Saturday, January 18, 2020

{ 52WRR }: Review of What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack

Welcome to Week 2 of { 52 Weeks of Recommended Reading }!

I'm reading one book every week that is an award winner (or honor book) or has been included on a list of great books. You can find my reviews from previous weeks here.

(Just as an FYI... the start of this year was unexpectedly busy so I'm a little behind - I'll be posting a few of these in a row to get caught up on my weeks. :/ But then the plan is that it will be a once-a-week feature, posting on Tuesdays.)

What Is Given from the Heart
by Patricia C. McKissack
illustrated by April Harrison

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 40
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books
Publication date: January 8, 2019
Suggested tags: picture book, generosity

From the publisher:
"This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving.

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart."

Awards/Booklists (as of the time of my review - if you know of more please let me know!):

I had tears in my eyes by the time I was done with this one. Such a sweet, touching story about helping others with a spirit of kindness and generosity, even when you have little to give. James Otis and his Mama are going through some very hard times, and you can feel Mama's despair and James Otis's uncertainty at the beginning of the book through both the words and the artwork (which is a really gorgeous type of mixed media work that fit the story perfectly). James Otis puts a lot of thought and effort into his gift for another family, once he sees that Mama is happily working hard at turning one of her most prized possessions into a gift, and he comes up with something that is equally hand-crafted and heartfelt. By the end of the story, James Otis and Mama both seem a little happier and settled, and they find that their kindness and generosity has come around and been returned to them. It's a wonderful story, beautifully told and illustrated, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for an uplifting story about helping those who are less fortunate and finding value in what you have to offer, even when you are facing difficulties yourself.

Also, I love the idea of "love boxes" - this book inspired me to start a Valentine's Day tradition in our house where we make a love box to donate to an organization, like supplies for an animal shelter or notes and necessities for soldiers overseas. I could see this book being the center of a library program too, where kids can donate or create items for a love box to be distributed where it's needed within their community. 

Final verdict: I loved it! I thought this book was great! I might buy it for myself and I would definitely recommend it to others.

{ My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Weekly Wrap-Up: January 5-11, 2020

Here's my weekly collection of news, announcements, and booklists I have found around the interwebs, along with a recap of my own posts from this week. Hope you enjoy! :)

Here @ PPBN

  • 2019 Costa Book Awards winners announced - the award includes a Children's category and is "one of the UK's most prestigious and popular book prizes and celebrates the most enjoyable books of the year by writers resident in the UK and Ireland" (source).
  • 2019 Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards winners announced - the awards recognize the "best and most feels-inducing YA books the year" (source) and include 20 categories such as Cover Lust, We Need Diverse Books, and Squad Goals.


New & Upcoming Books

Saturday, January 11, 2020

{ 52WRR }: Review of Ojiichan's Gift by Chieri Uegaki

Welcome to my new weekly feature, { 52 Weeks of Recommended Reading }!

One of my goals for 2020 was to do better about reading books that have won awards or been included on "best of" booklists. I feel like my tastes tend to run a little more off-beat and don't naturally take me to the books that everyone is buzzing about, so by not actively keeping up with these awards and lists, I'm missing out on a lot of great books. So for this year, I decided to read one book every week that has won an award (or is an honor book) or has been included on a list of great books.

(Just as an FYI... the start of this year was unexpectedly busy so I'm a little behind - I'll be posting a few of these in a row to get back on track for week 3. :/ But then the plan is that it will be a once-a-week feature, posting on Tuesdays.)

So here's my first review for my { 52 Weeks of Recommended Reading }!

Ojiichan's Gift
by Chieri Uegaki
illustrated by Genevieve Simms

Available as: hardcover, ebook
Pages: 32
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication date: April 2, 2019
Suggested tags: picture book, gardens, nature, Japan

From the publisher:
"When Mayumi was born, her grandfather created a garden for her. It was unlike any other garden she knew. It had no flowers or vegetables. Instead, Ojiichan made it out of stones: “big ones, little ones and ones in-between.” Every summer, Mayumi visits her grandfather in Japan, and they tend the garden together. Raking the gravel is her favorite part. Afterward, the two of them sit on a bench and enjoy the results of their efforts in happy silence. But then one summer, everything changes. Ojiichan has grown too old to care for his home and the garden. He has to move. Will Mayumi find a way to keep the memory of the garden alive for both of them?

This gentle picture book story will warm children's hearts as it explores a deep intergenerational bond and the passing of knowledge from grandparent to grandchild over time. The lyrical text by Chieri Uegaki and luminous watercolor illustrations by Genevieve Simms beautifully capture the emotional arc of the story, from Mayumi's contentment through her anger and disappointment to, finally, her acceptance. The story focuses on an important connection to nature, particularly as a place for quiet reflection. It contains character education lessons on caring, responsibility, perseverance and initiative. It's also a wonderful way to introduce social studies conversations about family, aging and multiculturalism. Mayumi lives in North America with her Japanese mother and Dutch father, and visits her grandfather in Japan. Some Japanese words are included.


A sweet story about a girl and her grandfather, and the rock garden that they care for together. Mayumi visits her grandfather in Japan every summer, and they spend time together taking care of a rock garden. As she grows older, she is able to do more and more to help tend the garden. But as her grandfather grows older, he is able to do less... And although Mayumi is angry and frustrated at first, she finds a way to keep the rock garden going for them both.

I've always found rock gardens to be very peaceful places that invite me to pause and reflect on nature for a while, and the book does an amazing job of conveying this tranquil feeling through its illustrations. The words provide wonderful details of the plants and structures around the garden, and the story itself reads very calm and peaceful. Mayumi's sense of despair when she sees their garden neglected is palpable, but the story ultimately moves back into a feeling of tranquility and ends on a happy note, even though things have changed.

Final verdict: I loved it! I thought this book was great! I might buy it for myself and I would definitely recommend it to others.

{ My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Weekly Wrap-Up: December 29, 2019-January 4, 2020

Here's my weekly collection of news, announcements, and booklists I have found around the interwebs, along with a recap of my own posts from this week. Hope you enjoy! :)

Here @ PPBN

  • 2019 Cybils Awards finalists announced - the awards recognize "children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal" (source) and are judged by bloggers who focus on children's or young adult lit.



New & Upcoming Books

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Welcome to 2020!

Happy New Year and šŸŽµhello from the other siiiiiidešŸŽµ of a new decade!

I like to do a little New Years post every year to set some goals for myself and my blog. I'm gonna try to keep it kind of simple this year since I always overestimate how much reading and blogging I will have time for. (The whole being an adult/parent-to-a-small-human thing is still taking some time to sink in... the fact that I cannot just spend my life reading 24 hours a day is still very disappointing to me... although I do get to make a lot of block towers and Duplo buildings and pretend food in a day so, there's that.)

Anyway, here are some of my goals and plans for my blog for 2020!
Reading Goals:
  • Double last year's reading goal: try to read at least 104 books this year. That's 2 books a week... I feel like that's doable, but I only managed 54 this year, so we'll see! 
  • Read all the picture books on the 2020 Amelia Bloomer List. It's an annual list of "the best feminist books for young readers, ages birth through 18" (source). Since I discovered the list, I've wanted to try to read some of the titles, but I've never committed myself to doing it... Well, now is the time and this is the year! The 2019 list came out last February, so as soon as 2020's  list is announced I want to get reading! I want to read some books on the list for older readers too, but I feel like limiting my goal to picture books is more realistic.
  • Read more classic children's books. I want to introduce my son to some of the classics I enjoyed when I was young, and I want to rediscover them for myself. And I want to try some new classics I've never read too. We'll probably be reading mostly picture books since he's firmly in the picture book category right now, but I want to try to read some classics for older readers too.
  • Get my NetGalley feedback ratio up to 80%. Probably not totally realistic in one year, but I'm setting it all the way up at 80% as a challenge. I got a little over-eager in my requesting for a while there, and while I'm doing much better at limiting my requests now, I still really need to devote some time and energy to picking my ratio back up. We'll see how well I can do in a year! 

New Blog Features Coming/Returning in 2020:
  • I want to bring my { bon voYAge! } feature back to life, but turn it into a kidlit friendly version. I was doing just YA books set in countries around the world, but I'd like to include everything from board books up through middle grade too, so I'm going to try to come up with some other kind of "reading around the world" feature that includes kidlit for every age.
  • I'd also like to wake up the { Something Old, Something New } feature. This year, I want to do better about keeping up with new releases, but I really need to catch up on my backlog too. This is a great way to make sure I read at least one "old" and one new book a month!
  • I'd like to try to come up with some kind of feature for awards and lists of great books. I've been following a lot of awards and booklists for a while, and I just started a weekly wrap-up post where I share some current lists and announcements I've come across each week. But I'd like to do maybe a monthly feature where I share some more detailed info about an award or booklist, maybe even try to read and review a book from the list. I discover a lot of great books by checking these awards and lists, and I love finding new lists and awards to keep up with. If you have any favorites you follow, please share them in the comments!

So there are my goals and plans for this year at PPBN! Trying to keep it simple and doable... we'll see how things change as I go along! Good luck to you on your reading and/or blogging plans this year, and I wish you a very happy 2020!

And as I always do on New Year's each year, I'll leave you with my favorite quote that always puts me in a hopeful and positive mood for everything the year has in store...

(image via Pinterest)

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My 2019 Reading Recap

Looking back at a year of reading gives me warm fuzzies. I love to see everything I've read and think about what I enjoyed most, what new authors I discovered, what series I want to continue in the year to come... I mean, really, any excuse to spend some time thinking about books, right? ;)

So here's a recap of my 2019 in books! These are my own personal favorites that I *read* in 2019, not necessarily ones that were released this year. Most of this is according to the "Your Year in Books" feature on Goodreads.

{ My 2019 Reading Recap }

Total number of books read: 54 (my goal was 52, one book a week, so yay!)

Total number of pages read: 11,954

Average length of books I read: 221 pages 

Longest book I read: The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross (464 pages)

Shortest book I read: A Year in Nature: A Carousel Book of the Seasons by Hazel Maskell; illustrated by Eleanor Taylor (8 pages)

Most popular book I read (according to Goodreads): The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (684,211 people also read it)

Least popular book I read (according to Goodreads): Forest Club: A Year of Activities, Crafts, and Exploring Nature by Kris Hirschmann; illustrated by Marta Antelo (13 people also read it - shout out to you 13 awesome folks! *waves*)
(You can read my review here!)

Genre I read the most books from: Young Adult (with Picture Books close behind!)

Favorite book cover of the books I read this year:  The cover for The Antidote by Shelley Sackier - Unfortunately I didn't end up loving the book itself, but that gorgeous cover sure got me to pick it up and give it a try!

Favorite board book I read this year: A Is for Artichoke: A Foodie Alphabet from Artichoke to Zest by America's Test Kitchen Kids; illustrated by Maddie Frost - I only read 1 board book this year :(  but I really did enjoy this one so it is rightfully my favorite!
(You can read my review here!)

Favorite picture book I read this year: Frankie's Favorite Food by Kelsey Garrity-Riley - Oh man, I read soooo many good picture books this year, it was really hard to choose a favorite! But I have to give it to Frankie for the cute story, clever food puns, and adorable illustrations. (Escargot by Dashka Slater & illustrated by Sydney Hanson was a *very* close second because I love that adorable little snail and I can't wait to read more of his adventures!)
(You can read my review here!)

Favorite beginning reader I read this year: I read ZERO beginning readers this year! :(  I'm really making an effort in 2020 to read across more genres, especially more beginning readers and early chapter books. 

Favorite early chapter book I read this year: I read ZERO early chapter books this year! :(  See above for new goals and wish me luck for next year!

Favorite middle grade book I read this year: Malamander by Thomas Taylor; illustrated by Tom Booth - It has been a while since I loved a middle grade book as much as I loved Malamander. If you like your middle grade adventurous and a little creepy, with a fantastically dreary seaside setting, definitely give this one a try.
(You can read my review here!)

Favorite young adult book I read this year: EnchantƩe by Gita Trelease - For me, it doesn't get much better than a peasant girl living a double life as a magical card-playing baroness in a fantasy version of Revolutionary France. C'est magnifique!
(You can read my review here!)

Favorite graphic novel I read this year: Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu - I loved literally EVERYTHING about this, despite the fact that I'm not that fond of hockey (like, at all) and I cannot wait to read the next book!!
(You can read my review here!)

Favorite poetry book I read this year: A Year of Nature Poems
by Joseph Coelho; illustrated by Kelly Louise Judd
- This is my favorite because it's the *only* poetry book I read this year. And it wasn't bad, I did like it... but I feel like I missed out on so many poetry books I could have read this year. Adding poetry to the list of genres I need to read more of next year!
(You can read my review here!)

Favorite nonfiction book I read this year: The Lost Book of Adventure: from the notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer by the Unknown Adventurer; edited by Teddy Keen - I loved this one so much. It's kind of a mix of fiction and nonficiton... The Unknown Adventurer tells you the stories of their travels, woven among gorgeous sketchbook illustrations and real-world survival information. It's a very creative and beautiful book, and it's easily my favorite nonfiction book of the year.
(You can read my review here!)

Favorite adult book I read this year: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - One of the most beautiful fantasies I have ever read. It makes me sad it took me this long to discover this book and this author, which both became instant favorites for me. Another adult favorite from this year: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, which is an incredible, twisty mindblower of a book that repeats the same 24 hour period over and over by having one character inhabit the body of nearly every other character in the story. Definitely recommended to older/more mature YA readers who like mysteries and time travel.

Review I wrote that got the most views: My reviews for Multicultural Children's Book Day: Albie Newton by Josh Funk; illustrated by Ester Garay - How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk; illustrated by Sara Palacios - Ahni and Her Dancing Secret by Shereen Rahming; illustrated by Jeff Vernon
(You can read my reviews here!)

New-to-me author(s) that I want to read more of:  Erin Morgenstern now has my heart and I will read anything she writes. (I'm reading The Starless Sea right now and I am as in love with it and bewitched by it as I was with The Night Circus!) I also fell in love with Kelsey Garrity-Riley's storytelling and illustrations, so I'd love to read more of her picture books.

Series I started that I can't wait to continue: The Malamander series by Thomas Taylor for sure - I can't wait to be back in that world. I also really enjoyed the first book of the Berserker series by Emmy Laybourne and I'd like to see how that story continues.

Books releasing in 2020 I'm most anticipating: How much time do you have? There are SO MANY new books I can't wait to read in 2020! I'm just going to put up the pretty covers because there are literally too many to list out (and who doesn't love looking at pretty book covers??).

So that's my 2019 reading recap! How was your bookish year? Leave me a link to your end-of-the-year posts in the comments!