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!
Among my books this week are two ARCs that are being published this month: More to the Story by Hena Khan (published last week), and Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (being published 9/17). Whether it’s a brand new book or something else, I hope you find something to add to your wish list.
More to the Story
September 3, 2019
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
This lovely book follows the lives of four Muslim American sisters who live in Georgia: Aleeza is 10, Bizma is 11, Jameela Mirza is 13, and Maryam is 15. While not always obvious, the story is based on Louisa May Alcott’s beloved Little Women. In fact, I had forgotten this little fact when something happened in the story and I thought, Hey, that reminds me a lot of Little Women! It’s told from the perspective of the second oldest sister, Jameela Mirza, who has just been given the position of feature editor of her middle school newspaper. She hopes to write an award-winning article for the school paper this year and send it to her Baba (father) who has to been sent overseas for a 6-month position. Meanwhile, their father’s best friend (who the sisters lovingly refer to as “uncle”) brings his nephew, Ali, to Georgia from London.
While this was a fairly short book, each character is well developed. The plot line is nicely paced and the sisters share noticeable similarities to the March sister counterparts while also having their own personalities and unique experiences. Neatly woven into the story are important holidays and customs, and I especially appreciated the careful attention to explaining microagressions in a way that young readers can understand. I enjoyed this one so much and highly recommend it for any children’s and young teen library.
My sincere thanks to Netgalley, Salaam Reads, and Simon & Schuster for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
If you’ve read Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, then surely you’ve grown attached to Aven, Connor, and Zion. These characters shared the misfortune of being left out, bullied, and gawked at for much of their lives before finding comfort in one another. Well in book #2, Zion is still fairly timid, struggling to make eye contact. Connor still has continual tics due to Tourette syndrome. And Aven is still armless, obviously. But things are pumped up a notch as the friends enter high school with Connor going to a different school across town AND Aven attracting the attention of one of the most popular high school athletes.
School aside, there are plenty of other happenings in Stagecoach Pass: their beloved llama, Spaghetti, appears to be very ill, Henry’s memory seems to be worsening, Josephine is navigating her new life in an assisted living community, Aven is learning to jump a horse, and she suddenly has a desire to find her biological father. I LOVED THIS SECOND BOOK!!! I can’t even express how happy I was to be reunited with these lovely characters. I adore Aven’s quirky sense of humor and the way she faces and resolves conflict with her friends. I laughed and cried throughout the story, feeling all the feels. It’s no surprise that book #1 still has a 4.34 Goodreads rating and book #2 already has a STARRED review from Kirkus. Do yourself a favor and pre-order it right now!
August 13, 2019
Katherine Tegen Books
This cover is absolutely gorgeous! But I’ll warn you that this story is WAY more than a cutesy dog story. Young Piper’s family has hit very hard times with both her parents out of work. They initially wind up in a homeless shelter where fathers must be separated from the mothers and children while hoping family placement will open up soon. They must now wait in long lines for food from a soup kitchen and the children ride the homeless bus to their new school.
Piper’s family is just like everyone else’s — full of love, hope, and joy. However, her family faces shame and embarrassment by others who judge their misfortune. Piper finds comfort in Firefly Girls Troop 423 where she gets to focus on earning badges, just like she did back in her old home. And when someone in their homeless community is sick, hospitalized, and separated from her beloved companion dog, it’s the entire community (homed and homeless) that comes together in hopes of getting her back to safety.
With both joy and sadness, there are important messages of empathy in this heartfelt tale. Because we never know when it might be OUR family standing in that free food line. Readers will also discover that people who are homeless are often the most generous of all — AND that it certainly doesn’t take blood and genetics to be family. This will be a well-loved book for middle grade readers!
The Bear and the Nightingale
(Winternight Trilogy #1)
by Katherine Arden
January 10, 2017
Del Rey Books
I know very little of Russian folklore, but MY OH MY what an enchanting tale. This one was on my #MustReadin2019 list and I loved it so much that I’m going to have to start book #2 very soon. As the story takes place in a very cold Russia, it’s especially great for a winter read — perhaps when the ground is covered in snow and you need to snuggle up by the fire!
I’m not sure how much to share about the actual story without saying too much, but it’s historical fiction loaded with fantasy. It spans a number of years with a girl named Vasilisa at the center of the story. There’s evil creatures and magical abilities threaded throughout the tale. That’s seriously all I’m going to say. 🙂 I’m very much looking forward to hearing more of Vasilisa’s story, even if I hear book #2 begins with a great deal of political unease.
AWARDS: Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2018), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy & for Debut Goodreads Author (2017), HWA Debut Crown Nominee for Longlist (2017)
To Be Read:
This week I’m just going to focus on finishing Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School by Dr. Carla Shalaby. It’s a fairly short book, but I need time to read individual chapters, to think about each one, and to take it all in. If I get to more on my #MustReadin2019 reading list then that’s just icing on the cake. But I’m certainly thinking about this one a lot and enjoying the read, so far!
Reading Challenge Updates: