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!
This week I’m sharing three middle grade novels — two that will be publishing tomorrow. They were all outstanding books, so I hope you might consider adding them to your collection.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus
September 4, 2018
Sky Pony Press
Meet Zoey, a seventh-grader who somehow juggles her school activities, being responsible for her three younger siblings, and worrying over her mother’s slowly diminished confidence. If only she could be an octopus with eight arms, ink as a defense, and the ability to camouflage herself in awkward situations. One day Zoey discovers exactly why her mother has shrunk beyond recognition and, in utter frustration, she finds a brave and powerful voice both at home and at school. We witness far more than a comfy story — we’re offered a glimpse into the desperation a single parent can experience as they attempt to find a suitable home for their children. What might appear as negligence to one person is sometimes a best case scenario for another. Over time we see that it really takes a village to raise a child AND that we can overcome even the worst of issues when we listen to one another and work together. What a gift to peek through this emotional window and experience a new level of empathy. I’m pleased to know this book will also be a mirror for those who need relatable characters–powerful characters who discover they don’t need a lot of money to make a difference in the lives of others. This is a much-needed title in any middle grade collection. I’m grateful to Sky Pony Press and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
24 Hours in Nowhere
September 4, 2018
Sterling Children’s Books
Having LOVED Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, I was already looking forward to Dusti Bowling’s next book: 24 Hours in Nowhere. This is the story of Gus, a rather bright 13 year old who is stuck in Nowhere, Arizona. When his friend, Rossi Scott, gives up her beloved motorcycle to save Gus from having to eat a horrible cactus, he feels compelled to do whatever he can to win her motorcycle back — including entering the dangerous mines (filled with mystery, myths, and HOPEFULLY treasure). Over the next 24 hours, four different people enter the mines and must work together and trust one another if they hope to get back out alive. Throughout their dangerous trials, they discover just how much they each have in common with one another.
Bowling’s ability to effortlessly weave complicated lives into a cohesive story line is stunning. She creates such well-rounded, relatable characters. I loved each of them — laughing and crying throughout their stories and treasure hunting adventure. Once I finished this book, I turned to my husband and said we would be buying a home copy of this book and reading it with our five children. I didn’t merely like this book, I would say it’s probably my favorite read of 2018, so far. This story beautifully addresses so many societal issues at once: bullying, sexism, racism, incarceration, abandonment, and income disparity. Bowling is a legit storyteller. I hope she has a mountain of books planned in her future because I plan to read every last one of them! My thanks to Sterling Publishing and Edelweiss for providing an advanced readers copy of this book in exchange for my review.
I shared a little bit about this book back in July, but with its publication tomorrow I knew it was important to re-blog my review to remind other readers to run out and purchase a copy of 24 Hours in Nowhere for themselves.
Where the Watermelons Grow
July 3, 2018
Be prepared for utter heartbreak in this story of a young girl who is watching the deterioration of her mother’s mind. Twelve-year-old Della already feels responsible for her mother’s illness since it was the hormonal fluctuation from giving birth to Della that triggered her schizophrenia. Della remembers that things were once very, very bad. But thank goodness life got better after her doctor found the right medicinal combination to bring her back to life. Nevertheless, when Della begins to see signs of her mother’s illness slowly creeping back into the picture, she doesn’t know who she can trust to not gossip about her family or call her mom “crazy.” Oh my, she has the most beautiful memories of her mother and you cannot help but love her mother when you read of all the things she used to do, before she was sick. I yearned to meet that healthy, devoted mother by the end of this book. And Della’s father is pure gold. He loves and respects her mother 100% and believes she deserves to make her own decisions — UNLESS her decisions begin to harm those she loves. But is her illness harming anyone? The most wonderful thing in this story is the fact that Della discovers several healthy, loving, and committed adults in her community who will always be there for her family, through thick and thin. The story is heavy, but so very important. We can not simply sweep mental illness under the rug without destroying loving families, thereby damaging our entire society. This book shows us the life of a family who desperately needs non-judgmental support and understanding. I hope its devastating honestly helps remove the stigma of mental illness by demonstrating the role we can all play in real-life situations.
To Be Read:
Harbor Me is brand new to me, but I’ve heard so many great things already. And I’ve read Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground earlier this summer, but I’ll be looking back at it to review again before its release next week. And Lions & Liars is a cute title I started listening to just this weekend, so I’ll be sure to review it in next week’s post.
Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!