It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 05/21/2018 #imwayr

18-5-21

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!

We had a WONDERFUL family camp out this week! The weather was perfect, allowing us to hike, fish, paddle boat, play some basketball, wade in the creek, and roast nightly s’mores. When it became dark, we stayed up late (usually well after midnight) playing board games, giggling and snacking like crazy. I’m so glad we had such fun, bonding experiences this week! I’m convinced that everyone needs a little R & R.

Kids-at-camp2018
Miller Kids at Camp

Even though we were very busy with family activities, I was able to squeeze in the following books. I hope you’ll find them as enjoyable as I did!


BobBob
Wendy Mass &
Rebecca Stead
May 1, 2018

What a precious story! This is a tale of friendship, remembering who we are (or were), and finding our home. Livy is 10 years old. She is visiting her grandmother in Australia after being away for 5 whole years. After entering the bedroom closet, Livy finds Bob, a green creature who has been waiting for her since she last visited Australia. And he appears to be dressed in a chicken suit! As they become reacquainted, Bob discovers that this Livy definitely isn’t the same girl he knew 5 years ago. But together they must piece together many clues and experiences to figure out what they both have forgotten. It’s an incredibly unique, endearing, and hope-filled tale that kept me interested, page after page (I also kept wondering which parts Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead contributed).


The-Last-EndlingThe Last (Endling #1)
Katherine Applegate
May 1, 2018

Byx is a female dairne. Dairnes are talking dog-like creatures who walk upright, have pouches on their bellies, and who can always decipher whether someone is telling the truth. Unfortunately, dairnes are often hunted by humans for their thick, soft fur. In this elaborate fantasy world, a number of creatures may look like earth animals, but they can talk and think as well as (if not better than) humans. In book #1 of the Endling series, a band of creatures come together and embark on a long and dangerous journey to discover whether Byx is truly an Endling, the last of her kind.

After we ate, I lay on my back and watched the stars stake out homes in the endless sky. I felt strangely at ease, lulled into a comforting place without questions. For long minutes, I didn’t dwell on my past or fret about my future. I didn’t ask if I would ever again look into the eyes of another dairne. I just listened to the steady pulse of cricket song, throbbing like the earth’s own heartbeat.

While this is a suspenseful adventure with surprises around most corners, it also offers an occasional critique of humans — how we treat one another, how we treat animals, and the motivation behind our beliefs and decisions.

There are many scholars, but few seekers after truth. Humans believe the things that make them feel safe. They care little for difficult facts.

I didn’t want to put this one down, but since it’s about 400 pages long (and I was on a family camping trip) it took me four days to read it. I know the Endling is marketed as a middle grade series, but at times I think this reads more like a YA book (torture, cracking bones, spraying blood, burning flesh, and long descriptive passages of new villages they enter on their journey). But I predict many middle graders and high schoolers will be reaching for this one over the summer. I definitely enjoyed the story line and writing. And now I begin the long wait for book #2.


Dazzle-ShipsDazzle Ships: World War I and
the Art of Confusion
Christ Barton
Victo Ngai (illustrator)
September 1, 2017

This nonfiction picture book is the story of “dazzle ships” and how they were used during World War I. We learn about the issues the British Empire was experiencing due to U-boats (German submarines) and the various solutions that were dreamed up to avoid more sinking boats. Dazzle boats were a unique way of camouflaging ships to disguise their precise location and traveling direction. This made it more difficult for U-boats to determine where to send a torpedo from far away.

Dazzle-ShipsADazzle-ShipsC

There’s an important Author’s Note in the back discussing nonfiction research. Barton mentioned famous people who were not included in the book, provided a timeline of WWI, and briefly discussed the very little we know of the women who were part of these dazzle ships. Several black and white photos are included along with a bibliography for further reading. While Victo Ngai (the illustrator) is already a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and Society of Illustrators NY Gold Medalist, this is her debut picture book. The artwork in this book was created using mixed analog and digital media.

What an interesting piece of history this is! These tidbits are what help bring alive history lessons — we see past humans grappling with and solving problems. Even older students would find this fascinating. Dazzle Ships is a 2018 NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book and a junior library guild selection.


Her-Right-FootHer Right Foot
Dave Eggers
Shawn Harris (illustrator)
September 19, 2017

Her Right Foot is a nonfiction picture book story of the the Statue of Liberty. In over 100 pages it covers the original concept, the design, the final creation, and even explains how it started out brown in color and slowly turned green. The primary focus of the second half is about the meaning of the statue’s right foot (^^as seen on the cover of the book):

We know that around her feet are chains. They are broken chains, implying that she has freed herself from bondage. We know that Bartholdi wanted us to know this. He wanted us to see the chains. People have talked about the chains.

But few talk about the foot that is so obviously in mid-stride. About the fact that her entire right leg is in mid-stride. What does this mean? What does this mean that we often forget about this right foot, this right leg?

The artwork was rendered in construction paper and India ink. Here are three spreads as an example:

Her-Right-FootAHer-Right-FootBHer-Right-FootC

In the back, the author provides his research sources, a section for “further reading,” and some real photographs from the Statue of Liberty. I really enjoyed this book and imagine it will be quite useful in schools everywhere. While it’s historical and even humorous in places, it can also be viewed as a call to action — for children to be aware of how this nation is created from immigrants and how we can still be a refuge for those seeking protection. Her Right Foot is a Junior Library Guild selection for 2018 and also an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book.


To Be Read:

I’m admittedly chomping (champing?) at the bit to start The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1). Since it’s over 450 pages, I’m going to make this my main commitment for the week. Anything else I get to read will just be icing on the cake!

Nevermoor1

Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!


 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 05/14/2018 #imwayr

IMWAYR2015

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!


First-Rule-of-PunkThe First Rule of Punk
Celia C. Pérez
August 22, 2017

Malú (Maria Luisa) is a spunky 12-year-old Mexican-American who loves rock music and everything “punk.” Malu’s mom, who she lovingly refers to as “SuperMexican,” has moved them off to Chicago for two years, far from her dad. She feels her mom wants her to be the perfect Mexican señorita, but she would rather be punk like her white dad. But are the two options mutually exclusive? Being mixed-race, Malú is referred to as a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) by other students, but she just takes that attempted insult and ultimately uses it to her advantage. This kid is so easy to love, reminding the reader of the frustrations and the joys of being a preteen again. It explores cultural identity, friendship, and the art of co-existing with authority figures (even if you disagree with their decisions). One reason why people say to read this book, rather than to listen to the audio book, is because Malú makes creative “zines” throughout the book by cutting out pieces from magazines and using artistic black/white text and drawings to document something important in her life. These are very creative and are showcased at the end of several chapters throughout the book. This book was a Pura Belpré Award Nominee for Author (2018).


I-Am-Not-Your-Perfect-Mexican-DaughterI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Erika L. Sánchez
October 17, 2017

Julia Reyes, a Mexican-American 15-year-old, is picking up the pieces after losing her older sister, Olga, who was struck by a large vehicle while she was distracted by her phone. Olga was the perfect Mexican daughter who helped with all the household chores, never wanted to leave home, and never made embarrassing mistakes. Julia is outspoken, opinionated, and cannot wait to leave home and start her own life, far from family. But after Olga’s death, Julia happens upon some clues that indicate Olga might not have been so perfect after all. And this spirals into a mystery that Julia is practically obsessed with solving.

I don’t believe I had read more than the Goodreads blurb for this book, so there were absolutely no spoilers for me. That said, for the first half I was thoroughly annoyed with Julia, thinking she was selfish, arrogant, rude, and using her period to get out of anything she didn’t want to do. Ugh. At the same time, I felt a deep sadness knowing that she and her parents were mourning the loss of her big sister, Olga.

There are times I feel completely alone, like no one in the world can possibly understand me. Sometimes Ama stares at me like I’m some sort of mutant that slithered out of her body. Lorena listens, which I appreciate, but she doesn’t really get it. She’s practically a science genius, but she doesn’t care about literature or art. I don’t think anyone likes what I like. Sometimes I feel so lonely and hopeless that I don’t know what to do. Usually, I just bottle up all of my feelings and wait until my parents go to sleep so I can cry, which  I know is totally pathetic. If I can’t wait, I do it in the shower. It builds and builds all day, tightening my throat and chest, and sometimes I feel it in my face. When I finally let it out, it cascades out of me.

I was patient with Julia’s grief and clung to the story in hopes that I would form a better connection with her character. Then right around the 50% point: BOOM. So much changed — the setting, the characters, Julia’s relationship with her mom, etc. This book absolutely stunned me — it had my eyes bulging, my heart-throbbing, and I was even feeling physically ill at one point, needing a few moments to collect myself before continuing. I am so SOOOOO glad I kept reading, because I believe the messiness in the beginning was important to wade through in order to get to the meaningful second half.


CrossoverThe Crossover
Kwame Alexander
March 18, 2014

I’m admittedly a little behind on getting to this one. I was excited when my friend, Elisabeth of The Dirigible Plum, loaned me her new copy of Rebound. But that meant I needed to read The Crossover, first!

So for anyone out there who hasn’t yet read this amazing book: The Crossover is the story of 12-year old Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan. Told in verse, we learn about the their sibling relationship, their father’s former life in professional basketball, their mother’s life as assistant principal at their school, their experiences playing ball for their junior high school basketball team, and the complications of young romance.

Kwame Alexander is incredibly skilled and knows his audience. For example, he could make you feel seething teenage-ish anger on the basketball court, yet there was no profanity. Zilch! There are so many sections that could easily be stand lone poems, but put together he created this polished story, complete with both love and heartbreak. The Crossover won the Newbery Medal (2015), the Coretta Scott King Award for Author Honor (2015), and a number of other literary awards/lists. I’m looking forward to enjoying the prequel, Rebound, this summer!


Amal-UnboundAmal Unbound
Aisha Saeed
May 8, 2018

I fell so hard for this little book, y’all. Amal, the oldest of five children, lives in a small Pakistani village with her family. She’s thriving in school and looking forward to becoming a teacher one day. But as the her mother suffers from what appears to be a bout of severe postpartum depression, Amal must stay home and begin helping out more than usual. In an unfortunate turn of events, Amal runs into a corrupt and powerful village leader and ends up having to work off her family’s debts as a servant.

Mumtaz said I could be here forever. I used to say the walk to the market took forever when the weather was especially hot. And that summers felt endless because I missed school. Only now that I was trapped did I understand the heaviness of forever.

Amal’s voice is sweet, but strong. She explores the importance of being brave and owning your voice. Also showcased is the importance of working with others, even your enemies, to find common ground. It’s such a huge story for so few pages — easily an afternoon read.


Ghost-BoysGhost Boys
Jewell Parker Rhodes
April 17, 2018

Twelve-year-old Jerome was once a living young black boy. Now he is dead. He was shot by a white police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real one. He’s not sure why he’s still wandering the earth, but he discovers that some living people (like his grandmother), are faintly aware of his presence. One girl, named Sarah, can even see and interact with him! Sarah’s father just so happens to be the man who shot Jerome and she’s grappling with her feelings toward her own father. While wandering the land of the living, Jerome also meets Emmett Till, another boy who died in a similar way long, long ago. Emmett appears and disappears at different points, leaving Jerome to witness his loved ones still living.

It eventually becomes evident that both Emmett and Jerome (and presumably other ghost boys) have jobs to complete during their ghosthood. Ultimately, the hope is to process their own experiences and ignite social action among the living by finding the person/people they can still communicate with. Since Sarah is the one living human who can communicate with Jerome, she will obviously play a crucial role in this plan.

Ghost Boys is a haunting historical fiction story that brings up numerous innocent lives lost as a result of racism (Emmett Till, Trevon Martin, Tamir Rice, etc.). The writing seemed a bit short and choppy, but it will appeal to many younger middle grade readers who aren’t yet ready for Young Adult novels on a similar topic (like The Hate U Give or Dear Martin).


All-Around-UsAll Around Us
Xelena González
Adriana M Garcia (Illustrations)
September 12, 2017

What a beautiful picture book! The text and illustrations follow a grandfather with his granddaughter as they explore the world, full of circles and cycles — the rainbow after a storm, reaping what is sown in a garden, circles found all around their neighborhood, and they discuss how everything we take from the earth must be returned, including life. This picture book was an honor book for the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Picture Book and was also a nominee for the Pura Belpré Award for Illustrator (2018).

First, I love that the images were a digital creation based on photos that Garcia took of González’s father and daughter. How precious is THAT?! González and Garcia are very good friends, both born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. “…they regularly reunite over tacos and dream aloud about their next artistic endeavors.” What a dream it must be to work on such a beautiful project with one of your dearest long-time friends!

Secondly, on a personal note, I appreciate picture books that normalize the cycle of life and show how birth/death connect us to the rest of the world. In my work in the birthing world with the ancient practice of midwifery and doulas, I’ve learned so much about birth and death practices that have helped humans to connect and commemorate both experiences. As modern society has moved away from ancestral practices, we’ve slowly traded much of our instinctive and traditional knowledge for sterile, emotionless, textbook practices. As a result, both birth and death have begun to be viewed as scary, unnatural, and downright “yucky.” This negative energy saddens me, but I do understand the root of those fears since I was once there when I was younger. The popularized images I viewed of birth/death on TV, in movies, and expressed in books throughout my young adulthood were, unfortunately, quite influential. That modern representation is difficult to overcome. POSSIBLE OVERSHARE: In my own family, we’ve experienced both highly medicalized hospital births and very simple home births. And like the characters in this book, my husband and I chose to plant a special tree with one of our home birthed babies’ placentas. This was actually a very small part in the story, but in the very back of the book Xelena González briefly explains this practice (and other rituals) in cultures around the world.

Here’s an example of the artwork (and, of course, I had to select the page that discussed the use of baby’s placenta in planting a new tree).

all-around-us-spread2.jpg


To Be Read:

We’re heading out to the state park for our camping trip today and I’m bringing these two books with me. I’ve NO idea if I’ll have much reading time with all the hiking, fishing, cooking out, roasting s’mores over our campfire, and playing family board games. But it NEVER hurts to have some reading material on hand. 🙂

Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 05/07/2018 #imwayr

IMWAYR2015

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!


RefugeeRefugee
Alan Gratz
July 25, 2017

Refugee is the powerful story of three different children and their experiences fleeing their countries of origin. Josef is a 12 year old Jewish boy in the 1930s and his family is attempting to flee Nazi Germany to start over in Cuba. Isabel’s family is attempting to flee Cuba headed for Miami in 1994. And Mahmoud is a Syrian boy whose home has been bombed and they are attempting to flee Syria, headed to Germany in 2015. The stories continually rotate and each chapter is only a few pages long, making this an excellent book for a classroom read aloud. There’s also a neat twist near the end that brings this book to a beautiful conclusion, even in the midst of deep sadness. While I cried at the end, my heart was also so full. We humans are such a mixed bundle of beauty and ugly, but Gratz leaves us with hope. My only regret is that I didn’t read this one sooner. My 14 year old is now about 3 chapters in and I cannot wait to hear her thoughts at the end.


Ash-PrincessAsh Princess
Laura Sebastian
April 24, 2018

Ash Princess is the story of princess Theodosia, now called Thora since her capture. Thora is kept alive in the palace she grew up in after her people are defeated and enslaved. They call her Ash Princess to mock her since her mother was the Fire Queen. She’s repeatedly whipped in public when her people make mistakes and she’s also forced to attend all big events while wearing a crown made of ash (which drips ash all over her face and clothing). This is a story of a people preparing to rise up and take back their land. My longer Ash Princess review is available if you’re interested in reading more details without big spoilers.

I’ve heard other reviewers complain because it’s a story built on a common romantic trope about a magical people who’ve been conquered (like Children of Blood and Bone and many others). Nevertheless, the whole story is not focused solely on this trope and there are several major points where Thora doesn’t fall into the same “magical princess” stereotype. I felt the writing was quite beautiful at several crucial points and I will definitely look forward to reading book #2 (Lady Smoke) when it is released next year.


WarcrossWarcross
Marie Lu
September 12, 2017

Warcross is a young adult science fiction novel set in a virtual reality gaming world. It’s very fast-paced with many twists and turns.

“Everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact”

Emika Chen is a bounty hunter, just trying to make ends meet since her apartment is past due three months and she’s being evicted. Her job mostly entails logging into a dark virtual world and hunting down people who make illegal bets over the popular Warcross games. One day she and her roommate are sitting in the virtual reality audience, watching the games, when she tries to play with a glitch (even though these games have the highest level of security and protections possible). Surprisingly, her glitch DOES work, throwing her avatar right into the middle of the game with half the world watching. Now Emika is facing phone calls and news reporters trying to find out what she did and who she really is. She also faces the possibility of being flown around the world to meet Mr. Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross, for a high-security inside job.

“What’s the point of freedom if you’re just living in a miserable reality?”

Toward the end, there’s an unexpected twist that edges on dystopian. This could go in so many directions, so I’ll be especially interested in seeing what Lu does in book #2 (Wildcard).


Out-of-WonderOut of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
by Kwame Alexander, Ekua Holmes (Illustrations),
Chris Colderley (poet), and Marjory Wentworth (poet)
March 14, 2017

Out of Wonder is the highlight of my picture book reads for this week. Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth wrote original poems in honor of past poets who have inspired each of them. There are six long pages in the back that provide biographical information on each of the poets they pay homage to in this book. I enjoyed reading these poems, letting the words roll over my tongue as my eyes explored the creative and bold artwork on each page. In fact, just last evening my youngest was struggling to settle down for bed. It was getting late, so I pulled out this book and began reading aloud. She looked at the pages and quieted while my voice fell into a soothing rhythm. I only made it to the seventh poem in the book before she slipped into dream land. Perhaps I should add this one to our regular bedtime reads. 🙂

Out-of-Wonder-BREE
Breena falls asleep reading Out of Wonder

Out of Wonder won the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator (2018). The beautiful artwork is done in collage on paper. I’ll post a couple examples, below:

Out-of-Wonder-spread1Out-of-Wonder-spread2


To Be Read:

This week my husband and children are all home with me. I imagine we’ll be very busy spending quality time together out in this beautiful sunshine, running errands around town, and doing some much-needed prep/packing for our vacation next week. So I cannot be sure what reading time I’ll have for myself. Of course I have a large stack, just in case.

Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!

BOOK REVIEW: Ash Princess

Ash-Princess

Ash Princess
(Ash Princess Trilogy #1)
Laura Sebastian
April 24, 2018

“Theodosia, Ampelio called me. It’s a strong name – the one my mother gave me. It’s the name of a queen. It doesn’t feel like a name I deserve, but here I stand, alone. If I am to survive, I must be strong enough to live up to it.”

Theodosia, now called Thora since her capture, is the Ash Princess. It is a title of shame in reference to her mother who was known as the Fire Queen. Before her murder, Thora’s mother was the beloved Queen of Astrea. Now Thora is held captive in her own childhood palace — controlled by the Kaiser, the ruler of the Kalovaxians.

Thora bears the punishment of all the mistakes made during the Kaiser’s rule. When there’s a rebellion or when the slaves from her old kingdom make major mistakes, she is whipped, often publicly, leaving horrible scars across her back. Outside of the whippings, Thora’s life appears to be one of luxury with her own private quarters, her own servant, and a seat at any party or gathering so long as she wears the mocking “ash crown” (which continually flakes streaks of gray down her cheeks and into her hair).

There are certain characteristics that set Thora’s people, the Astreans, apart from the Kalovaxians. For one, her people are a darker-skinned people while the Kalovaxians have paler skin. Another difference is that the Astreans are blessed by the gods with powers that are heightened through the use of Spiritgems. Only certain people are given the blessing and it’s considered sacrilege to attempt to use the power of the Spiritgems if you are not endowed with the god’s blessing. In fact, if you use them without the blessing of your god, they believe you will be forced to wander the world as a Shade in the afterlife and never see your loved ones again. Nevertheless, anyone can feel a hint of power given off by these gems, even if they aren’t blessed with full powers. Therefore, the Spiritgems are worked into jewelry, clothing, weapons, etc. After Thora’s people are conquered, the Kalovaxians begin mining these sacred Spiritgems and selling them off to other nations.

Thora’s closest friend and confidant is Crescentia, or Cress. However, theirs is a complicated friendship because Cress’s father, Theyn, is the guard who murdered Thora’s mother. Still, Cress has extended such tender kindness to Thora over the last 10 years and they act as if they are sisters. When the Kalovaxians are horrible to Thora, Cress is there to boost her spirits and remind her that she is loved.

Prince Soren is the son of the Kaiser. And while the Kaiser is horrific, evil, and disgusting, Soren claims he wants to be nothing like his father. He shows gentleness and grace to Thora, time and time again. He confesses his faults to her and reveals his plans to be a better person. But can Thora remain close to Soren while attempting to eventually lead her people to freedom?

And what extravagant fantasy would be complete without a complicated romance, without misunderstandings about who is fully committed to the throne, and without surprising reveals over blood relationships? Yep, this book has a number of unsuspecting reveals that I dare not discuss lest I face being burned at the stake. But just know they’re all there, along with numerous characters that I’ve not yet mentioned.

I read this as an audio book and very much enjoyed Saskia Maarleveld’s narration. I could easily distinguish the characters and even enjoyed the occasional background noises/music added for effect. Lady Smoke will be the second installment of this trilogy. It will be released spring of 2019 and I definitely intend to read it as soon as possible.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/30/2018 #imwayr

IMWAYR2015

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!


A-Land-of-Permanent-GoodbyesA Land of Permanent Goodbyes
Atia Abawi
January 23, 2018

This book — it’s a MUST in a young adult library. It was a difficult read because I know this stuff is reality for many people. But we need to understand these inside truths to have a better grasp on what is and isn’t happening. The story begins with Tareq in Syria (where his home was bombed) and follows him on his journey through Turkey and Greece. We witness the story from the viewpoint of “destiny” as narrator, which allows the reader to witness the chorus of voices ranging from the refugee to the “helpers” who come from all over the world to stand on the frigid shores of Greece, welcoming and ministering to all refugee survivors. There were dozens of little details that I was not completely aware of, including the many ways refugees (and their children!) are taken advantage of during the worst moments of their lives. Horrible, horrible examples were shared that disgusted me. But I’m still grateful to have a more well-rounded understanding of what has taken place (and of what is STILL happening, today). These people have experienced the worst nightmare possible and will never fully recover. Ever.

He didn’t want to stay another minute; the sea kept tormenting him. No matter how much he rattled his head, the memories were far stronger. They were all he could see. And the truth is, they will never fully fade. He will continue to have flashbacks and nightmares throughout his life. The memories will fill him, making him anxious. Some humans can shrug off stress better than others. But when your soul feels too much, that trauma makes a home in your heart. But it’s not a weakness or even an illness. To feel so much means you can find empathy–when you can sense the pain of others, that is a power to hold on to. That is a power that can change the world you live in. But it’s also a power that comes with burden and pain.

Tareq’s journey is painful, but powerful. There are moments of despair, but also of rejoicing. And I know these characters will stick with me for a long, long while. They are far too important to forget — both those who reached their destination AND those who were lost during the journey.

Much of what we learn about Middle East violence here in American comes through the filter of white journalism. This book offers a different perspective which is so important for young adults. Atia Abawi is a foreign news correspondent living in Jerusalem. She experiences much of this violence first hand and was raised by refugee Afghan parents. She really did her research for the various individual voices in this book (which is especially made evident in her acknowledgements). A Land of Permanent Goodbyes currently has at least three starred reviews (Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly). I hope to see it making an appearance on the shelves of all my local libraries!


Science-of-Breakable-ThingsThe Science of Breakable Things
Tae Keller
March 6, 2018

The Science of Breakable Things is going to be one of my very favorite middle grade novels of 2018. I’m already confident about that. The story is fantastic and realistic and heartwarming and heartbreaking all rolled together. It follows Natalie, a 7th grader, whose botanist mom is suffering from severe depression. Natalie struggles to understand what this actually means and teeters on thinking her mom just doesn’t care about her anymore. Natalie’s best friend is Twig and together with Dari, a sweet, nerdy boy from their science class, they enter an egg drop competition. All the pieces fit in the story — the brokenness of Natalie’s mom, the broken pieces of so many eggs, the heart-wrenching experience of not being understood, and the human need for best friends who really “get” you. It all comes together beautifully in this story. Natalie and Twig have such a quirky (but realistic) middle school friendship. I couldn’t help but love them both:

I forced myself to speak before the words got all gunked up in my throat. “My mom’s depressed,” I explained to Twig. The word depressed felt funny coming out of my mouth. I’d never said it before, and saying it made the whole problem sound too simple. I felt Twig stiffen for a few moments, trying to figure out what to say, and I worried I’d said too much truth–that I’d scared her away. But then she softened and said, “That’s why you’ve been sad.” I hadn’t realized until then just how sad I was, and hearing her say it cracked something open inside me and I started to cry. “I’m sorry,” I said, even though I wasn’t sure why I was apologizing. Twig didn’t respond, just kept cracking invisible eggs over my head and running streams of fingertip yolk through my hair.

^^Just typing this review makes me want to read it all over again. And I typically don’t re-read books. As I disappeared into the story, I was 12-year-old me again—laughing aloud and sobbing tears. So yeah, Tae Keller has dazzled me in one of my very favorite genres. I seriously can’t believe this is her debut novel. More please, Tae!!


Not-So-Different

Not So Different: What You Really Want
to Ask About Having a Disability
Shane Burcaw
Matt Carr, Illustrator
November 7, 2017

I’ve read some great picture books this week, but I am really excited about this one. Shane Burcaw has spinal muscular atrophy. He has become a speaker and author, making it his mission to help bridge the gap between the average able-bodied person and those who are physically disabled. On his website Laughing At My Nightmare, he says, “I’m 25 years old, and I have a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy that will eventually kill me.” On his website, he promotes humor and positivity, but he is also very honest about the types of daily frustrations he faces. In this book, he uses text and photographs to answer a variety of common questions, sharing how his life is similar and different from most people:

Not-So-DifferentANot-So-DifferentB

This book is important because it’s natural for kids to have questions about other people who look or act differently. However, very few feel confident enough to walk up and attempt to get to know them. Burcaw makes it evident that he’s just another human being in need of friendship and respect.


To Be Read:

RefugeeOut-of-Wonder

These are two books I’d love to finish this week. Anything else I finish will just be icing on the cake. What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/23/2018 #imwayr

IMWAYR2015

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!


You-Go-FirstYou Go First
Erin Entrada Kelly
April 10, 2018

You Go First is a middle grade novel following a week in the life of two middle school characters: Charlotte (Lottie) Lockard and Ben Boxer. They met playing online Scrabble, but really don’t know anything else about one another. The chapters switch off following each of their lives as we learn about friendship, bullying, parents (including divorce and potential death), and even about neighbors we sometimes take for granted before discovering the beautiful truth of their mystery.

The greatest mystery of people isn’t learning what they are, but learning what they aren’t. ~Magda Rivera

Both youngsters experience a life crisis over the course of this week, yet they never quite share the details of their pain with one another. As both are “gifted” students, weaved into the story line are a number of random facts and details about spelling, geology, art, and more, adding some depth to each character. Their conversations are short and awkward – pretty much just what you would expect of a pre-teen conversation with someone of the opposite sex. But as a reader, we slowly observe how much these two youngsters have in common as each have fears resolved and needs for connection met. After reading both Hello, Universe and You Go first, Erin Entrada Kelly seems to possess a knack for bringing together characters who initially appear to have almost nothing in common, but who eventually reveal the same hurts, the same fears, and the same need for love and friendship.


Abraham-Lincoln-Pro-WrestlerAbraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler
(Time Twisters #1)
Steve Sheinkin
Neil Swaab, ill.
January 9, 2018

When I first came across this book in my local Overdrive library, it didn’t seem all that interesting. However, Steve Sheinkin is the author! You probably know Sheinkin from his other well-reviewed middle grade and young adult nonfiction books, such as: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (2012), The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (2014), or Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team (2017). Therefore, I was really interested in seeing what he would do in this new series. What I discovered is that this series reads much like the Magic Tree House, if you’re familiar with that series. A fictional time travel story is created around true historical events in an effort to interest young children who find history boring. The entire story seems completely silly, but at the end there’s a section that discusses just how much of what happened was actually true. And I’ll admit the true parts were more than I anticipated. For example, Abraham Lincoln really is the only president to be admitted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. And he really did grow his beard because a little girl wrote him a letter arguing why he should have a beard. While the fictional story wasn’t MY cup of tea for reading pleasure, the last section was definitely helpful in showcasing interesting historical events. And perhaps that was the whole point of the series — get to the end so we can reveal just how much of the story was based on legit history. Like The Magic Treehouse, I would definitely say this series is aimed at the younger crowd — even 1st and 2nd graders might benefit from a read aloud or the audio book. I’ll also note that I “read” this book as an audio book and I noticed there were lots of helpful background sounds and music that added to the feeling of being in each location for the story. Books #1 and #2 were both published in January, and it appears book #3 is slated to be released in September.


Big-Cat-Little-CatBig Cat, Little Cat
Elisha Cooper
March 14, 2017

I live in a very secluded area and it often takes a VERY long time to get award-winners, here. So I was thrilled to get my hands on TWO of the 2018 Caldecott Honor books, this month. Big Cat, Little Cat is a beautiful picture book story about young cats, old cats, friendship, loss, and the circle of life. The illustrations are bold black line drawings (possibly digitally manipulated, but I had difficulty finding more information). I loved this book so much – definitely made me want to purchase a copy for my neighbor who recently lost the older of her two cats! Needless to say, this one will be loved by young and old, alike!

big-cat-little-cat-spread.jpg


Oops-Pounce-Quick-RunOops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper
Mike Twohy
February 16, 2016

I have read and purchased so many alphabet books over the years. Honestly, I have felt like there are many that have little meaning other than flooding children with a bunch of words with the same beginning sounds. I have two emergent readers in my home right now and so I enjoy it when I get a chance to share alphabet books that are both educational AND entertaining. Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run is not just an average alphabet book, it tells an inventive little story about a mouse and a dog while using one letter of the alphabet for each page. The adorable illustrations were created with India ink and felt-tip pens with bright colors used for each new letter. It’s a creative little read that would be something fun for younger readers to explore while older elementary students might try reproducing (with a different story line to see just how difficult it is). Here’s one spread as an example of how this book works from A to Z:

oops-pounce-spread2.jpg


Different-PondA Different Pond
Bao Phi
Thi Bui, ill.
August 1, 2017

My, what a beautiful and touching book! This is the second 2018 Caldecott Honor book I picked up this month. A Different Pond is the story about an early morning fishing trip that young Bao Phi takes with his father. If they do not catch any fish, the family will go hungry. The story is told from the young child’s perspective and showcases such sweet innocence. The meaningful story uses a sprinkle of descriptive similes, throughout:

A kid at my school said my Dad’s English sounds like thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.

The pages appear much like a modern graphic novel the way the scenes are sometimes pieced together, several on a spread, with the characters shown at varying distances. And, upon further investigation, I see the illustrator (Thi Bui) released her debut graphic novel The Best We Could Do in March of 2017. So that’s going on my TBR list, as well! The author’s and illustrator’s notes at the end are a wonderful addition to the book. I especially enjoyed how Thi Bui discussed her attempts to find and recreate household Vietnamese memorabilia from her childhood within the story. Also, Bao Phi shared his childhood photos with Bui as she created the images of the story. This information certainly added a meaningful dimension to the story, for me. Here’s one spread for your viewing pleasure:

Different-Pond-spread


To Be Read:

I’m looking forward to finishing the following two books, this week.

Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/16/2018 #imwayr

IMWAYR2015

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!


Good-DogGood Dog
Dan Gemeinhart
March 27, 2018

Oh my, I really really enjoyed Good Dog.  I was unsure and really guarded during the first third of it, so I struggled to fall into the story initially. But WOW did Gemeinhart bring it home! I mean, I broke down during one reading. It was one of those can-hardly-breathe sobs, and my children and husband came over to ask me if I was okay. With heaving breaths, I couldn’t talk. We lost my beloved dog of 17ish years over a decade ago, but this read dug up so many of those gushy feelings of unconditional love that my sweet fur-baby and I shared. You never forget. So… the premise: Brodie is Aidan’s dog. Brodie has died and has gone on to a purgatory-like doggy afterlife. However, he is trying to piece together how he died with only bits and pieces of memory coming back to him. He just knows that his boy is in danger. He and another dog, Tuck, decide to go back as ghosts to check on Brodie’s boy in an effort to find lasting peace. Once they arrive back in the land of the living, they almost immediately encounter hell hounds who, they discover, can touch and hurt them. They also encounter Patsy, a dead cat, who teaches them the ways of safely being dead in the living world. There’s only so much time and energy they can spend before their soul will be lost forever. Therefore, they spend much of the story finding ways around the demons-like hounds to accomplish their mission. This is a story of love, of honor, of weakness and strength, and of redemption and forgiveness. And like so many “good dogs,” Brodie may have the energy of a child, but he also possesses the wise heart of an elder:

But Brodie’s heart? It knew a hero when it saw one. And Patsy was a hero there on that bridge, even if she’d never ever been one before. You don’t have to have been a hero before to be one when you really need to. We can all be a hero anytime we decide to be. Believe me. Because a hero? A hero isn’t a person. A hero is a choice. And Patsy made one.

I don’t want to say much more about the story line because the less you know, probably the better. Nevertheless, I should mention there are some frightening elements of abuse (both animal and child abuse) and some bullying that a young reader should be aware of before encountering this story. There’s also a small element of surprise when we actually meet the narrator in the final chapter of the book. Enjoy!


Poet-XThe Poet X
Elizabeth Acevedo
March 6, 2018

For National Poetry Month, what better to read than a wonderful new YA book told in verse? This is my first Acevedo read, so I was NOT prepared for the fierce energy in this story. The Poet X is told from the experiences of Xiomara (See-oh-MAH-ruh). She’s a large, strong, Afro-Latina (Dominicana) teen living in Harlem who says very little, but has on occasion found reason to speak with her fists. Her twin brother, Xavier (who she lovingly refers to as simply “Twin”), gives her a journal where she begins recording her thoughts and poems. With Spanish worked into her mostly-English diary, Xiomara discusses school, her sexuality (including desires and experience with masturbation), her parent’s relationship, music, religion, sexual harassment, falling in love, and poetry, poetry, poetry. I love how she describes her love-interest in relation to writing poetry:

He’s not elegant enough for a sonnet,
too well-thought-out for a free write,
taking too much space in my thoughts
to ever be a haiku.

Over the months, we learn that she and her mother have very different views on religion. Her mother is a strong Catholic. Simply put, Xiomara is not. Nevertheless, she has a lot of biblical thoughts/questions and appears to enjoy open discussion with her priest, Father Sean. Some of the section headings even reference biblical ideas, such as: In the Beginning Was the Word, Eve’s Apple, The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness, etc. As Xiomara is introduced to slam poetry, she learns a great deal about the power of her words.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be as religious as my mother, as devout as my brother and best friend. I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.

The writing is beautiful with ALL the feels ranging from anger to passion. When you read this book, make sure to read the acknowledgements at the end. I always do. And this time, the final words said to her real-life family made my eyes sweat — especially the tribute to her mother, Rosa Acevedo. So very touching!!


Wolf-in-the-SnowWolf in the Snow
Matthew Cordell
January 3, 2017

This picture book is an almost wordless story of a young girl who rescues a wolf cub and is, therefore, rescued by the wolf pack in the end. It’s a story of empathy told in the same vein as the age old tale of The Lion and the Mouse with the basic moral of mercy brings its reward. In the beginning, we see pictures of the young girl with her family and later, pictures of the wolf cub with his pack, making a comparison of the attachments all living beings have to the ones they love. Wolf in the Snow is the winner of the 2018 Caldecott Medal and it was a 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award nominee for picture book. The illustrations were created with pen and ink with watercolor:

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LoveLove
Matt de la Peña
Loren Long
January 9, 2018

On January 9, 2018, Matt de la Peña published an article in Time magazine with the title Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children From Darkness. Whether you read his article before or after you read the picture book Love, I really hope you will read it ASAP. There are so many good tidbits in it, including an explanation of how/why he and Loren Long fought to keep a “dark” illustration in this book. He also shares the following note on why this book was written and why it was revised before publication:

Finding myself overwhelmed by the current divisiveness in our country, I set out to write a comforting poem about love. It was going to be something I could share with my own young daughter as well as every kid I met in every state I visited, red or blue. But when I read over one of the early drafts, something didn’t ring true. It was reassuring, uplifting even, but I had failed to acknowledge any notion of adversity.

So I started over.

And that, right there, is probably the most important introduction to this picture book. The book includes diverse families and both the light-hearted and difficult sides to love. Each illustration highlights something in our lives that we experience as part of our growth, bonding, and love. The art was created with collaged monotype prints, acrylic paint, and pencil. While this book would make a great gift for a child, it would also make a beautiful gift for an adult. I’m showcasing three page-spreads below, including the “dark” piano one mentioned in the above referenced article:

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“…an uncomfortable number of children out there right now are crouched beneath a metaphorical piano.” ~Matt de la Peña.


To Be Read:

I have a large reading pile I would love to get to, but I’m not going to commit to much this week since I have a number of important family obligations that I need to tend to. However, I would at least love to finish reading and reviewing these two books:

Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!