Getting “Nutmeg”y – Part 1

Recently, I plowed through almost all of the 2021 Elementary Nutmeg nominees that I could I get my hands on from the public library.  Rather than do a separate entry for each book, I will include a brief summary and review of each one here in the order that I read them.

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Lesa Cline-Ransome is a direct, thought-provoking biography of the Williams sisters.  There are many books about Venus and Serena Williams, and this one is just right for younger readers.  The girls epitomize strength and perseverance as they practice and fight through obstacles to achieve their tennis dreams.  This is a great story to inspire younger students whether they enjoy tennis or not.

Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson shares Carter Woodson’s life and role in activism.  I enjoyed that the power of story and reading is a highlight through this book.  Carter grew up listening to his parents’ tales of slavery, and he understood the importance of their stories.  He used his ability to read in order to share knowledge with those around him.  He became the founder of February as Black History Month.  This book is both informative and inspiring with lots of teachable features such as lists of  Black leaders, quotations and sources, timelines, Internet Resources/Bibliography and more.

The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter is architect Zaha Hadid’s story (obvious from title).  Nature inspired her unique designs, but being an Iraqi woman provided with different ideas made it difficult to break into the world of architecture.  This is another story that showcases the need to be determined and to keep trying at your passions no matter what.  Hadid’s beautiful buildings are depicted with drawings at the end of the book.  I was pleased to learn about someone I have never heard of before, and would love to see some of her buildings in person one day.

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando by Andrea Wang is dedicated to noodle lovers!  Ando saw the terrible poverty and hunger in Japan following WWII.  He wanted to do something to help people and started experimenting with making an inexpensive noodle option that anyone could buy and easily make by adding hot water.  After years of trying, he finally got it right… and that’s how Ramen started!  This is another inspiring story of hard work and never giving up.

Borrowing Bunnies: A Surprising True Tale of Fostering Rabbits by Cynthia Lord is a sweet (those cute photos!!!) and informative book.  Lord recounts fostering two special bunnies that change from scared to friendly with a special surprise!  There are a couple sad moments in the story, but Lord writes them well (which I think will help young readers).  A nice touch at the end reviews important questions to consider before getting a bunny as a pet!

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes is based on Jessica and Patrick’s rescue dog, aptly named Rescue!  The book shares Jessica and Rescue’s points of view before meeting each other.  Rescue is the perfect match to help Jessica (an amputee).  This is a touching story, and what makes it more interesting to me is that the authors are survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Seashells: More Than a Home by Melissa Stewart is a beautifully illustrated and well-written book about shells (again, obvious).  I liked how each new shell is described as a simple simile before getting into more detail.  The author and illustrator notes are interesting to share with students to show the length of time and thought involved in a book’s research process.  This book will appeal to any beach-goer, especially during summer months when they can try to find some of the shells!

After the Fall by Dan Santat is a cute story told by Humpty Dumpty.  Falling gave him a fear of heights which keeps him from enjoying some of his favorite things.  He tries other ways to find some fun, but ultimately realizes that he needs to face his fears.  Readers find out that he is meant to be up high after all!  This is a cute one with a nice lesson for kids about never giving up, and facing fears… notice the Nutmeg common theme here??

Ida, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoro is a tear-jerker!  This story is based on the polar bears at NYC’s Central Park Zoo, Lou and Ida.  They are buddies and spend their day enjoying their routines including the sights and sounds around them.  When Ida passes away, Lou experiences terrible sadness and loneliness before realizing that she is always with him.  This could be a good conversation starter with young readers.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan Higgins made me laugh out loud.  This is a funny story about a little T-rex’s first day of school.  She has a tough time adjusting since she keeps trying to eat the kids in her class until luckily “someone” teaches her a lesson.  Kids will enjoy this one and it would be a great first day of school read aloud.

Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen by Debbie Michiko Florence is a short chapter book about Jasmine’s family tradition of celebrating Mochi-tsuki the Japanese New Year.  She is only eight years old, so tradition dictates that she can’t be part of the family’s mochi making.  Luckily for her, the story is about traditions, but also about breaking them.  I was interested in learning about culture during this story, but otherwise it wasn’t a favorite for me.

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara Lareau is a humorous short chapter book in which Louie (5th grade) and brother Ralphie (3rd grade) desperately try to be tough to impress their dad Big Lou.  Every time they try to do something bad, it turns around and looks like a good deed.  Eventually this helps them have an important conversation with their dad.  Maybe being tough/bad isn’t a great goal.  This would be a fun book to read with kids.

Last but not least for now (there are still two nominees that were checked out) is Wedgie & Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors.  This story switches between two pets’ points of view.  Gizmo is Elliot’s guinea pig.  Elliot and his dad moved to become a blended family with dad’s new girlfriend, her two kids and their family dog, Wedgie.  Gizmo is determined to take over the world and Wedgie is your typical dog.  The author does a great job creating these voices, especially Wedgie’s.  Elliot and Gizmo struggle being in their new home, but eventually they realize that it’s not so bad after all.  Kids will enjoy this one!









Mantis, Wolf, Boy

Book orders are in and I managed to skim read three elementary reads.

My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis by Paul Meisel is a comical account of a season in the life of a praying mantis.  It begins with P. Mantis’s birth and his evolution to adulthood.  The illustrations are bright and the narration is informative and funny.  In a matter of fact tone, he describes hiding from predators (spiders, etc), and eating many of his siblings.  Very cute!

A Well-Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy is about a hungry young wolf who offers three would-be dinners a last request before eating them.  Each one asks for something that sends the wolf back to his house for supplies.  Of course, his prey has fled by the time he returns.  Except for the final catch, a little boy who promises he won’t leave.  Ultimately the wolf gets his dinner and the boy goes unharmed.

I may have already reviewed this one, (it seems really familiar and I’m too lazy to look back), but here goes!  The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is a story full of meaning.  The illustrations show Brian as a faded boy that nobody notices.  Teachers don’t pay him much attention and his classmates don’t see him at all.  A new student arrives in class and Brian reaches out in support.  This begins a friendship, and through illustrations and events, we can see that Brian is no longer invisible.  Sometimes, it takes that one person to make a difference for someone.  Very sweet!!

Chickens and Chess

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet, just like its title.  Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, is a cute story about almost eleven-year-old Livy.  It’s been five years since she last visited her grandmother in Australia.  She can’t remember much from her stay, until she walks into her old room.  This is where she finds her long forgotten little green friend, Bob.

At first it seems like Bob is an imaginary friend, except the story is partly told from his point of view.  The years he spent waiting for Livy involved hiding in the closet and reading the dictionary.  He still wears the chicken costume that Livy made for him back then.

Together, they work to unravel his true home, and are ultimately able to get him back to where he belongs.  But not without leaving a lasting imprint upon one another.

Three in One

Today was a book fair day, and I took the opportunity to do a quick read of three titles.  We all have young kids in our lives, whether our own children, nieces, nephews or a friend’s child.  Any one of these three titles would be great gifts!

The first,  Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long, has been popping up in different library lists that I receive.  This is a beautifully written story showing all the many places/people that give and receive love.  It shows that love can be found in many places.  For me, it’s not just love, but finding beauty in the unexpected.  Its illustrations are rich and invite opportunity for talking about multiple situations and cultures.

Next is a random eye-catcher, Unplugged by Steve Antony.  A little robot named Blip gets unplugged for the day after a blackout.  He is able to escape into nature and make some friends before returning to his computer terminal.  He acknowledges that there are very cool things he can do while hooked up to the computer, but that interacting in real life is pretty wonderful.  What a great message for all ages!  This one reminds me a bit of a much younger kid version of Wild Robot (a great intermediate read).

Finally, there is Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown and Loren Long (again!).  Wise Brown is the same author of Goodnight Moon, a book that brings me back to reading every night before bed with my babies.  This story is just as sweet, with beautiful illustrations and simple text showing animals at wake up and bed time. It’s a perfect book to read aloud and share with a child.  I think this one would have been a favorite in my house.

Puppy Love

My young reader category has been neglected so I have to throw one in.  This category is tough because I skim through SO many picture books throughout the week in each of my buildings.  Then I forget to jot down titles to transfer here later.  But this time I remembered!  Even though I will categorize this as Young Reader, it can really be for anyone.

I am a sucker for books based on true animal stories.  I have to list a few favorites from before starting this blog project: Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean, Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle by Brian Dennis, Mary Nethery, and and Kirby Larson, and an undeniable favorite (probably in my top ten) was The One and Only Ivan (and its picture book counterpart) by Katherine Applegate.

Now, on to this recent book- Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi is a sweet read.  It is based on the tale of a little dog that somehow became trapped on a sheet of floating ice, and after two days gets rescued.  The real photograph of the dog along with the true narrative in the Afterword was the best part for me.  Even when he was falling into the water repeatedly everyone worked together to save him.  It’s a story of survival and the will to keep going, for both the dog and the people who worked to rescue him.

Complete 180

The blog title is not the name of the next book I read, but the complete change it was from my last read.  The Hate U Give is a MEATY book.  Chocolate Fever, by Robert Kimmel Smith, is about as far from meaty as you can get (food pun absolutely intended).  The story was published in 1972, yet I imagine keeps on staying around because of the mention of chocolate.  Who doesn’t love chocolate?

This is not a random read for me.  It happens to be the One School, One Book selection at one of my buildings.  Since I wanted to be “in the know,” I grabbed a copy for some weekend reading.  I read it in about an hour, and honestly, just wanted to finish it as quickly as I  could.  This book is like a watered-down Dahl book for me.  Henry Green eats so much chocolate that he develops chocolate spots all over.  He runs away in shame and luckily comes across a doctor who is able to give the cure.  The lesson meant for kids is to practice self control and moderation.  A pertinent lesson for any age, but a bit too simplistic in this story for my liking.

Childrens’ books can certainly have depth.  This just isn’t one of them for me.