Home Is a Window by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, illustrations by Chris Sasaki

Published by Neal Porter Books

Image result for home is a window amazon ledyard

Image result for home is a window ledyard

Summary:  Houses can change, but home goes with you from one to another.  “Home is a table with something good and the people gathered there.  A book before you fall asleep, and a kiss afterward.” With these meditations on home, we see a family–mother, father, boy, and girl–getting ready to move, then making a day-long drive to their new house.  There’s the sadness of saying goodbye, and the excitement of exploring the new place. The family picnics together on the floor of their new house, then the little girl looks out the window to see her parents sitting with arms around each other as she gets ready for bed in her new home.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A perfect read for those who are moving, and for anyone who wants to think about what home is.  This would make a good writing prompt to explore the idea of home.

Cons:  Not everyone’s home is quite so picture-perfect.

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Sadie and the Silver Shoes by Jane Godwin, illustrated by Anna Walker

Published by Candlewick

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Image result for sadie and the silver shoes ledyard

Summary:  Sadie has three older brothers, and consequently wears a lot of hand-me-downs.  The only new clothes she gets are underwear and shoes, so she is very careful about picking out her shoes.  She loves her new sparkly silver shoes, and wears them everywhere, even, unfortunately, on a family picnic. Although her mom warns her that they’ll get dirty, Sadie doesn’t care, and wears them to play in the creek with her brothers.  One shoe comes off and is washed away, leaving Sadie heartbroken. She still insists on wearing the remaining shoe (paired with another one) wherever she goes. When a new girl comes to school, she notices Sadie’s silver shoe, and says she has one just like it that she found on the beach.  Yup, it’s Sadie’s missing footwear! The girls become friends, and take turns wearing the shoes…or sometimes each wearing one. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Sadie is a winning protagonist, and the friendship story is heartwarming.  This would make a great read-aloud.

Cons:  Mom’s reaction to Sadie losing her beloved shoe–”Maybe you should have worn old shoes today”–is predictable.  Yes, Mom, we’ve all been there, but bite your tongue and show some compassion.

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Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

Published by Neal Porter Books

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Image result for nine months miranda paul

Summary:  On the right-hand pages of this book a family of a mother, father, and little girl prepare for a new baby.  The seasons change from winter to spring to summer to fall, as Mom’s belly slowly gets bigger. The left-hand pages show what’s going on with the new baby, starting from a fertilized egg and going all the way to the new baby in the hospital.  The big sister is part of the process, reading books about new babies, practicing giving a doll a bottle, watching the screen at the ultrasound, feeling the baby’s kicks, and finally, meeting her new little sister in the hospital. Includes more information on a baby’s development; the gestation periods of different animals; and some answers to what if questions that include information on twins, premature births, and miscarriages. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  What an amazing resource for families expecting a new baby!  The simple rhyming text would make a quick read to a preschooler, but he or she will want to spend lots of time on Jason Chin’s awesome illustrations, many of which show the actual size of the developing fetus.  There’s just enough information for young kids without getting into too much birds-and-bees stuff.

Cons:  The whole process looks so easy, and the little girl seems 100% thrilled to be getting a younger sibling, which may not be entirely realistic.

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Brute-Cake (The Binder of Doom book 1) by Troy Cummings

Published by Scholastic

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Summary:  Alexander Bopp, hero of The Notebook of Doom series, is feeling at loose ends as summer begins.  The Super Secret Monster Patrol (S.S.M.P.) has succeeded in clearing the monsters out of Stermont, and consequently, Alexander and his pals Rip and Nikki have drifted apart.  But when his dad signs him up for the Stermont Summer Maker Program (hey, that’s also S.S.M.P.!), he runs into Nikki again. Mysterious monster cards start appearing, and Alexander begins to suspect that a monster or two may have crept back into town.  Nikki and Alexander find Rip; they use their free binders from the new club to get organized; and just like that, the original S.S.M.P. is back in business. Includes a page of questions and activities. 96 pages; grades 1-3.

Pros:  Second and third graders everywhere will rejoice that the Notebook of Doom team is back for another series.

Cons:  Personally, one of these books was enough for me, but there are those who have read (and loved) all 13 of the original series.

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Operatic by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler

Published by Groundwood Books

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Image result for operatic kyo maclear

Summary:  Charlie is finishing up eighth grade; Mr. K., her favorite teacher, assigns everyone in the class to perform a favorite song for the end of the year.  As Charlie tries to figure out what her song will be, she reflects on changes that have taken place during the year. Specifically, she can’t forget a boy named Luka who refused to conform to middle school expectations, and was bullied until he left school.  Both Luka and Charlie have had crushes on the same boy, Emile. As the weeks go by, Mr. K. introduces the class to different types of music. Nothing resonates with Charlie until they get to opera. She finds herself drawn to Maria Callas, and connects with some of the details of her early life and singing career.  Maria’s ability to always go her own way inspires Charlie to reach out to Luka, and she is able to help him find his way back to school. Charlie, Luka, Emile, and another friend find the courage to perform a band called Freaks of Feeling; at the end the band gives Charlie tickets to the opera as a birthday gift. 160 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  This book really captures adolescence, and the tension between conforming and being yourself.  Music fans will enjoy Charlie’s insights about how kids find connections based on the kind of music they enjoy.

Cons:  I didn’t entirely understand the whole Charlie-Emile-Luka dynamic.

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Clackety Track: Poems About Trains by Skila Brown, illustrated by Jamey Christoph

Published by Candlewick

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Image result for clackety track poems amazon

Summary:  Thirteen poems take the reader from “Morning in the Yard” to “Sleeper Train”.  The poems take different forms, including a few concrete ones like “Tracks” in the shape of railroad tracks, and “Shoulder Ballast Cleaner” with the words interwoven in the illustration.  Each poem gets its own two-page spread, complete with a vivid, colorful illustration. Includes a dozen facts about trains, shown on railroad cars on the final two pages. 32 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  The simple poems and bright, colorful illustrations make this an excellent introduction to poetry for primary grades; the subject is sure to be popular as well.

Cons:  I liked how Skila Brown included shark facts on every page of her book of shark poems, Slickety Quick, and wish she had done that with facts about the different trains here.

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The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

Published by Walden Pond Press

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Summary:  Identical twins Iris and Lark look the same, but they are very different people.  Lark is artistic and dreamy, always spinning fantastic stories from everyday items and happenings.  Iris sees herself as Lark’s protector, fiercely taking on anyone who tries to make fun of her. When their parents decide to put them into two different fifth grade classes, both girls are sure they’re in for a disaster.  As time goes on, it seems to Iris that they are right, as Lark has to deal with a teacher she calls “the ogre” who makes her do oral presentations and stressful math drills. Iris starts looking for answers at a mysterious new store in town called Treasure Hunters, whose strange proprietor seems to know more about her and Lark than he should.  An occasional first-person narrator also appears to have some unusual insights into the two girls, and slowly the reader sees that there is magic at play…and some of it is pretty dark. When Iris gets in over her head, it’s up to Lark and some awesome new friends to step in and save the day. 368 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  An enchanting mix of realism and fantasy, with a pretty blurry line between the two.  The themes of love and hate are explored in a unique and engaging way. This may make it on to some Newbery lists.

Cons:  I didn’t love this book as much as I felt like I should have.  Although I could appreciate the beautiful writing, it seemed slow to get going, and I could see kids abandoning it before the end.

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