#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, Giveaway, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/13/20

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Beagles and Books is 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.link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramée

Seventh grader Janae is not about fitting in at her middle school. She actually prefers to be invisible.  But when Aubrey, a new student who shares a love of YouTube show, Astrid Dane, befriends Janie, blending in is not so easy.  Outgoing Aubrey is the complete opposite of Janae so she wonders why he wants to be her friend as well as debate partner in English class.  Public speaking is one of Janae’s greatest fears; in contrast, Aubrey is elated to debate a timely community issue-changing the name of their junior high school from John Wayne to honor Sylvia Mendez, a young Mexican-American girl who help successfully integrate California schools.  Janae becomes really interested in learning more about Sylvia but her feelings on public speaking remain unchanged.  Will Janae risk her new friendship with Aubrey and stay silent or will be willing to speak up for herself to not only save her friendship but also champion Sylvia for her bravery? 

Written from Janae’s point of view, readers get to truly witness her inner struggles and my heart hurt for her.  While Janae initially tried to distance herself from Aubrey, I loved how she gradually began to enjoy and look forward to Aubrey’s company. This awareness made her decision making more difficult and the novel more exciting to read.  Janae learns that while friendship can be messy and hard, it is also “sway” (good) and “del” (delicious). Thanks to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for sharing an eARC.  Something to Say celebrates its book birthday this week on July 14, 2020.

13th Street #1: Battle of the BadBreath Bats by David Bowles  Illustrated by Shane Clester

Malia is excited to spend the summer with her Aunt Lucy in the cool Little Mexico neighborhood of Gulf City,  but she is not as thrilled that her cousins Ivan and Dante were there too.  As they make their way to the neighborhood water park, Malia decides she is in charge.  After all, she is the oldest by two months.  While on 11th Street, they meet an old woman who tells them of a shortcut down an alley. Everything becomes dark and quiet and the cousins discover they have missed 12th Street and are now on 13th Street. And to make matters worse, the trio encounter bats with incredibly awful breath.  Will Malia, Ivan, and Dante be able to band together to successfully battle the bats and make it back home?

As a reading specialist, I was already a fan of the new illustrated Harper Chapters series, for each book includes supports such as end of the chapter progress bars and full and half page illustrations for students transitioning to chapter books.  Kids will devour the 13th Street series because of its engaging characters and scary, fast paced plot.  I also love how #ownvoices author Bowles exposes readers to Spanish through not only dialogue but also after readers complete milestones as saying Chido! for reading 4 chapters. Special thanks to the publisher Harper Collins for sharing an ARC of 13th Street #1 at the NCTE convention. In addition to Battle of the BadBreath Bats, the next two books in the series, The Fire-Breathing Ferret Fiasco and Clash of the Cackling Cougars recently published on July 7, 2020.

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Lulu, The One and Only by Lynette Mawhinney Illustrated by Jennie Poh

Lulu, The One and Only is a powerful story to begin the conversation about race with young children. Lulu is a proud and confident biracial young girl but she is confused and sensitive because people keep asking her “What are you?” Written from Lulu’s point of view, she honestly shares some of the questions people ask her which are very hurtful.

While I have read a lot of picture books that discuss identity and self acceptance, Lulu, The One and Only is the first picture book that provides mixed-race children with a tool to help them navigate their emotions and responses when asked inconsiderate questions.  Lulu’s story is also a valuable resource for making young children understand what microaggressions are and to discuss how these statements were hurtful to Lulu and Zane. 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.

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield Ilustrated by Eshan Abdollahi

If you are looking for a book to introduce novels in verse, look no further than Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me, a collection of 16 poems told from mostly the dog’s point of view.  In the first poem, Naming Me, the dog explains why his owner Jace named him Thinker, for he like Jace is a poet and wants a deep, not cute name.  At home, Thinker and Jace are the perfect match communicating in free verse but on Pets’ Day at school. Jace is worried how others will react to Thinker’s gift of words and ask Thinker to follow the rule of “no poems, no talk.” Can Thinker be himself by only watching, thinking and barking? Through her poetry, Greenfield beautifully conveys both Jace’s and Thinker’s feelings.  Jace’s initial anxiety turns to pride when he realizes Thinker needs to be his true self.  Abdollahi’s warm collage illustrations complement the verses well and provide support if sharing this novel with younger readers.

Bella & I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books. Happy Reading!

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#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, Giveaway, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/6/20

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Beagles and Books is 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.link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

#MustReadin2020 Update

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On January 1, 2020, I created my #mustreadin2020, a list of middle grade novels all being published in 2020 that I wanted to make a priority to read.  To read an update on my progress, click here.

The Wonder of Wildflowers by Anna Staniszewski

When she stands next to the other girls in her fifth grade class, Mila describes herself as “a chicken surrounded by swans.”  She is the shortest, the least athletic, and sweats with any physical activity.  When she was 5 years old, Mila emigrated to Amberland with her mother and father. Because they are not yet citizens, she and her family are not allowed to sip Amber, a liquid magic that makes people strong and healthy.  Mila is elated when her family is finally granted citizenship and the right to use Amber. She quickly notices changes in her athleticism, her grades, and her confidence especially voicing her opinion to her best friend Krysta.  Unfortunately, her creativity has taken a hit, for she is struggling to write poetry which has always been one of her talents.  And when citizens are told Amber rations are being cut, Mila and her family become a target of hate crimes for they are not seen as citizens but rather outsiders depleting the town’s Amber supply.

Written in under 200 pages with short chapters, dynamic characters, and an intriguing plot, middle grade readers will easily get pulled into Mila’s story.  While The Wonder of Wildflowers is indeed fantasy,  given the current state of our country, the plot seems quite realistic, and Staniszewski tackles relevant themes as friendship, immigration, bullying, and self-acceptance. What I loved most is witnessing Mila’s transformation realizing that it is more important to stand out than blend in.  Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  The Wonder of Wildflowers published in February 2020 and is one of my #mustreadin2020 middle grade novels.

The Word for Friend by Aidan Cassie

A pangolin named Kemala loves to talk and is excited about making friends at her new school but on her first day, worry replaced her enthusiasm because all her classmates speak a different language.  How will she ever make friends? During recess, Kemala meets Ana, an anteater, and teaches her how to cut leaves into animal shapes.  Using the animals as puppets, Kemala and Anna communicate telling each other stories. Through her friendship with Anna, Kemala develops the confidence and desire to speak the new language to her classmates and teacher.

Like the main characters in author/illustrator Cassie’s previous two picture books, Sterling, Best Dog Ever and Little Juniper Makes It Big!, Kemala learns the lesson of self-acceptance with the support of a friend.  What I love about this story is besides becoming friends, Kemala and Anna both learn a new skill.  Kemala teaches Anna how to make animal leaf puppets and Kemala learns a new language.  With charming and engaging illustrations, The Word for Friend is a perfect read aloud for the start of the school year to support building a classroom community based on kindness, inclusiveness, collaboration, and friendship.  An added bonus is the back matter which shares information on Esperanto, Kemala’s new language and cool facts about pangolins. Thanks to the author and publisher for sharing an e-copy of The Word for Friend.  It recently published on June 16, 2020.

Invent-A-Pet by Vicky Fang  Illustrated by Tidawan Thaipinnarong

When Katie tells her mother she wants an extraordinary, spectacular pet, her mother surprises her with a marvelous machine to help her create a one of a kind animal.  The machine has 3 slots and after randomly inputting objects, the outputs were not the animals Katie wanted.  She finally makes a plan and discovers each slot has a variable-size, color, and animal.  But before Katie can create her perfect pet, she has to solve a more pressing problem.  What will she do with all the pets she created during her trial and error? Fortunately, Katie’s problem solving skills save the day ensuring all the animals find a home.  So does Katie ever create her extraordinary pet?  Read to find out!  With bright, playful illustrations and a unique plot, Invent-A-Pet is not only fun and engaging but it also teaches children the scientific process, critical thinking, and beginning concepts of coding.   Thanks to the author for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursionIt recently published on June 2, 2020.

Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

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

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Bo Bo’s Cave of Gold) by Pam Berkman and Dorothy Hearst Illustrated by Claire Powell

At the Heels of History is a fictional chapter book series that recounts historical events through the eyes of dogs.  The second adventure, Bo-Bo’s Cave of Gold, takes place in 1852 in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California.  In the first chapter, a golden mutt, Sage, is thrown out of her pack for being weak.  Alone and hungry, a bird takes pity of Sage and introduces her to Sheng, a young boy who left war torn and famine stricken China with his father and uncle to find gold in California.  With his father’s permission, Sheng adopts Sage renaming her Bo-Bo (meaning little treasure) and the dog vows to be tough and loyal to Sheng even when faced with challenges. Bo-Bo’s Cave of Gold is a story full of history and heart. Readers will learn how immigrants were treated during the California gold rush through not only the story but also the backmatter. To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here. 

Bella & I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books. Happy Reading!

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#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, Middle Grade Literature

My #MustReadin2020 Update

 

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On January 1, 2020, I created my #mustreadin2020.  This is a list of middle grade novels all being published in 2020 that I wanted to make a priority to read.  Since school has officially ended, I can now relax, renew, and read.  Thanks to my fellow #bookexcursion member Lisa Maucione’s recent #mustread update post, now is a great time to take a look at my list and reflect upon my current status and progress.

STATS
I have read and reviewed 8 books  (47%)
I just finished reading 1 book. (6%)
I am currently reading 1 book. (6%)
I have 7 books left in my TBR stack. (41%)

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Read (with links to reviews)
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Beginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin

How to Make Friends with the Sea by Tanya Guerrero

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson 

Finally Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett

The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonaldo

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan

Just Finished
The Wonder of Wildflowers by Anna Staniszweski  (review to be posted on 7/6/20)

Currently Reading
A Dog Friendly Town by Josephine Cameron (August 2020)

Still on my TBR
The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder (March 2020)
Any Day With You by Mae Respicio (May 2020)
Quintessence by Jess Redman (May 2020)
Brave Like That by Lindsey Stoddard  (June 2020)
Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai (August 2020)
Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (August 2020)
Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie (September 2020)

Look for an update on my #mustreadin2020 progress in early September.   Do you have any #mustreadin2020 middle grade novels you wish to share?  Post any recommendations in the comments below.

 

 

#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/11/20

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Beagles and Books is excited to be back and 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.

While I had been reading a lot of fabulous books, blogging had to be delayed because recently, my district increased the frequency of virtual teaching.  Teachers are now working with students daily in whole class meetings teaching mini-lessons as well as during small group instruction. As a reading specialist, I am working with some students individually but my role has switched to supporting teachers in planning and implementing virtual ELA lessons.  I love that we see students daily but teaching in a classroom and teaching virtually are definitely different; therefore, there have been some growing pains in the shift.  The best part of my week though is still reading aloud picture books to my #classroombookaday class.  While it may only be twice a week instead of daily, it is a blessing to be able to share stories with these students. And while I was not initially a fan of electronic picture books, it is much easier to share my screen so they can enjoy both the text and the illustrations.

Recent Reads:

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The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-McGinnis

Cassie’s mom has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s which has been difficult for both Cassie and her dad.  She and her dad though are each handling the diagnosis differently.  Cassie wants to make as many memories as possible while her dad is more concerned with keeping her mom safe.   One of Cassie’s mom’s dreams is to swim with dolphins and Cassie is determined to make that dream a reality in spite of her father’s concerns.

My heart really hurt for Cassie. As I read, I needed a box of tissues nearby because the tears were quickly flowing.  I can only imagine how hard it was to see her mother’s memory deteriorating to the point that her mom couldn’t even remember Cassie’s name.  Her mom’s condition also affected Cassie’s friendship with her best friend Bailey for she finds it hard to share it with anyone.  What I love most about Cassie is her immense determination to make one of her mother’s dreams come true and have one last adventure with her. And what I most loved is while her dad was initially against the trip, he realized how important the adventure was not only to her mom but also to Cassie.  As with her debut, Extraordinary Birds, Stark-McGinnis’ The Space Between Lost and Found is a story of heartache and hope.  Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for sharing an ARC at NTCE.  The Space Between Lost and Found recently published on April 28, 2020.

 

Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski

Since her abusive father has been released from prison, 14 year old Mary carries a Joan of Arc prayer card that a nun gave her in kindergarten.  The back of the card reads “I am not afraid” which has become Mary’s mantra reminding her she is brave and strong like Joan.  Having just failed a science test, Mary knows she needs to do well on her science project, but can she trust classmate and jokester Kip Dwyer to be her partner?  Together, they decide to build a submarine which lands her a good grade, a potential boyfriend, and an idea.  What if Mary could build a real sub and finally be free?

Mary Underwater is a story of one girl’s resilience to save herself.  While her budding romance with Kip,  collaboration with former Navy scientist to build her submersible, and a renewed relationship with her aunt provide her support, Mary ultimately has to choose to not only change her course but also chart a new course for her life. Mary ultimately discovers that she is worthy and is brave and strong like Joan of Arc. Thanks to the author Shannon Doleski and Amulet/Abrams for sharing an ARC with #bookexcursion.  Mary Underwater released on April 7, 2020.

Ocean: Waves for All by Stacy McAnulty Illustrated by David Litchfield

The second grade class I adopted for #classroombookaday this year absolutely loves McAnulty’s Earth, Sun  and Moon so I was so grateful to get an e-copy of Ocean to read aloud virtually during a daily class meeting. McAnulty’s Our Universe series is a blend of fiction and non-fiction which is highly engaging for read aloud.  Energetically narrated by Ocean who uses surfer language, readers learn tubular facts about the ocean. McAnulty’s spunky text and Litchfield’s lively illustrations taught me so many new facts about the ocean. I never knew more humans have visited outer space than the ocean’s deepest spots.  And while they are 5 separate bodies of water, there is truly only 1 global ocean. I love how even as an adult, I can learn from reading picture books!

Thanks to Macmillan/Henry Holt for sharing an e-copy with Beagles and Books.  Ocean recently published on May 5, 2020. And I was fortunate to purchase an autographed copy from Stacy McAnulty through Bookmarks independent bookstore. And stay tuned because Mars! Earthlings Welcome is the next book in the Our Universe series publishing in February 2021.

Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse by Jonathan Stutzman Illustrated by Heather Fox

My #classroombookaday second class absolutely loved Llama Destroys the World.  So when I found out a sequel was being written, I was so excited to share it with them even though it had to be virtually. Llamas fans know he likes cake and pies.  What they might not know is he doesn’t like to clean. But guess who loves to clean….Alpaca! And with the Replicator 3000, sneaky Llama was able to make a clone Alpaca to clean for him. If  one cleans well, what about more? Imagine the cleaning they could do.  Unfortunately, Llama’s plan backfires because an army of Alpacas actually make more of a mess.  So he sends them into town but that only creates more commotion.  With the smell of pizza, the Alpacas return to Llama’s house and by pressing the other button on the Replicator 3000, the Alpacas disappear except for one.  Problem solved.  Not quite because it was time for dessert and Llama only had one piece of cake for him and Alpaca to share.  How can Llama solve his problem?

Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse is another laugh out loud adventure with a llama whose biggest weakness is cake. Thanks to Macmillan/Henry Holt for sharing an e-copy with Beagles and Books.  Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse recently published on May 5, 2020.

Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

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

Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Snyder Illustrated by Robin Rosenthal

A dog goes on an adventure but is caught by a robe wearing, coffee drinking cat.  As the dog jumps on a trike with a poodle, the cat sheds its morning wear for exercise clothes following the dog.  As the dog switches modes of transportation adding more canine passengers,  the cat follows suit changing its vehicle to keep pace.  But once 10 dogs…wait, make that 9 dogs and 1 sly cat are traveling through space together, the countdown begins with dogs frantically wanting to return home.  Once the dog is safe back in its yard, a mouse peers out of a small door to follow 2 cats on a trike.  Hmm…I think another story is about to begin.

Two Dogs on a Trike is so much more than a counting book.  With Snyder’s concise rhyming text and Rosenthal’s expressive illustrations of a feline, canines (and a mouse), it is a hilarious romp!  Thanks to author Gabi Snyder and Abrams/Appleseed Publishing for sharing an e- copy with Beagles and Books.  Two Dogs on a Trike releases next week on May 19, 2020.

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Bella & I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books. Happy Reading! Stay safe and well!

#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/20/20

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Beagles and Books is 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.

Recent Reads:

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Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson Illustrated by Nina Mata

My third grade teacher Mrs. Shade read aloud Henry Huggins and from that moment on, I became a fan of Beverly Cleary’s books.  Henry Huggins introduced me to Ramona who I loved for her spunk and smarts.  So excited that my students can get to know Ramona, a character from my childhood, and also meet fourth grader Ryan, the main character in a new series by Renée Watson.

In this first book of the series, readers meet the Hart family who I just adore.  Because their landlord is selling their house, the family must move to a new house, which is older and smaller.  Mr. Hart has lost his job and while he is starting a new one, it does not pay as much which means no brand name groceries like Tillamook ice cream.  On the bright side, Ryan has her own room, still goes to her same school, and lives closer to her own of her best friends KiKi.  And while money may be tight, Mom tries her best to nuture Ryan’s love for cooking by buying ingredients to try out new recipes like fruit smoothies and rosemary chicken wings.

Ryan’s name means king and her parents remind her to live up to her name and be a leader. Ryan always strives to do the right thing and be positive but readers get to see her struggles as well whether it is a squabble with her brother Ray, overcoming her fears speaking in front of an audience or just dealing with change.  What I love most is the Hart family has a lot of heart and is there for each other in both good and bad times.  Written in under 200 pages with short chapters, dynamic characters, an engaging plot, and Mata’s charming black and white illustrations, Watson’s new series is so accessible to readers transitioning into middle grade novels.  Can’t wait for more adventures with Ryan and her family!  Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sharing an ARC at the #NCTE covention.  Ways to Make Sunshine celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on April 20, 2020.

 

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Play Like An Animal by Maria Gianferrari Illustrated by Mia Powell 

Did you know that animals play for a purpose?  In her latest book, Play Like An Animal, Maria Gianferrari teaches reader of all ages that animals engage in play to practice important life skills such as fighting, cooperating, hunting, and escaping from predators.  The animals are not the only ones playing, for Gianferrari engages in spirited word play herself introducing each animal with three dynamic verbs to describe their actions.  To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here.

Space Mice by Lori Haskins Houran Illustrated by Priscilla Alpaugh

When two mice are out of cheese, they look up at the sky and see a giant ball of yellow swiss.  These clever (and hungry) mice devise a thorough plan and build a rocket to take them on a mission to the moon.  Once they safely land, the mice fill their hungry bellies and even take a slice to go!

With lines of five words or less, Houran efficiently uses rhyme to entertain and explain the mice’s journey to get to the moon.  I love her word choice for children hear juicy words such as jot, plot, fetch, nosh.  Alpaugh’s mice are not only adorable but she also captures their determination and excitement for their project.  Because of the mice, the moon changes from full to a crescent which is a surprise to a young astromer on Earth.  Thanks to Albert Whitman for sharing an ARC of Space Mice which published on March 1, 2020.

Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

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

Stay! by Alex Latimer

Ben thinks the world of his dog Buster.  Based on Buster’s past behavior, Ben’s parents do not share his sentiment so Buster will not be joining them on their family vacation and instead stay with Grampa.  Worried that Grampa does not know Buster’s likes and dislikes, Ben is encouraged to write notes to help Grampa better understand him.  Ben has a lot to share which means more notes that he ever imagined.  And even after Ben left, he would send postcards to Granmpa with anything he forgot.  With all these notes, you would think Ben would have remembered everything, but there was one important detail he forgot.  Will Buster be in the doghouse or will Grampa be able to teach an old dog a new trick?

Stay is a humorous yet heartwarming story about a boy and his dog.  My favorite part is the notes that Ben writes and illustrates because they show how well he clearly knows Buster.  I also love that when Ben and Buster are reunited, Grampa has his own note for Ben.

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Bella & I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books. Happy Reading! Stay safe and well!

#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, Book Birthday, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/13/20

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Beagles and Books is 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.

For the past few weeks, I have been leaning on picture books partly due to their length but I am happy to report that I finished reading 3 novels this week.  Getting into a reading rut is tough so I am glad that there are so many types of books to help during the ebbs and flows of life.  And all these novels are #mustreadsin2020.  Two celebrate their book birthday this week and one will publish in less than a month!

Recent Reads:

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What Lane? by Torry Maldanado

Stephen is an eleven year old biracial boy who lives in Brooklyn with his librarian mom and teacher dad.  Believing in a saying coined by his favorite basketball player, Stephen wears a bracelet with the words WHAT LANE? This phrase reminds him that he is not confined to one path or as his father says “the world is yours.” Stephen shows his many lanes in his friendships, for his best friend, Dan is white, but he also has friends who are African American, Latino or mixed like him.  But Stephen’s thinking is challenged when he experiences microaggressions solely because of his color.  And while two years ago, Stephen made a New Year’s resolution to say what’s on his mind, it is not always easy to follow through especially when Dan’s cousin Chad is involved.  Stephen learns that he must open his eyes and speak his mind and not worry about so much about the lanes but rather stick with his friends who are true allies and have his back.

Lately, it has been hard to stay focus to read a novel and I know other adults and kids are struggling too. What Lane? is a gamechanger on so many levels.  Written in 126 pages with short chapters, Stephen’s authentic story hooked me from the very first page.  Kids will easily relate to Stephen who loves superheroes and the television show, Stranger Things.  What I love the most is author and teacher Torrey Maldonado tackles tough issues candidly in language that kids will not only enjoy but understand.   One of my #mustreadsin2020, it is a novel that adults should read as well  Thanks to the author and publisher Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  What Lane? celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on April 14, 2020.

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Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett

Paul, Shanks and Peephole are the One and Onlys, budding detectives who all happen to be only children.  Well, Peephole is actually losing this title, for his mom is expecting a baby soon.  The trio is used to solving mundane cases like the missing remotes or the class hamster’s lost tail so they jump at the chance to find out who covered their neighbor Mr. Babbages’s lawn with rubber ducks. Why is Mr. Babbage the target?  It turns out that he is the five time winner of the annual Bellwood Bratwurst Bonanza known to the town as the “Triple B.”  Could somebody be attempting to rattle Babbage so he is not on top of his bratwurst game?  The One and Onlys are on the case even though sluggish Officer Portnoy has told them to cease sleuthing. Paul, Shanks, and Peephole must get their ducks, I mean, clues in a row so they can solve the case!

Finally, Something Mysterious is another middle grade novel on my #mustreadin2020 and debut author Doug Cornett kept me laughing and guessing as I worked to put the clues together.  I loved how each character brought strengths to the group, for Paul tracked down the cases, Shanks was the muscle showing no fear, and Peephole’s photographic memory cataloged every detail.  Minor characters like the town’s cruelest teacher and chief bratwurst tester Mr. Pocus were also intriguing and well developed.  Equally important as a character is the quirky town of Bellwood itself, which is small and actually shaped like a bell (which you can see from the handy map included at the beginning of the novel).    Thanks to the author for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Finally, Something Mysterious celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on April 14, 2020.

Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

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

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The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

In a letter to readers that precedes Chapter 1, author Katherine Applegate asks if you are Team Canine.  My blog pretty much speaks to my allegiance; therefore, I was so utterly excited to have the opportunity to read another one of my #mustreadsin2020, The One and Only Bob before it officially releases on May 5, 2020. Thanks to Edelweiss and Harper Collins for sharing an e-book with Beagles and Books.

Eight years after The One and Only Ivan published, Applegate takes us back to check in with Bob, Ivan, and Ruby with tiny and tough Bob telling the tale. Bob’s narration is perfect. Readers get to know his backstory before meeting Ivan and his current comfortable life with Julia and her family.  I have always been a fan of Applegate’s writing using concise words, lots of white space, and short chapters.  But she really blew me away writing from a dog perspective using terms as bed boogie, drool flag and UFO (which are defined along with other words in a canine glossary following the story) and how vet, bath, fireworks, and vacuum cleaner are canine swear words.   Based on his life experiences, it is no surprise why Bob has his guard up, but it is clear that he will do anything for those he loves especially when a tornado hits the animal sanctuary where Ivan and Ruby now live.  In a time where we all need to remain positive, Bob reminds us to never lose hope because “sometimes humans don’t let you down. Sometimes they even come to your rescue.”  Here’s to us all rescuing each other.

 

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Bella & I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books. Happy Reading! Stay safe and well!

#MustReadsin2020, Book Birthday, Debut Author, Middle Grade Literature

Happy Book Birthday to From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Happy Book Birthday to Janae Marks and her debut novel, From the Desk of Zoe Washington, which is my first read on my #mustreadin2020 middle grade novel list! Special thanks to the publisher Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins for sharing an ARC at the NCTE convention.

image0.pngOn aspiring baker Zoe’s twelfth birthday, her life is forever changed when she checks the mailbox and finds a letter from her biological father Marcus who has been in prison her whole life.  While this letter is the first one Zoe has read, she learns that Marcus has been writing her letters for a long time. Curious about a man she has never met who calls her his Little Tomato and loves music, Zoe secretly begins writing to him unbeknownst to her mother and stepfather.  With each letter, Zoe gets to know Marcus better and finds it hard to believe that he is in jail for committing murder.  When Zoe finally gets the courage to ask him about the crime, he not only explains he is innocent but also shares his alibi.

As if the weight of clearing her father’s conviction isn’t heavy enough, Zoe is also juggling an internship at a local bakery, a possible audition with Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge, and a disagreement with her best friend Trevor.  Fortunately, being honest with both her grandmother and Trevor provides Zoe with support as she searches for the truth. ‪

Written from Zoe’s point of view, debut author Marks expertly captures the voice of passionate and determined Zoe who is an advocate for her father. Readers see Zoe struggle with lying to her parents along with her boldness and urgency as she seeks to uncover the truth about her father. Marks tackles tough issues such as institutionalized racism in a way that is accessible for middle grade readers. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is Zoe teaches us that one person can indeed make a difference and how family can forgive each other for making mistakes.

I highly recommend From the Desk of Zoe Washington! Just waiting for my hardcover copy to arrive so I can share with students and teachers!

#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, Middle Grade Literature

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan

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I finished reading A Place at the Table before the New Year so I did not include it on my official #mustreadin2020 list, but this novel, beautifully co-written by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan is truly one you do not want to miss. 

Navigating middle school is challenging for sixth graders, Sara and Elizabeth. Sara is adjusting to attending public school for the first time, and Elizabeth is dealing with a change in her relationship with her best friend, Maddy.  Home life also presents issues. Sara is worried about her mother’s catering business while Elizabeth is coping with her mother’s depression after the death of Elizabeth’s grandmother. 

Sara and Elizabeth meet in an after school cooking club which is taught by Sara’s mother. The girls become partners out of necessity and at first, it seems that Sara who is Pakistan-American and Elizabeth who is British-Jewish-American have nothing in common. An extremely talented artist, Sara would rather create in her sketchbook while cooking, reading, and Dr. Who are Elizabeth’s passions. Their friendship has a rocky start but after a few mishaps,  they learn the key to being a true friend is honesty and patience.  Sara and Elizabeth also realize that their cultural differences are an asset, for through their collaboration, they create a unique recipe for the international cooking contest.

Told through the points of view of Sara and Elizabeth in alternating chapters, co-authors Faruqi and Shovan have seamlessly written an authentic and powerful middle grade story that explores themes of family, culture, religion, identity, racism, friendship, food and most importantly, finding the voice to speak up for yourself and others.   I highly recommend A Place at the Table to not only students but also teachers and parents, for I gained perspective on Pakistani and Jewish culture and the challenges of being a first generation American.  As a Marylander, I also loved that the novel took place in my home state with many references such as The Curious Iguana, an independent bookstore in Frederick and our hometown paper, The Baltimore Sun.  

Thanks to the authors and publisher Clarion Books/HMH for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order now, for A Place at the Table will be released on August 12, 2020.

 

#Bookexcursion, #MustReadsin2020, Middle Grade Literature

My #MustReadsin2020

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Happy New Year! There are so many #mglit books being released in 2020! Thanks to the generosity of authors, publishers, and publicists, I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to read and review many of these titles before they are published  I am joining Carrie Gelson of There’s A Book for That and community of other book bloggers to share my #mustreadsin2020.

On my #mustreadin2020, there are 17 books I most look forward to reading.  Since I have ARCs of many of the novels, I will share my reviews on Beagles and Books prior to the book’s official release (listed in parenthesis).

  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (January 2020)
  • Beginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin (February 2020)
  • The Wonder of Wildflowers by Anna Staniszweski (February 2020)
  • The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder  (March 2020)
  • How to Make Friends with the Sea by Tanya Guerrero (March 2020)
  • Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson (April 2020)
  • Finally Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett (April 2020)
  • The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (April 2020)
  • What Lane? by Torrey Maldonaldo  (April 2020)
  • A Dog Friendly Town by Josephine Cameron (May 2020)
  • A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan (May 2020)
  • Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai (May 2020)
  • Any Day With You by Mae Respicio (May 2020)
  • Quintessence by Jess Redman (May 2020)
  • Brave Like That by Lindsey Stoddard  (June 2020)
  • Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (August 2020)
  • Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie (September 2020)

Let the reading begin!