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!
Just Under the Clouds
June 5, 2018
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Since the death of Cora’s father, she, her little sister, and their mother have been moving from location to location. Unfortunately, they continue to find themselves in a placement — this is housing that may keep you out of the cold, but it’s certainly not “home.” Adare, Cora’s little sister, is special-needs, having gone without oxygen for too long during her birth. She has a sweet smile and animals seem to trust her. Yet, despite how much Cora adores her little sister, she admittedly struggles to understand her:
In all the years I have held Adare close, I know nothing about how she really feels. I wish for one minute she’d snap out of who she is and become someone like the rest of us so I could know. As soon as I think the thought, I push it away. Adare is who she is, Mom always says. But I wonder every day who Adare really is.
In school, Cora is struggling both academically and socially. As their family moves in with Willa, her mom’s childhood friend, things seem to turn around for the family. Better yet, one day at school Cora meets Sabina, a seemingly carefree, yet confident classmate who easily fights off bullies. She befriends Cora when she least expects it and Cora is mesmerized by the way she happily marches to the beat of her own drum. One day Cora follows her home and discovers that Sabina has been homeschooled until this school year:
Suddenly, it makes sense how Sabina walks around without caring what anyone thinks of her, plays weird games like jump the river, talks back to Meredith, and never carries a schoolbag. She doesn’t know a think about school.
Some very important things that happen in each of the relationships in this story, but it is obvious that everyone is in need of connection and “home.” By the end, it’s easy to remember that the best friendships are those that allow you to sit and talk about anything on your mind while sitting just under the clouds.
There are some heartwarming moments in this one with many great topics to discuss (losing a parent, homelessness, special needs, boundaries between friends, remedial classes, bullying, etc.). Just Under the Clouds will be a great addition to any middle grade collection!
Property of the Rebel Librarian
September 18, 2018
Random House Books for Young Readers
June is in 7th grade at Dogwood Middle School. Her older sister has already gone off to college and now June’s parents are extremely involved in June’s school activities — always aware of what’s happening in her life. One day they discover a book in her possession in which they strongly disapprove. And in a heartbeat they’ve confiscated all her books and begun reading through each, one-by-one, making edits and re-writing as needed. Unfortunately, the censorship doesn’t stop there, they take this matter to the school and the same thing happens to the Dogwood Middle School library collection while the librarian is put on immediate suspension and the upcoming author visit is cancelled. June slowly finds a large number of other library “groupies” who love reading and they develop a private library that June manages out of an abandoned locker — smuggling in all types of books. Never before has reading been such a popular pastime! The entire story culminates in a school-wide meeting where administrators, parents, students, and even national media are in attendance. And I must say, June’s moment at the microphone was one of the most enjoyable reading moments of my entire week!
While a work of fiction, this book hits on so many important points regarding the very real issue of censorship. This would have been a purely humorous book if not for the fact that I know real students whose reading has been strongly censored by well-meaning adults, for a variety of reasons. NOTE: I loved that SO many important titles were mentioned throughout the story, ranging from older titles like The Velveteen Rabbit to newer ones, like EngiNerds. I dare you not to read and begin to take notes if you hear a title you haven’t read, yet.
Denis Ever After
July 24, 2018
Katherine Tegen Books
Denis is dead. That’s okay, though. He doesn’t remember how he died and it turns out that life-after-death is actually a pretty great place. He even gets to be with his GeeGee (a grandmother he doesn’t remember from real life).
One problem remains: Denis’ death is still an unsolved mystery. And his twin brother, Matt, has been calling out for him while trying to understand what transpired five years ago. Denis learns that he can return to humanity and “haunt” his brother for a period of time. But crossing over will cost him. The longer he stays, the greater the cost.
This was much deeper than I expected for a middle grade mystery/paranormal novel. There’s so many layers here amidst anger, regret, and misunderstandings. There’s the involvement of various relatives and a painful history that comes to light. Yet as the mystery is solved, there’s such a sense of closure. I yearned for it. I could easily market this book to adults, but it’s certainly not too much for the thoughtful middle grader.
Sam Usher, illustrator
Fellow #IMWAYR blogger, Jana Eschner, mentioned this book last week, so I had to hunt down a copy and check it out for myself. Most of us are probably familiar with the nativity story, but have you read one from the perspective of the donkey? In this book, the baby Jesus is born almost immediately and the remainder of the book focuses on the journey to Egypt as they sought refuge. This book offers the traditional Christmas story as a tale of hopeful refugees, escaping a terrifying situation in search of a better life. How timely!
And I kept walking, carrying my precious load,
and the woman held the baby close to her heart,
and she and the man talked, about journeys,
and dreams and warnings,
and the love of a baby,
and the kindness of strangers.
The artwork is primarily black and white with very little splash of color on a few pages. I’ll share one page-spread, below (sorry for the little blank rectangle — was trying to remove the ugly library stamp):
A Parade of Elephants
September 25th 2018
This is an adorable picture book with soft, pastel colors and easy-to-memorize text. The story showcases counting, opposites, and lots of marching before the day comes to an end. With the elephants yawning and stretching before the final page of “Good night” under the stars, A Parade of Elephants will make an excellent bedtime (or quiet time) book for any toddler.
This book fills me with nostalgia for some reason. I’ve said, repeatedly, that seeing this cover makes me want to eat animal crackers. And now that it’s in my hot little hands I can tell you that when you rock the cover back and forth in the light, the colorful little elephants are all shiny and slick against the matte pink background (Is it wrong to want to lick the cover? Asking for a friend.). In any case, this is yet another great Kevin Henkes book that I am sure will be adored for many years to come.
I’ll share one page spread, below:
A Boy and a Jaguar
Catia Chien, illustrator
May 6, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
This is an emotional story told from Alan Rabinowitz’s perspective. As a young child, Alan struggled terribly with a stutter. He was placed in remedial classes, put through many doctor visits, including hypnosis, and he’s eventually told that he will always be a stutterer. The only time Alan could talk without a stutter was to animals. In this tale, Alan whispers a secret promise to his animals and to the jaguar at the Bronx Zoo — telling them that if he can find his voice, he will be the animal’s voice to keep them from harm. And if you’re familiar with real life Rabinowitz, then you know that he did go on to become a zoologist and conservationist. He’s also the president and CEO of Panthera, “a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting the world’s thirty-six wildcat species.”
The artwork in this book is rendered with acrylic and charcoal pencil. I’ll provide one page-spread example, below:
To Be Read:
I still need to finish up the following two books AND I’m hoping to finish up a bunch of lovely picture books I ILL’ed from our Tri-College state system this week. However, it’s finals week and I’m grading so many papers, presentations, projects, and after Thursday morning, written exams. So I hope, hope, HOPE to finish the reading I’ve committed to. 🙂