Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Little Crooked Bookshelf

by Alyssa Hollingsworth

(This week's pick is from Cottager Melanie Roy whose greatest childhood fear was having to move away from all that was familiar to her.)

What it's all about...
Sami (age 12) and his grandfather (Baba) are Afghan refugees who have spent several years making their way through three countries and have now come to the United States. They are recovering from the devastation of losing their family in a bombing attack and quietly rebuilding their lives in a foreign place. When Baba's beloved rebab, an Afghan instrument that brings him much joy, is stolen, Sami feels responsible and vows to get it back. Sami finds it in a pawn shop but it costs $700 and he has no money. When a classmate shows interest in his keychain, Sami hatches a plan to make a series of trades to get the money for the rebab and bring back the spark in his Baba's eyes.

Why I love it...
The Eleventh Trade gave me a window into a refugee's experience and an opportunity to learn about Afghan culture.  I read this book months ago and yet I still find myself thinking about it. The deep love and strength of this grandfather and grandson burrowed inside my heart. 

Why will kids love it?
Readers will be able to relate to Sami's love of soccer, the friendships he makes, the love he feels for his grandfather and all of the emotions that go along with that love. 

Why will grown-ups love it?
I know grown-ups will be just as moved by this story as I was. I think it's timely to share a refugee experience and acknowledge the heartbreaking reasons people are leaving their countries for a safe place to rebuild their lives.  

Where to find/buy...

Or at a school or library near you!

About the Author
The Eleventh Trade was Alyssa Hollingsworth's debut novel which came out in 2018. Her second book, The Invisible Boy, comes out in the Fall of 2019. You can visit her at alyssahollingsworth.com and find her on Twitter @alyssa_holly. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Little Crooked Bookshelf

by Cory Leonardo

(This week’s pick is from Cottager Jamie Michalak, who has never owned a bird nor abandoned a hedgehog, but does have a good dog named Lucy.)  

What it’s all about …
Alastair the parrot dreams of escaping the pet shop and flying off with his beloved sister, Aggie, to a palm tree. But when Aggie is purchased by 12-year-old Fritz and Alastair is adopted by elderly dance-enthusiast Bertie Plopky, Alastair must hatch a plan. He soon finds he's forced to choose between following his dream life and letting go.

Why I love it …
This novel dug its claws into me from page one and would not let go. When Alastair eats paper, he can taste the words. He becomes a fan of poetry and soon writes his own witty versions of famous works. Alastair is grumpy, eloquent, and sensitive -- and I found myself rooting for his happiness. Cory Leonardo's debut novel is a stunner.

Favorite lines ...
And if a little time and warmth and light can turn an ugly, old pit into a tree, who's to say a little time can't do the same for you? For me? I know what I'm betting on.
I'm betting on trees. 
Sometimes the palm tree's the wrong ingredient for your pie.

Why will kids love it?
A funny and moving story starring a cast of quirky animals, a 12-year-old aspiring doctor, and an elderly, hip-hop dancing pie baker -- what's not to love? Perfect for fans of The One and Only Ivan and Kate DiCamillo's books.

Where to find/buy …

Or at a school or library near you!

About the Author
Cory Leonardo grew up believing she'd replace Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune, but when that didn't pan out, she decided she'd turn letters and phrases in a different way (but minus the glittery dresses, sadly). A born-and-bred upstate New Yorker, she currently lives in the Syracuse area with her husband and three plucky children. This is her first novel.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Literary Lunch: MAGIC RAMEN

Today we have a special visitor . . . our old friend, Nina Holstead from Mamabelly's Lunches with Love, is back! And she's serving a magical lunch. 

Have you ever wondered who invented ramen? Andrea Wang tells the story of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of ramen, in her beautiful new book MAGIC RAMEN.  

Kana Urbanowicz's mouth-watering pictures will inspire you to make your very own bowl of ramen.

Mr. Ando worked day in and day out to create quick, convenient, and tasty noodle soup for all the people he saw standing in long lines after WWII to get food. He believed that peace follows from a full stomach and went to work to create what we all know as instant ramen. He eventually went on to invent Cup Noodles and his ramen even went into space.

Read more about Momofuku Ando and his journey in MAGIC RAMEN.

Nina from Mamabelly.com packed a lunch full of noodles and love:
  • two banana bread "chicken drumsticks"
  • nutritious strawberries and blueberries 
  • happy cheese sandwich people looking forward to ramen
  • a carrot, celery, and mushroom salad with Mr. Ando's backyard shack
  • a bowl of healthy ramen with chicken, carrots, cheese hearts, spinach, and an egg  

Friday, March 8, 2019

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY - Justice Sonia Sotomayor

It's International Women's Day and I am currently on a train heading down to New York to speak at the Diverse Voices in Latinx Children's Literature Conference. (<---Livestream at this link.)

One such voice is that of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In her children's book, Turning Pages, illustrated by Lulu Delacre, Justice Sotomayor shares her life story, what inspired her, and the power of the written word.

Strong influential Latinas like Justice Sotomayor are my north stars — my light when the world seems dark and the challenges insurmountable.

On International Women's Day, I encourage you to celebrate by reading a book, or an article, or watching a documentary, about an important woman in history. Or simply have a conversation with a woman you admire.

Thank her. Think about what you can learn from her. And march forward into your day, week, year, life... with her wisdom and courage as the air under your wings.

Be brave and soar — like Sonia.


Need some reading suggestions? Check out this awesome list on A Mighty Girl! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Woo-hoo! March is Women's History Month! I'll be focusing my picks on books by women — about women. (This is Anika, btw, and yay... it's great to be back in the Cottage!) 

Out of This World: The Surreal Art of Leonora Carrington
by Michelle Markel
illustrated by Amanda Hall

Anika, age 6, with 'Girl Without Arms' 
This week’s pick is from Cottager Anika Aldamuy Denise, who owns an original painting by Emily Lisker, an artist whose style combines folk art and surrealism. And who coincidentally illustrated another of Michelle Markel's books!

What it’s all about …
Out of This World is the fascinating and stunningly illustrated story of Leonora Carrington, a girl who made art out of her imagination and created some of the most enigmatic and startling works of the last eighty years.

Why I love it …
Leonora's story was unknown to me until I read Michelle Markel's and Amanda's Hall's gorgeous picture book biography. Making art is a leap of faith. Making art in the early 20th century when you're an Englishwoman of genteel birth and scrapping it all to join a group of all-male surrealists in France? Inspiring and impressive!

Favorite illustration …

From Out of This World by Michelle Markel (HarperCollins 2019) (c) 2019 Amanda Hall

Favorite lines ...

The stories took Leonora to worlds that shimmered beyond this one, and when the spirits
flew, and the gods stirred their cauldrons, and the fairies shifted shapes, something
flew and stirred and shifted inside of her.

Why will kids love it?
It's a story of passion and defiance, of belief in magic and the magical gifts we carry within us. This book will remind kids not to accept limitations set upon them by others.

After you read the book ...
Look at the the work of surrealist artists like Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dali, and Frida Kahlo. Make a surrealist drawing or painting.

Where to find/buy …

Indie Booksellers


Barnes & Noble

Or at a school or library near you!

About the Author
Michelle Markel loves writing narrative nonfiction. She’s the author of Brave Girl, which won the Bank Street Flora Stieglitz Straus Award and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Younger Children, and was also chosen as an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book. Her recent titles are Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead (on the Amelia Bloomer Project List of feminist literature) and Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books. She lives in Woodland Hills, California. You can visit her online at www.michellemarkel.com.

About the Illustrator
Amanda Hall is an international-award-winning British illustrator, particularly renowned for her many wonderfully decorative and colorful children’s picture book and educational illustrations. Out of This World is her second picture book about the life and work of a significant figure from art history. The first—also written by Michelle Markel—is The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau. Amanda exhibits her original illustrations at the Chris Beetles Gallery in St James’s, London. She can be found online at www.amandahall-illustration.com.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Little Crooked Bookshelf

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
by Dan Gemeinhart

(This week's pick is from Cottager Melanie Roy, who loves the idea of converting a school bus into a rolling home.)

What it’s all about …
Coyote and Rodeo are carefree, cool travelers whose home is a bus. When Coyote meets a perfect kitten whose “frantic heartbeats” make Coyote’s heart get “a little bit bigger with each beat,” she makes the decision to sneak that kitten onto the bus. It is the beginning of Coyote’s journey to recognize the longings of her own heart. Along the way, Coyote and Rodeo will encounter many different characters who they will bring into their fold.

Why I love it …
First of all, I am partial to a book written by a former library teacher. And I’ve loved everything Dan Gemeinhart has published. But this one…. this one has my heart. It is full of characters you’ll fall in love with, sadness and hope -- just like life. I especially loved the references to kid lit titles throughout. And finally, a majority of books have characters with dogs as pets. I love that this book celebrates the awesomeness of the cat.

Why will kids love it?
Kids will love this book because it’s fun to imagine converting a school bus into a home. It’s also filled with tough topics which kids reach for instead of shying away from. They will enjoy meeting the new characters along the journey and will feel satisfaction in the way that they all look out for one another.

Why will grown-ups love it?
Grown-ups will love this book because they are all too familiar with love, loss, hope, and the fierceness in which we love our families.

Where to find/buy …

Or at a school or library near you!

About the Author
Dan Gemeinhart was an elementary library teacher before becoming a full time author. He has written The Honest Truth, Some Kind of Courage, Scar Island, and Good Dog. He lives with his family in Washington State. You can find him at dangemeinhart.com and on Twitter at @DanGemeinhart and Instagram at @dangemeinhart.

Friday, February 22, 2019

THE LOVE LETTER sneak peek!!!

ICYMI, librarian extraordinaire Margie Myers-Culver recently revealed the cover of THE LOVE LETTER (HarperCollins, October 2019) by our very own Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins!

Check out the full interview on Margie's booktastic blog Librarian's Quest!