Blog Post, Book Recommendation, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: November 9th, 2018

November 9, 2018

#FridayFive: November 9th, 2018

We’re back with another list of five recent releases worth your child’s (and your) time! This week ranges from biographies to graphic novels and nonfiction. If you missed any of the previous weeks’ lists, including graphic novel biographies of women and graphic memoirs by women, go to our blog archives for more recommendations by Mia and her staff.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. Eric Velasquez

If your child reads just one picture book biography this year, let it be this one. Arturo Schomburg isn’t a household name, but after finishing this extraordinary title, we think perhaps it should be. An Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile and incredible self-taught scholar, Schomburg personally assembled what is now considered the world’s foremost collection of black excellence in the forms of books, art, music, and ephemera, aiming to debunk claims of racial inferiority. His superb life’s work is housed today in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. Why is this book important? It will make kids think about how history is made, shaped, and reshaped, encouraging them to question the narratives they encounter in school, in the media they consume, and elsewhere, and to think critically.


Lorena Alvarez

Spooky, gorgeous, and awash in atmosphere, this graphic short story may surprise you given the undeniable, Studio Ghibli-style cuteness of its protagonist and her artwork. Bright, inquisitive Sandy attends a strict Catholic school, where hypercritical nuns’ eyes constantly scan students to find fault, but all she wants to do is draw. Her mother is distracted and her dreams are filled with spectacular images that she puts down on paper upon waking. When a mysteries new classmate named Morfie takes an interest in Sandy and her talents, is something more sinister afoot? Best for older readers given the frightening qualities of the story.

Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction

Nancy F. Castaldo

When an animal is removed from the Endangered Species list, how exactly has that been accomplished? Castaldo provides detailed answers for kids who love animals and want to protect them, giving case studies of more than ten different species and speaking with the scientists committed to saving them. Side panels in the shape of spiral notebook pages are used to direct kids who’d like to help more to resources, give special anecdotes, and make other worthwhile side meanderings.

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything

Ian Lendler, ill. Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb

Cosmology and evolutionary biology are not exactly kid’s stuff, yet Lendler and his collaborators have managed to make both comprehensible to young elementary aged children without grossly oversimplifying the science. With a handy timeline at the back, lively and appealing earth-toned illustrations, and commendably clear language, readers can get a feel for how the planet came to be and how human beings came to be as well. A kind of kid’s primer before A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, this one’s a well-crafted winner that curious minds will love.

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World

Vashti Harrison

A follow-up to Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, Harrison’s focus here has shifted to women of all races and nations, with 40 profiles of scientists, artists, and more. Few names will already ring a bell with readers (Marie Curie and Frida Kahlo might), but that’s one of the best things about the book. With a glossary of key terms, this makes an excellent gateway book to more detailed biographies, although the uniformity of Harrison’s illustrative style is more of a hindrance than a help – why should such accomplished, bold women keep their gaze downcast? Still, this is a minor gripe with an inspiring volume.

Book Recommendation, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: November 2nd, 2018

November 2, 2018

#FridayFive: November 2nd, 2018

We’re back with another list of five recent releases worth your child’s (and your) time! If you missed the previous weeks’ lists, including graphic novel biographies of women and graphic memoirs by women, go to our blog archives for more recommendations by Mia and her staff.

I am Human
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy

Susan Verde, ill. Peter H. Reynolds

From the team behind I Am Yoga and I Am Peace, this celebration of compassion and universal experiences is just what is needed right now. All of us, at the end of the day, are human beings, which means, like the boy who narrates the book, we are “not perfect.” “I can hurt others with my words, my actions, and even my silence,” he reflects, going on to consider ways he can remedy it when he goes off-course. We can think of no message more necessary today.

Violette Around the World: 1. My Head in the Clouds

Teresa Radice, ill. Stefano Turconi

Originally published in Italy, this graphic novel romp stars Violette Vermeer, an adventurous, inquisitive 12-year-old and self-styled “citizen of the world” who makes the acquaintance of famed artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec in Paris. Her father is an entomologist/insect trainer and her mother a human cannonball with the multilingual, ebullient Cirque de la Lune (“Circus of the Moon”), where Violette is a trapeze artist. With candy-colored, cartoonish illustrations and plenty of whimsy, this is a promising start to the series.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy

Tony Medina (ill. by 13 artists)

This gorgeous ode is lyrical, dignified, and affecting, with poems ranging from joyous to wrenching (“Every breath I take is taxed/The kind of life where/I’ll have to take out a loan/To pay back them other loans”). In popular culture, black boys are so often reduced to stereotypes, and it’s wonderful to see Medina giving a wide swath of experiences and perspectives to counteract those harmful images. The wildly different thirteen black artists he recruited to illustrate his poems only serve to broaden his canvas further, and biographies of each are included at the book’s end.

Akissi: Tales of Mischief

Marguerite Abouet, ill. Mathieu Sapin

Acclaimed Côte d’Ivoire author Abouet has created an indelible character is Akissi, a little girl so mischievous and funny she could easily be taken for a mythical Trickster. This is a marvelous slice of Abouet’s Ivory Coast childhood, with plenty of humor, delightfully realistic family interactions, and gross-out situations (Akissi’s pet monkey, Boubou, is recruited to eat lice off her head at one point, for instance, and another episode has Akissi contracting worms) that give it an irresistible liveliness.

Space Cat

Ruthven Todd, ill. Paul Galdone

Technically not a new release (it was first published in 1952) but newly re-issued, this classic tale of a cat-stronaut will delight elementary-aged readers despite its vintage. After stowing away on a plane, intrepid and adorable kitten Flyball makes his way to the moon itself, where he explores in a custom-made space suit, makes up silly songs, and reacts to his new surroundings in a charmingly feline way. The first of four books about Flyball, this is a great read-aloud for parents and children to share together.

Book Recommendation, Listicles, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: 5 Fabulous Graphic Memoirs by Women All Kids Should Know

October 17, 2018

#FridayFive: 5 Graphic Memoirs by Women All Kids Should Know

by Diana Black

Graphic novels for kids are rightly lauded as some of the most engaging books on the market, and finally seem to be receiving the same critical and educational acclaim as their more traditional counterparts. Consequently, many public and school libraries now have sections dedicated to graphic novels, both fictional and nonfictional, for kids to explore. I’m not surprised – in fact, some of my all-time favorite books for adults belong to the genre of graphic novel, specifically graphic memoir: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Emil Feris’ My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis series among them. But this subgenre is also a powerful, deeply important narrative form for kids.

Why is graphic memoir an important kids’ genre? As you may know, one of Mia Learning’s top goals is to empower girls and gender non-binary kids. Not coincidentally, we also make it our mission to connect kids with books they might not already know exist – books off the proverbial beaten path that they might find extremely interesting. Previously, we shared a list of biographies chronicling the lives of women artists. As then, we want to emphasize that these recommendations are not just “for girls” – part of toppling patriarchy and promoting equity is teaching our boys to see girls and women as people. Enjoying literature with fully human, complex girls and women at the center of stories is one key way of accomplishing that. To that end, we want to list a sampling of the best graphic memoirs about and by real women, who can inspire the young people who are reading about them.

Little White Duck CoverLittle White Duck: A Childhood in China

Na Liu, Ill. Andrés Vera Martínez

Na Liu’s candid account of her upbringing in Mao-era China (1976-1980, specifically) remembers joyous holidays spent with family and other happy times, but also offers unflinching, nuanced recollections them that will prompt readers to reflect on their own points of privilege, and to contemplate hunger and poverty with deepened compassion. Martínez’s artwork is beautiful, with largely earth toned hues, and has a surprising amount of humor, providing welcome relief from the overall somber tone. The glossary and translations of signs in Chinese at the end of the book, as well as Liu’s brief afterword, only enhance what is already a memorable and big-hearted memoir. This is a segment of history that most American schools spend little to no time on, which makes memoirs like this one all the more valuable.

El Deafo CoverEl Deafo

Cece Bell

Admittedly, this title is hardly off the beaten path – a Newberry Honor recipient and general critical and popular darling, it’s become a frequently assigned book in schools that teachers praise for its informative and compassionate content. Cece Bell’s account describes her rabbit avatar going to a new school with a conspicuous hearing aid strapped to her chest is funny, creatively told, and full of insights about what it really means to hear and to listen.

todanceTo Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel

Siena Cherson Siegel, Ill. Mark Siegel

This is a lovely, lyrical ode to the discipline, demands, and artistry of ballet: a pursuit that the author makes clear is not for the faint of heart. Would-be dancers and any kids interested in pursuing a career in the arts will be enchanted with Siegel’s account of her dance education. One of the things graphic memoirs can do so well is pay tribute to our quietest moments – Siegel as a young dancer, watching every minute she’s not onstage from the wings, is anyone who’s ever been so enthralled with their chosen art form that they live, eat, and breathe it.

Tomboy cover
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir

Liz Prince

Funny and achingly relatable, Tomboy concerns itself with gender expression and the aches and agonies of growing up feeling misunderstood, pigeonholed, and just plain uncomfortable. Unlike so many tomboy characters, Liz Prince comes to realize that holding everything feminine in contempt is just as intolerant as demanding that all girls dress or behave in a certain way. If Prince’s artwork is not as elegant as fellow graphic memoirists Lucy Knisley’s or Alison Bechdel’s, it doesn’t detract from the tale itself. Best for older readers, not because of inappropriate content, but because the vocabulary and concepts are sophisticated.

Darkroom cover
Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White

Lila Quintero Weaver

Racism can be a difficult and painful subject, whether we are old or young. This is the perfect graphic memoir to discuss with your child deliberately and at length. Lila Quintero Weaver’s gorgeous graphic memoir explores her 1961 childhood move from Argentina to rural Alabama, where Jim Crow law reigned and some of the most important civil rights moments occurred before her eyes. Her attempts to navigate this racist, deeply segregated (even when newly integrated) terrain give her a unique outsider’s perspective that produces some incredible insights. The artwork, too, is gorgeous and subtle. Weaver gave an excellent interview that you can read here as a follow-up to her book.

Let us know what you thought of these graphic memoirs, and next week, read up on five recommended graphic biographies on women!