Sunday, September 15, 2019

It's Monday! What are you reading?


It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It's a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

If you go to my Goodreads account, you can see what I have read recently & click on the books to learn more.

 

I'm not a huge fan of the Jack series because Jack is naughty beyond what I enjoy, but I applaud the author and illustrator for listening when their ARC went out and making a change. The main character had been a monkey and they heard about Edi Campbell's work so they switched to dogs. Orange for the Sunsets was a good historical fiction set in Uganda during Idi Amin's regime. One main character is Indian and one is Black. Amin has called for all Indians to leave the country and this threatens to tear their friendship apart. It's nice to have a middle grade that deals with a topic that doesn't appear in many books except one I read a few years ago, Child of Dandelions. The new Mia Mayhem is another fun early chapter book. The Infamous Ratsos Project Fluffy was a disappointment. Several characters have crushes and are trying to get a boyfriend or girlfriend. As this is aimed at first/second grade students, it's not my favorite topic choice. It's humorous and kids will likely enjoy it, but I'm not sure why the author felt that was a topic to pursue. The Scarecrow is beautiful and sweet as a scarecrow basically adopts a baby crow. 

Just Ask! is by Sonia Sotomayor. It's about many different disabilities and how often, people would not mind if you just ask about the differences you see rather than stare or make rude comments. There are some people who have brought up two issues about that book worth considering. The books speaks of differences, but does not use the word disabilities. Also, it credits Autism Speaks which is a troubling organization. One other comment from someone else indicates that saying be brave is also troubling as people with disabilities are not being brave by existing. They are living their life. Here is the post/discussion from The Conscious Kid. I still think the book could be a valuable conversation starter, but it's good to be aware of the issues.

I quite liked the It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity. It will be a wonderful book for so many children and families. It's simple to understand and very affirming. For Black Girls Like Me was a look at cross racial adoption, but also mental illness. It's well done, but the choice to omit commas in the text was a distraction for me. What's Your Favorite Food? is a collection of foods that various illustrators enjoy. It would be a great mentor text for a class book. The Yellow Suitcase is an excellent exploration of loss and grief. Around the Passover Table isn't so much a story as an explanation of the steps in a Passover seder. In When I Found Grandma, a young girl has a somewhat complicated relationship with her grandmother who lives far away. She is embarrassed by this woman who is loud and so very different, but eventually comes to see her value.
  
The Coming Week:
I'm reading What Girls Know by Neesha Meminger. It's a memoir-novel in verse. The author sent it to me for review so watch for that over on Rich in Color later this week. After that, I still have several piles of books to read for the Wisconsin State Reading Association committee I'm on so will likely be reading some MG and YA for that. Have a great week!

Reading Challenge Updates: 
Goodreads Challenge 2019 - 720/550
Diversity on the Shelf 2019 - 255/275
#MustReadin2019 - 21/30

Thursday, September 12, 2019

#MustReadin2019 Fall Update


#MustReadin2019 is a wonderful book community activity hosted by Carrie Gelson at There's a Book for That. I love this group of people who are setting goals and reading through some awesome books.

For 2019, I chose this fun group of books:


I finished 18 of the 30 books back in the spring, but since then, I have only finished three more.

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot - heartbreaking memoir
Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith - a book for teens and adults sharing some of the actions taken in response to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada. Lots of history in a very visually appealing format.
Undocumented: A Worker's Fight by Duncan Tonatiuh - this was an interesting book. It's a picture book for older readers than I expected. Good though.

Still to Read
Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
Go Home! by ed byRowan Hisayo Buchanan
If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim
Everyday People ed by Jennifer Baker
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Niciole Chung
Coyote Tales by Thomas King
Make Space by David Kelley
Breakout by Kate Messner

I am no longer serving on a picture book award committee, but now I am on the Wisconsin State Reading Association children's literature committee and so my reading is once again kind of out of control. I hope to finish the rest of my list though by the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Review: Nina Soni, Former Best Friend

Title: Nina Soni, Former Best Friend
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Illustrator: Jenn Kocsmiersky
Publisher: Peachtree
Pages: 128
Availability: October 1, 2019
Review copy: ARC via publisher

Summary: The first title in a new series featuring a lovable, distractible Indian-American girl and her family and friends. Nina tried as hard as she could, but still somehow she forgot about her school project. Fortunately, a class lesson about Alexander Fleming suggests how she might make a great discovery--and thus a great project! But with little sister Kavita's birthday party right around the corner, and her longtime friendship with Jay on the rocks, Nina has a lot to keep track of.

Readers are sure to relate to author Kashmira Sheth's endearing Nina Soni and her slightly scatter-brained efforts to manage her life with lists, definitions, and real-life math problems.

Review:
Reasons to love Nina Soni:

1. She has a great sense of humor
2. She has unique ideas
3. She talks with her hands--mostly because she's passionate about things
4. She cares a lot about her family and her best friend
5. She's an excellent list maker

Nina Soni has a friendship she's worried about and a homework project that she simply must finish so her stress level is up a bit. Even under pressure though, she's a lot of fun. These are types of problems many readers will have experienced. Young people are also likely to enjoy her somewhat bouncy conversational style.

Teachers will want to seek out this first book in the Nina Soni series. The school project is a personal narrative and teachers are always looking for literature that will provide models for that. This story even models what could work for such an assignment. It's also a fantastic example of how versatile and helpful lists can be. This would be a great read aloud in the lower grades. This was a quick read that will be excellent for readers looking for an amusing chapter book that doesn't have high-stakes. 

Recommendation: Nina Soni and her escapades will be the perfect stories to hand to those looking for early chapter books that are fun and engaging. I'd recommend this as a read aloud and as independent reading for those starting to read short chapter books.

Monday, September 9, 2019

It's Monday! What are you reading?


It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It's a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

If you go to my Goodreads account, you can see what I have read recently & click on the books to learn more.


Not Every Princess and Introducing Teddy are both books that deal with gender and gender roles. Either could be used to have a discussion around gender with young children. I think others may be better, but these were okay. Big and Little is a picture book about opposites and had cute dogs, but it was a little meh for me. Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist is a nice picture book biography. It was cool to learn about this Chinese American artist who was very influential with the art in the movie Bambi. I especially enjoyed the addition of actual photos at the end. Waiting for Chicken Smith is a simple book about someone waiting for a friend to show up and what he does in the meantime. It has unique art. 

The rest of the books were the standouts. Why Indigenous Literatures Matter takes a while to read, but part of that is needing to stop and copy out quotes. I really appreciated what Daniel Heath Justice has to say about literature in general and Indigenous literatures in particular. I am really thankful to have listened to the podcasts This Land and All Our Relations prior to reading because I think those conversations really helped me to see relationships in a much broader way. We are relations to kin by birth, but also to others by choice. This is true of human relations, but also non-human such as animals, land, or the environment. And with our relations, we have responsibilities and obligations. One of the quotes I copied was, "In all cases, story makes meaning of the relationships that define who we are and what our place is in the world; it reminds us of our duties, our rights and responsibilities, and the consequences and transformative possibilities of our actions. It also highlights what we lose when those relationships are broken or denied to us, and what we might gain from even partial remembrance." Indigenous literatures matter for many reasons and Justice lays them out. I also copied this quote, "Literature as a category is about what’s important to a culture, the stories that are privileged and honored, the narratives that people—often those in power, but also those resisting that power—believe to be central to their understanding of the world and their place in relation to it." 

Merci Suárez was a re-read for me since it's one of the book on our battle list. I loved it last year and loved it once again even though I cried - again. A Map Into the World is a beautiful picture book featuring a Hmong family going through the four seasons and their relationship with a neighbor and his wife. It deals with grief and empathy and connecting with others. I believe it's the first picture book written by a Hmong American author to be published by one of the big publishing company. I'm very excited to share it with students. 

The two graphic novels were also very good. Mooncakes is a fun fantasy that made me smile and smile and smile. They Called Us Enemy did the opposite. I appreciated this memoir about a pretty grim time in the history of our country. George Takei shares his memories of the incarceration of Japanese Americans. He also draws parallels to present day issues.

The Coming Week:
Quite honestly, I do not have a plan beyond reading What Girls Know by Neesha Meminger for a review I'm doing next week. I literally have piles of books stacked in the room I am sitting in right now and I don't know where I'll begin. Happy reading!

Reading Challenge Updates: 
Goodreads Challenge 2019 - 708/550
Diversity on the Shelf 2019 - 249/275
#MustReadin2019 - 21/30

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Review: The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away

Title: The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away
Author: Ronald L. Smith
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pages: 215
Availability: On shelves now
Review copy: Final copy via publisher

Summary: Twelve-year-old Simon is obsessed with aliens. The ones who take people and do experiments. When he's too worried about them to sleep, he listens to the owls hoot outside. Owls that have the same eyes as aliens—dark and foreboding. Then something strange happens on a camping trip, and Simon begins to suspect he’s been abducted. But is it real, or just the overactive imagination of a kid who loves fantasy and role-playing games and is the target of bullies and his father’s scorn?

Even readers who don’t believe in UFOs will relate to the universal kid feeling of not being taken seriously by adults that deepens this deliciously scary tale.

Review: It has taken me a while to write a review for this book. There are simply not enough middle grade alien stories with a high creepy factor so I appreciated finding this one. There are aspects about this book that are excellent, but there are things that detract from the overall quality. Simon's obsession with aliens is overwhelming. He sees evidence and reminders of aliens every place he looks. And these aren't cute little cartoon aliens. They use humans as their lab rats and don't seem to have any moral or ethical standards that would keep them from harming or even killing humans.

Simon is a little nerdy what with his gaming and reading. His brother is athletic, but Simon believes there are other ways to be strong. He's dealing with a lot. His parents have him in therapy because of his beliefs about aliens. He's also afraid because of what the aliens are doing to him. Simon is a very confused and frightened child and readers will likely be able to identify with those feelings even if the alien thing is not something in their life experience.

The things that are distracting are the story within a story and some of the mental health interactions. Simon is the narrator and as he tells about his experiences, he also shares the story he has been writing. To me, the story within the story did not add a lot to the overall story and in fact seemed to make it more confusing than anything else. I was also uncomfortable with how the counselor and Simon's parents dealt with him regarding his mental health. And while not all medications do a good job, he has very negative reactions and thoughts about the meds they try with him so that might give some negative impressions to readers.

Recommendation: In spite of the detracting issues, I would still recommend this to middle grade readers who are looking for science fiction since there simply aren't enough middle grade alien books out there - especially not with biracial main characters. The story is intriguing and I finished it in one sitting even though the story within a story muddied the waters a bit. I'm not a big fan of creepy books, but this has just enough creepiness to give me a few chills, but no nightmares which is great for middle grade.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Review: Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Title: Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Author: Meg Medina
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 355
Availability: On shelves
Review copy: Advanced readers copy

Summary: Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Review: Merci and her family completely won my heart. Their relationships are strong, but sometimes messy. They give of themselves, but they also fuss at each other. There is no doubt that they love each other, but love doesn't keep siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins and other family members from being annoying. Merci comes to see that having so many family members living near each other can be a total pain - especially when it means babysitting for free, but it also has big benefits. Being able to raid multiple refrigerators is a plus, but it's also a true gift to have grandparents within reach and people who will jump in when needed for pretty much anything.

All of that is true, but there are changes happening and Merci is not liking these changes. Even more than that, she is being kept in the dark about some things and she gets extremely frustrated that her family doesn't trust her with information. Changes are hard. They're hard for everyone, but adults sometimes forget that when they are keeping things from children, sometimes that increases the worry for young people.

For anyone who has dealt with health issues in their family, this book would likely speak to them. Readers may experience emotions right along with Merci - frustration, sadness, confusion, and more. Anyone who believes childhood is generally a carefree time of life will surely see that they may not have the same exact issues as adults, but they can be just as impactful as situations adult face.

Recommendation: Merci and her family are people everyone should get to know. While reading, people can take a seat in the Suárez family homes and watch as they learn and grow together. It's a beautiful and heartwarming story in spite of the painful moments and is worth any tears that may fall. Never fear, there are also plenty of funny moments too. Merci's story won a Newbery medal so it will get into many hands, but if you haven't read it yet, you'll need to pick it up soon.

Monday, September 2, 2019

It's Monday! What are you reading?


It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It's a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

If you go to my Goodreads account, you can see what I have read recently & click on the books to learn more.

Last week in posts:
Review of Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi 
on Rich in Color

 Last week in books: 

Fruit of the Drunken Tree was a hard book to read. It's on our adult Battle of the Books list though so I kept going. Darius the Great is Not Okay is also on our Battle list and it had been almost a year since I read it. I was happy to have an excuse to pick it up again as it's a favorite. I had heard a lot of good things about Maybe He Just Likes You, so I requested it on Netgalley. I'm glad I did. It's a really good book for upper elementary and middle school readers as it deals with consent, bullying, and gives a really good view into what it feels like to be sexually harassed as a young girl. It's all done in a very age appropriate way. 

The author of Educated is coming to our city later this month & my adult book club is reading it. It was a quick read for me and an interesting one. It's a memoir of someone who had never had formal education, the mental health issues in her family, and how she managed to get to higher education in spite of or partially because of these pieces of her life. The three picture books were nice. I gave them 4 star ratings, but honestly, I don't remember much about them a few days later. Maybe life has just been to busy to retain everything. Twinchantment was a nice fantasy about twin princesses who have been hiding that they are twins. They've been living as one child due to beliefs about magic in their kingdom. 

The Coming Week:
I am still reading Why Indigenous Literatures Matter. I am also going to re-read Merci Suarez and possibly some other books on our Battle List for our contest next week. Otherwise, I'm not too sure what will come my way other than the picture books I'll be reading at school. Happy reading!

Reading Challenge Updates: 
Goodreads Challenge 2019 - 698/550
Diversity on the Shelf 2019 - 244/275
#MustReadin2019 - 21/30