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 to share what you’ve been reading!
April 2, 2019
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
The most important thing I can say about this book is GO GRAB A COPY NOW!! I read a lot of middle grade literature each year, and I think this is one of the BEST I’ve ever read.
Twelve-year-old Cat is Chicken’s older sister. She understands her little brother better than most and she is willing to constantly sacrifice her needs for his. This particular summer, they have plans to travel and stay with her best friend while her mom takes on a special class. But an emergency comes up, leaving Cat and Chicken living with family they’ve never met before. Many questions begin to surface during their stay, but most importantly: WHY have we never met this part of the family before?
The story takes place primarily on Gingerbread Island, which is brought to life with colorful houses, the smells and sounds of the ocean, an active community full of close knit neighbors, and an exciting fishing contest. The relationship building is so carefully crafted, showcasing an obviously deep, lingering hurt from the past.
“Being a parent is a kind of promise. A promise to stand by someone even if you think they’re making a mistake. To love who you get, not who you think you’re going to get.”
It’s hard to believe this was Gillian McDunn’s debut. I see she is under contract to publish The Queen Bee and Me with Bloomsbury in April of 2020. I have no idea what this new book will be about, but I can’t wait to read it after this heart-warming experience. I highly recommend Caterpillar Summer!
The Sky at Our Feet
March 6, 2018
The Sky at Our Feet was my audiobook read for the week and I only wish I’d listened to it sooner. With witty riddles woven throughout, this story is focused on the impact of deportation on children. Jason’s Afghan father was a translator for the US military while his mother came to the US on a visa, for safety reasons. We learn that things went badly in the past, leaving Jason’s father dead and his mother stranded with an expired visa. Now that his mother is an illegal immigrant (and witnessing the treatment of illegal immigrants on the news) she’s understandably fearful of filing the proper paperwork and being rejected, then separated from her son, and sent back to Afghanistan. As this story begins, she shares this fear with Jason.
One day, Jason witnesses his mother being taken away by men with badges and he realizes what has happened. He immediately begins his trek to safety in hopes that he’ll be reunited with his mother (rather than be placed in foster care, since he is American). Along his brave, adventurous journey, Jason builds an unlikely friendship with another youngster named Max. Together they work out a plan to get Jason to safety while simultaneously meeting Max’s needs for living boldly and making important memories. I loved that the end was fulfilling while also very open-ended. What’s the status of Max? I heartily recommend this one for any children’s or middle grade library — it’s an important #ownvoices book that will be a window and mirror for those who need it.
Ruby, Head High is the story of Ruby Bridges as told by a fictional character named Nadia who had a dream after being shown the famous Norman Rockwell painting. In her dream, Ruby shares her full story, including a test she had to take before going to the school, the experience of being escorted to school by police officers, having her very own teacher in her own private classroom, and scarier things like a reference to being shown a black baby doll in a coffin and being called another word for ‘black.’
Each page showcases the text on the left with an expressive illustration on the right. The story is told from the voice of a child and is lengthy on some pages. Nevertheless, it showcases Ruby’s fear and courage, along with the growth of the community as a whole. Can we ever hear these painful stories too many times?
In the back, there’s a little more information about Ruby Bridges Hall, today, as well as a longer section about the famous Norman Rockwell painting. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of the artwork, below:
When Sadness is at Your Door
January 29, 2019
Random House Books for Young Readers
This is a gentle story that introduces sadness in a unique way. Children are encouraged to see sadness as a normal part of their lives. The story shows ways to include sadness in their daily activities, rather than trying to shut it out or hide it. Calming activities such as sitting quietly, drawing, listening to music, and going for a walk are mentioned as something they might do with sadness. And sometimes sadness will drift in and out of their lives, and that’s completely okay. This one could be helpful for a whole-class discussion on feelings and emotions or for use with a specific child experiencing depression, anxiety, or grief.
The illustrations are drawn in simple brown lines with only soothing mint green and peach for coloring. Enjoy one example, below:
September 10, 2018
Diane Alber Art LLC
In rhyming text, this little book is the story of three “splatters” named red, yellow, and blue (as seen on the book cover). Each splatter works on their own until one day, after a little encouragement and experimenting, they try something new. TEAMWORK! In the end, they’re proud of their beautiful artwork as well as a variety of new colors they created together (orange, green, violet, indigo, navy, etc.).
In the back there’s a “Next Steps” section to guide adults and teachers in how to use the book, including what types of questions they might ask. While I didn’t find an explanation on how the artwork was created, it appears to be paint splatters that are rendered digitally. I’ll provide one page as an example, below: