Doodleville by Chad Sell

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Doodleville — Chad Sell Doodleville (9781984894700): Sell, Chad: Books

Summary:  Drew has always loved to draw and is excited to become part of a kids’ art club.  Her doodles come to life, and she considers the characters she’s created to be some of her closest friends.  As she becomes friends with the kids in the club, her doodles also get to interact with their creations.  One night, Drew creates a new doodle called Leviathan, or Levi for short.  Before long, Levi has turned into a monster and become a threat to the other doodles.  Drew’s new friends try to help defeat Levi with their own creations, but it soon becomes clear that only Drew has the power to destroy Levi…or maybe to transform him.  She discovers a unique solution, and there’s a promise of more adventures ahead for the entire art club.  Includes an author’s note; an annotated history of the doodles that tells how the author created the doodles that appear in Drew’s drawings; and instructions on how to draw a doodle.  288 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Aspiring artists will be inspired by all the kids’ artwork and will also enjoy the magical world in which their drawings come to life.  Looks as though there will definitely be a sequel to look forward to.

Cons:  The story bogged down somewhat when Levi came on the scene, and I had trouble distinguishing the different kids’ personalities and drawings as they each tried to help Drew.

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

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden by Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Amy June Bates and Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Laura Freeman

Published by Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden: Biden, Dr Jill, Krull, Kathleen, Bates, Amy  June: 9781534480537: Books
Joey: The Story of Joe Biden: Biden, Dr Jill, Krull, Kathleen, Bates, Amy  June: 9781534480537: Books

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice: Grimes, Nikki, Freeman, Laura:  9781534462670: Books
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice: Grimes, Nikki, Freeman, Laura:  9781534462670: Books

Summary:  The Democratic nominees for President and Vice President are profiled in these two picture books.  Each one traces the candidate’s life from childhood, emphasizing their hard work, integrity, and quest for justice.  Biden’s is a straightforward account of his life, while Harris’s is narrated by a mother to her young daughter who has been told that girls can’t grow up to be President.  Published before she was chosen as Biden’s running mate, Harris’s story ends with her dropping out of the primary.  Joey includes photos, sources for quotations, a timeline, a bibliography, and a list of “Bidenisms”; Kamala Harris includes a timeline and list of sources. 48 pp. and 40 pp.; grades K-5.

Pros:  These books may come in handy as November 3 approaches and students are looking for more information on the candidates (I did try, in the interest of being nonpartisan, to find Trump and Pence picture book biographies, but was unsuccessful).  Readers will get ample biographical information, as well as some insights into both Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’s characters.

Cons:  One might expect a book written by the candidate’s wife (Biden) to read like a piece of campaign literature, and one would be right.  I wish the editors had worked a little harder to tone down the fawning rhetoric, letting Biden’s life speak for itself.  Also, the device of having the mother tell her daughter the story of Harris’s life seemed unnecessary, particularly the last page, where the girl tells her mother she’s going to call the kid who said she can’t be President a doofus.

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

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

10 picture books about kindness and community

This year, for so many reasons, kids need to feel the safety of the classroom community more than ever. And, of course, whether your students are Zooming or social distancing, creating community will be extra challenging. Here are some books to help you get started.

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates

Published by Simon and Schuster

The Big Umbrella: Bates, Amy June, Bates, Juniper, Bates, Amy June ...

This umbrella is big enough to cover everyone. A quick read, great illustrations, and a diverse cast of characters get the conversation on inclusion rolling. Buy it on Amazon.

The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo

Published by Tilbury House Publishers

The Buddy Bench - Kindle edition by Brozo, Patty, Deas, Mike ...

What happens when kids are being left out at recess? This class has a solution: build a buddy bench. When you see someone sitting on the bench, you know they’re looking for a friend. Buy it on Amazon.

The Cool Bean by John Jory

Published by HarperCollins

The Cool Bean - Kindle edition by John, Jory, Oswald, Pete ...

In this school, the cool kids are also kind, and the bean who’s been feeling kind of uncool appreciates it. Buy it on Amazon.

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar

Published by Sterling Children’s Books

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh - Kindle edition by Kelkar ...

Harpreet dresses according to his moods, and a new school has him wearing white every day, trying to fade into the background. But a new friendship helps him start dressing in all the colors of the rainbow again. Buy it on Amazon.

I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet

Published by Schwartz & Wade

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness ...

The girl in this wordless story has to figure out what to do when she sees new girl Vanessa getting picked on. The whole school ends up coming together to put an end to the bullying. Buy it on Amazon.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Be Kind - Kindle edition by Zietlow Miller, Pat, Hill, Jen ...

After her friendly overtures are rebuffed, a girl reflects on what it means to be kind. Buy it on Amazon.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

All Are Welcome: Penfold, Alexandra, Kaufman, Suzanne ...

Rhyming text and busy illustrations show a diverse classroom of children and families coming together to form a community. Buy it on Amazon.

Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds

Published by Orchard Books

Say Something: Reynolds, Peter H., Reynolds, Peter H ...

“Some people find it easier to say something than others. But everyone has something to say.” Encourages extroverts and introverts alike to express themselves in a variety of ways. Look for Reynolds’ newest book Be You! Buy it on Amazon.

You Matter by Christian Reynolds

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

You Matter | Book by Christian Robinson | Official Publisher Page ...

Even when you feel small, insignificant, or lost, you matter. A quick and reassuring read for every member of the group. Buy it on Amazon.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

The Day You Begin - Kindle edition by Woodson, Jacqueline, López ...

Four kids feel a little strange on the first day of school, but as time goes on, they start to connect and feel okay about what makes them unique. Buy it on Amazon.

Back to school with books

Whatever plan your school is going with this year, it’s going to be unfamiliar territory.  It seems impossible to escape the first-day jitters this year, even if you’re a 30-year veteran.  Here are ten of my favorite back-to-school books from this blog to help get you through those first few days.

Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell

Published by Salaam Reads

Our Favorite Day of the Year: Ali, A. E., Bell, Rahele Jomepour ...

Musa’s teacher tells the class that the first day of school is her favorite day of the year. She invites them to share their favorites as they go through kindergarten, resulting in a celebration of holidays, foods and cultures all year long.  Click here to buy on Amazon


Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube

Published by Abrams

Mae's First Day of School - Kindle edition by Berube, Kate ...

Mae would rather sit up in a tree all day than face the uncertainties of the first day of school.  When others join her, including her new teacher, she realizes she’s not the only one feeling nervous.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Monkey Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Brown

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten: Brown, Marc: 9780553496581 ...

Monkey worries about all the ways he might not be ready for kindergarten.  A simple tale with a reassuring ending.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous by Keith Calabrese, illustrated by Juana Medina

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Lena's Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma: Calabrese ...

Lena’s shoes are nervous about starting school.  So are her socks.  It’s up to her headband to remind them that they’ve tried out new things before that turned out well.  By the end, the shoes are joined by the friendly sneakers, shoes, and boots of the other kids.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Camp Tiger by Susan Choi, illustrated by John Rocco

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Camp Tiger: Choi, Susan, Rocco, John: 9780399173295: Books

A boy who’s worried about starting first grade meets a tiger on an end-of-summer camping trip with his family.  Is the tiger real or imaginary?  Either way, he helps the boy to find courage for a new beginning.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


A New School Year by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song

Published by Charlesbridge

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices - Kindle edition by Derby ...

Six kids from grades K-5 tell about their first day of school in a series of poems that takes from the night before to the end of the first day.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Published by Roaring Brook Press

School's First Day of School - Kindle edition by Rex, Adam ...

Even though the janitor assures him that he’ll do fine, the new school building is worried about school starting.  The first day brings its share of ups and downs, but overall, School is pretty happy and ready to move on to the rest of the school year.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Butterflies on the First Day of School by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Dream Chen

Published by Sterling Children’s Books

Butterflies on the First Day of School - Kindle edition by ...

Mom calls Rosie’s nerves on the first day of school “butterflies in your stomach”.  Whenever something good happens at school that day, a butterfly flies out of her mouth.  She even sees one come out of another girl’s mouth!  By the end of the day, the butterflies are all gone.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison

Published by Schwartz and Wade

Nana Akua Goes to School: Walker, Tricia Elam, Harrison, April ...

Zura’s worried about bringing her Ghanaian grandmother to school for Grandparents’ Day, because she’s seen people stare at Nana Akua’s facial tattoo.  But Nana knows the secret for helping people feel comfortable, and the visit is a huge success.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems

Published by Hyperion Books for Children

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!: Mo Willems: 9781406389012: Amazon ...

The pigeon has a long list of reasons why he shouldn’t have to go to school…until he sees that he gets to ride there on a bus.  Click here to buy on Amazon.


Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Published by Scholastic Press

Show Me a Sign: LeZotte, Ann Clare: 9781338255812: Books

Summary:  11-year-old Mary Lambert lives in Chilmark, a community on Martha’s Vineyard, where, in 1805, many of the residents are deaf.  Mary and her father are deaf; her mother is hearing, as was her brother George, who died recently in an accident that Mary feels she caused.  Their community is somewhat uneasily intertwined with the Wampanoag and black freedmen, and Mary is aware of the racism expressed by some of the people closest to her.  Everyone in Mary’s life communicates through a sign language that has evolved on the island making the community distinctive enough to draw the attention of scientists.  One of them, Andrew Noble, arrives from Boston to stay with the local minister and study the population in hopes of better understanding the cause of deafness.  When Mary accidentally discovers a letter to Andrew asking him for a live specimen, she doesn’t realize that she is soon to become that specimen, kidnapped and taken to Boston for further study.  Mary awakens to the fact that most of the deaf population outside of Martha’s Vineyard are treated as less than fully human, and she becomes desperate to find a way to communicate and get help.  The story concludes with healing for Mary and her family, and with a vision of a brighter future for the deaf community.  Includes six pages of notes about the history of Martha’s Vineyard, deaf education, sign language, and the Wampanoag.  288 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  This is honestly a masterpiece of historical fiction that tackles so many different topics and doesn’t shy away from difficult topics.  Mary’s mother and best friend both have racist beliefs that don’t change by the end of the story, yet also have qualities that Mary loves.  This would make an excellent book club selection.

Cons:  I found the beginning a little slow going as there was so much to introduce.

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

Tweet, tweet

What do Donald Trump and I have in common?  That’s right, we’re both on Twitter!  This week, I started a new account as a companion to this blog.  It’s taken me just a little more than 14 years to catch up with exciting new social media platform.  Not for nothing do my kids describe me as “technologically cutting edge” (just kidding).  Anyway, if you want to take a look, go on over to @kidsbookaday.  If you are a more sophisticated Twitter user than I am–and really, just about everyone on Twitter is–feel free to offer feedback on how I can improve my account.

Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet by April Pulley Sayre

Published by Greenwillow Books Cityscape: Where Science and Art Meet (9780062893314 ...

Summary:  “Rectangle. Right angle. Window. Wall. A windy canyon where shadows fall.”  The simple rhyming text is accompanied by several photos on each page showing urban landscapes.  Building, vehicles, and other structures focus on shapes, angles, functions, and art.  The last couple pages discuss how to find science, technology, engineering, math, and art in the city.  A list of 40 questions encourages readers to observe what they see in the city with an inquiring mind.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  April Pulley Sayre works her usual magic with her combination of interesting photographs and brief rhyming text.  She moves in a different direction with this book, away from her usual nature topics, and into the city and human-built structures.  There’s a lot to absorb in both the book and the questions at the end, and kids will come away from this book observing their surroundings in a whole new way.

Cons:  Some of the topics seemed somewhat abstract.  On the other hand, this could make the book an interesting read for older kids as well.

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


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: ...

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!