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!
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, everyone! As we all know, this semester has thrown so many of our teachers for a loop — it’s been a learning curve for some more than others, but it’s a beautiful sight to see so many teachers, students, and parents pulling through together.
On a personal note, it’s been a pretty great week for our family. If you missed my belated post last week, you’ll be happy to know that hubby is settling back into work quite nicely after being on lockdown in a teeny-tiny upstairs bedroom for three weeks. Whew! I cannot tell you how much we’ve appreciated all the well wishes from the #imwayr community during his healing. ❤
Thank you for visiting, today. This Monday I’ll be sharing two new middle grade novels, both just published in March. One is a sci-fi set on planet Mars and the other is a contemporary realistic fiction set in Los Angeles. I’m also working my way through my remaining picture books from the last year, so I’ll share another eight that were published in 2019. Please feel free to share any great reads you’ve encountered this past week, in the comments. And whether it’s a new book or an older title, I hope you find something of interest to add to your reading wish list.
In the Red
March 24, 2020
Michael Prasad failed his space suit certification due to what appeared to be a panic attack. Now he’s on a secret mission to pass it once and for all, without his parent’s knowledge. However, when he sneaks into a new testing group, he quickly discovers that he’s in the “advanced” testing group. The instructor is quite impressed with his high level of STEM skills as he shows up the older kids in his group. This means he is now in a position to pass not only the basic level, but the advanced levels. What will his parents think of THAT?! But what happens when there’s a shocking planetary accident that kills a number of adults and leaves Michel and his best friend, Lilith, on death’s doorstep? Filled with mathematics, science, and technology, this book and fast-paced storyline will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I deeply appreciated the parent relationship in this one. And there’s just a tinge of romance for coming-of-age tweens, but nothing remotely heavy. There’s also quite a bit of anxiety discussion, which is so important for today’s adolescents who are constantly under pressure, both online and in-real-life. I’m not sure if this will be a stand-alone novel or if it’s the beginning of a new series, but I’ll be interested to see what Swiedler has up his sleeve, next!
Stand Up, Yumi Chung!
March 17, 2020
Yumi Chung’s greatest desire is to become a stand-up comedian. But her Korean-American parents have sacrificed everything to send her to a special private school in order to get her into a top-notch university in hopes that she’ll become a lawyer or go to med school like her “perfect” older sister. While her parents face severe financial troubles at their family-owned restaurant, they are informed that Yumi can continue to attend her private school on scholarship if she scores high on an exam. So she’s being sent to specialized tutoring all summer long. Yumi really doesn’t want to continue to attend her school. She doesn’t feel like she fits in and there are constant microaggressions she faces as a non-white student. However, she attends her tutoring sessions and plans to do as well as possible on the exam. By completely accident, Yumi happens upon a comedy camp taking place as a local theatre. When she pops her head in to see what’s going on, she is mistaken for another enrollee who didn’t show up. She plays the part perfectly and becomes Kay Nakamura at camp, but remains Yumi Chung at her tutoring group. As would be expected, her friends from both places eventually meet in a single space and Yumi’s lies begin to unravel. How will she explain this without everything falling apart?
The heart of this story is about taking a risk to do what you love doing. But in the story we discover (and understand) how hard Yumi’s parents have worked to keep their family business running and WHY they’ve sacrificed everything in hopes that Yumi’s life will be devoid of a financial stress. Being a stand-up comedian means a lack of financial security, so they’re only trying to look out for her. There are a number of comedic moments throughout the story, but I just loved the thoughts about second chances and the cozy, feel-good ending. ❤ I’m more than happy to recommend this book!
You’re Missing It!
April 30, 2019
Nancy Paulsen Books
WARNING: Before reading this book, make sure you’re ready to walk-the-talk. Because as cute and hilarious as the artwork is, the message is hard-hitting. One of my very favorite movie scenes is from Hook, starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. There’s a point at which Peter’s wife, Moira, takes his cell phone and flings it out the window in frustration. She gives one of the most heart-wrenching speeches that ends with “...and you are missing it.” Check out this 1-minute clip, below:
So as I blink the wetness from my eyes, this book is the story of a little boy who goes to the park with his father. Everything is so bright, cheery, and colorful as the boy sees EVERYTHING happening all around him — there are birds, squirrels, dogs, flowers, butterflies, other kids, and even other distracted parents. While the boy marvels at the world all around him, including an escaped purple rhinoceros, his dad is MISSING. IT. ALL. …because he can’t look away from his phone. It becomes almost obnoxiously silly to see all that he’s missing. Thankfully, the dad eventually realizes what’s going on before it’s too late. Nevertheless, on the final page we’re left with yet another child running along, trying to get her mom’s attention (since she’s on her phone). The illustrations were done with a #2 pencil, an eraser, a Faber-Castell artist pen, and watercolors. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
From a very young age, Gyo Fujikawa loved to fill pages with her artwork. One of her teachers in high school found a way to get her through art school and she was eventually hired by the Walt Disney’s studio in New York (to work on promotional work for the movie Fantasia). This picture book biography shares one of her lowest points in life, when Roosevelt signed an Executive Order sending all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast to internment camps, including Fujikawa’s family. 😦 But we also witness one of her highest points when she wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Babies which included multiracial characters on the same page. At first the publishers said “NO!” and explained that white Americans would be very unhappy about having white babies illustrated alongside black and brown babies, but Fujikawa persisted and was successful in publication. She went on to create more than 50 children’s books before her death in 1998.
You don’t want to miss the back matter which includes black and white photos from Gyo’s family, a timeline of important happenings from 1908 to 1998, an author and illustrator’s note with more information about Gyo’s life, a selected bibliography, and sources used in the writing of this book. The artwork in this book was created with liquid watercolor, gouache, and pencil crayons. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
This is the well-known Chinese folktale of Mulan, the brave, young woman who chose to join the emperor’s army in place of her aging father. She fought fiercely for twelve long years before leading her troop back to the emperor’s palace as a victorious commander. She was offered an appointment to the high court, but ask if she could instead return to her beloved family. The illustrations in this picture book were created by Joy Ang. The front and back do not share how the artwork was created, but I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
Max is a bookmark who is more than terrified of scary images he gets trapped with inside of books. He attends Bookmark School where he learns the rules and tools to help him handle his fears. He discovers that breathing deeply and using good thoughts can get him out of just about any bind. That said, this book might be a nice way to begin a discussion on facing fears or even on childhood anxiety. Oh, and watch out for the cute little twist at the end of the story.
The artwork in this book was created with mixed media. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
In this sweet little story, a mother heads off to pick up a birthday treat for her daughter while the young girl and her father bake a chocolate birthday cake. As they mix and bake the cake, her father tells her all about Grandpa Cacao and how they can only enjoy chocolate because of farmers like him. We learn about the family’s origins in the Ivory Coast, the hard work out in the hot fields, how Grandpa Cacao selected the perfectly ripe fruit, how the village worked together to harvest and protect the dried cocoa beans, and how they sold them off for chocolate making. The surprise ending is especially meaningful after the family history lesson. The back matter includes four pages with far more information about the cacao trade (including exploitation of children), the science, history, and even a chocolate celebration cake recipe.
The artwork in this book was created with oil paint and collage with screen print. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
Last week I enjoyed reviewing Caterpillar and Bean, a new picture book that combined the life cycles of a butterfly and a bean plant, and that book would pair nicely with And the Bullfrogs Sing which is about the life cycle of a bullfrog. The book cycles through two years as we learn about the male bullfrog’s song, how the female lays her eggs, how tadpoles hatch, how they survive through the cold winter, and what must happen before they become full grown bullfrogs. The back matter includes more information about bullfrogs, including a selected bibliography.
The artwork in this book was created with pencils and digital tools. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
The Boy and the Bear
May 14, 2019
In rhyming text, we watch while a boy and his bear are bombarded by many new and exciting things to take with them. When it becomes too much to handle, the boy realized the bear is all he really wanted all along. The boys facial expressions showcase a wide variety of feelings, so in the back pages they offer a two pages where children can match the feelings with the face while discussing emotions. The story could also be used to introduce the topic of consumerism (or what to do if you discover a random blimp losing stuffed animals – lol).
The artwork for this book was created with graphite and digital color. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me
Susan L. Roth
May 14, 2019
Neal Porter Books
This is a very creative nonfiction picture book where the author, Susan L. Roth, compares her artwork compositions to the work of a bowerbird. They’re both collectors, they like beauty, every composition is different, they use similar tools, they love colors, and more. Each spread is so beautiful and keeps the reader entertained by everything going on across the page. The back matter provides many more details about bowerbirds, about how they work, about how Roth works, and all their similarities. There’s also a selected bibliography and full color photo of a Male Satin Bowerbird and it’s creative work.
The artwork for this book was created as collages with assorted papers, fabric, wires, threads, pipe cleaners, beads, ribbons, and more, especially those that are bright blue. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
To Be Read:
I’m looking forward to beginning Far Away by Lisa Graff, this week. And I’m so happy to have received at ARC of The Elephant’s Girl by Celesta Rimington, which will be published on May 19th. If I have enough time this week, I will also start If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley.
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 parent/teen 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 book she finds around the house.
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 140/200