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!
Every Shiny Thing
Cordelia Jensen &
April 17, 2018
I thoroughly enjoy middle grade literature, but what I really LOVE is an authentic middle grade voice. And this book definitely achieved that authenticity while tackling more than one family crisis! The narration oscillates between prose and verse as we get to know both Lauren and Sierra. Lauren comes from a life of financial wealth, which bothers her to some degree. It’s hard for her to understand how some families can provide the best care to their children while others must suffer with the bare minimum. She also adores her brother, Ryan, so she is devastated when he is sent off to a special boarding school for autistic teens. In the same week, Sierra moves in next door as a foster child. Sierra does not come from wealth, so this is a whole new world for her. But Lauren pulls her in and makes her feel welcomed to the community, even at the risk of losing her own childhood best friend. This novel slowly crafts a beautiful, comforting friendship while carefully navigating life complexities such as addiction, the foster care system, autism, kleptomania, the death of a child, and economic disparities.
It did my heart good to read this one! I highly recommend for any middle grade collection whether it be in a school, a public library, or your home. I will definitely be handing my copy off to my daughter. BONUS: The cover of this book shines spectacularly. The book cover photo really cannot capture its brilliance. If you’re curious, you can see a short video I shot of the cover in motion when I first bought the book, last summer: HERE.
September 11, 2018
Dutton Books for Young Readers
What a heart-wrenching book this is, but it’s also quite important. I certainly didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started this book. And all weekend since finishing it, I’ve been trying to figure out how to summarize the stories included in this book. I simply cannot do it well in a couple paragraphs. So I’ll start by sharing what the Goodreads bolded intro simply reads:
The heartbreaking story of five generations of young people from a single African-and-American family pursuing an elusive dream of freedom.
^^While that seems like nothing much, it really is enough to jump into this story. There’s such an amazing history between America and Africa and I fear we learn so little of it over the course of our American lives. For example, I did not know that after black Americans became “free men” in America, many were sent back to Africa to start a new life in their “home land” that was supposed to be better than what they could have here in America. But after the long trip back, they were stunned when they were not immediately accepted (and when they were called “white people” even if their skin was just as dark as the indigenous Liberians). That said, Gibney shares the following at the end of the book:
The freed blacks who came to Liberia in the nineteenth century recreated the very conditions of oppression they fled in America. Indeed these America Liberians, as they came to be called by some, and Congo people by others, really did create a colony in Liberia. In every sense of the word. The government they established recognized their class as citizens at the expense of The indigenous Africans on whose land they settled. And funneled almost all of the resources of the interior to the capitol. In this way, 95% of Liberia languished for generations.
Furthermore, I was not aware of the modern racism that exists between many black Americans and black Liberian-Americans (who came over AFTER slavery). This entire story, from start to finish, was so educational for me. It was a very helpful introduction to the history behind the present turmoil — both in Africa and right here in America. NOTE: I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Bahni Turpin. Yet again, I’m convinced she can narrate any story in the world with her outstanding artillery of voices and dialects!! Reader Beware: content warning for everything from gruesome violence, drugs, sexually explicit language, and rape.
The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden
(The Vanderbeekers #2)
Karina Yan Glaser
September 25, 2018
HMH Books for Young Readers
I must say, I’ve been looking forward to returning to Harlem and seeing what the Vanderbeekers have been up to since book #1. In this installment, Isa has gone off to orchestra camp. Sadly, Mr. Jeet has some sort of stroke and winds up in the hospital for a very long time. The Vanderbeekers look at Mr. Jeet and Miss Josie as part of the family, so they can hardly function while waiting and hoping that Mr. Jeet will return one day soon. In the meantime, the children begin concocting a plan to create a gorgeous, peaceful garden for Mr. Jeet to enjoy once he’s released from the hospital. Everyone chips in to help, including their landlord Mr. Beiderman. However, they soon discover that it’s more difficult than they thought to find the space, resources, and plants needed to create a decent garden (never mind making sure it’s all legal!!).
If you have a bigger family, like mine, then you know how complicated life can be sharing your space with multiple ages and personalities. I like how Yan Glaser writes that sense of chaos right into the story, but also conveys the coziness that comes from such close-knit variety. If you enjoy a happily-ever-after ending that will leave young children smiling and eagerly anticipating book #3, then this one’s definitely for you!
The Day You Begin
Rafael López, illustrator
August 28, 2018
Nancy Paulsen Books
This is a wonderful, affirming picture book about facing differences and BEING different around other people.
There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.
The focus character changes from page to page to include different races, genders, and ability levels. Both the words and the artwork are beautiful — I cannot imagine an age group that wouldn’t enjoy and benefit from this precious book. I’ll provide one page spread, below:
April 3, 2018
This is a wordless picture book about a young girl who goes down to a fishing pier at a pond that looks to be not far from her home. While there, she captures a gold fish and brings it home with her in a bottle. At home she has a large assortment of containers and a water hose she experiments with while settling her new fish in. Some of the illustrations are very detailed and will be fun to look at. And the young girl goes between wearing a dress and a bathing suit — great discussion for if she’s imagining things or if she really changed clothes. Eventually we find the young girl running back to the pond to return the fish to its natural habitat. This would be an excellent book for discussing animals and their habitats! The illustrations are rendered in pencil, pen, and digitally. I’ll provide two page-spreads as an example, below:
To Be Read:
I may be overestimating my reading time, this coming week. Right now we’re on Midterm Break. So with this amazing time to relax with my family, it kinda feels like I’ll be able to accomplish ALL. THE. THINGS. in the coming week. I sure hope my optimism is on target, because I have a large stack of “to be read” books I cannot wait to get to, starting with these three: