Monday, April 12, 2021

It's Monday - Love These Books

   Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and 

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading! 

       Today - some new books, a group by one author, and preparing for Earth Day with books from Candlewick Press. Sorry for the long post but it was a great week of reading!

          Last week for Poetry Friday, I shared Spi-Ku, a clutter of short verse on eight legs by Leslie Bulion on the blog tour. Don't miss this new non-fiction poetry book. It is terrific!

         These next two chapter books tell what's it's like NOT to be seen as people with feelings and people who want you to respect WHO they are instead of WHO you believe they should be. 

          I've read that others read this book in a day and so did I! Ellie, too often known as Splash because of a big jump into the pool at her fifth birthday party, the name given by her older sister. She navigates the bullying by following her "Fat Girl Rules", which mean not standing out as much as possible. I'm sad to write that not only is she continually bullied at school but also by her mother and her siblings. In her author's note, Lisa Fipps writes she believes some will say that this definitely is fiction because no one could be so cruel as described in the story. However, Fipps also says that a variation of every single mean thing in the book happened to her when she was a child. I also enjoyed that Lisa Fipps included a bit about bullies themselves and others besides fat people who endured name-calling and frightening experiences. Perhaps we all need to learn where hate begins?
          With support from two friends and her dad, finally, also a therapist who helps Ellie recover her true name and her wonderful self, there is hope for Ellie and a whole lot of others (kids and adults) to be WHO they are. If I was still teaching, this would be my first read-aloud of the year! Or perhaps the one that could carry all my students into summer!
         FYI, poet friend Jone MacCullough shares a terrific interview with Lisa Fipps HERE!

          This is both a wonderful and enlightening read along with a heartbreaking one. Susan Haas, mother to Lexi Haas and with Lexi has written Lexi's story of a medical mistake, then covered up, that left Lexi with brain damage. It took her ability to control movements and to speak. Thankfully, she could still think and remained a smart young girl who tells her own story with humor, anger, and a willingness to live her life "who" she is, not who others might want her to be. She was born with jaundice, something other babies do as well. But it was not taken care of by her doctor and because of that, she suffered from "kernicterus" which you can find out more about at The story follows her journey from five years old, alternating with chapters at thirteen, awaiting a new kind of brain surgery which she hopes will help her regain some abilities. The love and support of family and friends are key and realistically shown. Lexi's not always helpful when others want her to be. Although that's true, her ability for demanding what she knows is important for her needs also demands respect and admiration. She does not quit. Learning that each one of us is a person with wants and needs, quirks and defects is a wonderful thing for all of us. This book would be a marvelous book to share with a class of middle-schoolers and up, as a read-aloud or in a book group. Thanks to Penny Candy Books for the advanced copy!

         Linda Sue Park offers such a nice and easy voice in this story of a teacher who poses a scenario to students. Assuring them that people and pets are safe, what one thing would you grab if escaping from a fire. She opens with a few student voices with quick answers, then begins the conversation. Students' ideas fill the pages along with Robert Sae-Heng's black and white illustrations, feeling ephemeral as he sketches the choices. I read this first with a sixth-grade granddaughter who was immediately interested and liked commenting to those students in the book. I loved the different voices and ideas and that Park wrote it all in a classic Korean poetry form, a sijo. She explains how the form works in an Author's Note. 
         There are connections to be made between people (students) and this book brings it out beautifully. My granddaughter continued to connect with some choices, responding to others, ending with what fun it would be to do this in her own class. It's a read-aloud that people won't stop discussing!

        Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup shared Aram Kim's newest book, Sunday Funday in Koreatown, HERE a few weeks ago. I liked what she wrote and looked for the books, found all four of them and then my granddaughters (10 and 12) read them. Though they're meant for younger readers I think, each one of us enjoyed them thoroughly. The colors are bright and cheery, the variety of animals is lots of fun to see, and the stories each share a subtle life challenge and a way to meet it. Aram Kim is both author and illustrator. The first, Cat on the Bus, has paw prints walking across the endpapers and the story of what seems to be a homeless cat, just trying to get warm by sneaking on a bus. Except for the end, a nice surprise, it's wordless, but tells the tale of kindness on the spur of a moment that feels very good.
         The other three center on a part of a young girl named Yoomi's life and on a part of Korean culture. No Kimchi for Me shows Yoomi trying hard but hating the high spiciness of kimchi, a favorite dish of the family and others. She does try, and it's especially hard when her brothers call her a baby for not liking it. Grandma has an idea for a different kind of recipe, and it's shared in the book! The endcovers fill with kimchi ingredients and varieties, too!
          Let's Go To Taekwondo is a happy book at first, with Yoomi counting "Hana, dul, set, I'm ready!" counting words in Korean and Yoomi all dressed in her outfit. But a challenge ahead is the "break the board". Yoomi just cannot make her arms hit that board and each time she gets ready, it seems bigger! How she succeeds involves support and a willingness to try again, something that everyone can use in a challenge. Endpapers have pictures of all the participants at the "dojang" (training hall).
        The newest book that Jama shared, too, is Sunday Funday in Koreatown. Many things lie in Yoomi's mind as they start this day but sad to say, each part doesn't happen! Her favorite TV show is canceled because of soccer playoffs, in Koreatown at the library, the book she wants is already gone, and she misses out on the very last hotdog twist. It doesn't go well at all. But there are some other things that make the day okay, new things! Endpapers show some of the treats and there is a sticky-rice recipe for Kimbap at the end. 
         My granddaughters eat more often than I do at different Asian restaurants but recognized and talked about their own favorites while we read these books. If you want to discover and learn more about Korean culture, these final three start that learning in such a fun way. 

           Thanks to Candlewick Press for these three big books. It's time to prepare for Earth Day, Thursday, April 21st!

        First published in the UK by Walker Books, The World of Plants has one important part, a Table of Contents, showing the vast number of areas to learn about in this comprehensive book. Martin Jenkins and James Brown start with the definition and follow with a page that shows how photosynthesis works. Other areas included are how plants, seeds, and spores spread; different kinds of plants (like those that eat animals!), and ten plants that feed the world. You'll find the brightly colored illustrations in easy-to-understand and so creative in their presentation. 

       First published in Big Picture Press in the UK, Fungarium has seven authors, and is illustrated by Katie Scott. The opening intrigues: "Fungi are probably the least known and most misunderstood organisms on Earth. More closely related to animals than to plants, they are critical to the maintenance of our food supply, health, ecosystems, and global atmospheric chemistry. They also exhibit an amazing variety of adaptations and forms." Professor David L. Hawksworth CBE - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London. There is a table of contents and an index and an amazing array of illustrations and explanations. I have a friend who is an amateur mycologist and I've been 'mushroom hunting' with her to try to learn. This particular area of science is complex and it seems that scientists are still learning about new fungi and new relationships. The illustrations are clear and gorgeous!

       The sub-title of Masters of Disguise is "Camouflaging Creatures & Magnificent Mimics". Marc Martin shares a dozen "masters" with a double-page spread for each that explains and illustrates. The next double-page is an awesome game that challenges those reading to "find" a certain number of the animal hiding in plain sight! Those wondrous creatures include Gaboon Vipers, Polar Bears, and Leaf and Stick Insects. It's quite a fun book for learning and the 'camouflage' illustrations are stunning. 

       Also out this year is a great story of the persistence of Justice Thurgood Marshall, from second grade when he decided he would try to change things about the world that he didn't like. The first thing was his name. Born Thoroughgood Marshall, he decided from then on he would be known as Thurgood Marshall. Kekla Magoon makes him the complete star of this book and Laura Freeman acknowledges his life of accomplishments with bold illustrations at every turn. For example, he noticed that while there were "Whites Only" and "Colored Sections" in stores and theaters, etc., there were unequal differences. Thurgood thought that was wrong. He wanted to change it. Throughout his life, slowly at every winning turn, he did. One interesting event is that he got in trouble in class and the teacher gave him the Constitution to read for punishment. It wasn't. He was fascinated. Through debate teams, he learned to argue. He became a lawyer and won cases. Moving through the court systems part by part showed that persistence again and again until he became the first black member of the Supreme Court. His record there is also included with the landmark cases he argued for. I'm glad to have read this story, glad that it has been published for many students to read, too, and be inspired and supported in their own dreams.
         There is a timeline of Justice Marshall's life, a summary of major court cases, suggestions for further reading, and a bibliography. It's a terrific biography!

What's Next: I'm reading Merci Suárez Can't Dance by Meg Medina, next will be Margarita Engle's new verse novel, Your Heart, My Sky. And soon I need to choose my next #MustReadin2021 book. 


  1. I really have to get to Starfish this week. I really have no excuse knowing it's a quick read!

  2. I loved Starfish (but struggled with Mom big time!!) I also loved The One Thing You'd Save - so many possibilities if offers for classroom use. Aram Kim is a new author for me - I will check those books out for sure. Thank you.

  3. I'm planning to listen to Starfish next week. It sounds a lot like a graphic novel I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, My Body in Pieces by Marie-Noëlle Hébert. I've seen large cousins of mine deal with this kind of fat shaming from their families. The Year of the Buttered Cat sounds like an important read. I'm sad that my local library has no Aram Kim titles. I've enjoyed the ones I read. Those three Earth Day book look fascinating. Thanks also for letting us know about The Highest Tribute. I've added it to my list.

  4. What a great set of books! The Year of the Buttered Cat sounds fantastic and horrifying—I went down a whole Internet rabbit hole just now about the authors and about kernicterus (dear autocorrect, how does changing it to "kerqicterus" make more sense?). I'm hoping to get a copy of Starfish soon, and the other books you've listed all sound excellent, especially Let's Go to Taekwondo—my sibling has done taekwondo for many years and is now a black belt! Thanks for the great post!

  5. The Year of the Buttered Cat sounds like such a powerful book. I like how the mother and daughter wrote it together. Starfish sounds powerful as well. I'm also intrigued by your plant books, especially Fungarium, because I believe we read another book in that series--or at least the cover looks very familiar.
    What a great list!

  6. You have some great titles here. I had to reach for my phone to reserve a few at the library. You certainly keep some great reading going! Thank you for sharing so many gems.

  7. Thank you everyone! I was in a muddle yesterday. A week ago my old car's Catalytic converter was sawed off, doing a lot of damage while doing so. Thus, without a car until Monday when I had to purchase a new one. Now today, learning to use all the bells & whistles & catching up on errands leaves me with lots to do. I hope you found a few titles to enjoy when you read them!


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