The Problim Children – Island in the Stars by Natalie Lloyd

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays

The Problim Children – Island in the Stars (Book 3)

Natalie Lloyd, Author

Katherine Tegan Books, Fiction, Aug. 11, 2020

Pages: 304

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Siblings, Adventure, Rescue, Hidden treasure, Magic, Pirate Ship, Family relationships, Courage, Humor

Book Jacket Synopsis:

When the Problims’ baby brother, Toot, is kidnapped by the evil Cheesebreath, Sal and his six siblings set sail on a pirate ship to get him back. But Cheesebreath won’t let Toot go until the Problim children lead him through the barrier islands to their grandpa’s treasure.

The problem is the treasure could be dangerous in villainous hands, and the Problims don’t know exactly where it is! Grandpa’s clues say it lies “where the stars fall into the sea,” but there are all sorts of dangers along the way — like angry neighbors, kid-eating plants, and Miserable Mist!

Now Sal and his sibling only have three days to figure out the puzzle, destroy the treasure, and rescue Toot before Cheesebreath gets his hands on their grandpa’s secret and uses it to break apart the Problim family…forever.

Why I like this book:

Natalie Lloyd’s final book in her The Problim Children series is a delightful romp in weirdness, danger and magic, as the beguiling siblings race against time to rescue their kidnapped baby brother, Tootykins, and Mama Problim, and search for and destroy their grandfather’s treasure. Island in the Stars will please Lloyd fans with this exciting conclusion to the series.

Unknowingly, the seven children have been carefully groomed to take on this mission for years. Even though their grandfather is dead, he knows that that their combined talents and magical gifts must be used together to carry out his instructions and stop the evil Augustus Snide — Cheesebreath. And they will be challenged to heal the rift among their treasure-seeking extended family members on the Desdemona O’Pinion side.

Readers will watch how each Problim child begins to grow into the amazing person they were born to be. Sal keeps his siblings together and calls out the best in each of them. Mona sails fearlessly through the threatening mist. Wendell commands the ocean. Thea unlocks doors and turns her face to the light. Frida throws beams of fire from her hands. Sundae speaks sunlight into every dark corner. And flatulent Toot, a hero and not a captive, leaves his trademark farts to communicate with his siblings. “#45 The Braveheart Fart: The toot, used by Toot to summon his courage and drive fear into his enemies hearts. Smells like moldy cheese and sweaty victory.”

Lloyd’s plot is an lively and dangerous. Her narrative is notably original with clever wordplay, rhymes and vivid imagery. Scattered throughout the story are pen and ink drawings that heighten the action and add to the story’s quirky appeal. The book reminds me of Pippi Longstocking, who lives on her own and is free to develop her imagination and goes on great adventures. Today’s readers will liken Lloyd’s middle grade work to Lemony Snicket, The Penderwicks and Roald Dahl. Verdict: Island in the Stars is an entertaining page turner that is full of heart and courage. It is perfect for gift-giving!

Natalie Lloyd is the New York Times bestselling author of A Snicker of Magic, which has been optioned for television by Sony TriStar. Lloyd’s other novels in The Key to Extraordinary,  Over the Moon, and The Problem Children series. Lloyd lives in Tennessee with her husband and her dogs. Visit Lloyd at her website.

Greg Pattridge is the host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his fascinating Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol by Arthur A. Levine

Hanukkah Celebrated Nightfall Dec. 10 – Dec. 18, 2020

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol

Arthur A. Levine, Author

Kevin Hawkes, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 8, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes: Hanukkah, Jewish holidays, Holiday hero, Myths, Immigrant families, Faith and Holiday joy

Opening: “Nate Gadol was a great big spirit who had eyes as shy as golden coins and a smile that was lantern-bright. In answer to people’s prayers, he made things last as long as they needed to.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Nate Gadol is a generous spirit whose magic can make things last exactly as long as they’re needed, like a tiny bit of oil that must stretch for eight days and nights and a flower that needs to stay fresh long after it should to cheer someone ailing. Perhaps there is a brother and a sister with only one piece of chocolate. Voilà! Nate will turn it into two pieces, or even three. And if a family is short one latke, or one candle — or needs a very long note to end a happy song.  Nate is there!

When the Glaser family immigrates to the United States in 1881, their first Hanukkah looks like it will be a meager one. And their neighbors are struggling too, with money scarce and Christmas around the corner. Even Santa’s spirits are running low because people are struggling and having trouble believing. Nate and Santa work behind the scenes together. Luckily, Nate Gadol has enough magic to make this a miraculous holiday for all.

Why I like this book:

Arthur A Levine creates a magical tale in Nate Gadol, “a new larger-than-life holiday hero who brings Hanukkah wonder and magic to all those in need.

Levine offers a mythical and magical tale about how Jewish families began to give gifts to their children during Hanukkah. This book will appeal to the many families who celebrate blended traditions that include presents, while honoring their faith and many beautiful Jewish traditions.

There is also a beautiful message of sharing between two immigrant families – one Jewish and the other Christian. The Glaser and O’Malley families help each other survive the bitter cold winter of 1881 by sharing food and selling items to purchase medicine for a sick baby. This is a story about families, friendship, faith and joy.

Children will be thrilled with the stunning illustrations. They are bold and magical with each page accented in shimmering gold. If you hold the illustrations just right in the light, you can see the golden gleam in Nate’s eyes. Magic!

Resource: Make you check out Arthur A. Levine’s “Author’s Note,” where he shares his own memories of Hanukkah and gives a lot of insight into why he wrote about the beginnings of a modern-day tradition. This is a wonderful discussion book for all families, no matter your tradition. Make homemade gifts for your family members. Donate to local food and holiday drives.

Arthur A. Levine has been a children’s publishing for more than thirty years. He is the author of many acclaimed picture books, including What a Beautiful Morning and The Very Beary Tooth Fairy. As a children’s book editor, has published may of the most exceptional children’s titles of all time, including the Harry Potter series, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, and Peggy Rathmann’s Officer Buckle and Gloria.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young American Making History

No Voice Too Small: 14 Young Americans Making History

Lindsay H. Metcalf and Keila V. Dawson, Editors

Jeanette Bradley, Editor/Illustrator

Charlesbridge, Nonfiction, Sep. 22, 2020

Suitable for ages: 6 – 11

Themes: Youth activism, Making a difference, Bullying, Clean Water, Climate Change, Gun Violence, Poetry

Publisher’s Synopsis:

“You’re never too young or too small to change the world.” – Mari Copeny

This all-star anthology covers fourteen youth activists calling for change and fighting for justice across the United States. These change-makers represent a wide range of life experiences and causes, including racial justice, clean water, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, and more, Beautifully illustrated poems by #ownvoices authors, plus secondary text, spotlight the efforts and achievements of such luminaries as Marley Dias, Jazz Jennings, and Mari Copeny, “Make Some Noise” tips will inspire readers to take concrete action for change, Back matter includes more information on the poetic forms used in the book.

Why I like this book:

No Voice Too Small will inspire and empower young readers, parents and teachers. This is my favorite kind of book to share with readers because there is an urgency among young people who see the injustice around them, are concerned that adults aren’t doing enough, and want to take action to improve their communities, country and world. They are brave and working for the rights of children in a peaceful manner.

Readers will hear from Nza-Ari Khepra, 16, who loses a friend to gun violence in Chicago and launches Project Orange Tree, which grows into the National Gun Violence Awareness Day celebrated every June. Meet Ziad Ahmed,14, who is treated unfairly in high school because he’s Muslim, and creates an online platform where students can share their stories and stop hate. Levi Draheim, 8, fears the loss of his Florida home to rising seas and joins 21 kids who sue the US government for failing to act on climate change. Jasilyn Charger, 19, protests the construction of a pipeline that threatens to leak oil into the Missouri River that provide water for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and many other people living downstream.

The book is beautifully designed. The #own voices authors and editors, Lindsay H. Metcalf and Keila V. Dawson, capture each child’s captivating story in an attractive double-page spread. The left side of every spread features a soulful poem with warm and appealing illustrations of each child by Jeanette Bradley. The text about the young person’s contribution is featured on the right, along with additional artwork by Bradley. Read their stories and you will be inspired.

Resources: The book is a resource for students to use in the classroom.  At the end of the book there is a section about each of the 14 poets who participated and a page of the poetry form used. This book will spark many lively discussions and encourage young people to identify a problem and think about what they may do alone or together to create change and improve their community, country and world.  What will you do?

Lindsay H. Metcalf is the author of Farmers Unite! Planting a Protest for Fair Prices. She has also been a reporter, editor, and columnist for the Kansas City Star and other news outlets.

Keila V. Dawson has been a community organizer and an early childhood special education teacher. She is the author of The King Cake Baby. 

Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in­-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. She is the author and illustrator of Love, Mama.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the editors in exchange for a review.

Bunheads by Misty Copeland

Bunheads

Misty Copeland, Author

Setor Fiadzigbey, Illustrator

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Fiction, Sep. 29,  2020

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes: Misty Copeland, Ballet dancing, Coppélia, Inspirational, Diversity

Opening: “When Miss Bradley announced they’d be performing the ballet Coppélia “Co-pay-lee-ah,” for the recital, everyone in Misty’s class shouted excitedly and gathered around to hear their teacher tell the story of Coppélia.”

Synopsis:

From prima ballerina and New York Times bestselling author Misty Copeland comes the story of a young Misty, who discovers her love of dance through the ballet Coppélia–a story about a toymaker who devises a villainous plan to bring a doll to life.

Misty is so captivated by the tale and its heroine, Swanilda, she decides to audition for the role. But she’s never danced ballet before; in fact, this is the very first day of her very first dance class!

Though Misty is excited, she’s also nervous. But as she learns from her fellow bunheads, she makes wonderful friends who encourage her to do her very best. Misty’s nerves quickly fall away, and with a little teamwork, the bunheads put on a show to remember.

Featuring the stunning artwork of newcomer Setor Fiadzigbey, Bunheads is an inspiring tale for anyone looking for the courage to try something new.

Why I like this book:

A magical and inclusive tale, Misty Copeland’s childhood story will undoubtedly inspire a new generation of young aspiring dancers. Misty falls in love with dance at her first ballet class, when Miss Bradley tells the story of a lonely toymaker who makes a beautiful life-size doll named Coppélia. She is so lovely that a boy falls in love with her and the toymaker hopes that love may bring the the doll to life. Misty is mesmerized by the ballet.

Misty is a natural talent and eagerly practices the positions and movements with her class. She quickly picks up the steps, not realizing that Miss Bradley is watching her graceful movements. The teacher pairs Misty with Cat, a very talented dancer who shows her the dance of Coppélia. The two girls become best friends and learn from each other as they continue to dance together. During the auditions Cat wins the lead role Coppélia and Misty wins the part of Swanilda. As they rehearse their roles, they inspire each other.

Setor Fiadzigbey’s illustrations are stunning. He beautifully captures the joy, energy, and strength of the dancers, and the thrilling emotion and spirit of the ballet performance. This is a perfect gift book and a thrilling read for girls who dream of dancing.

Resources: If you your child hasn’t seen a ballet, take them to a live performance like The Nutcracker.  But with the many COVID restrictions, you can view many Misty Copeland videos on Youtube.

Misty Copeland made history in 2015 when she was the first black woman to be promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, one of the most prominent classical ballet companies in the world. She is also the author of the award-winning picture book Firebird. You may visit Misty Copeland online.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library book.

Chasing Helicity – Through the Storm by Ginger Zee

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday 

Chasing Helicity – Through the Storm (Book 3)

Ginger Zee, Author

Disney-Hyperion, Fiction,  Apr. 21, 2020

Pages: 224

Suitable for ages: 10-14

Themes: Weather, Storms, Meteorology, Survival, Hot Air Balloon Festival, Addiction, Bullying, Family relationships, Friendships

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Battered, bruised, but alive, Helicity Dunlap rides out a hurricane in the Bolivar Peninsula Lighthouse in Texas. She somehow manages to keep herself safe and to even rescue a lost dog in the process.

After a day in the hospital, she and her mom and Same make the two-day drive back to Western Michigan. They leave Andy and their dad behind as Andy is finally going to get the help he needs in an addiction rehabilitation facility. Much to her dismay, Helicity ends up in the spotlight-first in a good way after surviving the hurricane and rescuing the dog, and then social media turns on her and she finds herself in the eye of a completely different kind of storm.

Back at school Helicity struggles to maintain her focus-long rides on her horse, Raven, help as do a few weekend trips with her mom. She decides to accept an offer to be interviewed about her experience in Texas by a reporter who followed her story. They meet up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during the annual International Hot Air Balloon Festival, a spectacle that must be seen to be believed. The excitement builds as Helicity delights in her first ride in a lighter-than-air balloon when disaster strikes. A severe dust storm – a haboob – typical of the area erupts while Helicity is aloft. How will the pilot navigate this threatening and potentially deadly storm? Find out in this exciting conclusion to the Chasing Helicity series.

Why I like this book:

Author Ginger Zee, chief meteorologist for ABC, once again captivates readers with the final book in her Chasing Helicity trilogy. It is the perfect adventure novel for readers who like cool science, and are intrigued by storms, unusual weather phenomenon, and meteorology. Zee makes science fun and approachable.

The plot is a thrilling and fast-paced adventure. Through the Storm, picks up where the second novel, Into the Wind, leaves off with Helicity trapped and isolated in an old lighthouse with a raging hurricane plummeting the Texas coastline. Zee’s writing is filled with vivid imagery of the storm as Helicity experiences both the terror and the beauty of looking directly up into the “eye” of the hurricane before the raging winds return.

The characters are convincing. Helicity is a smart, curious, and self-taught weather junkie who befriends storm chasers, Lana and Ray. She is a survivor and not a victim. Her older brother Andy is recovering from an addiction to painkillers following an injury in a Michigan tornado (Book 1). Helicity is also a vulnerable, especially when she and Andy are bullied on social media by a mean-spirited Michigan classmate, Kate. Sam is a good friend and nice balance for Helicity. He supports her through tough times and there is a hint of romance. Zee accurately portrays the teen drama and readers will relate to the situation with empathy.

But the excitement isn’t over. The book ends with Helicity and Andy visiting the International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque. No spoilers! There is a mention in the above synopsis, but I don’t want to give away this riveting and suspenseful conclusion. With the unpredictable weather patterns we have throughout the country — hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, draughts, and forest fires — Chasing Helicity Through the Storm is a perfect read. Readers will learn to recognize weather patterns that may just keep them safe. It also makes STEM subjects more exciting and relatable to readers. I hope we see more exciting weather/survival stories from Ginger Zee!

Ginger Zee is Good Morning America’s chief meteorologist, reporting on the nation’s weather throughout the morning broadcast. Since joining ABC News, Zee has covered almost every major weather event and dozens of historic storms. She broadcasted from the devastated Jersey Shore during Hurricane Sandy, the Colorado floods and wildfires, and covered the wreckage from tornadoes in Moore and El Reno, Oklahoma.

Zee’s love of adventure does not stop at studying the atmosphere in the center of a storm. She has parahawked in Nepal, paraglided from the Himalayas to the Andes, dived with sharks in the Bahamas, rappelled twenty-seven stories down the exterior facade of the Wit Hotel in Chicago, and even gone ice-boat racing and surfing.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

I Am One by Susan Verde

I Am One

Susan Verde, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams, Fiction, Sep. 15, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Making a difference, Change, Purpose, Mindfulness

Opening: “How do I make a difference? It seems like a tall order for one so small. But beautiful things start with just One.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

One seed to start a garden, one note to start a melody, one brick to start breaking down walls: Every movement and moment of change starts with purpose, with intention, with one. With me. With you.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling team behind I Am Yoga, I Am PeaceI Am Human, and I Am Love comes a powerful call to action, encouraging each reader to raise their voice, extend a hand, and take that one first step to start something beautiful and move toward a better world.

Why I like this book:

Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds have collaborated on one of my favorite book themes for young readers: children making a difference in their schools, communities and world. But HOW do kids begin? With One step to start a journey…to break down walls…to to start a friendship…to take action…to build a brick pathway that will make a difference and lead to change. Just one small act of kindness can move mountains for someone. Verde’s straightforward prose is a call to action and kids will really “GET” the message in this book. I Am One is timely book for the important times we live in. Teachers will welcome this treasure in their classrooms because it will lead to many positive discussions and opportunities to create change.

Reynolds’s signature illustrations are lively, playful and joyful in this special call to youth activists. He dedicated I Am One to Greta Thunberg, who showed the world the power of ONE young person. Follow Verde  and Reynolds  online at their websites.

Resources:  There is an Author’s Note in the back of the book. Verde includes a mindfulness meditation and self-reflection activity to help readers get started,  She says that when “we feel something isn’t okay in our world, we need to be present and access the problem-solving, creative, compassionate parts of our brains.”  It helps us to respond with kindness, rather than react with anger. Then ask yourself questions about what you may feel needs changing.  What will be your first step?

Susan Verde is the bestselling author of I Am Yoga, I Am Peace, I Am Human, I Am Love, and The Museum, all illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, as well as Rock ‘n’ Roll Soul, illustrated by Matthew Cordell. She teaches yoga and mindfulness to children and lives with her three children in East Hampton, New York.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Mananaland by Pam Munoz Ryan

Mañanaland

Pam Muñoz Ryan

Scholastic, Fiction, Mar. 3, 2020

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Refugees, Oppression, Loss, Underground movements, Adventure, Courage, Hope, Freedom

Synopsis:

Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the legend Buelo tells him about a mythical gatekeeper who can guide brave travelers on a journey into tomorrow.

If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team and whether he’d ever meet his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby. He longs to know more about her, but Papá won’t talk. So when Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides to seek answers on his own.

With a treasured compass, a mysterious stone rubbing, and Buelo’s legend as his only guides, he sets out on a perilous quest to discover if he is true of heart and what the future holds.

This timeless tale of struggle, hope, and the search for tomorrow has much to offer today about compassion and our shared humanity.

Why I like this book:

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Mañanaland is a beautifully crafted novel that sweeps readers into a fantasy world that feels oddly familiar, but is set in the Americas, past or future.  The setting, the characters, the courageous plot and the gorgeous imagery are carefully intertwined and create a thrilling experience for readers.

Max’s family are masons who have built 200  bridges all over the country.  But there is a secret that links the bridges to people who need to escape from oppression to a neighboring country. Max discovers his Papá and Buelo are part of the underground network dedicated to helping people. I love the symbolism of the bridges they build.

Readers will admire 12-year-old Max and his brave resolve to take on a dangerous and arduous journey to help a young girl, Isadora, escape abuse and meet up with her sister in Mañanaland. His father and Buelo are gone and wouldn’t approve. Max may be inexperienced as a guardian, but he is smart, brave, and resourceful. He is determined to prove that he can responsibly and safely guide Isadora to Yadra, the next guardian. Yadra is a towering woman with long silver hair, who lives beneath a secret bridge. Max also hopes she may shed some light on his mother’s disappearance, which his Papá has kept a secret. Is his mother in Mañanaland?

The story parallels our world today with a timely and relevant message that will introduce readers to the refugee crisis, without pinpointing a location. The role of guardians is to help those who are seeking asylum because they are abused, marginalized, and oppressed by a dictator and his military. Many have lost  loved ones and families have been split. However, as Max learns along his journey, “Mañaland is not a destination. It’s a…way of thinking.” (Page 209)

The plot is dangerous with many harrowing moments. Ryan’s deliberate pacing keeps readers fully engaged and wondering what will happen next. She nicely pulls everything together in a realistic and satisfying ending.

Pam Muñoz Ryan is the recipient of the NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Award and the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement. Her celebrated novels –Echo, Esperazna Rising, The Dreamer, Riding Freedom, Becoming Naomi León, and Paint the Wind — have received countless accolades are are treasured by readers around the world. Ryan lives near San Diego, California, with her family.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library book.

 

The Gift of Gerbert’s Feathers by Meaghann Weaver and Lori Wiener

The Gift of Gerbert’s Feathers

Meaghann Weaver and Lori Wiener, Authors

Mikki Butterley, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Feb. 4, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Geese, Migration, Serious illness, Death, Family, Love, Courage

Opening: “From the moment his eggshell cracked, and his bill first peeked out, everyone knew Gerbert was a special goose.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Gerbert is strong and brave young goose and has fun times with his family and friends, but he knows that one day soon, he won’t be able to keep up with them anymore.

No matter how much Gerbert eats, he barely gains weight. His neck is shorter, his bill smaller and his wings are shorter.  His family migrates every year, and each season he grows weaker. His feathers begin to fall out.

As Gerbert prepares for his final migration, his family rallies around him to make sure his days are filled with love and comfort, and he finds a way to show his flock that he will always be with them.

Why I like this book:

Meaghann Weaver and Lori Wiener have written a tender and sensitive story for children who have a serious illness, for children who have a sibling or other family members who are living with an illness. It is a comforting story about courage and love that can be used in many different situations, even if the family member isn’t facing death. It will also help parents talk about death in a gentle way.

Gerbert is a joyful, loving and courageous gosling. He splashes in the water and plays follow the leader with his siblings. No matter how small Gerbert is, he is determined to have fun.  With each season, he struggles to keep up when his family migrates. Finally, he begins to tire and spend more time in the nest. His family worries about the upcoming migration and know he may not make the journey. Gerbert worries his family will feel sad to leave him behind and will miss him.

Mikki Butterly’s delicate and beautiful illustrations of Canadian geese and their habitat, will evoke emotions. But they are also soothing and comforting.

Meaghann Weaver, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a pediatric oncologist and Chief of the Division of Palliative Care at the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. She works with a wonderful interdisciplinary Hand in Hand team which strives to foster the strengths and graces of children and families in the Heartland. Dr. Weaver’s favorite life moments are spent painting, dancing, cooking, and gardening with her amazing daughter, Bravery. Dr. Weaver dreams of one day returning to Africa with her family.

Lori Wiener, PhD, DCSW, is co-director of the Behavioral Science Core and Head of the Psychosocial Support and Research Program at the pediatric oncology branch of the National Cancer Institute. As both a clinician and behavioral scientist, Dr. Wiener has dedicated her career to applying what she has learned from her work with seriously ill children and their families to create new therapeutic, communication, and educational tools. She lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her family and several animals, including a pup named Tessa, a rescue cat named Tupelo, and a pond filled with goldfish, koi and noisy frogs. One of Dr. Wiener’s favorite pastimes is photographing the migration of snow geese.

Resources: There is no easy way to approach the discussion about a seriously ill child. But the authors have written a Note to Parents and Caregivers with sample discussion questions and a Kid’s Reading Guide for siblings who have a brother or sister with a serious illness. But, reading The Gift of Gerbert’s Feather is an important start. It is also a perfect book for hospital settings.  There is also a printable feather coloring sheet.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

My Whirling, Twirling Motor and My Wandering Dreaming Mind by Merriam Sarcia Saunders

October is ADHD Awareness Month

ADHD Awareness Month is celebrated every October, with events and activities happening across the country and globally. AD/HD behavior can take many forms like hyperactivity or the inability to concentrate. I’ve selected two books written by Merriam Sarcia Saunders and illustrated by Tammie Lyon, to showcase the similarities and differences. Children dealing with ADHD or ADD will see themselves in the characters of the books.  Published by Magination Press in 2019 and 2020, these upbeat books are for children 4-8 years old.

My My Whirling, Twirling Motor – 2019

Synopsis: Charlie feels like he has a whirling, twirling motor running inside him…all the time!  He can’t turn it off. At school, he talks out of turn, wiggles too much, makes sounds that annoy the other kids, and forgets his snack, lunch and homework, At home he has trouble settling down for dinner, brushing his teeth and squirming in bed.  He just can’t quiet the busy motor.  When his mom talks to him at bedtime, he wonders if he’s trouble and yanks the covers over his head. Instead, she has a surprise for him. She reads him a list about all the things he accomplishes that day.

My Wandering Dreaming Mind – 2020

Synopsis: Sadie feels like her thoughts are soaring into the clouds and she can’t bring them back down to earth.  She has has trouble remembering the teacher’s instructions and does the wrong lesson. Her mind can travel so far away, that she forgets to put things away, forgets her sister’s soccer game, doesn’t finish her homework, loses her library books, and has a tough time listening to conversations with her friends.  When she asks her parents why her mind wanders and why she makes so many mistakes, they have a clever way to help Sadie remember how amazing she is.

Why I like these books:

Both of Saunders’s picture books draw readers into how Charlie and Sadie experience their worlds with their own relatable words. Readers will almost feel the the bees buzzing in Charlie’s body, making it almost impossible for him to settle down. He has to keep moving. With Sadie, they will feel how much more interesting it is to imagine ponies and fairies, than remembering to do chores. Both Charlie and Sadie feel like they are in trouble all the time, which impacts their self-esteem. Many kids will identify with Charlie and Sadie’s predicaments. I love how the author approaches both situations with their parents, who focus on what their children “can” do and point out their exceptional abilities, qualities and talents.

Tammie Lyon’s energetic and expressive illustrations beautifully compliment the stories.  You can see her lively and colorful artwork in the gorgeous covers.

Resources: Both books include a Note to Parents and Caregivers with more information on ADHD, behavior management, self-esteem, and helping children focus on the positive things they do. They each have their gifts to share with others. Great discussion book that is not preachy.

Merriam Sarcia Saunders, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and ADHD Certified Clinical Services Provider who works with families with AD/HD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She lives in Northern California. Visit Saunders at her website. You can follow her on twitter @ADHDchat

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boy’s Soccer team

Christina Soontornvat, Author

Candlewick Press, Nonfiction, Oct. 13, 2020

Suitable for ages: 8-12 (teens and adults)

Themes: Thailand, Tham Luang, Soccer Team, Entrapment, Flooding, Cave divers, Rescue workers, International teamwork, Culture

Book Jacket Synopsis:

On June 23, 2018, twelve young players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon’s adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a seventeen-day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe. As the world sits vigil, people begin to wonder: how long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water? Luckily, the Wild Boars are a very extraordinary “ordinary” group.

Combining firsthand interviews of rescue workers with in-depth science and details of the region’s culture and religion, author Christina Soontornvat—who was visiting family in Northern Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing—masterfully shows how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the thirteen young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission. Meticulously researched and generously illustrated with photographs, this page-turner includes an author’s note describing her experience meeting the team, detailed source notes, and a bibliography to fully immerse readers in the most ambitious cave rescue in history.

What to love about this book:

Christina Soontornvat has adeptly written a story about the rescue of the Thai Soccer team that is riveting and heart-pounding. Most readers know the ending of the boys’ rescue. What they don’t know is the herculean international effort (10,000 people) it takes to bring the team out safely, against all odds they won’t survive. Soontornvat has readers sitting on the edge of their seats as they absorb the details of their harrowing rescue, and the power of the human spirit to survive. The story is suspenseful to the end.  All Thirteen is the best nonfiction I’ve read in a long time.

Soonornvat watches the search for the boys on Thai television. When she returns to the U.S. and sees the media coverage of the rescue, she realizes that “she didn’t see any Thai faces.” The media focuses much of their attention on the expert British and other western divers involved in the ultimate rescue. With her Thai background, she feels she can bring the Thai culture into the story that others miss — a story that “lets the country and culture shine.” Her goal is to showcase the relentless work of the Thai Seals, the military, rescuers, the Get-It-Done-Crew and ordinary volunteers who work day and night to feed everyone and do what ever is needed.

All Thirteen is painstakingly researched. Soontornvat returns to Thailand in October 2018 with only one interview scheduled with Vern Unsworth, a British “cave man” living in Mae Sai. He’s spent many years exploring all the cave passages of Tham Luang and knows it better than anyone. This is a lucky break for Soontornvat because everyone knows and respects him. The two connect and she finds herself booked solid with interviews. It is also important to note that Soontornvat’s mechanical engineering background helps her take scientific information and make it understandable for readers.

The book is beautifully designed and easy to read. There is a narrative that flows throughout the story that draws readers into the center of the action and holds them spellbound. Gorgeous photographs adorn every page chronicling the rescue and diving efforts, the caverns inside of Tham Luang, the boys, the volunteers and the water-diversion teams working to lower the flood levels inside the cave.  Readers are also treated to inserts about the beautiful country of Thailand, the culture, Buddhism, temples, maps of the cave system, diving rules, and information on oxygen concentrations and hypothermia.

Important to the story is the strong relationship between the boys and Coach Ek, the 25-year-old Buddhist soccer coach. He is a major reason the boys survive. He teaches the boys meditation as part of their soccer training. The cave is damp and chilly. The boys are wet, cold, starving and living in complete darkness, except for necessary times when Coach Ek turns on a flashlight. They do have clean drinking water. Coach Ek is determined to keep the boys from panicking or falling into despair before the divers find them on Day 10. He urges them to rest and conserve energy. The boys meditate. They scratch “help” messages into the cave walls. They make promises to look after one another forever. They dream and talk about seeing their families. When divers find them, they are surprised by the boys morale.

Favorite quote: “Breath by breath they each became master of the one thing they can control inside Tham Luang: their own minds.” Page 55

All Thirteen is written for middle grade students, but is also appropriate for teens and adults. The deliberate pacing keeps readers fully engaged and wondering what will happen next. This compelling discussion book belongs in every school library. It’s a perfect Christmas gift for readers who love survival stories.

*Note:  My enthusiasm for All Thirteen was enhanced by attending a virtual zoom book launch October 18 with Christina Soontornvat. It was moderated by author Kate Messner and sponsored by the Book People. If you have a similar opportunity to attend a virtual event, it is worth your time.

Christina Soontornvat is the author of several books for young readers, including the middle-grade fantasy novel, A Wish in the Dark. She holds both a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in science education and lives with her husband and two children in Austin, Texas. Visit Christina at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy is provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.