It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/1/2021 #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!

Last week I finally published my #MustReadin2021 list. So feel free to pop over there to see what I placed on the 2021 list.

NOTE: I just wanted to remind everyone that Sol Invictus by Ben Gartner (sequel to The Eye of Ra) will be released into the world TOMORROW!! 🎉  Go grab a copy quickly!

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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. 😊 


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When You Trap a Tiger
Tae Keller
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!

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.


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Fighting Words
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
August 11, 2020
Dial Books

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!

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.


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We Dream of Space
Erin Entrada Kelly
May 5, 2020
Greenwillow Books

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.

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.


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We Are Water Protectors
Carole Lindstrom
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.

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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.


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The Cat Man of Aleppo
Irene Latham

Karim Shamsi-Basha
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!

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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.


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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!

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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.


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! 

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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.


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge: 45/200
#MustReadIn2021: 2/49


What are YOU reading?

20 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/1/2021 #imwayr

  1. I love the way you did your post, Shaye! I have all the books you shared except Fighting Words & I suspect, sadly, I won’t get to it soon. I loved Catman of Aleppo, a beautiful story! And as for the ones you have on your ‘coming up’ list, I’ve read & adored both of Soontornvat’s books. The Root of Magic is a title new to me! Thanks for a great post and Happy February!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked the post set-up. 🙂 I can’t stop thinking about how Soontornvat must have been beside herself to take TWO Newbery honors in the same year. What an amazing accomplishment! The Root of Magic is actually from 2019. I won it in a blog giveaway hosted by Nicole of Bluestocking Thinking in June of 2019. It’s a mysterious read and the kids are pretty hooked, trying to figure out what happened. We’re going to have to keep The Root of Magic and Root Magic separated, but my kiddos were already comparing the covers and trying to imagine how they are similar. Heehee! Thanks for swinging by, Linda!

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  2. I just requested an Overdrive copy of When You Trap a Tiger. It sounds so good!! Fighting Words is such a powerful, brave book. I need to read her other work! Have a great week, Shaye!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree on Fighting words, Wendi. Incredibly powerful!! If you haven’t yet read her Newbery honor book from 2015, The War That Saved My Life, I highly recommend it. Then I dare you not to immediately follow it with book #2, The War I Finally Won. Both were quite eye-opening and engaging. And I really hope you like When You Trap a Tiger, too. Thanks so much for popping over today!

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  3. What a great idea, to read the recent award winners! Some years, I have done that with the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction – requested the winner at my library before a big wait list grew – and I have never been disappointed.

    These all sound outstanding, and I haven’t read ANY of these authors yet! I better get to work. I’ve been hearing a lot about We Dream of Space in particular.

    Sue
    Book By Book

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s always fun when you discover you’ve read most or all of the award winners, but it’s also exciting to suddenly have a list of books to grab up right away and read. We Dream of Space was especially interesting since I was about the same age as the main character when Challenger exploded. So many memories come back through that one! Thanks for visiting, Sue!

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  4. As soon as I could find a list of the award winners I went to my library and put holds on those I haven’t read!
    I hope to read We Are Water Protectors soon. Have you read The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson? It was published a few years ago and tells of the woman who started the whole walking movement to protect water. We Are Water Protectors looks to have more gorgeous illustrations!
    I really appreciated reading the information you shared about the pipeline. I’ve come to understand that those people who are most emphatic about the pipeline and those most likely to deny the science of climate change.
    I’m looking forward to reading what you think of A Wish in the Dark. It just didn’t work for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t yet read The Water Walker, but I’m so glad to learn of it! There are a few virtual read alouds of it on Youtube, so I’ll add it to my list to watch (since we don’t have it at a local library, yet). There has been so much misinformation over the pipeline. Yet I do believe many cling so hard to their political base that finding legitimate information isn’t really a priority. There are so many memes circulating and it’s almost like, the louder you yell it, the more you believe it. Ugh. I continue to hope and pray for the healing of our nation. ❤

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  5. I have been so out of the loop with children’s literature! Thank you for sharing all of these titles. I will definitely be looking for the three Newbury titles you shared. They all sound amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s EXACTLY how I referred to it, last week — the Super Bowl of KidLit!! But you’re right, Earl. Most people have ZERO idea of how we wait for the announcement of the Youth Media Awards. lol

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  6. I love how quickly you got started on all the award winners—I don’t even have any of them yet! When You Trap a Tiger sounds like an excellent story that deserved the medal, and Fighting Words is sounding more and more like a must-read as well. We Are Water Protectors also sounds excellent, and I appreciate your point about the pipeline—we need to combat misinformation wherever we see it! Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I was lucky that I’d already read some of the award winners from the YMAs (and I had easy access to most others — including some I already had in my possession). Totally agree on combating misinformation, but it’s very difficult when it become political. 😦 Thanks so much for swinging by!

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  7. I think When You Trap a Tiger sounds like the one I want to read the most from this list. I also need to read We Dream of Space, which I’ve heard such good things about. I was in middle school at that time, and I just have to read it for the pop culture references. I remember sticker trading and Diet Tab!
    I like how you featured award winners today! Very timely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed diving into all of them. We Dream of Space really did take me back to my middle grade years. The references were so fun and made the story much more realistic! Thanks for visiting, Jenni!

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    1. It was a fantastic week of reading — always fun to get to round up any award-winners that I’ve missed the previous year. Wow was Fighting Words a tough story, but also important. Thanks for dropping by!

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