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School of Awake

Kidada Jones, illus. by Koa Jones. New World Library, $18.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-60868-458-8

Jones, the older sister of actor Rashida Jones (who contributes a foreword), offers a guide to living freely and mindfully, presented as a course of study at the “School of Awake.” Using science as a loose springboard (“Breaking it down to a micro level, the main ingredient everything in the known universe shares is carbon”), Jones suggests that individuals are tied to a greater cosmic universe. Exercises, projects, and recipes guide readers to engage with what Jones refers to as “HeartStars” (intuitive internal guides) through mindfulness, spending time in nature, and cultivating a healthy body and mind. The accompanying artwork, featuring anthropomorphic hearts and stars, splashed with pink and blue, feels overly juvenile, and Jones’s philosophy can come across as overreaching and underdeveloped, but readers may still take away some empowering ideas. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Project You: More Than 50 Ways to Calm Down, De-stress, and Feel Great

Aubre Andrus, with Karen Bluth, illus. by Veronica Collignon. Switch, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-63079-091-2

Andrus offers more than 50 ideas for handling stress and enhancing one’s well being. Suggestions include mindfulness exercises and yoga, as well as practical tasks that aim to revitalize the mind and body, such as volunteering, having a cup of tea, spending time with animals, and listening to music. Collignon provides breezy watercolor images of (mostly) girls taking part in the activities, intermixed with photographs of girls practicing yoga poses, writing in journals, and more. Many of the ideas are intuitively obvious (“listen to happy music”); guided sections on meditation and visualization may prove more enlightening. And for readers who “need more help than this book can offer,” Audrus includes a list of mental health and other resources. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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This Book Is About You: Discover, Decode, and Express Who You Truly Are

Rachel Kempster Barry, Joannah Ginsburg, and Allison Singer. DK, $15.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-4654-5657-1

This interactive handbook offers a forum for teens to explore what makes them tick as individuals. The book’s three chapters focus on readers’ past, present, and future selves, featuring quizzes, questionnaires, and fill-in-the-blank exercises. One spread, labeled “What Do You Believe?,” helps readers define their values by rating the degree to which they agree with 10 statements, such as, “I follow religious teachings and customs” and “Protecting the environment is the most important thing.” Future goals, looking back at how one has changed, habits, and other topics are presented in boldly designed spreads that make a strong visual impact. Readers overwhelmed by the noisy world will likely welcome the chance to reflect on where they have been and where they are going. Ages 13–up. (July)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Superhero Therapy: Mindfulness Skills to Help Teens and Young Adults Deal with Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma

Janina Scarlet, illus. by Wellinton Alves. Instant Help, $17.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-68403-033-0

Psychologist Scarlet, a childhood survivor of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, draws on the techniques of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in this innovative approach to helping readers with emotional and psychological difficulties. Explaining how she found solace and inspiration through superhero movies and comics as a child, Scarlet introduces five original characters who are beset by anxiety, depression, anger, and shame, represented as a variety of monsters; both the heroes and the villains they face are brought to life in full-color panels drawn by comics artist Alves. At the Superhero Training Academy, Scarlet teaches the besieged heroes mindfulness techniques, along with readers. Watching these superheroes openly challenge their fears and wounding self-conceptions should prove encouraging to readers who know that all heroes have their weaknesses. Ages 13–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Can Your Smartphone Change the World?

Erinne Paisley. Orca, $14.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-4598-1303-8

In the first book in the PopActivism series, first-time author Paisley highlights the power of the internet as a tool for activism. In 2015, when Paisley was a high school senior in British Columbia, she created her prom dress from old homework assignments, donating the money she would have spent on one to the Malala Fund; her story went viral. Over eight chapters dotted with photos and inspirational quotes, Paisley highlights activists making the most of digital tools and celebrity, including rapper Sofia Ashraf, who uses her music to speak out against pollution; vlogger Zoella, who raises mental health awareness; and Miley Cyrus, who has promoted a variety of causes. Striking a casual but persuasive tone, Paisley demonstrates that fighting for one’s beliefs can be fun, creative, and effective—especially when social media is involved. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Dig Dig Digging ABC

Margaret Mayo, illus. by Alex Ayliffe. Holt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-62779-516-6

Originally published in the U.K. in 2015, this noisy vehicular alphabet book takes readers down roads, over and under the waves, and into the skies and beyond. As she introduces bulldozers, express trains, icebreaker ships, and more, Mayo maintains a sturdy beat, complete with plenty of sound effects, that itself creates a sense of forward motion and momentum: for the ever-tricky X, “Extra-big-wheeeled monster truck/ grrhumm, grrhumm, grrhumming./ Fast racing, high jumping, and—/ wham!—crazy wheel-standing.” Ayliffe’s crisp, brightly colored collage-style illustrations match the text’s energy, surveying the vehicles from a variety of perspectives and featuring a cast of toylike farmers, cyclists, construction workers, and other professionals and children, including a boy riding his scooter through a park and a windsurfer “swerve, swerve, swerving” on her board. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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ABCs from Space: A Discovered Alphabet

Adam Voiland. S&S/Wiseman, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-9428-1

This remarkable bird’s-eye (okay, satellite’s-eye) view of the planet peers down at dramatic overhead images of lakes, clouds, rivers, fjords, and other phenomena, finding the letters of the alphabet hidden within them. Science writer Voiland smartly keeps the book wordless, allowing the satellite images to speak for themselves, but several closing pages let readers know exactly what they are looking at: the widening Congo River forms a Q around Bamu Island, cracks in Arctic sea ice create a spindly W, and a zigzagging band of snow in the U.S. closes out the book with a Z. The dramatic coloring of many of the images owes to false-color photography, explained in one of two FAQs (the other delves into geological science). In more ways than one, it’s a book that lets readers see Earth—and the alphabet—in a new light. Ages 4–8. Agent: Farley Chase, Chase Literary. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Pickwicks’ Picnic: A Counting Adventure

Carol Brendler, illus. by Renée Kurilla. Clarion, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-544-83958-8

Dog lovers and vehicle-obsessed readers will all get a kick out of this counting book, which follows the Pickwicks, a family of fluffy white dogs, as they attempt to visit the shore. But they aren’t the only ones on the road (“4 family vans chug by the Pickwick pickup, heading for the box-girder bridge; 5 flashy bikes come around the Pickwick pickup, heading for the box-girder bridge”), and when everyone finally gets to that all-important bridge, it’s closed for repairs, leading to “an unplanned Pickwick picnic by the box-girder bridge!” Through playful repetition and some very expressive vocabulary, Brendler turns traffic-clogged roads and construction delays into an adventure, and Kurilla’s airy cartoons magnify the sense of fun. Party at the box-girder bridge! Ages 4–7. Author’s agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Jennifer Rofé, Andrea Brown Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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My First Book of Vietnamese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Vietnamese Language and Culture

Tran Thi Minh Phuoc, illus. by Nguyen Thi Hop and Nguyen Dong. Tuttle, $10.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8048-4907-4

Readers gain a useful introduction to the Vietnamese language, alphabet, and culture in this companion to similar books on Indonesian, Chinese, Korean, and other Asian languages. An opening note details the differences between the Vietnamese and English alphabets, as well as how diacritical marks affect the pronunciation of vowels. Although the Vietnamese alphabet has 29 letters and doesn’t include f, j, w, and z, Tran uses the familiar 26 English letters as she moves through the alphabet; the rhythms of the verse can be somewhat rocky (“I is for Ít./ Filled with coconut and mung bean/ is a rice flour ball/ in a banana leaf so green”), and the Nguyens’ scenes of Vietnamese life are somewhat stiff and posed. But supplemental cultural details, included in brief asides, add valuable context to a book with few competitors on bookstore shelves. Ages 3–8. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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I Spy 123: Totally Crazy Numbers

Ulrike Sauerhöfer, illus. by Manuela Ancutici. Firefly, $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-77085-999-9

In a striking seek-and-find book, Ancutici meticulously organizes toys, currency, puppets, sweets, and more into the shapes of numbers one through 20 as Sauerhöfer’s accompanying text invites readers to find specific objects hidden within each image. The photographed numerals consist of items organized by color or theme: “3” is made up entirely of marbles and small rubber balls, and an assortment of tiny green toys create a “4” on the facing page. Numerous name-brand objects are tucked into the spreads (Disney and Pokémon characters, Lego figurines, etc.) and occasionally mentioned in the text (“Superman completes your search!”). Though the text can be flat and/or awkward (“Two crows are still hidden here, you’ll find them, do not worry”), Ancutici’s intricately assembled images captivate. Available simultaneously: I Spy ABC. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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