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!
March 27, 2018
Oh my, I really really enjoyed Good Dog. I was unsure and really guarded during the first third of it, so I struggled to fall into the story initially. But WOW did Gemeinhart bring it home! I mean, I broke down during one reading. It was one of those can-hardly-breathe sobs, and my children and husband came over to ask me if I was okay. With heaving breaths, I couldn’t talk. We lost my beloved dog of 17ish years over a decade ago, but this read dug up so many of those gushy feelings of unconditional love that my sweet fur-baby and I shared. You never forget. So… the premise: Brodie is Aidan’s dog. Brodie has died and has gone on to a purgatory-like doggy afterlife. However, he is trying to piece together how he died with only bits and pieces of memory coming back to him. He just knows that his boy is in danger. He and another dog, Tuck, decide to go back as ghosts to check on Brodie’s boy in an effort to find lasting peace. Once they arrive back in the land of the living, they almost immediately encounter hell hounds who, they discover, can touch and hurt them. They also encounter Patsy, a dead cat, who teaches them the ways of safely being dead in the living world. There’s only so much time and energy they can spend before their soul will be lost forever. Therefore, they spend much of the story finding ways around the demons-like hounds to accomplish their mission. This is a story of love, of honor, of weakness and strength, and of redemption and forgiveness. And like so many “good dogs,” Brodie may have the energy of a child, but he also possesses the wise heart of an elder:
But Brodie’s heart? It knew a hero when it saw one. And Patsy was a hero there on that bridge, even if she’d never ever been one before. You don’t have to have been a hero before to be one when you really need to. We can all be a hero anytime we decide to be. Believe me. Because a hero? A hero isn’t a person. A hero is a choice. And Patsy made one.
I don’t want to say much more about the story line because the less you know, probably the better. Nevertheless, I should mention there are some frightening elements of abuse (both animal and child abuse) and some bullying that a young reader should be aware of before encountering this story. There’s also a small element of surprise when we actually meet the narrator in the final chapter of the book. Enjoy!
The Poet X
March 6, 2018
For National Poetry Month, what better to read than a wonderful new YA book told in verse? This is my first Acevedo read, so I was NOT prepared for the fierce energy in this story. The Poet X is told from the experiences of Xiomara (See-oh-MAH-ruh). She’s a large, strong, Afro-Latina (Dominicana) teen living in Harlem who says very little, but has on occasion found reason to speak with her fists. Her twin brother, Xavier (who she lovingly refers to as simply “Twin”), gives her a journal where she begins recording her thoughts and poems. With Spanish worked into her mostly-English diary, Xiomara discusses school, her sexuality (including desires and experience with masturbation), her parent’s relationship, music, religion, sexual harassment, falling in love, and poetry, poetry, poetry. I love how she describes her love-interest in relation to writing poetry:
He’s not elegant enough for a sonnet,
too well-thought-out for a free write,
taking too much space in my thoughts
to ever be a haiku.
Over the months, we learn that she and her mother have very different views on religion. Her mother is a strong Catholic. Simply put, Xiomara is not. Nevertheless, she has a lot of biblical thoughts/questions and appears to enjoy open discussion with her priest, Father Sean. Some of the section headings even reference biblical ideas, such as: In the Beginning Was the Word, Eve’s Apple, The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness, etc. As Xiomara is introduced to slam poetry, she learns a great deal about the power of her words.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be as religious as my mother, as devout as my brother and best friend. I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.
The writing is beautiful with ALL the feels ranging from anger to passion. When you read this book, make sure to read the acknowledgements at the end. I always do. And this time, the final words said to her real-life family made my eyes sweat — especially the tribute to her mother, Rosa Acevedo. So very touching!!
Wolf in the Snow
January 3, 2017
This picture book is an almost wordless story of a young girl who rescues a wolf cub and is, therefore, rescued by the wolf pack in the end. It’s a story of empathy told in the same vein as the age old tale of The Lion and the Mouse with the basic moral of mercy brings its reward. In the beginning, we see pictures of the young girl with her family and later, pictures of the wolf cub with his pack, making a comparison of the attachments all living beings have to the ones they love. Wolf in the Snow is the winner of the 2018 Caldecott Medal and it was a 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award nominee for picture book. The illustrations were created with pen and ink with watercolor:
Matt de la Peña
January 9, 2018
On January 9, 2018, Matt de la Peña published an article in Time magazine with the title Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children From Darkness. Whether you read his article before or after you read the picture book Love, I really hope you will read it ASAP. There are so many good tidbits in it, including an explanation of how/why he and Loren Long fought to keep a “dark” illustration in this book. He also shares the following note on why this book was written and why it was revised before publication:
Finding myself overwhelmed by the current divisiveness in our country, I set out to write a comforting poem about love. It was going to be something I could share with my own young daughter as well as every kid I met in every state I visited, red or blue. But when I read over one of the early drafts, something didn’t ring true. It was reassuring, uplifting even, but I had failed to acknowledge any notion of adversity.
So I started over.
And that, right there, is probably the most important introduction to this picture book. The book includes diverse families and both the light-hearted and difficult sides to love. Each illustration highlights something in our lives that we experience as part of our growth, bonding, and love. The art was created with collaged monotype prints, acrylic paint, and pencil. While this book would make a great gift for a child, it would also make a beautiful gift for an adult. I’m showcasing three page-spreads below, including the “dark” piano one mentioned in the above referenced article:
“…an uncomfortable number of children out there right now are crouched beneath a metaphorical piano.” ~Matt de la Peña.
To Be Read:
I have a large reading pile I would love to get to, but I’m not going to commit to much this week since I have a number of important family obligations that I need to tend to. However, I would at least love to finish reading and reviewing these two books:
Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!