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 dropping a little note to say that last Tuesday officially marked my 1-year anniversary for participating with #imwayr (and showing up every single Monday). YAY! I originally started writing book reviews on my personal website in 2004 while I was in library school. Then in 2006 I kickstarted a book review group through a local parenting organization where we wrote monthly reviews in local newsletters and on Amazon, B&N, etc. But by the time babies #4 and #5 came along I’d completely put aside blogging/reviewing endeavors to focus on family and online teaching. So this WordPress blog was a much-needed fresh start last February. It’s been a joy to dust off the cobwebs and nestle into this lovely community, getting to know each of you. I always read everyone’s posts from the Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts weekly link-up and I learn so much every stinkin’ week! Thank you to all the regulars who’ve made me feel so comfortable and welcome here, despite the fact that you didn’t even know my name before 2018! ❤
So… it's Monday! What have I been reading?
(The Cogheart Adventures #1)
February 12, 2019
North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press
Cogheart is the first book in a middle-grade steampunk trilogy that follows the adventures of 13-year-old Lily Harman (if you don’t know what the steampunk genre is, check out this quick video HERE). Lily has been sent off to an all-girls school where she is having a very difficult time getting along with her classmates and instructors.
“Lilly had long ago noticed the other girls never read in posture class. It seemed thinking and walking simultaneously was too difficult for them.”
Meanwhile, we discover Lily’s father, Professor John Hartman, is captured and possibly killed. The good news is, before the destruction of his air ship, he was able to deploy his mechanimal fox with a most important message for Lily. Having no other living blood relatives, Lily must now navigate this alternative Victorian world piecing together a confusing puzzle of details and discovering who’s a friend (and who’s a foe).
Without giving any spoilers, I can say there’s some fantastic world building going on here with a nation that runs on cogs and ticks. There are mixed beings who are both human and machine as well as non-humans with feelings who must be wound regularly to keep functioning. The villains are more than a little terrifying with eye sockets that have been sewn with mirrors and the unnatural ability to stay one step ahead of Lily at almost every turn.
Thankfully, Lily makes an unexpected friendship with a young boy named Robert that makes her fears and sorrows more bearable. And this budding friendship, amidst painful loss, is really the heart of this middle grade story in my opinion. Robert grew up working with his father, a clockmaker, and his skills prove quite useful throughout their adventure. During challenging moments, his father’s advice comes back to him when he needs it most:
“No one conquers fear easily, Robert. It takes a brave heart to win great battles.”
Perhaps you’ve heard of Cogheart since it was originally released in the UK in 2016. However, it is now finally being released to the US by North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press tomorrow, February 12, 2019. While this book could work well as a stand alone, I must admit I’m very interested in seeing where Bunzl takes us with book #2: Moonlocket. My sincere thanks to NetGalley, North Star Editions, and Jolly Fish Press for releasing an e-ARC of Cogheart so that I could provide an honest review.
A Dash of Trouble
(Love Sugar Magic #1)
January 2, 2018
Walden Pond Press
Leonora (Leo) Logroño lives in Rose Hill, Texas, where her family owns a much-loved bakery. She’s the fifth born girl, the youngest in her family, and she seems to always feel left out. One day she witnesses something she cannot explain in the natural world which makes her suspect her family are brujas (witches of Mexican ancestry). As she begins to learn the “sweet” magic she will one day be initiated into, Leo quickly discovers there are some things you simply do not tamper with before you are ready. Ah… I really enjoyed Leo’s big, busy family and her sisters’ personality quirks. The story is very engaging and I’m hoping to get my hands on book #2 very soon (it was just released last week!).
NOTE: A fresh batch of gingersnaps will make a lovely companion to this book! 🙂
Wow! I took SO many notes while reading through this book that no one would guess it’s only 135 pages long. The layout is so nicely formatted with chapters that include great visuals, charts/organizers, and specific phrases highlighted on each page so that it’s quite easy to pick out the focus even if you are skimming. I especially appreciated that there are multiple contributors who share meaningful personal experiences to provide depth to the chapters.
In the sidebars of each chapter, there’s a reference to a page on the Scholastic site for more information. When I logged in, I found videos included for every chapter. I played every one of them while reading and found the discussion helpful. Also available are a number of printable downloads labeled by chapter.
While much of this resource discusses points and research many are aware of, it provides such encouragement and pushes educators to seek out all possible avenues to get GOOD books into the hands of children. I have worked in an extremely poor district (with students who didn’t have running water at home) and so I know how helpless some teachers feel when it comes to getting NEW books into the classroom. So I just kept thinking, Teachers need to get this book into the hands of principals, superintendents, school board members, and politicians.
I’m grateful to have read this book and I know it will impact my future reading and teaching decisions. My thanks to Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts and to Scholastic for the giveaway of this book, last month. Go out and grab a copy of Game Changer for your school!
It’s Not Hansel and Gretel
(It’s Not a Fairy Tale #2)
Edwardian Taylor, illustrator
March 1, 2019
I read and shared It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk back in August and this is book #2 of the same series of fractured fairy tales by Josh Funk. While the original fairy tale is about a brother and sister and a mean old witch who intends to eat them, nothing goes according to as planned in this rendition. Hansel and Gretel don’t follow the script and the narrator gets frustrated. It’s sure to get young children giggling over these disobedient siblings. The illustrations are rendered in digital media. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
This title will release on March 1, 2019, but you can pre-order it NOW.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star
August 28, 2018
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
A Big Mooncake for Little Star is an adorable retelling of a folk tale about how the moon cycles occur each month. This title would pair quite well with The Princess and the Moon which I reviewed three weeks ago, as it is yet another great story that would be fun to discuss during the study of the moon cycle (and both books would serve as excellent mentor texts, as well). This is a 2019 Caldecott Honor book and the artwork is quite beautiful. The illustrations were done in Turner Design Gouache on Arches 100% Watercolor Paper 140lb. Hot Press Bright White. Here’s one page spread to serve as an example, below:
Leo Espinosa, illustrator
March 13, 2018
Islandborn is the story of Lola’s discovery of the Island from which her family immigrated. Most of the children in her school classroom are immigrants. When their teachers asks them to share what they know of their country of origin, Lola is sad that she remembers almost nothing. So she pieces together bits and pieces of information from a number of other people who do remember. Most interesting in this story is the description of a metaphorical “Monster” the islander heroes fought. Islandborn was a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Nominee for 2019 and the colors and faces and children’s art is truly a beautiful sight. Wow! The artwork was created digitally with Photoshop and mixed media. I’ll provide one of my favorite page spreads, below:
To Be Read:
This week did not go at all as I expected. I had much less time to read than usual and I’m afraid this may be my new norm for the next 3-4 weeks. I still need to finish Watch Us Rise, so I’ll make that my major goal for the week. But I hope to also finish Fake News: Separating Truth from Fiction and Dragon Pearl.
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 35/200
#MustReadin2019 – 7/42