Rummanah Aasi
Description: Have you ever had a grumpy day and not known why? Penguin is having a grumpy day like that. No matter what he does, he just can't shake it! Sometimes the only thing left to do is wash the grumpy day away and start over.

Review: We all have bad days where we are moody, sad, and grumpy. We can easily sympathize with Penguin who is in a very bad mood. He simply can't shake his grumpiness. He stomps inside and begins shedding layers. Off come the "grumpy boots," "grumpy overalls," even his "grumpy underpants." Unfortunately taking off his grumpy clothes doesn't put him in a better mood. He tries several things to help him feel better. After a nice cold shower, putting on some cozy pajamas, having a warm cup of cocoa to drink, reading his favorite book, and having a teddy bear by his side soon melts Penguin's grumpiness away. frown But not even stripping down to his birthday suit can brighten his disposition. 
 The simple text and illustrations captures Penguin's emotions. Younger readers will have a great time laughing at Penguin as he tries to brighten up his mood. The images and texts brighten as Penguin gets better and things start to look up. It's nice reminder that bad moods and bad days thankfully don't last forever. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-1.

If you like this book try: Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol

Description: Your baby's first word will be ..."Dada!"  Right? Everyone knows that fathers wage a secret campaign to ensure that their babies' first word is "Dada!" But how does it work?
One of the most popular entertainers in the world and NBC's The Tonight Show host, Jimmy Fallon, shows you how.

Review: I'm a fan of the Tonight Show so I decided to check out Jimmy Fallon's picture book. While the illustrations are cute, there really is no story. It's a repetitive narrative of a male parent trying to get his child to say Dada as his/her first word and failing miserably. It was funny for the first few pages but then it got old really quick.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-1.

If you like this book try: Me and Dad by Maria Catherine, Because I'm Your Dad by Ahmet Zappa

Description:  Hearing, smelling, seeing, touching, tasting--our five senses allow us to experience the world in so many ways! With our ears we hear the birds sing; with our nose we smell the stinky cheese; with our eyes we see the moon and stars (and sometimes glasses help us see even better!); with our skin we feel the rain (and learn not to touch the hot stove!); and with our tongue we can taste our favorite foods.

Review: This is a great introduction to the five senses for younger readers. The author presents the five senses in a large-format featuring several small pictures of children on every spacious double-page spread. Each of the book’s five sections focuses on one of the senses, illustrated by a large, multicultural cast of toddler and preschool characters which was really nice to see. Like the simple texts, the illustrations are also whimsical and charming. The white space on the pages allow the reader to focus on the individual characters displaying the senses will help younger readers make the connection between the action and the senses.  I Hear a Pickle would be a great read-aloud and also very effective if used one on one.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-1.

If you like this book try: My Five Senses by Aliki, Taste the Clouds by Rita Marshall, Hello, Ocean! by Pam Munoz,
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.

Review: Ask Me How I Got Here is not an easy read and tackles serious issues such as teen sexuality, abortion, morality, and religion which may be uncomfortable for some readers. Addie Solokowski seems to fit the almost-perfect teen trope: she has supportive parents, a top athlete, and a loving boyfriend. Addie and Nick are enjoying a healthy, deeply supportive, and sex-positive relationship. When they are less careful one night, Addie becomes pregnant. After some serious deliberation and support from her parents and Nick, Addie has an abortion. The author does a good job in showing how externally Addie may be okay with her decision but internally she is grappling with depression as we watch her slowly pull away from track and lose interest with Nick. Though Addie struggles with her decision afterward, she remains solid in the fact that she made the right one. The book could easily be didactic, but Addie's musings on religion, sexuality, and keen observation avoids the preachy tone. Interspersed with poetry are Addie's letters to her unborn baby are short yet powerful and the book's strength. 
  My biggest problem with the book is that it abruptly changes direction as Addie rapidly develops a crush on Juliana, a girl who is wrestling with her own personal demons and seeking therapy for self harm. The last minute switch is jarring and undeveloped. I'm not completely sure if the novel in verse format is the right for the characters and the topic. I would much rather have had this book written in prose so it can flesh out some of the characters and under developed parts of the book.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are allusions to sex and having an abortion as mentioned in the book's description. There is also some language, underage drinking, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for older teens.

If you like this book try: I Know It's Over by C.K. Martin, Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy appear to have attained the American dream. After immigrating to the United States from Egypt, Samir successfully works his way through a residency and launches his own medical practice as Nagla tends to their firstborn, Hosaam, in the cramped quarters of a small apartment. Soon the growing family moves into a big house in the manicured New Jersey suburb of Summerset, where their three children eventually attend school with Natalie Bradstreet, the daughter of their neighbors and best friends. More than a decade later, the family’s seemingly stable life is suddenly upended when a devastating turn of events leaves Hosaam and Natalie dead and turns the Al-Menshawys into outcasts in their own town.

Review: Hassib's debut novel is timely, sensitive, and offers no easy answers. The Al-Menshawys are Egyptian, Muslim immigrants to a small New Jersey town. They were once loved and embraced into their tight, niche community until a tragedy ostracized them with prejudice and shaming them with Islamophobia. The author does not hold back on how awful the family is treated. Though the actual events of the tragedy are slowly revealed, they are not the focus of the story but rather how the family members react to it. 
  The novel takes place over the five days leading up to the memorial service for Natalie, the neighbors and once close friends with the Al-Menshawys. We watch how each member of the Al-Menshawys struggles to come to terms with the memorial service and through the character's memories and flashbacks we follow the family's struggle of assimilating to the United States. Mother Nagla is paralyzed by grief and guilt. She is a traditional, conservative wife who still relies on her mother, Ehsan, to run the household while she broods and sulks in the house. She is absolutely appalled when her husband, Samir, a one-time respected doctor, decides that a memorial service is the perfect opportunity to rejoin the community and to clear the air of any misunderstanding. 
The author does a nice job in showing the range of emotions from the older generation such as Samir's overbearing personality, Nagla's passive-aggressive attitude, Ehsan's sole reliance on faith and whatever is "God's will" as well as interfering and manipulative nature and the yearning for direction in the new generation. Though all the characters are equally interesting, I was more drawn to the remaining siblings. Fatima, the youngest, has turned to religion as a source of comfort. She is becoming more pious and modest in clothing, experimenting with wearing the hijab which her family feels is adding to growing reasons why their family is singled out by their community. In contrast, Khaled is re-evaluating his entire identity and blames his brother for controlling the whole family's behavior and internally clashes with his own desires and his family's expectations. 
   The bonds of love and loyalty in the Al-Al-Menshawys is authentic and palpable. The situation they find themselves in would threaten to fracture any family. The climax at the memorial service is gut wrenching, awkward, and painful as it would be in real life. The epilogue does provide a ray of hope that affirms that people can survive even the most horrific traumas. 
  In the Language of Miracles is steeped in Egyptian culture and in Islam without being didactic while turning a sharp eye on the immigrant experience. I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to reading another book by Hassib.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the book and disturbing images. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Year of the Runaways by Imbolo Mbue, The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea. Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope?

Review: Don't let the "feel good" cover fool you, The Land of Forgotten Girls deals with tough issues such as abandonment, verbal and physical abuse; it mostly succeeds but doesn't quite solidify as a powerful read as it hoped to be. Sol and her baby sister Ming are abandoned by their father and raised by their unhappy stepmother Vea after their family migrated from the Philippines to a small Louisiana town. Sol creates fantasies and magical scenarios to help her and her sister escape their harsh reality. Sol often pictures herself and Ming as princesses fighting an evil dragon (i.e. their stepmother who verbally and physically abuse them) as their squalid, subsidized apartment building transform into a fairy-tale tower. As Sol begins to make friends around her, she begins to rely less on her stories while Ming desperately holds on.
   For the majority of the book I felt disconnected to Sol and Ming. While I felt sorry for the sisters and their predicament, I wasn't moved by them. I was also not a big fan of Sol who felt too pushy for me. There are several moments where she and her best friend Manny bully a white girl who they call "Casper" because she looks pale. These moments made me uneasy, especially when the bullied girl is injured by a pine cone thrown by Sol. Their resolution into friendship was not believable at all and this is where the story really dragged for me. Sol, however, does grow up a bit as she tries to stay positive for the sake of her sister and stands up to Vea. We also learn more about Sol's inner struggle with guilt, but the story lacks the momentum to turn its quiet plot into a serious one that tackles the issues of class and immigration. full-blown tale that effectively handles the class and race issues that it touches upon. Overall The Land of Forgotten Girls is a promising story that could have been so much better.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are a few scenes where Sol and Manny bully a girl who they call "Casper" because of her pale skin and there are also a couple of scenes where Sol and Manny steal ice cream from a store. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Review: In Heartless Marissa Meyer provides an origin story of the evil Queen of Hearts in Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Before she was a megalomaniac who ordered people's heads cut off in a moments notice, she was Catherine, a spirited daughter of royalty, destined to wed the King of Hearts. Catherine detests her fated destiny and wants to exercise her free will in becoming a baker and having her own bakery with her best friend and longtime maid. I admired Catherine's temerity in establishing her wants and desires so openly. The clash between Catherine's dreams and her mother's relentless goal of making her daughter queen is the highlight of the book and done exceptionally well.
  The world building of a refined yet still whimsical realm of Wonderland is executed quite nicely. We see favorite characters such as the mercurial Mad Hatter, who in my opinion stole the show in his short page time, and the mysterious Cheshire whose one-liners accurately sums up the emotions of others and sets the scene. We are also have a new character, the court joker aptly called Jester whose earnest boyishness makes him far more charming than his royal boss and captures Catherine's heart instantly. The clandestine romance between Jest and Catherine is inevitable. To be honest I was not a fan of Jester and Catherine's romance. I didn't feel the chemistry between the two and I really think much of him besides his flirtatious behavior.
  I found the first half of the story very slow going and boring. The slow build up that pits Catherine against her mother gets repetitive at times. There are no other subplots to make the story suspenseful. I was actually more interested in Catherine when her darkness showed. Unfortunately, her descent into darkness felt rushed. Despite my issues with the pacing and the romance in the story, I enjoyed Heartless but not as nearly as much as I enjoyed Meyer's Lunar Chronicles.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and scenes. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli
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