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!
It’s Labor Day Weekend and we’ve been entertaining one of my daughter’s very best friends who moved two states away just three years ago. They have birthdays two weeks apart (straddling August and September), so we had to celebrate. We took the girls on a short road trip and rented them their own hotel room for Sunday evening (in the same hotel where her parents were staying, of course), so they had a BLAST! But I’m admittedly exhausted and running much later than normal on posting this week’s IMWAYR post — a full 24 hours late, in fact! I’ll slowly make my rounds the next couple days…
Today, I’m reviewing two ARCs due for publication this week. Trevor Lee and the Big Uh Oh! was published on Sunday and Some Places More than Others was just published TODAY. Whether it’s a new publication or not, I hope you’ll find something to add to your reading list. 🙂
Trevor Lee and the Big Uh Oh!
Marta Kissi, illustrator
September 1, 2019
One ELM Press
Trevor Lee is a third grade boy who is great at math, but who struggles with reading. In fact, Trevor is so nervous about having to read aloud that he wets his pants in front of everyone on the first day of school when his teacher asks him to read. Eeek! Trevor’s saving grace is his grandma, Mamaw McGee, who sits with him at home and encourages him to keep trying to read and to not give up when it gets tough. At the very end, we learn there’s a reason Trevor’s Mamaw was so persistent and it reminds us that we never know what each other’s challenges are unless we share. At the conclusion, we discover that the story is based on the author’s personal trials.
One of my brothers is dyslexic and dysgraphic and I remember, so well, his painful trials through school. He was diagnosed when he was in 3rd grade, during a time when educators didn’t know much about his disability. For a child experiencing that level of frustration, this book will served as a mirror, providing a few humorous snickers in the midst of painful understanding. And while this story wasn’t intended to go into the realistic details of identifying a learning disability and providing service (in fact, we are never told explicitly if Trevor Lee has a disability or if he just slipped through the cracks during his first three years of school), I do hope that any child who can identify with Trevor will get the help they need and not merely be forced to read aloud (ESPECIALLY in front of a crowd of people).
Thanks to NetGallery and One ELM Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Some Places More Than Others
September 3, 2019
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
It’s rare to read a book with so few pages that can tackle very difficult topics and yet leave the reader feeling such resolve. Watson did just that in Some Places More than Others. Amara lives in Beaverton, Oregon with her mother and father. She’s an only child and has watched her mom go through multiple miscarriages. Her mom is finally pregnant again with a little girl and Amara doesn’t quite know how she feels about this pregnancy since she’s long past hoping for a sibling.
Amara’s dad grew up in Harlem where her grandfather and cousins all still live. And over the course of the book, she discovers that her father and grandfather haven’t spoken since the day Amara was born. As luck would have it, Amara’s class is doing a suitcase project where she must look at her family and include all sorts of important pieces (pictures, poems, small items, etc.) that help define where she comes from. So for her 12th birthday, she asks to go to New York, tour the area, and get to know her family roots. However, she has NO idea how her experiences will change her life and outlook forever.
The characters in this story are so realistic and relatable. I personally hurt through Amara’s recognition of the broken relationship, knowing what it feels like to be a child witnessing confusing conflict between the ones we love. Additionally, rarely is miscarriage discussed from a child’s point of view. But Watson’s examination was so eloquent — showcasing the confusion and evident pain through young eyes. I also appreciated the bits and pieces of black history weaved into the heart of the story — I was reminded of important events and even learned about new ones. Oh my, I heartily recommend this one for both middle grade and young adult libraries. Thanks to NetGallery and Bloomsbury for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Next Great Paulie Fink
April 16, 2019
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Let me first just say: I ADORED THIS BOOK — it was such a unique tale and incredibly heart-felt at points. In short: Caitlyn Breen is new to Mitchell, Vermont and is starting her first day on seventh grade at Mitchell School. One of the first things she learns upon entering the school is that Paulie Fink is missing. Fink was a long-term legendary student in the same class and, without warning, he just didn’t show up to school this year.
Told with interspersed interviews from different viewpoints, we come to know each character very personally. I also appreciated how Benjamin wove history lessons (for example: Ancient Greece and scapegoats), literature discussions (for example: Shakespeare poking fun at people), and science topics (ecosystems) into the story, showcasing how these topics were quite relevant to modern life and relationships. Ultimately, the reader learns a valuable lesson about how limited our perceptions are when we look at others. Oh my goodness, while there are some more somber moments, I seriously laughed in this one. I mean, EVERY student has their own dance, statues are erected, and there are GOATS at this school! The depth of this story took me by surprise and I truly hope it will find a home in many school and public libraries, this year!
Pride and Prejudice
My apologies if I didn’t use your favorite book cover for Pride and Prejudice. There are SO many covers that have been used over the last 200 years, but the book I read was just your basic 435-paged yellow clothbound book. I would love to know if you remember what the cover looked like on the one you first read!
This book truly needs no introduction at all. Along with the popularity of the original, there are many re-tellings and even big screens renditions. So I’ll just share some of the feelings I had as I read this. First, I both listened to some of it and read other portions and there was an excellent Preface in the audiobook that discussed Austen’s life and writing career — including the publication of Pride and Prejudice. How amazing that, in her very short lifetime, she published such important novels that have withstood the test of time, challenging and changing the view of the world and relationships for so many.
One of the things that always jumps out at me when I read books about life from this time period (and this class) is how people spent their time and entertained themselves. There were both formal and informal visitors who arrived without warning and who were instantly invited in. Someone might play the piano or guitar or begin dancing or start a card game on the stop or do needlework or even read a few chapters of a book to attentive visitors. I don’t know if it’s fair to judge whether our modern world is any worse or better with the constant social stream and posted photos (that say so much and yet nothing at all), but there’s a huge part of my heart that longs to participate in a world where things were crafted with such great care, where conversation (and listening) was important, and where people deeply missed one another and wrote long, detailed letters about feelings and happenings.
Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. -Mr. Darcy
But before I romanticize the time period, I also realize how difficult society was on women, in particular. In any case, the fictional Elizabeth Bennett certainly marched to the beat of her own drum and ignited the dreams and passions of other women who likely felt oppressed and forced into roles they weren’t intended to take. Aaaaand now I have the difficult task of deciding which Jane Austen book to read next.
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.
Rescue & Jessica:
A Life-Changing Friendship
Jessica Kensky, Patrick Downes
Scott Magoon, illustrator
April 3, 2018
Both Rescue and Jessica’s lives have taken different paths than what they expected. Rescue was originally intended to be a Seeing Eye dog. But one day, his trainer realizes he’s meant to work beside his partner as a service dog, instead. Meanwhile, Jessica (who’s illustrated as a young girl) endured an accident and had to have part of her leg removed. When these two are paired, the world becomes a better place for both.
For children, this book will allow many questions and answers as it showcases illustrations of Jessica after her first surgery and again after her second surgery. They can see her in a wheelchair, using and falling with her crutches, and the artwork even showcases a close up image of her prosthetic legs. Furthermore, Rescue is shown hard a work doing his chores and also playing with Jessica in the park. If read in a group setting, be prepared for lots of active discussion! 🙂
The back matter provides an Author’s Note explaining the real life friendship of Jessica Kensky and Rescue (who was named in honor of the Worcester, Massachusetts firefighter Jon Davies who gave his life in the line of duty on December 8, 2011). Also included is information about NEADS, the organization that trains Service Dogs, and a photograph of Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes who both lost their legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
AWARDS: Schneider Family Book Award for Young Children (2019), Monarch Award Nominee (2020)
The artwork for this book was created digitally. I’ll provide one of my favorite page-spreads as an example, below:
This is a lovely picture book biography that shares the lives of Venus and Serena Williams. When they were children, the neighborhood laughed at their father for dreaming big for his daughters. But he wasn’t about to give up — both he and his wife got on the courts with their daughters and worked with them. The girls ran track to improve their speed while practicing ballet to improve flexibility. And I was surprised to learn their father bused in loads of neighborhood kids to taunt the sisters while they practiced, purposefully asking them to say mean things to build up the sisters’ emotional skin.
“Nothing can keep me from celebrating when my best friend wins a match.”
It’s clear to see that, while highly competitive with one another, they were also the very best of friends. It brought tears to my eyes to read about the time Venus sprinted off the court and up into the stands to grab her camera and capture Serena’s victory against her. What excellent examples of athletic dedication AND human character!
AWARDS: Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee (2020), NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee (2019), Winner of 2018 Eureka Silver Award for Excellence in Nonfiction (CA Reading Association).
The artwork in this book was rendered in cut paper, pencil, and acrylic paints. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:
To Be Read:
I’m finishing up an ARC of More to the Story by Hena Khan this week (loving it!) and we also have a #MustReadin2019 challenge check-in on Thursday. So I plan to finish up both Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School by Carla Shalaby and Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling for that challenge. I’m currently listening to The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden as an audiobook and should finish that in the next day or two. Soooo good!
Reading Challenge Updates:
I’m updating my Goodreads goal to 250 since I reached 200, last week. And I can already tell I’ll be cutting it very close on my #MustReadin2019 challenge. I’m now considering which 3 or 4 of my books I might have to place back on my “must read” list for 2020, but I’ll keep pushing ahead through December.