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 Veterans’ Day in the US! Going into military service is a very difficult sacrifice of both mind and body, so it never feels enough to simply say “thank you.” Nevertheless, I am incredibly grateful and will continually hope for peace in the days ahead.
Thank you for visiting today. I hope you find something of interest to add to your reading wish list!
September 10, 2019
Make Me a World
Meet Jam, a black transgendered, non-verbal teenager who lives in the town of Lucille next to her best friend, Redemption. Jam’s mother, Bitter, is a painter. And one day while Jam is examining her mother’s latest painting, she cuts herself on a sharp portion of the canvas. As blood mingles with paint, she unintentionally brings to life the frightening creature her mother painted. She calls it Pet and discovers it has been released into her world to hunt monsters. This is confusing, though, because the world they live in is some sort of enlightened utopia that is believed to be rid of all forms of monsters (murderers, rapists, etc.). Jam must decide whether to believe the wise adults in her community and ignore Pet’s challenge or to bravely hunt a hidden monster with the outraged beast.
This one kinda knocked the wind out of me — especially when all is revealed in the end. I can definitely see why there’s debate over whether this is a middle grade or young adult novel. It’s short and has younger characters, but there’s a heaviness to the topic of monsters. Another interesting aspect of this book is the uniqueness of the names: Bitter, Aloe, Hibiscus, Moss, Redemption, Glass, etc. So throughout, I kept trying to draw parallels between names and character purposes.
AWARDS: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2019), National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature (2019)
Count Me In
August 27, 2019
Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books
When I saw this cover for the first time, I thought this was a children’s picture book. But no, it’s definitely a middle grade novel. Karina Chopra, and her next-door-neighbor, Chris Daniels, have never been all that close despite haven’t grown up in the same class. In fact, Chris has witnessed Karina being bullied and yet he never had the courage to speak out. But all that changes one day when together they face racist brutality and slowly watch the aftermath unfold as bystanders interpret the experience with their own cultural and political slant. Photography, combined with social media, brings home the powerful message of #CountMeIn #WeBelong #HateHasNoHomeHere, with a feel-good ending that will (hopefully) have the reader cheering for love and inclusion. Alternating narration allows insight into Karina’s and Chris’s world, promoting empathy and understanding from each perspective. This is such an important story and would make an excellent classroom read-aloud (especially if it could be done with alternating male/female narrators).
Dear Sweet Pea
October 1, 2019
Balzer + Bray
Dear Sweet Pea is Julie Murphy’s middle grade debut and so I was excited when it became available as an audiobook through Overdrive. Patricia DiMarco, only known as Sweet Pea, is a 7th grader, navigating the world of recently-divorced parents. Her father finally admitted that he is gay and, together, her parents decided to end their marriage (they refused to use the word “divorce”). Sweet Pea’s parents arrange mirror houses just two doors down from one another, which means having the same paint and wall paper patterns throughout — all in an attempt to make the transition as easy as possible. Life as a middle schooler is complicated, though. Kids constantly whisper around Sweet Pea, sometimes she even hears the word “gay” in their hushed voices. And as a plus-sized female, she already feels lesser-than or outright ignored (for example, the clothing stores rarely have her size clothing in stock). As chance would have it, Sweet Pea gets access to the local gossip columnist’s letters and even happens to read and respond to a few letters from people she knows in real life. Probably not her most brilliant idea, especially since she risks getting caught. Nevertheless, the real heart of this story lies in Sweet Pea’s relationship with her best friend, Oscar, and her ex-best friend, Kiera, as they navigate the confusion of adolescence and attempt to be honest with one another. This one was a very tender hearted story and the audio narration was just lovely!
Dress Like a Girl
Lorian Tu-Dean, illustrator
January 22, 2019
In rhyming text, six young girls attend a slumber-party and play dress up. Several “fashion” ideas are mentioned, such as wearing white in the summer, wearing a long black gown to a play or symphony, etc. However, the illustrations showcase the girls wearing costumes that are leadership roles or STEM-related. The girls may be astronauts, police officers, doctors, scuba divers, construction workers, etc. The illustrations are really cute and colorful and they represent cultural diversity, but as I read other reviews of this book, one complaint I noted was that all the girls had longer hair and had the same small, slender body type. What makes it an especially interesting observation is that fact that it’s a book showcasing modern girls opening their minds and having the freedom to be themselves, despite society norms. Depicted hair styles and body types for girls/women definitely factor into this conversation.
The artwork in this book was created with watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, and ink before being created as a digital illustration. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
Mary Wears What She Wants
January 15, 2019
Balzer + Bray
This picture book was inspired by the life of Mary Edwards Walker who was born in 1832 in Oswego, New York. She didn’t like wearing tight, stifling dresses and was actually arrested many times JUST FOR WEARING PANTS!! I didn’t expect to like this book only because the cover art didn’t speak to me. But I picked it up anyway and was oh so wrong. It was delightful! While the story itself doesn’t tell us a lot about Mary’s life, the back matter shares more about her experiences, including her choice to go to medical school and eventually becoming a surgeon in the Civil War. Message: Change is difficult, change comes slowly, but don’t give up because change eventually happens.
The artwork in this book uses bright pink accents with various older fabric patterns and centers around the attire and hair styles of the 1830s. It was created with aquarelle pencils and cut paper. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
The Miller family happens to be full of Monopoly lovers. I’m not even embarrassed to admit that hubby and I brought a game board on our honeymoon and played a 4+ hour game in our fancy-shmancy honeymoon suite to kickstart our life together (nearly 25 years ago!). So I was very interested to learn all about the invention of this game and how it arrived at the format we know, today. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Magie witnessed the dramatic shift in wealth distribution in the late 1800s and created the original game board to highlight the unjust landlord-tenant relationship. Many people had a hand in adding small changes and improvements to her game over the years and when Lizzie took her game board to The Parker Brothers in 1909, they told her it was too challenging and educational. Fast forward to the 1930s when a man named Charles Darrow heard about the game through some friends. He ran with the idea, made a few updates, sold a number of hand made game sets, and took it back to Parker Brothers, claiming to be the inventor. But what about poor Lizzie?! Ah, you’ll have to read this one to find out. While it’s quite text heavy for a picture book, it was fascinating and quite fair to all sides in the battle for ownership.
The artwork in this book was created with crayon, ink, gouache, and pastel on paper. After scanning the drawings, the artist layered them into the final compositions using Adobe Photoshop, with additional coloring applied. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
AWARDS: NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book (2019)
It’s little-known stories like this that bring wars to life. Because we come to know real-life humans who lived and loved and feel regret. The book begins with a one-paged prologue about the bombing of Pearl Harbor followed by the bombing of Tokyo which was memorialized in the book (and film) called Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. “This is the story of what happened next…” On September 9, 1942, a Japanese pilot named Nobuo Fujita was catapulted into the air from a submarine off the coast of Brookings, Oregon. He flew his plane over the forest of Oregon, hoping to ignite a fire that would burn it all to the ground. He attempted two bombings, no one died, and the fire did not really ignite. Years later, in 1962, the Brookings Jaycees invited Fujita to their Memorial Day festival. After years of sorrow and regret, it was a shock for him to be invited to a place that he once intended to harm. But this visit was just the beginning of forgiveness and healing. This story is so thought provoking and empathy-inducing! There’s a detailed author’s note in the back matter where we find out more about World War II and more about Fujita — including the fact that he was known as the “only foe to bomb America.”
The beautiful, soft illustrations in this book were executed in watercolor and mixed media. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
AWARDS: NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book (2019)
Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of
Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain
Barbara McClintock, illustrator
June 12, 2018
Little Brown and Company
Growing up during the French Revolution, Sophie Germain was one incredible person. Despite her parents hindering her night time learning (taking away her candles, etc.), she prevailed. Her drive was the need to make sense of the world around her. When she grew older, women still weren’t accepted at university. So Sophie enrolled secretively under the name “Monsieur LeBlanc.” Wow! In the book, her primarily contribution to society was her research in vibration patterns which make modern skyscrapers possible. There are four pages of back matter, including more about Sophie, information about math and science, vibration information, a selected bibliography, an author’s note, and an illustrator’s note. One interesting tidbit we learn in the back is that, in her later life, Sophie was working on proving a puzzle called Fermat’s Last Theorem. Unfortunately, she passed at an early age without concluding her work. And this theorem wasn’t proven until 1994.
The artwork for this book was created with colorful markers, gouache, and collage-techniques. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the illustrator’s note, so I highly recommend checking it out. Children will learn SO much about the artistic process. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of the artwork, below:
AWARDS: NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee (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.
To Be Read:
Hubby arrived back home late Thursday evening and will be out of town again this week from Tuesday until late Sunday evening. So, yet again, we’ll just see how much reading I can squeeze in while single parenting our five kiddos. I’m excited to finish Scythe by Neal Shusterman and I am also hoping to start Circus Mirandus (since book #2 in the series was just published). Oh, and the picture book The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry and illustrated by The Fan Brothers JUST came in. So it’s already looking like a great week!