Monday, September 25, 2023

It's Monday - Recent Books I Loved


        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 fall! 

        Olivia's seventh grade year has begun in a Boston school, probably the same old thing, until new girl Eden arrives. They say it's not love at first sight but their friendship grows quickly because Olivia has started a poetry club and Eden joins. One never knows what goes on with kids' home lives and both of these girls, though quickly friends, then moving into a closer loving relationship, have troubled homes. They each continue a relationship during the after-school time and through texts, and readers soon realize they hide home life from everyone. Like everyone, both make mistakes. Olivia insults Eden and the sweet relationship ends. The story, and the poetry, fills up with their feelings, while Eden is included in another group called the "Crash", pushing her to party and play the games often played, like spin the bottle. Poems by Olivia are set on the left; those by Eden are on the right. Soon, with huge regrets, Olivia creates the idea of a poetry night with her poetry group, hoping to write a poem of apology for Eden, to fix the damage done. The joys and worries come through with heartfelt emotion, so much that one wishes to step in to help them and others in the background. From Eden: "I try to own the chaos,/and not let it own me." Kate Fussner's verse novel, her debut, feels as if many middle-grade readers will hold tight to the story as they live their own fears and triumphs, and learn that sometimes words can show both regret and love, and can help their growing up. 

         Yes, I know it's still September, but this book is so popular at my library I had to return it faster than usual! Bruce, again, remains grumpy, and not even a tiny part of his heart holds Halloween traditions close. This time, the gang at Soggy Hollow tries something new, giving a performance of the "Legend of Soggy Hollow" and Bruce is in it, well, not always happily. This could be read anytime one wants lots of giggles, mostly at Bruce, and a surprise mystery at the end from Ryan T. Higgins makes a super way to celebrate Halloween and stories about Bruce!

       As a grandmother, this story glows, and I wish I had done something similar. Long ago, eight years old, Maude buried a red tin box under a favorite dogwood tree. And then she grew and grew, but that is not the rest of the story. That happens after her own daughter, then granddaughter, Eve, is born, and grows to about the age of eight. There is a feeling that brings them both to drive and drive to see, to find that red tin box. With Even Turk's full-page muted paintings enhancing Matthew Burgess' beautiful story of a loving secret kept for many years, the story will fill your heart and, perhaps, inspire you to find your own tin box. (I have returned to see a maple tree that I climbed and sat under when I was a child. And I have sat under it with my granddaughters, telling them of all the fun I had sitting up in that tree and reading, so long ago.)

        Two groups, gathering in the dark, one in the sky, witches? The other watching birds and flying kites in the sky. Hoefler tells the story with the two voices while Luyken's illustrations bring the story from the darkness into a satisfying "light in the dark". It's lovely to "see" and celebrate the images, with lots of silhouettes, as they first appear mysterious with only a hint of truth. Then as the story unfolds, readers will begin to understand this message of belonging. I love that the book is published horizontally. This will make a terrific discussion after a read-aloud!

          By the same author and illustrator who created The Arabic Quilt, which has been banned in various places, Aya Khalil and Anait Semirdzhyan have created a story for all who are upset, but also energized into action, about book banning in libraries and school libraries. This time, a young girl named Kanzi (who has also created a quilt with all her classmates' names in Arabic) leads the class to the library. She's promised her Tieta (grandmother) she would bring home a book with Arabic words. But when they arrive, they find the "diverse books" shelf nearly empty. They discover that the books have been banned. What happens next is inspiring and hopeful. I've seen in the news that kids and young adults are taking steps in protest to numerous laws or lack of laws. This is one story that will show that doing something can help! This is one hopeful story! 
        Some kinds of books that have been removed are cookbooks that include foods from various cultures. There is an author's note and a recipe for baklawa (baklava) in the backmatter.


        Georgia Heard and Rebecca Kai Dotlich have invited us to "The Wonder House" full of twelve rooms of poetry and wonder. Twenty-nine poems are brought to life (and wonder) through the words and Deborah Freedman's dream-like illustrations. Come visit the "Room of Creatures" and discover "Bodies loose and limp–", or open the door to the "Room of Praise", where "rain is everything/to a worm". Page after page fill with topics perhaps you've "wondered" before or perhaps you'll think, "How special to imagine that!" They end with a final poem invitation for various actions, ways to choose one's own kind of wondering, like "Begin a poem" or "Take a wonder walk." I can't imagine NOT having this and sharing it with a class or only one child. I am inspired to "wonder", too!

          In a rhyming invitation, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater offers a book for young ones that every age will enjoy. In our divided world, children do notice when someone needs a boost or when someone is angry. They can feel anxious and sad and often are unsure what to do to help. In her words, Amy is calling for readers to listen to the sounds of kindnesses:  "Good to see you." for a neighbor, "Let's rest a bit." for someone who's been hurt." and "It's your turn." when two are playing a game are a few examples. Pages fill with people and kindness reigns through those words and Teresa Martinez's illustrations of the streets, neighborhoods, and parks full of people, well, living and working and playing, grocery shopping, playing games, and flying kites. It's a happy world full of kindnesses shown by a variety of people. The bonus is Amy's afterword of all kinds of ways to find kindness, which means really making the effort to notice. When in the neighborhood, when out in nature,  and when reading a book are only three of Amy's ideas. Find and fall in love with this special book and then share, another act of kindness! 

Now reading: Nearly done, the amazing story titled To Build A Dream by Greg Hickey, out in early October. And a new copy of Yaqui Delgado Want to Kick Your Ass, the graphic novel by Meg Medina and Mel Valentine Vargas.


  1. I just love Bruce! He never disappoints. There are a few others on this list I want to read like the one about banned books and Welcome to the Wonder House. Have a great week!

    1. Thanks, Lisa, yes, Bruce is the one that always makes us smile! Wonder House is very special. Hope you find both soon!

  2. I feel like there's been a few picture books about banned books and I keep meaning to read them. Maybe next week!

    1. This one was a good one for young readers! Thanks, Earl!


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