Book to Movie: Concrete Cowboy

April 2nd, 2021 by

You know how every time you go on Netflix, a video immediately starts playing and you have to scramble to turn off the sound or scroll down the page to get it to stop and you’re super aggravated and annoyed? Well, maybe that’s just me… But today I was actually incredibly excited by the video that greeted me: a trailer for the new movie Concrete Cowboy!

The film is based on the book Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri, which I previously reviewed for Kidsmomo. I recommended the book back then, and I still recommend it now! Here’s part of my review:

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“With each turn of the page, I was drawn even more into the action and wanted to know what would happen next. And I also really enjoyed learning about this community I’d never heard of before — even without the illustrations, all the vivid descriptions brought it to life in my imagination, but the pictures by Jesse Joshua Watson are also awesome.”

To learn more, watch the movie trailer below and read my full book review!

And if you’ve already read the book or seen the movie, please leave a comment below with your thoughts!

— Karen

Karen also recently learned about cowboy poetry, which originated in the late 1800s when cowboy crews spent months on long-distance cattle drives across the West. These crews (including Black cowboys) would entertain themselves on the road by singing and playing music, telling stories, and composing their own songs and poems. Now Karen has spent literal hours reading cowboy poetry and watching their performances online!

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Book Review: The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

March 7th, 2021 by

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In The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert, Alberta has things pretty good: She’s an amazing surfer, she has two actually cool artistic dads, and she has a best friend she’s grown up with — whose older brother always gives them free ice cream at his job at the local scoop shop. But being the only Black student in her grade (out of only four Black students at school), Alberta sometimes feels like she doesn’t quite fit in. Finally, though, that’s about to change! A Black family is taking over the bed and breakfast across the street from Alberta’s house, and she’s thrilled to learn that the daughter is exactly her age. Hello, instant friends for life, right? Well, not exactly…

It turns out that Edie and Alberta don’t have a ton in common. Edie dresses like a goth, she’s into Victorian novels, and she misses her old home in New York City — which she is constantly comparing to their small town. But despite their differences, Edie is nice. And she immediately understands Alberta’s experiences dealing with microaggressions from Nicolette — their classmate, neighbor, and Alberta’s biggest surfing competition. Unfortunately for Alberta, her BFF has always been quick to overlook Nicolette’s mean remarks, and now Alberta is starting to feel a distance grow between them.

That makes it the perfect time for Alberta and Edie to dive into a mystery! They discover a box of old journals in the attic of the bed and breakfast, and they are soon sucked into investigating the identity and story behind the writer. Who was she, why did she leave the journals behind, and what became of her? Edie and Alberta are determined to find out!

But life doesn’t stop just because there’s an intriguing mystery at hand. Alberta’s also dealing with friend drama, crush drama, school drama — and on the plus side, a lovely visit from her birth mom. To me, that’s what makes this book so great: It’s got so much going on, just like in reality. This could have been a one-dimensional story — a mystery OR a realistic fiction book about friendship and family OR a book about Alberta’s experiences with race and racism. But just as there are many interconnected parts to our identities and lives, there are multiple layers to this book. My only disappointment was getting to the end and having to leave the world of Ewing Beach and Alberta’s community!

I’d recommend this book for fans of The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre, Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught, Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai, and Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick.

Have you already read The Only Black Girls in Town or any of the other books I mentioned above? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

— Karen

In the book, Edie moves from New York City to California — which is the reverse of Karen’s life! As a proud New Yorker these days, Karen really sympathizes with Edie’s homesickness for Brooklyn. To be honest, Karen would never want to leave NYC!

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Book Review: A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

February 13th, 2021 by

In 2020, our country lost an amazing hero, Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. One of his most famous quotes is: “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” But sometimes it’s easier said than done. We may know the importance of raising our voices and fighting for racial justice, but sometimes we can doubt ourselves, especially in instances where our friends, family, teachers, or neighbors disagree. In A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée, the main character struggles with whether — and how — to speak up for what she believes in.

Shayla is already having a tough time navigating junior high to begin with. She and her BFFs, Julia and Isabella, have always been a tight trio. They even call themselves “the United Nations” because Shayla is African-American, Julia is Japanese-American, and Isabella is Puerto Rican — yet they are a united force, three besties against the world. But junior high has changed everything. All of a sudden, Julia is ditching them to hang out with another group. Plus, Isabella is catching the eye of Shayla’s crush!

On top of all that friend drama, Shayla is also upset by the police violence that she sees on the news. Her older sister is active in the Black Lives Matter movement, but Shayla has always been a stickler for following the rules and staying out of trouble. Also, she doesn’t see why race should be such a big deal. For example, why do her Black classmates judge her for hanging out with Isabella and Julia instead of spending time with them? Why do things have to be so complicated?

Soon, however, Shayla finds that she can’t ignore the racial injustice in her community. And the more she learns, the more she wants to take action. But what difference can she make — especially when her principal warns her against certain forms of protest at school? Shayla has to decide if she’s willing to get into trouble for taking a stand.

I would recommend this book for everyone, since there are so many parallels to real life and to news of police brutality that you may have discussed with your family or at school. Or this book may echo some of your own personal experiences and dilemmas. I’d especially recommend this book if you liked Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado, You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino, or Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez.

Have you already read A Good Kind of Trouble? Or do you have another book to recommend, where the characters also advocate for their beliefs and their community? Leave a comment below!

— Karen

Karen absolutely loves the cover art for this book. Like Shayla, she used to have various pins on her backpack when she was in school. And also a rubber chicken keychain that she attached to the zipper! Why? Who knows?

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New Alex Rider Streaming Series

July 16th, 2020 by

I have to admit, it’s been a while since I’ve thought about Alex Rider, the fictional British schoolboy turned spy for MI6. The first book in the series by Anthony HorowitzStormbreaker, was published in 2000. A big screen adaptation and a graphic novel version were released in 2006. And then, you know, like 14 years went by.

Actually, additional Alex Rider books have been coming out all this time — but it can be hard for me to pick a series back up if I’ve had to wait a long time for the next installment. However, I might have to revisit the Alex Rider books, in preparation for the new streaming series!

The drama will premiere for American audiences on IMDb TV on November 13th. Based on the incredible trailer below, it looks pretty INTENSE!

Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle all the tension and violence. You may recall I’m a real scaredy-cat when it comes to action and suspense.

On the other hand, it definitely looks like an exciting update compared to the 2006 movie — check out the old trailer below:

Kinda cheesy, right? Well, then you really won’t like this book trailer that we created for Kidsmomo back in the day:

Yeah, there’s no denying the videos in this post get more and more low-fi as you go… Of course, if you want to truly go old school, you should read the original books! Check out some reviews from Kidsmomo readers!

If you’re already a fan of the Alex Rider series, leave a comment below and tell us what you think of the new streaming show!

— Karen

Karen would be extremely surprised if she learned that her family had been training her as a spy when she was growing up. Perhaps all those piano lessons were supposed to help her stop bad guys in some way?

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Summer Reading Rec: The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles

June 28th, 2020 by

last-last-day-of-summerDuring your summer vacation, I bet the last thing you’re looking for is a story about the end of summer. Maybe you even wish you could freeze time and make the summer last longer. Well, you may want to reconsider all that after you read The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles!

Here’s the official description from the publisher:

When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and hours are not the endless fun they expected. Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town — and each other — before time stops for good.

To be totally honest, I haven’t read this book yet. So why am I suggesting it to you? Because someone I really trust recently recommended it: author Jason Reynolds, the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! PBS asked him about some good “escape reading” for the summer, and this is the #1 book that Jason Reynolds suggested. Here’s how he described it: “I think it’s a brilliant book about young kids who are spending the summer in Virginia and go on sort of a whodunit magical fantasy.”

So if this book is good enough for Jason Reynolds, well then it’s gotta be good enough for the rest of us, right? How about we all read it over the summer, and then come back here to share our thoughts with each other in the comments below? I’m looking forward to hearing your reviews!

Also, feel free to leave a comment about other summer must-reads you think everyone should check out!

— Karen

Here are some other books Karen plans to read this summer: The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert; A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée; the new Hunger Games prequel (The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins); and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by the above-mentioned Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. So many good books! Karen really wishes she could just sit and read all day every day. With ice cream.

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A New Story for Our Times: Aiden Tyler, Quaran-teen

March 29th, 2020 by

aiden-tyler-quaranteenLast week, I shared some quarantine reading by Jarrett Lerner. Little did I know that just a few days later, another author would give new meaning to the term “quarantine reading.”

Introducing Aiden Tyler, Quaran-teen by Rex Ogle (the author of Free Lunch). Here’s the official description:
 

Aiden Tyler is your typical middle school student. Rides the bus. Likes comic books. Tolerates his sister. But, his life is about to be turned upside down by the Coronavirus. Yes, you heard that correctly. Aiden Tyler, Quaran-teen is a new and original middle-grade serial written and read in real time by author Rex Ogle (Free Lunch). That means as YOU experience things, Aiden will be experiencing them too. Join us every Tuesday, as Rex shares Aiden’s story that’s full of laughs, facts, hearts, and farts.

 
Every week, Rex Ogle will release a new video of himself reading part of the story. As of today, the first three chapters are already live. The next video comes out on March 31st.

Check it out, and then come back here to leave a comment with your thoughts!

— Karen

Apparently, the character of Aiden Tyler farts when he’s nervous. Karen gets the hiccups when she’s nervous! So it’s pretty clear that this makes her a much better quarantine partner than Aiden.

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Quarantine Reading from Author Jarrett Lerner

March 22nd, 2020 by

Did you guys know that I’m a student, just like you? Well, maybe not just like you. I’m obviously a gazillion years older, so I finished whatever grade you’re in a long, long time ago. But starting in January, I started taking classes again — to become a children’s librarian! So just like you guys, I was going to school, doing homework, working on group projects with my classmates, etc. But then — Coronavirus. Now I’m attending classes, doing my assignments, and being a student at home and online. And I bet that’s true for you too, right?

knights-of-the-kids-tableWell, if you’re looking for a new book to read during all those extra hours at home, I’ve got some good news! Starting tomorrow (Monday, March 23rd), author Jarrett Lerner is going to post chapters from his new book on his blog! He plans to release a new batch of chapters every Monday and Thursday morning until he reaches the end of the book.

The new book is called Knights of the Kids’ Table, and I bet you want to know what it’s about… Well, me too! But the author hasn’t revealed any details about the story — except to say that if you like his EngiNerds books, then you’ll probably like this one too. Since EngiNerds is about farting robots, I think we’re probably in for a fun and funny tale!

After you start reading Knights of the Kids’ Table, please come back here and leave a comment with your thoughts!

Or leave a comment now and share some other books you’d recommend for all this extra time indoors. Fortunately, most libraries have lots of great e-books to borrow!

Stay safe and take care of yourself, Kidsmomo friends!

— Karen

Karen is a major packrat who hangs onto pretty much everything. Luckily for her, that also means she hoards books. And since she can’t go out to the library or her favorite bookstores right now, maybe it’s time to start one of the literally 24 unread books stacked next to her bed…

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White Bird by R.J. Palacio: Book Review

January 13th, 2020 by

white-birdIf you’ve read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, then you know the saying, “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” In this new graphic novel by the same author, we see many characters who make the choice to be kind — and at the same time, there’s no question it is also the right choice, the moral choice, the just choice. And a dangerous choice.

White Bird is the story of Julian’s grandmother’s experience during the Holocaust, when she was a young girl in France. Julian plays a big role in Wonder and gets his own story in the follow-up, “The Julian Chapter,” but you don’t need to be familiar with those stories to read White Bird. The book opens and closes with a conversation between Julian and his grandma, but the majority of the action is a flashback to the grandmother’s youth.

Young Sara’s early life is good, growing up with her loving parents and enjoying time with her friends. But her carefree days start to change as the Nazis take control of France. At first, the changes aren’t too bad — Sara can’t go into certain stores or other businesses because she’s Jewish, but she gets used to just waiting outside for her friends.

Then her world turns upside down when the Nazis come to round up all the Jewish people in town and take them to concentration camps. Fortunately, Sara escapes — but then begins a lonely and scary period of hiding and waiting. Thanks to the kindness of a classmate’s family, Sara has shelter, food, and a little bit of company each day. But she lives with the fear of being caught.

Because she’s telling the story, we know that Sara survives the Holocaust, but we also know from history that millions of other people were not so lucky. So it’s appropriate that Sara’s story includes a lot of harrowing moments and sadly, also includes multiple deaths at the hands of the Nazis and their supporters. But the violence is not gory — and obviously, it’s an important and necessary part of the book. But so is the bravery and kindness of some of Sara’s neighbors.

So overall, this is clearly a sad story — but it’s not an unbearably depressing book. And the graphic novel format makes it easier to take everything in and helps keep the pace moving (the story takes place over years, but it doesn’t ever feel overwhelming). Check out a few pages from the book, shared on the publisher’s website:

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Regardless of whether or not you’ve studied the Holocaust at school, this book will be a good addition to your knowledge and understanding of that period in history. But it doesn’t feel like a textbook; it’s a gripping story with characters you will come to care deeply about. Perhaps most importantly, the book reminds us that it’s our job to be an upstander (rather than a bystander) and to speak out against hateful attacks, actions, and laws and make sure that something like the Holocaust never happens again.

— Karen

Right after finishing this book, Karen turned to her friend and started talking about it. You may also want to discuss the book with other people, so Karen would suggest reading it alongside friends, parents, or other family members so you can experience it together and then talk about it after. Also, keep some tissues handy.

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A Squall of Snowy Stories

December 19th, 2019 by

snowman in snowglobeWhat’s a “snow squall”? It’s a relatively short but intense period of heavy snow and strong winds. And yesterday, many New York City residents (myself included) learned the term as a Snow Squall Warning was issued for NYC for the first time in history!

Fortunately, I was inside the whole day and didn’t have to deal with the storm — and I expect I’ll be spending more and more time indoors as we get into the heart of chilly winter weather. But what a perfect time to curl up with a mug of hot cocoa, a fluffy blanket, and a good book, right?

And if you’re looking for the perfect story for the season, then look no further than these two booklists published on Kidsmomo in winters past:

Cool Books for Cold-Weather Reading

A Wintry Mix of Books

And if you’ve got a favorite wintry or holiday-themed book that we haven’t mentioned here, please share in the comments!

— Karen

Besides the titles mentioned in our booklists, Karen would also recommend the Greenglass House books by Kate Milford — which are perfect for this time of year. A snowy lodge? Check. Cheerful Christmas traditions with family? Check. A surprising mystery and possibly dangerous criminals infiltrating the main character’s home? Perhaps not a usual part of everyone’s holidays, but check and check!

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Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez: Book Review

December 9th, 2019 by

strange-birdsAs an adult, I just have to say this up front: If you’re in a public bathroom and find an anonymous invitation to a mysterious gathering, DO NOT decide to attend without telling anyone else what you’re doing. I mean, come on, you don’t even have to be an anxious old person like me to know that’s a bad idea.

But a bad idea in real life can certainly make for a good story in a book, can’t it? And Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez would definitely be a very different book if the four main characters didn’t all come together for their meetings. So I guess I can forgive the dangerous decision in this fictional instance — it sure leads to some exciting adventures!

That’s because Lane, Aster, Cat, and Ofelia are all very strong-willed and passionate people. In fact, they’re not even sure they like each other! But even so, they form a loyalty to one another and to a shared cause, which involves Cat’s love for birds. (Hence the punny title!)

I don’t want to reveal too many details about the girls’ shenanigans, but here’s a taste of what you can expect:

  • Stealthy political protest
  • Multiple chases (involving a security guard and a dog)
  • Rival families
  • Nighttime antics
  • New friends

I really enjoyed spending time with this group and each character separately. Ofelia is an aspiring journalist, Aster is an exceptional baker, Cat is a bird expert, and Lane is an artistic soul. But they are all more than their interests, as they’re each dealing with their own family drama and figuring out how to be the best and truest versions of themselves.

It was fun seeing these different characters come together, get to know each other, and create a partnership to fight for something they really believe in. It’s always inspiring to see people take action for justice and truth — especially when you get to see all the debate and exploration that goes into it. Power and props to these warriors!

If you’re a fan of Celia C. Pérez’s other book, The First Rule of Punk, then you should definitely check out Strange Birds. I’d also suggest this book if you like stories about kids and communities fighting for what’s right — even if that means making enemies of the people in power. So check out Strange Birds if you enjoyed Ghetto Cowboy by G. NeriThe Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya, or the Adam Canfield books by Michael Winerip.

Or just check out the book if you’re looking for some inspiration to get more involved and create change in your own school or neighborhood! After all, as Celia C. Pérez says in the Author’s Note for Strange Birds, “activism is for everyone. … Each of us has the ability to speak up for what we believe in, challenge what we disagree with, and support what we care about.”

— Karen

Karen spends a lot of time at her local library (as a volunteer), but to be honest, she tries to avoid the public bathroom. Maybe next time, she’ll check to see if there are any unusual messages there — but again, she should not and WILL NOT go by herself to meet any strangers. Sheesh.

More about Karen »

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