Monday, March 13, 2023

It's Monday! Need a New Great Book?


    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! 

Finally, I read the first "Witch Boy" graphic novel, a great story that highlights those who take different paths in spite of others who fight against them. Aster's family is filled with those who have magic but boys can only be shapeshifters; girls can only be witches. Aster's spying on the witch girls and learning their secrets despite getting caught and also teased, he finally finds one friend, Charlie, a girl from the other side of town, the side without magic. Pushing on together, they take on big trouble. It's an exciting tale that kept me reading and rooting for these two friends who would not give in to pressure in order to be who they wished to be. I'll be looking for the next adventure!

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this copy!

        Matt Tavares discovered the history behind this new graphic novel when reading Phillip Hoose's book We Were There, Too! Young People in U.S. History. It's based on the story of Judi Warren and the winning girls' basketball team of Warsaw High School, their first girls' team! The fictional Judi in the story is a cheerleader, along with her friend, Stacey. As they prep to go to a game at school, it's clear that Stacey is excited, already shaking her pompom while Judi has to pull away from shooting baskets at her home, not smiling at all. 
         Tavares' early frames set up the story well and then skips to the girls' senior year. Oh my goodness! The announcement is made that there is going to be a girls' team! Wending through that year, filled with both excitement and quite a lot of seeing that change is needed at this time when schools and other organizations need to step up for equality. It is the year Title IX is passed! First, the coach happens also to be the art teacher and is late to the tryouts, held in a nearby elementary school, is late to the practices, and says a few words about the school thinking it should be a volunteer position. That was straightened out but a lot of other things were not. Practicing off-site and late in the day, no uniforms, and no transportation to away games are a few examples. 
         These girls, like so many earlier and since that time, love the sport, showed persistence and finally joy in their accomplishments on and off the court. Tavares' graphic work will fill readers up with the story of accomplishment, joy, and frustration in this story of girls who never wished only to stay on the sidelines but to run mid-court, heft a basket into nets, dribble down and around their opponents. 
          I played even earlier than this time when the school only played intramurally and only half-court. Girls evidently weren't thought to be strong to play full court. My team did win one tournament in junior high. We were the Sinkers!
          I loved the book and love that it brought back some wonderful memories!

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this copy!

         How tough it is to be "different"! Tacko Fall, born in Dakar, tells his story with Justin Hayes in this amazing, inspirational story. He was taller than everyone in his early classes, teased and called names often. His grandmother told him there were more important things in the world than others' words. They were to be ignored because he had lofty goals ahead! He first saw basketball with her and later a friend got a basketball. That's when it all started, noticed by a coaching group, starting training. He had the chance to go to high school in America, then college, the big start, but it was sad not to see his family for seven years! Reggie Brown's illustrations shows it all, the triumphs and the challenges, and a lot of grit! For young athletes or those who have goals in other areas and need a boost, this will show a journey they might see ahead and know that others have done it and succeeded! 

Thanks to Candlewick Press for this copy!

         Neighborhood kids play at a basketball hoop down the street all hours of daylight. Some are small but they throw again and again until, 'yes', they swish through the basket! I imagine they dream of the "Shimmy/shake/stride/dribble" of James Harden after reading his poem in this b-ball delightful poetry book by Charles R. Smith, Jr that celebrates pro-ballers. There's a poem about a dozen of today's players, like Kevin Durant who always seems to be in the news; LeBron James, who's had a recent injury but deemed "His Royal Highness"; and James Hardin, who appears to be the dribble king. From Hardin's poem: "Stare down/rise up/let fly, watch drop." Smith uses his writing and playing expertise to create each poem to fit the player. The poems spread across a double page with digitally-colored photographs, the real thing! There's a small paragraph about each in the back. It's great!      (This is a second review, prepping for March Madness!)

      Colors and movement and all kinds of kids, with poetry rhyming when it's time to "Jump In!" This brings all the after-school vibes as kids (and some adults) jump in to Double-Dutch, hopscotch, hula-hooping, skateboarding, basketball and more. Even a Reverend glides by on his bicycle to add some praise for the out-of-doors. Shadra Strickland not only writes the rhyme but illustrates this happy story, adding more than one double and triple-spreads to the exciting time when everyone comes outside to play a favorite sport, jumping in! A favorite page is a broad view of ALL the players "jumping in". And the ending, wait until you see! 

       Kwame Alexander uses questions in the voice of one of his children's teachers who has taught the history of the thirteen colonies without mentioning the part that slavery paid in that history. From the remarkable life in Africa, Alexander takes readers through capture (the middle passage) to the grueling work as slaves- women, men, and children, to the story also of refusing to be broken, to stop loving, and to continue to teach children about strength and pride. Dare Coulter brings the words to life in emotional illustrations using mixed media sculptures and paintings. It's a book for parents to share and for teachers, a way to teach one cruel part of American history. I know there are laws in some places forbidding the teaching of this history and hope we all can support the fight to share the truth of our past instead of trying to erase it.

What's Next: Rough Sleepers by Tracy Kidder and The Girl from Earth's End by Tara Dairman


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed Witch Boy. I ended up reading and loving the whole series. Thanks for the heads up about Hoops by Matt Tavares.

  2. I am looking forward to reading Hoops and I have Jump In! in my library stack to read this week.

  3. Did I actually clap when I saw that you read the first Witch Boy graphic novel? Yes, I did! I actually read all 3 of those books in one week about 2 years ago—they are phenomenal, as is another graphic novel by Molly Knox Ostertag, The Girl from the Sea! (I get too excited about those books.)

    And the triad of basketball-related books looks delightful as well—how cool that you used to play basketball in school! (I do wish Title IX had been in place back then too, though.) An American Story sounds like an incredibly powerful read as well. Thanks so much for the wonderful post, Linda!

  4. Thanks so much, Cheriee, Lisa, & Max. Yes, I loved Witch Boy, probably had it on my list from you all! I'll get to the next ones someday & put your extra recs on my list, Max. I have so many piles to read!

  5. I'm sure I'll end up enjoying Witch Boy whenever I get around to it and I'll probably binge the entire series.

    1. I understand. It took me a long while to read the first. Good luck with that!

  6. Witch Boy is part of our Battle of the Books this year and the students are really enjoying it. I love the sound of the basketball books and I really need to get the Kwame Alexander book for sure.


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