It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 05/14/2018 #imwayr

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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 us every Monday!


First-Rule-of-PunkThe First Rule of Punk
Celia C. Pérez
August 22, 2017

Malú (Maria Luisa) is a spunky 12-year-old Mexican-American who loves rock music and everything “punk.” Malu’s mom, who she lovingly refers to as “SuperMexican,” has moved them off to Chicago for two years, far from her dad. She feels her mom wants her to be the perfect Mexican señorita, but she would rather be punk like her white dad. But are the two options mutually exclusive? Being mixed-race, Malú is referred to as a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) by other students, but she just takes that attempted insult and ultimately uses it to her advantage. This kid is so easy to love, reminding the reader of the frustrations and the joys of being a preteen again. It explores cultural identity, friendship, and the art of co-existing with authority figures (even if you disagree with their decisions). One reason why people say to read this book, rather than to listen to the audio book, is because Malú makes creative “zines” throughout the book by cutting out pieces from magazines and using artistic black/white text and drawings to document something important in her life. These are very creative and are showcased at the end of several chapters throughout the book. This book was a Pura Belpré Award Nominee for Author (2018).


I-Am-Not-Your-Perfect-Mexican-DaughterI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Erika L. Sánchez
October 17, 2017

Julia Reyes, a Mexican-American 15-year-old, is picking up the pieces after losing her older sister, Olga, who was struck by a large vehicle while she was distracted by her phone. Olga was the perfect Mexican daughter who helped with all the household chores, never wanted to leave home, and never made embarrassing mistakes. Julia is outspoken, opinionated, and cannot wait to leave home and start her own life, far from family. But after Olga’s death, Julia happens upon some clues that indicate Olga might not have been so perfect after all. And this spirals into a mystery that Julia is practically obsessed with solving.

I don’t believe I had read more than the Goodreads blurb for this book, so there were absolutely no spoilers for me. That said, for the first half I was thoroughly annoyed with Julia, thinking she was selfish, arrogant, rude, and using her period to get out of anything she didn’t want to do. Ugh. At the same time, I felt a deep sadness knowing that she and her parents were mourning the loss of her big sister, Olga.

There are times I feel completely alone, like no one in the world can possibly understand me. Sometimes Ama stares at me like I’m some sort of mutant that slithered out of her body. Lorena listens, which I appreciate, but she doesn’t really get it. She’s practically a science genius, but she doesn’t care about literature or art. I don’t think anyone likes what I like. Sometimes I feel so lonely and hopeless that I don’t know what to do. Usually, I just bottle up all of my feelings and wait until my parents go to sleep so I can cry, which  I know is totally pathetic. If I can’t wait, I do it in the shower. It builds and builds all day, tightening my throat and chest, and sometimes I feel it in my face. When I finally let it out, it cascades out of me.

I was patient with Julia’s grief and clung to the story in hopes that I would form a better connection with her character. Then right around the 50% point: BOOM. So much changed — the setting, the characters, Julia’s relationship with her mom, etc. This book absolutely stunned me — it had my eyes bulging, my heart-throbbing, and I was even feeling physically ill at one point, needing a few moments to collect myself before continuing. I am so SOOOOO glad I kept reading, because I believe the messiness in the beginning was important to wade through in order to get to the meaningful second half.


CrossoverThe Crossover
Kwame Alexander
March 18, 2014

I’m admittedly a little behind on getting to this one. I was excited when my friend, Elisabeth of The Dirigible Plum, loaned me her new copy of Rebound. But that meant I needed to read The Crossover, first!

So for anyone out there who hasn’t yet read this amazing book: The Crossover is the story of 12-year old Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan. Told in verse, we learn about the their sibling relationship, their father’s former life in professional basketball, their mother’s life as assistant principal at their school, their experiences playing ball for their junior high school basketball team, and the complications of young romance.

Kwame Alexander is incredibly skilled and knows his audience. For example, he could make you feel seething teenage-ish anger on the basketball court, yet there was no profanity. Zilch! There are so many sections that could easily be stand lone poems, but put together he created this polished story, complete with both love and heartbreak. The Crossover won the Newbery Medal (2015), the Coretta Scott King Award for Author Honor (2015), and a number of other literary awards/lists. I’m looking forward to enjoying the prequel, Rebound, this summer!


Amal-UnboundAmal Unbound
Aisha Saeed
May 8, 2018

I fell so hard for this little book, y’all. Amal, the oldest of five children, lives in a small Pakistani village with her family. She’s thriving in school and looking forward to becoming a teacher one day. But as the her mother suffers from what appears to be a bout of severe postpartum depression, Amal must stay home and begin helping out more than usual. In an unfortunate turn of events, Amal runs into a corrupt and powerful village leader and ends up having to work off her family’s debts as a servant.

Mumtaz said I could be here forever. I used to say the walk to the market took forever when the weather was especially hot. And that summers felt endless because I missed school. Only now that I was trapped did I understand the heaviness of forever.

Amal’s voice is sweet, but strong. She explores the importance of being brave and owning your voice. Also showcased is the importance of working with others, even your enemies, to find common ground. It’s such a huge story for so few pages — easily an afternoon read.


Ghost-BoysGhost Boys
Jewell Parker Rhodes
April 17, 2018

Twelve-year-old Jerome was once a living young black boy. Now he is dead. He was shot by a white police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real one. He’s not sure why he’s still wandering the earth, but he discovers that some living people (like his grandmother), are faintly aware of his presence. One girl, named Sarah, can even see and interact with him! Sarah’s father just so happens to be the man who shot Jerome and she’s grappling with her feelings toward her own father. While wandering the land of the living, Jerome also meets Emmett Till, another boy who died in a similar way long, long ago. Emmett appears and disappears at different points, leaving Jerome to witness his loved ones still living.

It eventually becomes evident that both Emmett and Jerome (and presumably other ghost boys) have jobs to complete during their ghosthood. Ultimately, the hope is to process their own experiences and ignite social action among the living by finding the person/people they can still communicate with. Since Sarah is the one living human who can communicate with Jerome, she will obviously play a crucial role in this plan.

Ghost Boys is a haunting historical fiction story that brings up numerous innocent lives lost as a result of racism (Emmett Till, Trevon Martin, Tamir Rice, etc.). The writing seemed a bit short and choppy, but it will appeal to many younger middle grade readers who aren’t yet ready for Young Adult novels on a similar topic (like The Hate U Give or Dear Martin).


All-Around-UsAll Around Us
Xelena González
Adriana M Garcia (Illustrations)
September 12, 2017

What a beautiful picture book! The text and illustrations follow a grandfather with his granddaughter as they explore the world, full of circles and cycles — the rainbow after a storm, reaping what is sown in a garden, circles found all around their neighborhood, and they discuss how everything we take from the earth must be returned, including life. This picture book was an honor book for the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Picture Book and was also a nominee for the Pura Belpré Award for Illustrator (2018).

First, I love that the images were a digital creation based on photos that Garcia took of González’s father and daughter. How precious is THAT?! González and Garcia are very good friends, both born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. “…they regularly reunite over tacos and dream aloud about their next artistic endeavors.” What a dream it must be to work on such a beautiful project with one of your dearest long-time friends!

Secondly, on a personal note, I appreciate picture books that normalize the cycle of life and show how birth/death connect us to the rest of the world. In my work in the birthing world with the ancient practice of midwifery and doulas, I’ve learned so much about birth and death practices that have helped humans to connect and commemorate both experiences. As modern society has moved away from ancestral practices, we’ve slowly traded much of our instinctive and traditional knowledge for sterile, emotionless, textbook practices. As a result, both birth and death have begun to be viewed as scary, unnatural, and downright “yucky.” This negative energy saddens me, but I do understand the root of those fears since I was once there when I was younger. The popularized images I viewed of birth/death on TV, in movies, and expressed in books throughout my young adulthood were, unfortunately, quite influential. That modern representation is difficult to overcome. POSSIBLE OVERSHARE: In my own family, we’ve experienced both highly medicalized hospital births and very simple home births. And like the characters in this book, my husband and I chose to plant a special tree with one of our home birthed babies’ placentas. This was actually a very small part in the story, but in the very back of the book Xelena González briefly explains this practice (and other rituals) in cultures around the world.

Here’s an example of the artwork (and, of course, I had to select the page that discussed the use of baby’s placenta in planting a new tree).

all-around-us-spread2.jpg


To Be Read:

We’re heading out to the state park for our camping trip today and I’m bringing these two books with me. I’ve NO idea if I’ll have much reading time with all the hiking, fishing, cooking out, roasting s’mores over our campfire, and playing family board games. But it NEVER hurts to have some reading material on hand. 🙂

Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!

32 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 05/14/2018 #imwayr

    1. That’s so true, Lisa! I adored Amal Unbound. Now I want to know what happens to her after this story! I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful reading week!

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  1. I hope you enjoy Bob, I really did! I’m looking forward to Ending, too. I loved Crossover and still have to read Rebound. Thanks for the wonderful review of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. It sounds heartrending. Things are not always what they seem, that’s for sure. Great books here, Shaye, some I’ve loved, some to read!

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    1. I love coming to the end of a great reading week like this one. I’ll admit, I was not fully prepared for the events of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. I didn’t see something coming and I don’t want to say too much (because I can’t stand spoilers, myself). But I KNOW it will reach many teens on an important topic, hopefully nurturing the development of empathy. I’m also excited to get to Endling!! Thank you for stopping by, Linda!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Angelica. I’m glad I got to see what reading you’re up to this week, too. I hope you get to feeling better VERY soon. Have a wonderful reading week!

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    1. It really was an incredible reading week. I hope you’re able to get your hands on All Around Us. The illustrations were quite unique. I would LOVE to have had photos taken with my children and my father before his untimely death. There are such important life lessons passed down from generation to generation with long walks and private talks. But sometimes it feels like that happens less and less with our reliance on social media. This book made me think of simpler times when we walked and talked with our elders and appreciated the natural beauty around us. I guess it’s time for me to get digging in my garden with my Littles. 🙂 Thanks for visiting, Cheriee!

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    1. I’ve heard such good things, so I’m hoping to find some quiet reading time out at the campgrounds this week. Maybe during a couple late nights when my toddler will be awake and bounding off the walls after eating s’mores. HAHA! Thanks for stopping by, Jana!

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    1. Oh me, too! Though I do have a slight fear that Kwame Alexander is going to break my heart again, like he did in The Crossover. Thanks for visiting, Earl! I’ll pop over your way very soon.

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  2. I’m really looking forward to Amal Unbound. I bought it last week and hope to start it soon. I too found All Around Us to be a great book. I appreciate that it addresses birth death and some of the rituals that families may have surrounding these.

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    1. I didn’t want Amal Unbound to end! She’s such a perceptive and lovable character. And of course I completely agree on All Around Us. The less we know about something, the more we fear it. I was so happy to see those notes included in the life cycle discussion. Thanks for checking in, Crystal, and have a wonderful week!

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    1. Yes! I especially connected with Amal. She has such a gentle spirit, but wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. I hope you enjoy them both! Thanks for stopping in, Beth!

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  3. I just received Amal Unbound and can’t wait to read especially since it’s a Global Read Aloud choice for 2018-19. I keep hearing about Ghost Boys so it’s on my list too. I just loved Endling The Last! Have a great week!

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    1. You’re sure in for a treat! I’m not at all surprised that it’s a Global Read Aloud choice. And now you’re making me even more excited to get started on Endling The Last! I’m looking forward to hanging with my family, but sure hope I have a little quiet time to dive into the story! Thanks for swinging by, Laura!

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  4. Wow, looks like a great reading week for you with lots of variety (and a bit of theme with Mexican daughters). I’ve been meaning to read a Kwame Alexander book for a while now.

    So jealous you are headed out camping – sounds wonderful! Have a great time!!

    Sue

    Book By Book

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    1. DEFINITELY on the Mexican daughters theme — one innocent and light-hearted story for middle graders and one much more complicated story for young adult. But it was kinda neat to have that similar mother/daughter theme going on. I even played Mexican music on my Pandora station while reading. 🙂 We are long overdue for a camping trip. We have one of the most beautiful state parks in the nation just 8 miles outside our town. AND their cabins are completely affordable. Everyone is sooo excited that we got our favorite cabin Monday through Friday. And the big bonus is that we just got out here and discovered we still have Internet. Guess we’ll have to take up everyone’s devices (just after I finish answering blog comments – HAHAHA!). Thanks for visiting, Sue!

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  5. Wow! Such wonderful books this week – I agree with you on so many – Amal Unbound, First Rule of Punk. I loved Ghost Boys, thought it was so perfect for middle schoolers. I have not read Mexican Daughter, but I’ve already bought it. Maybe this summer?
    I’m looking forward to reading The Endling. I tried reading it as a DRC, but I had trouble falling in love with the electronic story. I’m on hold for it at the library. My guess is it’s one I’ll end up purchasing.

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    1. Mexican Daughter was much heavier than I expected, but I am very glad I read it. I just wasn’t prepared for what happened in the middle. It makes me want to go back and re-read the book, knowing what I know now. At the very end I was reading the author’s notes and discovered that Erika L. Sánchez had excellent insight into her main character’s life, based on some personal experience. That’s all I’ll say. 🙂 I really hope to enjoy Endling, this week. However, if this first night at our cabin is any indication of how the rest of the camping week will go, there won’t be much reading time at all. lol Oh well, there’s always next week. Right? Thanks for stopping by, Michele!

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    1. It’s funny how some weeks you THINK you won’t get to many books, but then you’re somehow able to squeeze reading into all the nooks and crannies of each busy day. That’s exactly how this week went. It was glorious!! And it probably helped that these were some pretty engaging reads. 😊 Thanks for stopping by, Ricki!

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    1. I hope you enjoy them! I lucked into both on our Overdrive library last week. It’s been an excellent week of reading. Thanks for swinging by, Carrie!

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  6. I am loving your theme this week – reminded me of Cinco de Mayo 🙂 I am really intrigued by Amal Unbound but was more taken by your description of All Around Us – I love gorgeous picturebooks! Thank you for the detailed reviews! 🙂 Have a great reading week.

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    1. Oh, they’re both just lovely books! And like many of us, I really appreciate picture books that offer more than merely a cute story. All Around Us certainly meets that criteria. Thanks for stopping in, Myra! Hope it’s a wonderful reading week for you!

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  7. Lots of great reading here. I also really like Amal Unbound, and will probably be using it for Global Read Aloud this year. I think it is an important own voices book to read to my class, because I am not sure the guys I teach this year would get to this one on their own.
    I am also hoping to get copies of Rebound, Ghost Boys and The First Rule of Punk too. Mexican Daughter is not a book I had on my list, but I think it looks really good too. Thanks for the great post!

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    1. It was a wonderful reading week! I’m so glad you’ll be doing Amal Unbound as a read aloud. Mexican Daughter is also an important read, but not really for the middle grade crowd IMO. Thanks for visiting, Aaron!

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  8. I am leaning towards Amal Unbound as my Global Read Aloud too–hoping to incorporate that into the new Theory & Practice of Teaching Reading course. But may end up sticking to the picture books depending on how class time shakes out. In any case, I am very eager to read it myself! So glad you got The Crossover read! I still have to read Rebound. Thought I might be able to tempt my kiddo into a little read-aloud this summer! We’ll have to see. It might be too difficult to follow in that format for him. I’m actually eager to read everything on your list–it was definitely a great reading week for you. And I totally don’t see how you do it. Even when I have good intentions of cramming reading into all those nooks and crannies, I end up being more like, hmmm, what’s on TV? and hmmm, what’s on Facebook? Have fun camping! I have never been camping in my life–except for an Outward Bound student trip I had to supervise once–and I hope very much to keep it that way!

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    1. It really was a great reading week! And since I’m answering back so late, I see that you’re getting your wish on summer read-aloud. YAY! But I sure hope he recovers from the father’s death. 😦 Thanks for checking in, Elisabeth. I’m glad to be on this bookish ride with you all!

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