Fourth of July and Grace Goes to Washington – Book Review

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I’m so happy to live in a country where I am able to read and write. I’m celebrating the 4th with some books and my computer.

Today I read the upcoming Grace Goes to Washington, by Kelly DiPucchio. This title is due out September 3, 2019 from Disney-Hyperion and is another friendly and fun book about Grace and her adventures. (See also, Grace for President.)

As Grace’s class prepares for a field trip to Washington, DC, Mrs. Barrington prepares the children with a lesson about the three branches of government. She leads the learning about checks and balances, asking, “Who’s in charge here?” Later, while Grace and her fellow student council members work to decide how to spend the latest fundraiser money, they find correlations between their arguments and those of the government officials who run our country. With the help of a new friend, Grace can see that keeping an open mind to new perspectives and voting are ways to get things done.

The author gives children the chance to get involved in government, even if they are not old enough to vote yet. Read the Author’s Note and list of how to be an involved citizen. Kids and adults alike will love reading and sharing Grace Goes to Washington.

Happy Fourth of July!

 

IMWAYR: Picture Books and Memoirs

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I’m spending the week with my granddaughter and today we headed to The Brain Lair Bookstore to visit Kathy (the owner and my book buddy). “M” spied one of her favorite authors right away and said, “Hey! Look! We have How to Build a Sandcastle! How about we get It’s NOT Jack and the Beanstalk?” (We have that one already, thanks to our generous and amazing friend, Josh Funk. We also have Mission Defrostable, so we searched the shelves for something we don’t already own.)

We looked a little deeper and I found a title I knew she hadn’t seen before – Claymates by Dev Petty and the fabulous Lauren Eldridge. I said Dev Petty was the author who wrote I Don’t Want to Be a Frog, and “M” was convinced. She immediately opened her new book and started to read. Not only did we buy the book for her home, now we have to go buy some clay so we can make some “claymates” animals ourselves.

 

 

We returned home and I read How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, with art by Melissa Sweet, who dazzled us with her beautifully-created pages. It’s a touching poem Kwame wrote for his daughter; it’s neon pink and “clementine”-colored and makes you want to find a tree to sit under so you can read the rest of the day. There are so many surprises in this book — it’s so much fun to read, again and again! Don’t forget to discover the Author and Illustrator Notes and that back jacket flap with the biographies (hint: those glasses!).

During the week, I’ll share Lita Judge’s newest, Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live, with “M”. It’s wonderful and “M” loves animals, so I’m sure she’ll love this book. Animals build shelters – some hidden, some underground, some in trees, etc. The descriptions are perfect for older readers of picture books (middle school and up), reminding the reader of well-known animals’ homes and introducing new animals, too. Lita’s illustrations are beautiful, and her words entertain and inform, making this one of the best picture books of the year so far (according to me).

 

After the little one goes home, I will finish Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson and begin the ARC of Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes (due out October 8, 2019 from WordSong). I’m so happy that Kathy shared this ARC with me. I’ve been waiting a while to see it in person — I love everything my friend Nikki Grimes writes. The cover is brilliant! I am amazed that she wrote this memoir for us, and I have been following the news about this book for months. I already pre-ordered my copy, so I’ll get to savor it later, as well.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

IMWAYR: Summer Reading Begins!

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It’s FINALLY summertime, and while I only have a little time off, I’m ready to read and write much more. Here are the two best reads of my first week of summer:

The Bridge Home, by Padma Venkatraman – Viji and her little sister, Rukku, live a hard-knock life (literally) in India. Appa drinks and gets angry, and takes out his frustrations on Amma and the girls. Viji knows it’s time to run — to start a new and better life — and takes Rukku with her. Little does she know, life outside of home is not much better. The girls need to constantly find work and food, and with the help of two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, they are able to find shelter under an abandoned bridge. They even find a trusty canine friend to help them out.

To survive, the companions form a family. They take care of each other and work at the trash dump, scavenging enough to buy food and some basic supplies to make a home. They become quite successful…for a while. But being your own boss tends to have its own challenges, as the youngsters soon find out. They must maintain, and then change, to survive the harsh realities of Chennai’s rainy season. Viji discovers that she may need more help than she can give…is it too late to invite adults back into her life?

Padma Venkatraman wrote a beautiful novel with relatable characters and a heartbreaking look at life as a homeless child in India. The reader cheers for the children all through their journey to find out what family means, and to find home.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, by Shaun David Hutchinson – I love Shaun David Hutchinson’s work — The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried got me again. Dead or not, July Cooper is a riveting character. Dino, her once-best-friend, is left to deal with her untimely demise…is that right? Not to mention a new relationship with Rafi and all the other things that Dino has to confront in his life. Nothing is as it seems in this YA read. You’ll love it!

Up Next: Brave Face, by Shaun David Hutchinson – I saw this one on Facebook after I finished The Past and Other Things...so I stopped by the public library and picked it up for tonight’s entertainment, as it is raining. (Again.)

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: Thrilling & Blooming with Beauty

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The weather hasn’t been nice lately – rain most of the time – which gives me lots of inside time to read. This week I share an upcoming YA thriller and a new picture book.
Every Stolen Breath, by Kimberly Gabriel
Set in modern-day Chicago, Every Stolen Breath is a fast-paced, YA thriller that readers are going to love. Lia, a teenager with asthma, PTSD, and anxiety, has been desperately trying to expose her father’s killers for two years. Her father was attacked and murdered by the Swarm, an organized mob of crazy teens, famous for their brutal killings in high-profile areas, such as Navy Pier.

Lia cannot uncover the truth about her father’s death by herself. While trying to overcome her own disabilities, she must trust in the skills and stories of others: a former Swarm member, a reporter who loves drama and TV cameras, and two loyal school friends with social media smarts who will help her – even if it means more danger. Lia is convinced that she knows how her father died, but there are secrets to be revealed, and many people who attempt to halt her efforts — even if it means silencing her forever. No one is safe from the secrets.
This novel by Kimberly Gabriel, a Chicago native, will be sold in November, 2019. (Blink YA Books) Add it to your reading list today.
Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayre
I love celebrating the seasons with April Pulley Sayre!
Another beautiful, colorful tribute — flowers!
This makes me think of all the wondrous days yet to come (once it stops raining).
(Beach Lane Books, 2019)

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Book Review: How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson

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I think it would be cool, but I’ve never had the spirit or the smarts to be a spy, so when I read the advanced reader copy of Deborah Hopkinson’s newest book, How I Became I Spy: A Mystery of WWII London (coming February 12th, 2019), I felt that I had reached a new goal while following the story of Bertie Bradshaw, a young boy living in WWII London.

Summary: Penguin Random House states, “Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces.” This middle grade novel practically sells itself –“historical fiction by Deborah Hopkinson,” “WWII,” “mystery,” and “solving ciphers” are the book talk keywords here. Students are going to love this one!

What I Loved: I love that Deborah Hopkinson, once again, gives us a real-life peek into history. This time it’s explanations of ciphers and codes, the appearance of actual figures, such as Leo Marks and Dwight D. Eisenhower from WWII reality, and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) that make the story engaging and believable. The SOE organization, with headquarters at 64 Baker Street, trained men and women to become secret agents. In the story, Bertie, his dog Little Roo (LR), his Jewish-refugee-friend, David, and a mysterious American girl are all caught up in the action. There’s a young girl missing — an agent — and Bertie must hide her secret notebook, translate it, and inform the right people before a double agent ruins the Allies’ plans.

Why You Should Read This: How I Became a Spy is an action-packed spy thriller for middle schoolers, or anyone who likes puzzles, Sherlock Holmes, London’s crowded streets, war stories, or doggie heroes. And…

if you ever wanted to be a spy…this book might just help get you started.

Happy reading!

Book Review: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

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Darius Kellner is a teen who does not fit in at school, or really much at home. He describes himself as a Fractional Persian, with Mom born in Iran and Dad in America. Darius and his father share two things in common: a love of Star Trek, and depression. They both take their medicines every day and try to do the best they can, but sometimes life gets in the way.

When Mamou calls and tells Mom that Babou’s brain tumor is making life worse, the Kellner family packs up and travels to Iran to help. What will Darius do now? How will he cope? He’s never really been around his grandparents — only talked to them through the computer monitor. And he doesn’t speak Farsi, although his little sister, Laleh, does. He doesn’t have many friends (just the teasing bullies from school), so leaving isn’t that much of an issue for Darius, but that only makes things more uncomfortable for him. Will there be friends in Iran? Will his family treat him differently once they are in another country?

Darius narrates his own story in this wonderful tale of family and friendships, travel, and learning to appreciate family customs and origins. I loved the voice — the dialogue among characters, and also the way Darius talks directly to the reader along the way.

Darius the Great is Not Okay is a fabulous book you’ll want to think about and savor. You will fall in love with Darius and his entire family, and you’ll find that even with hardships, home is the best place to be.

Note: This title just won the 2019 William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature (YA category). Darius the Great Is Not Okay, written by Adib Khorram. The book is published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, Random House.

IMWAYR: Snowy Cold = Reading Time

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The snow, cold, and long weekend helped me to settle down and read these last several days. I thoroughly enjoyed mixing it up with several reading genres that all proved excellent choices. It’s Monday! What are you reading?

The Art of Comprehension, by Trevor A. Bryan I have been waiting for The Art of Comprehension for two years! Written by Trevor Bryan, and illustrated by the fabulous Peter H. Reynolds (author of The Dot and others), this book is a needed teacher-tool in the classroom — art class or any other class.

Teachers learn to explore with what Mr. Bryan calls “Access Lenses,” a framework for understanding visual texts, and applying that knowledge to making meaning in general. Readers use the Access Lenses to decode (by listing everything you see), study mood structures, identify connections, etc. so that a reader comes away from a text with greater comprehension and more successful school experiences.
In the author’s words (p. 122): “The Art of Comprehension has completely changed my life. Whether it’s a book, a painting, a film, or some other form of artwork, AoC has given me a way to share the joy that I find in the arts with my students and colleagues as well as a way to talk about how all of the arts can be used to improve students’ academic lives.” I completely agree!
Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram 
I’m about half way through this fabulous debut, and I’ve laughed, gasped, and thought deeply about friendship and family life. I love the language of the text, and the way the story moves me (literally and figuratively) from one setting to another, from one experience to another. I’m already recommending it, so pick it up and read with me!
Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner 
I had to re-read a book about snow while I was snowed inside. I love Kate Messner’s exploration of winter wildlife, and this 2011 book is still a must-read today.

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