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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/6/21

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.


My school year with students officially began last week.  Even with masks on, I could see the enthusiasm and excitement in the kids’ faces.  What warmed my heart the most is seeing teachers set up their classroom libraries, introducing kids to books through book tastings, and visiting classrooms for read alouds.  Our school is once again celebrating birthdays with books and it is a joy to see students choose a title to add to their home libraries.

In August, Beagles and Books celebrated its 4th birthday.  Last week, my blog was featured in Feedspot’s Top 20 Middle Grade Book Blogs.  I am so grateful for the recognition and have to give a shout out to all the authors, illustrators, publishers, publicists, my #bookexcursion group, and the many #kidlit book bloggers who support me.  And of course, my beagles who patiently pose as my book models.  I love being part of this amazing community that aims to ensure every kid sees themselves as reader!

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Our Recent Reads:

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Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt Illustrated by Eric Rohmann

In the foothills of the Chiso Mountains in West Texas lives an old camel named Zada and a family of American kestrels.  Zada is Auntie to Wims and Beulah, two chicks who are barely two weeks old.  When a dust storm quickly and violently comes across the canyon, Zada tucks the chicks in her fur, for after all, camels are the ships of the desert.  But when a stray dust devil seizes the chicks’ parents, Perlita and Pard, and they go adrift,  Zada knows her mission is even more important. She must keep Wims and Beulah safe at all cost until they can be reunited with their parents.  Aging and wise Zada travels with her two fledglings to the closest shelter.  The only issue is the trio’s refuge is mountain lion Pecos de Leon’s territory, but Zada is certain that it is their best chance.

Once Zada reaches Pecos’ den, she is relieved it is empty. He could come back at anytime; therefore, Zada remains standing and on alert because if she sits down, she might not be able to get back up in time. With two scared chicks in her fur missing their parents, Zada realizes the only way to console Wims and Beulah is to tell them stories about her early days as a racing camel in Turkey, her friendship with fellow camel Asiye, and her voyage to the United States.  So once she has OOD (Official Okie Dokie) from the chicks, Zada begins telling her story which gives you ALL the feels-happy, sad, excited, scared, and most importantly, hopeful. 

Appelt’s words are pure joy to read, for she writes directly to the reader and her concise text carries a lot of weight and meaning.  As I read, I was literally transported to West Texas as well as Turkey and felt I was on the caravan with Zada. Rohmann’s illustrations complement the text showing readers the feelings of the characters.  I would highly recommend Once Upon a Camel as a class read aloud, for with short chapters, engaging characters, and an intriguing plot, kids would be captivated by the story begging the teacher to continue reading.  What touched my heart the most was Zada’s love for everyone she met in life-Asiye, Perlita, Pard, Wims, Beulah, and many others.  Zada was truly the brighest star because of her love, perseverance, and courage.   As a reading specialist, I love that Zada reminds us that stories both comfort and save us.  And in my opinion, once upon a time… in a land far away… is always a perfect beginning to a story. 

This review was originally posted as part of the Once Upon a Camel Blog Tour and Twitter giveaway. Once Upon a Camel celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on September 7, 2021.


 

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The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space by Candy Wellins Illustrated by Courtney Dawson

When he was a young boy, Edward White was mesmerized with the night sky. With a rhyming text, Wellins energetically expresses how White’s fascination with the stars never waned with these repeating lines-“Come back in. He’d resist, but then he’d go, walking back…so slow…so slow.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Edward became a pilot. But flying a jet was not enough. Edward wanted to get closer to the stars. The timeline following the story reveals White was chosen to be an astronaut after earning an advanced degree in aeronautical engineering and attending Air Force Test Pilot School, On June 3, 1965, Edward became the first American to walk in space.

With Wellins’ lively rhythmic pattern and Dawson’s warm illustrations conveying White’s curiosity and commitment, The Stars Beckoned is a perfect picture book biography for young children. While Wellins clearly captured White’s passion for the stars, I love how she ended by sharing that his family were truly the brightest stars in his life. Thanks to the author for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursion group. The Stars Beckoned published in April 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.

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All Pets Allowed (Blackberry Farm 2) by Adele Griffin Illustrated by Le Uyen Pham

In the follow-up to The Becket List, Becket and her twin brother Nicholas are turning 10 on October 10th. In true Becket fashion, she wants to celebrate big inviting all their classmates (even prankster Travis) while Nicholas prefers a much smaller affair. The twins not only get their wish granted for their birthday parties but also in their presents. Becket gets to choose a dog to adopt from the shelter and Nicholas can pick a cat. At first, the twins are excited about their choices; however, their pets’ personalities appear to be the opposite of their own. Becket’s dog, Dibs, is shy and anxious while Nicholas’ cat, Given, loves the spotlight. Will the twins accept their pets unconditionally? 

 
 

While All Pets Allowed is the second book in the Blackberry Farm series, it can definitely be read as a stand alone. Griffin clearly conveys while the twins share the same birthdays, they do not have similar depositions.  Becket is all spunk and energy and Nicholas is all quiet and reserved. What I love about this story is because of their pets, the twins has a greater respect and appreciation for each other. Pham’s fun and expressive black and white illustrations capture both Becket’s & Nicholas’ personalities as well as Dibs and Givens. The theme of family is strong, for the Branches are true team supporting each other on their farm and with the new pets. Thanks to Lonnie Lane Marketing for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursion group. All Pets Allowed published last week on August 31, 2021.

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is etta-beagles-and-books-e1624813174378.jpg
“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.
#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.

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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.

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/2/21

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.

Last week, I featured a review of Animals Go Vroom! written and illustrated by Abi Cushman publishing later this month.  As a thank you for my review, Abi shared an adorable illustration of my book beagle Bella reading the book. 

Abi Cushman 2021

My heart just melted seeing my sweet girl and am awe of the neverending kindness of the #kidlit community.  Educators, authors, and illustrators are all in this together to share stories with kids.  With less than a month left until my school year begins, I am grateful for the time to read and share reviews of upcoming releases that readers of all ages will enjoy.


Our Recent Reads:

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Hope Springs by Jaime Berry

Since her father died in a motorcycle accident and her country singer mother is on the road, 11 year old Jubilee lives with her grandmother, Nan and they move around a lot.  Nan calls it a “search for substance” but observant Jubilee sees the pattern.  When things get tough, Nan gets out the maps and recites one of their 19 Relocation Rules such as Why fight on the battlefield when new fields await?  But this time, Jubilee has a plan to steer Nan to Hope Springs, Texas, the hometown of her idol Arletta Paisley, star of the crafting show, Queen of Neat.   Nan is aware of Jubilee’s scheme, but is all for the move. 

On the first day they arrive in Hope Springs, Jubilee meets Abby, whose mother is mayor of the town and they quickly become friends violating Relocation Rule Number 6: It’s best not to make best friends.  Because of her love for crafting, Jubilee is offered and accepts a part-time job at the Fabric Barn helping the owner Holly.  When Jubilee hears Arletta is returning to Hope Springs to open a SmartMart superstore, she is beyond excited but the rest of the town is worried about the effect on small businesses.  Jubilee discovers her idol isn’t the same in person as on television and is determined to support Hope Springs, the one place that feels like home, even if Nan and her mother whose career is finally taking off are considering another move.  

Written from the point of view of Jubilee, Hope Springs is a story that drew me in right away.  As soon as I met Jubilee, I could tell what a creative, kind and wise soul she is.  In the past, Jubilee had always gone along with packing up and moving on, but the people of Hope Springs changed her mind by touching her heart.  What I love about Jubilee is readers see both her vulnerability and her strength.  Jubilee courageously stands up not only for the town but also herself and learns that the more love she gave away, the more she got back.  Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Hope Springs publishes soon on August 10, 2021.  


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Trubble Town: Squirrels Go Bad by Stephan Pastis

Wendy the Wanderer would love more than anything to live up to her name and explore not only her hometown of Trubble but also the world.  Her father, Worried Willy, has a much different attitude and when he leaves on a business trip, he hires Watchful Willamina to keep a close eye on his daughter.  To her surprise, Willamina is not watchful and allows Wendy to wander freely around town.  Her first stop is Mooshy Mike’s where she gets a chocolate and marshmallow drink (known as a Mooshy) and then walks to the park where she drinks it while eating nuts.  When a hungry squirrel begs for a nut and Wendy has none left, she offers him the last bit of her sweet Mooshy.  As a result of a sugar high, the squirrel’s energy level increases (as well as his penchant for Mooshies) causing a devastating yet hilarious chain of events that brings trouble to the once quiet Trubble Town.  

With a cast of eccentric characters, both human and animal, a fantastical plot that keeps one giggling while turning pages, and creative chapter titles, Pastis’ new graphic novel series will be a hit with readers because the laughter never stops.  And amid the laughter, Wendy learns that by sticking up for the squirrel, Trubble Town will not be in trouble when her father returns home.  Thanks to Aladdin/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for sharing an ARC.  Squirrels Go Bad releases soon on August 31, 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.

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Best Buddies by Lynn Plourde Ilustrated by Arthur Lin

On the day he came home from the hospital, a boy with Down syndrome and a basset hound’s relationship began.  No surprise that their bond became stronger once the boy shared his snacks with the hound.  Soon they are inseparable enjoying car rides, playing in the yard, and snuggling at bedtime solidifying their status as best buddies.  But on the first day of school, the teary eyed boy got on a bus while the sad hound watched from the door.  Luckily, the duo was reunited at the end of the school day, but they both were still full of worry.  What about tomorrow?  How will the boy and hound cope? 

Best Buddies is a touching story celebrating the friendship between a child and his dog.  What I love most is the boy cleverly finds a way for him and his pup to stay close to one another when apart.  With the start of school approaching, Best Buddies is a perfect real aloud to support children nervous about leaving a loved one.  Thanks to Capstone Publishing for sharing an eARC.  Best Buddies publishes soon on August 15 2021. 

 

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.

#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:

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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. 


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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. 


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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


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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. 


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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.

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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.

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/5/21

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:

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Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne 

Since her mom passed away five years ago, it has just been 11 year old Josephine and her fisherman dad.  Her father has recently started to date and Josephine is determined to keep them a family of two resorting to extreme measures like Operation Slime to scare anyone from staying around.  When her dad brings home Mariss to meet her, she is different from all the others; Josephine cannot scare her away no matter how hard she tries.  And it seems like Josephine is the only one who feels something is not right with Mariss.  With help from her best friend, Ahkai and the librarian, Mrs. Edgecombe, Josephine uncovers information to uncover the true identity of Mariss. 

Set in Barbados, Josephine Against the Sea is a story that pulled me in right away.  I absolutely loved Josephine’s boldness. I have not met many characters who have no qualms with dumping fish guts on others to protect her family.  Beneath that tenacity though is a girl who misses her mom, loves her dad, and desperately wants a spot on the cricket team.  As I got deeper into the novel, details emerged as to why Mariss has crept into her life.  I appreciate that Bourne reveals clues gradually which arouse my curiosity and made the novel hard to put down.  And through it all, I always rooted for Josephine because despite her not so good moves, all her actions came from a place of love.  

If you enjoy an intriguing adventure with dynamic characters, I highly recommend this novel! Thanks to author Shakirah Bourne for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursion group.  Josephine Against the Sea celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on July 6, 2021.  


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The Caiman by Maria Eugenia Manrique Illustrated by Ramon Paris  Translated by Amy Brill

In the small town of San Fernando de Apure in Venezuela, a young girl finds a baby alligator, a river caiman, who is believed to be an orphan.  Just as the girl was about to return the creature to the water, the town jeweler and watchmaker, Faoro passes by and immediately offers to take the baby alligator home.  The animal was so small that it not only fit in the palm of his hand but also in his shirt pocket.  Faoro names her Night for her dark skin. Night accompanies Faoro to his workshop and business booms.  How many places can you get a clock fixed, jewelry mended, AND pet a baby alligator?  

The Caiman is a heartwarming story about the incredible bond between a jeweler and an alligator.   To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here


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Let Liberty Rise: How America’s School Children Helped Save the Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Today, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of pride and freedom, but back in 1885, she arrived at Bedloe’s Island in 350 pieces and wasn’t able to be unpacked. Why? France had asked the United States to build a pedestal for the statue to stand on, but it was only half built. Why? Apparently, the the price of the pedestal was $100,000 and Americans weren’t too keen on contributing to the fund. 

With Stiefel’s spirited text and Groenink’s energetic illustrations, Let Liberty Rise is an uplifting story that makes me proud to be an American.  What I love most is the 120,000 donors to the pedestal fund were a diverse group made up of all ages and professions and it especially warms my heart that Stiefel made a conscious decision to highlight the contributions of children.  Children from all over the country gave up their earned or saved money to be a part of something bigger. To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here


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.

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Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi

Miss Lottie gives dogs a second chance. Gus was the first so under Dog Pack Law, he is the pack leader and has to give the seal of approval before Miss Lottie brings another dog into the pack.  Gus’ track record is perfect with Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie. When Miss Lottie introduces Decker to the pack, Gus smells something not right.  He wants to trust his gut instincts, but Miss Lottie keeps comparing Decker to her first dog, Mr. Beans.  Perhaps Gus’ dogginess is off and Decker just needs a chance so Gus gives a half hearted woof and wag. Immediately, Decker walks into Miss Lottie’s the van ahead of him. Uh oh!   Is Decker challlenging Gus as leader of the pack?

As the story unfolds, readers learn about all the dogs’ history and how they found their forever home with Miss Lottie.  Crimi also shares Decker’s story and why he acts the way he does. Reading the back story of each dog really hit me because as the proud dog mom of Bella (& Etta who passed in February 2020), it is very rare to know about dogs’ lives before adopting them.  Bella is a sweetheart wagging her tail 90% of the time, but if she hears the sound of metal, immediately, her tail goes down and she scurries to her safe spot under our bed. I can speculate, but will never know the roots of that behavior.  

At its heart, Secondhand Dogs is a story about  family, for after Miss Lottie’s husband passed away, she needed a purpose.  She soon discovered that giving dogs a second home was a way to heal and be whole.  Another important character in the story is Quinn, Miss Lottie’s neighbor who is coping with a lot of loss-his father’s sudden death, an accident which claimed the life of his dog, Murph, and his changed relationship with his older brother Jessie. After reading Secondhand Dogs, my heart was filled with hope, for whatever happened in the past, we all have a second chance to be happy.

Thanks to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media and Harper Collins for sharing an ARC with me.  Secondhand Dogs celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on July 6, 2021. 

 

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.

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/28/21

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:

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Saint Ivy: Kind at All Costs by Laurie Morrison

Having a kind heart is what makes 13 year old Ivy special.  Her nana who she bakes with every Friday worries about Ivy’s big, soft heart.  Ivy disagrees and believes caring for others is her talent; hence how she got the nickname “Saint Ivy.”  As readers get to know Ivy, it becomes apparent Ivy is navigating a lot of change in her life; her parents recently divorced and her father is now with Leo.   She is starting to feel like the third wheel in her friendships with best friends Kyra and Peyton.  And Ivy just found out her mother is pregnant, acting as a gestational surrogate for good family friends.  On the outside, Ivy claims that she is fine, but on the inside, resentful feelings begin to take root which Ivy pushes far down unwillingly to admit they are real.  

So when Ivy receives an anonymous email from bythebay@mailme.com who thanks her for turning her awful day into an almost okay one, Ivy plunges into a new project-to uncover the identity of the person behind the email. This quest gives Ivy the ability to neglect her own needs and fears because she is so busy being kind to all the people she thinks may be the sender.  Ivy soon learns that she needs to extend the same kindness to herself by sharing her honest feelings with both her family and friends. 

Like her last novel, Up for Air, Saint Ivy is a story that I would have devoured when I was in middle school.  It is definitely a solid book for readers not quite ready for YA.  Middle grade readers (including a thirteen year old me) can relate to Ivy because change is scary and it can be difficult to own your feelings especially when you should feel grateful for your good life.  Morrison beautifully captures Ivy’s genuine concern for others but at the same time, her vulnerability .  What I love most about Saint Ivy is that readers see Ivy gradually realize that she can’t pour from an empty cup.  She (We) need to take of yourself first. Thank you to Laurie Morrison for sharing a finished copy with my #bookexcursion group. Saint Ivy  released on May 18, 2021.


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Dear Librarian by Lydia M. Sigwarth Illustrated by Romina Galotta

Debut author Sigwarth shares a personal story of how one librarian changed her life.   When Sigwarth was five years old, she and her family (nine in total) relocated to Iowa from Colorado.  When they first moved, the family could not buy their own home; therefore, they took turns staying with relatives.  Her grandma’s house was too small, aunt’s too nice, and cousin’s too full of people.  When her mom took her and his siblings to the library one day, Sigwarth finally found her special spot not only because of the wide space but also due to the friendship of the librarian.   Even after Sigwarth’s family moved into their own home, the library always held a special place in her heart for she affectionally calls it “a Library Home.”  On the final pages, Sigwarth shares that she is now a librarian inspired by the kindness of Debra Stephenson, the librarian who made her feel safe and happy as a child.

Dear Librarian is a beatiful story that tugged at my heart.  As a young child, I never experienced homelessness like Sigwarth, but I was a regular patron at my local library.  Mrs. Johnston, the librarian, always held books for me that she thought I’d enjoy and along with my mother, I credit her with instilling my love of reading.   Galotta’s warm illustrations complement the text well evoking a nostagic feel.  Thank you to MacMillan Children’s Publishing for sharing a finished copy with me. Dear Librarian recently released on June 1, 2021.


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New Ready-to-Read Graphics from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

Do you know a beginning reader that would enjoy graphic novels?  I can’t wait to share Simon & Schuster’s new Ready to Read Graphics, which complements their popular Ready-to-Read line with my students.  The first book in each series will be published tomorrow on June 29, 2021. 

  • Thunder and Cluck: Friends Don’t Eat Friends by Jill Esbaum Illustrated by Miles Thompson
  • Nugget and Dog: All Ketchup! No Mustard! by Jason Tharp
  • Geraldine Pu and Her Lunchbox Too! by Maggie P. Chang

 To read my full reviews of each book, click here.   Thank you to Cassie Malmo for sending review copies of Ready-to-Read Graphics to Beagles and Books.


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.

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Puppy In My Head: A Book About Mindfulness by Elise Gravel

To help young children cope with anxiety, Gravel uses the analogy of a “puppy in my head.”  In the story, the young female narrator tells introduces readers to her puppy, Ollie, who is quiet most of the time, but when Ollie is excited, scared or upset, he runs around in her mind making noises.   To help Ollie (and her) calm down, she takes out her magical leash which is actually a breathing strategy taking deep, slow, gentle breaths.  Other calming techniques include exercising and talking to someone. 

Gravel’s distinctive comic like illustrations and large, colorful text not only appeal to the eyes but also help get the message to kids.  I especially love how a specific word or phrase on each page (feelings, breath, slowly, talk about it) is written in bubble letters to emphasize its importance.  At the end of the book, a pediatrican briefly shares her thoughts on the value on introducing children to mindfulness to support their mental health.  Puppy in My Head will be a perfect read aloud at the beginning of the year with my primary students!


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.
#Bookexcursion, Early Chapter Books, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/24/21

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:

Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly

There is no maybe….I absolutely love 8 year old Marisol!  She loves watching black and white silent films, bestowing names to inanimate objects like appliances and furniture, playing claw machines,  and has a vivid imagination.   In Marisol’s backyard, there is a magnolia tree that was made to be climbed.  Marisol named the tree, Peppina, after a silent film starring Mary Pickford.  But Marisol has yet to climb Peppina because she is afraid of falling.  Jada, Marisol’s best friend, gets her and doesn’t care if Marisol prefers the ground to Peppina.  But Marisol wants to be brave.  When she and Jada play, Marisol pretends she is a bird, but that doesn’t give her the courage to climb Peppina.  When Jada finds a nest, Marisol desperately wants to see it with her own eyes. Will Marisol’s maybe finally change to yes?

Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey, the first book in Kelly’s new illustrated early chapter book, is just perfect.  With themes of family, friendship and facing your fears, kids will easily relate to Marisol. While Kelly wrote in the third person, Marisol’s inner struggle over climbing Peppina are apparent to readers.  As a reading specialist, I am always excited to add a new series for children transitioning to chapter books.  Supports include length (only 160 pages), short chapters, and endearing black and white illustrations drawn by Kelly herself.   Thanks to Madison Ostrander of Spark Point Studios for sharing an eARC with me. Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey recently released on May 4, 2021.

Pizazz by Sophy Henn

Most kids will love to be a superhero, but not 9 year old Pizazz.  Why? Well, she has to wear the same clothes everyday (don’t worry…she has spares), still has to go to school (gotta have a back up plan says her mom) and just when you start eating ice cream or get to the best part of a book, you have to stop and save the world.  But the worst part is unlike her little sister, who got a cool name (Red Dragon) to match her awesome super power (breathing fire), Pizazz has the most embarrassing super power ever (and Henn doesn’t reveal it until the second to last chapter)!

And to make matter worse, Pizazz and her family just moved; now she is at a new school and doesn’t know anyone. In an effort to make friends, Pizazz volunteers to be her class’ representative on the school council.  When she is not chosen, her teacher makes her eco monitor instead.  At first, Pizazz isn’t all in (doesn’t she spend enough time saving the world?), but after a little reflection, she changes her mind which results in meeting classmate (and possible new friend) Ivy who wants Pizazz to focus on stopping the local park from becoming a car garage.  Saving a park sounds easy compared to Pizazz’s other missions, but it turns out that her superhero ideas don’t work as well in the normal world. Will Pizazz be successful in not only saving the park but also making a friend?

First published in the UK, Pizazz is a fun illustrated chapter book series that will keep readers engaged.  I loved the format, for in addition to artwork, Henn used comic panels throughout the text. For example, whenever Pizazz and her family went on a mission, this layout was utilized.  Character names were also written in bold and fun fonts which helped me keep track of characters.  Thanks to Jenny Lu of Simon and Schuster for sharing an ARC of Pizazz with me.  Pizazz and Pizazz vs. The New Kid, Book 2 in the series, releases soon on June 1, 2021.

Is Was by Deborah Freedman

With concise, lyrical text and warm, breathtaking artwork, Freedman tells a quiet story about how nature is constantly in motion. One moment, it is the present and then it was indicating the past.  The blue sky turns into a downpour allowing a chipmunk, bird, and fox to enjoy drinks from puddles. A songbird flies away and a buzzing bee can now be heard. Mere seconds later, the chipmunk escapes the talons of a bird thanks to the prey’s shadow. While the chipmunk seeks refuge in between rocks, a bee buzzes by a spider web as the songbird observes.

Soon a child appears reminding us that nature is always in flux around us regardless if we are watching or listening. As night falls, the sky turns blue again and the chipmunk takes in the starry night while the child and her mom sit on their porch steps. With just two words, Is Was celebrates the subtle and obvious changes that occur daily in our world. Thanks to Jenny Lu of Simon and Schuster for sharing a finished copy with me.  Is Was 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.

Pawcasso by Remy Lai 

It’s 11 year old Jo’s first day of summer break and she is already bored.  When an unleashed dog walks by her house alone with a basket in his mouth, Jo is intrigued and follows the pup.  To her surprise, the dog stops in different shops where clerks read a list, fill up the basket, and take money for payment.   Still on the dog’s trail, Jo follows him into a bookstore aptly named Dog Ears, where some of her classmates are taking an art class.  When asked if the dog belongs to her, Jo is caught off guard and says yes.  The teacher asks Jo to bring her dog (who she quickly names Pawcasso) to art class every Saturday as a model for the children to draw. Reluctantly, Jo agrees but isn’t certain that she can keep her promise.  Remarkably, Pawcasso has a consistent schedule on Saturdays which allows Jo’s lie to live on gaining friends in the process.  But Jo’s luck runs out when Pawcasso becomes a local celebrity and a debate erupts about leash laws dividing the town into two factions-the Picassos (in favor) and the Duchamps (against).   Will being truthful put Jo in the doghouse forever or will the town be “paw-giving?”

Since her debut, Pie in the Sky, I have been a devoted fan of Remy Lai’s novels, which can make you go from laughing to crying to laughing without even turning the page.  Pawcasso is Lai’s first graphic novel and was inspired by her dog, Poop Roller, who has a penchant for well, rolling in poop. Lai’s characters always take an emotional journey where they take risks and make mistakes and as a result, learn and grow.  Readers will easily relate to the themes of self-identity, family, and friendship, and honesty. Thanks to the author and Macmillan/Henry Holt for sharing an eARC with me. Pawcasso celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on May 25, 2021.

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

#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!

#Bookexcursion, Debut Author, Middle Grade Literature, Novels in Verse, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/10/21

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:

Unsettled by Reem Faruqi 

13 year old Nurah has lived in Pakistan her whole life, but everything changes when her father announces he has accepted a job in the United States.  Leaving her grandparents and her best friend, Nurah and moves to Peachtree City, Georgia with her older brother Owais, and her parents.  Getting acclimated is not easy, for although Nurah speaks English well, she encounters a language barrier learning to pronounce words more American and understanding vocabulary such as shopping cart instead of trolley.  At her old school, Nurah’s voice was loud, but in her new school, it is quiet.  Fortunately, swimming at the rec center brings Nurah and her brother comfort, for the water is like a cool hug reminding them of home.  When Nurah and Owais try out and make the swim team, she meets Stahr, her first friend in Georgia; now, Nurah has someone to talk and sit with at lunch.  Nurah loves swimming but is always in the wake of her brother who seems to win medals without even trying.  With practice, Nurah gains confidence not only in her swimming, but also in using her voice to speak up for herself and others.

Written in verse from the perspective of Nurah,  Faruqi’s gorgeous, lyrical text draws you in and allows you to truly get to know Nurah- her worries and dreams. When I read the verse title, Blue Cocoon, I was able to not only visualize but also understand what that rec pool in Georgia meant to Nurah.   When she and Stahr talk and talk at Baskin Robbins, Nurah compares her move to the melting cookies in her ice cream, for perhaps, over time, all the hard bits go away.  While Nurah initially seems quiet, readers learn that when she gets mad, she is like a tea kettle-calm but then explodes.  I love witnessing Nurah’s journey from uncertainty to realizing that her opinion is the only one that matters.  With this new awareness, she begins wearing her hijab proudly even including it in her self portrait which shows her courage to stand out rather than blend in.

In the author’s note, I appreciate that Faruqi shares that the story is based on her own experiences. Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Unsettled celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on May 11, 2021.

Glitter Gets Everywhere by Yvette Clark 

As the story begins, 10 year old Kitty is grieving the loss of her beloved mum.   She has the support of family-her father, older sister Imogen, and Gran as well as her godmother, her mum’s best friend who all are mourning along with her.  When her father announces an opportunity to temporarily move to New York City for his work, Kitty is resistant.  London is where all her memories of her mum are as well as her best friend Jess.

Living and going to school in New York City is both challenging and exciting for Kitty.  At home, everyone knew about Kitty’s story but at her new school, she doesn’t know how to answer questions about her mum.  A surprising friendship with Henry, a classmate and the son of a famous actor who is battling his own issues with his parents’ public divorce is good therapy as they both see the bravery in each other.

Clark’s debut is both heartfelt and hopeful.  My heart hurt for Kitty, but I also knew how much she was loved by her family and friends.  One of my favorite parts of the novel was Kitty’s birthdays, for her mum had written her letters to read and gifted her a charm to add to her bracelet.  Get tissues ready because these letters will make cry, but they also make Kitty realize that while her mum is no longer on earth, she would always be with her no matter where she is and while change isn’t easy, Kitty must embrace it and never be afraid to try new things.  For children experiencing a loss or transition, Glitter Gets Everywhere is a story of promise, for with grief, there is always love.  Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group. Glitter Gets Everywhere published last week on May 4, 2021.

Ways to Grow Love (Ryan Hart #2) by Renee Watson

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan Hart and her family in Ways to Make Sunshine.  In the second book of the series, it’s summer and while Ryan has becoming a big sister and attending her church’s overnight camp to look forward to, she also realizes that the baby is changing everything.  Because of her mom’s morning sickness, she has to go to the library with her grandma to pick out books for summer reading and it’s just not the same.  Ryan has been impatiently waiting to go to summer camp but between her older brother Ray’s ghost stories and finding out her friend Amanda invited Red to join them, she is nervous.  Red was mean to Ryan at Amanda’s birthday party and feels Red is competing with her to become Amanda’s best friend.

Ryan’s name means king and her parents remind her to live up to her name and be a leader.  At summer camp, Ryan offers to be cabin captain and the direction of their skit.  But when Ray and his friends continue to scare Ryan and her friends, Ryan goes along with something she knows is wrong.  What I love about Ryan is she truly strives to do the right thing but readers get to see her struggles as well especially as she navigates changes in friendship and family.

Written in under 200 pages with short chapters, dynamic characters, an engaging plot, and Mata’s charming black and white illustrations, Watson’s series is so accessible to readers transitioning into middle grade novels.  Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Ways to Grow Love released on April 27. 2021.


 Bella’s Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a book with a canine main character.

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Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides by Anna Kang Illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides is a story of how even opposites can find some happy medium and become friends.  While Tallulah is prim and proper and Hudson is free spirited and messy, they both can’t refrain from enjoying the puddle.  This revelation is groundbreaking, for perhaps, they are not as different as they once believed.  Kang’s peppy dialogue is concise and on point which allows Weyant’s lively and humorous illustrations to not only move the plot along but also show the progression of Hudson’s and Tallulah’s relationship.

When I read this story to kindergarten students for #classroombookaday, I asked them to tell me what did the author and illustrator want us to learn.  Here are some of their thoughts.

  • “The dog and the cat both like to jump in puddles so that’s why they became friends.”
  • “You don’t have to like the same things to be friends.”
  • “It’s better to be friends than enemies.”
  • Dogs and cats are different but can still be friends.”

Pretty smart kids.  Thankful for picture books like Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides which support teaching theme with our youngest learners.

To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here. Thanks to Two Lions/Amazon Publishing and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy with me. Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides recently published on May 1, 2021.

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

#Bookexcursion, Early Chapter Books, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/3/21

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:

Glam Prix Racers by Deanna Kent Illustrated by Neil Hooson 

On Glittergear Island, it is the first race of the Glam Prix.  Mermaid Mio and monster truck Mudwick, Fairy Flipp and freight train Furie, Dragon Deelux and car Dapper, Sprite Sookie and soft-serve mobile Smoosh, and Unicorn Uni and unicycle U-turn are one of three teams racing for the Glam Prix Cup.  Before the race begins, it is clear that one of the teams, the Vroombots, wants to win at all costs and plans on stealing all of the Sparklecharge which gives all the motos (AKA motor vehicles) life.  In order to be the champions in Race 1, Mio and her teammates must not only cross the finish line first but also collect side quests such as snapping a photo with a ghost garden gnome to earn additional points.  The team encounters a lot of bumps on the road but collaborates to overcome any setbacks.  Will the Glam Prix Racers be able to outsmart and outrun the Vroombots and claim victory of the first race?

Just like the motos in the race, the plot zips at high speed which makes Glam Prix Racers a one sitting read.  You won’t be able to stop!  Kent’s peppy and witty dialogue is both humorous and suspenseful and Hooson’s bright and detailed illustrations pop with both color and energy.  As I was reading, I was feeling nostalgic for the cartoons I used to watch on Saturday mornings for Glam Prix Racers has all the same elements-comedy, intrigue, heroes, villains, gadgets, and lessons on cooperation and persistence.

Thanks to Imprint/MacMillan Children’s Publishing for sharing an eARC with Beagles and Books.  Glam Prix Racers celebrates its book birthday next week on May 11, 2021.  Back on Track, the second book in the trilogy, will be released in January 2022.


What the World Could Make: A Story of Hope by Holly McGhee Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

Bunny and Rabbit are best friends who both marvel at how nature provides gifts through every season.  In winter, snowflakes can become snowballs; in spring, lilacs can woven together to make a crown;  Summer provides the opportunity to snack on crunchy and salty sea pickles and in the autumn, ginkgo leaves are fun to jump in.

McGhee’s lyrical text is concise and profound reminding us that gifts from the heart are all around us no matter what the season.  We just have to stop and notice them.  Lemaitre’s soft and gentle illustrations put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.  Bunny and Rabbit are adorably drawn and their expressions show not only their excitement but also their genuine love for one another.  This heartwarming story celebrates both friendship and nature.

Thank you to author Holly McGhee for sharing a finished copy with Beagles and Books.  What the World Could Make: A Story of Hope celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on May 4, 2021.


 Bella’s 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.

I’m a Gluten-Sniffing Service Dog by Michal Babay  Illustrated by Ela Smietanka

Since May is Celiac Awareness Month; I wanted to share this review.

Chewie is training to be a service dog for a young girl named Alice who is living with celiac disease. His job is to detect gluten, for even a small amount of this protein can make Alice sick.  When Chewie smells gluten, he alerts by running in a circle and sits down if it is gluten-free.  Training is hard work for Chewie because it’s not easy to stay focused and ignore things like bugs, birds, and left over pizza on the ground.  Knowing that Alice is depending on him is just the encouragement Chewie needs to buckle down and after a week of training working directly with Alice, Chewie graduates as an official service dog. 

I have read stories about service dogs, but I’m a Gluten-Sniffing Service Dog is the first picture book I have read which shares how dogs can be trained to smell gluten. In the author’s note, Babay explains that the book is based on the true story of her daughter and her service dog.  I love how Babay chose to tell the story from Chewie’s point of view because readers see his struggles and his triumphs and Smietanka’s playful illustrations show his love for his job and Alice. 

Thanks to Albert Whitman for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group. I’m a Gluten-Sniffing Service Dog recently published in April 2021.

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!