There are times when we read a book and decide that it is one of those books that everyone should read. Granted, as a book blogger I tend to encourage people to read a lot of the books that I read, but Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper is one of those gems that have such wonderful lessons told in such a remarkable way that I wish more kids would pick it up.
The concept of the story is that Elyse is a 12 year old girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body. The words form on her skin like a tattoo and if they are negative, they itch. When she was little, it wasn’t such a big deal, the words were kind like “cute” and “adorable.” But now Elyse is entering middle school and the words are definitely less kind. On top of it all, now anything that she even thinks about herself shows up as well. Continue reading →
There are times when books and history or social studies lessons go hand in hand. Refugee is one such book. This should be on required reading lists for middle graders, and adults might learn a thing or two from it as well.
I first heard of Refugee as it was coming out last summer and pre-ordered a copy (side note – it really helps authors when you pre-order their books for a wide variety of reasons). We became big Alan Gratz fans with The League of Seven series and have enjoyed his works. More recently, I heard an interview with Alan Gratz on the Kit Lit Drink Night Podcast. In it, Gratz talked about how he had originally planned to write a book about the Holocaust but wound up writing about refugee situations in 3 distinct time periods. I finally managed to read the book and all I can say is wow. Just wow.
If you haven’t already heard about the book, here is the basic rundown from the jacket:
Three different kids. One mission in common: ESCAPE. Continue reading →
Since being published in 2016, the book Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, by Gwendolyn Hooks, has garnered a lot of praise. This book is special because it tells the important story of Vivien Thomas – both his amazing contribution to the medical world and the struggles that he had to face in being a black man who wanted to study medicine.
Vivien Thomas grew up in Nashville in a time where African-Americans and whites were highly segregated. Thomas dreamed of being a doctor from a young age, but couldn’t afford medical school, especially after the stock market crash of 1929. Fortunately, he was able to get a job with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. The all white school would never have admitted him as a student, but he did manage to get the job. There was kickback because he was black, and he would later discover that his official job title and pay were as a janitor rather than a medical research technician, but he also found kind mentors along the way who saw his amazing potential. Continue reading →
Thank you to Capstone Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book and for being a Silver level sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. All opinions are my own.
Having a 1st grader, I’m always on the look out for great books that are right in that sweet spot of great readers for K-2. So I jumped at the chance to read the newest Katie Woo book, Katie Woo, We Love You! by Fran Manushkin, which is being publishing this February. This is actually our first time reading Katie Woo, but E enjoyed the book we got so much that she read it repeatedly and quickly checked out another at the library.
Katie Woo is a young girl, probably in 1st or 2nd grade. The book itself is made up of 4 stand-alone short stories with lots of full color illustrations. This particular book has The Best Club, Katie’s Spooky Sleepover, Katie Blows her Top, and Daddy Can’t Dance. As a whole, the books works nicely as a transitional chapter book helping younger readers gain confidence to move to the next level. Continue reading →
Every year as the winter holidays roll around I’m always on the lookout for new Hanukkah books. We of course have our long-time favorites, but finding new books is always a great adventure. Since Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown, I wanted to finally get my collection up.
While not a new book, Stephanie Spinner’s It’s a Miracle! A Hanukkah Storybook, is new to us. We found this one at our school’s book fair and it is a great little gem. This book manages to tell a little bit about the story of Hanukkah while also showing how it really is about spending time with and appreciating your family. Young Owen is getting to light the Hanukkah candles himself for the first time. Each night, after the candles are lit, his grandmother tucks him into bed and tells him a story about someone in their family, without actually saying who the story is about. Owen is learning about family history while also spending quality time with his grandmother. The book ends with a simplified telling of the Hanukkah legend. This is a great book for younger elementary aged children to listen to around the holidays.
This year’s book from the PJ Library was Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale, by Gloria Koster. This super fun story takes the beloved story of Little Red Riding Hood and joins it with the story of Hanukkah. Little Ruthie is on the way to her grandmother’s house to make latkes when a wolf steps into her path. Ruthie couldn’t let on that she was scared, she needed to “be as brave as the Maccabees.” Smart girl convinces the wolf to let her be because she will be much more delicious after 8 days of latkes. But he still goes off to grandma’s house, though she is out. He occupies himself by putting on her clothing. When Ruthie gets there, she still manages to stall him by making him latkes and telling him the story of the Maccabees. Her resourcefulness saves both herself and her grandmother and listeners get a wonderful telling of the Hanukkah story. A super fun book and one that I plan to use when I go into classrooms to share Hanukkah! Continue reading →
My 7 year old adores audio books. She falls asleep to them every night and sometimes does art projects while listening to them. My 10 year old has enjoyed them since she was about the same age, but she only listened to books she had already read whereas my younger child likes to listen first. We have quickly made our way through all 6 Land of Stories books, the Ramona books (Stockard Channing!!!), and quite a few others. But sometimes, finding a series that she likes can be a challenge. Enter Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo.
This series, by Nancy Krulik, was published from 2002-2011, but we have never read it before. It just wasn’t on my older daughter’s radar, for whatever reason. E is adoring the series and I’m rather impressed myself. The concept of the series is that young Katie Carew makes a wish after an exceptionally bad day asking to be anyone but herself. Now when a special wind blows, she becomes someone else, even the class hamster! Within about 70 pages, she manages to learn something about others, or other situations, by walking in someone else’s shoes.
Katie Kazoo offers a great option for those ready to read longer chapter books, but not quite ready for the likes of Harry Potter. There are still illustrations that keep them engaged and while the stories are silly and fun, Katie learns that bad behavior doesn’t work – for example, in book 5 she thinks having no rules would make everything better, but realizes that we need some rules to avoid mass chaos. Continue reading →
Recently I was given the opportunity to review Leo’s Gift, by Susan Blackaby and Joellyn Cicciarelli, through the Kid Lit Exchange. The book moved me in a number of ways. I am a sucker for books about music, but also, since I freelance for OutreachNC, a magazine that often covers topics about caring for those with dementia and other memory issues, a book that illustrates how “music carves a memory” is something I feel strongly about.
There are so many pieces to this wonderful book! First off, the illustrations, by Carrie Schuler, are top notch. She captures so many emotions and concepts beautifully and it all feels so fresh. The story itself touches on a variety of topics from finding your passion to sharing your personal gifts with others. Young Leo doesn’t know what his gift is, but all children are encouraged to figure out their own special talents through this moving story.
The story itself starts with Meredith practicing piano and complaining about it. But her music touches her young brother, Leo, and Meredith manages to teach Leo some basics only to discover that Leo has a natural gift for the piano. Meredith’s true passion is basketball, and while she stays late to practice with the team, Leo finds the music room and his own time to practice. Continue reading →
Folktales are such a wonderful part of children’s literature. There are so many tales that have been passed down through the generations and we have learned so many valuable lessons from them. One of the things that I find especially fascinating is reading folktales from a wide variety of cultures to see how similar situations are handled differently and how each culture tries to educate its children on how they are supposed to behave. The list could go on and on, but here are ten that we have recently read that are completely non-traditional for mainstream western world and quite wonderful.
We live in a confusing world. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a child these days with the proliferation of digital media and the constant information stream. It is hard to turn it off and focus on the right in front of us. Not only that, but there is so much hatred in the world right now and I don’t think it is possible to shield our children from it. But we do have the power to acknowledge the hate that is out there and to promote a world of kindness. To promote going high when they go low. To promote loving everyone. I’ve taken a look at books about kindness in the past, but when I was given the opportunity to check out two new books from the Peace Dragon series, I jumped at it.
Author Linda Ragsdale encourages everyone to view the world through the eyes of peace. Her Peace Dragon project started after she survived a terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. The Peace Dragon’s mission is to set peace and love as the natural response in any situation. Her books Words and Not Opposites help show children how words can empower and encourage us, and create change in our lives and the world around us. Continue reading →
At the end of April, Jews across the world will take a special moment to pause and reflect about the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Passover, another Jewish holiday that started Monday night, is also a time where we often focus on commemorating and retelling the tragedy of the Holocaust and the amazing efforts that many Jews took to escape the Nazis and start a new life.
There are many truly amazing books for younger readers about the Holocaust. While a number of them are what you might consider middle grade fiction, and sometimes non-fiction, there are also some picture books that tell the story very well. It is a difficult topic to touch on, so all good books have to tread somewhat lightly and focus on the resilience and perseverance of a nation of people rather than on the tragedy itself. Here are a few of the books we have managed to read.