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The Story of Diva and Flea.

Willems, Mo (author). Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi.
Oct. 2015. 80p. Disney/Hyperion, hardcover, $14.99 (9781484722848). Grades 1-3.
REVIEW. First published September 1, 2015 (Booklist).

Diva is a tiny white dog who lives in a grand, old apartment building in Paris, France. As the pet of the building’s gardienne, she patrols the courtyard, making sure that all is well. Flea, on the other hand, is a large cat who roams Paris’ streets. He is a great flâneur—“someone (or somecat) who . . . has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always something more to discover.” One day Flea’s flâneur-ing takes him past Diva’s courtyard, and the two strike up a friendship. Diva, who is skittish and has never traveled, loves hearing of Flea’s adventures, particularly the one about the “tower so tall and so pointy that it could cut a cloud in half.” Eventually, Flea suggests that Diva go wandering with him, and after some gentle encouragement, Diva takes her first brave steps beyond the courtyard. In return, Diva takes Flea inside her apartment, introducing him to a friendly broom that won’t swat cats and the miraculous occurrence known as breakfast. Willems has written a story with winning characters and bursting with tender charm, which is further amplified by DiTerlizzi’s expressive, vintage-style illustrations. Humor and sincerity walk paw in paw through this simple chapter book, inspiring exploration, bravery, and making friends. Be warned: excessive smiling may occur while reading.

HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Willems and DiTerlizzi are a children’s book dream team. Stock up!

— Julia Smith

School Library Journal

This Is My Home, This Is My School by Jonathan Beam | SLJ Review

BEAN, Jonathan. This Is My Home, This Is My School. illus. by Jonathan Bean. 48p. Farrar. Oct. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374380205. LC 2014040682. PreS-Gr 1–In his second semi-autobiographical picture book, Bean introduces young audiences to one family’s homeschooling experience. The well-paced narrative draws clear connections between the details of a traditional school environment—with a teacher, a cafeteria, and classrooms—and a homeschool setting—Mom and Dad are the teachers, the kitchen becomes the lunch room, and the house, the yard, the nearby [...]

Six Back-to-School Goals for Teacher Librarians | Tech Tidbits
Librarians can jump-start the school year by setting some essential goals. Here, teacher librarian Phil Goerner tackles his top six objectives and lays out a plan for achieving these goals, which range from creating new maker space projects to engaging teachers in professional development.

Four NYC Publishers, One Epic Season: Rocco Staino’s Peek at Upcoming Fall Titles
SLJ contributing editor Rocco Staino shares highlights from this past spring's NYC publisher previews and offers a peek into some of the books coming out this fall season.

Library Journal

Click, Clack, Books
Doreen Cronin (text) and Betsy Lewin’s (illustrations) Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type is one of my favorite picture books. In it, cows get hold of an old typewriter in the barn and start negotiations with the farmer, via typed notes, for better conditions: If they don’t get electric blankets, they say, forget about getting […]

Fall Expectations: New Ventures | Wyatt’s World
Coming this fall (either around the corner or in a few weeks) are some riveting works that introduce new perspectives from well-known names.

Covering the Classics: Q&A with Book Designer Coralie Bickford-Smith | Classic Returns
A Q&A with award-winning book designer Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Kirkus Reviews

Book Cover

Along with the levees of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina breaks open two families of women, revealing—and creating—unexpected ties of the heart.

Author of the memoir When I Was Elena (2006), Urbani sets her debut novel in the days during and after one of America’s most devastating storms. Tracing the experiences of two smart, tough young women, Rose and Rosy, she lays down threads that knot their histories together. Each young woman is fatherless, each living with a difficult mother who clings to a romantic past while trying to prepare her daughter for the challenges of a female adulthood. Thrown into the maelstrom of Katrina and its aftermath, each sees her life change completely overnight, forcing her to face herself and the past that shaped her. Urbani boldly sets her story among some of the most disturbing events of that time, sensitively evoking the desperation of the survivors of the hurricane and its mishandled aftershocks. To her great credit, she never shies away from the realities of poverty, race, and racism, nor does she fail to give people, both white and black, individual characters, unique histories, and often warm hearts. This, along with Urbani’s loving yet critical portrait of the American South, is one of the book’s strengths. There are also some fine descriptions, especially of the experience of the flood—“The howling of the dogs had stopped by the second day.” But the plot develops too slowly, and there are exaggerations that undermine the story, such as a young woman eating six pieces of pie at once or people who do things for hours when much less would have been more believable. The author too often explains herself when the information the reader needs is already in the story.

Though the novel is occasionally unconvincing, its compassionate heart and clear eyes will surely touch some readers.

A Village in the Fields
Book Cover

In Enrado’s debut novel, a retired Filipino farmworker looks back on his long and costly struggle for civil rights.

As the story begins, Fausto Empleo is the last remaining Filipino elder in his retirement village for farmworkers. A visit from his estranged cousin prompts Fausto to review his life. Born in 1912, he came to the United States in 1929, following his older cousins, all bent on pursuing some version of the American dream. Ready for hard work, Fausto was unprepared for the racism he encountered: being called “brown monkey,” signs that read “Positively no Filipinos allowed,” etc. With his cousins, Fausto followed the harvest up and down California to cut, pick, and process crops. The labor was hard, wages low, conditions primitive. Eventually, the expatriates helped build a Filipino community in central California, starting families and buying property. In 1965, wanting a better life for his children to come, Fausto joined the Delano grape strike, but the strike’s hardships cost him his house, car, and, worst of all, his beloved and pregnant wife, Marina, who returned in disappointment to the Philippines, leaving Fausto feeling empty. At the end of his life, Fausto learns some answers to long-held questions and gains a measure of peace. Enrado’s characterization is beautifully observed; she conveys the tactile, sensory quality of farmwork, the way a much-used tool fits a man’s hand, and how dirt seeps in to every wrinkle of clothes and body. Fausto’s culture, friendships, and inner life see rich expression. For a novel dealing with social justice issues, it can be difficult to avoid the soapbox, but Enrado is nuanced. She notes, for example, that before the war, the land Fausto’s enterprising cousin Macario buys “belonged to a Japanese farmer, who’d been relocated to an internment camp”—proof that one minority’s opportunity can come at the expense of another. The novel’s tone of reconciliation is well-earned: as Fausto says, “nothing worth fighting for is easy.”

Multilayered, empathetic, and touching account of a workingman’s life.

Book Cover

A Canadian Mountie seconded to the United Nations in Haiti steps uncomfortably outside his job description.

Sgt. Ray Robertson is an adviser and mentor working with the national police force to help Haiti recover from its recent devastating earthquake. While he’s attached to Agent Pierre Lamothe and his team, they’re called to a gated mansion in one of the best neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, where a woman has been found dead in the swimming pool. Steve Hammond is an American married to a beautiful woman with two young children. The official story is that his wife, Marie, slipped and hit her head on the pool before falling in. From the first, however, Robertson doesn’t buy that scenario. A woman from the American embassy arranges for the body to be autopsied in Miami and, while she’s at it, does her best to shut down the investigation. Robertson is locked out of the case when the gardener is arrested for killing Marie. Even though Robertson is no detective, his curiosity is aroused, and he grows more suspicious when one of the guards from the Hammond home is seen wearing an expensive watch. Despite threats from the embassy and a cold shoulder from the local police, he persists in his inquiries and comes up with some disturbing answers.

Delany (Under Cold Stone, 2014, etc.) uses a slim and easily solved mystery to paint a thought-provoking portrait of post-quake Haiti.

<August 2015>