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My Hands Tell a Story

Kelly Starling Lyons, illus. by Tonya Engel. Reycraft, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4788-7061-6

Hands and the stories they tell become the means through which a Black child bonds with a beloved grandmother in this expressive, painterly picture book. While showing Zoe how to bake cinnamon bread like her mother taught her (“Ingredients are only part of it. You’ve got to get the rhythm”), Zoe’s grandma describes some of what her hands have seen and done—from dancing onstage to growing a vegetable garden early in her marriage—prompting Zoe to reflect on the future. “I look at my hands, really look at them, for the first time./ I can see memories in every line.// Clapping games with friends./ Drawing my dreams./ Building and baking,” Zoe describes. When the bread is finished, the pair high five, and Grandma remarks upon the physical similarity between their hands, while also musing about the different life experiences Zoe is sure to have. With big brushstrokes, Engel’s thickly textured paintings lend a timeless feel to Lyons’s heartwarming portrait of grandparent-child love. Ages 5–10. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Goldie’s Guide to Grandchilding

Clint McElroy, illus. by Eliza Kinkz. First Second, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-24932-6

“So you’ve decided to be a grandchild,” starts this how-to from a pink-skinned, blond-haired child who’s prepping classmates for Grandparents Day. Using Goldie’s own grandfather as a case in point, the child expertly notes that grandparents are flatulent, forgetful car-parkers, and are often flummoxed by technology. But while McElroy’s protagonist may express amazement at some grandparental traits (“they are OBSESSED with going to the potty!”), equally enthusiastic observations appreciate that Grandpa dances the funky chicken and enlists Goldie as a co-conspirator in eating “all the things your parents tell them are bad for them.” Kinkz, making her picture book debut, captures Goldie’s chatty candor with vignettes that combine scrawly ink lines with loopy crayon textures. When Goldie and her grandfather regard a parentally forbidden, multistory ice cream dessert, obtained with one of Grandpa’s beloved coupons, their eyes light up with identical hearts of love—the very definition of soul mates. Ages 5–8. (May)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Hundred Years of Happiness

Thanhhà La∙i, illus. by Nguyên Quang and Kim Liên. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-302692-6

When An’s Vietnamese grandmother starts to lose her memory, and sometimes doesn’t recognize her grandchild, La∙i centers the family’s efforts to rekindle Bà’s memories in this moving story. To do so, they gather gâ´c fruit—the key ingredient in xôi gâ´c, a sticky rice dish that was served at Bà’s wedding to Ông, where their relatives wished them “hundred years of happiness.” Accompanied by Quang and Liên’s luminous digital scenes, the gentle lines interweave descriptions of Ông and Bà’s life in Vietnam with tender moments of the family navigating Bà’s apparent dementia. When the xôi gâ´c temporarily has the desired effect on Bà’s memories, La∙i expressively relies on metaphor to communicate the family’s joy: “An feels as if a firecracker might flare out her mouth and explode.” Balancing sorrow and hope, the gentle storytelling on display in this book results in a truly sweet conclusion. An author’s note and xôi gâ´c recipe concludes. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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A Gift for Nana

Lane Smith. Random House Studio, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-43033-0

A rabbit quests to give his Nana a gift, even though it’s not her birthday, nor even “a major hare holiday,” in this wandering picture book. When a crow tells him that the perfect gift isn’t far away, round-headed Rabbit sets off, encountering beings both familiar and less so. (“Does your Nana need a stick?” offers a many-eyed, goblin-like Stickler.) Conveyed in a leisurely pace punctuated by flashes of humor (a big fish in a lake offers some water, adding, “I have saved some in a cup”), the sequences allow Rabbit to reflect on Nana’s special qualities, while orange and magenta splashes and crisp, varied typography enliven a quiet, earth-toned palette. Though Nana doesn’t appear until the very end, the story’s just as much about her as it is about Rabbit, and when he hands over his gift, the intimacy they share makes Rabbit’s devotion easy to understand.Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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A Grand Day

Jean Reidy, illus. by Samantha Cotterill. S&S/Wiseman, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9976-8

“A million kisses!/ Hugs! Hooray!/ Our grand day/ begins this way.” Sidewalk chalk art, baking, reading, and dress-up—there’s no limit to the fun that can be had with grandparents, suggest Reidy’s declarative couplets and Cotterill’s distinctive hand-built, three-dimensional sets captured in brightly lit photographs. Featuring multiple families of varying skin tones, the dollhouse-like scenes burst with an animated energy, loosely organized to map the contour of an active day out, from morning greetings to bedtime stories. The theme of connection powers both text and image as depicted in a candid family shot of children, including one using a wheelchair, gleefully roasting marshmallows with their grandparents: “Eyes so bright and smiles aglow./ Laughs like someone else we know./ Family ties so strong and true.// Part of me/ is part of you.” While Reidy’s chipper rhymes provide a page-turning pace, it’s Cotterill’s crafty visuals that make this book stand out. Ages 4–8. (July)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Abuelita and Me

Leonarda Carranza, illus. by Rafael Mayani. Annick, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-77321-610-2

A bus driver’s prejudice forces a child to grapple with difficult emotions in this affecting story. Employing first-person narration, a child describes a separation between “inside” as a space where “we can be silly,” and “outside” as a locale where “sometimes, people are not nice to Abuelita.” On a trip to the store for sopa ingredients, the pair, portrayed with tan skin, first face a white-cued grocer’s impatience, and then the cruelty of a pink-skinned bus driver who thinks they are trying to ride for free. After the incident, the child, sad and angry, refuses to go out again, but Abuelita’s patient support (“What happened is not our fault. We are not the ones that need to hide”) helps them return out of doors. A subtle resolution underlines pride in a personal act in lieu of real equity won, but the incident itself should prompt discussion of systemic racism and its manifold effects. In rust and beige hues, Mayani’s dramatic graphics partner readily with the book’s lines. Ages 4–7. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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See You Someday Soon

Pat Zietlow Miller, illus. by Suzy Lee. Roaring Brook, $19.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-250-22110-0

A child’s creative musings about ways to stay connected with a long-distance grandparent propel this contemporary narrative, which cleverly uses die-cuts to provide a peek-a-boo effect. “Maybe I’ll mail myself to you,” the child proposes, peering through an envelope’s opening from the next page, before humorously continuing to riff: “I’d have to flatten myself like a pancake. Or twist up like a pretzel.” Working mostly with pencil, crayon, and watercolor, Lee’s stylish drawings add humor and whimsy, showing, for example, the black-haired outlines of child and grandparent—whose skin tones change with the shifting bold-colored backgrounds—trying to video-chat without quite fully centering themselves on the computer screen. The repeated refrain “see you someday soon” links the various modes of communication on display until the duo turn “soon” into something even sooner in this playful spin on modern grandparent-child relationships. Ages 3–6. (June)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Can Sophie Change the World?

Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, illus. by Aura Lewis. Chronicle, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4521-8156-1

When Sophie asks Grandpop what he wants for his birthday, he gives her a tall order: for the week leading up to his birthday, he asks Sophie to change the world via kind deeds, or mitzvahs. Dubious about the impact she can make, she approaches the week with a new level of attentiveness and intentionality, and Lewis’s delicate mixed-media vignettes show Sophie modeling consideration and thoughtfulness in her day-to-day. Though Sophie continues to believe that “I didn’t change the world,” Grandpop begs to differ; as Wallace writes, Sophie has helped make it a “more giving, sharing, blooming, caring place,” and the pink-skinned, Jewish-cued family celebrates by crafting a flower-like record of her good deeds. Some readers may wish for a clearer explanation of mitzvah, including connection to the Jewish tradition, but the story effectively shows how every kind act creates its own momentum of good. Ages 3–5. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Grandma and Me

Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Ashleigh Corrin. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $7.99 (24p) ISBN 978-1-72824-243-9

Grandmas of myriad abilities, body types, and brown skin tones laugh, play (pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo), and more throughout this cheerful board book tribute. Weatherford’s breezy, activity-oriented rhymes (“She understands/ my baby talk// and takes me on/ my morning walk”) are accompanied by Corrin’s bright, crayon- and stipple-textured illustrations, which feature grandmothers and babies interacting. Snuggles and smiles abound, as in one scene of a grandma who uses a wheelchair grinning as the child on her lap coos. In another spread, a toddler assists in the kitchen (“She bakes me cake// and tater pie// ’cause I’m the apple/ of her eye.”). A joy-filled celebration of grandparents for babies and toddlers. Ages up to 3. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Twin Cities

Jose Pimienta. Random House Graphic, $20.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-18062-4

Pimienta’s (Suncatcher) profound graphic novel follows Mexican twins Teresa and Fer’s evolving relationship while attending different schools in separate cities, divided by the U.S.-Mexico border. Luis Fernando and Luisa Teresa Sosa, known collectively as the Lu-Lus, have always been inseparable. That is, until Teresa—seeking to broaden her horizons and differentiate herself from her brother—decides to commute to middle school across the border in Calexico, Calif. Fer, who stays in their Mexicali, Mexico, hometown, feels lost without her until he befriends weed-selling older kid Alex, who despises American hegemony. Brilliantly alternating panels parallel the twins’ vastly different school experiences and home lives. Their opposing paths come to a head after a narrowly avoided crisis at a border checkpoint causes a blowout argument between the siblings. Through clear and honest communication, Teresa and Fer embrace their commonalities and lean on each other for support. Living on both sides is relatively feasible in this ostensibly 1990s set narrative, but the story foreshadows contemporary society’s increased tensions. Pimienta uses empathetic dialogue to thoughtfully explore the twins’ conflicting relationships with their parents and their dramatically shifting siblinghood. Brightly colored, intricately detailed panoramas and montages convey one family’s experience living in a vivacious border community that is richer for its multitude of influences. An afterword about the author’s experience growing up on both sides of the border concludes. Ages 8–12. Agent: Elizabeth Bennett, Transatlantic Literary. (July)

Reviewed on 05/27/2022 | Details & Permalink

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