Friday, August 31, 2018


The heft of Bolivar is going to intimidate some readers, which is a shame because it is an ideal book for developing readers who might be spooked by a 224 page graphic novel. Still, once they get started, readers will realize there is nothing to fear and that they will fly through Sean Rubin's love letter to New York.

Sybil seems to be the only one who notices the dinosaur living next door. Everyone else is busy with their New York lives, heads down in their phones or their food, so Bolivar the dinosaur is able to blend in. Sybil is intent on photographing him and proving to everyone that he is real. It takes awhile, but when Bolivar is finally revealed to the public, it does not go as expected.

After my class spoke with Rust author Royden Lepp, I try to slow down when reading graphic novels and truly appreciate the work that went into them. With Bolivar, it is essential, as there are so many gorgeous details. I reveled in the little things, like the pineapple logo on Sybil's mom's computer, and big details, like how spot on the illustrations are in the Museum of Natural History. In his acknowledgments, Rubin notes that it took five years to write Bolivar. It is obvious, and it was worth it. This is worth adding to your classroom library, nudging into the hands of a developing reader, and watching them blossom as they read such a big book.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


It's been a long time since I read Ann Aguirre's Razorland Trilogy, so I probably should have better prepared myself by at least reading my reviews. Oh well. I remembered loving the series and was pleasantly surprised by the companion novel, Vanguard. While I know I missed some references by not having the past books fresh in my mind, I still really enjoyed the latest addition to the saga.

Actually, it may be for the best that I don't remember the other books, as I am pretty sure they were very dystopian, while Vanguard is a straight up romance. Although it was obvious from the start how the novel would end, it was an enjoyable journey. I like the character of Tegan and appreciate that Aguirre didn't drag out the tension between her and Szarok for too long. They were obviously meant for each other, so it was more interesting to see what would happen once they were united.

I don't need another book about these characters; I think it all wraps up nicely, but I am happy that I read Vanguard.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Water Land by Christy Hale

Christy Hale's Water Land: Land and Water Forms from Around the World is a book that has me excited for social studies teachers.

Teaching physical geography can be dry and confusing for students. The clever cut-out design of this book can give students a visual representation of the different vocabulary they are learning. Even better, the characters in the illustrations are diverse and often in comical situations. At the end is a list of locations that fit each description and a fold-out world map that shows examples of each term.

This is a worthy addition to any classroom and a must for teachers of geography.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Caribbean Middle Grade and YA Books

Although I've shared a few Caribbean picture books before, as well as highlighting many novels on the blog, I've never done a post with all of the middle grade and YA Caribbean books I've read. I hope to keep adding to this post as I read more. Titles are linked to their reviews.

Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle

Serafina's Promise by Ann E. Burg

A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar

Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Flowers in the Sky by Lynn Joseph

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle

The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle

The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner

In Darkness by Nick Lake

Taste of Salt by Frances Temple

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Amal Unbound

Imagine if making one small mistake and insulting the wrong person could cost you your freedom. This happens to Aisha Saeed's heroine Amal, who disrespects the wealthy landowner in her Pakistan village and ends up an indentured servant to him indefinitely. Ripped from her family, Amal must learn who to trust and try to do her best in her new life, while keeping hope that she can someday be a teacher and return to her family.

I can't remember reading any other books set in Pakistan, so I was eager to learn more. The culture is incorporated really well; Saeed keeps it authentic without forcing translations upon her readers. If you don't catch what a word means, it's okay.

My only issue with the book is the extremely saccharine ending. I know this is a middle grade novel and needs to have a happy ending, but this was a bit much. I feel it was so unrealistic that it did a disservice to the young readers who are encountering situations like indentured servitude for the first time, as well as not honoring the many people who live like this.