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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/12/21

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:


Better with Butter by Victoria Piontek

12 year old Marvel is anxious all the time. The school therapist says she is a free range worrier and worries just to worry.  Strategies such breathing, journaling, and practicing mindfulness are supposed to calm her; however, Marvel feels these exercises will cause her even more anxiety.  Her mother believes group therapy is the solution. Marvel disagrees, for the thought of sharing her fears with other kids is equally frightening.   

After Marvel freezes during an oral presentation in front of the school, she believes she has hit an all time low, but that all changes when she sees a group of kids from her school teasing a baby goat causing it to faint.  Marvel immediately identifies with the animal’s helplessness rescuing it and bringing the goat named Butter home.  Her mother is absolutely against Marvel keeping the goat Fortunately, her father, who is on leave from the army, is on Marvel’s side convincing her mother to allow Butter to stay until her owner is found.  Butter has such a calming effect on Marvel that after a little research,  she boldly decides to bring the goat to school as an emotional service animal.  With Butter at her side, Marvel finally feels confident.  Will Butter be able to stay with Marvel or will her owner claim her?  

Better With Butter is a touching middle grade story about how a girl & a goat rescue each other.  Written from Marvel’s point of view, Piontek did a beautiful job capturing Marvel’s conflicts,  courage, and compassion.  My heart hurt for her as she struggled with her anxiety feeling like there was no one who understood her.  Butter changed Marvel’s perspective making her open to making friends and trying new things.  With themes of family, friendship, and facing fears, Better with Butter is a story that is a must read for middle grade readers. Thanks to Scholastic for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Better with Butter publishes soon on July 20, 2021. 


Listen by Gabi Snyder Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

The world is full of a lot of noise occurring simultaneously.  Cars honking, dogs barking, scooters moving.  As a young girl walks with her dad and younger sibling, Snyder invites readers to stop and take a moment to listen to each specific sound.  The sounds in the text are highlighted in a red orange color as well as the word, listen, which is repeated frequently.  As I was reading the text, I was taking in Graegin’s tender, detailed artwork to locate the things making the sounds.  A crow cawing on a wire, slapping of shoes on the pavement, a hello from across the playground.  At school, the girl is listening to her teacher read aloud a story.  This page spread might be my favorite, for the classroom has shelves upon shelves of books with a few well known picture books on display.  The focus changes to how words sound. Words can pop or stretch, bring joy, and cause pain.  When the girl gets home, Snyder concentrates on the quiet having her listen to her inner voice before she goes to sleep.  

With Snyder’s soft, lyrical text and Graegin’s warm and inviting illustrations, Listen is a story that is soothing to the soul.  I appreciate that Snyder reminds us to listen past the noise. When I am on our deck, while there may be a neighbor moving a lawn,  I can still hear a catbird singing, the fountain in our pond, and  frogs croaking.  Thanks to the author for sharing an digital ARC.  Listen celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on July 13, 2021. 


How to Wear a Sari by Darshana Khiani Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Tired of being called too small, a young girl takes matter in her own hands.  If she wears a sari like her mother, perhaps, her family will treat her like a grown up.  But wearing a sari isn’t as easy as it looks and it takes patience and persistence (and help from your trusty pup) to get the pleats just right.  With jewelry and sandals as the finishing touches, the girl is ready to show off her style.  Running is not encouraged, but it does allow one to make a memorable entrance especially when a relative is camera ready.

How to Wear a Sari is a humorous and heartwarming story.  Using a second person point of view, Khiani engages children immediately.  Kids will easily relate to the the theme of asserting their independence  What I love most about the story is readers of all ages learn about a tradition in South Asian culture. Lew-Vrietoff’s bold and energetic illustrations show the little girl’s excitement and resolve to prove herself to her family.  Thanks to the author for sharing a finished copy with my #bookexcursion group.  How to Wear a Sari recently published on June 22, 2021. 

To access “Make Your Own Sari” activity sheets, please visit illustrator Joanne LewVriethoff’s  website by clicking here


The New Kid Has Fleas by Ame Dyckman Illustrated by Eda Kaban

A new kid joins the class and because she acts differently than everyone else, a student named Molly starts a rumor about her.  When a boy in the class gets paired with the new kid, he is worried.  But once he gets to know her, he realizes she is not only fun and smart, but also a great teammate and now, friend.  

While never explicitly stated, the playful text and lively illustrations imply the new kid has been raised by wolves which explains her unconventional behavior.  I am a big fan of Dyckman’s picture books because amid the humor, there is always heart. The New Kid Has Fleas is a great read aloud for the beginning of the school to teach and reinforce lessons in courtesy, friendship, and acceptance.  Thanks to Macmillian Children’s Publishing for sharing a finished copy.  The New Kid Has Fleas recently published on June 15, 2021. 


Secret Secret Agent Guy by Kira Bigwood Illustrated by Celia Krampien

Franklin Brothers Investigations (F.B I.) have a covert mission-to get a lollipop from the kitchen without their parents’ knowledge.  One brother works behind the scenes drawing a map that outlines the steps and giving advice through a walkie talkie and a tablet.  The other brother dons a trenchcoat and hat, sets up traps using toys in case he is being followed and stealthily moves around the house.  As the boy is approaching his final destination, the family dog is on his trail.  At the moment, the hound doesn’t appear to be a threat.  Once the lollipop is safely in his care, the boy walks upstairs to deliver the goods, but the hound double-crosses the F.B.I. snatching the prize and giving it to…. no spoilers here! Read it for yourself to find out!

Set to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Secret Secret Agent Guy is pure delight! I am in awe of Bigwood’s perfect poetic meter. In fact, Bella enjoyed my reading of the story multiple times because the text begs to be read aloud. Krampien’s detailed illustrations have a vintage feel and nimbly move the plot along building suspense from the introduction to the resolution. Of course, I love that the dog is involved in duping the brothers in exchange for a dog bone. Thanks to the author for sharing a finished copy with my #bookexcursion group.  Secret Secret Agent Guy released on May 11, 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.


Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family by Nelly Buchet  Illustrated by Andrea Zuill

A man has a dog.  A woman has a dog and a cat.  The man and woman move in together along with their pets. And that’s where the fun begins as the new family adjust to living together.  What is so unique about this picture book is Buchet deftly uses pretty much only two words, dog and cat, in a variety of combinations (Dog Cat, Dog Cat Dog, Dog) in the text.  Since the text is minimal, Zuill’s humorous illustrations move the plot along showing the progression of the animals’ relationship  from roommates to family.  The expressions on all the characters’ faces are priceless!  As a reading specialist who works with developing readers, Cat Dog Dog is a perfect book to put in their hands because the same words repeat throughout the story.  The story has a lot of depth and is a great text for teaching plot elements as well as character traits and/or feelings.  

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!


“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

7 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/12/21”

  1. What a delightful set of books! I’ve seen a lot of praise for Better With Butter, and it sounds like a powerful exploration of managing/living with anxiety. All these picture books look delightful as well, especially Listen and The New Kid Has Fleas! Thanks so much for the great post!


  2. I think my kids will enjoy Secret Secret Agent Guy and The New Kid Has Fleas. I am always looking for good books that show how harmful gossip can be. Thanks!


  3. Lots of great picks here. I am also a big fan of Ame Dyckman’s books for exactly the reason you suggested. I wasn’t able to save my school budget for this one though. It is on my list for next year. Have a great week!


  4. Ugh, none of my libraries has The New Kid book! It’s one I really want to read. I’ll have to keep looking for it. I have Listen to share next week, it was very sweet. I keep hearing about the Butter MG, I’ll keep it on my radar!


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