Three Great New Kids Books! – Summer 2021
By Erin F. Wasinger
ERB Contributing Editor
Specializing in Books for Young Readers
The One Thing You’d Save
Linda Sue Park and Robert Sae-Heng (illustrator)
Put this one on your must-read list: The One Thing You’d Save. This illustrated novella-in-verse begins with a supposition, tossed out by a teacher: “If your house were on fire (and your family and pets were safe), what’s the one thing you’d grab?” The entire book is a super engaging string of students’ witty, thoughtful, heartbreaking, pragmatic answers. (I know, this is a middle grade fiction book. But Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park’s got me feeling that this story’s true.) Robert Sae-Heng’s playful black-and-white illustrations and Park’s mastery of pacing and variety make this short read appealing to both reluctant and voracious readers. Why? The book’s premise needs an answer. Young reader, What would you save?
Fiona Helps a Friend
In partnership with Cincinnati Zoo staff and Richard Cowdrey (illustrator)
Fiona, the hippopotamus at the Cincinnati Zoo, stars in a fourth, fun book in a series from Zonderkidz. The baby hippo became internet-famous a few years ago after she was born early, half the size of a full-term hippo (read about her exciting recovery in the non-fiction Saving Fiona by Thane Maynard). Richard Cowdrey’s Fiona, though, is loveable in a cartoony way, complete with an exaggerated smile and a twinkle in her eyes. Already starring in a bedtime story and a Christmas tale, this title brings Fiona and her zoo creature friends together to make the Kookaburra laugh. Their funny faces and attempts to crack a smile are cute, but kids (and a Kookaburra) will laugh aloud at the animals in dress-up items. Zonderkidz also publishes “I Can Read” titles featuring the star hippo (Fiona Saves the Day, and others) worth checking out for new readers.
Three Lines in a Circle: The Exciting Life of the Peace Symbol
Michael G. Long and Carlos Vélez (illustrator)
In Three Lines in a Circle, the words and illustrations work symbiotically to show the peace symbol’s adoption around the world. Each page spread has few words and very detailed pictures, offering the chance for the “Aha! Look!”-type connections. For example, when the artist conceives the first symbol at his desk, he’s surrounded by all sorts of connecting imagery. A-ha! Look; There’s the crucified Jesus, an upside-down peace symbol himself. Oh! And a photograph of “I love you” in sign language. The effect feels richly researched but not laborious for young readers. In 40 pages, Long and Vélez travel from London to the world, to protest against bombs and for the rights of “Black people/ and/ Brown people/ women/ and/ poor people/ LGBTQ+ people/ and/ people with disabilities.” The last page hands the symbol over to children, to “you,” the reader. As they paint the symbol in their own way, Vélez seems to wonder; What will peace symbolize for you?