ing stable, saving them from the closure, and
Nandu, always an outsider because of the mys-
terious circumstances of his birth, is determined
to find one and be a hero. Poetic and old-
fashioned (in a good way), this coming-of-age
story features a resourceful hero and a little-seen
world. Dinerstein, who has lived in Nepal him-
self, beautifully recreates the lush, dramatically
populated world of the Nepalese borderlands.
Touching and unique. —Maggie Reagan
Don’t Call Me Grandma.
By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illus. by
Feb. 2016. 32p. Carolrhoda, lib. ed., $19.99
(9781467742085). K–Gr. 2.
It’s easy (and not uncommon) to write books
about fun grandmothers who bake cookies or
read stories. Introducing a sharp-tongued, disagreeable grandmother is more difficult. But
Nelson pulls it off. Great-grandmother Nell is
described by the narrator as scary. She’s vain,
growls, and calls the girl “my pretty,” like the
witch in The Wizard of Oz, while yanking her
ear. She’s other things, too, though: a woman
who has a bedroom that smells like flowers and
has a ballerina doll on her bed, and she drinks
from a glass with a spider on it because she has
a broken heart. She also dabs lipstick on the
girl and tells stories about her life. Illustrator
Zunon cleverly alters her art throughout, portraying a steely woman of today and then using
hazy watercolors and collage art to show events
of the past, including church picnics and civil
rights moments. By book’s end, perceptive
readers will see this 96-year-old as a multilayered woman who has experienced joy and
tears—and is loved by a great-granddaughter
who embraces her complexity. —Ilene Cooper
Lily’s New Home.
By Paula Yoo. Illus. by Shirley Ng-Benitez.
Feb. 2016. 32p. Lee & Low, $14.95 (9781620142493);
paper, $5.95 (9781620142585). K–Gr. 2.
When Lily and her parents arrive at their new
home in New York City, she’s surprised to see
how different it is from their old one. Where is
the front yard? Where are the flowers? Will she
even like it here? As they explore the neighborhood, she notices many things: girls who wave
to her, signs in Spanish, a store with dresses
from India, another with masks from Kenya,
and a public library. After making a new friend,
she begins to enjoy city life. The simply written
story introduces aspects of urban living in an
appealing way. Diversity is intrinsic to both the
story and the illustrations, which digitally combine watercolor, gouache, and pencil elements.
An appended page suggests three activities
designed to extend the story through writing
and drawing. Readers who enjoy Lily’s upbeat
story, the first beginning-reader book in the
publisher’s new Dive into Reading series, will
also want to check out Want to Play? (2016),
the simultaneously published second volume
about Lily and her friends. —Carolyn Phelan
Little Bitty Friends.
By Elizabeth McPike. Illus. by Patrice
Feb. 2016. 32p. Putnam, $16.99 (9780399172557).
This gentle rhyming book, featuring a racially
diverse collection of small children, highlights
the fascination children feel for creatures even
smaller than themselves. The cover illustration
sets the tone: a child lies on the grass, gazing
at a little, smiling turtle. The softly smudged
pencil and mixed-media illustrations focus on
both action and observation. For example, the
first double-page-spread illustration shows a
boy taking “little bitty steps” on a path while
watching a line of ants marching on the grass
beside him. The next spread shows a young girl
contemplating a caterpillar crawling up her
knee. Little ones notice chattering chipmunks,
a curious snail, and a ladybug that has alighted
on one of their foreheads. The “little bitty” repetition ends as a father picks up his son, who
is snoozing next to a sleeping puppy, and gives
him a “giant, giant hug.” Engaging artwork
underscores a valuable message about the joys
of close observation. This author and illustrator
team’s Little Sleepyhead (2015) would make a
nice companion book. —Connie Fletcher
Looking for Bongo.
By Eric Velasquez. Illus. by the author
Feb. 2016. 32p. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823435654);
e-book, $16.95 (9780823436026). PreS–K.
From the cover illustration of a boy on his
knees, peeking around the corner with big,
questioning eyes, mystery is inherent here. Special toy Bongo is missing, and his owner wants
him back. He asks his abuela, the cat, the dog,
and his father, and even interrupts his sister’s
hair teasing, but no one has seen the missing
Bongo, now suspected to be stolen. Velasquez’s
text is a simple mix of English and easily decipherable Spanish, although a glossary at the
end confirms translations. The illustrations of
the narrator’s quest are active, consisting of
many gestures and close-up facial expressions,
and the colors are warm creams, blues, and
oranges. Home life is multigenerational and
loving. The culprit, who is finally caught at the
end, is a believable thief and makes this family
all the more realistic. Pair with Where’s Mommy? (2014), by Beverly Donofrio, for another
story of lost and found. —Edie Ching
Luis Paints the World.
By Terry Farish. Illus. by Oliver Dominguez.
Apr. 2016. 32p. Carolrhoda, $17.99 (9781467757966).
Luis is bereft because his older brother,
Nico, is leaving with the army in order to see
the world. Luis takes his sorrow to the walls
of his house, painting his feelings and the special places where he and Nico made memories.
His murals are as brilliant as the illustrations in
the book—vivid, bold, and expressive. As time
passes, Luis covers the wall in the alley with im-
ages from the letters and pictures Nico sends
from far away. In the spirit of close commu-
nities, friends and neighbors join the painting,
adding their own feelings to the wall in the
alleyway. Spanish words and phrases are incor-
porated into the book’s text, subtly drawing
upon Luis’ heritage. This story is inspired by
an art program in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a
town of residents from all over the world, who
share their stories and traditions through mural
art. Its beautiful message will touch the hearts
of readers and maybe inspire them to create art
of their own. —Amina Chaudhri
My Life in Pictures.
By Deborah Zemke. Illus. by the author.
Mar. 2016. 144p. Dial, $14.99 (9780803741546). Gr. 1–3.
Bea Garcia is a budding artist, which is why
her notebook (the book in readers’ hands) is
full of cartoon-style drawings that capture her
childlike view of life. And what a view—there
are idealized sketches of her friendship with
Yvonne, who has moved to Australia, and
fantasies about them playing with kangaroos.
There are also evil-eyed depictions of Bea’s new
next-door neighbor—a boy with flaring nostrils and pointy eyebrows who makes her life
a trial. As the new school year opens, Bea gives
vent to her feelings by drawing in her notebook
during class. When her teacher confiscates the
book, she fears the consequences, but luckily
the teacher recognizes Bea’s talent, and even her
classmates appreciate her artistry. The boy next
door becomes a little less monsterlike when he
gains some fame from the pictures, and a letter from Yvonne makes Bea a little less lonely.
The everyday ups and downs of Bea’s life will be
familiar to readers, who are sure to appreciate
Bea’s perky humor. —Karen Cruze
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville.
By Pat Zietlow Miller. Illus. by Frank
Feb. 2016. 40p. Chronicle, $16.99 (9781452129365).
Alta is the fastest runner in Clarksville, so an
imminent visit to town by African American
Olympian Wilma Rudolph could not be more
exciting. But then Charmaine appears, sporting
brand-new sneakers and an aura of confidence
that rattles Alta. The girls challenge each other
to a few races, each winning and losing, inten-
sifying the competition. Soon enough, though,
the competition turns to collaboration and
friendship. The girls make one last dash, to
Rudolph’s welcome-home parade, where they
collapse and observe, “There are flags. Bands.
Noise. / Black faces. And white ones.” Alta and
Charmaine are inspired by Rudolph’s athletic
accomplishments, but her success, as Char-
maine points out, includes the efforts of a relay
team. What begins as a story of individualism
expands to embrace the notion of teamwork
and unification, bolstering Rudolph’s influence
on the girls and on history itself. Morrison’s
bold, expressive watercolors capture the flavor
of the era (1960s) with a contemporary tone
that will make this story feel strikingly current.
Continued from p. 43