Tag Archives: 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 (11/16/2020-11/22/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Everything Else:

Rambling Thoughts: Some fun news this week–my name is on the 2023 Caldecott Ballot! What?!? It is an honor to just be on the ballot and a dream to someday be on a Caldecott committee. It feels weird to talk about on here, but it has been a bright spot in the last few months, and I can finally share with the world.

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

Reading by the Numbers:

  • 27 Books Read This Week
    • 18 Books with Diverse Main Character (67%)
    • 13 Books by Diverse Authors (48%)
    • 12 Books by Own Voices Authors (44%) (to the best of my knowledge)

Favorites of the Week:

Michala’s Reading

Note: No updates this week!

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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Always Anjali by Sheetal Sheth (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Anjali is so excited for her new bicycle. She immediately rides it to the carnival with her friends, and they are all excited to buy matching license plates with their names on them. But none of the premade plates have Anjali’s name. An older boy starts making fun of her name, and other kids join in. Anjali runs home determined that she wants to change her name for good, until her parents teach her that her name was chosen especially for her.

While I don’t have the cultural attachment to my name, this book hit home because I was also one of those kids who never had a nameplate or keychain or gift store item that had my name on it. A lovely story that will speak to kids from many backgrounds.

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Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford (biography)
Gr. 3-5. Henry Brown faced countless atrocities as a slave. After watching as his family was sold far away, Brown felt that nothing else was left for him. He looked for a way to escape, but instead of running from place to place on the Underground Railroad, he packed himself in a box and shipped himself to freedom.

Carole Boston Weatherford’s beautiful poetry frames this story. Each poem is just six lines–each line representing a side of a box. Brown’s words and writings are scattered throughout, allowing his voice to shine through. The story continues after Brown’s box is delivered to a free Northern state, following his journey abroad to escape the Fugitive Slave Act. Wood’s mixed media illustrations make the reader want to keep turning the pages.

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Dave the Unicorn: Team Spirit by Pip Bird
Gr. 2-4. Mira has finally gotten used to Dave, her rather unusual unicorn best friend forever. Now it is time to return to Unicorn School for Field Day! Mira isn’t convinced that Dave is the most athletic unicorn, but she is determined to help her team achieve victory so they can go on the Magical Rainbow Quest.

But from the very beginning of the day, everything goes wrong. None of her teammate’s alarm clocks go off. Their rainbow track suits go missing. Banana peels randomly appear on the field, and their equipment is swapped out for candy substitutes. The school staff seem to think Mira is just making excuses, but she is convinced that someone is sabotaging them.

Dave the Unicorn is a funny, lighthearted series that will appeal to kids who like the humor of Diary of a Wimpy Kid but might not be ready for middle school drama (or kids who are looking for a more text-heavy Dog Man readalike). When you think about the magical unicorn universe too much you are left with a lot of questions and some plot holes, but this series will be well loved by its intended audience.

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Dear Justyce by Nic Stone (teen)
Gr. 7+. Quan is in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. He isn’t too surprised he ended up there. After all, while he and his childhood friend, Justyce, weren’t that different, Justyce was always on a path to success at an Ivy League school while Quan was just doing whatever was needed to keep it together and take care of his mom and his siblings. Quan–feeling more than a little ridiculous–starts writing letters to Justyce, inspired by Justyce’s letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Just like Dear Martin, this is an outstanding book. It depicts the corrupt justice system, particularly in its treatment of black kids and teens. The story unravels through flashbacks and Quan’s letters to Justyce, as well as new scenes from Justyce’s point of view. Nic Stone’s reasoning for writing this story–after hearing from black teens about how Justyce’s story isn’t their story–makes this even more poignant.

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Finish the Fight! by Veronica Chambers (nonfiction)
Gr. 5-8. What names do you associate with women fighting for the right to vote? Susan B. Anthony? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? There were thousands of other women who often aren’t highlighted, but who fought, spoke up, marched, and led protests that led to women earning the right to vote.

Finish the Fight highlights the Haudenosaunee women who lived on the land of the Seneca Falls convention long before the town of Seneca was built–women who led a matrilineal society, who owned their own property, who led their clan. Finish the Fight shares the stories of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Elizabeth Piper Ensley, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Jovita Idar, and more women who were instrumental in helping women gain the right to vote in territories, states, and across the United States. Finish the Fight also talks about the women whose fight for the vote continued long after the 19th amendment was passed–women like Susette La Flesche Tibbles and Litikala-Sa, who continued to fight for Native American voting rights and more.

An excellent compilation, highlighting women who aren’t often mentioned in history textbooks. Filled with more names to research on your own and detailed backmatter, this book would be a wonderful classroom companion. It also feels particularly hopeful that the very last entry in the backmatter–a comparison of 1920 vs. 2020 of Women by the Numbers–is no longer accurate, just a few months after publication. While there were, and still are, zero women U.S. Presidents, that Vice President tally can finally be changed to 1.

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The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol by Arthur A. Levine (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. Meet Nate Gadol, a magical Hanukkah hero who brings luck and generosity to those in need. Nate can’t make something from nothing, but he can help things stretch. Have just one piece of chocolate for a whole family? Nate can make that piece stretch for everyone. Need a little oil to last eight days and nights? Nate is there to help.

Nate takes a particular interest in the Glaser family, new immigrants to the United States determined to help their neighbors, even if that means that their Hanukkah might be a bit meager. Nate manages to help a struggling Santa, stretching Christmas joy to keep a sled flying high, in exchange for some presents that might make Hanukkah seem a bit more magical for everyone.

A beautiful new folk tale that will be a wonderful addition to Hanukkah collections for years to come.

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The Magnificent Makers: Riding Sound Waves by Theanne Griffith (first chapter book)
Gr. 2-3. Best friends and classmates Violet and Pablo are on a field trip to the City Science Museum! They can’t wait to explore the new exhibit all about the senses. When they get to the museum, they are excited to be partnered with Henry, a quiet boy in their class who is a little different than other kids. Henry has a sensory processing disorder. He struggles with loud noises and sometimes has a hard time paying attention in class.

Just like at school, Violet and Pablo discover a riddle that leads them to the Maker Maze. This time, Henry joins them, and the three work against the clock to complete three challenges in 120 maker minutes–learning even more about their senses and making sure they can beat the clock so that they can return to the maze for more science fun in the future.

Another Maker Maze book! This series does an excellent job combining science and friendship. The addition of a main character with a sensory processing disorder is a welcome addition. The eardrum challenge is particularly fun, especially since readers could replicate it at home. Looking forward to more!

My Furry Foster Family by Debbi Michiko Florence (first chapter book)
Gr. 2-3. Another wonderful addition in the My Furry Foster Family series. I love the simplicity, appeal, and diversity of this series. All of our young readers want more animal books, and this is a great introduction to a variety of pets (and fostering animals!). The everyday diversity in Kaita and her family plus small details, like taking your shoes off in the house, make this even more of a winner for me. Will be recommending to many young readers, though the books are already flying off the shelves.

Kingston the Great Dane: The Takano house has a new (GIANT) foster pet: Great Dane Kingston! Kingston looks a bit more like a cow than a dog, and he definitely doesn’t realize how big he is. He loves to copy everything the family dachshund does–like crawl under kitchen chairs, jump onto Kaita’s bed, and sit on Dad’s lap. Will the Takano family be able to find the perfect home for such a large dog?

Murray the Ferret: The Takano house has a new foster pet: an adorable, cuddly ferret! Kaita has done a ton of research, so she knows that ferrets can be fast and sneaky, but Murray is just adorable, floppy, and very friendly. But when things around their house start to go missing, Kaita realizes all the missing items can’t be due to bad luck…

Roo the Rabbit: The Takano house has a new foster pet: their first rabbit! Roo is absolutely adorable with his fluffy, floppy ears and always curious personality. Kaita can’t wait to cuddle with her new bunny–but Roo is super shy, and he doesn’t like to be pet. Will Kaita be able to teach him how to trust people, so they can find him his own forever home?

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The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents by Kate Messner (nonfiction)
Gr. 3-5. We know the name of the current President of the United States. We might, if the timing is right, know the name of the next President. But we don’t often think too far past that point. Did you know that when George Washington became the first president, there were nine future presidents living their lives? Some of them may have already been thinking about becoming president themselves, but three of those future presidents were still kids. Of course, this trend continues through to today. When John F. Kennedy was sworn in as president, the next ten (eleven, as we now know) presidents were alive too. Some were in politics, another running a peanut farm, another was hosting television, a few were in their teens, and another was just born.

This book takes a fascinating approach to U.S. presidential history, always thinking towards the future. While we make general comments to kids that they could be anything they want when they grow up–even president!–the reality is that, most likely, at least ten future presidents are alive today, and at least three of them are kids. Those kids might be running for student government–but they might also be coding or dancing or reading this very book.

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Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
Gr. 4-6. Hanna has spent much of her life moving from place to place since her mom died. Wherever they go, no one looks like Hanna, and the townspeople eventually push Hanna and her father out of town. Hanna is half-Chinese, half-white. While everyone seems willing to accept her white father into their community, they are always weary of his Asian daughter. Hanna desperately wants to go to school and complete her education, become a dressmaker at her father’s clothing store, and make a friend. These dreams seem impossible as Hanna deals with the racism and prejudice in her new town in Dakota territory. Hanna starts school, but the rest of the townspeople pull their children from the classroom. Hanna’s father is adamant that he doesn’t want Hanna to work in his shop (and he doesn’t really want to sell dresses either). And every time Hanna almost makes a friend, their parents quickly whisk them out of Hanna’s life.

Hanna’s perseverance and endless strength make this book a winner. Author Linda Sue Park was inspired by the Little House books, and this is a great book to hand to readers who enjoy historical fiction and to families looking for those Laura Ingalls Wilder titles. It doesn’t hide the racism of the era, while also allowing readers to catch a glimpse of Native American people in a more natural and kind light than other books that take place in that time. I’m glad I read this one before awards season, as I think it will have a lot of stickers on the cover in just a few months.

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Score for Imagination by Jonathan Eig (nonfiction)
Gr. 2-3. Lola loves practicing soccer with her mom every Saturday. But Lola doesn’t just love the time with her mom–she also really wants to get better at soccer. She knows she isn’t very good, and the boys in her third grade class won’t let Lola and the other girls play. How can Lola convince everyone that playing as a team will make them all better?

A fun addition to the Lola Jones book series. Lola learns all about imagination, friendship, and teamwork in a sports-focused book that will appeal to young readers.

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Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong by A.J. Low
Gr. 3-4. Sherlock Sam loves Sherlock Holmes and solving mysteries around Singapore. Sherlock invents a robot to steal his favorite cookies from the top shelf. (The fact that the robot is named Watson was an accidental coincidence.) When Auntie Kim Lian’s family Peranakan recipe book disappears, Sam is determined to retrace her steps and find the family heirloom–after all, no cookbook means no more delicious ayam buah keluak! Soon he is leading his friends all across the city, from the bakery to the local antique shop, the library, a cooking studio, and a new restaurant.

A fun mystery series great for readers looking for something a little bit more advanced than first chapter books. This book was originally published in Singapore, and various Singaporean words and dishes are sprinkled throughout. While the volume of words in another language feels higher than in similar stories, since most of the new words are types of food, the story will still be easy for young non-Singaporean readers to follow. A glossary in the back helps introduce some of these terms to readers.

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This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges (biography)
Gr. 4-7. The words of a grown-up Ruby Bridges, the first black child integrated into an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. In a letter to today’s kids and teens, Bridges reflects on her childhood experiences and compares the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s to the Black Lives Matter protests happening today.

Bridges’ moving words are paired with equally moving black and white photographs, both from her childhood and from people protesting today. The juxtaposition is sometimes eerie, with the reader having to pay close attention to the captions to know the difference in date. An excellent, intimate reminder that the fight for racial equality is not new, and it is not over.

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While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Hedgehog and Tortoise are best friends who aren’t allowed to hug. But they still know ways to show their love for one another–from making silly faces and writing letters to dancing, painting, and just being near each other.

This book is particularly useful in COVID times, when hugging another person could make them sick, but I like that this book doesn’t particularly address the pandemic. There are kids with autoimmune diseases who haven’t been able to hug their friends, or sometimes even their family members, for a long time. Other kids (and grown ups) don’t like hugs. There is a lot of emphasis right now on the loss of human touch, but for some people, this isn’t new. I like that this book normalizes that without only focusing on the pandemic.

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 (11/9/2020-11/15/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

First Chapter Books:

Everything Else:

Note: I’m starting to write my favorites of 2020 posts. If you’ve ever spotted my recommendations on Storytime Underground’s Facebook page, you’ll notice that I sometimes struggle to limit these sorts of lists. (There will be multiple. Of course.) I’m thinking that they will go live on Sundays? We will see. I read so much this year, and there are still so many more books in my TBR piles.

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

Stats for the Week:

  • 29 Books Read This Week
    • 20 Books with Diverse Main Character (69%)
    • 13 Books by Diverse Authors (45%)
    • 12 Books by Own Voices Authors (41%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

Note: It’s that time of year, can you sense a theme in my reads? Although all my Halloween picture books just came in so next week I might be listing a few stragglers that make the cut for good reads.

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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Are You Afraid of the Light? by Richard Fairgray (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-5. Dash is bringing his best friend Lily along for his family’s summer vacation to the weird and creepy Black Sand Beach. There isn’t much to show off, however–the sand is black and magnetic, the house is a shack on stilts, and Dash’s relatives are very odd. Everything is strange, particularly the broken light house that occasionally flickers to life, calling to Dash. Soon, Dash and his friends discover ghosts haunting the lighthouse, mind-controlling zombie “cows”, and journals that make it seem like they have all done this before–even though they have no memory of being here for years.

So creepy! This series will appeal to young horror fans looking for something new. The characters are a bit two-dimensional, but the mystery will keep the reader engaged and constantly guessing what will happen next.

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Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Jessica Dee Humphreys (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-5. In 1993, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, five-year-old Michel stays late after school to play soccer with his friends. Michel sees a group of trucks stop near their field, but he doesn’t think anything of it–until the gunshots. Suddenly, Michel and his friends are forced into vehicles, drugged, and thrust into a terrifying world of violence as they are turned into child soldiers.

Michel’s story is horrifying, but a necessary read because of its truth. I appreciate that this was adapted into a graphic novel to make it more accessible for kids around the world. While Michel’s story ends up all right–or as okay as it can–it shows the stark horror of the lives of many kids who never return home to their families. Back matter provides more information about Michel, child soldiers around the world, and ways to help.

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Dave the Unicorn: Welcome to Unicorn School by Pip Bird
Gr. 2-4. Mira is SO EXCITED to start Unicorn School. Just like her mom and older sister, Mira will meet her unicorn best friend, go on magical quests, ride on her unicorn, and have a wonderful, magic-filled summer. All of her new classmates get paired with majestic, prancing unicorns with shimmering coats. Except Mira. Mira gets assigned to Dave.

Dave is the opposite of a majestic unicorn. He is physically small, so when Mira sits on him, her knees are by her chin. He absolutely loves donuts. He also loves to nap…a lot. All the time actually. Including in their classes. Even his poop isn’t dainty and glitter-filled like other unicorns–it looks like a pile of dog poop. And Dave poops (and farts) a lot. Dave keeps getting Mira in trouble, and soon they are both banned from the upcoming magical quest. Can Mira figure out why she and Dave are destined to be best friends? Or should she keep dreaming about a new unicorn?

Dave the Unicorn is a funny, lighthearted series that will appeal to kids who like the humor of Diary of a Wimpy Kid but might not be ready for middle school drama (or kids who are looking for a more text-heavy Dog Man readalike). When you think about the magical unicorn universe too much you are left with a lot of questions and some plot holes, but this series will be well loved by its intended audience.

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The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith (graphic novel)
Gr. 6+. A political coup that leaves their beloved grandfather murdered causes twins Hawke and Grayson to run for their lives. They hide among the new trainees in the Communion of Blue, taking on new identities as Hanna and Grayce. While they try to piece together what atrocities led to their home burning to the ground, the twins also learn more about themselves. Hawke longs to return to his old life, but Grayce realizes she wants to stay in this world that lets her be herself.

I love, love that this is a fantasy graphic novel with a transgender lead. While Grayce’s understanding of her gender is part of the plot, it isn’t the only or even central storyline–there is political unrest and a mystery to unravel. I do wish there was a bit more worldbuilding here. I wasn’t confused, but I didn’t really understand anyone’s motivations or the real power of the Communion of Blue. (Are they the only ones who can do magic? Why are some of them attached to the homes of nobles? Is their magic all encompassing?) I’m hoping for more stories that further explore this world.

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Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton (picture book)
Gr. PreS-1. Little Crab and Very Big Crab live in a tiny tide pool, but today they are going to explore the big ocean. Little Crab is excited until Little Crab sees the big waves. Suddenly the ocean seems very big, and little crab is very small. Little Crab is nervous about going any farther, but Very Big Crab convinces Little Crab the giant waves will be worth it.

This was really cute! A great story about conquering our fears and trying something new. A good choice for the beginning of the school year. The illustrations do a particularly amazing job highlighting the ocean with lots of layering and unique shapes. A fun storytime choice!

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Flamer by Mike Curato (graphic novel)
Gr. 7+. Aiden is just trying to survive another summer camp with his Boy Scout Troup. It’s the summer between middle school and high school, which is a particularly big jump for Aiden, because he decided to leave his Catholic middle school to attend public high school (his first time attending a public school). Aiden got picked on a lot at his old school and by his fellow Boy Scouts here at summer camp. They call him gay–among other terms–because his voice and behaviors often seem feminine. But Aiden is confident he isn’t gay because gay boys like other boys. Plus, gay boys get made fun of. Gay boys can’t serve mass in Catholic church. Aiden can’t be gay because being gay is unsafe.

This is a rough read, but it is a must read. While the book is based on author Mike Curato’s real experiences, including his childhood experiences at Boy Scout camp in the 1990s, these experiences still continue today, especially in rural areas (but really everywhere). The book directly shows how other people’s words and actions hurt Aiden, and the mental consequences that unfold as Aiden doesn’t see any way to move forward. A must read.

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The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. Melody is the youngest and smallest mermaid princess. She loves sneaking away from her princess duties to explore the ocean floor and catch glimpses of the world above. When she finally breaks the surface one day, she discovers a girl standing on the beach waving at her. Melody longs to become friends, but she returns home saddened that she can never walk on the beach. After a tempting offer from the sea witch, Melody agrees to give up her voice for a chance at legs and making a new friend. But after spending some time with her friend (and drawing out her story in the sand since she can’t talk), Melody realizes that the sea witch has used Melody’s voice to rise to power, and it’s up to Melody to save the day.

This is such a wonderful, amazing adaptation of The Little Mermaid story. In addition to Pinkney’s gorgeous illustrations, the story takes on its own life while essentially eliminating the plot holes of the original tale and also giving Melody a sense of identity and purpose not attached to a love story. Melody wants to explore, and her curiosity leads to her deal, not a desire for love with a stranger she has never met. A beautiful, diverse adaptation that, for me, stands above the original.

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Monster and Boy by Hannah Barnaby
Gr. 2-3. The monster under the bed loves the boy who lives in the world above. The monster listens when the boy plays, when his mom reads him bedtime stories, and when the boy softly snores while he sleeps. After the boy’s mother tells the boy that monsters aren’t real, the monster is determined to do something about it-so he reveals himself to the boy. The boy is understandably shocked and possibly about to scream…so the monster eats him.

The monster isn’t so sure about this outcome, as he really just wanted to be friends, but he isn’t sure how to get the boy back out now that the boy is in his monster tummy. The monster decides to sleep on it, rather liking the idea that the boy is with him always, but when the monster wakes up, he discovers the boy is no longer inside him. The monster starts to cry, and suddenly he coughs up the boy, who is now very, very small. Can they return him to his original size?

This is a charming, humor-filled story that took many unexpected turns. Told from the perspective of the monster under the bed, the book adds an extra level of humor by letting the narrator add their own commentary throughout (such as explaining why the monster and boy are never given names). Lots of fun, including little-sister antics and the budding friendship between the monster and the boy. This would be a great story to recommend a caregiver and child read together before bedtime.

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The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
Gr. 4-6. Alberta is used to being the only black girl in her grade in her small ocean town in California. Alberta loves her life–surfing most days, enjoying delicious breakfasts with her two dads, and eating ice cream with her best friend Laramie. But when the bed and breakfast across the street is bought by a black family with a daughter her age, Alberta is thrilled.

Alberta is sure that she will be best friends with Edie, but Edie misses Brooklyn and isn’t so sure about small town life. While their friendship isn’t as immediate as Alberta dreamed, they still bond, especially after discovering a box of journals in Edie’s attic. Who do they belong to? Why were they left behind?

The Only Black Girls in Town was a ton of fun with the perfect mix of small town life, friendship drama, questions about growing up, and mystery. While a lot happens to Alberta over the book, nothing ever felt rushed and each plot element wove together with the next (much like how life works). Will be book talking and recommending.

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Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali (picture book)
Gr. PreS-1. Musa’s kindergarten teacher, Ms. Gupta, proposes a yearlong show and tell, where each child shares with their classmates about their favorite day of the year. This way, the whole class will celebrate these important holidays all together. Four children present their favorite holidays throughout the rest of the book, emphasizing Eid Mubarak, Rosh Hashanah, Christmas (with some Latinx cultural elements), and Pi Day. Other holidays are shown in the back of the book.

I love this approach to celebrating holidays and important celebrations. Each student, and each student’s family, is different, and this activity celebrates those differences. Beautiful illustrations (and endpapers in particular) help each holiday jump off the page. Pi Day is a unique inclusion, but it is wonderful to see a non-religious holiday celebrated with the same level of excitement.

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 (11/2/2020-11/8/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Graphic Novels:

Everything Else:

Note: It was Election Week 2020 combined with a few work and personal deadlines, so reading was low. I downloaded a bunch of exciting picture book eBook ARCS, so maybe I will get to those next week? It depends how many holds came in over the last few days.

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

Stats for the Week:

  • 16 Books Read This Week
    • 12 Books with Diverse Main Character (75%)
    • 8 Books by Diverse Authors (50%)
    • 7 Books by Own Voices Authors (44%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

No updates this week!

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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The Best Worst Poet Ever by Lauren Stohler (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Pug and Cat are both determined to become the world’s best poet–though they have vastly different poetic styles. A battle of wits and words ensues, with rapidly increasing hilarity, until the two realize that maybe they would work better as a team.

This was so much fun! I would have a lot of fun reading this to an elementary school classroom, but I am really looking forward to turning this into a reader’s theater script.

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Danbi Leads the School Parade by Anna Kim (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Danbi just moved to America from Korea, and she is thrilled to start school! Except, when she gets there, she doesn’t understand what her teacher says. She figures out that her teacher wants her to write her name, so she does–in perfect Korean, not English. The kids dance and play games that Danbi has never seen. Danbi is sure that she knows what to do at lunch, but even her food is different than everyone else’s. Can Danbi figure out how to make new friends?

This adorable, upbeat book shows young Danbi’s genuine excitement at starting school, even with obstacles in her way. I really appreciate that Danbi always stays positive, showing her classmates how to use chopsticks, leading her own musical parade, and making a friend when she is surrounded by so many new things. The illustrations show the wonderful chaos of an elementary school classroom. Lots of fun!

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Everything Awesome About Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures! by Mike Lowery
Gr. 2-4. Learn everything you can imagine about sharks, oceans, and underwater creatures in this kid-friendly fact book.

Over 100 pages of fun illustrations and quick facts will make this book appealing to kids of all ages. A ton of great information fills the book, including the differences between each ocean, profiles on each shark species, and many a poop or snot related fast fact box. The book ends with really simple how to draw instructions for various sea creatures. The well-thought out design (with kids in mind) will make this book a winner.

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Ginger and Chrysanthemum by Kristen Mai Giang
Gr. 1-2. Cousins Ginger and Chrysanthemum love each other, but they each approach life a little differently. Ginger is spontaneous and loves to move fast and try new things. Chrysanthemum is more careful and loves plans and lists. The two enjoy their time together, preparing for their grandmother’s birthday, until they are tasked with making the birthday cake–together. Personalities clash, and soon everything is ruined.

A fun story about teamwork, friendship, and siblings (even if these two characters are cousins). A nice author’s note reflects on how traditional Chinese food (like ginger and chrysanthemum) have warm or cool characteristics. When brought together, they create balance, just like when our two cousins figure out how to work together. A good book to pair with Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao or Bilal Cooks Daal when working with older readers.

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I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
Gr. 4-5. Edie doesn’t really ask about her Native American heritage. Edie’s mom was adopted as a baby by a white couple, and other than an annual visit to a nearby reservation to purchase fireworks, her parents tend to redirect any questions she has about their extended family. When exploring the attic with friends, Edie discovers a box filled with letters signed “Love Edith.” When Edie asks her mom who Edie was named after, Edie’s mom freezes up and lies to Edie’s face. Edie has a lot of questions–who was Edith? Why hasn’t Edie met her? And what secrets are her parents keeping?

This book was sweet, though heart wrenching. A family mystery seems like it will end with Edie learning about a death, but the painful reality is worse in a lot of ways–especially because of the very real women who went through the exact same trauma as Edie’s grandmother. I expected to have more of a glimpse into Native culture in this title, and that isn’t really present, but I did come away with new characters I will miss, knowledge about an atrocity faced by Native people just decades ago, and a new author to look out for.

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Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (graphic novel)
Gr. 6+. Will’s older brother was shot and killed outside of their apartment building. Will is determined to follow the rules passed down to him by his brother: (1) no crying, (2) no snitching, and (3) get revenge. Will has his older brother’s gun and, early the next morning, starts down their building’s elevator to get revenge on the person he is sure is his brother’s killer. But this elevator trip is like no other, with each floor revealing a new ghost from Will’s past, all with something to say.

I love how unique all of the adaptations of this book are. I love the original, I love the audiobook, and I also love the graphic novel. Each serves a purpose and shows this story in a slightly different light. Danica Novgorodoff did an amazing job with the watercolor illustrations that brought this to life. Wonderful.

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Melly Bean and the Giant Monster by Mike White (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Lovable pup Melly Bean loves to play games, even if her three cat housemates prefer to nap while their humans are away. While preparing to bury a shoe in the backyard, Melly discovers that her hole is a bit deeper than she could have imagined. She slips through into a magical world filled with kings, knights, and even a humongous rabbit named Narra. Narra isn’t so fond of humans, as they spend their time hunting her for the gold that flakes out of her eyes. But Melly is sure not all the humans in this magical world are bad–maybe they just haven’t yet discovered the power of a Good Sit.

This was adorable. Melly has all of the expected energy and personality of a cute puppy, and her positive attitude seeps into the way she jumps right into adventure in the world she stumbles into. Lots of low-key adventure with high stakes, but the illustrations and story lack the depicted violence in many fantasy graphic novels for kids–a good thing here, making this a great book to hand to second or third graders looking for something fun but not scary. Hoping for more!

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Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane (nonfiction)
Gr. 3-5. Learn about the history of celebrations of Indigenous song and dance–powwows. Author Pheasant-Neganigwane explores powwow history and culture in all of North America, with a focus on Canada. Her words are paired with beautiful photographs, creating a rich book that will serve as a wonderful introduction to these events for young readers. While I wish there was an equivalent title with a bit more focus on the United States, I am happy this book exists at all. Will be recommending.

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Rescuing Mrs. Birdley by Aaron Reynolds (picture book)
Gr. K-1. Young Miranda Montgomery loves the Nature Joe Animal Show. Every day, she watches Nature Joe rescue hurt animals and return lost animals to their natural habitats. When Miranda visits the grocery store, she finds something very grave–her teacher! Obviously, her teacher has escaped her natural habitat (their classroom), and it is up to Miranda to use all of the skills she has learned from Nature Joe to safely bring her teacher home.

This was so much fun! Taking the “Where do teachers live?” question to a whole new level with young Miranda’s very logical comparison of her teacher to a wild animal escaped from its natural habitat. Miranda sets traps and does her best to safely and carefully place her teacher where she will be safe. A fun storytime read when visiting an elementary school classroom.

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Wherever I Go by Mary Wagley Copp (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. Abia has been at the Shimelba refugee camp longer than any other kid. She is proud of her seven years and counting, ruling over the other kids like a queen. Her parents think they have been at the camp much too long, but Abia knows that wherever they go, she will always remember her days as queen of the camp.

A moving, approachable refugee story told in a slightly different perspective, focusing on a child’s nerves about leaving camp instead of their experiences after moving to a new country. Wonderful illustrations make young Abia shine while also not hiding the harsh realities of camp life.

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Work It, Girl: Run the Show Like CEO Oprah Winfrey by Caroline Moss (biography)
Gr. 3-4. Learn about the life of Oprah Winfrey, from her childhood as a little girl preaching at her grandma’s church (at the age of four) to her more tumultuous teenage years being shuffled between parents and her breakthrough into the world of television.

The Work It, Girl biography series is a ton of fun. While the content isn’t deep or overly thorough, these books provide a great introduction to famous individuals. Their physical design makes them particularly appealing, with well organized layouts and gorgeous paper cut illustrations.

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 (10/26/2020-11/01/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Everything Else:

Note: I got through all of the picture books that came in last week! This feels like such an accomplishment right now.

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

Stats for the Week:

  • 52 Books Read This Week
    • 27 Books with Diverse Main Character (52%)
    • 13 Books by Diverse Authors (25%)
    • 10 Books by Own Voices Authors (19%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

Note: It’s that time of year, can you sense a theme in my reads? Although all my Halloween picture books just came in so next week I might be listing a few stragglers that make the cut for good reads.

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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#Baby by Michael Joosten (board book)
Baby-Toddler. Adorable board book in it for the laughs. Each spread is simply a photograph of a baby paired with a hashtag–#lewk, #foodie, #fashionista, and my personal favorites #mondays and #holidayspirit:

This board book is the perfect mix of adult humor combined with those beautiful photographs of baby faces that will appeal to the intended audience. Quite a collection of diverse babies too! Not quite my storytime style, but this will definitely have a lot of audience appeal.

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Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson
Gr. 4-6. Cassius Clay was a kid, just like most kids. He struggled in school and dealt with bullies, but after his new bike was stolen when he was twelve, Cassius started training as an amateur boxer. Dual perspectives follow Cassius through his teens, with readers following his story from both Cassius’ point of view and the point of view of his best friend, Lucky. A final chapter, from the point of view of his friend, quickly sums up Cassius’ adult life and his transformation into Muhammad Ali.

A powerful, fun read showing Cassius discover confidence and strength. I am not a sports reader, and this book kept me fully engaged with so many humorous anecdotes that painted a beautiful picture of Ali’s childhood and teen years.

Unfortunately, this is the first title in a while that I wish I hadn’t listened to on audio. I feel bad starting a review that way, but due to the narration choices, I was very confused for the first half of my listen–I wasn’t entirely sure there were two perspectives since the voices were indistinguishable, and I just kept getting confused as we shifted from Cassius being described in the first and third person. I also missed out on the illustrations I see mentioned in many reviews–I will be tracking down the physical book soon to get a more complete view of this title.

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Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins (picture book)
Gr. 2-4. Siblings Maria and Juan are thrilled to head to the US-Mexico border to visit their grandmother and celebrate Las Posadas with her. Even though they are divided by a fence, they are excited to swap stories, but when it comes time to leave, they realize that their presents won’t fit through the fence. Maria creates a cunning plan to get her younger brother’s beautiful picture across the wall.

A beautiful, heartwarming story about families, love, and celebrations that also highlights the conditions of families separated by a border wall, trying to celebrate the holidays together. A soft color palette makes the harsh realities of the story more palpable for young readers.

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Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade by Rob Sanders (picture book)
Gr. K-1. Blaine loves everything sparkly. Sue loves orange; Alberto loves high-tops; Marvin loves hoodies; and Blaine loves bling. While his classmates embrace Blaine’s love of bling, not everyone else does. After some bullies make fun of his accessories, Blaine decides to leave the bling behind. Can his classmates stand up for Blaine and help Blaine get his groove back?

A cute story about identity and gender norms. The understanding and support from Blaine’s classmates is fantastic. Illustrations are colorful and show a diverse collection of students and teachers. Back matter talks about what it means to be an ally and how you can practice standing up for others.

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The Chicken Who Couldn’t by Jan Thomas (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Chicken just CAN’T win a ribbon at the fair, CAN’T fly, CAN’T walk all the way home–chicken couldn’t possibly accomplish these things! With some help from new friends, chicken develops self-confidence that allows him to defeat the hungry fox that likes to eat chickens that walk down the road.

Lots of Jan Thomas humor. This book is entirely dialogue, making it a bit of a difficult read aloud choice. May work well as a reader’s theater script. Filled with Thomas’s standard, colorful, child-friendly illustrations.

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Craftily Ever After: Making the Band by Martha Maker (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Craft-loving friends Maddie, Bella, Emily, and Sam have to figure out an act for their school’s talent show! They are sure they can find some way to showcase their crafting talents on stage, but all of their ideas are just okay until Sam is inspired to start a band using instruments they make themselves.

This is an adorable series, brimming with diversity and happy, positive messages about caring about the environment, being kind to others, making new friends, and embracing the activities you love. This particular title stands out for the kids’ perseverance after their first instruments are destroyed by rain. Also a good place to find lots of creative DIY ideas for young crafters.

Diary of an Ice Princess by Christina Soontornvat (first chapter)

The Big Freeze. Gr. 2-3. Lina has got a lot to figure out in just a few days! Her teacher at her human school wants her to create a piece of art representing Lina. Lina loves science and magic–but science won’t work for her project, and she can’t reveal her magical secret at her human school. Lina is stumped, but she doesn’t have too much time to focus on her art project because her grandfather wants Lina to pick her magical forever task. Her grandfather directs wind currents. Her mother brings the spring rains. Her cousin, Jack, makes intricate lace-like artwork out of ice. What does Lina want to do? And is she really ready to pick the job she wants to do…forever?

Slush Puppy. Gr. 2-3. Lina wants to get the perfect present for her best friend’s birthday. Claudia really, really wants a dog, and, luckily enough, Lina discovers that her winter magic can bring snow to life! Lina makes the most adorable snow puppy…but the puppy turns out to be a bit more trouble than the girls imagined. How to you train a magical dog made of snow?

This series is fun with a great combination of humor, everyday school adventures, magic powers, and a lovely message of self-acceptance. Plus, this series stars a biracial main character, is written by a diverse author, AND is a fantasy series–a combination very hard to come by in first chapter books. Recommending to anyone and everyone.

Ellie Ultra by Gina Bellisario (first chapter)

An Extra-Ordinary Girl. Gr. 2-3. Ellie Ultra is a superhero! She has spent her first eight years training in supervillain identification, combat skills, flying, and more, but now her parents think it is finally time for Ellie to start regular school. Ellie is thrilled–until she realizes that none of the other kids have superpowers. If Ellie wants to blend in, she is going to have to become a little less super. But is fitting in the best choice for Ellie?

Team Earth Takeover. Gr. 2-3. Ellie Ultra is a superhero! Ellie regularly uses her superpowers to stop supervillains, but this time she is faced with a different challenge: working with her classmates to help save the environment. Ellie and her best friend Hannah decide to build an animal habitat. Ellie loves the idea, but, as a superhero, she knows that she must really do all of the work–all of the earth saving–all by herself. It’s her superhero duty after all! Though, if she uses her dad’s cloning machine to make two Ellies that just means two superheroes will accomplish even greater results! Right?

Ellie is a cute, spunky young superhero. I prefer Mia Mayhem’s everyday adventures to this series, but, reading level wise, this is a good step up from the Mia Mayhem books. Lots of kid appeal, and I appreciate any diverse young superheroes.

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Fiona, It’s Bedtime by Richard Cowdrey (picture book)
Gr. Toddler-Pres. Howl! Roar! Squawk! Coo! The sun is setting at the zoo. Fiona travels around the Cincinnati Zoo to say goodnight to all of the animal families, including the cheetahs, sloths, tortoises, and more before falling asleep herself.

Come on…it’s an animal book with adorable illustrations about the baby hippo internet sensation that lives just a few hours away from my house. How can I not love it? The rhyme scheme and large illustrations (plus the local familiarity with Fiona) make this title a good storytime contender. Lots of animal identification and guessing as we turn each page and explore the zoo with Fiona.

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I Love My Fangs! by Kelly Leigh Miller (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Little Dracula loves his two, pointy, beautiful fangs! He brushes and flosses them every day, but suddenly one starts to wiggle. And then–oh dear–it falls out! How can Dracula be a vampire with just one tooth? He tries tape, string, and bubblegum to get his fang to reattach, but it just won’t go back in. How can he face the world with just one fang?!?

Lots of humor and drama surround our adorable young vampire including a hilarious battle with the tooth fairy. Bright, colorful illustrations will keep the youngest readers engaged. A great explanation about teeth for little ones soon to be visited by the tooth fairy themselves. Hoping for more adventures starring this little guy.

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I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee (teen)
Gr. 5-10. Skye has been told she is fat her whole life. For a while, she participated in her mom’s crazy diet schemes, but, since then, Skye has accepted herself as she is, even if her Korean mom and much of the Korean-American community find her body size alarming. Skye doesn’t have time to worry about the number on a scale because she is too busy preparing for auditions for a prestigious, televised Kpop competition. Skye knows she has the vocals and the dance moves to succeed–but will anyone in this stereotypically skinny field take her seriously? And why is hot, Instagram model Henry Cho auditioning anyway? And why is he so interested in Skye?

THIS BOOK! I powered through this title in just a few hours. This book is great mix of girl-power, strength, confidence, and pure awesomeness with a plus-sized, bisexual main character; an adorable love interest; and wonderful side characters. I love a good romance, and Henry Cho is adorable, but this book would have been just as successful without the romance because of the strength of the main character. I love the new trend in books featuring plus-size characters who are fully confident in their size. Skye is a force to be reckoned with–when she is body shamed, her confidence in herself and her appearance simply grow. Will be recommending.

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A Journey Toward Hope by Victor Hinojosa and Coert Voorhees (picture book)
Gr. 1-2. Children Alessandra, Laura, Nando, and Rodrigo travel, unaccompanied, north from Central America, nearly 1,000 miles through Mexico, to seek asylum in the United States. Although the children don’t know each other when the book begins, and language differences sit between them, they become fast friends as the band together to make the dangerous journey north.

Based on the true stories of the 50,000 children who make this journey each year, A Journey Toward Hope provides a unique view into these children’s experiences. Paired with four pages of back matter giving more details on the real kids who make these trips each year and information on how to help.

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Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (graphic novel)
Gr. 10+. Juliet is leaving the Bronx and moving to Portland to intern for her favorite feminist author, Harlowe Brisbane. Just before leaving, Juliet came out to her Puerto Rican family and the results were…not exactly great. Juliet hopes that Harlowe will help Juliet figure out what it means to be a lesbian and Puerto Rican, but, while Harlowe definitely has a lot of ideas, Harlowe doesn’t really understand Juliet’s perspective. Even with a few bumps in the road, Juliet is sure that her experiences in Portland will help her figure out her place in the world.

Juliet is fun, vibrant character, and this is a lovely queer coming of age story that touches heavily on race and identity. I haven’t read the original book, which may have made the graphic novel experience feel a little disjointed at times. Many of Juliet’s Portland experiences felt a touch too quick, and I would have appreciated a little more detail (perhaps I just would have enjoyed this book better in novel form instead of as a graphic novel). The art is vibrant, with the colors matching the pace and setting of the story.

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The Last Kids on Earth and the Skeleton Road by Max Brallier
Gr. 3-5. Newest addition to the Last Kids on Earth series! This time, Jack, Quint, June, and Dirk are on the road trip of their lives, determined to track down and stop the evil Thrull. The team finally have a lead that might take them to Thrull’s Tower (a portal to bring Rezzoch, Destroyer of Worlds, to Earth). But, of course, a road trip in this series combines new monsters and constant danger with a ton of snacks, lots of humor, and many, many kitschy roadside attractions.

I adore this series–a perfect mixture of humor, action, crazy fantasy, friendship, and sarcasm. Looking forward to more, particularly additional June standalone adventures.

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The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (nonfiction)
Gr. 4-8+. A beautiful collection of thirty short stories, poems, letters, and essays from an amazing group of diverse authors and illustrators about how they talk to young people, most often their children, about race.

Each story was unique and poignant, though for me, personal standouts include “Handle Your Business” by Derrick Barnes, “Mazes” by Christopher Myers, and “Our Inheritance” by Adam Gidwitz. In the first, Derrick Barnes’ son comes home and in passing talks about his teacher doing an entire unit on the book Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. A kid in class asks Derrick’s son if he is happy that they are finally reading a book with a character that looks like him. While the child stands up for himself and his history, this one really hit home why proper representation is so important. Myers talks about the story of the Minotaur and how stories are twisted by the tellers to create a view that most benefits them. Gidwitz talks about explaining to his young daughter how their white family has benefited from racism–historically and in the present–giving a sharp reminder that these “talks” about racism should not be limited to diverse parents warning their kids about what they will face now and in the future.

There is so much to unpack here–it isn’t really possible to write decent summaries of some of these stories, as they each have so many layers and nuances. An excellent book to read together as a family, one story at a time. A title I will be recommending to teachers, parents, librarians, and more.

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Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper (picture book)
Gr. 1-2. The day after a blizzard, young Lina awakens to silence–the silence created by a heavy layer of snow. Lina decides to walk to her grandmother’s house to make a special meal. Her grandmother can’t see very well, so as Lina walks, she focuses on listening to the sounds of the world around her, discovering ten different ways to hear snow.

A beautiful story with stunning illustrations and a great point of view. Lina and her grandmother have a wonderful relationship, and the blending of story, diversity, and even a science lesson about your senses would make this a wonderful storytime or classroom 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 (10/19/2020-10/25/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

First Chapter Books: