One Wish

Yuksel, M.O. One Wish: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University. New York: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2022.

This is the true story of a little girl from Tunisia who grew up to “build a school where students, especially the poor and the refugees, could live and study for free.” Fatima loved learning. Even after she and her family had to flee their home due to war, she continued to study. After her father and her husband died, leaving her a wealthy woman, she decided to use her fortune to help her new community in Morocco. She designed and supervised the building of an educational institution of higher learning to which students came from around the world. This university has now been in continuous operation for over one thousand years!

A brilliant picture book with illustrations by Miriam Quraishi and supplemented with additional information, including a glossary, bibliography and timeline. Most highly recommended for all readers who like learning.

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Every Dog in the Neighborhood

Stead, Philip C. Every Dog in the Neighborhood. New York: Holiday House, 2022.
If you like picture books, you probably already know that Philip Stead is a wonderful writer. If you’ve studied picture books, you already know that illustrations provide additional information to enhance the story. If you’re a teacher, you already like books that can be integrated into more than one subject. Well, this newest story by Stead is his most brilliant book yet. It’s as funny and heart-warming as the Moffat stories by Estes. Caldecott Medal winner Matthew Cordell’s illustrations are full of humorous details including a dog called E.B. who dreams of writing stories and a musician who owns two dogs called Thelonious and Monk. Younger students will be inspired to write their own letters and think of their own surveys to do after reading about Louis’s inventory of dogs. Older students will enjoy seeing how writers incorporate intriguing allusions requiring background knowledge to understand. Adults will appreciate Grandma’s complaints about city hall and how you sometimes just have to take care of things yourself. Highly recommended for everyone who likes picture books.

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A Boy Named Isamu

Yang, James. A Boy Named Isamu. New York, New York: Viking, 2021.
Do you enjoy observing the world around you? Do you like wondering about what you see? Are you ever alone but not lonely because you are busy thinking? Isamu is a boy whose imagination can fill an entire day in this elegant picture book inspired by the life of the artist Isamu Noguchi. Photographs and an author’s note at the end tell more about the Japanese American sculptor and landscape designer born in 1904. Recommended for children who are full of their own questions about the world.

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They Call Me River

Albrecht, Maciek. They Call Me River. Petaluma, California: Cameron Kids, 2021.
A river begins as a raindrop, high above the mountains. It falls to earth and starts its journey to the sea, travelling along past families hiking, children swimming, a couple getting married outdoors,… And at the end, it becomes one with the ocean before rising to start the cycle over as a raindrop once again. This picture book lyrically explains the water cycle, but it also tells the story of human life. We are all carried along by the currents of life, growing, changing, entering into relationships and then, finally, letting go at the end. Beautiful collages full of intriguing details help to create a book that can be enjoyed at many different levels: literally, psychologically, philosophically, even spiritually. Highly recommended for ages 6 and up.

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What is a River?

Vaicenavičienė, Monika. What is a River? New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2021.

A thread. A meeting place. A mystery. A reflection…. A grandmother uses fourteen metaphors to describe a river in this exquisite picture book full of facts about history and geography. The style and relatively small size of the font make the book most suitable for adults to read to young children or older readers to read on their own. But for any age, the rhythm of the sentences and the details of the illustrations require a mind that can linger on each page, appreciating the gentle flow of the story. A book to buy! Highly recommended for readers 8 years old and up.

P.S. Teachers might like to use this book as an introduction to metaphors. Or as an introduction to writing nonfiction essays using a literary style. 

P.P.S. Readers travelling around the world through books might like to know that this book was originally written in Swedish. The author now lives in Vilinius, Lithuania. 

P.P.P.S. Older readers who appreciate fact-filled picture books about history might like to look for books by Peter Sis: Nicky and Vera, The Wall.

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Alone Like Me

Evans, Rebecca. Alone Like Me. New York: Anne Schwartz Books, 2022.
Life is lonely for Liling when she moves to the city. Her parents have to take her along to their places of work, and she has to spend her days quietly not being noticed. When her father takes her to a park, she has to endure taunts from other children. But then she meets another lonely little girl and a gentle friendship begins. Set in China, this picture book shows what life is like for children who are not entitled to an education when they move from the place where they were born. A glossary and pronunciation guide are included, as well as an afterward telling more about life for children who move from rural to urban settings. Recommended for readers 6 to 11 years old.

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Summertime Sleepers

Stewart, Melissa. Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate. Watertown, Massachusetts: Charlesbridge, 2021.
Some animals don’t go to sleep for the winter. Instead, they take a rest in the summer. They don’t hibernate. Instead, they estivate. Detailed illustrations in watercolor by Sarah S. Brannen accompany this informative picture book for kids up to 11 years old. Variously sized and styled fonts provide different levels of information from simple to more advanced. An extensive afterword provides additional facts and a list of sources for further research. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy factual books.

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