Best of 2020 Books

January 5th, 2021 by

For us, 2020 seems like it went by really quickly — at the same time that it seems like it dragged on forever. How could so much history happen in a single year, and yet almost every day from mid-March to December felt the same? It was certainly a challenging period for everyone, and a time of loss and grief for many. We hope that you and your families, friends, and communities are ringing in 2021 with good health — and the hope that things must get better.

Now that we’ve reached the new year, here at Kidsmomo we thought it would be fitting to revisit the best books of 2020. So we went through a bunch of “Best of 2020” lists from our favorite sources around the internet, and we compiled a list of the best of the best. See below for the top 12 titles that came up over and over again — at least four times each!

Our compiled list: Top 12 of 2020

Listed in alphabetical order. Official descriptions from the publishers.

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz

From a beloved voice in children’s literature comes this landmark memoir of hope amid harrowing times and an engaging and unusual Holocaust story. … Uri Shulevitz … details the eight-year odyssey of how he and his Jewish family escaped the terrors of the Nazis by fleeing Warsaw for the Soviet Union in Chance. It was during those years, with threats at every turn, that the young Uri experienced his awakening as an artist, an experience that played a key role during this difficult time.

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted? To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together. As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

After losing almost everything in the Great Depression, Ellie’s family is forced to leave their home in town and start over in the untamed wilderness of nearby Echo Mountain. Ellie has found a welcome freedom, and a love of the natural world, in her new life on the mountain. But there is little joy after a terrible accident leaves her father in a coma. An accident unfairly blamed on Ellie. Ellie is a girl who takes matters into her own hands, and determined to help her father she will make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as “the hag.” But the hag, and the mountain, still have many untold stories left to reveal.

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf–her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed. Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family. It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy — that he thinks he might be gay. “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?” But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King’s friendship with Sandy is reignited, he’s forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother’s death.

Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories — beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968 — come together to create one unforgettable journey. Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South. Inspired by storytelling’s oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America’s struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it. The novel’s unique format invites us to walk in their shoes. Each encounters an unexpected mystical gift, passed down from one family member to the next, that ignites their experience what it means to reach for freedom.

Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the fantastical tale Buelo tells him about a mystical gatekeeper who can guide brave travellers on a journey into tomorrow. If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team, and whether he’d ever find his mother, who left when he was a baby. Papa refuses to talk about her, so Max has learned to stop asking. But when Papa is forced to reveal his involvement in an underground network of guardians that led people fleeing a neighboring country to safety, and the surprising reason Max’s spot on the fútbol team may be threatened, everything he knew about himself and his family is upended. A treasured compass, a haunted tower, a mysterious stone rubbing, and a peregrine falcon propel Max on a dangerous search for clues about who he is and what the future holds.

only-black-girls-in-town-book-coverThe Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her. Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living. When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there, including Mary are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage. But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary’s brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a live specimen in a cruel experiment. Deaf author and librarian Ann Clare LeZotte weaves a riveting story inspired by the true history of a thriving deaf community on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 19th century making readers question their own ideas about what is normal.

Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright

Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!

Ways To Make Sunshine by Renée Watson

Ryan Hart has a lot on her mind — school, self-image, and especially family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means some changes, like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. As her brother says when he raps about her, she’s got the talent that matters most: it’s a talent that can’t be seen, she’s nice, not mean! Ryan is all about trying to see the best in people, to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend. But even if her life isn’t everything she would wish for, when her big brother is infuriating, her parents don’t quite understand, and the unexpected happens, she always finds a way forward, with grace and wit. And plenty of sunshine.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future … but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.

Happy reading, and here’s to a better new year!

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?

More about Karen »

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.

More about Karen »

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.

More about Karen »

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…

More about Karen »

Books to Big Screen (Kinda): Stargirl and Timmy Failure

February 26th, 2020 by

Usually when we share trailers for movies based on books, it makes sense to say “Books to Big Screen” because the films are released in theaters. But fortunately, streaming TV now makes it possible to enjoy some book-to-movie adaptations from the comfort of your couch. So put on your favorite PJs, grab some microwave popcorn, and check out this downsized (but still very exciting) edition of Books to Big Screen (Kinda)

In just a few weeks, Disney+ will release its adaptation of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. We really love this book and we’ve both read it multiple times — so to be honest, we’re already a bit concerned that the characters and imagery in the trailer don’t match what’s in our imaginations. (Yes, we are two different people with two different brains. But somehow, what’s in the trailer seems off to both of us.) Let’s just hope that the movie ends up doing justice to the original book. You can bet we’ll be glued to our screens and judging it hard-core — much like the students at Mica High judge poor Stargirl. (So maybe we should be less judgy? Well, we have this website. What’s their excuse?)

Check out the trailer for the upcoming Stargirl movie below. It will be available starting March 13th!

If you simply can’t wait until then to get your book-to-movie fix, then you’re in luck: Disney+ has already released an adaptation of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis. Take a look at the trailer below — and if you’ve already watched the film, then you’re in luck because there are seven books in the series to keep you entertained!

Are you excited for the new Stargirl movie? Have you already watched the Timmy Failure film? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

2020 Newbery Award Winners

February 3rd, 2020 by

The Super Bowl was last night, and apparently that’s exciting for some people… Not us! The only recent competition that we care about actually happened last week: the Newbery Awards!

Last Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2020 Newbery Medal Winner and 2020 Newbery Honor Books. Every year, the Newbery is given to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” So if you’re not familiar with these awards, just think of them as the Super Bowl — plus children’s books, minus the nachos. We know, we know — nachos are delicious. But even without the cheesy chips and guacamole, the Newbery Awards are still really exciting.

And this year’s announcement was particularly exciting because a graphic novel won the Newbery Medal for the very first time: New Kid by Jerry Craft. Here’s what Karen had to say about it in her review: “I’d recommend this book to literally everyone. Okay, maybe not to little kids who can’t read yet. But everyone else should check out New Kid. Students, adults, everyone.”

So if you were wondering what to read next, check out New Kid or any of the Newbery Honor recipients (official descriptions from the publishers):

2020 Newbery Medal Winner:

New Kid by Jerry Craft
new-kid-jerry-craft

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds — and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

2020 Newbery Honor Books:

undefeatedThe Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

scary-stories-for-young-foxesScary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood.

No fox kit is safe. When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow… and other things too scary to mention.

Featuring eight interconnected stories and 16 hauntingly beautiful illustrations, Scary Stories for Young Foxes contains the kinds of adventures and thrills you love to listen to beside a campfire in the dark of night. Fans of Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Auxier, and R.L. Stine have found their next favorite book.

other-words-for-homeOther Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US — and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before.

But this life also brings unexpected surprises — there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home and, most importantly, finding yourself.

genesis-begins-againGenesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

There are 96 things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant — even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight — Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

Are you adding any of these books to your to-read list? Or have you already read them? Leave a comment and let us know!

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:

white-bird-excerpt-1

white-bird-excerpt-2

white-bird-excerpt-3

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.

More about Karen »

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!

More about Karen »

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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