The Healing Star by A. Kidd

The Healing Star

A. Kidd, author

Quiet Storm Publishing, Fictioin, July 15,  2019

Pages: 240

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Stars, Adventure, Magic, Fantasy, Intergenerational relationship, Hope

Book Jacket Synopsis

Feisty fourth-grader Julia’s best friend in the entire universe is her grandmother. Julia and Grammu share secrets while cooking soup together, stay up late eating junk food and watching scary movies, and go stargazing on Blackberry Hill. They even wish on the same star every night.

But everything changes when Grammu catches the disappearing disease: little by little, she’s turning invisible. If Julia can catch a falling star, then her wish to save Grammu will come true. All Julia needs to do now is find the legendary ladder to the stars…

Why I like The Healing Star:

A. Kidd has written a magical story filled with heart and hope. Pause a moment to gaze at the beautiful fairy-tale cover.

What really stands out in The Healing Star is the endearing bond between Julia and her grandmother.  They stay up late watching scary movies and sharing secrets. They enjoy cooking together. They snuggle in bed together. Grammu shares wonderful stories about star-catching, healing star dust and the star constellations. They even pick their own star. Julia and Grammu are so close that they think of themselves as cosmic twins. So when Grammu falls ill, Julia has to catch a falling star to save he life.  Julia’s mother is skeptical, calling Grammu’s stories “old wives tales.”

When Julia fails to catch a falling star in Miller’s Field one special night, she and her loyal flatulent beagle, Pete, embark upon a dangerous journey to find the legendary ladder that leads to the stars. She discovers magical clouds, cloud people, and a cloud castle with a video game parlor. The story fantasy elements are fun but also teach Julia that not everyone is trustworthy.

This empathetic novel also dives into the uncertainty of life — disaapointment and loss — that many young people experience in their daily lives with loved ones.  It is a story about family and how we keep those memories in our hearts forever. The ending is very moving and will surprise readers. Julia will inspire readers to find  their own inner strengths during difficult times. This novel is a perfect read-aloud for younger kids and a read-alone for middle grade readers.     

A. Kidd is the middle child in a family of three girls. She started making up her own stories at age four. Because she couldn’t yet write, her mom wrote the stories down for her while she painted the pictures. Her first story was called Wagland and featured an island community with sea creatures that ate tuna fish sandwiches.

She has a B.S. in Written Communication with a minor in Language, Literature, and Writing from Eastern Michigan University and an MLIS with a specialization in children’s librarianship from Wayne State University. Her poetry has been published in literary magazines. A. Kidd lives with her husband and daughter in a suburb of Detroit, MI. The Healing Star is her debut novel. She often wishes on stars but hasn’t caught one yet. Connect with A. Kidd through her Facebook page.

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.

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

      

 

Singing with Elephants by Margarita Engle

 Check out Multicultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 26, 2021

Official hashtag: #ReadYourWorld 

Singing with Elephants

Margarita Engle, Author

Viking Books for Young Readers, Historical Fiction, May 31, 2022

Pages: 224

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Animals, Elephants, Nature preserve, Rescue, Gabriela Mistral, Poet, Intergenerational relationships, Cuban, Belonging, Friendship, Novel in verse, Multicultural

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A powerful novel in verse from Newbery and Pura Belpré Award-winning author Margarita Engle about the friendship between a young girl and the poet Gabriela Mistral that leads to healing and hope for both of them.

Cuban-born eleven-year-old Oriol lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she struggles to belong. But most of the time that’s okay, because she enjoys helping her parents care for the many injured animals at their veterinary clinic.

Then Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature moves to town, and aspiring writer Oriol finds herself opening up. And when she discovers that someone is threatening the life of a baby elephant at her parents’ clinic, Oriol is determined to take action. As she begins to create a world of words for herself, Oriol learns it will take courage and strength to do what she thinks is right—even if it means keeping secrets from those she loves.

A beautifully written, lyrically told story about the power of friendship—between generations, between humans and animals—and the potential of poetry to inspire action, justice, and acceptance.

Why I like Singing with Elephants

Margarita Engle’s compelling free-verse novel is about learning a new culture, loneliness, a love of animals and the power of friendships. Her narrative is spare in details, yet she paints big pictures with her words and evokes rich visual images. It is truly a novel written straight from the author’s  heart.

Oriol is a memorable, likable, determined and courageous character with a strong voice. She lives in Santa Barbara with her parents, who are veteranarians, and an older sister. Oriol misses Cuba and her beloved Abuelita, who recently passes. English is hard to write, speak and understand. Therefore, she stands out and is bullied at school, when her greatest wish is to belong and be accepted among her peers. Oriol turns to her poetry and the animals who seem to understand her. Especially Chandra, a pregnant elephant that lives at a wildlife-zoo and is under the care of her parents. However there is a mystery Oriol must solve. A bond forms between Oriol and Chandra and they dance together in their own way. An Oriol poem:

OUT LOUD

Hand in trunk with the elephant / I recite poems, and together / we sway as if dancing, / not mourning. 

Elephants seem to understand / the part of poetry that has no words / just music that echoes / like wind chimes/ or bells.  

I love intergenerational relationships. This story hit a sweet spot for me when Oriol meets an older woman from Chile who begins teaching her how poetry can help her express and understand her emotions. Oriol finds her gentle guidance salve for her soul. She soon finds herslef writing her words in English, in Spanish, and sometimes in both languages at one time. Oriol is not immediately aware she is being tutored by Gabriela Mistral,who is a poet, writer, educator, peace diplomat, and. the only Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Engle’s fascinating Cuban-based novel is inspired by the late Gabriela Mistral, who is the only real character in the book, She did live in Santa Barbera around 1947. Make sure you check out the Author’s Note at the end and and exerpt from Gabriela’s Poetry for Children that inspires singing and dancing. This novel would also be a wonderful read for reluctant readers.

Margarita Engle is the Cuban American author of many books, including the verse novels Your Heart, My Sky; Rima’s Rebellion: Newbery Honor winner The Surrender Trees; and Forst World. Her verse memoirs includ Soaring Earth and Enchanted Air, the latter of which received the Pura Belpré Award and a Walter Dean Myers Honor, and was a finalist from YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among other honors. Her picture books include Drum Dream Girl, Hancing Hands, and The Flying Girls. Visit her at MargaritaEngle.com.

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 wonterful reviews by KitLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

 

I’ll Go and Come Back by Rajani LaRocca- PPBF

I’ll Go and Come Back

Rajani La Rocca, Author

Sara Palacios, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 29, 2022

Suitable for ages: 3-7

Themes: Intergenerational relationships, India, Travel, Culture, Communications, Multicultural

Opening: “For the first time since I was a baby, I flew across the world to see aunties and uncles, cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters, and Sita Pati.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

When Jyoti visits her grandmother halfway around the world, she is overwhelmed by the differences between India and home. At first she feels lonely and out of place, but soon, despite a language barrier, she and Sita Pati are able to understand each other. They form a bond as they look at books together, make designs with colored sand, shop at the market, play games, eat chapatis, and sip warm milk with saffron to bring sweet dreams. When it’s time to part, Jyoti doesn’t want to leave, but then she remembers that in Tamil, people don’t say goodbye, they say “I’ll go and come back.”

Sure enough, the two reunite the next summer when Pati visits Jyoti in America, and it’s Jyoti’s turn to make her grandmother feel welcome. Can they create some special memories that will last until the next time they see each other?

Why I like this book:

This book melts my heart on many levels. For starters, I love sweet grandchild/grandparent relationships. Despite the language barrier, readers will enjoy watching the loving bond between Jyoti and Sita Pati. Sometimes love speaks more loudly than words, as Rajani La Rocca demonstrates through her sweet and simple narrative. “I’ll go and come back,” is such a reassuring custom for all children who have grandparents living living miles away. And Sara Palacios vibrant and expressive illustrations highlight their special bond in a cheerful way. 

I also am drawn to this story because our adopted Indian son speaks Tamil. The story also reminds me of my earliest conversations with him. He learned English much more rapidly than we learned Tamil words. But like Jyoti, we communicated as we introduced him to his new life and community. Sometimes words aren’t needed. 

Resources: Do you have your own tradition with grandparents that live far away? Share how you stay connected. Create your own tradition.

Rajani La Rocca was born in Bangalore, India, and immigrated to the United States when she was a baby. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, graduated from Harvard with both a BA and and MD and has worked as a primary care physician since 2001. She is the author of several books for young readers. Rajani LaRocca lives in eastern Massachusetts with her family.

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 Candlewick in exchange for a review.

 

A Donkey Called Mistletoe by Helen Peters

A Donkey Called Mistletoe

Helen Peters, Author

Walker Books, Fiction, Sep. 14, 2021

Suitable for ages: 7-9

Themes: Donkey, Rescue animals, Intergenerational relationships, Holidays

Publisher’s Synopsis:

What better time than the Christmas season for aspiring vet Jasmine Green to find a new home for her elderly neighbor’s gentle donkey?

When Jasmine Green and her best friend, Tom, visit their neighbor Mr. Hobson to help him with some chores, they discover that he is selling his farm and moving to a nearby assisted living facility. Because Mr. Hobson won’t have a home for his beloved donkey, Mistletoe, anymore, he is planning to send him to a faraway sanctuary.

Jasmine doesn’t want to see them separated, so she hatches a plan to keep Mistletoe at Oak Tree Farm, where Mr. Hobson could visit him whenever he liked. But caring for a donkey is lots of work (as Jasmine’s parents often remind her), especially with her mischievous younger brother around.

When the school nativity play encounters a mishap, Jasmine realizes she may have the perfect understudy right in her backyard. From author Helen Peters and illustrator Ellie Snowdon, this latest book in the Jasmine Green Rescues series offers a heartwarming tale of multigenerational friendship and holiday spirit.

Why I like this book:

A Donkey Called Mistletoe is a charming new tale for the Christmas season. It is a story that will warm the hearts many animal lovers. It is also a story about rescuing animals, intergenerational relationships, and life on a working farm. Readers will enjoy the human-animal bond between the characters and the rescued animals. A young boy, Harrison, who is probably on the autism spectrum, develops a very close bond with the donkey that is beneficial and helps soothe him. So touching to see the donkey as a therapy animal.  

The characters are all memorable. Jasmine is a spunky but compassionate protagonist who would fill the farm with any animal needing help. She’s a hard and responsible worker and readers will learn a lot of detail about taking care of animals — especially the donkey who needs daily grooming.  And there is a lot of poop to be scooped up daily.

I enjoy sharing really good chapter books that help kids transition to middle grade books. And this one is a wonderful series for animal lovers! Ellie Snowdon’s pen and ink illustrations are lively, appear on most pages and give readers a better sense of the action. I also like the fun map at the beginning of the story that shows where all the animals live at Oak Tree Farm. 

There is a quiz at the end of each book that will encourage kids to talk about the story, especially their favorite parts. I highly recommend this book and the many other books in the Jasmine Green Rescues series: A Duckling Called Button, A Piglet Called Truffle, A Collie Called Sky, A Kitten Called Holly, A Goat Called Willow and A Lamb Called Lucky.

Helen Peters is the author of numerous books for young readers that feature heroic girls saving the day, including the Jasmine Green Rescues series. She grew up on an old-fashioned farm surrounded by family, animals, and mud. Helen Peters lives in East Sussex, England.

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.

*Review copy provided by Walker Books in exchange for a review.

Ada and the Galaxies by Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv

Ada and the Galaxies

Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv, Authors

Susanna Chapman, Illustrator

MIT Kids Press/ Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep 7, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Stargazing, Galaxies, Nature, Intergenerational

Opening: “Ada loves the stars. But in New York, the city lights make the night sky too bright to see the stars.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

There is so much for Ada to do while visiting her grandparents on an island in Maine, but no amount of beachcombing and kayaking during the day can take the place of looking at the bright and beautiful stars at night. She can hardly wait for the sun to set, but will a thick fog spoil her stargazing plans?

Why I like this book:

Renowned physicist Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv have imaginatively created  Ada and the Galaxies, a delightful story about an eager young girl who can’t wait to gaze at the stars with her grandparents. The text flows nicely, giving Susanna Chapman’s breathtaking watercolor and layered photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope time to work their magic with readers. And, it’s a beautiful story depicting a loving relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter.   

I love the authors’ pacing and the build up for Ada’s stargazing adventure with her grandparents. During the day she explores the island shoreline with Poobah and Ama and learns about the natural world around the Maine coastline. There are Osprey in a nest high in a tree feeding hungry babies, and low and high tides to learn about. Ada makes collects shells and moss with Ama and makes a fairy house on the beach.  

Ada explodes with curiosity and enthusiasm as she waits for the sky to turn dark. When fog rolls in, Pooba and Ada  pour over books with gorgeous pictures of stars and galaxies. Ada asks a lot of thoughtful questions. She wonders about life in other galaxies as Poobah talks about how “everything in the universe is made out of the same stuff.  It’s all part of nature.” What a wonderful tribute to the interconnectivity of life in the universe.

Resources/Activities: This book is perfect for home or school. On a clear night, take your children stargazing. Point out the prominent stars, like the North Star, the Big and Little Dippers and Venus. Encourage them to draw pictures of their adventure.

Alan Lightman has a PhD in theoretical physics and is the best-selling author of Einstein’s Dreams, amonth other books for adults. Ada and the Galaxies is his first book for children and was inspired by his granddaughter’s visits to Maine. Alan Lightman is a professor of practice of humanities at MIT and lives in Massachusetts.

Olga Pastuchiv is a children’s book author, painter, and commercial illustrator.  She paints things large and small, for murals and parade floats to illustrations for picture books. She is the creator of Minas and the Fish and the illustrator of Fables in a Modern Key by Pierre Coran and Riparia’s River by Michael J. Caduto. She lives in Maine.

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.

 

These Unlucky Stars by Gillian McDunn

These Unlucky Stars

Gillian McDunn, Author

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Fiction, Mar. 2, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Self-confidence, Sibling rivalry, Intergenerational relationships, Friendship, Luck

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Eleven-year-old Annie has always been the odd one out in her family. Her dad and brother just don’t understand her creativity or spontaneity. They are so practical…so predictable. And ever since her mother left a few years ago, Annie has been reluctant to get close to anyone. She keeps to herself.

When a poor decision lands Annie in hot water, she must make amends by checking in daily with her elderly neighbor and helping with her weird dog all summer.  As Annie begins to connect with her neighbor Gloria, it becomes clear that Gloria won’t be able to live on her own for much longer. But it’s this brief and important friendship that gives Annie the confidence to let people in and see how rich life can be when you decide to chart your own path to happiness. 

Why I like this book:

Gillian McDunn has written a sensitive and charming novel about Annie, who has an artist’s heart. McDunn’s narrative beautifully captures the drama and emotion of middle grade students. Her memorable characters and deliberate pacing will keep readers fully engaged.

Annie is convinced she is the unluckiest person ever. She’s somewhat of a loner. She loves to crawl out her bedroom window and sit on the roof and stare at her beautiful mountains. She captures their shimmering sunrises and sunsets with her colored pencils. Neither her predictable and hardworking father and brother, Ray, appreciate her artistic talent. They see her as careless and worry about her safety. Ray is popular at school and is good at everything.  Annie is not Ray, so this makes for some interesting sibling rivalry.

When Annie accepts a dare to play “ding dong ditch” on an elderly woman, she causes her to fall and break her wrist. More bad luck. It only seems right that Annie helps Gloria everyday and cares for her dog, Otto, while the feisty old woman recovers — perfect for Annie. The intergenerational bond that forms between Annie and Gloria, makes this novel really shine! Annie begins to believe in herself and her talents, interact with other people, and creates her own life. 

The setting of Oak Branch, North Carolina, is so beckoning and rich with character. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, the small town smells of fresh pine. Readers will want to stroll through the small town and purchase hot muffin’s from Lulu’s bakery, stop at the book store and visit JoJo and The Earl’s for some serious North Carolina BBQ. And there are many more interesting characters to meet along Main Street.

The novel is divided into five parts with short chapters that are perfect for reluctant readers. Scattered throughout the novel are Annie’s drawings, which give a great deal of insight into her feelings and chart her growth.

Gillian McDunn is the author of The Queen Bee and Me and Caterpillar Summer, which was selected for the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List and the Parents magazine Best Books of the Year list. She has lived in three time zones and is a fan of Eastern and Western barbecue. When she isn’t reading or writing, she is probably cooking, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and children, and a very silly dog named Friday.  Visit her at her website

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.

My Red Hat by Rachel Stubbs

My Red Hat

Rachel Stubbs, Author/Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Feb. 2, 2021

Suitable for ages:  3-7

Themes: Grandfather, Red hat, Intergenerational, Memories, Possibilities

Opening: “I give you my hat.  It will keep you warm and dry or help keep you cool.”

Synopsis:

 A grandfather gives his red hat to his granddaughter, as he shares with her its many uses.  The hat will keep her warm and dry. It can help her stand out in a crowd or blend in. It can hold her dreams or hide her secrets. The hat will be ready for any adventure, hold her memories, give her strength and courage and bring her back home. It will also serve as a water bowl for her dog — love the witty humor.  

Sure to put a smile on any child’s face, this story is a beautiful intergenerational tale about the sweet and important role a grandparent plays in a grandchild’s life. The language is simple and the grandfather’s words are conveyed with love. I will admit I was prepared for the child’s return home with the grandfather no longer there. But the author pleasantly surprised me, making the ending even sweeter. This is a lovely bedtime read. 

The whimsical illustrations are done in ink and graphite, with a pallet of gray, blue and splashes of red throughout. The simple lines convey a lot of expression and love. 

Resources: Do you have a something that your grandparent gave to you? It must be something important if they want you to have it. A quilt? A favorite toy? A book? A piece of jewelry? A stamp collection? A treasure box? Does it have a special story? Talk about what it means to you. It must be something important if they want you to have it. Draw a picture of the item.     

Rachel Stubbs has a master of arts in illustration from the UK’s Cambridge School of Art and is a recipient of the Sebastian Walker Award for illustration, named for the founder of children’s book publishing companies Walker Books and Candlewick Press. Rachel Stubbs makes her home in London.

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 Candlewick in exchange for a review.

 

Sweet Pea Summer by Hazel Mitchell

Sweet Pea Summer

Hazel Mitchell, Author & Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 13, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Family, Gardening, Nature, Intergenerational relationships, Separation, Health 

Opening: “Mom had to go into the hospital, so Dad was taking me to Grandpa and Grandma’s house for summer vacation.”

Publisher’s Synopsis

A young girl must stay with her grandparents while her mother is in the hospital. At first, it’s hard at first to focus on anything but missing and worrying about her mom. But then Grandpa suggests that she help out in his garden. And what a garden it is! There are rows and rows of vegetables and all kinds of flowers, but the most beautiful of all are Grandpa’s sweet peas. Maybe, Grandpa suggests, she can take care of them over the summer and enter them into the flower show.

Nothing seems to go right with the sweet peas. No matter what she does, the flowers keep dying. Until finally, the mystery is solved—but will the sweet peas bloom in time for the show? If only her mother were there . . .

With warm, child-friendly illustrations and a simple narration, author-illustrator Hazel Mitchell tells a timeless story about holding on to hope in hard times and finding the strength and determination to see it through. A brief author’s note at the end offers a bit of history and a few details about sweet peas for aspiring gardeners.

What’s to love about this story

Hazel Mitchell has written and illustrated a book that is full of heart and joy. It is a timeless story about a girl finding hope during a challenging time in her life. Readers aren’t told what is wrong with her mother, so it leaves this story wide-open for discussion about short parent-child separations.  

The intergenerational relationship between the girl and her grandfather shines. He puts her in charge of the sweet pea garden and shows her how to remove old seedpods, tie stems to canes, weed and water the plants with his secret formula. The girl takes pride in her work.

When there is a problem with the sweet peas, it is the girl who researches gardening books, wraps the plants with blankets, and shades the plants from the sun with her Grandma’s umbrellas. When nothing makes a difference, she puts on her thinking cap and discovers why the blooms are fulling off and dying.

Mitchell’s warm and happy illustrations capture an English countryside with cottages surrounded by low stonewalls, friendly neighbors chatting, and children walking dogs. And grandpa’s garden is a wonder to behold for any child eager to help. Mitchell’s artwork is plump with details that kids will enjoy. This book is a perfect gift book and summer read.  

Resources: Encourage kids to help in the flower or vegetable garden, if you have one. If you don’t have a garden, pick out some flower pots and grow tomatoes plants or flowers, including sweet peas. Make sure they know all about what they are planting and put them in charge of watering and weeding.  At the end of the book, Mitchell includes a special note about Sweet Peas. 

Hazel Mitchell is the author-illustrator of Toby, as well as the illustrator of numerous books for children. Originally from Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Maine.

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.

 

Leonard (My Life As a Cat) by Carlie Sorosiak

Carlie Sorosiak, Author

Walker Books US, Fiction, Apr. 13, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Cat, Alien, Immortal, Family, Friendship, Intergenerational relationships 

Synopsis:  

When 11-year-old Olive rescues a cat from flood waters, she doesn’t know that he’s an alien. Olive names him Leonard and takes him home. Leonard comes from a galaxy where the species don’t have bodies or individual personalities. They exist as one being. When they turn 300 years old, the members have the opportunity to visit planet Earth, become any creature they wish for one month and study the human race. 

Now Leonard’s dreams of living as a human and working as a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park are dashed.  Something goes wrong during his journey to earth and he finds himself covered in fur, with a long tail and unable to communicate. He’s frantic! He’s doesn’t know how to eat, sleep, purr/meow, bathe, walk or use a litter box.  Now he’ll never know what it is like to work as a park ranger, commune with nature, share his knock-knock jokes, hold an umbrella, eat cheese sandwiches, go to a movie theater, or host a dinner party. How will he get home if his rendezvous point with his species is 2,000 miles away and he only has a month to get there?

Olive is visiting her grandmother Norma for the summer at a beach house in South Carolina. While her mom and her new boyfriend travel, Olive worries about whether or not she will have to move to California after they return. Leonard trusts Olive and discovers a way to communicate with her (no spoilers).  Together they must figure out how to get from South Carolina to Yellowstone by the end of the month. As Olive teaches Leonard about the beautiful and confusing world of humans, he starts to realize how much he cares about her. He may have to choose between returning to his planet (where he is immortal) or remain on earth with his new human friend.

Why I like this book:

Leonard is so much more than an alien cat adventure. Carlie Sorosiak charms her readers with her unique and heartwarming tale about love, friendship and the meaning of home. Cat lovers will pounce on Leonard’s story, but so will other readers. The pacing is perfect and will keep readers fully engaged. . 

Leonard narrates the story. There are times Leonard is overwhelmed with all of the loud noises — pots and pans, garbage disposal, shower curtains — and misses the beauty and peacefulness of his planet. At other times he’s in awe of Olive’s tenderness and enjoys his adventures to the aquarium and the annual Save the Sea Turtle hatching event on Turtle Beach. He discovers he can communicate telepathically with Norma’s dog, Stanley, and the penguins at the aquarium. He surprised to discover cats dream and have feelings. But, he will never get used to disgusting hair balls.

I love the quirky characters. Olive is smart, energetic, wears baggy overalls, and loves reciting facts about about animals. “Did you know that three percent of Antarctic ice is penguin urine?” But she’s also lonely and longs for one good friend. She finds that friendship with Leonard. Grandma Norma is stiff, rugged, unconventional and a daredevil. She rides a motorbike. Q is Norma’s best friend — he wears a fish hat and Hawaiian shirts. He runs the aquarium where Olive and Norma help out. Q is the first to figure out Leonard’s identity and he becomes instrumental in helping Olive plan an RV trip to deliver Leonard to Yellowstone Park. He also nudges her to give talks at the aquarium.

Full of laughs and heart, Leonard is a story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page. Readers will identify with his unusual circumstance and wonder how they would respond — making this a fun discussion book. This is a perfect summer read.

Carlie Sorosiak is the author of the middle-grade novel, I, Cosmo as well as two novels for young adults, If Birds Fly Back and Wild Blue Wonder. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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.

*Review copy provided by Walker Books in exchange for a review.

 

 

That Missing Feeling by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

That Missing Feeling

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Author

Morena Forza, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Jan. 12, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Divorce, Change, Emotions, Diary, Grandfather, Intergenerational relationships

Opening: “Who wants to sprinkle cheese?” Mia’s dad called. Mia reached to sprinkle cheddar into a puffy omelet. The kitchen felt warm and smelled delicious. Luna and Toby snuggled.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Mia’s life feels split in two after her parents get divorced—even her cat and dog now live in two separate places. When she’s at her dad’s house, Mia misses her mom’s jokes and singing. And when she’s at her mom’s house, she misses her dad’s laugh and cooking.

Mia just can’t quite shake that missing feeling. Sometimes that missing feeling makes her angry. And sometimes it makes her sad.

One day when Mia visits her Grandpa, he gives her a little blue notebook saying, “When I write about Grandma, I am sad but I am happy too. She is gone, but you are here. Life changes, and writing helps me think about these changes. My notebook is a home for my heart.”

Mia keeps her notebook wherever she goes, writing about happy and sad memories. And soon her notebook becomes a way to balance that missing feeling. And also a home for her heart.

Why I like this book:

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s That Missing Feeling is a heartwarming story about a child dealing with change after her parents divorce. But Mia misses so many things and her parents divorce stirs up big emotions like anger and sadness. This book will facilitate avenues of honest conversation about separation and divorce.

This is also about intergenerational relationships, where Mia and her grandfather bond over loss. For me, the most touching moment is when Mia’s grandfather realizes how much Mia misses her parents and hands her an empty journal to record all of her happy moments, draw pictures and write down her feelings.  It is refreshing and hopeful when Mia’s grandfather pulls out his journals to show Mia how he copes with the loss of her grandmother. The connection between Mia and her grandfather is simply beautiful!

Morena Forza’s beautiful illustrations reflect the mood of the story, showing sadness and many uplifting moments. What a great cover! Great collaboration between author and illustrator.

Resources: Make sure you check out the back of the book for a double-page spread about “Keeping Your Own Notebook” and ways to get started.  Journals help both children and adults sort out feelings through writing poetry, drawing pictures and jotting down feelings.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has taught writing for over twenty years,, and her children’s books have received accolades from the Junior Library Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Amy blogs for students and teachers at The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks. Visit VanDerwater at her website. Follow her on Twitter @amylvpoemfarm.

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.