social-emotional, asian-american

Spotlight: My Friend, Loonie/Sari Sari Summer

My Friend, Loonie (Candlewick)
Written by Nina LaCour
Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

For ages: 4-8
The narrator, a little girl, finds a great friend in a big yellow balloon. Loonie, as she names it, becomes an integral part of her life. They walk around the neighborhood together; she reads aloud to Loonie, and has dance parties together. Then one day, something terrible happens. The girl loses her hold, and Loonie floats away into the sky. That loss weighs heavily on the little girl. Yet, there comes a day when the same yellow that made her balloon so special starts to show up in other places. A beautiful yellow flower emerges from the family garden and reminds her precisely of her old friend.

My Friend, Loonie is a fantastic book about talking to children about loss & grief. Children will inevitably lose someone they love. The last three years have shown us how easily that can happen. For a child, processing those complicated feelings can be a tremendous task. I know as an adult, it’s hard to work through grieving. Author Nina LaCour uses her story to gently guide children through this, showing that even when a loved one dies, we can find traces of them in the world around us. Through memory, we relive those beautiful moments and understand that death does not erase important people from our lives. Their spirits live with us if we choose to embrace that.

This review copy was provided by the publisher.

Sari Sari Summer (Candlewick)
Written & Illustrated by Lynnor Bontigao

For ages: 3-7
Nora is a girl of Filipino descent who goes to stay with her Lola during the summer. Lola owns a sari-sari store, essentially a bodega. It has everything you need: hair accessories, toys, treats, and drinks. Nora has finally reached the age where she can help by working in the store, which promises to make this the best summer ever. However, an unexpected heat wave forces people indoors, so business is lighter than expected. So Nora and Lola devise an idea to pick the ripe mangoes from the tree and make an icy, refreshing treat for the customers. It works! And soon, the sari-sari store is bustling with people excited to try this sweet drink.

Sari Sari Summer is illustrated with warm & inviting pictures that will make readers want to visit the store, especially with a glass of mango ice. I think this book has many elements that make it relevant to students. The bond between child & grandparent is, first and foremost, those relationships are precious; when a child has them, they enrich their lives. Including a heat wave, though it is a piece of plotting, speaks to the experiences more and more children are having as the climate collapses. People living in developing nations near the equator, like the Philippines, need refreshments like that being served in the sari-sari store. The most critical aspect here for me is finding solutions when we are put in difficult circumstances. That ability to recover is an essential one.

This review copy was provided by the publisher.

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