Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyone! We won’t be participating in any of the local MLK, Jr. events this year, because our daughter just tested positive for Covid-19. Pretty much the moment after the hospital called with her test results, the state health department called to quarantine our whole family until Monday, January 25th. They said we’re having a sudden outbreak in our area, so the hope is that they can nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand. She’ll be staying on our second floor by herself for the most part (she has her own bathroom, which helps). So far, she’s the only one exhibiting symptoms, and with strict social distancing it is possible the rest of our family can avoid it if we weren’t already exposed (we haven’t tested — we will if we start showing obvious symptoms).
We’re still hoping for a peaceful presidential inauguration, this Wednesday. I’ve read just enough bits and pieces to know there were legit threats and that there should be extreme safety protocols in our nation’s capitol, as well as at each state capitol. The National Guard has called in members from all over the country, including one of my friend’s sons from our town. The division here is simply heartbreaking, even on a local level. I just want to get to a point where healing is evident, even if it’s not perfect. But it must start with really LISTENING to one another with open minds.
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!
Despite family quarantine, I did find some great books to escape into. Hopefully you’ll find something of interest to add to your reading list. 🙂
The Boys in the Back Row
October 6, 2020
Matt and Eric are the best of friends. But when they discover that Eric will be moving away, they decide to pull off a sneaky jaunt to a comics convention while their school is on a field trip to a nearby amusement park. Over the course of this story, a number of modern issues are addressed, like racism, sexism, bullying, and homophobia. For example, Matt plays the flute/piccolo, so some boys make fun of him for playing a “girl instrument.” They also make fun of him for reading Two Naomis, which they’re claiming is a “girl book.” The bullies also refer to Matt as “Chicken Chow Mein” and his female friend as “Sky Ho.” Due to the boys’ close relationship, they’re mistaken as a romantic couple on more than one occasion, but they don’t let that prevent them from remaining close and talking about the implications of the claims. Y’all, EVERYONE needs a friend like Eric! He’s smart. He’s loyal. And his quick wit and sarcasm gave me the giggles. Why am I not hearing more about this book?! Please give me more stories with sweet, misunderstood, dorky boys who aren’t scared of meaningful, male friendships! ❤
Since I’ll be reviewing book #4 of this series next week, I took this past week to go through books #1 through #3, all published between 2010 and 2015. I feel like most are already quite familiar with this famous series. So in short, it’s the story of seven main characters (Anna, Lexi, Jessica, Danielle, Peter, Jeffrey, and Luke) and their 5th grade teacher at Snow Hill School, Mr. Terupt. The first three books, all told in multiple voices, go through grades 5th, 6th, and 7th with changing bodies and a range of coming-of-age scenarios each student must face. There are also some subtle romances that begin simmering between some of these characters, even before book #4, but they’re not really the focus of the story. I appreciate the differences in each family, such as a multi-generational household, a single parent, separation/divorce of parents, parents healing from loss of a child, cancer, type #1 diabetes, etc. Nevertheless, all seven families and school administrators appear to be average white Americans (someone please correctly me if I missing information to the contrary). I’ve enjoyed the development of each character and Mr. Terupt is simply outstanding — always patient and always ready with the perfect advice. Most of all, these characters have developed empathy for one another and they’ve become pretty great at working out misunderstandings before they might destroy a friendship. It’s been five years since the release of book #3, so it will be interesting to see what Bob Buyea has in store for us in book #4.
Helpful printable: I really liked this introduction to characters HERE. (created for Lincoln Middle School in Meriden, Connecticut). If you plan to read this series, it might help you keep track of the main 8 characters in the beginning.
AWARDS: Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Grades 3-6 (2013), Intermediate Nutmeg Book Award (2013), School Library Journal, starred Review, Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalist, Indies Choice/ E.B White Honor Book, New Voices Pick by the Association of Booksellers for Children, and a host of individual state awards.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners
Dung Ho, illustrator
January 5, 2021
I first saw this book as a read aloud by Miss Lipari at First Grade Fun and Disney Sun. However, I later found it available through Overdrive library, which allowed me to see the beautiful illustrations much more clearly. In lyrical text and cheerful, heartwarming (sometimes fantastical) artwork, this story shows an appreciation for diversity in our facial features as well as the celebration of biological family connections. Such a sweet book that will be a wonderful mirror or window for readers, everywhere. The artist used Adobe Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book.
Song of the Old City
Merve Atilgan, illustrator
November 17, 2020
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
This story will be quite appealing for the whimsical child who may need a break from rigid schedules or pre-planned outings. In Song of the Old City, a young girl travels through the city with no real direction or goal. Yet throughout the story, the reader is referred to as “you” — making the child part of the story. It’s a true adventure where her food and conversation are provided sporadically. And yet they are meaningful and light-hearted. She encounters a fisherman, a simit seller, a ferry captain, a man with wobbly legs, a young boy who plays the accordion, through a bazaar of street sellers, a juice man, a kitten, and a bathing room full of giggling women. This book might lead to an unplanned walk around your city or town to just see what happens along the way. 🙂 There’s really only one page that mentions any type of music, so perhaps it’s a good opportunity to discuss the title’s meaning. The artwork was done digitally in Photoshop, using a Wacom Cintiq.
November 3, 2020
Doubleday Books for Young Readers
The reader is supposed to find Fergus in this fun-filled picture book. However, Fergus must first learn HOW to hide. Can he hide behind a tree? How about among a group of elephants? Once Fergus figures out the best hiding spots, it will be game on! The last two page spreads have a large number of characters and Fergus gives the reader a list of things to find. Very similar to Where’s Waldo, but slightly easier and definitely more humorous.
I Am the Storm
Heidi E y Stemple
Kristen Howdeshell, illustrator
Kevin Howdeshell, illustrator
October 27, 2020
Rise X Penguin Workshop
Such important messages are found in this book: It’s okay to be scared! The storm will soon end! You’re more like this storm than you realize! We continue to face traumatic storms with tornadoes, blizzards, forest fires, and hurricanes recurring year after year. But this book provides the comforting tone needed to calm anxiety and remind children that life will soon begin anew. Additionally, we reflect the calm after the storm. Worth remembering! The back matter includes more details about tornadoes, blizzards, wildfires, and hurricanes for readers who would like to learn more. The artwork was sketched in pencil and the finishes are rendered in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. Truly lovely book filled with so much HOPE! ❤
The All-Together Quilt
October 27, 2020
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
This delightful picture book shares the store of 17 people working together to create a quilt in the community center. Each page spread shows the details process of creating the quilt from selecting the fabric to sewing on the binding around the edges. At the very back, there’s an Author’s note which explains what she’s done with a quilting group she created in her community. There’s also a page showcasing nine classic blocks people use in quilts and another page providing more details about the quilt they made in the book. Readers can visit the author’s website which includes the story behind the book and a photo gallery. It’s a wonderful little step-by-step story that can be a great introduction to beginning a quilt project. The illustrations in this book were created with watercolor, ink, and scans of fabric.
The Blue Table
October 20, 2020
I was a little surprised as the so-so Goodreads rating for this book because I thought it was simply lovely — filled with nostalgia! With very few words on each page, the blue table has many purposes throughout a week. Sometimes just a child sits at it. And sometimes it’s a child with two adults. Sometimes it’s used for reading books, newspapers, creating artwork, cutting flowers, preparing food, and even cleaning the dishes. But best of all is when friends, neighbors, and family gather around the blue table. I also appreciated that the table hosted diverse skin tones among the invited guests. Perhaps this book is especially meaningful for me after a year of social distancing? Quite heartwarming. The illustrations were created with watercolor and cut paper collage.
Massimiliano Narciso, illustrator
August 1, 2020
My youngest has Frozen merchandise everywhere: sheets, bedspread, multiple PJs, slippers, snuggly couch blanket, backpack, underwear, action figures, chapstick, etc. You name it, she just might have it. So as soon as I saw the new graphic novel format of the movie, we had to check it out from our public library. She read it by herself, immediately. Then we took three nights to finish it, again, as her bedtime story. If you appreciated the movie, it’s pretty much the same thing. I was just going to purchase a copy since her 7th birthday is coming up in two months, but then I noticed they’ve released a new Disney Frozen and Frozen 2 graphic novel that’s over twice as long as this one. After realizing that the sample page spreads included everything from this first book, we put in an order for that one. She’s going to be soooo excited. I’ll provide one page spread as an example of what to expect from the artwork, below:
To Be Read:
I am still reading Goodbye, Mr. Terupt (Mr. Terupt #4) by Bob Buyea and Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (which was supposed to be my nightly reading last week, but reading plans quickly got hijacked when Covid invaded our home). I’m not yet sure what I’ll start next, but I have a huge pile just waiting (For example, Unplugged, Quintessence, Many Points of Me, Root Magic, Anxious People, Raybearer, King and the Dragonflies, Mañanaland, Fighting Words, and more). Many ready-and-waiting books is always a great “problem” to have, so feel free to sound off on what you’d pick up, next!
Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge: 30/200