Happy Spring Birthdays!

There are so many talented and diverse children’s authors and illustrators to recommend! To highlight them, I am ending my series of celebrating their birthdays on a seasonal basis with Spring birthdays. I started with summer, I covered Autumn birthdays and Winter birthdays and now it’s Springtime! Another wonderful resource for excellent diverse book recommendations is Social Justice Books: A Teaching for Change Project. I hope you enjoy the range of great titles below for preschoolers to sixth-graders!

Author and Illustrator Diane Dillon, Birthday: March 12th
I Can Be Anything
(Preschool – 2nd grade)
Libby / Library Catalog

“A young girl of color challenges the voice of fear and dissent in Dillon's first solo picture book. Readers are introduced to Zoe with her arms stretched wide as she declares, ‘I can be anything I want to be.’ As she stands in the bordering white space, Zoe contemplates becoming a bird, and her exuberant vision of the possibility of flight fills the center of the spread. But down in the opposite corner, quiet but insistent, a little voice asks, ‘What if you fall?’ When Zoe imagines becoming an archaeologist and unearthing dinosaurs, the voice insists that she is too little for such things. The entire book progresses thus, with Zoe imagining a possible feat or future for herself as a small, doubting voice questions her–but not once does Zoe give way. In response to ‘What if you fall?’ Zoe confidently insists that she won't fall and can always fly in a rocket ship; when the voice sneers that she is too little, Zoe counters immediately: ‘No, I'm not. I'm bigger than you.’ Although skewed toward an adult perspective, Dillon's prose leaves readers in no doubt of Zoe's determination, and while the nagging voice is present throughout the book, the illustrations of Zoe's dreams take up far more literal and figurative space than her self-doubt. Pair this with Molly Bang and Ann Stern's When Sophie Thinks She Can't… (2018) for the ultimate in can-do power. Thoughtful and affirming.” –Kirkus Reviews

Author Aaron Rose Philip, Birthday: March 15th
This Kid Can Fly: It's About Ability (NOT Disability), written with Tonya Bolden
(Grades 4-6)
Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog

“In an enlightening and candid memoir, Philip recalls his early childhood years, when he moved from Antigua to New York City to seek medical attention for cerebral palsy. Now 14, he shares memories of grueling physical therapy and multiple surgeries in passages that are honest, raw, and devoid of self-pity. Feeling friendless at school, Philip devoted himself to creating anime-inspired cartoons and a Tumblr blog, Aaronverse, as both ‘a place where other people who spend most of their days in wheelchairs could express themselves’ and a vehicle for advocating for those with disabilities. Accented with b&w family photos, the narrative is alternately funny, frank, and reflective; eating lunch at a table with other students with disabilities ‘felt like we were on an island in the middle of the ocean.’ In addition to his family, Philip expresses gratitude for ‘Aaron’s Angels,’ the dedicated friends and professionals who support him. Readers will finish the book impressed by what Philip has already accomplished and certain that more is yet to come.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Author Linda Sue Park, Birthday: March 25th
Prairie Lotus
(Grades 4-6)
Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog

“Newbery Medalist Park explores prejudice on the American frontier in this sensitively told story about a multiracial girl and her white father in Dakota Territory. Hanna, 14, and her father have been traveling for nearly three years, since her half-Chinese, half-Korean mother’s death. When they settle in railroad town LaForge in April 1880, Pa plans to open a dry goods store, and talented seamstress Hanna, taught by her mother, fervently hopes to attend school before designing dresses for the shop. Though the town reacts strongly to their arrival, mocking Hanna and keeping children home from classes, the girl perseveres by emulating her mother’s gentle strength. Strongly reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels in its evocative, detailed depictions of daily frontier life, the book includes an author’s note acknowledging Park’s efforts ‘to reconcile my childhood love of the Little House books with my adult knowledge of their painful shortcomings.’ Though Hanna’s portrayal at times hews closely to the ‘exceptional minority’ mentality, her painful experiences, including microaggressions, exclusion, and assault, feel true to the time and place, and Park respectfully renders Hanna’s interactions with Ihanktonwan women. An absorbing, accessible introduction to a troubled chapter of American history.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Author Jane Breskin Zalben, Birthday: April 21st
A Moon for Moe and Mo illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
(K-2nd Grade)
Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog

“The tale of a nascent friendship between Moses Feldman and Mohammed Hassan, two kids from Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York; they have different backgrounds…yet so many things in common.Moe and Mo meet by chance at the grocery store where their moms happen to be shopping. Because of their similar curly dark hair, brown eyes, and olive-toned skin, Moe and Mo are mistaken for twins by the store owner, who gives them each a falafel. They are also quick to realize that they share more than just a similar look and have the same–at times reckless–passion for sweets and bouncing balls. Weeks pass, and they return to the store, Mrs. Feldman for Rosh Hashanah, the holiday celebrating the Jewish New Year, and Mrs. Hassan for Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. The kids' mothers are not indifferent to the developing camaraderie and agree to a picnic bringing the two families together to enjoy rugelach and date cookies. Author Zalben and illustrator Amini are immensely successful in creating parallels between the two boys' lives, with each aspect mirrored both in the narrative and graphically. Amini's vibrant collages capture both the busyness of the neighborhood and the growing friendship between the families. Completing the educational effort are two succinct informational sheets on both Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan along with two recipes for each tradition. A gem.” –Kirkus Reviews

Author Patricia Reilly Giff, Birthday: April 26th
A Slip of a Girl
(Grades 4-6)
Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog

“Giff loosely based the tenacious heroine of this profoundly moving novel on her great-grandmother, who was raised in the town in Ireland where the Drumlish Land War of 1881 took place. In taut free verse, the author writes in the voice of fiercely patriotic Anna Mallon, whose family is torn apart as tension mounts between English landlords and Irish tenants, who are forcibly evicted after failing to pay unfairly escalating rents. After three of Anna’s siblings depart in search of a better life in Brooklyn, her frail mother dies hours after beseeching Anna to read and to keep her baby sister Nuala safe. The girl honors both requests; she learns to read from the local schoolmaster and escapes, with Nuala in her arms, after English bailiffs arrest her for insubordination. Anna’s simultaneous desperation and determination are palpable as she carries Nuala for days, barefoot, cold, and near starvation, to reach the safe home of an elderly aunt. Archival photos illuminate the loss and injustice inflicted on the Irish, and Giff (Lily’s Crossing) brings Anna’s story to a triumphant close.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Author Michael Arvaaluk Kusugak, Birthday: April 27th
The Most Amazing Bird illustrated by Andrew Qappik, CM
(Grades K-2)
Libby / Library Catalog

“An Inuk girl learns lessons in beauty and friendship from an unexpected source. One day, while crunching along the hard snow with her grandmother, Aggataa spies a raven. But instead of reacting with awe, she says ‘it's ugly’ and thinks it ‘looks like it slept in its coat.’ Despite Aggataa's wish for the raven to fly away, it stays all winter, ‘hop[ping] along behind her’ whenever she walks to grandmother's hut. Aggataa begins to warm to it. When spring returns the raven leaves, and although other birds arrive for the summer, the raven does not. Before long Aggataa observes ‘long Vs of geese flying south,’ and with ‘no more birds’ around, the coming winter promises to be lonely. Only the “Crah’ of a particular raven can hope to lift her spirits. Kusugak's quiet narrative is deeply layered. While the primary narrative revolves around Aggataa's interaction with the raven and other birds, readers will notice equally poignant threads of story in the changing of seasons, life in the Arctic, and within the multigenerational relationship between Aggataa and her grandmother. Additionally, inclusion of both Inuktitut words for the various birds Aggataa encounters and the onomatopoeic sounds they make creates a wonderful read-aloud. Qappik's realistic, soft-toned illustrations are rich in their own right. Images of Aggataa and her grandmother feel like snapshots from a family photo album while the detailed depictions of the birds could exist in any ornithological field guide. Both author and illustrator are Inuit. Stunningly contemporary and amazingly timeless. “ –Kirkus Reviews

Author Schuyler Bailar, Birthday: May 2nd
Obie is Man Enough
(Grades 4-6)
Libby / Library Catalog

“An aspiring transgender Junior Olympian swimmer finds the strength and pride in his identity to race toward his dreams in this debut coming-of-age novel by groundbreaking trans athlete Bailar. Starting over after his abusive and discriminatory swim coach excluded him from the team, Obie Chang, a biracial (White/Korean) transgender boy worries about catching up to the other boys and proving that he is ‘man enough.’ Although his family supports him, one of his best friends at school and the pool has turned into his biggest bully, and the other is drifting away toward the mean, popular girls. As he dives from the blocks into the challenging waters of seventh grade and swims toward his goal of qualifying for the Junior Olympics, Obie discovers belonging in his community and in himself. Affirming adults–including his parents and grandparents, a new swim coach, and his favorite teacher–play significant supporting roles by offering encouragement without pressure, centering Obie's feelings, and validating Obie's right to set his own boundaries. Vulnerable first-person narration explores Obie's internal conflict about standing up for himself and his desire to connect to his Korean heritage through his relationship with Halmoni, his paternal grandmother. A romance with Charlie, a cisgender biracial (Cuban/White) girl, is gentle and privacy-affirming. Short chapters and the steady pace of external tension balance moments of rumination, grounding them in the ongoing action of Obie's experiences. Energizing and compassionate.” –Kirkus Reviews

Author and Illustrator Leo Lionni, Birthday: May 5th
A Color of His Own
(Preschool – 2nd Grade)
Libby / Library Catalog

“Lionni's signature watercolors span the rainbow in this story of a chameleon who, while searching for his identity, finds a friend with whom he can share his changeable nature.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Author and Illustrator Peter Sís, Birthday: May 11th
Nicky & Vera
(Grades 2-5)
Libby / Library Catalog

“Though Nicholas Winton saved hundreds of children during the Holocaust, his heroism didn’t come to light until 1988, when his wife found records of the train journeys he had arranged to carry Czech children from Prague to London. In this quiet, deeply considered picture book biography, Caldecott Honoree Sís weaves Winton’s story together with that of Vera Gissing, one of the children he saved, conveying the hard truths of the Holocaust in language that younger readers can take in. In spreads of pale blue, Sís portrays Winton’s arrival in Prague and his realization that he could help children escape: ‘England would allow refugees under seventeen to come—if families could be found to take care of them.’ The young stockbroker works feverishly to arrange placements and train tickets. Meanwhile, Gissing’s country childhood is recreated with folk-style maps, small cutaways, and dreamlike images; in one spread, her parents hover in mid-air, like figures in a Chagall painting. Winton’s humility is the thread that runs through the story—’I did not face any danger… I only saw what needed to be done,’ he said—and the account of Gissing’s life illuminates what was at stake. An author’s note includes further details.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Author and Illustrator Kadir Nelson, Birthday: May15th
The Undefeated written by Kwame Alexander
(Grades 1-4)
Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog

“Past and present are quilted together in this innovative overview of black Americans' triumphs and challenges in the United States. Alexander's poetry possesses a straightforward, sophisticated, steady rhythm that, paired with Nelson's detail-oriented oil paintings, carries readers through generations chronicling ‘the unforgettable,’ ‘the undeniable,’ ‘the unflappable,’ and ‘the righteous marching ones,’ alongside ‘the unspeakable’ events that shape the history of black Americans. The illustrator layers images of black creators, martyrs, athletes, and neighbors onto blank white pages, patterns pages with the bodies of slaves stolen and traded, and extends a memorial to victims of police brutality like Sandra Bland and Michael Brown past the very edges of a double-page spread. Each movement of Alexander's poem is a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of black people in the U.S., with textual references to the writings of Gwendolyn Brooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X dotting stanzas in explicit recognition and grateful admiration. The book ends with a glossary of the figures acknowledged in the book and an afterword by the author that imprints the refrain ‘Black. Lives. Matter’ into the collective soul of readers, encouraging them, like the cranes present throughout the book, to ‘keep rising.’An incredible connector text for young readers eager to graduate to weighty conversations about our yesterday, our now, and our tomorrow.” –Kirkus Reviews

Author Meg Medina, Birthday: June 11th
Merci Suárez Changes Gears & Merci Suárez Can’t Dance
Merci Suárez se pone las pilas
(Grades 4-6)
Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog

“Eleven-year-old Merci Suárez is starting sixth grade and everything is changing. Not only do upper graders have to switch teachers throughout the day, but playing sports, like Merci loves to do, is seen as babyish and befriending boys is taboo. So when Merci is assigned to show new kid Michael Clark around as part of her scholarship package at Seaward Pines Academy, it's a problem. Especially when the richest, smartest, most popular girl in school, Edna, who gets to write the sixth grade's social rules and break them, too, seems to like Michael. Meanwhile, at home, Merci has to watch over her little twin cousins who live close by at Las Casitas, a row of houses belonging to Mami and Papi; Abuela and Lolo; and Tia, for free, so trying out for the school's soccer team and earning money to buy her dream bike is almost impossible. What's worse, Merci can't even talk to her beloved Lolo about all her problems like she used to as he starts acting less and less like himself. The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina's life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it's the ride that matters. VERDICT Pura Belpré-winning author Medina cruises into readers' hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library's shelves.” –School Library Journal

Author Sachiko Kashiwaba, Birthday: June 9th
Temple Alley Summer
(Grades 4-6)
Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog

“One curious boy, the ghost of a long-dead girl, a mysterious old temple, an unfinished story, and several weeks of summer vacation add up to an unforgettable adventure. Kazu and his family live in a sprawling old house in Japan. One night, Kazu is shocked to see what seems to be a ghost in a white kimono leaving the altar room. He's even more shocked when his friends insist this girl, Akari, has always been around. Meanwhile, Kazu decides to do his summer homework project on local history, an idea sparked by an old map that labeled his street Kimyō Temple Alley, a name whose meaning implies the dead can come back to life. Kazu is led deeper into the puzzle through conversations with older community members–some of whom actively discourage his investigations–and befriending Akari and learning where she really came from. A story within a story to which Kazu and Akari seek the ending, a fantasy tale about a girl held hostage by a witch, reinforces the book's overarching theme of living life so that you have no regrets. This imaginative tale, enchantingly written and charmingly illustrated by veteran Japanese creators for young people, has a timeless feel. Its captivating blend of humor and mystery is undergirded with real substance that will provoke deeper contemplation. Udagawa's translation naturally and seamlessly renders the text completely accessible to non-Japanese readers. An instant classic filled with supernatural intrigue and real-world friendship.” –Kirkus Reviews

Author Firoozeh Dumas, Birthday: June 26th
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel
(Grades 4-6)
Libby / Library Catalog

“After a rocky start, Cindy (Zomorod to her parents) finds a comfortable niche in her California middle school until political upheaval and revolution in Iran reach the United States, threatening her future and her family's safety. Moving to Newport Beach, she renames herself Cindy, to avoid hearing teachers stumble over Zomorod (‘emerald’ in Persian), prompting the ridicule of kids like Bill (whose name means ‘shovel' in Persian). Her engineer dad, who loves to talk about the oil industry, and unhappy mom, who won't learn English, pose bigger obstacles to fitting in, as she trenchantly describes: ‘It's not like I don't love them. I just want to hide them until they stop being embarrassing.’ Few Americans in the 1970s know Iran, often wrongly assuming it's populated by Arabs or that her family is Mexican. Acquiring a peer group, Cindy's introduced to Scouting and sailing. Her parents are no fans of the shah, but their hopes for Iran's future are dashed with the Islamic Revolution and its brutal aftermath. They fear for the safety of friends and family in Iran, then for their own as they experience the best and worst of their adopted culture. Cindy narrates in the present tense, her affection for Iran just as palpable as her engagement with the moment. On her own journey to maturity, Cindy deftly guides young readers through Iran's complicated realities in this fresh take on the immigrant experience–authentic, funny, and moving from beginning to end.” –Kirkus Reviews

Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.

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