another city with ghosts…and Cassidy Blake

tunnel of bones coverTunnel of Bones (City of Ghosts #2) by Victoria Schwab

Scholastic, 2019. Hardcover Middle-grade, 304 pp.

Paranormal Fantasy, Horror, Mystery. ages 8-13.

A Note from the Start: You do have to read book one: City of Ghosts first; there is no getting around it—not that you should want to get around it. Schwab reacquaints the reader with her characters, their contexts, but they’re friendly reminders, quick re-immersion techniques. The emotional build of the overarching conflicts are what you need book one for. What I’m going to write about here, is how—after the first book—you are going to love the second one just as much.

Having wrapped up their segment featuring Edinburgh, Scotland, The Inspectors (hosted by Cassidy Blake’s parents) have come to Paris, France—a second city of ghosts…

We came from Edinburgh, Scotland, a nest of heavy stones and narrow roads, the kind of place that always feels cast in shadow.

But Paris?

Paris is sprawling and elegant and bright.


Maybe Paris isn’t as haunted as Edinburgh is. Maybe—

But we wouldn’t be here if that were true.

My parents don’t follow fairy tales.

They follow ghost stories. (p 4)

As Schwab introduces Paris landmarks, food, and culture to the reader (via Cassidy), they have a new kind of paranormal experience to haunt us with as well.  It will begin in the Catacombs that wind their way below Paris. What was once a stone quarry, the Catacombs were repurposed as a graveyard for millions of bodies—six million bodies. It’s called The Empire of the Dead. It’s a series of tunnels that people have been known to get lost in and then lost to.

Having become familiar to the way the filming on location works, Schwab introduces ghost stories and histories through Cassidy’s parents first. It’s with Cassidy that we get to experience some of their stories in a much more visceral way. She’ll step through the Veil better informed and armed in Paris—but still learning, still encountering the unknown, or yet-known. Jacob is still her loyal, caring partner in mischief, and Lara is available via phone this time; both friends continue to be consistent sources of empathy and conflict. Her parents will continue to be both an obstacle and a resource. All the glorious elements from the first novel return for the second.

“It comes in handy, having a ghost for a best friend. I can sneak him into the movies, I don’t have to share my snacks, and I never really get lonely. Of course, when your BFF isn’t bound by the laws of corporeality, you have to lay down some ground rules. no intentional scaring. No going through closed bedroom or bathroom doors. No disappearing in the middle of a fight.

“But there are drawbacks. It’s always awkward when you get caught “talking to yourself.” But even that’s not as awkward as Dad thinking Jacob is my imaginary friend—some kind of preteen coping mechanism.”

I love Cassidy and Jacob’s rules of friendship. And their friendship becomes even more dear in book two. Still, Cassidy struggles with what it means to have a ghost as a best friend. And Jacob will continue to discover new things about himself as well. Both these things are set against the backdrop of a new terrifying creature and Lara’s insistence of who Cassidy is meant to be, and what her purpose is.

Comic book and Potter-world references return in the natural way of the age-group, but also artfully in the way it supports the world-building. I’m loving the world Schwab sees, both inside and outside the Veil. They’re good with characters, whether it’s a human, creature, or setting. The book is easy with it, drawing you into the conversations, relationships, haunts…

Tunnel of Bones offers another terrifying creature and plenty of sorrow. Cassidy and Jacob are imperiled time and again. Again, the close-calls are felt, and as with the first book, they do not have an encounter without consequences and certainly not with any guarantees. You genuinely fear for Cassidy and/or Jacob. Schwab will even convince you to feel fear alongside her other characters, both living and dead. And sadness. More children will be involved…

“Look,” [Jacob] says. “I get it. You can’t help yourself. It’s your nature. Your purpose, whatever. You have to look under the bed. Open the closet. Peek behind the curtain. But have a little common sense, Cass.”

Cassidy is a bold one, and good-hearted; she’s capable, clever, vulnerable. Jacob is equal to her in these ways; easily described in the same terms. They create a fantastic partnership, and an engrossing relationship story. It’s a component that builds in an incredible tension. I’m really worried about where it all will lead.

“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” he says. “I don’t know what it means. It scares me, too. But I don’t want to go. I don’t want to lose you. Or myself.”

I don’t know where The Inspectors are going next. I don’t know what the next boss-level creature Cassidy and Jacob (and Lara) will encounter next. I do know that Jacob’s revelation and the source of that “fainting spell” in the final chapter has me impatient for book three.*

The series City of Ghosts is a must-read series for fantasy readers who love the tinge of horror** (or vice versa). Bonus: it is one of the most enjoyable friendship stories on the shelves.

tunnel bride of souls*after writing about the read,I looked up Book 3 . It’s called Bridge of Souls, they are headed to New Orleans, “and the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.” Mark the calendars for September 2020, friends.

My review of City of Ghosts (book 1) and

**the note I borrowed from it: “There are plenty of disturbing images and ideas to make some think twice about handing this to an early grade-schooler, but the beauty of the Harry Potter references is that if a young reader has read the entire series, this isn’t any darker.”

+An excerpt I love:

“Maybe is a match in the dark,” I murmur, half to myself.

It’s one of Mom’s favorite sayings, for when she gets stuck on a story. she starts giving herself options, potential threads, turning every dead end into a new path with one simple word: maybe.

Maybe is a rope in a hole, or the key to a door.

Maybe is how you find the way out.


Victoria Schwab aka V.E. Schwab is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels for readers of all ages, including City of Ghosts and Tunnel of BonesEverday Angel: Three Novels, the Shades of Magic series (which has been translated into over 15 languages), This Savage Song, and Our Dark Duet. Victoria can often be found haunting Paris streets and trudging up Scottish hillsides. Usually, she’s tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up stories.



This Is It, I Got Next

I went to pick up I Got Next and noticed Daria Peoples-Riley’s earlier publication This Is It. I borrowed them both.

this is it coverThis is It by Daria Peoples-Riley

Greenwillow Books, 2018. Hardcover Picture book, 40 pp.

We first meet the dancer beside a building with the sign: Public Housing Authority. Slippers instead of sneakers thrown over the wires. We do not realize her shadow is also a character until our dancer stands outside another building with another sign: Auditions Today. On the sidewalk in front of the Dance Theater Studio, there is not a dance mom in sight, it’s just the girl and her shadow.

“Look at me.” her shadow says, hands on hips while the dancer holds herself, hunched, cutting side eyes. Their postures throughout are great, increasingly more alike.

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interior illustration from This Is It by Daria Peoples-Riley

The shadow has things to say: things most of us would love to hear on a day like that dancer’s.

“The future is in your footsteps.

Freedom is in your feet.

Put one if front of the other,

and greet your destiny.”

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interior illustration from This Is It by Daria Peoples-Riley

They’ll tour the city (New York City), the backdrops primarily gray cement, buildings seemingly bent toward her, sidewalks and streets emptied of any strolling or bustle. They’ll dance as the shadow dispenses advice and encouragement.

“Grace flows

from your soul

to your fingertips.

And HAPPY shakes your hips.

Shake it, baby.




Daria Peoples-Riley has found a clever way to manifest that positive inner voice. The shadow shows spunk, attitude, a confidence the girl grows in as the pages turn and they find themselves back at the auditions. The shadow is hers after all.

this is it interior
interior illustration from This Is It by Daria Peoples-Riley

We see our dancer through the glass now, hair pulled into a bun, body in (second) position. We don’t learn the outcome, the ending suggests we don’t need to know the results of the audition. She’s taken the leap.

This Is It is not the typical ballet book, and it should be a part of every young dancer’s library. Our dancer’s hair and skin tone is bound to stand out. Her aloneness in the high urban setting; the nod to the projects and the weight it adds to the audition; that the book is not bathed in pink. This Is It is a good addition, hers is a struggle that will resonate, and she is dancer we need to see.


Notes: Nikki Grimes work comes to mind. That cover detail of the ribbons on “IT” are a nice fun touch.

The art was painted with black sumi ink, goache, and watercolor on paper, and then digitally composited in Adobe Photoshop.

i got next coverI Got Next  by Daria Peoples-Riley

Greenwillow Books, 2019.  Hardcover Picture book, 40 pp.

We meet the young boy headed to the basketball court, outside the corner shop, sneakers thrown over the wires. The edge of the mural at the left edge of the page is familiar to the endpapers. We turn the page to see him approach the cinema with a poster that looks familiar to Peoples-Riley earlier work: the cover of This Is It. He’s headed to the barbershop next door, meanwhile his shadow, wearing a cap, holding a ball announces: It’s game day!

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Interior illustration from I Got Next by Daria Peoples-Riley 

We’re transported to the neighborhood court nearby. The shadow urges the boy to get ready. He’s got to get his game face on. It takes some tries. But it isn’t just about posture, so the shadow wants to see his skills. He shows that he knows what he’s doing, keeping up with the shadow’s prompts (which reads like an imagined scenario whispered under a lone player’s voice). He makes the shot.

The shadows voice is taken up by its owner’s:

Shadow: They might be stronger, faster, quicker—

Boy: I’ll leave my heart on the court.

Their exchange continues. Continuing in the intensity the narrative has been building. A coach, an oath-taker. He’s ready. He’s been reminded that he has what it takes.

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Interior illustration from I Got Next by Daria Peoples-Riley 

Unexpected is how ‘I got next!’ closes with a collective pronoun: it isn’t just the boy (no long accompanied by his shadow) who’s got next. It is all the boys on the court. The boy’s dream a shared one: to be able take their chance to play; to show what they’ve got; to maybe win.

The scope of the book’s world is a small part of a neighborhood, spaces where a community would convene. It’s an urban world awash in gray with moments of color, a small tree, bush, brush… The blue tint of a building. The backdrop leaves nothing to distract from the expression and movements of the boy and the ball. He is the life and color on the court, green number one jersey and brown skin. That face, and the tilt of his head. He brings an intensity, translating the words into action. He has a plan. He just needs a chance, he needs to announce himself: I Got Next!

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mural from endpapers of  I Got Next by Daria Peoples-Riley 

Under the author’s bio on the jacket, Daria Peoples-Riley writes: “Though this is a basketball story it is also a visual story about thriving, living things, and people in neighborhoods threatened by gentrification.” A good point (and opportunity) to explore in conversation when sharing this read.


Notes: Love how the ball on the cover is the “o” in “Got”…such an overall striking cover.

The art was painted with black sumi ink, gouache, charcoal, and watercolor on paper, and then digitally composited in Adobe Photoshop.


Daria Peoples-Riley’s first job was at nine years old, in the children’s section of her hometown library. Much later, she became a teacher, and now she is a full-time author and illustrator. This Is It is her first picture book, inspired by her daughter, her rich cultural background, and their first visit to New York City. She lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.


where the world ends

WTWE GMWhere the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

Flatiron Books, December 2019.

First Published by Usborne, 2017.

Hardcover Young Adult Fiction, 336 pp.

Includes Glossary of Birds and Words.

“It was a blade-sharp August day, the sea turned black by the sun’s brightness. And no, there were no omens hinting at trouble ahead. Hirta people notice such things. The clouds did not split open and let fall drops of blood: someone would have remembered that. No sinister bird settled on anyone’s roof. A gull flew over and dropped its mess on Mr. Cane—but that was nothing out of the ordinary. (Who wouldn’t, if they could?) But no signs, no dread omens.” (2)

When the author learned of a particular historical event that happened in St. Kilda in the early 18th century, it set a series of questions loose in her mind. Then she wrote an incredible reimagining, with a memorable cast of characters and haunting series of events. The story would have been enough of a marvel if described only in terms of fiction. But the histories and collective experiences require a narrative, a story to answer the questions—a belief the author will play out in the novel where questions (and their survival) demand answers. The fowling party will attempt to rely on the stories they’ve been given, and circumstances will change them—the stories, I mean, not just characters.

“At least Cane had offered them Heaven, angels, Judgment Day. At least Don was offering them family and hope. Farriss’s only explanation lay in tragedy, in having been utterly forgotten, and in a god who had turned his back and walked away.”

McCaughrean will not only translate the depth and ingenuity of human will in the face of survival, but the power of storytelling as its necessary life-partner.

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Stac an Armin (aka Warrior Stac) photograph by Peter Moore

McCaughrean tells the story of a fowling party sent to pillage the bounty of Warrior Stac. (Stacs/Stacks defined.) The party of “three men and nine boys” will collect a number of resources that will cover the islander’s rents and supply their households. It is a part of their life and livelihood and is seen as a rite of passage for the young males of the island. The female islanders form their own fowling parties and expeditions. The story is very much set in its time and place.

All goes according to tradition until the boat that is to retrieve them fails to arrive. In its continued absence, the crew begin to wonder why. That they settle on The Rapture is a fascination, and a horror… [and*] The revelation is one you must experience and I hope no one has/will spoil it for you beforehand. I was already impressed with McCaughrean’s pacing, but that moment is so well timed.

McCaughrean is a masterful storyteller twice over. Her protagonist, Quilliam spins and tunes and turns mythologies, crafting them to circumstance. He does so humbly, desperately, which makes him all the more compelling. It becomes Quill’s role, to tell the stories, to assign characters/crew members their roles. Each long for a purpose in a world that has suddenly become meaningless. They’d been seemingly forgotten and their work bent away from its earlier sense of fulfillment; their resources would be repurposed.

The course of time and its events challenges Quill’s ability to sustain his role, his narrative. And McCaughrean, again, poses a good question.

“Night had reinforced the storm’s cloaking blackness and there were no stars, no moon, only flickers of lightning like the ghosts of murderers sharpening their knives. More omens, thought Quill with a nauseated, bitter resentment. What good were omens without the wisdom to make sense of them?”

Quill hasn’t the experience: he is neither among the youngest, but neither is he a man fully grown. But then, the grown men seem to have exhausted their experience; their own minds and wills breaking. How much loss and unknowing can a body and a community survive. Quill and company’s grit is awe-inspiring, even in their failures. Again, the stories, and McCaughrean’s sentences/images that spin out of this life here ‘where the world ends’ are remarkable.

UK Usborne cover

McCaughrean will bring it all together, stunning in the consistency of her characters who have also undergone a definite change. The heartbreak is beautiful and it stops up the throat and widens the eyes. You’ll flinch plenty during the course of the novel, but you’ll not be able to look away. You can’t help but hope for these humble fowlers’ rescue and wonder what the future might hold should they survive the stac.

The story changes them, the fowlers. And it will change the reader, themes transcending place and time; some circumstances all too familiar. But McCaughrean doesn’t just leave the reader with a sense of how powerful a story/narrative can be—many a reader understands this—but Where the World Ends is a reminder of how powerful a determined storyteller can be, how life-giving; that power to create and recreate; to sustain and (re)write a culture into the present–into one that survives.


Where the World Ends is a must. A historical fiction for those who rarely indulge in the genre. For those history-lovers who need more lyricism and an appreciation for the question and need for fiction. For those curious how to handle misogyny in a historical time period without normalizing it because historical realism (…employ a father of daughters who claims them).

Noted: Quill has effortlessly made the list of favorite protagonists.


Spoiler : do not read unless you’ve read the book!


*not entirely off-base. Which has me thinking about the idea of the rapture born out of mass-death (regardless of what it was that killed whole families/communities)?



Geraldine McCaughrean is the author of the Printz Award winner The White Darkness, the New York Times bestseller Peter Pan in Scarlet, and many other books for children and young adults. She is a two-time winner of the Carnegie Medal, including Where the World Ends. Geraldine lives in Berkshire with her husband, John, and the lingering shades of all those characters she has invented in her books. Her cottage is under year-round siege from wild birds demanding to be fed. The ducks even knock on the door.

Where the World Ends is…

Winner of the Carnegie Medal (2018)
Kirkus Best Book of the Year (2019)
Junior Library Guild Selection
ABA IndieNext Pick





Yasmin the Writer & the Friend

Today is a 2-for-1 as I picked two new Yasmin stories from the library. My review of the first book (a collection) Meet Yasmin! is at the close. You don’t have to start with the first book, but you might find the subsequent books even more delightful if you do.

YASMIN WRITER COVERYasmin the Writer by Saadia Faruqi.  Illustrated by Hatem Aly

Picture Window Books (Capstone), 2020.  Hardcover Early Chapter books, 32 pp.

Included: 3 post-story prompts to “Think About It, Talk About It;” “Learn Urdu with Yasmin!;” “Pakistani Fun Facts;” and a craft idea.

Writing assignments are a classroom staple and Ms. Alex asks the class to write an essay with the topic “My Hero.” Unsurprising, classmates announce famous people as their subjects: Muhammed Ali (because they share a name); Rosa Parks (because she is inspiring). Even Yasmin’s mother, when helping her research people & ideas, pulls up a list of famous people. But none of those people were her hero.

As Yasmin discovers an essay to be harder to write than she’d anticipated, her mother is cooking dinner, taking calls, finding lost pajamas, and soothing her after a nightmare. It isn’t until Mama “saves [her] from an empty stomach,” that Yasmin realizes who her hero is. Ms. Alex agrees: “Heroes don’t have to be famous people. Sometimes they are ones closest to us.”

interior of Yasmin the Writer by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

Three short chapters long, large font, good spacing, and appealing illustrations make these an obvious choice for beginner readers, but the story (as with all Yasmin stories) is what will be the true draw for the reader and caregiver. Faruqi crafts an engaging protagonist and surrounds her with enjoyable characters. Faruqi never oversimplifies nor overly complicates her narratives. The pacing is wonderful, moments built and timed beautifully. Faruqi places the mother so naturally into the story and its progression; she’ll become more and more the focus, moving from the story’s and Yasmin’s periphery until she comes bursting through the lunchroom door.

Aly is a great storytelling partner in illustrating some really marvelous moments: Yasmin at the table, despairing (hilarious); Mama holding her; that lunchroom scene; a caped Mama…

back cover of Yasmin the Writer by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

It may be a subtle point, but I enjoyed how different and acceptable the first drafts were. Ali drew a picture, Emma listed facts. There are different approaches to writing essays and Ms. Alex (who is always awesome) and Faruqi (who is also awesome) celebrate that.

Yasmin is a great series to share with a young reader. Yasmin the Writer may have even more delightful results beyond an engaging character and narrative: maybe the young Reader will want to also be a Writer and write about the heroes closest to them? Not that we need more selfish reasons to read Yasmin stories with our young ones, Faruqi and Aly are a joy.

YASMIN FRIEND COVERYasmin the Friend by Saadia Faruqi. Illustrated by Hatem Aly

Picture Window Books (Capstone), 2020. Hardcover Early Chapter book, 32 pp.

Included: 3 post-story prompts to “Think About It, Talk About It;” “Learn Urdu with Yasmin!;” “Pakistani Fun Facts;” and a craft idea.

Yasmin has an idea of what her and her friends will play when Emma and Ali come over. So does Ali. And Emma. Ali is learning to juggle. Emma was recently gifted a jump rope.

From the very beginning, Baba encourages Yasmin to consider and ask what her friends want to do, which is hard because Yasmin really wants to play dress-up. When she complains that they are not being very good friends because they are doing what they want to do, the question is unavoidable: just who is being the bad friend? Also whatever will Yasmin do? The friends came over, presumably to play together, but they are all doing their own thing.

interior pages from Yasmin the Friend by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

Yasmin has her Eureka! moment and comes up with a game that combines all their interests. It turns into silly fun and by snack time, they are ready to enjoy their cookies, gajar, and glasses of mango lassi—together.

Faruqi writes a familiar scene from—er—childhood here. And in her usual spirit, the answer is a creative one: juggling while jumping rope in costume. Yasmin’s frustration at the unexpected turn playtime takes translates. In words and text, her excitement and expectation build and crumble. But no one can blame Emma or Ali for their own individual enthusiasm.

Baba offers excellent reminders and advice in being hospitable. “Friends are a blessing. We should make them happy.” I like that the situation is complicated by the part where it isn’t just Yasmin and Ali who have a singular interest, but enter Emma and the jump rope as well. But they are friends for a reason, and are all reminded there at the end that they did want to be together.

interior pages from Yasmin the Friend by Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

Three short chapters, large font and spacing, expressive pictures will help a beginner reader. Finding a conflict that will resonate and a solution that is inspired will further provide a positive reading experience. Yasmin is an authentic character with wise parents and friends she cares about. Those following the series will also smile when Yasmin tells her friends the costumes were made by Nani (her grandmother)—Yasmin the Fashionista from Meet Yasmin! is a wonderful story.

Faruqi and Aly have created and continue to successfully build a full and colorful life for Yasmin and her family and friends.  It is easy to recommend these stories for any household of young readers.  Good friends that they are: Faruqi and Aly further spoil us in that Yasmin is Pakastani, that Urdu is laced in, that the home, the clothing, the food are offered as an opportunity to see more on the pages, hear more in the narratives we imbibe, and share.


Read the Fun Facts alongside the young reader, review the Urdu glossary. Drink a Mango Lassi, it’s delicious, and have some gajar, they are good for your eyes.

Noted: the Urdu words are not italicized, which I love and I believe is important. They are legitimate, and they are not foreign words, especially to Yasmin and those readers who will see themselves in her even more clearly than most.


My review of Meet Yasmin! which has 4 stories/volumes: the Builder, the Explorer, the Fashionista, and the Painter.


lottie & the imaginary

lottie walter coverLottie & Walter by Anna Walker

Clarion (HMH), 2019

Hardcover Picture Book, 40 pp.


It’s a classic tale of a child afraid of getting in the water…because sharks. I love that Lottie understands that the shark is only there to eat her, no one else. And damn but it is terrifying. How much sweeter is it, then, when in a puddle’s reflection of her flippers, Walter (a walrus friend) emerges.

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interior illustrations from Lottie & Walter by Anna Walker

Walter ends up going home with her and she discovers they share a lot of the same interests. She also learns that when he sings a song, it calms her down. Turns out it takes an imaginary friend to defeat an imaginary enemy in this picture book.

No, there is not epic battle. Just one disappears and is replaced by the other.

Walker (who admits she was afraid to swim as a child) does not downplay Lottie’s fear, she merely expands Lottie’s imagination and curiosity. There are other creatures in the water; maybe one of them could be a friend—one that doesn’t want to eat you but is ready for play.

Walker’s artwork is simply beautiful. I love the choice of solid red for Lottie’s suit, striking against the white like caution, like boldness. Colors are deep and warm and bright, like childhood and growing things and the sea. The shark in shadows is delicious and the play with Walter is silly and smart (oh, the shampoo in the eyes!).

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interior pages from Lottie & Walter by Anna Walker

Walker has a straightforward, no-melodrama way about the story—another way she doesn’t downplay Lottie’s fears. The page where the family is heading to the swimming party is a particular favorite. Lottie and Walter are in the back seat of the small blue car along a residential street with this text: “Lottie didn’t want to be eaten.” And the page that follows, and it’s text:  “Everyone was enjoying the pool party. Her mother, her brother, the swimming teacher, the children…   and the shark.” The shark was having fun… Huh. Clever. ‘Cause the shark having fun just won’t do. The next page is even more clever, because you’ll have to look twice at that shadow in the water (maybe thrice, if you’re like me).

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interior illustrations from Lottie & Walter by Anna Walker

Walker is easily one of my favorite picture book creators. She’s an absolute must if you like beautiful, intelligent work.


Anna Walker has won numerous children’s book design and writing awards in her native Australia. The artwork and stories she’s created in her Melbourne studio have reached young readers worldwide.




for Today & Tomorrow

Tomorrow I'll Be kind coverTomorrow I’ll Be Kind  by Jessica Hische 

Penguin Workshop, January 2020.

Hardcover Picture book, 40 pages.

My review of her 2018 debut: Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave

“Jessica Hische takes young readers on a new, extraordinary journey that encourages them to be helpful, patient, gentle, honest, generous grateful, and above all, kind. Each small act of kindness helps make the world a better place.”—jacket copy

Those familiar with Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave will find a similar approach to living out the artistically rendered words: with thoughtfulness, and tenacity. We are only asked to try our best, get a good night’s rest, and try again tomorrow. I appreciate the inclusion that maybe there is a level of preparation involved in our pursuits, even beyond sleeping. Sure the efforts of a day require rest, but Hische’s protagonists dream. The text at the close reads ”I’ll dream of the good that comes when we all just try our best,” while the images contemplate opportunities. The story attached to “Honest” finds a new story that could fit under the heading of “Generous.”

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pages from Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind by Jessica Hische

Similar to the previous book: Hische inspires the reader/listener to come up with their own ideas of what patience or gentleness or honesty might look like. The word “Patient” accompanies a playground scenario of waiting turns; it also explores the idea (on the following page) of being stuck, but not giving up: “I’ll take time to see it through.”

Notice how the three main characters are—well, three always—and how they are in the company of friends or family. All of these ideas are pursued in relationships, in community.  The giving and receiving creates worthwhile moments, even in difficult situations: broken windows, grieving loss.

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pages from Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind by Jessica Hische

The palette is warm and soft. The Font-Art haven’t many hard edges or angles—except “Patient,” which is used as a structure; it’s staid and less sprawling. Hische brings a lot of energy and activity to the page: this pairs well with the notion that these Word-Ideas are pro-active, “Tomorrow I’ll be helpful/ when I see someone in need/ I won’t stand by or hesitate, /I’ll get up and take the lead!”

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pages from Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind by Jessica Hische

Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind is a nice companion to the earlier Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave. For some of us, it may be the best kind of pairing. Regardless, it’s a good one to have around, a gentle reminder and inspiring book to reference as we (all of us) grow into the best versions of ourselves.


Noted: The Ziggy Stardust inspired album cover on page 3—cute.

Jessica Hische grew up in Pennsylvania. She currently lives in San Francisco, where she works as a letterer, illustrator, type designer, and relentless procrastiworker. Clients include Wes Anderson, Dave Eggers, The New York Times, Tiffany & Co., OXFAM America, McSweeney’s, American Express, Target, Victoria’s Secret, Chronicle Books, Nike, and Samsung.


a tale of two pairs of shoes

ariba coverAriba : An Old Tale About New Shoes by Masha Manapov

Enchanted Lion Books, 2019

Hardcover Picture book, 40 pp, Ages 3+

Marcus is gifted his very first Brand New pair of shoes and they take him on fantastic adventures and he shares them with everyone familiar and strange. You get a good glimpse of Marcus’ world: his community, his neighbors, his interests.

ariba interior 1
interior images from Ariba : An Old Tale About New Shoes by Masha Manapov

When Marcus’ grandpa calls, he “listened closely to everything Marcus had to say.” Marcus’ new shoes and the way they make him feel reminds Grandpa of a story. We will move from pepto-pink to a turquoise as we hear the story of Ariba and his Brand New pair of shoes. These shoes are intentionally large on his feet because “feet grow very fast.” He would get to wear them for a long time.

Like Marcus, we learn of their adventures, but unlike Marcus’ story, the shoes become a character, “as it turned out, his shoes loved adventures. Once they took him …. they helped….led….urged him to dance.”

Eventually, Ariba would outgrow his shoes—not physically, necessarily, but his circumstances had changed and he began to change, to forget. He’d since moved to the city where he purchased new things, including new shoes. But try as he might, Ariba could not pass on these shoes, could not leave them. In an extraordinary and charming way, the shoes always came back to him. The story is humorous as it becomes even more outlandish—the illustrations help. The traffic page; the peeping through to the hallway page.

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interior images from Ariba : An Old Tale About New Shoes by Masha Manapov

Ariba’s shoes played such an important role in connecting him to the community around him, and the greater world around him.

“That same night, Ariba put on his old shoes. They led him to the darkest spot in the city, where once again he looked up and finally saw the starry sky.” The accompanying illustration shows an adult Ariba, echoing the image/movement of his younger self. He reconnects with his past, and parts of himself.

The shoes, we’ll learn, will draw Marcus into that history, story, tradition (of Sunday adventures).

Manapov tells a beautiful, entertaining, heart-warming story in words and pictures of a boy whose present story resonates with that of his grandfather’s. They are drawn closer, familiar in shared experiences.

I love how much they enjoy each other’s company. I’m impressed by Marcus’ uninhibited enthusiasm (for life and) his Grandpa’s stories and time together. Grandpa listens, demonstrating an interest not just in sharing his own stories, but hearing Marcus’ and asking after Marcus’ feelings about those experiences. “Well, old friends, I see you missed me.” Like shoes with their owners, the grandfather and grandson become companions in adventure. They’ll find some way (no matter how strange) to reunite—and their reunion will lead to something meaningful.

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interior images from Ariba : An Old Tale About New Shoes by Masha Manapov

Marcus and Ariba are both a delight in text, but also picture. There are pleasing details in the numbering of the steps; the “jump” on the height chart; the design of the ice cream double-spread. Also, Marcus is hilarious. His smile, his energy, the dynamic of his posture/colors/patterns. Manapov brings color and texture to every image that not only supports the tone or folkloric type of storytelling, but engages a lot of visual interest.

Ariba is fantastic addition to story times and book shelves, not only for those lovers of tales or intergenerational relationships. It will inspire many craft and storytelling projects. It will just flat out entertain and bring a necessary dose of joy.


Masha Manapova is an award-winning, multidisciplinary illustrator and designer. Born in Baku and raised in Tel Aviv, she now makes her home in Bristol, England. Her bookmaking, along with her commissions from around the world, is conceptual, colorful, and textured. Her work has been exhibited both in Bristol and internationally, and her work has appeared in various publications. Ariba is her first book as author-illustrator and marks her US debut.

Enchanted Lion’s interview with Masha Manapova, An excerpt:

“I guess that many folktales are talking about the human condition in a universal and timeless way that unites different cultures and generations. Finding these familiarities in shared stories that were told by uniquely different people brings me some comfort. I wish I knew where the original story came from and what inspired people to write it and retell it in so many different ways.

“In the version that I decided to refer to, the shoes were definitely not a nuisance, more of a dear object. Therefore, I wanted to tell the story of these relationships and how the past and present intertwine with who we are.

“Whether it is a new school, a new city or a new country,  there is always some expectation from the society for a newcomer to integrate as what seems a natural step. But in reality it doesn’t always work. Even though nowadays having a rich cultural history has become cool, and there is more room to express it, being an outsider is still challenging for both kids and adults, no matter in which part of the world they are. Especially in today’s climate. I think the story reminds us about tolerance, empathy, losing yourself and finding a place where the new and the old can co-exist. “