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!
Sue of Book by Book is kickstarting her annual Big Book Summer Challenge RIGHT NOW (but you can join in any time, this summer)! Any book with 400 pages or more qualifies as a “big book” for this challenge and it always begins Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day weekend (September 7, this year). Challenge participants link up with Sue and share our experiences in a Goodreads group that she creates just for us. NOTE: This is not a competition, it’s just a chance to squeeze in any big books you’ve been meaning to get to. And you get a supportive group to cheer you along. I believe this is my third year to participate and it is always an encouragement to be a part of the community. I’ll write up a blog post later this week to share any titles I hope to squeeze in between now and September.
Thank you for visiting, today! I’m moving quickly this morning, but I wanted to note that in this post I am sharing two new picture books being published this month: Ray by Marianna Coppo and The Story of Alexander Hamilton by Christine Platt and illustrated by Raquel Martín. So if these sound new to you, be sure to check them out.
M. Evan Wolkenstein
May 5, 2020
Oh my. I didn’t know what I was stepping into when I started this book. It’s another one of those “the cover isn’t nearly as serious as the book” scenarios that caught me 100% off guard. So just a fair warning that this one is heavy and meaningful and will definitely require some Kleenex. Will Levine loves turtles. He collects them from the pond behind his school and takes care of them at home. The kids at school call him Turtle Boy, but it’s not because he likes turtles. Nope, that would have been fine. He is bullied relentlessly at school and called Turtle Boy because of his odd-looking chin. But hold on to your hats, folks, because Will’s life is about to change in a way he never imagined. His bar mitzvah community service project lands him in a hospital, helping a patient who doesn’t even seem to like him. While there were plenty of somber moments that brought tears to my eyes, I seriously laughed out loud SO hard on several occasions. Such beautiful, meaningful writing. Be sure to pick up a copy and see why this story landed a starred review from Booklist.
Ways to Make Sunshine
April 28, 2020
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
This sweet little early chapter book was such a fun addition to my reading week. Ryan Hart is the youngest in her family. That’s right, HER family. She was named Ryan because she is to become a great leader. And her parents don’t shy away from reminding her of her name meaning, whenever appropriate. At the opening of this story, Ryan’s family is facing some major life changes after her father lost his job with the USPS (how appropriate, considering our current situation), so they will be moving to a new (old) house across town. I wouldn’t say there was a major plot line with a big rise and fall, but the charming smaller plots were enough for a young child to easily follow and enjoy. There’s a teeny bit of mystery mixed into this story along with Ryan’s repeated attempts to overcome stage fright. And Ryan loves trying new recipes, so there’s a lot of trial and error baking in her household. (I may never forgive you, Renée Watson, for introducing me to Tillamook Marionberry Pie ice cream in this story. YUMMO!) I was practically giddy over the little illustrations scattered throughout the chapters. Soooo precious… and worth stopping to appreciate all the lovely little details. Make sure this title makes it into your children’s libraries!
Red, White & Royal Blue
May 14, 2019
St. Martin’s Griffin
I’ve had this one on my list since it was released last spring. There are a few books that seem especially important reads if I plan to keep my finger on the pulse of YA and New Adult literature, and this one definitely qualifies with its insane popularity (wow @ 112,854 ratings already on Goodreads)! Known especially for having both Latinx and LGBTQ+ representation, this is the story of a relationship between the only son of the American president (Alex Claremont) and a Welsh Prince (Henry, Prince of Whales). Alex is a politician at heart, but there are just some people in the political scene he cannot stand. That includes Prince Henry. The guy is so snooty that he cannot even handle being in the same room with him. After a surprising altercation with the prince, including photos that were released to the tabloids, the American presidential team plans a damage control scheme to make Alex and Henry appear to be the best of friends. It’s an extremely fast-paced story that was hard to put down until the very end.
I found it very interesting how historical facts and details were woven into the storyline — including a number of quotes from past letters and books, particularly romantic notes or poems passed between political leaders and their loved ones. I couldn’t help but marvel at the intimate letters and poetry, realizing this book must have involved some serious research (which I’d love to chat with McQuiston about some time!).
AWARDS: Goodreads Choice Award for Romance and for Debut Novel (2019), Alex Award (2020)
May 26, 2020
Penguin Random House Canada
Ray is an average closet lightbulb. Turn him on and he sees everything his family stores in the closet. But it’s the same old 41 items, every time. When the light is turned off, he becomes bored and drifts off to sleep — a sleep without dreams. However, today is Ray’s lucky day! He feels spinning as his family removes him from the closet fixture and places him in a lantern that they take on a camping trip. He encounters a number of new things on this journey, including the biggest lightbulb in the world (sun). After all these grand new experiences, he now knows that even after returning to his closet, his life will never ever be the same again. I think the point to this sweet book came through easily and youngsters will relate to the way a change in scenery can impact our thoughts and dreams. What a great story to use with children when discussing all the new things they learned and discovered on a recent trip or while having a new experience. The simple artwork is really sweet natured with soft colors. Thank you to Netgalley and to Tundra Books for approving an advance reader’s copy so that I would provide my honest review. This book will be published tomorrow, May 26th.
The artwork in this book was rendered in tempera, pastels and digital collage. I’ll provide one page spread from the Advance Reader’s Copy to serve as an example, below:
The Story of Alexander Hamilton
A Biography Book for New Readers
Raquel Martín, illustrator
May 19, 2020
Callisto Media/Rockridge Press
Thanks to Callisto Media and to Netgalley for providing an Advance Reading Copy so that I could share my honest review. The Story of Alexander Hamilton is a children’s biography chapter book with scattered illustrations and charts. It begins with a Table of Contents outlining chapters 1 through 8. I must admit, I learned quite a bit about Hamilton from this little 43-paged book. It was especially helpful to have thought-providing questions posed throughout the chapters — thinking questions that will help children stop and ponder things like: what must life have been like when… ? There are also things like “Myth & Fact,” a family tree, famous quotes, and maps to remind the reader where things took place throughout Alexander Hamilton’s life. Comprehension questions are also posed as a quiz at the very end with an answer key provided. The book concludes with a glossary and bibliography of books, government websites, and historical sites that can be visited. One thing I noted during my examination of this book was that the ARC has a family tree where it indicates Alexander’s birth as 1775, so hopefully that will be corrected in the final print copy.
I contacted the illustrator (Raquel Martín) and she shared that her artwork was created with gouache and finished digitally. I’ll provide one page spread from the ARC (subject to change) to serve as an example of what to expect, below:
My Brother the Duck
Pat Zietlow Miller
April 21, 2020
Stella has a new baby brother, but she’s pretty sure he’s not your normal baby brother. Could he, by chance, be a baby duck? Stella immediately gets busy testing her hypothesis by asking questions and gathering data. The twist ending to this book will bring on a few giggles, for sure. By the way, if you’re short on print picture books at the moment, Amazon Prime members can access this title for free right now through the Prime Reading Library.
The illustrations in this book were rendered digitally. I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example, below:
The Nest That Wren Built
Anne Hunter, Illustrator
March 10, 2020
In this gorgeous poetic nonfiction picture book we confront the familiar rhyming text (in the manner of The House That Jack Built) which concludes each page with “…the nest that Wren built.” This book is an outstanding addition to either the study of birds/Wrens or of life cycles, and will be especially perfect for spring time. The back matter finishes the book with an illustrated glossary followed by a page full of Wren Facts. The soft, detailed illustrations in this book were done in ink and colored pencil on tinted paper. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
Love from the Crayons
Oliver Jeffers, Illustrator
December 24, 2019
In this very short book, each page shares both positive and negative actions, feelings, or metaphors that are associated with a specific color of love. It’s a tiny package, but could be nicely used as a mentor text. The book doesn’t share specifically how the artwork was created, but I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
A Tiger Like Me
Joëlle Tourlonias, illustrator
September 1, 2019
Amazon Crossing Kids
With absolutely enchanting illustrations, a young boy proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that he’s really a tiger. The text reads like poetry and each page ends with a similar phrase of, “Because I am a tiger…” Oh SO cute! And such a wonderful bedtime story for youngsters. This is another title that can be accessed for free right now if you’re an Amazon Prime Member. Just check out their Prime Reading Library through your online account.
AWARDS: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2019)
The adorable artwork was rendered digitally. I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example, below:
Nobody Hugs a Cactus
April 16, 2019
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Hank is a very little potted cactus, but he packs a very hot head. He wants people to stay quiet and off his grass. As characters continue to pass by, his frustrations grows on every page until he’s suddenly aware of how lonely he is. Awww. What will Hank do to make up for his past behavior? The expressions on this little cactus are utterly adorable! I’m getting some teen Groot vibes, here. I’m certain they would be good friends! As this obviously takes place in the southwest, the artwork is mostly in dusty browns and reds. The illustrations in this book were rendered in watercolor. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:
To Be Read:
I’m just a little way into We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez and I hope to start Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick before the end of this week. Then I’d like to spend a bit of my reading time this week looking over my TBR list to decide what to tackle for the Big Book Summer Challenge.
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 171/200