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! I’ll be sharing three novels I recently enjoyed and a small pile of picture books. Hopefully you’ll find something of interest to add to your reading wish list!
Black Brother, Black Brother
Jewell Parker Rhodes
March 3, 2020
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
So glad to see this new middle grade novel about two brothers named Donte and Trey. Donte is black and Trey is much lighter-skinned. It’s not long before we witness Donte facing obvious racism due to his darker colored skin, which leads Trey to realize he is experiencing privilege due to his lighter coloring. When Donte is surprisingly arrested and suspended at school, he finds a way to showcase his determination through fencing as he gets even with the school bully. The determination, personal growth, and bonding makes this an especially good read for this age group! The only other Jewell Parker Rhodes book I’ve read is Ghost Boys. I’m interested in adding another of her previous books to my reading list for 2021, so if you have a favorite you would like to recommend let me know!
The Nickel Boys
July 16, 2019
The Nickel Boys was the winner of the 2020 Pulizer Prize for Fiction. It’s absolutely horrifying and infuriating because, guess what! It’s based on a real-life reform school in Florida that operated for over 100 years! And that little tidbit just makes the story even more sickening than it already was. There’s really no way for me to prepare anyone for this book, but I think it’s quite worthwhile and great material for an adult discussion group. It’s only 213 pages long, so something that could be easily read in an afternoon. However, the neglect and abuse made me take much longer to finish it — it’s so hard to know this dehumanizing stuff actually happened!
April 4, 2019
Nosy Crow/Henry Holt & Co.
This is a middle grade dystopian novel that will keep you guessing as to what is actually taking place. The main character is 11 year old Maggie. She’s what they call a middler — the middle child in her family. She lives in the town of Fennis Wick, which is surrounded by a boundary no one is permitted to cross. The Eldest of each family are treated like royalty and sent off to camp when they come of age. However, then they are usually never seen again. As the secret comes to light, Maggie will discover who she really is and her loyalty will be thoroughly tested. The story reminded me of a Midnight Shyamalan movie where deep secrets are kept from villagers, but everyone religiously follows the rules. It’s also been compared to The Giver by Lois Lowry, and I can definitely see why.
Daniel Salmieri, illustrator
April 16, 2019
What a peculiar book to be reading during the Covid-19 pandemic. In rhyming text, this picture book is all about how to give the best high fives to win a high fiving competition. While it’s a really cute idea under normal circumstances, maybe it’s just not the best time to use with a classroom full of kids high fiving. Here’s the lines from one page:
Let’s make sure you understand
how to position your hand:
Next, we need to find a friend,
someone to high five against.
You cannot high five yourself–
that’s called clapping, that won’t help.
Even if a child is reading the book alone, the story also encourages the reader to high five with the characters from the book. So when a hand appears in the illustrations, the reading will slap the illustrated hand. Unfortunately, this book didn’t share how the illustrations were created, but they look like they were colored with actual crayons. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
The Panda Problem
Hannah Marks, illustrator
April 2, 2019
When I brought a pile of picture books into my six-year-old’s room, last night, she said she hoped there was a book about a dragon or dinosaur. When she discovered there was not, she looked at the covers and picked this one to read. And we both had some pretty big giggles over a panda that simply won’t cooperate with the narrator. You’ll encounter a friendly spider and even an alien in this one, which is surprisingly very funny. There’s a cute twist ending where the panda turns the tables on the narrator. Just wait for the very last page – HA! HA! I could see this one being used as a funny introduction to the typical elements of a narrative story.
The artwork was created digitally with Photoshop. I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example, below:
Lizzy McTizzy and the Busy Dizzy Day
Lee Wildish, illustrator
April 2, 2019
This book was another reading option for my youngest last night, but she refused to read it because she thought the cover was freaky. And that’s really too bad because once I read the book to myself, I instantly knew she’d love it — so we’ll probably try again tonight. Lizzy McTizzy is heading out to a party, but she cannot find her shoe. In rhyming text, she looks in every possibly space throughout her entire house. She doesn’t actually find the shoe, but she finds something else that will work for her. Despite the cover looking a little “freaky” in my daughter’s words, the illustrations inside are actually quite adorable. The artist used Corel Painter to create the illustrations for this book. I’ll share one page spread as an example, below:
Music for Mister Moon
Philip C. Stead
Erin E. Stead, illustrator
March 26, 2019
Neal Porter Books
This story is full of imagination and feels as though the main character (Harriet) is perhaps having a dream. She clearly has stage fright, so when her parents mention her playing her cello in a big orchestra one day, she retreats to her room — which becomes a small house. She begins creating everything from her imagination at that point, including a short trip around town with Mister Moon to help him fulfill his deepest wishes. The illustrations are all very soft with mostly blues, greens, and a splash of yellow. The artwork was made with mono printed oil inks, colored pencils, and graphite. I’ll provide one page spread to serve as an example, below:
March 19, 2019
My youngest has suddenly become enamored with dance and she cannot WAIT for the pandemic to subside so we can see what classes are available. So over the weekend, we watched Feel the Beat on Netflix for our family movie night (which they all loved). After the movie, I knew this book would also strike a chord. And it DID! The book is a letter from a young, beginner dancer, writing to a professional ballerina. The young girl discusses stretching, rehearsals, costumes, etc. And in the end, she shares that the ballerina is her inspiration for all her hard work. The back matter includes information on pointe shoes and tutus, for children who would like to learn more about them. The somewhat simplistic pastel-colored artwork was created with gouache paints and colored pencils. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
Tomorrow is Waiting
Aaron Meshon, illustrator
January 8, 2019
This picture book is an inspirational encouragement for the reader to get out in the world and do amazing things. In very bold colors, beautiful thoughts are shared alongside multi-colored scenery of mountains, rivers, forests, oceans, etc. It’s the kind of book that could be read at any time, including bedtime. And it might even make a great graduation gift for a young adult heading off into the world. The artwork in this book was painted with acrylic and gouache paints. The back page shares that “Aaron Meshon was inspired to paint from his memories of favorite places, such as Japan, Iceland, New Zealand, Hawaii, and anywhere else where the Earth’s crust is thin and it’s nice to take a long warm nap.” I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:
To Be Read:
I was able to get much further into Anger is a Gift, but I still have a long way to go on Millionaires for the Month. So these two will remain my biggest focus for the coming week.
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 228/250
Big Book Summer Reading Challenge: Today is the last day of this challenge. So if I counted correctly, I completed 5 “big” books, this summer. My thanks to Sue of Book by Book for hosting this community, every summer.