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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/16/21

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:

Willodeen by Katherine Applegate

11 year old Willodeen has a soft spot for the underdog which is why she loves the smelly and grumpy screechers who derived their name from their insane nightly scream. Most villagers deem screechers a pest in contrast to the sweet hummingbears who draw tourists for the annual money-making Autumn Faire. Luckily, Mae and Birdie who unofficially adopted Willodeen after her family died in a wildfire also believe in the worth of screechers and allow Willodeen along with Duuzu, her pet hummingbear, to wander the forest in search of the strange beasts.  Willodeen observes that both the screechers and hummingbears are becoming scare.  She knows why the screechers are disappearing, for the village elders put a bounty on them deeming them a nuisance but what is the cause for hummingbears dwindling? 

During her travels, she meet artistic Connor who unexpectedly leaves her one of his carved puzzlers in the form of a screecher as a birthday gift. Upset about the screecher situation, Willodeen’s angry tears magically make the screecher come to life.  Named Quimby, this extraordinary animal teaches Willodeen the connection between screechers and hummingbears. Now if only Willodeen can convince the village to trust her.

I am always in awe of Applegate’s writing because her signature concise text carries a lot of weight and meaning.  With short chapters, lots of white space, and Santoso’s gorgeous, delicate illustrations, Willodeen is accessible to a wide range of readers. While Willodeen is a blend of realistic fiction and fantasy, readers are easily transported to the village of Perchance because while screechers and hummingbears are not imaginary, the issues facing the town were real. I love that readers witness Willodeen’s astute deductive reasoning skills as she uncovers the relationship between screechers and hummingbears. Acknowledging the symbiotic relationship among species is vital to protecting the environment whether you live in Perchance or your own town. Thanks to Macmillian Children’s Publishing and NetGalley for sharing an eARC.  Willodeen publishes soon on September 7, 2021. 

A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks

12 year old Joy dreams of becoming a motion picture music composer, but due to her father losing his job, both the promise of her own piano and her piano lessons are on hiatus. To make matters worse, her family was forced to sell their home and move to an apartment.  As a result, Joy shares a bedroom with her younger sister, transfers to a new middle school and hears her parents argue more.  A bright spot occurs when Joy meets Nora who attends the same school and wants to be a filmmaker. Nora introduces Joy to the Hideout, a secret place near the laundry room where kids can come to get a break.  Another glimmer of hope is the dog walking business that Joy and Nora start.  Suddenly, resuming piano lessons seems within reach since Joy is earning her own money.  But Joy’s happiness is short-lived when she intentionally exposes the Hideout to adults and a clash with Nora adversely affects both their friendship and business.  Will Joy be able to find a way to fix everything?  

Written from Joy’s perspective, Marks aptly captures the vulnerability and strength of her main character. At the beginning of the novel, readers see how Joy feels she defeated and her parents don’t value her opinion.  Once Joy meets Nora and they start their dog walking business, her self esteem increases because she believes she has more control over her life.  Then Joy makes some hasty decisions without thinking things through which have disastrous results.  What I loved most about Joy is her geniune remorse and determination to make things right.  A Soft Place to Land teaches that mistakes do not define you; they help you grow. Another lesson is home is not necessarily a physical place; it is about being with the people who love and care about you. Thanks to Katherine Tegen/Harper Collins Publishers and Edelweiss  for sharing an eARC.  A Soft Place to Land releases on September 14, 2021. 

Amara and the Bats by Emma Reynolds

Ever since a bat got trapped in Amara’s attic, she is fascinated by the only mammal that flies. After learning a new bat fact, Amara writes it down in her notebook.  Amara and her family move to a new house and she eagerly visits the local park to see bats flying in the sky at sundown.  The park ranger tells Amara the bad news.  Over the years, park land has been sold; therefore, bats no longer have a habitat.  Amara is devestated.  How can she help bring the bats back? After reading about kids who have made a difference protecting the environment in her nature magazine, Amara’s outlook quickly changes.  Using her knowledge about bats, she shares the idea of building bat houses with her family and her classmates.  Collectively, they all work together to not only save the bats but also other animals that could live in the park.  

Reynold’s debut as author and illustrator is a positive and uplifting story about how a child can champion a cause and successfully make an impact.  I love that Reynolds choose a narrative format because children get to see the evolution of Amara’s passion for bats as well as learn cool bat facts.  The warm illustrations show Amara’s enthusiam and determination to make a difference and how her energy ignites others to join her in her mission.  Back matter includes more bat facts, a guide to bat houses, and tips for how kids can advocate for bats.   Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sharing a finished copy.  Amara and the Bats released on July 20, 2021. 

Walking for Water: How One Boy Stood Up for Gender Equality by Susan Hughes Illustrated by Nicole Miles

In the small African village of Malawi, Victor and his twin Linesi race to the kachere tree and then head in different directions.  Victor walks to school with his friend, Chikondi while Linesi travels to the riverbed with Chikondi’s sister. Enifa.  Since village does not have a well,  girls eight and older join the women to fetch water from the river five times a day.  Victor knows that it is not fair Linesi can no longer attend school so his teacher introduces the word, equality, and asks the boys in the class to think whether how girls and boys are treated equally, Victor observes and notices quickly that boys have a lot more choices than girls.  How can he help make things more equitable?

Inspired by an actual Malawi boy, Walking for Water is a compelling story about the power of own’s voice to help others.  After unsuccessful attempts to teach Linesi at night, Victor realizes that there is a way to be equitable, but it requires him to speak up on behalf of his sister and be willing to give up school every other day.  His actions sways other boys to join Victor as well as the potential for more changes in the future.  With kid friendly language and hopeful illustrations, Walking for Water is a great introduction to gender equality for elementary students.  Thanks to the author for sharing a copy.  Walking for Water released on June 1, 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.


Pug & Pig and Friends by Sue Lowell Gallion Illustrated by Joyce Wan

In the third book in the Pug & Pig series, new friends Squirrel, Robin, and Cat are introduced.  Cat does not partake in exploring or running around the yard.  She prefers watching her friends.  Once readers turn to the next page, they learn exactly what Cat is up to-surprising Pug when he is sleeping.  Of course, Pug, along with Squirrel and Robin, does not appreciate Cat’s antics.  When a thunderstorm rolls in, all the animals seek refuge in their homes and frightened Cat climbs up the tree.  Even after the storm ends, Cat remains in the tree afraid to climb down.  Recalling Cat’s favorite activity, Pug lays down for a nap.  Will Cat pounce on Pug or will Pug pounce on Cat?  No matter what, the friends have a good giggle which will encourage readers to join them in the laughter!

Friendship is always at the core in the books in the Pug and Pig series.  I appreciate how Gallion reminds kids that you don’t always have to agree or like the same things to be friends.  This idea is important to reinforce especially with young children.  As a reading specialist, I love Gallion’s text because it support children just learning to read with repetition, high frequency words, and short sentences. Questions are also posed which gives children the opportunity to actively interact with the text.  They can answer questions based on the illustrations as well as make and then confirm predictions.  Wan’s illustrations are also perfect for emerging readers. The artwork is simple and keeps the readers attention on the characters’ actions and feelings.  Thanks to BeachLane Books/Simon and Schuster and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for the copy.  It celebrates its book birthday tomorrw on August 16, 2021.  To read my full review, click here


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.

8 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/16/21”

  1. I enjoyed Willodeen, too, Laura. Thanks for the others, especially A Soft Place to Land. Walking for Water is already on my list, hope to get it soon. It reminds me of Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water, a favorite from the past. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m really interested in reading Willodeen after reading your post and have an ARC of A Soft Place to Land that I’m looking forward to picking up. Thanks for sharing 😊


  3. Amara and the Bats has been added to my list. I’m fascinated by bats anyway and hopeful that we humans can come to realize what a mess we are making of this planet.


  4. Every single one of these books looks fantastic! Willodeen is pretty much a must-read, since I’ve enjoyed a lot of Applegate’s other books. And A Soft Place to Land sounds great as well—I looked at it and immediately realized it was by the author of From the Desk of Zoe Washington, since the covers are so similar! (I really need to read From the Desk of Zoe Washington too.) And all the picture books look wonderful, especially Walking to Water! Thanks so much for the great post!


  5. I love the diversity of books you’re reading! Walking for Water is one I’ll definitely look for: I don’t usually browse middle-grade non-fiction, but this one sounds particularly compelling. The bat story sounds fun, too, and Willodeen might be my entry point to Applegate.

    Liked by 1 person

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