March 2022


March 2022 Stars & Big Picture

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

Henley, ArielA Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome. Farrar, 2021 [400p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780374314071 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780374314095 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 7-12

Kooser, TedMarshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech; by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek; illus. by Richard Jones. Candlewick, 2022 [72p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781536203035 $19.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 3-6

Lawson, JonArnoA Day for Sandcastles; illus. by Qin Leng. Candlewick, 2022 [48p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781536208429 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 4-7 yrs

Locke, KatherineThis Rebel Heart. Knopf, 2022 [448p]
Library ed. ISBN 9780593381250 $21.99
Trade ed. ISBN 9780593381243 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780593381267 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 9-12

Marwan, ZahraWhere Butterflies Fill the Sky: A Story of Immigration, Family, and Finding Home; written and illus. by Zahra Marwan. Bloomsbury, 2022 [48p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781547606511 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781547607839 $13.29
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 6-10 yrs

See this month’s Big Picture, below, for review.

Reynolds, Justin A.It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit. Scholastic, 2022 [304p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781338740226 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781338740240 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 6-8

Schubert, LedaFirsts & Lasts: The Changing Seasons; illus. by Clover Robin. Candlewick, 2022 [48p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781536211023 $18.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 3-7 yrs

Schwab, V.E.Gallant; illus. by Manuel Šumberac. Greenwillow, 2022 [352p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780062835772 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780062835796 $11.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 5-8

Tahir, SabaaAll My Rage. Razorbill, 2022 [384p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780593202340 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780593202357 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 9-12

Wyatt, JakeThe Well; illus. by Choo. First Second, 2022 [176p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781250816528 $24.99
Paper ed. ISBN 9781626724143 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R*  Gr. 6-9

A young girl with black hair looks into the sky, surrounded by red butterflies.

Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: A Story of 
Immigration, Family, and Finding Home

Written and illustrated by Zahra Marwan

Home is shaped as much by region and culture as it is small, unique details, and it’s those specific, special elements that make a place feel truly our own. Drawing from her experiences in Kuwait and then New Mexico, Marwan offers a soothing tribute to homes old and new, as well as encouragement to child readers displaced from familiar turf and trying to gain a foothold on new ground. The interplay of simple, literal prose and complex, figurative illustration here lifts this sensitive and useful picture book on immigration into an inviting exploration of how experiences are transformed by time and memory.

Young Zahra knows she lives in the perfect place, where the sky hosts butterflies and where “my ancestors live and are always watching.” She really cannot comprehend why her father insists they must leave, telling her only that they are not welcome anymore: “I say my goodbyes without knowing why.” While the new place across the ocean has no seashore, its air carries music and joy, the people look beyond her language struggles and make her feel at home, and long distance phone calls keep her in touch with her beloved aunties: “In this new place of high desert, I have found a home.”

Viewers will readily see why Zahra’s homeland is hard to leave. The golden warmth of the earthen buildings harmonizes with the rich turquoise of the sea, dotted with boats and under a sky filled with colorful butterflies. Friends and family gather on rooftops, and if the aunties look a bit intimidating in their black garb, there are clear signs of familial belonging in their close, protective body language and their streaming dark hair that matches Zahra’s own. Fortunately, her new home is equally beautiful, with lush green along a river and buildings made of new shapes but familiar earthen walls. There’s music and dancing and the possibility of a new friend as bright hot air balloons cheerfully float above.

The concreteness of these there-and-here images notwithstanding, Marwan nudges viewers slightly off-balance. Exactly where are these places? Why do proportions shift? What are those white bulls that trail Zahra from old home to new? Essential back matter answers these questions, supplying not only the specifics of Marwan’s personal immigration experience, but also keys and clues to interpreting her evocative paintings. Marwan explains in accessible terms how nomadic movements, illiteracy, and lack of contact with formal government structures in 1989 led families like hers, with a Kuwaiti mother and a stateless father, to end up unregistered and pressured to emigrate. Absent observable catastophes such as war or famine or natural disaster, it’s understandable a little girl would be baffled by political disturbance to her own happy life. Now, under adult reflection, she remembers the experience as “…dreamlike. A collage of different people, places, and things that all appear at once.”

With a few contextual clues, the imagery isn’t difficult to parse: the smoking box carried by a looming auntie is myrrh incense for protection; the family’s airborne drift away from Kuwait and tumble into New Mexico, literally portrayed, is quite probably an airplane flight; the balloon-embellished sailboat far out to sea is a tribute to friends whose immigration stories did not share the happy ending of her own. Perhaps the most important recurring image is a playful one: the white bulls Marwan envisions as ancestors. Fore- or backgrounded, they watch her while she sleeps, carry packing boxes before her departure, and nap contentedly as she acclimates, which invites younger viewers to play seek and find, and older readers to appreciate that home never leaves you. Readers who use the contextual and symbolic keys can unlock discussion of what makes memory potent, what they might miss from a home left behind, and what they might value most in a new one—topics that can bridge age and experience within families on the move.

—Betty Bush, reviewer

Cover illustration by Zahra Marwan, from Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: A Story of Immigration, Family, and Finding Home © 2022, used by permission of Bloomsbury.