This month I was fortunate to receive two new titles in the young adult and middle grade genres from a new indie publisher called Neem Tree Press. Neem Tree Press is a publisher of international fiction in translation in the UK. Both of these books were intriguing stories told with a unique voice. I love reading stories told from a young person’s perspective. Children see the world in a way that adults can’t or won’t, and they usually offer some eye-opening insights while telling their stories. Today, I’d like to highlight both of these new books and invite you to explore them further.
Code Name: Butterfly by Ahlam Bsharat
Code Name: Butterfly is told by a teenage Palestinian girl living in occupied Palestine with her family. Living under occupation raises questions and concerns for her that she dare not voice aloud. What struck me most about her story was that the political state of her country was not her full focus. She is a teenage girl after all and has other important things to concern herself with, such as getting the giggles at inappropriate times, styling her eyebrows, lipstick, secret crushes, and confiding in her diary or “treasure chest” as she loving refers to it. I love the codename that she gives herself, butterfly. What a beautiful symbol for growing up, much less growing up amid an ugly cocoon of confusion, fear, and political unrest. I think this book is a great pick for adults as well as teenagers as the story is so insightful and told in a vulnerable, relatable voice.
Toletis by Rafa Ruiz
How can you not be intrigued by a book that declares on its cover “For ages seven to 107”?! I couldn’t wait to open this book and start reading. Toletis is a little boy who hates the road that has decided to cut through his town. It keeps getting wider and wider and has forced all the trees out of its way. So Toletis decides to go on an adventure with his dog and his best friends, Tutan and Claudia, to restore trees and greenery to their town. What ensues is chapter after chapter of imagination as the kids go through the seasons learning about the world around them and trying to make a positive impact.
The layout of this book was interesting. Each chapter is a new season and with each new season brings a new adventure. It almost reads like a book of short stories as the chapters feel like independent stories rather than a continuous one. It is filled with magical realism, which I love. There is a lot for young readers to imagine while reading these stories. I was also completely taken with the unique illustrations. They are vibrant and engaging and bring the imaginative stories on the pages to life. I think this would be a fun book to read aloud in a classroom setting or to read aloud with your children at bedtime. Then the kids could see the illustrations and maybe even try drawing some of their own. This is a book that encourages imagination, period. I also loved the underlying message that kids can do big, important things too. Just because they are kids and their voices are often overlooked or ignored doesn’t mean that they can’t find their own way to make a difference in the world.
Learn more about these titles and Neem Tree Press by visiting their website.
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