Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala

Welcome to the new site! Today I’ve got a charming tale about the sharing of culture between a grandparent and grandchild. I wish this book had been around when I was a child growing up in rural Pennsylvania. While I didn’t hide my culture, I wasn’t always forthcoming in school either. A detail that warms my heart is that I am Gujarati, same as the family in this book, and my Ba lived with us for a while when I was a kid too. I am so grateful for the diversification of children’s books in the United States.

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Title: Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala
Author/Illustrator: Meenal Patel
Publisher: Beaver’s Pond Press, 2019
Book Type: Multicultural, Family
Ages: 4-8

Excerpt:
Babi Ba tells her India is the smell of roasted cumin and the masala at the spice market that tickles your nose.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Priya lives in the United States and her family is from India. She feels the magic of the place her family comes from through her Babi Ba’s colorful descriptions of India–from the warm smell of spices to the swish-swish sound of a rustling sari. Together, Priya and Babi Ba make their heritage live on through the traditions that they infuse into their everyday lives.

Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala is a celebration of the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren, the threads that connect each of us to our heritage, and the power of sharing our traditions with others.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A beautiful, poignant story for any child that straddles two cultures or knows of a child that does.

Priya lives in a multi-generational home in the United States. She enjoys making rotli with her Ba everyday after school. During this special bonding time of grandmother and granddaughter, Ba tells Priya stories of India. From the “roasted cumin and the masala … that tickles your nose” to the “taste of a steaming cup of cha” and “marigolds strung up on the storefronts and the doorways of homes.” After hearing these wonderful memories, Priya asks her Ba if she misses India. This is the where the beauty shines through of the story and helps to differentiate itself from the many other immigrant Indian stories; her Ba explains that India is here in their home, from the marigolds in their garden to the smell of roasted cumin coming from the kitchen. It is the carrying of culture within you. When winter comes and there is snow on the garden instead of marigolds, Priya worries Ba will miss India more. So she shares her Indian stories with her classmates and recruits them to help her with a project to cheer-up Ba. The story ends on a lovely note about how sharing your culture is the best way to carry it with you.

There is so much to treasure in this book from the concern Priya shows for her Ba, to the theme of carrying culture in your heart, to the Gujarati vocabulary, and the easy-to-read text. Notice how Ms. Patel seamlessly shifts from the warm oranges-pinks for the India scenes to the cool blue-greens for the American ones. Beautifully done.

Some other special extras in this book are the colorful endpapers, a poem at the beginning and the end of the book each representing a different home, and backmatter containing additional information on the cultural significance of marigolds, glossary with art, and an author’s note.

Find Priya Dreams of Marigold & Masala at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1643439553
ISBN-13: 978-1643439556

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

South Asian Kidlit 2019 – Summer

Thanks so much for stopping by for another South Asian Kidlit round-up! So many books! Today’s post covers Picture Books thru Young Adult that have a release date between the end of April through early August. If you would like to check-out past round-ups click on this link which will take you to my past South Asian Kidlit posts.

The books listed below are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author, contains a South Asian Main Character, or involves South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.


Title: I Will Be Fierce
Author: Bea Song
Illustrator: Nidhi Chanani
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
ISBN: 978-1250295088
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis: 
I Will Be Fierce is a powerful picture book about courage, confidence, kindness, and finding the extraordinary in everyday moments.

Today, I will be fierce!
It’s a brand new day, and a young girl decides to take on the world like a brave explorer heading off on an epic fairytale quest. From home to school and back again, our hero conquers the Mountain of Knowledge (the library), forges new bridges (friendships), and leads the victorious charge home on her steed (the school bus).


Title: Gandhi (Little People, Big Dreams)
Author: Isabel Sanchez Vegara
Illustrator: Albert Arrayas
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
ISBN: 978-1786037879
Category-Genre: Picture Book – Non-Fiction Biography
Synopsis:
New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the life of Mohandas Gandhi, the father of India, in this true story of his life. As a young teenager in India, Gandhi led a rebellious life and went against his parents’ values. But as a young man, he started to form beliefs of his own that harked back to the Hindu principles of his childhood. Gandhi began to dream of unity for all peoples and religions. Inspired by this idea, he led peaceful protests to free India from British rule and unite the country—ending violence and unfair treatment. His bravery and free-thinking made him one of the most iconic people of peace in the world, known as ‘Mahatma’ meaning ‘great soul’.


Title: Bilal Cooks Dal
Author: Aisha Saeed
Illustrator: Anoosha Syed
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534418103
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis:
Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his dad make his favorite food of all-time: daal! The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. Bilal wants to introduce his friends to daal. They’ve never tried it! As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. And as time passes, Bilal begins to wonder: Will his friends like it as much as he does?


Title: Leila in Saffron
Author: Rukhsanna Guidroz
Illustrator:  Dinara Mirtalipova
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534425644
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis:
A colorful journey of self-discovery and identity, this sweet, vibrant picture book follows young Leila as she visits her grandmother’s house for their weekly family dinner, and finds parts of herself and her heritage in the family, friends, and art around her.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I like being me.

When Leila looks in the mirror, she doesn’t know if she likes what she sees. But when her grandmother tells her the saffron beads on her scarf suit her, she feels a tiny bit better. So, Leila spends the rest of their family dinner night on the lookout for other parts of her she does like.

Follow Leila’s journey as she uses her senses of sight, smell, taste, touch to seek out the characteristics that make up her unique identity, and finds reasons to feel proud of herself, just as she is.


Title: A Girl Called Genghis Khan: How Maria Toorpakai Wazir Pretended to Be a Boy, Defied the Taliban, and Became a World Famous Squash Player
Author: Michelle Lord
Illustrator: Shehzil Malik
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Publication Date: July 23, 2019
ISBN: 978-1454931362
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis:
This compelling, timely, and empowering picture book introduces children to Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a Pakistani girl who braved threats from the Taliban in order to play the sport she loved.

Meet Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a Pakistani girl who loved sports and longed for the freedom that boys in her culture enjoyed. She joined a squash club to pursue her dream, and was taunted, teased, and beaten—but still continued playing. Then, when Maria received an award from the President of Pakistan for outstanding achievement, the Taliban threatened her squash club, her family, and her life. Although forced to quit the team, she refused to give up. Maria kept practicing the game in her bedroom every day for three years! Her hard work and perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles will inspire all children.


Title: The Seekers
Author/Illustrator: Hari & Deepti
Publisher: Knopf Books
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
ISBN: 978-1524701529
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis:
Mio and Nao live in the valley of Krum, above a great river that provides everything they need to survive. As children, their grandfather told tales of the Silver Fox and Fire Wolf, tales everyone else believed were only legends–everyone, that is, but Mio.

When the life-giving river that flows through their village is mysteriously threatened, Mio and Nao set out beyond their valley to find out what has gone wrong. The farther they get from home, they find lifeless trees and skies filled with smoke. The other villagers grow weary of their mission until they are confronted with their childhood legends come to vivid life and have to risk everything to save their home.

Depicted through intricate cut-paper art, this memorable tale will remind readers of the importance of home while still striving to discover the world around you.


Title: Aladdin: Far from Agrabah
Author: Aisha Saeed
Publisher: Disney Press
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
ISBN: 978-1368031707
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade – Fairytale
Synopsis:
This stunning original novel will tell an all-new story set in the world of the new film, featuring Aladdin and Jasmine. A magic carpet ride full of adventure, suspense, and wonder written by New York Times Bestselling author Aisha Saeed, this story will be a must-read for any Aladdin fans who find themselves drawn into and enchanted by the magical world of Agrabah and beyond.


Title: Aru Shah and the Song of Death
Author: Roshani Choksi
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
ISBN: 978-1368013840
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade – Fantasy
Synopsis:
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents best-selling author Roshani Chokshi and her sequel to Aru Shah and the End of Time. Aru is only just getting the hang of this whole Pandava thing when the Otherworld goes into full panic mode. The god of love’s bow and arrow have gone missing, and the thief isn’t playing Cupid. Instead, they’re turning people into heartless fighting-machine zombies. If that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aru gets framed as the thief. If she doesn’t find the arrow by the next full moon, she’ll be kicked out of the Otherworld. For good. But, for better or worse, she won’t be going it alone. Along with her soul-sister, Mini, Aru will team up with Brynne, an ultra-strong girl who knows more than she lets on, and Aiden, the boy who lives across the street and is also hiding plenty of secrets. Together they’ll battle demons, travel through a glittering and dangerous serpent realm, and discover that their enemy isn’t at all who they expected.


Title: Laila and the Sands of Time
Author: Shirin Shamsi
Publisher: Clear Fork Publishing
Publication Date: May 17, 2019
ISBN: 978-1946101778
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade – Fantasy
Synopsis:
Thirteen-year-old Laila, still grieving over her father’s death, goes on their planned pilgrimage with her aunt and uncle. When she is transported back in time to 7th century Arabia, she faces the dangers of the desert, takes on a disguise, and saves a baby’s life. But will she ever return to her own time?


Title: Midsummer’s Mayhem
Author: Rajani LaRocca
Publisher:  Little Bee Books/Yellow Jacket
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
ISBN: 978-1499808889
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade – Fantasy
Synopsis:
MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM is an Indian-American middle grade mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking shows in which 11-year-old Mimi dreams of winning a celebrity chef judged baking contest, meets a mysterious boy in the woods, and stirs up all kinds of trouble with her baking.


Title: Love from A to Z
Author: S.K. Ali
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534442726
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Synopsis:
Suspended from school for standing up to an Islamophobic teacher, Zayneb is headed to Doha to stay with family, resigned to be “nicer” and let the injustices of the world slide off her shoulders from hereon.

Adam is headed to Doha too, struggling with a recent diagnosis, and resigned to keep his illness from friends and family.

Alone, both are playing roles for others. Together, will they learn to live their truths?


Title: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens
Author:  Tanya Boteju
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534430655
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary LGBTQ+
Synopsis: 
Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.


Title: There’s Something About Sweetie
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534416789
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Synopsis:
The irresistible companion novel to the New York Times bestseller When Dimple Met Rishi, which follows Rishi’s brother, Ashish, and a confident, self-proclaimed fat athlete named Sweetie as they both discover what love means to them.


Title: Symptoms of a Heartbreak
Author: Sona Charaipotra
Publisher: Imprint
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
ISBN: 978-1250199102
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Synopsis:
Most 16-year-olds cause at least some damage on their path to adulthood. But Saira Sehgal has vowed to first do no harm. A girl genius, she’s the youngest MD in America—and she hasn’t picked an easy specialty: She’s working on the cancer ward. Saira’s always been good at getting what she wants, but she’s new to adult challenges—like getting out from under the thumb of her doting mother, who works at the same hospital; like proving herself to coworkers who don’t take her seriously; and crushing on a cute boy who happens to have stage-two leukemia. Turns out “heartbreak” is one ailment Saira still doesn’t know how to treat.

Babymoon

Title: Babymoon
Author: Hayley Barrett (check out the interview at Children’s Book Podcast)
Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal
Publisher: Candlewick, 2019
Book Type: Love, New Baby
Ages: 3-6

Opening Lines:
The house is hushed. The lights are low.
We’re basking in a newborn glow.
The note we post says
SEE YOU SOON.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):
Inside the cozy house, a baby has arrived! The world is eager to meet the newcomer, but there will be time enough for that later. Right now, the family is on its babymoon: cocooning, connecting, learning, and muddling through each new concern. While the term “babymoon” is often used to refer to a parents’ getaway before the birth of a child, it was originally coined by midwives to describe days like these: at home with a newborn, with the world held at bay and the wonder of a new family constellation unfolding.

Activities:

  • If you have baby books for your children, sit down together and peruse through those treasured times. Or go through old baby pictures and home videos together. (Using iMovie my husband takes snippets of home movies and makes a 3-6 minute “baby movie”. My junior high kids still love them to this day.) 
  • Tell a child the story of the day they were born and what their first days/months were like.

Why I Like This Book:
A perfect reminder for any parent-to-be to stop and take stock in those early precious bonding moments. For parents whose kids are older, it’s a trip down memory lane. The book feels true to the new parent experience. While the joyous text doesn’t directly mention new parent fatigue, you can see the loving tiredness in the art. Ms. Barret has a way with words. They are lush, soothing, cozy like a warm blanket. Ms. Martinez-Neal’s warm, soft illustrations cast a tender glow on the new parents as they bond with their baby. A beautiful combination. See for yourself.

Find Babymoon at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0763688523
ISBN-13: 978-0763688523

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

BABYMOON. Text copyright © 2019 by Hayley Barrett. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Juana Martinez-Neal. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

South Asian Kidlit 2019 – Winter & Spring

Thanks so much for stopping by for another South Asian Kidlit round-up! So many books! It fills my heart to see these diverse stories making their way out into the world. Today’s post covers Picture Books thru Young Adult that have a release date between Dec 31, 2018 to end of April 2019.

If you would like to check-out past round-ups click on this link which will take you to my past South Asian Kidlit posts. I’m so excited my debut picture book will be a part of these round-ups next year! 🙂

The books listed below are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author, contains a South Asian Main Character, or involves South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.


Title: Under My Hijab
Author: Hena Khan
Illustrator: Aaliya Jaleel
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
ISBN: 978-1620147924
Category-Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis:
Grandma wears it clasped under her chin. Aunty pins hers up with a beautiful brooch. Jenna puts it under a sun hat when she hikes. Zara styles hers to match her outfit. As a young girl observes six very different women in her life who each wear the hijab in a unique way, she also dreams of the rich possibilities of her own future, and how she will express her own personality through her hijab. Written in sprightly rhyme and illustrated by a talented newcomer, Under My Hijab honors the diverse lives of contemporary Muslim women and girls, their love for each other, and their pride in their culture and faith.


Title: The Home Builders
Author: Varsha Bajaj
Illustrator: Simona Mulazzani
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
ISBN: 978-0399166853
Category-Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis:
This vibrantly illustrated picture book celebrates a variety of woodland creatures as they make their homes and prepare for their young.
Welcome to a serene woodland where lots of expectant animal parents are in their “nesting” phase–that is, busy preparing safe, cozy homes for their growing families. As they dig, tunnel, gnaw, and gather, they create dens, burrows, lodges, and, of course, nests. Soon the woods are full of new little ones peeping, crawling, romping, and snuggling–and with artwork so gorgeous that it feels like an invitation into the scenery it’s depicting, readers will be eager to join them in their beautiful home.


Title: When I Found Grandma
Author: Saumiya Balasubramaniam
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
ISBN: 978-1773060187
Category-Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis:
When Maya’s grandma makes a surprise visit from thousands of miles away, Maya is delighted. But her excitement doesn’t last long. When Grandma picks her up from school, she wears fancy clothes and talks too loudly. Grandma’s morning prayer bells wake Maya up, and she cooks with ingredients Maya doesn’t usually eat. Plus, Maya thinks cupcakes taste better than Grandma’s homemade sweets.
Maya and Grandma try to compromise, and on a special trip to the island Grandma even wears an “all-American” baseball cap. But when Maya rushes off to find the carousel, she loses sight of her mother, father and grandmother. She is alone in a sea of people … until she spots something bobbing above the crowd, and right away she knows how to find her way.


Title: The Yellow Suitcase
Author: Meera Sriram
Illustrator: Meera Sethi
Publisher: Penny Candy Books
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
ISBN: 978-0999658413
Category-Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis:
In The Yellow Suitcase by Meera Sriram, Asha travels with her parents from America to India to mourn her grandmother’s passing. Asha’s grief and anger are compounded by the empty yellow suitcase usually reserved for gifts to and from Grandma, but when she discovers a gift left behind just for her, Asha realizes that the memory of her grandmother will live on inside her, no matter where she lives.


Title: The Boy Who Grew a Forest
Author: Sophia Gholz
Illustrator: Kayla Harren
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: March 15, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534110243
Category-Genre: Picture Book – Non-Fiction

Synopsis:
As a boy, Jadav Payeng was distressed by the destruction deforestation and erosion was causing on his island home in India’s Brahmaputra River. So he began planting trees. What began as a small thicket of bamboo, grew over the years into 1,300 acre forest filled with native plants and animals. The Boy Who Grew a Forest tells the inspiring true story of Payeng–and reminds us all of the difference a single person with a big idea can make.


Title: No Place Like Home
Author/Illustrator: Ronojoy Ghosh
Publisher: Eerdmans
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
ISBN: 978-0802855220
Category-Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis:
A hilarious story about finding your place in the world. George is a bit of a grump. He doesn’t like ice cream, his tiny house, or the crowded city he lives in. Perhaps he would be happier if he could find a place that truly feels like home. And so George decides to go exploring… Young children will delight in this fun, inviting story about discovering where you really belong.


Title: Yasmin the Chef/Zookeeper/Teacher/Superhero
Author: Saadia Faruqi
Illustrator: Hatem Aly
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2019
ISBN:
Chef: 978-1515845782
Zookeeper: 978-1515845812
Teacher: 978-1515845805
Superhero: 978-1515845799
Category-Genre: Early Chapter Books

Synopsis:
Chef: Yasmin loves hosting parties! Music, friends, fun! But what she doesn’t love is the spicy food her Pakistani family serves. Yasmin puts on her chef hat and plans to make her own amazing, fantastic recipe…as soon as she figures out what that is!

Zookeeper: Yasmin’s class is going to the zoo! The students love watching the animals do silly things, but when Yasmin is chosen to feed the monkeys, she’s the one that does something silly. Can Yasmin fix her mistake and make friends with the monkeys?

Teacher: Ms. Alex gets called away―and puts Yasmin in charge! Being teacher will be a snap! But when things go wrong, Yasmin must think fast to get the class back on track before Ms. Alex gets back.

Superhero: Superhero Yasmin! She’s got the cape. She’s got the mask. Now she just needs a villain to defeat! While she’s looking for one, she meets lots of friends and neighbors who need her help, but no villains. Then Yasmin discovers that she might not need a villain to wield her super powers!


Title: Yasmin in Charge
Author: Saadia Faruqi
Illustrator: Hatem Aly
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2019
ISBN:  978-1515842729
Category-Genre: Early Chapter Books

Synopsis:
In this collection of four stories, Yasmin takes charge of some sticky situations! At home, at school, or out and about, Yasmin faces challenges head on with creativity and quick thinking. Whether she’s creating a new recipe, finding a way to rescue a stuck toy for a little friend, or calming down monkeys (and classmates!), a clever solution to any problem is just around the corner!


Title: Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories from India
Author: Chitra Soundar
Illustrator: Uma Krishnaswamy
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: December 31, 2018
ISBN: 978-1536200676
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Folktale

Synopsis:
Can Prince Veera and his best friend outsmart the king’s trickiest subjects? Inspired by traditional Indian folktales, these stories are sure to delight.

Being a wise and just ruler is no easy task. That’s what Prince Veera discovers when he and his best friend, Suku, are given the opportunity to preside over the court of his father, King Bheema. Some of the subjects’ complaints are easily addressed, but others are much more challenging. How should they handle the case of the greedy merchant who wishes to charge people for enjoying the smells of his sweets? And can they prove that an innocent man cannot possibly spread bad luck? Will Prince Veera and Suku be able to settle the dispute between a man and his neighbor to whom he sells a well — but not the water in it? Or solve the mystery of the jewels that have turned into pickles? Illustrated throughout by Uma Krishnaswamy, these eight original tales by Chitra Soundar task Veera and Suku with outwitting the kingdom’s greediest, wiliest subjects. Are the two clever boys up to the challenge?


Title: The Bridge Home
Author: Padma Venkatraman
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
ISBN: 978-1524738112
Category-Genre: Middle Grade

Synopsis:
Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.
Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter–and friendship–on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.


Title: Game of Stars (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #2)
Author: Sayantani DasGupta
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
ISBN: 978-1338185737
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Fantasy

Synopsis:
Saving the multiverse is no game
When the Demon Queen shows up in her bedroom, smelling of acid and surrounded by evil-looking bees, twelve-year-old Kiranmala is uninterested. After all, it’s been weeks since she last heard from her friends in the Kingdom Beyond, the alternate dimension where she was born as an Indian princess. But after a call to action over an interdimensional television station and a visit with some all-seeing birds, Kiran decides that she has to once again return to her homeland, where society is fraying, a terrible game show reigns supreme, and friends and foes alike are in danger. Everyone is running scared or imprisoned following the enactment of sudden and unfair rules of law.

However, things are a lot less clear than the last time she was in the Kingdom Beyond. Kiran must once again solve riddles and battle her evil Serpent King father — all while figuring out who her true friends are, and what it really means to be a hero.


Title: Orange for the Sunsets
Author: Tina Athaide
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
ISBN: 978-0062795298
Category-Genre: Middle-Grade – Historical

Synopsis:
Asha and her best friend, Yesofu, never cared about the differences between them: Indian. African. Girl. Boy. Short. Tall.
But when Idi Amin announces that Indians have ninety days to leave the country, suddenly those differences are the only things that people in Entebbe can see—not the shared after-school samosas or Asha cheering for Yesofu at every cricket game.
Determined for her life to stay the same, Asha clings to her world tighter than ever before. But Yesofu is torn, pulled between his friends, his family, and a promise of a better future. Now as neighbors leave and soldiers line the streets, the two friends find that nothing seems sure—not even their friendship.

Tensions between Indians and Africans intensify and the deadline to leave is fast approaching. Could the bravest thing of all be to let each other go?


Title: Firestarter (Book #3 Timekeeper)
Author: Tara Sim
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
ISBN: 978-1510706200
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Historical Fantasy

Synopsis:
The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world’s clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus’s cause or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan—to bring back the lost god of time.

As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes—Prague, Austria, India—nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what’s most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.


Title: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
Author: Sabina Khan
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
ISBN: 978-1338227017
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali has always been fascinated by the universe around her and the laws of physics that keep everything in order. But her life at home isn’t so absolute.

Unable to come out to her conservative Muslim parents, she keeps that part of her identity hidden. And that means keeping her girlfriend, Ariana, a secret from them too. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life at home and a fresh start at Caltech in the fall. But when Rukhsana’s mom catches her and Ariana together, her future begins to collapse around her.

Devastated and confused, Rukhsana’s parents whisk her off to stay with their extended family in Bangladesh where, along with the loving arms of her grandmother and cousins, she is met with a world of arranged marriages, religious tradition, and intolerance. Fortunately, Rukhsana finds allies along the way and, through reading her grandmother’s old diary, finds the courage to take control of her future and fight for her love.


Title: Beauty of the Moment
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
ISBN: 978-0374308445
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary

Synopsis:
Susan is the new girl―she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy―he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.
Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.

Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants―until he meets her.

Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.


Title: Internment
Author: Samira Ahmed
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 19, 2019
ISBN: 978-0316522694
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Speculative

Synopsis:
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.


Title: Forward Me Back to You
Author: Mitali Perkins
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
ISBN: 978-0374304928
Category-Genre: Young Adult

Synopsis:
Katina King is the reigning teen jiu-jitsu champion of Northern California, but she’s having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.

Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata, India and is reluctant to take on his future. Since he knows nothing about his past, how is he supposed to figure out what comes next?

Robin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places ― a summer service trip to India to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds blossom between the travel-mates, Robin and Kat discover the healing superpowers of friendship.

At turns heart-wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins’s new novel explores the ripple effects of violence ― across borders and generations ― and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.


Title: The Tiger at Midnight
Author: Swati Teerdhala
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
ISBN: 978-0062869210
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy

Synopsis:
A broken bond. A dying land. A cat-and-mouse game that can only end in bloodshed.

Esha lost everything in the royal coup—and as the legendary rebel known as the Viper, she’s made the guilty pay. Now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has only been growing more volatile.

When Esha and Kunal’s paths cross one fated night, an impossible chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces.

As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both the soldier and the rebel must decide where their loyalties lie: with the lives they’ve killed to hold on to or with the love that’s made them dream of something more.

Love

A very belated Happy New Year! I’ve been away too long from the blog and all of you. Lots going on. My debut picture book was announced last fall. You can find out about it here. I am doubly-excited to share today’s book. First, I absolutely adored their first collaboration, BEAUTIFUL. The colors, the energy and most importantly how they re-defined beauty. You can check out my review of it here. The second reason is Ms. Lew-Vriethoff is the illustrator for my book! I can’t wait to see what she creates for it. 🙂 Now onto the review!

Title: Love
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Publisher: Running Press Kids, 2019
Book Type: Holidays, Empathy, Love
Ages: 3-6

Opening Line:
Love is … a fancy dinner.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):
What is love? Can you only express it in fancy meals, greeting cards, and heart-shaped chocolates? Kids will find love everywhere in this delightful book. It can be found in everyday moments such as baking cookies with grandma, notes from Mom in your lunchbox, or a family singing together on a car trip, and it isn’t always what you expect!

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

The wonderful duo has done it again. LOVE is the third book in a series that take smarter and thoughtful interpretations of age-old sayings. The first two books were BEAUTIFUL and BRAVE, do check them out.

LOVE re-interprets the traditional ways of showing love to someone you care such as giving a fancy dinner or a designer card. A fancy dinner is preparing a doggie bowl with a flower in it for your injured dog. A designer greeting card is a child drawing a hand-drawn card with a crayon. It also reinterprets ideas such as ‘love at first sight’. You’ll have to read to find out. It’s charming.

This book can be used as a springboard for discussions about how one can show empathy and love in simple ways. It’s perfect for kids. The book shows how kids can do an act of kindness for someone without having to buy something, which is important in our consumer-driven world.

The art is vibrant and engaging and full of details. The large type and big illustrations make it perfect for a group read-aloud.



Find Love at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0762462124
ISBN-13: 978-0762462124

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

My Book Reading Report for 2018

It’s that time of the year to tally up. Here are my stats according to Goodreads.

TOTAL BOOKS READ IN 2017 = 350
1 Adult;  14 YA;  8 MG;  11 CB/ER;  313 PB
Listed below are my favorite reads from this year. This list contains titles published in 2018 and past years.

YOUNG ADULT: Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy), Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo), Caraval (Stephanie Garber), Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee), You Bring the Distant Near (Mitali Perkins), I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Erika L. Sánchez)
MG: Ghost Boys (Jewell Parker Rhodes)
PB:

  • The Truth About Hippos: Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals (Maxwell Eaton III)
  • How to Be an Elephant (Katherine Roy)
  • Grandma’s Purse (Vanessa Brantley-Newton)
  • The Rabbit Listened (Cori Doerrfeld)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G vs Inequality (Jonah Winter and Stacy Innerst)
  • I Dissent: Ruther Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark ( Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley)
  • Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist ( Jess Keating and Marta Álvarez Miguéns)
  • Give Bees a Chance (Bethany Barton)
  • How to Code a Sandcastle (Josh Funk and Sara Palacios)
  • The Rough Patch (Brian Lies)
  • Head Lice (Elise Gravel)
  • We Are Grateful: OtsaliheligaAll Are Welcome (Traci Sorell)
  • This is a Taco (Andrew Cangelose, Josh Shipley)
  • An Inconvenient Alphabet:  Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution (Beth Anderson and Elizabeth Baddeley)

Mina vs. the Monsoon

Title: Mina vs. the Monsoon
Author: Rukhsanna Guidroz
Illustrator: Debasmita Dasgupta
Publisher: Yali Books, 2018
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Multicultural, soccer

Opening:
Mina was feeling sad.
She was watching peacocks walk past the mango tree outside her house, when one of them let out a piercing cry. Mina knew the monsoon rains were coming. She was going to be stuck indoors all day.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):
Mina loves to play soccer all year round. Nothing comes close to it. But when the monsoon arrives, Mina is stuck indoors and she can’t help feeling restless and bored. Her ammi doesn’t understand. The doodhwalla doesn’t understand. That’s when Mina decides she’ll find ways of chasing away the clouds herself. In doing so, she makes an unexpected discovery. Soccer will never be the same again for Mina!

In a charming story that any kid who loves a sport will relate to, soccer-mad Mina tries just about any trick to stop the monsoon clouds from raining on her game. In doing so, she shows us glimpses of her life in a village in eastern India, highlighting the important role played by monsoon rains in this part of the world. The heart of the story, however, is the bond forged between a mother and her daughter on a gray, gloomy day.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A delightful book for any child who has ever longed for something and wishing somebody else understood.

Mina is a soccer-loving girl from a rural village in India. Mina is feeling blue about the impending monsoon rains. Her mother appears to be unaware of Mina’s passion for soccer as she suggests having chai and samosa instead. Spunky Mina is not about to give up and tries one thing after another to chase away the rain. During this time we learn about Indian village life: tablas that beat din-din-dah, the doodhwalla with his milk cans, Indian clothing and dance, and the importance of the monsoons. Mina stumbles upon an item she hasn’t seen before which leads to a heartfelt bond between Mina and her mom.

I love the rustic and colorful art which nicely complements Mina’s energy and the specificity of the South Asian village life. The author seamlessly sprinkles in some Hindi and Urdu words giving the book a richer feel. A glossary can be found in the back.

A wonderful book for those new to South Asian culture and those already familiar.


Find Mina vs. the Monsoon at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Yali Books | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1949528987
ISBN-13: 978-1949528985

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

Diwali (Celebrate the World)

Diwali is coming up on November 7th this year. We tell our kids Diwali is big like Christmas is here in America. I personally haven’t celebrated Diwali in India but I hear it’s quite amazing. This lovely board book is a wonderful introduction for those new to the holiday and those who already celebrate it. Enjoy!

Title: Diwali (Celebrate the World series)
Author: Hannah Eliot
Illustrator: Archana Sreenivasan
Publisher: Little Simon, 2018
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-4
Theme: Diwali, Indian Holiday

Opening:
Each year in October or November, we celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights! Diwali is a Hindu festival honored by many people all over the world.
During the holiday, we celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):
Each autumn we gather with our friends and family and light our brightest lanterns. It’s time for Diwali, the festival of lights! In this lovely board book with illustrations from Archana Sreenivasan, readers learn that the five days of Diwali are a time to pray for a bountiful season, celebrate the special bonds between siblings, and rejoice in the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.

Activities:

    • A Pinterest board containing Diwali crafts, food, decor and more!

Why I Like This Book:
A wonderful book to introduce the holiday of Diwali. It provides a good overview for non-Indians as well as Indians. The text is simple and explains the origins of the Hindu religious holiday and then goes on to explain the five-day celebration. The art is colorful and rich with details and authenticity. The Indian illustrator brings to life Diwali celebrations on the streets of India. I love that she depicts inter-generational families which is very common over there and the use of different skin tones.

While the format is a board book the depth of text and illustrations makes it more suitable for kids in elementary school rather than preschool. For example, in the opening spread, the text says Diwali is celebrated around the world with one scene from the US and other from South East Asia, however, there is no text speaking to it. Therefore, it is easy to miss. One other criticism I have is that with only two small spots from outside and Indian combined with the rest of the scenes being set in India does not adeptly convey the largeness of this holiday around the world but rather makes it seem like a holiday just in India.

It’s unfortunate to be in this small format as it would’ve been great for story time during Diwali celebrations in school. It’s still a wonderful read and one I highly recommend. Take a look at the art below!

Happy Diwali!


Find Diwali at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound Goodreads
ISBN-10: 9781534419902
ISBN-13: 978-1534419902

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

The Diamond and the Boy plus Interview with Hannah Holt

I am excited to be featuring Hannah Holt’s debut picture book. Hannah and I met years ago through the 12×12 Picture Book group. And became closer over the years as our writing journey took twists and turns. Now on my family trips to Portland, Oregon we make a point to meet-up. Hope you enjoy the review and interview. 


Synopsis for The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds and the Life of H. Tracy Hall (from Amazon website):
Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine. Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer, and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.
Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called graphite. Through an intense trial of heat and pressure, it changes into one of the most valuable stones in the world.

Before Tracy Hall was an inventor, he was a boy—born into poverty, bullied by peers, forced to work at an early age. However, through education and experimentation, he became one of the brightest innovators of the twentieth century, eventually building a revolutionary machine that makes diamonds.

From debut author Hannah Holt—the granddaughter of Tracy Hall—and illustrator Jay Fleck comes this fascinating in-depth portrait of both rock and man.

What I Like:
Love, love the parallel stories of the creation of the diamond and the journey Tracy Hall took to become an inventor. I love how the lyrical prose and emotional beats match at every spread. Brilliant writing!

Find The Diamond and the Boy at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0062659030
ISBN-13: 978-0062659033
Now onto the interview with Hannah!
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1) Writing for children is not your first career. Tell us about your background and how you came to write picture books.
Sure! My degree is in civil engineering, and I used to design transportation master plans for cities. My former career was all about keeping communities connected physically. My current work is about making emotional connections.
I enjoyed engineering, but my job had a demanding schedule with many public open houses. When my children were born, I transitioned to a work-from-home editing job. Then one Christmas, we were short on cash, and I thought, “I could write stories for family members for presents.” That launched a decade long journey into children’s publishing.

2) I understand this book is based on your grandfather’s life. Did telling a personal story, present any unique challenges? Any particular joys?

Young Tracy Hall

Writing about my grandfather was mostly a joy! My uncle let me wade through his garage one afternoon and bring home boxes of Grandpa’s personal papers. I also enjoyed interviewing family members and researching my grandfather’s successes.
On the flip side, it was difficult reading about the bullying my grandfather experienced as a child. I don’t delve into specifics in The Diamond and the Boy, but there’s a reason he learned to hide in the walls of his school. Reading about these hard times helped me understand his life and development better, but it was gut wrenching at times.
This sounds like a really special experience.

3) The story has two parallel narratives. I love how you lined up the beats of the two stories. How did you decide upon this structure?
My parallel version of this story came as a result of responding to failure. My first agent and I did not part ways on happy terms. She wrote a long and hurtful note when we separated, and after that I wasn’t sure if I could or should go on writing. For the next month, I didn’t write a thing. Instead, I did a lot of soul searching. In the end, I came to the following conclusions:

I liked writing and missed it.
I couldn’t control whether or not anyone else liked my writing.
I could improve my craft.
I could become smarter about how and where I submitted my work.

This story, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY, was one of the first stories I revised after this writing break. Previously, I had tried writing the story about Tracy’s cleverness or rocks that sparkle, but those ideas no longer seemed important.

Instead, I saw the need for resilience.

Graphite needed to become resilient…Tracy had to become resilient…

And I needed to get over myself, too, if I wanted to write this story well. So I threw out all my old drafts and started from scratch. Writing a story in parallel about change and resilience seemed natural because it was the journey I was on myself.

This story went on to attract interest from multiple houses.

Lasting success takes hard work and resilience. I’m really glad I didn’t give up!

Thank you for sharing that personal story. I’m so glad you were resilient!

4) Pretend this is the year 2028, what types of books would I see your name on?
I’d like to have a middle grade novel accepted for publication. However, I’m also happy to keep writing more picture books. I love the challenge of telling complex stories in 800 words or less. Picture books are my favorite creative outlet.

5) Any books in the near future we should be on the lookout for?
My second book, A Father’s Love, comes out this year just in time for Father’s Day. It’s a lyrical non-fiction picture book that celebrates different types of animal father’s from all around the world.

***************************************************
Some rapid fire questions.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Napping. I’ve spent the last month prepping for a book launch. Napping sounds really good right now.

If you could interview any person living or dead, who would it be?
Edwin Chadwick. That’s just my answer today. Ask me next month, and I’ll come up with someone different.

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
Chocolate.

What book is on your bedside table?
Smart But Scattered

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Websitehttps://hannahholt.com/
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/hannah.w.holt
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahwholt

About the Author:
Hannah is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer & Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.

Thank you, Hannah, for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes!

Interview with Margaret Greanias

Last Friday, I shared the heart-warming Maximillian Villainous. Today I am excited to share with you my interview with my dear friend and debut author Margaret Greanias.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

Oh wow, this is a tough question! I have many creative influences when it comes to books, and I’m sure I can’t name them all because sometimes influence is a subconscious thing.

During my early years, my favorite authors and stories that I read over and over again were:

  • Tammi Sauer’s “Mostly Monsterly” and “Nugget and Fang” for the humor and full circle structure.
  • Bonny Becker’s “A Visitor For Bear” for the writing, humor, and voice.
  • Kelly Di Pucchio’s “Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet” and “Zombie in Love” for the humor.
  • Pat Zietlow Miller’s “Sophie’s Squash” and “Quickest Kid in Clarksville”
  • Michelle Knudsen’s “Library Lion” and “Big Mean Mike” for the storytelling and read-aloud ability.
  • Peter Brown’s “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” and “Children Make Terrible Pets” for turning concepts on their heads.
  • Tara Lazar’s “Little Red Gliding Hood” and “7 Ate 9” for clever wordplay.
    More recently, I’ve really enjoyed the lyricism of Megan Wagner Lloyd’s “Finding Wild” and Katherine Applegate’s “Sometimes You Fly.”
    Can you see any of these influences in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS?

As writers, we take in our surroundings and experiences and sometimes put it into our writing. Are there any details in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS that have come from your life?

Most of the details and actions in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS were inspired by real life. For example, the idea of writing about villains came because my kids were loving the Despicable Me movies. The idea of wanting a pet came from my own childhood experience of pining away for a dog.

Also, smaller elements of the story — from the way Max pesters his family to get what he wants to making the leprechaun trap — all were inspired by my kids and what they were doing at and around the time I was writing the story.

Were there any specific challenges you encountered during the process of writing this story? Any particular joys?
I encountered many challenges in writing MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS — it took two years from concept to ugly drafts to completion.

One challenge was creating a fresh story. I tried addressing this by mashing up two different concepts (villains and wanting a pet).

Another challenge was giving each family member a unique voice to distinguish them from each other especially since two family members (the dad and the grandfather) don’t have any action, only dialogue.

Another challenge was letting go of an ending I loved to find the right ending that worked best for the story. I initially had Max solving his problem and then the family rejecting his solution even though he met their requirements. I got the very astute feedback that the story should wrap up quickly once Max solves his problem. I always keep this feedback in mind even with current projects so that I don’t repeat the same mistake.

My biggest joy was when I found a way for Max to solve his problem in a surprising yet inevitable way (you’ll have to read the book to find out how he does it!). It gave me the same sort of satisfaction as solving a tough puzzle.

*******************************************
Some rapid fire questions.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Park ranger

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
drink: green tea
snack: berries or stone fruit

If you could have any kind of animal as a pet, what would it be?
Of course, a bunny. 🙂

What book(s) is on your bedside table?
The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh
War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretGreaniasAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargaretGreania
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/margaretgreanias/
Website: http://www.margaretgreanias.com

Thank you Margaret for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes!