Mine. Yours. by Marsha Diane Arnold & Qin Leng (Illustrations)

Publication Date: April 2, 2019 by Kids Can Press

I was fortunate to be able to read a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not sure whether I like this book or not. I'm pretty sure I don't understand it. I suspect that I am ether to old or to young for it. 

Little Panda seems to be looking for a place to stay and enters into Big Panda’s den. Then grumpy Big Panda claims the den as Mine! and sets Little Panda outside with the word, Yours! This territorial squabbling continues until Big Panda gives Little Panda a kite and sends him on his way.

As Little Panda attempts to fly his kite he interrupts many different Asian animals by messing up whatever it is they are doing. He is roundly sent on his way with more assertions of Mine! and Yours! 

Eventually the kite takes off with Little Panda. All the animals jump onto the string with him. I’m uncertain if they are all joining into the fun or trying to rescue him. In the end they travel back to Big Panda and all learn the word, Ours.

From other reviews I’ve read it is the perfect book for young children who, like the two pandas and other animals here, are always squabbling over things. I don’t remember those days with my own children (thank goodness) and my grandchildren haven’t reached this age yet. I’m sure those other readers are correct, but for now it makes no sense to me. I just don't get the point of this. Well I do, I think the author is trying to send a message about sharing, but I’m not sure the book accomplishes it.

My problem is in large part that I really didn’t like Big Panda. Older characters should be modelling good behaviour, not acting like jerks. How could he offer the tiniest portion of bamboo to Little Panda while hoarding a huge basket for himself? This is not how responsible adults act!

 Of course I love the art. Qin Leng’s whimsical drawings always make my heart sing. I adore this one here with Little Panda and his kite. I’m not certain that this is enough for me though.

Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett & Natasha Donovan (Illustrations)

Publication Date: March 1st 2019 by Highwater Press

I was fortunate to be able to read a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Let me begin by saying that this isn't a story for the faint of heart. The history of indigenous peoples in Canada is rife with violence and oppression. This short graphic novel deals with one aspect of it: murdered and missing women, girls, and two spirited peoples.

Miikwam and Dez are best friends. Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inninew. They have just finished their Berry Fast, a ceremony that marks the end of childhood and the beginning of womanhood. They are planning on presenting it as their heritage project.

Both of these girls carry heavy loads with them. Dez lives with her Kokum who she worries about. As her diabetes gets worse, it looks like Des will be taken away from her and moved into a foster home.

Miikwam lives with her father, but as the story progresses we discover that her mother is one of the missing women.

The two girls spend Saturday together and head on home on separate buses. When Dez arrives home she sees that the social worker is there and rather being taken into care, runs away.

When Miikwam discovers that Dez didn't make it home to her Kokum, she is terrified that she will lose her.

In spite of having some insensitive teachers, these girls are lucky to have some strong adults in their lives. An important one is Geraldine, an indigenous worker at their school. Luckily Dez is discovered sleeping in the park by a concerned indigenous woman who takes her to a centre where she will be safe.

Part of what makes this book so profound is the artwork. The girls are beautifully portrayed in bold colours. Translucent ghosts of all kinds of women populate the pages. Some of them walk with the girls, sit beside them on the bus, and watch over them. 
Danger, in the shape of unwanted attention from men who are paired with dark evil looking spirits, lurks everywhere. 

I appreciated the information in the back matter that provides more details about MMIWG2S as well as an extensive bibliography. While the novel likens foster care to residential school, no details about this are revealed. According to data I read today, 57% of children in foster care in Canada are indigenous, but indigenous people make up only 7% of the total population.

This is the first book in The Debwe Series. I am excitedly looking forward to what comes next.

Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles

Publication date: April 2, 2019 by Candlewick

I was lucky enough to get to read this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

There is a lot going on in this new novel by Jo Knowles. Much of it will rip your heart out before letting it begin to mend. It had me bawling my eyes out at times – for Rachel, for her family and almost, for a pig.

Rachel, her younger sister, Ivy, and their parents have lived on Bittersweet Farm for as long as Rachel can remember. Circumstances beyond all their control: their mother losing her teacher librarian job because of school cutbacks, and their father's real estate sales dropping, mean they are facing foreclosure.
In order to help out at home Rachel ends up working on the neighbour’s hobby farm while they are on vacation. When everything else in her life seems to be falling apart, it’s her connection with these animals that seems to ground her.
Rachel’s best friend Micah wants their relationship to become more than just friends, but Rachel doesn’t feel that way about him. She’s not sure she can feel that way about a boy at all. When she makes a stupid mistake at a party to test this, it looks like she might have destroyed their friendship just when she needs it most.
I searched for a book like this one for my library collection for ages. This coming of age novel introduces us to Rachel, an ideal queer girl for elementary school readers. She is pondering her sexual identity, but nothing sexual happens in this book. I appreciate that there might be something more in her new relationship with Cybil, but it is only a possibility. I like the conversation between the two of them that reveals that their classroom teacher and environment is inclusive of everyone. I like that while Rachel's sexuality is important, it’s not the most significant part of this novel. Mostly I love that Rachel is a character students will be able to connect to and imagine as a friend.

As a teacher librarian myself, I was devastated to read of Rachel mother’s job loss. I was surprised that she didn’t just move into another teaching position which is what would happen here in my province of BC. it's actually what has happened to teacher librarians in many areas due to educational cutbacks and lack of staffing. I appreciate Jo Knowles bringing the issue to our consciousness, even if it is never resolved satisfactorily.

Thank you Jo Knowles for another brilliant book. I ask for nothing more in a novel than characters I can connect to. You have succeeded in pulling it off again. I love your people and can't help but wonder what the future will bring for them.
Were I still in charge of a library, I would preorder this book. If you haven't already done this, get on it will you!
If you can't wait for the April release date, you might be satisfied reading See You at Harry's, Still a Work in Progress or one of the authors many other fabulous reads.