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!
Summer is still crazy, but I am very happy to have finished my first #BigBookSummerChallenge book: Monday’s Not Coming. YAY! Don’t forget, if you’d like to join the challenge group, link up at Sue’s 2019 Big Book Summer post.
Monday’s Not Coming
Tiffany D. Jackson
May 22, 2018
Katherine Tegen Books
One of my former education majors turned me on to this Young Adult novel, so I was very happy when it became available on my Overdrive library. This story is told in three timelines (with uniquely named chapters, like “before,” “1 Year Before the Before,” “After,” and “2 Weeks After the After”), and it helps to pay attention to understand what’s happening. Claudia and Monday are best friends and they’re starting their 8th grade school year, together. However, Claudia has been away all summer and Monday doesn’t show up to school on the first day of classes. In fact, she hasn’t shown up even a few weeks into the school year. Even if Monday is where her mother and sister say she is, Claudia is certain she would have called or written to let her best friend know where she was. Besides, Monday knows Claudia is dyslexic and depends on her help for all her academic work (so they can get into the same high school, together). Claudia just hopes she can find out the truth in time.
This one had me on the edge of my seat and I wasn’t sure what happened until it was revealed in the final chapters. Throughout this story I was appalled at the fact that no one seemed all that worried about a young teen girl who hasn’t contacted her best friend all summer: law enforcement, the neighbors, the school system, and even child protective services dropped the ball. But one point that was driven home — ALWAYS leave breadcrumbs so that friends and loved ones can find you.
AWARDS: Lincoln Award Nominee (2020)
Betty Before X
January 2, 2018
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
We know that Betty Shabazz one day becomes the wife of Malcolm X, but this book is a fictionalized story of her childhood. Renee Watson worked with Betty’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, using many real-life historical details from four years of Betty’s life so that this was as close to true history as possible. It was a very enjoyable storyline sprinkled with both joy and sadness, and I learned a lot about the culture of black communities in Detroit during the 1940s. While Betty experienced great pain during those critical coming-of-age years, the theme of counting your blessings and planting seeds (to reap later) was greatly reinforced. This book has received multiple starred reviews and I am happy to recommend it!
AWARDS: New York Public Library Best Children’s Book (2018), Washington Post Best Children’s Book (2018), Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018, A CSMCL Best Book of 2018, 2019 NCSS Notable Social Studies Book for Young People, an Amelia Bloomer List Feminist Literature Selection
Forget Me Not
Heather Costa, Narrator
Matt Godfrey, Narrator
March 14, 2017
Feiwel & Friends
This beautiful novel is told from two perspectives: Calliope (Calli) June, who is new to town, and Jinsong, who is the class president at her new school (Calli’s chapters are written in verse and Jinsong’s are written in prose). Calli has Tourette syndrome and works unsuccessfully to hide her embarrassing tics. She faces cruel bullies who seek to tear her down at every corner as she struggles to fit in. Jinsong is different from the other kids at school, he sees beyond her syndrome and wants to be a true friend. But will Jinsong be courageous enough to defend Calli publicly, even if it might damage his reputation? NOTE: This is another very important #ownvoices book as Ellie Terry has Tourette’s and understands the difficulties and raw emotions that Calli expresses. We need more books like this in our school libraries and public libraries!
AWARDS: AML Award Nominee for Middle Grade Novel (2017)
The Remember Balloons
Dana Wulfekotte, illustrator
August 28, 2018
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
This beautiful picture book addresses the very difficult topic of dementia in a way that children can understand. In this story, memories are represented by colorful balloons. Grandpa has the most balloons of everyone and his stories are “better than ponies and chocolate frosting.” One day, the young child in the story begins to see Grandpa losing his balloons as he gets stuck telling the same story, repeatedly. This is utterly heartbreaking until the child realizes that he now has many of his grandfather’s balloons and he can re-share the stories that Grandpa cannot remember.
My great grandfather and my grandfather both suffered greatly from dementia. My grandfather passed away just this past year and he was our family storyteller, so this book really hit home for me. The artwork was rendered in pencil, colored pencil, ink, gouache, and Photoshop featuring people drawn in black and white with colorful balloons throughout. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below.
AWARDS: Schneider Family Book Award Nominee for Young Children (2019)
William Pene Du Bois, illustrator
May 10, 1972
Someone in our #imwayr blogging community recently mentioned this book (I cannot remember who), so I immediately requested it be shipped in from another library. William’s Doll was published the year I was born (1972)! It begins with:
William wanted a doll.
He wanted to hug it
and cradle it in his arms…
And somehow this is a problem for William’s brother and a neighborhood boy who call him creep and sissy. And it seems to be a problem for his father because he immediately purchases him a basketball and hoop and a train set with a cool track. William enjoyed his father’s gifts, but he still wanted a doll. Thankfully, William’s grandmother knows better — she says William is simply preparing for fatherhood.
I’m certain that little boys are still made fun of when they play with dolls, dress up in dresses, or put on make-up today, but I’m glad to see we at least have more children’s literature and conversations about gender stereotyping. The artwork is pretty basic by modern picture book standards (one example, below), but overall this was definitely a bold children’s book for the time period in which it was published!
Reading Challenge Updates: