~by Amanda Smith
To cap off our National Reading Month posts on favorite reads, we polled the ones whose opinion ultimately matters the most - the children for whom we write. These sixth graders are well read and they know what they like. Take a look -
Tell us about a book that you just finished reading that you liked. What about the book caused you to keep reading to the end?
All the old favorites, such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and James Patterson's books were among the student's responses. I found it interesting that some students are still drawn to the classics, and that they enjoyed books from a variety of genres.
Adeline C. - I just finished reading THE VANDERBEEKERS TO THE RESCUE by Karina Yan Glaser. I liked the book because there were parts that you just wanted to keep reading from the actions that the characters made.
Brady P. - I just finished reading RESISTANCE by Jennifer A Nielsen. What I really liked about the book was that it was full of action. I kind of like war books.
Emily B. - THE INQUISITOR’S TALE by Adam Gidwits. I really wanted to finish it because I had so many questions about it.
Emma O – HOLES by Louis Sachar, it was a very entertaining book. I kept reading to the end because of all the action. I understood every part of the book, so it wasn’t challenging. There were suspenseful parts and lots of interesting facts.
Hazel M. - I reread PRISONER OF WAR by Michael P. Spradlin and it had so much action, humor, and just enough sadness, I just had to keep reading to the end.
Kacy B. - I just finished GUTS by Raina Telgemeier. I liked it because it showed young Raina going through tough times, but she got over her anxiety. My favorite part had to be when she made friends with a girl she hated in the beginning and how it relates to real life.
Noah G. - I liked THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS by James Fenimore Cooper because it is a very descriptive read with lots of twists, new characters, and unexpected events.
Ryan M. - I just finished HATCHET by Gary Paulson. I read till the end because it was interesting and had cliffhangers.
What three things do you look for when you decide to read a book? Why do you look for those things?
Many students mentioned that the cover, length, and friends' recommendations are important in their choice of books. Here are a few unexpected answers:
Camden M. - It has a lot of action, the back of the book sucks me in, humor
Faith N. - I look for a good cover, captivating preview of the book, and good reviews.
Isaac K. - Suspense, adventure, 3rd person
Isaiah B. - I usually look for books that an author I like makes. I always read the back of the book to see what its about. I like to read comedy or video game books.
Justin S. - I look for a beginning that hooks me.
Ludmilla S. - Death makes you get even more attached to a character and makes you feel as if you were close to a character. Another thing that I look for in a book is love. When there's love it makes things so much more dramatic, especially when a character makes a move. Another thing that I look for in a book is enemies. If there are no enemies the book is a bit boring.
Tell us about a character from a book you have recently read. Why did you like the character? Would you be friends with this character? Why or why not?
Brady P. - In the book I recently read there was a girl named Chaya who was courageous and willing to stand up to a fight. I would definitely hang out with this character because this is what everyone wants to be. I know that I am not always that but this character almost always was.
Emily B. - I like characters I can relate with. One of these characters was Jeane from THE INQUISITOR’S TALE because she was brave, kind, and friendly. I would love to be friends with her because she is so nice.
Hazel M. - I have recently read STOLEN GIRL and I would like to be friends with the girl starring in the book because I think I could help her understand her past.
Jack H. - A character I liked a lot was Dee from ALLIES. I liked him because he was heroic and he would stand up for what is right. I would definitely be friends with him if he was younger.
Ludmilla S. - In the book I recently read, PAX, Peter is great character, he isn’t perfect, like all humans, but he is extremely determined, and sometimes his anxiety gets in the way.
Madison A. - A character in a book that I recently finished was Bilbo from THE HOBBIT. I like Bilbo and would be friends with him because he is kind and brave.
Noah G. - A character from a book I just read is Natty Bumppo, (ALIAS HAWKEYE, PATHFINDER, THE SCOUT, DEERSLAYER, etc.). I liked this character because he is cunning, smart, and understands the nature of beings in a way that even Deleware Elders don’t fully comprehend. I would be friends with Natty Bumppo because he is a very smart and trusting person. Also, he is a good person to be friends with is because he is also a very self-assured person.
Think of an ending of a book that you liked. Why did you like the ending? How did the ending make you feel? What kinds of endings do you not like?
The majority of students said that they do not like cliffhangers unless there is a sequel (preferably already within their reach.)
Emma O. - I don’t like endings where it leaves you with a cliffhanger. It is a little bit annoying in my opinion. I like ending when it gets to the point, when they tell you what you have been wondering the whole time while reading the book.
Faith N. - I love sad endings. I think it may be because it really triggers emotions so the ending is more memorable.
Isaiah B. - I like endings that make every part of the text come together or a twisty ending.
Jack H. - Endings I like are when the good people defeat the bad people.
Madison A. - I like the kind of endings where everything works out, but in an unexpected way.
If you could tell an author of a book you liked three things about their book, what would you say?
Dear Sharon M. Draper
Three things I like about your book BLENDED is I can relate to the book
and I know want she is feeling. Second I don’t like long chapters and how you made your
chapters makes me want to read like 5 chapters a day. I love how you said on each different
chapter, Mom’s week and Dad’s week so you know who’s week it is. I Love Your Book!
Emily B. -
to Adam Gidwitz:
1 the characters
2 the dragon (I like a little humor in the books I read)
3 the whole plot twist with Red, Fat, and Wicked
Emma O. - To Jerry Spinelli, I would tell him three things I liked about MANIAC MAGEE. Maniac was an active character with a meaningful heart. He also was really fast. It taught me more about how white people and black people were enemies a long time ago. But I liked how Maniac had no idea. I liked the ending of him finding a home, because almost the whole book was telling about how Maniac wanted to find a home, and he did.
Faith N. - I would say to JK Rowling I loved how she was persistent and didn't give up while writing her books. Also I would say I loved the way she described the place they were in at that given time. It really creates a visual in my mind. Lastly I could say I loved the character development of Draco and many other characters.
Justin S. - A TALE OF MAGIC by Chris Colfer: I would say that his characters are great, his storylines are amazing, and that his books are just overall incredible.
Kacy B. I would tell Raina Telgemeier that she starts with strong beginnings that fit with the theme, the middle of the book always has good details, and the endings are definitely my favorite.
Madison A. - If I could tell J.R.R Tolkien 3 things that I like about THE HOBBIT, it would be that I like Bilbo’s personality, that I like when Bilbo and the Wood Elves make up, and the ending was awesome!
Noah G.- I would say to Alan Gratz that his books are astounding and that every time I pick up one of his books they are so fast-paced and sad that I read them in a day and then recommend them to ALL my friends.
Thank you to these amazing sixth grade readers. I love your enthusiasm about books. Keep reading!
~by Amanda Smith
Life has changed drastically for all of us, but one thing that remains unchanged is the comfort, escape and friendship good books offer. An unexpected benefit of self- quarantine is that we have more time to read. Even though physical libraries are closed, e-books and audio books are still available through apps such as Libby and Audible, and while we cannot browse our favorite Indie bookstores, we can still support them by ordering books through Indiebound.
So, snuggle up with some stories. Read aloud one of your kids’ best-loved novels, share some of your childhood favorites, or discover new darlings together.
In honor of National Reading Month, here are some of my recent favorites:
LOVELY WAR by Julie Berry is an intriguing story of four main characters’ loves and lives during World War I. The story is narrated by a group of Greek gods holding a self-imposed trial of love and war, as World War II rages on. Crystal Kite winner, LOVELY WAR is swoon-worthy. The reader is transported to a different time, introduced to some less-familiar aspects of First World War history, strung along on a musical journey, entertained by laugh-out-loud moments of Olympian egos, and swept up in true love.
For more historical YA, also check out WHITE ROSE by Kip Wilson.
TO CATCH A KILLER and TO RIGHT THE WRONGS by Sheryl Scarborough are intriguing, edge of your seat, CSI-thrillers that will keep you reading deep into the night.
For World War II history told in a completely different but equally engaging medium, the graphic novel THE FAITHFUL SPY by John Hendrix is a must read. Hendrix tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian who helped plan multiple plots to assassinate Hitler, his internal struggle with morality, and his heartache over the deterioration of his country. With powerful graphics, striking symbolism, and straight forward language Hendrix also shows the bone-chilling rise of Adolf Hitler. Haunting illustrations, striking hand-lettering, and brilliant use of color help readers better understand the history, the conflict, and the connection between these two men.
A lighter middle grade graphic novel with themes of friendship and fitting in, is ALL’S FAIRE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL by Victoria Jamieson.
WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate is a heart-lifting, encouraging middle grade about a tree and its endearing posse of animals who work together to restore right in their upturned neighborhood. Young readers will love the characters! Because of its lyrical language, this is a great book to read aloud with your kids. It will fill your household with hope!
Other MGs to check out are OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon M Draper. (The audio-book performance of this one is fabulous!), and THE INQUISITOR’S TALE or THREE MAGICAL CHILDREN AND THEIR HOLY DOG by Adam Gidwitz.
One of my absolute favorite book-purchases this year is THE LOST WORDS, a poetry anthology by Robert McFarlane. This book is in no hurry. Three full spreads, adorned with realistic watercolor paintings by Jackie Morris, are dedicated to each acrostic poem. The poems are about nature words that were removed from the dictionary to make room for more modern words, and THE LOST WORDS reminds us to cherish the beauty of the natural world. This book is luxurious, and I found that I also wanted to consume it slowly, drinking in each exquisite word, the decadent imagery, and each brush stroke of the art.
Picture books can powerfully communicate emotions, such as anxiety or uncertainty, to young and old. Lita Judge’s newly released WHEN YOU NEED WINGS helps readers calm fears through the use of imagination. The watercolor illustrations are breathtaking and contribute to a sense of peace. THE RABBIT LISTENED by Cori Doerrfeld is the perfect picture book for learning to process and express emotions, and a good conversation starter. TRUMAN by Jean Reidy is a heart-warming story of perseverance and love.
Whether you read alone or with someone. Whether you read historical fiction, lighthearted silliness, or picture book magic. Whether you read fast and furious to solve the mystery, or slowly, tasting every word, be sure to read, read, read to stay connected with the great, big, beautiful world outside your door.
by Kelly Carey
In honor of National Reading Month, 24 Carrot Writing is celebrating by sharing a few of our recent favorite reads.
When social distancing and quarantine orders have us searching for home bound activities, books offer up friends, adventure, and escape. This might be the perfect time to open a book. Let me suggest a few fun places you can run away to without leaving your house!
HOME IN THE WOODS uses gently lyrical language and stunning artwork to teach the stark realities of poverty during the Great Depression. It is a book about hope and persistence in the face of difficulty. Perhaps it can act as a road-map for how to move forward in the current environment.
In picture books also look for Trevor by Jim Averbeck and illustrated by Amy Heveron, Hum & Swish by Matt Meyers, and What Miss Mitchell Saw by Hayley Barret and illustrated by Diana Sudyka.
VERNON IS ON HIS WAY by Philip C. Stead offers the whimsical humor and soul filling simplicity of a silly frog exploring his surroundings and learning how to be a friend. Vernon is a celebration of everyday items and easy problems. Told in three short stories this book is a great mentor text if you’re ready to write a chapter book or if your young reader is ready to tackle a longer solo read.
In chapter books also look for Frank & Bean by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Bob Kolar.
In THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart, Coyote and her dad Rodeo have suffered a BIG loss and Rodeo has decided the best way to heal is to travel forward on a converted school bus. As they encounter fellow travelers, Coyote starts to wonder if they really are healing and if maybe their aimless wandering needs a destination. You’ll be cheering for quirky Coyote Sunrise and her journey is truly remarkable!
In middle grade books also look for The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden and The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty.
WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo offers plenty of spice in the form of main character Emoni Santiago who has a love for food and a knack for creating culinary excellence. But Emoni has lost her mother, her father is absent and she is navigating her senior year of high school while caring for her daughter. You’ll want to help Emoni, cry for Emoni and be Emoni – or at the very least eat her food!
In young adult also look for The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman and Geek Girl by Holly Smale.
Feel free to add your favorite fresh reads in the comments!
by Annie Cronin Romano
March is National Reading Month, and in honor of this auspicious occasion, we at 24 Carrot Writing have decided to share some of our favorite kidlit books. I'm starting off this series by highlighting five books which have reached into my reader/writer's heart and made it skip a beat.
THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN, a young adult novel by Kiersten White, kept me enthralled from chapter one. This YA retelling of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN is told from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza and takes the reader on a journey of darkness, devotion, love, and survival that leads one to wonder who the monsters among us truly are. Atmospheric and haunting!
I adored R.J. Palacio's WHITE BIRD. This middle grade graphic novel depicts the horrors of one Jewish girl's experience during the Holocaust with tenderness and hope. Engaging illustrations add to the vividness of this story. Readers who have enjoyed WONDER and AUGGIE & ME will appreciate the connection to those stories as this story is narrated by Julian's grandmother.
One of my all time favorite middle grade novels is Sharon Creech's WALK TWO MOONS. Salamanca Tree Hiddle is a 13-year-old on a journey from Ohio to Idaho with her grandparents. During the trip, Sal entertains her grandparents with the tale of her friend, Phoebe Winterbottom, and their quest to find out why Phoebe's mother abandoned her family. Sal's story emerges through the narrative, which alternates between Sal's memories of her own mother and her telling of Phoebe's story. Layered and bittersweet, this Newbery Medal winning book of family ties, loss, and understanding the experiences of others is a must read.
If you need a smile, then reach for A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC, by Shel Silverstein. This humorous collection of poetry and sketches will add a bit of joy to any day. Full of Silverstein's imagination and whimsy, these poems grasp the minds and hearts of young readers, leading them to laugh and ponder. You're certain to crack the spine of this book again and again for another dose of wit and insight.
Enjoy a good laugh and and unexpected heroine? Than grab TYRANNOSAURUS REX VS. EDNA THE VERY FIRST CHICKEN. Tyrannosaurus Rex may frighten all the other dinosaurs, but he cannot scare Edna! This hilarious picture book, written by Douglas Rees and illustrated by Jed Henry, shows that just because you're small doesn't mean you're weak. The defiant Edna will leave you cheering!
Kelly and Amanda will share some of their favorite kidlit titles in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please tell us what some of your favorites are!
Guest blog post by Desiree Villena
Anyone familiar with children’s literature will know that it contains a diverse and fascinating range of characters, ideas, and themes — and that, contrary to popular belief, new trends crop up in kid lit all the time. Though there are some evergreen topics that children will always adore (dinosaurs, candy, and poop jokes, to name a few), kids’ books are just like any other sort of literature in that they reflect what people like to read — and what they believe is important — in a given era.
To that end, we wanted to analyze five of the biggest kid lit trends of 2019 and why they might be having such a “moment.” Aspiring children’s authors, take note: these are the stories that kids, parents, and school librarians are crazy about right now.
1. Stories grappling with sadness
Surprising as it might sound, some of the most popular (and beautifully illustrated) children’s books last year revolved around topics like grief, loneliness, and general ennui. Eva Eland's WHEN SADNESS IS AT YOUR DOOR tackles this with particular aplomb, noting that it’s normal to feel sad for no reason, and better to sit with that sadness awhile than trying to push it away. Jin Xiaojing’s I MISS MY GRANDPA contains a similar message — the main character has never met her grandfather, but rather than diminishing her feelings, her parents help her work through them. MY HEART, by Corinna Luyken, is another strong example of this trend; it focuses less on sadness specifically than on the nuances of overall human emotion, but it’s still quite a sensitive work to which children can deeply relate.
This noticeable increase in books about sadness (a category distinct from “sad books,” for the record) may be due to our collectively improving grasp of children as psychological beings. As a result, though there have long been great children’s books about coping with negative emotions, these 2019 books go above and beyond: acknowledging that sadness is a part of life, and emphasizing that it’s just as important to unpack the causes as it is to find solutions.
2. Confidence-boosting books
Another trend that may stem from our better psychological understanding of children is the recent rise in confidence-boosting kids’ books. After all, it’s easy to look at children — with all their energy, short attention spans, etc. — and think they’re impervious to low confidence, but the truth is that kids struggle with anxiety and self-doubt just as much as adults do.
To combat this, a number of children’s authors in 2019 penned wonderfully confidence-boosting books for children with insecurities. There is Lupita Nyong’o’s SULWE, a deeply moving story about a young black girl who feels self-conscious in her skin before realizing how magical she truly is. (Vashti Harrison’s luminous illustrations leave no doubt for the reader, either — every image of Sulwe in this book is a wonder to behold). There’s also CLICK by Kayla Miller, a stellar middle-grade graphic novel about a girl struggling to find her “talent” for her school’s variety show… until it dawns on her that she’d be the perfect emcee. Finally, there’s Jerry Craft’s NEW KID for those struggling to adapt to a new school, and Michael A. Brown’s WHAT I TELL MYSELF FIRST for all the kids out there who love their self-affirming mantras (or whose parents do, at least).
3. Specific cultural stories
Another encouraging trend we’ve seen recently is children’s literature that details different cultural stories and experiences — therefore enabling kids to engage with these cultures in age-appropriate yet highly meaningful ways. This trend of diverse storytelling certainly emerged earlier than 2019, but continued on a strong note throughout last year with children’s books like BETWEEN US AND ABUELA by Mitali Perkins, WHERE ARE YOU FROM? by Yamile Saied Méndez, and SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS by Renée Watson.
Each of these addresses a specific issue of race, ethnicity, and/or class to enlighten the reader about something they may not have known — from the intrusive questions faced by Mexican immigrants in the U.S. to the long history of the African-American community in Harlem, New York. But make no mistake, these stories aren’t just informative; they’re also richly textured, gorgeously illustrated, and often delightful to read. For a quintessential example of this, check out FRY BREAD by Kevin Noble Maillard, a sweet (no pun intended) picture book about the traditional Native American treat.
4. Female role models
Here’s another children’s lit trend we’ve been seeing for a while, but which really picked up in 2019: kids’ books about female role models, both over the course of history and today. While GOODNIGHT STORIES FOR REBEL GIRLS may have kick-started this trend, last year was a record-breaking one in terms of children’s stories about amazing and accomplished women.
One of the most touching contributions to this corner of books was PARKER LOOKS UP, a picture book based on two-year-old Parker Curry’s awestruck reaction to a gallery portrait of Michelle Obama — demonstrating how vital it is to find role models who look like us, in whom we can literally see ourselves. It was also great to see recognition for some lesser-known women of history, such as surgeon and abolitionist Mary Edwards Walker (MARY WEARS WHAT SHE WANTS, by Keith Negley) and Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in NYC (PLANTING STORIES, by Anika Aldamuy Denise).
But perhaps most heartening of all was RAISE YOUR HAND by Alice Tapper, an eleven-year-old so determined to overcome school shyness that she wrote a whole book for girls just like her. Indeed, it’s a testament to the marvelous impact of all female role models that girls today not only recognize their potential, but also strive to make a difference as soon as they possibly can. With any luck, we’ll see even more work from such promising young women in 2020.
5. Itty-bitty beasties
Let’s end on a fun one: for some reason, 2019 was The Year of Tiny Animals! To be fair, animals (especially of the talking variety) are always popular, but last year seemed to particularly spotlight miniaturized versions of already-adorable critters.
Perhaps most adorable was the titular character of Jonathan Stutzman's TINY T. REX AND THE IMPOSSIBLE HUG, whose arms are tragically too short to share a warm embrace with another dino. (Worry not, reader, he finds a way in the end!) Another teensy star of his own eponymous book, Jean Reidy's TRUMAN is a turtle who must venture into the dangerous city streets after his young owner disappears. There’s also Benji Davies' TAD (releasing in June 2020) a book about an undersized tadpole who can’t wait for her leaping legs to grow in, and WILD HONEY FROM THE MOON, by Kenneth Kraegel, in which a small-but-fearless mother shrew embarks on a fantastical adventure to help her ailing son.
Come to think of it, all these Lilliputian heroes have something crucial in common, something which no doubt appeals to readers of similar stature: strong spirits that allow them to overcome their tiny vessels and accomplish great things. In that sense, our little friends are just as much role models as any of the other characters on this list, even if they might not seem it at first. But after all, such is the nature of children’s books, both in 2019 and beyond: what may seem simple on the surface can convey very powerful ideas that young readers will carry with them forever.
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with top-notch self-publishing resources and professionals to help them achieve their dreams. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading, writing, and babysitting — especially when the kids are in the mood to read!
Check out Reedsy’s social media on Twitter (@ReedsyHQ) and Instagram (@reedsy_hq), and browse their blog at https://blog.reedsy.com/
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