It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10/21/2019 #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!

Eaten by a T-Rex

Let’s see… we arrived back home from our fall vacation in one piece. In last week’s #imwayr post, I shared two family photos of our trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens and to Echo Lake. Then after I posted, my 16-year-old took a tour of the University of Colorado Denver followed by a whole family trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (where they were having FREE admission all day)! Unfortunately, we did not have any luck finding my childhood home in Denver *sniff*, but we visited Evergreen where I saw our old church building (where my family attended in the late 70s). YAY! We had an all-round great time and have decided October is a very nice (and beautiful) time of year to travel. However, after we arrived back home safe and sound, we awoke the following morning to family colds with fevers. One of my children was actually running 105° according to the thermometer. Eeek! I’m just so grateful that we made it back home before feeling any icky symptoms.

Despite all the illness, I truly had a remarkable week of reading, so I’m excited to share some great titles. Also, today I’m reviewing two new books from Netgalley: Friend or Fiction by Abby Cooper and You Are Home With Me by Sarah Asper-Smith and illustrated by Mitchell Watley. Thank you for visiting and I hope you find something of interest here to add to your reading wish list!


Friend or Fiction
Abby Cooper
October 8, 2019

12-year-old Jade Levy writes stories. Since she doesn’t have a best friend anymore, she creates a fictional one named Zoe. They have all sorts of adventures together and Jade even enjoys spending her lunch period creating more episodes in her notebook.

Jade’s father has cancer and he finds comfort in listening to Jade’s stories. But one day, her friend Clue takes her writing notebook away without explanation. And when a real-life Zoe suddenly moves in next door, looking and acting exactly like the fictional Zoe, Jade is both excited and worried. What did Clue do to her writing notebook? Is Zoe really here to stay? But most of all: Can Jade trust Zoe to make the right decisions or do they need to be tediously detailed in her notebook?

Filled with magical realism, this story is one of hope and bonding. We clearly see that friendships are messy. Every day cannot be perfect and fun and everything we’ve ever dreamed about. We have all had to learn, at one time or another, that having friends doesn’t mean we don’t experience loneliness. And this point is such an important lesson for Jade to digest if she wants to be a good friend. I also appreciated that the story dives into how to write and how to trust your readers to fill in the gaps. This gave me pause as I thought back over the books I’ve read where the author gave me just enough for my imagination to fill in the cracks as well as the books that fed me every last detail. There’s so much content here for open discussion with young readers and writers!

Thanks to Netgalley and Charlesbridge for approving an e-ARC so that I could provide an honest review. This title published on October 8th, so run out and grab a fresh copy!

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 Story That Cannot Be Told
J. Kasper Kramer
October 8, 2019
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

This is J. Kasper Kramer’s middle grade debut and WOW did it knock my socks off. I HIGHLY recommend! It’s longer than the typical middle grade read and there are such complexities that the young adult and adult crowd may enjoy it even more. So I’d aim more for upper middle grade and older. The writing often reminded me of The Bear and the Nightingale, if you’re familiar with Arden’s beautiful word-weaving and folklore.

Ileana loves to share stories and change them when they aren’t exciting enough. In fact, she is named for a character in a folktale who was clever and wise. But she soon learns that stories can be used to spread the “wrong” message and her family eventually discovers the government is bugging and investigating their home. Now Ileana must escape her city and travel to a small village to live with her estranged grandparents until the coast is clear. But as more experiences, tales, and histories are shared, fantastical elements become intertwined with reality.

As I said previously, this one is definitely not just for middle grade readers (even though the main character is that age). All ages can treasure this story! Since it’s historical fiction, and so well-researched, it would pair beautifully with a study of Communist Romania in the 1980s.

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.


Strange Birds: A Field Guide
to Ruffling Feathers
Celia C. Pérez
September 3, 2019

I adored Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk (which won the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award and was nominated for both the Pura Belpré Award and Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award), so it’s no surprise that I grabbed up Strange Birds as soon as it became available at my library. In this story, four different girls are brought together through a mysterious invitation. Ofelia Castillo is Cuban-American and a budding journalist, Aster Douglas is black and a bookish foodie, Cat Garcia is a birdwatcher who is breaking all sorts of rules by skipping her Floras meetings, and Lane DiSanti is an artistic girl visiting her extravagantly wealthy grandparents. Their first few meetings are prickly and they find very little in common, but over time they discover a purpose as they combine talents and resources to pull off their elaborate plans. Friendship, activism, and family relationships are beautifully addressed in this story, but what I appreciated most was how racism and privilege were weaved into the scenes and dialogue. So important for the middle grade crowd!

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.


Dead Voices
(Small Spaces #2)
Katherine Arden
August 27, 2019
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Back in January I read and reviewed Small Spaces, book one to this series. So I was excited to hear Dead Voices was released! The story picks up just a couple months after the first one. Ollie, Coco, and Brian are heading off to a ski trip over winter break with Ollie’s father and Coco’s mother. Once they arrive at the resort, a massive storm hits and they lose power. They also discover that no one else came to the resort this week except for a man by the name of Mr. Voland who claims he’s a ghost hunter who wants to investigate reported hauntings. Yep, you heard that correctly — long ago, Mount Hemlock Resort was once an orphanage with a frightening nun named Mother Hemlock. And apparently some children never made it out and still haunt the facility today. Will Ollie, Coco, and Brian have the resources and wisdom to get their family off the mountain and back home safely?

I like to read a few spooky books in October, and this one sure hit the spot. It looks like this series will have four books — one for each season. Small Spaces was the fall edition and Dead Voices was the winter edition, so we still have spring and summer to go.

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.


You Are Home with Me
Sarah Asper-Smith
Mitchell Watley, illustrator
November 12, 2019
Little Bigfoot

This is an adorable picture book showcasing a variety of species nurturing their offspring. Each page spread includes a gorgeous new image with a parent and young animal along with a factoid about their kind. For example: Flying squirrels don’t actually fly, but glide from tree to tree with their arms and legs outstretched. The pages document all types of life from land dwelling animals, to birds, to sea creatures. The beautiful illustrations provide soft, soothing colors with scenes in daylight, at nighttime, in the snow, and even underwater. The final page concludes with what appears to be a human father and son and the sentiment of always having a home with a loving parent. This is a very sweet book that would make a comforting read, including right before bedtime for younger children who need reassurance of being safe and loved. Thanks to Netgalley, Sasquatch Books, Sarah Asper-Smith, and Mitchell Watley for providing me with an e-ARC for review. This title releases November 12, 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.

Currently Reading/To Be Read:

I started Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao on audiobook and I could barely make myself stop listening to get this week’s post together. And I hope to start Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley some time this week. Also, the college library just gave me a review copy of Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide by Sylvia M. Vardell for consideration. Dr. Vardell was my personal mentor back when I was in library school, so I’m eager to explore the latest edition of her textbook!

Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 240/250
#MustReadin2019 – 29/42

18 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10/21/2019 #imwayr

  1. Oh, I can’t wait to get to Our Wayward Fate. It was one of my most anticipated reads this year. Strange Birds sounds great, I also need to read The First Rule of Punk, which has been on my TBR for a long time.

    Have a great week, hope everyone recovers soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew practically nothing about Our Wayward Fate when I started it — I was just on the wait list for when it arrived since it was a 2019 title. But I’m totally into it! And I am officially a huge Celia C. Pérez fan. Loved BOTH First Rule of Punk and Strange Birds. I hope you’re able to grab one of them in the coming months, Wendi. Thank you for visiting!


  2. So glad you and your family were able to have such a wonderful time on your trip. Friend or Fiction was a fun read. The rest of your books will definitely go on my list. Thanks for sharing and have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was quite a fun and relaxing vacation (which is sometimes hard to do with larger families when you’re visiting lots of touristy sites). Denver is only about 5 hours from here, so it was a pretty easy drive down since the snow stopped the day before. And I agree about Friend or Fiction. I had this foreboding feeling just over halfway through and was relieved when things didn’t go as I feared. 🙂 Thank you for dropping by, Jana!


    1. I was quite frightened with Small Spaces and I think it was a tad more spooky than Dead Voices. I like them both (maybe book #1 a little more), but now I really wonder what Arden will do with a spring and summer book. Can’t wait! Thank you for stopping by, Lisa!


  3. I have Friend or Fiction and will read it soon, but also loved hearing about all those other chapter books. Wow, they do sound good. How wonderful that you got to work with Sylvia Vardell. She, with Grace Lin, has produced so many poetry books that I love. And happy to hear of all that you did in Denver, some of my special places, too, like the Museum of Nature and Science. Sorry for the illness, and hope everyone is okay now. Thanks for all, Shaye.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, we’re doing MUCH better. There are still coughs and sniffles, but no more fevers. YAY! Sylvia made such an impact on me during graduate school, hiring me as her GA and teaching me how to work in the TWU Children’s Historical Collection (which included rare editions from the 1700s and 1800s!!) to help with cataloguing and updating the website. Then when I graduated and moved from Texas to Nebraska, she hired me as an online research assistant before our college library offered me a job. She was the first professor I ever had who required we keep book review blogs (just after the “turn of the century,” so it was pretty cutting edge, all things considered – LOL). Anyway, I had a great walk down memory lane when the college asked me if I’d review the latest edition of her textbook. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a surprisingly great reading week, despite traveling and taking care of a house full of sick people. lol I guess when you can’t get out much, you find something great to do. 🙂 Thanks for swinging by, Deb!


    1. I’m so happy you found something to add to your list, Clare! Both were VERY enjoyable reads. I started out taking detailed notes in Strange Birds because I was worried about remembering details about each of the four characters, but Pérez is a really great author and it ended up being completely unnecessary. Thanks for dropping by!


  4. I would love to go and visit my old neighbourhood and see how much it has or hasn’t changed. Would be a fun trip. I hope this week is another great reading week for you!
    Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel a bit of sadness having not found the actual house. But we lived on a street that basically spans the entire length of the big, busy city. My mom couldn’t remember the address, so we just drove as far as we could, looking back and forth. I was only 4 and 5 when we lived there, but I still have plenty of memories of the house and I would love to see it. I did, however, definitely remember the church building we found in the mountains. It was the strangest feeling and I just wish I could have gotten inside. I hope to go back again soon and actually find our house. Thank you for swinging by, Nina!


    1. I’ve never read When Friendship Followed Me Home, but now that I checked it out on Goodreads I simply must. Adding that one to my list. I loved The First Rule of Punk, too, so it’s was quite enjoyable falling into the latest Pérez story. And I am so happy about the messages in Strange Birds. Thank you for visiting, Cheriee!


  5. I’m glad you got home before everyone succumbed to fever, and 105 is scary — your kids look too big to spike that high! I’m always months behind on my plans, so I’m reading spooky books in February and spring book in August. Oh well, the memories linger. Thanks for sharing these

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 105 really is scary, but two of my children seem to run really high fevers any time they’re sick. The rest of us barely ever tip 100. And that’s too funny on the monthly plans — but it’s also kinda smart because you can be ready to make suggestions for the next holiday. Thank you for dropping by, Beth!


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