Monday, October 30, 2023

Monday Reading Recap


        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!   

         The book flap says this is a book for ages 8-12, yet perhaps it's for ages even older? Those ages might see themselves or their friends as Simon tells his story but teens will relate to their younger selves, understanding how they navigated those tough years and became who they are now. Parents also may see Simon's and his friends' parents as companions in this new journey of dangers in friendships and in school, how to help and how to let go. Simon's voice shows a thoughtful, but scared young man, already wanting to leave his past behind and wishing everyone else would, too. Driven by alpacas to Grin and Bear It, Nebraska, Simon's Dad takes on another job as Deacon of the Catholic Church as well as continuing his love of playing the sackbut (a kind of trombone) while his mother, an undertaker, becomes the new one at Slaughter and Sons, no kidding! This town is the National Quiet Zone where radio astronomers listen for communication from outer space. There are radio telescopes everywhere! No internet, no TV equals a lot of time for Lego and to be with friends, no matter the attacking peacock, no matter the challenges Simon brings with him. The story makes one giggle, sympathize, cry, and celebrate throughout in this extraordinary time to grow up. Thanks to Erin Bow for letting Simon tell his story! 

Thanks to Charlesbridge for this copy!

          Even the endpapers are exciting! 

            It feels as if I'm going to repeat all the usual things. This book is so exciting, full of information, so much that it could serve as a year-long quest to learn even more than the great amount of information already given. Its underlying quest, the sub-title, is to "Explore Earth's Most Extreme Places Through Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, and Taste." This includes, see the title, Mount Everest, but less-known places like the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia, "one of the hottest, driest, and lowest places on the earth (where people can live)". Some of the first pages help prepare with tips for survival and for what to pack. There are rules given sometimes, ideas for something to eat (or NOT eat), little stories of other people's adventures, too. Aaron Cushley's colorful and prolific illustrations surround the paragraphs of information. It's such a terrific and interesting book by Leisa Stewart-Sharpe, who adds a final invitation to get out there in an adventure. Also added is a glossary! 

         What happens to a book that has first been challenged by those who deem it is harmful to children? In Jonah Winter's story, although first defended by a librarian, she is overruled and the self-named "Warriors" (WAR = we are right) censor, then remove (they prefer 'deselect') the book and throw it in the trash. You need to "see" this picture book. Winter's few words, most being blacked out and Gary Kelley's illustrations will both astound and make you teary. 

         In poetic couplets, Andrea Debbink offers a celebration of the beauty and history of rivers, how they flow, how people diverted and polluted them, what is being done to clean them up. Nicole Wong's illustration show the beauty and the harm in gorgeous full pages, wrapping into and around the words. There is added information in a double-page spread at the back, "The Wonder of Rivers". This would be a perfect place to start a study of a river in one's own area. What is its history, how is its health, is there an organization taking care of it? It's a book to enjoy and spark interest in this part of nature many take for granted. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Poetry Friday Frights


         It's Poetry Friday, and the one before Halloween! Thanks, Carol LaBuzzetta HERE at her blog, The Apples in My Orchard for hosting. She's sharing links and poems about bats, something akin to Halloween for sure, but they are so much more to our lives than frightening creatures. We set a record this week with an 82 degree day and we have snow on its way Saturday night into Sunday. It happens too often for those trick-or-treaters!

         I share photos during October because on a street near me, many homes in that neighborhood go all in decorating for Halloween. They have many visitors, and hundreds come by on Halloween evening to trick or treat. There are a few homes who go to great lengths in their decorating, include spooky things from upper windows, crawling down front walks, hanging in the trees. I remember some from past years, but there are always new ideas each year, too.

        This year, a favorite is one where the same "players" change clothes each year. This time, in my imagination, they appear to be either cheering or hip-hopping! Take a look. I wrote a cheer!



Witchy Cackle,

Ghostly fright.

Skeletons rattling

this windy night.

Goblins slipping

under doors.

Halloween’s scary.

We want more!


Linda Baie ©

Monday, October 23, 2023

It's Monday - New and Old


        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 didn't realize this was really a long 'chapter book', and have been struggling with finding time to read it plus two others. But I am a huge fan of Grace Lin's books and this feels like a project that connects with her earlier writing, research she's done for a long time, and her love for tales from her heritage. It's an encyclopedia of Chinese food with explanation of origins, various similar tales, language nuances that most of us possibly need to know if we aren't Chinese, and Grace Lin adds to its beauty with her glorious illustrations throughout. She does this all in seven chapters (Chopsticks, Tea, Appetizers, etc.), with an intro, a special recipe from her mother, endnotes, a bibliography, and an index. There is a timeline to link the stories and food with various dynasties and a map of China to connect with various areas. All the stories seem special and since I didn't grow up in a Chinese household, new to me. I loved hearing about chopsticks and the way Oolong tea got its name and so much more. There's a lot. You could choose a favorite Chinese food, then read the story of it and if you are teaching, you could read the parts about student favorites. It's an amazing creation by Grace Lin!

       Donated to the used bookstore where I work, a fun ABC book by Maurice Sendak. Nothing's funnier than his illustrations and this one adds to the humor with what, per the alphabet, the alligators are doing!

      It's a special donation to the used bookstore where I work, a book by Mildren Pitts Walter, one of the earliest African American writers I learned about and this is a book I remember reading to my classes when teaching. She is from Colorado and appears to still be living, is 102! This special book is also autographed! It's an interesting story that might not happen today but my own grandmother told of people who came through town, entertaining through some talent to earn a little money or a meal. This time a young boy named Ty was in the woods, hidden by tall grass and watching animals at a pond when a man came through, sat down and started eating bread, cheese, and an apple. He made an odd "step-th-hump" sound as he walked; he had a wooden peg for one of his legs! This mysterious man told Ty if he brought a tin pail, a washboard, two wooden spoons, and a comb, he'd meet everyone at sundown and become a "one-man band". The end of the story is rather magical when Ty's mystery man showed everyone a joyful evening. I'd love to see that "one-man band", too.

       Thanks to Myra and for my wonderful library who had this book! Wordless but shouting out in a war-torn world, written after the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine by Ukrainian Oleksandr Shatokhin. Not only is the hope shown vividly but perhaps this will offer hope to the latest war between Hamas and Israel. For children who need support everywhere! Brain Pickings also featured it here!


Adult Mystery

           All your favorites are there, a bit more introspective, more poignant, and as Osman offers every time, good and not-so-good surprises. New intriguing characters appear, too, thus I wonder if they'll return? I noted one part, alluding to the title: "New devils will always spring up, like daffodils in springtime. I enjoyed the mystery, the philosophy inherent to aging, or from those beginning to choose new adventures. It's a good "next" story from The Thursday Murder Club.

Now Reading: I am nearly finished withErin Bow's Simon Sort of Says, also finishing up  Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston and Ibram X. Kendi, adapted for young readers.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

It's Poetry Friday - Mixed-up World


          It's Poetry Friday! Thanks, Bridget Magee HERE at her blog, Wee Words for Wee Ones for hosting, with a dance party! It's a poetic birthday for Bridget. I'm wishing you a very Happy Birthday, Bridget, filled with joyful music and a lot of love from and for Smidgey, too!

           I had a marvelous birthday weekend last week with my family, in Santa Fe and in Albuquerque viewing the eclipse and the balloon fiesta! Then, back home Sunday night, and every evening our sunsets have been glorious. There is much in my life to make me smile. (FYI - There were many more balloons than shown, but I'm sharing this pic because the middle one is the Colorado one.)
            And then, and then, the turmoil in our world, our country, brings sadness. I read this article  about concern for American teens and their mental health from Time magazine which connected to a poem I saved a few weeks ago that has stayed on my mind. They have experienced or read about school shootings, lived through the Pandemic years, and are now seeing this latest terrible news. I realize past generations have had big challenges, too. This feels different, however, I guess because of social media, and instant news. Nevertheless, this voice touched me from its child-like worry, something I might never have imagined, if not for this heartfelt poem. 

Luke and the Frog: An American Fairytale OR What It Feels Like to Be a Parent in America

         by Jasminne Mendez

It begins:

             "On the Monday after Mother's Day,
after another mass shooting,
I pick up my daughter from school
and on the ride home while she munches
on veggie chips and looks out the window,
she tells me a modern day fairytale:

         the rest is HERE!


Monday, October 9, 2023

It's Monday - Remember These Books!

        Special Announcement! Nominations for Cybils awards are still open until Oct. 15th. Go here if you have a book that you want to be nominated. It must have been published from Oct. 16th, 2022 through Oct. 15th, 2023, in the US or Canada.

        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 don't have too many books to share, but four fabulous ones you may have read but if not, don't miss them!

Thanks to Candlewick Press
for this copy!

            Piedad Maria Sanchez, Piddy, is back and in this new graphic novel from Meg Medina, with all the emotions shown poignantly by artist Mel Valentine Vargas. The family, Cuban and Dominican, have moved to a nicer apartment but that doesn't mean it's nicer for Piddy because she has to change schools. She has to leave her best friend, and nearly the first day, Yaqui Delgado's boyfriend was caught looking at Piddy, nothing else, but now Yaqui really wants to kick her ass! Here again is Piddy,  and here is Yaqui Delgado bringing all the meanness to Piddy. The sadness and trauma are there, starting with keeping her mother from knowing, using the support from others until it becomes too much and both adults and friends need to step in. Though it was as heartbreaking again as it was when I read the novel, Mel Valentine Vargas brings another look beyond the imagination of the things some young ones endure. Meg Medina's love and care for Piddy, however, continues to shine, hopefully showing those who read this one there is hope for better! 
          Thanks to Candlewick Press for the copy!

          It's a challenge to know how much to tell in this new awesome story by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass. Just know it's one that will please, a mystery with ghosts, a poignant one about two boys growing up but also about some who died too soon. It has mice and cats and ghosts, library love, and surprises throughout. I enjoyed it very, very much. Be sure you get the pleasure of visiting the small town of Martinville with all the goodness it holds!

        I imagine, and hope, many have read other books about the terrible acts done by Hitler and his Nazis leading up to and during World War II. Sheinkin's book includes background and explanations throughout the books, but directly focuses on the story of one young man. Readers first meet Rudolph (Rudi) Vrba leaving home to prevent being caught by the police rounding up young Jewish men. That early line from his mother, who knew she might never see her son again, stayed with me throughout the book: "Take care of yourself. . . And don't forget to change your socks." He was seventeen. Though not quite as much time is spent, a parallel story of Rudi's friend, Gerta, is also told. She managed to stay hidden with her mother by escaping into Hungary after her father was taken away. Hers is an intriguing story to see how smart she was to keep safe, challenges faced, even as a young teen.
        Among several other settings, Rudi spent most of the war in Auschwitz. There is more detail about the various work that prisoners did and the horrible things they endured and saw happen, the constant cruelty and evil, on the trains, in the camp, out in fields for work. The detail is there, Rudi's strength is there, small acts of kindness and wisdom from others help, too. He and a friend, Alfred (Fred) Wetzler start plans for escape, and that focus, their journey to survive "out" in order to bear witness to the truth of what is happening, what has been happening, keeps them going. It is an important part of this history, of a young man whose will to survive and tell the truth saved thousands of lives. 

           Long before Jerry Pinkney died, Nikki Grimes and Jerry Pinkney were at a book festival and someone said they should do a book together. They began, Nikki adding details and Jerry, too. Nikki began to firm up the words; Jerry began what are called the "tight sketches" and then he died. The story follows a young boy, grieving for his father who had passed away, then finding a note with a map of the forest with an X marked where they had so often walked. He didn't want a map: He wanted his dad! But, he did go to find that X. What happened then becomes a final goodbye, a gentle loving hug from his beloved dad. In a way, Nikki's story echoes what has happened with Jerry and his own son, Bryan. Bryan consented to take his father Jerry's sketches and finish the book using his own, as written in his afterword, "resonant swirls of color found in nature" beneath his dad's drawings. It's a book that will bring smiles and happy tears, to find the love that can be found, even within sorrow.

Now Reading: I'm going on a trip this coming week with my family to the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area to see the Annular Eclipse and visit the Annual Balloon Fest, won't have much time to read. I'll probably take a new book of poetry I just got, a few poems a day! 

Happy Reading Everyone!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Poetry Friday - Inspiration to "Look Up"


          It's Poetry Friday! Thanks, Matt Forrest Esenwine HERE at his blog, Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme for hosting! He's celebrating his newest picture book!

         Matt, as you may know, has a book published on Tuesday. I shared it last Monday HERE, loving the fun of sharing this new special book! As my post also shares, I have many happy memories looking and learning about stars with a grandfather. Matt's book brought some of them 
back to me. I imagine he will share how it came to be, but I have been "starstruck" in my thinking since I read, then wrote about it, so I found another favorite poem about stars to offer today. Don't you imagine that when reading this, lots of adults and children will be inspired to stargaze, to learn about stars and constellations, and to write, too? 

               I've been to a few "Perseid" parties in the past, lain bundled up on the ground, looking up, seeing this!


      It begins. . . 

Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes--do you recall? 
                      read the rest here

Rainer Maria Rilke

           translated by Edward Snow

       I won't be sharing next Friday because it's the week of my birthday and my family is taking me to Santa Fe and Albuquerque to see the Annular Solar Eclipse and the wonderful Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta to celebrate. I was at the fiesta many years ago and had the fabulous pleasure of going up in a friend's balloon. No matter what, being all together is the best gift of all! I am excited! I'll see many more stars on our trip and the new moon which this leads me to remembering Irene Latham's new book I shared a few weeks ago. 

         And, like last year, because I work at a used bookstore, I would love to gift any of you with a "used" book of poetry for my birthday. It may take a while, but I will send a surprise if you let me know via email with your address that you'd like one? 

The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.
Arthur C. Clarke 

Monday, October 2, 2023

It's Monday - Starlight, Starbright - New Book Celebration!

       Special Announcement! Nominations for Cybils awards are now open. Go here if you have a book that you want to be nominated. It must have been published from Oct. 16th, 2022 through Oct. 15th, 2023, in the US or Canada.

        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 am sharing a few other books at the end, but today I'd like to celebrate one new book by a friend, Matt Forrest Esenwine, and one that is out in the world tomorrow! I was delighted when Matt asked me to feature his newest book!

           I live in a city, filled with light, sadly it's artificial light, not starlight. I am able to see Orion's belt and sometimes the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) but little else. I grew up in a small town, and have wonderful memories of sitting and watching and learning the names of stars and constellations from a grandfather. Whether you are able to see or need to drive into the country to watch, Matt Forrest Esenwein's newest book will inspire you to stargaze, as soon as you are able! 

         As Matt's words offer the advice that the title promises, Sonia Possentini's vibrant illustrations let the stars light up the fabulous night sky! They begin with advice for one child to go outside, or take a friend, find a chair, or simply lie right down and start looking, enjoying counting the stars. Words also entice with names of constellations as Sonia's creations show the way those stars have been imagined for years into stories. Do you have a favorite constellation? Here's a peek at one page, showing some of the star clusters. Orion is there, fishes and scales, also the bull. 

Click to enlarge!

It's especially great to see the diversity of children included in the illustrations! My own memories of stargazing make me love Matt's new book but when this book reminds people, both adults and children, to go out for the first time or to remember how special it is to get out, I consider it a winner. It is a lovely book!

Here are Matt's words about how this book happened: I was inspired to write a poem about stargazing nearly 10 years ago, after four of my nieces and nephews were visiting us here in New Hampshire one summer evening. They walked out the door to head home and were amazed by the night sky - they live about 45 minutes outside of Boston, so they're not used to seeing so many stars, due to the city lights! 

I wrote the poem for an anthology initially, but it never made it in. After talking with my friend Rebecca Kai Dotlich, an incredible author/poet in her own right, she suggested turning it into a picture book manuscript, which I did. Glad I took her advice!

        Thanks again, Matt, for the advanced copy. Best wishes for your pub day!


Here are books from last week's reading. You can see their reviews by clicking the link for Goodreads and scrolling down.