Tag Archives: Jason Reynolds

Turning to Children’s Books to Help Our Students Make Sense of Racism and Injustice

Like all of you, I am troubled, saddened, and horrified by what has transpired in the US (world) over the past week (year, century).  Racism exists there, here, everywhere.   It exists now and it existed then.  But I believe if there is one positive thing to come out of  this tragic event is the possibility that a slightly brighter light is being shined on the treatment of minorities – possibly an historical tipping point.  Many of us will never truly understand the feeling of injustice so many face on a daily basis.  But by helping to bring greater awareness of these issues to our students, we can all do our part to promote inclusion and equality.

Children notice injustice.  They see it and hear it in the playground, in the community, on TV, but perhaps don’t have the schema, the memory or fact pockets, to make sense of it all.   And so, as in so many learning opportunities that arise in our daily lives, I turn to children’s books to help me help them.  Between the covers of these books are the stories we can use to start the conversations we MUST be having with our children now; conversations about racism, about injustice, about segregation, about intolerance, about peaceful protests, about rioting, about civil rights, about activism, about marching for freedom.  It is never too early to start these conversations!

Below are my recommended anchor books, many based on true events, that can spark important conversations about racism, activism, segregation and social justice.  While I recognize that all people of color have experienced racism, the majority of these books are focusing more on issues stemming from racism against black people in the US because those are likely the conversations you will likely be having, given the situation there at the moment.  This is by no means diminishing the issue of racism against any other minority.

While this is not one of my official OLLI posts, click HERE for a response template your students could use with any of these books.

Let’s Talk About Race – Julius Lester

Likely my favorite book to read aloud to a class to spark conversations about race.  Julius Lester’s voice in this book is so real, so honest, so personal, so intimate, so authentic – it feels as if he stepped into the classroom and is speaking directly to us.  Lester uses “story” as a metaphor for race – we all have a different story to tell.  The book is filled with questions which makes it great for interactive reading.

40796177. sx318

The Undefeated – Kwane Alexander

A beautiful celebration of black Americans throughout history: both the “dreamers” and the “doers,” who have made a difference, despite the many injustices endured and challenges they faced.  Alexander Kwane wrote this poem “The Undefeated” when Barack Obama was elected to office. It is a powerful poem accompanied by gorgeous oil painted illustrations by Kadir Nelson.

Race Cars – A Children’s Book About White Privilege – Jenny Devenny

This book uses metaphor to explain the issue of race and privilege.  In it, 2 best friends, a white car and a black car, that have different experiences and face different rules while entering the same race. I like the way the book offers a simplistic, yet powerful way to introduce these complicated themes to kids.

Something Happened in Our Town – A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice – Marianne Celano

This is a timely book aimed at younger children. The story starts with a police shooting where an unarmed black man is killed. Two children ask their families why it happened: the girl is white, the boy is black. So readers get two different points of view and distinct emotions. But they both share the feeling of injustice.  I was impressed with how the story addresses social/racism issues in a way that younger children can easily understand and I really like the two perspectives.  Excellent back notes for parents and teachers.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railway – Ellen Levine

This is the true story of escaped slave Henry Box Brown. The book follows his life from his childhood as a slave on a plantation and as an adult working as a slave in a tobacco factory. After the devastating event of having his wife and three children sold to different masters,  Henry decides to mail himself to a place where there are no slaves. With the help of a white doctor, Henry is mailed in a crate to Philadelphia and most amazingly is successful.  This story is both heart-breaking and hopeful and Kadir Nelson’s stunning illustrations once again bring the story alive.

The Story of Ruby Bridges – Robert Coles

On November 1960, in New Orleans, 6 yr. old Ruby Bridges was selected as one of the first African American student to attend an all white elementary school (William Frantz Elementary)  Many parents kept their kids home that day and gathered outside the school to protest.  Accompanied by US Marshalls,  little Ruby said a quiet prayer to herself and marched through the mobs of angry white people, shouting and jeering at her up the steps and into the school.  This is SUCH an inspiring story!  Ruby demonstrates courage, determination, faith, and kindness.  We can all learn a few things from Ruby.

description

The real Ruby Bridges.

Smoky Night – Eve Bunting

Eve Bunting wrote this book after the riots and looting in Los Angeles in 1992 because she wanted to help children understand such events, especially those who actually live through them.  The story is told from Daniel’s perspective during one night when he, his mother and their cat witness rioting and looting outside their apartment.  They eventually have to flee to a shelter as the riots get closer and sadly, their cat gets left behind.  When this book was released in 1994, Eve Bunting received considerable criticism for the subject matter being too mature for children. She later received the Caldecott Award in 1995 for the book.

961016

White Socks Only – Evelyn Colman

In the segregated south, a young girl thinks that she can drink from a fountain marked “Whites Only” because she is wearing her white socks.  This is a heartbreaking, touching story and while the story is fictional, the events like separate entrances, water fountains, etc. for black and white people make it a good choice for introducing segregation to intermediate students.

Freedom on the Menu – The Greensboro Sit-Ins – Carole Boston Weatherford

In 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina, 4 black college students sat down at a counter at Woolworths during a time of segregation, marking a major event in the Civil Rights Movement.  This historical event, known as the Greensboro Sit-In, is told through the eyes of a young black girl, who shares her experiences living a segregated life.   The book below is based on the same event.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down – Andrea Davis Pinkney

 

We March – Shane W. Evans

In simple prose and images, Evans tells the story of one child whose family participated in the 1963 March on Washington.  The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.   I love how this story uses simple text but manages to capture the thrill of this young child’s experience.  You feel as if you are joining in the March, too.  A great book for teaching about civil rights and includes information in the back.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer - Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

Voice of Freedom – Fannie Lou Hamer – Carole Boston Weatherford

I didn’t know anything about Fannie Lou Hamer until I read this book. She played an integral role in the civil rights movement and despite fierce prejudice and abuse fought for the equal right to vote.  I like the way this story is told in first person free verse poems and spirituals.   A story of determination, courage, and hope.  Weatherford includes additional information about Hamer as well as a timeline at the end of the book, which I found helpful as I did not know her story.

Rosa – Nikki Giovanni

Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus sparked a huge wave in the civil rights movement and, eventually, to the desegregation of public buses.  This book gives readers a little more background before and after the incident, which I always enjoy.  I have such a vivid memory of reading this book to a Grade 2 class many years ago and being absolutely amazed at the depth of conversations they had about injustice, race, and segregation.

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged – Jody Nyasha

Every Canadian child should know the story of Viola Desmond who, in 1946, was arrested and dragged out of a movie theater in Nova Scotia because she refused to move to the “black” section of the theater. After being fined $20 she was released but did not give up.  With help from black community groups, she appealed the case and although unsuccessful, her fight began the Canadian Civil Rights movement, eventually outlawing segregation in the late 1950’s.  I love the narrator in this story – speaking directly to the reader and the illustrations are bright and bold.

Stamped – Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Lots of buzz about this new book by Jason Reynolds that came out in March which is a remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s adult book “Stamped From the Beginning”.   In it, Reynolds explores the history of racism from the past (“this is NOT a history book”) to right here and now.  While written for a younger audience (high school), it’s apparently an excellent read for everyone, especially for those not living in the US and don’t know a lot about the different shapes of racism.  I have not read it yet, but am very excited about the audiobook with Jason Reynolds narrating!

Antiracist Baby – Ibram X. Kendi

Wonderful rhyming board book that introduces nine steps to being antiracist.  While not really geared for babies, I love that the book introduces younger children to important language connected to racism.  This book will be released on June 16th.

129771

The Other Side – Jaqueline Woodson

Such a powerful story about two young girls – one black and one white – who observe each other from different sides of a fence.  This poignant story explores racial segregation and the tentative steps toward interracial friendship that are taken, despite the barriers (both physical and social) the girls face.   This is such an important book for so many reasons and when I get to the last page of the book, I always get teary.  “Someday, somebody’s gonna come along and knock this fence down.”

The Color of Us – Karen Katz

This story is about a girl named Lena who wants to paint a self-portrait.  She realized that in order to get her skin color, she would have to mix some colors in order to get the perfect shade. Her mother takes her on an adventure through her community where they notice different shades of brown, connecting the colors to food such as butterscotch, ginger and coffee.  Uplifting, colorful and positive.

Skin Again – bell hooks

“The skin I’m in is just a covering. It cannot tell my story.”  This story tells young readers that the skin they have is just that – skin. If you want to truly know someone, you have to dig deeper to get to know them on the inside.  Love the poetic text that address readers directly and Chris Raschka’s signature illustrations.

I hope you are able to find a few books from this list that will help spark some important discussions with your students in the coming days.    Be well, everyone.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Activism, Civil Rights, Racism

Holiday Book Gifting 2019 – Part 2 Graphic and Middle Grade Novels

Christmas books

Welcome to day two of “Book Gifting 2019”!  Yesterday, I focused on Early Chapter Books and Series, as well as Nonfiction and Activity books.  Today, I’m excited to focus on some of the most popular Graphic Novels and Middle Grade Novels perfect for gifting your middle grade readers!   Happy Book Gifting, everyone!

Graphic Novels

42097227

Guts – Raina Telgemeirer

From the rock star graphic novelist Raina Telgemeirer comes her latest book, Guts.  This graphic memoir is targeted for middle grade/ young adult readers and explores the author’s issues with anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias.  I love how this author manages to always touch on subjects important to this age group in a respectful and appropriate way.  Heartfelt and compassionate with a sprinkle of humour.   Likely the most popular graphic novel of 2019.

36005510

The New Kid Jerry Craft

This FANTASTIC middle grade graphic novel is getting a lot of award buzz!  It is an amazing book that approaches racism in an accessible & understandable way for young readers, while not holding back.  Told through the eyes of a new grade 7 student who is one of only a handful of students of color in an elite private school.  Great characters, lots of pop culture, funny, heartfelt… this one is a winner.

Minecraft Volume 1 (Graphic Novel) – R. Sfe Monster

Perfect book for anyone who enjoys middle grade graphic novels and playing Minecraft!   It takes place partly in the real world and partly inside a Minecraft game.  I can’t really imagine someone enjoying this who doesn’t know the game but those who do will make MANY connections!

Best Friends Shannon Hale

So good.  This standalone sequel to Real Friends dives in deep to Shannon’s grade 6 year and her struggles with friendships.  Her friends aren’t always nice and she’s not always nice either.  Why is friendship so hard?  Open and frank discussions of tween friendship, anxiety, and how friendships change.  Lots of connections here, I am certain!  (I made a lot!)

Just Jaime – Terri Libenson

The last day of Grade 7.  Friends.  Frenemies.  BFF’s.  Exclusion.  Inclusion.  Cliques. Peer Pressure. Forgiveness.  Acceptance.  This book has all of these and then some!  I made SO many connections to this book.  Middle school? – Terri Libenson NAILS it!

40864836

Stargazing – Jen Yang

Moon and Christine are both Chinese, but while Christine’s family finds Chinese language school important and is part of a Chinese community, Moon and her mother don’t speak Chinese and are Buddhist.  This new graphic novel from the author of Prince and the Dressmaker is a sweet story of friendship, cultural and religious identity, and belonging.

43822757

The Okay Witch – Emma Steinkellner

This book was recently awarded the School Library Journal Best Graphic Novel of 2019.  Think Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Roller Girl.  It’s a hilarious story about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town all while trying to survive middle school.  A unique, charmingly weird graphic novel filled with humor and heart.  

Middle Grade Novels

Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. – Betsy Bird

Betsy Bird asked very funny female writers for young people, ages 9-12, to create a story in any format they wanted – prose, memoir, poetry, or graphic novel format. The result of her edited anthology is a collection of hysterically funny, poignant, and heartfelt stories.  Target would be grade 4-5 readers.

43128231

The Trials of Apollo – Book Four: The Tyrant’s Tomb – Rick Riordan

Fans of Rick Riordan will be excited to read this 4th enstallment in the Tyrant’s Tomb series.  I will admit I have not read it in its entirety but love the way Riordan mixes contemporary with mythology and his fast-paced action.  This book came out in September and was just awarded Reader’s Top Choice for MG Novel on Goodreads.  Be prepared – it’s 448 pages!

43453642

Dear Sweet Pea – Julie Murphy

Sweet Pea is a 7th grader living in a small town struggling with the usual things—friends, school, and self-image.  Her parents have just divorced and, in an effort to keep life “normal,  live in almost identical houses on the same street.  This is such a delightful story about growing up, figuring your way through friendships, facing challenging family changes like divorce and finding your voice.  I loved the writing (hints of Kate De Camillo) and loved Sweet Pea.  Endearing and empowering.  Loved the advice columns sub-plot!

22552033. sy475

Look Both Ways – A Tale Told in Ten Blocks – Jason Reynolds

This book is a series of short stories linked together because all of the characters go to the same school.  Some cross over and reappear, but this isn’t really about how they intersect but more about how they share the same common ground while living such vastly different lives.  Great characters dealing with difficult issues: some very mature and ready to take on the world; others are just learning to be independent.  Easy to read lots of connections.

38251244

The Strangers: Greystone Secrets #1 – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Ooooo…. how I love the first book in a new series!  This one came out last April (now available in paperback – YES!) and is getting a LOT of buzz!  This book is a thrilling adventure with lots of mystery, suspense, and many plot twists and turns.  If your young reader enjoyed the City of Embers or A Wrinkle in Time – this is the perfect choice for them!  Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone come home from school to find their mother staring at her laptop, where there is a news recording of three children in Arizona who have been kidnapped. Three children who have the exact same first and middle names as they do and who share their birthdays.  Their mother disappears…. and then it just never stops!  Book #2 is scheduled to be released in April 2020.

43197524. sy475

Maybe He Just Likes You – Barbara Dee

This book explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience and the experiences of harassment and unwanted attention from classmates in an age-appropriate way.   It is a heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel.  This one really hit me hard.  A universally important and timely book.

43319657

Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) – Victoria Schwab

In this sequel to City of Ghosts, Cassidy finds herself in another adventure involving ghosts, this time in charming yet very haunted city of Paris (first book was set in Edinburgh) where her parents are filming another episode of their TV show about the world’s most haunted locations.   Perfect for fans of suspenseful ghost stories and paranormal adventures!

More to the Story

More to the Story – Hena Khan

Inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women, and featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family, this is an incredibly wholesome and wonderful middle-grade story about illness, pursuing your ambitions, and family and sisterhood.  This new book by the author of Amina’s Voice (I LOVED that book!) truly is a modern retelling of Little Women, filled with strong, charming characters and contemporary issues.  LOVE this one!

    Thanks for stopping by!  Hopefully you found one or two great books to gift that special reader in your life!

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 2019 releases, Christmas, graphic novel, Middle Grade Novels, New Books

IMWAYR – Gifting Books This Christmas! Top Holiday Picks for 7-12 year olds

Image result for IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Well, Christmas is just 8 away but there is still time to do some last minute book shopping for the young book lovers in your life!   From fact book, to craft book, to recipe book, to novels – there is sure to be a book here for every “tween” in your life!  Here are some of my favorite 2018 “gifting” books for the holidays that will also make excellent additions to your school or class library!

For your Animal lover…

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals by DK

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals – DK Publishing

A perfect gift book for the animal lover in your house. This 224 page encyclopedia format is jam packed with gorgeous photographs, illustrations, and fascinating facts about 104 creatures from the animal kingdom.  Children will love poring over the detailed images!  Amazing index packed with reference information including the size and location of each species.  I loved the addition of the tree of life showing how the animal groups are connected.  Gorgeous binding with fancy foil on the cover, gilded edged pages, and a shiny ribbon for keeping your place.  This is a real treasure!

For your Disney Lover…

 Disney Ideas Book 

This book is perfect for anyone who loves Disney!  Packed with over 100 Disney inspired arts and crafts, party games, puzzles, papercraft and many more fun and practical activities.  Stunning photography and clear step-by-step instructions to guide you through each project.  From creating Lion King animal masks to Winnie the Pooh party hats.  This book will provide hours of fun over the holidays!

For Your Young Activist….

Start Now!  You Can Make a Difference – Chelsea Clinton

What can I do to help save endangered animals? How can I eat healthy? How can I get more involved in my community? What do I do if I or someone I know is being bullied?  This book filled with facts, stories, photographs, and tips on how to change the world is perfect for school libraries and for the special activist in your life!   It has an index at the back, so teachers or parents can refer young readers to specific topics of interest and that fit.  LOVE this book and am going to be adding it to my Powerful Understanding book list on global stewardship.  Lots of ties to the new curriculum!

For your inventor…

Calling All Minds: How To Think and Create Like an Inventor Temple Grandin 

Kids who love to tinker, invent, and create will be inspired by this practical and inspirational book filled with personal stories, inventions and fascinating facts. Part personal memoir, part historic study of inventions and biography, and part DIY instructions, this book packs in a lot!  Author Temple Grandin, renowned scientist, inventor, and autism-spokesperson, shares the amazing true stories behind the innovations and inventions.  Imagination and creativity will soar!

For your Harry Potter fan…

Harry Potter Cookbook – Dinah Bucholz

Bangers and mash with Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Hogwarts dining hall.  Mix a dash of magic and a drop of creativity, you’ll conjure up the meals, desserts, snacks, and drinks you need to transform an ordinary Muggle meals into a magical culinary experience!  150 easy-to-make recipes, tips, and techniques.  Mrs. Weasley will be VERY proud!

For your Joke Teller…

Would You Rather?: Christmas Yes or No Game and Illustrated Children's Joke Book Age 5-12 (Silly Jokes and Games for Kids Series 2) by [Shaw, Donald]

Would You Rather? Christmas Yes or No Game and Illustrated Children’s Joke Book Age 5-12 (Silly Jokes and Games for Kids Series 2)  – Donald Shaw

Packed with crazy cartoons and holiday-related amusing scenarios which will make children laugh out loud in no time!  The second part of the book is a unique YES or NO Christmas game. This game can be played with friends, classmates, parents, or even grandparents!  A perfect book for Christmas day entertainment!

For your imaginative tender-hearts… (2 suggestions)

Inkling – Kenneth Oppel

Inkling is a black blob that one day slides off the page of Ethan’s dad’s sketchbook.  What follows is a touching, fantastical story about a family trying to deal with the loss of their mother.  Written by the great Kenneth Oppel, this book is sure to capture the imagination and hearts of every child who reads it.

Sweep – The Story of a Girl and Her Monster – Jonathan Auxier

This is my all-time favorite middle grade book of 2018.  I can’t say enough good things about this stunning story of courage, sacrifice, child exploitation, unconditional love, and civil disobedience mixed with just the right amount of historical elements and sprinkled with magic. Set in the late 1800’s in Victorian England, it is the story of Nan Sparrow, a young chimney sweep who is struggling to survive after her father disappears. She befriends and forms a remarkable bond with Charlie, a golem made from ash, and in the process, they save each other. I cried. Yes, I did. And you will, too. It’s heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, funny and poignant and just beautiful in every way.    

“We are saved by saving others.”   (One of my MANY favorite quotes from this book)

To inspire your reluctant risk taker…

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl – Stacy McAnulty

After being struck by lightening in a freak accident, Lucy Callahan becomes a math genius.  But after years of home schooling, she is now having to navigate through middle the perils of middle school.  A warm-hearted story celebrating friendship and stepping out of your comfort zone.

For Your Graphic Novel Lover …

Image result for hilo 4

Hilo Book 4 – Waking the Monsters – Judd Winick

“Hilo” books are VERY popular in our school library so I am certain many children will be excited to know that book 4 has just been released!  In this book, the nonstop adventure continues with Space Boy Hilo, his sister Izzy, and their friends try to save the earth when giant robots threaten to take over.  Packed with humour and action! 

For Your Unicorn Lover…

The Unicorn Rescue Society – The Creature of the Pines – Adam Gidwitz

There are a LOT of unicorn-obsessed students at my school so I KNOW many will love this first book in the fully illustrated fantasy-adventure series.  Elliot and Uchenna, recruits for a secret organization to protect magical beasts, find themselves on a mission to save a Jersey Devil unicorn.  A story full of adventure, fun, and friendship, perfect for newly independent readers.  It’s fast-paced, fun, and hilarious writing.

For your Science lover…

The Third Mushroom Jennifer L. Holm

This sequel to the bestselling The Fourteenth Goldfish finds 11 yr old Ellie entering a local science fair with her Grandpa who has accidentally reverse-aged himself to a 14 year old.  They believe their new experiment just might be the secret to the fountain of youth.  This is a delightful book with lots of STEM connections!

For your athlete…

Lu – Jason Reynolds

The final book in the track series by Jason Reynolds which focuses on a different track stars (Ghost, Patina, and Sunny) and the personal challenges they are trying to overcome with the help of their Coach.  In this book, we follow Lu, a talented runner born with albinism.   Jason’s writing and “voice” for each of his complex characters is so authentic and he approaches difficult issues such as illness, injustice, bullying, gun violence, grief, addition, and death with so much honesty and heart.  I also like how each character models respect for their parents and their coach.  Love how Reynolds ties all the characters in at the end.

For your creative imaginative thinker…

The Cardboard Kingdom – Chad Sell

I love this graphic novel that follows a group of neighbourhood kids who transform ordinary boxes into costumes and castles and, in the process, discover friendships and develop strong identities.   I love the off-beat, “march to your own drum” characters and important themes included in this story celebrating imaginative play.  A perfect book to inspire MMT projects in your classroom. (you can read more about Most Magnificent Thing projects here)

For your “spooky book” lover…

Part mystery, part fairy tale and part thriller, this book will have your spine shivering and your mind guessing!   So suspenseful and gripping, (What happens next????!!!)  I could not put it down!  The story focuses on Ollie Adler, a sixth grade math whiz and fierce feminist who has withdrawn from her friends and school activities after her mother dies.   Her only solace is in books (my kind of gal!), so when she finds a woman trying to throw a book in the river one day, she steals it in order to rescue it. But when Ollie reads it, she finds that the book is a diary of horrific events that happened in the very place where her class will soon be taking a field trip…and that history may be about to repeat itself.  (Can you stand it????) You will be stealing this from your child’s room to find out what happens!!!

For your Social Justice supporter… (2 suggestions)

 

Amal Unbound – Aisha Saeed

One of my favorite “read aloud” MG novels of 2018 this book has empowering messages about the limits placed on girls and women in Pakistan and the importance of family, literacy, and culture.  For Amal, her dream of being educated and becoming a teacher is shattered when she is forced to become a servant for a wealthy family.  Amal is such a strong, inspiring, and determined character who demonstrates what it means to fight for justice.  Compelling and inspiring.

Image result for harbor me

 

Harbor Me – Jacqueline Woodson

WOW.  Love, family, friends, middle school transitions, immigration, racial profiling, and the difficult realities faced by many children are just a few of the issues Jacqueline Woodson explores in this powerful book.  In the story, we are given a glimpse into the lives of six tweens who are part of a classroom for “special students.”  Every Friday afternoon, the students gather in the ARTT Room (“A Room To Talk”) to spend the last hour together, unsupervised, and are encouraged to talk about anything they want.  The conversations are so natural, so emotional, so honest.  In just over 200 pages, Woodson covers a lot of issues.  An extremely important book that will stimulate LOTS of important discussions.  Beautifully written, this book made me teary, gave me goosebumps, inspired me, and filled me with gratitude.   Would make a very powerful read-aloud in an upper Middle grades.

Hoping you found at least one book for the book lover in your family!

Happy Holidays and happy reading, everyone!

4 Comments

Filed under 2018, Activism, Animals, Christmas, Creating, Harry Potter, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, social justice, STEM

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2018 Top Summer Picks for 9-12 yr olds (part 2)

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Last week, my IMWAYR post featured some new middle grade novels that would make excellent choices for summer reading or end of the year read-alouds!  Turns out there were TOO MANY books to mention in one blog… so here is Part 2!

Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

I actually haven’t read this first book in a debut series as it is not released until June 5th – but it’s certainly on my TBR summer list.  It’s getting a lot of great ARC reviews and I so like the concept behind this fantasy adventure about a girl named Only who can see lies.  When news of Only’s abilities reaches the king, he commands her to work for him to seek out traitors and corruption.  WOW!  Sounds like a winner!

The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider

So this book may sound a little weird and morbid – parents who work in a cadaver lab, a tiger kidnapping, talking severed heads… but with such an original plot line, and laugh-out-loud humour – I think it will appeal to many middle grade readers.  Fovea (whose name means eyeballs, by the way), is a 7th grader – embarrassed by her parents, mocked by her peers and without a single friend. She spends the summer working in her parent’s cadaver lab with a whole lot of body parts and in the process, discovers herself, some new friends and a new “embrace the moment” approach to life.  Perhaps not for everyone – but would certainly appeal to middle grade readers (Gr. 6-7 range) who enjoy this type of “screw-ball comedy” and the “ickier” side of things!

Nightbooks by J.A. White

Another book I have on my MUST READ this summer (not released until mid July but I have my pre-order in!) is this scary (but apparently not too scary!) re-telling of The Arabian Knights that sounds like a mixture of Neil Gaiman’s books and Grimm’s fairy tales.  It is the story of Alex, a monster-loving boy, who finds himself trapped in a magical apartment building.  In order to stay alive, he has to tell the witch who captured him a scary story every night.  Sounds Ah-Mazing!

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea – Lynne Rae Perkins

A charming, breezy read – perfect for summer!  A family with two young girls goes on vacation, spending a week on the ocean.  No huge dramas, life-threatening crises, or earth shattering issues – but a heart-warming celebration of small moments.  Walking on the beach, feeling the ocean waves for the first time, sand castles with different kinds of bucket mixtures, imaginative play, a new friend, horseshoe crabs and learning to be brave.  Sweet but not fluffy.  Love the addition of some wonderful illustrations!  This is the kind of book I would have LOVED when I was in grade 6 or 7 – and I love it now!

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe –  Jo Watson Hackl

A charming coming-of-age story – this one with an endearing protagonist, lots of adventure and an added suspense, mystery and a treasure hunt.  I was hooked right away with the authentic voice of Cricket – a young girl dealing with the death of her father and the disappearance of her mother.  Cricket’s adventures are driven by a longing to heal her family and are filled with ups and downs and twists and turns.   Lots of life lessons in this one that will leave you filled with sadness, hope and love.

Where the Watermelons Grow – Cindy Baldwin 

WOW – a beautifully written, moving, sensitive story about families living with mental illness.  Gorgeous writing with wonderful descriptions of the charming characters in a small southern town and the sticky summer heat.   My heart ached for Della and her concern about her mother, who suffers from schizophrenia.  The author does not shy away from difficult, important issues that we often have no control over.  A wonderful, heart-wrenching story filled with hardships and harsh realities, yet also filled with love and hope.  Likely this would be more suited for older middle grades and even teen readers.  I recommend a box of Kleenex and a fresh watermelon close by – I started craving one while I was reading!

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

I was excited to read this second book by Erin Entrada Kelly, who won the 2018 Newberry for her book Hello, Universe.  She focuses on similar themes in this book – family stress, bullying and friendships.  Charlotte and Ben are two middle school students who connect through an online Scrabble game.  Their new friendship becomes invaluable as the chaos in each of their lives begin to spin out of control.   I enjoyed the alternating chapters that focus on the scenarios in each child’s life.   A great story about the importance of connecting with others for helping us navigate through life’s ups and downs.

36528200

Breakout – Kate Messner

A group of young students everyday lives are turned upside down when two inmates escape from the local prison.  This compelling story about prejudice and racism in a small town was inspired by the escape and subsequent search of two prisoners from the Clinton NY correctional facility in 2015.  Written in a very unique format depicting multiple points of view told through a series of letters, essays, articles, texts, newspaper articles and poetry.  Even though it is 400 pages, the format makes it a surprisingly fast read.  I really like how Kate Messner weaves important and current themes into her books and believe this one will spark many thoughtful and reflective conversations.

Sunny – Jason Reynolds

Sunny is the 3rd book in Jason Reynold’s popular Track series.  This book follows 12-year-old Sunny Lancaster, the #1 middle distance runner of the Defenders whose mother died the day he was born.  Sunny’s story is very different than  Ghost or Patina.  It is told in a series diary entries Sunny keeps to help control all the thoughts and ideas swirling around in his head.  It becomes clear through the stream of consciousness entries that Sunny’s brain doesn’t process things like other kids – he jumps from thought to thought, from subject to subject, rhyming and playing with words.  Sunny’s story is so authentic, so sad, so full of hope – I think it is my favorite in the series.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Charming story about overcoming obstacles and finding your place in the world.  Twelve year old Lucy was unharmed after she was struck by lightning strike four years ago.  But it left her with some compulsive behaviors and somewhat of a mathematical savant, making navigating, fitting in, and being accepted in middle school very challenging.  So much to love about this book… the short chapters make easy reading, great character conversations, very “connectable”,  lots of math and STEM connections, and love the dog!!!

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found one or two titles that caught your eye!

 

3 Comments

Filed under 2018 releases, IMWAYR, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Novels, New Books