over Ocean City. Is he at Seaweed Central Station, Octopus Gardens, the building site, or the art gallery? This stylish search and find picture book is full of witty, colorful illustrations packed with visual jokes and all sorts of things to spot to delight children for hours.

Details

  • Title: Look for Ladybug in Ocean City
  • Author/Illustrator: Katherina Manolessou
  • Cover Artist: Katherina Manolessou
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
  • ISBN: 1786037769
  • Publication Date: May 19, 2020
  • For Ages: 5-8
  • Category: Picture Book

I’d like to thank Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration.

Review

Look for Ladybug in Ocean City is a fun and engaging search-and-find book with a charming story, plenty of activities to keep kids entertained, and some hilarious visual jokes for the adults following along. The adorable art and sweet narrative make this puzzle book stand out.


When Aidan Became a Brother

Image: A pregnant mother kisses the forehead of a young boy, who sits on his father's shoulders. All three family members have brown skin and black hair. A white and yellow cat looks on. Text: "When Aidan Became a Brother. By Kyle Lukoff. Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita."

Synopsis

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginningfrom choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does “making things right” actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

Details

  • Title: When Aidan Became a Brother
  • Author: Kyle Lukoff
  • Illustrator: Kaylani Juanita
  • Cover Artist: Kaylani Juanita
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books
  • ISBN: 1620148374
  • Publication Date: June 4, 2019
  • For Ages: 4-8
  • Category: Picture Book

I’d like to thank Lee & Low Books for providing a copy via Edelweiss+ in exchange for review consideration.

Review

When Aidan Became a Brother is one of the warmest, loveliest, and most beautiful picture books I’ve ever read. Its gentle and empathetic text tells the story of Aidan, a young transgender boy who is about to become a big brother. We learn about Aidan’s transition and his fears over being a good brother to his new sibling, and the story focuses on the love and growth needed to support trans kids and to create a world where all kids grow up without feeling forced to conform to assigned gender roles. The warmth and understanding are evident on every page, and Kyle Lukoff’s author’s note is both a message of solidarity with fellow trans people and a call for empathy for, and from, all children.

Kaylani Juanita’s illustrations are the perfect complement to this joyful, vibrant story. The character work is astounding: Juanita captures an incredible range of thought and emotion in just the arch of an eyebrow or the angle of a mouth. Her use of color and pattern is just as incredible, creating a world of self-expression and freedom that is bright, bold, and gentle. There is a subtle glow to her art that highlights the book’s message of hope, love, and inclusivity. With gorgeous art and an equally gorgeous message, When Aidan Became a Brother is a masterful picture book that all kids will learn from and enjoy.


Pippa Park Raises Her Game

Image: A Korean-American girl with long black hair wears a school uniform and stands in front of an open locker with a basketball on the floor next to her. Text: "Pippa Park Raises Her Game. Erin Yun."

Synopsis

Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”

At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.

As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

Details

  • Title: Pippa Park Raises Her Game
  • Author: Erin Yun
  • Cover Artist: Bev Johnson, art; Jaime Mendola-Hobbie, design
  • Publisher: Fabled Films Press
  • ISBN: 1944020268
  • Publication Date: February 4, 2020
  • For Ages: 9-12
  • Category: Middle Grade

I’d like to thank Fabled Films Press for providing a copy via Edelweiss+ in exchange for review consideration.

Review

Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a charming, relatable, and occasionally painful middle grade retelling of Great Expectations. When Pippa—a first-generation Korean-American being raised by her sister ever since her mother had to return to South Korea—is offered a basketball scholarship to a prestigious and expensive private school, she jumps at the chance to start over as a new person in a new place. Following the “Rules of Cool” that she learns from a tween girls’ magazine, she becomes the confident, aloof New Pippa and soon gets invited to hang out with the coolest clique at school. But trying to hide her modest financial circumstances and true personality gets harder and harder, especially once she receives a threatening message from an anonymous cyberbully. As her façade crumbles, Pippa has to make some hard choices about who she really wants to be, learning valuable lessons along the way about personal integrity and true friendship.

Pippa is an engaging character with a great sense of humor and a kind heart. She’s someone that other kids will root for, especially as she tries to hide her social awkwardness and deal with the mean girls at her new school. I particularly appreciated author Erin Yun’s approach to Pippa’s basketball skills. She’s a team player who works very hard and never wavers in her confidence; as an athlete, she’s a great role model for young readers, especially girls. Pippa is also a refreshingly realistic kid who defies gender and racial stereotypes, which Yun often tackles directly in the text. There are even discussion questions, an author interview, and a Korean glossary in the back matter.

The story is entertaining and has something for nearly everyone: drama, suspense, romance, humor, a nuanced treatment of immigration and class issues, an exciting sports element, and a heartwarming message about the value of friends and family. Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a terrific #ownvoices middle grade novel with a fun, lovable heroine.


Have you read any of these books? Which ones are you most looking forward to? Tell me all about it in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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