Listening

In the early stay-at-home days of Covid-19, I heard people saying they were having trouble focusing enough to read a book.  I was grateful not to have that problem.  Sure, it’s a stressful time, but I feel like it’s finite.  A vaccine, herd immunity…eventually life will get back to normal.  (That’s just my experience; I am not invalidating anyone else’s!).

But in the last week, I haven’t been able to read for more than a few minutes at a time.  There’s no vaccine coming for racism.  And it seems like every few years, that racism leads to explosions of violence and burning cities.  With the pandemic, getting back to normal is my greatest wish.  With racism, it’s my greatest fear.

I’ve been to a couple of protests this week, and one of my biggest takeaways is that white people need to stop talking and listen.  I’m giving myself a few days off of reading and blogging, and I invite you to listen to some authors and illustrators who have taught me a little bit about what it’s like to be Black in America (Based on my blog.  Forgive me for any omissions):

Dapo Adeola, Roda Ahmed, Jacqueline Alcantara, Kwame Alexander, Troy Andrews, Derrick Barnes, Melba Pattillo Beals, Daniel Bernstrom, Becky Birtha, Keturah A. Bobo, Tonya Bolden, Jo Ann Allen Boyce, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Ashley Bryan, Howard Bryant, Nathan Bryon, Grace Byers, Tami Charles, R. Gregory Christie, Lesa Cline-Ransom, Brandy Colbert, Bryan Collier, Floyd Cooper, Jerry Craft, Nina Crews, Christopher Paul Curtis, Ken Daley, Junot Diaz, Sharon Draper, Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Alice Faye Duncan, Zetta Elliott, Tonya Engel, Shane Evans, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Laura Freeman, Nikki Giovanni, Ebony Glenn, Xia Gordon, Eloise Greenfield, Nikki Grimes, April Harrison, Ekua Holmes, John Holyfield, Rita Lorraine Hubbard, Gordon C. James, Veronica Miller Jamison, Angela Johnson, Jade Johnson, Varian Johnson, Angela Joy, Vivian Kirkfield, London Ladd, Francie Latour, E. B. Lewis, Mariama Lockington, Kelly Starling Lyons, Kekla Magoon, Torrey Maldonado, Janae Marks, Bre McCoy, Breanna J. McDaniel, Patricia McKissack, Michelle Meadows, Tony Medina, Sharee Miller, Daniel Minter, Oge Mora, Frank Morrison, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Walter Dean Myers, Kadir Nelson, Marilyn Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Vanessa Brantley Newton, Baptiste Paul, Daria Peoples-Riley, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Connie Porter, Sean Qualls, Lisa Moore Ramee, James E. Ransome, Jason Reynolds, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Faith Ringgold, Christian Robinson, Chris Sasaki, Connie Schofield-Morrison, Ilyasah Shabazz, Margot Lee Shetterly, Nikki Shannon Smith, Ronald L. Smith, Javaka Steptoe, Nic Stone, Shadra Strickland, Karen Strong, Don Tate, Quevenzhane Wallace, Charles Walters, Renee Watson, Carole Boston Weatherford, Alicia D. Williams, Rita Williams-Garcia,  Sherri Winston, Brenda Woods, Jacqueline Woodson, Elizabeth Zunon

Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan

Published by HarperCollins

Summer at Meadow Wood: Tan, Amy Rebecca: 9780062795458: Amazon.com ...

Summary:  Vic has been going to camp at Meadow Wood for many years, but this year feels different.  After discovering a secret about her mom, she’s pretty sure her parents are trying to get her and her younger brother out of the house so they can plan their breakup.  Angry and not really in the mood for camp activities, Vic gets pulled into camp life nonetheless.  She finds herself bonding with some unexpected allies, including Chieko, a moody counselor with attitude; Earl, the camp owner’s 67-year-old husband and his new garden; Vera, a precocious younger camper she mentors; and Angel, a boy that she meets when she helps Earl out at the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.  Each of these people offers their own helpful insights and wisdom, and Vic ends the summer feeling stronger and happier than she ever thought would be possible.  384 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  I always enjoy a good camp story, and this one is chock full of interesting characters–even though there are a lot of people in this story, I had no trouble telling them apart, because their personalities shone through immediately.  With family issues, friendship issues, a crush, and a few trips to the emergency room, this book has everything to make it a satisfying summer read.

Cons:  Vic’s friend Jamie is referenced a few times: Vic’s mom called her a bad influence even though she’s a quiet bookworm; she had a crush that got her into trouble; she’s doing community service at the library.  I kept waiting to find out the full story, but it never came.  Quite by accident while writing this review, I discovered the book with Jamie’s story, A Kind of Paradise.  Still, if one hasn’t read this book (like me), you’ll be left with some questions when you get to the last page.

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

Support independent bookstores!

I’m sure Amazon is thriving during our time at home, and I’ve placed a few orders there myself in the last few weeks.

But let’s remember that there are independent bookstores all over the country that we love and want to stay alive until they can open their doors again.  One of my favorite local bookstores is the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts.  Not only do they have thousands of great titles, but they are an amazing community resource, hosting all sorts of author visits, book clubs, and other programs.  I think their owner, Joan, is a subscriber to my blog, so I hope she is reading this!

To support the Odyssey, I’m going to temporarily stop posting my Amazon Affiliate links, and instead post a link to order from their online bookstore.  They are still filling web orders, complete with free media mail shipping.  If you don’t order through this link, I encourage you to support your local independent bookstore now and in the future.  If you aren’t in the market for any books now, consider ordering a gift certificate from them.

Take a look at The Odyssey Bookshop and give a shout-out to your own favorite bookstore(s) in the comments!

 

The blog will go on…at least for the next four weeks

Thank you to everyone who commented or emailed about my post yesterday.  I appreciate the supportive words and news of job openings.  In response to a couple messages, I wanted to clarify that I intend to keep this blog going even if I switch jobs.

For the short term, I am going to do my best to keep the daily reviews going during the coronavirus epidemic.  Like many of you, I’m home for two weeks, possibly longer.  Public libraries in this area are closing, cutting off my usual supply of book.  While others have been hoarding pasta and toilet paper, I’ve been visiting as many libraries as I could to stock up on books to review.  I have 28 at the moment, so the blog will continue for at least another four weeks.  This may the motivation I need to learn how to use the Kindle that’s been sitting on my desk for the last year.

Stay well, everyone, and enjoy a silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud: more time to read.

Friday the 13th

Just a reminder to be sure to wash your hands and sanitize after reading this blog…just kidding.  We’ve all gotten enough of those messages for one week.

All things being equal, I wouldn’t have chosen to lose my job the same week a global pandemic hit, but that’s how things played out for me this week.  I was told that the position of K-8 librarian in our district is being cut for next year, so I’m out of a job as of June 30.

I’m a certified K-12 librarian in Massachusetts with a few decades of experience in school and public libraries, and I’m willing to relocate.  Since I know many of you are in libraries, I thought I’d put the word out.  If you know of any openings, please feel free to email me at jkdawson115@gmail.com.  Thank you!

Oh, and happy Friday the 13th!  Sure hope it’s a lucky day.

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

Image result for carl and the meaning of life amazon

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

Image result for wintercake lynne rae perkins

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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Image result for kitty and the moonlight rescue lovlie

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

Image result for im trying to love math amazon

Image result for im trying to love math amazon

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.