It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/12/2019 #imwayr

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!

Our small town library finally ordered all the Kidlit award-winners and nominees in late July, so I’m catching up on any that I missed reading back in 2018. This week, that list includes When Angels Sing by Michael Mahin and Jose Ramirez, Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Sala, and What Do you Do with a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton and Ekua Holmes. Award-winner or not, hopefully you’ll find something that looks interesting.


The Miraculous
Jess Redman
July 30, 2019
Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan

“As long as there were caskets so small, there were no miracles.”

11-year-old Wunder Ellis has been a miracolagist for as long as his town can remember. He records wondrous events that have happened all over his town — in fact, over 1,000 of these events have been meticulously written down in his special book over the years. But all that comes to an abrupt stop when his baby sister dies after only living for 8 days. Little does he know that his sister’s burial marks the beginning of an unusual adventure for Wunder. For he must face his demons with both grief and gratitude. This is a story of friendship, of pain, of wonder, of community, and of healing.

Can we all take a moment to admire that gorgeous cover? Yet another book jacket I would be happy to frame and hang in my home. I also wanted to point out that Jess Redmon is a therapist. Few authors have the bravery necessary to address such a weighty topic for a middle grade audience, but she clearly understands the value of examining this difficult journey. There’s also a teacher’s guide available at the publisher’s website for anyone who might be using this one in the classroom.

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


The Great Jeff
Tony Abbott
March 19, 2019
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

This is the story of 8th grader, Jeff Hicks. He’s in a bad situation, but none of it is his fault. His father left Jeff and his mom, his best friend ditched him, his mom drinks too much and lost yet another job, and they’re being kicked out of their home. Oh, and did I mention that he’s having to attend public middle school because they cannot afford his tuition for St. Catherine’s?

This one was tough to read at times, but there were valuable lessons on friendship, forgiveness, and family. And I honestly laughed until I had tears in my eyes during some of the middle school banter. There were times during my childhood when I felt like we didn’t have money and that I didn’t fit in, but I never experienced this level of fear and uncertainty — of not knowing when I could eat or where I was going to sleep or if my parents would take care of me. The Great Jeff offers an important window and mirror on poverty and family dysfunction for today’s readers.

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


When Angels Sing
The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana
Michael Mahin
Jose Ramirez, illustrator
September 4, 2018
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Spanish words are woven into the English text as we learn of Carlos Santana’s interest in music, starting with the clarinet, then the trumpet, and then the violin. Then one day, his father shipped him a battered guitar and he loved it. Of course, life wasn’t always easy for Santana. He struggled with racism, with being held back a grade when teachers thought he was dumb, and with trying to figure out where he belonged. But after facing such darkness, hatred, and pain in the world, he eventually looked within to find the angels he so desperately sought.

The colorful illustrations were rendered in acrylic and enamel markers on canvas. Several pages have the year watermarked on the page-spread for readers to know when different events took place. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:


If you’ll remember, I’ve been collecting good picture book titles that will work well with the “Music for the Classroom Teacher” course I teach. As with all subject matters, including literature is one of the best ways to expose children to a topic. I especially get excited to see picture books showing how little events in one’s childhood can make huge differences in their future. And When Angels Sing definitely falls into this category.

AWARDS: Sibert Medal Nominee (2019), Pura Belpré Award Nominee for Illustrator (2019)

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor:
The Woman Who Loved Reptiles
Patricia Valdez
Felicita Sala, illustrator
March 13, 2018
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Joan Procter had an interest in reptiles from an early age. One day, she reached out to the curator at the Natural History Museum and began learning far more details about reptiles. As it happened, the museum became short-staffed due to the war, so Joan was offered a job. She had artistic skills that allowed her to create models and drawings for the reptile exhibits. When the men returned from the war, Joan was in charge of the museum and was very capable. We learn that she was particularly interested in the Komodo dragon and she bonded with two that were shipped to the London Zoo where she’d created their enclosure. From that point on, she became an international sensation, not only caring for the Reptile house and performing surgeries, but by sharing her scientific research with the world. She was seen walking or riding in her wheel chair all over the zoo with her Komodo dragon, Sumbawa, walking by her side. Sadly, Joan passed away in her sleep at the age of 34 due to complications of her chronic illness. The back matter includes more details on Joan Beauchamp Procter, on Komodo Dragons, and a Bibliography for further reading.

I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of the artwork in this picture book:


AWARDS: NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee (2019), Monarch Award Nominee (2020)

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?:
The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman
Barbara Jordan
Chris Barton
Ekua Holmes, illustrator
September 25, 2018
Beach Lane Books

I learned so much about Barbara Jordan in this beautiful picture book and I couldn’t help but look for videos on Youtube so that I could hear her bold voice. Jordan attended law school, then went on to the Texas state senate, then to the United States congress. She spoke with power and authority on discrimination and didn’t back down on the especially difficult situation with President Nixon:

“My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”

Jordan had been struggling with multiple sclerosis and this eventually led her to head home to become a college teacher where she could encourage students to go out and continue the hard work. It was a tremendous loss when she died at the young age of 59, but the book ends with a call to make sure our own voices are heard. The back matter includes an Author’s Note followed by a fairly detailed timeline from Jordan’s birth in 1936 to her death in 1996, even noting President Clinton’s words at her funeral: “When Barbara Jordan talked, we listened.” The illustrations in this book were rendered in mixed media. I really liked the collaged look using different textures and patterns. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:


I also had to share the following video from the Democratic National Convention in 1976 where Barbara Jordan was the keynote speaker. The applause began and continued for over 2 minutes straight before she could even be properly introduced. I felt the tears leaking as I witnessed the outpouring of love and adoration — what a powerful presence!

AWARDS: NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee (2019)

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.

To Be Read:

I’m just about halfway through Breakout by Kate Messner, and I’m one-third of the way through Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington. I have a pile of books ready to go once I finish these two, so we’ll just see how far I get this week.

Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 189/200
#MustReadin2019 – 22/42

20 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/12/2019 #imwayr

  1. I wish my library had The Miraculous. At least it is on my to read list so that if they don’t eventually bring it in, I can suggest it as a purchase. I loved When Angels Sing and Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: Elementary students from K to grade 7 were enthralled by it too. I’ll be looking forward to reading What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? It sounds like the perfect book for Black History month.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Miraculous sure tackled a difficult topic — can you think of another children’s title that discusses infant loss? And I was very pleased with all the picture book award winners, this week. I’m so glad I took the time to watch the Youtube video to give me a glimpse into Barbara Jordan’s powerful presence. Thank you for swinging by, Cheriee!


  2. The Miraculous and The Great Jeff both look like awesome novels. I’ll definitely have to check them out. Thanks for sharing and have a terrific week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both were heartbreaking for very different reasons. But each are important contributions to children’s libraries. You have a wonderful week, too, Jana! Thank you for dropping by.


  3. The Miraculous sounds like a difficult, but great read. I just recommended my library get a copy. I read The Breakout a while ago, I’m interested to see what your thoughts are!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There really has been a lovely trickling in of good picturebook biographies. I am so very pleased to see the effort and information (and variety of artwork) going into these books!! Thank you for swinging by, Jane!


  4. I really enjoyed The Miraculous and Breakout. The Great Jeff looks really interesting. There have been a number of really good books tackling poverty in the last two years. You mentioned books dealing with infant loss, and I seem to be seeing several books dealing with grief lately. Things You Can’t Say was one I read and enjoyed this week in which a boy’s father has passed and Hazel’s Theory of Evolution is one in which a child reflects on a mother’s two miscarried children. Thanks for all the shares.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve encountered more recent books on grief. I’m so glad they’re tackling this topic from numerous positions. I can’t think of another one I’ve read that specifically dealt with the death of a baby (for middle grade readers), but I’m glad to hear about Hazel’s Theory of Evolution. I know it may make some people uncomfortable, but having personally experienced this form of loss I realize how important it is for children to be able to consider how that grief impacts a whole family and to vicariously begin to process all those big life questions. Thanks for swinging by, Aaron — have a great reading week!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I adore middle grade reads — when I read my YA and adult books, I sometimes miss the vulnerability that comes with the middle grade characters (and the questions they’re not afraid to ask). I’m amazed at the social issues being addressed in MGlit, these days. I only wish I’d had access to more of this type of reading when I was that age. Thank you so much for dropping by, Sue. Have a wonderful reading week!


    1. I can’t help but believe that animals just know when I person is their friend. And Joan Procter was definitely a friend of the komodo dragon. After hearing about her lectures, and how she would just let one roam around the crowd, I’m sad I never got to attend one. And I completely agree on the diversity of art. Having a couple artists in our family, I really appreciate when the book specifies how the artwork was created. Thank you for dropping by, Stefanie!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I got to Skype with Patricia Valdez and also met her at NerdcampMi this summer and I can’t wait to see more books from her. My students loved Joan Procter and her dragons. Such an awesome book and interesting person. The nonfiction picture book choices we have now are pretty amazing.


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