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!
As I’ve mentioned in recent weeks, my college students are using a lot of children’s literature this month. This stack is for a 3-hour course called “Music for the Classroom Teacher” and I have almost all elementary education majors. Sadly, many K-6 schools are no longer hiring certified music teachers or offering official music classes. And we are definitely seeing the slow deterioration of music literacy RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES (and on a rather large scale). Therefore, many colleges have made it a requirement for elementary education majors to take a course on music fundamentals so they can find ways to include limited instruction within the regular classroom.
I was surprised when I found NO mention of using children’s literature in the course textbook or in the lecture notes from past curriculum. Clearly, kid lit is one of the best ways to normalize anything, including music — year round we should include plenty of fiction and nonfiction books on the display shelf about singing, dancing, and playing instruments like the piano, guitar, saxophone, banjo, trombone, violin, etc. So as my students discover practical ways to include music-related books in their classrooms AND in their lessons, they are digging into our libraries and creating an annotated bibliography to keep in their Music Resource Binders. After our local book searching experiences, I do have to wonder: How many children’s books on music are in most elementary classrooms, today?
On to my book reading for the week…
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
September 25, 2018
Nan is loved by the Sweep. He carries her on his shoulders, sacrifices his comfort for hers, and even gets beaten up for her protection. But one day, the Sweep disappears and she has to take matters into her own hands to survive. She becomes a climber for a new sweep (basically she became an indentured servant) and proves herself to be the best climber of the bunch. One horrific day, Nan finds herself trapped inside the confines of a narrow chimney. To force her out (which sometimes means being drastic and breaking your own bones to squeeze through), one of the competing climbers lights a fire beneath her and she quickly loses consciousness and burns up. Except she doesn’t, really. When she wakes up, she’s in a hidden room. And she’s not alone:
The Sweep had raised Nan to believe in impossible things. He had told her countless stories of genies and dragons and witches and fairies. He had made her believe that a thousand wonders were waiting around every corner. But she had learned through hard experience that those stories were not the real world. The real world offered no miracles. No “once upon a time.” No “happily ever after.” And yet, here in this dusty crawl space, she held a miracle in her hands. A miracle with eyes and a heartbeat and a crumbly gray body.
Through the second half of the book I often had damp eyes. There were touching moments that just gave me all the feels, and then just moments later some adorable conversation would have me smiling big or even giggling:
“The letter A makes the sound Aaahhh,” she explained. “It does?” Charlie’s eyes went wide. “How wonderful!” He leaned very close to the paper and pressed the side of his head against it. “What are you doing?” Nan asked. “Shh,” he said. “I want to hear it make the sound Aaahhh.”
And then some amazing conversations popped up with philosophical reflection on childhood, family, tradition, and religion. I could have easily highlighted half the book (but then it wouldn’t really be a highlight, would it – grin):
“Does it make you believe in God?” Miss Bloom stared at Charlie for a long moment. “It makes me believe that the world is full of wonders that I can scarcely imagine. Perhaps that is the same thing.”
It’s such a lovely, warm tale that needs to be experienced, first hand. I dare you not to fall in love with Nan and the Sweep and Charlie and Toby and Miss Bloom — each an important piece of Nan’s sanctuary.
One beauty of this book is that it’s historical fiction, but also magical realism. I found myself looking up information online while reading. Because WOW — how did I not know about this stuff?! At the very end, Jonathan Auxier offers an author’s note that helps fill in more details. So you don’t want to miss that. I highly, highly recommend Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster.
Sharon M. Draper
November 6, 2018
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Eleven-year-old Isabella is blended — meaning that (1) she’s biracial AND (2) in a blended family where she lives half her time with her white mom (and mom’s boyfriend) and half her time with her black father (and his girlfriend). Mom lives in a humble home with just what she needs and dad is richer than rich. Lucky for Izzy, her school lies just between where each of her parents live. This keeps her halfway sane. However, she still keeps two of everything so that she isn’t completely uprooted every weekend when she goes to the other parent’s house (for example, a book bag she keeps at each home with all the same items in each one).
Isabella experiences racism in many places, including friends who tell her she’s beautiful since she’s “mixed,” store clerks who refer to her as exotic, and other who want to know “what are you, really?” Being half and half is not an easy position and she discovers that she may never live fully in one culture or another. There are some good discussions on this topic and I especially appreciated an important discussion she was able to have with her white mom to explain how differently people look at her (and how many people even wonder if her mom is her “real” mom).
The scariest part of the story comes when Isabella and her soon-to-be step brother, Darren, are pulled over by an officer. If you’ve already read other reviews, then you know it’s bad. But I can happily say that it’s not too frightening and there are lots of lessons to learn and discuss after reading this book. This story will be a mirror for other “blended” children and a helpful window for those who need to understand how different we all experience life, based on our skin color. Oh, and you must eat ice cream while reading this one. Trust me!
May 29, 2018
Knopf Books for Young Readers
This is a fast-paced book that revolves around the discovery of several lifelike androids, created so human-like, visually, but who have super human powers (such as fast healing, regeneration of limps and organs, and super strength and defense capabilities). In the beginning we meet Eve and Lemon Fresh, best friends who basically scavenge for parts and fight with robot gladiators while barely scraping by with what they can make. Eve is taking care of her Grandfather who is, clearly, knocking on death’s door. One day on their way home they happen upon a crash and discover a very human-like male being inside. Eve immediately recognizes that this being is a high-quality Lifelike and she decides to take his remaining parts with her to sell for credits. And they all live happily ever after… Okay, not exactly. There’s backstabbing, passion, blood, guts, and “you aren’t who I thought you were” in this one, but I cannot carry the storyline further without giving up too much information. Two huge surprises come near the end and they have left me guessing where in the world Kristoff will take us next. WOW! If you enjoy dystopian science fiction with incredible world building, this one’s definitely for you! Book #2 will be released in May, by the way!
Hatem Aly, Illustrator
August 1, 2018
Picture Window Books
We get to meet second-grader Yasmin Ahmad who is a spunky, highly imaginative youngster. Readers will love witnessing Yasmin’s resilient personality as she splatters paint to make a unique piece of art, makes unique use of all the unused blocks in her school classroom, and tears her mother’s kameez. There will always be something unexpected with this young adventurer!
Written in short 5-paged chapters, brightly colored illustrations appear every couple pages. Meet Yasmin! will be an excellent addition to any young reader’s collection as of offers an introduction to a sweet, fun, multigenerational, Pakistani American family. There’s additional information in the back section including things to discuss, a glossary of Urdu words, Pakistan Facts, and even a recipe to enjoy.
Here’s one example of the artwork scattered throughout the pages:
Lane Smith, illustrator
September 25, 2018
Random House Books for Young Readers
Poor Edward the Giraffe is extremely self-conscious about his enormously loooong neck. He’s sure everyone is staring at it all the time. He has tried everything imaginable to hide it or make it blend in, but no such luck. But one day he meets Cyrus the Turtle and he learns just how wonderful his neck can be. In the end, Edward and Cyrus feel much better about their necks. Plus, they both made a new friend!
October 2, 2018
Henry Holt and Co.
Potato has been waiting for TODAY. Because today is Potato Pants Day and he gets a brand new pair of pants. Yesterday was Eggplant Pants Day, but today is Potato Pants day. Only problem is, Eggplant just flew right by him, knocking him out of the way and taking one of the new pair of potato pants!! And would you believe all the pants are now GONE!! This is a funny little story about apologizing and forgiveness. When you open the first pages, it’s easy to get lost in this adorable little potato world with scenery and clothing, allowing you to find more minute details the longer you stare (LOL @ tuber uber — potato driving a car). These humorous illustrations were created with markers, colored pencils, pen and ink, acrylic paint, potato stamps, collage, and digital drawing. I’ll provide one spread, below:
Dave Mottram, illustrator
February 6, 2018
Doubleday Books for Young Readers
Wordy Birdy is completely SPASTIC. She asks tons of questions, but doesn’t wait or listen for the answers. One day Wordy Birdy gets herself into a very dangerous situation and learns a hard lesson about listening to her friends. And this is one lesson her friends won’t ever let her forget. Check out one humorous spread, below:
To Be Read:
I’m clearing the first days of this week to read WUNDERSMITH: THE CALLING OF MORRIGAN CROW. This is book #2 of the new award-winning NEVERMOOR series by Jessica Townsend. It’s coming out tomorrow and I’ve had it on pre-order since I read book #1 last spring. This is supposed to be a 9-book series and so far it has a long list of awards and starred reviews from outlets such as School Library Connection, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.