Monday, October 31, 2022

It's Monday - Good Books Are Everywhere!



            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! 

             I'm working at the bookstore today, and will return in the afternoon to read your posts! Happy Halloween!

         These first two show the sadness of middle-school challenges, and I wish they were not so true to life! The third shows kids a little older, and definitely more loyal and wiser. It's an intriguing contrast!

       It was a hard decision to call this sci-fi/fantasy because the events that happen to Tommy Tomkins are all too real, now that he and his family have had to leave their real home of Elberon, a secret lizard city below the earth. Tommy, that seventh-grader tries hard to fit in but when he's seen on the playground crunching a beetle, game over. He does find a few friends, one new kid from another country, and one other who has a different haircut that's also blue, but the discovery that they might "like" each other and abandon him causes more turmoil. Tommy fights back, a hurt that's hard to undo. Jonathan Hill has written about mixed-up middle-school kids who bully and teachers who try but can't fix it all in a drama that's so very real. Even if you're not a Lizard Boy, but if you're different, perhaps in looks or language, perhaps you limp or lisp, it's never easy to fit, to just be the good person you really are. It would be wonderful to read and discuss with a group at school!
                     Thanks to Candlewick Press for the copy!

      For middle grade (and probably younger YA), a heartbreaking story of bullying and not-so-loyal friends, trying to figure out how popularity and friendships need to work, and what they really believe is the good way to act. These middle-school kids fight back at each other instead of for each other. Tae Keller's writing feels true and there is hope there in her writing, yet secrets that are kept from parents, friends and teachers tragically keep away the support and words that could help. When Jennifer Chan, new to the town and small Christian school, goes missing, in chapter one, Mallory Moss, a 12-year-old girl in this small Florida town, is afraid that her past behavior is part of the reason. Alternating chapters of "then" and "now" keep the book's fabric strained with heartbreak, a realistic tale of middle-school struggles.

        Oppel's "Bloom Trilogy" kept me reading as fast as I could get them. This book has a terrific "main" threesome whose characteristics build and build until I cared very much about each one. And then there is Rebecca, the main ghost, not the easiest to figure out what she might do (or think) next, but she is smart and picks up texting quickly, though she's been dead for 200 years! The horror of Oppel's 'rules' in this ghost story, "Ghostlight", kept tension flowing until I read faster and faster in order to see the end of the next nerve-racking scene. I loved the world-building and Oppel's "extras" who appear at the right time for that small group of three who cared so much, about getting things right and for each other. I enjoyed it very much. 

       Based on a story of a bear given to the King of England by the King of Norway, Susan Fletcher tells an intriguing tale based on her research, imagining what it must have felt like to be taken from its home, caged on a ship, then living in a tower. Finally, the king ordered it to be chained to live by the Thames so it could fish. In the extra notes, Fletcher explains that the fish wouldn't have been enough as polar bears need the bigger meals of seals in order to survive. Rebecca Green's illustrations fit the early 13th-century style first, then smooth into what she thought would be the bear's dreamy home environment, more realism, and finally changing color to fit its final home. More info is given in the backmatter. 

     Paula Young Shelton tells an inspiring story about her father when he was a young boy living with racial unrest in 1930's New Orleans. There then was a local chapter of the Nazi Party stirring up hatred and young Andrew Young, later our UN Ambassador among other important government posts, hears a group saying "Hi Hitler". He asks his father what "Hitler" is and learns of the teachings of White Supremacy. His father's advice when dealing with such hatred was "Don't get mad, get smart." He was also taken to a movie theater and from the balcony where black people had to sit, he saw Jesse Owens racing toward Olympic Gold, in front of Hitler in the 1936 Olympics. 
In the telling of this important story, the illustrator, Caldecott Honor winner Gordon C. James uses special pastels he was given as a special gift from his parents for his college graduation and held onto for twenty years. The depictions of Andrew's childhood as he and friends, both black and white, no matter what white parents said, played all kinds of games--together, are beautiful, rather hazy like long ago memories. 
One special memory of mine was taking my own son years ago to meet the famous Jesse Owens and thank him for all he had accomplished, four Olympic medals, representing the best of American athletes. The backmatter says he set three World Records and tied another, all in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten Track Meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "It has been referred to as the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports."
It's a wonderful story passed down from father to daughter.

These next two have similar themes!

       Using unique illustrations on black paper with colored pencil and digital work, Diana Ejaita tells the story of two cousins who live far away from each other, Olu in Nigeria and Greta in Italy. While they cannot easily visit each other's homes by skating, walking, or even by space travel, Ejaita shows their childhoods are very much alike. They both do skate and play, and prepare to send a few things to each other, plus, visit via computer! What a fun idea to share with young readers who may have a few relatives of their own who live far away, whether in the same country or in another, it's still possible to get to know each other and share.
       If only the Sea wasn't in the way! It's a bit philosophical, aided by a talk through this story with the Sea when Badger learns a new way to communicate with Bear, whom he misses terribly. Beautifully illustrated, and thoughtfully written, Sophie Gilmore shows a way to connect with someone loved who is so far away. This will stir conversations and maybe a few hearts!

       You may want to add a little music while you read this new book by Alice Faye Duncan and view the illustrations by Chris Raschka. Bo Willie fixes a dish and goes out to feed his dear Yellow Dog, only to find it's GONE! He runs cross the road to hear Farmer Fred say that Old Yella hit Highway 61. Searching near the store, near the garbage bin (a likely place-right?), then the Dockery (a famous plantation where famous musicians like Charley Patton and others got their start). No Yellow Dog!
thus begins a journey with his Aunt Jessie, as Alice Faye Duncan takes on through the Mississippi Delta and Chris Raschka hand-stitches the delightful illustrations. I learned some history and you'll need to find the book while listening to the blues to see whatever happened to Bo Willie's Yellow Dog. What fun this will be to read aloud and, as I wrote first, play some blues along the way.

Now reading: AS King's Attack of the Black Rectangles. And then, Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine. So many great books are out, it's hard to keep up!


  1. Jennifer Chan is Not Alone sounds great. I really enjoyed Keller's previous book The Science of Unbreakable Things. She writes about some really important topics.

  2. Tales of a Lizard Boy sounds kind of heartbreaking. I was working in a high school today and thinking how adorably young and sweet they all seem. Jennifer Chan sounds kind of terrifying. A Bear Far From Home sounds fascinating and reminded me of The Cat on the Dovrefell by Tomi DePaola. Actually, all these books sound wonderful Linda. I hope next week's reading is a fine.

    1. The Lizard Boy is a heartbreaker, Cheriee. I kept thinking of all the displaced people from our world of turmoil & how much they mourn their homes. Hope you enjoy what you can! Thanks!


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