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 I’ll share a few of the books I read over the last 7 days, including a longer review of UNLEAVING by Melissa Ostrom, which will be released tomorrow. Enjoy!
March 26, 2019
Feiwel and Friends
19-year-old Maggie Arioli is the victim of a gang rape that took place in her small college town, just last year. After her assault, she sought help at the police station and with her college administration. But as the perpetrators were athletic heroes of Carleton College, Maggie was immediately considered an outcast, demonized for tainting the names of the young men in question. In an effort to heal from the trauma and move forward, Maggie is taking a year off from school. With her parents’ blessing, she heads out of town to stay with her Aunt Wren in a small cabin just off Lake Ontario in New York. Over time, Maggie carefully branches out, joining a book group in a nearby town and meeting some of the other local townspeople. As friendships develop, we learn that she is certainly not the only seemingly broken person in Aunt Wren’s town. And it turns out that even hurting victims can be a strong support system for others in need.
I loved this book! I didn’t want to put it down, but I also didn’t want it to end. Unlike stories that keep the reader engaged with cliffhangers and constant action, Unleaving carefully reveals the private lives of several characters in the story, inviting the reader to contemplate their status, their childhoods, and the pain they each carry. I was in awe of the layers woven into each character as we are urged to consider how every variable impacts the decisions we make, making us all so very different from each other. Most importantly, this book is a call to stand by one another — to openly show support and elevate victims we encounter, even when everyone else is questioning and assuming and judging with useless stereotypes. More than once this book turned the world on its side, forcing me to consider something new. I really thought I knew what to expect with Unleaving, but I was so very moved by this book. Tears and chills. Five stars — HIGHLY recommend!
Melissa Ostrom was interviewed about Unleaving by Deborah Kalb on her blog — you might enjoy hearing more about the book, the research, and even where the title comes from. My thanks to Melissa Ostrom and Feiwel and Friends for providing me an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book. I read it by choice and am happy to provide my honest review.
Trigger warning for mentions of rape. While the scene of Maggie’s assault is not described in vivid detail, short flashbacks pop up occasionally, providing brief clips to let the reader know of Maggie’s experience.
Song for a Whale
February 5, 2019
Twelve-year-old Iris is a bit lonely, being deaf while attending a hearing school where her teachers and fellow students do not understand her deaf culture. After school hours, Iris is a genius at working with electronics at home — specifically fixing old radios and getting them working, like new. So she LOVES filling her bedroom with parts and pieces that will prove useful on her next project.
One day in class, Iris’ class watched a documentary where they learned about a whale named Blue 55. This whale appears to be one-of-a-kind (possibly the off-spring of who different types of whales) with his very own song that other whales do not understand. So he travels alone and appears to be talking to himself, everywhere he goes. Iris truly relates to Blue 55’s loneliness and so she puts together a plan to find a way to communicate with the whale. Little does she know that her plan will involve all that she’s learned about electronics. And it just might take her on a trip of a lifetime.
Be sure to check out the lengthy back matter which discusses more about whales, the author’s experiences, deaf culture, and deaf history. Sign Language was my foreign language in college and several of my friends were deaf. I attended a deaf church (no speaking allowed) during my college years and learned so much about deaf culture–some details of which were discussed in this story. While this is not an #ownvoices book, I can appreciate what Lynne Kelly did to adhere to linguistic and deaf culture accuracy by using the perspective of native signers who grew up deaf. I hope you enjoy it!
January 3, 2017
A few months ago, I listened to the first 5-minutes of this on audio. After that, I knew I would be reading this one once it was available. That finally happened this month…
Scar Island is the story of Jonathan Grisby, who is sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for committing a crime. This crumbling facility, attached to an old lighthouse found secluded in the middle of the ocean, is sometimes chosen by parents as a cheaper alternative to other court-ordered punishments.
Jonathan’s first day at Slabhenge Reformatory School is a rude awakening as the boys’ punishments are frightening and downright abusive. Just a short time into the story, a freak lightening storm leaves the boy “prisoners” all alone without adult supervision. Soon after, they experience a sort of Lord of the Flies period where lines are drawn and loyalties are tested. It’s a somewhat spooky story that I will be adding to my scary October books read-alouds list. But there’s also a softer, heart-strings side to the story that will likely bring tears to the eyes of many middle graders. Love me some Gemeinhart!
The Good Egg
Pete Oswald, illustrator
February 12, 2019
What an adorable picture book, showcasing the “good egg” who always does the right thing (and wants everyone else to do the same). But sometimes the pressure of perfectionism can really get to us and we need to take some time to ourselves before we can hang out with the gang, again. No one is perfect, nor should they be. I loved this one just as much as The Bad Seed.
Oswald used scanned watercolor textures and digital paint to create the artwork for this book. Here’s one page-spread as an example, below:
Yasmin in Charge
Hatem Aly, illustrator
March 1, 2019
Picture Window Books
Like other Yasmin books, this 91-paged story follows Yasmin on a few different adventures where her quick thinking saves the day. This time Yasmin is a teacher, then she’s a chef, then a zookeeper, and finally, a superhero. These books provide pages with a large font, many colorful illustrations scattered throughout the text, and very short chapters — perfect for beginning readers who aren’t yet ready for novels or novellas. Here’s one page-spread as an example of the text and how illustrations are found within the story (please ignore the page glare on the right side):
The back matter includes a few pages of things to think/talk about, new Urdu words with pronunciations, Pakistan fun facts, how to make a paper bag superhero, and finally a page about the author and illustrator. There are now a number of Yasmin books available and it doesn’t appear they need to be read in any particular order. Children will enjoy Yasmin’s clever ideas and adorable facial features, throughout!
To Be Read:
This week I plan to finish up The Astonishing Maybe (will be released tomorrow, 3/26/19), The Book of Boy (really enjoying, so far), The Cruel Prince (I bought this one a year ago and FINALLY picked it up this week), and Let the Children March (so happy to see this on my library shelves).