Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts, decided to give Kathryn’s (at Book Date) “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme a kidlit focus, reviewing books in children’s literature (picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, or anything in the world of kidlit). If you enjoy this type of reading, join in every Monday!
I kicked off my week with Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, since it won the 2018 Newbery Award, last Monday. While the first third of the book felt slow and tedious, it ended up being a delightful story. This one is full of diversity, unique surprises, and humor. We have a Filipino-American family, a young girl who is deaf, a wise grandmother who loves fiercely, another family that is Japanese-American, a bully, and yet each of these diverse details do not define each character (except perhaps the bully, who is rather flat). They are each interesting, some very thoughtful, some wise, and some quite lonely. One thing about this book that is a breath of fresh air to many is that its inclusion of male and female lead characters does not lead to romance, but to meaningful friendship. I “read” the audio version of this book and would like to go back and read it with my eyes, some day.
The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea is a story focusing primarily on five students (Gavin, Randi, Scott, Trevor, and Natalie) and their experiences with two new teachers as they prepare for the big standardized test. The story points out the importance of read alouds, recess, and how standardized testing is NOT the most important thing in life. In a nutshell, a number of public and private issues are worked out and there’s truly a sweet happily-ever-after feeling at the end of the story.
For a 6th grade story, this was rather lengthy and very slow during the first half or so. I had to push forward. I also struggled with a couple negative gender portrayals. One example: When one of the male characters got scared, he “shrieked louder than a prissy school girl wearing a skirt.” Ugh. Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching the growth of each character, the development in troubled relationships, and I was happy to see the positive outcome of each situation.
Posted by John David Anderson was my favorite read of the week. The beginning explains that Eric (known by his friends as Frost) moved to Branton not long ago and his mom encourages him by explaining that we all find our closest friends, when we start over. We gravitate towards those we need:
Mom put a hand on my shoulder and leaned close so that nobody around us could hear. “It’s hard starting over. Trust me. I know. But it will be all right. You will find your people.” That’s exactly how she said it. Your people. Like I was a prophet preparing to gather my flock. At least she didn’t say “peeps.” My mother never tried to be cool. It’s one of the things that made her cool sometimes… “It will be awkward at first, but it gets better. you find your people and you make your tribe and you protect each other. From the wolves.”
This thought is the backdrop to the story which explores Branton Middle School after cell phones are banned and when post-it notes become the new public form of social communication. Deedee, Wolf, and Bench are Frost’s “people” and their main connection is that they’re all very smart (and geeky). Girls aren’t really part of the picture, yet, and so they spend most weekends playing elaborate Dungeons and Dragons games. Then one day Rose Holland moves to their school and sits AT. THEIR. TABLE. in the lunchroom. The story truly builds to an exciting, sweaty-hand climax with a second crushing climax that I admit made my eyes sweat. Middle School is a complicated age and Anderson truly captures the complexities of awkward conversation and bullying along with the pain associated with rapidly changing personalities.
She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton is a children’s book that gathers stories about thirteen American women who were brave and decisive. Their surprising actions encouraged change and acceptance over the years. The book seems geared toward calling our young girls to action — to letting them know that they can make a difference by doing what’s right or tackling their dreams, even when others attack or demean them.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James. This book received many honors, last week, including: 2018 Newbery Honor, 2018 Caldecott Honor, and it’s a 2018 Coretta Scott King Honor book for both author and illustrator. WOW!
The barbershop is the one place where young black boys could always go to feel like royalty. After a good cut, everything in life seems better — you’ll be a star, make better grades, get the girls, etc. Gordon C. James’ lush artwork is absolutely stunning. I couldn’t stop looking over all the details as he captured the full range of view from close images to distant objects in each snapshot.
The author’s note at the end was an important part of this book, so don’t miss it. Here’s a short snipped:
With this offering, I wanted to capture that moment when black and brown boys all over America visit “the shop” and hop out of the chair filled with a higher self-esteem, with self-pride, with confidence, and an overall elevated view of who they are… And really, other than the church, the experience of getting a haircut is pretty much the only place in the black community where a black boy is “tended to” — treated like royalty.
To Be Read:
I’m looking through my TBR pile and plan to finally start on A Wrinkle in Time as it will be in theaters in just 2 1/2 weeks. SQUEEEEE! I am also currently working on Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander and would like to start The War I Finally Won since I finished the first book in that series a couple weeks ago. VERY excited about that! And if anyone has been reading the Chronicle of the Dark Star series by Kevin Emerson, feel free to sound off with your thoughts. It looks really good and so I’m considering bumping book #1 (Last Day on Mars) up on my TBR list. Decisions, decisions…