Wrapping up 2019

You might think I’d welcome a few weeks off from this blog.  I did, but, in a strange way, I missed it, too.  It’s become such a daily part of my life to read and review books that it felt a little empty to not be posting each day.

But before you start feeling too sorry for me, let me add that I found a few more books from 2019 to read, and am sharing them below.  And we’ll return to our regularly scheduled reviews of the first books of 2020 tomorrow.

 

Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson

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Full disclosure: I only read the first chapter of this book, but I believe Terry Lynn Johnson should be better known.  I loved her Ice Dogs and the Survivor Diaries series.  This one is about a girl with a degenerative vision disorder who goes on a sled dog race for her sister who has a more advanced case of the same disorder.  Looks like lots of adventure!  (240 pages; grades 4-7)

 

More to the Story by Hena Khan

Published by Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

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With Little Women in the news once again, this modern-day interpretation should be relatively easy to book talk.  Maryam, Jameela, Bisma, and Aleeza are four Pakistani-American girls who must deal with their father’s job overseas, a new boy in their lives, and Bisma’s life-threatening illness. (272 pages; grades 4-7)

 

M Is for Movement: A.K.A. Humans Can’t Eat Golf Balls by Innosanto Nagara

Published by Triangle Square

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This unique book is called a “fictionalized memoir”, but much of it seems true to Nagara’s life.  The narrator tells of his childhood growing up in Indonesia, where he witnessed small protests being carried out by friends and family against an unjust government.  As an adult, he was part of the movement that eventually ousted that government.  With the 2020 election just around the corner, this may inspire you to strap on your activist shoes and get to work. (96 pages; grades 3-7)

 

Diary of an Ice Princess: Snow Place Like Home by Christina Soontornvat

Published by Scholastic (but then, you probably guessed that already)

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Yes, folks, this is what I read on my time off.  The diary format, the hot pink illustrations, a cool princess with a hidden superpower…Scholastic certainly does have its finger firmly on the pulse of today’s Disney-saturated youth.  Yet despite my cynicism, I found the story well-done, and honestly, kind of a page-turner. (128 pages; grades 1-4)

Five more favorite picture books

This is my last set of favorite picture books, I promise!  I don’t know that any of these will win awards, but they have a lot of kid appeal, which sometimes counts for as much or more, in my opinion.

 

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

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Pretty sure this the first time an earthworm has ever made any kind of “best of” list on this blog.  I loved Carl’s twin messages of being your best self and taking care of the Earth.

 

Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare

Published by Margaret Ferguson Books

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I do enjoy a good wordless picture book.  This one is imaginative, yet still easy to understand.  And it has aliens.  I’ve had this one in my mock Caldecott election, so don’t count it out for an award.

 

Wintercake by Lynn Rae Perkins

Published by Greenwillow Books

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I didn’t find many great new holiday books this year, but I love this cozy winter tale about friendship and the dangers of rushing to judgement on a person (or animal).

 

Truman by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

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Truman the turtle may be my favorite character of 2019.  Keep this book in mind next August when the first day of school rolls around again.  Another one that was in my mock Caldecott activity.

 

Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea

Published by Little, Brown Books

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I can’t entirely disagree with Amazon reviewers who felt this missed the mark on delivering the “right”message to kids.  But come on, it’s hilarious, and we all know that person who can’t admit they’re wrong.  The cover alone probably has more kid appeal than the other four put together.

Amazon Affiliate

I was talking to a blog user recently who wasn’t aware of the Amazon Affiliate program I participate in, so I thought I’d post a reminder for others who enjoy this blog.

At the bottom of each of my reviews I post a link: “If you’d like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.”  If you click on that and buy the book–or anything else on Amazon–I get a (very small) percentage of that sale.

This blog is a labor of love, and I would never try to make money from it any other way.  You’ll never see ads here.  But I do spend many hours working on it, so it’s nice to get that little kickback from Amazon if you’re going there anyway.  Seems like it’s a win-win.  Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about this.

Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue by Paula Harrison, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

Published by Greenwillow Books

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Summary:  Kitty’s mom is a superhero, and Kitty knows she has special powers.  She doesn’t feel ready to go out at night the way her mother does, though.  But when a cat named Figaro comes to her bedroom window one night and tells her he needs help, she decides to be brave and go exploring with him.  First she rescues a cat from a tree. But the real issue is a loud wailing coming from a clock tower. They discover a kitten stuck at the top. Kitty has to figure out a way to climb up before the clock strikes midnight and scares the kitten into falling.  Assisted by her three cat helpers, she makes a successful rescue. The next morning, the cats all gather around Kitty and her family, ready to go off on another adventure.

Pros:  An exciting early chapter book adventure with cute black and orange illustrations, sure to be popular with Princess In Black and Owl Diary fans.

Cons:  It’s a sweet story, but lacks the slight edge that makes the Princess In Black books so much fun.

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

I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton

Published by Viking Books for Children

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Summary:  When an unnamed narrator declares their dislike of math, a purple three-eyed alien tries to show how interesting and useful it is.  “I know I’m not alone here. 4 in 10 Americans hate math,” claims the narrator. Alien: “Did you just use math to explain how much you don’t like it?”  It then goes on to show how math is used for things the narrator finds enjoyable, like baking cookies or making music. Math is a universal language and gives us a set of rules for measuring, traveling, and using money.  When the kid realizes they already love math, the alien’s job is done, and he returns home…to Planet Homework. 40 pages; grades 1-3

Pros:  A fun way to introduce the different ways math is used in everyday life.  It could serve as a springboard to get kids thinking about other areas where they use math.

Cons:  Those who truly struggle with math are not likely to be convinced by the arguments put forth here.

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

 

Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes

Published by Greenwillow Books

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Summary:  Amelia isn’t expecting much from her spring vacation week–as usual, her distant father is working, and her pleas to go to Florida have fallen on deaf ears.  She decides to hang out at the clay studio the first day, where her passion for sculpture helps her forget about her troubles. When she gets there, she meets Casey, the owner’s nephew, who is spending the vacation with his aunt while his parents try to salvage their marriage.  Casey and Amelia start hanging out at the coffee shop, making up stories about the people they see through the window. When a woman resembling Amelia appears, Casey plants the idea that she might be Amelia’s long-dead mother. The vacation week turns out to be different–and better–than Amelia expected as she enjoys her new friendship, embraces her art, and meets a woman who will change her future.  192 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This spare, beautifully-written story will resonate with many tweens, as Casey and Amelia deal with familiar issues around families and friendship.  A possible Newbery contender.

Cons:  I find this kind of book–where most of the action is internal–difficult to book talk, yet I know many kids in my school would enjoy it.

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

Recipe for Disaster (Didi Dodo Future Spy, book 1) by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Jared Chapman

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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Summary:  Cookie baker Koko Dodo (a character from Angleberger’s Inspector Flytrap series) has been robbed! His Super Secret Fudge Sauce has been stolen just hours before the big cookie contest that he always wins.  Enter Didi Dodo, a high-energy dodo on roller skates who calls herself a future spy.  She’s sure she can solve the case, and whisks Koko off on a whirlwind adventure, trying one scheme after another to track down the culprit, and leaving a path of destruction as they go.  The robber is tracked down, the cookies are baked, and Koko gets another trophy.  On the last page, Didi whips out a card reading “Dodo and Dodo, Future Spies,” ensuring at least one more book, which is scheduled for release in September. 112 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Kids will love the manic humor and energy of this new series by the much-loved Tom Angleberger.

Cons:  I liked the illustrations, but why didn’t Tom’s wife Cece Bell do them like she did for Inspector Flytrap?  Maybe she’s working on a sequel to El Deafo…we can hope.

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