I’m Back!

Happy new year!  I’ve enjoyed having the month of January off, but am ready to get back to work!  I’ve started reading 2017 books, and will start reviewing them tomorrow morning.

Thank you for all your messages!  I got many emails and comments, and it was gratifying to hear how many people out there are using the reviews on this blog to choose books for kids, whether it’s for a library, classroom, or family.

As many suggested, I may slow down the pace, possibly taking a day or two off each week, and going on an occasional vacation.

What did I read in January?  I finished up some 2016 books, like Slacker by Gordon Korman, I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings, and Life in Motion by Misty Copeland.  I was planning on posting reviews of these, but I spilled water on my laptop, and am pretty sure the reviews I wrote are gone.  I recommend all three, although read I Am Jazz first if you’re planning to put it in a school library.

While I was gone, ALA announced all its award winners.  What did you think?  I was pretty happy overall, although I was disappointed The Wild Robot and Some Writer! didn’t get any recognition.

Well, onto 2017!  I do enjoy hearing from you, so feel free to comment or email me (jkdhamilton@gmail.com) any time.



January Hiatus

I’ve been posting daily book reviews since February 20, 2015, and I’m ready for a break.  I love doing this blog, but as you can imagine, it’s time-consuming to read and review a book every day.  For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about shutting down, but I’m not ready to call it quits for good.

I’ve decided to take the month of January off.  It’s a good time, since I’ve read and reviewed most of the 2016 books I want to, and it will be a few weeks until I can start getting my hands on 2017 books.  I’ll use the time off to decide whether or not I’ll continue reviewing in 2017, and get back to you no later than February 1.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear feedback about the blog, so please feel free to leave a comment or email me at jkdhamilton@gmail.com.  Thank you so much for reading my reviews, and I will be back in a few weeks!

5 Favorite Poetry Books

I’m neither an expert in nor a huge fan of poetry, but there was a pretty good selection in 2016.  Here were five that I really liked:

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryan.  Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Ashley Bryan really did bring these men and women to life, using historical documents as a springboard for his imagination to create lives for each of these eleven through art and poetry.

Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri.  Published by Chin Music Press.

A beautifully illustrated retelling of the brilliant, tragic life of Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko, complete with translations of many of her deceptively simple poems.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo.  Published by Candlewick.

The history of Art Kane’s 1958 photograph of 57 jazz musicians against the backdrop of a Harlem brownstone, told with poems in the voices of the subjects and the bystanders watching them.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary School by Laura Shodd.  Published by Wendy Lamb Books.

Eighteen fifth graders share their hopes, dreams, and fears, as they prepare for the closing of their school in June; they use a variety of prompts and poetic forms that are explained at the end of the book.

Echo, Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer illustrated by Josee Masie.  Published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Second verse same as the first…only backwards to completely change the meaning.  Super cool poems in two voices for Percy Jackson fans.

Six Nonfiction Favorites

I couldn’t get it down to five; six was hard enough.  Nonfiction is my favorite.  I don’t think any of the books on this list will win awards, but they were the ones I found most interesting.

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown.  Published by Roaring Brook Press.

A boy explains each step of an airplane trip, from packing up at home to driving from the airport to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  The pictures are as busy as LaGuardia at Thanksgiving.

Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz.  Published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

The most practically helpful book I read this year.  Wish I had had it middle school.  Unfortunately, despite my enthusiastic recommendations, I haven’t been able to get any actual teens to check it out of the library.  They’re probably too embarrassed.

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, with photographs by Wing Young Huie.  Published by Carolrhoda Books.

Looking at present-day immigrants, this book puts sympathetic human faces on a group that is all too often used as pawns in political debates.

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis.  Published by Henry Holt.

American history and the Founding Fathers in a whole new light.  I couldn’t put it down.

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics by Steve Jenkins.  Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Come on…you didn’t think the president of Steve Jenkins’ fan club was going to leave him off her list of favorites, did you?

Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges to Become Stars by Gregory Zuckerman, with Elijah and Gabriel Zuckerman.  Published by Philomel Books.

I don’t think this book has gotten to rest on a library shelf since I bought it for my school last spring.  Even I, a non sports fan, found it extremely inspiring.

Five Newbery Predictions

This week I’ll be rounding up the year with some lists of my 2016 favorites.  I’m starting today with my prediction of which of those favorites are likely to get  Newbery awards on January 23.  Maybe I’m getting jaded after almost two years of writing this blog, but I’m just not as excited about the field this year as I was for the 2016 awards.  Still, there were some books I loved, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll get some recognition.  After going through my reviews with the past year, here’s what I’ve got:

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.  Published by Little Brown

With its largely animal cast of characters and its meditations on friendship, community, and life, The Wild Robot reminds me a little of Charlotte’s Web.  Admittedly, the ending is darker, but there’s a spark of hope that I hope lays the groundwork for a sequel.

The Inquisitor’s Tale, or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illuminated by Hatem Aly.  Published by Dutton Children’s books.

If the Newbery committee doesn’t see that this 13th-century tale of prejudice, hatred, love, and redemption was one of the most timely books of 2016, they’re not really paying attention.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds.  Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw is one of the funniest, most likeable narrators of 2016, so easy to root for as he finds his way back from a family tragedy with the help of a heroic track coach.  A contender for the Coretta Scott King award as well.

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

Newbery or Caldecott?  Melissa Sweet is better known as an illustrator, but her writing here was surprisingly engaging as well.  I found it a hard book to put down, not always the case with a biography.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk.  Published by Dutton Books.

Maybe not the most kid-friendly choice on the list, and no happy ending, but the writing is beautiful and you’ll be thinking about the story for a long time afterward.