Books that Quietly Change Culture

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic in children’s literature. Written in 1962, it was well-received from the get-go and even won the Caldecott Medal that year. Who can’t relate to the wonder of a fresh blanket of snow? The Snowy Day was also one of the first picture books to feature an African American child as the main character. Written in the midst of the Civil Rights movement this book quietly made a very important statement.

I read an article that ran on NPR on January 28, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of The Snowy Day) that shared one of the ways this book made an impact:

Savvy

Who wouldn’t want to receive a special power, or savvy, on their 13th birthday? Whether it is the power to cause a hurricane or the ability to be practically perfect at everything, the possibilities are endless.

I loved the premise of this book. It is creative and fun and when I started I was looking forward to the adventure. I wasn’t, however, expecting the depth and thoughtfulness that came with it. This is a special book with a whole lot of food for thought wrapped inside a creative story making it an excellent book to read.

Author Focus: Grace Lin

Today marks the beginning of the Spring Festival in China, better known as Chinese New Year. I thought that made it the perfect day to talk about one of our family’s favorite authors, Grace Lin.

Grace Lin is an author-illustrator of numerous picture books, easy readers and novels for young readers. While her books are fiction, most of her stories are inspired by real life.

As a multi-racial family (two of our kids were born in China), I love the connection Grace’s books give them to their country of origin. We have used her picture books to help us learn about and celebrate different Chinese holidays, like Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Her Pacy-Lin novels give my kids a relatable character that looks like them. Her Chinese folklore novels (including one of my very favorites, Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon) give my kids a glimpse into the world of Chinese fairy tales as well as takes them on an epic adventure.

Sweep

One part fantasy, one part historical fiction and three parts wonderful, Jonathan Auxier’s most recent release is a must-read. This story is filled with friendship, wonder, sadness and injustice; it has all the feels. Thankfully, it ends with large doses of hope and redemption. It’s the kind of book that brings the best kind of sigh at the end of the last page.

Nan, the main character, is smart and wise beyond her years. Since her Sweep left her, five years ago, she has a hard time letting anyone else in. When she finally meets Charlie, a gift from the Sweep, their friendship is sweet and fierce. They are characters that you can’t help but fall in love with and Charlie is the most endearing monster you will ever meet. They make a great team. The story moves along at a good clip, highlighting the plight of children sweeps, the wonder of new discoveries, and the joy of friendship.

11-year-old Girl Seeking Books with a Hook

Ava is an eleven-year-old girl who loves to read. She loves reading because it takes her into new worlds and occupies her mind. There are so many different stories to read and learn from; she loves to discover them. When she’s not reading, Ava likes to play games and play soccer.

When looking for a good book, Ava especially likes fantasy and realistic fiction. The Harry Potter series is one of her very favorites; she has read them more than once. She stays away from graphic novels because they don’t interest her and feel harder to read.

Ava has no problem abandoning a book if it doesn’t keep her interest or is hard to understand. If you are a kid looking for a good book, Ava recommends that you ask your siblings, parents, grandparents and friends for recommendations.

I am excited to give Ava a few personalized picks. To help me help her, I asked Ava to share three of her favorite books and one she was not so crazy about. Here are her favorites:

The One Crazy Summer Trilogy

Can I tell you how much I love Delphine and her sisters, cause I surely do!

I finished the second book of this trilogy, P.S. Be Eleven, a few weeks ago (after finishing the third, Gone Crazy in Alabama, last year) and was reminded again of how special these books, and these girls are.

12 Books I Want to Read This Year

“What should I read next?”

As Anne Bogel would say, “It is the question that plagues every reader.” The book recommendations may abound increasing your TBR exponentially, and yet, when it comes time to pick your next book you feel lost. There are too many choices and you can’t remember anything you told yourself you want to read.

This question plagues readers and it can plague the parents of young readers.

The library has too many books. It’s overwhelming to find even one from their over-stuffed shelves. And, you can’t remember a single book you knew you (or they) wanted to read.

If you can relate, I have one small solution:

A Reading Challenge for Your Kids, Bingo Style!

Confession: I am a sucker for New Year’s resolutions, or goals as I like to call them.

Last year I set a goal to read 100 books in 2018; the week before Christmas I finished Frankenstein to complete it. This year I’m going for 100 again. I like setting a number, but I hold it loosely. I don’t want the pressure of reaching my goal to detract from the joy I find in reading.

I’ve talked to my kids about setting reading goals too. While I don’t want them to feel pressured by the goals, my hope is that they will be motivated by them. Some have set a number, some have said they want to read more nonfiction, others have ignored the idea completely. I am good with each of their responses. I want the idea of a reading challenge to be fun and if it’s not, then I don’t want them to do it.

For those who have set goals, I do what I can to help. Whether that means helping them start a notebook to track their reading or to periodically ask how they are doing. It’s fun to talk about (at least for me) and it’s one more way we can connect over books and reading.

Love Does for Kids

My husband would say Love Does by Bob Goff has been one of the most influential books in his life. I would say the same. Bob’s perspective on loving God and loving people is inspiring. As he would say, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

Then on our summer vacation road trip this year, we listened as a family to Bob’s newest release, Everybody Always. Our kids loved listening to it as much as we did. Bob is funny, interesting and so whimsical in the way he interacts with other people. I want to be like Bob, mainly because I think Bob acts a lot like Jesus did and I really want to be like Jesus.

When I saw Bob had recently co-authored a new version of Love Does written with his daughter expressly for kids, I knew it was a book that we needed to add to our shelf. Our kids were already fans, I figured it would be a great way to get them to read a book.

A Book List of Mysteries for All Ages

Mysteries are the perfect type of book to read on a cold and blustery fall or winter night. If your child loves the thrill of following clues along with the danger and suspense that literary detectives always encounter. I’ve got a list for you.

So get a fire going in the fireplace, grab a cozy blanket and a mug of hot chocolate, and dive into one of the following books.

Author Focus: Steve Sheinken

Sometimes history gets the bad rap of being boring. If your kids think this, or if they think the opposite and LOVE history, I have an author for you to check out immediately.

Steve Sheinken used to write history textbooks, but don’t let that stop you from picking up one of his middle grade or young adult books. His first book King George: What Was His Problem? is filled with stories from the American Revolution they wouldn’t let him put in the history books. It has a cover that is anything but boring and might be the perfect way to help your kids dip their toes into the subject of history in a way that is not at all boring.

In one of Steve’s most recent books for elementary-school aged kids, Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler, I found the following quote:

“‘Kids say [history] is… Abby lowered her voice to a whisper, ‘boring.’

‘Some shows are boring, some books,’ Mr. Douglass said. ‘But history is just stories. Surprising, sad, funny, gross stories. Set in all different times and places. What’s boring about that?’”

To me, this feels like the perfect description of what Steve accomplishes with his books. He finds and shares unique stories from history that have been overlooked or forgotten and shares them in an exciting and very readable way. His knack for creating historical books that read like suspenseful novels is legit.

How to Use Books to Spark Important Conversations With Your Kids

I recently read an article in Parents magazine that reiterated one of the things I love about reading and sharing books with my kids. The short article focused on the actress Kristen Bell and the importance she places on reading with her kids. One part of the article in particular stuck with me.

Bell says…

"Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, 'Don't you think it's weird that Snow White didn't ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?' I say, 'I would never take food from a stranger, would you?' And my kids are like, 'No!' And I'm like, 'Okay, I'm doing something right.'"

I love this. It is such a good reminder to me of what an amazing tool books can be to have important conversations with ours kids. This is true when they are little and we are reading Snow White and, it is true when they are teens reading about more complex issues.

The Newbery's of 1999

Several years ago, I set a goal to read all the Newbery award and honor books. You can read more about the award and my goal here. It’s a big goal that includes a lot of books over a lot of years, but book nerd that I am, I am so up for it! That said, it’s time for another Newbery Challenge post. Oh yeah!!

Today we are heading back to 1999. But, before we get to the books, here are a few other things that were going on:

In 1999 Pokemon was taking the toy world by storm. Y2K was approaching and making everyone nervous. Star Wars Episode 1, The Sixth Sense and Toy Story 2 were the box office favorites. Meanwhile on TV, everyone was watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and ER. And if those fun facts don’t take you back, maybe knowing that the words “blog” and “chillax” had just been added to the dictionary will.

The books that follow may have been written in 1999, but thankfully, good books have staying power. This year’s Newbery list was short and sweet AND contains two books that I would absolutely recommend almost 20 years later.

Happy Anniversary Giveaway!

One year ago today, the first official book list was posted on the Young Book Love website. (It contained a great list of Wonder-like books you can find here.) Today almost 100 posts later, it is my honor to continue to help you, dear reader, discover books your kids will fall for.

To celebrate, I wanted to give back to you in the form of a giveaway.

Over the past year, I have highlighted my favorite books under the category of Shelf Talker. I love reading shelf talkers at books stores and libraries; they are helpful resources when deciding what book to buy or read. My hope is the Shelf Talkers on this blog provide the same kind of service for you.

There have been a total of 24 Shelf Talker posts over the past year. As I recently read through this list of books I couldn’t help thinking, “Oh, I love that book!,” an embarrassing number of times.

I decided these books were just so good, I had to pass them on in a more tangible way, which brings me to the giveaway!

Chapter Books for New Readers - a book list

When our kids learn to read, it is a big deal. Easy readers are a great and obvious place to start. Once our kids master the easy reader, it’s time to dip their toes into the wonderful world of chapter books.

There are a lot of series that help kids make this transition. Magic Tree House and June B. Jones come to mind. Short, entertaining and abundant these are the books that move our kids into the world of chapter books and independent reading.

Today’s list includes some of my recent discoveries in the beginner chapter book genre. These books are geared towards early readers, but they are all so good readers of any age can enjoy them. A few are stand alone books, a few are series. If you have a new reader, check them out and be sure to read along with your child. I know you will enjoy them too.

5 Simple Ways to Encourage a Culture of Reading in Your Home

I have always been a bookworm. Books have played an important role in my life and from the moment I became a mom, my hope was to raise kids with a similar appreciation.

I know their love of reading will look different than mine, but my hope has always been that my kids would enjoy the simple pleasure of getting lost in a good book.

If you have a similar goal, I’m excited to share a few ideas. The ideas are simple. You probably already do several of them intuitively. They are also easy to implement, BUT they do take time and intentionality. In other words, they involve a little work. If you are up for the challenge, below are five simple ways to encourage a culture of reading in your home.

Mysterious, Classic, Scary and Sweet - a Fall booklist perfect for cold nights and cozy blankets

Fall is the perfect time for reading. The shorter days and colder nights drive us inside and create the ideal opportunity to snuggle up with a cozy blanket and a good book.

Yep, Autumn and reading go together like peanut butter and jelly, a classic combination.

There are certain genres of books that feel especially appropriate this time of year. Cold and gray outsides, make the insides extra cozy and the thought of diving into a thick book or classic work more inviting. Shorter days and longer evenings can be motivating to start a longer series of books. A spooky story or compelling mystery can be just the thing to set the mood for a late night read in bed while the wind howls outside the window.

Today’s list contains ideas and recommendations from all of these categories, making it a fairly diverse list. If you have a sensitive reader, some of these books might not be a good match. But, if your young reader enjoys the thrill of a scary story every once in awhile, I am excited to share some new discoveries.

Wherever your child falls on the spooky spectrum, I think today’s list has a little bit for everyone. Hopefully you will find the perfect book for your kids to dive into this Fall, to read on their own or to share together.

Louisiana's Way Home

If you have followed this blog for any period of time, you will know that Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite authors. Louisiana’s Way Home is her most recent release. When I saw a copy at my local library, I grabbed it without hesitation and started to read. I began to read even though I had an entire list of books waiting on me that I probably should have read first.

There is always a bit of trepidation when you start a new book from one of your favorite authors. You can’t help but put pressure on the new book to live up to your expectations. There is also a lot of excitement that comes with the possibility of another story to fall in love with.

This book lived up to my very high expectations. In fact, I immediately purchased my own copy after I finished my library’s so I could revisit the story, underline the words that I loved and share it with others.

Exploring Castles and Dealing with Dragons - a book list

A little over a month ago I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland. Throughout our visit we hiked trails, rode trains, toured castles and (of course) looked for Nessie all amidst beautiful and varied landscapes. At times, it felt like we were in another world, a world where fairies and dragons most definitely exist.

Now that we are home, I will grudgingly admit that these fantastical creatures (probably) don’t exist. But, I will always be thankful they ARE meant to live in our imaginations and come alive through the telling of fairy tales and the reading of good books. Scotland was a place where their existence felt possible and that is one of many reasons why I hope to return.

Until then, I am thankful for books filled with castles and dragons that give us the opportunity to get lost in a good story and visit far-off lands.

Today’s list, inspired in part by Scotand, contains books and series where castles come alive, dragons live and peasant girls try to become princesses.