Like many others, we’ve had a very cold and snowy week. So we loaded up on groceries with a pick-up order on Wednesday and were pretty excited when our college campus was closed on Friday. I lost count of how many times we had to shovel sidewalks and driveways (for two properties, since we still own our old house), but let’s just say that the Miller family is building arm muscles!
A couple weeks ago, I noticed Crystal of Reading Through Life linking to books through The StoryGraph website, instead of through Goodreads. So I’ve popped on over there, created an account, and exported/imported my entire Goodreads reading history over to this new platform. I’m not yet finished my investigation to decide if I’ll stick with it or not (I’m definitely still keeping my Goodreads account up-to-date), but I thought I’d mention it in case other readers want to test it out.
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! Hopefully you’ll find something of interest here to add to your reading list.
(The Hate U Give #0)
January 12, 2021
Balzer + Bray
I was thrilled to find this book on Overdrive in audiobook format. Dion Graham is a fantastic narrator — very impressive, emotional, and believable. Concrete Rose is the backstory of Starr’s father, Maverick, when he was seventeen. I thought I might need to reread The Hate You Give (since I read it in September of 2017), but that wasn’t necessary. Overall, this story STOPPED ME IN MY TRACKS! It faces the realities of Black families living in Garden Heights — from making money to losing those you love. It tears down toxic masculinity in multiple ways, addresses the difficulties of postpartum depression, showcases the hardships of teen pregnancy and teen parenthood (going without sleep, increased costs, lack of time for relationships, etc.), teaches the value of community, and so much more. And yes, we see appearances from most of the characters from The Hate You Give, including a young Khalil. I’m happy to recommend!
This book was my “read in bed” book, each night over the last week or so. It was so engaging that I had a hard time making myself stop reading to get some sleep. Soontornvat was visiting family in Thailand right as the rescue was taking place. After the rescue was complete, she felt called to report on the details of the rescue — particularly about the little known heroes and how the rescue mission played out. There are extensive footnotes with lengthy bibliography and the photos are so interesting and helpful. I appreciated how she explains the culture of the Thai people, the religions, the different sections of the cave, intricate details of cave diving (including the necessary gear) and water movement, the difficulty in communicating during the rescue mission, the countless people who came in to help in any way they could, and the medical details (such as how the body reacts to these environments and the types of medicines they had to work with). Congratulations to Christina Soontornvat for taking a second Newbery Honor, a Sibert Honor, a YALSA Award Nominee for Excellence in Nonfiction, and a Cybils award for MG Nonfiction. Well deserved!
April 21, 2020
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Ooof! Good. So good. I seriously basked in the glow of this book, refusing to start something new at the end. You know the kind of book I’m talking about, right? Set in Depression-era Maine, this is such a beautiful story of starting over, of tragedy, community, courage, and sisterhood.
Blame comes from the Greek for curse. That’s the root of it. A curse against the sacred. Which is what sisters are, or should be, to each other.
I love it when a story is more than a story — when we learn more about our own lives as we watch a family fight for survival. From the detailed imagery of every day life on Echo Mountain to the surprising reveals about each individual, I was moved. We have little room for judging, yet we continue to simplify one another — box one another into something smaller than what we are.
We are all more than one thing.
It’s not surprising that this one has made many “must read” lists. I’m sure it will be a reread for me, at some point. Happy to recommend!
April 18, 2020
In this graphic novel, Kiku (the author) is visiting San Francisco with her mother when she is suddenly transported back to the 1940s where she’s forced into a Japanese-American internment camp. She refers to this time traveling experience as displacement. At first, these displacements happen only briefly. But the third time it happens, she appears to be stuck living for months next door to her own grandmother when she was a young violinist. The story had a sense of missing information, which we learn is on purpose since much of the Japanese culture was lost after the internment (or incarceration) camps because the Japanese felt shame and fear. It was a very somber book. Yet it points out that the same government and societal attitudes can be found today. From the Author’s Note: “These stories are vital, but only if you use them to take action. I hope this one can demonstrate how long-and how vital it is that we fight against those who would inflict it on our most vulnerable neighbors.”
Congratulation, By the Way
Chelsea Cardinal, illustrator
April 22, 2014
This little book is a transcript of the speech George Saunders gave as the convocation address at Syracuse University. The front cover says it was published in the New York Times and shared over a million times, so it makes perfect sense that it would become a book. It’s touching, uplifting, funny, and has definitely left an impact on my heart. ❤️ Perfect “any time” gift, but especially great for graduation!
Off to See the Sea
Elizabeth Zunon, illustrator
January 12, 2021
Aww, what a cute story of preparation for bedtime. It’s all kickstarted by a young mother whispering “bath time” in her young child’s ear. From there, the adventure begins. Who knew what all could happen in one little bathtub?! The full color art was created using oil and acrylic paint with cut paper collage, marker, and gel pen.
Art Twink, illustrator
October 20, 2020
There are very few picture books about young transgender children, and definitely few that would use actual terms like cisgender within the story. But this story does just that. We immediately learn that young Trinity likes soft things, “…just like many kids with autism.” She doesn’t feel like she can be a girl without long hair. And she has a mama who is going to make sure she has exactly what she needs, even if it doesn’t exist in a store. This was written by a mother-daughter writing team. The inside cover says they’ve been featured in National Geographic, The Advocate, and Essence. However, this was my first exposure to the team, so I really wish there had been an Author’s Note to share more about their experiences in real life. The artwork for this book was created digitally.
Lubaya’s Quiet Roar
Philemona Williamson, illustrator
October 6, 2020
In this gorgeous picture book, Lubaya is a quiet, artistic, introverted girl who listens and notices the details of what goes on around her. She may be easily overlooked by the crowd as she is never attention-seeking, but by the end of this story, her voice is very important. However, Lubaya doesn’t need to yell to be heard.
Lubya’s roar may not be loud, but a quiet roar can make history.
It’s a very important message during these crucial times! Lovely artwork matches simple words in this important picture book. And in the back matter, we learn that in Swahili, Lubaya means “young lioness.” The paintings for this were created using oil paint and crayon on Arches oil paper.
A Voice Named Aretha
Laura Freeman, illustrator
January 7, 2020
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
This is an excellent picture book biography of the Queen of Soul following Aretha’s life from the time she was a shy little girl to the late years of her life when she was performing for presidents and known world-wide. We learn more about Aretha’s father, Reverend C. L. Franklin, about the famous visitors that frequented their home during Aretha’s childhood, and about the surprising death of Aretha’s mother before she turned 10. She climbed the ladder quickly, and by the age of eighteen she was ready to leave the nest and she signed with a record company shortly thereafter. It’s no surprise that Aretha refused to perform in spaces where Blacks were not allowed, and she had a good head for business (demanding to be paid in cash, up-front). Everyone was deeply moved by her music.
Aretha’s music didn’t just soothe her pin, it inspired black people, women, and people of all colors to stand up for justice.
In the back matter, there’s a two-paged detailed note sharing far more about Aretha’s life. Additionally, there’s an Author’s Note, an Illustrator’s Note, a list of songs by Aretha Franklin, and sources. The artwork for this book was created digitally with Photoshop.
The Old Truck
January 7, 2020
Norton Young Readers
W.W. Norton and Company
In subdued, pastel colors we witness the fact that an old truck has a long memory. It works hard, is eventually put to rest, but is revived years later. Nevertheless, the story is less about the truck and more about the family that loves it — how they change and grow over the years. And how the farm is passed down from father to daughter. Such a beautiful “feel good” story that can be enjoyed again and again.
To Be Read:
I am currently listening to The Sea in Winter by Christine Day. My morning read aloud with the kids is The Train of Lost Things by Ammi-Joan Paquette and we’re just about halfway through. And I’m starting Amina’s Voice in preparation for Amina’s Song, coming this March.