It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/19/2019 #imwayr

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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!

Thanks for visiting and I hope you find something from this week’s readings to add to your reading list!


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For Black Girls Like Me
Mariama J. Lockington
July 30, 2019
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

This is a painful and powerful story that examines sisterhood, mental health, suicide, and transracial adoption. Makeda (Keda) June Kirkland is black and she was adopted by a white family as a baby. In the opening chapters of this book, her family is making a big move from Maryland to New Mexico. Sadly, this means Keda is leaving behind her best friend, Lena, who happens to be the only other adopted black girl she knows. With an older sister who seems too good for her, a father who has left the country for a while, and a mother who is potentially mentally unstable, Keda struggles to figure out where she belongs. She navigates racism and constant confusion by those who assume she doesn’t belong with her white family. Thankfully, Keda and Lena find a way to continue their conversations through secret messaging. But can this long distance e-friendship carry her through the difficulty that lies ahead?  NOTE: This is an #ownvoices novel as Mariama J. Lockington was a transracial adoptee, herself.

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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Breakout
Kate Messner
June 5, 2018
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

I’m very glad I made sure to squeeze this book into my reading, this summer. The multi-layer story is full of hand-written notes, texts, poetry, newspaper articles, comics, research, and more — all pulled together to fill out the edges with multiple perspectives and a crazy summer experience. The Wolf Creek Community is preparing a Time Capsule project that will not be opened for another 50 years. Students are asked to submit letters and photos to be included and shared with the future citizens of Wolf Creek. At the same time, there’s a prison breakout and the community is required to live in a semi-lockdown all summer long. One of the new residents of Wolf Creek is Elidee Jones. She is one of the only black people in the school and she has only moved to Wolf Creek so that she and her mom can visit her older brother, Troy, who is a new prison inmate. Before too long, the students are examining at their own behaviors, researching statistics on ethnic ratios of the prison, and recognizing the many forms of racism found right in their cozy little community. Did this book need an introduction at this point? Maybe not. But I had to give it a big thumbs up because it will entertain, enlighten, and inform young readers about racism — and it’s just so engaging with the variety of contributions from townspeople. I sure hope it’s being well-circulated in school and public libraries, 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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Camp Tiger
Susan Choi
John Rocco, illustrator
May 21, 2019
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

A young boy is going into 1st grade, but before school begins his family goes on their yearly camping trip. We learn that the boy is being asked to take on more responsibilities in his home life and that he will miss Kindergarten. As his family arrives at the campground, he’s quite surprised when a tiger shows up. Even more surprising — the tiger talks and his parents don’t seem to mind him being there and interacting with the young boy. In the beginning we see that the boy is simply wearing an orange shirt. But as he and the tiger bond, the illustrations change in the darker night scenes where shadows throw tiger stripes on the boy’s shirt and across his face. He is growing brave and strong with the tiger by his side. This one is definitely a fantastical story about growing up and it will encourage great conversation for the Littles in your life. Was there really a tiger? What did this encounter mean? Why is the boy afraid of forgetting at the end? 🙂

The gorgeous artwork in this book was created using a watercolor sketch and wash pencil and then adding the color digitally. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:

Camp-Tiger-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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Look Up with Me:
Neil deGrasse Tyson:
A Life Among the Stars
Jennifer Berne
Lorraine Nam, illustrator
February 5, 2019
Katherine Tegen Books
Imprint of HarperCollins

This picture book is kickstarted by an Introduction written by Neil deGrasse Tyson where he says, “Scientists are kids who never lost their natural childhood curiosity about the world.” And that’s exactly what this book reminds me of — the importance of encouraging that childhood wonder of learning about the universe and hoping that it never disappears. Berne takes us through little Neil’s childhood (where he walked dogs to save up for his first telescope), into college and graduate school where he continued to learn about black holes and distant galaxies, and all the way to present day where he is still amazed by the world around us. The colorful backgrounds and 3D feeling of the artwork encourage the reader to examine the minute details of the entire page. I was also very pleased with the text size, which will work well for both younger and older readers. The back matter includes a glossary of terms, a list of sources on Neil deGrasse Tyson, and a list of other sources on the universe. Also interesting was the Author’s Note which explained that years ago, as new author, she mailed three manuscripts of her stories about the seas, our planet, and the cosmos with her hero, Neil deGrasse Tyson. He graciously responded with encouragement to keep writing. How would Berne ever have guessed that twelve years later she would be contacted by HarperCollins about writing the picture book biography of Neil deGrasse Tyson?!

The artist, Lorraine Nam, used paper, glue, colored pencils, a camera, and Adobe Photoshop to create the illustrations for this book. Each page leaves the reader feeling like you can reach inside each picture and touch the objects or people. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:

Look-Up-With-Me-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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Mommy’s Khimar
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Ebony Glenn, illustrator
April 3, 2018
Salaam Reads/
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

In this picture book, a young Muslim girl plays dress-up and has grand adventures in her mother’s khimars. She becomes a mama bird, a superhero, and more as she flitters about. She also takes a trip to the mosque where she meets with other children in class (who are not wearing a khimar). And she has a visit from her grandmother who exclaims “Sweet Jesus!” and who does not go to mosque, but they love one another just the same. I really appreciate that this book explains that a khimar might also be called a hijab, possibly a more familiar term to some children.

The bright and colorful artwork in this book was rendered digitally. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:

Mommys-Khimar-2spread

AWARDS: Selected as a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness

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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Tiger vs. Nightmare
Emily Tetri
November 6, 2018
First Second

Young tiger has a monster who sleeps at the end of her bed every night. Mom and Dad think it’s so cute that Tiger has an imaginary friend to talk to and play games with, but little do they know that monster has a huge job every single night. This picture book, created in graphic novel style, is excellent for discussing nightmares and the power we have over them. I read it with my five year old (who has been having nightmares about snakes) and she took it all in, laughing at some scenes and listening intently through others. We decided to choose which one of her stuffed animals is her monster to sit on the edge of her bed every night.

The front pages tell us that the book was painted with Prima Marketing and Windsor & Newton watercolors on Arches watercolor paper, penciled with Papermate and Tomato mechanical pencils, and digitally edited and assembled in Photoshop. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of the artwork, below:

Tiger-VS-Nightmare-SPREAD

AWARDS: Geisel Award Nominee (2019)

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 over halfway through Becoming by Michelle Obama and LOVING it!! I used the hardcover book to look at all the wonderful photographs, but I’m listening to the audiobook because I heard such good feedback from others on Michelle Obama’s personal narration. I would also like to finish Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby. Then I have at least five ARCs that are being published in September that I need to finish reading/reviewing over the next few weeks, so I’m looking forward to finishing and sharing those.

Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 194/200
#MustReadin2019 – 23/42


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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/12/2019 #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!

Our small town library finally ordered all the Kidlit award-winners and nominees in late July, so I’m catching up on any that I missed reading back in 2018. This week, that list includes When Angels Sing by Michael Mahin and Jose Ramirez, Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Sala, and What Do you Do with a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton and Ekua Holmes. Award-winner or not, hopefully you’ll find something that looks interesting.


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The Miraculous
Jess Redman
July 30, 2019
Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan

“As long as there were caskets so small, there were no miracles.”

11-year-old Wunder Ellis has been a miracolagist for as long as his town can remember. He records wondrous events that have happened all over his town — in fact, over 1,000 of these events have been meticulously written down in his special book over the years. But all that comes to an abrupt stop when his baby sister dies after only living for 8 days. Little does he know that his sister’s burial marks the beginning of an unusual adventure for Wunder. For he must face his demons with both grief and gratitude. This is a story of friendship, of pain, of wonder, of community, and of healing.

Can we all take a moment to admire that gorgeous cover? Yet another book jacket I would be happy to frame and hang in my home. I also wanted to point out that Jess Redmon is a therapist. Few authors have the bravery necessary to address such a weighty topic for a middle grade audience, but she clearly understands the value of examining this difficult journey. There’s also a teacher’s guide available at the publisher’s website for anyone who might be using this one in the classroom.

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 Great Jeff
Tony Abbott
March 19, 2019
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

This is the story of 8th grader, Jeff Hicks. He’s in a bad situation, but none of it is his fault. His father left Jeff and his mom, his best friend ditched him, his mom drinks too much and lost yet another job, and they’re being kicked out of their home. Oh, and did I mention that he’s having to attend public middle school because they cannot afford his tuition for St. Catherine’s?

This one was tough to read at times, but there were valuable lessons on friendship, forgiveness, and family. And I honestly laughed until I had tears in my eyes during some of the middle school banter. There were times during my childhood when I felt like we didn’t have money and that I didn’t fit in, but I never experienced this level of fear and uncertainty — of not knowing when I could eat or where I was going to sleep or if my parents would take care of me. The Great Jeff offers an important window and mirror on poverty and family dysfunction for today’s readers.

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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When Angels Sing
The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana
Michael Mahin
Jose Ramirez, illustrator
September 4, 2018
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Spanish words are woven into the English text as we learn of Carlos Santana’s interest in music, starting with the clarinet, then the trumpet, and then the violin. Then one day, his father shipped him a battered guitar and he loved it. Of course, life wasn’t always easy for Santana. He struggled with racism, with being held back a grade when teachers thought he was dumb, and with trying to figure out where he belonged. But after facing such darkness, hatred, and pain in the world, he eventually looked within to find the angels he so desperately sought.

The colorful illustrations were rendered in acrylic and enamel markers on canvas. Several pages have the year watermarked on the page-spread for readers to know when different events took place. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:

WHEN-ANGELS-SING-SPREAD

If you’ll remember, I’ve been collecting good picture book titles that will work well with the “Music for the Classroom Teacher” course I teach. As with all subject matters, including literature is one of the best ways to expose children to a topic. I especially get excited to see picture books showing how little events in one’s childhood can make huge differences in their future. And When Angels Sing definitely falls into this category.

AWARDS: Sibert Medal Nominee (2019), Pura Belpré Award Nominee for Illustrator (2019)

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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Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor:
The Woman Who Loved Reptiles
Patricia Valdez
Felicita Sala, illustrator
March 13, 2018
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Joan Procter had an interest in reptiles from an early age. One day, she reached out to the curator at the Natural History Museum and began learning far more details about reptiles. As it happened, the museum became short-staffed due to the war, so Joan was offered a job. She had artistic skills that allowed her to create models and drawings for the reptile exhibits. When the men returned from the war, Joan was in charge of the museum and was very capable. We learn that she was particularly interested in the Komodo dragon and she bonded with two that were shipped to the London Zoo where she’d created their enclosure. From that point on, she became an international sensation, not only caring for the Reptile house and performing surgeries, but by sharing her scientific research with the world. She was seen walking or riding in her wheel chair all over the zoo with her Komodo dragon, Sumbawa, walking by her side. Sadly, Joan passed away in her sleep at the age of 34 due to complications of her chronic illness. The back matter includes more details on Joan Beauchamp Procter, on Komodo Dragons, and a Bibliography for further reading.

I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of the artwork in this picture book:

JOAN-PROCTER-DRAGON-DOCTOR-SPREAD

AWARDS: NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee (2019), Monarch Award Nominee (2020)

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 Do You Do with a Voice Like That?:
The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman
Barbara Jordan
Chris Barton
Ekua Holmes, illustrator
September 25, 2018
Beach Lane Books

I learned so much about Barbara Jordan in this beautiful picture book and I couldn’t help but look for videos on Youtube so that I could hear her bold voice. Jordan attended law school, then went on to the Texas state senate, then to the United States congress. She spoke with power and authority on discrimination and didn’t back down on the especially difficult situation with President Nixon:

“My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”

Jordan had been struggling with multiple sclerosis and this eventually led her to head home to become a college teacher where she could encourage students to go out and continue the hard work. It was a tremendous loss when she died at the young age of 59, but the book ends with a call to make sure our own voices are heard. The back matter includes an Author’s Note followed by a fairly detailed timeline from Jordan’s birth in 1936 to her death in 1996, even noting President Clinton’s words at her funeral: “When Barbara Jordan talked, we listened.” The illustrations in this book were rendered in mixed media. I really liked the collaged look using different textures and patterns. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example, below:

What-do-you-do-VOICE-like-that-SPREAD

I also had to share the following video from the Democratic National Convention in 1976 where Barbara Jordan was the keynote speaker. The applause began and continued for over 2 minutes straight before she could even be properly introduced. I felt the tears leaking as I witnessed the outpouring of love and adoration — what a powerful presence!

AWARDS: NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Nominee (2019)

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 just about halfway through Breakout by Kate Messner, and I’m one-third of the way through Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington. I have a pile of books ready to go once I finish these two, so we’ll just see how far I get this week.


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 189/200
#MustReadin2019 – 22/42


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/5/2019 #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!

We’re STILL working on our house and property. It seems the more jobs we finish, the more work we uncover that needs some attention. The bad news is that I’ve had an ongoing headache for the last 2-3 days. Every time I cough, sneeze, or strain in any way lifting or bending over, the pain level immediately increases on the left side of my head. Ouchy! In happier news, Jarrett J. Krosoczka will be visiting our campus this October! In fact, we just received word that all incoming freshmen will receive a copy of Hey, Kiddo as part of our Common Reading Experience program. Wow, wow, WOW! This is a huge deal for the area that I live in. The last big children’s author who came to our neck of the woods was Jan Brett — and that was back when she was promoting Cinders (talk about a packed house!!).

On to my reading… This week I read four great novels and some cute picture books. One review will be longer since it’s an e-ARC from Netgalley. I hope you’ll find something of interest to add to your reading list!


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The Friendship Lie
Rebecca Donnelly
August 1, 2019
Capstone

My sincere thanks to Capstone and NetGalley for approving this digital ARC in exchange for my honest review. The Friendship Lie is Rebecca Donnelly’s debut middle grade novel. The story follows the friendship of Cora and Sybella, two 5th graders who (along with Kyle, Cora’s twin brother) created an elaborate fantasy world they named Aquafaba. They are incredibly committed to this world and it grows and changes as their imaginations take flight. Cora and Kyle’s parents (who specialize in garbology at UC Berkeley) decide to separate and their mother moves to Belgium for short-term job, leaving Cora feeling extra sensitive. It’s right around this time that a talkative new girl named Marnie arrives at school, desperate to be included. But Cora and Sybella both give her the cold shoulder using secret code words and sneaky tactics to hide during lunch. However, there’s a miscommunication between Cora and Sybella that leave them both hurt, confused, and unable to seek resolution. Meanwhile, a 40-year-old diary turns up in a trash pile and reveals a past friendship-gone-wrong. Cora and Sybella both wonder what ever happened to that pained relationship from the diary since they see similarities to their current situation. Will their creative shared childhood spent in Aquafaba be enough to heal their pain and bridge the gap?

Outside of the friendship component, one fantastic part of this story was the focus on environmental science. We witness sincere dedication to reducing family waste AND the waste of all their neighbors. And I learned some interesting tidbits throughout this story (why have I never heard of biodegradable pasta straws??) all while considering some fun, educational activities to get children involved in reducing waste.

Maybe it’s the mama-of-five in me, but I felt badly for Marnie. Yes, she was annoying. And yes, her introduction to Aquafaba would have been a huge, frustrating disruption. But in the end, I hope middle grade readers take a moment to discuss how differently things might have gone if she hadn’t been ignored. It’s really not a bad idea to develop friendships with more than one person throughout your childhood.

Overall, I enjoyed this story and flew through it, anxious and hopeful to see resolution. Also… EVERYONE needs an Auntie Lake!! Read this one and tell me you don’t just love her! ❤

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 Line Tender
Kate Allen
April 16, 2019
Dutton/Penguin Books USA

This realistic middle grade fiction story is Kate Allen’s debut novel. Lucy was eight years old when her marine biology mother died of an aneurysm on a boat off the coast of Massachusetts. Now she’s thirteen and spends most of her time with Fred, her science-loving best friend who lives next to her. As the school year comes to an end, a large great white shark is caught by accident, sending their small community into the national spotlight. This little mishap is good news for Lucy and Fred because they are working on a field guide for next year’s extra credit and they can include the shark. Fred does the science portion of the guide while Lucy does the illustrations. And over time we discover that scientists and artists are pretty much the same — wanting to learn how things work.

As this story unfolded, it brought tears to my eyes. I felt all cozy with the loving neighbors of this little tourist town. I love how the younger crowd looked out for the elderly citizens, how easily they all communicated with one another, and how you could include anyone on a last minute road trip. Oh, and I learned a lot about sharks! I’d say this one is upper middle grade — there’s some kissing, discussion of Lucy getting her period, some teenage drinking, and a child’s death.

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’d Be Mine
Erin Hahn
April 2, 2019
Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s Press

This is a young adult contemporary romance about a young singer/songwriter named Annie Mathers and a slightly older (and much more famous) singer/songwriter named Clay Coolidge. Annie grew up with superstar music parents whose lives ended tragically in a double suicide. For that reason, Annie has stayed out of the limelight, enjoying moonlighting on her personal Youtube page. But her talent is quite obvious and she just might be the voice they need in his Clay’s next tour to save his sinking reputation. This is a fast read and there are constant parallels made to Johnny and June.  There are many songs discussed that will be recognized by most music fans, as well. And all along, a budding romance. Maybe. 🙂

TRIGGER: Double suicide and overdose

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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Hope and Other Punchlines
Julie Buxbaum
May 7, 2019
Delacorte Press/
Random House Children’s Books

This book was a LOVELY surprise in my week! There was humor, pain, and so much meaningful discussion.

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? Of course you do! Well, Abbi “Hope” Goldstein was just a baby on that day, celebrating her first birthday. A photographer captured an iconic snapshot of several people running from the towers, fleeing in terror, and covered in ash. Abbi became the famous “Baby Hope” because she, and all the other people in that photo, survived the horrific tragedy that day. But 16 years later, she continues to lie low. Because the moment people recognize her, they tell her everything they remember about that day (or who they lost) and she brings out all their emotions, serving as a continual reminder of their pain.

Noah Stern was also a baby on that fateful day. While he was not at ground zero, he lost his father in the towers’ collapse. He and his mother have done okay over the years, but Noah feels certain that one of the people in the iconic survivors photo is his father. So he plans to coerce Abbi into joining him on a quest to find each person in that photograph. His cover story is that he’s merely interviewing them for a special piece he will write, but he has other personal motives, as well. Noah has no idea what he’s asking Abbi to sacrifice for his benefit.

Told in alternating narration, the storyline was both interesting and insightful. There was moving discussion about how different people grieve along with details about the families who continued looking for their loved ones long after a seemingly fruitless search (I was stunned to learn about how identified remains were officially brought to families and how many caskets were empty or held only a single bone). The brief details shared about the 9/11 jumpers will bring a lump to your throat and the section talking about how children are constantly being replaced with a new version of themselves — wow, I just took it all in and felt the hugeness of it as a mother. These characters seemed so very real to me and I am certain they will stick with me a long, long while. Five stars! Julie Buxbaum is officially on my radar.

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.


Dragons Are Real!
and
Unicorns Are Real!
Holly Hatam
March 26, 2019
Random House Children’s Books

Holly Hatam, recently known for her artwork in Dear Girl, and Dear Boy, (both authored by the Rosenthals) has created two new board books that prove, without a doubt, that certain mythical creatures do exist. Each book begins with a list of what the creature is made of, followed by a diagram pointing to which part belongs where. Then the remainder of each book gives the details of what the creature does on a regular basis. I just discovered that Hatham even has Mermaids Are Real! and Fairies Are Real! board books that I’ll have to hunt down SOON!

I’ll provide one page-spread example of the cute artwork, below:

Unicorns-Are-RealSPREAD

You can add these two books to your Goodreads list HERE and HERE.


To Be Read:

I’ve just started reading Breakout by Kate Messner and The Great Jeff by Tony Abbott on audiobook.


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 184/200
#MustReadin2019 – 22/42


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/29/2019 #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!

This week has been filled with more hard labor (particularly on landscaping, packing/moving boxes, and painting) and we’re getting closer to having our house on the market. I’ve barely had a moment to myself all week, but thanks to Overdrive’s extensive library of audiobooks I was still able to finish over 1400 pages of reading. ALSO, last week was the first time I didn’t sit down early in the week to read and comment on the entire group’s #imwayr posts. I finally made all the rounds, but YIKES, I’m really off my game this summer. Things are looking better and better around here though, so brighter days are ahead. I’m sure!

It was fun to have such reading variety this week. Hopefully you’ll find something that sparks your interest!


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Sweeping Up the Heart
Kevin Henkes
March 19, 2019
Greenwillow Books

Amelia Albright is a 7th grader who is very disappointed that her father, the Professor, doesn’t want to travel or do anything fun for Spring Break. So instead, she spends the bulk of the week at the art studio where she meets her teacher’s nephew, Casey. Threaded with melancholy, this story normalizes the struggles many youngsters face today, like strained child-parental relationships and the pain and complications of divorce. While it didn’t have a tidy, all-things-are-perfect ending, there were beautiful moments and heart-felt conversations. Amelia expected the most boring and non-eventful summer, but she ends up learning and growing in surprising ways. ❤

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 Monster Like Me
Wendy S. Swore
March 5, 2019
Shadow Mountain

Sophie has a blood tumor that covers nearly half her face. She wasn’t born with it, so she believes she was cursed at some point during her early childhood, turning her into a monster. She carries around her Big Book of Monsters in an effort to learn how to become a human again — especially before her mother realizes what her daughter really is. While the synopsis may seem silly and highly imaginative, at crucial points this story was quite philosophical for a middle grade book. There were chapters from her Big Book of Monsters interspersed between the regular story that share important information about different types of monsters and how to treat/handle them, including the importance of offering forgiveness, having gratitude, etc. Pay special attention to those brief sections!

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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No Place Like Here
Christina June
May 21, 2019
Blink

I’ll be totally honest about this one — I picked it up only because of the cover. I’m a sucker for how cover art makes me feel. I don’t think I knew anything about this story before I began reading it, so it was all a surprise. Ashlyn Zanotti is in between a rock and a hard place. Her father is going to prison for tax evasion and her mother is going to rehab for severe depression. So Ashlyn is sent off to stay with her cousin for the summer, working at a retreat center with no access to her cell phone. She’s without her best friend and is REALLY hoping she doesn’t have to return to her boarding school in the fall.

While this book had many of the typical coming-of-age experiences, including a little romance, what I really liked was the fact that it dealt with child/parent relationships, including miscommunication, and the fact that our internal voice inevitably comes directly from the adults who speak to us (and about us) the most. Unfortunately, one of the voices Ashlyn constantly hears is pretty critical of all her choices and judgmental of others she encounters. Will she be able to overcome the humiliation of her father’s actions and her mother’s rehab? More importantly, will she find the courage to speak up for herself and the things that she wants in life?

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 Haunted
Danielle Vega
June 4, 2019
Razorbill

My thanks to Razorbill/Penguin Random House for the Goodreads giveaway that landed this book in my mailbox! This was a fun pleasure-read, this week. I didn’t have huge expectations since I’m not hugely into paranormal, but once I started I found it it very enticing — especially right before bed (which was probably a bad idea prior to dreaming – EEEK!). The main character, Hendricks, had a bad experience with her ex-boyfriend. This is why her family moved her from Philadelphia to a small community in New York. Her parents like to flip houses for a living, but little did they know that the house they purchased, Steel House, is haunted. People were murdered in this house and now their ghosts want revenge. This is a super-fast read! Vega made it difficult to put down as there were more answers to uncover around every corner.

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 We Buried
Kate A. Boorman
February 26, 2019
Henry Holt & Company

What just happened? That’s precisely what I thought when I finished this one. When I reached the end, I started back near the beginning to review and make sure I didn’t miss something important. However, after a while I got on Goodreads and read that many others were just as uncertain, so that’s a relief. What we know is that Liv and Jory Brewer are siblings who have experienced very different lives under the same roof. Liv grew up competing in many beauty pageants while Jory had facial paralysis and struggled to even speak clearly. Both have faced parental abuse in different ways, but neither can remember some important details of their childhood AND their last few days. The majority of this book takes place in conversations and memories while the two siblings are on a long car ride. If you decide to read this one, we really should compare notes to see if we agree on what really happened!

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 finally writing my review of The Friendship Lie later this week and I hope to start You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn. And somewhere, SOME way, I hope to squeeze in another book from my #MustReadin2019 list — just not sure what, yet. 🙂

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 178/200
#MustReadin2019 – 22/42


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/22/2019 #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!


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Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire
(Arlo Finch #1)
John August
February 6, 2018
Roaring Brook Press

This is book #1 of a middle-grade fiction fantasy series and I honestly didn’t realize who the author of this series was until I was starting book #2. If you’re not already aware — John August is an American screenwriter well-known for some of his popular children/family movies, such as: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie, and the recent Aladdin. So while this is his debut middle grade book, August isn’t new to writing stories centered around highly unusual (and supernatural) situations. Briefly: In Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire, 12-year-old Arlo Finch has moved to Pine Mountain, Colorado after his mom allegedly had a nervous breakdown. His mom grew up in Pine Mountain and she has inherited the old family home where her taxidermist brother, “Uncle Wade,” already lives. Meanwhile, Arlo’s father has fled the country because the United States government is accusing him of treason. How’s THAT for a story set-up? And things haven’t even gotten that weird, yet! Shortly after arriving in Pine Mountain, Arlo discovers the wonders of the Long Woods when he joins the Rangers, a mixed-gender scouting troop. He learns that ghosts are real, there are other supernatural beings, there are some who can cross into the Realm, and that there are certain abilities he can learn to command after much practice. Additionally, Arlo has one brown eye and one green eye, which may have something to do with the unique visions he begins seeing.

The story had some unusual variety and was fairly action-packed. Some spots in this story made me giggle out loud. (Hint for those who’ve read it: “What would a squirrel do?“). I also appreciated the development of Arlo’s friendships with a few characters, especially Henry Wu and Indra. I knew I would be going straight into book #2. And I’ll be adding this series to my “spooky books list” for October/Fall reads.

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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Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon
(Arlo Finch #2)
John August
February 5, 2019
Roaring Brook Press

I won’t share too much as I don’t want to give any spoilers for those who haven’t yet read book #1. But obviously, Arlo survives book #1… 😉 The group of Rangers learn more about ancient forest spirits, mysterious messages, and there’s an interesting time loop that allows a peek into Uncle Wade’s past. Since the first book had a lot of world building and story set-up, this one was able to dive a little more deeply into the mystery and adventure. The third volume is planned for publication in February 2020 and I definitely plan to read it!

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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Refugee 87
Ele Fountain
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
June 4, 2019

As I’ve read a number of refugee stories over the last couple years, I’m amazed at just how different each one is (and just how much more I learn about each unique situation that so many face as they attempt to escape terrifying lives in their countries of origin). In this story, 14-year-old Shif is a bright student who has just recently discovered the truth of his father’s disappearance many years ago. Now he faces a potentially cruel introduction to the armed services, being called a traitor to his country. His mother immediately arranges travel for his quick escape with his best friend, but their packed backs are discovered before they can even leave. This story is based on real life experiences and is certain to keep readers on the edge of their seat–possibly finishing in just one sitting. We need more of these stories in our schools and children’s/teen libraries, 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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A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
1859
Penguin Books

This is another title that was listed on my #MustReadin2019 challenge and will also qualify for my #BigBookSummer challenge. And my what a wonderfully satisfying audiobook this was! I’ll admit I struggled to get into the story in the first few chapters — primarily because the modern books I’m more accustomed to reading have a different approach to keep readers invested in the early chapters, and secondly, because I had to get familiar with the language/vocabulary. But A Tale of Two Cities is that slow simmer that builds to the gratifying boil only when the story is ready. It’s a beautiful historical fiction tale of honor, worth, love, and ultimately sacrifice. It’s also gruesome and vindictive, to be sure. Throughout each situation, there’s a constant examination of society and the value of people, despite their finances, social status, or ancestors. Where revenge is sought, love ultimately wins. As I read this one with my ears, I would now like to read with my eyes.

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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Being Small (Isn’t So Bad After All)
Lori Orlinsky
Vanessa Alexandre, illustrator
April 16, 2019
Mascot Books

My sincere thanks to Laura Mossa of Beagles and Books for sending her copy of this book to me so that I could enjoy it with my youngest daughter (who is constantly worried about being so small and sounding so small). Right after it arrived, I sat down and read it with my youngest two children (my 5 y/o and my 8 y/o), who both enjoyed it! Written in rhyming text, we meet a young girl who doesn’t want to to go school because she’s so small. She complains about all the ways her life is miserable due to her height (can’t go on “big kid” rides, is the last picked in sports, etc.) while her mother counters her complaints with all the wonderful things about being small (great at limbo, get to be in the front of all group photos, can squeeze into tight spaces, etc.). In the end, she’s happy to go to school now that she has a new perspective and can enjoy the benefits of her height. This is a great story of overcoming the-grass-is-greener syndrome and the message will ring true for so many young readers in the younger grades!

AWARDS: Mom’s Choice Award Winner

I love the brightly-colored illustrations showcasing sweet faces of childhood wonderings. And the font is cute and inviting for young eyes — something I often look for in children’s books. I’ll provide one page-spread as an example of the text and artwork:

Being-Small-2019

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:

We’re supposed to hear back from one of our contacts about a potential new home we’ve been looking at for a while, so I’m guessing for the time being we’re stuck with plenty more house work and packing. But this week I’m planning to finish an ARC of The Friendship Lie by Rebecca Donnelly, which will be published August 1st. I’m also going to re-read my ARC of The House at the End of the Road before I share it on my blog, next week. It will be published on September 17th!

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 174/200
#MustReadin2019 – 22/42


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/15/2019 #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 will probably be one of my shortest posts of 2019. It turns out sanding, priming, painting, installing new doors, cleaning, and beginning the process of packing up a family of seven is time consuming. Therefore, I only finished one book this week AND I believe this is the first post where I don’t have a kidlit, mglit, or yalit book reviewed. Oh my, I’m sure breaking the rules this week. 🙂 I look forward to hearing what all you’ve been reading!


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All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr
May 6, 2014
Scribner

This title was another one listed on my #MustReadin2019 challenge and it was also part of my #BigBookSummer challenge since it was 531 pages. I’ve been hearing about it for a long time as it was both a Pulitzer Prize winner and a finalist for the National Book Award (and won many other awards, as well).

All the Light We Cannot See is a moving story that centers primarily on the lives of two young adults during WWII. Werner is an orphan, along with his sister, Jutta. Without parents, he knows he has no support, no money, and no future other than working in the mines. However, Vernor is particularly gifted in mathematics and, specifically, radio technology — and he’s entirely self-driven and self-taught. Once his abilities are discovered, he is given a unique responsibility as a soldier for Germany in WWII. The other main character is Marie-Laure. She’s 12 years old, French, blind, clever, brave, and her father is a master locksmith who taught her to see the world with her other senses. At some point, she ends up living with her great uncle, Etienne (who I assume is suffering from PTSD), who adds another level to the story because of his painful experiences.

I love how this story told the truth of these opposing sides in such depth, humanizing the experience of both civilians and soldiers. And as a reader, I felt the push and pull of wanting to be patriotic while worrying about being on the “wrong” side. Also, there’s constant discussion of sounds, colors, and light, which really makes me wish I’d read this in a book club so I could talk it out and bounce thoughts/feelings off others. Maybe I’ll get the chance on down the road because this one is definitely worth a re-read. The depth of love, the worries and fears, and the family relationships were so tangible. Highly recommend!

AWARDS: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2015), Audie Award for Fiction (2015), ALA Alex Award (2015), Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction (Runner-Up) (2015), Ohioana Book Award for Fiction (2015), Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for International Book (2015), Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction (2015), Idaho Book of the Year Award (2014), National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (2014), Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction (2014), and Nominee for Best of the Best (2018), International DUBLIN Literary Award Nominee (2016), any I missed?

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 picked up Arlo Finch: In the Valley of Fire earlier this week when I found it available as an audiobook. I’m doing a lot of listening while I work and this has kept my attention quite nicely. I’m about halfway through this one and should be finished by next week. I also have an ARC of The House at the End of the Road that I hope to review, next week.


Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 168/200
#MustReadin2019 – 21/42


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/8/2019 #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!

I’m so exhausted. And in pain. I don’t remember the last time I’ve worked this hard in the hot sun, but the house is beginning to look pretty great — at least from the outside. The inside is a whole different issue, so we’ll handle one thing at a time. With such a limited timeframe, it seems insane to stop working to blog. However, I simply can’t let a week slip by without writing a quick #imwayr post and checking out what the rest of the community is up to. Last week I discovered it was the exact halfway point in the year and I was running behind on my #MustReadin2019 list, so this week I finished two more books from that pile. I’ll have to make this more of a priority in future weeks.


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The Oceans Between Stars
(Chronicle of the Dark Star #2)
Kevin Emerson
February 13, 2018
Walden Pond Press

I became enthralled with Emerson’s Chronicle of the Dark Star series, last year. It’s wonderful to see a science fiction series that doesn’t dumb down the terminology for middle graders. Additionally, the story is intricate woven, but feels fast-paced. I’m very pleased to learn that my 13 year old son now wants to read it. YAY! Quick rehash from book number one, Last Day on Mars: The story starts in year 2213 and we learn that Earth is gone and all remaining humans fled to Mars. Liam’s and Phoebe’s parents are part of the scientific team who discovered a new solar system to terraform that will sustain humans long-term, so they prepare to make the lengthy journey. In the meantime, the two main characters discover proof of another intelligent being just before the sun dies. And now it appears that their sun might not have died on its own–perhaps there were other forces at work. We are left on a cliffhanger where The Oceans Between Stars picks up.

Aaaaaaand the second book did NOT disappoint! I don’t want to spoil anything for those who will soon dive into this series, so… Liam is attempting to reconnect with his little sister, who left Mars before he did. He continues to experiment with a special watch he found and learns there are multiple outcomes to his future, depending on what he chooses. We learn a lot more about Phoebe’s family, as well, and the theme of this book revolves a great deal around human behavior and the power of trust. These are a few of the quotes I bookmarked from book #2:

Trust is a power adaptation of three-dimensional beings. The hope or belief in something. It’s your engine for still making a choice when you don’t have all possible information.”

If there’s anything I learned in all those history lessons I had to sit through on Mars, it’s that [the human] species doesn’t have the best track record when somebody else is living on the land that [they] want.”

One of the unfortunate things about a life lived in only three dimensions is that you do not know how or when you are going to die. You’d be surprised how much easier things are, knowing how long you have and what part you play.”

There’s such depth to the relationships in this series. These books need to be in both middle grade and upper teen collections. I plan to squeeze in book #3 just as soon as possible!!

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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Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher
October 18, 2007
Razorbill

I can’t believe this book has been out for over a decade! Due to its popularity among teens, I guess I’m glad that I finally got to read it. In short, teenage Hannah Baker releases recordings that discuss her specific reasons for committing suicide (and has the audio tapes secretly released after she’s already gone). Many of those reasons were specific actions of other schoolmates — some actions were typical mindless things that happen daily in high schools all over the world, so teens can really relate to these experiences. That said, I’m not sure anyone in that mental state would have the capacity to carry out such an elaborate and vindictive plan. Maybe, maybe not.

Back when the Netflix adaptation of this book was released, my daughter was 13 (almost 14). ALL her middle school friends had watched it and she was begging for us to let her. Knowing the seriousness of the topic, my husband and I watched it alone, first. And we decided that since she was so young, we preferred she read the book before watching it on television. I mean, there’s some real nastiness between the characters — not to mention rape. And we initially thought these experiences would be easier to first experience in text. Now I’m not so sure. Because while the book is interesting, I didn’t quite connect with the Hannah Baker in the book the way I did with the Hannah Baker of the television series. For some reason, she sounds even more vindictive and angry in text. Anyway, it’s a very important topic and I know this one was quite meaningful for teens to discuss over the last decade, so I’m glad it’s made an impact on so many and initiated important discussion. But this is one of the very few cases where I actually enjoyed the Netflix version more than the book. I haven’t watched beyond season one, though. If you have, let me know what you think!

AWARDS: Georgia Peach Book Award Nominee for Honor book (2009), California Book Award for Young Adult (Silver) (2007), South Carolina Book Award for Young Adult Book (2010), Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis Nominee for Preis der Jugendjury (2010), Lincoln Award (2013), Missouri Gateway Readers Award (2010), Oklahoma Sequoyah Award for High School (2010)

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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Mixed: A Colorful Story
Arree Chung
July 3, 2018
Henry Holt and Company

This little picture book is the story of three communities of very different people who each think they’re the best. The Reds, Blues, and Yellows eventually decide to live in different parts of the city. Until one day when two colors “mix” and start a whole new trend. Some are angry about this attraction, but over time the colors all catch on. This book is in a similar vein to Splatter by Diane Alber, but it’s a little more obvious that Mixed is basically about humanity. My one complaint would be that it ended kinda abruptly. Nevertheless, it’s still a sweet book that will be a great addition to any children’s library.

The artwork was rendered with black India ink with brush and acrylics on Rives BFK paper. I’ll provide one example, below:

Mixed-2019

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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Stone Soup
Jon J. Muth
March 1, 2003
Scholastic Press

Someone from our #imwayr community (I think it was Cheriee!) recently mentioned this version of Stone Soup being their favorite. I was able to ILL this through our college this summer, and now I know why it’s a favorite! Instead of focusing on tricking people, its purpose is on community and the value of fellowship. In the back matter, the author’s note briefly explains the traditional roots of Stone Soup and shares how Muth decided to use China as a setting in this retelling. Careful attention is given to the Buddha story tradition, including enlightenment and the three deities Hok, Lok, and Siew. And the color yellow, only worn by royalty long ago, is given to a little girl who we discover is quite exceptional. There are other little Easter eggs to find along the way, so be sure to slowly enjoy the illustrations in this one (and definitely read the back matter to understand the signs and symbols from China)!

The artwork was created with watercolor and ink. I’ll share one of my favorite page spreads as an example, below:

Stone-Soup-2019

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 over a third of the way through All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. It won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and WOW is it good! It’s on my #BigBookSummer challenge list (531 pages), so I’m not sure what else I’ll squeeze in this week with all the house work.

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Reading Challenge Updates: 

Goodreads Challenge 2019 – 167/200
#MustReadin2019 – 20/42