It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/09/2018 #imwayr


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
Varian Johnson
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 DiaryNight-Diary
Veera Hiranandani
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!

Vanderbeekers-141st-StreetThe 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.

Grandmas-GiftGrandma’s Gift
Eric Velásquez
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!

25 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/09/2018 #imwayr

  1. I have all of these on my list, and have added Grandma’s Gift. I enjoyed hearing more about the Varian Johnson book. What an intriguing plot! Makes one wonder how many secrets have been kept through the years? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really enjoyed The Parker Inheritance. It really is an intriguing plot and the way he goes back and forth between past and present works beautifully. I agree whole-heartedly, there are so many secrets to dig up from the past (both in this story AND in real life) — things that families and communities are embarrassed by. But we grow so much by knowing the truth and being able to vow not to repeat our past mistakes. I hope you enjoy this one when you get to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the Vanderbeekers. One of those books you fall into and just want to live in. I am happy there is a sequel. It also made me want to reread some of my big quirky family favorites, especially Hilary McKay’s wonderful Casson family series. I really need to read The Parker Inheritance. My Children’s Lit class is clamoring for mysteries and this sounds just right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh me too, on Venderbeekers. Having a big quirky family of my own, I notice that so many recent books/series either have main characters who are orphans or who are an only child (or if they have siblings, they often have a limited role in the story). Maybe I’m just missing some variety in my reading. lol On The Parker Inheritance, I appreciated that it was both a mystery and historical fiction — so both exciting/fast-paced AND historically relevant.

      On mysteries, if any of your students are interested in crime-based mysteries, I thought I would share a post one of my #kidlit students wrote fall of 2016. She’s a crazy fast reader and so I enjoyed her constant discussion with others and her lists (I sure wish she’d continued blogging after taking that course!!). Maybe this will be interesting for others:


      1. That’s so helpful! Thanks! This is definitely a growth area as a reader for me–I just don’t read that many mysteries. And I definitely don’t buy them, so I’ve got very little in my office library to loan students. Maybe I’ll focus on mysteries this year for whatever books I get to purchase for the library!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh me, too! I understand it’s not exactly what it appears to be (for some who’ve already read it), but I’m trying not to read too much about it before I get started. I like to just be surprised. 🙂 I enjoyed reading your reviews this week, Jana. Have a great cruise!


  3. Wow…I haven’t read any of those books, but they are sound wonderful! I need to own Grandma’s Gifts, as I teach in a district with a large Latino population…. The Westing Game is a FABULOUS book!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy to hear about Westing Game. It’s brought up repeatedly in The Parker Inheritance, so I couldn’t help but be curious. Thanks for stopping in, Gracey!


    1. I’m such a sucker for historical fiction novels, so The Parker Inheritance and The Night Diary really fulfilled that desire in me, this past week. Thanks for stopping by, Sue. Have a wonderful week!


  4. The Parker Inheritance is the Middle Grade at Heart April Book Club pick so it’s in my stack. Your review makes me want to move it up quickly. I absolutely love the Vanderbeekers! Looking forward to the second book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Parker Inheritance is now on my to read list. I’ve been meaning to read The Westing Game for two years now, but never found time. This might be the motivation I need! The Night Diary is also on my list. I sure wish there were more hours in the day for reading!


    1. Oh I love it when two books fit together like that. You’re the one who turned me on to When You Reach Me for the same reason. I agree on needing more hours in the day. My TBR list is piling high. I have so many older books I want to go back and read, but I hate to miss out on new releases. Give me ALL the books!! lol Thanks for stopping in, Cheriee!


    1. Yes, they really are all diverse voices. And each so well-written (even if differently from one another). In hindsight, it was an incredible reading week for me. I’m THRILLED to hear they’re being added to reading lists. Have a wonderful reading week!


    1. I think it’s so important for a better understanding of what took place. I want my kids to know this history as well as their own American history. I also liked that I got to read this with my eyes AND my ears. That accent and all the pronunciations were wonderful! Thanks for stopping by, Ricki!


  6. I so love Eric Velasquez’s art. Love reading your thoughts about the Vanderbeeks – there is something about how you described the story that appeals to me so, I have a gut feel that I’d enjoy it. Have you read Surviving the Applewhites? It sounds like a parallel text.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES on Velasquez’s art — so beautiful! I haven’t yet read Surviving the Applewhites, but it’s on my list of Newbery honor books so I would love to get to it sooner than later. And we have it in our collection, so that makes it so much easier. 🙂 Have a wonderful reading week, Myra!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I truly wish I’d learned more about India’s partition back when I was in school. In this book, I think this history will be brought to life for young readers. Have a great week!


  7. Thank you for reminding of books I knew I wanted to read but that I now know to move further up my TBR. I’m especially excited about Parker Inheritance because I’ve loved other Johnson books.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Elisabeth Ellington Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s