Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio

Published by Schwartz and Wade

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Image result for elvis is king winter amazon

Summary:  “Elvis Is Born!” proclaims the first page, and each page thereafter has a headline that tells what happened to Elvis Presley for the first couple decades of his life.  He grew up in Mississippi in poverty–his father spent 14 months in jail for forgery–and moved to Memphis when he was 13. His mother bought him his first guitar for his 11th birthday, and music proved to be his ticket to a new world.  As a teenager, he dyed his hair black, started sporting some pretty funky clothing, and left his shyness behind every time he got on stage. After making a record for his mom at Sun Records, he was recruited to make a real record and became an overnight star.  The book ends with the release of “Heartbreak Hotel” that became a number one hit, and the simultaneous arrival of the hordes of screaming teenage girls. An author’s note gives more information and includes three photos of Elvis in 1937, 1956, and 1957. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Elvis may have been dead for over 40 years, but the legend lives on, and kids still enjoy reading about him.  The southern twang of the text and the outrageous three dimensional Red Nose Studio illustrations are a perfect combination to tell Presley’s story.

Cons:  A list of resources would have made a nice addition to the author’s note.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


Regrets, I’ve had a few: five books I wish I had read in 2018

You may think that if a person reads and reviews a book every day for a year, that person would feel like there was nothing left to read by the end of the year.  This is sadly untrue, and as year-end lists appear, I find myself wishing I had had the time and inclination to read a few more books.  This will be my final 2018 wrap-up before I take a few weeks of vacation.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

Published by Candlewick

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Look at that shiny new National Book Award Finalist sticker on the cover.  Candlewick even sent me a free copy, but every time I opened it and saw all those detailed black-and-white illustrations, I thought, “I just can’t”.  Not my cup of tea, but many others loved it.


Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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I have to force myself to read fantasy, and usually leave it for vacation weeks.  This came out the end of September, so I never got to it.  It had multiple starred reviews, and I loved Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener, so I’m sorry I missed this one.


The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom book 1) by Sayantani Dasgupta

Published by Scholastic

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I never saw this until it appeared on School Library Journal‘s best books list.  It like good fun for fans of Rick Riordan or Aru Shah and the End of Time, which also features Indian mythology.  Book 2 will be out at the end of February.


Apple in the Middle by Dawn Quigley

Published by North Dakota State University Press

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I actually checked this out of the library a few weeks ago, but it was close to the end of the year, and it looked a little YA for my blog.  Still, a middle grade novel with a contemporary Native American protagonist is a rarity, and I wish I had gotten around to it.


Hope in the Holler by Lisa Lewis Tyre

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

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As someone who imagines purgatory as a place where I would be forced to spend eternity reading As I Lay Dying, I tend to shy away from books with quirky Southern settings.  But I enjoy a good coming-of-age novel as much as anyone (maybe more than most), so I should probably have pushed past my prejudices to give this a try.

Five middle grade favorites

This didn’t make my list of Newbery contenders, but here are five middle grade novels I enjoyed this year:

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

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Everyone loves a good scary story, and this one has plenty of creepy details, plus three interesting main characters who have to fight off the evil forces.  Prepare to never look at scarecrows the same way again.


Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers

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I thought this might be a Newbery contender, but I haven’t seen it on anybody else’s list.  Although this seems like a “coming out” story (and it is…Ivy is attracted to a girl in her class), it’s also a story for everyone who has struggled to be themselves.


Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

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This World War II novel in verse will appeal to fans of I Survived as well as history buffs.  Based on a true story, with obvious attention to detail and research.


Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

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Amal’s story is powerful, and a good one to share with American kids who may not be aware of the dangers she and other kids like her face in Pakistan.


The Nebula Secret (Explorer Academy) by Trudi Trueit

Published by National Geographic

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This series has gotten off to a promising start with this action-packed adventure that introduces some interesting characters, a mysterious murder to investigate, and an evil librarian.

Five favorite nonfiction books

It’s hard to narrow the list down to five; I love nonfiction, and there were a lot of good books to choose from in 2018.

They Lost Their Heads: What Happened to Washington’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts by Carlyn Beccia

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I think it was the story of Elvis’s wart that really won me over.  I’ll say this: it’s an easy book to book talk.


Saving Fiona: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo by Thane Maynard

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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The story is engaging, the photos are adorable, and readers can research hippos while learning about real scientists working in the field…what’s not to like?


Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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I loved this memoir by Ibtihaj Muhammad, who became the first Muslim American woman to compete in the Olympics wearing hijab, and who continues to pursue her dreams on her own terms.


The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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This gorgeously illustrated biography shines a light on Maria Merian, a 17th-century German woman who defied the expectations of her time and became a scientist and artist.  It’s not the easiest book to sell to kids, but I loved the story and the artwork.


Every Month Is a New Year by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Susan L. Roth

Published by Lee and Low Books

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Designed like a calendar, this book can be used for poetry, geography, or teaching about different cultures, and the collage illustrations add plenty of color and texture.