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!
This week, our state (Nebraska) is in pretty bad shape after a 2-day blizzard followed by (ongoing) flash flooding. Bridges collapsed, entire homes were destroyed and swept away, and a great deal of livestock was lost. In my town, they closed down all schools and government offices for THREE whole days (which is the most I can ever recall). While blizzards can be devastating, one thing I appreciate during severe weather is witnessing my friends and neighbors come together to take care of each other. Some who own their own commercial-grade equipment drove down multiple streets and sidewalks across town to clear a path before city government could get around. If a neighbor is in danger of flooding in their basement, people hurry over to help scoop the flood waters away from their home. While we were shoveling and plowing our own driveway and sidewalks, an across the street neighbor ran over to help us finish our work and we were able to take care of a couple other neighbors’ properties (one needs to be able to get out to a hospital quickly, due to rapidly declining health). And later, those families came over with smiles, hot cocoa, and warm apple pie. It’s these types of experiences that remind us of the importance of good neighbors who look out for one another and share the difficult burdens, despite property lines. ❤
On a really fun note, check out a photo of our local friend’s snow-made masterpiece of a 1967 Ford Mustang GTA (and check out the viral state trooper video of the same snow car being “pulled over” RIGHT HERE). These sweet neighbors live just a few roads over and they’re always making outstanding sculptures out of our piles of panhandle snow:
Aaaand now, on to what I’ve been reading this week…
Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince
(Emily Windsnap #8)
Erin Farley, illustrations
March 12, 2019
Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince is the 8th book in a series chronicling the adventures of Emily, a spunky half-mer (half human, half mermaid). Throughout this series we’ve witnessed her coming to terms with who she is, learning the history of her family, making best friends with a mermaid named Shona, and rescuing and meeting her half-mermaid boyfriend, Aaron. In each book, Emily has overcome life-threatening obstacles, saving mermaids, humans, and even the Sea King Neptune, who has inadvertently given her special powers that rival his own. The fandom is strong with this series — it has spanned 15 years, so parents and teachers who read this 15 years ago (when they were teens and tweens) are enjoying sharing their passion with the next generation as the more recent books were released. In addition to friendship and loyalty, these books strongly address finding where we belong (noted themes of racism and being mixed-race), conflict resolution, and finding your voice.
In Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince, book #8, Emily is still only 13 years old and must face yet another shocking challenge that includes adventure, mystery, treasure, and young romance. She is with her mother on a fancy cruise when their ship is attacked by pirates. Aaron is missing and, when forced to return to their rooms, Emily is separated from her mother. Now Emily must find a way to slip away and discover as many details about the raid party before deciding whether to offer her services to the pirates in exchange for Aaron’s return. But what can Emily offer a ship of rowdy pirates who openly detest mermaids?
It was easy to fall back into Kessler’s comfortable writing in this 8th book. Her scenes are so well described that I can vividly see it all in my mind. As is true of most of the books in this middle grade series, it could probably be a stand alone novel for newcomers, but I believe it’s helpful to know the history to understand who Emily, Aaron, and Shona are — at least books #1, #2, and #3. I’ll also mention that I read some of these books with my eyes and listened to others as audiobooks, so I can happily vouch for the audiobook rendition narrated by Finty Williams.
This book in the series is a bit different for two reasons. First, Emily is separated from her mother, father, Aaron, Shona, and any other already-known Windsnap characters for most of the story. Second, there’s a bit of boyfriend conflict that I don’t recall happening to this extent in the 5 other books I read in this series. This even made me apprehensive and I had no idea how that would resolve until the very end. Otherwise, the book followed a similar pattern to the previous books in the series — with a clever, feisty, non-conforming Emily who is up to just about any task in order to save the day.
My thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for giving me an ARC of this book so that I could provide an honest review. Be sure to check out Liz Kessler’s website to learn more about her characters, her travels and inspiration for each book, the research that went into the books, and you can even take a quiz to discover “How Mer Are You?”.
February 12, 2019
Lucy and Oliver’s father, known as Mr. Tinker, is offered a very large sum of gold to fix a giant cuckoo clock in a house called Blackford House. Watch Hollow is found in the middle of nowhere, inside some enchanted woods. When the family arrives, they discover they are alone, but they immediately sense something is off. Oliver has met a young boy in the woods who he thinks is the son of the previous employee who was working on the clock. But who is he really? Over time they come directly in contact with magical animals and creatures, warning them they must destroy the Garr monster to save themselves and Blackford House. This one is incredibly spooky — might want to keep your lights on while reading! 😉
A Good Kind of Trouble
March 12, 2019
Balzer + Bray
Twelve-year-old Shayla feels very lucky to have two best friends: Julia and Isabella. The three call themselves The United Nations since they are Black, Japanese American, and Latinx. But little did Shayla know that 7th grade would provide a strong test of their friendship. The story involves some realistic middle school drama over romantic relationship, but there are some good conversations about crushes and how to seek out people who are truly good people (not just good looking).
Throughout the story, there are news stations following the development of a court case over a white cop shooting a black teenager. Shayla’s older sister, Hana, is very involved in social justice activities — attending rallies and demonstrations — and these are mentioned frequently in response to the current court case. It bothers Hana that Shayla doesn’t have any black friends. And at school, Shayla is he’s tossed aside by the other black girls on her track team, as well, and at one point she’s even referred to as being an “oreo” (black on the outside, white on the inside). As Shayla begins to find her own voice and join in to support Black Lives Matter, she faces resistance from her principal and others, including her own circle of friends. But she’s determined to stand up and spread awareness, despite the trouble it might bring.
Black Lives Matter is discussed in detail in a way that allows younger readers to better understand it. For example, one major discussion is about how saying “black lives matter” doesn’t mean white lives don’t matter or blue lives don’t matter. One life is never more important than another, but real life statistics tell us society believes otherwise. At one point, Shayla recalls how her mom explained that saying “black lives matter” is like going to the doctor for a broken bone. The doctor will make us favor that bone and treat it very carefully until it works with all the other bones again. That’s not to say the other bones aren’t equally important, just that we must bring this bone to our attention until it’s back in working order. While it might seem preachy, it’s a helpful and necessary description for many in this age group.
The Bad Seed
Pete Oswald, illustrator
August 29, 2017
Harper Collins Childrens
Poor sunflower seed! He once had a big, close, beautiful family of healthy seeds living in the sun and enjoying life, together. Until one day when his flower died and they all dropped to the ground. He was then raked up, stuffed in a dark bag, tossed into a giant’s mouth, and spat into a wad of gum. Let’s face it, he experienced real trauma. And today, he probably suffers from legit post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His behavior is now atrocious and he has no friends. Bad seed looks at himself in the mirror one day and decides he wants to be happy, so he is ready to make some changes. This means learning his manners (listening, not talking in movies, saying “please” and “thank you,” etc.). And he is determined to keep trying, even when he makes mistakes.
We’ve been discussing behavior with our children this past week after a few rough days. So as I sat down to read this with my 4-year-old, I really appreciated how the newly reformed “good seed” sometimes still makes mistakes. However, he acknowledges his failure and decides to keep trying. So making mistakes doesn’t make him “bad” at all. ❤ We’ll read The Good Egg later this week.
The artist used scanned watercolor textures and digital paint to create the illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of the artwork, below:
You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it HERE. (NOTE: When I went to grab this link, I saw you can read this title for free online if you’re an Amazon Prime member).
Pterodactyl Show and Tell
Tanya Leonello, illustrator
October 3, 2018
What happens when you take a Pterodactyl to school? With rhyming text and hilarious illustrations, you’ll follow the young 3rd grade boy and his pterodactyl through social studies, reading, recess, math, Spanish, lunch, science, art, health, music, computer lab, and finally, being promoted to 4th grade. I found it sweet to see the author dedication reads “To my mother, Margaret Krasnesky, career teacher and lifetime Mom.”
The artwork on this book was rendered digitally and you have to keep an eye on the details of the artwork to pick up on some of the humor, take for example the page spread, below (read the book titles):
To Be Read:
I’m kicking my week off by finishing Unleaving by Melissa Ostrom (releases 3/26/19), The Astonishing Maybe by Shaunta Grimes (releases 3/26/19), and The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (was awarded a 2019 Newbery Honor). I also have a few picture books I just picked up from the library, starting with The Good Egg by Jory John and illustrated by Pete Oswald. It should be an exciting week of reading!!
Reading Challenge Updates:
It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?