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!
Thanks for visiting and I hope you find something from this week’s readings to add to your reading list!
For Black Girls Like Me
Mariama J. Lockington
July 30, 2019
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
This is a painful and powerful story that examines sisterhood, mental health, suicide, and transracial adoption. Makeda (Keda) June Kirkland is black and she was adopted by a white family as a baby. In the opening chapters of this book, her family is making a big move from Maryland to New Mexico. Sadly, this means Keda is leaving behind her best friend, Lena, who happens to be the only other adopted black girl she knows. With an older sister who seems too good for her, a father who has left the country for a while, and a mother who is potentially mentally unstable, Keda struggles to figure out where she belongs. She navigates racism and constant confusion by those who assume she doesn’t belong with her white family. Thankfully, Keda and Lena find a way to continue their conversations through secret messaging. But can this long distance e-friendship carry her through the difficulty that lies ahead? NOTE: This is an #ownvoices novel as Mariama J. Lockington was a transracial adoptee, herself.
June 5, 2018
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
I’m very glad I made sure to squeeze this book into my reading, this summer. The multi-layer story is full of hand-written notes, texts, poetry, newspaper articles, comics, research, and more — all pulled together to fill out the edges with multiple perspectives and a crazy summer experience. The Wolf Creek Community is preparing a Time Capsule project that will not be opened for another 50 years. Students are asked to submit letters and photos to be included and shared with the future citizens of Wolf Creek. At the same time, there’s a prison breakout and the community is required to live in a semi-lockdown all summer long. One of the new residents of Wolf Creek is Elidee Jones. She is one of the only black people in the school and she has only moved to Wolf Creek so that she and her mom can visit her older brother, Troy, who is a new prison inmate. Before too long, the students are examining their own behaviors, researching statistics on ethnic ratios of the prison, and recognizing the many forms of racism found right in their cozy little community. Did this book need an introduction at this point — over a year after its release? Maybe not. But I had to give it a big thumbs up because it will both entertain enlighten young readers on matters of every day racism — and it’s just so engaging with the variety of contributions from townspeople. I sure hope it’s being well-circulated in school and public libraries, everywhere!
John Rocco, illustrator
May 21, 2019
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
A young boy is going into 1st grade, but before school begins his family goes on their yearly camping trip. We learn that the boy is being asked to take on more responsibilities in his home life and that he will miss Kindergarten. As his family arrives at the campground, he’s quite surprised when a tiger shows up. Even more surprising — the tiger talks and his parents don’t seem to mind him being there and interacting with the young boy. In the beginning we see that the boy is simply wearing an orange shirt. But as he and the tiger bond, the illustrations change in the darker night scenes where shadows throw tiger stripes on the boy’s shirt and across his face. He is growing brave and strong with the tiger by his side. This one is definitely a fantastical story about growing up and it will encourage great conversation for the Littles in your life. Was there really a tiger? What did this encounter mean? Why is the boy afraid of forgetting at the end? 🙂
The gorgeous artwork in this book was created using a watercolor sketch and wash pencil and then adding the color digitally. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
This picture book is kickstarted by an Introduction written by Neil deGrasse Tyson where he says, “Scientists are kids who never lost their natural childhood curiosity about the world.” And that’s exactly what this book reminds me of — the importance of encouraging that childhood wonder of learning about the universe and hoping that it never disappears. Berne takes us through little Neil’s childhood (where he walked dogs to save up for his first telescope), into college and graduate school where he continued to learn about black holes and distant galaxies, and all the way to present day where he is still amazed by the world around us. The colorful backgrounds and 3D feeling of the artwork encourage the reader to examine the minute details of the entire page. I was also very pleased with the text size, which will work well for both younger and older readers. The back matter includes a glossary of terms, a list of sources on Neil deGrasse Tyson, and a list of other sources on the universe. Also interesting was the Author’s Note which explained that years ago, as new author, she mailed three manuscripts of her stories about the seas, our planet, and the cosmos with her hero, Neil deGrasse Tyson. He graciously responded with encouragement to keep writing. How would Berne ever have guessed that twelve years later she would be contacted by HarperCollins about writing the picture book biography of Neil deGrasse Tyson?!
The artist, Lorraine Nam, used paper, glue, colored pencils, a camera, and Adobe Photoshop to create the illustrations for this book. Each page leaves the reader feeling like you can reach inside each picture and touch the objects or people. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
Ebony Glenn, illustrator
April 3, 2018
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
In this picture book, a young Muslim girl plays dress-up and has grand adventures in her mother’s khimars. She becomes a mama bird, a superhero, and more as she flitters about. She also takes a trip to the mosque where she meets with other children in class (who are not wearing a khimar). And she has a visit from her grandmother who exclaims “Sweet Jesus!” and who does not go to mosque, but they love one another just the same. I really appreciate that this book explains that a khimar might also be called a hijab, possibly a more familiar term to some children.
The bright and colorful artwork in this book was rendered digitally. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
AWARDS: Selected as a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness
Tiger vs. Nightmare
November 6, 2018
Young tiger has a monster who sleeps at the end of her bed every night. Mom and Dad think it’s so cute that Tiger has an imaginary friend to talk to and play games with, but little do they know that monster has a huge job every single night. This picture book, created in graphic novel style, is excellent for discussing nightmares and the power we have over them. I read it with my five year old (who has been having nightmares about snakes) and she took it all in, laughing at some scenes and listening intently through others. We decided to choose which one of her stuffed animals is her monster to sit on the edge of her bed every night.
The front pages tell us that the book was painted with Prima Marketing and Windsor & Newton watercolors on Arches watercolor paper, penciled with Papermate and Tomato mechanical pencils, and digitally edited and assembled in Photoshop. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of the artwork, below:
AWARDS: Geisel Award Nominee (2019)
To Be Read:
I’m over halfway through Becoming by Michelle Obama and LOVING it!! I used the hardcover book to look at all the wonderful photographs, but I’m listening to the audiobook because I heard such good feedback from others on Michelle Obama’s personal narration. I would also like to finish Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby. Then I have at least five ARCs that are being published in September that I need to finish reading/reviewing over the next few weeks, so I’m looking forward to finishing and sharing those.