It’s Tuesday! and high time I made a list for Top 10 Tuesday. The theme this week is Bookish Quotes, but I am going back to an older theme to list books I loved but never reviewed. It’s been quite a year, dear readers, and so without further ado, I will give you some of the books I’ve read over the past year and wanted to share with you.
Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure by Alex T. Smith. Peachtree, 2019. 978-1682631201. Read from library copy.
Would-be adventurer Mr. Penguin and his friend Colin the Spider take on their first case on behalf of Boudicca Bones, director of the local Museum of Extraordinary Objects, to find a missing treasure. They are racing thieves all the way – will Mr. Penguin have enough fish-finger packed lunches? This chapter book has lots of action and British humor, and the glossy pages and color pictures add to the charm.
Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet by Megan Frazer Blakemore. Aladdin, 2019. 978-1534430433 Read from library copy.
When Frankie’s class decides they want to adopt a class pet, Frankie, whose aunt is a rodentologist, is sure that a rat is the very best choice. But things aren’t as simple as they seem. Her own best friend disagrees with her, and Frankie will have to develop both her friendship skills and use her scientific brain to solve the problem of how a pet who needs daily care can survive in the classroom. This is a sweet and fun chapter book, one which has appeal for character readers like me but enough science to fit into a STEM curriculum.
Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri. First Second, 2018. 9781626725355
In this Cybils graphic novel finalist aimed at younger readers, our cute but fanged tiger girl has grown up near her family’s worn flying car repair shop. She always takes extra food from dinner for the monster her parents think is imaginary, but we see them playing games together before bed. The monster’s job is to protect the tiger from her nightmares – but what happens when the monster can’t fend them off? The layered and sketchy watercolor and ink illustrations play off the story beautifully. The book was a hit both with my own then fifth-grader and a friend’s first-grader and toddler.
The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy. Balzer + Bray, 2019. ISBN 9780062866417. Listened to audiobook on Libby.
Rahul Kapoor is about to start 7th grade, and is terrified that he’s just not cool enough. His beloved grandfather, Bhai, tells him to find one thing he’s really good at, which leads to a series of hilarious attempts at new activities to find one he’s good at. The bully down the street is also teasing him about being gay, and Rahul is really uncomfortable with this, even if he can’t stop staring at cute and kind Justin. But with help from his family, his best friend Chelsea, the Mathletes, and his Indian-American aunties and uncles, Rahul might just figure it out. Recommended to me by Nakenya and a Stonewall Honor book. Read with Better Nate than Ever and Martin Mclean, Middle School Queen.
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng. Dial, 2017. 9780399186370. Read from library copy.
11-year-old Alex lives with his mother, who takes long walks and is having more and more “quiet days” where she doesn’t get out of bed. Still, he’s a huge fan of space and Carl Sagan, and has a golden iPod which he’s been filling with meaningful sounds so that it can be launched into space. This leads to a long road trip, involving lots of learning about his family, including his adult brother and his deceased father. So many feels! Jack Cheng is one of the authors who would have been at KidLitCon.
Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly. Harper Collins Childrens, 2019. Read from library copy.
I have been waiting for years for this book! Filipino-American children’s books are hard enough to find here, but my children only want fantasy. 12-year-old Lalani lives on the island of Sanlagita, which is dominated by the sinister Mount Kahna and rumored to have a monster on it. Challenging tradition and gender norms, Lalani sets out to break them out of their chains of poverty and subservience to the unknown monster.
Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1681191089. Read from library copy.
Almost-twelve-year-old Amara, from Seattle, is not sure how she feels about her mother’s pregnancy, the first one that seems like it will succeed after a series of miscarriages. Meanwhile, she flies to Harlem and develops a relationship with her grandfather, who has been estranged from her father since her birth. This is so full of goodness and the strength of both blood and found family.
Seventh Grade vs. the Galaxy by Joshua Levy. Carolrhoda Books, 2019. 978-1541528109. Read from library copy. Ebook on Libby and Hoopla.
It’s the last day of school on the run-down PSS 118 orbiting Ganymede. Jack has been disengaged from school ever since his dad was fired for tinkering with the engine and his mother moved back to Earth. Then, their ship is taken hostage by aliens. Together with his best friend Ari and tough girl Becka (short for Beckenham), Jack must find fuel for their ship, rescue their classmates, and escape. This is a funny adventure story with some serious undertones. I just wish it were on audio, where my kids would enjoy it more. Joshua Levy was at KidLitCon 2019 and was planning to be at KLC 2020 as well.
Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? by Kelly Jones. Illustrated by Katie Kath. Knopf, 2018. 978-1524765910 (paperback 978-1524765941) Read from library copy.
In this sequel to Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, we return to Sophie and her farm. She’s hatching more unusual chickens, and is seeing some strange new superpowers. Meanwhile, with her cousin Lupe moving in for college and a new Latinx girl, Xochi, at her middle school, Sophie has to bridge between old and new friends. This is warm and funny and my daughter picked it up to read herself, too.
Griffins of Castle Cary by Heather Shumaker. Simon & Schuster, 2019. 978-1534430884. Read from library copy.
The four Griffin siblings are vacationing at their Aunt Effie’s historic thatched cottage in Castle Cary, Kent. The town is famous for its ghosts, who are supposed to be benign. When little Ariel starts talking about a new playmate, Kay Kay, her siblings don’t believe her at first, even though musical Will can hear bells at odd times. This ghost story had beautiful English countryside and some tense moments, but wasn’t super-scary. Heather Shumaker would have been at KLC 2020.
Time Sight by Lynne Jonell. Henry Holt, 2019. 978-1250117670. Read from library copy.
Will and Jamie’s mother, a doctor in a war zone, is now missing, and the two brothers are sent to family in Scotland during the rescue attempt. Their relatives there are caretakers for Menzes castle, and while playing in the castle, Will discovers that he has “time sight” – the ability to make windows to other times. But when Jamie walks through a window by himself, Will and their cousin Nan have to try to rescue him. They end up traveling to multiple times, including the Copper Age and the Middle Ages, and in addition to their adventures, there are deep thoughts on the nature of time, violence in history, and the necessity of helping when one can. I felt that the rosy-cheeked children on the cover were a little at odds with both the thoughtfulness and the high body count and frank talk of people committing suicide rather than being taken as slaves.
The Princess Who Flew with Dragons by Stephanie Burgis. Bloomsbury, 2019. 978-1547602070 Read from purchased copy.
In this final book in the trilogy that began with The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, the philosophy-loving Princess Sofia is sent to Villene to represent Drachenheim at Diamond Exhibition, only to be exiled from court immediately upon her over-dramatic arrival. But rather than groveling, Sofia runs away to university and befriends female students of other races (kobolds, etc.) When the city is threatened by ice giants, Sofia must overcome her snobbery and find real uses for her background and her beloved philosophy. This is still one of my favorite series, and I’m currently reading it to my daughter after having read it to myself.
We’re Not from Here by Geoff Rodkey. Crown Books, 2019. Read from library copy. Ebook and audiobook on Libby.
In this Cybils finalist, 12ish Lan Mifune, his teen sister Ila (a former pop singer contest winner) and their parents leave a Mars Colony that is rapidly becoming as unlivable as the Earth to try out planet Choom. Choom has four intelligent species all living in harmony, and the family hopes that humans will be welcome there as well. But as space travel is slow, by the time they get there, they are no longer welcome. Though this is funny and far-future, it also has a lot to say about relations between differing groups and the refugee experience.