I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

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

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Published by Versify

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Summary:  “This is for the unforgettable/The swift and sweet ones/who hurdled history/and opened a world of possibility.”  Kwame Alexander’s poem is an ode to African Americans, both the famous and the unknown ones who played important roles in America’s history.  Kadir Nelson’s oil paintings on white backgrounds portray the subjects; a list at the end identifies them and gives more information about each one. Alexander has also written an afterword to tell how he came to write this poem in 2008, the year his second daughter was born and Barack Obama became president.  He concludes in the final line of the poem, “This is for the undefeated./This is for you./And you./And you./This is for us.” 40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  The poem is extremely moving, as well as being an excellent introduction to a chunk of African-American history.  I hope Kadir Nelson’s amazing paintings will be recognized with some kind of an award.

Cons:  In the group pictures, each person is identified, but it’s just a list, so it’s difficult to tell who is who in the painting.

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

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuko Ando by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

Published by little bee books

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Summary:  Walking around postwar Japan in the late 1940’s, Momofuko Ando was saddened to see hungry people waiting in long lines to get a bowl of soup with noodles…if they were lucky enough to have money and not to be eating grass and bark or scrounging through the trash.  He believed that peace was only possible if people had enough to eat, and set out to make a cheap, easy, and nutritious food. After many, many failed attempts, he learned to make noodles in chicken soup that could be cooked by adding boiling water. He and his family started a business making and selling ramen, a passion he continued to work on into his 90’s.  Includes an afterword with more information about Ando and the Nissin Foods company. 40 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  This beautifully illustrated picture book demonstrates Momofuko Ando’s perseverance through many failed attempts to create a food that has helped millions in all kinds of conditions throughout the world.  

Cons:  I’ve never actually eaten ramen.

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

A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park by Ashley Benham Yazdani

Published by Candlewick

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Summary:  The opening spread shows a busy day in Central Park; turn the page to see the swampy, rocky landscape of the early 19th century.  How did this transformation take place? Architect Calvert Vaux and park superintendent Frederick Law Olmsted teamed up to create the winning entry in New York City’s contest to design a new park.  Their scale-model drawing was ten feet long and so detailed that they almost missed the deadline.  The first part of the park, the lake, opened in 1858. From there, they moved on to paths, bridges, and a children’s area.  Olmstead worked carefully to select and plant trees, keeping in mind what they would look like for the next century. After their success creating Central Park, Vaux and Olmsted moved on to design many more green spaces throughout America. Includes additional information about these two men; questions and answers that provide more tidbits about the park; an author’s note, and a bibliography.  40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Ashley Benham Yazdani’s debut picture book is packed with fascinating information and beautifully illustrated with detailed ink and watercolor pictures.

Cons:  I was wishing for a list of the parks Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted created.

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

Let ‘Er Buck: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Gordon C. James

Published by Carolrhoda Books

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Summary:  Growing up in Oregon in the early 1900’s, George Fletcher was one of the only African-Americans in the town of Pendleton.  He spent a lot of time on the nearby Umatilla Indian Reservation, playing with the kids there and learning about horses. His riding skill led him to the rodeo, where he often experienced racism.  Sometimes black cowboys weren’t allowed to compete; other times they weren’t judged fairly against white competitors. This was demonstrated dramatically at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up, the biggest rodeo in the Northwest.  George made it to the finals of the Saddle Bronc Championship, where he competed John Spain, a white rancher. It was clear to the audience that Fletcher did the best, but the judges chose Spain as the winner.  Sheriff Tillman Taylor grabbed George’s hat, cut it into pieces, then sold the pieces for $5.00 each, raising more money than the first prize saddle was worth. The audience declared George Fletcher the People’s Champion, parading him around the arena on their shoulders.  Includes a glossary of rodeo terms, additional information about and photos of George Fletcher, John Spain, and Tillman Taylor, and a bibliography. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Told with a Texas twang, this action-packed story brings to light a little-known but brave cowboy and his friends and supporters.

Cons:  Because little is known of George Fletcher, especially his early life, some of the details are more speculation than history (as described in the author’s note about the research).

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


Jack Montgomery: World War II: Gallantry on the Beaches of Anzio by Michael P. Spradlin

Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

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Summary:  The first entry in a new nonfiction series about Medal of Honor recipients tells the story of Jack Montgomery, a lieutenant with the 45th Infantry Division Thunderbirds,  a division made up almost entirely of Native Americans (Jack was a member of the Cherokee tribe).  They fought valiantly in Sicily, then moved onto the Italian mainland at Anzio in January, 1944.  On February 22, Jack’s platoon found themselves surrounded by three groups of Germans.  Telling his men to cover him, Jack single-handedly attacked each group with grenades and gunfire, killing eleven and taking thirty-two prisoners. That night, in a different battle, Montgomery was injured seriously enough to eventually get sent home.  He received the Medal of Honor from Franklin Roosevelt on January 15, 1945. Includes the medal citation, a glossary, and a bibliography. 112 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Military history buffs will enjoy this brief but detailed account of one man’s experiences in World War II.  The main story is told in about 80 illustrated pages, which, combined with the action-packed subject matter, will appeal to reluctant readers.

Cons:  Many of the illustrations are stock photos, with few of Jack Montgomery and his men.

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

Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate

Published by Peachtree Publishing Company

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Summary:  Carter Woodson grew up on a poor farm in Virginia, the son of two former slaves.  Although his father couldn’t read or write, he liked Carter to read the newspaper to him.  Later, working as a coal miner, he often met after work with friends for snacks and more newspaper reading.  After three years in the mines, Carter was able to continue his education, and eventually got a PhD in history from Harvard (the second African-American to do so, after W.E.B. Du Bois).  For the rest of his life he championed the cause of black history. In 1926, he started Negro History Week, choosing the second week of February to mark the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.  Eventually that became Black History Month, still celebrated today during the month of February.  Includes author’s and illustrator’s notes; additional resources; a list of Black leaders pictured in the illustrations; and a timeline of Woodson’s life.  36 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  An inspiring story of a little-known man whose influence continues today.  The list of leaders that are pictured in the book would make a good starting point for some research projects.

Cons:  Too bad this book wasn’t released on January 1, instead of February 1, to make it more available during Black History Month this year.

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