Monday, September 28, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9.28.2020

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

Don't miss these bodily functions books... kids love them and they really are full of information!

Picture Books

Jabari Tries (Jabari, #2)
Jabari Tries
by Gaia Cornwall
Another sweet book about Jabari, the character who always tries so hard.  What I like about the Jabari stories is he doesn't find success right away.  Whether he's stalling for time or having to think of new ways to solve his problem, he is a character who has to work towards his goal.
In this second book, Jabari is trying to build a contraption that will help his plane soar in the sky.  However, even after multiple tries, he can't get it to work the way he wants it to.  We see Jabari frustrate and take his feelings out, but with some mindfulness tricks from Dad, he's able to try again, and even take on a partnership!

Evelyn del Rey Is Moving Away
Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away
written by Meg Medina
illustrated by Sonia Sánchez
I think this is a perfect mentor text for writing personal narratives.
Told in first person by Daniela who gets a few more moments to play with best friend Evelyn, who is moving.  The girls spend their last moments having the fun they always do before Evelyn moves to a new home, that looks to be in a warmer climate.  Although the girls are sad, it is understood their friendship will stand the test of distance and time.

From My Window
From My Window
written by Otávio Júnior
illustrated by Vanina Starkoff
If you do any work with identity and where you live, you'll want this one in your collection.

The Farmer and the Monkey
The Farmer and the Monkey
by Marla Frazee
I'll be very interested in seeing what people have to say about this one.
I really did love the first book in this soon-to-be trilogy.  The Farmer and the Clown was so endearing and I felt that way even though I really don't like clowns.
The story continues with the farmer returning home after bringing the clown back to the circus train.  Little does the farmer know, but he has someone trailing him home - a young, circus monkey.  And here's where I wonder if the story becomes problematic.  The circus monkey, complete with stereotypical circus outfit and cymbals, is shown being playful, energetic, and causing a mess.  Due to the racial undertones, I'm not sure it was a smart decision to use a circus monkey in the story.  I will be listening and hearing what other people say, maybe I'm reading into it too much, but also just trying to be aware of cultural bias in stories.

Middle Grade

Tune It Out
Tune It Out
by Jamie Sumners
I adored Sumner's book Roll With It.  I think our middle grade readers need more literature that gives them an understanding of disabilities.  While this was not an #ownvoices novel, Sumner does have a child living with this disability.  There has been a lot of discussion about who has the right to tell these stories.  I understand both sides of the discussion and ultimately, I do want kids to have an understanding and awareness of disabilities.
This time, Sumner gives us the story of Lou, who has a beautiful voice that her mother likes to put on display.  One, because she is proud of her, but also because she uses it to make money.  Lou and her mother are currently living below the poverty line and living in their car.  However, Lou despises the attention of being in the spotlight while singing.  She also can't stand being touched or loud noises.  Lou feels like these are just quirks about her that make her unusual.  After an accident, Lou is removed from her mother's custody and is put in the care of her maternal aunt and uncle.  It's here that Lou learns what stability feels like, as well as having friends.  Lou also discovers that she has Sensory Processing Disorder which explains her "quirks".  With therapy and all of the support from her aunt and uncle, will Lou really want her mom back in her life?
I will be paying attention to what people who have SPD say about this book and how it is portrayed.
I really enjoyed meeting Lou and reading her story.  I know this book will appeal to readers who enjoy character driven stories.

Young Adult

Punching the Air
Punching the Air
by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
What an amazing collaboration between Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (of the Exonerated Five).  Luckily for readers, Zoboi and Salaam's paths crossed many years ago and the magic comes out in this powerful novel in verse.  
Based upon some of Salaam's experiences from being falsely accused of a crime he did not commit and then carrying out a prison sentence, Zoboi and Salaam introduce us to Amal, a character whose voice is never heard and assumptions are incorrectly made.  Amal is in prison and trying to survive when the feelings of anger and frustration are constantly bubbling within him.  He uses art and words as a way to survive in this setting.  A powerful story that is so important for people to read right now.

Currently Reading

Nowhere Boy
Nowhere Boy
by Katherine Marsh
This book is in my #mustread pile for this month.  I'm about a third of the way in and it has captured my attention!

Hope you're finding some moments to read in this busy busy school year.


  1. I had similar thoughts about the Farmer and the Monkey. I loved Nowhere Boy - so engaging!

  2. I shared Evelyn del Ray today too, a sweet book! And I just got The Farmer and the Monkey from the library, will read it & consider what you've written, Michele. It's interesting that it was published after all that's been discussed lately about stereotypes, etc. Like Lisa, I loved Nowhere Boy, too. And I'm glad to know about Tune It Out & From My Window. Have a great week!

  3. I appreciate your remarks about The Farmer and the Monkey. I wonder if reading the two books back to back would change the context of the story? I just finished reading Joe Sacco's Paying the Land this week and it left me really conflicted. On the one hand, I feel that this is book that should have been an own voices title, and on the other, when an author of Sacco's status reports on the situation in the north with the Dene, it brings the issues to a much wider audience.

  4. Hmm. I appreciate your comments here. Several books are on my TBR list! I just ordered Evelyn del Ray is Moving Away and Jabari Tries. I love Jabari and his dad in the first book and I look forward to reading more. As far as Farmer and the Monkey, I'm not sure yet. I did read it, but I didn't really think about it as I read. I'll have to go through it again with a different lens.

  5. All your picks sound really interesting!

    Here's my post:

  6. I was just having a conversation about The Farmer and the Monkey today -- I have not read it but those that did found it problematic as well. I loved the other picture books you reviewed and now need to read Nowhere Boy. Thank you as always.

  7. I appreciate your comments on #ownvoices, Michele. I've been listening to the conversation and am trying not to speak too soon since there's always something to learn. As Cheriee shared, I do feel that some times people listen to an important situation when certain authors bring them into the limelight. Additionally, there may not always be a good or willing writer with the personal experience needed to bring some topics to light. So while I definitely understand and appreciate the argument, I'm still struggling with the insinuation that only those writers who've intimately experiencing something in their own homes have earned the right to write about it. The best I can do is to listen, for now. I still have a lot to learn. Thank you for all these wonderful shares and I hope you have a fantastic reading week!

  8. Punching the Air sounds like a powerful and important story! I appreciate your thoughts and sensitivity regarding Tune It Out—I agree that we need more books on disabilities! I also appreciate your points about The Farmer and the Monkey. Thanks for the wonderful and thoughtful post!

  9. I loved The Farmer & The Clown too, Michele, despite not liking clowns other than the Cirque du Soleil type! I remember it ending with the monkey following the farmer, so I can see why it was chosen for book #2,but can see how it might be problematic. Will check it out.

    I just bought a copy of Punching the Air & am excited to read it!

  10. Love Jabari Tries! While Tune It Out was not written by an #ownvoices author, I do love Sumners’s Lou and learned a lot from reading her story.