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!