Some New Favorite Books

During this snowy 2018, I’ve been curled up with my coffee and reading a LOT of books. As usual, I’ve been searching for new books (or books which are new to me) to share with you. Here are some of my favorites that I’m excited to tell you about!

New Favorite Picture Books

new favorite picture books

On a Magical D-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna. 

I learned about this book on one of my favorite book blogs, What to Read to Your Kids. I’m always excited when I see it in my Inbox! I’m sure you’d really enjoy it to!

This is a truly magical book that you will definitely need to add to your collection, I’m sure. We’ve all yearned for our little ones to walk away from their video games and to go explore the outdoors. This little person (we’re not told if it’s a girl or a boy, which I love) is forced by his mother to do just that. At first, he doesn’t see any of the magic, but once he drops his video game in the lake, his eyes are opened to the mystical secrets of the forest. The lyrical and descriptive language is amazing, such as “Sunbeams fell down through a giant strainer and blinded me.”, but it is the accompanying illustrations that add the true wonder to the story. I recommend that you read it several times, (which shouldn’t be a problem since I’m sure it will become a family favorite!) so that you can truly notice all of the tiny details on every page. I loved how the little person’s legs became tree trunks when he felt like he was a small tree, how the martians jumped out of his video game, his view of the upside down world and the pure glee we see on his face when he discovered each little forest surprise. And please take an extra look at the mushroom page! But most of all, I love his conclusion “why hadn’t I done these things before today?” I hope you’ll love this book, as much as I do!

new favorite booksAccident by Andrea Tsurumi

I also learned about this book on What to Read to Your Kids. Many thanks to The Book Mommy for her great reviews!

We’ve all had lots of accidents. I know I certainly have! The story begins when Lola, the armadillo, spills orange juice on the living room chair, declares “I’ve ruined everything!” and decides that the only solution is to hide in the library until she’s grown up. But oh, no, on her way she runs right into a friend who has accidentally broken a swing, and quickly joins Lola in the race to the shelter of the library. That is until they encounter ANOTHER friend who has accidentally clipped the water hose when he’s trimming the hedge! This parade continues as it and adds friend after friend as they rush to get to the security of the library.

I loved the illustrations which included almost every imaginable animal involved in almost every imaginable calamity. The vocabulary was so much fun and that, along with the accidents which are shown on every page offer many opportunities for lively discussions with your little ones. With so much happening on every page, you’ll discover new surprises every time you read this delightful story. But what I liked most was the ending. A little bird follows Lola on her journey to the library and once Lola slows down simply says one word, “Accident.” The astonishment and relief on Lola’s face and the faces of all of her friends is very clear, as bird explains, “and now we make it better.”

We all need the reassurance that accidents are just that – accidents – and that they do happen. This book illustrates the lesson that is so important for all of us to learn. The lesson that tells us once an accident occurs, we need to kindly take care of the results of the accident, whether it be with an apology, with cleaning up the mess or by solving the problem we created, as well as graciously accepting our friend’s “I’m sorry.” after an accident occurs. What an important lesson for all of us to remember, both young and old!

This is definitely a book to add to your family library, as well as a book that should be in every elementary and public library. It’s a five star, for sure!

New Favorite middle Grade Books

new favorite books

Hilde Cracks the Case: Hero Dog by Hilde Lysiak with Matthew Lysiak; Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vrietnoff

Thank you to @kidlitexchange for sharing a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.

Hilde is a serious real-life reporter who is ten years old and writes her own actual newspaper, Orange Street News. She, along with a little bit of help from her reporter dad, is the author of this fun series! The stories are fictional, but are inspired by true stories that she has covered in her newspaper. Hilde has included a glossary of the terms she uses as she investigates her story, such as confession, confirm and deadline, which will be especially helpful to beginning mystery readers.  

This is the first book in a new early chapter book series, from the Branches division (#scholasticbranches) of @scholastic. Hero Dog is a puzzling mystery with lots of clues that prompt the reader to really analyze the evidence that Hilde discovers! It has easy to read font and illustrations on every page, which makes it a fun and enticing book to read. I especially liked that it stressed the importance of a reporter always answering the “who, what, when, where, why, how” questions in order to investigate a story. Hilde demonstrated the importance of this practice all through Hero Dog, when she paused and filled in the answers to these questions in her notebook. Learning the importance of this strategy will help your kids, as they strive to solve their own neighborhood mysteries.

I highly recommend this book for grades 1-3, and possibly for older reluctant readers who are looking for a fun book. Hero Dog will definitely keep mystery lovers engaged to the very last page! The series should become part of every elementary library collection.  

new favorite booksSmart Cookie By Elly Swartz

Thank you to @kidlitexchange and @ellyswartzbooks for providing this review copy of Smart Cookie. All opinions are my own.

Frankie is a 6th grader with a best friend, Elliott, a dad, a gram, a beagle and a hedgehog who lives in her family’s  B&B in Vermont. She and her dad are terrified of thunder and lightning, because her mom died while driving home one night during a storm. So since that time when Frankie was four years old, she, her dad and her gram have been living in and running the B&B. She and her gram are in charge of making the fresh cookies everyday that are a trademark of the inn, as well as doing other chores around the inn. Her dad maintains the building and grounds and does the cooking.

Frankie has decided it’s time to change that. She thinks her dad works far too hard and he needs to find a new wife, not to mention a new mom for her. And although family rule #10 is no secrets, Frankie has several; one being she has signed her dad up on a dating site!

I loved Frankie. I loved her courage, her resourcefulness, her spunk, her kindness and her creativity. I admired her very special relationship with her grandmother and the other senior center members. I admired her loyalty to her gram, as well as her understanding, when she discovered the secrets about Gram’s new love, and her hoarding issues. I ached for Frankie as she missed her mom, as she struggled to understand why her best friend deserted her and as she longed to be part of a family of three. I appreciated Frankie’s close friendship with Elliott and although they disagreed on things, they were extremely loyal and kind to one another and were an excellent team when it came to solving mysteries and problems.

This is a book that should be added to all elementary libraries and will soon become a favorite with grades 3-6. It would also be a good choice for those younger students who are ready for and requesting a middle grade book, because the subject matter is completely appropriate. I highly recommend Smart Cookie!

What are some new favorites that you have discovered during the past month or two? I hope you’ll share them with all of us in the comments section!

New Favorite Books for Your TBR (To Be Read) List

On this cold, but sunny winter day (yea for the sun!!), I want to share some books I’ve read during the the past month. Happily, I’ve been able to curl up with my new Christmas throw, my dog and my coffee and have found a lot of new favorites! Two are set in Cuba, which was a new and eye opening experience for me. Others offered window and mirror experiences for me as I’m sure they will for you and your kids. Through the stories of these brave characters, who bravely provide us with a window into their lives, we can develop a better understanding of some difficult topics, or they might mirror something you are experiencing, which will bring comfort to all of you. So that I don’t overwhelm you, this is the first of multiple posts with my new favorite books for your TBR list. Look for part two next week!

new favorite booksMy Brigadista year

by Katherine Paterson

#partner @kidlitexchange

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. I can barely remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and I’m quite sure most of you weren’t even dreamed about at that time! My vague memory is of my parents (who rarely watched television) and my aunt and uncle being glued to the set, while my cousins and I were allowed to play with very little supervision. I remember the murmurs and the fear on their faces. It was something I had never experienced before or since. So as you can imagine, both my memories and opinion of Castro and the Cuban government were not happy ones. Therefore, when I read My Brigadista Year my eyes were opened to a part of Cuban history I wasn’t aware of and was very different than I knew.

When Castro became premier of Cuba, he called for an army of young people to go out into the jungles and mountains to bring literacy to the citizens who had never had the opportunity to learn to read and write. This historical fiction book is the memoir of a member of that army, who at the age of thirteen leaves the safety and the comforts of her life in Havana, much to her parents’ dismay, and goes off to tackle the huge job of teaching citizens to become literate. She does this with no electricity, no running water and with the constant fear that she will be discovered by the rebels. But her parents have raised her to share what she has and to help others who are lacking, so this is exactly what she does.

I liked this book so much. In fact, I read it in one sitting! I just couldn’t stop reading Lora’s story. I admired her courage, her kindness, her empathy and her determination to do the right thing. Thanks to the brigadistas, many, many people became literate while the army of volunteers learned compassion and self reliance. In Lora’s words “I taught the campesinos how to read and write, and they taught me how to be a person.” (page 177)

Middle Grade; Historical Fiction; courage; kindness; empathy; Cuba

new favorite booksinsignificant events in the life of a cactus

by Dusti Bowling

Aven is a spunky thirteen year old with a great sense of humor who just happens to have no arms. She loves to tell stories about the reason why, but the truth is she was simply born way. Thanks to her parents, though, and her personality, she has the confidence to do just about anything. She can even put up with those “looks” she gets, at least most of the time. However, Aven has just moved to Arizona with her parents, because they become the managers of an old theme park and is starting a new middle school. This means lots of “those looks” and no friends.

I loved this amazing “windows and mirrors” story! Not only did we get to know what it means to be Aven, but we were also given an opportunity to view the world through the eyes of a child with Tourette Syndrome, as well as an overweight child, who are both feeling very much alone and ostracized in middle school. We learn about the friendship that develops among these three kids and what this means to each of them. We learn how friendships and the support of those friendships can lead to growth, self confidence and self acceptance.

This would be a wonderful read aloud for grade 5 and up and will prompt many meaningful class discussions about the acceptance of differences and friendship.  It’s the perfect book for those kids who have read Wonder and ask what they can read next! This book (and lots of copies) needs to be in every upper elementary and middle school library.

Grades 5 and up realistic fiction; friendship; Tourette Syndrome; overcoming obstacles; love and family support; acceptance of differences

new favorite booksall the way to havana

Written by Mararita Engle; Illustrated by Mike Curato

This book tells the story of a young Cuban boy, his family, some neighbors and their 30 mile journey to Havana to welcome the boy’s new cousin to the world. The seven happily squeeze into the family sedan, Cara Cara, which had originally belonged to the boy’s grandpa. It’s a conglomeration of parts pieced together to keep the fifty year old car running, with a little ingenuity from the boy and his father. We see the pride and joy on their faces as they arrive in Havana with their gift and their cake for the new cousin. The little boy sees so many cars of all shapes and colors as they drive through Havana, but proudly know his Cara Cara is the best! This story allows us to see and to gain an understanding of the strong family ties and pride in a Cuban family, as well as the determination of the Cuban people to make the best of what they have.

The illustrations are by one of my favorite illustrator’s, Mike Curato. He traveled to Cuba and took the same 30 mile hot and dusty ride in a 1954 Chevy that the young boy and his family experience in the story. From this, he created the illustrations using the textures from photographs he took along the way, along with pencil drawings and paintings. You’ll be transported to this beautiful island country as you imagine the warmth and love in a day in the life of a Cuban family. I highly recommend All the Way to Havana.

Family pride: ingenuity; Cuba


new favorite booksA Different Pond

Written by Bao Phi ; Illustrated by Thi Bui

I had seen this book on so many end of the year “best” lists, and after reading it, I certainly understand why that is! I remember reading about, and being aware of, the many Vietnam refugees in the 70s, but I never had any first hand experience in my small Midwestern hometown. This beautiful book helps me understand exactly what so many Vietnam refugees were feeling and experiencing as they struggled to live in the United States. The story tells of a little boy who accompanies his father on a fishing trip in the predawn hours. There’s much love and patience between the boy and his father, as the dad casts his line into the river and the little boy shivers from the cold. The dad shares stories about his childhood in Vietnam and about his brother who never returned from the fighting. Once they have a few fish, they return home knowing their family will be able to eat dinner that night when Dad comes home from one of his two jobs, Mom is home from her job and his brothers and sisters are home after school. This is a story about family, love and the struggles that a refugee family face as they work to survive in their new country. It enables us to have a small understanding of what the Vietnamese refugees experienced when they had to leave everything they knew in order to have a better life for their families, which is not unlike what refugees experience today. Sharing A Different Pond provides a perfect introduction to discussing the current world refugee situation. This book will help our children develop understanding of, and empathy for, the plight of refugees in our country and around the world.

Immigration; refugees; family love and support; Vietnam refugees

I have so many more books I want you to know about, but I’ll save them for another post – or maybe even two! Be sure and let me know what your new favorites are in the comments!



My Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2017

For the past two years, during the month of December, I have shared book titles for you to add to your shopping list for the children in your lives.  This year, I have decided to take a different approach. This month, I plan to share lists of my favorite picture books and my favorite middle grade books published this year. It’s going to be  a difficult task, because I’ve loved so many! I do want to say, however, that there are many books from the past that would make wonderful gifts, as well. I’ve written about these titles in many additions of “Kids’ Books to Remember”. I hope you’ll check those out, as well!

Kids’ Books to Remember, Number 6

Kids’ Books to Remember Number 19

Kids’ Books to Remember Number 17

We’ll begin this week with my favorite middle grade books from 2017. I’ve written a short description about each book and linked the title to my blog post or Instagram post where you will find my complete review. I’m also including the subjects of each book, as well as a link to the Good Reads summary. Many of these books offer both “windows and mirrors” to the reader. The stories offer both a window to help us understand the characters’ experiences  and a mirror to many of us who might be dealing with some of the same issues. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re not alone in your feelings and experiences, as well as to develop empathy for those around you.

 favorite middle grade booksThings that surprise you

Good Reads – Things that Surprise You

By Jennifer Maschari 

Emily is about to begin middle school and is feeling all of the usual angst that goes along with that. However, she’s also trying to adjust to her parents’ divorce, her older sister’s absence due to the fact that she’s in residential care for her eating disorder and her best friend’s decision to try new things with lots of new friends.

 Middle School adjustments, divorce, friendship, eating disorders

favorite middle gradehalfway Normal

Good Reads – Halfway Normal

By Barbara Dee 

Norah Levy desperately wants to be a normal middle schooler, but she’s just returning to seventh grade after missing two years for cancer treatments. Add to that, her parents have laid out a huge list of crazy rules (in her opinion) to keep her rested and germ free, some of her friends are acting like she might break and some are jealous of the special treatment she’s receiving.

Middle school adjustment, cancer, friendship, family

favorite middle grade booksshort

Good Reads – Short

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Julia is struggling with several obstacles as she begins summer vacation. To give Julia something to focus on, her mom registers her and her little brother to appear in the community production of The Wizard of Oz. Of course, much to her horror, Julia is cast as a Munchkin.

Friendship, dwarfism, mourning a pet, multigenerational

favorite middle grade booksme and Marvin Gardens

Good Reads – Me and Marvin Gardens

By Amy Sarig King

Obe is struggling with a lot of things in his life. The only good part of his life, is his friend, Annie, and a mysterious animal he discovered down by the creek. He’s not quite sure about Marvin, who might be part pig, is definitely not a dog and eats plastic, But he knows he’s something very special. 

Friendship, family


favorite middle grade bookswishtree

Good Reads – Wishtree

By Katherine Applegate

This story is full compassion and humor, and as a bonus, lots of facts about animals I didn’t know!  Most importantly, it’s about kindness to people and animals, even if they are different than we are. And it’s one of the best read alouds for the ENTIRE family that I have read this year.

Kindness, animals, diversity, family read aloud


great middle grade booksThe peculiar incident on shady street

Good Reads – The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

By Lindsay Currie

This is a story about ghosts, friendship, family and Chicago that I couldn’t stop reading! This is a great choice for kids who are coping with middle school friendships, acceptance of their not so normal family or quirky friends.

Bravery, friendships, middle school adjustments, moving, acceptance of differences

favorite middle grade booksthe vanderbeekers of 141st street

Good Reads – The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

By Karina Yan Glasser

This is a story about community, diversity, city living and love. It’s a perfect read aloud for the entire family. I highly recommend gathering all the kids, whatever age, cuddling up under a fuzzy blanket and reading this delightful story together. Especially recommended for Penderwick lovers!

Family Read, Families, Kindness, Communities, Diversity, City Living, 


favorite middle grade booksMacy Mcmillan and the rainbow goddess

Good Reads – Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green

This free verse story is about Macy, who has been deaf since she had meningitis when she was four, and the many challenges she is facing as she finishes sixth grade.  I loved this poignant book as Macy faced her challenges, and with her elderly neighbor’s help, began to understand that “Hearts are waiting, worrying, hurting – in need of a message you can send.”

Families, multigrenerational


The Unlikely story of a pig in the city

Good Reads – The Unlikely Story of a Pig in a City

By Jodi Kendall

This is a charming story about family, friendship, teamwork and of course, animals. Josie is one of five children in a loving, lively family living in a small townhouse in an Ohio city who often feels overlooked. When her brother brings home a piglet on Thanksgiving, the runt of the litter from a nearby farm, Josie falls in love and knows in her heart that she was meant to save Hamlet. This is another great family read aloud and a special one for Charlotte’s Web fans and Penderwick fans!

Families, city living, friendship, animals, family read aloud

middle grade booksVilonia beefe takes charge

Good Reads – Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

By Kristin L. Gray

This story will have you laughing out loud, but will also leave you in tears. It’s a wonderful book about kindness, thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and family.  This is the first middle grade book I’ve read that addresses depression and describes the effects that it can have on the entire family.

Humor, kindness, thoughtfulness, family, mourning a grandparent, depression


middle grade booksKat greene comes clean

Good Reads – Kat Greene Comes Clean

By Melissa Roske

Kat is a sixth grader who is dealing with so much in her life, but she is also very fortunate to be surrounded by lots of caring and supportive people, both children and adults. She bravely deals with the repercussions of her mom’s cleaning OCD as she faces the changing friendships of sixth grade.

Bravery, compassion, friendship, flexibility, OCD


middle grade booksKarma Khullar’s Mustache

Good Reads – Karma Khullar’s Mustache

By Kristi Wientge

Karma, who is half Sikh, half Methodist has lost her dear dadima (grandma) who lived with and cared for her family, her dad has lost his job, her mom has gone from being home and always available for Karma, to working full time in a very demanding job. Add to all of that Karma’s best friend has decided to be friends with her new “mean girl” neighbor and the fact that Karma has suddenly sprouted a 17 hair mustache, means Karma couldn’t be more nervous about middle school.

Adjustment to middle school, diversity, mourning a grandparent, friendship, family

middle grade booksgreetings from witness protection

Good Reads – Greetings from Witness Protection

By Jake Burt

Nikki (Charlotte) has never known her mother, her dad’s in prison and her grammy has died so she’s in “the system”. But suddenly she is given an unexpected choice – remain at the children’s home for her next foster placement or become the daughter of a family entering witness protection. She proves herself to be a loyal friend, a great problem solver and a caring daughter as she grows more accustomed to her new life.
I would highly recommend this for grades 5 – 8. There is so much adventure, as well as so much heart in this story, that it will appeal to everyone. I couldn’t put it down!

Adventure, family, friendship, adjustment to middle school

There were so many more, but I’m trying not to completely overwhelm you! If you need more suggestions, please check out my Instagram account.  I’ll be back soon with my favorite picture books of 2017. Have a great week!

New Middle Grade Books You’ll Want to Read Soon

I’ve been absorbed in reading kid lit lately, especially new middle grade books. I learn about the titles by following publishers, following The Nerdy Book Club blog, being a part of Kid Lit Exchange and following many, many kid lit lovers on Instagram. If you’re looking for recommendations for picture books, middle grade books or YA, you’ll learn so much from these sources! I hope you’ll like these new middle grade books as much as I did!

middle grade booksThe Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

By Karina Yan Glaser @karinaisreadingandwriting

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Many thanks to the author for sharing a copy of this book with @KidLitExchange for review! All opinions are my own.

I just finished this book and I immediately fell in love with the Vanderbeeker family on the first page! I want to slip right into their cozy Harlem brownstone and join one of their rousing neighborhood get-togethers. I loved every member of this caring family from Laney, the 4 ¾ year old who goes through life handing out huge hugs, to 6 year old creative animal lover Hyacinth, to 9 year old book loving Oliver, to 12 year old twins, Isa and Jessie, and of course mom and dad. This is a story about community, diversity, city living and love. It’s a perfect read aloud for the entire family. I highly recommend gathering all the kids, whatever age, cuddling up under a fuzzy blanket and reading this delightful story together. It’s also a great read aloud for any elementary classroom. You’ll find yourself yearning for a large caring family, lots of caring neighbors and wishing you could move to 141st Street in Harlem! And happily, you’ll get to visit them with again next year when another story about the Vanderbeekers is published. I can’t wait!

Read Aloud for all ages; Families; Kindness; Communities; Diversity; City Living, 

Karma Khullar’s Mustachemiddle grade books

By Kristi Wientge

Thanks to the author for sharing a copy of this book with @Kid Lit Exchange for review! All opinions are my own.

I have read several middle grade books this summer which describe the growing pains that kids go through as they begin middle school. Although it was a very long time ago, I certainly remember how hard it was for me. The school boundaries required that my lifelong friend attend another junior high along with most of our friends, while I had to start fresh. I thought my world was ending, just as Karma feels in this story. However, Karma is dealing with more than going to a new school. Karma, who is half Sikh, half Methodist has lost her dear dadima (grandma) who lived with and cared for her family, her dad has lost his job and is now the stay-at-home parent struggling with learning to cook and do laundry, her teenage brother is constantly fighting with her parents and her mom has gone from being home and always available for Karma, to working full time in a very demanding job. Add to all of that Karma’s best friend has decided to be friends with her new “mean girl” neighbor AND the fact that Karma has suddenly sprouted a 17 hair mustache, means Karma couldn’t be more nervous about middle school.

This 5 Star story seamlessly shows that the struggles in Karma’s household are just the same as those in so many American families. It truly provides a mirror to kids, as well as a window to others.  This is a good choice for grade 4 and up and is a “must buy” addition for all libraries!

MIddle School; Diversity; Grief; Friendship; Family

middle grade booksReal Friends

By Shannon Hale and Leuyen Pham

Truthfully, I’m normally not fond of graphic novels, but I loved this middle grade story! The artwork is truly amazing, and the fact that there were just  4 – 6 panels on each page with a small amount of text in each one, will help even a reluctant reader fly through the book.

This heartfelt memoir of Shannon Hale’s grade school years will have you laughing, but will also tug at your heart. For any of you who spent those years searching for that one special friend who would always be there for you, this will bring back so many memories. It helps the reader understand that real friends don’t treat you badly. Happily, it will also show young readers that it’s possible to survive the trials of elementary school friendships, and in the process perhaps find the courage to stand up for yourself and be kind to others.

It would be a great read aloud in a grade school classroom or a shared read with your child. It would help to open up so many conversations about friendship. This is definitely a 5 star book!

Friendship; Kindness; Graphic Novel

Greetings from Witness Protectionmiddle grade books

By Jake Burt

Many thanks to @kidlitexchange network for sharing this book for review. All opinions are my own.

Nikki (Charlotte) has never known her mother, her dad’s in prison and her grammy has died so she’s in “the system”. So far she has bounced from foster home to foster home with five stops along the way. She also has another problem. When she is nervous she picks the pocket of anyone within arm’s length. She just can’t help herself! But suddenly she is given an unexpected choice – remain at the children’s home waiting for her next foster placement or become the daughter of a family entering witness protection. After she is given ten minutes to decide, she says yes! Nikki immediately leaves “Nikki of New York City” behind and becomes “Charlotte Trevor who is moving from Ohio to Durham, North Carolina”. For the first time in her life, she has a mother, a father, a brother AND her own turret shaped room in a historical house on a tree lined street. She is actually part of a family and her only job is to do her part to keep them safe; a job she takes very seriously.

This book is full of adventure, middle school issues, and lots of love. I really admired Charlotte’s strength as she did her very best to follow all of the rules issued by the U.S. Marshalls and there were a LOT of rules. She proves herself to be a loyal friend, a great problem solver and a caring daughter as she grows more accustomed to her new life. Her calm demeanor, her sense of humor and her vigilance helps her entire family face their very frightening situation.  

I would highly recommend this for grades 5 – 8. There is so much adventure, as well as so much heart in this story, that it will appeal to everyone. We can only hope that there will be another book about Charlotte coming soon!

Courage; Adventure; Middle School; Family; Foster Children

middle grade booksVilonia Beebe Takes Charge

By Kristin L. Gray

Vilonia is a star of her “under 10” softball team, an animal rescuer, a school library helper, a good friend, a sister, a daughter and a granddaughter. At least she was a granddaughter until 43 days earlier when her beloved grandma dropped dead. And since that time Vilonia’s mother has been hiding in her room with the blinds drawn and spending much of her day in her pajamas. So since that day Vilonia has added cooking, laundry and obituary writing (her mom’s job) to her list of chores. She is doing her very best to help her mom, so that maybe she will learn to smile again.

This story will have you laughing out loud, but will also leave you in tears. It’s a wonderful book about kindness, thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and family. Vilonia is such a sweet caring girl who is trying her best to understand her mom’s illness. This is the first middle grade book I’ve read that addresses depression and describes the effects that it can have on the entire family. It doesn’t go into depth, but reading this story with your kids, or as a read aloud, will definitely provide an opportunity to begin some conversations. It will certainly help those kids who find themselves in a similar position. I highly recommend it to parents, teachers and elementary librarians. It’s a must for the shelves of every elementary library!

Families; Courage; Kindness; Clinical Depression; Grief

Kat Greene Comes Cleanmiddle grade books

By Melissa Roske

Illustrated by Nathan Durfee

Where do I begin to tell you about this wonderful book? Kat is a sixth grader who is dealing with so much in her life, but she is also very fortunate to be surrounded by lots of caring and supportive people, both children and adults. She is also a girl I so admired. Kat shows strength, compassion, bravery and flexibility throughout the story. I admired her relationship with her divorced parents, as well as her stepmother and her respect for her school counselor, Olympia. I admired her courage when she confided in her best friend, Halle, concerning her worries about her mother’s cleaning OCD, when she finally approached Olympia with her problems and when she tried to discuss the OCD issue with her mom. I admired her courage when she told her dad about her mom’s problem, although she was sure that it would mean moving in with her dad, far away from her friends. I admired Kat’s loyalty to her mom, even when her mom humiliated her in front of her classmates with her cleaning and germ obsessions. I admired her strength when she apologized to her best friend and tried to solve their friendship problems. And finally, I admired her flexibility when she moved into a bedroom with her three year old brother at her dad’s apartment, while her mom attended counseling. Each of these situations is so challenging, and is especially so to a sixth grader, but Kat kept going.

And finally don’t miss the amazing cover by Nathan Durfee! I loved searching for all of the surprises hidden away in every detail.

This is a book that needs to be in every elementary and middle school library and should be on every school psychologist’s bookshelf.  I highly recommend it to grades 4 – 8.

Courage; Families; Divorce; OCD; Friendship; Middle School


What are some new Middle Grade books you have discovered this fall? Please let us all know in the comments below!


Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

It’s hard for me to believe that it is October! The leaves are beginning to change and thankfully we’re having some cool nights, which are perfect for curling up with your favorite book. We are finally back home after our dream trip of visiting FIVE National Parks and driving over 4500 miles!! It was an amazing adventure, but it feels good to be back home, too. I’m very hopeful that I’ll be talking with you on a much more regular schedule now that our lives have quieted down. I’m beginning that conversation, by once again sharing some kids’ books to remember in the hope that you’ll find some to add to your library list. Maybe you’ll discover some new favorites, or one you might have forgotten from your own childhood.

kids’ books to remember: read aloudskids' books to remember

Anna Hibiscus by Antinuk

Four stories about Anna and her West African family as Anna spends her time splashing in the ocean, searching for shells and dreaming of one time seeing snow.

Catwings Return by Ursela K. Le Guin

This is part of the magical series about four cats who use their wings to escape the city.

Lady Lollipop by Dick King Smith

Another book from the author of Babe.

From the publisher’s summary: “Lollipop is no ordinary pig. According to her young trainer, Johnny Skinner, she’s the smartest pig in the entire kingdom. When people stare into Lollipop’s bright, intelligent eyes, it somehow changes them for the better.”

kids’ books to remember: picture bookskids' books to remember

What a Wonderful World by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele; illustrated by Ashley Bryan

This beautifully illustrated book brings us a needed reminder about all of the small things in life that help to make our lives truly wonderful.

Time for Bed by Mem Fox

An endearing bedtime story which is perfect for all ages.

Youpala, Queen of the Jungle by Youpala and illustrated by Zau

kids’ books to remember: middle grade chapter books

kids' books to rememberEach Little Bird that Sings by Deborah Wiles

This is a charming story of a 10 year old girl’s struggles as she deals with the changes in her life in a small Mississippi town.

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Alabama Moon is a true adventure story.

Hank Zipper: The Curtain Went Up, My Pants Fell Down by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

This is part of a hillarious series based upon Henry Winkler’s struggles in school as he was growing up. It will engage even the most reluctant reader.


If you’re wondering how you might best help your kids this school year, just read this inspiring post.

The Lunchbox Note and storytelling: lifetime lessons

This is a great list of diverse books for your middle grader reader.

Middle Grade Books with Latino Characaters

If you have a Penderwick series fan in your house, here’s special book you need to immediately add to your library hold list!

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

I wish you all a wonderful week! Thank you for inviting me into your inbox and into your world.