It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/24/2020 #imwayr

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!

I must admit that one major reason for being a little late to the #imwayr link-up, this week, is because I became thoroughly engrossed in a new book I hadn’t even planned on starting for another week or so. Don’t you just love it when that happens? There’s something so thrilling about being able to put the world on hold simply because you don’t want to put your book down. We love to see this happen with our children and students, but it’s equally as exciting when it happens for adults. ❤

It’s been another great week of reading. Our tri-college system has a large pile of 2019 picture books I haven’t yet read, so I’m slowly working my way through those. And today I’m excited to be reviewing The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner, which was published earlier this month. Whether it’s a new or older title you come across today, I hope you’ll find something you can add to your future reading list.


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The Eye of Ra
Ben Gartner
February 1, 2020
Crescent Vista Press

Heads-up, middle grade readers! Here’s a new historical fiction full of action, adventure, family, and friendships! John and his sister, Sarah, are devastated to discover their family will soon be moving from their beloved home in Colorado to a new city in Maryland. Before the big move, they’re out hiking the land near their home when they come across an interesting symbol inside a cave. After rubbing their fingers over the lines in the symbol, there’s a bright flash and they are suddenly surrounded by sand. Where and WHEN in the world are they? It appears they’ve landed right smack dab in the middle of ancient Egypt. And thus begins an unforgettable adventure that no one in their right mind will EVER believe!

While some readers are comparing this book to The Magic Treehouse, it was definitely more mature and filled with interesting research and rich details. There were comparisons between Ancient Egypt and modern day America that are well worth discussion, such as how the days were filled with real work just to stay alive (gathering water, growing crops, building your own fire for cooking, etc.) versus having a life of convenience, today.  Furthermore, in ancient Egypt only the wealthy boys went to school — if you were poor or a girl, it wasn’t a priority. I also appreciated how John and Sarah discovered they couldn’t possibly explain light bulbs or ice or television or airplanes without having to teach through many layers of science, first. It was easiest and more practical to simply call it magic.

“John opened his mouth to teach Zach about filaments and Thomas Edison and electricity, but it seemed like too much to explain. Every invention built on something else before it.”

I really enjoyed this book and hope the series will continue. I also hope to cook the Tilapia Barley Stew recipe, available in the back, as it is said to be one used by the ancient Egyptians (like the characters we meet in this book).

My sincere thanks to Ben Gartner for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. This book is available in both paperback and as an e-book and it was published earlier this month. I’m happy to recommend it!

You can add The Eye of Ra 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.
Also, check out Ben Gartner‘s author website HERE.


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Middle School Bites
Steven Banks
Mark Fearing, illustrator
February 4, 2020
Holiday House

This lighthearted audiobook was just what I needed after a difficult week of real life events. Middle schooler, Tom, is experiencing some unique feelings and cravings. He’s constantly hungry, he can see well in the dark, and he accidentally howls right in the middle of class. Could it be that he’s a Vam-Wolf-Zom? I mean, there was that weird bite he never identified. The narration was great in this one and I’ll definitely keep going if this series continues!

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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Mini Rabbit is Not Lost
John Bond
October 8, 2019
HarperCollins Children’s Books

Mini Rabbit has one thing on his mind: cake. His mother’s cake, to be exact. But before his mother can make cake, he has to find some berries. He travels far and wide to find berries for the cake and eventually isn’t sure where he is. Thankfully, the smell of cake brings him back to his senses and he find his way back home. But is he hungry for cake anymore?

I’m disappointed that I couldn’t find out how the artwork was created because I really liked it and wanted to know more about it. At times you can see a canvas look. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Mini-Rabbit-is-Not-Lost-SPREAD

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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Just in Case You Want to Fly
Julie Fogliano
Christian Robinson, illustrator
October 8, 2019
Neal Porter Books

This is a great bedtime read-aloud! While not really a story, it has fun rhyming text and collage pictures worth talking about with young children. But this also would make a beautiful gift for someone going on a long trip or leaving home for college as it discusses all the important things to take with you and ends with a map with an “x” so they can find their way home, again.

The artwork for this book was made with paint and collage. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Just-in-Case-you-Want-to-Fly-SPREAD

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 Love Letter
Anika Aldamuy Denise
Lucy Ruth Cummins, illustrator
October 8, 2019
HarperCollins

This one is such an adorable story of how your entire attitude can be changed when you think someone loves you. In the end of this one, three friends come together and realize how lucky they are to have one another. Not just a great book for around Valentine’s Day, but a good read for the entire year!

The artwork was created with Navah Wolfe’s old-timey typewriter, gouache, brush marker, colored pencil, and ink wash. Then the illustrations were finished digitally. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

The-Love-Letter-SPREAD

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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Roar Like a Dandelion
Ruth Krauss
Sergio Ruzzier, illustrator
October 1, 2019
HarperCollins

This new little Krauss alphabet book uses each new letter of the alphabet to represented a verb, such as: Act like a…, Dance with a…, Fall like…, etc. The soft colored pictures depict primarily animals and bugs doing the actions.

The artist used pen & ink and watercolor to create the illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Roar-Like-a-Dandelion-SPREAD

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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Be Who You Are
Jennifer Carr
Ben Rumback, illustrator
November 23, 2010
Authorhouse

I recently heard about this book and was pleased to see it was available through my college. It begins with a young boy named Nick who, after a lot of consideration, decides he isn’t a boy and makes slow changes to become “Hope.” His parents are patient and understanding, even making sure to find a good doctor for their child to speak with while making this decision. Obviously, this book provides a framework for transgender discussion as so many children are going through this process, today. I found it especially interesting how the book switches from referring to the child as he/his/him to she/hers/her once the decision is made. And it also discusses how it can sometimes be difficult for friends and family members to remember a name change, to change from being a brother to a sister, and to use the proper pronouns.

The artwork is clearly not intended to be the focus of this book. It’s simple with a variety of pastel circles serving as backgrounds in each drawing.

Be-Who-You-Are-SPREAD

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.


To Be Read:

As I mentioned earlier this month, I am re-reading Scar Island aloud to my children (seemed like a good follow-up to Holes) and I have some Netgalley e-ARCs I need to share this month, including Help Wanted, Must Love Books. I also need to finish New Kid by Jerry Craft, which just didn’t happen this week due to other obligations. However, my priority over the next few weeks will be some adolescent/teen books my husband and I recently purchased to read and discuss with our teenagers in 2020 that cover a wide span of topics ranging from social media to sex. So I’ll begin with Orenstein’s Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape.

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 56/200


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/17/2020 #imwayr

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!


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Maybe He Just Likes You
Barbara Dee
October 1, 2019
Aladdin

Seventh grader, Mila, is experiencing unwanted attention by a group of boys in her middle school. They bump up against her, ask for hugs, subtly rub by her backside, and giggle or high-five with each other after each incident. She begins feeling nervous about going places and sensitive to the clothing she owns — even choosing to wear the same sweater a few times each week because its the one that covers her developing body, best. What makes matters worse is that a female friend of hers seems to think Mila is overreacting and doesn’t give her the support she really needs. She’s scared to report the contact and comments because the person she would have to talk to is also the basketball coach (so she fears he’ll automatically take the boy’s side since they’re basketball players). Barbara Dee writes so sensitively, revealing all the awkward feelings puberty brings and the fear of having no adult to trust. And the book was almost 90% finished before the phrase “sexual harassment” even came up. Before that time, Mila didn’t know how to describe the behavior. I’m so happy this book exists. There aren’t nearly enough middle grade books written on this topic.

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 Hundred-Year Barn
Patricia MacLachlan
Kenard Pak, illustrator
September 17, 2019
Katherine Tegen Books

Ah, this book is sure to make one long for a better sense of community:

The hundred-year barn was built one summer in our meadow with a small stream running through.
  It was built by townspeople:
fathers and daughters,
mothers and sons,
grandmothers and grandfathers,
and friends.

Written from the point of view of the son whose father built the barn, he takes the reader through the process of building the barn, how it was used over the years, and we discover he’s a grown man by the last few pages. And much to his surprise, something that was once lost during the building of the barn is finally found. ❤ The artist used watercolor, gouache, pencil, ink, and digital media to create the illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:

Hundred-Year-Barn-SPREAD

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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Octopus Stew
Eric Velásquez
September 17, 2019
Holiday House

Ramsey’s grandma sees her grandson’s drawing of an octopus and it puts her in the mood to make some octopus stew. So off to the store they go to pick out an octopus to cook. But they’re certainly in for a shock when they get back home and begin cooking up their octopus. Then, right smack dab in the middle of the picture book, there’s a four-paged spread that lets us in on the fact that this is a fantastical story being shared with Ramsey’s family, after the fact. At the end, in an Author’s note, Velasquez shares more about his family’s gatherings where they would tell stories or play music for one another. He also shares that his family spoke non-standard Spanish at home, which is reflected in the English and Spanish usage in this story. The illustrations were painted in oil on Fabriano 300 lb. hot press watercolor paper. I’ll provide one example, below:

Octopus-Stew-SPREAD

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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A Place to Land:
Martin Luther King Jr. and
the Speech That Inspired a Nation
Barry Wittenstein
Jerry Pinkney, illustrator
August 27, 2019
Neal Porter Books

This beautiful picture book focuses on the events surrounding Martin Luther King’s speech on the National Mall during the march on Washington, August 28th, 1963. There were so many tidbits in these memories and it surprised me to learn of how many people attempted to influence his famous speech. I also wasn’t aware that most people don’t believe he intended to use his memorized “I Have a Dream” segment (which he had used several times, before, but not with as much national attention — primarily from white America). The seven pages of back matter are well worth the read, including a lengthy Author’s Note, Artist’s Note, a full page about the Willard Hotel Advisors, information on other voices and speakers for the march, sources, and a selected bibliography.

The artwork for this book was made using graphite, color pencil, watercolor, and collage on Arches watercolor paper. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

A-Place-to-Land-SPREAD

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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Let’s Scare Bear
Yūko Katakawa
July 9, 2019
Holiday House

This cute little tale is based on a classical Rokugo story that is traditionally performed onstage by a storyteller. Based on the cover, it appears that bear is scared. However, we quickly learn that bear isn’t scared of sharp teeth, sticky webs, a coiling snake, or being yelled at. Nope, he says Manju cake could very well be his downfall. Children will definitely enjoy this surprise ending!

The artwork in this book was created with mixed media. I’ll provide one example, below:

Lets-Scare-Bear-SPREAD

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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Bear Out There
Jacob Grant
June 4, 2019
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Bear does not like to go outside with a filthy ground, itchy plants, or pesky bugs. But his friend, Spider, needs help finding his kite after it flies away. This is a sweet story of friendship and the importance of persistence. If we don’t give up, we’ll often be successful! The artwork in this book was made with charcoal, crayon, and ink and then colored digitally. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Bear-Out-There-SPREAD

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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Mary Engelbreit’s
The World is Yours
Mary Engelbreit
April 2, 2019
HarperCollins

This precious keepsake book will be enjoyed by everyone from preschool through their wisdom years. It’s an illustrated collection of Mary Engelbreit’s favorite quotes. For example:

Do not allow yourselves to be disheartened by any failure as long as you have done your best.” -Mother Teresa
The only way to endure the quake is to adjust your stance.” -Oprah Winfrey
We must not allow fear to stand in our way.” -Nelson Mandela

Some are just so adorable that I want poster-sized copies to frame for my walls.  I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Engelbreits-World-Yours-SPREAD

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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Puddle
Richard Jackson
Chris Raschka, illustrator
March 26, 2019
Greenwillow Books

When you’re trudging through the rain, do you ever take a moment to consider what the puddles think of you? Well, that’s precisely what this picture book makes us ponder. Puddle has low self-esteem, wondering if his sisters and brothers are better than him. A seagull swoops by, sneakers splash through, and a dog pees in the puddle. But in the end, puddle is quite happy for the way he mirrors the beautiful colors around him. With bright, bold artwork and onomatopoeia, this book will make excellent discussion for young readers.

Watercolor and gouache paint on paper were used to prepare the full-color art. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Puddle-SPREAD

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.


To Be Read:

I just got a new pile of picture books to read this week and I’m also looking forward to finishing The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner and New Kid by Jerry Craft.


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 49/200


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/10/2020 #imwayr

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!

I’m running late this week, but should be able to slip in to the #imwayr link-up just in time. If you made it to this post, thanks so much for visiting!


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Clean Getaway
Nic Stone
January 7, 2020
Crown Books for Young Readers

I absolutely, positively loved Nic Stone’s Dear Martin. Additionally, I was mesmerized by her short story in Snow in Love (an anthology of four short stories) — it was clearly the best one of the book. And I appreciated what she was doing in Odd One Out, even if I wasn’t my favorite type of story. So it was a no-brainer to pick up her middle grade debut this week: Clean Getaway. Eleven-year-old William (AKA “Scoob-a-Doob”) is a young black boy and his G’ma is white. One day he’s taken on an unexpected road trip with G’ma. As they travel through important historical places (ex: Medgar Evers home in Jackson, Mississippi), William learns about the Green Book which was used back in the day to keep black traveler’s safe. Along the way, he picks up bits and pieces from G’ma’s past, including the story of how his grandfather ended up in jail. However, he begins to wonder if G’ma is losing her mind and if he might be in real danger after having lost all contact with his father. This story addresses multiple topics ranging from biracial families to being a single parent to segregation to incarceration and to aging parents. I’ll look forward to seeing its impact on middle graders, everywhere!

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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Holes
(Holes #1)
Louis Sachar
August 20, 1998
Scholastic

This week, I finished reading Holes as a read aloud with all five of my kiddos. It was what my 11 year old wanted to read since they loved 24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling — both titles have a similar setting and a few things in common. It was a HIT!! Stanley Yelnats is sent to a make-shift juvenile detention center digging holes at Camp Green Lake, which is in the middle of nowhere. As he works with the misfits in his group, they begin to uncover the real reason they’re tasked with digging hole after hole. (SPOILER: It ain’t to prepare the soil for gardening). Filled with mystery, adventure, and friendship, Holes will definitely remain a favorite in my family. We finished reading it on Friday and then watched the movie for our weekly family pizza movie night. I’m thinking we’ll start Scar Island later this month. I read it a couple years back and think it might work well just after reading Holes — yet another young boy being held in a detention center.

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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Night Job
Karen Hesse
G. Brian Karas, illustrator
September 11, 2018
Candlewick Press

I was entranced by this “night in the life of” story about a young boy who goes with his father to his night job. There was something that felt so cozy about peeking in on these two:

On Friday nights, when the sun goes down, I snap the clips shut on Dad’s lunch box and climb onto the back of his bike. We zoom over the darkening bay, riding the dusky highway.

The story engages the reader with the sounds, sights, tastes, and even the temperatures experienced during the night. I love the writing and the artwork — really want a copy of this one for my personal home library! The illustrations were done in mixed media. I’ll provide on page spread as an example, below:

Night-Job-SPREAD

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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Planting Stories:
The Life of Librarian
and Storyteller Pura Belpré
Anika Aldamuy Denise
Paola Escobar, illustrator
January 15, 2019
HarperCollins

What a lovely nonfiction picture book about the life of Pura Belpré. With Spanish words and phrases woven into the English text, we see her dedication for planting story seeds (just like Johnny Appleseed did). She shares stories she grew up listening to and eventually has them printed so they can be shared again and again. I so enjoyed the details of the artwork. And the back matter includes a wonderful author’s note, a bibliography, and more. The artist used Adobe Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Planting-Stories-SPREAD

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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What a Cold Needs
Barbara Bottner
Chris Sheban, illustrator
February 12, 2019
Neal Porter Books

This book would be a perfect gift for so many in our community who are currently under the weather with the flu. What sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch do YOU like when you have a cold? Perhaps warm socks, a kiss on the forehead, soft music, and a nice book would help any reader feel some comfort. The story will bring up many ideas to consider. And the ending has a slight twist that might bring a few giggles from young readers, too! The artwork was created using watercolor, colored pencil, and graphite. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

What-a-Cold-Needs-SPREAD

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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Gloria Takes a Stand:
How Gloria Steinem Listened,
Wrote, and Changed the World
March 12, 2019
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

This nonfiction biography is about the work of Gloria Steinem that kickstarted the women’s lib movement.  She was/is diligent and never gave up hope on a future where life would offer equal opportunities to women. The back matter contains an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, a timeline, and a bibliography. The artwork in this book was created with black sumi ink, gouache, and watercolor on paper, and then digitally composited in Photoshop. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Gloria-Takes-a-Stand-SPREAD

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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How to Two
David Soman
March 19, 2019
Dial Books

While this might initially be viewed as a simple counting book, there’s much more going on here story-wise. “How to one” is just one boy sliding down a playground slide by himself. Then “how to two” is two children on a seesaw together. On and on the story goes until it reaches 10 and starts back over at “how to one” when the young boy who started the book heads home to read with his mother. Similar to a wordless picture book, readers can discuss all sorts of things happening within each page spread. The story may take different directions as every reader interprets the thoughts and feelings of each character. Such fun! The artwork in this book was done with watercolors, ink, and colored pencils on paper. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

How-to-Two-SPREAD

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.


To Be Read:

I’m still reading and enjoying The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner, which was just published this month, and I just started listening to Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee on audiobook.


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 41/200


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/3/2020 #imwayr

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com

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!

Later this week will mark two years since I started this new blog (after losing my entire website, built from 2000 to 2016). I’ve not missed a week of #imwayr since moving to WordPress and I’ve purposefully read and commented on every single blog that links up, every week. I can officially say I feel very connected with this community and always look forward to seeing what each of you read and what you think about it. Thank you for sharing this weekly space with me!

This week I am happy to be reviewing an ARC of Chirp by Kate Messner. And I was so lucky to get my hands on a variety of other books that were published in the last year (or that have come highly recommended). Whether it’s a new book or older title, I hope you find something to add to your reading list.


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Chirp
Kate Messner
February 4, 2020
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Mia’s family is moving to Vermont at the end of her 7th grade year, where she’ll be closer to her aging grandmother who runs a cricket farm. Once an accomplished gymnast, Mia isn’t sure where her new interests lie now that she is healing from a balance beam injury (which required surgery on her arm). So she agrees to attend two summer camp opportunities in her new city — launch camp (a maker space for kids) and Warrior camp. At the maker space camp she makes a new set of friends and builds a team of people who rely on one another’s strengths. Mia’s big maker space project will hopefully boost her grandmother’s cricket farm by using robotic technology and social media hashtags. At the warrior camp, Mia must face her inner fears and take baby steps as she regains muscle strength and endurance.

As the maker space team works on their project, they soon discover someone is attempting to sabotage the cricket farm. This means a little dangerous undercover work for Mia in an attempt to uncover the culprit and prevent future damage. But as different people become potential suspects, it’s easy to jump to conclusions. In the meantime, Mia learns of the importance of opening up about uncomfortable experiences she’s had with an adult in her previous town. She learns that inappropriate touch and sexual harassment happen far more than we realize and that speaking out can be healing for yourself and helpful for others who may have experienced the same pain.

With the development of valuable friendships, learning how to communicate with parents, the inclusion of technology and social media, the mystery of sabotage, and deciding on whether to report an abuser, this book is very full and yet quite well-rounded. I was so pleased that it ended on a very happy and comforting note. And I just know it will be loved by so many middle graders who will relate to Mia’s arsenal of experiences, in one way or another. It would also make a wonderful read aloud, but be sure to order some edible crickets to share with listeners! My thanks to Netgalley and to Bloomsbury for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Chirp will be released tomorrow, so go out and pre-order your copy TODAY!

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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A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman
Henning Koch, translator
July 15, 2014
Atria Books

Ove is an irritable widower who is a stickler for following the rules. He has no problem going out of his way to correct anyone who is out of line. He likes his routine and doesn’t seem to be able to function if it’s broken. With flashbacks to his past, we witness how people and experiences have impacted who he is, today. We especially learn of his great love with his wife, Sonja. It was so beautiful and, yet, left a great big hole in his life.

Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.

The people in his neighborhood were absolutely lovely — those relationships and the ways we connect and serve one another are exactly what life is all about. For example, having never had children of his own, Ove becomes a beloved adopted grandfather to his neighbor’s children, giving him purpose and a reason to keep going.

For some reason I really struggled to get into this audiobook. I had heard so many wonderful things about the story, but I just felt so depressed seeing how visibly unhappy Ove was. Over time he grew on me as he built new relationships with others on his block and in the end I was sobbing my eyes out. I mean, absolutely bawling!

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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Giant Tess
Dan Yaccarino
April 2, 2019
HarperCollins

I’m convinced that Giant Tess is the human equivalent of Clifford the Big Red Dog. 🙂 She’s adopted as a baby and grows into a giant of a child. She can’t fit or blend in anywhere, but that doesn’t mean she cannot discover a purpose. This book will provide an interesting discussion about finding ways we can each function, even when we don’t believe we belong. Sadly, this feeling isn’t uncommon among children. The artist used brush and India ink on vellum and Photoshop to create the illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Giant-Tess-SPREAD

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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If I Was the Sunshine
Julie Fogliano
Loren Long, illustrator
May 7, 2019
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

With breathtaking, dreamlike artwork, this picture book is quite an experience. There’s so much to see and discuss with children about each new stanza. Three lines are always found on one page spread while the fourth is found after turning the page.  The pages go through various seasons and weather conditions and also include a variety of locations ranging from a meadow to a mountain to the sea. I very much enjoy looking at the pictures and reading each verse! NOTE: This book bothers some people because of the avoidance of subjective mood (“If I was/were the sunshine…”) and for the fact that it uses all lowercase letters and no punctuation. I guess I can more easily overlook this, especially when it comes to poetic license. Almost 25 years ago, I married a Professor of Rhetoric who diligently studies and teaches linguistics. And if I’ve learned anything from his profession, it’s that language is constantly evolving. For years, the subjective mood has been slowly disappearing from the English language. I refuse to get emotional about it as long as I understand what’s being conveyed in the poem. 🙂 I’m guessing Fogliano and her editor knew precisely what they were doing when they published the poem this way. But it might make an interesting discussion for those willing to debate these choices. 🙂 The illustrations for this book were rendered in acrylic paint. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

If-I-Was-the-Sunshine-SPREAD

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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Power Up
Seth Fishman
Isabel Greenberg, illustrator
March 19, 2019
Greenwillow Books

This nonfiction picture book could serve as a motivational text for children attempting to live up to their academic or athletic potential OR it could be a great way to dive into a science lesson on energy or the body. There are a number of facts and figures, but it’s also just an exciting read when considering how much we can accomplish if we take care of our bodies and tap the power inside each of us. The Author’s Note in the back explains both the scientific and mathematical components of E=mc² for children who haven’t yet encountered this. Then it ends with the challenge to go out and grow, rest, gain strength, and ask “what if?” and “why?” The full-color art was prepared digitally. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Power-Up-SPREAD

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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Poetree
Shauna LaVoy Reynolds
Shahrzad Sliney, illustrator
March 19, 2019
Dial Books 

This precious picture book is about a lonely, young girl named Sylvia who takes great comfort in her friendship with a tree. The book goes back and forth between poetry and prose as we see Sylvia in class and out in nature, all while attempting to navigate this friendship with a tree that appears to write poetry. In the end, her tree gives her more than she anticipated — a real friendship with another child her age. And sometimes good friendships come from where we least expect them. The beautiful artwork in this book was created by using graphite pencil and watercolors. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Poetree-SPREAD

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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You Are My Happy
Hoda Kotb
Suzie Mason, illustrator
March 5, 2019
HarperCollins

In rhyming text, a loving mama or papa bear (there’s no indicated gender) shares all the things that made him/her happy that day while the baby bear does the same. And each stanza ends with “That’s what made me happy” and eventually, “You are my happy.” Most of the scenes are the closing of the day with the sun going down, which made even me feel like cuddling up in bed. It will be a wonderful nighttime book. In fact, we’re told that the book was inspired by the author’s bedtime routine with her daughter. The artist used Adobe Photoshop to create the digital illustrations for this book. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

You-Are-My-Happy-SPREAD

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.


To Be Read:

I’m right in the middle of The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner and I’m currently listening to Clean Getaway by Nic Stone. The kids loved 24 Hours in Nowhere last September, so I started reading Holes by Louis Sachar with them as our read aloud, this week. My oldest and I have both read it, but we’re all enjoying it together this time.

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 33/200


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/27/2020 #imwayr

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 finally finished my final post for my #MustReadin2019, so if you’d like to see my final tally toward my 2019 goal, check that post out HERE. Is there a #MustReadin2020 community meeting up, this year?

It’s been a stressful week and I think we’re only in for more stress in the coming weeks. We thought we would be making an offer on a house today, but something came up last minute and we now might have to wait for more information. Sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back when house hunting.

ymas800ETA: Today is an exciting day as we watch the live coverage of the ALA Youth Media Awards!! If you want to keep up with the results, check updates out HERE.

I hope you’ve had a great week of reading! Here’s what I was able to finish…


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Lifeboat 12
Susan Hood
September 4, 2018
Simon Schuster Books for Young Reader

After reading Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of “The Children’s Ship” earlier this month, I really wanted to see how this historical fiction novel of the same experience, compared. From the perspective of one of the young survivors of the ship, this novel in verse was quite satisfying. There were many details shared between the two books, but this one felt far more personal since the reader is allowed inside the mind of thirteen-year-old Ken Sparks. It was devastating to sit in the lifeboat with this crew and feel the sense of hopelessness, day after day. The storyline was more emotional for me than Torpedoed, for sure. Highly recommend!

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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Black Girl Unlimited:
The Remarkable Story of
a Teenage Wizard
Echo Brown
January 14, 2020
Henry Holt & Company

Oh, my. This one is so powerful and yet quite painful. It deals directly with depression, sexual violence, racism, sexism, poverty, and so much more. I read that it is part autobiographical intermixed with magical realism. But I think it’s something that has to be experienced (by the YA and adult crowd) to understand how hard-hitting the storyline is. There’s such gravity and sincerity found within the two mother/daughter relationships.

Many people have called my mother strong–relatives, neighbors, friends, teachers. Those same people have called me strong, too. They have said wizards are unbreakable, but I’m not sure anymore. They call us warriors because we survive it and they call us strong because it doesn’t topple us. They call us magic because we manage to make miracles out of it. “Wow! Look at her take it all! She’s so strong!” But for us, it’s not a victory. It’s a blood bath. What happens after the blood bath, when we finally fall?

I am always so pleased when an audiobook is read by the author, as is the case with Black Girl Unlimited. The inflection in the narration provided such depth — including the Acknowledgements section where Brown’s voice was just on the edge of breaking into sobs as she named friends and family members who’d touched, inspired, and supported her. Yes, even then I cried.

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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Remarkably You
Pat Zietlow Miller
Patrice Barton, illustrator
February 5, 2019
HarperCollins

In rhyming text, this inspiring picture book encourages children to change the world, regardless of their personality type or interests. Everyone can make a difference by solving problems and sharing their gifts with the world. The soft, soothing illustrations are absolutely stunning and change enough between page spreads to keep the reader looking from face to face after each page turn. I also appreciate the fact that the artwork showcases diverse characters ranging from young to old and including a variety of ethnicities. The only thing I did not see among the 86 individuals illustrated was a child with a noticeable disability. However, I’d say this book is one of my very favorite picture book reads from 2019! Beautiful!

The illustrations in this book were created with pencil sketches and mixed media, assembled and painted digitally. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Remarkably-You-SPREAD

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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Max Explains Everything:
Soccer Expert
(Max Explains Everything #2)
Stacy McAnulty
Deborah Hocking, illustrator
February 19, 2019
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books

Has Stacy McAnulty written a bad children’s book? I think not. This is book #2 of the Max Explains Everything series. Max has been playing soccer for three whole weeks, so he kinda knows a lot about the game.  He definitely knows about cleats and shin guards and how to stretch and how to tell who the ref is. But when it comes to actually playing the game, Max is noticeably distracted by ladybugs, posing for the camera, the clouds, the birds, Jose’s haircut, a loose dog, and even his own fingers! Max Explains Everything: Soccer Expert is an adorable little book that will be enjoyed by young and old, including any new soccer players in your life!

The illustrations in this book were created with gouache and colored pencil on Arches watercolor paper, then digitally manipulated. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Max-Soccer-Expert-SPREAD

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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Bird Watch
Christie Matheson
February 26, 2019
Greenwillow Books

Bird Watch is a lovely watercolor-based picture book that gives children something to look for on each page. Whether they’re hunting for sparrows or spying the stripy tailed wrens, they’ll be using their counting and i-spy skills. The back matter includes much more about birds and birding, so don’t forget to turn past the last page of the story!

The full-color art in this book was created with watercolor paints and collages. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Bird-Watch-SPREAD

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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This Little Piggy
James Serafino
January 8, 2019
Philomel Books

This picture book chronicles the mishaps of one very messy kid who made a promise to clean up their mess. But when the child seeks out a dog to help, it doesn’t work out. The goat can’t help, either. And not even an elephant can help. Ah, what about this little piggy? With a surprise ending in store for young readers, we all learn that perhaps it’s best to learn to clean up your own mess!

The artwork in this book was done in watercolor, graphite, colored pencil, milk and cereal crumbs on 300 lb. Lanaquarelle hot press paper. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

This-Little-Piggie-SPREAD

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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Just Like My Brother
Gianna Marino
April 30, 2019
Viking Books for Young Readers

Awww! The sweet little giraffe in this picture book ADORES her big brother. He’s tall and spotted and fast and he’s very, very brave. In the end, she must consider the fact that she also has many of the same qualities that she admires in her big brother. ❤ These images are absolutely adorable!

The book doesn’t share how the artwork was created, but it looks like some pages with watercolor. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Just-Like-My-Brother-SPREAD

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.


To Be Read:

I’m currently listening to A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (and translated by Henning Koch) on audiobook. I hope to finish reading at ARC of Chirp by Kate Messner and I plan to start reading an ARC of The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner.


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 26/200


#MustReadin2019 12/31/2019

mustreadin2019-1I’m writing my final post for #MustReadin2019 rather late, but I figured that as long as I got it done within January, I’m good. 🙂

So in the end, I finished 37 books out of my list of 42. The main ones I did not finished were those I kinda viewed as textbooks. I think I just lacked motivation because I knew it would take more time and concentration. But I still plan to finish them in 2020. I also didn’t get to Six of Crows. And that’s just insane because it was probably one of the books I was MOST excited about.

Here are two images of the book covers from my list — the second image is what I finished:

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com

I found that my Twitter post about my “must read” list received a lot of attention this year. In fact, it was my most viewed and retweeted post with over 20K impressions, 262 likes, and 132 retweets. Here are the stats as of today:

Twitter-Stats-MustReadin2019

And this is a 40-second video clip of all the books I read through the entire year:

 

It’s been a great reading year, overall. I’m very pleased to have squeezed some important books into my reading plans and I look forward to creating my 2020 reading list!


 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/20/2020 #imwayr

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com

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!

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! This is the first year that we have officially cancelled all classes and planned some bigger-than-usual events for students to attend. For example, in addition to our regular march up Main Street and open mic opportunities,  hip-hop artist Ali Tomineek will perform on campus this afternoon and then will give a keynote speech later in the evening. And we’ll also have a screening of the movie Southside With You which tells the story of the first date of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson (Obama) and is “set against the back drop of community organizing and civil rights activities in Chicago.” Hopefully these and other events will inspire greater awareness and discussion about the Civil Rights Movement, modern racial discrimination, and ongoing nonviolent activism.

This week I’m sharing only one novel and a few picture books, including a review of an ARC I received of Cats vs. AI Pets by Lian Sommer. Whether it’s a new book or an older one, I hope you’ll find something of interest to add to your reading lists.


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Cats vs AI Pets
Lian Sommer
December 2019
Salinya Uhde

My thanks to Lian Sommer for providing a digital copy of this picture book. This is the story of a little girl named Anna. She lives in the year 2087 and relies heavily on her robot. The story shares how her body works differently from her robot’s body (he uses cameras to “see” and he is powered by battery, etc.), but she’s heavily invested in spending time on her robot rather than living in the moment with others. Eventually, Anna’s parents give Anna a cat. At first she doesn’t know what’s so special about a cat, it simply exists! However, over time she finds a warmth and connection with her cat that she couldn’t find in her robot. After spending a bit of time unplugged, Anna knows there’s a time and place for the use of her robot. But she also learns the importance of avoiding distractions and enjoying simple pleasures. Books like these are a great way to open the floor for family discussions about the ways we use technology and the types of real life interactions we might miss out on if we exclusively communicate online.

NOTE: Lian Sommer was working a stressful desk job, spending most of his days with only online interaction. He became compelled to quit his job and write books for children to help them learn to use technology in a responsible way. To find out more about his work or to join his mailing list, please check out his website at https://www.aipets.com.

The artwork was created using a Wacom tablet, Corel Painter and Photoshop. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
You may also choose to purchase it through Amazon HERE.


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I Can Make This Promise
Christine Day
October 1, 2019
HarperCollins

This debut middle grade novel is about a young girl named Edie who is desperate to learn more about her Native American heritage. She knows her mother was adopted when she was a baby, but her mom will not share anything about her family of origin. One day, Edie and two friends are rummaging around in her attic when they find a box of letters with a photo of a woman who looks nearly identical to Edie. Furthermore, they discover the woman’s name is Edith! Prepare yourself for a beautiful journey of self-discovery combined with the very sad history that ignited The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

NOTE: In October of 2018, I reviewed an ARC of Beyond the Green by Sharlee Mullins Glenn. But after receiving feedback from reviewers, this title was pulled from printing by Charlesbridge. In a nutshell, the story was heavily based on Glenn’s real-life experience since her family adopted a 5 month old Native American child back in the 70s. Therefore, her book was written more from the perspective of a white family who was mourning their adopted child being “taken” from them, years later, and given back to a family she didn’t know. It was easy to see some similarities between these two stories, but the experiences were from complete opposite sides of the adoption experience. (And, scarily, the cover art to both books is actually kinda similar.) In any case, if you’re interested in reading Glenn’s unpublished book to learn about her experience and perspective, I’m told that Circle Dance, published in 1998, is an earlier version (20 years earlier!) of Beyond the Green.

You can add I Can Make This Promise 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 Little Green Girl
Lisa Anchin
April 2, 2019
Dial Books

I need more picture books like this in my life!! In this imaginative story, “one bright morning” a seed blew into Mr. Aster’s garden. And while Mr. Aster didn’t appreciate unexpected things, but he decided to take on the new seed and nurture it. While he carefully tends to her needs, he talks to her, welcoming her to his home and garden, teaching her about the world around her. When he discovers that the garden is too small for the little green girls’ needs, he makes yet another change in his routine so that she can travel the world and find the satisfaction she so deeply desires. I would have never imagined this is Lisa Anchin’s very first book — it’s so wonderful! I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on her work!

The lush illustrations in this book were created with acryla gouache and pencil. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

LittleGreenGirl-SPREAD

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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Hey, Water!
Antoinette Portis
March 26, 2019
Neal Porter Books

This nonfiction book is an excellent resource for children learning all about water in its many forms, including the water cycle. Additionally, it’s written in a way that both established readers AND emergent readers can enjoy. Amidst the prose of each page, a new word is shared to go with each illustration. Younger children can use context clues to decode the word while older children can read the details. The artwork is exactly what I love to see in a children’s nonfiction book — just enough details to thoroughly intrigue a young reader, but not overly complicated. Be sure to examine the back matter for more information on water forms, the water cycle, how to conserve water, and where to go for more reading.

The artwork for this book was made with brush and sumi ink. Color was added digitally. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Hey-Water-SPREAD

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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Harold Snipperpot’s Best
Disaster Ever
Beatrice Alemagna
Edward Gauvin, illustrator
February 5, 2019
HarperCollins

Harold is turning seven years old, but his grumpy, emotionally distant parents do not like birthday parties. In fact, Harold has never had one before. This year turns out much different than normal, however, because his parents decide to hire Mr. Ponzio to arrange a party that will make their son happy. Mr. Ponzio is the person everyone goes to with their problems, so whatever he does should work out fine. Things quickly get wild and crazy!! However unexpectedly, the insanity that transpires solves more than just getting a birthday party. The story is completely unrealistic, but highly imaginative.

The artwork was created using gouache, oil, collage, and wax pencils. I’ll provide one page spread as an example, below:

Harold-Snipperpots-SPREAD

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.


To Be Read:

Ever since reading Torpedoed, last week, I’ve been wanting to dive into Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood. I also just got a copy of Just Like My Brother by Gianna Marino, so I’m looking forward to reading it this week.

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2020 – 19/200