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!
ETA: I’m SOOO very happy about the Cybils Awards. Thank you to all the amazing judges (some right here in our weekly #imwayr group). I’ve loved those I read and look forward to finishing the ones I haven’t (…and I must say I was delighted that NEVERMOOR won in Middle Grade Speculative Fiction – YAY). Congrats to everyone!!
So… what have I been reading??
Watch Us Rise
February 12, 2019
Jasmine and Chelsea, two best friends in a progressive NYC high school, decide to start a feminist club after their not-so-unique experiences among womyn. Jasmine faces not only racism due to being black, but she is regularly demeaned for being plus-sized. Chelsea, while white and average size, is demeaned verbally and physically for being female. These two juniors start their activism on a school blog called “Write Like a Girl.” Through poetry and prose, they openly confront the racism, feminism, and fatphobia they’ve experienced in their own high school. Eventually, it becomes a movement which is spread to regular open mic nights, pamphlets, street art, t-shirts, and even into an awards ceremony. Over the course of this book (which runs from August to May of the school year), these two girls, along with their close-knit group of friends, learn many hard life lessons about activism, following rules, and communication.
This is a super fast read — the characters are strong and well-rounded, even if they sometimes leap before they look. In poetry and prose, the writing is sometimes brilliant. It’s often shared with hot anger, but there’s also a thread of sadness — such as this private moment when Jasmine worries she might lose her dad to cancer:
Dad falls asleep before the final round. I lay my head on his chest, like I used to do when I was little. I can hear Dad’s heart beating. I listen to his drum beat on and on. He is my favorite song.
While classified as Young Adult, the content is not too mature for older middle grade readers (perhaps 7th and 8th graders). It would be an excellent introduction to a variety of teen social issues, like sexism, sizeism, and racism, while also demonstrating the coordination and work involved in productive activism.
Yoon Ha Lee
January 15, 2019
Rick Riordan Present
Thirteen-year-old Min comes from a fox spirit family with impressive Charm and shape-shifting abilities. However, because of her family’s fox spirit ancestry, other residents of her planet do not trust them. The opening scene begins just before Min’s older brother, Jun, has reportedly disappeared from the Space Forces. An emissary arrives from the galactic government and indicates he’s suspected of treason. But Min knows Jun would NEVER commit treason — they’ve both dreamed of entering the Space Forces for years. Thus begins the grand space opera which will include impersonation, ghosts, shady characters who may or may not be on Min’s side, and finally, an ultimate quest to find the mythical Dragon Pearl and recover Jun. It’s so fast-paced that if you blink, you might miss something!
I understand Dragon Pearl is based on Korean mythology and it’s worth noting that both prejudice and gender issues are openly addressed in this fantasy world. At this point in time, the word on the street is this will be a stand-alone novel. However, I could definitely see plenty of space left for a sequel. I mean, there simply must be more story to Min’s long lost family on her planet-of-origin and more to the story of the various forms of shape-shifters (i.e. tiger spirits, etc.)! Tell me if you agree if you’ve read it (or after you read it).
To Night Owl from Dogfish
Holly Goldberg Sloan
February 12, 2019
Bett and Avery are two 12-year-old girls who meet via e-mail after their gay fathers secretively become romantically involved. One of the fathers lets it slip that their daughters are being sent to the same summer sleepaway camp, so now the cat’s out of the bag. Slight problem: the girls immediately decide they do not want to be friends, much less sisters. The entire story is told through emails and letters — primarily Bett’s and Avery’s perspectives, but also both dads, the grandmother, a mother, other campers, the camp staff, and a couple others. Over time the two girls warm to one another, but WOW are they all in for a shock as it nears time to leave camp.
Within the story the girls encounter bullying and they come face-to-face with loving adults who are flawed, but able to admit and face their mistakes. Over time, everyone learns something of value. Also highlighted is the fact that people (little and big) will change and hopefully grow from what they’ve learned and who they’ve encountered.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The Poetry of Mr. Rogers
Luke Flowers, illustrator
March 19, 2019
I mentioned just a few weeks ago that my family watched the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (AMAZING!) and so I was thrilled when I was given an opportunity to review this ARC, due to be published in March. Mr. Rogers was the author of many children’s books as well as the composer and lyricist for over 200 songs. This delightful picture book shares the lyrics to 75 of his songs/poems from over 30 years of the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood show and The Children’s Corner. The songs cover a wide variety of topics, such as: how special you are, what you want to be one day, growing and changing, feelings (anger, jealousy, happiness, fear, bravery, etc.) and realizing that your parents were once young.
The book also contains songs/poetry pertaining to more difficult topics, like realizing that good people sometimes do bad things and the difficulty of adjusting to the birth of a new baby sibling. Included with each song/poem page spread are matching colorful illustrations created by Luke Flowers. Some of the artwork shows scenes from the original TV show while others are of childhood themes pertaining to the song lyrics.
In the back of the book there’s a detailed topical index followed by more information about Fred McFeely Rogers. For example, many don’t know that the Canadian show Misterogers was a precursor to what eventually became Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on NET (which later became PBS). Between the beautiful lyrics, the sweet illustrations, and the additional information provided in the back, this book will be well loved by modern families of young children as well as by those of us who grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, daily. I’ll provide just two examples of the type of artwork found in this book (but there are SO many illustrations to be seen throughout its 144 pages):
The song and illustration shown below pertains to when Mr. Rogers sang with Jeff Erlanger in 1981 on episode #1748. You can view a clip right HERE. NOTE: When Fred Rogers was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame in 1999, Mr. Erlanger surprised him by coming out onto the stage. You can also view that heartwarming clip HERE.
My thanks to NetGalley and Quirk Books for gifting me with an early copy of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood so that I could provide an honest review. It releases on March 19th and will be an excellent addition to any children’s library. However, it will be even more special when you sit down and discuss these topics with children while you read each page!
To Be Read:
I am still working through Fake News and I’ve just started both The Bridge Home and The Lost Girl. I hope to finish all three by next Monday!