Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes

dyamonde-daniel“Dyamonde liked even numbers. In fact, Dyamonde liked numbers, period.  Math made sense to her…Math was something you could always count on.  Well, mostly.

For a long time after her mom and dad got divorced, Dyamonde hated math because all she could see was subtraction.  Mom’s voice minus Dad’s.  Two for breakfast instead of three.  Monday night TV minus the football.  It just didn’t feel right, at first.  But things were a little better now.  Dyamonde plus her mom equaled two, and two was a nice even number and even numbers rule.”

Y’all, you are going to love Dyamonde Daniel.  She’s new in town, living in a different neighborhood than she did before her parents divorced, but she’s settling in lickety-split. She knows everybody in the neighborhood already!  Her big concern is Free, the new kid.  Why is he so grumpy?  Why does he say he can’t read when she knows very well that he can-in fact, she saw him reading on the playground?

Dyamonde’s determined to figure out Free.  She knows the little kids are scared of him, ’cause he seems so crabby, but she suspects that he’s not as grumpy as he looks.  They might even be friends!

Nikki Grimes has done it again-given us loveable, relatable, real-feeling characters with positive solutions to troubles they encounter.  Fans of Clementine, Junie B. Jones, and Babymouse should find a friend in Dyamonde.

If you liked this, why not try:

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs series by Crystal Allen

Ruby and the Booker Boys by Derrick Barnes

Sunny Holiday by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Nikki and Deja by Karen English

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

wonder“If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all.  I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and doing that look-away thing.  Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that one one else sees me that way.”

August Pullman has been homeschooled all his life, safe from the stares and questions of others.  See, he was born with a craniofacial anomaly-his face doesn’t look like most other faces.  He and his family are used to it, but most other people aren’t.  Auggie knows they don’t mean to be rude, or hurt his feelings, but it happens anyway.

He’s afraid it might get a lot worse, too:  August Pullman is about to start middle school.  MIDDLE SCHOOL!  It’s notorious for being horrible for even the most normal of kids. Nevertheless, Auggie bravely goes out into the world-and what he finds will surprise him.  The book is told from many different perspectives: Auggie’s, his sister, his friends, even his bully, and it reminds us that there is always more than one side to a story.  This book humanizes everyone, even those who bully.  It’s the most realistic, most compassionate work on the subject that I’ve ever encountered.

Friends, this book will make you cry.  It will make you think about how we relate to others who are different from us (and, after all, isn’t everyone?).  It will fill your heart with joy.  It’s a great one for parents to read with kids-as a read-aloud, it could work for ones as young as fourth grade, all the way up to grown-ups. It’s a sensitive portrayal of differences, bullying, and the underworld of middle school.  Reading this book will make you a better human, I promise.  Read it with someone dear to you, friends.

Happy reading!

If you liked this one, you’ll love Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco, and you’ll definitely need to check out Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going.

Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

squish“In the battle between good and evil, there’s only one who has the courage to do what’s right…Squish! Saving the world…one cell at a time!”

He’s squishy, he’s blobby, he’s got no arms…introducing Squish: Super Amoeba, here for your world-saving needs!  When scary Lynwood, the bully amoeba from detention, makes plans to eat Peggy Paramecium, Squish has to muster up his courage and stand up for his friend!

Brought to you by the creators of Babymouse, this children’s graphic novel is full ofPeggy imagination, bright illustrations, and is sure to appeal to the elementary school crowd.  I couldn’t help myself-he’s so adorable, and the captions and illustrations are so funny; this kind of book is just irresistible to me.

There is plenty of elementary school goofy humor, real-life problems (bullying) handled with equal parts lightness and compassion, AND a huge bonus-my alter ego in a graphic novel.  That’s right, everyone-I found her.  Peggy Paremecium.  SHE’S SUPER CHEERFUL, FOLKS!

Squish21-540x732Extra bonus: this is an awesome series, so you can read all of Squish’s adventures!  Look for the changing expression on his hat, and the SUPER COOL science experiment and amoeba-drawing pages in the back of each book! You’ll love this one, I’m sure of it. Better still, even those kiddos who struggle a bit with reading will be able to progress with this book.  It’s a great sense of accomplishment to finish an entire book, and the Squish series has all the ingredients for a crowd-pleaser, even a crowd that is not too sure about all this reading business.  I waited foreeeeeeveeeeer for Squish No. 1 to make it back on the library shelves before I could check it out!

Happy Reading!

Holm, Jennifer H. And Matthew. Squish: Super Amoeba. New York: Random House, 2011. 90 pp.

Want more?  Let’s read our way through!

Squish 2: Brave New Pond

Squish 3: The Power of the Parasite

Squish 4: Captain Disaster

Squish 5: Game On!

If you’re all Squished out, you’d probably like the Babymouse and Lunch Lady graphic novel series.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliet

HOLDFAST“What happened at 4:44 on that grim January day was wrong. Wrong was the perfect sound for what the word meant: It was heavy, achingly slow, clearly impossible to erase. Wrong…

Where was Dash?  How could he have vanished into that icy, freezing moment?

No one could add up the facts; they just didn’t fit.”

The Pearl family doesn’t have much but each other and their dreams of a better future. Dash and Summer do their best-Dash works as a page at the downtown library, and Summer makes sure that everyone has enough to eat, and that their tiny apartment is kept clean.  Together, they read stories and dream of having their own house, with flowers out front and curtains in the window.  Dash keeps saying to hold fast to their dreams, that someday things will be better.

But then he disappears, and with him, their hopes.

Summer and Jubie and Early have to move to a shelter, where it is loud and crowded and Jubie gets sick. Early is afraid something terrible has happened-their dad would never leave them like this!  All she has is his notebook of clues-but she’s determined to get to the bottom of things.

Blue Balliet brings us another gem: a riveting mystery, with clues just tricky enough to be engaging, and enough real-life troubles to keep our hearts soft.  You’ll love the Pearl family, and will be moved by their devotion to each other.  You’ll also love the Langston Hughes poetry peppered throughout, and the fantastically interesting and exciting mystery that Dash Pearl has accidentally been tangled in.   Ms. Balliet has the knack for gently raising our awareness of important social issues, like homelessness, while at the same time teaching us about important historical figures (like Vermeer, Frank Lloyd Wright,   and Langston Hughes).  But how, you might ask, how does she do this without boring our pants off?  Friends, I tell you: because she is awesome.  You’ll love it, I promise.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website

Now, if you loved this one, you’ve gotta check out her others:

The Danger Box (this one is the most like Hold Fast)

Chasing Vermeer

The Wright 3

The Calder Game

When You Reach Me (Now, this book isn’t by Blue Balliet, but it feels so similar-I think you’ll really like it!)

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

wondershow“Something began to move in Portia’s memory, reluctant as a rusted wheel-the old story she had made for herself, in which Max had run off with the circus.  How many circuses were there?  Fewer, Portia knew, than there had been before. Movie theaters and dancehalls cropped up like pretty weeds, common and alluring, and without the strange elements that came with traveling shows.  Mister had frequently lectured her on the topic of such distasteful forms of entertainment.

But Max loved a good time.  And a circus was certainly that.  Even if he wasn’t still with this circus, someone might have seen him, known him, heard about his beloved daughter.

Only a few miles away, Portia thought.”

All Portia has left of her family are the stories her father used to tell her, and even the stories have grown worn and thin from constant repetition.  Her dad left, long ago; now Portia is the reluctant resident of McGreavey’s Home for Wayward Girls, her days filled with drudgery and brightened only by plans of escape.  When she learns of a traveling circus passing nearby, Portia takes her chance and makes her home as a Normal among the performers in the sideshow.  Here, she puts her storytelling skills to work, running the bally at the freak show.  All the while, she watches the faces in the audience, searching for one she recognizes.

What can I say?  I’m a sucker for stories about carnivals and the circus; there’s no way I could pass this up.  I think you’ll really like this eerie, clever debut novel from Hannah Barnaby.  It’s set during the Great Depression, and is a quirky take on the orphan story, featuring repurposed fairy tale elements and a host of fantastic sideshow performers.  Not only is their a sinister mystery (what happened to all those girls whose tombstones populate McGreavey’s cemetary?), it’s a story about nontraditional families and the importance of promises.  Added bonus:  many of the sideshow characters are based on real-life historical figures!   You can read about them in the Author’s Note at the end.  Let’s hope for more of these stories from this stellar new author.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://hannahbarnaby.com/

Barnaby, Hannah. Wonder Show.  Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2012. 266 pp.  Ages 11-14.

These books have a lot in common with Wonder Show!  I think you’ll love them!

The Final Confession of Mabel Stark

Beholding Bee

The Magician’s Elephant

 

 

theoneandonlyivan“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.

It’s not as easy as it looks.”

Ivan lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, with his companions: Bob, the mongrel dog who likes to sleep on Ivan’s stomach at night; and Stella, the wise, gentle elephant.  It’s not such a bad life for Ivan; he makes paintings (for sale in the gift shop) and thinks very little about his old home in the jungle.  It’s too sad, you see.  It’s best not to remember.

Until Ruby comes along.

Ruby is still a baby, a tiny elephant taken from her family in the wild. She’s not too sure what’s going on at the mall yet, and she’s missing her family terribly.  Something about having Ruby around wakes Ivan up a little, actually: he starts to feel differently about his home at the Big Top Mall.  Ruby brings big changes to Ivan’s life;  she makes him want to be brave again.  Ruby helps Ivan remember what family is.

I’ll go ahead and say it: sometimes books that win the Big Awards (the Newbery, or the Printz, for example) are more about what we think kids should read than what they will like reading.  They may be undeniably well-written and creative, and about important topics, but…sometimes they’re not so fun.  This book, though,  is one that everyone will want to read.  I hate gorillas.  Seriously.  I’ve had a phobia of them since childhood.  I see all primate species as germy, suspicious, and liable to bring us all plague.  For me to voluntarily pick up a story told by a gorilla is an occurrence similar to a lunar eclipse, actually.  But Ivan had me crying during rush hour on the subway, and falling off curbs trying to read and walk at the same time.

Ivan speaks in short, contemplative sentences.  His observations are both poignant and funny, while his love for Ruby is heartbreaking in its tenderness.  The book is short and uncluttered with excessive detail or exposition; it’s merely Ivan’s observations, and it’s absolutely perfect.  I moved it right away to the All-Time Awesomest List and I hope I’ll be able to share it with others and read it aloud without crying, because it’s that good. It’s made for reading out loud, that’s for sure: children as young as first grade or so can understand the prose, while even adults will be captivated with this redemptive story.  I promise, you’ll love it.  Even if you hate both reading AND gorillas, you’ll love it, and here’s why: Ivan’s more human than even humans are, and this book is short, simple, and so beautiful.  You can’t help but love it.

Oh, and bonus fun fact: Katherine Applegate is also the author of the Animorphs series.  Remember? The series about alien slugs crawling into people’s brains and giving them the power to transform into amazing animals! So she’s clearly multi-talented!

Happy Reading!

Author’s website

Applegate, Katherine.  The One and Only Ivan. HarperCollins: New York, 2012. 305 pp.

If you liked this book, I think you’ll like these, too:

The Magician’s Elephant

Wonder

 The Tale of Despereaux

Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco

beholding bee“The way I got the diamond on my face happened like this.

I was sleeping in the back of our hauling truck one night after Pauline shut down our hot dog cart and Ellis closed the merry-go-round and the Ferris wheel, and then, after every one of the stars had blinked out for the night so no one could see, that is when an angel came and kissed me on the cheek.

That is the way Pauline sees it.

Other folks say different things, like ‘What a shame, what a shame.'”

Bee tries to hide the birthmark on her face from the customers that come to her hot dog cart at the carnival.  But sometimes, they say cruel things or tease her, and it hurts her feelings.  It’s not all bad: she has her little dog, and Cordelia, the pig; and there’s Pauline, the young woman who found her-the closest thing she has to a mother.

Bee spends her time looking for the home she dreams of, a nice place for her and Pauline.  And she’s learning to run, too, which helps when she is feeling sad.  No matter how difficult her circumstances are, Bee tries to remain hopeful. She knows it will be better someday.

When Pauline unexpectedly leaves, Bee takes refuge with her mysterious “aunts”, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Potter.  There’s something a bit strange about them, though: no one else seems to be able to see them.  They make a cozy, if unusual, family, and Bee settles down.  She even is able to begin school for the first time! However, it’s not as easy as she was hoping.

 This gentle novel explores friendship, beauty, and bullying, against the interesting backdrop of World War II.   The character development is natural and thorough, and the historical details are fascinating.  This book would be great in a classroom, and presents an interesting perspective on wartime combined with a story laced with meaning.  It’s also a good way to open a dialogue on differences and bullying.  I loved it, even though it made me cry about every other page!  I think you’ll love it, too.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website

Fusco, Kimberly Newton. Beholding Bee.  Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2013. 327 pp.  Ages 11-14.

If you liked this book (and I think you will!) try these:

Sorta Like a Rockstar

The One and Only Ivan

The Magician’s Elephant

The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

“‘The elephant,’ said the fortuneteller.

‘What?’ Peter said.  He opened his eyes, certain that he had misunderstood.

‘You must follow the elephant,’ said the fortuneteller. ‘She will lead you there.’

Peter’s heart, which had risen up high inside of him, now sank slowly back to its normal resting place.  He put his hat on his head.  ‘You are having fun with me,’ he said.  ‘There are no elephants here.’

‘Just as you say,’ said the fortuneteller.

‘That is surely the truth, at least for now. But perhaps you have not noticed: the truth is forever changing.’

Before the coldest of the grayest winters the city has ever seen, Peter approaches the mysterious fortuneteller with trepidation.  He knows he is an orphan, but…but he remembers a baby crying, a sister.  Is she still alive, he wants to know?  If she is, how can he find her?

The fortuneteller’s answer seems unbelievable: where would Peter find an elephant, anyway? However, with the scrap of hope and a fortuneteller’s cryptic message, Peter embarks on an adventure that will not only change an entire city, but also bring him the family he longs for.

I was a terrifically anxious child. We’re talking escaping-from-kindergarten-on-foot-to-avoid-standardized-testing, elaborate-separation-rituals-including-begging-and-possibly-vomiting, germ-phobic-before-hand-sanitizer-was-a-thing kind of nervous.  It wasn’t pretty, friends, and the calmest moments of my childhood were when my parents or teachers read out loud to me.  For that reason, I am on a perpetual quest for The Perfect Sharing Read-Alouds: those books that are interesting to both adults and little ones, with the stories full of things to prepare you to face the world. Since they are bedtime books, a soothing quality is important.  Funny is definitely a plus.  Illustrations? Absolutely.

I’m pleased to tell you that The Magician’s Elephant is possibly one of the most perfect books for sharing.  A fortuneteller whose tent appears one day and is gone the next? A long-lost sister? An orphanage whose door is always guarded by a nun, waiting to welcome all that are lost? A magician who has just accomplished the most stunning bit of magic of his life?  A bewildered elephant?! Yes, oh yes.  And while the plot elements and characters are creative and wonderful in themselves, the illustrations and tone combine to form a story about love and families and bravery that will break your heart, it’s so pretty.

The author, Kate DiCamillo, says this about her book: “I wanted. I needed. I longed to tell a story of love and magic.  Peter, Adele, the magician, the elephant-all the characters in this book are the result of that longing.  I hope that you, the reader, find some love and magic here.” I did! I think you will, too.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.katedicamillo.com

DiCamillo, Kate. The Magician’s Elephant. Candlewick: Somerville, 2009. 201 pp. Ages 8 and up.

Would you like to know what other books are on my Sharing List?

The Hobbit

Toys Go Out

The Neverending Story

The Adventures of Hugo Cabret 

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Phantom Tollbooth

I’d love to hear your suggestions!  What books are you sharing?