Friday, October 30, 2020

It's Not Little Red Riding Hood - 10.30.2020

 I love books that have a fresh take on fairy tales.  We all know the Disney-fied tales.  Many have even heard the classical versions of the stories.  But getting a new look at the tales that get even a modern spin keep these stories fresh and fun to read.

It's Not Little Red Riding Hood
written by Josh Funk
illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
published by Two Lions

Josh Funk has given us several books in the "It's Not a Fairy Tale" series and each one is a little funnier, a little more tongue-in-cheek, than the one before.  When you read a book from this series, you're sure to get laughs from your readers.  

His new book, It's Not Little Red Riding Hood has us meeting Red... who may or may not have a red cloak....  Red is sassy, gets to the point, and while she is often agreeable, she may have a few questions for our narrator.  As in the other books in the series, we have a narrator who is doing their best to tell the story, but between talking to the character and telling the story, may be getting a little frustrated.  Which of course, makes us laugh.  The narrator tries to tell the more original version of the story, but Red and her personality changes things up a bit.  There is a villain, and the villain does go to Grandmother's house.  There is the big ears, big eyes, big teeth part.  But everything in between that gets some enhancing to the original tale!

As I was reading, I couldn't help but think of the many ways you can use this in the classroom.
  • Working on punctuation?  This book is full of talk bubbles and changes in font to help the reader know who is doing the talking, but what if you took them out?  Type up a couple of pages without using punctuation but make sure each person who is talking is in its own separate line.  Have students add quotation marks, punctuation, and you can even have them use different words for "said" at the end of the quotations.
  • This book begs to be read aloud which makes it perfect for a reader's theater version.  This always encourages readers to practice their expression and fluency.
  • 2nd and 3rd grade ELA standards have students looking at the central message of a story, especially with folk tales and fables.  This story lends itself well to that.  Find other versions of this story and compare central messages.
  • This version has a narrator that is trying to tell the story and talks to the characters.  How does this change the story from other versions?  What does it add to this version?  What is the importance of the narrator?  Whose point of view does the reader know in this story? 
  • This book speaks to the idea of story - how do you decide how the story goes?  Who gets to decide how the story is going to go?  How is your story going to go?  Explore the idea of story and writing with students with those questions.
Such a perfect book to use in your classroom and library!

More about author, Josh Funk, and illustrator, Edwardian Taylor:
Like the characters in his books, Josh Funk doesn't like being told how stories should go—so he writes his own. He is the author of many popular picture books, including the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor. He lives in New England with his family. Learn more about him at
Instagram: @joshfunkbooks

Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator of multiple children’s books, including Race!, written by Sue Fliess; the Toy Academy chapter books, written by Brian Lynch; and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, written by Josh Funk. He lives in Texas with his partner and their four dogs. Learn more about him at
Instagram: edwardiantaylor

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the opportunity to share this story!

Don't miss this fabulous giveaway!
Two Lions is offering all three books in the It’s Not a Fairytale series--It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood  to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses).  Giveaway open until Friday, Nov. 6th.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - working towards a dream 10.28.2020


Wednesdays I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
#kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

Picture book biographies always share people who have worked hard, have amazing dedication, and don't give up to reach a dream.  Such an important lesson for young readers to understand.  Go after your dream, but be ready to work for it!  Here are some picture book biographies that share the hard work and imaginative thinking people used to achieve their dream.

Box by Carole Boston Weatherford
Box:  Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom
written by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Michele Wood
The ultimate dream may be freedom, something that many white people have not had to worry about.  But, Henry Brown and many other African Americans had this dream as enslaved men in America.  You may have heard the name Henry Box Brown before, but this self-narrated story goes into so much more detail.  Told in verse, each page has 3 poems that tell more about the life of Henry Brown, as a slave, as a happily married family man, and then as someone who dreamed of freedom because his family had been taken from him.  The tenacity of this man to chase his dream and go about it in such a unique way is mind-boggling, but also tells the desperation of his situation.  Stories like this will help young readers understand the severity of situation that white men and women put African Americans in during this time.
While the story itself is amazing, the writing is outstanding.  The number six (the number of sides of a box) is woven throughout the story.  Each of the poems are sixtains which means they have six lines.  I find it fascinating how writers can frame their stories!

The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity by Amy Alznauer
The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity
written by Amy Alznauer
illustrated by Daniel Miyares
Alznauer introduces us to Srinivasa Ramanujan, a brilliant mathematician.  Ramanujan, born in South India, was always thinking of numbers and the possibilities numbers can have in this world.  So much so he was always in trouble for not concentrating enough at school and for some of his big and wandering questions.  As he grew, Ramanujan was never without his notebook, where he could experiment an wonder about the many possibilities of numbers.  While his work eventually contributed to big ideas in the science world, all of this happened after his death, at the very young age of 32.
While this book certainly got the point across that Ramanujan was infatuated with math, I wish there had been more information about other aspects of his life.  I learned more in the author's note than in the actual text.

Fauja Singh Keeps Going by Simrat Jeet Singh
Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon
written by Simran Jeet Singh
illustrated by Baljinder Kaur
In the words of Fauja Singh, "No matter what people said, I always believed in myself."  And with those words of confidence, Fauja continues to live his life, running and not stopping.  It's hard to believe that Fauja didn't walk until he was five, and it took many years after that before he could even walk a mile.  There is no known reason why he had this difficulty, but we can certainly tell it was his determination and desire to do things others said were impossible.  A National (United Kingdom) and World Record holder, he is most recently known as the only 100 year old person to have completed a marathon.  Impressive!

Determination, passion, and drive kept these people searching for their dream.  What dreams do you and your readers have?

Monday, October 26, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10.26.2020

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

Sharing some political nonfiction picture books here.

Books to use with 1st-3rd grade for central message.

Picture Books

Our Favorite Day of the Year
Our Favorite Day of the Year
written by A.E. Ali
illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell
A young class celebrates different favorite days (holidays) throughout the year.  Good to see different holidays being explored in a picture book.

Out the Door
Out the Door
by Christy Hale
From the author who gave us Water Land: Land and Water Forms Around the World, now she gives us a deceptively simple story of a girl and father on their way through New York City to school.  The book is told entirely through prepositional phrases, which are important for our youngest readers to understand (locational words such as beyond, below, amid, through), yet still has a storyline through the illustrations.  I love how her route is reversed at the end of the story - so clever!

Sullivan, Who Is Always Too Loud
Sullivan Who is Always Too Loud
written by Micol Ostow
illustrated by Brian Biggs
I'm still thinking about this one.
On the one hand, it's a very realistic portrayal of an ADD child.  A child who has trouble regulating noise, whether it be their voice or with whatever they are playing with.  The noise that is created can be jarring to the people around them and inappropriate based on whatever is happening.  Usually it is not done to be bothersome, but something that is hard for the child to control.
Sullivan is one of those kids.  And when he tries to hold his noise inside him, it's like bubbles are forming inside until they just have to release.  I think kids are going to relate to Sullivan.  It is a realistic portrayal and there are situations shown that are uncomfortable - for example when he visibly startles a neighbor and makes the neighbor upset.
By the end, Sullivan is shown using his loud voice in a positive way and the teacher recognizes this situation.  It's realistic that he hasn't figured out how to regulate this forever.  It's just one time, with the teacher and Sullivan, recognizing "it's a start".
I think what doesn't feel right is there is just one time that Sullivan does "the right thing".  He's not "cured" and honestly, that is the realistic portrayal of this.  I think if he figured it all out for the rest of his life, it would have been completely unrealistic.  Maybe it's that Sullivan is always drawn with a huge mouth open every time he is too loud.  The caricature seems more obnoxious than it needs to be?
I'll be interested hearing more thoughts about this one!

Unicorns Are the Worst!
Unicorns Are the Worst!
by Alex Willan
I heard about this one from Kellee Moye, at Unleashing Readers.  It wasn't at my library and she raved about it, so I went ahead and purchased.  Yup, love it.  So fun.  Goblin has a long list as to why unicorns are the worst.  But it's really about perspective, isn't it?  Use it with Bob Shea's Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great.  Both books are pretty great!

Where Is Our Library? (A Story of Patience & Fortitude, #2)
Where Is Our Library?
written by Josh Funk
illustrated by Stevie Lewis
The second book in the "Patience and Fortitude" series (the lion statues outside of the New York Public Library, 5th Street entrance) has the lions searching for one of their very favorite spots - the Children's Section of the library!  It seems to have disappeared.  The lions go on a literary tour of some famous New York City sites to get advice from some literary characters.  The story takes them through numerous branches of the New York Public Library system with some cameos of well-known book covers. 
I enjoyed this book even more than the first one.  It was fun visiting New York City with a literary tour!
Publishes tomorrow!

The Runaway Belly Button
The Runaway Belly Button
written by John Flannery
illustrated by Mika Song
Kids love body parts.  They are funny and weird and reading about a belly button is just that.  This book will for sure get giggles from young readers as they read about a belly button, who is tired of not being effectively cleaned while in the bath, and runs away.  The book ends with another page that will get even more laughter as it eludes to another body part that doesn't get cleaned, as the character is shown looking over her shoulder.
I was kind of creeped out by this circle running around town with some strings on the top of her head.  I'm guessing most young readers will just assume it's hair but I couldn't help but think of belly button lint and that just made me gag a bit....  I'm thinking it will affect me more than a young reader, lol.

A New Green Day
A New Green Day
by Antoinette Portis
Sometimes I buy a book without really knowing anything about it and then I'm so excited to find that I LOVE the book.  Yay, lucky purchase!
That's how it is with Portis' new book.  I've enjoyed so many of her previous books and this one that is full of riddles and metaphors will delight young readers as they guess what comes next in this young girl's day.

Middle Grade

A Thousand Questions
A Thousand Questions
by Saadia Faruqi
LOVED this book!  Faruqi has easily entered onto the MG scene with two books this fall and proves that she can write for a variety of ages.  While I love her Yasmin books, I also love her voice meant for just a little older audience.  
This story introduces us to Sakina, who lives in Pakistan with her family and must work instead of attend school in order to help her family with money.  And we meet Mimi, who is travelling to Pakistan with her mother to visit her grandparents.  Her grandparents live in a wealthy area of Pakistan, and you guessed it, is the home that Mimi and her father work.  Sakina and Mimi are the same age but come from very different backgrounds.  However, though conversation and a willingness to listen to each other, the girls find common ground and help each other (imagine if that's what the adults of the world did...).
The chapters are told in alternating voices and the reader is able to see how each girl thinks about their situation and the world around them.  
Make sure you have this #ownvoices novel in your collection.

A Whale of the Wild
A Whale of the Wild
by Rosanne Parry
By the author of A Wolf Called Wander, we meet two sibling orca whales in this beautifully illustrated novel (Lindsay Moore, Sea Bear) who are on a quest to be reunited with their family after a natural disaster has separated them.  Just like Parry did in Wander, the story is told in the voice of the whales so all perspective is that of this wild animal.  We see how an orca whale views its habitat, feeding patterns, and family circle and habits.  This gives the reader a unique perspective and understanding of the animal.  
The beautiful illustrations enhance the story and will draw in readers who love visuals.  The novel is told in the voice of a brother and sister orca whale and the chapters go back and forth between them.  However, it's not always every other chapter, sometimes the sister has two or three chapters before we hear from the brother.  That would be fine, but the chapters are not labeled with who is doing the talking.  The reader has to be aware of that and to know to look for clues, such as the exact setting or other characters who may be in the scene.  I can see this being confusing for young readers who are not as adept at noticing those details.

The Silver Arrow
The Silver Arrow 
by Lev Grossman
The first MG title for Grossman and it's one I really enjoyed.  I have seen this on some Mock lists and "best of" lists which made me curious about it.  
The first thing I noticed after picking it up from the library was its trim size.  Smaller than the typical MG novel, shorter (just over 250 pages), and full of illustrations, this book will appeal to readers who are still working on their stamina for longer texts.
A fantasy novel (talking animals) that is firmly planted in some realities (I laughed at some of the comments the characters make, sounds just like some students I know), this book kept me turning the pages.  It's a quiet adventure - I wasn't holding my breath - but the brother and sister are on a quest and it's not until later in the book that you find the bigger, global picture of their quest.
This book was a library borrow that became a purchase!

Currently Reading

Fleabrain Loves Franny
Fleabrain Loves Franny
by Joanne Rocklin
This was on my #mustreadin2020 list.  Usually I am so glad I have the list to get me to read the books but this one is starting out super slow.  Hoping I get the chance to fall into it a bit this week.

Happy happy reading!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Books for Central Message - 10.23.2020

 Central Message and Theme Books

The Common Core Standards call for 1st-3rd grade to teach students the central message of the story.  Second and third grade should also teach the moral of the story as they work in folktales and fables.  The switch comes in 4th grade and up  when they are to teach the theme of a story.  But what is the difference between them?
Let's work our way backwards and start with theme.
Theme is a big, universal idea.  It is usually not explicitly stated.  Readers have to take the details and nuances that are spread throughout the story and think about the big idea the author is trying to get across to the reader.  Themes can be expressed in a single word (friendship, courage, bravery) or in a sentence.  However, the theme is an idea that can be applied to all people, not just to the characters in the story.  I think because theme is taught through high school, it's an idea that teachers are more familiar with.
But, just like so many big ideas, students go up the learning ladder to get to theme.  First, they start with the central message.  But what's the difference?  The central message is a specific aspect to the larger idea of theme.  When readers think about the specific details in the story, they think about what bigger ideas the author is trying to tell the reader.  Readers are encouraged to think about what the author wants them to know or understand about the story.  A central message is stated in a sentence, not in a single word. It relates directly to the text, instead of a universal idea.  It may be stated as a lesson of the story, especially when reading a folktale or fable.

Here is a list of books that work well with central message.  While they could also be used for theme, they work well for younger readers who can take the more obvious details of the story and come up with the message or lesson in the story.

The Barnabus Project
The Barnabus Project
by The Fan Brothers

We Will Rock Our Classmates
We Will Rock Our Classmates
by Ryan T. Higgins

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost
by Flavia Z. Drago

Red Shoes
Red Shoes
written by Karen English
illustrated by Ebony Glenn

Feast of Peas
Feast of Peas
written by Kashmira Sheth
illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler

 Swim Swim Sink
Swim Swim Sink
by Jenn Harney

A Normal Pig
A Normal Pig
by K-Fai Steele

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
written by Jamie L.B. Deenihan
illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

Kevin the Unicorn: It's Not All Rainbows
Kevin the Unicorn: It's Not All Rainbows
by Jessika Von Innerebner

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
by Kat Zhang
illustrated by Charlene Chua

by Andrea Zuill

written by Mo Willems
illustrated by Amber Ren

The Good Egg (The Bad Seed, #2)
The Good Egg
written by Jory John
illustrated by Pete Oswald

Super Manny Stands Up!
Super Manny Stands Up
written by Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Excellent Ed
Excellent Ed
written by Stacy McAnulty
illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach

In a few weeks I'll be back to share some titles that work for theme.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Feeling Political! 10.21.2020

Wednesdays I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
#kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials. 

'Tis the season to feel a little political.  

The Next President by Kate Messner
The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America's Presidents
written by Kate Messner
illustrated by Adam Rex
Have you ever stopped and wondered how many future presidents are alive right now?  It's interesting to think about and wonder what connections they may have with the current president and each other.
This book explores some of those past connections.  What were our future presidents doing when someone else took office?  
This kind of inquiry will be fascinating for young readers to learn about and I'm guessing it may even get some of them thinking!

Mayor Pete by Rob    Sanders
Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg
written by Rob Sanders
illustrated by Levi Hastings
An important book to know because I'm thinking we have not heard the last of Mayor Pete.  
This picture book biography chronicles the life of Pete Buttigieg, from a young boy in South Bend, IN, to his high school years when he found the desire to serve by running for school treasurer then senior class president.  He found wins and losses, but definitely found his desire to serve the public.  This continued through college and after, until finally becoming Mayor of South Bend.
Mayor Pete is also known as being the first openly gay man to run for president.  There is a lovely part about his marriage to Chasten Glezman Buttigieg and the acceptance of the South Bend community.
I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Mayor Pete!

Shirley Chisholm is a Verb! by Veronica Chambers
Shirley Chisholm is a Verb!
written by Veronica Chambers
illustrated by Rachelle Baker
I'm so glad to have read this book because I really did not know much about Shirley Chisholm.  What a force she was - I can only imagine if she was in public service today!  I thought it was so interesting to learn about all of the organizations Chisholm had a hand in starting (Head Start, school lunch program, Congressional Black Caucus).
I liked how the author used verbs to describe Chisholm and all that she did.  It would be very interesting to go back and collect the verbs and analyze them more before rereading the book.
This book did make me want to find more information.  Some of the information I wish had been included in the book, if even in a timeline at the end of the book.

Jefferson Measures a Moose by Mara Rockliff
Jefferson Measures a Moose
written by Mara Rockliff
illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Put this in your strange facts from history section.
Apparently Thomas Jefferson got into a numbers match with a Frenchman named, Buffon.  Buffon claimed that America was full of small, voiceless animals, and the weather was dismal.  Jefferson took offense to this and took all kinds of measurements of animals to call his bluff.  Buffon was not impressed so Jefferson sent a moose to prove his point.  It didn't end well, for the moose or Buffon, but Jefferson became well known in America for his knowledge of numbers.
This book was written by Mara Rockliff, which means you are going to get a lot of important backmatter, that is as interesting as the story, itself!  Make sure you find time to read that part, as well.

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice
written by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Laura Freeman
Focusing on Harris' youth and rise in government, this book was published before she was selected as the Vice President candidate, which I think is ultimately a good thing because it leaves her future to be told in another story!  What is important for young readers to hear is her story of being raised by immigrant parents who believed in the power of voice.  And another book that features a woman in politics.  The stereotype of our country being run by old, white men is one that needs to have a new face for the future.  Kamala Harris' story is one that should be shared to our future voters so they know not every face in politics has to look the same.

November 3rd.  It will be here before you know it.  Make a plan and vote.

Monday, October 19, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10.19.2020

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
I took last week off to utilize the three day weekend.  I had a few things that had piled up and wanted some time to get them off my plate.  Also got my flu shot!
Here are posts you might have missed from two weeks ago:

New early graphic novels for readers, I'm so excited to share these with readers!

Books that show the power of voice with young readers!

Picture Books

A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story
A Bowl Full of Peace
written by Caren B. Stelson
illustrated by Akira Kusaka
You might be familiar with Stelson's award winning book, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story.  This book is also about Sachiko but it focuses on a family heirloom that survives the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.  The resilience of this bowl is a metaphor for the way families in Japan survived this event.  

I Am One: A Book of Action
I Am One: A Book of Action
written by Susan Verde
illustrations by Peter Reynolds
This one is a must read for the fall.  As I shared in my post linked above, young readers do have the power to make change.  This book further explores this idea and shares that by that one action, it has the power to start even more change.

Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany
Flight for Freedom
written by Kristen Fulton
illustrated by Torben Kuhlmann
This was a fascinating read about a family who escaped East Germany to West Germany, over the Berlin Wall.  The escape was made via air balloon, which carried so many risks.  The book shows enough differences between East and West Germany for young readers to understand which side they would want to live on.  There is also information in the backmatter about the history of the Berlin Wall.
Young readers who enjoy reading about adventure and history will be captivated by this story.

One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea
One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea
written by Arthur Yorinks
illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Full of puns, an angry ant, and laughs, I have to admit, I do love this series.  It's so fun to read aloud.  Add some voices and pauses for the laughs, and you'll be introducing a series to kids that is so enjoyable to read.  Based on the ending of this one, it appears we'll have more in our future.

If Winter Comes, Tell It I'm Not Here
If Winter Comes, Tell It I'm Not Here
by Simona Ciraolo
I got this book based on the title alone.  If I never saw snow again, I would be just fine.
The beginning part of the book is my story - the young boy loves being in the water, it takes ice cream to get him out of the pool.  But then his older sister starts telling him about the changes that come in the fall and then winter and the little boy is not happy.  One by one he sees these changes happen, just like his sister told him, but he finds new things to celebrate in the changing of the seasons.  And that's where the similarities stop for me, ha!  I think kids will appreciate this because they really do find things they like about each season, especially if it revolves around play!  
My concern with this book is it looks like it's a multi-racial family and the sister and mother are Asian.  You can tell this because they have slightly slanted-upwards eyes.  After a quick search of the author-illustrator, it does look like she has drawn other characters with this eye appearance.

The Boy and the Gorilla
The Boy and the Gorilla
written by Jackie AzĂșa Kramer
illustrated by Cindy Derby
This book is stunning.  A book about grief and healing, it reminds me a lot of the Caldecott Honor book The Rough Patch and Katherine Applegate's Crenshaw.
A young boy has just lost his mother and both him and his father are overwhelmed with grief.  And when grief is fresh, we often see a divide that happens between children and adults as they are both dealing with grief in their own way.  An imaginary gorilla helps answer the boy's questions.  They are tough questions that many of us have after losing a loved one.  Eventually, the boy is able to talk to his father and the father is able to have a conversation with his son.  The gorilla envelopes both in a hug, and then slowly leaves as the father is able to help his son.
The text is simple which I feel matches the grief felt by the boy.  The questions and answers are usually in just one line, but the weight of both are felt upon the reader.  The boy's questions are in a regular font and the the gorilla's answers are italicized.  After the group hug, the gorilla slowly and silently moves farther and farther into the background.  And the italicized font is transferred to the dad's responses.
So well done.

Middle Grade

by Kate Hannigan
This is book 2 in Hannigan's historical fiction and comic crossover series.  I think it's brilliant how she takes a historical event (World War II) and tells the story of women puzzlers (coders) and their importance during this time period AND the power of comics and female superheroes during this time period to tell one harrowing adventure!  These books are so fun to read I devoured it in one day.  This trilogy tells the story of the Infinity Trinity - three girls who have talents in puzzling and a passion for helping others, including trying to help the female superheroes that have disappeared during a time when the world needs them most.  The girls know the events of the War have something to do with it but before they can figure it out, there are innocent people in America who need their help.  With the infusion of historical facts and events and comic pages, this book has wide appeal to readers.  I'm already looking forward to the next book (and I think conclusion)!

Ninth Ward
Ninth Ward
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
A couple of months ago I read Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere which takes place during and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  While the book was engrossing and gave me even more understanding of the events that transpired, it bothered me that the authors were African American and it was written by a white woman.  The characters spoke in a dialect that is native to that area, and I always wondered if this was the story of an African American community, and dialects and traditions would be written about and used, whose story is being told.  I followed up this one with another book, Zane and the Hurricane, also by a white author.
Finally I found this one.  While Rhodes did not experience Hurricane Katrina, I felt the voice of the novel was more authentic.  This story was different from the others because it also had a spiritual side to it.  The main character has the ability to see, and even communicate, with ghosts that are in her neighborhood, the Ninth Ward.  Like the others, this book has death, but it also has hope and the understanding that family isn't always who shares your blood.
I thought it was interesting that this was Rhodes first middle grade novel!

Young Adult

They Went Left
They Went Left
by Monica Hesse
This story was really interesting because it starts at the end of WWII.  Most books are about WWII, so it was interesting because it explored other sides of characters and events that aren't focused on as much.  
Zofia, who has spent the last years in concentration camps, has now been liberated and is focused on one thing, reuniting with her younger brother.  When they were first brought to the camps, the rest of her family was "sent left", meaning to their deaths.  Zofia and her brother were kept alive but separated.  However, the effects of the war weigh heavily on Zofia as her mind and body heal.  
So many countries were ravaged by the German army and their atrocities, it was interesting how the author brought groups of people together in Zofia's journey.
While I ultimately had the conclusion figured out before the end of the story, I found it very interesting to read and the pages flew by quickly.

Adult Novel

The Alice Network
The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn
A dual timeline story that takes place just after WWII and during WWI, this was an interesting but long read.  I always forget how long adult novels can be and am always reminded how I appreciate MG because the stories have to be told in quicker detail!
I have not read too many books that take place during WWI and this one explored the female network of spies in France during that time period.  It was really interesting and the details that were sprinkled into the storyline were well crafted.  I liked how the two storylines were brought together and loved how the characters were meant to be together.  The author has a more recent book published that I'll have to check out soon.

Currently Reading

A Whale of the Wild
A Whale in the Wild
by Rosanne Parry
I really enjoyed her A Wolf Called Wander.  She did an amazing job capturing the voice of the wolf, looking forward to this one.

As always, happy reading!