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 us every Monday!
The Parker Inheritance
March 27, 2018
The Parker Inheritance introduces us to 12-year-old Candace who is feeling stranded in Lambert, South Carolina for the summer while she and her mom stay in her deceased grandmother’s old house. Her parents are currently separated and she doesn’t know when she will go back home to Atlanta. She meets 11-year-old Brandon, the boy who lives across the street from her grandmother’s old house, and they initially connect through their love of books. While rummaging through her grandmother’s attic, she discovers a letter introducing the details of a mysterious treasure hunt. As it turns out, Candace’s grandmother was once the city manager and she lost her job trying to uncover this mystery! So once Candace and Brandon start on this journey together, there’s no turning back. What they DON’T expect is to uncover is a large chunk of history that most of the older town members would prefer be forgotten. In fact, part of winning the treasure will mean openly revealing this hidden history to the general public. The story flashes back and forth between the 1950s and modern times, which helps the reader better understand what the town of Lambert has experienced over the decades. At times we read a great deal about real life history as there was plenty of discussion on the experiences of school segregation and Brown v. Board of Education (and lesser known legal cases, such as Briggs v. Elliott). There are so many meaningful pieces to this story, including the evident pain of a splitting family, a beautiful friendship, mystery, adventure, a bit of romance, some sexism and homophobia, and a whole lot of racism. The Westing Game is also mentioned multiple times as the book they used to better understanding how complicated puzzles work (Guess what’s going on my TBR list…).
My heartbeat was elevated and hands a bit shaky as I went into the final 1/3 of the book. I couldn’t wait to see how it ended and I kept wondering if I was going to find out part of the story was true because it all felt so real. At the conclusion of the book, Johnson provides an author’s note that separates true history from fiction — so you really don’t want to miss that! One thing that really rings true at the conclusion of the story is that, whether looking at history or modern day happenings, we so often see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. That said, I’ll leave you with a favorite quote from the story:
That night, Candace got up to find something to soothe her stomach. She heard her mother’s heavy breathing as she passed by her room. Both of her parents snored, but the two noises had always seemed to fit together. To her it sounded like melody and harmony. We hear what we want to hear. We see what we want to see. It seemed like everything that summer has been pointing to that. It was on the tip of everyone’s tongues. In the misunderstood lyrics of her favorite songs. And stamped on the jewelry she’d owned for almost half her life. Parker’s mystery was the perfect example of seeing what you wanted to see and hearing what you wanted to hear…
The Night Diary
March 6, 2018
The Night Diary is the fictional diary of 12-year-old Nisha, written during 1947. It is written as India is liberated from British rule. At this time, the country is also being split into two sections (Pakistan and India) based primarily on the tension between Hindus and Muslims. Nisha’s father is Hindu, but her deceased mother was Muslim. Therefore, she’s feeling internal conflict over all the hatred and violence. Where do she and her twin brother, Amil, belong? Her diary follows the family (Nisha, her father, her brother, and her grandmother) as they make their dangerous trek across the country to become refugees in a new land reserved for Hindus. The trip is not easy and along the way she witnesses more violence than any 12-year-old ever should. The pain of this journey was absolutely heartbreaking as Hiranandani expresses these tragedies in such a tangible way. I was stunned when I realized I knew so very little of this history. I’m sure I’m not alone in that ignorance, so I truly hope this book reaches the libraries of many schools across our nation. Don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end — it shares some important information about the story and Hiranandani’s family. I read this book with my eyes AND listened to the audio book and I must say the audio version was quite helpful. There were a number of words I didn’t know how to pronounce and the beautiful accent just brought the story home for me. Also, BE PREPARED TO BE HUNGRY! Nisha is learning to cook throughout the story and there’s all sorts of ingredients and dishes discussed that it will leave your mouth watering. YUM!
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Karina Yan Glaser
October 3, 2017
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is an “11 days in the life of” story about an active, mixed race, close-knit family. Just before Christmas, they discover they’re losing their beloved home, a brownstone on 141st Street. The remainder of the story focuses primarily on the activities of the five children: Isa & Jessie (12-year-old twins), Oliver (9), Hyacinth (6), and Laney (4 3/4). Their landlord, Mr. Beiderman, is ultra private and is never seen outside his apartment on the top floor of their building. Furthermore, he has given no reason for his decision not to renew their family’s lease. So the five young siblings make plans to change his mind, without their parent’s knowledge. When faced with leaving the only home they’ve ever really known, they realize just how much they love their friends and neighbors — the entire community is part of their family and they can’t bear to leave them. This is one proverbial village that has greatly impacted each of their lives:
Papa cleared his throat. “Please, may I give a toast?” When the room quieted, he lifted his wineglass. “We have loved living here. I cannot imagine better neighbors”–he nodded to Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet–“better family”–then to Auntie Harrigan and Uncle Arthur–“or a better teacher”–and finally to Mr. Van Hooten. “I have always believed that raising kids means more than just being a good parent and trying to do the right things,” Papa went on, his voice beginning to wobble. “It means surrounding your kids with amazing people who can bring science experiments and jam cookies, laughter and joy, and beautiful experiences into their lives. From every part of my being , I want to thank you for giving me and my family the gifts of friendship and love.”
Over the course of the story, there are disagreements or misunderstandings between family members. Yet you somehow know they’re always going to work it out and stick together. We also learn that it’s important to know the whole story instead of making assumptions about others. Why do we always do that? People really need people. They also need a little grace. This was a beautiful feel-good book and I’m thrilled to know there’s a sequel on the horizon: The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. I’ll be looking for it in September unless I luck into an early ARC.
October 12, 2010
Grandma’s Gift is an older picture book that I just had to pick up from the library, this week. It’s Christmas time and Eric and his grandmother shop and prepare pasteles, a traditional dish in Latin American countries (which is explained in some detail). On the Tuesday before Christmas, he and his grandma visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Eric encounters a number of paintings, including the portrait of Juan de Pareja. The illustrations are realistic and were rendered in oil on watercolor paper. Also important to mention: the specific paintings in this book are actually based on real paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There’s an Author’s Note at the end that discusses how the portrait of Juan de Pareja impacted Eric Velásquez as an artist. The note also provides website access to his grandma’s pasteles recipe!! Grandma’s Gift won the Pura Belpré Award for Illustrator in 2011 and I should note that it’s a prequel to Eric Velasquez’s biographical picture book Grandma’s Records. I’ll share two spreads from this beautiful book, below:
To Be Read:
I’ve been on a tremendous roll with finding and devouring excellent books the last few weeks. I hope that streak continues because I’m really looking forward to finishing the following two books:
Have a great reading week, everyone!