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!
It’s been a great year of blogging with #IMWAYR and I’m eagerly looking forward to more excellent reading in 2019! I had only one blog visitor last week (Christmas Eve), so I don’t really expect many guests this week either (New Year’s Eve). I’m not even sure if we’ll have the link-up available again until next week. In any case, here’s what I’ve been up to…
Snow in Love
Melissa de la Cruz, Nic Stone,
Aimee Friedman, & Kasie West
October 30, 2018
Snow in Love is a book of four Young Adult short-stories that all take place in December. I especially enjoyed the first (Kasie West) and the last (Nic Stone) stories, but all four really helped put me in the festive holiday spirit. I felt the most creative was Stone’s contribution as she spun an imaginative story about a cat and mouse (AKA scavenger) hunt via texting while being trapped in a large airport with an old friend she hadn’t seen in years. All but one story was about the beginning of a romance and they were all pretty mild on the physical intimacy front. It was either non-existent or simply sweet.
The Season of Styx Malone
October 16, 2018
Wendy Lamb Books
Ten-year-old Caleb Franklin is worried that his father sees him as extra ordinary, but he wants to be extraordinary. He and his big brother Bobby Gene live in Sutton, Indiana, and their parents initially appear to be overprotective — not allowing them to go anywhere alone and definitely not into the city. One day a silly trade with their friend Cory (Caleb’s and Bobby Gene’s baby sister for Cory’s bag of illegal fireworks) lands them in trouble with not one, but two sets of parents. To make lemonade out of lemons, they agree to use Styx Malone’s services as mediator with their friend, Cory. Styx is older (16) and more experienced in life than they are. And Caleb is completely mesmerized by his coolness. Styx’s plan is The Great Escalator Trade which involves trading one item for something better until they eventually get up to the big item they really want. There are legends told of past successes which inspire the Franklin boys to stick with the program, but must their plan involve lying and theft? At first, Styx seems to be real trouble — he doesn’t care for adults and he even encourages Caleb and Bobby Gene to outright disobey their parents. However, when the whole truth is revealed, it will be difficult for any reader to not empathize with Styx as they better understand the depth of his hidden heartache. And Caleb can find a new level of appreciation for his parents as they all come to terms with the need for some freedom, some adventure, AND definitely some boundaries.
Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
September 4, 2018
Katherine Tegen Books
The main character in the story is a young girl who talks about her family life in the small Nigerian village — for example, most girls aren’t given an education (but thankfully, her father champions her education), she must skip school when she’s on her period, she speaks of how her mother travels to/from the market and she anxiously awaits her return, she shares her deep feelings for another well-educated boy from her community, she loves her church family, and she is currently waiting on news about a scholarship program she hopes to win so she can attend college and better support her family. But all her hopes and dreams come crashing down when Boko Haram enters her village on that fateful night. Now her father and older brothers are all dead and she and her little brother have been taken deep into the woods (to different camps). It soon becomes apparent there will be no happy marriage to the boy she loves, no college education, and her friends will slowly convert to this violent religion to avoid death. The story was very informative and downright horrific, but it was also followed by a very lengthy and important Afterword that described the research process along with details about the real-life experiences of these victims — ones who escaped and whose families were willing to be interviewed.
I was stunned by the juxtaposition of American pop-culture right alongside the horrific events in Nigeria — both playing on the radio station with barely a breath taken between the two news stories. It made me painfully aware of how easily we sweep aside these events in favor of knowing which movie is making the most at our box office or who is wearing what brand to an awards ceremony. If hundreds of young American girls were stolen from one of our schools, the entire country would go MAD and demand action. Or would we? In any case, it makes me sick to know this is happening to any human being, particularly in such great numbers. WARNING: This book contains non-graphic murder, beatings, and rape. It’s also on a kindle sale today, so if you’re interested then check out the link below.
Eleanor & Park
October 4, 2016
St. Martin’s Griffin
I asked my daughter to name any book she wanted me to read and without hesitation she said Eleanor & Park. Incidentally, I encountered Rainbow Rowell’s writing before she became a big time author. She was a journalist for the Omaha World Herald (here in Nebraska) and I remember her announcement about her first published book and later reading about her decision to retire from the OWH to be an author. And BOOM, here she is. I always meant to pick up her books after reading her newspaper articles. It seems the majority of preteens and teens adore and relate to her work (even if many parents object), so I’m just a little late to the party.
Red-haired Eleanor comes from a big, messy family and has almost nothing to her name. Park is half-Korean, comes from a close-knit family, and he lives a few doors down from Eleanor. They ride the same bus and cannot stand each other. But since Park had a sudden spark of sympathy and allows Eleanor to sit next to him on the bus, they eventually get to know one another over shared comics and listening to cassette tapes (while barely speaking a word). This is not a happy-happy story. At times it’s downright depressing and so hard to digest. The characters are flawed and often unlikeable, but they’re real. And sometimes the writing absolutely shines and gives you all the feels and appreciation of imperfection. I can definitely see why it’s such a hot title among teens, today.
Aaaand speaking of older titles. 🙂 I don’t think I ever read this book when I was younger. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for the last few years and finally decided to pick it up over the holiday break. YAY! In the 1700s, the Tuck family (comprised of Tuck, Mae, Miles, and Jesse) drink from a magic spring — everyone but the family cat. Flash forward 87 years later, the family is passing back through Treegap. Winnie discovers the magic spring and so they basically kidnap her for a couple days while they explain the situation. Winnie is struck by their lack of housekeeping skills, the way they eat, and the way they each view eternal life differently. She loves them and they love her. Meanwhile a man in a yellow suit overhears everything and devises a plan to rescue Winnie and purchase the land with the magic spring. In the end, Mae is arrested and is scheduled to be hung. To keep the Tuck’s secret safe, Winnie hides in Mae’s cell while the family escapes. But before they leave, Jesse had given Winnie a bottle of the magic water and told her to drink it after she turns 17 so that they can live together forever — get married, even. What will Winnie decide?
NOTE: I was honestly surprised to find Winnie was only supposed to be 10 years old. Since I saw the 2002 movie adaptation with Alexis Bledel playing Winnie Foster, I guess I assumed Winnie was just a couple years younger than Jessie. So yeah, that was an awkward twist for me. In any case, it’s a classic and I’m glad to finally have read it.
Thank You, Omu!
October 2, 2018
Little Brown & Co.
Omu is making a delicious homemade stew. As the aroma fills the air, people from the street and neighborhood knock on her door in search of a taste. Eventually, Omu is left with no stew for herself. But Omu will not starve. Everyone she fed returns to say “Thank You, Omu!” with their own food to share with her. This is a precious story of having a generous spirit and how it comes back to us in unexpected ways. The back of the book tells us that the collages in this book were created “with acrylic paint, china markers, pastels, patterned paper, and old-book clippings.” I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
How to Be a T. Rex
Mike Lowery, illustrator
August 21, 2018
Young Sal has decided she’s not going to be a doctor or lawyer or teacher. She’s going to become a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Her big brother said it’s impossible to become a T. Rex, so she sets out to prove him wrong. All along the way she’s sharing the wonderful things about become a T. Rex: No door can hold you, you can eat whatever you want, you’re not afraid of anything, etc. She eventually invites all her friends to be T. Rexes, too (because it can be lonely as an only dinosaur). This one wasn’t my favorite, but one positive is that at the very end, she and her brother are friends, again. I’ll provide one page-spread, below, as an example of the artwork:
A Place for Pluto
Melanie Demmer, illustrator
July 1, 2018
I grew up in a time when Pluto was definitely considered a planet (we were served nine pizzas, for those who remember!). In August of 2006 the news came down that Pluto was no longer a planet because International Astronomical Union (IAU) re-evaluated the requirements of a planet. Pluto failed the test on one point. So in childlike pictures and witty text, this adorable new picture book explores exactly where we should put Pluto after he was knocked off the list of official planets. Using emotion (and need to belong), Stef Wade explores a number of objects in the solar system to see who Pluto identifies with, most. It really is super cute and I highly recommend for all the little science learners in the community!
After reading this book, I couldn’t help but to do a little research of my own. It appears there’s still a great deal of dissension in the scientific community over requirements. It will be interesting to see what is redefined in our universe over the next 50 years!
I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love
August 27, 2013
Feiwel & Friends
Children may dream of becoming any number of animals, but the point of this heart-felt picture book is that no matter what animal you may change into, your parents will recognize your personal traits. It goes through the traits of a rhinoceros, a red fox, a camel, pig, owl, wild spotted pony, bear, ringtail raccoon, blue-footed booby, lion, giraffe, and a koala. At the very end is a picture of a small child asleep in bed, surrounded by several beloved stuffed animals. And yes, that final page brought tears to my eyes. So sweet! The back tells us that the illustrations were created digitally using painting programs. “Layers of illustrative elements are first individually created, then merged to form a composite. At this point, texture and mixed media (primarily chalk, watercolor, and pencil) are applied to complete each illustration.” Each illustration is truly beautiful. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women
Who Changed the World
Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall,
Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper,
Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora,
and Julie Morstad (illustrators)
January 23, 2018
I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get my hands on this wonderful nonfiction picture book focusing on Mary Anning, Nellie Bly, Annette Kellerman, Molly Williams, Pura Belpre, Frida Kahlo, Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, Mae Jemison, Maya Lin, Frances Moore Lappe, Angela Zhang, Ruby Bridges, and Malala Yousafzai! It is written by Susan Hood with illustrations by Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin K. Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland and Melissa Sweet. At the very beginning we are provided a timeline (starting in the 1780s) where we can easily see the contributions of each of these 14 amazing women. The combination of poetic text and variety of artwork is a beautiful way to honor each woman. At the very end we find an extensive list of sources, books, websites, and more. It’s an excellent book for any children’s library (or home!).
John Schoenherr, illustrator
October 23, 1987
Winning the Caldecott in 1988, this book probably needs no introduction. But it seemed like an appropriate time of year to read it. A young girl and her father go owling after her bedtime.
There was no wind.
The trees stood still
as giant statues.
And the moon was so bright
the sky seemed to shine.
It’s a long walk into the wood before her father stops and calls:
But sometimes you do not get an owl’s response. Other times it takes patience and several tries to get your answer.
The illustrations are stunning — definitely not a book to rush through as there’s so much to see on each page. The snowy artwork was a treat for me this season as we had practically no snow this holiday. I think this is the first Christmas since we moved here in 2005 where we didn’t have a white Christmas, so it was comforting to see and read about the crunch of snow underfoot. 🙂