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!
Thank you for visiting today! In my stack this week I am reviewing two brand new books: The Elephant’s Girl will be released tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19th, and Felix After the Rain was officially released last week. Whether it’s a new release or an older title, I hope you find something of interest to add to your reading wish list.
The Elephant’s Girl
May 19, 2020
Crown Books for Young Readers
Lex Willow was only a toddler when, seven years ago, she was found inside the elephant habitat at the Lexington Zoo, after a devastating tornado. She was being guarded by Nyah, a young elephant, and was found only because a ghost pointed the way to where she was located. When a lengthy search turned up no family, she was allowed to live in the zoo with Roger Marsh, the zoo’s train engineer, as her guardian. Lex’s best friend, Fisher, also lives inside the zoo since his parents are both zoo employees. While Fisher attends a local public school, Lex is homeschooled because the school children made fun of her, pointing out the fact that she talks to the wind and by also calling her Elephant Girl. So in the present, Lex discovers a ‘misplaced spirit’ who has a mystery that must be uncovered. Lex feels compelled to reveal the secrets she uncovers, even if it includes damaging zoo property. But she eventually bites off more than she can chew, risking losing permission to live on zoo property any more.
When I agreed to review this book, I didn’t even know it was set in Lexington, Nebraska — not too far from where I live. So all the references to weather and other local hot spots in the area were spot on! Also worth noting is the fact that Lex’s homeschool teacher, who happens to be Fisher’s mom, is requiring her to write a paper comparing herself to Karana from the book Island of the Blue Dolphins. So there are a number of ways she examines her experiences throughout that story. I usually examine parent/child relationships in coming of age books, but in this book it’s complicated by her unusual circumstances of being taken in by a zoo employee who hasn’t officially adopted her. But it’s still a beautiful relationship with mutual respect — the type that I would hope all children have with their biological or adoptive parents.
This book is Celesta Rimington’s debut novel, but it certainly didn’t read like one. The writing was so beautiful and I easily slipped into the story, admiring her descriptive language and in-depth understanding of Lex. Furthermore, Rimington went to great measures to research elephant communications, zoos, and the circus. Additionally, she worked for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, so there was plenty of personal experiences to guide her on her research path, leading to this book. I happily recommend this story to young readers who love mysterious adventures. That said, the story will be equally engaging for adult readers who long to remember the feeling of being young, curious, open-minded, and often misunderstood. My thanks to Netgalley and Crown Books for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Copy so that I could give an honest review. This title is scheduled to be published tomorrow, May 19th.
Clap When You Land
May 5, 2020
Quill Tree Books
I really enjoyed Acevedo’s With the Fire on High and The Poet X, so I jumped at the chance to read her latest novel told in verse. This story was told from two perspectives — a young teen who lives in New York City and another who lives in Dominican Republic. There’s not only self-discovery and immense grief for a lost father, but an uncovering of deeply hidden family secrets that bring these two characters together. Clap When You Land is an #ownvoices story that includes Latinx and LGBTQ representation. I expect to see this in teen and YA libraries, everywhere.
When Stars Are Scattered
April 14, 2020
I would easily name this book one of the most important books I’ve read in 2020 to encourage understanding and empathy. This story is autobiographical, friends. Co-author Omar Mohamed is the Somali man who lived the story and dedicated himself to sharing it with the world. He flawlessly addresses poverty, illness, parental loss, disabilities, immigration, education, sexism, and SO much more in this book. It’s full of sadness and devastation, but there’s a continual thread of optimism throughout as faith gave refugees the courage to always be patient and never give up hope. Any time something good happened to them, they would continue to ask: Why us? There are so many others more deserving. While this is a graphic novel, I have to give a HUGE yell out for the audiobook. I listen to a lot of books while I work around the house or in the yard and this would definitely make my five all-time favorite audiobooks. There were multiple narrators and the sound effects were so realistic that sometimes I forgot they weren’t happening in my own home. There’s an important Afterword about Omar and Hassan, but I won’t share all the finer details here for those who don’t want to know the outcome. But for more information about Omar Mohamed and what he’s up to today, you can visit https://www.refugeestrong.org/ And one final note: If there’s a new refugee in your community, take the opportunity to introduce yourself and open yourself up to learning about them and their story.
Felix After the Rain
May 15, 2020
Tiny Owl Publishing
Felix is carrying a burden — a heavy burden. All of his pain and worries are packed into a suitcase he is carrying with him — the loss of his grandmother, hurtful things his father said to him, etc. But after a good rain, he’s able to release his feelings and feel much lighter. The story is sweet and important. However, the text will need some discussion to help young children unpack the meaning. This will work well for children who’ve faced trauma and who need some nudging on how to express their hurt and grieve. My thanks to Netgalley and Tiny Owl Publishing for sending me an ARC in exchange for my honest review. I have seen at least three different dates of publication, but Netgalley says May 15th, so it should be available for ordering right away.
While I’m not sure what changes will be made to the font and artwork in the final edition, I thought I would share this one illustrations from the e-ARC as an example of what to expect:
Save the Ocean
(Save the Earth #1)
April 26, 2019
The Kindle edition of this little picture book was on sale this week, so I picked up a copy. It’s the story of a young mermaid named Kaleisha and a sea turtle named Agwe. Agwe accidentally eats a plastic bag when it looks too much like a jellyfish. When Kaleisha saves him, it is evident that we need to work harder to keep the oceans clean. The artwork appears to be rendered digitally. I’ll provide one page spread, below, to serve as an example of what to expect:
Flubby Is Not a Good Pet!
Jennifer E. Morris
April 23, 2019
Awwww. Emergent readers who appreciate cats will love Flubby, even though he is NOT a good pet. With repetitive text, we learn that Flubby doesn’t do any of the cool stuff other pets do, like sing or play catch. Still, he needs his owner and she needs him.
AWARDS: Geisel Award Nominee (2020)
The book does not share how the artwork was created, but I’ll provide a page spread as an example, below:
Truck Full of Ducks
March 27, 2018
With bright, bold, and expressive artwork, this funny picture book introduces us to a delivery truck driver who cannot find the customer who ordered a truck full of ducks. Everywhere he stops, the individual says they did not order a truck full of ducks. Eventually they enter a dark and spooky forest where things appear to take a turn for the worst. But I’m happy to report, SPOILER: everyone makes it out alive. 🙂 The artwork in this book was created with pencil, crayon, acrylic paint, and digital coloring. I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example, below:
Before She Was Harriet
James E. Ransome, illustrator
November 7, 2017
What exactly do you know about Harriet Tubman outside of her role in the underground railroad? Written in verse, we learn about her life before and after that experience. What a fascinating woman! I always enjoy James. E. Ransome’s artwork. The depth in color and shadow captivates my eyes and emotions. Plus, check out all those awards!
AWARDS: Charlotte Zolotow Award Nominee for Highly Commended Title (2018), Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Younger Children Honor (2018), Audie Award for Young Listeners (2019), South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Picture Book (2020), Coretta Scott King Award Nominee for Illustrator Honor (2018) NAACP Image Award Nominee for Children (2018)
The book doesn’t share how, exactly, Ransome created his artwork, but I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
I See a Cat
September 5, 2017
Page after page shows the dog alone in the house, looking out the window. And on every spread, it begins with the repetitive words, “I see…” This particular dogs sees everything — a cat, a bird, a fly, a squirrel to some mice, a bee, and a boy. This book must be written about my dog. She sees and hears everything and barks often! 🙂
AWARDS: Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Nominee (2018)
The artwork was created with watercolor, acrylic and pencil on Strathmore paper with digital enhancements.
While this picture book contains much larger blocks of text than the typical children’s book, it was incredibly enlightening. Page spreads of dark, shadowy illustrations showcase the many locations and ways Jewish people were protected by Muslims in Paris during World War II. The Grand Mosque of Paris was quite instrumental in moving those in danger from one location to another, but it is important to note that there was also a general call to all Muslims to protect Jews as if they were family:
“Yesterday, the Jews of Paris were arrested. The elderly, the women, and the children. In exile like ourselves, workers like ourselves. They are our brothers. Their children are like our own children. Anyone who encounters one of his children must give that child shelter and protection for as long as misfortune–or sorrow–lasts. Oh man of my country, your heart is generous.”
The back matter is rather extensive, including a lengthy afterword which explained the tedious process in collecting whatever historical data still exists. You’ll also find a glossary of terms, acknowledgements, references, and a bibliography which lists publications, films, interviews, a website, and a long list of recommended books and films. The artwork in this book was created with oil paint applied with brushes, paper towels, and all twenty fingers. I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example, below:
The Doorbell Rang
October 26, 1989
Last week I shared The Bell Rang and it made me recall an older book with a similar title from the 80s: The Doorbell Rang. So I asked my husband to bring it home from work. During my early years of teaching, I was a reading teacher for Kindergarten students and this was a hot title for a fun K/1 math lesson (practical division). The story starts off with “Ma” making a batch of a dozen cookies for her two kids to share between them. But before they can dig in, two neighbors show up. So then they must divide the cookies between four people. The doorbell keeps ringing as more kids show up, until everyone had just one cookie on their plates. So what will happen when the doorbell rings, yet again? It’s a really cute ending and goes well with a box of Cookie Crisp cereal (or a batch of homemade cookies if you’re doing a math activity with a smaller group of children). 🙂 Also worth noting is the diversity of skin colors in a children’s book from the 80s!
The full-color paints were done in ink and watercolor. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
To Be Read:
I’m right in the middle of reading Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein, and WOW is it good!! I guess I wasn’t expecting much, but I have laughed so hard and felt so much. I just got Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson and so I hope to start that by Wednesday. And I am planning to start the audiobook of Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, this week to listen to while I garden and do housework.
I have to skip most of this section this week. Just no time to gather up all of the family details, since it’s so late. However, I do know that my longer term reads are still Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein, Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman, The One Year Book of Devotionals #1 (daily read with the kids, all year), and we’ve started Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer as a family read aloud in preparation for the movie release on Disney Plus (June 12th).
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 162/200
What are YOU reading?