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!
Last week I finally published my #MustReadin2021 list. So feel free to pop over there to see what I placed on the 2021 list.
I’m taking this week just to share from the 2021 Newbery and Caldecott Award winner/honors I’ve enjoyed, thus far. These yearly announcements are so exciting and I searched especially to get some updated book cover images with the new medals attached. Yeehaw! So today I’m reviewing three Newbery winner/honor books and three Caldecott winner/honor books. Maybe you’ll find something to add to your list. 😊
When You Trap a Tiger
January 28, 2020
Random House Books for Young Readers
I sure felt lucky to grab up an Overdrive copy of When You Trap a Tiger maybe a day after it was announced as the gold medal winner of the 2021 Newbery award. I adored The Science of Breakable Things back in 2018 and feel I’ve been very patient waiting for Keller’s latest work. And oh my, what a stunning experience of family, culture, tradition, grief, friendship, secrets, and the power of stories.
“I am a girl who sees invisible things, but I am not invisible.”
After the death of her father, Lily, her grouchy older sister, and their mother are all moving in with their eccentric Halmoni (grandmother). On their way to Halmoni’s home, Lily begins seeing a tiger and she wonders what that means. Shortly after their arrival, Lily learns that her Halmoni has been keeping some Korean history and stories from her in an effort to prevent “bad feelings” from being passed on. Halmoni gives her items to protect her from the tiger, but when it begins showing up in Lily’s daily life (asking for the return of the stories while offering to heal Halmoni) Lily must make a very important decision.
“…hiding it doesn’t erase the past, it only bottles it up.”
Korean folktales are woven seamlessly into the storyline and they usually involve sisters, protection, and sacrifice. And as Lily struggles with new emotions of fear and anger, she begins to question the characters in the story. It’s incredibly moving to watch her develop both with her family and in her friendships.
“Yeah, well, it doesn’t matter for us anyway. We don’t have to worry about, you know, the meaning of life. The only thing we need to worry about is what’s in our pudding.” *snicker* 😂
I kinda wish I’d read the Author’s Note at the very end before I even started the book, but perhaps that would have given away some of the magic before I had a chance to experience the story. I don’t know. But after having read Keller’s research experiences, I had a true “ah ha” moment, so now I’m feeling the urge to get back into the story again, with fresh eyes. Just an all-round lovely, moving story. I’m thrilled to know this took the gold medal. Congratulations to Tae Keller!
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
August 11, 2020
I bought this back in October, and finally got to it this week. I thought Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life duology was just fantastic (book #1 also took a Newbery honor) and I’ve enjoyed reading her thought-provoking blog posts, ever since. So clearly, she’s become an author I deeply trust to pull me into her stories and move me with the power of her words. TW: bullying, sexism, incarceration, sexual abuse, suicide.
Ten-year-old Delicious (please call her Della), doesn’t take snow from anyone. She and her sister, Suki, have been through some real snow. They’re survivors. After their mother blew up a motel while cooking meth, they were placed with their mom’s boyfriend, Clifton, without even a question of whether he was their father. After a while, they escaped the abuse of his home and eventually landed in Francine’s home. She’s a foster mom who doesn’t beat around the bush with them: she takes in foster girls for the money.
There’s something wonderful and redeeming hidden in these pages for everyone, so I hope our teachers and librarians will push it when they can. I say this because, as a child, if I wasn’t familiar with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s books and had only read the depressing synopsis to Fighting Words, I might have left it on the shelf. Yes, it definitely covers rough territory. Nevertheless, these characters leap off the page and give us hope. For example, there are these simple, but precious lump-in-the-throat conversations between the sisters. And while Francine is gruff and blunt, over time we realize there’s more than meets the eye with her. She’s absolutely golden. PLEASE tell me there are tons of Francines in the foster system, today!
We’re way beyond cocoa, aren’t we?
Ultimately, this story is very much about bravery. But it’s also about family, community, hope, not judging a book by its cover, and the many systems we have in place that fail children (foster care, legal, and school). I just love the story and imagine it will be a re-read with my kiddos, very soon. PLEASE don’t forget to read the Author’s Note at the end, which ties this story to Bradley’s as an #OwnVoices novel. This will further explain the undeniable passion and pain we feel as we read it. Congratulations to Kimberly Brubaker Bradley for her second Newbery honor book!
We Dream of Space
Erin Entrada Kelly
May 5, 2020
I was looking forward to reading this book, especially considering the fact that the three Nelson-Thomas siblings were around the age I was during the historic launch of the Challenger. It did NOT disappoint! Cash, Fitch, and Bird are all very different children, growing up together in a rather unhappy home. Cash keeps failing 7th grade and if he keeps this up, he’s going to fall into a grade level below his younger siblings. Fitch is a crazy ball of anger — he struggles to keep himself calm when the littlest things attempt to set him off. And Bird is a thoughtful science geek, constantly dreaming of space. Her goal is to become NASA’s first female shuttle commander, some day. We all know what happened to the Spaceshuttle Challenger, but as the story led up to that fateful day, there was so much hope in what that launch would accomplish. It was incredibly sad to witness Bird’s stunned response to the incident as she began to spiral away from her deepest dreams. But it’s in those shocking moments that family so often jumps in to help us hold it together. Does the Nelson-Thomas family have what it takes to recognize what she needs?
There’s so much to discuss in this story. I can’t wait to see what other readers think — particularly those who were in middle school and high school during that historic moment. There were many pop culture things mentioned in this story that took me right back to that time period. For example: Slimfast, Diet Tab, trading stickers (huge hobby!), hacky sack, ThunderCats TV show, and Miss Pac-Man. This was definitely a walk down memory lane while getting an intimate glimpse into the lives of the Nelson-Thomas family. Congratulations to Erin Entrada Kelly for receiving a Newbery honor for We Dream of Space!
NOTE: This review was originally published on June 8, 2020, right HERE.
We Are Water Protectors
Michaela Goade, illustrator
March 17, 2020
Roaring Brook Press
We Are Water Protectors won the 2021 Caldecott Medal and it appears absolutely no one is surprised. What a beautiful book, but how especially TIMELY! The story is about the foretelling of the “black snake” (oil pipelines) which might eventually run through sacred Native American lands, destroying their life-giving water. And it’s also about the fight to have your voice heard. The back matter shares more information about water protectors as well as further reading, a glossary, and an illustrator’s note. Congratulations to Michaela Goade and Carole Lindstrom for winning the 2021 Caldecott Medal!
NOTE: In recent years, the Keystone XL Pipeline has been a major political issue in the US. As the plan was for it to cut through my neck of the woods, I can attest to just how divided my neighbors are over it passing through Native American lands, very close to a sacred aquifer, and without their consent. Construction barely began (in fact, only 1.2 miles of the pipeline had been completed) before President Biden halted the project, last week. Backlash started with false claims that anywhere from 11,000 to 83,000 people will lose their jobs due to the halt. However, TC Energy Corp. says they only hired 1,000 people to work on the pipeline, thus far. Additionally, American’s initially believed that the crude oil would be used here and would, therefore, lower gas prices at the pump. However, later investigations revealed that the majority of Keystone XL oil would be sent to markets overseas and could lead to raising our current gas prices. It’s always disappointing to find mountains of politically-driven misinformation (especially in memes), but the truth is out there when we search for it.
The Cat Man of Aleppo
Yuko Shimizu, illustrator
March 17, 2020
Penguin Random House
Need a feel-good picture book? Look no more. First, before the story, there’s a note from Alaa that begins with “This is a story about cats and war and people. But most of all, it is a story about love…” ❤️ This picture book tells the story of Alaa who stayed behind in his country when so many needed to flee for safety during the war. He drives an ambulance and helps those in need. Among the city rubble, he began to find abandoned cats that were hungry. Many, many cats. Everywhere! He scrabbled together some funds to buy a building and set up a sanctuary so cats can be fed. After a while, word got out and donations began coming in from all over. Now, when others have to leave the city, they bring their cats (and other animals) to Alaa to care for.
The art for this book was first drawn with black ink on watercolor paper, then scanned in and colored using Adobe Photoshop. Be sure to check out the notes in the back matter! Congratulations to Irene Latham, Karim Shamsi-Basha, and Yuko Shimizu for being awarded a 2021 Caldecott Honor!
Mama & Me
Cozbi A. Cabrera
August 25, 2020
Denene Millner Books
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
The day may seem completely normal — just an ordinary day with a young girl and her mother waking up together. Before the girl’s brother and father wake up, Mama and the young girl brush their teeth, shower, get dressed, eat some breakfast, fix their hair, and splash outside in the rain before meeting up with her little brother and Papa. This day may seem mundane, but there’s clearly beauty, bonding, and patience. The painted artwork is incredibly gorgeous!
I also listened to this interview of Cozbi A. Cabrera on Youtube and it shared a great deal about her artwork, illustrating experiences, and finally her beginning to write her own stories. I loved Cabrera’s sharing of how (and why) she submitted her first children’s stories. I highly recommend both the book and her video interview. Congratulations to Cozbi A. Cabrera for being awarded a 2021 Caldecott Honor!
Currently Reading (this week):
I’ll continue reading any Newbery and Caldecott winners and honor books I missed, before now. I am about a quarter into A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat and I should start reading All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team very soon. I’m still reading The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble with my kids each morning, which has been so enjoyable!
To Be Read (soon-ish):
If I finish the three I’m currently working on, I’ll probably select one of the following I have in my “choose next” pile: Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk, Thrive by Kenneth Oppel, How We Got to the Moon by John Rocco, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani, Operatic by Kyo Maclear, Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, or Displacement by Kiki Hughes.