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 been a very nice few days with sunny skies, high temps, and just a few spring showers. We’ve been hanging out at the state park a bit and have started back on our daily walks. Our youngest just turned six in March and for her birthday she got a baby blue ukulele from her big sister, so she’s been serenading all of us over the last few weeks. ❤
OH!! And hubby came out of quarantine on Saturday. YAY! As you’ll recall, he came home from work with a terrible headache on Friday, April 3rd, and after beginning to run a fever and experience other cold symptoms, he called our public health district and tightly quarantined upstairs in our bedroom on Sunday, April 5th. So his complete seclusion lasted just one day shy of three weeks. We are so glad to have him back in (mostly) working order and today is his first official day back in the office.
In other news, my mom sent us a set of seven beautiful face masks made by her seamstress friend in Texas. Our younger kiddos rarely leave the home right now (except to play outside, riding bikes/scooters), but with the current requirement to wear a mask in public spaces, these are especially helpful for those of us who either work outside of the home or run errands. Then my brother-in-law in Seattle surprised us with another set of seven masks with special themes that were specifically selected for each member of our family (for example, unicorns for our youngest, LEGOs for our 9 year old, etc.). They are so darling!
Thank you for visiting, today! Whether it’s a new title, or an older one, I hope you find something of interest to add to your reading list. (NOTE: I’m going to try doing what a few others in the #imwayr community do and briefly share what the rest of my family is reading. Depending on how this goes the first couple weeks, I may move that section to only once-per-month. For now, I’ll call it “Family Snapshot” and it can be found at the very bottom of my posts.)
The Space Between Lost and Found
April 28, 2020
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
My thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for providing me an Advance Reading Copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Sadly, my family is well acquainted with the emotional fallout due to Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, we’ve not experienced the devastation of early onset Alzheimer’s disease (meaning a patient under the age of 65 — many people when they’re in their 40s and 50s). Cassie is not yet a teenager and yet she and her mom have practically reversed their familial roles — she must now take care of her mom when her dad is not around. This means setting aside her love of soccer (and possibly her best friend) so that she can focus on what’s most important. Cassie’s biggest hope is that one day, hopefully very soon, her mom will remember her name. Why can’t she just say it?
There are threads of memories that continue to come back to Cassie — from before her mom began to lose her memory. They’d visit the beach, her mother enjoyed dancing to Cindi Lauper’s music, and her parents were so very happy and in love. Therefore, when we jump back to the present, witnessing Cassie’s mom experience this degenerative illness, it leaves us feeling helpless. There’s a very real lack of control when you never know if you’ll be remembered or how your loved one will react in different situations. The pain was even more evident as Cassie and her father slowly realize they must move forward, almost as if her mother had died. However, it was so beautifully written and it’s definitely an underrepresented topic in middle grade literature. This title will publish on Tuesday, April 28th, 2020, so be sure to order a copy!
The Water Bears
April 21, 2020
Wendy Lamb Books
What a deceiving cover… At first glance, it makes me think of a cutsie childhood story. But this book was anything but childish. Thirteen-year-old Newt Gomez recently survived a bear attack. He’s struggled with the memory of the attack, but he doesn’t want to be known only as “the boy who survived a bear attack.” Lately, he’s been wanting to leave his quirky Murphy Island to live with his abuela on the mainland as he enters seventh grade. He keeps pushing the issue of changing schools with his parents, but they’re just not very supportive. When Newt unexpectedly encounters a bear statue that grants wishes, he knows what his one wish will be. That is… until the bear is stolen and it looks like he missed his chance. With typical school relationship issues, a mythological creature on the loose, a potential non-existent friend named Izzy, extended family relationship ups and downs, a mother’s secrets uncovered, and Latinx representation, there’s so much more going on in this book than I can fit into one little paragraph. But it was a very quick and engaging read.
April 14, 2020
Nancy Paulsen Books
As a biracial kid, Stephen is confronted with the fact that he’s living in two worlds. However, he doesn’t fully fit into either one the way he wants to. While his friends are sometimes blind to the realities, he’s hit, head on, by social injustices and the very real understanding of white privilege. And he tries, many times, to figure out which “lane” he belongs in. The best summary of this book can be found in this quote:
“I need to wake up more of my white friends so they see prejudice is real. They can fix that in their lane.”
It’s wonderfully executed in less than 150 pages — I hope this one makes its way into may school and public libraries this year!
Michael Crouch, Narrator
Marc Thompson, Narrator
March 31, 2020
I’ll admit that I wasn’t really attracted to the cover, but wow did this story surprise me. In short, this book shares the very raw experiences of living with a rare eye cancer. Ross has already lost his mom to cancer and now he is facing slowly losing his vision. At the same time, he’s looking for some life-changing epiphany — in middle school. And if there’s one big truth about middle school, it’s that kids can be so cruel. There’s also a classmate named Sarah who “smells like sunshine and joy” and always appears so sweet. But the silver lining in Ross’s life is his best friend, Gabby — and trust me when I say that everyone needs a “Gabby.” She brought fireworks to this story in a way nothing else could have.
By the time I got barely halfway through the story, I had to stop to look up Rob Harrell to see what else he’s written SO THAT I COULD READ IT! He had me sobbing halfway through. It’s so gut-wrenching and yet simultaneously beautifully written and narrated. And ultimately what Ross discovers is that even the worst of kids need friendship and acceptance. You really never know what someone else is living through… NOTE: On the audiobook there are these AWESOME comic episodes with cool music, sound effects, and wacky narration. I’m more than happy to recommend this title. Please fill your school, public, and home libraries with copies of Wink!
I don’t know how many books of this series I’ve read with my kids, nor how many times I’ve read each one. I believe it all started when I was teaching 1st and 2nd grades in Texas around 2000-2002. My students loved Captain Underpants and the stories got many reluctant readers to happily pick up a book. I later bought the series for my two first born kiddos (who are now 14 and 16 year olds) when they were much younger and our beat up copies have made the rounds, over the years. The books contain lots of toilet humor, but overall they are quite clever and include some high-level vocabulary for young readers. This month I’ve been reading these aloud with my 9-year-old and we’ve both laughed quite a bit!
You can read more about the whole series on Goodreads HERE.
October 22, 2019
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Ava and her mother have all sorts of wonderful plans for their Saturday. It’s the best day of the week because mother doesn’t go to work. Yet things don’t always go as planned, and this is certainly the case on this particular Saturday. Storytime at the library is canceled, their hairdos are ruined by a car splash, the park is too loud, and they miss the puppet theatre they were so excited to attend. Ultimately, they’re faced with the understanding that Saturdays are special primarily because they get to spend them together. I love the message in this one and I adore Mora’s collaged illustrations! The back matter shares that the collages for this book were created with acrylic paint, china markers, patterned paper, and old-book clippings. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
Meg Hunt, illustrator
September 24, 2019
In Reading Beauty, we have another fractured fairy (from the creators of Interstellar Cinderella). On her fifteenth birthday, avid reader Princess Lex has all her books taken away by her parents. They explain that they must do this because of the curse of a fairy who said Lex would be cursed by a paper cut when she was fifteen. Faced with a life devoid of books, Lex knows she must confront the wicked fairy and demand she lift the curse. Will she save the day or make matters worse? The brightly colored illustrations in this book were rendered in brush and ink, pastel, marker, and graphite, and colored digitally. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of what to expect, below:
Christopher Myers, illustrator
Kaa Illustrations, illustrations
May 28, 2019 (org. 10/12/10)
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
The whole world becomes music for a young boy as he prepares to go to sleep, at night — raindrops tap a steady beat, trees dance, radios sing, the wind howls, while umbrellas become turntables that DJs can spin. The entire musical symphony takes place at nighttime. And when morning breaks, they discover the storm was just a lullaby. This one is perfect for reading at bedtime, for obvious reasons. The illustrations for this book were digitally rendered. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of what to expect, below:
Field Trip to the Moon
John L. Hare
May 14, 2019
Margaret Ferguson Books
I really enjoyed the life found in the shadows of a mostly gray/white pallet. In this wordless picture book a school bus-looking yellow rocket ship takes a class on a field trip to the moon. The faceless children travel the dusty terrain of the moon while one child finds a cozy spot to sit and draw planet Earth. But what happens when the rocket ship leaves the moon without said child? You won’t want to miss this cute ending!! The artwork for this book was created with acrylic paint. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of what to expect, below:
When I taught the younger grades in elementary school, we enjoyed units on life cycles — both for plants and insects. And this book is a perfect combination featuring a plant and a butterfly cycling through life. I liked the color combination of mostly greens/blues with orange/reds. And at the very end, there’s a section on how to grow your own bean plant. I’m sure looking forward to seeing the beautiful butterflies, this year, and this book will be an excellent share for that experience! The illustrations were done in mixed media. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of what to expect, below:
I’ve actually had this book in my stack for a looooong time. I picked it up to use in my Music for the Elementary Teacher college course for education majors, last year. In fact, it appears one of my students lost the first copy of it, so the college purchase another copy for our use. So I’m glad to finally get to share it on my blog, today. As would be expected by the title, this is a picture book biography of Jimi Hendrix. It begins with young Jimmy in 1956 in Seattle, Washington during a thunderstorm. He hears music in everything around him. A child on his block sounds like a clarinet. A truck engine backfiring sounds like a bass drum. And his neighbor’s rake sounded like a snare drum against the sidewalk. Jimmy even saw colors with every sound he heard. He was elated when his dad purchased their neighbor’s guitar for $5, and he practiced many hours on his own to figure out how to play before joining a local band. His greatest excitement seemed to be when he discovered all of the sounds he could make through a guitar amplifier when he plugged in an electric guitar. He then could use his guitar to make a wide assortment of sounds (a rainbow of sounds) that he’s most known for, today.
Don’t let nobody turn you off from your own thoughts and dreams. -Jimi Hendrix
The artwork in this book was created in mixed media. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of what to expect, below:
To Be Read:
Some of my Overdrive/Libby books lapsed. Ugh. But I just got my hands on Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim and In the Red by Christopher Swiedler, so I’m looking forward to starting those this week. And I am excited to have It Began With a Page by Kyo Maclear. Then we’ll see what else I can squeeze in.
In addition to my regular TBR books, listed above… more long term reads for me are: Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein, Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman, and The One Year Book of Devotionals #1 for Kids by Children’s Bible Hour (daily read with the kids, all year).
Hubby, during quarantine, read: The Wisdom of Menopause by Christine Northrup, MD, The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, MD (a re-read), The Explosive Child by Ross Greene, and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez. He’s now working on The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, Phaedo by Plato, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
Brayla (16) is reading Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein (per our request — excellent discussion material) and Lucky in Love by Kasie West (but it is feeling too predictable, so this may be her first DNF of 2020).
Brighton (12) is reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
Breena (6) just started reading The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, Chúcaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa by Francis Kalnay, and Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne. But she dabbles and can be found reading pretty much any novel she discovers sitting around the house (including MY novels. No joke.).
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 130/200