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!
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
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!
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.
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!
(Small Spaces #2)
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 Are Home with Me
Mitchell Watley, illustrator
November 12, 2019
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.
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!