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!
You Go First
Erin Entrada Kelly
April 10, 2018
You Go First is a middle grade novel following a week in the life of two middle school characters: Charlotte (Lottie) Lockard and Ben Boxer. They met playing online Scrabble, but really don’t know anything else about one another. The chapters switch off following each of their lives as we learn about friendship, bullying, parents (including divorce and potential death), and even about neighbors we sometimes take for granted before discovering the beautiful truth of their mystery.
The greatest mystery of people isn’t learning what they are, but learning what they aren’t. ~Magda Rivera
Both youngsters experience a life crisis over the course of this week, yet they never quite share the details of their pain with one another. As both are “gifted” students, weaved into the story line are a number of random facts and details about spelling, geology, art, and more, adding some depth to each character. Their conversations are short and awkward – pretty much just what you would expect of a pre-teen conversation with someone of the opposite sex. But as a reader, we slowly observe how much these two youngsters have in common as each have fears resolved and needs for connection met. After reading both Hello, Universe and You Go first, Erin Entrada Kelly seems to possess a knack for bringing together characters who initially appear to have almost nothing in common, but who eventually reveal the same hurts, the same fears, and the same need for love and friendship.
Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler
(Time Twisters #1)
Neil Swaab, ill.
January 9, 2018
When I first came across this book in my local Overdrive library, it didn’t seem all that interesting. However, Steve Sheinkin is the author! You probably know Sheinkin from his other well-reviewed middle grade and young adult nonfiction books, such as: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (2012), The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (2014), or Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team (2017). Therefore, I was really interested in seeing what he would do in this new series. What I discovered is that this series reads much like the Magic Tree House, if you’re familiar with that series. A fictional time travel story is created around true historical events in an effort to interest young children who find history boring. The entire story seems completely silly, but at the end there’s a section that discusses just how much of what happened was actually true. And I’ll admit the true parts were more than I anticipated. For example, Abraham Lincoln really is the only president to be admitted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. And he really did grow his beard because a little girl wrote him a letter arguing why he should have a beard. While the fictional story wasn’t MY cup of tea for reading pleasure, the last section was definitely helpful in showcasing interesting historical events. And perhaps that was the whole point of the series — get to the end so we can reveal just how much of the story was based on legit history. Like The Magic Treehouse, I would definitely say this series is aimed at the younger crowd — even 1st and 2nd graders might benefit from a read aloud or the audio book. I’ll also note that I “read” this book as an audio book and I noticed there were lots of helpful background sounds and music that added to the feeling of being in each location for the story. Books #1 and #2 were both published in January, and it appears book #3 is slated to be released in September.
Big Cat, Little Cat
March 14, 2017
I live in a very secluded area and it often takes a VERY long time to get award-winners, here. So I was thrilled to get my hands on TWO of the 2018 Caldecott Honor books, this month. Big Cat, Little Cat is a beautiful picture book story about young cats, old cats, friendship, loss, and the circle of life. The illustrations are bold black line drawings (possibly digitally manipulated, but I had difficulty finding more information). I loved this book so much – definitely made me want to purchase a copy for my neighbor who recently lost the older of her two cats! Needless to say, this one will be loved by young and old, alike!
Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper
February 16, 2016
I have read and purchased so many alphabet books over the years. Honestly, I have felt like there are many that have little meaning other than flooding children with a bunch of words with the same beginning sounds. I have two emergent readers in my home right now and so I enjoy it when I get a chance to share alphabet books that are both educational AND entertaining. Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run is not just an average alphabet book, it tells an inventive little story about a mouse and a dog while using one letter of the alphabet for each page. The adorable illustrations were created with India ink and felt-tip pens with bright colors used for each new letter. It’s a creative little read that would be something fun for younger readers to explore while older elementary students might try reproducing (with a different story line to see just how difficult it is). Here’s one spread as an example of how this book works from A to Z:
A Different Pond
Thi Bui, ill.
August 1, 2017
My, what a beautiful and touching book! This is the second 2018 Caldecott Honor book I picked up this month. A Different Pond is the story about an early morning fishing trip that young Bao Phi takes with his father. If they do not catch any fish, the family will go hungry. The story is told from the young child’s perspective and showcases such sweet innocence. The meaningful story uses a sprinkle of descriptive similes, throughout:
A kid at my school said my Dad’s English sounds like thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.
The pages appear much like a modern graphic novel the way the scenes are sometimes pieced together, several on a spread, with the characters shown at varying distances. And, upon further investigation, I see the illustrator (Thi Bui) released her debut graphic novel The Best We Could Do in March of 2017. So that’s going on my TBR list, as well! The author’s and illustrator’s notes at the end are a wonderful addition to the book. I especially enjoyed how Thi Bui discussed her attempts to find and recreate household Vietnamese memorabilia from her childhood within the story. Also, Bao Phi shared his childhood photos with Bui as she created the images of the story. This information certainly added a meaningful dimension to the story, for me. Here’s one spread for your viewing pleasure:
To Be Read:
I’m looking forward to finishing the following two books, this week.
Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!