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!
When Elephants Fly
Nancy Richardson Fischer
September 4, 2018
This will be one of my very top YA reads of 2018 — I’m sure of it. I seriously didn’t know how to even start reading another book in the aftermath of this one. Just had to get that off my chest before I say anything else about this book. 🙂
The story is told from the perspective of T. Lily Decker, a high school senior who is facing more than her fair share of questions about the future. When she was a child, her schizophrenic mother attempted to kill her. And since schizophrenia can be hereditary, T. Lilly has developed a 12-year plan she believes might decrease her risks of developing schizophrenia. If she plays her cards right, she’ll hopefully have a shot at a fairly normal life after the age of 40.
In the meantime, T. Lily finds herself in the middle of a major news story about a baby elephant being rejected by her mother. The experience brings up painful memories of her mother and T. Lily feels compelled to see this news story to the end. And I mean the very end.
This beautiful book is sprinkled with quotes from Peter Pan and The Little Prince weaved between memories of things T. Lily’s mother once said. There are moments where the reader might be unsure of what is real and what is imagined, but it all comes together and makes perfect sense in the end. As I neared the final pages of the book, the full impact of the title hit me. *SOB* I cried harder than I’ve cried in a very, very long time. It’s was quite the reading experience. And one I didn’t want to end.
This book has heartache, devoted friendship, a wee bit of romance, and addresses a wide range of topics including mental illness, homosexuality, child/parent relationships, animal abuse, and even a bit of journalism. I just love books that drag you through the wringer, teach you about things you knew practically nothing about, and THEN make you feel all the feels. For a NUMBER of reasons, I highly recommend When Elephants Fly for any Teen or Young Adult collection.
NOTE: There’s an important Author’s Note about real life inspiration, about schizophrenia, and about elephants, zoos, and the circus. Additionally, there’s a long list of helpful resources for further reading.
October 9, 2018
Grenade is a heart-racing historical fiction novel centered on the island of Okinawa during World War II. It is written from alternating perspectives: (1) Fourteen year old Hideki is from the island of Okinawa. He is part of the Blood and Iron Student Corps that is fighting with Japan. He was handed two grenades as he heads off across the island in hopes of stopping the Americans. (2) Ray is a fairly young (we know he’s at least 18) American Marine who just landed at Okinawa. He’s heading across the island in hopes of conquering Japan. In one stunning moment, both stories collide and Hideki’s and Ray’s worlds are forever changed.
There were some horrors you couldn’t fight and couldn’t change. The real courage was just in enduring them.
Yet another excellent historical fiction book by Alan Gratz that examines World War II and provides much-needed empathy on all sides. Get this one in ANY middle grade or young adult collection. I don’t think it will stay on the shelves very long!
Harry Bliss, Illustrator
September 4, 2018
Told in graphic novel style, Rosie is a “good dog” who lives with George. One day they go to the dog park and she is overwhelmed by so many other dogs, so she keeps her distance until she realizes one of the dogs needs her help. In the end, we discover how three very different dogs become friends. Definitely clever and humorous — this one will be a great one for first day of school or any time a child is heading into a large group of other children. The illustrations are very done in watercolor and are soft, sweet, and appear very realistic in some places. I’ll provide just one spread as an example, below:
The Wall in the Middle of the Book
October 2, 2018
Dial Books for Young Readers
Penguin Young Readers Group
Super cute book showcasing two stories going on at once — one on each side of the book. At first, the narrator (who looks to be a young boy in armor), is so happy to be protected on the left side of the book. On the right side are scary wild animals and a dangerous ogre. But before too long, the narrator is trapped on the left side of the book and he needs rescuing. How oh how will he survive?! I love this one — it’s always fun for young readers to discover a big secret even before the narrator does. I’ll provide one example of the artwork, below:
How to Code a Sandcastle
Sara Palacios, illustrator
May 15, 2018
Pearl is on her last day of summer vacation and she’s yet to actually build a sand castle. So she brought along her robot, Pascal, in hopes of getting help. She starts by telling Pascal to build a sandcastle, but he just sits there — it’s a no-go! Why? Because her directions are too broad.
“…a coder takes one big problem and breaks it into several smaller ones. If I give Pascal enough instructions that he does know, we’ll build this castle in no time!”
Pearl begins breaking down each step, adding in a loop, and in the end she faces… DISASTER! Her castle is in shambles and she will have to start all over. However, she learns from her mistakes and figures out a much better way to build her castle. It takes patience and diligence, but she finally succeeds.
I’m very pleased to find a new book on coding AND with a female main character. This would be a great way to introduce coding to a young group of children (or a way to reinforce a coding lesson to students who are already learning to code). The illustrations were rendered digitally in combination with gouache and acrylic paintings. I’ll provide one spread, below:
This book is the first of a new sequel, so I’ll be interested in seeing what they decide to code in book #2.
To Be Read:
These books will be published next week, so I’ll look forward to sharing them next Monday!