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Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

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What are you reading today?

So I saw Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes on countless 2016 must read lists, so I added it to my Goodreads list but just didn’t get to reading it in 2016! So many books, so little time….so here I am several months into 2017 and I saw this book on

Garvey's Choice

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the bookshelf at the library. Along with the audio – yes! So I checked it out and listened to it three time. Just amazing. This is a book that asks to be read multiple times thanks to the layers you will find in Garvey’s story.

Garvey is a young boy who struggles to live up to his father’s expectations. He is not the sports hero his father wants, and instead he is interested in reading and science fiction – definitely not the professional sports that his father watches. He is teased by schoolmates about his weight and lonely. Then he discovers the school chorus, and finds confidence in himself as well as friends who appreciate Garvey for the kind and thoughtful friend that he is. He also discovers a new connection to his father.

Grimes wrote this book in Tanka form poetry. The Japanese Tanka, a “short song,” is a thirty-one syllable poem written as a single line. Nikki Grimes includes her thoughts on the form and why she chose this in the author’s note at the end of the book. An exceptional novel about the language of music and the confidence that Garvey discovers within himself – a story of Garvey’s choice. Wise, honest, and important.

MOO by Sharon Creech

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MooMOOOOOOO! Well, if you follow Sharon Creech’s books (and you should) then you’ve probably already read Love That Dog and Hate that Cat (the Jack books). So when I heard that her upcoming book was titled Moo, I thought, well of course, dog, cat and now a cow. Moo is the story of Reena, a twelve year old girl and her younger brother Luke. Their family moves to rural Maine, leaving the city behind and venturing into a new life. Reena expects to spend time picking blueberries, but instead her parents volunteer Reena and Luke to help their neighbor, Mrs. Falala, with her animals. Reena and Luke aren’t thrilled with this prospect, but surprise themselves with how they become attached to the animals and their new community. Reena becomes attached to Zora, the stubborn, rather ornery, yet very special cow — LOVE ZORA!!!!! Reena and Zora’s stories are intertwined with the stories of Luke, Mrs. Falala, and Reena’s parents, whose lives all change in unexpected ways. Creech tells the story through both prose and poetry, with beautiful language and imagery. Somehow it feels right to say that the story is poetry through and through. True to Creech’s other books, readers will find a story with depth, that speaks to the importance of kindness, discovering important bonds in unexpected places, and the power of love. Young readers will love Reena’s and Zora’s story! Enjoy – and MOOOOOOO!

Thank you Bear by Greg Foley

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Thank You BearSimplicity. And a thank you. This is a sweet story of a bear with a box. What is inside? It’s a mystery, but Bear is certain that it is perfect for Mouse. Sadly, Bear meets some fellow animals along the way who aren’t so sure and cause some doubt. Bear becomes worried that his gift won’t be as wonderful as he thought it would be. But Bear’s initial instinct is right. He knows his friend and he has the perfect gift for Mouse. The illustrations are expressive and simple – colors against a warm white background, showing each character in detail. The text is large for young eyes learning to read letters. And the story is a perfect tale of generosity and thoughtfulness, highlighting a kind spirit and the value of friendship. Greg Foley created a lovely tale for young readers and also a thoughtful tale for older readers too. Kindness, friendship, generosity, thoughtfulness. Thank You Bear.

Be a Friend by Salina Yoon

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What are you reading?

Be a FriendToday, I am thinking about friendship. And this is a book at the top of my list for young readers on the topic of friendship. Yes, Be a Friend by Salina Yoon is a must read – you need this book for your classroom, now matter what you teach! Read about this book (and its numerous awards & accolates) at Salina Yoon’s website. At its core, Be a Friend is a story about self-acceptance, courage, and being a friend. Dennis is “different.” He mimes while others show and tell. He is a tree while other children climb the tree. He is different from everyone else, and here lies the loneliness of this picture book. But Dennis meets Joy, and a friendship is formed. Joy accepts Dennis just as he is, and Dennis & Joy create a bond. The illustrations are inviting, and readers will quickly recognize the important words in large red typeface, matching the important title BE A FRIEND. After you read this book, you must head over to youtube and watch Emily Arrow’s song – yes a SONG – about Dennis’ story Be a Friend. So adorable and young reader will love every moment and find themselves singing along about this special friendship! Celebrate friends today and read this book to YOUR FRIENDS!

Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray

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What are you reading today?

Go to Sleep Little FarmGo to Sleep, Little Farm, by Mary Lyn Ray, is a nighttime story reminiscient of classics like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Time for Bed by Mem Fox. Animals are getting ready for bed, all across the farm and the forests, just as little ones are getting ready for bed. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (one of my favorite illustrators and the reason I picked up this book!) the artwork has a blue palette that carries throughout, and mixed media illustrations that have a retro feel to them. The pages are simple, yet full of details that create a mood of sleepytime for all of the animals. You will find dusk falling, shadows stretching, and animals ready to curl up and sleep while little ones are tucked in for bed. A beautiful story for bedtime.

 

The Water Princess by Susan Verde

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What are you reading today?

The Water PrincessAs soon as I saw this cover, on a blog of upcoming picture books, I knew that I would need to own this book. How precious is water? Just what does it mean to leave your village every morning in search of clean water? Inspired by the childhood experience of Georgie Badiel, The Water Princess takes readers on a journey for water, illuminating the experience – and the struggle – that people face every day. Georgie’s kingdom is “The African sky. The dusty earth.” She dreams of “flowing, cool, crystal-clear water” that is not found miles away but instead, in a well in her own village. This is a story of hope for clean drinking water for all children. Susan Verde’s powerful text and Peter Reynolds’ beautiful, full page illustrations bring this story to life and invite the readers to explore this topic, have important conversations, and look for ways to help make a difference in the lives of others. The author’s note at the end includes images of children carrying water on their heads and Georgie pumping water from a new well built through her foundation. You can find more information at www.ryanswell.ca and www.georgiebadielfoundation.org. I hope that this book will find its way into classrooms, libraries, and homes where young readers will be inspired to learn, discover, and make a change.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

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What are you reading today?

Over and Under the SnowOh, it is time for snow! Not exactly where I live in the central valley (we are more like to have fog blanket our valley floor), but there is snow in the Sierras! This beautiful picture book will have you mesmerized by the secret world under the white snow – a world filled with squirrels, rabbits, bullfrogs, all safe and warm (and out of sight). Kate Messner is one of my favorites and so is Christopher Silas Neal, who illustrated the beautiful snowy pictures of a child and her father, skiing over the snow and the animal homes underneath. The simple text and striking illustrations tell the story of the subnivean zone, where animals depend on the network of open spaces between the snowpack and the ground to keep them insulated and safe in the cold weather. Kate Messner also includes an Author’s Note and a list of animals who “really do eat, sleep, hide, and play over and under the winter snow.” She also includes further reading resources for kids who want to find out more about animals in winter. This is a great addition to home libraries as well as classroom libraries (I can see this book in science centers) – now, let’s learn about winter!

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Radiant Child

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What are you reading today?

Javaka Steptoe’s book about Jean-Michel Basquiat and his art will captivate readers, especially with the bold, colorful, striking collage-style painting. This book invites the reader to learn more about Jean-Michel and his life. This is a book about creating art, and one can’t help but ask the question, what is beautiful? What is art? Jean-Michel’s answers will inspire and engage the reader. He found art all around him, and constantly created new and surprising collages and art. Steptoe creates her own art in honor of Jean-Michel, using inspiration from his personal life and work. Don’t miss the Author’s Note, as Javaka Steptoe details her own inspiration found through Basquait’s story and artwork. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat won the 2016 Caldecott Medal – a well-deserved honor.

Top Ten Books of 2016

Top Ten Books (Including YA) of 2016!

 

My annual 2016 list of favorites (whether or not they were published in 2016, these books are part of my experience). For my favorite middle grade novels published in 2016, visit my MG post. This list is a mixture of my young adult books as well as fiction, non-fiction, and everything I thought was a memorable reading experience (and recorded in my Goodreads reading). Here is my list, in no particular order. Enjoy and happy reading in 2017!

 

the-underground-railroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. WOW. Cora’s story will captivate readers, through the horrors of slavery and the fear of those who dare to escape. This story blends the magical with the harsh reality of the time period. Utterly mesmerizing and unlike any slave narrative I have read before. Read it!

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

 

the-serpent-kingThe Serpent King by Jeff Zenter. I cried. And I cried some more. For all the books I read over the course of the year, there aren’t a lot of characters that I miss after I finish a book. But I miss Travis, Dill, and Lydia. I still find myself thinking about them.

 

 

 

 

all-american-boysAll American Boys by Brandon Kiely & Jason Reynolds. I have to admit that when I saw that this book was written by two authors, I was unsure. Here is what a pictured: an uneven voice, unevenly developed characters, and an “anti-police” agenda. I was wrong on all counts. Rather than a novel with an agenda, this is a novel that is a window to discussions of racial profiling and the complexities of issues that some might be tempted to judge from a headline. This is definitely a story about going beyond the headlines and thinking about multiple perspectives.  It is timely, engaging, and thought-provoking. Read more about Brandon & Jason and how this novel came to be in this interview by James Sullivan.

 

 

girl-in-pieces

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow.  I missed my bedtime by about 3 hours for this one. I got to a point where I couldn’t stop reading and finished around 2 am. Charlie Davis is a girl with pain in her life and her heart – and she needs a new chance, a chance to build her life again. She arrives in Tuscon, Arizona, and she faces her past and her future while trying her best to take steps forward, one at a time. Her grit is inspiring and you just might find yourself awake at 2am, anxious to find out how the pieces in Charlie’s life will come together.

 

 

 

belzharBelzhar by Meg Wolitzer. So I listen to audiobooks as I run, and this was one that I listened to during the fall. My normal route is around thirty minutes. But when I was listening to Belzhar, I found myself saying, hey, maybe 4 miles today, or 5, just so I could keep listening. There are multiple twists in this story, and just when I thought I had something figured out, Meg Wolitzer surprised me again. Loved every minute of this book!

 

 

 

 

another-brooklynAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. Just beautiful. The writing is phenomenal. Everything I pick up by Jacqueline Woodson is mesmerizing, from picture books to middle grade novels, and now young adult. This is a story of friendship, hope, and the bonds we have with those around us – the people we choose to let inside our lives and the people who hold our hands when we need it.

 

 

 

 

 

the-nestThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. My goodness. Where to start? Something about this book reminded me of The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I found myself captivated by the characters, their motivations, their decisions, I could not stop reading. I have recommended this book multiple times since finishing it. Definitely one to read and discuss.

 

 

 

 

 

my-name-is-lucy-barton

 

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Just beautiful writing, and a thoughtful meditation on life, the decisions we make, and how we connect to those around us. Different from Strout’s previous novels, but the familiar themes of family, connections, friendship will remind readers subtly of Olive Kittredge and Strout’s other works as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

did-you-ever-have-a-familyDid You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. There was something about this book that grabbed me and I found myself reading compulsively. At times the story was uneven, but I found the suspense to be a driving force throughout the novel, pushing me to keep reading and wondering what would happen to June’s world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I added this book to my TBR list because I saw it in a list of books about amazing but often unknown women. Rebecca Skloot inspired me along with Henrietta Lacks. Skloot’s perseverance in researching and telling this story is something to be admired.

 

Top Ten Middle Grade Books of 2016

Drumroll………my top ten middle grade books of 2016!!!!!!! Probably my favorite blog post of the year! I started thinking about this list a couple of weeks ago, jotting down my favorites without looking back at my Goodreads list. What books stood out in my mind months after finishing them? What books did I find myself recommending to others, or wanting to reread? I read so many wonderful books in 2016, it was hard to keep my list to only ten books. Here is my list, in no particular order (and yes, I cheated a bit and include a 2017 book as number eleven!) Some of these books were included in my Friday Book Sharing – I have included the links if you want to read my original reviews! Cheers!

 

Raymie NightingaleI love all of Kate DiCamillo’s books, so it is no surprise to find Raymie Nightingale on my list of favorites. What a beautiful book! The characters are interesting, complex, and full of surprises. Ramyie and her friends will charm you, and as usual with Kate DiCamillo’s books, you will find such depth in this book that it warrants rereading and discussing with your best friend!

 

 

 

Hour of the Bees

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager is just magical. This story will enchant middle grade readers as well as older readers – and I have found myself recommending this book to high schoolers and adults. Eager’s novel will have you thinking about the power of storytelling and the power of believing in a bit of magic, right in the middle of the ordinary.

 

 

 

Wolf Hollow

Lauren Wolk’s masterful book Wolf Hollow is a book that I will reread, again, and again, and again. The writing is beautiful and haunting. The story has a richness and depth to it that will leave you in awe. A classic. Read this book!

 

 

 

 

the-poets-dog

This one was on my TBR list for a couple of months, but it was a tweet that suddenly inspired me to move The Poet’s Dog to the top of my stack! So very glad I did. This is a poetic and philosophical story that will astound with words of wisdom from the poet’s dog and the two children he cares for during a snowstorm. A beautiful treasure from the wonderful Patricia MacLachlan. Definitely a book to reread with a cup of tea on a cold winter day.

 

 

 

 

Unbound

Just lovely. I was fortunate to read an ARC of Unbound and I wrote about it on my blog, eagerly anticipating its publication. My copy arrived and I immediately handed it to my daughters to read. They both loved it! A moving, important story. Grace is a character that you will remember.

 

 

 

 

Paper Wishes

An beautiful story set in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, a book that encompasses hope and optimism in the midst of challenges. In Paper Wishes, Manami, at age 10, must move with her family to an internment camp and leave her beloved dog behind. Her story will move readers. When my oldest daughter finished reading this book, she insisted that I send a tweet to Lois Sepahban, who graciously answered her tweet! My own ten-year-old daughter declared this to be “one of the best books I’ve ever read!”

 

 

 

the-seventh-wish

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner is an interesting book to describe – a story that deals with drug addition, ice fishing, Irish dancing, and a magical fish. Read this book. It is a story that will stay with you long after finishing the last page. It is difficult to read at times, as this is an honest portrayal of the difficulties of drug addiction for families, both parents and siblings. It is a book that will help raise awareness and start important conversations for families. Beautifully written, this is another amazing book by Kate Messner.

 

 

finding-perfect

I finished reading Finding Perfect just in time to include it on my 2016 list! (Really, I finished it on New Year’s Eve!). An amazing book by Elly Swartz. Molly is a young girl who has a lot going on in her life, and as Molly life becomes more complicated and stressful, her obsessions with counting, washing hands, and organizing become more and more out of control. Molly knows she needs to tell someone, that she needs help, but telling someone is difficult. Molly touched my heart in so many ways – she is a brave girl who inspires those around her, and those who read her story! I know I’ll be recommending this book to many young readers in the future.

 

The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is a book that surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect – a book about a robot? On a island? But the book was calling me, over and over again, I kept seeing mentions on Goodreads and Twitter, and it was hard not to read a review – I knew I had to read it first before I read any reviews! This is a book that will surprise and get you thinking about nature and how we interact – all in one amazing middle grade novel! Peter Brown is amazing.

 

 

PAX

PAX. So much anticipation with this book! The cover is amazingly beautiful and honestly, this is a book that will STAY WITH YOU. A boy and his fox. It is both a simple and a complex story. The bond between friends and the difficulties of war. You will be mesmerized.

 

 

 

 

lucky-broken-girlHere we are, book number eleven. Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar. I feel like I’m cheating a bit here, because this book hasn’t been published yet. I was fortunate to read an ARC of Lucky Broken Girl and I wrote about it a few weeks ago in a Friday Book Sharing post. I just had to include it! Pre-order your copy now for 2017! And happy reading!

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