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This Is Your World

Sophia Gholz, illus. by Robin Boyden. Running Press Kids, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7624-7356-4

Though it’s estimated that most viewers didn’t paint along with him, Bob Ross’s PBS program The Joy of Painting is renowned for making viewers feel calm and centered for a full 30 minutes. Beginning with the figure’s Florida upbringing and covering his time as an Air Force sergeant and transition to painting alla prima with TV artist Bill Alexander, Gholz (The Boy Who Grew a Forest) captures the magic of the artist’s lulling, lilting tone when she quotes Ross describing a painting he’s filled with his signature “happy little things” as a “nice example of what can be done with just a few colors, a little imagination, and a happy dream in your heart.” It’s not the most eventful life story, but there is comfort in seeing a gentle soul (he rescued injured animals and “didn’t like to yell”) gradually find his voice and his calling through art and community. Boyden (Gerald Needs a Friend) gives this arc of self-discovery visual momentum through crisply drawn, cartoonish vignettes, along with a few larger images of the outdoors, that pay full homage to the Bob Ross style. Back matter includes an author’s note, art definitions, and “Bob’s painting colors.” Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Charlie Bowden, Pickled Ink. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Rise Up!: How You Can Join the Fight Against White Supremacy

Crystal M. Fleming. Holt, $19.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-22638-9

In this comprehensive history and study of racism and guide on combating white supremacy, educator, researcher, and sociologist Fleming takes readers through history to explore what racism is, where it comes from, why it still exists, and what can be done about it. From the European origins of racial labels, to understanding how racism causes inequality, to unpacking white supremacy’s role in shaping society, economy, and politics, Fleming patiently and accessibly identifies the four “legs” of white supremacy—colonization, genocide, capitalism, and transatlantic slavery—and explores how each plays a role in modern-day racist thinking, practices, and policies. Easy to follow and thorough, this guide addresses concepts and historical moments that are often glossed over in traditional textbooks, going so far as to highlight “post traumatic slave syndrome” as an intergenerational trauma that Black people continue to experience. Followed by a chapter-by-chapter notes section that includes further reading and sources, this book uses gentle, approachable language (“I also began to realize that economic inequality and poverty were intertwined with racial injustice”) to discuss a heavy topic with young adults of all races who are searching for change. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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How to Find a Fox

Kate Gardner, photographs by Ossi Saarinen. Running Press Kids, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7624-7135-5

This collection of images by Finnish wildlife photographer Saarinen offers enthralling looks at young foxes photographed so that their golden eyes, smooth black paws, and bushy tails seem near enough to reach out and touch. To accompany them, Gardner (Lovely Beasts) provides instructions for fox-finding, revealing when the animals are active (“You can look in the spring,/ or the summer,// or the autumn...// or even the winter”), and teasing readers by telling them where foxes won’t be found: “DON’T look in the sky,” she writes, where readers see three flying birds, “or the trees,” where readers see a squirrel. Simple phrases appear in larger type in the upper parts of spreads, while blocks of smaller text below supply more detail (“Foxes don’t hibernate; they spend the whole year out and about”). The figures are shown in poses that accentuate their grace and curiosity; they’re not seen chasing prey or eating. Larger photographs of forest and lake scenes offer calm, and pictures of other wildlife creatures round out this introduction to foxes—and, more broadly, to wildlife and scenery of a part of the natural world. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Productions. Photographer’s agent: Elizabeth Bewley, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Tidesong

Wendy Xu. Quill Tree, $12.99 paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-295580-7

Dark-haired, light-skinned aspiring witch Sophie Wu, 12, is determined to nail her Royal Magic Academy audition. Part of the Wu clan, whose lineage included a dragon-human pairing, and whose descendants retain “powers over storm and sea,” Sophie is excited to spend a year studying in Shulan, a quaint harbor town accessible by ferry, with her contemptuous great-aunt, Auntie Lanny, and young, ever-patient, catlike aunt Sage, an Academy alumna. But Auntie’s harsh discipline amplifies Sophie’s deep desire to prove herself, and in the midst of an ill-advised oceanside experiment, Sophie’s magic becomes entangled with that of Lir, the horned, light brown–skinned amnesiac son of a powerful dragon, who now can’t shift back from his human form. In fluid, Miyazaki-flavored graphic panels, scenes of smartly paced action follow Sophie’s continuing pattern of mishaps and self-recrimination (“My own selfishness brought this on. I deserve to be punished”), and she encounters the first stirrings of wholesome romance with gentle, refined Lir. Though the magic tutelage theme is familiar ground, Xu (Mooncakes) gives her solo debut fresh allure with richly evoked Chinese mythology–inspired dragons and a supporting cast of idiosyncratic, endearing characters. Back matter features an author’s note. Ages 8–12. Agent: Linda Camacho, Gallt and Zacker Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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¡¡Manu!!: A Graphic Novel

Kelly Fernández. Graphix, $24.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-338-26419-7

Manuela “Manu” Santos, who has fluffy dark hair and light brown skin, has consistently caused trouble since Mother Dolores took her in as an infant. Though carefree, wild trickster Manu’s magic is powerful, she is often shunned by the majority brown-skinned nuns and students at her magical all-girls school, La Academia de Santa Dominga. One day, Manu takes her antics too far, leaving a teacher injured and her classmates forced to clean up her mess. When she tries to play it off, her best friend Josefina Teresa Rojas becomes so infuriated that she wishes the saints would take Manu’s magic away. Surprisingly, Manu’s magic starts to wane. In a desperate ploy to get it back, Manu dabbles in black magic, releasing a powerful winged demonic being that wants to use her to destroy the mortal world. Simple, expressive cartoon-style art combines with a muted color palette and assured digital linework. Richly inflected by her Dominican heritage, Roman Catholic traditions, and elements of brujería, Fernandez’s fast-paced graphic novel debut explores striving for individuality while yearning to belong, reminding readers that differences should never preclude extending kindness and love. Back matter features an author’s note. Ages 8–12. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The First Day of Christmas (Friday #1)

Ed Brubaker, illus. by Marcos Martin. Image, $14.99 paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-5343-2058-1

Mistakes haunt orange-haired, bespectacled, white 18-year-old Friday Fitzhugh’s return to her occult-steeped town for freshman year winter break in this eerie, suspenseful mystery evoking the 1970s. Six years ago, when she and her family moved to Kings Hill—whose ancient residents performed human sacrifices to gods, according to lore—Friday saved and befriended 11-year-old mystery-solving genius Lancelot “Lance” Jones, who has black hair and light skin. The night before she leaves for college, Friday acknowledges the romantic tension between her and Lance, leading to a sexual encounter both find awkward and unfulfilling. Though Friday expects to discuss the event with Lance, her return instead finds Lance knee-deep in an investigation, one that resurfaces a terrifying supernatural encounter that Friday mistook for a dream. Brubaker’s (Cruel Summer) slow-burn pacing intensifies the story’s mysteries while capably introducing the cast and town. Martin’s (Barrier) French-esque, wiry line art resolves into sweeping, endless forests and all-encompassing, imposing spirits as colorist Muntsa Vicente creates striking nighttime scenes with bold, dramatic lighting. Told over three chapters, this atmospheric first installment sets up compelling sequels, with a sucker punch ending that demands follow-up. Ages 13–up. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Artie and the Wolf Moon

Olivia Stephens. Graphic Universe, $16.99 paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-72842-020-2

In Oregon, Black eighth grader Artemis “Artie” Irvin lives with her park ranger mother and attends Rosedale Middle School, where she spends much of her time in her school’s darkroom, developing photos she’s taken with her late father’s camera and avoiding her racist, bullying white classmates. When an illicit late-night jaunt for full moon photographs results in Artie seeing a wolf outside her house, her world is swiftly upended, particularly once the wolf transforms back into her mother. As late bloomer Artie learns about her ancestors, she soon realizes she has a heightened sense of smell, and eventually transforms into a werewolf herself. Meeting fellow Black werewolves from her mother’s hometown—including Maya, a new friend and crush—Artie discovers more about the father she never knew, as well as the wolves’ sworn enemies. Debut graphic novelist Stephens offers boldly outlined, dynamic full-color art, with lovable, distinct, and expressive Black characters and sweepingly cinematic panel progression. This vibrant, fast-paced werewolf tale rejuvenates the genre with themes of Black family, community, and history, offering accessible dialogue and reimagining the folklore of werewolves with a striking premise that has a tremendous payoff. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Tahira in Bloom

Farah Heron. Skyscape, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5420-3037-3

When 17-year-old emerging designer and FIT hopeful Tahira Janmohammad’s Toronto-based fashion internship is derailed by a wayward parakeet, Tahira’s driven, over-involved parents deploy Plan B: a replacement job at her aunt’s ladieswear boutique in rural Canada. Bakewell is the flower capital of Ontario, and Tahira is allergic to rabbits and flowers. Moreover, the Black boy next door, Rowan Johnston, is a rude, unfashionable, plant-obsessed “flower stormtrooper.” Eventually, of course, the small town charms, as does Rowan, and the duo pair up to compete in the annual Bakewell flower-arranging contest, which Tahira believes is her ticket to New York City and fashion-influencer stardom. Along the way, Tahira must learn to avoid making snap judgments, and consider turning away from fame and glamour when friendships and love are on the line. As she does in her books for adults, Heron draws on her own Indian Tanzanian Canadian Muslim identity, and details of close-knit, transnational community enrich this YA debut. The book’s memorable secondary characters—including Nilusha, Tahira’s wise and compassionate mentor, and Juniper, Rowan’s sweet younger sister—help Tahira stay true to herself in this entertaining enemies-to-lovers rom-com. Ages 12–up. Agent: Rachel Brooks, Bookends Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Stitches in Time Travel

Peter G. Reynolds, illus. by Michelle Simpson. Peter G. Reynolds, $8.99 paper (78p) ISBN 978-0-9952477-6-5

When 10-year-old Charlotte, who has brown eyes and is cued white, is sent with her four-year-old sister Beatrix to spend Christmas with Mother and Nana, at the slightly rundown, perpetually cold ancestral Gladstone Manor, Charlotte wishes she were with Mom instead. But after Nana’s suggestion to follow tradition and sew a square for the family Christmas quilt results in Charlotte exploring a speculative world centering the quilt itself, Charlotte begins to recognize the value of having family to come home to. Simpson’s cartoon-style b&w illustrations bring the detailed settings and droll characters to life as Charlotte communes with three of her ancestors in turn: the great-grandmother she’s never met, her Nana, and Mother, when they were each 10. Though Charlotte’s internal monologue is skews negative for much of the book, she eventually realizes she is grateful to have met the talented, kind women in her family tree. Seemingly inspired by Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Reynolds’s fast-paced novella offers a poignant look at family history, heirlooms, and the significance of preserving family stories. Ages 7–12. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Secret of the Magic Pearl

Elisa Sabatinelli, trans. from the Italian by Christopher Turner, illus. by Iacopo Bruno. Red Comet, $21.99 (92p) ISBN 978-1-63655-006-0

Hector’s father is a deep-sea diver who has lost his guide business to an oily, unscrupulous rival. Still, the child is determined to follow in his father’s footsteps, and he longs to find the Pearl, the deep-sea wonder that’s the talk of the village’s old sailors. On his very first dive, Hector stumbles across the Pearl—and that’s when his problems begin. Colorful supporting characters such as Hector’s friend Richard, who admires the evil businessman’s daughter Carlotta and her “very low but sweet voice,” and Anselmo, the stoic old salt who sits in front of Hector’s father’s failed marina, add flavor to this chapter book. So do affectionate descriptions of the seaside village, where umbrella pine trees are “filled with stars and owls.” Sabatinelli, making her children’s debut, narrates deliberately, swinging between reflection and adventure. Diving scenes and undersea sensations are vividly described (“You never age down there,” Hector’s grandfather tells him), all translated with skill and flair by Turner. Bruno (Mesmerized) drafts characters (who read as white) and scenery with polished elegance; hand-drawn chapter heading banners, labeled vignettes, and brilliant colors give the pages a luxe feel. Ages 6–10. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/15/2021 | Details & Permalink

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