Bella and I are thrilled to share our latest reads in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.
Our Recent Reads
Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai
12 year old Henry who is tired of being treated like a baby by his whole family. Henry, his mom, grandma, and sister Jie live in Australia. Every summer, his family travels to Singapore to visit his dad except this summer they decide without him to stay in Perth. When Henry suggest visiting his dad by himself, his idea does not go over well. Henry could catch a cold, get hurt, lost or even kidnapped! Henry has no choice but to take charge so he comes up with an ingenious plan to travel to Singapore all on his own.
So much to love about Fly on the Wall! First up, the format! Like her debut Pie in the Sky, it is prose and graphic novel which is perfect since you are reading Henry’s journal chronicling his journey. In fact, the chapter titles are aptly titled as countdowns to his flight, landing, etc. Because it is his journal, Henry shares his true feelings about how his family treats him, his estranged relationship with his best friend Pheebs, and other secrets are divulged which help explain other reasons why Henry is flying to Singapore. And Henry reveals he is no baby; he is smart, funny, and resourceful when faced with challenges and oh boy, heaps of problems arise.
What I love most about this story is by taking this journey, Henry learns a lot about himself and finally gets the courage to speak up and ask questions which explain why his family treats him the way they do. Kids will easily relate to the themes of self-identity, family, and friendship, and honesty. Thank you to the author and Henry Holt/Macmillan for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group. Fly on the Wall releases soon on September 15, 2020.
Stealing Mt. Rushmore by Daphne Kalmar
Stealing Mt. Rushmore was not on my original middle grade #mustreadin2020 list because I did not discover the novel until this May. Immediately after reading the synopsis, I knew I couldn’t wait to read it and am grateful to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media and Macmillan for sharing an ARC with me. Set in Boston in the summer of 1974, this historical fiction novel drew me in and touched my heart.
While the country is in turmoil with the Watergate scandal and the possibility of a Nixon impeachment, 13 year old Nellie, her three brothers and and her father are facing their own upheaval. 5 months ago, their mother walked out in the family causing her dad to sink into a deep depression unable to get out of bed. But now, when money saved for a road trip to Mt. Rushmore is missing, Nellie’s dad’s despair returns and he retreats back to his bed. Like before, it is Nellie who must take charge by shopping, cooking, cleaning, taking care of 5 year old Teddy, and finding a way to earn that $500 so the family can still take that vacation.
If there was ever a character I would love to meet in real life, it’s Nellie. She is strong, spunky, and steady stepping up to pick up the pieces when her mother left and her father couldn’t cope. But inside, her heart is broken. Early in the book, she says “Moms weren’t supposed to steal people’s dreams. They weren’t supposed to walk out the door and not come back.” Reading those words crushed me; I just wanted to wrap Nellie up in a hug, but I appreciated Kalmar’s honest portrayal of a family in crisis, and with each page, her dialogue blew me away.
Another reason I loved Nellie is her courage to do the hard stuff while admitting she was scared. She rescues an abused dog and secretly brings him home. When her father finally gets out of bed discovering the dog, he orders her to get rid of it. Her response- “He’s a happy dog and we need some happy around here. He’s our dog and we are keeping him.” At the end, Kalmar doesn’t tie everything up neatly in a bow but she leaves you with hope. And hope is one of the reasons I love reading middle grade because now especially, we need it. Stealing Mt. Rushmore celebrated its book birthday last week on August 18, 2020.
Way Past Worried by Hallee Adelman Illustrated by Sandra de la Prada
Every superhero needs a sidekick but when Brock has a go to a friend’s birthday party alone, worry begins to set in. Supportive dad tells Brock to stay three deep breaths reassuring him it will be okay. As he walks to his friend’s house, Brock can’t shake his anxiety thinking about all the bad things that could happen. And although he took three very deep breaths, Brock’s worry got in the way of him joining the party. Will Brock ever be able to get past his worry?
Like Way Past Mad, the first book in the series, Way Past Worried is a story that can help children process their feelings. Brock knew he was worried, but he had difficulty coping with his anxiety. I love that Adelman wrote this story in first person because children get to hear Brock not only share his initial worry but also the story he creates in his head before he even gets to the party. His perception of what could happen is important because we all fall prey to that trap even as adults. When Brock gets to the party, he has to sort out his perception and reality using a tool box of strategies like breathing, observing, and finally finding another worried party goer to be his sidekick. de la Prada’s bold illustrations fill up the page and complement the text well showing his journey overcoming his worry. Thank you to Albert Whitman for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursion group. Way Past Worried publishes in October 2020.
The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t by Artie Bennett Illustrated by Dave Szalay
Although there was power in his pedigree, Zippy Chippy did not race likes his predecessors. While they ran like the wind, Zippy ran like a gentle breeze. After losing 19 races in a row, his owner admitted it was time to hang up Zippy’s reins. Felix Monserrate, a horse trainer from Puerto Rico believed in Zippy so much that he traded in his old truck for the chance to train Zippy. Despite Felix’s patience and perseverance, Zippy continued to lose every race eventually being banned from racing for consistently failing to leave the starting gate. But retirement did not sit well with Zippy for he became depressed and stopped eating. Devoted, Felix found tracks willing to accept Zippy and continued to train him, but the losses kept mounting. After losing his 100th race, Zippy bowed to the crowd. Zippy may not have won a race but he was proud of having the opportunity.
Known as the winless wonder, readers learn in the author’s note that Felix sold Zippy to Old Friends, a retirement facility for former racehorses who ensured his safety. What I love about Zippy Chippy is that while he didn’t win a race, his notoriety helped champion humane treatment of aging racehorses and all the money raised from visitors and souvenirs supported the retired racehorses at Old Friends. And still going strong at 28 years old, Zippy is a winner in my book! Thanks to the author for sharing a copy with Beagles and Books. Zippy Chippy published in February 2020.
Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week
Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.
Tails from the Animal Shelter by Stephanie Shaw Illustrated by Liza Woodruff
Did you know that each year, animal shelters care for about 6.5 million pets (and 6 million of those pets are dogs and cats)? As a rescue dog mom, I am passionate about pet adoption so I was so excited when Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Tails from the Animal Shelter which recently published on August 15, 2020.
In Tails from the Animal Shelter, ten different fictional animals ranging from dogs and cats to skunks and snakes are featured. Author Shaw introduces each animal with a rhyming poem followed by their name. One the accompanying page, informational text provides facts and advice to kids. Even as an adult, I learned some interesting new facts. For example, Hawaii does not allow pet snakes. Chris Driggins created a program called Parrots for Patriots matching parrots with military vets. What made my heart happy was special attention to animals with special needs and senior animals because when we rescued Bella, she was 6 to 8 years ago and was diagnosed with a collapsed trachea. (And don’t worry! Bella’s condition is manageable). The back matter includes tips and resources for adopting a new pet and how to support animal shelters and rescue groups. Illustrator Woodruff’s lively and warm artwork show the joys of pet ownership.
Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!