We officially celebrated my birthday yesterday. My husband made a fantastic Gluten-Free soup, Olive Garden salad, and he even baked a delicious Gluten-free cheese cake for me. Then he and the kiddos combined their money to get me a beautiful hodgepodge of fall-ish gifts from chocolates to fancy coffees to new hoodies to candles to jewelry to a fluffy new couch blanket. I’m feeling quite spoiled right about now! 🥰
If this is your first visit to my blog, welcome! Today is Monday, and I regularly participate in a weekly #IMWAYR meme. 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!
This week I’m sharing one graphic novel and a stack of picture books (and SIX of them are biographies!!). Maybe you’ll find something of interest to add to your reading list.
Byron Eggenschwiler, illustrator
April 2, 2019
This graphic novel may be hit or miss, depending on the reader. Yes, there’s a great deal of drama and confusion over feelings and relationships, but it’s all very much in line with the middle grade years. However, as I was a music performance major during my undergrad, this was a lovely read for me. Much of the story takes place in a classroom while the teacher, Mr. K., is helping students discover their own personal song that describes them. I just loved Mr. K’s daily music styles he shared with the class and how each student responded uniquely to 80’s music, punk, opera, rap, etc. while they’re all searching for connection. Having part of the storyline focused on Maria Callas was very unusual since so few middle grade students have any interest in opera. Nevertheless, Charlie (the main character) is listening to this diva to discover how to live her own life. It was a super fast read – could easily be read in one sitting. And the copy I read even came with a built-in purple silk bookmark (attached to the book binding).
I really liked the dramatic artwork in Operatic. There were a few colorful pages, but much of it was done in subdued yellows and shades of gray. The illustrations gave me so many feelings – a necessary and wonderful addition to the storyline. I’ll provide one example, below:
This picture book was a wonderful biography about the life of Williamina Stevens Flemming. Her life certainly wasn’t easy since her father died when she was only seven. And if it wasn’t for Williamina taking a job as a maid for Professor Pickering at the Harvard College Observatory, her curiosity and intelligence might not have provided such help to our understanding of the light of stars. Additionally, it was her detailed work that led to the hiring of many other women in the field. And she wasn’t shy about complaining when these women were paid only a fraction of what the men were paid. The back matter includes a timeline, glossary, biography, and Author’s Note, and bibliography. The artist used watercolor, gouache, color pencil, and Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book.
This is another great picture book biography of Thurgood Marshall (I reviewed Thurgood by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Bryan Collier, in March 2020). This one started with his young life in second grade when he changed his name from Thoroughgood to Thurgood. And it ended sharing that when he died, he was laid in state in the Supreme Court rotunda, “and honor given to only one other justice before him.” The back matter has a detailed timeline, summaries of his major court cases, a list for further reading, and a bibliography. The artist used Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book.
This is quite an inspirational story of Rita Morena from her young years in Puerto Rico to her time winning an Oscar for her part in West Side Story. She was one of very few who have clinched the EGOT (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony), which was a huge accomplishment. The artist used Adobe Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book.
And just for fun, don’t you want to watch a clip of the original movie performance of Rita Morena singing and dancing to America as Anita in West Side Story.
Who is Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
Stanley Chow, illustrator
December 8, 2020
Back in October of 2020 I authored a post reviewing NINE children’s books about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This book was on the “coming soon” list at that time, so I’m glad to finally get my hands on it. It’s a simple board book with only 10 page spreads, so much more appropriate for very young children.
“Your story will not happen on paper. It will happen first in the imagination of your reader.” -Pura Belpré
This was a beautiful and inspiring story of Pura Belpré and her determination to bring beloved stories from her homeland to the libraries of New York. She had to break some rules to get it done, but what an impact she made on the future of books and storytelling! The back matter includes an Author’s Note. The vibrant illustrations for this book were made with electronic media. I’ll provide one example, below:
Many people didn’t believe Sharice Davids had a real chance to become a Congresswoman. However, the doubters obviously didn’t know how persistent she was. This picture book starts from her young elementary school years, giving depth to her personality and feelings, and then it goes all the way through her winning the election for congress. The back matter includes an Author’s Note, an Artist’s Note, and a lengthy section specifically about the Ho-Chunk (written by Jon Greendeer, the former President of the Ho-Chunk Nation). The artist used Procreate to create the digital illustrations for this book.
I’ve not yet watched the Netflix holiday film Jingle Jangle, but I plan to very soon after hearing how great it is! This book apparently shares part of that story showcasing the special bond Journey and her grandfather Jeronicus Jangle over inventing things. The general idea is that when they do the math, nothing is impossible! And Journey has an urgent need to remind Jeronicus who he is. They ultimately do that with FUN! The back matter includes a poem (or complete song lyrics) to The Square Root of Possible.
Sharon King-Chai, illustrator
November 24, 2020
Dial Books for Young Readers
(penguin random house)
This is actually my second time to check out this book because I enjoyed it so much last spring. Delicate pages can be turned, flipped, and opened in various ways to reveal hidden animals or insects and their offspring. The artwork is quite stunning and yet it’s also a fun hunting, counting, and puzzling read that can be enjoyed time and time, again. I cannot possibly capture the beauty of the artwork (especially as it varies so much from page to page), but I will provide a page spread below.
The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom
Colleen A.F. Venable
Lian Cho, illustrator
September 22, 2020
(imprint of HarperCollins)
This ADORABLE picture book is pretty much reality for band teachers introducing each instrument to a child interested in joining the band. The teacher shares the clarinet, the trumpet, the oboe, the flute, the saxophone, the trombone, the tuba, and finally percussion instruments like THE DRUMS! But one young girl simply cannot wait to get to her favorite instrument so she keeps interrupting each teaching lesson. The full-color art was made with collage and acrylic paint and with Procreate and Photoshop.
October 27, 2020
This was a cute and simple picture book that documented a young girl’s journey to language acquisition. In the end, she’s happy to learn each new word so that she can WRITE. The artist used pen and marker on paper and colored the illustrations digitally using Adobe Photoshop. I’ll provide one example, below:
Currently Reading/To Be Read:
I am still listening to Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger and am about halfway through. I also just purchased Set Me Free by Ann Clare LeZotte (which is book #2 of Show Me a Sign). And I’ll keep chipping away at my new pile of picture books, including another biography: Jack Horner: Dinosaur Hunter.