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!
Ahhhhh, it’s that time of year where there’s lots of activity and I’m struggling to find long stretches of time to read novels. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will have several “must read” titles roll over to 2020. But on the positive side, I’ve mailed off our holiday cards, finished shopping for the kids (including stockings, which are usually a last minute thing), and we purchased almost all the groceries for our Christmas feast. Woohoo, bring on the holiday!
Thank you for visiting. I have two doctor appointments today, but I’ll eventually make the blog rounds to all the #imwayr peeps. I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve been reading this past week!
J.J. and Chris Grabenstein
November 5, 2019
Random House Books for Young Readers
This book really did my heart some good, this week. I wasn’t sure what to expect, based solely on that cover. But it was easily a 5-star ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating from me! It was engaging and everything I hope for from a middle grade novel.
After her father is offered a new music teaching job, twelve-year-old Piper is forced to enroll at Chumley Prep school where she must wear school uniforms and rub shoulders with rich kids. As it turns out, kids of all types attend Chumley and she quickly finds her niche. This year, the school is hosting a brand new Excelsior competition where one student will be named the overall winner. Piper’s new friends decide to work together to help Piper enter every competition and activity she can in an effort to increase the possibility of her winning. But between science fairs, magic shows, astronomy studies, sports events, and working with foster dogs, she slowly discovers her often snooty nemesis, Ainsley, may take the prize after all. Filled with science, tested friendships, and self-discovery, this story has SOOO much “feel good” that I may be choosing it as our read aloud this January. I hope to see Shine! filling elementary, middle school, and public libraries, everywhere!
The Space We’re In
October 8, 2019 (in the U.S.)
Margaret Ferguson Books
Frank is 10-years-old and he really wanted a little brother. So when he finds out he’s getting his wish, he’s thrilled. But as his little brother, Max, began to age, his family faced unusual behaviors that prevented them from doing what other families might do. For example, if they attempt to go out in public, Max makes loud noises and cannot do anything out of the regular routine without a meltdown. The story truly showcased some of the difficulties associated with living with a sibling that is low on the autistic spectrum. Balen does not candy coat anything that Frank experiences, so beware.
Eventually, Frank’s frustrations begin to boil over as he feels overlooked and neglected. There are even times when he says he hates his brother. He also experiences some self-hatred for not standing up for his brother when a classmate makes fun of him. I’ll be honest, it starts out painful, gets more painful, and just when you think it can’t get more painful, it does — in a very unexpected way. But there’s a silver lining to this one, you just have to wait for it.
I don’t believe this would be classified as “own voices,” but it is heavily based on Katya Balen’s professional experiences. She has worked in several special schools for autistic children and she currently maintains Mainspring Arts, which is a non-profit company that organizes creative projects for neurodivergent people.
The Fault in Our Stars
January 10, 2012
As I was making my #MustReadin2019 list around New Year’s Day, I asked everyone in my family to add one book to the list that I *had* to read this year and this was what my 16 year old chose. She read it in one sitting back when she was 15, and now I know why. Sixteen-year-old Hazel has terminal cancer. She’s almost died before being put on a trial medication and she is now just prolonging her time on earth until she’ll no longer be able to draw breath. During a cancer support meeting, she meets Seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters who is now in remission. He’s very attracted to her, but she’s made it clear that she cannot become involved because she won’t live much longer. When she leaves this world, she wants to make as little impact on the living, as possible. It was difficult to put down once I got started (even though I already knew what was going to happen after watching the movie when it came out). It’s not unusual for me to cry when reading a touching book, but it is unusual for a book to make me sob every time I pick it up. I guess what I appreciated most in this book was the perspective — the reminder to stop and be grateful for what we have right now and to live every moment with appreciation. Hopefully we realize that it could all be taken away in a heartbeat.
We finally watched the movie with our daughter, just last night. She’s never seen it before, so it was interesting to see her reaction to the screen interpretation of Green’s book. It’s quite special to get to exchange books with my children and I plan to continue to ask them to add books to my list as they grow into adulthood.
AWARDS: Georgia Peach Book Award (2013), Buxtehuder Bulle (2012), Odyssey Award (2013), Audie Award for Teens (2013), West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award (WAYRBA) for Older Readers (2013), Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award for Young Adults (2013), Rhode Island Teen Book Award (2014), Evergreen Teen Book Award (2015), Soaring Eagle Book Award (2014), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award (2013), Indies Choice Book Award for Young Adult (2013), Deutscher Jugend literaturpreis for Preis der Jugendjury (2013), Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award (2013), Dioraphte Jongerenliteratuurprijs for vertaald boek en publieksprijs (2013), The Inky Awards for Silver Inky (2012), California Young Readers Medal for Young Adult (2015), Lincoln Award (2014), Luisterboek Award (2015), Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction (2012) and Nominee for Best of the Best (2018), Green Mountain Book Award (2014), The Inky Awards Shortlist for Silver Inky (2012), Louisiana Teen Readers’ Choice (2015), Missouri Gateway Readers Award (2015), Oklahoma Sequoyah Award for High School (2015), Alabama Author Award for Young Adult (2013), Premio El Templo de las Mil Puertas for Mejor novela extranjera independiente (2012), FAB Award Nominee (2014)
Pluto Gets the Call
Laurie Keller, illustrator
November 12, 2019
Beach Lane Books
Children are going to LOVE Keller’s bright and bold artwork in this new picture book that showcases Pluto getting the call from Earth’s scientists saying he’s not longer a planet. Pluto’s pretty frustrated, to be honest, but after taking a tour around the galaxy and getting some much-needed consolation from the sun, I think he’s going to be a-okay. Some pages are extremely busy full of speech bubbles and multiple conversations, so you have to take time to scour the entire spread (checking out the little asides and jokes). The back matter provides a great deal of solar system facts along with an Author’s Note that explains that “People used to say there were twenty-three planets! Then they decided there were none: now there are eight. Science is always learning, just like you.” And the illustrator’s blurb also shares that it took just one day (Venus time) to create all the illustrations for this book. 😉
The humorous illustration note says the artwork for this book was : “rendered in traditional, digital, and galactic media.” I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
September 24, 2019
This is a charming, rhyming picture book about dogs and humans who’ve met their match. Most of the pairs we meet have rhyming names, like “Mick” and “Rick.” But when young Jim visits the pet shelter, he meets an older, large dog named Mr. Scruff and he wants to adopt him. Jim’s mom and dad are quick to point out that the dog is so big and old while the boy is so small and young and “Surely a puppy would be more fun?” But Jim is happy to have met his match, even if it breaks a pattern that most people expect. What we also see is that Jim appears to be from a biracial family. Whether intended, or not, this may add another layer to the discussion of how we all find deep and meaningful connection, despite our outward differences. There’s a cute little twist at the very end that’s not to be missed — keep an eye out for this adorable book (and maybe purchase a copy for your local dog rescue)! The illustrations were done in ink and watercolor. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
Moth: An Evolution Story
Daniel Egneus, illustrator
June 25, 2019
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
What a stunning nonfiction picture book that chronicles the experiences of the Peppered Moth over many years. In a series of gorgeous illustrations on many backdrops, we learn that the Peppered Moth was once mostly white with black specks so that it could easily be camouflaged against lichen-covered branches. At that time, the rare black moth was easily captured by prey because they stood out against the branches. But over time, humans interfered with the process by building coal powered fires and machines. Pollution forced the Peppered Moth to evolve and change colors for survival! The back matter provides more information on the process — this one is not to be missed!
The illustrations are just as fascinating as the information in this book, and I also noticed the texture of the book paper is very high quality, unlike most of the children’s books I read! The artwork was created with watercolor, crayons, acrylics, collage, and Photoshop. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
June 11, 2019
Neal Porter Books
Even by itself, this is a sweet book that can be understood as a child dealing with the loss of a beloved pet. But it broke my heart to read the true inspiration behind this story. Kevan Atteberry’s wife began experiencing young onset Alzheimer’s disease in her early 50s. It got so bad, she eventually had to be moved into a home for special care before she passed away. As Atteberry began writing this book, he realized the cat was actually a metaphor for his missing wife. In his words from the video, linked below: “This is a story about loss, moving on, keeping what you had, and I like to think a permission to love again.” We see the young boy feeling the cat’s presence in his bed, hearing the cat move through the house, and eventually run right out the door of the house. There’s a sweet twist at the end that will bring a smile to your face!
The artwork for this book was made using digital tools. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
The Amazing Idea of You
Charlotte Sullivan Wild
Mary Lundquist, illustrator
February 5, 2019
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Alongside green leafy flourishes, each page of this lovely picture book shares poetic words full of hopes and possibilities. Inside a shiny apple seed is the possibility of an orchard. Inside an egg there may be a bird with a song. And inside the mind of a young child are countless ideas and creations. The soft colored artwork in this book was created with pencil, watercolor, and gouache on watercolor paper. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
The Cat Who Lived with Anne Frank
David Lee Miller
Steven Jay Rubin
Elizabeth Baddeley, illustrator
February 5, 2019
Despite the somber topic, this is a gorgeous picture book biography. First, yes, Anne Frank had a cat named Mouschi. And, yes, Anne wrote her diary entries to “Kitty.” 🙂 The book is actually written from Mouschi’s perspective as a cat witnessing Anne’s life, but the pages also share bits and pieces from Anne’s diary so that we kinda get two perspectives at once. It is a very gentle story since it does not go into details about Anne’s demise. It ends on a very positive note about Anne’s spirit… “lighting up the world forever.” But the back matter explains that Anne’s father, Otto, is the only one in her family to survive. The back matter also has a note on the characters and places in this story followed by a list of sources for more information. The illustration of her father reading her journal in the very back of the book was very touching! 😦
The artwork for this book was created with ink, acrylic, pencil, and digitally. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
Hush, Little Bunny
David Ezra Stein
January 22, 2019
Balzer + Bray
This book just BEGS to be sung! In muted, earthy colors, this picture book is a play on the original song Hush, Little Baby.
Hush, little bunny, don’t you cry.
Papa’s gonna give you the big blue sky.
And if that big blue sky clouds over,
Papa’s gonna give you a patch of clover.
Through rain and wind storm and even bullying bunnies, Papa looks out for his little bunny with utmost care. Awww! Even the font of the title makes me feel nostalgic for books from my early childhood. The artwork in this book was created using mixed media on watercolor paper. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
Sheep Dog and Sheep Sheep
February 12, 2019
I just LOVED Sheep Dog and his ability to keep a straight face in this story. Sheep is trying to “help” Sheep Dog do his job much better — getting his hair out of his eyes, finding binoculars, bringing him a map. But at every turn, Sheep is in dire need of rescue. Sheep Dog is so patient and gentle as he saves the day without Sheep even realizing it. The pictures and dialogue will keep children giggling! The artist used pencil and Adobe Photoshop to create the illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
May 14, 2019
With just a few words per page, this book is intended for a beginning reader. Two little boys are hanging out at the beach when a large wave crashes to shore. One of the boys discovers a shovel and he begins digging deep into the sand. He unearths a few items, such as a crab and a starfish. In the end, they simple relax, look at the stars, and leave the beach with a new friend in tow. Each page provides excellent context clues in the illustrations to encourage comprehension. The artwork for this book was created with Corel Painter and Adobe Workshop. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
To Be Read:
I still have a wonderful pile of 2019 picture books to read, but this week I plan to start with Small in the City and Dear Boy,. I’ll also be finishing I, Cosmo and I’m hoping to finally start Six of Crows (if I can pry it from my 14-year-old’s hands).