Stef Soto, Taco Queen

January 5th, 2019 · Books

My 9-year old daughter and I really enjoyed reading the novel Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres together. Stef is in middle school and is the child of immigrant parents. Throughout the book, she comes to terms with her feelings about her family’s very visible business as owners of a run-down taco truck named Tía Perla. She deals with being teased for smelling like tacos while also being proud of her parents for carving out a moderately successful business for themselves in America.

Through Stef’s eyes, we experience a small part of what it’s like to be in an immigrant family. Stef’s family speaks Spanish at home, and sometimes she is asked to be a translator for her parents in important situations. Stef is very relatable, and much of the story’s conflict is typical of middle school. My daughter and I really enjoyed stepping in this immigrant family’s experience.

One of Stef’s best friends is a vegetarian “for the sake of the earth.” Stef’s dad delights in the challenge of making new dishes that he will enjoy. My daughter really enjoyed the addition of this character in the book.

I highly recommend this book to children in your life. All readers will enjoy Stef and her family and will learn a lot about the immigrant experience along the way. Vegetarian kids will appreciate seeing themselves represented in Stef’s best friend.

Recommended for ages 8-12.

Review by JENNIFER KALI

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Not a Purse

January 3rd, 2019 · Books

Stephanie Dreyer, the author of 2015’s Not A Nugget, has a worthy follow-up in Not A Purse. The book continues the same child-friendly and informative format along with adorable and empathetic illustrations from Jack Veda.

While Not A Nugget emphasizes that animals are our friends, not food, Not A Purse focuses on the ways our society uses animals for beauty, fashion, and convenience items in the home. In each case, Dreyer provides a fun and relatable fact about the animal in question. For example, for the elephant, who looks worriedly at necklaces made with ivory from elephant tusks, readers are informed that elephants use their trunks, wrapped together, to greet each other and show affection, just like we do when we hug! And for the fox that is definitely not a hat, we learn that foxes love to play ball, and that they sometimes swipe golf balls to play with!

At the end of the book, Dreyer provides additional fun facts and alternatives to purchasing items that use animal parts or harm animals in their production.

The examples are child-friendly, and leave caregivers with the option of expanding upon the the examples with details. The illustrations anthropomorphize the animals without completely making them silly and cartoonish.

Not A Purse and Not A Nugget are able to balance empathy with fun throughout. Stephanie Dreyer and Jack Veda have created a wonderful genre! Highly recommended for ages 2+

Review by KRISTIN WALD

Check out our earlier review of NOT A NUGGET here! 

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Baby Loves Green Energy!

December 17th, 2018 · Books

We love the “Baby Loves” series from Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan. It covers complicated scientific topics including thermodynamics (!) and structural engineering in simple yet accurate detail. The books are aimed at babies through three years, and the expressive illustrations and child-friendly language are perfect for children to admire on their own or read together with a caregiver. The newest book in the series, Baby Loves Green Energy, is especially welcome because of its timely and relatable topic.

The board book opens with a recognizable scene: Baby and her blanket. It then transitions to discussing Earth’s blanket of air and how it heats up and gets too warm because of greenhouse gases. Using Hydroelectric, Wind, Solar, and Geothermal energy are all mentioned as a way people can help slow the rise of greenhouse gases. As with most good child-centric books, Baby is also given ways she can help.

Baby Loves Green Energy has just enough information, accompanied by reassuring and colorful pictures, to encourage a child’s interest. Adults who think they know the processes involved in greenhouse gases may be reminded of a few things as well!

Recommended for ages infant – 3 years old.

Review by KRISTIN WALD

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Stretch to the Sun: From a Tiny Sprout to the Tallest Tree in the World

December 13th, 2018 · Books

STRETCH TO THE SUN, written by Carrie A. Pearson and illustrated by Susan Swan, follows the life span of a giant redwood tree. It is a gorgeous and informative story of nature’s cycles, both the beautiful and the dangerous. It begins with the death of one giant tree which falls to the ground, and it continues with the POP! of new life as a sprout appears and becomes our main character. Children will be fascinated by the worlds of flora and fauna that live in the branches of the tree and at its base.

The illustrations are detailed and incredibly realistic. The collage-style artwork is very accessible to children and makes some parts of the book (a tree crashing to the ground, a forest fire) less frightening for children. Children will love identifying the animals throughout the book (the flying squirrel is a particular favorite), and the foldout page at the end of the book is a welcome surprise.

The book concludes with additional facts connected to particular lines in the story. There is also additional reading and a bibliography as well a short list of age-appropriate ways children can help the trees.

STRETCH TO THE SUN is a wonderful picture book with a focus on how all pieces of our eco-system (including us!) are a part of and affect the environments around us. Highly recommended for ages 4-8.

Review by KRISTIN WALD

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