It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 07/16/2018 #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!

Mad-wolfs-daughterThe Mad Wolf’s Daughter
Diane Magras
March 6, 2018

12-year-old Drest is the youngest child in a family of Scottish warriors. In the opening pages of this book, knights from another kingdom are invading the land. Drest’s father tells her to hide while he and his sons are all captured by the enemy and shipped off to Faintree Castle. Once the dust settles, Drest decides to take a wounded prisoner and head off to rescue her family. Over the course of her journey she learns that her father is known as the “mad wolf” of the North. He is both hated and loved by different villages based on the various stories told from town to town. She and her companions face many dangers on their path. But time and time again, Drest is proven brave and noble–willing to risk her life to do the right thing:

There is not a Knight Truer more more chivalrous in Faintree Castle than you, Drest. I could not ask for a better guard.

As Drest nears her family’s captors, an uncomfortable question grows in her heart as she wonders about her father’s and brothers’ past choices. Is her family honorable or not? This story moved quickly and definitely kept my attention. I was impressed with the character development for a middle grade book and I’m really looking forward to book #2.

Adventures-of-Bicycle-GirlThe Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle
Christina Uss
June 5, 2018

A young girl called Bicycle is taken into a “mostly silent” monastery and is raised among the nuns and monks. One day they discover a used bicycle for sale which Bicycle purchases and names Clunk. After some time, her guardian, Sister Wanda, realizes that Bicycle does not have any friends outside the monastery. Therefore, she signs Bicycle up for a camp where she’s guaranteed to develop some relationships. But Bicycle wants nothing to do with forced social interaction and she intends to make friends with her idol, Zbigniew Sienkiewicz, a famous bicyclist. So she packs up Clunk and heads off on the adventure of a lifetime — riding from Washington D.C. to California to meet Zbigniew. Talk about ADVENTURE!! Plus, there’s a bit of bad AND good luck that will guide her on her journey.

Have you ever noticed that? Something seems like bad luck at one point, but it turns out to be good luck later on. Or vice versa. Luck is a very tricky thing.”

Overall, this story was incredibly clever and witty (even if completely bonkers at times). While mostly realistic fiction, there were some rather unusual characters on this adventure — along with an unexpected twist with artificial intelligence. This one was a fun read!

Zora-and-MeZora and Me
Victoria Bond
T.R. Simon
October 12, 2010

This story captivated my heart, this week. It probably helps that I already adored the writing in Their Eyes Were Watching God, because this story revisits Eatonville, Florida (an all-black community) where a young Zora Neale Hurston is coming of age with some of the most delightful, wise, and dependable friends you’ll ever meet in middle grade literature. In this tale, full of mischief and myth, the town of Eatonville faces a murder mystery that Zora, Carrie, and Teddy attempt to solve. Zora loves to read, explore the woods, listen in on adult conversations, and spin stories that even SHE believes. However, is Zora telling one of her fantastic stories this time, or is she telling the honest truth? Only time will tell…

There were so many meaningful moments I wanted to capture in this story. I’ll just share a couple quotes that hit home for me:

Until that moment, I believed that what I carried inside of me was just myself and nothing of other people, not even the ones I loved. If I ever had the nerve to open up my heart, I thought I’d be faced with nothing but a tall, round-faced brown girl with coal-black hair. I felt that alone. But on the hem of this experience, wrapped in Mrs. Hurston’s embrace, I got up the nerve to take a peek into my heart, and to my surprise I didn’t find that lonely picture of myself. What I found there was much bigger. I found all of Eatonville.

One more that initiated a conversation with my husband this past weekend. Such truth:

I don’t know how to explain that moment except to say that, before the moving pictures and before the radio, folks were accustomed to silence; we even used to hug up on it once in a while. I never thought of it as special then, that we could just sit and stare and luxuriate in the comfort of our own thoughts. Without time to think, we wouldn’t have had anything to talk about in the first place.

Ahhhh, such a creative, fictional depiction of Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood life! The detailed descriptions of conversations felt authentic for the post-Civil War era. Additionally, the childlike interpretation of adult black/white racial interactions was well crafted — quite valuable for middle grade historical fiction. I felt a special connection to Carrie as she narrated this chapter of her life with Zora. I should also add that this novel is the first project ever endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurton Trust that wasn’t authored by Hurston, herself. I’m very much looking forward to reading book #2 which will be published in September.

Who-Says-Women-Cant-Be-Computer-ProgrammersWho Says Women Can’t Be
Computer Programmers?:
The Story of
Ada Lovelace
by Tanya Lee Stone
Marjorie Priceman, Illustrator
February 20, 2018

I was excited to get my hands on this book, this week. What is well known about Ada Lovelace is that she fully understood the whats and ifs behind the modern computer well over 100 years before it became reality. But her childhood and family happenings were quite interesting, as well. Her father was THE Lord Byron who fled England when Ada was still a baby. So her mother, Lady Byron, did everything she could to make sure Ada didn’t develop a “dangerous” imagination, like her father. So she pushed her to study mathematics and abandon her imaginative interests. Eventually she met Charles Babbage and they developed a long, close friendship where they encouraged each other as thinkers. And from this growth Ada eventually wrote her famous notes on the “Analytical Engine” that she believed would process not only numbers, but could also create pictures and music. The back of the book provides two pages of “More to the Story,” information about Ada’s many names, and more reading sources. In the colorful, flowery artwork we often see a bright-eyed Ada surrounded by mathematical equations. These illustrations were created with gouache and india ink on hot-press watercolor paper. Here’s one example of the sweet artwork:


After reading Cheriee’s review of this book last week, it makes me want to read Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini to learn even more about her life!

To Be Read:

I’ve just discovered I’m teaching a new college course this coming semester, so I’ll be a bit busy over the next month devouring a new textbook and outlining the fall semester. Still, I’ll make some time for personal reading. I didn’t get to Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground last week, so that’s first on my list. Then I hope to at least start into A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3).

Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 07/09/2018 #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!

We have a few touristy events coming up in our area which will drive thousands across our roads through July and August. Mount Rushmore is always hopping (especially around 4th of July) and this week also begins Fur Trade Days, usually complete with a carnival and traveling circus. And have you ever heard of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? Let’s just say it’ll be one big motorcycle rumble here in about 3 to 4 weeks. Otherwise, all summer long our area is crawling with people visiting Crazy Horse, Wounded Knee, Fort Robinson, Devil’s Tower, and numerous other local historical locations and monuments.

In other news, our oldest son fell while roller blading a week ago and broke two different bones in his arm. So the poor kid is not longer able to swim (or roller blade, obviously) for the next three months. I guess that leaves more time for READING. Yippee!! Furthermore, it looks like we’re facing several days of 100-ish degree temps this week — even more reason to kick back in the air conditioning and hit our reading stacks. 🙂 Aaaand speaking of reading, here’s what I’ve been up to:

RaymieNightingaleRaymie Nightingale
Kate DiCamillo
April 12, 2016

I decided to kick off my reading week with Raymie Nightingale (since I was already planning to read Louisiana’s Way Home). Raymie Clarke, Louisiana Elefante, and Beverly Tapinski are three girls from broken homes who have very different personalities. They are brought together through baton lessons. Raymie is taking lessons because her father recently left her mom and ran away with a dental hygenist. Her hope is to learn to twirl so she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire pageant. That would land her picture in the paper and, surely, her father would see it and come back home after realizing what he left behind. Louisiana wants to learn to twirl so she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire pageant and use the money to get her beloved cat back from the pound. Beverly is already an accomplished twirler, but she doesn’t care to win a pageant. She hopes to sabotage the whole competition. The book, overall, has an air of melancholy for three young girls with seemingly crazy, abusive, overwhelmed, or completely oblivious caretakers. Through their rather unusual adventures they eventually learn to support and depend on one another, lovingly referring to themselves as the three Rancheros.

Louisianas-Way-HomeLouisiana’s Way Home
Kate DiCamillo
October 2, 2018

This story picks up two years after Raymie Nightingale with Lousiana’s grandma dragging her out of Florida in the middle of the night, leaving behind Raymie and Beverly (presumably forever). But they quickly hit one obstacle after another and land in a motel where Lousiana meets a young boy with a crow. There’s a lot going on in this story with a variety of interesting characters. One thing I was pleased to see was Louisiana encountering a couple healthy adults who truly care about HER and want to help her do whatever she needs to do. I definitely enjoyed Lousiana’s Way Home more than Raymie Nightingale and the final pages to this story brought me to tears. Thanks to Candlewick Press, I received an e-ARC of this book. I will post a full review before publication date (and after I have the publisher’s approval for the quotes I’ve selected).

24-Hours-in-Nowhere24 Hours in Nowhere
Dusti Bowling
September 4, 2018

WOW! This book, y’all. 24 Hours in Nowhere will definitely be a contender for my favorite Middle Grade book of 2018. Gus is a rather bright 13 year old, stuck in Nowhere, Arizona. When a friend, Rossi Scott, gives up her beloved motorcycle to save Gus from having to eat a horrible cactus, he feels compelled to do whatever he can to win it back — including entering the dangerous mines (filled with mystery, myths, and HOPEFULLY treasure). Over the next 24 hours, four different people enter the mines and must work together and trust one another if they hope to get back out alive. Throughout their dangerous trials, they discover just how much they have in common. 24 Hours in Nowhere addresses so many societal issues at once: bullying, sexism, racism, incarceration, abandonment, and income disparity. Bowling’s ability to effortlessly weave complicated lives into a cohesive story line is stunning. She creates such well-rounded, relatable characters. I loved each of them — laughing and crying throughout their stories and treasure hunting adventure. Once I finished this book, I turned to my husband and said we would be buying a home copy of this book and reading it with our five children. Dusti Bowling is a legit storyteller. I hope she has a mountain of books planned in her future because I plan to read every last one of them! (Thanks to Sterling Publishing, I was provided an e-ARC of this book. I will post a full review before publication, after I have the publisher’s approval for select quotes).

WhenJessieCameAcrosstheSeaWhen Jessie Came Across the Sea
Amy Hest
P.J. Lynch, illustrator
November 3, 1997

Jessie lives with her grandmother in eastern Europe, learning how to sew while she teaches her grandmother to read. One day, their small village rabbi gives his ticket to Jessie so she can travel to America — the Promised Land where the streets are made of gold. After making it through the long trip by boat, and befriending another young man on her boat, she finally lands at Ellis Island and gets checked in. But once she gets settled into her new life, it becomes obvious that America is not perfect and does not have streets of gold. 🙂 The gorgeous artwork was done in watercolor and gouache. I’ll provide two spreads, below (but I’m removing some text to avoid spoiling the ending).


The-Other-DucksThe Other Ducks
Ellen Yeomans
Chris Sheban, illustrator
May 1, 2018

This Duck and That Duck are learning about life from day to day. They learn about forming a line, how to swim, and eventually they learn to fly. But the biggest surprise was discovering the “other ducks” when they looked down into the water. By the end of the story, they eventually meet REAL other ducks so they could finally form a REAL line. It’s a cute little story that could be used when discussing the cycle of life. The artwork was created using watercolor, colored pencil, and graphite. Here’s one example:


To Be Read:

This week I’m reading the first two installments of this historical fiction series, based on stories from Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood:


Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 07/02/2018 #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!

We’ve had a wonderful summer, so far. This last week brought LOTS of rain and then cooler temps followed. Now it seems my whole neighborhood is gearing up for 4th of July which means fireworks have been going off in my neighborhood for over a week, now! And is it only MY city or are all grocery stores are already stocking “back to school” supplies?? Summers seems to be getting shorter and shorter every year. Enjoy it while it lasts!

On to my reading week…


A Torch Against the Night
Sabaa Tahir
August 30, 2016

A Torch Against the Night picks right up where An Ember in the Ashes leaves off, but instead of only being told from the perspective of Elias and Laia, Helene (formerly the best friend of Elias) has been added to the narrative mix.

Most people,” Cain says, “are nothing but glimmers in the great darkness of time. But you, Helene Aquilla, are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night–if you dare to let yourself burn.”

For a large chunk of book #2, these three characters are in different locations, slowly filling out details to reveal the big picture. In the beginning, Elias and Laia are attempting an escape to rescue Laia’s brother, Darin. He is being held in the worst of the Empire’s prisons and the Commandant is on a mission to wipe out all Scholars as she travels from prison to prison. Along the way they face many soldiers and eventually find the tribes where they seek refuge. If you haven’t read book #1 then there’s not much more I can share without spoiling the story. 🙂 But it’s very insightful, with a fuller view of Elias’s early story (including his birth and biological mother’s actions). While it’s 452 pages, like Ember, it is engaging and reads so quickly. So now I wait for book #3 to arrive in my mailbox (yes, it’s on order).

Wild-Robot-EscapesThe Wild Robot Escapes
Peter Brown
March 13, 2018

This is book #2 in The Wild Robot series and it picks up just shortly after book #1. Roz has been taken back to the robot factory to be tested and refurbished.  Roz robot instincts kick in so she’ll survive the interrogation:

In the wilderness, I camouflaged my body to survive. In the robot factory I camouflaged my personality to survive. I pretended to be a perfectly normal robot. I did not say that I had adopted a goose, or that I could speak with animals, or that I had resisted the RECOs. I said what I had to say to pass the test. And it worked.”

Roz was released from the factory and purchased by a disabled farmer with two children. She meets the cows on the farm and strikes up a secret friendship. Additionally, Roz tells her island stories to the children on the farm without revealing that they’re true stories. But eventually the truth comes out and it becomes obvious to everyone involved that Roz must escape and be reunited with Brightbill on their beloved island. But how will they pull this off?

I would say this one has even more intriguing questions and philosophical ponderings than book #1. Peter Brown explains (in a note at the end) that this “return to home” required research, study of artificial intelligence, and exploration of expert predictions of our potential future. In his words: “The story had to be filled with heart and soul and action and science and even a little philosophy.” And that is exactly what comes across, this time. This is yet another great read-aloud book for kids of all ages.

All-That-TrashAll That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge
and Our Problem with Stuff
Meghan McCarthy
February 27, 2018

This was one of the most entertaining AND educational picture books I’ve read over this past month. In 1987, a New York landfill became keenly aware that it was almost completely out of room. To solve this issues, they decided to load 3,186 tons of trash onto a barge, take it to North Carolina, and turn the decomposing garbage into methane gas (which eventually can be used as electrical energy). It was actually a brilliant idea, well ahead of its time, but things started going wrong when a local reporter in North Caroline noticed the barge approaching and shared the news story on the 6 o’clock news that evening. So… North Carolina turned them away and thus began a series of states refusing the barge from Alabama to Mississippi to Louisiana to Mexico to… um, WHERE will they land?


The garbage found a potential location near the Bahamas, but even there the barge was turned away before they could start unloading. In the end, the barge returned to New York. Are we surprised that they even faced issues there–where the garbage originated?



I won’t spoil the ending, in case you don’t already know about this big event of the 80s, but I WILL say that this historical experience is probably what ignited our modern day understanding of how to make better use of garbage. The back of the book provides a section on barge facts, recycling facts, garbage facts, ocean garbage facts, and a lengthy bibliography. Overall, this was an intriguing nonfiction book that will likely appeal to many young readers.

NOTE: It may sound silly, but I kinda agonized over what pages to share while staying within the 10% legal copyright limits. So just know there are even more entertaining illustrations that explain the experiences and the science of what they were trying to do. 🙂

To Be Read:

I have a few ARCs I’m very excited to read this month. I’m starting with these two:

Thanks so much for visiting. I fell behind on comment responses the last two weeks, but I’ll do better from this point forward. Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 06/25/2018 #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!

Boy-Bird-Coffin-MakerThe Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker
by Matilda Woods
May 1, 2017

This was an enchanting tale about a good man who loses everything and becomes a coffin maker by necessity. Alberto lives alone in the quaint town of Allora where the houses are painted in bright colors and the fish practically fall from the sky (they live right off the coast). One day Alberto notices something out of the ordinary and he decides to solve a little mystery. He discovers a young boy and his brilliant bird. Throughout the book, we hear a story within the story as Alberto slowly reads an old book to the young boy. Eventually, there’s a spark of fantasy that transforms this tale into magical realism. I loved that the various townspeople came to life with vivid personalities — we know what behaviors to expect and exactly which people are trustworthy. Woods also provides an occasional illustration throughout, adding to the cozy feel of the town. It’s such a sweet, unique, and enjoyable tale. NOTE: There’s also an abusive child/parent relationship in this story. And while explicit descriptions of the abuse aren’t discussed, the fear is very much present. Overall, I can say I found it very engaging and I am honestly surprised that I’ve not heard a lot more about it before now!

An-Ember-in-the-AshesNEWAn Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir
February 9, 2016

As I mentioned last week, I’m joining Sue’s (at Book by Book) Big Book Summer Challenge and trying to complete a few 400+ paged books that have been in my TBR pile. I purchased An Ember in the Ashes a few months ago and since the third book in this series (A Reaper at the Gates) was released just this month, this had to be the first in my challenge. It follows the alternating first person narrative of Laia and Elias:

Laia and her brother, Darin, are “Scholars” who live in a village with their grandparents (both of their parents are deceased). Scholars are known to be fairly peaceful people who are usually poor and illiterate. As the story begins, Laia’s home is bombarded by Mask soldiers who kill her grandparents and take her brother hostage. Laia barely escapes with the clothing on her back. In an attempt to save her brother’s life, she agrees to be sold into slavery among the aristocrats as a way to spy for the Resistance. Unfortunately, this means she has to become the Commandant’s slave. Who’s the Commandant, you ask? Nastiest she-devil character I’ve ever encountered in any book to date. Her other slaves have been maimed, killed, or they’ve committed suicide. The future does not look good for Laia as long as she remains in the Commandant’s household.

Elias Veturius was taken from his home as a young child and raised at Blackcliff in hopes of becoming a “Mask.” Masks are the highest form of soldiers — the final product. They suffer extremely brutal training throughout their childhood, leaving many candidates dead along the way. Nevertheless, in the opening chapters of this book, Elias has finally concluded his training and is graduating as an official Mask. Even though he’s at the top of his game and now among the most highly respected in the Empire, he only wishes for true freedom. This is a wish that could get him killed. Oh, and guess what: Elias’ biological mother is the Commandant!

This story is full of gore, magical elements, some beauty, and pure evil. There’s mild language, some passionate kissing, mention of prostitutes, and mentions/threats of rape (though no actual scenes). There are a number of fights/battles and some horrific punishments to both the soldiers and slaves, which is why I would say this book is definitely for older readers. I really enjoyed it and was elated to get my hands on the 2nd book on Saturday. I’ve started book #2 and am far enough in to see that it picks up pretty much right where book #1 ended.

Also… I just have to share this recent tweet:


Im-HereI’m Here
by Peter H. Reynolds
August 16, 2011

Ahhhh, this book! Last week I mentioned Reynold’s Happy Dreamer and the same friend also loaned me this one. An important thing to know is that this book was commissioned by the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), which promotes a more empathetic understanding of individuals with autism. In the beginning, a young boy is sitting alone at recess, watching and listening to all the kids play on the playground. He keeps saying, “I am here” to himself while seeing all the happy kids having fun together. He begins to make a paper airplane out of a piece of paper that floats his way and as he throws it, he imagines himself playing with the kids and having a lot of fun. And wouldn’t you know it, a little girl notices his form of communication and runs over to play with him. All the feels, y’all!

As I was researching I’m Here, I came across an interview that Mr. Schu did with Dr. Paul Mullen about this book. I highly recommend reading the interview and considering the many ways all children communication. It’s amazing how a simple shift in our attempts to bond (as educators, librarians, parents, neighbors or friends) can make all the difference. You can find the interview HERE. Due to copyright violation, I normally discourage the use of Youtube videos that publicly display/read a book in its entirety. However, the animated video of this book embedded at the top of Mr. Schu’s blog was created with Peter H. Reynold’s oversight and permission. So enjoy!


To Be Read:

This week I’ll be working on A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2). I’m not sure if I’ll finish it this week, but it would be great if I could also squeeze in The Wild Robot Escapes before I have to return it. If you’re interested in joining the #BigBookSummer challenge, check out Sue’s post and be sure to link up.


Have a great reading week, everyone!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 06/18/2018 #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!

House That Lou Built_jkt_3p.inddThe House That Lou Built
Mae Respicio
June 12, 2018

I was thrilled to get my hands on this darling story. Lou is a 7th grader who is half-Filipino and half-Caucasian. She lost her father when she was just a baby, but she has an extremely supportive family living in close proximity. Because her mother is struggling financially, she is considering accepting a job in Washington state that would pay for Lou’s future college costs. However, this would take them far from their family and friends. So Lou concocts a plan to keep her mom from taking the offer. Her plan involves confronting the local tax office and building a “tiny house” on the property her dad left behind for her. This is an addictive and exciting story right up until the sweet ending!

Miscalculations-of-Lightning-GirlThe Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
Stacy McAnulty
May 1, 2018

I happened to grab this book when I found it available on Overdrive. Once I started it, I couldn’t help but to finish it in the same morning. 12-year-old Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning when she was 8 years old. The strike rewired her brain, making her a mathematical savant (mixed with OCD). Due to her educational and emotional needs, Lucy has been homeschooled up until now. But her grandmother has requested she complete one year of public school before entering college. At her new school, she and her classmates are tasked with finding a community need and filling it. Lucy and two of her classmates, Windy and Levi, choose a no-kill pet re-homing organization where they using mathematical formulas to solve their biggest adoption problems. The relationships in this book (between Lucy and her grandmother, her uncle, her classmates, and her teacher) are very realistic and even endearing. The Middle School interactions showcase the fact that everyone faces hardships — even the most popular of kids struggle with SOMETHING. This was an incredibly engaging story that I happily recommend!

Problim-ChildrenThe Problim Children
Natalie Lloyd
Júlia Sardà, illustrator
February 6, 2018

This is the story of the seven Problim siblings, each born on a different day of the week: Sundae (Sunday), Mona (Monday), Toot (Tuesday), the twins Wendell (Wednesday) and Thea (Thursday), Frida (Friday), and Sal (Saturday). Their parents are brilliant archaeologists who have raised their children to be independent, open-minded, and free-range learners. This means that while mom and dad are away on an important dig, their children are unschooled, solving problems on their own with only their oldest sibling (Sundae, age 16) left in charge at home. The story begins with the destruction of their home. Uh oh! But soon after, they discover that their grandfather left his home to the seven children. So the children load up and travel to their grandfather’s town to show proof of deed ownership. Luckily, they interrupt the start of an auction for the home and they’re granted 21 days to live there before they must either (1) prove their ownership by birth certificate (which were destroyed with their house), or (2) have their parents arrive to claim them. In the meantime, they discover a mystery involving hidden treasure and clues their grandfather left behind for them. It’s an incredibly unique and mysterious story. If you’re accustomed to straight-forward reads, I suggest you try not to overthink anything in the first few chapters. Once I resolved to simply go with it, this story was quite fun! 🙂 Aaaand it looks like book #2 is scheduled to come out in February 2019.

Ordinary-Extraordinary-Jane-AustenOrdinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen
Deborah Hopkinson
Oin Leng, illustrator
January 23, 2018

This is a sweet picture book biography of Jane Austen. It begins with her younger years, providing interesting details about her experiences, and goes all the way through her death. In the back there’s a two-paged spread timeline of her life and three more pages outlining her six beloved books. Also included is a page with a list of online sources and books that were used in the author’s research on Jane Austen. The artwork was created with ink and watercolor. I’ll provide two page-spreads to give a little taste of what you have to look forward to:


Happy-DreamerHappy Dreamer
Peter H. Reynolds
March 28, 2017

My friend and neighbor loaned me this book several weeks ago and I stored it away in a “safe” place — so safe that it was too easy to forget I still had it until this week! 🙂 But what a beautiful book about hoping, dreaming, creating, and being original, even when you’re feeling forced to do what others want you to do. In the back of the book, Peter H. Reynolds says:

“I’m a dreamer. Always have been. Not all grown-ups were happy with my dreaming — my ZigZaggy brain — but I was lucky some were. And my parents, well, they let me be me — loved me — and things worked out pretty well.”  -Peter

There are so many pages full of bold artwork, along with Reynold’s encouraging hand-penned text. However, I can only share two spreads to arguably fit within copyright restrictions. If you haven’t already found this one in your library, hopefully you can snag a copy for the special young readers in your life!


To Be Read:

I’ll continue with my long YA book this week: An Ember in the Ashes. I got so caught up in the other three middle grade reads this week that I just started Ember last night (Sunday). And I’ll admit, part of me wanted to stay up all night reading! I’m also drawn to The Boy, The Bird and The Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods. It sounds unique and interesting so I’m going to try to squeeze that into my reading time, this week.


Have a wonderful reading week, everyone!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 06/11/2018 #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!

Summer has been wonderful for our family, so far. We kicked off end-of-school-year with our camping/cabin trip back in May. Since hubby had two weeks off from teaching before Upward Bound started at the college, we worked diligently on sorting all five kiddos’ toys and clothing for the year — dropping off donations and picking up whatever items each child needed. And now that temps are well into the 90s (and I did my first lawn watering of the season!!), I’d say we’re well into the festival stage of the summer where our weekends will be seemingly swallowed up in a flurry of local events. But you and I will still have #IMWAYR — whew! Onward…

Front-DeskFront Desk
Kelly Yang
May 29, 2018

This book has so much heart and hope, even in the midst of fear. “The thing about prejudice is you can’t tell people not to be prejudiced. You’ve got to show them.” And that’s exactly what this book does. Yang drew from plenty of real-life experiences from her years working the front desk of hotels that her parents managed. In this story, Mia’s mom champions math. However, 10 year old Mia falls in love with English writing. While managing the front desk of the Calivista Motel, she bravely uses writing to make waves in the world around her. Meanwhile, her parents quietly hide immigrants in empty rooms, hoping the motel owner won’t discover their secret. Left and right, conflicts occur between Chinese immigrants and Americans due to a simple misunderstanding of language or customs. Nevertheless, the ending provides a happy “feel good” conclusion that feeds on the love of a uniquely bonded community. Ahhhh… this book pulls the heartstrings!

A few interesting tidbits about Kelly Yang: She started college at the age of 13. She also started the Kelly Yang Project which is a writing and debating program for children in Asia and the United States. She has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic. So while this is her debut middle grade novel, writing professionally is not new to Yang. Her literary experience is quite evident in the pages of Front Desk. I couldn’t put it down — started and finished it in the same day (even while being the only parent home with 5 very busy children). Grab this one as soon as you can!

Wild-RobotThe Wild Robot
(The Wild Robot, book #1)
Peter Brown
April 5, 2016

I was finally able to pick this little book up. Since book #2 (The Wild Robot Escapes) was recently released, I was feeling a bit behind. So… Roz is a robot. During a hurricane, her ship sinks near an island devoid of human life. Roz is the only robot to “survive.” From the beginning, the other island being call her monster. But chapter after chapter, Roz slowly adapts to island life, learning the various animal languages, befriending the island animal families, and figuring out her role in this new habitat. Themes revolve around acceptance of differences (some bullying included), adoption, community, and adaptation. Brown also includes a number of simple black and white illustrations throughout the chapters that add personality and humor to each situation.

I don’t think I can liken this book to any other novel I’ve read (at least not in recent years). While marketed to middle graders, the language has the feeling of a young child’s picture book. I could read each chapter to my 4-year-old and she’d easily be engaged and empathize with Roz and the various animal families. For that reason, it would probably make a good read-aloud for a multi-age classroom or home environment.

Example from the text:


I have book #2, The Wild Robot Escapes, checked out from the library and hope to squeeze it into my “short list” summer reading plans.

Aru-ShahAru Shah and the End of Time
(Pandava Quartet #1)
Roshani Chokshi
March 27, 2018

This is the first book in the new series by Chokshi. Aru Shah lives in a museum with her single mother, Dr. Krithika Shah. Aru is a liar. She lies about everything ranging from where she gets her clothing to her grades to where she vacations. She does this because she never feels good enough at her fancy private school. One day, over school break, her classmates trap her in a lie and she feels forced to prove herself. She lights the mythical Lamp of Bharata, intending to blow it out right away. But as soon as the flame touches it: BOOM! It’s too late. She’s whisked away on a mission she never expected, with a pigeon named Boo as her “enchanted assistant” (AKA guide).

This book is making big waves in kidlit reading circles and seems to be loved by many reviewers. So I hope I don’t deter anyone from reading it by sharing that I really struggled to get into the story. I don’t know if the hype got to me and maybe that’s part of why it dragged, but after the first 50ish pages I already began to lose interest. That’s when I put down the book and started the audiobook. Then I went back and forth between reading and listening until the end. It will likely be enjoyed by middle graders who enjoy a continuous flow of adolescent humor and sarcasm. But it just didn’t work well for me. Other reviewers say it picks up around the 80% point, and I would probably agree. There are some important reveals and shifts that help tie things together in the end. I’m not certain that I’ll read book #2 when it’s released. Sometimes the second book in a series is much better. It will be a wait and see decision for me.

HouseThatOnceWasThe House That Once Was
Julie Fogliano
Lane Smith, Illustrator
May 1, 2018

Two children find an old, abandoned house and begin walking through it, attempting to figure out who used to live there and why they left. They find old toys, discarded books, and pictures of who may have been the inhabitants. It’s both a sweet and somber picture book that includes a great deal of imagination. My daughter picked this one up for me from our local public library. She and I immediately opened it and began pouring over the beautiful illustrations. There’s such variation in the artwork and we immediately turned to the back to read about how the artwork was created. In the present day artwork, Smith used India ink drawn on vellum with a crow quill pen. Then while still wet, he pressed it onto watercolor paper creating a blotted effect. For the imagined scenes, he used oil paint on hot press board and combined that digitally with paper collage elements. I can totally see why it’s already making Mock Caldecott lists.

Here are examples of the two different types of artwork:



This is another picture book gem my daughter grabbed at the library, this week. It’s a little older than the books I normally share on #imwayr, but it’s pretty and meaningful. In a nutshell, the text is a free-verse poem on mindfulness — it allows the reader to slow down and listen to the world around them. Young children might be asked to look at each new spread and anticipate what the new sounds will be on each page. At the same time, this would make a very nice bedtime book to unwind at the end of a busy day!

I had never heard of Lemniscates before seeing this book. In the back of the book there’s a notation that says, “Lemniscates is an illustration studio of artists and designers located in Barcelona. Their creative and imaginative books spark curiosity in children of all ages, and encourage children to develop their unique talents and skills for a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.”

Here are a couple page spreads for your enjoyment:


To Be Read:

An-Ember-in-the-AshesI’m still overwhelmed with summer kid/family stuff. But I’m going to commit to the Book By Book: BIG BOOK SUMMER CHALLENGE and start on one of my “big books” that has been sitting on my shelf for a months. Sue has set up information and a link-up HERE and she’s also hosting a Goodreads “big book” summer group HERE. It would be so fun if some from our #imwayr group were to join in. To qualify as a big book, it just needs to be over 400 pages. It can be a book that you slowly savor over the whole summer or if you have a lot of free time to yourself this summer, you can commit to a whole pile of big books. I plan to start An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir this week. If I really enjoy it and finish it early in the summer, then I might plan to work through that series since they’re all big books. Even though I’m normally a one-book-at-a-time gal, I might try to squeeze in something else so I can enjoy some middle grade reading simultaneously.

Have a wonderful reading week, friends!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 06/04/2018 #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!

Today will be my shortest IMWAYR post ever (with only three books and blurbs rather than reviews). My family took an unexpected trip up into the Black Hills. Getting back super late on Sunday evening means little time to blog. But at least I’m here, right?

Crossover 0.5
Kwame Alexander
April 2, 2018

I was thrilled to read Rebound, this week. In fact, I think I might have enjoyed this prequel even more than Crossover! If you’ve already read Crossover, this is the story of Josh and JB’s father, Chuck/Charlie Bell. The rhythm and intensity of this book was so comfortable and easy to fall into, with some fun comics tossed in (in just a few spots). I didn’t want to put this one down and I was NOT ready for some of the reveal at the very end — just so heart-warming and beautiful. You don’t even have to have any interest in sports (in case that’s what is holding you back). Highly, HIGHLY recommend this one!

They-All-Saw-A-CatThey All Saw A Cat
Brendan Wenzel
August 30, 2016

Loved this beautiful picture book about how our various viewpoints in life impact our perspective on the exact same thing. This would be a wonderful book to spur on discussions about diversity and acceptance (including self acceptance). This book was a 2017 Caldecott Honor Book, the NAIBA Book of the Year for Picture Book, and a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books.

Jason Chin
March 17, 2009

Last week, Lisa of Literacy on the Mind mentioned Redwoods being her favorite Jason Chin book. So I had to check it out! A young boy is reading this exact book (Redwoods) while learning all the details about these trees. It covers everything I could imagine a child (or adult) wanting to know about Redwoods. The artwork was absolutely stunning and I would love it in my collection for this fact, alone. There’s a brief Author’s Note at the end which explained Chin’s inspiration for researching and writing about redwoods. The only thing I felt was missing was a list of sources for further reading. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal about redwoods and would definitely recommend it for classroom or home use.

To Be Read:

I just barely started the following two books this week, so I would really like to finish them by next Monday. I’ve also ordered Front Desk by Kelly Yang. WOOHOO! But did I mention having a little less time? I’m definitely going to have to adjust my expectations based on the “out and about” activities of my children this time of year. So I PROBABLY won’t be reviewing 3+ novels a week for at least a couple months. 🙂

What are YOU reading?