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State of the Stacks: Too Soon Edition

I’m reblogging this essay to share with my readers because it contains a great discussion on developmental reading and book choices. I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Plucked from the Stacks

As a child, reading is a constant period of transitions. A kid usually starts with someone reading picture or board books to them. From there, they might try to tackle wordier texts like easy readers and chapter books. Before long, there’s a pull for longer stories with more complex plots, and that’s when middle grade novels kick in. And as they grow and develop as readers, young adult works wait for them before they drift into the wild and untamed world of adult books.

Of course, every reader is different and, just because a kid moves toward a different style of book, it doesn’t mean they can’t return to an old, trusted format. So while each type of book represents a door for readers, it’s an open one— one they can pass back and forth to suit their moods. It’s how adults can still find joy in picture books.

However…

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My Son Has Autism

Words of wisdom to ponder from the mom of a boy with autism spectrum disorder sharing her journey of acceptance and understanding.

The Braunster

By: Grace Braun

IG: @ausomebrady

My son has Autism.

A statement I have repeated many times.

I had to learn to accept this new reality. Our reality.

It took me years. Four years to be precise.

I feel enlightened and honored to be an Autism mom, but it has not always been like this.

When I found out I was pregnant with Brady, I was filled with joy and gratitude. I pictured the perfect scenario—an easy pregnancy and a healthy baby. I never even imagined I would treadthispath. The autism path.

I fell into a deep depression around the time of my son, Brady’s birth. Brady was premature and didn’t cry at all when he was born. As a new mother, my instincts told me something was definitely different about Brady.

Brady missed every milestone. He did not sit up until 18 months. He did not make eye…

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Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas

Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas

Juana & Lucas

I had a blast reading Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas. Author and illustrator Juana Medina, like the main character in her book, is from Bogotá, Columbia. I know some bilingual teachers who would be uncomfortable with the code switching in this book; I love it. For me, inserting some Spanish words in places where the context or illustrations make the word meanings plain adds color and flavor to this chapter book written mainly in English.

Juana, her Mami, and her dog Lucas have an almost perfect life together. They have a routine and a support group of family and friends that keep them happy. Things start to change when Mami gets a new hairstyle and starts wearing more perfume. The new man in Mami’s life is Luis, an architect. Juana likes him but she doesn’t want things to change, and she doesn’t want Mami and Luis to get married. We learn about Juana’s dad who passed away and about the sadness of not having a father. We share in the characters’ preparations for the wedding and the move. All of this is portrayed sensitively, but also with humor. The illustrations fit the book well.

I learned about a favorite Columbian soup, ajiaco. It is creamy and made of several types of potatoes that cook to various consistencies. It has corn on the cob, capers, chicken, sour cream, and herbs, and is topped with a slice of avocado. The other unfamiliar food to me is chocolate con queso. This special treat consists of hot chocolate with chunks of cheese—chihuahua, queso fresco, or mozzarella. Evidently it is a delight of sweet and salty and is served with bread. I’m ready for a trip to Columbia!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Candlewick for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes:  Age Range: 5 – 8 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Publication:  May 14, 2019—Candlewick

Penguin Days–autism spectrum disorder

Penguin Days

by Sara Leach

Illustrated by Rebecca Bender

Penguin DaysLauren’s family makes a difficult two day car trip to North Dakota for Auntie Joss’ wedding because flying has been a disaster before for Lauren who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is learning how to control her reactions to changes and to certain things that make her uncomfortable. She takes things literally and doesn’t always understand jokes or react instinctively to facial expressions or body language. She is, however, an intelligent child with a passion for reading and insects.

Several problems arise in Penguin Days with the whole wedding scenario. Lauren is under the impression she will be the only flower girl when, in fact, she is one of three. She doesn’t like her dress because it isn’t comfortable and itches. Without meaning to, Lauren ruins the dress. Lauren’s mom has several solutions up her sleeve because she works hard to understand what Lauren is thinking. You’ll enjoy learning how the parents solve these problems and enlist the help of extended family members. Lauren even begins to make friends with her cousins as the story comes to a close.

If you are ever in public and you see a child having a meltdown, don’t judge. Maybe he is a child who needs more discipline and boundaries, but maybe, just maybe, you are witnessing a child on the Autistic Spectrum. If the child is lucky, like Lauren, she is receiving professional help to learn how to control her inner fireworks and to interact with others socially. In the U.S., where for whatever reason autism is on the rise, we are becoming more aware of autism and learning how to manage its effects better. Not everyone, however, has the money or skills to navigate that system. Also, the intervention is most effective when it happens early, and the changes do take hard work, consistency, and time. Meanwhile, Penguin Days is a wonderful, sensitive tool to help the child with autism and the rest of us to understand how autism plays out on the inside and manifests itself on the  outside of the child on the Autistic Spectrum.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: 1. Very good illustrations

  2. Sensitive book sharing the perspective of both the autistic child and her family.

Publication:   January 18, 2019—Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing)

Memorable Lines:

“You’re precious.” “Gems are precious,” I said. “I’m not a gem. But I would like to be an amethyst. They are purple.”

Mom and Dad always say my brain works differently than other people’s brains because I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say my different brain is one of the things they love about me.

The barn got really noisy. Mary Lou mooed. Kevin yelled. And somebody was screaming. I lay on my back in the prickly hay. Mary Lou stepped toward me. I curled into a ball, covered my head with my arms, and started rocking back and forth.

The Library of Ever–unforgettable library adventures

The Library of Ever

by Zeno Alexander

The Library of EverLenora is a rich, privileged, eleven year old, cared for by a nanny in the absence of her vacationing, neglectful parents. With a nanny absorbed by shopping and tech devices, Lenora is understandably bored, but that changes quickly when she escapes the nanny’s unwatchful eye in the LIBRARY. To her delight, she is hired to work there. What follows is a series of magical librarian adventures. With each one of them, Lenora proves her worth and advances from Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian up through the ranks.

The adventures are fun and scary in this amazing library created by Zeno Alexander in The Library of Ever. Lenora is set on tasks by Malachi, the Chief Answerer, and she bravely confronts the Forces of Darkness who want to destroy Light in the world by destroying knowledge. The scary features are appropriate to Middle Grade readers with transporting by tubes, shrinking and unshrinking, dark caverns, holes that suddenly appear, evil men in bowler hats who can chill a room, and robots with spinning swords for arms.  There are lighter moments too. Lenora becomes a cat in a diorama to rescue a lost kitten. Lenora is ever helpful, for as a librarian that is her job. Her good deeds include resettling a colony of penguins and helping a kindly robot find a lost memory. The plot moves quickly from adventure to adventure and is an appropriate length for Middle Grade readers. As an adult reader I enjoyed it too, smiling over antics and anticipating each new adventure along with each promotion for Apprentice Librarian Lenora who has always enjoyed the adventures to be found in books.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Middle Grades

Notes: Ages: 8-11

  Grades: 4-7

Publication:  April 30, 2019—Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Memorable Lines:

Malachi burst onto the scene looking rather disheveled, meaning a wisp of hair had escaped from her bun and her badge was ever so slightly askew.

“This isn’t the Complaints Desk,” said Lenora shortly. “The Complaints Desk is down the stairs, across the hall, over the bridge, past the waterfall, then you take the fifth left after the third right and straight on ’til morning.” Lenora had no idea if there was a Complaints Desk. “You’ll also need ice skates.”

Remember, Lenora, you are not alone in this fight, even if it will feel like that sometimes. You have allies, and you can rely on them to help you with the battles you are not yet ready to fight.

THE CURIOUS SPACE QUEST

Hunt with Newton: What are the Secrets of the Universe?

by Julia Golding with Andrew Briggs and Roger Wagner

Illustrated by Brett Hudson

Hunt with NewtonHunt with Newton is interesting and informative at the same time.  Part science fiction, part theological inquiry, and part historical information about science, Julia Golding’s book takes children on a time travel adventure with a tortoise and a cat. The writing in that part of the story is somewhat strained. Anecdotes about the scientists are more interesting. Readers will also appreciate the inclusion of fun do-it-at-home science experiments. There is a timeline of 17th and 18th century discoveries that might have been better placed as an addendum, because it is dry without the depth needed to hold the reader’s interest. In discussing the scientists, the author jumps about a bit in time periods making the book somewhat disjointed. The connections made between science and religious thinking are interesting.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lion Hudson Limited for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. No grade level indicated for intended audience

  2. Part of a series: The Curious Space Quest

Publication:  February 1, 2019—Lion Hudson Limited

Memorable Lines:

“The point I’m trying to make, Milton, is that, like many people at the time, he didn’t see a difference between science and magic.”

“The big step forward for science is that Pascal decided you could test if this idea is correct…”

Rocky Road to Galileo: What is Our Place in the Solar System?

by Julia Golding with Andrew Briggs and Roger Wagner

Illustrated by Brett Hudson

Rocky Road to GalileoIn a previous book, Harriet, a time traveling tortoise, was “tortoisenapped”by an Alexandrian scientist. As Rocky Road to Galileo opens, Milton, her feline time traveling companion, sets about to rescue her using the time machine. He discovers a Muslim invasion of Egypt has caused a dispersion of scientists, and with them Harriet.

There is a discussion of the Islamic Golden Age extending into Spain, a timeline of science in medieval Europe, and a look at the development of the scientific method along with a number of new technologies. Featured in this book is “Milton’s Notebook” in which the cat records some of his thoughts about what he is seeing and learning on their time travels.

The time traveling duo visit Friar Roger Bacon who emphasizes experimentation over reasoning and debate. Most of the scientists, both Muslim and Christian, had ideas about science and its relationship to religion. The cat and tortoise continue to jump about in time and land in Germany in time to see the first book printed on the Gutenberg press. They later go to Poland in 1510 to meet Copernicus who challenges rational earth-centered thinking. Other thinkers visited along the way are Martin Luther, William Shakespeare, and Galileo.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lion Hudson Limited for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. Includes website suggestions for more information

  2. Part of a series: The Curious Space Quest

Publication:  February 1, 2019—Lion Hudson Limited


 

Just Like You–alike or different?

Just Like You

by Sarah J. Dodd

illustrated by Giusi Capizzi

Just Like You.jpgJust Like You is the perfect story for teaching children to appreciate commonalities in their friendships. Miki the Meerkat makes a new friend when Raffa the Giraffe becomes Miki’s new neighbor at the zoo. At first the two focus on their differences. Later they discover that they both like to watch the moon when they have trouble sleeping and they’re both scared of lightening and thunder. Soon they learn to appreciate their different perspectives and become fast friends.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lion Hudson Limited for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes:  Age Range: 3 and up 

  Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten

Publication:   March 23, 2018— Lion Children’s Books

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