Quote for the Day: November 2nd, 2021

Because of Winn-Dixie (Anniversary Edition) by Kate DiCamillo and Ann Patchett (Introduction)

There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.

Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

20 Books to Read Together on Halloween Night

Once the candy has been sorted and stored safely away for rationing (to prevent sugar highs, naturally), curl up with your littles (or yourself, no judgment!) with these delightful Halloween reads. There’s a little bit of everything in this list, from board books geared toward pre-readers to stories you and your littles can read and share together. No matter how or with whom you spend it or what you choose to read, I hope all of you have a fantastically spooky Halloween!

Halloween Is Coming! by Cal Everett (Words) and Lenny Wen (Pictures)
How to Build a Haunted House by Frank Tupta (Words) and Kyle Beckett (Pictures)
Little Blue Truck’s Halloween: A Lift-the-Flap Book! by Alice Schertle (Words) and Jill McElmurry (Pictures)
Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson (Words) and Kevan J. Atteberry (Pictures)
The Itty-Bitty Witch by Trisha Speed Shaskan (Words) and Xindi Yan (Pictures)
The Silly Sounds of Halloween: Lift-the-Flap Riddles Inside! by Mike Petrik
Super Hero Halloween (DC Justice League) by Random House
Herbert’s First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant (Words) and Steven Henry (Pictures)
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams (Words) and Megan Lloyd (Pictures)
Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex
Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Anna Dewdney
Vlad the Rad by Brigette Barrager
Corduroy’s Trick or Treat by Don Freeman (Words) and Lisa McCue (Pictures)
There’s a Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher (Words) and Greg Abbott (Pictures)
Teeny Tiny Ghost by Rachel Matson (Words) and Joey Chou (Pictures)
Sweet and Spooky Halloween (Disney Princess) by RH Disney
The Littlest Witch by Brandi Dougherty (Words) and Jamie Pogue (Pictures)
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson (Words) and Axel Scheffler (Pictures)
Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins by James Dean
The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat by Stan & Jan Berenstain

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: October 30th, 2021

Tuck Everlasting (40th Anniversary Edition) by Natalie Babbitt and Gregory Maguire (Foreword)

Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.

Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Halloween Is Coming! by Cal Everett (Words) and Lenny Wen (Pictures)

Halloween Is Coming! by Cal Everett (Words) and Lenny Wen (Pictures)

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Seasonal titles are often hit-or-miss in terms of quality and sales-worthiness. You have your perennial bestsellers, the classics, which always perform well. Then there’s the seasonal titles featuring licensed characters, like Pete the Cat or Peppa Pig. These are always a big hit with preschool audiences but are certainly nothing to write home about. And then finally are the newbies, the titles published especially for the holiday(s) in question that aren’t tied to any other franchise or proud tradition save the holiday itself.

The Three Types of Children’s Halloween Books © 2021 Fred Slusher. All rights reserved.

My verdict: it’s absolutely delightful. Everett’s pithy rhymes combined with Wen’s clean and colorful illustrations make for a spook-tacular family read for Halloween night.

Halloween Is Coming! belongs to the last category. My verdict: it’s absolutely delightful. Everett’s pithy rhymes combined with Wen’s clean and colorful illustrations make for a spook-tacular family read for Halloween night. I also really appreciated the diversity of the children featured in the picture book. Too many children’s books focus exclusively on able-bodied white children and this deliberate act of exclusion prevents BIPOC children and children who are differently-abled from being able to socialize themselves within the framework of their peers. In short, representation matters, and it doesn’t just matter in social issue titles that explicitly deal with race, ability, or any other demographic characteristic.

Too many children’s books focus exclusively on able-bodied white children and this deliberate act of exclusion prevents BIPOC children and children who are differently-abled from being able to socialize themselves within the framework of their peers.

I’m comfortable in saying that Halloween Is Coming! is my favorite new Halloween title published this year and will be one I enjoy reading in the future as well as recommending to my littlest customers and their adults.

Pumpkins at the farmers’ market / Jack-o-lantern when we carve it © 2021 Cal Everett (Words) and Lenny Wen (Pictures). All rights reserved.
© 2021 Lenny Wen. All rights reserved.

Halloween Is Coming! was published by SOURCEBOOKS Kids on August 3rd, 2021 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Picture Book Review: Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd (Words) and Christian Robinson (Pictures)

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd (Words) and Christian Robinson (Pictures)

Stars when you shine

You know how I feel

“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone

The first thing that caught my eye when I picked up Nina was the familiar art style on the cover. I wracked my brain trying to remember where I’d seen it before, and all of a sudden it came to me: Christian Robinson had also done the artwork for Josephine, Patricia Hruby Powell’s pictorial biography of Josephine Baker, another Black woman performer who spat in the faces of her detractors and will forever be remembered as an iconoclast. Then I did some research and discovered that I’ve read and enjoyed several books featuring Robinson’s illustrations in addition to Nina and Josephine: You Matter, Antoinette, School’s First Day of School, Leo: A Ghost Story, Last Stop on Market Street, and Gaston.

One thing that holds true throughout history is that white supremacist racists can’t stand Black excellence.

One thing that holds true throughout history is that white supremacist racists can’t stand Black excellence. It cows them and forces them to confront their own inadequacies. Nina Simone is a quintessential example of that.

Nina Simone at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in March 1969. Made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Eunice Kathleen Waymon, the little girl who would grow up to become Nina Simone, was born the sixth of eight children on February 21st, 1933. Her mother was a Methodist minister and housekeeper. Her father was a handyman who at one time owned a dry-cleaning business and who unfortunately suffered from bouts of ill health. Little Eunice showed signs of genius at an early age, displaying a seemingly preternatural talent for music that far exceeded what anyone could possibly have expected from such a small child. The music seemed to come from somewhere deep inside her, flowing from a secret river only she could access.

The music seemed to come from somewhere deep inside her, flowing from a secret river only she could access.

Eunice’s mother only allowed her to play hymns and other church music, but her father surreptitiously introduced her to the wonders of jazz. Her personal favorite composer grew to be Johann Sebastian Bach, whose compositions started off soft and crescendoed into a passionate fervor, which reminded Eunice of the rhythms of her mother’s preaching.

Since preaching didn’t pay all the bills, Eunice’s mother also worked as a housekeeper. One of the white women whose house Eunice’s mother cleaned learned of Eunice’s gift on the piano, and along with Eunice’s mother, endeavored to do anything in her power to help the little girl receive the best training possible and reach a wider audience with her music.

Because of the kind of music heard in these establishments and the predilections of the clientele, Eunice had to adopt a nom de plume to keep her family from learning of her moonlighting gigs. Thus Nina Simone was born.

Their efforts more than paid off when Eunice was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music. Afterwards, she also applied for a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She was denied admission and started playing in jazz bars in Atlantic City to earn money. She mostly did this so she could continue studying with private tutors and further her classical education. No matter what she did, Eunice kept her eyes focused on improving her craft, which in my opinion is one of the main hallmarks of a true artist.

Because of the kind of music heard in these establishments and the predilections of the clientele, Eunice had to adopt a nom de plume to keep her family from learning of her moonlighting gigs. Thus Nina Simone was born.

From @theartoffun (Christian Robinson) on Instagram

The proprietors of the establishments Ms. Simone played in insisted she sing as well as play. Nina had never before thought of herself as a singer, being trained as a classical pianist from the time her legs were too short to touch the floor as she played. But if they wanted her to sing, then sing she would.

However, following the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi in June 1963 and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church which killed four young Black girls in Birmingham, Alabama that September, Nina had finally had enough.

Soon after she started singing to accompany herself on piano in Atlantic City bars, she catapulted into the spotlight. From 1958-1974, Ms. Simone recorded more than 40 albums and captivated audiences in performances all over the world. She still felt the sting of anti-Black racism but for a long time chose not to use her platform for activism. However, following the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi in June 1963 and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church which killed four young Black girls in Birmingham, Alabama that September, Nina had finally had enough.

Her first protest song was “Mississippi G*****” (I’m censoring the title for my mom, who reads this blog), which appeared on the album Nina Simone in Concert (pictured below).

Nina Simone in Concert (1964)

White Southern Evangelicals were incensed at the audacity of this Black woman who refused to smile and simper and coddle their fragile feelings.

White Southern Evangelicals were incensed at the audacity of this Black woman who refused to smile and simper and coddle their fragile feelings. So outraged were they in fact that promotional singles sent to some radio stations were returned broken neatly in half. And what a metaphor for the America of the 60s and now the 20s. It should be a matter of profound shame that we are still fighting for basic human dignity in the year 2021 with two large contingents of the population debating whose lives should and should not (or don’t and will never) matter.

I love seeing Black creators celebrated by other Black creators because representation matters and little Black children deserve to see people who look like them living lives they want to emulate.

All in all, Nina is a pictorial biography of the highest caliber. I wouldn’t be one smidgen surprised if it’s named one of the best books of 2021 written for children because in my opinion it already is. I love seeing Black creators celebrated by other Black creators because representation matters and little Black children deserve to see people who look like them living lives they want to emulate. They need that blueprint. The creators already exist; it’s up to us to amplify their art.

From Nina: A Story of Nina Simone: “Nina Simone sang the whole story of Black America for everyone to hear. Her voice resounded with the love, joy, and power of it all. And when she sang of Black children—you lovely, precious dreams—her voice sounded like hope.”

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone was released by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on September 28th, 2021 and is now available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Bonus: My Favorite Recording by Nina Simone

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Book Review: Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman (Author) and Loren Long (Illustrator)

Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman (Author) and Loren Long (Illustrator)

Amanda Gorman is, quite simply, a revelation.

Amanda Gorman is, quite simply, a revelation. In Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, Gorman’s mellifluous and uplifting text is paired with Loren Long’s gorgeously-rendered illustrations to show readers of all ages that everyone has a voice and everyone can (and should) be an agent for positive change. I think it’s fair to say that 2021 is the year of Amanda Gorman. She catapulted into the spotlight after she was chosen to recite her poem, “The Hill We Climb”, at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. She is the youngest person to ever be chosen for that honor. She was photographed by Annie Liebowitz for the May cover of Vogue, becoming the first poet who can make that claim.

…if you ask her, she stands on the shoulders of giants – the Black ancestors whose DNA she shares and whose lives she honors with her work to create a more just and equitable America.

It would seem that Gorman is racking up “firsts” like nobody’s business, but if you ask her, she stands on the shoulders of giants – the Black ancestors whose DNA she shares and whose lives she honors with her work to create a more just and equitable America. In addition to Change Sings, which was released by Viking Books for Young Readers on September 21st, she is also the author of three additional books: The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, which she self-published in 2015; The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country, which was released earlier this year; and Call Us What We Carry: Poems, which is due to be released on December 7th by Penguin Young Readers and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Beneath the Trees: The Autumn of Mr. Grumpf by DAV

Beneath the Trees: The Autumn of Mr. Grumpf by DAV

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Mr. Grumpf is a lovable curmudgeon. When we first meet him, Mr. Grumpf is busy trying to sweep away the last of the leaves from his doorstep in preparation for the fast-approaching winter. He is a badger that doesn’t want to be bothered. His neighbors, however, must have missed the memo because he is constantly being interrupted.

Despite his ill-tempered disposition, Mr. Grumpf always helps his neighbors when they ask and sometimes even when they don’t. Whether it’s helping a mouse retrieve his kite that’s stuck in a tree (and then repairing it when it turns out to be broken) or delivering nuts to a beleaguered father squirrel who has fallen behind in gathering nuts for winter, Mr. Grumpf is always of service to his neighbors…though never with a smile.

When Mr. Grumpf finally makes it home, he finds all the neighbors he’s helped helping him with his pre-winter chores. The smallest of smiles breaks through his grumpy veneer when the same mouse whose kite he saved presents him with his once-broken broom—repaired and ready to go.

I loved the illustrations in this book. The author uses a minimal of dialogue and narration to tell the story. It is image-driven, so children must interpret what’s happening most often by following the sequence of images on the page and reading the characters’ facial expressions.

All in all, I loved Beneath the Trees and I’m looking forward to the next books in the series.

Beneath the Trees: The Autumn of Mr. Grumpf is due to be released on October 12th, 2021 by Magnetic Press and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter and Instagram @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Basho’s Haiku Journeys by Freeman Ng (Author) and Cassandra Rockwood Ghanem (Illustrator)

Basho’s Haiku Journeys by Freeman Ng (Author) and Cassandra Rockwood Ghanem (Illustrator)

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

I must admit, before reading Basho’s Haiku Journeys I knew next to nothing about Matsuo Basho, the Japanese poet who lived in the seventeenth century and is credited with inventing the haiku. For those of you unfamiliar with the form, a haiku is a short-form poem most often containing seventeen syllables in three lines, with five in the first line, seven in the second line, and five in the third and last line. Most haiku are about nature and haiku purists insist that only haiku about nature can be considered true haiku, but the form has evolved to include other topics.

For most of his life, Basho lived a comfortable and cosmopolitan life in Edo, which was then the capital city of Japan. He made his living teaching and writing, but there was an unfulfilled longing inside him—to see more, to experience the vibrancy of life more fully. He lived in a hut outside Edo that his students had built for him, and one night it caught fire and burned to the ground.

Most people would feel devastated at the loss of all their earthly possessions, but Basho felt liberated. He wandered into the woods, basking in the elation he felt at his change in fortune. It was then he decided to adopt an itinerant lifestyle, beginning the first of what would become five long journeys. From 1684-1689, Basho would traverse the length of his country and write about the beauty of the natural world in books that would later become classics of Japanese literature.

This book is a must-purchase for children’s librarians, language arts teachers, and parents and guardians who want their children to be curious and creative citizens of the world.

Ng honors Basho by telling his story in haiku form and the result is nothing short of breathtaking. One of the hallmarks of a good book is that it leaves you wanting more and in that regard Ng has more than succeeded. Cassandra Rockwood Ghanem’s gorgeous hand-painted illustrations add depth and clarity to Basho’s story. This book is a must-purchase for children’s librarians, language arts teachers, and parents and guardians who want their children to be curious and creative citizens of the world.

Portrait of Matsuo Basho (18th-19th century) by Hokusai. Public domain.

Basho’s Haiku Journeys is due to be released on October 19th, 2021 by Stone Bridge Press and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter and Instagram @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: The Proud Button by Danette Richards

The Proud Button by Danette Richards

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Isabelle is a bright and curious little girl who keeps a jar full of special treasures which she protects as if it were a pot of gold. She lives a happy life for the most part but she is sad because she has a lot of trouble connecting with other kids her age and making friends. Sometimes it’s easier for her to work alone in class or stay in her bedroom admiring the treasures in her treasure jar than it would be for her to work with others or to venture out and play with other children.

One day when Isabelle arrives home from school, she has a letter and a present from her Aunt Nancy waiting for her. The present is a yellow porcelain button her aunt found in a field near an abandoned button factory in France—and it is christened Isabel’s Proud Button—proud because she takes such pride in caring for her treasures.

Perhaps, she thinks, she can treat herself and the people around her the same way she treats her treasures. And maybe, just maybe, this will help her make friends who will value her back.

The notion of taking pride in things you care for strikes a chord in Isabelle. Perhaps, she thinks, she can treat herself and the people around her the same way she treats her treasures. And maybe, just maybe, this will help her make friends who will value her back.

Isabelle’s Proud Button gives her the courage to do just that, and soon she is connecting with others and learning the joys of friendship.

It [The Proud Button] teaches (or reminds) us that there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in the things you own but that it’s much more important to care for the people in your life because your stuff can’t love you back.

The Proud Button is a wonderful story that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It teaches (or reminds) us that there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in the things you own but that it’s much more important to care for the people in your life because your stuff can’t love you back.

The Proud Button is due to be released on September 14th, 2021 by Clavis and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter and Instagram @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.