Read This! Little Goblins Ten

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With Halloween around the corner, I recommend the mildly spooky, totally sweet counting tale, Little Goblins Ten, written by Pamela Jane and illustrated by Jane Manning. All manner of supernatural parents and their children (monsters, mummies, witches, goblins, etc) practice their skills (scaring, moaning, cackling, leaping, etc) before meeting up to Trick or Treat. I especially like how it alternates between mommies and daddies with their respective offspring. Perfect for preschoolers.

You may also enjoy these Halloween picture books that I wrote about a few years ago.

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Read This! Little Goblins Ten

What I Read: July 2016

I read 7 books in July. 3 were non-fiction, 4 were fiction. 2 were on Kindle, 5 were in print. 2 were by writers of color.

How to Grow Up: A Memoir by Michelle Tea (2015).

I loved this book in a way that I think you only would if Tea’s earlier books had been important to you and you were so glad to see that she grew up to be totally okay. Tea is just a few years older than me and she was publishing books about being a broke, queer, 20-something feminist performance artist when I was in my 20s and also fairly broke and totally queer and going to a lot of spoken word performances. I’m older now and married and a mom and most days the only other queer person I see is my wife, but that history is still there and so to see this person who was (through her work) a part of that part of my life, a person who was struggling with addiction, whose life was hard be able to do things that are meaningful to her like go to Fashion Week in Paris, was pretty great. If you don’t have this sort of connection to Tea’s work though, I can see how the book would come off as sort of consumeristic. But like all of us, Tea deserves nice things. And I’m happy she’s got them!

Lumberjanes Vol. 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson (2016).

When you want to up the numbers of books completed for your library’s summer reading program, comics are really the way to go. I always enjoy Lumberjanes. This one did not disappoint.

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki (2015).

Sort of weird, but good, but odd. Harry Potter, if Harry Potter was just about the general awfulness of high school and not about saving the world.

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (2015).

In the last book in the Gaither Sisters trilogy, they go to visit Big Ma in Alabama for the summer. A good mix of the freedom of a country summer, the annoyance of sisters, and the danger of being black in the South in the 1960s. The whole trilogy is great and I highly recommend it.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (2012).

Do you like graphic novels and books for children/tweens? You should read everything Telgemeier has ever written. The end.

Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South by Adrienne Berard (2016).

A slim but fascinating book that I got through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program about a desegregation case I knew nothing about – a challenge by the Lum family in the 1920s to school segregation in Mississippi. Berard does an especially great job of placing the case in context, tracing the line of Chinese immigration into the U.S. and to Mississippi, showing the changes attempted during Reconstruction and the crushing racism and segregation that existed in the South at that time. Really glad I read it!

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West (2016).

I loved this book SO much. As a feminist I sometimes find feminist books boring, because I don’t need convincing, I’m already there. This one was insightful and personal. Her ability to have both rightful feminist rage and to forgive makes her a total role model for me. I’ve loved Lindy’s writing since her Stranger days and this book made me love it more. You should read it. Yes, you.

What I Read: July 2016

Read This! Picture a Tree

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With Arbor Day coming up this Friday, now is a great time to pick up Barbara Reid’s Picture a Tree. Throughout the four seasons, trees play many roles (home to birds and animals, shade on a sunny day) and look many different ways (skeletons in winter, riotous color in spring). Reid’s plasticine illustrations feature a diverse array of trees and people alike. I love them.

Read This! Picture a Tree

Books for Queer Families: What Makes a Baby

What Makes a Baby is a birds and the bees book for all kinds of families – queer, straight, adoptive, birth, folks who conceived “naturally” and folks who needed medical assistance, folks who had a vaginal birth and folks who had a c-section. Totally appropriate for little kids.

Pros: Age-appropriate and medically accurate without being clinical or saying anything about “when a mommy and daddy love each other”. Bright, colorful, fun illustrations. Has one of the best descriptions of childbirth I’ve ever read: “sometimes it hurts a little, and sometimes it hurts a lot.”

Cons: I can’t think of one.

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a basic “how babies are made” book, buy this one. It’s great for queer families, but also for folks who used IVF or adopted or just didn’t have the standard conception.

Looking for more books about queer families? You can find the other books I’ve reviewed here.

Books for Queer Families: What Makes a Baby

Books for Queer Families: The Purim Superhero

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It’s Purim and Nate is trying to figure out what costume he wants to wear. He loves aliens, but all the other boys at his Hebrew school are dressing up as superheroes and he wants to fit in! With the help of his Daddy and his Abba, Nate finds a creative solution to his costume dilemma.

Pros: Loved the totally normalized presence about two dads. This is very much a book about a kid trying to figure out how to be true to himself and not in any way about the “problem” of having two dads. Totally fits my goal of finding books where kids happen to have two dads or two moms, but the books isn’t ABOUT that. And the illustrations are cute.

Cons: If you are hoping to learn more about Purim, this isn’t the book for you. Judging by reviews on Amazon, lots of folks bought this book hoping to get a Purim story, and here Purim is really more a plot device than the point.

This isn’t really a con, but I do find it interesting that this book (and the other two dads book I’ve reviewed) is written by a woman. I would love to see more #ownvoices in books about two mom and two dad families.

The Bottom Line: Cute! Normalizing! Nice to have a picture book about a Jewish family with same-sex parents. Would recommend for purchase or library check out.

Books for Queer Families: The Purim Superhero

Read This! My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

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First grader Zulay, who is blind, loves going to school with her best friends, Maya, Nancy, and Chyng. When their teacher, Ms. Seeger, announces that the class will be having a field day in a few weeks, each child must decide which event they’d like to compete in. Maya chooses capture the flag, Nancy tug-of-war and Chyng the egg-and-spoon race. Zulay decides she wants to run a race in her new pink sneakers, so she practices with her aide, Ms. Turner, on the track every day. By field day, she’s got it down! A wonderful, inclusive tale written by Cari Best, with lovely illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

Read This! My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

Read Harder 2016: Middle Grade Novels

I so enjoyed doing the Read Harder challenge in 2015, that I am thrilled Book Riot is doing it again! Task 5 is to read a Middle Grade Novel, and those are my JAM. So I thought I would make a list of recommendations of MG books that I think are great and would appeal to folks who don’t usually read them.

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (2014).

Who can resist a book about a sixth grade restaurant critic? Gladys Gatsby *loves* food, but after an unfortunately creme brûlée incident, she is banned from the kitchen by her non-culinarily inclined parents. When an essay she wrote for a newspaper contest is mistaken for an actual job application, Gladys finds herself reviewing a restaurant for the New York Standard. Fans of Ruth Reichl’s Delicious, should sample All Four Stars.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George (2007).

When Creel’s family sacrifices her to the local dragon, they never would have imagined that she’d talk her way out of his cave and head off to the capital with a pair of magical slippers. She arrives just in time to save the kingdom. If you like YA fantasy, then you should give the MG’s Dragon Slippers a try!

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson (2014).

Middle School schemer, Jackson Greene, swears he has reformed his ways, but when he suspects that the Student Council elections have been rigged against his friend, Gaby de la Cruz, he decides to pull off one last con for the greater good. If you like heist capers like Ocean’s Eleven, you’ll enjoy The Great Greene Heist.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford (2014).

Sometimes good things come from judging a book by it’s cover. I picked this one up because I liked the way it looked, and found such an engaging tale inside. Milo lives in a smuggler’s inn with his adopted, innkeeper parents. The holidays are usually a quiet time, but for some reason, this year, the inn has filled up with some very eccentric characters. It’s up to Milo to figure out what they are seeking before something bad happens. If you are a mystery reader, pick up Greenglass House!

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (2014).

Celeste Marconi is forced to flee her home in Valparaiso, Chile after a brutal dictator seizes control. This book does a great job of showing life under/around a dictatorship through the eyes of a child. If you’ve avoided middle grade books, because you thought they couldn’t deal with serious topics, you should check out I Lived on Butterfly Hill.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (2014).

A fun (and often funny) family tale of two dads and their four sons, who range in age from 6 to 12. If you have found memories of Ramona Quimby, or if you just really want to read a story where two dads are just life and not a plot point, I totally recommend The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher.

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez  (2015).

Middle school student, Cassie Arroyo, is at school in Rome where her art historian father is doing research. All of a sudden her world is shaken when her father picks her up unexpectedly from school and then is shot in their attempted escape. Her injured father sends her to see a Monk, while warning her against a secret group – the Hastati – who are out to get her. If you enjoyed the action and art of The Da Vinci Code, give Moving Target a try.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (2010).

Delphine and her two little sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, CA in the summer of 1968 to spend time with their mother who abandoned the family when the youngest was a baby. Their “crazy summer” include Black Panther summer camp and a mother who wants little to do with them. This Newbery Honor book is a lovely mix of a historic moment in time and normal childhood. If you like historical fiction, you’ll enjoy One Crazy Summer. And bonus: This is a trilogy, so if you like this one, there are more to read!

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones (2015).

When Sophie Brown’s parents inherit her Great Uncle Jim’s farm, they move from LA to a more rural, agricultural part of California. Sophie discovers some of Great Uncle Jim’s very special chickens and starts a self-education campaign to become an exceptional poultry farmer. If you enjoy magical realism, I like you’ll like Unusual Chickens!

Read Harder 2016: Middle Grade Novels