It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 02/19/2018

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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!

HelloUniverseI 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.

PerfectScoreThe 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.

PostedPosted 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.

ShePersistedShe 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-AnOdeCrown: 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…

16 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 02/19/2018

    1. I didn’t WANT to like Posted. I’d read a few other disappointing books the week before I started it (I even stopped reading one book… maybe I’ll pick it back up again later). So as I started into Posted, it already felt like I was facing another chore. But then I discovered I didn’t want to put it down — every time my reading was disrupted, I was very frustrated because I was into the story. Reading this book makes me look forward to getting my hands on Granted, also by John David Anderson. None of the local libraries have it and I’m dead broke this month, so fingers-crossed that I can get to it before it’s already old news. LOL Happy reading to you, as well!

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  1. I just got Posted from the library a couple of days ago–along with a big pile of middle-grade novels. We’ll see what I manage to get through before everything is due/overdue. I was really excited about that Newbery Honor for Crown. The art was interesting, but I thought the writing was so, so good. I really love it when Newbery acknowledges picture book text and wish it would happen more often.

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    1. YES! It was VERY exciting to see Newbery acknowledge Crown! I agree the text was really good. My focus on the art probably comes from being born into a family of painters. lol I mean, those gorgeous mixtures of brown, tan, beige, and everything in-between — made for such beautiful and varied skin tones. I did searches, trying to find out more details on how the art was created since a couple looked like typical photograph angles. I’ll have to look more later since my searches didn’t provide much information. Usually the book makes mention of what was used or how it was created. My copy didn’t have that note, unfortunately. Those choices of painter angle and characters positions were so intriguing to me. I also thought the decision to use white text against darker backgrounds was nice. My most influential mentor from library school was on the Caldecott selection committee this year. I would be tickled to hear any inside stories on the journey of selection!!

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    1. Lisa, I’m glad to hear about Last Day on Mars. It looks good and I’ve esoecially heard the second book in the series is good. I think I’ll bump it up on my list. 🙂

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  2. I want to do a reread of A Wrinkle in Time before the movie too 🙂
    I just loved Posted. Such a powerful middle grade book. I gifted it to my daughter’s middle grade school.
    I read Hello, Universe about a year ago and didn’t love it. I feel like I need to do a reread of it. I read it on my e-reader and I have a hard time falling into those books.

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    1. Oh I really wish I loved my e-reader. I keep buying and downloading books, but definitely get more attached to non-digital books. So I completely understand!! And yes, on Posted. It caught me by surprise. Can’t wait to read Granted, now. 🙂

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    1. Since we live in such a secluded location, I was actually surprised that our library ordered even before it won. I felt so lucky! lol But we still have to wait for a number of other award winners to come in.

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  3. I thought Crown was awesome and I think so many kids will be able to relate to it. I also enjoyed The Perfect Score. It had lots of food for thought. Have a great week!

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    1. Oh The Perfect Score definitely had lots of food for thought! Even aside from the ongoing commentary regarding standardized testing, I really liked how each character turned out to be not quite who you were expecting. Such a great lesson on not judging a book by its cover…

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  4. I also just finished reading Hello, Universe – and really enjoyed it. I’ve been reading a lot of adult novels recently, so this one was a refreshing change of pace for me. I liked how subtle it is, and how it came full circle in the end. Been recommending it non-stop to Filipino American relatives. 🙂

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    1. Oh that’s wonderful on recommendations! Yes, it definitely came full circle in a beautiful way. It can sure be a jump going between adult and middle grade fiction, but as you noted it’s sometimes a nice change of pace. And on occasion, a middle grade novel is written well enough to remind us that we humans don’t change all that much in our social/friend issues. We still sometimes struggle to communicate, still sometimes have insecurities, and still desire bonding experiences and deep, meaningful connections. Have a wonderful week!

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