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 :)


  1. Abby, Tried and True sounds great. Looking forward to Amina's Song. Feel the Fog sounds perfect for right now - it was really foggy a lot of mornings last week!

  2. We are so dry that we rarely have fog! I will look for Sayre's book! I liked The Lost Package, and will look for the new Gephart book, have Amari & Amina's Song both on my list. The challenge is to read so many that are wonderful! Thanks, Michele

  3. Isn't AMARI amazing? I raced through that book! Still need to read both AMINA'S VOICE and AMINA'S SONG. So many lovely books to read.

  4. I just read Zonia as well. I can appreciate it for what it's trying to do but I feel the same way as you. It was basically like reading the summary of the book as the main text.

  5. I enjoyed No Kimchi for Me! and other books by Aram Kim, but still have to read Let's Go to Taekwondo!and this title here. My library has an e copy of Feel the Fog, so I'm hoping to read it this week. I am a fan of her work.
    I've added this Donna Gephart title to my list. It's impossible to keep on top of all the book I want to read! Amina's Song is on my list and I will get to it eventually!

  6. This is such a diverse list of books. All of the middle grade books sound really good and I will be adding them to my TBR for sure. Have a great reading week!

  7. What a wonderful set of books! I'm sorry the end of Zonia's Rain Forest was abrupt, but the other picture books look wonderful! Abby, Tried and True sounds intriguing—it is rare that the MG books with heavy topics like cancer are #ownvoices, so that is great! I'm also intrigued by Abby—I am a recovering extreme introvert, so I could probably connect with her! I have a relative who has been reading A Promised Land for weeks (and she can read books in a day)—it sounds good, but perhaps could have been trimmed a little! Thanks for the great post!

  8. I appreciated your thoughts on many of these books, including Zonia, which I have to go read as soon as I am done here, Abby Tried and True looks really good and so does Amina's Song. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!