Wednesday, April 7, 2021

new books to celebrate the environment! - 4.07.21

It's April, which makes me think about Earth Day and the environment.  Here are some books that you can use this month or any month to inspire young readers to think about the world around them.


Rock by Rock by Jennifer Bradbury
Rock by Rock: The Fantastical Garden of Nek Chand
written by Jennifer Bradbury
illustrated by Sam Boughton
Until Barb Rosenstock's book about Mr. Chand was the first time I had heard of him or his amazing rock garden.  Sculptures, waterfalls, structures, and more all built out of rocks and other materials found in junk piles, Nek Chand created a place of refuge in his new land of India.  Having moved from his native Pakistan to India during the Partition of 1947, Mr. Chand wanted to find a place that reminded him of his home.  For eighteen years he worked on it by himself before workers discovered his refuge.
A wonderful book to celebrate reusing and creating something new!

Zee Grows a Tree by Elizabeth Rusch
Zee Grows a Tree
written by Elizabeth Rusch
illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
This was such a clever book!  Inside is both a fiction story and nonfiction facts about a youngster growing up alongside her Douglas fir tree.  The day young Zee is born, her parents (owners of a tree farm) gift her with a newly sprouted Douglas fir tree.  Readers watch as young Zee and the tree grow up side by side.  Each layout has a smaller print nonfiction fact that explains to readers what is happening to the tree as it grows.  Additional information is included in the backmatter.

The Wisdom of Trees by Lita Judge
The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom
by Lita Judge
This book has been receiving a lot of praise lately and I am jumping on the bandwagon!  You'll never think of a tree the same way after reading this book.  It's amazing how trees form their own community and know how to help one another out - whether it's from a common predator or from needing additional nutrients in the soil.
In each layout, Judge has a gorgeous illustration, a poem that lyrically tells you information, and a longer piece of text that gives a scientific explanation.  Whether you read this book from cover to cover, or just specific layouts, readers will walk away amazed at what these quiet giants can do!  In the backmatter, Judge includes even more information about the poem that covers historical information, facts, and environment protection information.
I would expect to hear this title being mentioned during award season next winter.

The Big Beach Cleanup by Charlotte Offsay
The Big Beach Cleanup
written by Charlotte Offsay
illustrated by Katie Rewse
Young Cora is excited about the end of summer sandcastle contest, but it's cancelled early on because of the waste that clutters the beach.  Cora knows her two hands can help with the cleanup, can she get more hands to help?
Full of reminders of how people can help keep beaches and the environment clean, this book is a great one to read this Earth Day!

Look What I Found in the Woods by Moira Butterfield
Look What I Found in the Woods
written by Moira Butterfield
illustrated by Jesús Verona
An interactive book that shows three children walking through the woods and finding some woodsy treasure.  Full of information about trees, leaves, seeds, and shells, readers will learn new facts and also get an idea of the treasure that can be found on a walk.  I also like the interactive checklists of things to find in certain illustrations!
publishes April 20th


This is not a new book, but it is new-to-me, so I'm including it in the roundup!

What a Waste by Jess French
What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting Our Planet
written by Jess French
This book came to my attention because it is listed on our 2022 IL Bluestem Award list.  It's a DK book, so you know it's a book that you don't have to read cover to cover, but will have lots of facts and infographics.  The environment is a topic that more and more young readers are growing concerned about and this one breaks down a lot of information and gives tips that will make young readers think and act upon the new information!



Hope you found a new book or two to share this month!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Don't miss these! A spotlight on some amazing picture books - 4.06.21

Some amazing picture books have popped out of my pile in the last couple of weeks.  I've had stacks to go through (it's amazing how books just pile up when you're not looking).  Here are some that you simply cannot miss.  I'm sure I have more in the remaining stacks!


Watercress by Andrea Wang
Watercress
written by Andrea Wang
illustrated by Jason Chin
I've heard about this book for some time and it did not disappoint.  It is fabulous.
Wang captures the essence of being a kid, of being told to do something that may embarrass you, and of this constant need to fit in.  In this story, it's fitting in with American culture, because your own heritage is different.  This would be a great picture book to read before starting Kelly Yang's Front Desk series.  
Share this book widely this year!

The Water Lady by Alice B. McGinty
The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation
by Alice B. McGinty
illustrations by Shonto Begay
How many of us take running and flushing water for granted?  There are still places in the United States where running water is not found in every household.  Darlene Arviso, a citizen of the Navajo Nation is helping families on the Navajo reservation with obtaining water.  Pair this one with Carole Lindstrom's We Are Water Protectors for more water awareness.

Something's Wrong! by Jory John
Something's Wrong! A Bear, a Hare, and Some Underwear
written by Jory John
illustrated by Erin Kraan
I don't know about you, but this has been a tough year.  So when I get the chance to laugh, it does help lighten things, even if it's just for a moment.
This book will certainly make you laugh, and make you want to share this book with many many other readers.
Jeff the Bear has received a gift from his grandma and he's getting ready to go out in the woods.  As he comes across some other woodland creatures, he feels like something might just be a little off, but he can't figure out what it is.  It's when he talks to a trusted friend that he figures out it's the underwear he's wearing.  Animals don't need underwear.... or do they??

The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken
the tree in me
by Corinna Luyken
I ADORE Corinna Luyken's illustrations, and this one is just beautiful.  A perfect book to share this spring as it celebrates the pairing of nature and humans and the interconnectedness of the two.  Pair this one with Maria Gianferrari's Be a Tree!

The Rock from the Sky by Jon Klassen
The Rock From the Sky
by Jon Klassen
Klassen and his perfectly placed and drawn eyes!!!  They have a whole new meaning in this hilarious, laugh-out-loud chapter book.  Thank goodness there are multiple stories in this picture book because one would just not be enough.  Three animal friends, a rock, and a giant eye.  Five chapters.  Lots of laughs.  Enjoy!!
Publishes April 13th.


Happy picture book reading!

Monday, April 5, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - 4.05.21

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.


Last Week's Adventures

Building middle grade reading stamina with these books, part 1

Nonfiction picture books about athletes!


Picture Books

Round
Round
written by Jennifer Ward
illustrated by Lisa Congdon
In just short phrases on each page, Ward gives us a new perspective of nature as she explores the concept of being round in nature.  While not necessarily round as a perfect circle or sphere, but the idea of it, readers gain a new perspective in the living things around them.  In the author's note on the title layout, Ward even challenges readers to find types of round in layouts, such as arched, curled, looped.  I do wish there was backmatter that gave a little more information about each page (similar to what you find in a Robin Page or April Pulley Sayre book).

The Duck Who Didn't Like Water
The Duck Who Didn't Like Water
by Steve Small
I thought this was going to be about accepting differences in others, or even casting stereotypes, but it actually was a friendship story, and how sometimes for friends you go outside your box, just a little bit.  Duck and Frog accidentally find each other, but their difference of their opinion on water keeps them apart, until Duck comes up with a new plan.

Perfect Pigeons
Perfect Pigeons
by Katherine Battersby
Young readers will easily understand the central message of staying true to yourself and it's ok to not be the same as everyone else.  Pair with Tacky the Penguin.

The Little Library by Margaret McNamara: 9780525578338 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
The Little Library
written by Margaret McNamara
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
The kids of Mr. Tiffin's class are back!  This time they are headed to the newly opened school library.  There they meet Librarian Beck who knows just how to watch for kids' interests and find books for them.  This is particularly important for young Jake, who views himself as a slow, yet careful reader.  Because of how long it takes him to read, he doesn't necessarily enjoy it as much as his classmates.  That's all about to change when Librarian Beck sees Jake noticing the craftsmanship of the bookcases and hands him a book about wood making.  It's a book that Jake cherishes the entire school year but is very disappointed when he finds out he has to return it at the end of the school year, before he has finished it.  But it sparks a thought for young Jake as he uses his newly acquired knowledge to build a Little Free Library for his classmates to use while the school is closed for summer.

Meesha Makes Friends
Meesha Makes Friends
by Tom Percival
Part of the "Big Bright Feelings" book series.  Percival has written several others that gives kids the tools for when they have to figure out feelings and navigate tough kid-problems.  This one features Meesha who is shy and would prefer to be alone with the friends she has created.  Other kids are loud, noisy, and don't do things the way she wants to do them.  But that changes when she meets Josh who enjoys similar things as Meesha.  He even helps bring her out of her comfort zone a bit and gets her to interact with other kids.
While a bit didactic, this series also gives young readers the words that are sometimes needed to help solve a problem.

The Farmer and the Circus
The Farmer and the Circus
by Marla Frazee
In 2014, a wordless picture book called The Farmer and the Clown came into our lives.  It was hugely popular, with readers who are not clown enthusiasts (me included) falling in love with the little clown.  It was a heartwarming story with a farmer finding it in his heart to help a young clown who had been separated from his family.  Then last year, we got a sequel and found out it was actually going to be a trilogy.  The Farmer and the Monkey started right where the previous book left off.  The farmer was returning home, but unbeknownst to him, a circus monkey followed him home.  This was a book I could not recommend due to the racist stereotypes that were depicted with the circus monkey.  Now we have the final book in the trilogy.  At its heart, is a story about families and how we can make our own families that are made up of people... or animals... that love each other.  The story is sweet and has a good message.   And while some of the racist stereotypes surrounding the monkey in the second book are not depicted in this one, it still has the clothing and drum that can be seen as stereotypical.  I know using a traveling circus is an important part of this story which lead to the use of a monkey as a character.  Just think that should have been thought through a little more.

Middle Grade

Golden Gate (City Spies, #2)
City Spies: Golden Gate
by James Ponti
If you've held off reading this series, you really want to correct that.  If you don't read it the second it comes through your hands, you will never see it.  Kids love this series and it's understandable.  It's fast.  It's full of adventure, mystery, and suspense.  It's heartwarming.  And the kids are spies.  
In the second book of the series, the adventure takes the City Spies kids all over the globe, but ending up in San Francisco.  There are multiple mysteries to solve in order to get one big mystery to be understood.  One of the unfinished mysteries from book one is further explored in this one.  
I think I loved this one even more than the first book, and that is rare.  
It would be best if you could get multiple copies of the books in this series.  Your hold list will be long!

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, #1)
Amari and the Night Brothers
by B.B. Alston
I was so grateful for time on Saturday to binge read this book!  I had gotten about halfway through, but with school starting back up after Spring Break, my reading had screeched to a halt.  This is a book that warrants some binge reading!  There is a lot going on in this book.  When I was reading it slowly, I found myself going back and rereading and checking on things I had easily forgotten.  Once I got into the swing of it, it was hard to put down!
Amari has been invited, by her missing brother, to try out for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.  Her perfect brother, Quinton, had been working on a secret project when he went missing, and by joining the Bureau, maybe Amari can discover what happened.  
Amari lives in low income housing and knows she has to work hard to try and find a future for herself.  Things have not been going well for her at her school, but maybe being a part of this special place, just maybe she'll find more of her own identity.  Little does she know that there are some hidden parts of her that she was not even aware of.
Wonderful fantasy that has a Black female character who is going to be a mighty force to reckon with!  For the reader who enjoys some magic, lots of adventure and mystery, and series, this is a new one to enjoy!  Already looking forward to book 2.  

Currently Reading

Love Is a Revolution
Love is a Revolution
by Renée Watson


As always, happy reading this week!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Middle Grade Books that build stamina, part 1 - 4.02.21

I love middle grade novels.  I get excited when I get a book that I've been eagerly anticipating and it ends up being a longer story.  I was like that as a young reader too.  But not all readers want long stories.  It's for a variety of reasons.  Many don't have the stamina.  Some don't have the patience.  Some are still growing into those stories.  It's a lot easier to find long novels than shorter ones.  Especially shorter ones that appeal to readers, especially older readers.  
I have stacks of middle grade books that are under 230 pages.  As I read a few, I will collect them in a post.  Hope this helps a reader you may have!

The Magical Reality of Nadia by Bassem Youssef
The Magical Reality of Nadia
written by Bassem Youssef and Catherine R. Daly
illustrated by Douglas Holgate
176 pages
Nadia is starting sixth grade and is excited to see her friends after being away on vacation in Egypt.  As an Egyptian American, she loves her culture and heritage and enjoys bringing Egyptian food to school for lunch.  Nadia is also a big fan of trivia and facts!  She has a great group of friends who pride themselves on being awesome nerds!  But as sixth grade starts and a new boy is in their class, things start to fall apart.  First of all, he makes fun of her food and heritage.  Then her BFF seems to be siding with this bully.  What Nadia needs is a touch of magic.  Surprising her is the necklace she bought at a market in Egypt is actually a magic talisman.  Will this magic help her solve all her problems?
With illustrations and some graphic novel frames, this book was quick and fun to read.  This will appeal to readers who are looking for a fantasy story, but don't want something as long as a Rick Riordan novel.

The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell
The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell
by Jordan Sonnenblick
224 pages
Full confession:  this is my first Sonnenblick book.  And it certainly won't be my last.
What I hear most from readers is they are looking for funny books.  This one is the first one I'll be handing them.  I laughed out loud more times than I can count and - and I feel like this is the true testament if something is funny or not - I read several passages out loud to my 15yo and even she gave a chuckle!
The book reads like a story, however I quickly figured out it's actually a true story of the author's younger years.  The year is never divulged, and a reader will really have to notice details to figure out it's from decades ago.  Young Jordan apparently had it kind of tough - asthma, being short, but not the shortest, being smart, but not the smartest, and having a teacher that really does hate you (this scary teacher really should not have been teaching).  I found myself sympathizing with Jordan, laughing with him, and being impressed with the way he handled situations (even if I would not have recommended it).  Jordan has a pet snake who steals a few scenes, too!
Not only will kids enjoy reading this, it also makes a great read aloud.  Go ahead, see if you can get through it without laughing out loud!

A Field Guide to Getting Lost
A Field Guide to Getting Lost
by Joy McCullough
224 pages
Sutton and Luis are two very different characters.  However they are being thrown together, but not of their choosing.  Their parents are dating... it's starting to get serious... and they want the kids to get to know one another.  Every time they are supposed to get together, something happens and things don't go right.  
Told in alternating chapters, readers get to know each characters individually and then see what happens when their two personalities come together.
A quick and quiet read that becomes hard to put down by the end of the book!

A Game of Fox & Squirrels
A Game of Fox and Squirrels
by Jenn Reese
215 pages
This is a perfect example of a shorter book that is intended for an older audience.  What appears to be a magical realism fantasy story, actually has deeper meaning.  Samantha and her older sister are sent to live with a relatively unknown aunt.  While there, Samantha ends up striking a deal with a magical fox to help her go back home.  However, foxes are well known tricky characters, and a deal with a fox always comes with a price.
What the readers slowly discovers is Samantha and her sister were removed from their home because of an abusive situation.  This tough subject is handled delicately in the story and is carefully woven through the story.  Younger readers may not even be aware what is really being said in the story. 


I will return with more books for these readers!



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Books for your Sports collections - 3.31.21

One section of nonfiction that kids flock to is anything about sports.  Whether it's a how-to book, biography, or history of, if it's sports related, kids will want to read it.  Here are some new books you'll want to add to collections for your young readers!


Biographies:

Flying High by Michelle Meadows
Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles
written by Michelle Meadows
illustrated by Ebony Glenn
This picture book biography told in rhyme, gives readers a quick introduction to Biles' early years.  Readers learn how Biles and her younger sister were adopted by her grandfather and his wife.  They raised her and helped her entry into the world of gymnastics.  It was a chance encounter that introduced her to classes, even though she had been practicing for it for a long time by constantly moving and tumbling throughout her day!  We also see the dedication to the sport, which older readers are already well aware of!  With gorgeous illustrations from Ebony Glenn, and as we enter into an Olympics summer, I am sure we'll have a lot of readers asking for books about the gymnastics GOAT, Simone Biles.

Breaking the Ice by Angie Bullaro
Breaking the Ice: The True Story of teh First Woman to Play in the National Hockey League
written by Angie Bullaro
illustrated by C.F. Payne
This is the story of Manon Rheaume who broke many barriers as the first female to ever play in the National Hockey League.  At a very young age, her father needed a goalie to play in a game for a team he coached.  Manon's older brothers and Manon convinced their father she was the goalie who could get it done.  When she was younger, it was easier to not give her gender away as she went on an played in more leagues.  She continued to practice and play, but eventually it became more widely known that there was a girl goalie.  That girl goalie also was successfully saving and stopping so many goals, that bigger league coaches took notice of her.  As she continued playing, she eventually caught the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who let her have a chance at the team camp.  She survived cut after cut, eventually playing in a preseason game - the first NHL game a female ever played in.
Lots of great information in the backmatter, including a letter from Manon.

Swish! by Suzanne Slade
Swish! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters
written by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Don Tate
I think at one point, when I was in elementary school, we went and saw the Globetrotters live.  Their skills and showboating, while different than straight up basketball, was electric and made the sport fun and different to watch.
This story follows the start of the Globetrotters.  Trying to play basketball during a time when black players weren't allowed was tricky.  They had to have something a little extra to get the attention of the people in charge.  It took awhile, but they finally did.  But along the way, the Globetrotters showed that basketball can be played in many different places with a lot of showmanship and heart.
Don't miss the backmatter which connects these earlier days of the team, to the one that is more commonly known today.


I also took a look at a couple of books in the series "Game Day".


Dive In       Match Point
The books are written by David Sabino and illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey.  
The books are written in a narrative form of writing with a person explaining how another character is getting ready to play a specific sport.  Rules of the game are explained and some technical information may be given.  Each book has a glossary at the start of the book and additional facts at the end.
Unfortunately, I started with the book that I have a lot of knowledge about, which is swimming.  The first thing I noticed was in the glossary.  One of the terms is a "tumble turn" which after the description says it is also referred to as a "flip turn".  This is the second time I've seen the phrase "tumble turn".  The first time was in another sporting book, but the author was from a different country.  I've watched a lot of world championships and the Olympics.  I've been a swimmer and am currently a swim parent.  And I've never heard it referred to as a tumble turn.  I checked to see if the author lived in another country and no, Sabino lives in the USA.  So not sure where he got wind of that term.  But then, the major inaccuracy is when he goes on to write about a character doing a 200 fly event.  He explains that when the swimmer reached the wall, she did a tumble turn.  Well.  If you do that in a swim meet, it will get your promptly disqualified.  Butterfly and breaststroke event turns are completed with an open turn - meaning both hands must reach the wall simultaneously and on the same plane.  Every swimmer knows this, so this is an inaccuracy that is hard to excuse.  There were some other descriptions of the people who work a meet that I found surprising.  Sabino talks about a timekeeper.  We usually call them timers, but ok, we'll go with timekeeper.   But then he talks about how one of the jobs as a timekeeper is to check the records and see if a swim breaks a record.  Definitely not something a timer would do.  
So knowing how many things that were inaccurate in that book, I would take the other books in the series with a grain of salt.  When I read Match Point after, while it sounded good, since I don't play the game of tennis, I am not sure what is correct and what isn't.
I think this is a series that should be a bit more fact-checked by experts in that field.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3.29.21

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.



Last Week's Adventures

Be sure to check out these chapter books that celebrate some black boy joy!

A text set that celebrates the water cycle!


Picture Books

Zonia's Rain Forest
Zonia's Rain Forest
by Juana Martinez-Neal
This is a book that I 100% will be in the minority for my rating.  I did not love it, but I had high expectations for it.   It's gorgeous.  The illustrations are beautiful.  I love that it's about Martinez-Neal's native Peru.  But the story stopped short - I felt like there was much more to be said but it just ended.
Zonia lives in the Peruvian rainforest and has a special relationship with the native animals.  We see her bonding and spending time with her animal friends.  But then she sees a part of the forest that has been chopped down.  She doesn't understand it but her mother explains that the forest is speaking to Zonia and Zonia immediately understands that she must answer.  And then the story is over.
Young readers will understand the message and what Zonia will do.  I'm not sure how the story "should" have ended (in my own opinion) without it becoming didactic, but I felt surprised it was just done.
Lots of great information about the setting and the Asháninka people (an Indigenous group living in the Peruvian Amazon) in the backmatter.
This book publishes March 30th.  Thank you to Candlewick for the advanced review copy.

The Lost Package
The Lost Package
written by Richard Ho
illustrated by Jessica Lanan
Partly a thank you letter to the USPS, but also a fun story of how a lost item can unite people.   
As the book opens, we see an empty box that is being boxed and addressed (complete with pictures on the box) and finally, mailed.  But on the way to the airport, the truck hits a pothole and the package flies off the truck and becomes, you guessed it, lost.  If not for a careful eye of a dog and a young boy, the package might have remained lost.  There's a surprise as to where the package is going!
I appreciated the additional information about the author's family in the author's note.

Sunday Funday in Koreatown
Sunday Funday in Koreatown
by Aram Kim
Yoomi is back in a new story.  It's Sunday, which means Funday for Yoomi and her father, but nothing seems to be going right.  Will her day be saved?  This one reminded me of Oge Mora's Saturday.
I loved the setting of Koreatown (K-town) and seeing the written language and items to buy.  Readers will enjoy seeing the different foods that are mentioned.  I particularly enjoyed seeing a cover of favorite book!  Don't miss the author's note that tells even more about the stores.
This was my first Yoomi story, but there are two others that I will find!

If Dominican Were a Color
If Dominican Were a Color
written by Sili Recio
illustrated by Brianna McCarthy
A story about identity and being proud of who you are.  The author compares the many colors of a location to an identity.  Important author's note about colorism and how that has sparked its own racism.
A mentor text to use to write identity pieces based upon the colors that are important to the writer's life.

Feel the Fog
Feel the Fog
by April Pulley Sayre
Add this book to your list for Poetry Month!  It will be a perfect time to share it with young readers since we often see fog in that weird cold/warm weather we get in spring.
A beautiful poem accompanied by breathtaking photos, this book will be perfect to read year round!
A favorite line, "It swallows the distant."

Looking for Smile
Looking for Smile
written by Ellen Tarlow
illustrated by Lauren Stringer
A book about emotions, moods, and mental health.
Bear and Smile are always together, until one day Smile is not there.  Bear look everywhere, including all of their favorite places, but Smile does not come.  Eventually, a bird friend helps Bear with a song and Smile eventually returns.
This is a deceptive book.  On the one hand, even though it reads for a young audience, I think this is a book that older readers will get "what it's really about" and it could be a good starter for a mental health conversation.  I do think younger readers can use this to have a good conversation about feelings.  

Middle Grade

Abby, Tried and True
Abby, Tried and True
by Donna Gephart
This is one of my favorites of Gephart's.  I think what makes the difference with this story is that it is an #ownvoices story.  In the author's note Gephart tells the reader that she is a cancer survivor and there are parts of the story that are from her own experiences.
When we first meet Abby, she is saying goodbye to her best friend and neighbor, Cat.  Cat and her mom are moving to Israel.  Abby is nervous to start school without her BFF since she has always relied on Cat to be the person who speaks for the two of them.  Without her, Abby is an extreme introvert.  The first few times she meets her new neighbor, Conrad, the interactions don't go well, which is a shame because he is very cute.  And things keep getting harder, both at school and home.  Abby lives with her moms and older brother, Paul.  When Paul returns home from summer camp, he's in pain and knows something is wrong.  He is diagnosed with testicular cancer and has to have surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy.  All of this affects Abby as she tries to be strong and helpful.  Luckily, she ends up having a close friendship with Conrad, that blossoms into a very sweet romance.  With help of her friends and her close family, Abby grows as a character and does her best to help Paul.  I love that Abby is Jewish and Jewish customs, traditions, and the Hebrew language are used throughout the story.  There is not much Jewish representation in middle grade stories, so glad to have this one!
I flew through this book and had a hard time putting it down.  A great book for middle school libraries!

Amina's Song
Amina's Song
Hena Khan
I was so glad to be back with Amina and her friends and family.  I loved Amina's Voice and this book has so much of the same feeling.  This time Khan explores what it is like when you feel like you are part of two places.  
Amina has spent a month in Pakistan with her family and has grown to love the country and culture.  It's time to return home and Amina has very mixed feelings.  While she's glad to be home, she also feels like a part of her wants to stay in Pakistan.  Once she returns home, her friends don't have the same interest in her travels and Amina feels that a part of her identity is left out.
Amina is also exploring a part of her identity that she has kept somewhat hidden.  She has a beautiful singing voice, and except for one other time, has not shared it with many.  She enjoys being a part of the chorus, but could she actually enjoy being a soloist?  Helping her explore this side is a new friend, Nico.  She enjoys spending time with him but everyone around her thinks there's more to it than a new friendship.  In a time when boy-girl relationships are new, Amina has to navigate what this friendship means.
Definite purchase for 4th-6th grade libraries.

The House That Wasn't There
The House That Wasn't There
by Elana K. Arnold    
A story about family, identity, and coincidences.  Alder and Oak have recently become next door neighbors.  However, after a tree removal incident, their mothers dislike each other, which makes the two kids off to a rocky start.  However, after a series of coincidences, the two start talking and find more to like about each other than they thought would be possible.
There is a magical element to this story that gave me pause.  It's the only thing I did not like about the story, and I think it would have been stronger without it.  I will be interested in seeing what young readers think about this.  Arnold wrote a Nerdy Book Club post that explained why she included this piece.  Interesting to note, but again, still want to see what young readers think!
Early digital review copy from Edelweiss.

Currently Reading

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, #1)
Amari and the Night Brothers
by B.B. Alston
This has been on my list to read for awhile now.  I was hooked after 2 pages!

A Promised Land
A Promised Land
by Barack Obama
I also got my March #mustreadin2021 portion of the book completed.  As I mentioned last month, the majority of the book I skim through because I find it so boring.  But there are parts that fascinate me.  I'll be glad when I'm done with the book, but also glad that I will have read all of it.  I will read part two when that publishes.


I'm jealous of everyone starting Spring Break.  I was happy to get quite a bit done during my break, and I'm sad for that productivity to end!  But at least I have some great books I'll be passing on to readers :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

#road2reading Challenge - Celebrating Black Boy Joy! - 3.18.21


All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools
that you may use with readers 
at the start of their independent reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.


Here are some new(er) chapter books that celebrate black joy!


J.D. and the Great Barber Battle by J Dillard
J.D. and the Great Barber Battle
written by J. Dillard
illustrated by Akeem S. Roberts
J.D. is starting third grade and finally gets to have his first haircut!  While he has enjoyed his time with his mom while she does his cornrows, he's been dreaming about what he is going to do with his first haircut.  Maybe a fade?  Maybe a high Afro, kind of like Steph Curry?  He knows his family can't afford the local neighborhood barber, so it will be up to his mom.  But when she's done, J.D. ends up with a hair cut he wants to cover up with a hat!  J.D.'s talents lie in his art and he figures out a way to not only shape his own hair, but also do some stylish finishes on his friends'.  Soon, the local barber finds himself losing business since he can't do such stylish designs.  Will they figure out a way to work together?
Coming in at 126 pages and with illustrations throughout the book, this is a perfect chapter book for readers who are looking for something a little longer.  This one looks to be an upcoming series, so I'm looking forward to more adventures with J.D.!

Simon B. Rhymin' by Dwayne Reed
Simon B. Rhymin'
written by Dwayne Reed
illustrated by Robert Paul Jr.
Librarians take note - this book will be a great one to have in audiobook format!  Full of raps and rhymes, I think listening to the beat will be so engaging for young readers!
Young Simon thinks in rhymes and loves to spin a beat... in his head!  Saying them out loud requires nerve that he just doesn't have.  Simon is starting fifth grade and has a teacher that also can rap some rhymes, but this teacher also assigns an oral report on the first day of school!  Simon needs to find something he cares about in his hometown to share with his classmates... and get over his fear of public speaking all within the first week of school!
I like that there is emphasis on finding something you care about to research and discuss - shows young readers that they can be change-makers no matter how young they are!
This one is longer - 226 pages - but with illustrations sprinkled here and there, it's a good one to hand to older readers who want something longer but with some supports, or younger readers who are very fluent and read through stories quickly.

Hockey Night in Kenya by Danson Mutinda
Hockey Night in Kenya
written by Danson Mutinda and Eric Walters
illustrated by Claudia Davila
I appreciated the author's note at the beginning of the story that explains how the authors are patrons of an orphanage in a community that is about 68 miles outside of Nairobi in Kenya.  Mr. Mutinda goes on to explain more about the demographics of the community and the people who live in the orphanage.  It's important background to help with understanding of the story, especially for young readers.
This is the story of Kitoo, who is a young boy in the orphanage.  Kitoo has a positive attitude about many things and loves reading.  A teacher gives him a book about sports that teaches him about hockey.  He learns from others in his community that there is a local rollerblade hockey team that plays at a park.  While visiting the park and watching the men play, Kitoo is able to get bits and pieces of old rollerblades that he is able to piece together to practice back at the orphanage.  It becomes  a passion for him!  Eventually, he is surprised with a trip to the city to try actual ice hockey.  
A quick read, 91 pages, but I love that it exposes young readers to a different location yet still shows the love of sports as a common thread!

So happy to see these stories and I know young readers will enjoy them, too!