That is My Dream!

That Is My Dream! combines the beautiful gouache illustrations of Daniel Miyares with the 1924 Langston Hughes poem, Dream Variation, to depict a young child’s dream of racial equality and freedom.

Picture book, poetry
Interest level: grades 3 and up; Reading level: 3.0
5 out of 5 stars


Dream Variation is a two-stanza poem that was written by Langston Hughes in 1924. Both stanzas express the desire to feel free in the world, yet Miyares interprets each stanza of the poem in a slightly different way.

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me—
That is my dream!

UntitledIn the first stanza, Miyares focuses on the idea of “the white day” and shows the inequalities faced by a young African-American boy and his family as they go about daily tasks. Images of the Black family are juxtaposed with images of a White family, clearly depicting the racial inequalities of the times — Black people sitting in the back of the bus behind White people; White children dancing and enjoying sweets while the Black children are quietly going to shop for groceries; and two children getting drinks at segregated water fountains.

Miyares has used the line “That is my dream!” at the end of the first stanza to transition into depicting the boy’s dream of the future. Miyares’s muted colors from the first stanza, transition into more brilliant colors and dreamlike images of all the children, Black and White, riding on different birds and playing together.

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

UntitledOne of the illustrations shows the two boys drinking together from a stream, which is in direct opposition to the earlier image of them drinking from the separate water fountains.
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As the boy awakens from the dream of racial integration and harmony, Miyares depicts him holding onto a single feather. For the boy, and for readers in 2017, this feather represents the very real hope that racial equality is within our grasp.

It is disheartening to realize that Langston Hughes’s poem depicts a hope for racial equality that is still not realized today. Daniel Miyares has created a picture book that vividly depicts this dream and will hopefully infuse young readers with empathy and the desire for a better and equal future for all.

An Illustrator’s Note is in the back of the book that talks about Miyares’ thoughts about Dream Variation and what it means to him.


That is My Dream!
by Langston Hughes and Daniel Miyares
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017
ISBN 978-0-399-55017-1

Blue Sky White Stars

Sarvinder Naberhaus and Kadir Nelson have created a picture book that conveys a feeling of strong patriotism and pride in the diverse people and landscapes that make the United States a great country.

Picture book
Interest level: All ages
5 out of 5 stars


Two things come together to make this picture book so amazing — sparse, well-chosen text and absolutely stunning illustrations by one of the best illustrators alive today. Sarvinder Naberhaus selects powerful words to make patriotic statements that apply to both the flag, a symbol, and the majestic landscapes and diverse people that make up the United States. The same words describe both.
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Each two-page spread contains an image that focuses on the flag, paired with either a landscape or person who conveys the same ideal. “Red Rows” is illustrated by a row of red-leaved trees, set beside a close-up of the red stripes of the flag. “All American” applies to a stadium hosting a baseball game, as wel as an African-American war veteran sitting on the porch with his grandson listening to the game on a portable radio while eating Cracker Jacks.
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Nelson’s photorealistic oil paintings showcase beautiful landscapes, but his forte is depicting people. This book is full of expressive illustrations featuring diverse faces. The fact that this patriotic and inspiring book contains such a variety of skin tones, hair, and eye colors reminds us to celebrate the ethnic diversity that makes up our country.

Notes from the author and illustrator are included in the back of the book, and additional background material about the flag and phrases Naberhaus chose to include can be found on the author’s website: www.sarvinder.com.

Be sure to check out the back cover of the book. The front cover shows a group of Americans watching a firework show in rapt fascination. I was expecting the back cover to be more of the same, but instead it shows the crowd from the back, as if the reader has joined the scene.


Blue Sky White Stars
by Sarvinder Naberhaus; illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Not Quite Narwhal

The adorable illustrations tell the sweet story of Kelp, who is not quite a narwhal, and how he is able to make his place in the world.

Picture book, fiction
Interest level: Pre-K through grade 3; Reading level: 3.0
4 out of 5 stars


In the picture book world, narwhals and unicorns are hot subjects, so Jessie Sima has hit payday with her adorable main character who straddles the narwhal/unicorn genre.

The first thing I noticed and loved about Not Quite Narwhal are the absolutely adorable illustrations. We meet Kelp as a baby nestled in a clam shell, wearing a protective helmet so he can breath underwater. There is even a hole in the helmet that allows his horn to stick through.
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Young readers will easily recognize Kelp as a unicorn, so they will find it very funny when the author states, “He knew early on that he was different from the other narwhals.” Even though Kelp’s differences could have made him feel alone, his narwhal family and friends certainly didn’t mind and he was very happy.
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But what happens when he is swept close to land and spies “a mysterious, sparkling creature” that looks like him? There is a cute sequence where Kelp learns how to walk on land and eventually meets up with the creatures that look like him — land narwhals!

Kelp recognizes that he actually is a unicorn and then struggles with figuring out where he truly belongs. Sima has provided the perfect ending where Kelp is able to create his perfect place in the world.

This would make a wonderful read-aloud for young children. There is a limited amount of text on each page, great pacing to the story, and absolutely adorable illustrations. Children will find the book both funny and heart-warming.


Not Quite Narwhal
by Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4814-6909-8

The Teacher’s Pet

Everyone could see that the class pet was trouble. Everyone but the teacher, that is! Hilarity ensues as readers root for the children to save their classroom!

Picture book, fiction, humorous
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 1.8
4 out of 5 stars


Mr. Stricter is very excited by his classes’ science project! He’s has always wanted a pet, so when the class tadpoles are big enough to be released into the wild, the class gets to pick one to keep in the classroom.

They choose Bruno.
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Zachariah OHora’s illustrations let observant readers in on the fact that Bruno may be a little more than Mr. Stricter expects. What is especially fun is the children’s scared and horrified faces versus the happy smiles of Mr. Stricter. Children will love this book as a read-aloud because they will delight in noticing that the illustrations do not necessarily match what the text is saying.

The children work together to solve the problem of Bruno. This is a great lesson that can be pointed out to children. Not all problems can, or should be, solved by adults.

Surely Mr. Stricter has learned his lesson and the next science project focusing on butterflies will go better…

This book is a fun and interesting story that will delight young readers. It will make an excellent read-aloud in a library or classroom. Don’t forget to check out the endpapers and note the very important difference.


The Teacher’s Pet
by Anica Mrose Rissi; illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Disney-HYPERION, 2017
ISBN 978-1-48474-364-5

A Dog Wearing Shoes

Mini learns a valuable lesson when she discovers a lost dog wearing yellow shoes.

Picture book, fiction
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 2.0
4 out of 5 stars


I love this story about a little girl and her mom who find a lost dog who happens to be wearing a yellow pair of shoes. Mini is delighted and wants to keep the dog. During a walk in the park, the dog gets away again, and Mini is extremely distraught. Her mom takes her to the animal shelter where they find the dog, and Mini realizes that as worried and upset as she was when the dog was missing, that must mean that the dog’s original owner feels the same way.

This is a wonderful story that helps children understand that lost dogs are being missed by someone, and as much as you may want to keep one, you should try to reunite them with their owner. The added bonus is that Mini and her mom return to the animal shelter and find a dog that needs a home and is just right for them.

In the back of the book, the author includes information about adopting an animal from an animal shelter, and includes links to some national organizations.
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The pictures are black and white sketches, with splashes of color coming from the dog’s yellow shoes and the red leash Mini and her mom buy. The dog is absolutely adorable with her floppy, fuzzy ears and it’s easy to see why Mini and her mom fall in love. Some of the illustrations are rather small, so this would not be ideal for a large read-aloud group.


A Dog Wearing Shoes
by Sangmi Ko
schwartz & wade books, 2015

Shark lady: The true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean’s most fearless scientist

Jess Keating has written another outstanding nonfiction picture book for young readers. This one tells the story of Eugenie Clark, who fell in love with sharks as a young girl and pursued her dream to study them.

Picture book, biography, nonfiction
Dewey: 597.3
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 3.7
4 out of 5 stars


Keating starts the book with young Eugenie Clark visiting an aquarium and seeing her favorite animals, the sharks. Eugenie loves to fantasize that she is swimming with sharks, or that she herself has a fin on her back and is a shark. She reads all the books she can find about sharks, and her mother buys her a fish tank so she can study and understand more about fish.

As she pursues her interest in college by studying zoology, we learn that people tried to discourage her because “some of her professors thought women weren’t smart enough to be scientists or brave enough to explore the oceans. And they said sharks were mindless monsters.” Clark went on to prove all those theories were incorrect — she was smart and brave enough, and through her research and studies she proved that sharks were smart and could be trained the way a dog was trained.

Keating wraps up Clark’s story when she was able to prove that she could train a shark. More details are provided in a timeline at the back of the book. An Author’s Note and Bibliography is also provided to give more interesting details and for further reading.

I read in another review that Keating left out key information about Clark’s mother being of Japanese descent and her father an “American” and how this mixed heritage meant she encountered prejudice. While I was interested in this information when it was presented in the Author’s Note, I did not feel that its absence detracted from the author’s purpose.

The tone of the book is clearly for younger children, I would say from age 4 through 8 primarily. I see this book as being more about encouraging children to pursue their dreams and not to let anyone stand in their way. This is especially true for girls in the field of science. Other books are mentioned in her bibliography that would be more appropriate for older readers who are more able to tackle multiple agendas in a story. For the length of a picture book, Keating has focused on the message that she wanted to share.
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The illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens really match the tone of the text. The sharks in the story have round eyes, giving the animals an innocent look that matches Clark’s feelings towards them. I also love how the illustrator shows Clark as a child always surrounded by sharks. The scne where Clark is reading books about sharks i the library, includes sharks floating through the book stacks, showing the reader that they were always on Clark’s mind.

The illustrations, combined with the text make this a good introduction to a little known scientist in the field of sharks. There are some additional shark facts that are presented in the back of the book that children will also find fascinating.


Shark lady: The true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean’s most fearless scientist
written by Jess Keating; illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2017

Ada’s Ideas: the story of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer

This is a picture book biography of Ada Lovelace, who could be called the world’s first computer programmer.

Picture book, biography, nonfiction
Dewey: 510.92
Interest Level: 3 and up; Reading Level: 4.3
4 out of 5 stars


Ada has a fascinating background. Her father was Lord Byron, the poet and her mother was a wealthy woman who was a mathematician. Ada’s mother was very controlling, and didn’t want Lord Byron and his “wild ways” to influence their child, so she took Ada away at a month old and never allowed her to see her father.

Young Ada’s days were filled with structured learning and lots of studying numbers. After contracting the measles, she spent three years doing nothing but studying because she was too weak to walk. Ada grew up with almost no friends and was not allowed to pursue her own interests.
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When she was 17, Ada met Charles Babbage, an engineer, mathematician, and inventor. Ada was enthralled with Babbage and his inventions of engines that would do mathematical calculations. Ada worked on complicated algorithms that would work in the Analytical Engine, and envisioned that eventually the Engine could be programmed to do more than just math, but also create pictures, music, and words. In other words, she envisioned the computer.

Ada’s story is one that inspires people to never give up their dreams and to not be held back by the limits society or other people place on your life. This book would have meaning for older students, grades 5 and up. There is a biography in the back of the book. It is rather small, which could be why the book is fairly vague and reads in a general manner.


Ada’s ideas: The story of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer
by Fiona Robinson
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016