Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds
They go to school together, but these kids have different challenges and joys. Jason Reynolds writes ten interwoven short stories that reveal the lives of a diverse group of young people as they navigate the ten blocks from school to home. Heartbreaking, heartwarming, sometimes funny and sometimes gross (an entire story is based on booger jokes), these kids will give you hope for the future of our cities that you may not find on the evening news. Reynolds is a master storyteller, so this middle grade book is an accessible, sneaky introduction to short stories for your kids. Be prepared: the lightly written emotional undercurrents will knock you flat.
I Am Walt Disney, by Brad Meltzer; illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Brad Meltzer was a successful adult thriller writer who hit a gold mine when he decided to write some biographies of worthy role models for his kids. The series is called “Ordinary People Change the World,” easily recognized by the big-headed caricatures on these small picture books. One of the latest is I Am Walt Disney, which gives a child-oriented overview of the man whose youthful scribbles evolved into spectacular animated movies that changed the world. He called his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, “the happiest place on earth,” and then grew up to create fantasy parks with the same motto, vacation destinations that have families saving their pennies for a week in paradise. Eliopoulos draws four-year-old Disney with the same mustache and suit that he sports in later life, moving through his precocious teen and young adult years, his marriage, and his mature awards and achievements. On a recent talk show, Meltzer revealed that the Disney company was so appreciative of the “Ordinary People” series and its values that they opened up archives for this slim bio that had never been public before. All of the volumes in this series are highly recommended for your four- to eight-year-olds.
Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of Look Both Ways and a library copy of I Am Walt Disney. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not express those of my employer or anyone else.