Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Middle Grade books that build stamina, part 3 - 4.18.23

It's time for the next roundup of middle grade novels that are perfect lengths for readers who are growing stamina or just looking for a shorter read.
I've written about these books and if you would like additional suggestions, check out:

And now on for some more books to add to your shorter books recommendation list!

The Button Box
The Button Box
by Bridget Hodder and Fawzia Gilani-Williams
139 pages
Cousins Ava and Nadeem are having a rough time at school with one other student, in particular.  This student is making fun of their cultural and religious backgrounds.  Ava is Jewish and her cousin Nadeem is Muslim.  It's through the wise words of their Granny Buena and her magical button box that gives Ava and Nadeem new ideas and perspective in how to solve their problem.
Granny Buena sets up the mysterious button box by sharing a piece of a story about one button in particular.  All of the buttons in the box have stories, but this one is personal since it came from a long-ago relative.  But when Ava holds the button and it seems to come alive in her hand, Ava and Nadeem know there is more to this box.  While Granny goes to take a "nap", the cousins find the button and it whisks them back in time.  There, they meet their relatives and help them with a special refugee.  Along the way, the cousins learn it's the differences among them that can actually bring them together.
I really liked the historical aspect of this novel and the magical adventure the main characters get to go on together.

Just Right Jillian
Just Right Jillian
written by Nicole D. Collier
224 pages
I fell in love with this one more and more as I continued to read it.  Jillian has anxiety and being in situations where she has to think on her feet are very stressful.  She wants to participate in a school trivia contest, and she knows she is up to the task, but will her anxiety cooperate?  This story features a wonderful teacher who sees Jillian's strengths and what is stopping her from achieving her goal.  With nudges from her teacher, support from her family, and some unhatched chicks in her classroom, they give her the strength to keep pushing on.
The page length is perfect for this story and it will appeal to young readers.  I have found this one to be a great story to book talk and use for a First Chapter Friday reveal! 

Fenris & Mott by Greg Van Eekhout
Fenris and Mott
written by Greg Van Eekhout
195 pages
A story based on Norse mythology, this one features Mott, a girl living in CA, and Fenris, a wolf pup that is featured in mythological stories.  When Mott rescues little Fenris from a recycling bin, she first confuses him for a sweet little puppy.  But when mythological characters start showing up and natural catastrophes seem to be happening all around them, Mott finds herself in a fast adventure to save Fenris... and the world!  
I love the Marvel movies, so this one was fun to read about some of the Asgardian places and characters.  Before starting the book, I had no idea it was going to be based on mythology, so that was a fun surprise!  A short, quick read, perfect for mythology and adventure fans, who aren't quite ready for the longer Rick Riordan stories.

Time to Roll by Jamie Sumner
Time to Roll
written by Jamie Sumner
197 pages
This follow-up to Roll With It, starts right back up with Ellie and her friends and family.  Ellie's mom has just married her gym teacher and are about to set-off on an extended honeymoon.  Ellie's father, who hasn't always been the most supportive of dads, and his family are moving in to stay and bond with Ellie.  But having not been around Ellie much, there are a few things that make Ellie feel in the way.  Of course, Mema and Grandpa aren't too far away and provide comfort and support.  Which is good because Ellie needs to borrow $75 to enter a pageant that she doesn't want to tell anyone about in order to support her BFF, Coralee.  And that's how her summer is filled, with pageant "fun" with Coralee and their manager/friend, Bert.  
I loved the ending of this story because that's when some great lessons are learned.  From Ellie speaking up for herself and her identity, to her growing in her relationships with her friends and her family - lots of heartwarming parts!
Fans of Roll With It will be glad to join up with Ellie, and while this is a sequel, it can be read as a standalone.  Readers will identify with Ellie and love watching her grow throughout the story.

Hope you found some new books for your readers!  Part 4 will be here soon!

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Chef Edna - a review, 4.13.23

Take one look at the cover of this book and you'll know what you are in for.  Clearly we see a picture of Chef Edna and look where her hands are placed - one at her stomach and one at her heart.  In between the two is a large family gathered around a table enjoying a meal together.  We already know we are going to celebrate great food and how it brings us together!

Chef Edna by Melvina Noel
Chef Edna: Queen of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis
written by Melvina Noel
illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
published by Cameron Kids

This picture book biography celebrates Chef Edna Lewis.  She grew up in a town that was founded by her grandfather and his friends shortly after they won their emancipation from slavery.  Edna grew up with family all around her and they all worked together growing their food and animals on their farm.  Edna learned all of her cooking secrets from her mother - from baking the best biscuits to how to know when a cake is done cooking.  Edna ventured from home to New York City where she worked many jobs, eventually working her way up to being an executive chef.  Edna went back and forth from NYC to her hometown of Freetown, but her cooking became so popular, she honed her craft in NYC.  
I fell into Edna's story as soon as I sat down to read.  Author Melvina Noel has beautifully crafted a story that instantly makes the reader want to meet Chef Edna, mostly to try her delicious food!  My mouth was watering the entire time I was reading!  Beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Honoree and Coretta Scott King Honoree, Cozbi A. Cabrera, I think this may be her best work, yet!  The vibrant colors made the food illustrations pop and the reader will really want to dive in for some good food!
This picture book is a must have for your collection!  In the backmatter, author Melvina Noel says, "while researching lesser-known African Americans who have had a positive impact on society, I learned about Edna."  This book spotlights an amazing African American and the joy she has brought to so many people through her spirit and talent.  This is a perfect American to spotlight when reading picture book biographies!
Be sure to take the time and appreciate the book jacket, endpages, and front/back cover.  The artwork is stunning!
Today would have been Edna's 107th birthday!  Happy Birthday, Edna!  We'll have a slice of cake in your honor.
Be sure to find this book on its book birthday, Tuesday, April 18th.

Meet the author and illustrator:

Melvina Noel loves to write and to bake cakes. Thanks to Edna, she listens to her cakes to tell her when they are done.  Chef Edna is the debut picture book for Melvina Noel, a Virginian like Edna Lewis.

Instagram: @melvinawrite4you

Cozbi Cabrera is an award-winning illustrator whose gorgeous books-including Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Abrams-have garnered a Coretta Scott King Honor as well as a Caldecott Honor for illustration. She lives in Illinois. Visit her website: cozbi.com.

On Instagram and Twitter: @cozbi

Publisher info:

Website: Cameron Kids

Instagram: @cameron_kids

Facebook: Cameron Kids

Thank you to Barbara for sending the review copy!

Instagram: @blue_slip_media

Facebook: Blue Slip Media

Would you like to win a copy of Chef Edna?  Publisher Cameron Kids has donated a copy to giveaway to a blog reader (US addresses only)!  Winner will be selected on April 20th.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Being a Cat - review 4.11.23

From the creators of Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness, readers get to enjoy a new story about another furry friend!

Being a Cat: A Tale of Curiosity
written by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Pete Oswald
published by HarperCollins

Maria Gianferrari takes a deep dive into the world of felines in this delightfully wordy book!  And when I say wordy, I don't mean long and lengthy.  I am referring to the wonderful word choice that bounces, leaps, and pounces throughout the book.  For example, one of the first ways these feline friends are described is as being "watching, wondering, wandering".  Don't you love that language?  The way Maria plays with words throughout the text and finds just the perfect ones in the right spot is a gift for readers.  Told in lyrical lines, the words put the story in motion and the illustrations by Pete Oswald helps them dance!
Being a Cat is a love letter to felines and captures the essence of... well, being a cat!  Following a cat and its human, the reader moves, plays, explores, and of course, naps, with the cat.  If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a cat, Maria gives us a perfect view with this book!  The readers gets to see many sides and traits of one feline friend as Maria captures being a cat.  From its playful side to its sleepy side.  From its preening to its loving.  From its mischievous side to its sweet side!
I love how Maria has chosen to include some additional information about cats in the backmatter.  Readers can learn more about cats and their unique abilities, from their whiskers to their claws!  Have you ever wondered what a cat is trying to say to you?  Maria also gives us some information about how cats communicate in the backmatter!  
No doubt cat enthusiasts will smile and notice familiar habits from their own feline companions in this delightful story!

Vocabulary activity:
Now that it's springtime and April (National Poetry Month!), go outside and observe!  Find an animal and observe what it does. 
  • What do you notice about its habits?
  • What words can you use to describe it?
  • What ways does it move?
  • What do you think your animal is thinking?
Write a poem about your animal using all of your observations!

More about Maria Gianferrari:  Maria Gianferrari is a picture book reader/writer, tea-drinker, dog-lover, and birdwatcher. Maria writes books that honor our bonds with creatures both domestic and wild, and that celebrate the wonders of the natural world around us. Curiously, though an unabashed dog lover, this is Maria’s third book featuring cats as main characters, most recently Bobcat Prowling, as well as Officer Katz and Houndini. She lives in Massachusetts with her inquisitive scientist husband. You can learn more about Maria at her website: www.mariagianferrari.com.

Would you like to own a copy of Being a Cat?  Thanks to the generosity of author Maria Gianferrari, I have one to offer for giveaway!  Enter by April 18th for your chance to win a copy (US addresses only).

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

National Women's History Month books! 3.15.23

 March is National Women's History Month, and I always enjoy sharing some new picture book biographies that celebrate some amazing women!   Here are a few new ones for your collections.

Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement
written by Sandra Neil Wallace
illustrated by Bryan Collier
From the duo who gave us Between the Lines, now they introduce us to Diane Nash, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.  Leading with love, Diane Nash stood up for what she knew was right and fought for the rights of all Black people.  The way she lead within the Civil Rights Movement is something to be celebrated.  Diane Nash is a women that needs to be celebrated this month!

Pitch Perfect and Persistent! by Caitlin Delems
Pitch Perfect and Persistent! The Musical Debut of Amy Cheney Beach
written by Caitlin DeLems
illustrated by Alison Jay
A musical prodigy and pioneer, Amy Cheney Beach led the way for women musicians after fighting her way to play throughout her childhood.  And not at public music places, but in her own home!  Amy's mother fought her for many years because she didn't think young Amy should be playing.  However, her talent won out and her musical prowess became known!

The Brilliant Calculator by Jan Lower
The Brilliant Calculator: How Mathematician Edith Clarke Helped Electrify America
written by Jan Lower
illustrated by Susan Reagan
I rely on a calculator to do math that I should be able to figure out in my head.  I have that handy machine all thanks to a woman in our history!  Edith Clarke and her mathematical brain helped create a calculator that was widely used by engineers.  She fought her way to be accepted and included in the engineering field.  My non-mathematical brain thanks her!

Josephine and Her Dishwashing Machine by Kate Hannigan
Josephine and Her Dishwashing Machine
written by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Sarah Green
It never fails, an appliance breaks and that's when you realize you can't live without it.  I can't imagine washing all of my dishes by hand.  And now I know who I have to thank for this marvelous invention - Josephine Cochrane!  Young readers will learn the perseverance Josephine showed when inventing and then marketing her amazing machine.  And we're glad she did!

A Take-Charge Girl Blazes a Trail to Congress by Gretchen Woelfle
A Take-Charge Girl Blazes a Trail to Congress: The Story of Jeannette Rankin
written by Gretchen Woelfle
illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
Ever wonder who was the first Congresswoman?  It was Jeannette Rankin, a take-charge person who came to Congress with a take-charge attitude!  Which she needed when she was elected since it was 1916!  I'm sure the Congresswomen in the United States are thanking Jeannette for paving the way!

Want to add some of these books to your library?  Courtesy of Mr. Schu (yup, he gave me a copy to giveaway!) I have a copy of Love is Loud to give away to one winner and courtesy of Calkins Creek, I have a copy of Josephine and Her Dishwashing Machine to giveaway (US addresses only for both).  Enter to win by March 20th!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Just a Worm - review 3.14.23

As I look outside my snowy window, it certainly does not feel like spring, but the calendar says it's coming.  And it is meteorological spring... or so they say!  In no time at all, we'll be marveling at all the spring buds, and even the bugs, that are popping out to say hello!  In the meantime, curl up and share this spring-y book!

Just a Worm
by Marie Boyd
published by Greenwillow Books

Celebrating the insect and animal life, this book takes the word "just" right out of the animals' vocabulary!  Each page spotlights another creepy crawly and the wonderful things that they can do.  A spider spins a silky web to catch its dinner.  A butterfly has bright colors that warn predators it tastes badly.  A dragonfly eats insects like mosquitos.  When worm hears all of these amazing things the other creepy crawlies can do, it starts to feel bad and thinks it's "just a worm".  But once it takes some time to think about all the things it does, it has the wonderful realization it CAN do some amazing things.  Like help grow all the plants by creating holes in the soil.  And it feeds plants.  And it wiggles, digs, and crawls.  Which are all some pretty amazing things!

This is a must have book when talking about earth science and how the animal world helps the Earth.  With the back and forth conversations between a worm and other animals, young readers get a sense of the many things all creatures do to help their world.

This book is a perfect spring read!  Celebrating growing, new beginnings, and all Earth-y things, it's a book that I plan on reading with students every spring.  Featuring paper quilling artwork, the illustrations have texture that seem to pop off the page.

I know this is a book you'll want to share with young readers!  Courtesy of Greenwillow Books, I have a copy available for giveaway (US only).  Be sure to enter by March 21st!

Happy *spring* reading!

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Animal Heroes: Supermoms! - review 3.07.23

 When we think about all the things moms and grown-ups and caregivers do, it's quite the list.  From carting the kids around place to place, keeping up with everything a youngster needs, meal planning and packing, and organizing the household, it's definitely a full time job!  But did you know animal moms have the same job?

SUPERMOMS: ANIMAL HEROES. Text Copyright © 2023 Jamie Harper and Heather Lang. 
Illustrations Copyright © 2023 Jamie Harper. 
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Animal Heroes: Supermoms!
written by Heather Lang and Jamie Harper
illustrated by Jamie Harper
published by Candlewick Press

Heather Lang and Jamie Harper have teamed up to give us an inside look at the supermoms of the animal world.  The life of a mom seems to be similar whether you're mammal or reptile; live in the sea or take to the sky.  Even animal moms have to cart their children around, just maybe, not in a minivan!  As Lang and Harper share, animal supermoms transport their young around on their backs or on their chest or even in their mouths!  Now, that's a different form of transportation!  And just like their human counterparts, animal supermoms will stop at nothing to sacrifice everything to support their young!  From starving themselves, or searching for food for months, they work hard to make sure those young ones are satisfied!

SUPERMOMS: ANIMAL HEROES. Text Copyright © 2023 Jamie Harper and Heather Lang. 
Illustrations Copyright © 2023 Jamie Harper. 
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Let's not forget about making a safe and comfortable home.  Decorating with the latest style (nothing like some mud and poop, like the red-knobbed hornbill) or separating the children into their own rooms (thanks, strawberry poison frog mom), these animal supermoms have it covered!

SUPERMOMS: ANIMAL HEROES. Text Copyright © 2023 Jamie Harper and Heather Lang. 
Illustrations Copyright © 2023 Jamie Harper. 
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

I love the format author/illustrator Jamie Harper has taken with this book.  Using a comic book type format with the different frames on the layouts, this supermom book mimics some superhero type reading!

I know young readers will enjoy the facts covered in this story and will have a new appreciation of these amazing animals.  Grade levels that use the NGSS and study animal adaptations and parent/offspring traits will benefit using this book as a read aloud.  This is the first in the "Animal Heroes" series that will be celebrating the animals in the world around us.

ELA tie-in:
Let's talk character traits.  A common standard for readers is to identify character traits.  So often when I ask young readers to describe a character I get overgeneralized traits - happy, sad, mad.  Trying to come up with a myriad of words that don't oversimplify a trait or feeling is complicated for students.  However, this is a perfect book to share when discussing how to come up with lesser used synonyms for these words!  The backmatter of this book has an excellent layout that gives an adjective describing an animal that was discussed in the text.  By collecting these words, young readers will have a wonderful tool for generating a whole new set of traits to use when describing characters.

Join me in wishing this book a happy, happy book birthday today!

For additional resources and activities be sure to visit heatherlangbooks.com/supermoms and jamieharper.com.

Would you like to add a copy of this book to your library?  Thanks to the generosity of Candlewick Press, I have a giveaway copy for one lucky winner (US only).  Winner will be selected on March 14th.