Double Review: Books about Feeding Babies

End the Mealtime Meltdown
by Stephanie Meyers
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

I expect this book to be more useful when my child and I can interact in a more meaningful way, but I tucked away a few of her phrases for later use, such as “what do you notice about [x food]?” and “what’s happening for you with [y food]?” Meyers is a dietitian and I liked her approach in general.

The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers
by Anthony Porto M.D. and Dina DiMaggio M.D.
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

I liked that this book started from infancy and went chronologically through age 3. I do wish that ages 1-3 were broken up a bit more, but I really appreciated the recipes for each stage, which were a hit with my little one. I requested this book because of the small section on picky eating, which wasn’t too in-depth but still helpful.

Double Review: Asian American graphic novels

by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Avery is the second of seven siblings and is tired of it – of the noise, of the room-sharing, of being in charge especially when her older brother, with whom she used to be close, gets out of all of it. She decides to start a dog-walking business to earn enough money to redo their house so she can have her own room, but things don’t go exactly to plan. Finally, her parents reveal that they are moving across the country. Avery is upset, but there is a silver lining – she can finally have her own room!

Good for fans of: Allergic

Parachute Kids
by Betty C. Tang
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Front Desk with more at stake (and with more pictures). In the 1980s, ten-year-old Feng-Li Lin and her family come to America for what she thinks is a vacation to Disneyland. However, it seems that their real plan is to rent an apartment and leave Feng-Li and her 14-year-old brother in the care of their perfectionist 16-year-old sister, all overstaying tourist visas, so they can get an education. Their parents return to Taiwan to continue to save and arrange for their permanent return. Apparently this was a regular practice and the story is based on Tang’s own family experience as well as other families she knew. Feng-Li and her siblings choose English names, with various feelings about it, and begin to learn English, make friends, and assimilate. Jia-Xi, aka Jessie, is also trying to study for the SATs, keep herself and her siblings out of trouble, and raise them – a huge burden for a teen. Their parents have friends looking out for them, but they soon move across the country, leaving the trio defenseless. Jia-Xi falls for a scam, Ke-Gang (aka Jason) gets badly injured, and Feng-Li (aka Ann) gets caught shoplifting. Everything works out in the end, but there is a real sense of danger. We also learn a little about why their parents uprooted them – apparently Ke Gang had gotten into some trouble back in Taiwan, and also there’s allusion to him being gay.

Double Review: Freewater and The Last Mapmaker

by Amina Luqman-Dawson
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

I can see why this book won the Newbery Award this year. Luqman-Dawson does an excellent job of weaving back and forth between two narratives, one on a slave plantation and one in the “maroon” community of Freewater that two children escape to from that plantation. Each narrative is told through multiple perspectives; although one is in the first person and all the rest are in the third person, it’s never awkward. 12-year-old Homer and his little sister, Ada, run away with their mother, Rose. But Homer’s best friend, Anna, is left behind and Homer begs Rose to go back for her; when she does, she is caught and beaten within an inch of her life. Rose raised one of the master’s daughters, Nora, who is coming into her own understanding of the inhumanity of slavery. The rest of the plantation – family and slaves – are busy preparing for Nora’s sister Viola’s upcoming wedding and all Nora wants is to escape that life as well.

Meanwhile, over in the swamp, Homer and Ada are taken in and guided through secret passageways to a well-protected and -patrolled area of dry land called Freewater, home to a few dozen escaped slaves and about a dozen free-born children. Among the children are sisters Juna (the golden child) and Sanzi (the problem child), who have never stepped foot outside Freewater and don’t really know the dangers that await them because of the color of their skin. There’s also new arrival Ferdinand, and old hand Billy, whose traumas have deeply affected them in different ways. When Homer decides to go back for his mother and Anna, he unwittingly brings a whole crew with him and it all comes to a head in quite a spectacular way.

I was fascinated to learn a new aspect to the freedom/slavery story. Maroon communities were a real occurrence and Luqman-Dawson even thanks Dr. Sylviane A. Diouf, who “studies America’s maroon communities in the swamps and forests of the American South” – it blows my mind that there are people who dedicate their lives to researching things some of us have never even heard of! I hope that books like Freewater can help change the way we teach history.

The Last Mapmaker
by Christina Soontornvat 
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

12-year-old Sai has grown up in abject poverty in the swamp of fictional Mangkon with only her low-life father to keep her out of the girls’ home – sometimes. When he’s not in jail for stealing to help them survive. Sai has developed an ability to copy anyone’s handwriting identically, and for this she is awarded a job as mapmaker Paiyoon’s assistant. He is getting older and needs someone to do the writing for him, though his mind is still sharp. In a society where your worth is based on your ancestry, Sai’s future is bleak until she gets this job and can somehow find a way out of Mangkon to start fresh. 

Then the Queen announces a contest to find the as-yet unproven Great Southern Continent and map it, though it involves crossing the dangerous Harbinger Sea, and quickly Paiyoon and Sai are on one of the ships, captained by Sangra. Sai befriends Captain Sangra’s secret half-sister, Rian, manages to help a troubled stowaway named Bo who tried to pick Sai’s pocket before boarding, and tries to convince Master Paiyoon to chart a course to the Sunderlands and win the prize money. But there is treason aboard the Prosperity and the twists and turns kept me guessing the whole time, wrapping up neatly in the end. Sai even grows to understand her father and Captain Sangra, who it turns out is in the royal family, is helping to change their society (a move which struck me as a commentary on the recent changes within the British royal family, if you should choose to read it that way).

I read these two books at the same time and, as often happens when I do that, saw parallels that I would likely not have seen otherwise. From the Southerland / Sunderland names, to the swampy descriptions, to the troubled newcomer (Ferdinand / Bo), to the pacing and tension and tidy wrap-up, there were little details that caught my attention. In the end, these are both stellar stories. 

Theo’s Mood

by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Theo has a new baby sister. When he tells his classmates, they ask how he feels about it. Is he happy? Jealous? Proud? Afraid? Turns out, he’s feeling all of those things at once. This is a great way for new (or even not so new) big siblings to explore all the different emotions they might be having. I read this one for our mental health storytime series.

Of Walden Pond: Henry David Thoreau, Frederic Tudor, and the Pond Between

by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

As an avid visitor to Walden Pond in Concord, MA, I love reading and learning more about it, especially children’s books. I also love the illustrations by Ashley Benham-Yazdani and am a bit surprised this book didn’t earn any Caldecott honor, medal, or even buzz (that I heard). The words are equally lovely, truly written as poetry (and not just sentences with line breaks to make it seem like poetry).

Cline-Ransome connects two historical stories: one, well-known (at least around here), of Thoreau and his time living at Walden Pond; the other, vaguely known (at least to me), of people harvesting, shipping, and selling ice. In particular, Frederic Tudor, who had lost his reputation as a businessman in earlier failed ice shipping attempts, but earned it back at Walden. I had never heard of Frederic Tudor, but it seems that he is responsible for the advent of ice boxes and, by extension, refrigerators.

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs

by Leslie Connor
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

13-year-old Lydia loses her mother after a long illness, and the book opens on her way to live at her aunt’s house. Lydia’s father left when she was about five so it’s been just Lydia and her mother for years. One of things they did was make art as a way of coping with their feelings about the inevitable death.

Lydia seems surprisingly well-adjusted given her age and that she’s grieving her mother. Over the course of the six months of the story, she grows attached to “her adults” and their community, including the other 11 members of her grade in the tiny school. One thing that was curious to me was that “her adults” included her mother’s sister, aka Aunt Brat, and her aunt’s wife, whom she calls Eileen, not Aunt Eileen.

She also falls in love with the dog the family adopts, even though she’s not a dog person. There is a storyline with two abused goats that was hard to read, but beautiful. I love Leslie Connor, though this might be my least favorite of the ones I’ve read so far, only because it was only Very Good as opposed to Knocked My Socks Off.

Where We Live: Mapping Neighborhoods of Kids Around the Globe

by Margriet Ruurs
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a fun read comparing the life of kids in different cities and towns around the world. A coworker told me she and her seven-year-old had a great time exploring this book together. All 7 continents, including Antarctica (technically Villa Las Estrellas) and Oceania, are represented! It gives the city’s population, a description of the kid’s school, home, food, and leisure activities, and anything else notable. I especially liked that five major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism) are represented and all are presented with explanations, not indicating that a reader would have background knowledge of any of them.

Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting

by Danya Ruttenberg
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

I think the title really says it all. I especially enjoyed the chapter on getting into the flow, being present in the moment with your child, whether it’s playing or reading or whatever, instead of keeping an eye on the clock or thinking about what else you need to get done. Ruttenberg’s insights have already affected how I look at my own child. I sort of want all my fellow Jewish mom friends to read this book and chat about it!

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

by Dan Gemeinhart
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

12-year-old Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have been on a 5-year-road trip – ever since Coyote’s sisters and mother died in a car accident. Rodeo rehabbed an old school bus and they criss-cross the country, keeping moving so the memories and the grief don’t catch up with them. But then something happens and Coyote has to go home, whether Rodeo likes it or not. They finally have to face their past and start to come to grips with it.

This story was equal parts moving and ridiculous adventure. Starting out in Florida and making their way to Washington state, Coyote and Rodeo collect passengers along the way: a heartbroken musician, a teen runaway, domestic violence victims, and even a goat named Gladys.

Coyote’s tough girl exterior sounded like a persona she adopted, based on the very average, seemingly middle-class upbringing she had had before taking up residence in Yager (the bus’s name). She also sounded wise beyond her years and sometimes stood up for herself in ways that adult would, but that sounded too mature for a 12-year-old. I did love the awkwardness of a few moments with Salvador, as two kids on the verge of puberty where friendship with the opposite sex starts to get complicated – but on the whole that was not part of the story, which I liked. I also loved that she was able to go back to being a kid, and a daughter, again, and that she and her dad were able to begin healing from their tremendous and tragic loss.

Book name dropping like: The Anybodies by N. E. Bode
Dealing with loss (and title) like: The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari