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!
Birdie and Me
February 18, 2020
Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin Young Readers
This tenderhearted story is of Jack and Birdie, two siblings who recently lost their mother. Jack is the mature older sister, always seeking to protect her little brother. And this is especially important since Birdie tends to be bullied due to his creative, colorful clothing. After their mother dies they are sent to live with their Uncle Carl, who loves them deeply. But one day his ability to properly care for them is questioned and they’re eventually sent to live with their Uncle Patrick. They know practically nothing about Patrick, except how gruff he seems. But sometimes it’s important to peel back the emotional “onion layers” and see more than what’s visible on the surface. This is a story that addresses a wide variety of family dynamics, including questions about transgender behaviors and feelings. It also addresses bullying, regrets, and mental health. I would anticipate mostly older middle graders or younger mature middle grade readers to appreciate this emotional story, but there’s plenty here for the YA crowd to discuss, as well.
(New Kid #1)
February 5, 2019
Quill Tree Books
I’m SO happy to finally get my hands on the 2020 Newbery Medal winner. What a refreshing read! Jordan Banks is a brand new 7th grader to Riverdale Academy Day School. He’s not accustomed to the realities of an upscale prep school. The story line has some outright hilarious moments of surprise laughter, but those moments are matched by equal feelings of hurt due to micro aggressions from students and faculty. Craft showcases numerous experiences of bias due to Jordan’s skin color and socioeconomic status. At the same time, Jordan is met with kind-hearted students who he initially assumed were stuck up or racist due to their deep pockets or seemingly inappropriate gifts they gave him. But in the end, every reader will take away some very important lessons in love and empathy. ❤
AWARDS: Newbery Medal (2020), Coretta Scott King Award for Author (2020), Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature (2019), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Middle Grade & Children’s (2019)
Home in the Woods
October 1, 2019
Nancy Paulsen Books
I deeply enjoyed this story of the author’s real life ancestors during the Great Depression. Her grandmother was named Marvel and she had seven siblings. After her father died, they moved into a little abandoned house in the middle of the woods and lived off whatever they could. They hunted, fished, gardened, picked berries, canned their food, chopped fire wood, and even made up their own games. By the end of the book, they’ve made it through the seasons of summer through spring (with all the highs and lows that each season brings). And now the abandoned house doesn’t feel so cold and empty like it did when they arrived. The artwork is gorgeous and the story makes me long for simpler times. I’m reminded of how grateful I am for the skills I was taught, like canning, sewing, crocheting — all dying arts these days, it seems. In the Author’s Note, Eliza Wheeler tells us more about the stories her grandmother passed down and encourages readers to gather stories from that generation and share them with the world, before it’s too late. I want a copy of this book in my home!
The illustrations in this book were created with dip pens, India ink, watercolors, acrylics, and pastel pencils. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
No One Likes a Fart
Zoë Foster Blake
November 19, 2019
So, um, apparently dad farted and little “Fart” has a personality of his own. lol Fart travels the whole town, smelling up the place and looking for acceptance. At last, he finally finds someone just as socially awkward as he is and they go off together, hand in hand, smelling up the town together. This one is sure to get a lot of laughter from a classroom full of children. I know MY children giggled like crazy! 🙂
I couldn’t find details on how the artwork was created. However, I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect:
The Heart of a Whale
January 28, 2020
This was such a sweet story of loneliness. Whale sings a beautiful song that speaks volumes to all sea creatures, but in the end he longs for companionship. Will anyone be able to fill whale’s empty heart? Yes, I do believe so. Packed with lovely musical metaphors that speak of drumbeats, orchestras, lullabies, sonatas, and symphonies, this quiet book with pastel water-colored artwork and poetic lyrics will showcase the power of friendship and the comfort of finally being heard.
I’ll provide one page spread as an example of the illustrations, below:
In a Jar
January 21, 2020
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
This book is truly one to be experienced to appreciate. Llewellyn and Evelyn meet one day while Llewellyn is out filling his jar with things he loved. After that day, they continue to collect items together — not just objects, but fantastical items like rainbows and the wind. Their adventures follow the seasons of the year through autumn, winter, spring, and summer. Then one day, Evelyn’s family moves away. But they continue to send jarred items to one another. At the very end, it’s autumn and Llewellyn sets out to collect a new batch of items to send to Evelyn when he runs into yet another young rabbit named Max. And luckily, he brought an extra jar along. I didn’t think I would love this book when I saw the cover, but I was won over very quickly. Such sweet messages of friendship and the wonder of childhood. If only we could capture all the feelings and keep them stored away in jars!
The artwork in this book was done in pencil, watercolor, ink, and digital media. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
The Secret Garden of
George Washington Carver
Frank Morrison, illustrator
January 14, 2020
Katherine Tegen Books
This is a wonderful picture book biography of George Washington Carver. It showcases his curiosity and love for nature from his earliest days after being born into slavery in 1864. He tended a secret garden and learned an incredible amount of knowledge from diligent trial and error. He learned how to sew, make dyes, create medicine from plants and leaves. At the age of 12, he moved away from his childhood home and traveled through several states, continuing to learn about art and agriculture. He was the first Black man to graduate from Iowa Agricultural College and he went on to teach agriculture at Tuskegee Institute. On the very last page of this book we’re left with a final thought, which appeared to be his mantra: “Regard Nature. Revere Nature. Respect Nature.” The back matter includes a timeline of Carver’s life, along with a bibliography and selections for further reading.
The artist used oil on illustration board to create the illustrations for this book. It was so difficult to pick just one page spread to share because there’s so much beautiful artwork to see in this book. The details are stunning! But here’s just one example, below. I love his expressions and look at those lovely flower petals along the bottom of the page:
Tomorrow I’ll be Kind
January 14, 2020
This book will make a fantastic bedtime reading book as a child thinks of all the good things he wants to do the following day. In brightly colored illustrations and full-paged words, we read about how a child wants to be helpful, patient, gentle, honest, generous, grateful, and kind. Great ending thoughts just before it’s time to sleep!
I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
Raise your hand if you knew the story of how a dog saved Abe Lincoln’s life. I sure didn’t! Abe found Honey while walking home one day. He’d broken his leg and so Abe created a splint to help the bone grow back together. He ended up keeping the dog and they had wonderful adventures together. One day, they explore a dark cave together where Abe became lodged between two boulders. Practically his whole town goes out looking for him, but it’s Honey who leads them all to his beloved boy. The back matter includes a lengthy timeline of Abe’s experiences (especially focusing on his love for animals, including his time with Honey). There’s also an Author’s Note that shares where this story came from as well as mentioning that Abe Lincoln filled the White House with various animals when he was president.
The artist used Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
Following Jory John’s and Pete Oswald’s previous books in this series, The Bad Seed and The Good Egg, book #3 is about The Cool Bean. Sometimes friendships drift apart and you might not feel like you’re quite as special as you once were to past friends. But the most important lesson from this book is that being cool is about more than looking the part and hanging with the right people. It’s about having empathy and lending a helping hand when someone needs it.
The artist used scanned watercolor textures and digital paint to create the illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
To Be Read:
I’m still re-reading Scar Island aloud to my children. We hope to finish that up this week. And as I mentioned last week, for the foreseeable future I will be reading and reviewing some adolescent/teen books my husband and I plan to discuss with our teenagers in 2020. These books cover a wide span of topics ranging from social media to sex. I’ve begun with Peggy Orenstein’s Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape.
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 72/200