Bear and Wolf  by Daniel Salmieri

Published by Enchanted Lion Books

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Summary:  A bear and a wolf meet in the woods on a winter’s night, and go off for a walk together.  They savor the sights, sounds, and smells of the quiet forest, ending up looking at fish beneath the ice of a frozen lake.  They go their separate ways, Wolf to hunt caribou, and Bear to sleep the rest of the winter. In the spring, they meet again, and walk off to explore the “awakening woods”.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A quiet but beautiful read, gorgeously illustrated with soft colors that capture the winter, both close up and from a more distant perspective.  Readers are led to think about slowing down and enjoying all aspects of nature the way that Bear and Wolf do.

Cons:  If Bear is Bear and Wolf is Wolf, shouldn’t Bird be something more specific, like Falcon?  Otherwise, wouldn’t Bear and Wolf both be called Mammal?

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

Whatshisface by Gordon Korman

Published by Scholastic Press

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Summary:  Army brat Cooper is used to being the new kid in school, and tries to fade into the background as much as possible.  As consolation for the family’s most recent move, his parents have gotten him a top-of-the-line smartphone, but it seems to have some bugs.  Then one day, an oddly-dressed boy named Roddy appears on the screen and starts talking to Cooper in Shakespeare’s English. Coincidentally, Cooper’s new hometown, Stratford, is crazy about Shakespeare, and every year the seventh grade puts on one of the Bard’s plays.  This year, it’s Romeo and Juliet, and although Cooper would love to be Romeo to his crush Jolie’s Juliet, he’s relegated to the part of second watchman.  But Roddy has some personal knowledge of William Shakespeare, particularly Romeo and Juliet, and he’s not about to let Cooper get sidelined.  The two of them work together to capture Jolie’s heart, reveal the true author of Romeo and Juliet, and make this year’s production the most memorable Stratford has ever seen. 240 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Gordon Korman fans won’t be disappointed by this fast and funny middle school story; Roddy’s old English interpretation of the 21st century is laugh-out-loud funny.

Cons:  The first few chapters were kind of flat.  I like the way Korman often tells stories from different characters’ perspectives, but this was all third person from Cooper’s point of view.

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One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock

Published by Scholastic

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Summary:  Allison’s life has been in turmoil since her older brother died in a car accident, a tragedy that has led to her parents’ decision to divorce.  She moves with her mom to North Carolina, and immediately finds a new best friend, Samantha, or Sam. As the girls get closer, Allie starts to realize her feelings for Sam are more than friendship, which seems unacceptable in 1977 North Carolina.  Two gay women teachers and an understanding woman pastor help Allie to accept herself and to try to support Sam as she faces hostility in her conservative Christian home. An author’s note explains more about Allie’s experiences, including Anita Bryant’s anti-homosexual campaign of that time, and how she (the author) came to write the book.  208 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  A sympathetic look at a 12-year-old girl struggling to understand her sexuality in a fairly hostile environment.  LGBQT tweens and their friends will relate to Allie’s experiences in middle school and her community.

Cons:  This felt like a book with a message, and some of the characters, like Sam’s mother and the pastor were fairly one-dimensional.

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Awards Day!

The ALA awards have been announced, and Kids Book A Day predicted…drum roll, please…zero.  Here’s the list.  Okay, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t pick either one, but come on, Newbery committee!  The three honor books are a picture book and two YA books.  Believe me, I’m the last one to begrudge Jason Reynolds a Newbery honor, but Long Way Down features a 15-year-old protagonist contemplating whether or not to murder the guy who killed his brother.  And the protagonist of Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together is a high school junior.  The Printz award was created for books like these!  Tell me what you think in the comments!

Five Newbery predictions

In case you haven’t been keeping track, for the last two years I’ve predicted the Newbery honor books, but the actual medalist has not made my list.  I have a funny feeling I’m not getting it right at all this year.  It just didn’t seem like there was a lot of Newbery caliber, and some of the authors I’ve picked already have a medal of some color.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.  Published by Feiwel and Friends.

Feels like a bit of a long shot to me, but it’s a beautiful story with a timely message, and it has a lot of younger kid appeal, which, as an elementary librarian, I appreciate.  Link to Amazon


The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  Published by Dial Books.

One of my two favorite middle grade novels of the year.  But will the committee give an award to a sequel of an honor book?  Link to Amazon.


Patina by Jason Reynolds.  Published by Atheneum.

Last year, I was hoping Ghost would win.  This year, I am hoping Patina will win.  Next year, I may be hoping Sunny will win (due out in April, 2018).  Link to Amazon.


Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder.  Published by Walden Pond Press.

A beautifully written, mysterious story of orphan children living on an mist-shrouded island.  I am still hoping there is a sequel that answers some of my questions. Link to Amazon.


Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk.

My other favorite middle grade novel of 2017.  Lauren Wolk was just honored last year for the equally good Wolf Hollow.  Will she do it again?  All will be revealed on the morning of February 12.  Link to Amazon.




Wrapping up the year

This is how I feel at this time of year: after reviewing six books a week for the last year, I keep seeing lists of “the best of 2017” and realizing how many books I DIDN’T get to read this year.  I’m resisting the urge to hole up all week and try to fit in as many of those books as I can!  This week I’ll be posting my own “best of” lists; then I’m going to take a few weeks off in January to catch up on some non-blog reading and let the 2018 books start to pile up.

As always, I’d love to hear from any followers about how Kids Book a Day has helped you this year, what you’d like to see here in 2018, or just a general hello.  I look forward to another year of reading and sharing books, and I wish each one of you the best in the year ahead!