September 2021


September 2021 Stars & Big Picture

Starred titles are books of special distinction. See the archives for selections from previous months.


DiCamillo, Kate The Beatryce Prophecy; illus. by Sophie Blackall. Candlewick, 2021 [256p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781536213614 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781536220858 $19.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 4-7

Gauld, Tom The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess; written and illus. by Tom Gauld. Porter/Holiday House, 2021 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780823446988 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780823450671 $11.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 4-8 yrs

Greenfield, Amy ButlerThe Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life. Random House Studio, 2021 [336p] illus. with photographs
Library ed. ISBN 9780593127209 $21.99
Trade ed. ISBN 9780593127193 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780593127216 $11.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 6-12

Khan, NaazRoom for Everyone; illus. by Mercè López. Dlouhy/Atheneum, 2021 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781534431393 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781534431409 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 3-6 yrs

Mack, JeffArt Is Everywhere: A Book about Andy Warhol; written and illus. by Jeff Mack. Holt, 2021 [48p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781250777157 $19.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 2-5

Madan, Vikram Let’s Make a Cake!; illus. by Nicola Slater. Random House, 2021 [72p] (Bobo and Pup-Pup)
Library ed. ISBN 9780593120699 $12.99
Trade ed. ISBN 9780593120682 $9.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780593120705 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. K-2

Mills, ClaudiaThe Lost Language. Ferguson/Holiday House, 2021 [304p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780823450381 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780823450695 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 4-7

Sheinkin, SteveFallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown. Roaring Brook, 2021 [352p] illus. with photographs
Trade ed. ISBN 9781250149015 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781250149022 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 6-12

Stroud, JonathanThe Outlaws Scarlett and Browne. Knopf, 2021 [432p] 
(Scarlett and Browne)
Library ed. IBSN 9780593430378 $20.99
Trade ed. ISBN 9780593430361 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780593430385 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 6-10

Tamaki, Mariko I Am Not Starfire; illus. by Yoshi Yoshitani. DC Comics, 2021 [184p]
Paper ed. ISBN 9781779501264 $16.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 8-10

Wade, Jess Nano: The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small; illus. by Melissa Castrillón. Candlewick, 2021 [32p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781536217667 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 5-8 yrs

Wilder, DerickThe Longest Letsgoboy; illus. by Cátia Chien. Chronicle, 2021 [48p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781452177168 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781797201139 $11.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 5-8 yrs

Big Picture

Soul Food Sunday

by Winsome Bingham; illustrated by C. G. Esperanza

We all missed a lot of family in 2020, so 2021 has seen us hungry for the emotional and physical nourishment of a big, traditional get-together. That kind of gathering, with enough joy to make it worth the year’s wait, is exactly what Bingham and Esperanza deliver in this book where Sunday means “Everyone gathers at Granny’s for soul food.” Amid the piles of cousins and aunts and uncles arriving at Granny’s, the narrator has a signal honor: today he gets to help Granny prepare the feast in the kitchen. First he grates the cheese for the mac ’n’ cheese (“Unless mac ‘n’ cheese is on the table, it’s not Soul Food Sunday”), then he cleans and tears the greens, then he skins and preps the meat. It’s then time for Granny to take a break as Roscoe Ray the Grill Master works his magic, but the narrator is fired with culinary enthusiasm and decides to make one more creation all his own: a big jug of lemony sweet tea.

Debut author Bingham hits all the right tasty notes here, right from the sound effects of everyone’s arrival (“Car horns BEEP! Car doors SLAM!”). There’s clear habit and familiarity in the way kids scatter to predictable places and family members take their known roles, and her buoyant prose precisely catches the sweet rhythm of a loving grandmother’s patient teaching (“Good job, baby. That’s the best grated cheese I’ve seen in all my life”). The inherent repetition of cooking cleverly grounds enticing textual repetition as our young cook fights his way through various dishes (“My hand hurt. My arm aches. But I don’t quit” as he labors over every task), building energy to the ebullient culminating celebration. The clever hook here is our hero’s competence—he’s doing key work that really matters in the feast preparation, and while his learning curve may be a tad optimistically compressed his contributions are age-reasonable. It’s therefore not just a celebration of everyone’s presence but of his growing ability to support the family occasion (in his grandfather’s old chef’s jacket to boot), moving from following Granny’s directions to realizing all on his own what a proper Soul Food Sunday still needs. As Granny says, “Baby, every food we make is special. Soul Food Sunday is about coming together. It’s about us being family, working together, a team!”

Esperanza’s stunning oils have a muralistic vibrancy with their saturated hues and deeply outlined figures; colors are, like a good family gathering, loud yet harmonious, with sunny yellow predominating. There’s energy aplenty in the skewed, sometimes fisheye perspectives and lively portraiture: sinewy Granny with her violet cornrow braids, Roscoe Ray huggably cool in flip-up sunglasses, and the narrator sporting a gold-tipped high-top head of hair that shines like a crown. There are also authentic small visual details, like the little kid dancing for attention from the big kids trying to play video games, Roscoe Ray’s collegial salute to the narrator through the window as they’re working, and even the way our young chef absolutely swims in the oversized white jacket, a tacit reminder of the man he’s following and the man he’ll one day be.

It’s a delicious, bouncy love song to family, tradition, and the passing on of family legacies, and viewers will yearn for a seat at the table. An author’s note talks about cooking with her own grandmother, and a reasonably kid-friendly mac ’n’ cheese recipe is appended.

Deborah Stevenson, Editor

Cover illustration © C. G. Esperanza, from Soul Food Sunday. Used by permission of Abrams Books for Young Readers