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!
I read a number of great books this week. I’ll discuss a few of them in detail, below. But feel free to connect with me on Goodreads to see my entire reading feed as it happens.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
September 25, 2018
For those who haven’t yet read Hey, Kiddo, this graphic novel is a memoir of Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s childhood and teen years (through his high school graduation). It’s one of those can’t-put-down accounts — I devoured every illustration and hung on each word. Included in this memoir are actual photos of letters, post cards, and illustrations he and his mom drew and wrote during his childhood. Every last detail was carefully planned out, including the color pallet and the inclusion of his grandmother’s wallpaper as a background to each chapter’s beginning. At the end, he provides an important Author’s Note followed by A Note on the Art. Even the Acknowledgments are far more personal and meaningful than what I’m accustomed to. This book totally makes me want to write a memoir in the same fashion. We’re left with the following feelings from his story:
When you’re a kid and a teen, you’re not in control of your circumstances. But the beautiful thing about growing up is that you get to create your own reality and your own family. That family might be a group of tight-knit friends, that family might be a spouse and children of your own. But ultimately, your childhood realities do not have to perpetuate themselves into adulthood, not if you don’t let them. It for sure takes work.
NOTE: The language and subject matter make this book more appropriate for older readers (probably high school and up). I’m handing it off to my 15 year old right away! If you haven’t yet watched the TED Talk that inspired this book, please take 18 minutes of your life to hear his inspiring story:
September 18, 2018
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
This week I finally read Wildcard, the second book of the Warcross duology. No big spoilers here, friends, so I’ll just hit the high points. The main character, Emika Chen, is thankful to be alive at the end of book #1. Still on rocky ground with her former lover (it was basically over at the end of Warcross), Emika learns she must re-connect with him AND work with the remainder of the Phoenix Riders to save the world from complete mind-control plans. A new female character, Jax, helps bridge so much of the murky past to the present. But can we trust her? This book presents even more questions of ethics and how they play out in humanity throughout the generations:
“If the end results are this remarkable, would you throw away that research just because the process was unethical? Immoral human experimentation has been around forever. Has been performed by your country. By mine. By everyone. You think people don’t want the results of this kind of research regardless of how it’s obtained? People ultimately don’t care about the journey if the end is worth it.”
By the end of Wildcard, we finally come to fully understand the origin of Hideo Tanaka’s NeuroLink. And I, for one, can say that it is not exactly what I expected. While it’s claimed that Warcross is somewhat predictable, Wildcard was more complicated with mystery and past revelations to unravel. This one was fast-paced and hard to put down.
July 24, 2018
Katherine Tegen Books
I picked up Nightbooks unexpectedly this week and was glad I did. This is one of those tales with magic and mystery and it felt like anything might happen at any moment. In the beginning, Alex is running off to destroy his nightbooks (all his written stories) when he is intercepted by an apartment when he hears one of his favorite movies playing inside. Once he enters, he cannot leave. And he’s not the only captive. To stay alive, Alex must tell stories to the “witch” to keep her happy. Thankfully, he still has his trusty nightbooks to provide plenty of scary adventures while he explores the enormous library for clues about previous captives. How long will his stories last before he runs out of time?
There were many stories told in this book, but one in particular made me nearly come out of my skin. It didn’t help that I was reading this after midnight (when my 4 year old refused to sleep) and was about to go climb into bed!! Nightbooks will pair nicely with Small Spaces as both would be engaging scary-but-not-too-scary fall-ish reads for middle graders.
I cannot believe this series has been out this long. In fact, The Thief took a Newbery Honor, and yet I haven’t read any of this series until NOW. So briefly, the series begins with Gen (for Eugenides, the god of thieves) being removed from the King of Sutan’s prison to help the King’s Magus on his expedition to uncover a hidden treasure. The journey is long and winding, but ancient myths about the gods and goddesses are told along the path. In fact, what is particularly surprising (about at least the first two books of this series) is the number of long journeys described in minute detail. Yet somehow, Turner keeps the discussion active — this is where we learn a great deal about the kingdoms, about their history, and about the individual characters (so pay attention!). The surprise ending of book #1 was well worth the wait! And it’s one reason why I cannot share much of anything about book #2.
Book #2, The Queen of Attolia, gets so. much. better. Seriously, if you read book #1 and think it’s a tad slow-moving, don’t let that deter you from moving on to book #2 at its conclusion. So… Gen is captured (yet again) and this time he’s imprisoned by the Queen of Attolia. The prison of Sutan was a cakewalk in comparison to what Attolia has planned for Gen. She is decisive and cruel. But she’s also… human. We find that Gen seems to truly believe in his gods/goddesses by this point, so we learn even more about their history and mythological relationships. I appreciate so much of the philosophical conversation surrounding these beliefs (and how they can so easily be applied to multiple religions):
Nothing I’ve even learned from a priest makes me think I know just what the gods are or what they can accomplish. But Gen, I know my decisions are my own responsibility. If I am a pawn of the gods, it is because they know me so well, not because they make up my mind for me.
Since I cannot share much about the ending of book #2 without spoiling both books, I’ll just say that I fully intend to read books #3, #4, and hopefully #5 in time for the publication of book #6 in March. My sincere thanks to Elisabeth of The Dirigible Plum for recommending this series!
Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix
Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee
Man One (Illustrations)
April 4, 2017
Readers to Eaters
Chef Roy Choi discovered his love of cooking through his family. One day he became a chef who cooked for famous movie stars and ran a kitchen that cooked for thousands of people per night. After losing his job, he has a fresh start running a restaurant out of a taco truck. But it’s not so easy to find willing customers, at first.
Roy calls himself a “street cook.”
He wants outsiders, low-riders,
kids, teens, shufflers, and skatboarders
to have food cooked with care, with love,
Parts of this book may seem a little text-heavy for a picture book, but it is very informative as a biography and the artwork is fantastic! The artist, Man One, shares the following:
It took many steps to create the art for this book. I first spray-painted the background onto large canvases. I photographed them afterward and loaded the images onto the computer. Then the people and detailed pencil drawings were added digitally. I thought it would be fun to highlight the cooking poems within blank stickers that are commonly used in street art. Finally, all the parts were assembled electronically.
The back of the book showcases an author’s and illustrator’s note along with a bibliography, resources, and biographies to read. This is a Sibert Honor book, was an NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee, and it is a Junior Library Guild Selection. You might want to hunt this one down if you haven’t already! I’ll share one page-spread of the artwork as an example, below:
The Rough Patch
August 14, 2018
This is a precious picture book about love, loss, and healing. Evan and his dog do everything together until one day when his beloved dog dies. Evan’s grief is so strong that he lashes out and completely destroys the gorgeous garden he once built and tended with his dog. Over time, Evan notices a pumpkin vine that has climbed into his garden. And it is this vine that eventually leads him back to old friends and the prospect of new joy. The beautiful artwork in this book is created with acrylics, oils, and colored pencils. I’ll provide the final, very moving illustration as an example, below (I just love that old pick-up truck!):
To Be Read:
Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton will be released tomorrow. I am just over halfway through this one (NetGalley didn’t release the title to me until this weekend), but I’m enjoying it so far and will plan to review it in the next week. You can read an interview with Crompton and enter a giveaway to win your own copy of Pretty in Punxsutawney right HERE. Hope everyone else enjoys their reading this week!