My Book Reading Report for 2019

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

TOTAL BOOKS READ IN 2019 = 326
11 Adult; 11 YA; 14 MG; 2 ER; 288 PB

Listed below are my favorite reads from this year. This list contains titles published in 2019 and previous years.

Adult: Educated (Tara Westover),Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Trevor Noah),  Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty), Atomic Habits (James Clear), The Idea of You (Robinne Lee)

Young Adult: Patron Saints of Nothing (Randy Ribay), The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees (Don Brown)

Middle Grade: All the Impossible Things (Lindsay Lackey), No Fixed Address (Susin Nielsen), Front Desk (Kelly Yang), The Bridge Home (Padma Venkatraman), The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl (Stacy McAnulty), Stargazing (Jen Wang), The Year of the Dog (Grace Lin)

Early Reader: The Itchy Book! (LeUyen Pham), We Are Growing! (Laurie Keller)

Picture Book:

  • Bird Count (Susan Edwards Richmond and Stephanie Fizer Coleman)
  • Dandy (Ame Dyckman and Charles Santoso)
  • The Moon’s First Friends: How the Moon Met the Astronauts from Apollo 11 (Susanna Leonard Hill and Elisa Paganelli)
  • Little Brown (Marla Frazee)
  • Saturday (Oge Mora)
  • Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao (Kat Zhang and Charlene Chua)
  • Island: A Story of the Galapagos (Jason Chin)
  • The Don’t Worry Book (Todd Parr)
  • The Undefeated (Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson)
  • Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime! (Cate Berry and Charles Santoso)
  • The Scarecrow (Beth Ferry and The Fan Brothers)
  • Thunder Trucks (Cheryl Klein, Katy Beebe, and Mike Boldt)
  • How to Walk an Ant (Cindy Derby)
  • What is a Refugee? (Elise Gravel)
  • Here and Now (Julia Denos and E. B. Goodale)
  • My Papi Has a Motorcycle (Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña)
  • Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet (Curtis Manley and Jessica Lanan)
  • The Remeber Balloons (Jessie Oliveros and Dana Wulfekotte)

What were some of your favorites reads this past year?

Cover Reveal for FINDING OM and Interview with Rashmi Bismark

I have a wonderful treat for you today. The cover reveal for FINDING OM, information about the #1001DiverseBooks program, and a lovely interview with the author Rashmi Bismark!

Bharat Babies is a wonderful small indie press bringing South Asian experiences to children’s literature. They are launching their fourteenth book, FINDING OM. This is a story about Anu, an American girl of Indian and African descent, who finds mindfulness and peace through an exploration of the mantra Om. This story helps children to find the calm strengths of awareness within themselves and is a wonderful multicultural, multi-generational story.

With this launch, Bharat Babies is also launching its #1001DiverseBooks program, which will help not only bridge the diversity gap but also the accessibility gap. With each new book launch, Bharat Babies is committing to also raise the funds to donate 1001 books to literacy and advocacy nonprofits that are working across the country to help children in need. They need your help to make this vision a reality. Will you be a part of the change to end the diversity gap AND accessibility gap? When you pre-order a copy of FINDING OM, you can also sponsor a copy for a nonprofit partner for only $10. The expected ship date is May 2020.

And now for the cover real! It’s gorgeous!!!

Title: Finding Om
Author: Rashmi Bismark
Illustrator: Morgan Huff
Publisher: Bharat Babies, May 2020

Pre-Order Link: https://bharatbabies.com/collections/finding-om

Interview with Rashmi Bismark

1. What inspired you to write a children’s book?

Nowadays there are many authors sharing beautifully illustrated retellings of Indian mythology. Now imagine if there might be a book, or better yet, a series of books, that could bring the sacred philosophical teachings of South Asian heritage, like yoga and mindfulness, to life in the same way. Imagine if they could reflect the experiences of brown kids and mixed families who are part of the diaspora in ways that all kids could relate to… These were my inspirations

2. How did you come up with the concept for the book FINDING OM?

With this first book, I wanted to portray what meditation might look like for a child while including an exploration of some key aspects of practice like: (1) curiosity, courage, kindness, and trust; (2) focused and receptive attention; (3) present moment awareness of thinking, feeling, doing and being; (4) resting into that naturally whole, awareful presence; and (5) opening to the harmony, insight, and wisdom right here. I wanted it to be a book about meditation and inquiry simply for the joy and wonder of it, versus being a tool or technique for handling stress or tough emotions. It is definitely that too… and it can also be something more.

It felt very natural to use my family as the characters. My father and my kids are some of my biggest teachers in life. Allowing their hearts to tell this story just made sense. In fact, much of the book portrays direct experiences my daughters have shared. Though Anu never had this exact interaction with Appuppa, it is an exchange that melds together both the girls’ and my own memories with him.

3. Is this a part of a series? 

Finding Om is the first book in an intended series to share concepts from South Asian philosophy like yoga (connection) and mindfulness (wise remembrance of innately present awareness) through treasured mantras from these traditions.

4. Where did you start and how has your book changed?

Interestingly, Finding Om wasn’t the first book I wrote for this intended series. I reached out to Sailaja and Bharat Babies with four other manuscripts on four different mantras that my girls have loved. As I began working with Amy Maranville, their senior editor, she suggested making the introduction I had originally written for parents and educators about meditation into a first book. So I guess you could say the original first draft of Finding Om was more of an informative description of mantra, mindfulness, yoga, and meditation for adults. It was nowhere near a picture book! It has certainly come a long way.

 

About the Author:
Rashmi S. Bismark, MD, MPH is a physician specialized in Preventive Medicine with expertise from public health, health behavior, lifestyle medicine, and complementary & alternative therapies. Her clinical practice is focused on holistic mindfulness-based interventions tailored to individuals and communities. With over two decades of exploring traditional healing practices from India, including Ayurveda, energy healing, meditation, and yoga, Dr. Bismark is also a teacher trainer at Yoga Medicine by Tiffany Cruikshank where she contributes to curriculum and co-leads advanced modules on Yin Yoga and Meditation for yoga teachers from around the globe. Dr. Bismark feels very fortunate to travel the world with her husband’s job, raising two little yoginis-in-training, and sharing mindful ways of nurturing life and healing.

You can find out more about Rashmi at these places on the Internet.
Website: https://www.rsbismarkmd.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rashmibismark
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rashmibismark/

 

The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful

Title: The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful

Author: Nancy Tupper Ling
Illustrator: Andrea Offermann
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018
Book Type: Siblings, Teamwork, Dragons
Ages: 4-8

Opening Lines:

The villagers of Woo lived in fear of the dragon Frightful. His shadow wrapped around their town. His claws dug into their land, and when he snored, their houses shook like grains of rice. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, they did.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

When a fearsome dragon takes over their village bridge, twin sisters Mei and Wei have opposing views of how to fix the problem. Wei wants nothing more than to confront that stinky old dragon head on, but Mei favors a more thoughtful approach. With Wei’s confidence and gumption plus Mei’s creativity and diligence, it’s only a matter of time before everyone can be happy again.

This empowering sibling story is about celebrating differences and finding that what makes us different is also what makes us a powerful team.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book

A wonderful tale to remind readers of any age, that our differences make us stronger together.

In this charming tale set in rural China, Wei and Mei, twin sisters have grown-up seeing their parents always worn out from the long arduous walk over the hills to the other side. A pesky dragon has taken residence on the nearby bridge and won’t budge. Wei, full of confidence and courage, decides to take on the dragon. But when things get a little scary for Wei, thoughtful and caring Mei is always there to help her sister. While Wei’s approaches are more confrontational, Mei spends her time constructing a dragon shield and reading up on dragons. Together they are successful in getting the dragon to move and all are happy.

The storytelling style reminded me of old folktales. The pen and ink and watercolor illustrations are gorgeous. I especially loved the zoomed-out view of the village in the opening scene, and the quaint details such as terraced rice patties and brick and tiled-roof homes with the dragon looming in the foreground. The art transports the reader back in time.

Find The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful at the following spots:
IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | AmazonGoodreads
ISBN-10: 0399171150
ISBN-13: 978-0399171154

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

South Asian Kidlit 2019 – Fall

Did your summer fly by? Mine’s did. I can’t believe fall is almost here. Hope you like the new website digs. If you would like to keep up with the latest blog posts or news about my books you can sign-up here.

Today’s post covers Picture Books thru Young Adult that have a release date from the end of August through the end of the year. 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 or illustrator, contains a South Asian main character, or involves South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.

Title: Shubh Diwali!
Author: Chitra Soundar
Illustrator: Charlene Chua
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Publication Date: September 1, 2019
ISBN: 978-0807573556
Category-Genre: Picture Book – Holidays
Community Represented: Indian
Synopsis: 
Diwali has arrived! Rangoli art decorates the floor and strings of flowers hang around the doors. Now it’s time to ring the bells, light the lamps, and welcome the new year with family and friends. A sweet introduction to the Hindu festival of lights.

Title: The Many Colors Of Harpreet Singh
Author: Supriya Kelkar
Illustrator: Alea Marley
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
ISBN: 978-1454931843
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis:
Harpreet Singh has a different color for every mood and occasion, from pink for dancing to bhangra beats to red for courage. He especially takes care with his patka—his turban—smoothing it out and making sure it always matches his outfit. But when Harpreet’s mom finds a new job in a snowy city and they have to move, all he wants is to be invisible. Will he ever feel a happy sunny yellow again?

Title: The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family
Author: Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali
Illustrator: Hatem Aly
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
ISBN: 978-0316519007
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Muslim-American
Synopsis: 
With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.

Title: You’re Strong With Me
Author: Chitra Soundar
Illustrator: Poonam Mistry
Publisher: Lantana Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
ISBN: 978-1911373759
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis: 
The rain clouds are long gone and the dry season scorches the land. Everything is new for the baby giraffe. As she bounds ahead and lags behind, her mother patiently explains the ways of the grasslands. And until she grows a little taller, older, and wiser, her mother reminds her: “You’re strong with me.

Title: Brave with Beauty: A Story of Afghanistan
Author: Schur Rose Maxine
Illustrator: Dewitt-Grush Patricia and Dewill Robin
Publisher: Yali Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
ISBN: 978-1949528978
Category-Genre: Picture Book – Non-Fiction
Community Represented: Afghanistani
Synopsis: 
This is the extraordinary story of Queen Goharshad, a 15th century monarch, who many historians now believe was the most powerful woman in world history. Ruling from the Timurid artistic and cultural center of Herat in western Afghanistan, Queen Goharshad ushered in a remarkable, rare period when poetry, music, calligraphy, painting and the sciences flourished as never before. A poet and an architect, she designed a complex of buildings that were considered to be some of the most beautiful structures ever built on earth.

Title: Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time
Author: Saira Mir
Illustrator: Aaliya Jaleel
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534418882
Category-Genre: Picture Book – Non-Fiction
Community Represented: Muslim Women
Synopsis: 
Discover the true stories of nineteen unstoppable Muslim women of the twenty-first century who have risen above challenges, doubts, and sometimes outright hostility to blaze trails in a wide range of fields. Whether it was the culinary arts, fashion, sports, government, science, entertainment, education, or activism, these women never took “no” for an answer or allowed themselves to be silenced. Instead, they worked to rise above and not only achieve their dreams, but become influential leaders.

Title: I Am Perfectly Designed
Author: Karamo Brown and Jason “Rachel” Brown
Illustrator: Anoosha Syed
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
ISBN: 978-1250232212
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis: 
In this empowering ode to modern families, a boy and his father take a joyful walk through the city, discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other.

Title: Let’s Eat!: Mealtime Around the World
Author: Lynne Marie
Illustrator: Parwinder Singh
Publisher: Beaming Books
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
ISBN: 978-1506451947
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Synopsis: 
Dig into this fun and informational book that explores foods from 13 countries around the world. Meet characters from countries including Sweden, Peru, Pakistan, Nigeria, and more as they enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Be inspired to try something new and learn about other cultures. Let’s eat!

 

Title: Count Me In
Author: Varsha Bajaj
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
ISBN: 978-0525517245
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Contemporary
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis: 
Karina Chopra would have never imagined becoming friends with the boy next door–after all, they’ve avoided each other for years. Then Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris, and she discovers he’s actually a nice, funny kid. But one afternoon something unimaginable happens–the three of them are assaulted by a stranger who targets Indian-American Karina and her grandfather because of how they look. Her grandfather is gravely injured and Karina and Chris vow not to let hate win. When Karina posts a few photos related to the attack on social media, they quickly attract attention, and before long her #CountMeIn post–“What does an American look like? –goes viral. Then, when Papa is finally on the road to recovery, Karina uses her newfound social media reach to help celebrate both his homecoming and a community coming together.

Title: The Battle
Author: Karuna Riazi
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534428720
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Fantasy
Synopsis: 
Four years after the events of The Gauntlet, the evil game Architect is back with a new partner-in-crime—The MasterMind—and the pair aim to get revenge on the Mirza clan. When twelve-year-old, Ahmad Mirza and Winnie begin playing a high-tech game, The Battle of Blood and Iron, time freezes over New York City. With time standing still and people frozen, all of humankind is at stake as Ahmad and Winnie face-off with the MasterMind and the Architect, hoping to beat them at their own game before the evil plotters expand Paheli and take over the entire world.

Title: Jumbie God’s Revenge (The Jumbies)
Author: Tracey Baptiste
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
ISBN: 978-1616208912
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Fantasy
Synopsis: 
When an out-of-season hurricane sweeps through Corinne’s seaside village, Corinne knows it’s not a typical storm. Corinne believes Mama D’Leau—the powerful and cruel jumbie who rules the ocean—has caused the hurricane. But when a second more ferocious storm wrecks the island, Corinne discovers the storms weren’t caused by a jumbie, but by the angry god Huracan. Now Corinne, with the help of her friends and even some of her enemies, must race against time to find out what has angered Huracan and try to fix it before her island home is destroyed forever.

Title: More to the Story
Author: Hena Khan
Publisher: Salam Reads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
ISBN: 978-1481492096
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Contemporary
Community Represented: Pakistani-American
Synopsis: 
When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest. Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all…

Title: Pavi Sharma’s Guide to Going Home
Author: Bridget Farr
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
ISBN: 978-0316491068
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Contemporary
Synopsis: 
Twelve-year-old Pavi Sharma is an expert at the Front Door Face: the perfect mix of puppy dog eyes and a lemonade smile, the exact combination to put foster parents at ease as they open their front door to welcome you in. After being bounced around between foster families and shelter stays, Pavi is a foster care expert, and she runs a “business” teaching other foster kids all she has learned. With a wonderful foster family in mom Marjorie and brother Hamilton, things are looking up for Pavi. Then Pavi meets Meridee: a new five-year-old foster kid, who is getting placed at Pavi’s first horrendous foster home. Pavi knows no one will trust a kid about what happened on Lovely Lane, even one as mature as she is, so it’s up to her to save Meridee. With help from Hamilton, brooding eighth grader Santos, and Hamilton’s somewhat obnoxious BFF Piper, they set off on an important mission with life-changing stakes. Pavi will stop at nothing to keep Meridee safe.

Title: The Best at It
Author: Maulik Pancholy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
ISBN: 978-0062866417
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Contemporary
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis: 
Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at and become the BEST at it. Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge…. But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything?

Title: Just Feel: How to Be Stronger, Happier, Healthier, and More
Author: Mallika Chopra
Illustrator: Brenna Vaughan
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Publication Date: Oct 22, 2019
ISBN: 978-0762494743
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Self-Help Guide
Synopsis: 
An engaging and easy-to-read guide that introduces kids to the building blocks of resilience and grit. The U.S. and other nations are quickly becoming aware of the importance of children’s ability to be independent and meet challenges head on; parents are eager for resources that help kids learn how to navigate life on their own. Just Feel is one of the very few books on social and emotional health that speaks directly to kids. Designed specifically with kids ages 8-12 in mind, the book clearly addresses important topics such as flexibility, responsibility, communication, creativity, and self-knowledge. Written by the respected writer and wellness expert Mallika Chopra, Just Feel will effectively teach kids how they can balance their emotions and make positive choices for themselves.

Title: Hamlet
Author: William Shakespeare
Adapted By: Malini Roy
Illustrator: Naresh Kumar
Publisher: Campfire
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
ISBN: 978-9381182512
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Graphic Novel
Synopsis: 
Once upon a time on a dark winter night, a ghost appears on the ramparts of Castle Elsinore in Denmark. It closely resembles the recently deceased king of Denmark. The guards see it first, and then the scholar Horatio confronts it. But it doesn’t speak to them. Impatient to know what the ghost’s appearance means, they summon Hamlet, the prince of Denmark. Hamlet has returned to Denmark to attend his father’s funeral. Yet, he finds himself also attending his mother Gertrude’s wedding to his uncle Claudius, who has inherited the throne. What will the ghost tell Hamlet?
One of the most intense and intriguing tragedies of all time is built upon the answer to this question. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is not just a story of a mad prince out to avenge his father’s death. It is also the story of the struggle of a nation against Fate. It is the story of human willpower battling the odds. It is not only the story of a man at war with the world around him, but also the story of a man in conflict with his own mind. It is the story of a time when something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Title: A Match Made in Mehendi
Author: Nandini Bajpai
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
ISBN: 978-0316522588
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Community Represented: Indian-American
Synopsis: 
Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole — matchmakers — with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.” But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course. But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

Title: House of Rage and Sorrow (Book 2 in the Celestial Trilogy)
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
ISBN: 978-1510733794
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Space Opera
Synopsis: 
Esmae once wanted nothing more than to help her golden brother win the crown of Kali but that dream died with her best friend. Alexi broke her heart, and she vowed to destroy him for it. And with her sentient warship Titania beside her, how can she possibly fail? As gods, beasts, and kingdoms choose sides, Alexi seeks out a weapon more devastating than even Titania. Past lives threaten the present. Old enemies claim their due. And Esmae cannot outrun the ghosts and the questions that haunt her. What really happened to her father? What was the third boon her mother asked of Amba? For in the shadows, lurking in wait, are secrets that will swallow her whole. The House of Rey is at war. And the entire galaxy will bleed before the end.

 

Title: The Taj Mahal: An Incredible Love Story
Author:  Rik Hoskin
Illustrator: Aadil Khan
Publisher: Campfire
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
ISBN: 978-9381182598
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Graphic Novel
Community Represented: Indian
Synopsis: 
This is the story behind the Taj Mahal – of the incredible love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, how they met and fell in love, and how Shah Jahan was to lose her as she died while giving birth. This is also the story of how the Taj Mahal was built, and how the great Mughal emperor spent his last days imprisoned in his fort, pining for his beloved Mumtaz, as he gazed over the river for a view of the magnificent edifice, a monumental reminder of his love and loss.

Title: The Light at the Bottom of the World
Author: London Shah
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
ISBN:  978-1368036887
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Synopsis: 
In the last days of the twenty-first century, sea creatures swim through the ruins of London. Trapped in the abyss, humankind wavers between fear and hope–fear of what lurks in the depths around them, and hope that they might one day find a way back to the surface. When sixteen-year-old submersible racer Leyla McQueen is chosen to participate in the prestigious annual marathon, she sees an opportunity to save her father, who has been arrested on false charges. The Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. But the race takes an unexpected turn, forcing Leyla to make an impossible choice. Now she must brave unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a guarded, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If Leyla fails to discover the truths at the heart of her world, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–or worse. And her father will be lost to her forever.

Title: Color outside the Lines: Stories about Love
Editor: Sangu Mandanna
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication Date: November 12, 2019
ISBN: 978-1641290463
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Anthology
Synopsis: 
When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love.—Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color Outside the Lines

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)