#Bookexcursion, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/17/21

Bella and I are excited 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.

Our Recent Reads:

Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber

When seventh grader Sarah Harper is playing basketball,  she knows she matters and is important to her team. Lately, her game is off.  Sarah used to be the fastest girl on the team, but now she is last in almost every drill.  Coach Lemon empathizes with Sarah explaining that her body is changing and in time, she’ll adjust and feel like herself again.  Not being in control is tough for Sarah because she experiences this same feeling regarding food.  Because of her mom’s own issues with food,  Sarah does not always enough to eat in the house. And with her dad traveling a lot for work, her mom is in charge of weekly grocery shopping and she only buys what is needed for meals.

In an effort to regain her basketball skills, Sarah gets the idea that she should be eating less.  Having control over at least one aspect of her life is empowering to Sarah since on top of everything she is dealing with, she and Emilia, one of her best friends, both have a crush on the same boy.  At first, Sarah feels her decreased intake of food is solving her problems on the court, but when she falls during a game, Ryan, her best friend since childhood, confronts Sarah urging her to talk to Coach Lemon or else she will.   With the support of Ryan, Coach Lemon, and Ms. Varna, the school counselor, Sarah has the courage to share her feelings honestly with her parents which results in not only getting help for herself but also her mom.

Taking Up Space is a novel that tackles a tough topic like disordered eating with guts and grace.  Drawing on her own experiences,  Gerber wrote from the novel from Sarah’s point of view which truly allows readers to know Sarah’s thoughts and feelings as she copes with all the changes in her life.  In her letter to readers before the novel begins, Gerber explains that Sarah’s story is also about how adults aren’t always dependable.  As a teacher, I believe it is important for kids to see adults make mistakes and how sometimes it is your best friend who recognizes you need help.  Sarah’s and Ryan’s relationship tugged at my heart, for Ryan was dealing with her own family issues, but always had Sarah’s back no matter what.   As I was reading, I was very angry at Sarah’s mom for forgetting to cook dinner or saying bananas are unhealthy because they are high in sugar.  But as I read on, I gradually learned the basis for her mom’s beliefs and actions.  Taking Up Space is a powerful story for not only middle grade readers but also parents and educators, for it is a tool to support kids in having positive body images.  Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Taking Up Space celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on May 17, 2021.

Bea is for Blended by Lindsey Stoddard

The starting players on the Embers team are Bea and her mom with support from Grandma Bea and Aunt Tam.  But that all changes when Bea’s mom marries Wendell, for now Bea has three stepbrothers, two dogs, a cat and pretty soon, she will also have a little brother or sister. What makes the transition difficult is one of her stepbrothers, Bryce, was born on the same day and same year, is a fellow student in her sixth grade class, makes fun of her best friend, Maximilian, and won Most Valuable Soccer Player while Bea was awarded the Most Valuable Girl trophy. Bea is eager to prove her soccer skills on the field again and when eleven girls sign up, Bea is excited because the girls can now have their own team. But when the principal (who is also the soccer coach) says they need twelve players and a manager, Bea says that is some bullsharky (Love that word)! Joining forces with her neighbor and classmate, Aileyanna (known as A), Bea recruits the final members and fights for an all girls team, which is no easy feat since Principal/Coach Meesley clearly believes boys are more superior athletes than girls.  As a result of Bea’s never settle attitude, the girls do get their team but still have to contend with Meesley’s sexist opinions.  With every practice and every game, Bea and her teammates show they will not be hindered by Meesley and prove that teamwork really does make the dream work.

I just love Bea because she has a fire in her belly when things don’t feel right.  I admire her for standing up for what is just and fair whether it be forming the girls’ soccer team, supporting her best friend Maximilian, calling out bullies, and recognizing how people can change.  A former English teacher, I love how reading is also an integral part to Stoddard’s stories. Bea’s teachers, Ms. Blaise and Ms. Kravitz, provide daily independent reading time permitting students to read whatever they want. The students share their thinking about their reading through one on one conferences and dialogue journals. Bea’s older stepbrothers, Cameron and Tucker, are avid readers organizing all their “had to own it” books on shelves that take up a wall and a half in their new house and loan her the classic Bridge to Terabithia.  And all types of reading are celebrated whether it’s a magazine article, picture book or audiobook.   Finally, I love that every morning, Bea has a tradition of identifying three things she is grateful for it reminds us all even when things seems challenging, we should always remember the good things in life. Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Bea is for Blended recently published on May 4, 2021.

 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.

Almost There and Almost Not by Linda Urban

When her father decides to seek work in Alaska, he feels it is best for 11 year old California Poppy to live with her Aunt Isabelle in Minnesota. But her aunt is not too much better at “girl things” and too busy perfecting her entry for the Minneapolis Meatloaf Cook-Off.  As a result, she believes California would be better off living in West Bloomfield, Michigan with her Great Aunt Monica who is nursing a broken arm. Since California can’t drive, cook or clean well, Aunt Monica enlists her help in her writing project which is a biography on her Great Aunt Eleanor, famous for her etiquette books on proper letter writing or manners.  On her very first day at Aunt Monica’s, California meets a dog who dropped what she thought to be a piece of trash but it is actually a handwritten letter from her Aunt Eleanor.  The next time she sees the dog, California tries to pet it but can’t.  Turns out Dog is a ghost and leaves another letter from Aunt Eleanor and not long after, Eleanor herself shows up in ghostly form but always leaves in a poof when annoyed or angered.

Due to the insistence of Aunt Monica, California begins practicing her own letter writing and decides to pen her thoughts to Aunt Isabelle.  The letters start as bread and butter (thank you notes), but California’s letters gradually become more personal giving readers a glimpse into her thoughts and feelings especially about her life before she moved to Michigan. As I read California’s letters and learned more about Eleanor through her own letters Dog brought and her conversations with California, I realized that they were both endured heartbreak and was hopeful that both California and Eleanor would find love and a place to call home (and don’t worry….they do).  Urban’s brilliant writing drew me right in and while I teared up more than a few times, I also had equal opportunities to smile and laugh.

Why did I choose Almost There and Almost Not as Bella’s dog pick of the week? Because when California was with Dog, she could forget about all her troubles and fears.  My favorite part in the novel was Dog rested his almost-chin on California’s stomach and fell asleep because she describes it as “a good feeling like somebody chose you and thinks staying there with you is the best and most important thing in the whole wide world.”  That moment with Dog gives California hope that impossible things are possible.  I know that feeling because when Bella puts her head or my lap or snuggles up to me for comfort, its warm my heart and helps me let go of any worries.  Thanks to Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursion group.  Almost There and Almost Not released on April 6, 2021.

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

7 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/17/21”

  1. Wow, what an intriguing story Almost There and Almost Not seems, & it sounds good, as does Taking Up Space, so needed for the young adults in our world. I know about Bea is for Blended & all are now on my list. Thanks, Laura!


  2. What a great set of books! Almost There and Almost Not sounds like an excellent story—I’ve written it down in case I have time to read it this summer. Taking Up Space sounds like it deals with some important topics, and Bea is for Blended sounds great as well—I love that Bea stands up to her principal’s sexism and helps her team succeed. Thanks for the wonderful post!


  3. These all sound so good! I’m especially intrigued by Almost There and Almost Not. I liked that it focused on letter writing and it must be good if Bella likes it. Taking Up Space sounds like an important book.


  4. What a great collection of books. Taking Up Space sounds like an important book. Bea in Bea is for Blended sounds like a great role model for girls. I am a sucker for anything Linda Urban writes so of course I’ve added Almost There and Almost Not to my list.


  5. I really like the sound of Bea Is For Blended (well, all of them, but I am pretending to be realistic about my TBR list). Thanks for the dog photos!


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