award winner

10 Historical Fiction Picks Guaranteed to Enlighten and Entertain

Historical fiction helps us view the events of history in new and meaningful ways. The best novels teach us about our past while entertaining us in the present. With that in mind, today’s list contains ten historical fiction novels (for a variety of ages) that will inform and entertain your young reader. Specifically, the books on this list taught me about events in history I knew almost nothing about. Each one is a gem, well-written and worth the read.

A Monster Calls and Why Reading Sad Books is Important

Sometimes I hesitate to recommend sad books; they aren’t for everyone. Plus, who wants to intentionally make their kids cry?

A Monster Calls is a book I have wanted to recommend for a long time. While listening to a podcast last week, I was reminded why sometimes it is good to read sad books. It gave me the push I needed to share this special book with you.

Five Picture Books to Grab on Your Next Library Run

At the end of January, the Caldecott winners were announced. The Caldecott is an annual award given to the “most distinguished American picture book for children.” I’m always curious about the winners.

If you ever feel at a loss for what books to grab at the library, a Caldecott or Newbery award winner is usually a good place to start. This doesn’t always work (the books we like don’t always line up with the books the “experts” choose), but if you are looking for picture books to read with your kids, this year’s winner and honorees are good ones. Although Hello Lighthouse was the official winner for 2019, for kicks I decided to list this year’s picks with my favorites at the top.

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.

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.

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.

The Newbery’s of 2013

Several years ago I set a goal to read all of the Newbery Medal and Honor books. I looked up and typed out the titles of all the winners over the years all the way back to 1922 when the award began.

If you don’t know what the Newbery award is, every year the ALA (American Library Association) will bestow the seal of the Newbery Medal on the children’s book they deem the most distinguished of the previous year. Named for an 18th century English bookseller, the Newbery Medal was the first children’s book award in the world. (If you are interested, you can read John Newbery’s story in the picture book Balderdash! by Michelle Markel.) While there is only one medal winner each year, the ALA always acknowledges additional books with the Newbery Honor award.

I don’t read the books in any particular order. Once I complete one, I head to my spreadsheet and change the color of the title from black to orange. While the orange is growing, there is a lot of black because there are a lot of books. Some I have loved, some I haven’t cared for, all I hope to share, eventually.

Book #4: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

My kids are back in school and I am excited to get back to sharing books with you. To transition into business as usual, I thought I’d start things off by highlighting my favorite reads from this summer. 

Book #4:  Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Book #1: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My kids are back in school and I am excited to get back to sharing books. I have not spent a lot of time on this little piece of internet this summer, but, I have absolutely been reading. To transition into business as usual, I thought I’d start things off by sharing my favorite summer reads. Every day this week I will talk about a different book that left its mark. 

Book #1:  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Underneath

I started this book because I was looking for dog stories for my nine-year-old son. Specifically a dog story that did not end with the dog dying as so many of them do. Pretty much from the first page, maybe even the first sentence I knew this was not the book I was looking for. (I did however put a list together of books with non-dying dogs here.)

The chapters were short (a good thing for my boy), however the language was too flowery, almost poetic (something I loved, but did not think my son would be as enthusiastic about). And while the story moved along for the most part, I don’t think it moved along fast enough to fully capture his interest, which I admit is not easily captured by a book that is not Big Nate. Nevertheless, while The Underneath might not be a good choice for my son at this point in time, it was definitely a story worth reading and one that I would heartily recommend.