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!
Later this week will mark two years since I started this new blog (after losing my entire website, built from 2000 to 2016). I’ve not missed a week of #imwayr since moving to WordPress and I’ve purposefully read and commented on every single blog that links up, every week. I can officially say I feel very connected with this community and always look forward to seeing what each of you read and what you think about it. Thank you for sharing this weekly space with me!
This week I am happy to be reviewing an ARC of Chirp by Kate Messner. And I was so lucky to get my hands on a variety of other books that were published in the last year (or that have come highly recommended). Whether it’s a new book or older title, I hope you find something to add to your reading list.
February 4, 2020
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Mia’s family is moving to Vermont at the end of her 7th grade year, where she’ll be closer to her aging grandmother who runs a cricket farm. Once an accomplished gymnast, Mia isn’t sure where her new interests lie now that she is healing from a balance beam injury (which required surgery on her arm). So she agrees to attend two summer camp opportunities in her new city — launch camp (a maker space for kids) and Warrior camp. At the maker space camp she makes a new set of friends and builds a team of people who rely on one another’s strengths. Mia’s big maker space project will hopefully boost her grandmother’s cricket farm by using robotic technology and social media hashtags. At the warrior camp, Mia must face her inner fears and take baby steps as she regains muscle strength and endurance.
As the maker space team works on their project, they soon discover someone is attempting to sabotage the cricket farm. This means a little dangerous undercover work for Mia in an attempt to uncover the culprit and prevent future damage. But as different people become potential suspects, it’s easy to jump to conclusions. In the meantime, Mia learns of the importance of opening up about uncomfortable experiences she’s had with an adult in her previous town. She learns that inappropriate touch and sexual harassment happen far more than we realize and that speaking out can be healing for yourself and helpful for others who may have experienced the same pain.
With the development of valuable friendships, learning how to communicate with parents, the inclusion of technology and social media, the mystery of sabotage, and deciding on whether to report an abuser, this book is very full and yet quite well-rounded. I was so pleased that it ended on a very happy and comforting note. And I just know it will be loved by so many middle graders who will relate to Mia’s arsenal of experiences, in one way or another. It would also make a wonderful read aloud, but be sure to order some edible crickets to share with listeners! My thanks to Netgalley and to Bloomsbury for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Chirp will be released tomorrow, so go out and pre-order your copy TODAY!
A Man Called Ove
Henning Koch, translator
July 15, 2014
Ove is an irritable widower who is a stickler for following the rules. He has no problem going out of his way to correct anyone who is out of line. He likes his routine and doesn’t seem to be able to function if it’s broken. With flashbacks to his past, we witness how people and experiences have impacted who he is, today. We especially learn of his great love with his wife, Sonja. It was so beautiful and, yet, left a great big hole in his life.
Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.
The people in his neighborhood were absolutely lovely — those relationships and the ways we connect and serve one another are exactly what life is all about. For example, having never had children of his own, Ove becomes a beloved adopted grandfather to his neighbor’s children, giving him purpose and a reason to keep going.
For some reason I really struggled to get into this audiobook. I had heard so many wonderful things about the story, but I just felt so depressed seeing how visibly unhappy Ove was. Over time he grew on me as he built new relationships with others on his block and in the end I was sobbing my eyes out. I mean, absolutely bawling!
April 2, 2019
I’m convinced that Giant Tess is the human equivalent of Clifford the Big Red Dog. 🙂 She’s adopted as a baby and grows into a giant of a child. She can’t fit or blend in anywhere, but that doesn’t mean she cannot discover a purpose. This book will provide an interesting discussion about finding ways we can each function, even when we don’t believe we belong. Sadly, this feeling isn’t uncommon among children. The artist used brush and India ink on vellum and Photoshop to create the illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
If I Was the Sunshine
Loren Long, illustrator
May 7, 2019
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
With breathtaking, dreamlike artwork, this picture book is quite an experience. There’s so much to see and discuss with children about each new stanza. Three lines are always found on one page spread while the fourth is found after turning the page. The pages go through various seasons and weather conditions and also include a variety of locations ranging from a meadow to a mountain to the sea. I very much enjoy looking at the pictures and reading each verse! NOTE: This book bothers some people because of the avoidance of subjective mood (“If I was/were the sunshine…”) and for the fact that it uses all lowercase letters and no punctuation. I guess I can more easily overlook this, especially when it comes to poetic license. Almost 25 years ago, I married a Professor of Rhetoric who diligently studies and teaches linguistics. And if I’ve learned anything from his profession, it’s that language is constantly evolving. For years, the subjective mood has been slowly disappearing from the English language. I refuse to get emotional about it as long as I understand what’s being conveyed in the poem. 🙂 I’m guessing Fogliano and her editor knew precisely what they were doing when they published the poem this way. But it might make an interesting discussion for those willing to debate these choices. 🙂 The illustrations for this book were rendered in acrylic paint. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
Isabel Greenberg, illustrator
March 19, 2019
This nonfiction picture book could serve as a motivational text for children attempting to live up to their academic or athletic potential OR it could be a great way to dive into a science lesson on energy or the body. There are a number of facts and figures, but it’s also just an exciting read when considering how much we can accomplish if we take care of our bodies and tap the power inside each of us. The Author’s Note in the back explains both the scientific and mathematical components of E=mc² for children who haven’t yet encountered this. Then it ends with the challenge to go out and grow, rest, gain strength, and ask “what if?” and “why?” The full-color art was prepared digitally. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
Shauna LaVoy Reynolds
Shahrzad Sliney, illustrator
March 19, 2019
This precious picture book is about a lonely, young girl named Sylvia who takes great comfort in her friendship with a tree. The book goes back and forth between poetry and prose as we see Sylvia in class and out in nature, all while attempting to navigate this friendship with a tree that appears to write poetry. In the end, her tree gives her more than she anticipated — a real friendship with another child her age. And sometimes good friendships come from where we least expect them. The beautiful artwork in this book was created by using graphite pencil and watercolors. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
You Are My Happy
Suzie Mason, illustrator
March 5, 2019
In rhyming text, a loving mama or papa bear (there’s no indicated gender) shares all the things that made him/her happy that day while the baby bear does the same. And each stanza ends with “That’s what made me happy” and eventually, “You are my happy.” Most of the scenes are the closing of the day with the sun going down, which made even me feel like cuddling up in bed. It will be a wonderful nighttime book. In fact, we’re told that the book was inspired by the author’s bedtime routine with her daughter. The artist used Adobe Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
To Be Read:
I’m right in the middle of The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner and I’m currently listening to Clean Getaway by Nic Stone. The kids loved 24 Hours in Nowhere last September, so I started reading Holes by Louis Sachar with them as our read aloud, this week. My oldest and I have both read it, but we’re all enjoying it together this time.
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 33/200