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!
Last week kickstarted the 2019 Big Book Summer challenge, hosted by Sue of Book By Book. It starts after Memorial Day every summer and runs through Labor Day. Any book over 400 pages qualifies and there’s a drawing for a “big book” giveaway from Sue’s shelves at the conclusion of the summer. This is not a competition, just a chance to encourage one another on finishing some longer titles we’ve wanted to read for a while. If you are interested in participating this year, link up at her 2019 Big Book Summer post and join our Goodreads group.
This week, along with my regular reading, I’m reviewing one historical fiction book that will be published tomorrow: House Without Walls. I hope you’ll find something here this week that you like!
House Without Walls
Ching Yeung Russell
June 4, 2019
Eleven-year-old Lam and her younger brother, Dee Dee, must escape from Vietnam and the cruel communist regime. Their hope is to leave the country by boat and eventually connect with their father who already made it to San Francisco in the United States. Written in verse, this novel shares a grueling journey across sea and land where starvation and illness threaten their very lives. It’s horrific to learn of the pain experienced on the journey — of the ongoing nausea/vomit, of people being urinated on, and of the stench of death (as not everyone made it to shore, alive). Even on land, there is rape, illnesses, insects, snakes, leeches, lack of clean water, and military violence to fear. Despite these dreadful conditions, friendships are forged and family is adopted after Lam and Dee Dee are separated from their older brother (who happened to have all their money). The refugees slowly piece together a way of life as they fight to stay alive. And as the title indicates, we definitely learn that not all houses are built with walls.
This story was based on interviews conducted by Russell over many years. Before the story began, there was a lengthy and important Prologue that shares a number of details about the real life Lam and Dee Dee as well as other historical details. While we learn that Russell toned down the horrors of these perilous journeys (since it was written for younger readers), everything about the story felt authentic. I’ve learned a lot about wars through the study of history, but we don’t often hear from the side of refugees who were trapped in deadly living conditions. So I’m grateful to learn more about the Vietnam Boat People Exodus in 1979 and I highly recommend this title for middle schools and high school libraries.
My thanks to Netgalley and Yellow Jacket for approving an e-ARC so that I could provide my honest review. This title releases tomorrow, June 4th.
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
John David Anderson
June 21, 2016
Waldon Pond Press
Ms. Bixby is one of the good teachers — the kind who understands that teaching is more about students than it is about curriculum and paperwork. Near the beginning of this story, we learn that Ms. Bixby is very ill and must leave school earlier than she anticipated. Three of her students, Topher, Brand, and Steve, want to give her an incredible “perfect” day. So they skip school and head off on a grand adventure. Along the way, we learn the backstories of each boy and Ms. Bixby’s importance becomes more evident than ever. Oh my, I laughed and cried (and laughed and cried). Now I know why I’ve heard such rave reviews of this title. Loved it!
Tomorrow Most Likely
Lane Smith, illustrator
April 2, 2019
Can we take a moment just to appreciate that gorgeous cover?! With the lush grass and flowers in focus and the colorful pastel buildings off in the distance, I wanted to jump into the scenery before I even began reading. In rhyming text and with dreamlike illustrations, Eggers shares a number of things that will “likely” happen tomorrow (including the chance of seeing a blue sky or eating a brown meal). After reading this one, young children might enjoy creating their own book of things that could happen tomorrow. The illustrations were created in oil paint, pen and ink, paper collage, and digitally. I’ll provide one example, below:
I was so excited to win this book from the giveaway offered at Laura Mossa’s Beagles and Books literacy blog. This is the precious story about a beagle named Guy and his adoption by Meghan Markle. We witness Guy’s transformation as he moves to Buckingham Palace and meets Queen Elizabeth. But all of this is possible only because he was given a second chance at life through a dog rescue. In the back matter, we learn that Guy was moved to several locations and that he was even diagnosed with heart worms and had to undergo treatment before being ready for adoption. This is a true doggie rags-to-riches story that children will love to read. The sweet illustrations were done in gouache and colored pencils. I’ll provide one example, below:
While sharing Guy’s rescue story, I thought I would mention that there is a brand new documentary on Netflix called Life in the Doghouse. We just saw it last week and appreciated that it hit on all the important notes about animal rescue. I watched it with my children, but be forewarned this may be not be appropriate for a young or even an older sensitive child (for example, there was a tearful scene of one of their beloved pets being euthanized and another scene where multiple black trash bags were being dumped into a large grave — you do not see inside the bags, but it’s apparent that it’s euthanized dogs). Here’s the trailer for anyone interested:
Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse
Corinna Luyken, illustrator
August 14, 2018
Chloe has had enough of Adrian Simcox telling everyone he has a horse. Adrian sits alone at lunch, he has a messy desk, he gets the free lunch at school, and he even has holes in his shoes. He lives with his grandfather in a very small house with barely any yard. So why in the world is Adrian Simcox telling everyone has has a horse?! Thank goodness Chloe discovers the truth before the end of this one! I must say, I got chills and teared-up as I turned the very last page — a very important story for empathy and imagination!
The illustrations were created using black ink, colored pencils, and watercolor. I LOVE the artwork and felt like I could just step right into some of these scenes. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
To Be Read:
It’s going to be a very tough week for reading. We have so much going at home right now, and hubby will be off at a conference this week. I can’t even guess what I’ll finish at this point (if anything). I am reading a few nonfiction books, so I hope to at least move a few bookmarks.