Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (10/19/2020-10/25/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

First Chapter Books:

Everything Else:

Note: So…I came back to work last week to over 100 holds. These were just the picture books:

So many books. And another 25 came in yesterday. Now that I write at least brief reviews for each title on Goodreads, these take more time, so even with reading a lot of books this week, I feel like I haven’t made a dent. I always have a big stack of library books, but this feels excessive even for me.

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Stats for the Week:

  • 43 Books Read This Week
    • 28 Books with Diverse Main Character (65%)
    • 17 Books by Diverse Authors (40%)
    • 16 Books by Own Voices Authors (37%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

Note: Alright, so I stepped up my game since Annamarie the super librarian was off this past week. I tried stacking in more Youth books, but as usual when I see them lined up here I feel like did not read all that much. Happy Reading y’al!

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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Animal Showdown: Round Three by Stephanie Warren Drimmer (nonfiction)
Gr. 3-4. Which animal is most acrobatic? Loudest? Most venomous? Lives the longest? Find out in the newest round of animal matchups.

I like that this series isn’t quite as clear cut as the Who Would Win books. While some of these questions have just one answer–like the loudest animal–the book makes the reader look at the stats and facts to figure that out (or, in the cases of less clear cut matchups, the answer is up to the reader). A great design paired with beautiful photographs and, of course, fascinating information, makes this series a win.

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Goldie Vance: Larceny in La La Land by Hope Larson (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-8. Goldie Vance is back and taking Los Angeles by storm! While her best friends have glamorous lives as movie stars or are off working at fancy internships, Goldie has to figure out her own summer plans. When she stumbles across a grown-up female detective, Goldie knows she is meant to spend the summer solving real mysteries! After a bit of convincing, Goldie manages to land her dream assistant job where she is quickly caught up in a pair of intertwining mysteries involving both sentimental and very lucrative thefts.

Goldie is back! Move aside Nancy Drew–Goldie Vance is the queen of teen detectives. I love the sweet alternate reality that Goldie lives in (that essentially looks a bit like a Hollywood version of the 1960s without racism, the Vietnam War, and all of those real-world issues). Goldie and her friends exude the diversity that is much needed in modern comics but probably wouldn’t have worked out well in real life at the time–Goldie is biracial, gay, curvy, and amazing (she also drag races, though that isn’t featured in this book). Her friends are equally unique and awesome. Plus these comics are just fun–a combination of Sherlock Holmes meets Nancy Drew mystery, a few high stakes action scenes, fun side characters to flesh out the plot, and a great color palate that brings the setting to life. More please!

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Move, Play, Learn: Interactive Storytimes with Music, Movement, and More by Alyssa Jewell (professional development)
Adult. Make your storytimes active through movement, music, and play! Think about how to make all parts of your storytime, not just some elements, an active experience, engaging little ones and caregivers throughout.

I wish I had read this book pre-COVID, but I am still glad to have found it now. Lots of great messages and ideas here (and a great list of children’s musicians!). The theory and research in this book help me put into words what I’ve been trying to do with my storytimes before and after COVID–create an active, engaging experience. The less passive listening, the better.

While I don’t agree with everything–I’m really not a theme person, and those are emphasized heavily in this text–the below paragraph really stuck with me, so much that I wanted to include it here to refer back to. I had a core set of storytime materials that I used pre-COVID, and I didn’t put that much effort into revitalizing those materials. While I still use a bit more repetition than is highlighted in this book, I’ve been taking a much more thorough effort into planning and carefully selecting materials for my virtual storytimes–finding quality materials that I enjoy that highlight new voices, cover an early literacy skill, and fit the appropriate developmental level. I’ve wondered a lot about the time commitment involved with this and how this will fit into my job when I am back on desk with the public many hours a week, and I’ve been coming to the conclusion that storytime content needs to remain a priority. Author Jewell sums this up nicely in her text:

“For me, selecting the best materials for storytime is at the core of what it means to be a good children’s librarian. My job is to showcase the best of what the library’s collection has to offer. This means not only keeping up to date with the newest books and music, but also performing rigorous searches of the collection for each storytime theme, as there are sometimes hidden gems published years ago hiding in the stacks and begging to be brought to life. This is not always easy to do if you, like most librarians and teachers, are strapped for time. Everyone falls into bad habits at some point, such as rushing through material selection, gravitating toward comfortable materials that you or others have used time and time again, or choosing materials that you think are cute but are really not developmentally appropriate for your storytime. If you find yourself falling into any of these behaviors, take a step back and remember: the building blocks of storytime are the materials you select. If you are not putting energy into that process, then your foundation will be shaky.” – page 51

Queen Of The Spelling Bee - (Ellie Ultra) By Gina Bellisario (Hardcover) :  Target

Queen of the Spelling Bee (Ellie Ultra) by Gina Bellisario (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Life isn’t always filled with daring rescues for young superhero Ellie Ultra. She has to go to school, and sometimes those school days are filled with spelling bee practice! Ellie is sure that her super talents will make her a spelling bee champion, but when Ellie decides she doesn’t need to practice, things don’t work out as planned. But is there more to this new substitute librarian than meets the eye? Something seems to be off about the plans for the upcoming school-wide spelling bee…will Ellie need to save the day?

Ellie is a cute, spunky young superhero. I prefer Mia Mayhem’s everyday adventures to this series, but, reading level wise, this would be a good step up from the Mia Mayhem books. I’m not sure if these books have to be read in order (no series number on the spine), but I definitely felt a bit confused by many of the references to what felt like previous books. This felt a little disjointed at times with a heavy focus on the fast-paced action, but I see the kid appeal, and I appreciate any diverse young superhero.

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Rick by Alex Gino
Gr. 4-5. Rick has always gone along with his best friend, Jeff. Even when his best friend is mean–best friends stick together, right? Now, Rick is in middle school. He learns that maybe things don’t all have to be one way, especially when a new friend leads him to a meeting of the school’s rainbow spectrum club. The kids in this club seem to be so sure of who they are (or they are comfortable in being not so sure). Rick longs to be just as understood–but can he figure out who he is while still keeping his life as it has always been?

This was fun and so sweet! I loved the call backs to George–even though its been a while since I read that title, hearing Melissa introduce the talent show with a few loud “salutations!” was lovely. Rick was a particularly great perspective to explore. While George was a bit stronger of a book for me, I like that Rick was–and still is–questioning who he is. That questioning is normal and such a part of growing up that isn’t focused on quite as often as the kids who “know” something about themselves. Rick’s relationship with his grandfather was particularly strong and nuanced. Looking forward to more books!

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School for Extraterrestrial Girls #1: Girl on Fire by Jeremy Whitley
Gr. 5-8. Tara Smith longs to be extraordinary–but, when she said that, she dreamed of becoming an astronaut, not spontaneously combusting in math class. She wanted to travel to space–not find out she is really an alien. She wanted her parents to be a little less routine-oriented–not really be kidnappers that tore her away from her home and hid Tara’s true identity from her for years.

But, things don’t always work out the way you expect. Such as when you discover all of these extraordinary things about yourself, while also finding out that you still have to go to high school (but now a high school for alien teenage girls). New friendships, drama, and confusion seem to follow Tara wherever she goes as she tries to figure out where she fits in among the big, wide universe.

A new series by the author of Princeless! This wasn’t quite as amazing as Princeless, but I am definitely looking forward to the sequel. Tara’s emotional ups and downs felt very real, and I’m excited to see more of the world created in this series, including the multitude of alien species (more cat people please!). I’m also ready for the strength of a united Tara, Summer, and Misako–their new school isn’t going to know what hit them.

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There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon
Gr. 7+. Ashish was recently dumped by his (now ex-) girlfriend. Ever since the breakup, nothing is working–he can’t seem to flirt anymore, he never feels happy, and basketball just feels routine. Even though he can’t ever imagine it working, he agrees to let his parent’s set him up with a new girl, hoping that a little bit of a flirting and a few dates (without the pressure of making those things happen himself) might help him find his groove again.

Sweetie doesn’t think too much about romance–she is too busy beating everyone on the track, hanging out with her friends, and singing in the shower. When Sweetie finds out that Ashish’s parents want to set the two of them up, she is mildly interested–until Sweetie’s mom denies the match because Sweetie’s traditional Indian mom thinks Sweetie is too fat for an attractive, rich boy like Ashish.

Sweetie is furious. She doesn’t care so much about dating Ashish, as she hates how her parent’s insecurities about Sweetie’s weight make them control her actions. She tracks down Ashish and proposes a deal–that they date, in secret, behind their parent’s backs. He gets his mojo back, and Sweetie proves that fat girls are datable. Ashish agrees. Obviously, love follows.

I love all of Sandhya Menon’s sweet romance novels, and I’m glad I saved this one for last (of what she has currently published). It was fun to see familiar characters again, but Ashish and Sweetie just have a great dynamic. Contrary to their names, Ashish was the one who was a little too sweet for me at times, especially toward the end of the book, but Sweetie’s self-confidence and determination make this book shine. At so many moments, Sweetie could have crumbled–but she never does, no matter who is trying to hold her back, because of her faith in herself. So much fun to read.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (10/12/2020-10/18/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Note: Lots going on in real life, so much less reading this week. I should be back up to regular-ish reading amounts next week. Still squeezed in some great titles!

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Stats for the Week:

  • 12 Books Read This Week
    • 8 Books with Diverse Main Character (67%)
    • 5 Books by Diverse Authors (42%)
    • 4 Books by Own Voices Authors (33%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

Note: Alright, so I stepped up my game since Annamarie the super librarian was off this past week. I tried stacking in more Youth books, but as usual when I see them lined up here I feel like did not read all that much. Happy Reading y’al!

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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Boys Dance! by John Robert Allman (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Travel through a day of ballet practice for a group of young boys.

This book stands out by focusing on diverse, male ballet dancers. The story is simple–going through the daily routine of a standard kids’ ballet practice, except all the kids are boys (not traditionally shown in picture books about ballet, except maybe one child seemingly as an afterthought). Highlights real, diverse, male ballet dancers from throughout history. A fun read for young dancers and a great choice for anyone looking to diversify their dance titles.

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Cheer Up by Heather Ayris Burnell (reader)
Gr. K-2. Unicorn and Yeti are best friends, going on many adventures. In three short episodes, Unicorn gives Yeti a special present, Yeti helps unicorn get warm after an icicle-chewing incident, and the two friends take a walk down a trail together.

I appreciate the bright, colorful illustrations and kid-appealing characters of the recent Acorn beginning reader series by Scholastic. These books are designed with kids in mind, in addition to containing elements of a good beginning reader title. Unicorn and Yeti might be one of my favorite Branches series. The characters are adorable, and each book focuses on kindness and friendship. Vocabulary and sentence structure is slightly more advanced than similarly packaged Frog and Dog books.

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Diana and the Island of No Return by Aisha Saeed
Gr. 3-4. Princess Diana is thrilled that it is time for Themyscira’s annual festival, where female leaders from around the world celebrate on the island of the Amazons. Every year, Diana’s best friend, Princess Sakina, comes for the festival, and Diana has a week of excitement planned–until everything goes wrong. A boy followed the ships to Themyscira, and men are not allowed on the island. The boy has a nefarious goal, and he successfully puts the Amazons under a sleeping spell. Everyone is asleep except Diana and Sakina, who agree to travel to his home to save his people, in exchange for the antidote that will save their families. Diana’s first trip off Themyscira is filled with danger as she faces down a lava river, hypnotized minions, and a demon determined to capture Diana alive.

Fast-paced and filled with adventure, this serves as a wonderful origin story for Wonder Woman. There have been a slew of these lately, and Saeed’s tale holds up. I’m glad to see a diverse voice brought into Diana’s story, and I’m very happy to recommend this to young readers. A great readalike for Diana Princess of the Amazons by Shannon Hale or Shuri by Nic Stone.

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Do Not Open This Book by Andy Lee (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOK! Well, of course, you want to open it, and the main character just cannot convince you to stop turning the pages no matter what tricks they try.

This fun, interactive book would work well for a preschool or kindergarten read aloud. Each page encourages the reader to ask a child whether they want to turn the next page. The increasing anger and frustration of the main character creates lots of humor, which will appeal to the intended audience. Kids will have fun with this one, particularly fans of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

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Dungeon Critters by Natalie Riess (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. Meet the Dungeon Critters:

  • Juniper – The healer. Nervous in large crowds. Loves botany. Terrible at lying. Looks eerily similar to the reclusive Duchess Helena von Fancypaws.
  • Rose – Arson loving cat. Doubles as a defense attorney when needed. May have a tiny crush on Juniper.
  • Prince Chirp – Heiress to the throne of the [redacted] Kingdom. Impulsive. Hates to apologize. Tends to not think before acting. Avoids responsibility.
  • Goro – Gentle giant. Generally quiet, but when he speaks, his words are profound.

These four, with the occasional assistance of other creatures who are quickly forgotten (even by the main four characters), are determined to discover the nefarious plot of the (maybe?) evil Baron Foxworthy. What is this mysterious plant they discover in his dungeon?

Lots of chaos and humor fill this jam-packed fantasy adventure story. Readers will be engaged, if sometimes a little lost (a lot is happening very quickly, and I felt like I didn’t have that much time to get to know the characters outside of action scenes). I love that all of the characters have some kind of romantic interest–and every one of them (whether crush or serious relationship) is interested in someone who is their same gender (yay representation!). I’m hoping for more books to give these characters more depth. Great for fans of Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, or even kids who miss the humor of Dog Man but are a few steps past those books.

Field Trip (Mr. Wolf’s Class #4)

Field Trip (Mr. Wolf’s Class) by Aron Nels Steinke (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. Mr. Wolf’s class is going on an extra special field trip to a local campground! Everyone gets to sleep in cabins, make s’mores, and hike through the woods. The forest may be sort of magical, but everyday drama follows the students on their trip, making things a little more chaotic than usual.

Another fun read following (animal) students and their everyday hijinks. Aziza and Randy are arguing; someone else isn’t feeling too well; other students are getting to know kids from another visiting school. Author Steinke does an excellent job capturing the feel of an elementary school classroom, including the mild chaos, blunders, and funny (but sometimes awkward) conversations between teacher and student. A comforting, wholesome series for anyone looking for a sweet, quick read.

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Icing on the Snowflake (Diary of an Ice Princess) by Christina Soontornvat (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Lina’s cousin Wendy is getting married, and everyone is determined to create the most perfect, most traditional magical wedding ever. Lina and her best friend Claudia feel like they might be doing more harm than good, but they are determined to turn things around and make the wedding day as perfect as possible. But is that what Wendy really wants?

Another amazing Diary of an Ice Princess adventure! Lots of shenanigans between Lina and Claudia (like putting cornstarch on their legs to make their formal dresses stop itching!). I appreciate the diversity and accessibility of this first chapter fantasy series. I’m looking forward to many more new titles to come!

Isadora Moon by Harriet Muncaster (first chapter)
Isadora Moon Goes to the Ballet Young Isadora–half-fairy, half-vampire–and her magical pink rabbit love all things ballet but especially their favorite dancer, Tatiana Tutu. Isadora is so excited that her class gets to go on a field trip to a local ballet. Soon after they arrive, Isadora loses Pink Rabbit. Can she find him before the curtain rises?

Isadora Moon Has a Birthday Isadora Moon wants a birthday party, but she would really like a human party. Her mom is a fairy, and her dad is a vampire, and they are both sure that either a fairy party or a vampire party would be a much better idea. After some convincing by Isadora, Isadora’s parents agree to host a human party, but will they be able to pull off a non-magical event?

Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover Isadora Moon is going to her best friend Zoe’s house for her very first sleepover! It isn’t all fun and games, however. The girls have to work together to make a cake for their school’s baking competition! When they get a little carried away using Isadora’s magic to make the cake extra special, Isadora starts to doubt if it is really fair to submit their magically-improved creation into the contest at their human school.

Gr. 2-3. More great additions to the sweet Isadora Moon series. I enjoy the twist on the traditional realistic fiction first chapter book. The only difference between these titles and other everyday school adventures is that Isadora’s mom is a fairy and her dad is a vampire-but those changes are enough to make this series hold its own.

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Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence
Gr. 5-6. Keiko is ready to tackle seventh grade with her two best friends, Audrey and Jenna, by her side. Unfortunately, things aren’t quite that simple. Audrey decides they all need boyfriends before the fall dance, and Jenna isn’t so sure about this plan. Audrey and Jenna don’t seem to be getting along, but Keiko is sure it will all work out–and maybe the cute new boy in Keiko’s math class will even ask her out!

But…things don’t get better. Soon Audrey and Jenna are arguing, and Keiko is forced to choose sides. Keiko’s crush is spending a ton of time with Audrey, and Keiko is starting to remember why she used to be friends with Audrey’s brother, before Audrey made Keiko choose between him and Audrey. Keiko wants to talk to her mom, but her mom hasn’t been home much lately. Can Keiko keep everyone happy on her own?

This was excellent. I spent a good part of the book frustrated at Keiko for not seeing Audrey’s true personality, but Keiko’s coming to terms with her friend’s cruelty, and Keiko’s character development, felt raw and honest. This felt like a Real Kid figuring out what makes a good friend, not a quick solution to a messy problem. Florence explores so many great relationships without dipping into drama for drama’s sake, while adding a perfect sprinkling of middle school romance. Will be recommending to many 5th-6th grade readers.

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Mindy Kim, Class President (Mindy Kim) by Lyla Lee (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Mindy Kim has adjusted to her new school, miles and miles away from her old home in California. In fact, now that she is in third grade, Mindy is ready to run for class president! Mindy learns all about how to run a great campaign (with a platform focused on kindness and snacks), but she is extra nervous about having to make a speech in front of her whole class. Can Mindy face her fears and win over her classmates?

I adore this series. Mindy Kim is a Korean American elementary school student, going through the ups and downs of everyday school drama, elements of her culture easily woven into the storytime, and personal and familial adjustments to her mom dying before Mindy and her Dad moved to Florida. Great for fans of Jasmine Toguchi–though I really, really hope the Mindy Kim series doesn’t end with just four books like that series. More Mindy Kim please! Already a regular book talk title for me, I will be passing these books to more and more kids.

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Not Your All-American Girl by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Gr. 4-6. Lauren and Tara are best friends. They do everything together–referring to themselves as the “royal we.” Of course, they try out for the school musical together, hoping to maybe both be cast in the ensemble. Lauren knocks her audition out of the park, but Lauren is assigned to the ensemble, while Tara is cast as the leading lady. Why? The drama teacher feels that half-Chinese, half-Jewish Lauren doesn’t look like an “All-American Girl.” Heartbroken, Lauren tries to make the best of it, but eventually she just can’t bring herself to sing anymore. Why bother when she can never be a star?

This book! Lauren’s voice rang true for me. I felt the heartbreak in her character and eventually her determination to succeed. Little details brought this story to life, even though it is not my genre of choice (historical fiction–and yes, sorry, but the 80s are historical fiction now). The 80s backdrop created a vivid image of Lauren’s day-to-day life, with her bickering, loving, live-in grandmothers adding humor while also helping Lauren find the motivation to keep trying. A small detail, but I was confused when John Hughes movies were highlighted at the beginning as something Lauren loved (all I could think of was Sixteen Candles’ racist characters), and I appreciated how this issue was confronted when the girls went to see Sixteen Candles in theaters with friends. Lauren’s intersectionality–as both Chinese and Jewish–helps make this book stand apart from similar works. Will definitely be recommending.

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Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker by J.C. Phillipps (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. Pacey Packer dreams of adventure, but she is stuck babysitting her little sister, Mina, and being wrangled into tea parties. Pacey turns her back for just one minute, and when she turns around, her sister is on the back of a giant unicorn running over a magical rainbow bridge. Pacey chases them down and manages to hitch a ride to the magical unicorn land of Rundalyn. Pacey quickly loses her sister and is stuck trying to catch up to Mina on foot, with just her sister’s (apparently magical) stuffed unicorn, Slasher, as her guide. They have to traverse a dangerous jungle to rescue Mina–but all is not as it seems.

A cute, fast-paced adventure filled with lots of unicorn humor and dramatic betrayals. Fun for fans of Phoebe and Her Unicorn looking for more drama or readers who like the wonky adventures of Aster and the Accidental Magic.

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Real Pigeons Nest Hard by Andrew McDonald (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. The Real Pigeons are back with three new mysteries. First, who stole a vulture nest? (And how did they manage to pull off the stunt?) Also, who is this mysterious, pigeon-loving child alone at the park? Finally, is that lonely photo in the river a picture of Homey’s long lost family? The pigeons will need all of their amazing pigeon powers to defeat villains new and old.

Perfect for fans of Dog Man, this series continues to combine humor, superhero antics, and line drawings designed to appeal to young readers looking for fast-paced action and lots of laughs. Originally published in Australia. I’m eagerly awaiting the in-the-works TV adaptation.

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RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford (biography)
Gr. 1-3. So beautiful! This biography of Aretha Franklin is visually stunning. The illustrations, the headers, type face, and framing of the text in words (spelled out RESPECT style) and rhyming couplets all blend together for a truly wonderful reading experience. I’ve been itching to plan a Little People, Big Dreams Aretha Franklin program, and this is most definitely going to be featured.

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The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Worrysaurus is a planner. He likes to know what might happen each day, as those plans help keep his worries away. Worrysaurus is all set for an adventure, when a nervous lizard tells him it is going to storm! Worrysaurus didn’t prepare for a storm. Will his new worries stop him from having a great day?

This is a sweet, rhyming book that approaches worries and emotions in a wonderful, child-friendly way. It subtly weaves in great ways for children to handle their worries–thinking about helpful words from a grown-up, finding objects that comfort and calm them, and figuring out if something is a real worry or more unrealistic (such as being worried it might storm when the sun is shining). A fun read aloud or a great one-on-one book for a child who might be worried about their own worries.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (10/5/2020-10/11/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Everything Else:

Note: Lots going on in real life. Reading is still happening, though I’m currently just trying to power through the books that have sat on my nightstand or all of the ebooks that are due back essentially tomorrow. Not a great showing on diversity in my reading this week, though the chapter books that I read are all diverse authors and/or own voices, and all three are titles I want to book talk to kids, so I call that a reading win.

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Stats for the Week:

  • 29 Books Read This Week
    • 11 Books with Diverse Main Character (38%)
    • 7 Books by Diverse Authors (24%)
    • 6 Books by Own Voices Authors (21%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

  • Hello, Arnie by Laurie Keller
  • Lost Beast, Found Friend by Josh Trujillo illustrated by Nick Kennedy and Melanie Lapovich
  • Bubble Trouble by Brooke Vitale illustrated by Fabrizzio Petrossi
  • Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way to Win by Claire Annette Noland illustrated by Alicia Teba
  • In the Garden by Emma Guilani
  • Sharko and Hippo by Elliott Kalan illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi
  • All Year Round: A Book of Season by Amy Pixton illustrated by Carolina Buzio
  • Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renee Treml
  • Dog Diaries: Mission ImPAWsible by James Patterson
  • What If You Could Sniff Like a Shark? by Sandra markle illustrated by Howard McWilliam
  • Alicia Alonso Takes the Stage by Nancy Ohlin illustrated by Josefina Preumayr
  • The Wizenard Series. Season One by Wesley King
  • Not Your American Girl by Madelyn Rosenburg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono translated by Emily Balistrieri illustrated by Yuta Onoda

Note: I will be coming back to link the books later this week. Every time I try to go to Goodreads this past couple of days I get the error message stating there are too many people on the at the moment. Whomp whomp.

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

Black Brother, Black Brother

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Gr. 4-7. Donte and his brother Trey attend the same elite, private middle school. But, when they first started, most of their classmates didn’t recognize that they were brothers. Trey takes after their white dad, with light skin. Donte takes after their black mom, with dark skin. Trey is loved by everyone. Donte is, at best, tolerated, and, on the bad days, Donte is bullied by his peers and feared by his teachers. After getting sent to the principal for something he didn’t do, Donte gets frustrated and throws his backpack. Donte was just mad, didn’t hurt anyone, and didn’t intend to hurt anyone–but his principal called the police anyway. Suddenly, Donte is in jail, is suspended from school, and has a court date.

Donte is frustrated, alone, and confused. He decides to confront the school’s bully–“King” Alan on Alan’s turf–fencing. Donte discovers that a past Olympic fencer works at the local Boys and Girls Club. After some convincing, Donte has a fencing coach, and eventually a team, that teach him how to fence, how to be part of a team, and how to live with and fight against the racism he is surrounded by.

A good story that will appeal to sports fans. (with a great introduction to fencing). Donte’s character development is well written, though it does follow predictable patterns. I hope there might be more in this universe someday, as I wouldn’t mind hearing from Donte’s teammates or even from his brother’s perspective.

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Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Brown boys are beautiful, amazing, and happy. Features brown boys finding joy in everyday activities. Recently featured on Netflix’s Bookmarks.

An adorable, simple, and necessary read. Features a black boy in a wheelchair as well as different family makeups, including two moms. Great addition to any collection.

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Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj
Gr. 4-5. Karina’s biggest worries are what photo she will pick for the upcoming photography competition and if Chris, the boy next door, is as much of a jerk as the kids he hangs out with. When Karina’s grandfather moves in and starts tutoring Chris in math, Karina and Chris slowly become friends. Suddenly, Karina’s quiet world is turned upside down when Karina, her grandfather, and Chris are violently attacked. This hate crime puts Karina’s grandfather in the hospital, and both Karina and Chris are trying to wrap their heads around what happened and what they can do next.

This was good. Dually narrated by Karina and Chris, there was merit to both of their voices, though I personally liked Karina’s voice a bit more. I was always a bit hesitant with Chris–I like hearing his thoughts as he grows, but there was also a lot of pity sent his way for also surviving the attack. While he was there, Chris is white. If he had happened to have been walking alone that day, nothing would have happened to him. He was also a victim, but it’s different. I wish that element had been fleshed out a bit more.

The overall message is a good one, even if I wish this had been a bit more nuanced. Will be recommending.

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Grandmother School by Rina Singh (picture book)
Gr. 1-2. In Phangane, a remote village in India, grandchildren walk their grandmothers to a special grandmother school. As children, these grandmothers watched their brothers go to school. As mothers, they sent their own children-sons and daughters-to school. Now, as grandmothers, they are finally learning to read and write themselves.

Wow! Told from the perspective of a granddaughter, this beautiful book tells the story of real women in India who are grasping their chance to learn to read. Great choice for an elementary read aloud.

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Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood by Tony Hillery (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Young Nevaeh’s school is across from an abandoned lot, or, as she calls it, the haunted garden. This haunted garden is filled with trash, until the day a visitor, adult Tony Hillery, comes to their school and decides to help. Soon, with the help of the students and the community, the haunted garden is a real garden filled with beautiful plants and growing food.

An inspirational true story in an easy-to-read picture book format. Great choice for preschoolers interested in gardening or as a tool to inspire young kids to participate in a community gardening initiative.

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Hello, New House by Jane Smith (picture book)
Gr. PreS. Callie and her family move from their old home in the city to their new home by the beach. While some of her belongings are familiar (old bed, old blankie, old towel), a lot of things are new (new sounds, new shadows, new weather). Could there also be a new friend?

Simple story to ease a child into moving away from home. Though if you aren’t moving to a house on the beach, maybe this will give kids unrealistic expectations? (Perhaps I’m just jealous.) Features a diverse family.

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Jack and the Beanstalk by Carly Gledhill (board book)
Gr. PreS. Simplified retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. In this version, Jack is retrieving items the giant stole from his family. (Jack is not a thief stealing items from the giant.)

I appreciate that this series of fairy tale board books features diverse characters, though these may have worked better as picture books. The illustrations are quite detailed and small in board book format. The choice to have this story take place in a city is original, but I also question the author’s motive (Jack appears to be black and now lives in a city–is he pictured in a city because he is black?). The story is a good introduction to the fairy tale, though its simplicity leaves a lot of things unanswered (like how the giant was able to steal Jack’s items without a beanstalk, but cutting down the beanstalk makes the giant go away forever). 

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Move by Elizabeth Verdick (board book)
Baby. Babies move in many different ways! This short board book contains alternating pages, half with brightly colored descriptions and half with black and white photographs of diverse babies. Most descriptions include actions that are easy to do with a baby (push, scoot, climb, bounce). Physically, this board book is smaller than usual, though it would still work well in a virtual storytime setting. My copy is in both English and Spanish, making this title more accessible. Includes movement tips for caregivers on the last few pages.

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Ruby’s Birds by Elizabeth Verdick (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Ruby’s neighbor, Eva, introduces her to bird watching in Central Park. Ruby learns how to stay quiet and still, move carefully, and pay attention looking for tiny movements in the leaves. Later, Ruby teaches her family the tricks she has learned, and they spot a rare bird together.

A great book to pair with the free Merlin Bird ID app during a STEM storytime. Includes back matter about how to find birds in your neighborhood or city as well as information on birds you might have seen in the book and that you might also find near your home.

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Sharko and Hippo by Elliott Kalan (picture book)
Gr. K-1. Sharko and Hippo are excited for a fun day of fishing! But every time Sharko asks Hippo for an item, Hippo gives him something else–instead of a boat, Hippo hands Sharko a goat. Instead of a pole, a peel and a pail. Instead of keys to the car, Sharko receives cheese from a star.

Filled with humor and a bantering that is a little reminiscent of Elephant & Piggie, this funny book would work well as a conversation starter about wordplay, rhymes, and starting letters. And in the end, all of Hippo’s mistaken items were intentional–in an effort to help save those fish they would have otherwise caught.

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The Three Little Yogis and the Wolf Who Lost His Breath: A Fairy Tale to Help You Feel Better by Susan Verde (picture book)
Gr. K-1. In this reimagining of the Three Little Pigs, a wolf has lost his huff and puff. The wolf spots a calm little pig doing yoga by a straw hut. All the wolf wants to do is blow the hut down. When the pig hears the wolf’s wheezing, she offers to help him get his huff and puff back through breathing exercises. The wolf continues practicing breathing and yoga poses as he meets each of the three little pigs, all eager to help.

A great fit for a yoga storytime or any storytime focused on mindfulness and emotions with perhaps a nicer, more thoughtful message than the original tale. Nice inclusion of a pig with gender-neutral pronouns as well.

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Unicorns Are the Worst! by Alex Willan (picture book)
Gr. PreS. Unicorns are the worst! At least, that is what Goblin thinks. Goblin spends their days in pursuit of serious magic, collecting magical ingredients and creating spells. Goblin is not happy when unicorns move in next door with their glitter and tea parties. Why are unicorns so well loved while goblins are so underappreciated?

Funny story perfect for fans of unicorns, magic, humor, and new friendships. Bright illustrations will draw in young readers and also make this a good book to share virtually.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (9/28/2020-10/4/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Everything Else:

Note: Didn’t read as much this week. I got through my newest stack of picture books and a few longer titles, but my graphic novels and first chapter books are staring at me hopefully from my nightstand.

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Stats for the Week:

  • 25 Books Read This Week
    • 15 Books with Diverse Main Character (60%)
    • 8 Books by Diverse Authors (32%)
    • 8 Books by Own Voices Authors (32%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

Note: Annamarie and I had planned to take a friends vacation this year, but because Covid that did not come to fruition and I wound up with a LOT of vacation days. So to eat up some of that time, I took this past week off for my birthday and roadtripped home to Chicagoland. I honestly read 1 book, and am probably gonna have to read it again in a few weeks because brain retention during vacation is for naught. But look at some of the fun stuff from this week!

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

Agent Moose by Mo O’Hara (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-3. Agent Moose (aka Anonymoose) recently lost his credibility after claiming the moon was moon-napped during a lunar eclipse. Instead of solving his 100th case, Agent Moose and his assistant Owlfred became the joke of Woodland HQ. To make things worse, they both have to attend Camo Chameleon’s Party–celebrating Camo Chameleon’s 100th case solved! The party isn’t all play, however–Anonymoose and Owlfred also have to track down a missing animal, Terrance Turtle, a key witness in a recent robbery (solved by none other than Camo Chameleon). But when Anonymoose and Owlfred arrive at the party and start talking to witnesses of the turtle-napping, all is not as it seems…

Another great readalike for fans of Dog Man, Agent Moose is sure to be a winner with kids looking for animal crime-solving humor. Lots of fun disguises and puns paired with cute illustrations and an easy setup for a longer series. Will be recommending.

Grandpa Grumps by Katrina Moore (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Daisy is so excited to meet her Yeh Yeh (grandfather), visiting from China for the first time. She has so many great ideas for all of the ways they will have fun together…but he seems really grumpy. Daisy is about to give up on getting a smile from him before he goes home, when the two finally bond while cooking together.

Adorable depiction of family dynamics, especially when cultural differences are added to the mix. Sweet ending that may invite a welcome sequel.

I Am Brown by Ashok K. Banker (picture book)
Gr. PreS-1. Gorgeous! Stars brown children from around the world showing all of the different, amazing things that they do, the clothes they wear, the places they are from, the languages they speak, and more. Vibrant, warm colors keep the reader engaged. Holds a wonderful, uplifting message about the normalcy and awesomeness of being brown.

I Love Us: A Book About Family by Luisa Uribe (board book)
Toddler-PreS. Board book depicts various families having fun together. Features diversity in skin color and family makeup (kids raised by grandparents, single parent homes, possibly a family with two dads (not clear)). I would’ve preferred this book in a larger, picture book format, as the words and detailed illustrations would work well for a preschool storytime. Includes a mirror at the end, followed by a blank family tree encouraging readers to add the names of people they love.

In the Garden by Emma Guiliani (nonfiction)
Gr. 1-3. Siblings Plum and Robin explore and take care of their garden all year long. This physically giant book is filled with flaps for additional learning, letting readers see inside of fruits and flowers and get a peak underground. Plenty of interesting info on what tasks need to be completed in a garden during each season as well as how plants grow. Rare nonfiction book starring diverse kids.

Internet Animal Stars by Rebecca Felix (nonfiction)
Gr. 1-2. Simple facts about various animals, with a focus on their Internet popularity.

While this series is cute and definitely has cover appeal, I do wonder about their longevity. Animal facts are sparse, with not quite enough details to cover the required information for the average animal project. The design has a definite rainbows-and-cuddles Lisa Frank vibe without looking too dated (for the current moment anyway). I’m not sure how long that style, or the chapter starring animal memes (“meme break!”), will stay relevant. Still, it is pretty darn cute.

Jake the Fake Keeps His Cool by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach
Gr. 4-5. Jake’s mom is pregnant! Jake isn’t sure what this means for him–will his parent’s stop paying attention to him now that he will be the middle child? Will the baby keep him up all night? Will Jake have to share his room? Jake quickly gets distracted by a new, pretty classmate that Jake is desperate to impress, even if that means stretching the truth about his cooking and haircutting skills.

I still enjoy this series, even if neither sequel reached quite the same hilarity as the first book. This book felt a little more disjointed than previous titles in the series, with the baby storyline only appearing when it needed to make a point. Even with that, I appreciate any own voices books that are great readalikes for fans of Wimpy Kid and Big Nate.

Leap Frog by Jane Clarke (picturebook)
Gr. PreS-K. Tiny Felix Frog is trying to make his way home across the jungle. Along the way, he runs into a variety of rainforest critters whose unique sounds make Felix jump! Help Felix make his way home by counting, bouncing, and repeating phrases before turning each page.

Vivid illustrations with bright colors make this a storytime standout. Turn the animal-sound reveals into a guessing game for preschoolers or kindergarteners, especially if paired with a non-fiction rainforest or jungle animal title.

Mia Mayhem and the Super Family Field Day by Kara West (first chapter book)
Gr. 1-3. Mia Mayhem finally gets to see her superhero parents in action when her Program for In Training Superheroes (the PITS) hosts a family field day. Mia knows everything is for fun, but she really would like to win that trophy…

I adore the Mia Mayhem series SO MUCH. At their heart, these are well-written, fun first chapter books combining superhero antics with everyday elements of growing up, including friendship struggles, balancing home and school, overcoming challenges, wanting to win, and more. The diversity in our young superheroes is unparalleled, with Mia having close friends of not just different races, but a friend who is blind (with a super guide dog) and a friend who has two prosthetic legs. We learn in this book that one of her friends has two dads. And its all so seamlessly included in the text that this series is far from issues books–they are just kids in everyday (superhero) situations.

Mummy, What’s In Your Tummy? by Bernadita Romero (board book)
Toddler-PreS. In this board book, a child imagines what might be growing in his mummy’s tummy. Originally published in Chile in Spanish and translated to English. I wonder if the translation has to do with the inclusion of a whale as one of the animal guesses–a logical guess for a small child, but maybe not a word every expecting mom wants to use to describe her belly? (Or an elephant for that matter…) Diverse family featured throughout.

On the Way Home by A.H. Benjamin (picture book)
Gr. PreS. A girl and her grandfather are on their way home when they run into various animals. They copy the animals’ actions–jumping in a puddle, tap dancing, bouncing on a trampoline–helping them work up an appetite by the time they get home. Cute enough, with toddler storytime potential due to the easy-to-replicate animal actions. Read as an eARC.

Rockin’ Rockets: The Adventures of Allie and Amy by Stephanie Calmenson (first chapter book)
Gr. 2-3. Allie and Amy are are inseparable, until new girl Gracie moves into their neighborhood. Gracie doesn’t want to come between Allie and Amy, but when Gracie is only allowed to have one friend over at a time, she is forced to choose. When Gracie accidentally promises both Allie and Amy her extra ticket to the Rockin’ Rockets concert, suddenly Allie and Amy are fighting over who gets to go, and their status as best-friends-forever is in question.

The Allie and Amy series is cute, if a little shallow. I appreciate the diverse friend group and that the girls live in apartments (something not often shown in kid’s lit). I wish their friendship struggles had been more fleshed out in this book, as these kinds of fights do happen in real life, and they aren’t often resolved by getting an additional free ticket because your other neighbor just happens to be the mysterious new drummer in your favorite band. A good readalike for the more nuanced Craftily Ever After and Miranda and Maude series.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Sing Along with Me! by Nosy Crow (board book)
Baby-Toddler. Cute, though short, board book adaptation of the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat. The chunky sliders and pull tabs will appeal to babies and toddlers and are sturdy enough for repeated circulation. I prefer Jane Cabrera’s adaptation for storytime purposes, as it has very similar verses with larger, less dense illustrations. The interactivity and small details make this ideal for a one-on-one reading.

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-5. Lora feels left out as all of her friends seem to be growing up without her. Lora doesn’t want to grow up, and she is thrilled to discover a new (though also old) friend living in her house. Ghost girl Alexa is around Lora’s age, haunting Lora’s house and just looking for a friend. The two become inseparable even as Lora begins to grow up on her own, and Alexa grows more and more curious about the past that she can’t remember.

Beautifully illustrated and filled with all the feels, Séance Tea Party is a sweet story about how friendships change, what it means to grow up, and keeping the magic of childhood alive. Be prepared for a bittersweet, authentic ending that may leave you tearing up.

Speak Up by Miranda Paul (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. When you see something that doesn’t feel right, when you make a mistake, when you can help someone in need, use your voice and speak up!

While this book’s message is simple, it approaches kindness, activism, and using your voice in a tone perfect for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders. The book shows real situations kids may face in school such as a teacher mispronouncing a classmate’s name, kids spreading rumors that mud on a child’s pants is really something else, litter covering the playground, classmates goofing around, and more. A diverse class reflects the faces of real kids who spoke up and made a difference, as shown in the last few pages along with brief information on how those kid’s made a difference in the real world. Perfect choice for a kindergarten storytime.