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!
Today I’ll be sharing some of my reads from the last week, including two young adult novels, two middle grade novels, and four picture books (three that are recent award-winners I missed in 2018). I hope you find some new-to-you books to enjoy!
The Astonishing Maybe
March 26, 2019
Feiwel and Friends
The Astonishing Maybe is Grimes’ first middle grade novel. The book blurb describes it as “Pippi Longstocking meets My Girl and Waitress” — and while Pippi is funny, quirky, and light-hearted, if you’ve ever seen My Girl and Waitress, then you know to be prepared for heavy topics and an emotional experience.
12-year-old Gideon is new to Logandale, Nevada, and one of the first things he notices is his new neighbor, Roona. She is roller-skating up and down the sidewalk with rainbow-striped socks pulled up to her knees, a swimsuit on top of her clothing, and a cape on her back. Her eyes are focused somewhere down the road and never, not once, does she look over at him while his family unloads their car. He really wishes she would.
Gideon’s parents are ultra protective, not allowing him to even ride his bike across the street or to answer the home phone when they run an errand across town. On the other hand, Roona, is a free-range child who is able to travel the city freely, with little notice that she’s even gone. What Gideon also learns about Roona is that she has a heart for adventure, she still believes in magic and super powers, and she desperately wants her dad to come home because her mom really needs him. While much of the story is devoted to Roona’s attempts to handle her mother’s depression, it also addresses issues of abuse, crime/prison, attempted suicide, and the difficult balance between obeying a parent’s firm rules while also looking out for a friend in need. Sadly, the painful childhood experiences discussed in this story are very real to non-fiction children, today, so this story will resonate with those who understand this pain all too well.
Personally, I was hooked on this story within the first few pages. Grimes absolutely nailed the 12-year-old voice through a fast-paced storyline with just a touch of magical realism. There were moments of laughter, a few tears, and some very believable flashes of anger — including one mention of “shit” (at least in the advanced copy), which I note only because it is a bit unusual for a middle grade novel (realistically, though, this word was used in my kindergarten classroom). Overall, I found The Astonishing Maybe to be a meaningful story that I enjoyed and would happily recommend.
SIDENOTE: Shaunta Grimes wrote an article about the release of this book called There Ought to be a Word For This (on Medium.com). One important thing she says about publishing a book is that once it is released, it belongs to the readers and all an author can hope for is that it will become ours and settle into us. The article is very short and to the point, but if you review books regularly I think you’ll find her thoughts very intriguing and on point — take 2-3 minutes to read it, if you can!
My thanks to NetGalley and Feiwel and Friends for approving an e-ARC so that I could provide an honest review of this book.
March 19, 2019
Eric Smith, publicist
Meet Layla Amin, a 17-year-old Muslim-American teen who is sent to an internment camp with her parents. They have no Internet, their TV stations are selected by the American government, they can only eat what is provided in the cafeteria, there are cameras everywhere (including drones that fly around the camp watching and recording their conversations), and they can only make a phone call with special permission and heavy monitoring. With the help of Layla’s boyfriend, David (who is Jewish and outside the camp), and a camp guard disobeying orders, Layla begins slipping handwritten messages to the outside world to inform the media of what is taking place within these camps. But as her news stories are released publicly, things get far more dangerous inside the gates as security is tightened and residents are abused to uncover the spy. Will Layla and her adolescent friends have the courage necessary to regain their rights and freedom?
When nationalism is disguised as patriotism, we justify cruel and inhumane actions — this has repeatedly been demonstrated throughout history. In fact, details of various past events (such as Japanese-American internment) are discussed even within this story. But fear of this happening again isn’t the only focus of this story — there are common misrepresentations that are explained, throughout, as part of the story in an effort to offer a window to those who need one. For example, there’s explanation of how a person isn’t ethnically Muslim — it is a religion that encompasses all ethnicities and skin colors. Additionally, there’s wonderful discussion about a woman’s decision of whether to wear the hijab (which is a choice, not mandated). These types of discussions are woven right into the storyline and offer a great deal of insight.
So far, Internment has received at least five starred reviews. I was very glad my e-library had a copy ready to borrow within a week of publication. Overdrive to the rescue!
The Book of Boy
Catherine Gilbert Murdock
February 6, 2018
Set during the Holy Year of 1350, Boy appears to have an unusual life at his master’s estate. He is mocked by other children and seems to be abused or demeaned by most adults. His master told him the hump on his back is bad and that he is never to touch or reveal it. Boy obeys without question. One day a mysterious pilgrim named Secondus arrives at his master’s estate and he takes Boy as a servant on an expedition to gather important relics from across Europe. It will take seven relics, in fact, to work a miracle. But Boy is hoping for a miracle of his own. I can’t say much more about this one without spoiling the surprises, but it was not exactly what I expected when I first picked it up. I certainly grew to love Boy and wondered, throughout, about his life and whether his prayer would be answered. Also worth noting is that Ian Schoenherr provided detailed black and white illustrations at the beginning of every chapter, as well as a detailed 2-page spread map noting Boy’s journey with Secondus.
From the Back Matter: “Readers today might be disturbed or amused by all this attention paid to bits of bone and cloth. But modern halls of fame are filled with used guitar picks, sweaty jerseys, and cracked leather balls—not so different from the relics that pilgrims sought a thousand years ago.”
AWARDS: Newbery Honor (2019)
The Cruel Prince
(The Folk of the Air #1)
January 2, 2018
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
What is there left to say about a book that is barely a year old and already has nearly 85,000 ratings on Goodreads? LOL I’ll just try to hit the highlights without spoilers:
Jude, her twin sister Taryn, and their older sister Vivi are happily living in the human world as young children when Vivi’s real father Madoc (a faerie general) arrives unexpectedly, slays their parents right in front of them, and whisks the three sisters away to The Court of Faerie. Fast forward 10 years to present day where the sisters are still living in The Court of Faerie. Prince Cardan is a jerk and, since Madoc fought for his human daughters’ rights to attend a faerie school, the twins must face Cardan every day at school. This is especially bad because fairies can compel humans to do whatever they want them to do. On the flipside, faeries cannot lie. Like ever. But how can this fault be used to human advantage?
There are so many twists and turns to this story (I do NOT envy the hired synopsis writer) and I found it pretty complex with detailed world building and serious family turmoil. There’s also bullying, brutal punishment, just a tinge of romance, bisexual representation, and fairly multi-layered main characters. It’s a darker fantasy tale, but I did enjoyed it and currently have book #2, The Wicked King, on hold. It should be available within the next two weeks.
AWARDS: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2018)
In this sequel to Misunderstood Shark, we are back on the set of Underwater World with Bob and Friends as they prepare to film another episode. After being vomited up, Bob the Jellyfish demands an apology from Shark for eating him in the first place. But, but, but… did Shark really eat Bob? Or was he just giving him an exclusive tour? Along with Magoon’s fun illustrations, there are a number of aside jokes (some aimed more at the adult readers) and interesting facts about marine life. Fun follow-up book for those who read book #1, last year. Will there be a book #3? Let me know if you hear!
I did not find the specific method of illustration creation, but I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
Fox the Tiger
Corey R. Tabor
August 14, 2018
Balzer + Bray
I enjoyed reading the other two books Tabor “fox” books (Fox and the Jumping Contest and Fox and the Bike Ride), just last month. So I was so happy when my library contacted me to let me know the latest book was ready for me to borrow. In this adventure, Fox decides that “Tigers are the best.” However, after attempting to become a tiger with his friends, Turtle and Rabbit, things don’t turn out exactly as planned. Nevertheless, Squirrel comes along to show us that the grass is always greener syndrome is alive and well. And life is truly best when we embrace who we really are. What a great book to initiate discussion about our individual strengths and what we like about one another! The artwork was completed with pencil, watercolor, and crayon, then assembled digitally. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
AWARDS: Theodore Seuss Geisel Award (2019), Cybils’ Early Reader award (2019)
Let the Children March
Frank Morrison, illustrator
January 2, 2018
HMH Books for Young Readers
In this gorgeous picture book, we meet the children and teens of Birmingham who forever changed the world in 1963. When Dr. King gave a call to action, parents knew they couldn’t march or they would lose their jobs or be jailed — unable to take care of their children. That’s when the children rose up and offered to march. On Thursday, May 2nd, they dressed in their best and marched in silence, hand in hand. They were yelled at, threatened with dogs, sprayed with water, and sent to jail. But day after day, the numbers grew until there was no room left in the cells. People watched the march on television, many wrote letters and called President Kennedy, and on May 10th an agreement for desegregation was reached. The last page of the book shows white and black children sharing the same playground, only one month later. Don’t miss the Back Matter with sources and bibliography and the endpapers (at beginning and ending) which provide a more detailed timeline of events. The stunning artwork was created with oil on illustration board. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
AWARDS: Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustrator (2019)
Alma and How She Got Her Name
April 10, 2018
This is such a precious picture book!! Alma has a very long name — six names, to be exact: Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela! In this story, Alma’s daddy explains the meaning behind each of her names, including one that is her’s, alone. This is a perfect book for getting-to-know-you activities with young children. In a note at the very end, the author shares that she felt stuck with what she thought was “the most old-fashioned, harsh, ugly, and way-too-Spanish name.” But years later, she felt differently and could more easily remember where she came from. Awww. ❤ The very first time I read this book, I had my just-turned-five-years-old daughter sitting in my lap, hanging on every word. We both adored it, of course! And it gave me reason to remind her about her name and the person she was named after (as she lives far, far away).
The illustrations were done with graphite, colored pencils, and print transfers on handmade textured paper. The soft and cozy artwork is comforting, reminiscent of childhood — such muted reds and blues that the pages could be framed and hung in a nursery. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
AWARDS: Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Nominee for Writer (2019), Monarch Award Nominee (2020), Caldecott Honor (2019), Tejas Star Reading List Nominee (2019)
To Be Read:
I plan to start off the week with Up For Air and The Friendship War.
Reading Challenge Updates: