It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/1/2020 #imwayr

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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!

49360778NOTE: Congratulations to Ben Gartner whose The Eye of Ra is a Next Generation Award-winning Finalist in the Children’s / Juvenile Fiction category of the Indie Book Awards!! And if that wasn’t good enough news, I’m pleased to learn that Ben is working on book #2 in this series — something I had truly hoped would happen. If you haven’t yet gotten your hands on The Eye of Ra, maybe you can grab up a copy this summer. E-copies are available HERE or you can support your local bookstores by purchasing a print copy HERE.

How’s everyone holding up? I’ll come clean — I’m not doing so great. I’m terribly upset over the state of my nation, right now. Things were already feeling uncertain with COVID-19, but after the horrific death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the sorrow and uncertainty has risen to a level that leaves me on the brink of tears all day long. I haven’t felt much like writing/reviewing, but I know routine is important during times of shocking change. Therefore I will keep moving forward, one step at a time.

Considering the turmoil my nation is experiencing, it’s important to note that we severely lack books written about non-white characters. I’m always delighted when I find good options to share with children, so today I will use part of this post to share some wonderful recent picture books that provide a mirror for my Black brothers and sisters. Some of these titles are equally important as windows for those of us with white privilege (because, while we are all just human beings on the inside, we sometimes need a gentle reminder that we do not all experience the world in the same way). So whether it’s a new release or an older title, I hope you find something of interest to add to your reading wish list.

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We Are Not From Here
Jenny Torres Sanchez
May 19, 2020
Philomel Books

I don’t want to spoil this story by revealing too may details, so I’ll keep this brief. Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña are teens being threatened so much that it’s no longer safe to remain in their country. So they make the gut-wrenching decision to leave the only home they’ve known and begin the devastating journey through the deadly dessert and into the United States. It’s a grueling and tearful journey, but based on many real-life experiences. And that’s all I’m going to share of the plot line. 🙂 But I’ll also say that it’s absolutely heartbreaking and will keep the reader on the edge of their seat until they discover how it all ends.

Americans generally have such a limited understanding of the reasons why so many cross the border to get into our country without going through so-called “proper channels.” Ignorance is bliss, y’all. Because this story made me feel such anger and sorrow at the lack of options for people literally running for their lives. This story forces the reader to consider — if your family was being threatened, held at gunpoint, children being raped, your food/money being stolen, while you basically become slaves to hostile community leaders, would you take a major risk and break the law in order to save your family? Perhaps you’ll never truly know. My thanks to for providing me the audiobook of We Are Not From Here.

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
Support local bookstores through Bookstore link HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Santiago’s Road Home
Alexandra Diaz
May 5, 2020
Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

This storyline is similar to We Are Not From Here, but not quite as horrific. Award-winning author Alexandra Diaz shares the story of Santiago, a young boy who has been physically abused by his abuela and then is passed around between relatives who do not want him. One day he’s sent away from yet another family member with just enough money for a bus fare back to abuela’s house. Hungry, lonely, and with only what he has on his back, Santiago strikes up an unlikely conversation with a mother and child who, as he discovers, are traveling to the United States. Together, they arrange for safe passage to meet up with family and find work to keep them all from starving. But when bullets begin flying and the party becomes separated, how long will they remain in ICE before they’re sent back to Mexico. And will Santiago be forced to continue living with abuela’s abuse? So heartbreaking, but also brings on all the feels at times.

The back matter has an Author’s note about immigration and the different parts of this story that were true to form. For example, as mentioned in We Are From Here, the detainees were given foil blankets for weeks — they would fold them up and place them in their pockets during the day time, and use them to hold in heat during the night. And breast milk really is brought in from nursing mothers to their babies, since children are separated from their parents. At the very end, there’s a lengthy Glossary with many Spanish words and phrases, including their meaning and ways they could be used in common conversation. My thanks to for providing me the audiobook of Santiago’s Road Home.

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
Support local bookstores through Bookstore link HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Women Artists A to Z
Melanie Labarge
Caroline Corrigan, illustrator
February 11, 2020
Dial Books

As one could gather from the title, this book shares 26 letters of the alphabet that correspond to female artists based on different traits they had. For example, Yayoi Kusama is known for her use of dots (D) in her artwork. Elizabeth Catlett is known for her use of ink (I) in her artwork. And Xenobia Bailey is known for her yarn-based artwork (Y). Each page is full of colorful illustrations, but none of the original artists’ work is showcased – it’s all depicted by a single artist (Caroline Corrigan). The back matter includes far more details on each of the selected artists, including when they lived, where they lived, and important information about their contribution to the world of art. The illustrations for this book was created digitally. I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Ready to Fly:
How Sylvia Townsend Became the
Bookmobile Ballerina
Lea Lyon, A. LaFaye
Jessica Gibson, illustrator
January 28, 2020

Sylvia Townsend was a young African American girl growing up in 1950s America. Unfortunately, this meant she could not take dance lessons and join the white learners, like she wanted to. So she studied books from the bookmobile to learn all the ins and outs of dance. Her fourth grade teacher encouraged her and eventually other young Black girls asked her to teach them how to dance before they enter a school talent show, together. This is where Sylvia gets her big break and is invited to join a real dance studio with a professional dance instructor. Readers will definitely want to check out the back matter with references, many photos and detail about the history of the Bookmobile, and an Author’s Note. In the front matter, there’s also “A Note on Hopes and Dreams” written by Sylvia Robertson Townsend that showcases the importance of a parent noticing and encouraging their child’s interests. The artist used Photoshop CC and a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet to create the digital illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Althea Gibson:
The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl
Megan Reid
Laura Freeman, illustrator
January 21, 2020
Balzer + Bray

Growing up in Harlem during the 1940s, Althea Gibson was known as “the quickest, tallest, most fearless athlete.” She played stickball, basketball, and tennis on the hot asphalt and was known as the fleet-of-foot girl who was good at everything she tried. Due to her skin color, she couldn’t attend the fancy tennis clubs, but as she became too good to ignore, many people began fighting for her to be included in the US Championships. This eventually got her to Wimbledon in 1957 where she won a championship two years in a row! The back matter includes an Author’s Note and a list of important dates with more interesting details about Gibson’s life. The artist used Adobe Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Ruby Finds a Worry
Tom Percival
September 3, 2019
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Ruby has a worry. But when she attempts to ignore it, it only grows bigger. No matter what she does, it is always with her in school, on the bus, and even in the movie theater. Obviously, it is dominating her life. Eventually, she learns that everyone has worries and that sometimes the best thing you can do is talk about them. I love the adorable illustrations in this story and am so happy to see this important message available for children who suffer from anxiety (and for those who need empathy for others who suffer). The artwork in this book was created digitally using Kyle T. Webster’s natural media brushes for Photoshop and a selection of hand-painted textures. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Hands Up!
Breanna J. McDaniel
Shane W. Evans, illustrator
January 22, 2019
Dial Books

I loved how this picture book depicted the numerous ways we raise our hands, whether it’s to stretch, to be called on in class, to select a book off a high shelf, in ballet class, in worship services, and in so many other ways. In the back, McDaniel talks about her niece who she worries cannot always show her full range of emotions and strength because she’s a Black girl and will often be seen as a victim or villain. Forgive me while I direct quote a chunk of text, from the Author’s Note:

For many people, the phrase “hands up” brings forward difficult emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, and fear. With this story, I wanted to emphasize the ways I’ve experienced that phrase as part of my everyday life, at home, at play, in church, and at protests with young people leading the way. I want the world to remember that black kids are just that — kids, people with mommas and daddies and teachers and friends, with lives full of happiness and struggle and triumph and even sadness.

Powerful! It’s a beautiful recollection of the many ways we raise our hands, particularly during childhood. The lovely artwork in this picture book was created digitally with mixed media. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Meet Miss Fancy
Irene Latham
John Holyfield, illustrator
January 8, 2019
G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

This is a precious story about a young boy named Frank, who loved elephants. But when he and his fellow classmates raised enough money to bring Miss Fancy to Birmingham, black children were not allowed to touch or ride her. But as Miss Fancy escapes the zoo, Frank ends up saving the day using peanuts to lure her back home. While this story contains fictional characters like Frank and his mother, there was a real life elephant named Miss Fancy. And schoolchildren really did raise enough money (in pennies) to purchase her from the circus. Furthermore, there really were segregation laws that prevented African American families from coming into certain places, like the zoo. So this historical experience was written right into the storyline. An Author’s Note shares more about Miss Fancy’s life before and after her time in Birmingham. While the book doesn’t share how the artwork was created, I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example of what to expect, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


Stacy McAnulty
Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, illustrator
September 13, 2016
Running Press Kids

This was a re-read, which I greatly enjoyed. Each page shares well-known stereotypes of  young girls and flips them on their heads. There will be ZERO gender conformity for these outgoing kiddos! The girls are obviously very happy, curious, and, of course, beautiful! I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example of the artwork, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it through IndieBound HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.

To Be Read:

My list feels unmanageable right now. I mean, I have books coming out my ears — books I already own that I recently purchased and am having trouble squeezing into my summer schedule. So first, I’d like to (finally!) start reading Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman as my first Big Book Summer Challenge read. Then I plan to review Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick. And I just checked out 30+ new picture books through ILL, so I’m looking forward to at least reading Bear Must Go On by Dev Petty and Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti with my younger daughter and son this week.

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Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 180/200

What are YOU reading?

16 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/1/2020 #imwayr

  1. I am overwhelmed with these recent days, too, Shaye, and trying to figure out what to do that’s helpful. Reading more is part of that & I’ve added some of your books to the “big” list. We Are Not From Here is one from Aaron today, too. I’ll move it up the list. I enjoyed the Miss Fancy book and know I’d love to read about Althea Gibson. I remember the fight for her to compete and her big wins! We all must fight to do better! Thanks for all you shared!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess just too much on my mind, which makes it difficult to focus. But when the magic happens and I can get lost in a fascinating story, it’s all worth it! LOL Glad your big list is growing. I need to do a better job of tagging my GR list so that I can more easily find what I need in the future. Thank you for visiting, Linda!


  2. Thank you for such a timely and important post! We Are Not From Here and Santiago’s Road Home both sound like important and compelling books. Women Artists: A to Z sounds great as well: you say that it mentions Yayoi Kusama, and I actually love her art! (She did an installation at a local museum of a bunch of sculptures inside a room of mirrors so it looks like they go on forever.) Ready to Fly sounds excellent: I haven’t heard Sylvia Townsend’s story before, but it sounds quite interesting! Ruby Finds a Worry sounds great as well. Thank you for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since I so often skip book blurbs and just start reading books on my list, I missed the fact that We Are Not From Here and Santiago’s Road had similar settings. The stories were completely different, of course. But the same “big event” was the focus, so it was a good experience to see it from different characters. Thanks so much for swinging by, today!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree that We Are Not From Here is quite gripping!! We’ll see how my summer pans out. It’s possible that we’ll be moving, so that will completely put me out for sorts for a while. Only time will tell. Thanks for dropping by, Lisa!


  3. Ugh, do I hear you about reading lists being unmanageable. There are many great books here, which won’t help this problem at all. Ruby Finds a Worry is a book I have been asked to purchase when I have funding to do so. This was a good reminder. The Althea Gibson biography looks great as well. Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many children are struggling with worries right now, on top of normal childhood anxiety. Ruby Finds a Worry will be great for younger children to talk through. I’m hoping to harness my list and make a better plan. It’s just that we’re in the middle of some major decisions, which might find us moving OR building onto our house sooner rather than later. That would turn everything upside down, so we’ll just wait and see. Thanks for visiting, Aaron!


    1. Oh my goodness, I’ve had that kind of thing happen — where I realize I never sent my comment or I just thought it and didn’t type it. I’m struggling to keep my mind on task, but the distractions and anxiety creeps in and disrupts plans. We have a lot of uncertainty in our personal lives, as well. So it just feels like the summer for everything to be up in the air. Anyway, I appreciate you stopping by, Cheriee!


  4. It has been a tough week, and definitely hard to focus on reading when so much is going on. You’ve selected some good titles to help readers process some of what is happening. I read the book “Hands Up!” last year, and I think it would for sure be helpful to young readers. I was able to go online and check-out an e-copy of Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty. It’s been on my To Read list for some time, so I’m glad I have the opportunity to read it. Thanks for sharing. Take care of yourself and stay healthy/safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m delighted to hear you were able to get an e-copy of Beautiful, Jana! I wish I would have had access to picture books like that when I was a kid. I was into everything, had tangled hair, dirty clothing from running around the neighborhood — Beautiful would have been a soothing book for me! I love everything McAnulty writes, too! And I thought Hands Up! was a thoughtful response to the experiencing of having it yelled at you while thinking you’ve done something wrong. Thank you for visiting and I hope you stay safe and healthy, as well!


  5. Fantastic round up of books. I’ve done the same thing with books and I started at home. Making sure my daughter and my husband are reading books that need to be read and discussed.
    Looking forward to reading We Are Not From Here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are also looking at appropriate TV shows and movies that will help our family navigate the important conversations. I’m thankful for books and films that help us think and talk about racism. We weren’t aware of these types of sources when I was a kid (or if they existed, they weren’t nearly as readily available). I hope you enjoy We Are Not From Here!! Thanks for visiting, Michele.


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