Dare to Be Daring makes a sweetly supportive case for mustering up the courage to try new things—and remembering you don’t have to do it alone, perfectly or all at once.
Dare to Be Daring makes a sweetly supportive case for mustering up the courage to try new things—and remembering you don’t have to do it alone, perfectly or all at once.
Readers won’t want to put down The White Guy Dies First, a creative and creepy collection in which expectations are subverted and underrepresented groups claim their power from ghouls and demons both real and supernatural.
Readers won’t want to put down The White Guy Dies First, a creative and creepy collection in which expectations are subverted and underrepresented groups claim their power from ghouls and demons both real and supernatural.
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Magdalena Herrera has a lot of responsibilities. On top of trying to finish high school, she works a part-time job and is the sole caregiver for her grandmother. Mags has a lot of secrets as well. She’s hooking up with a girl who has a boyfriend. And every night she disappears down a trapdoor in her house, and emerges drained in more than one way.

Then her childhood best friend, Nessa, shows up for the first time in a decade, and starts asking questions the Herreras don’t want anyone to ask. What’s more, Nessa is stirring up feelings that Mags long ago accepted people in her family can never have. But Nessa has secrets, too, and the girls are about to learn the hard way that secrets thrive best in the dark.

The Deep Dark is a moving and eerie graphic novel exploring identity, generational trauma and queer love. Molly Knox Ostertag takes the successful elements of her previous books, The Girl From the Sea and The Witch Boy trilogy, and elevates them. Her characters are complex and nuanced, and their dialogue is natural and impassioned. Ostertag expertly interweaves magical realism and mystery into what is also an adorable love story.

The art is stunning, with expressive characters and the beautiful setting of the Southern California desert. Ostertag twists typical comic conventions, coloring the present almost exclusively in black and white, while the flashbacks are in full color, making it apparent that Mags’ life has been in shades of gray since Nessa left. Page gutters are black during night scenes, intensifying the creepiness. Throughout, Ostertag’s dynamic illustrations elicit emotional responses; for example, panels get progressively smaller during a moment of panic, literally creating tunnel vision.

The Deep Dark leaves some questions unanswered, but that’s the point: A conflict as intricate as the one in this story cannot be wrapped up neatly. But as Ostertag discusses in her author’s note, this graphic novel follows the “first careful steps of unraveling,” and you’ll root for Mags and Nessa to keep taking those steps.

The Deep Dark is a moving and eerie graphic novel exploring identity, generational trauma and queer love.

A little bird is in a funk. But that’s OK, a grown-up bird reminds them. It’s OK to feel a little bit off sometimes: “No need to try to fix everything, but let’s move a few things around.” You never know what might make a tiny difference. In A Tiny Difference (Katherine Tegen, $19.99, 9780063114159), with the help of their grown-up and lots of friends, our little bird learns new techniques to connect with their body. To breathe, to stretch, to wiggle, to dance! At the same time, our friend also begins to reconnect with their mind, imagining everything from hot air balloons to aliens to a hug from a friend.

Writer and illustrator June Tate presents a tender poem from the perspective of a kind and loving adult, encouraging readers with simple, relatable language. Rather than telling us to breathe, Tate writes “fill up your rib cage” and “open up like a window.” Rather than reminding us to stretch, she tells us to “reach to the sides of the room” in order to “get out those crunchy bits.” The picture book concludes with the narrator listing all the traits that make the little bird special, reminding us as readers that we too are loved by those in our lives. 

Made with colored pencils, markers and watercolors, Tate’s illustrations are reminiscent of a child’s drawings. These deceptively simple images introduce friends to help out: A frog teaches us to breathe. A squirrel teaches us to stretch. A butterfly teaches us to squeeze and relax! Each creature’s expressions and actions are clear and relatable. 

Whether your young reader is anxious, worried or simply has had a hard day, this sweet, mindful book is sure to help all readers center themselves. Fans of Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds’ I Am books and Cori Doerrfeld’s The Rabbit Listened will be glad to add A Tiny Difference to their book shelves.

In A Tiny Difference, writer and illustrator June Tate presents a tender poem from the perspective of a kind and loving adult, encouraging young readers with simple, relatable language.

We all have our routines. And while the otherworldly fellow in The Spaceman may have a very different mode of transportation from the rest of us— a super cool silver spaceship—he too has a routine: “I collect soil samples. I label the soil samples. And I file the soil samples. Then I move on to the next planet. And the next.”

The Spaceman is a cute little guy with a smooth pate, googly eyes and an even-tempered demeanor. But when he lands on a planet with huge beautiful flowers and an enormous black bird, his eyes light up and his mouth falls open in surprise because “once in a very rare while, one encounters something special . . . that causes one to forget all about soil samples.” Understandably, he becomes even more expressive when said bird flies off with his spaceship!

As the puckish protagonist gives chase through this strange new landscape, he is aided by a butterfly that takes him on a breathtaking airborne tour. Readers will delight in marveling with the Spaceman at each new discovery, from an inquisitive new dog-friend to the pleasure of play. As the Spaceman realizes this colorful planet is anything but ordinary, his smile grows ever wider.

Randy Cecil has written and illustrated several picture books, including the award-winning Lucy, and provided artwork for over 20 books such as the bestselling And Here’s to You! by David Elliott. In this foray into outer space, Cecil prompts readers to consider the value of making time for the serendipitous and the surprising—as well as the joy of finding a place where you feel truly at home. The Spaceman is a fun book to read aloud, with beautiful oil-on-paper illustrations for readers to contemplate as they make their own discoveries right along with our diminutive hero. It makes a wryly humorous, quietly moving case for prioritizing whimsy, relaxation and friendship.

The latest from author-illustrator Randy Cecil is a fun book to read aloud, with beautiful oil-on-paper illustrations for readers to contemplate as they make their own discoveries right along with our diminutive hero.
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Names often play a pivotal role in stories—and like many aspects of fiction, their importance is reflected in the real world. The novels of award-winning young adult author Darcie Little Badger draw on the power of names: In Elatsoe, Little Badger’s 2020 debut, the titular character carries the name of a legendary ancestor. Little Badger’s new novel (and prequel to Elatsoe) employs the same convention: Sheine Lende, which translates to “sunflower,” is both the title and the Lipan name of Shane, the book’s protagonist.

Little Badger explains that, in her Lipan Apache tribe, “names were given to a person when they’d grown up enough that their personality and other aspects of them had developed, so it’s a coming of age thing. I got my name after I graduated high school.”

Sheine Lende tells the story of 17-year-old Shane, a Lipan Apache girl in 1970s Texas. Including the diacritical marks that indicate pronunciation, Shane’s Lipan name is spelled Sheiné lénde, but the marks were omitted for the official title. When considered in the context of the story, this difference illuminates much of what Little Badger explores in the novel about names, language and the erasure of native peoples.

“I wanted Shane to be named after a sunflower, and there were a couple of different ways that we could have spelled it. We eventually settled on Sheiné lénde,” she says. “Then I learned from my editor that apparently, the system that’s used to distribute books to booksellers, etc.—it’s really not set up to take diacritical marks. Unfortunately, that means that we had to take off the diacritical marks in the title. It was interesting, because part of the book is Shane learning how to say her name. So it was sad that we couldn’t have the faithful pronunciation indicated in the title itself. But throughout the book, you see the diacritical marks are there. That’s the way it should be,” Little Badger says, as she explains the correct pronunciation (phonetically, it’s close to SHAY-neh LEN-day).

“The Lipan language is currently in a revitalization process,” Little Badger explains. “Lots of people are working on trying to not just fill in holes in our language, but to teach the next generations how to speak it.”

“With Shane,” Little Badger continues, “she does feel embarrassed that she can’t really pronounce her own name. It’s almost like she can’t wrap her head around who she really is. And that makes her wonder, ‘Maybe that’s not me.’ It was important for me to highlight that.”

Shane lives with her mother, Lorenza, and her little brother, Marcos. The family has spent the last several years rebuilding their lives after a devastating flood took their home, community and worst of all, Shane’s father and paternal grandparents.

Now, living far from “la rancheria de los Lipanes,” the community in which they used to live that was composed mostly of Lipan households, Lorenza and Shane scrape by however they can. Lorenza, who is a gifted tracker, offers search and rescue services to local families. Along with their two well-trained hounds, Lorenza and Shane also have the help of a powerful secret weapon: the ghost of their dog Nellie, brought back through their ancestral gift.

To Shane, her mother is the truest rock Shane has had since the flood. But when Lorenza accidentally steps into a wild fairy ring and vanishes while looking for a pair of missing siblings, Shane’s entire world turns upside down. The ensuing search for her mother forces Shane onto her own turbulent path of reconnection to her people, her family and herself.

Sheine Lende, with its animal ghosts, fairies, vampires and other mythological figures, is firmly rooted in genre fiction. But each fantastical element is anchored by very real and historic truths. Even in a magical version of the world, natural disasters are as unavoidable as carnivorous river monsters, and Shane and Lorenza feel they must hide their sacred abilities as they navigate systems of oppression augmented by the dominance of white European magic systems.

“The cool thing about writing fantasy is that you can use a lot of different tools to present what you want to say about the world,” Little Badger says. “For example, I studied invasive plant species in the United States when I was in college, and they’re called ‘invasive’ because they cause ecological and/or economic damage to the environment that they’re growing in. So I was like, ‘Well, these fairy rings and fae people in the world of Elatsoe and Sheine Lende are extradimensional, so it’s almost like they’re being introduced to Earth. What if there are unintended consequences and they start to spread like an invasive plant?’”

The actions we take, often to our own benefit, and sometimes even with noble intentions, could potentially cause negative impacts that carry over into the future.

The role of the fairy rings and their environmental impact in the story contribute to a larger metaphor for collective responsibility and environmental stewardship. Though fairy rings are  magical, it’s easy to draw parallels to real world stories of environmental destruction on Indigenous land, such as the heavily protested Dakota Access Pipeline construction at Standing Rock, or the similarly problematic Keystone Pipeline.

Little Badger hints at the importance of collective responsibility early on in the novel, when Shane’s mother comes down with the flu while on a mission. Despite needing help, she stops Shane from using a flare gun because there’s a risk of it starting a fire in the area, which has recently experienced a drought: “She’s thinking of other people in a wider context, but also there’s this acknowledgement that the land we live on is going to be the land that grandchildren and great-grandchildren live on. There’s one Earth. And the actions we take, often to our own benefit, and sometimes even with noble intentions, could potentially cause negative impacts that carry over into the future.”

“It’s especially hard,” she continues, “because a lot of times, it’s not just individual decisions. It’s the decisions made by corporations or by entire countries. It can make someone feel small and overwhelmed when they’re like, ‘Okay, well, I recycle all the time and I do all these things. And it’s just not enough.’ But I do think that, collectively, if we can move to a place where we take future generations and people who aren’t like us into greater consideration—that’s what Lorenza was trying to teach Shane—it’s always a positive thing.”

Little Badger’s unique approach to genre fiction has been described as Indigenous futurism, an artistic movement considers the histories of Native peoples and uses the past to inform reimagined or recontextualized stories and futures. Throughout Sheine Lende, Little Badger uses fantastical devices to create a fun house mirror reflection of her tribe’s experiences.

The Lipan Apache are not a federally recognized tribe, and there is no Lipan reservation. Search engines offer contradictory information about the tribe. Links to the tribe’s official website and history are brought up next to an article from the Oklahoma Historical Society, which speaks of the tribe in past tense, and claims “little of their culture remains.”

“That’s . . . definitely not true,” Little Badger says. “That’s a choice. It ties into the erasure that Sheiné lénde shows.” Little Badger explains that before the Republic of Texas acquired statehood, “there was a ‘treaty of peace and perpetual friendship’ that Texas made with us. But then Texas became a state. Government officials did talk about potentially making a reservation for the Lipan Apache outside of the state of Texas, but unfortunately—well, they would consider us defiant, but we just couldn’t be rounded up. We couldn’t be captured. So they decided to do an elimination extermination campaign instead.”

By the late 1870s, Congress had made it illegal for any Indians to exist freely in Texas. Without a reservation, the Lipan Apache were among the Native peoples who suffered from this lack of recognition. “Until around 2021, we had no tribal land, so essentially we’d always be one disaster or unpaid bill away from losing our homes and having to start over somewhere else in Texas. I’ve heard people call us ‘disenfranchised natives,’” Little Badger says, referring to the fact that Native groups without tribal recognition from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs lack rights given by the federal government.

“With Sheine Lende, so much of it is about that struggle to survive on land that has been, according to the United States government, taken away from you, on which you don’t even exist,” Little Badger adds. Towards the end of the novel, Shane enters the land of the dead, “almost like she is drawn to the thought that she belongs with the dead.” While a physical concept in Sheine Lende, the underworld also “represents Shane’s mental health and the way she sees herself and her people.” This fever dream sees Shane wandering through enchanted deserts that transition into prehistoric tundras. She encounters strange and terrifying beauty, confronting extinction and memory.

“It’s her struggling against that urge to give into despair and remain there with the dead, which eventually she overcomes by thinking of her family out there waiting for her—and a hope for the future, that those who remain need her to be with them and she needs to be with the living for herself,” Little Badger says. “It’s my meditation on what it means to be a disenfranchised native who is so erased by the law, by the military, by history, by books, by everyone outside of your community.”

Ultimately, “Shane finds strength by looking within herself and her community.” It’s this final sentiment of turning toward living, hope and the people who need you and nourish you, that most fully embodies “futurism,” and it’s where Shane embodies her namesake. At the end of Sheine Lende, her family’s grief has not been magically healed, and the ripple effects of colonialism are far from being calmed. But on the book’s final page, there is a note: “This is not the end.” In that message, there is a fervent reminder of hope, if only one remembers to turn, like a sunflower, toward the light.

 

The author discusses how the strange and beautiful world of Sheine Lende, the prequel to Elatsoe, reflect the experiences of her Lipan Apache tribe.

Sophia Henry Winslow and her neighbor Sophie Gershowitz are best friends with a lot in common. They both go by “Sophie,” love the color mauve, aren’t big fans of quesadillas and loathe gossip.

And both Sophies, as readers learn in Lois Lowry’s lovely and moving Tree. Table. Book., embody the saying that “age is just a number.” Although Sophie W. is 11 years old, and Sophie G. is 88 years old, they are undoubtedly kindred spirits who “have a true and lasting friendship, a friendship of the heart.”

When young Sophie’s parents explain to her that the elder Sophie has been having problems with her short-term memory—so much so that her son Aaron is considering moving her from their New Hampshire town to an assisted-living facility near him in Ohio—she is devastated. 

But also determined: She’s going to help Sophie G. prepare for cognitive testing so they won’t be separated. After all, “Sophie Gershowitz has taught me many things . . . I am still learning from her. And I think that learning from each other is one of the most important parts of friendship.” 

In order to prepare her friend for acing the most important exam ever, Sophie W. knows just the thing to use as a guide: the Merck Manual medical reference, provided by her friend and classmate Ralphie, whose dad is a doctor. Their precocious 7-year-old neighbor Oliver also joins the endeavor, cheering on the Sophies as they work through a series of exercises.

Lowry, winner of two Newbery Medals for The Giver and Number the Stars, does an excellent job building tension as Aaron’s impending visit—and the prospect of the Sophies’ lives changing forever—looms ever larger. When the test prep unlocks memories of Sophie G.’s childhood in Poland during World War II, Lowry conveys with sensitivity and realism Sophie W.’s sorrow upon realizing that things she’s only learned about in school have had a painful, lifelong impact on her beloved friend. 

Tree. Table. Book. is yet another story from a cherished author that will captivate readers as they reflect on the vagaries of history and the beauty of friendship, which are so poignantly conveyed in this timeless tale.

Lois Lowry’s Tree. Table. Book. will captivate readers as they reflect on the vagaries of history and the beauty of friendship, which are so poignantly conveyed in this timeless tale.
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Brendan Wenzel’s award-winning picture books (Every Dreaming Creature, A Stone Sat Still) invite readers to look carefully at every image. Two Together continues his exploration of perspective, this time through the eyes of a dog and a cat traveling home together. Two Together easily stands alone, but also fits as a companion to Wenzel’s They All Saw a Cat and Inside Cat. With simple rhymes and a rolling cadence, the text follows the animal friends as they walk through the woods, cross a stream and encounter other obstacles before arriving at their cozy home. Dog and cat enjoy different aspects of their journey—one two-page spread shows them caught in a rain shower (which dog appreciates while cat decidedly does not) before they are dried by a breeze and the warm sun (which cat loves and dog barely tolerates). The differences in their experiences are subtle, but readers will love discovering these moments of personality.

Wenzel further encourages close scrutiny through varying the art styles and media used. When readers first meet them, the dog and cat look very similar, both drawn in loose lines and muted shades as they walk toward a pond. But from the moment they see their reflections in the water, the picture book takes off, and for most of the book, the dog appears in a highly saturated, finger-paint style whereas the cat is drawn in scratchy lines of colored pencil. Sometimes a spread is fully divided, with the dog’s smeary boldness occupying the left and the cat’s sharp edges on the right. When they look at a bird, or a frog, or a bear, the creature is drawn as a composite of these contrasting styles. 

But when the dog and the cat look at each other, “two together face-to-face,” their appearances reverse. Suddenly, it is clear: The art is not representing what they look like, but how they see the world! 

While the rhymes aren’t always perfect, the simple sentences and descriptive words paired with vivid images will make Two Together excellent for developing readers.

Readers will love discovering a dog and cat’s moments of personality as they enjoy different aspects of their journey home in Two Together.
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Between the grief of losing her mother to cancer and the strain from caring for her ill but frivolous father, Ruby Santos is just trying to stay afloat. So when she discovers that her father is in debt to a powerful family who secretly rules the San Francisco BART system, Ruby doesn’t hesitate to take on his contract—which means becoming a “jumper,” or a person who magically travels between train lines to make mysterious, under-the-table deliveries. Ruby is determined to do well, but as she learns more about what the deliveries are and how the train-jumping business works, she begins to wonder if this new, magical world is darker—and deadlier—than she expected.

The Vanishing Station is a sweeping journey told in beautiful, first-person prose full of Ruby’s dynamic personality. As Ruby jumps around the world, Ellickson brings each place to life with vibrant descriptions, including sensory elements and Ruby’s emotional responses. Ruby’s charming and personable voice comes through to the reader in asides, exclamations and clever quips.

Ruby lives in between many worlds. While she was raised in a house passed down through her mother’s Irish family, her father also passed along the food, music and beliefs of his Filipino upbringing. Ruby has a burning desire to pursue art but feels pressured to focus on jobs that pay more because of her father’s mental and physical health issues. Isolated by her family’s troubles and the loss of her mother, Ruby starts the story feeling completely lost: “I’m a ghost in my own city.” 

Becoming a jumper seems to promise a life of adventure, if not freedom. But Ruby finds herself entangled in lies and secrets, stuck trying to balance her heavy responsibilities and her beliefs. As Ruby learns more about the people around her, including her father and members of the Bartholomew family, she begins to recognize that power can manifest and be claimed in many different ways.

Ultimately, Ruby’s development hinges on knowing and accepting herself. As she is forced to look inward, she learns more about where she comes from and who she truly is—and who she wants to be. Even when life feels out of control, we have the power to make meaningful decisions.

The Vanishing Station is about complex relationships: with family, with our choices and especially with one’s self. Ruby is a reminder that even under the heaviest, most difficult circumstances, it’s worth it to love, try and believe in yourself.

As Ruby jumps around the world in The Vanishing Station, author Ana Ellickson concocts vibrant descriptions of settings, sensory elements and her teenage heroine’s emotions.
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Celebrated Deaf poet Raymond Antrobus originally resisted the idea of writing children’s books because of what he called “snobbery” in a 2021 interview with The Guardian. Thankfully, Antrobus came to see the immense importance of these stories, and released a tremendous debut picture book, Can Bears Ski? Readers will delight at his latest offering, Terrible Horses, which features a protagonist with hearing aids who fights with his older, much cooler sister. 

The picture book form is a wonderful vehicle for Antrobus’ poetry, which shines through each lovely line in the use of poetic devices such as alliteration and repetition. Despite these higher-level literary elements, the narrative is instantly relatable, conveying the tensions of sibling rivalry and all the associated emotions. Declarative sentences combine to form poetic yet authentically childlike stanzas that sing. Though Terrible Horses is not overtly about the Deaf experience, Antrobus provides thoughtful and gentle representation by expressing the little brother’s unique type of isolation. 

Ken Wilson-Max’s whimsical mixed media illustrations unite with Antrobus’ careful word choice to show the explosiveness of the siblings’ fights and the healing power of words as the protagonist retreats to write “stories about terrible horses” in which he is a lonely little pony “that can’t compete / that can’t speak / that can’t sleep.” These stories comfort the young narrator, but they also serve to heal the sibling relationship once his sister reads them and starts to better understand her little brother. The energy of Wilson-Max’s colorful line drawing enhances this rich story, creating the perfect combination for children and their caregivers and storytellers.

Ken Wilson-Max’s whimsical mixed media illustrations unite with Raymond Antrobus’ careful word choice to show the explosiveness of fights between siblings and the healing power of words.
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Xue is a talented musician of unfortunate background, who hopes to use her skill at playing the qin to earn her place in society. Years ago, her uncle brought her to Wudan’s famous House of Flowing Water to hone her skills in music, courtly manners and the arts, in order to secure a patron or other opportunity once she comes of age. Xue’s quiet life of study and performance is punctuated by visits from her beloved uncle, until tragedy strikes and all she has left of the only family she remembers is a qin he gifted her. 

When an inscrutable new customer, Duke Meng, asks to purchase the instrument, Xue barely has time to process his odd request before danger strikes, in the form of an attack by a strange beast. In the aftermath, the Duke offers a bargain: journey to his estate to work with him, and afterward he will reward Xue with admission to any music academy she wishes. Apprehensive but hopeful, Xue accepts and is thrust into a world of courtly intrigue, godly squabbles, ancient grudges and interplanar consequences. Xue’s music might be the key to helping the Duke unravel the plots swirling around his family.

Judy I. Lin’s Song of the Six Realms, is both a love letter to the power of music and a heady tour through a setting inspired by Chinese mythology and legend. Xue’s quest, which mostly takes place through her explorations of the estate and research on songs, poetry and the legendary Celestial realm, is told with elegant prose that complements the courtly formality of her world. Thoughtful and introspective, Xue learns more about her uncle’s past and the strength of his love, gets to know the Duke and his family, and picks up on small clues that become big payoffs. 

Much of the novel is slowly paced—even contemplative—despite its high stakes, mirroring the tranquil beauty of the verses Xue and other characters turn to for inspiration. This unusual prioritization of interiority and introspection bucks expectations of the young adult fantasy genre in a refreshing way, while still delivering an action-packed climax that feels all the more earned after the slow buildup. With a smart, steadfast heroine, a charming love interest and compelling side characters, Song of the Six Realms is a dazzling, dreamlike escape into a world of powerful poetry, godly magic and humble heroism.

With a smart, steadfast heroine, a charming love interest and compelling side characters, Song of the Six Realms is a dazzling, dreamlike escape into a world of powerful poetry, godly magic and humble heroism.

Signs of Hope, the Revolutionary Art of Sister Corita Kent presents readers with the life and art of nun, teacher and artist Sister Corita Kent. Written from the perspective of one of her many students, this vibrant picture book biography depicts the lessons Sister Corita taught about art and the world around us, encouraging her students to see “what everyone else sees, but doesn’t see.” Sister Corita taught the art of the ordinary, found in street signs, billboards and signs at the grocery store. To her, these things are art! 

From her messy and exciting classroom, Sister Corita encourages her students to think outside the box when drawing. With Sister Corita, there is no right or wrong way: There is just art. Always calm and busy, she gathers words clipped from magazines, excited to see what these words might be arranged to say. With her bold works, Sister Corita both celebrates and marches for peace and justice during the anti-Vietnam war movement, and the world begins to notice this “revolutionary nun.”

Mara Rockliff’s text is clever and thoughtful. Caldecott Honor recipient Melissa Sweet uses watercolor, collage and mixed media in colorful artwork that is bold and richly layered, taking inspiration from Sister Corita’s own pop art. Quotes from Sister Corita and quotes she herself found inspiring are interspersed among the illustrations. As this book culminates, the student narrator charges us all to share what we have learned with others. With this final appeal, the handwritten quotes transition to words from Sister Corita’s former students: “She didn’t teach us how to draw or paint so much as she taught us to care.”

Together, writer and artist have created a beautiful book reminding us all “to make art all our lives and to make our lives ART,” just as Sister Corita taught. Signs of Hope is a dynamic and inspiring book for art lovers everywhere.

With thoughtful text from Mara Rockliff and bold artwork from Melissa Sweet, Signs of Hope is a dynamic and inspiring book for art lovers everywhere.
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Seventeen-year-old Shane has spent much of her adolescence mired in grief. Several years ago, a flood devastated the Lipan Apache community where Shane and her family lived in Texas, and Shane’s father and paternal grandparents died. Only Shane, her mother, Lorenza, and Shane’s little brother left their home unscathed. 

Shane and Lorenza are part of a long line of Lipan Apache women who can raise the ghosts of animals, an ability they put to use to help locate the missing. In their new, patched-together life, Shane helps Lorenza with local search-and-rescue missions, assisted by their well-trained bloodhounds—as well as their ghost dog. 

But one day, Lorenza herself goes missing herself while searching for a pair of siblings. Shane rushes to follow Lorenza’s trail, but it soon becomes clear that Lorenza and the siblings have vanished from the area entirely, thanks to the strange workings of fairy magic. To find them, Shane must call on the support of her family—both given and chosen—and the strength of her ancestors. 

A prequel to acclaimed YA author Darcie Little Badger’s 2020 debut Elatsoe (which features Shane’s granddaughter, Ellie, as the protagonist), Sheine Lende is a powerful and deeply moving tale of family, grief, cultural identity and magic. As a Lipan Apache woman herself, Little Badger combines the myths and legends of her tribe with fantastical elements to tell a story that, while fictional, rings true.The universe the book occupies is almost identical to our own, except in Little Badger’s version of reality, the ancient folklores that have informed cultural beliefs and practices since time immemorial are made manifest in the real world—but they exist alongside representations of true and historic modes of systemic oppression used by the U.S. government against indigenous peoples like the Lipan.

This is not to say, however, that Sheine Lende is all darkness. Though frequently consumed by anxiety, doubt and grief, Shane is a vibrant character who continues to find joy in her family, friends and the world around her. And on a larger scale, Little Badgernever portrays the Lipan Apache tribe as downtrodden or defeated. Much to the contrary, Sheine Lende presents a family and a people who have had atrocities small and large, but who, despite it all, turn toward the light.

Darcie Little Badger combines the myths and legends of her Lipan Apache tribe with fantastical elements in Sheine Lende to tell a story that, while fictional, rings true.
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Being afraid of the dark is “a family thing” for the young moth protagonist of Shine. When the sun goes down, he doesn’t want to leave his cozy home, but the twinkling stars give him the strength to fly away from his family and discover how many creatures there are to befriend—in particular, a host of fireflies.  

However, fireflies aren’t the only animals in the dark. Despite his fright, can the moth discover the bravery he needs to keep his new friends safe? 

Debut author-illustrator Bruno Valasse pulls from his own childhood fear of the dark in this inspirational picture book, which encourages children with the knowledge that “together, we can always be a light in the darkness.” 

Where Shine glows brightest is in Valasse’s illustrations. An earthy, muted palette allows Valasse’s fantastic creatures to take center stage as our moth friend hides among mushrooms, camouflages against an owl and hides other bugs within his wings. This beautiful artwork may inspire parents to theme a room around its imagery, and make little kids want to design big, beautiful wings of their own.

The sparse text of Shine is perfect for its message, but the short book may not be enough for eager young readers who fall in love with Valasse’s whimsical illustrations. Those kids will find that Shine pairs well with books like Phoebe Wahl’s Little Witch Hazel and Yeorim Yoon’s It’s Ok, Slow Lizard. But for parents who love to read nature-driven, emotional tales to their children before bed, Shine will provide a beautifully illustrated, bite-sized storytime.

For parents who love to read nature-driven, emotional tales to their children before bed, Shine will provide a beautifully illustrated, bite-sized storytime.
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In 1940, Safiyyah lives in the Grand Mosque of Paris with her parents, grandmother Setti, toddler sister and several other families. Smart, curious and spunky, she loves exploring the city—especially the map room of the nearby library, as she dreams of becoming a world explorer. Her carefree ways quickly change, however, as Nazi soldiers approach and invade, plunging her orderly world into the chaos of World War II. Setti warns Safiyyah, “There will come a day when you have the choice to use what you’ve been given in one way or another. . . . There is no use in a million maps unless they lead you to light.”

Hiba Noor Khan’s debut novel, Safiyyah’s War, is a beautifully written, well-plotted work of historical fiction based on the heroic efforts of Mosque activists who forged identity documents for Jews, hid them in the mosque and led an estimated 500 to 1700 through the catacombs to safety. Khan does a particularly good job at making Safiyyah not only an eyewitness but also a bold heroine who dives into action, risking her life for others. 

As Paris becomes increasingly dangerous, Khan introduces a diverse, multigenerational cast that enriches the soul of this novel. There’s Setti, who longs for her native Algeria, which she was forced to leave as a teenager; Safiyyah’s father, who tends to Mosque business and taught Safiyyah to always help others; Monsieur Cassin, an elderly, well-known botanist who shows Safiyyah the wonders of an adventurous life; Timothée, a refugee shepherd boy from northern France; and Hana, a Jewish classmate whose parents have been captured by the Nazis and who comes to live with Safiyyah’s family. 

Khan builds an intricate drama around these characters, ramping up the tension with each chapter as Safiyyah carefully observes what is going on outside in the city as well as within the confines of the Mosque. Adept at investigating, Safiyyah soon finds herself helping the resistance out in unimaginable ways, especially during the novel’s thrilling climax. 

Safiyyah’s War brings WWII Paris clearly into focus as it shows how people of all ages—from different cultures and religions—can band together in the face of evil. Khan is a writer to watch, and Safiyyah is a heroine worth remembering.

Hiba Noor Khan’s debut novel, Safiyyah’s War, is a beautifully written, well-plotted work of historical fiction based on the heroic efforts of activists at the Grand Mosque of Paris who led Jews to safety.

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