Monday, November 20, 2023

It's Monday! - New Books to Be Thankful For


        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!  FYI, I shared a review of this new book by Rhiann0n Giddens for Poetry Friday here last week if you'd like to read more about it. 

        I have the pleasure of sharing two books by Michael Panzer, who's creating some lovely stories for his grandchildren and for other young readers, too! He's a debut picture book writer who wrote this for me about part of his process: "Rather than hoping (and praying) for inspiration, I recognized that an engaging narrative could emerge from the ordinary things that might otherwise be overlooked if you weren't paying attention. I began to see the mundane details of my own experiences as creative kernels that could blossom into something special –"

      And these two "new" books are special for young readers! Thanks to Michael for my copies!

           Josie, Johnnie and Rosie and the Ocean Rescue is about three close friends. Josie's happiness through having special unicorn twins in her life is evident as we can see the excitement while they chatter and decide to have a day at the beach together. At the beach, during a blanket spread out for a picnic, Josie sees some fish in the water, in distress, caught by a net! The action begins with that rescue, and the next observation, "Oh, no!" the ocean is full of trash! Thus begins a group that cares enough to help with others joining in. 
          As the story moves along, Michael's words and Brooke Beaver's colorful and detailed illustrations will support a conversation about small actions making big effects. There may have already been some things that have happened in the past for examples? Perhaps if with your own children or with students, a parent or teacher can have some ideas ready for action? 
          My only wish for a change is that ideas for local or national organizations could have been added in an "If you want to help?" list at the back. However, the story will inspire for everyone to go on a search! 

          The TaekwonderoosRescue at Rattling Ridge, Michael's most recent book, finds a group like no other, three eastern gray kangaroos from Australia, all masters of taekwondo, yes, really! It's a fun concept to learn of these new characters (we all know kangaroos kick, right?), each one a pro but with varied positive characteristics to celebrate. For example, early in the story, shown in colorful illustrations by Lora Look , the three practice their moves; they kick, they spin, they jump! And, they're enjoying the performance in a beautiful scene of the grassy plains and nearby Rattling Ridge as the background, with the trio's joyful emotions at the fore. Suddenly, they're interrupted by a far-off cry, a tiny "joey" (a young kangaroo) is stuck high on a cliff. The story begins here with each of the Taekwonderoos showing his or her special power. As you might imagine, each one contributes to the rescue as in any other event or project, whether emergency or event-planning. The 'powers' are sometimes an exaggeration but it feels like the story can help emphasize how much each person's talents add to success in any event. It'll start a talk about past experiences, or one about some event about to happen. I'd enjoy reading this to a young group that is about to have a new adventure, asking what's needed and who will do it, or who will support each? 

          Michael's stories entertain through colorful illustrations with fun characters whose actions inspire new conversations. I am reminded of the quote by Helen Keller: "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." 
          Both books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

       This is Kelly Baptist's first verse novel although she's written three other chapter  books and one picture book. If you need to go inside the heads of two tweens, Ebony and De'Kari (goes by Flow), this verse novel feels so real, you'll want to hug each one and help them feel better every day. Feelings fly, really over an accident, but each one is sure the other one is in the wrong. In those minutes, the stage is set, and these kids get a ten-day suspension which is how the book is organized, day by day! It's a novel-in-verse telling us readers how it goes, with each kid taking turns telling what's going on, their thoughts and feelings right there for us to listen and try to understand! There's also an interesting anecdote by Kelly Baptist in the author's note about starting the writing and what happened soon after.
        Ten days is a long time without school helping to order their lives, though both gripe quite a lot about it and it seems they do pretty well, despite the griping. This time, while the fight was bad and the suspension worse, all the challenges in their homes means the suspension won't be even a tiny bit of fun. They'll first need to explain the "why" to their families and friends. Both are in single parent homes, with siblings and sometimes other family members to deal with, also to help and to love. There's insight into each family member, some trouble, and some fun, like most families, and also an underlying challenge of finances, not quite enough sometimes. 
        Eb's and Flow's personalities feel real, the worry about friends, finding something one wants to do in the future but knowing it may be impossible, plus there lies within the story an underlying love for family though the outside actions don't always show it. Eb and Flow might find that out along with a few other things felt by both. I enjoyed their story very much.

          I loved these stories, yes, more than one story is shared in Kate DiCamillo's new book, The Puppets of Spelhorst, A Normandy Tale. There are the puppet's stories, together and apart, intertwining with others like the two young girls whose Uncle brings them the puppets in a trunk labeled "Spelhorst" and their maid, Jane Twiddum. A teacher is in there and some early characters who also play a part in the puppets' journey. I don't usually refer to other books in reviews but this time, I am reminded of Deborah Wiles' book Each Little Bird That Sings. That title brings the thought of what Kate DiCamillo does so beautifully, makes every character add to the weft of the story. If only in a brief scene, she lets her characters "sing" as they play their scenes. Boosting the enjoyment of this new book are Julie Worsted's illustrations, enhancing readers' imaginations with her own artistic work. I imagine this will become a favorite read aloud in many classrooms or groups.
         Thanks to Candlewick Press for this copy. The book published about five weeks ago.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Now Reading: Continuing Demon Copperhead - Kingsolver and starting Alebrijes by Donna Barber Higuera, who also wrote The Last Cuentista. 


  1. I wish I had Kate DiCamillo's storytelling talent! She is amazing.

    1. Indeed, she is wonderful, I agree, Lisa. Every book is a gem. Thanks!

  2. I'm finishing up Alebrijes this week. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Linda!

    1. Thanks, Earl, & wishing you a happy one, too. I'm excited to read this new book by Higuera & interested to see what you think, too!


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