Wednesday, June 13, 2018

New Book Alert: Breakout by Kate Messner

I love Kate Messner! Her books are incredible, and she does great work for kids, teachers, and other authors alike. If you don't follow her blog, you should, if only to get notified when the annual list of authors offering free Skype visits for World Read Aloud Day goes live!

Her latest book, Breakout, arrived last week. I was so excited about this book, that I actually preordered it twice from different retailers (once in December and again in February). But having read it, now I'm glad to have two copies to circulate in my classroom!

Two prisoners escape from the local prison, shattering the quiet in the sleepy town of Wolf Creek. Nearly everyone in town has some connection to the prison, and the lockdowns, police searches, and news media affect everyone. How long will this search go on? And what might the community learn in the process?

Breakout is told through a collection of documents to be added to the town's time capsule project. This format really allows the voices of the various contributors (friends Nora and Lizzie and new-in-town Elidee) to shine. It also provides multiple perspectives on certain incidences during the story, and the reader gets to witness the characters' understandings of themselves and their town evolve.

Kate has done a great job of weaving the big issues of racism, privilege, and prison reform into an engaging and entertaining story. Middle grade readers are gently introduced to various microaggressions, and issues such as racial profiling, the disproportionate incarceration rates of African-Americans, and more. This is a book that will spark some great discussions and (hopefully) reflection in its readers.

Kate also published an amazing blog series, Countdown to Breakout, that covered the 23 days before the book launched. In it, she explored a ton of different topics in the "behind the scenes" of the book, including how she got the idea, insights into drafting, the positive impact of her sensitivity readers, and more. There are a TON of great resources for teachers of writing too, including samples of her editorial critique letter, her giant revising diagrams, and more! I can't wait to incorporate some of these real-world examples into my curriculum.

This one is must-have for middle grade and middle school! (Click here for more reviews of new books.)

Monday, June 4, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 06/04/18

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Recent Posts

I'm back! So I failed a bit in my goal to share an #IMWAYR post once a month since the baby has been born, but that's ok too. Maternity leave has definitely cut into my reading (especially my easily going-to-the-library time to check out new books and picture books), but I am certainly learning quite a bit more about the world of board books.

Board Books

Baby Loves Quarks! by Ruth Spiro and illustrated by Irene Chan. This was the first autographed book I bought for my baby, way back last summer at Nerd Camp #nerdcampMI. I had met and chatted with Ruth Spiro the previous year at Nerd Camp and was excited to add this title to my collection. The Baby Loves Science series introduces actual science topics in unique and informative ways for the youngest of readers (Coding, Thermodynamics, Gravity, and more). Plus the illustrations feature a variety of diverse babies as subjects. Who wouldn't want to get out their building blocks after learning about quarks?

Middle Grade

The Parker Inheritance (2018) by Varian Johnson. This is an engaging mystery / quest book with a historical (and Civil Rights) component. Read my full review about this must-read book here.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed is a middle grade novel set in modern Pakistan that wrestles with issues about economic exploitation and indentured servitude. Read my full review about this great new #ownvoices story here.

The Unicorn Rescue Society (series) by Adam Gidwitz and illustrated by Hatem Aly. Read my full review about this great new series here.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

June #diversekidlit

Welcome to #DiverseKidLit ! Please join us in sharing your diverse children's book links and resources, as well as visiting other links to find great suggestions and recommendations.

What Is #DiverseKidLit?

Diverse Children's Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children's books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.


We hope this community serves as a resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, July 7th and the first Saturday of each month.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Katie @ The Logonauts
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Becky @ Franticmommmy
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Bethany @ Biracial Bookworms
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Carolina @ La Clase de Sra. DuFault
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Gauri @ Kitaab World
an online bookstore for South Asian children's books, toys and games
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestInstagram

Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me
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Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors
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Mia @ Pragmatic Mom
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books
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Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries
Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live?

Receive an email reminder for each new #diversekidlit linkup

Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

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Our Pinterest board highlights a wide range of amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children's Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New Series Alert: The Unicorn Rescue Society

If you aren't already familiar with author Adam Gidwitz, you should rectify that immediately! His previous book, The Inquisitor's Tale: or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, was a recent Newbery Honor, and he is also the author of the entertaining A Tale Dark and Grimm series.

His newest series, The Unicorn Rescue Society, illustrated by Hatem Aly is a middle-grade fantasy (or, one could argue, magical realism) series. Book one is called The Creature of the Pines, and book two, The Basque Dragon, comes out in July.

The book opens with a delightfully amusing premise in the form of a letter from the founder of The Unicorn Rescue Society, which, despite its name, has yet to find (or rescue) any unicorns. But they are certain that they exist. They must! Who wouldn't want to keep reading after an opening like that?

From there, the book introduces new-in-town Elliot, who is dreading his first day: starting over at a new school in the middle of the year AND facing the chaos of a field trip on top of everything else. Thankfully, the open seat he finds on his morning bus ride happens to be with classmate Uchenna, whose experience being new last year makes her welcoming and receptive to a new friend. Together they discover that their field trip - and the mysterious Social Studies teacher leading it - may have more going on than it seems.

Not only is this an entertaining read and a great hook for a series, but upcoming books will feature collaborations with a diverse array of authors each writing about mysterious creatures from their own cultural backgrounds. I cannot wait to read what Joseph Bruchac, Emma Otherguy, Hena Khan, and others have to offer!

Definitely recommended for middle grade!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

New Book Alert: Amal Unbound

My newest pre-release purchase to arrive is the fabulous middle grade novel Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (chosen as one of the texts for this fall's Global Read Aloud).

Amal Unbound is the story of twelve-year old Amal who lives with her family in a small town in modern Pakistan. Amal is an engaging narrator and one that the reader roots for almost immediately. Some quick foreshadowing at the beginning sets the scene for the trials and tribulations to come. Most of the families in Amal's town are in debt to local strongman Jawad Sahib Khan, and when Amal has an unexpected encounter, she learns just how powerful he is in her community ...

This is a powerful story about economic exploitation and indentured servitude, as well as about the power of standing up for yourself and for what's right, despite the risks. The book reminded me in some ways of Francis Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess, which was a favorite of mine as a child.

This is definitely one that will grab readers' attention and lead to important discussions and questions!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

New Book Alert: A Seed is the Start

I love Melissa Stewart's incredible science books for children, so I was delighted when she contacted me via Twitter about reviewing her latest for National Geographic Kids: A Seed is the Start. (All thoughts are my own.)

There are many, many picture books out there that deal with seeds and plants, but they usually focus on how they grow or gardening. This book, instead, focuses on the process of propagation - how do seeds get from place to place. Each two-page spread features a different method, with one sentence in large print highlighting the method (i.e. Seeds drift.) and several paragraphs with more details.

The book is chock full of nonfiction text features. The explanatory paragraphs each have a bolded thesis statement that also serves as a heading for the rest of the paragraph. The illustrations are fabulously detailed photographs thanks to the National Geographic photographers, and there is a "words to know" section to open the book as well as an index and sources in the back.

This is a book that I am sure will feature in heavy rotation in elementary school science classrooms, and the writing and illustrations make it engaging enough that kids and families will want to read it on their own too. Definitely one to check out - and just in time for spring!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

New Book Alert: The Parker Inheritance

Over Christmas I received some gift cards for books, which I decided to use to preorder a variety of new books I was excited about. Now as they randomly arrive, it's like a surprise Christmas every time!

The Parker Inheritance (2018) by Varian Johnson is an instant middle grade classic. In the style of The Westing Game (and with direct references to the book by the characters), main character Candice and new friend Brandon find themselves involved in a mysterious quest to uncover their town's history ... and a possible fortune!

The story switches between the present-day timeline and the 1950s, as the two discover more about the events that took place in their town during that time, which culminated in a racially-charged incident focused around a tennis match between the all-white and all-black high schools.

There is so much to love about this book. The mystery and adventure angle will draw in plenty of readers who might not immediately be interested in a work of historical fiction, while the history and Civil Rights angle will interest others. Diversity and inclusion are written into the fabric of the story two, as the modern-day kids need to grapple with how the racism and bigotry of the recent past still affects the present.

This also one of the few children's books I've read that directly introduces the idea of "colorism" (though not the term) to readers. Not only are the characters dealing with issues related to racism, but the specific color and tone of their skin comes into play as well. This is a book sure to generate a lot of thoughtful conversations and questions from readers.

A must-buy for any middle grade or middle school reader!