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 is a tough semester navigating this new-to-me course. I was handed the bare bones and so I am attempting to make a 3-hour class out of it. It’s far more work than I anticipated, though. When hubby comes home from his loooong teaching day, I head up to the office to start my teaching and classroom prep (sometimes late into the night). Oh so hard on our family, so I hope next semester this gets easier. In other news, I’m heading BACK to Texas this week for my grandfather’s memorial on Wednesday and I won’t be home until next Monday afternoon. It’ll be nice to see family again. We’ll just have to see if I can squeak out another #imwayr post before I hop on my flight next Monday (departs at 5:55AM – YIKES!).
This week I’m including Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground by T. R. Simon in my reviews — this is the second book in the series and it releases tomorrow. I really hope we can get this series into as many schools as possible. It’s that good!! So here we go…
I thoroughly enjoyed reading book number one earlier this summer (review for the first book HERE). It was incredibly satisfying and even took the John Steptoe New Talent Author Award (Coretta Scott King Task Force) for 2011. So I was eagerly anticipating book #2: The Cursed Ground. And it did NOT let me down! The sequel is another fictional adventure in the life of a young Zora Neale Hurston. This one, however, has alternating narratives going between 1855 and 1903. In the beginning, we meet back up with Zora, Carrie, and eventually Teddy. But now they face a brand new mystery as Mr. Polk has been badly wounded. When they find him, he speaks for the first time (he has always been a mute, to their knowledge), but they do not understand him.
In 1903, we learn that the town of Eatonville is in trouble with a gang of white men from the next town over. To understand WHY this is a real threat to Eatonville, we must have a firm grasp on what took place back in 1855 when slavery was the norm. Therefore, the story flows back and forth and the two different time period narratives provide a deep, rich story that slowly builds in suspense until the stories collide. All the missing gaps are filled and the truth clicks into place.
OH MY GOODNESS I loved the second book even more than the first one. The writing and language were beautiful — I sincerely didn’t want to put it down. I might as well admit it: I cried. While there are sweet and giggly parts to this series, there are some deeply moving scenes that hit me right where it counts. I really, really, really hope this series continues because the stories and characters are so well-crafted and the history is important and powerful. Don’t just take my word for it, it has already received starred reviews from both Kirkus and The Horn Book. My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for access to an e-ARC of this book. I originally discussed this book on my blog back in July, but I wanted to re-review it again today as it will be available for purchase tomorrow.
You can add Zora and Me, book #1 to your Goodreads list HERE.
You can add Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground to your Goodread list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase The Cursed Ground HERE.
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
August 21, 2018
Marcus Vega is a very large kid. He struggles to fit in with the rest of his same-aged friend, so he takes advantage of his size by charging his classmates for various tasks he can handle better than most. Marcus’s younger brother, Charlie, has down syndrome. One day, another student at school makes a rude comment about Charlie and Marcus loses his temper. Everyone ends up in the school office and when all is said and done, Marcus mother decides the family needs a break from everyday reality. They head off on a family vacation back to Puerto Rico where Marcus meets and bonds with his distant relatives and learns a great deal about his country of origin. But all along, he struggles to enjoy the journey because he just wants to find his missing father and figure out why he left their family in the first place. Perhaps it was all a big misunderstanding. Family keep warning him not to get his hopes up, but Marcus is determined to meet the man who he looks so much like and “fix” whatever went wrong long ago. This is both a hopeful and heartbreaking journey. There’s so much love for Puerto Rico and middle grade readers will definitely relate to Marcus as he struggles to come to terms with his identity and his home.
Lions and Liars
June 5, 2018
Farrar Straus Giroux
Fifth-grader Frederick Frederickson is having a rough time. He’s beginning to question his friendships — whether his friends are who he thinks they are, or if they even like him at all. One day, in frustration, he climbs into his friend’s boat with a storm quickly approaching. He intended to just scare his friend by unlatching his boat from the dock, but his plan backfires and his boat is sent bobbing downstream, landing miles away where he discovers Camp Omigoshee, a program created for troubled boys. If things weren’t crazy already, it gets even wilder when the counselors and campers believe him to be the famous Dashiell — a young boy rumored to be scarier than all the other troubled campers combined. This is a funny, but meaningful story about finding your clan and being a true friend, even when faced with crisis. Its “feel good” ending will leave young readers smiling.
April 28, 2018
Nancy Paulsen Books/
Penguin Random House
This book hit me so hard in the gut, but also lifted me up into the fluffy clouds — so much sad, but so much beauty. Written from the perspective of Haley (also known as “Red”), we learn of a group of six best friends in 5th/6th grade who are “special” at their school. Every Friday, they’re sent to the ARTT (a room to talk) room to talk about anything they want to talk about. With their permission, Haley decides to voice record some of their sessions as they each unpack some of the most difficult parts of their young lives. The language paints tangible pictures of the devotion and heartache of childhood. Woodson eloquently addresses racism in multiple forms along with other painful issues such as the death of a parent, illegal immigration, having a parent in prison, loss of a favorite pet, school bullying, and more. How in the WORLD does she get the innocent heart of a young child so very right? I just want to hide in a closet and read Jacqueline Woodson all day. If you haven’t yet, I highly, highly recommend this one! It’s definitely one needed in any juvenile reading collection.
To Be Read:
I’m not sure how much reading I will be able to accomplish since I’ll be visiting with a lot of family in Texas from Wednesday to Monday. However, these two books were on my list. I’ve been looking forward to reading EngiNerds for a long time and it’s currently on a Kindle Deal for .99 right now!! On Beyond the Green, I found out from the publisher’s twitter account that it will not be published. Nevertheless, today I received an email from Netgalley reminding me that they are expecting my “Beyond the Green” review for next month. Who knows… If any fellow book reviews have had this happen before (a book be retracted from publication before you reviewed it), I’d love your feedback.
Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!