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Book Review: Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

Outside, Inside, by LeUyen Pham, published in 2021 by Roaring Brook Press.
ISBN 978-1-250-79835-0

I won’t lie, to quote the Grinch, my heart might have grown three sizes after I read this book. As far as history goes, we know that processing the pandemic is going to be important for years and years to come, especially for our children. No matter your age, perhaps the first step is reading Outside, Inside. Caldecott Honor winner LeUyeun Pham delivers this heavy hitter via an incredible combination of realistic artwork meets global fantasy, where a windy lane appears to have homes from all over the world to inside a typical American bedroom, the reader looks at the outside world from inside. This view includes the myriad of ways helpers helped and nonessential workers stayed home. It shows how people stayed connected and how we continued to show love. However, it’s realistic in the sense that there is still a feeling of loneliness, reminding us all that we NEED human connection. The book includes a foldout that made me feel as though Pham wanted to enfold us in a hug. 

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Book Review: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. Published by Balzer + Bray, and imprint of HarperCollins, 2021. ISBN 978-0-06-284671-6

Concrete Rose, written by Angie Thomas, published in 2021. (Yep, it’s hot off the press!) This book is the prequel to The Hate U Give (2017), a Printz Honor book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book and On the Come Up (2019). This book features the story of Maverick Carter. You might remember him as the fun-loving, yet serious father of Starr Carter. The story follows Maverick’s senior year at Garden High, a year certainly full of ups and downs that includes becoming a father. One of the things I loved the most about this book is revisiting many of the characters from The Hate U Give. Having the added information about events that took place nearly 20 years before Starr was born adds depth to the characters. One of the things I disliked about this book prior to reading it was the cover. I felt the red was too bold and it didn’t draw me in, despite red being my favorite color. However, ¾ of the way through, the cover made perfect sense, in many, many ways. The book is yet another reminder that everyone is going through something and we are best not to judge. 

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Book Review: All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys Soccer Team

Title: All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team

Author: Christina Soontornvat

Publisher: Candlewick

Copyright date: October, 2020

Age range: grades 3-7, but I couldn’t put it down! This would be a wonderful book for teens with lower reading levels due to the high interest, short chapters, and graphics. 

Readers, there is a reason why this book has won so many awards and has 7 starred reviews. 

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Book Review: Saturdays Are for Stella

Title: Saturdays Are for Stella

Author: Candy Wellins

Illustrator: Charlie Eve Ryan

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Copyright date: August, 2020

Age range: preschool-3rd grade

This seemingly simple book about a boy named George who visits his Grandma Stella each Saturday is packed with teachable moments. George and Stella do many fun things together, both the simple (making popcorn) to the more special (like trips to museums). It is clear that both savor the traditions that Saturdays together bring.

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Signs You’re Raising a Reader: Looking Beyond Test Results

Doing the work to raise children who are readers can feel complicated. Some moments are warm and content, like finishing a well-loved book together while snuggled up during bedtime. But some nights, you may feel tired and worn out, when all you really want to do is run a bath or sleep. It can also be frustrating, especially in those early years when your child is misreading every other word. And the conversations and debates about what to read, how long to read, who will read, etc., can be incredibly draining. We get it. 

The cure is to stop periodically and notice successes, both small and large. It is important for both you and your child. Think beyond the test scores, the grades, the reading levels, and the Accelerated Reader goals (yuck). These indicators can feel heavy, especially if your child is considered to be behind. And a child reading above grade level can also present concerns, like finding challenging yet appropriate books. This is exactly why it is so vital that we stop to appreciate the many moments when we can find comfort that we are raising children who are readers. 

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11 Stocking Stuffers to Encourage Reading and Writing

There are countless parenting pitfalls that we’ve fallen into. One is stuffing the stockings with plastic junk, courtesy of last-minute, panic-stricken trips to Target and the Dollar Store on December 23. As our children have gotten older, we’ve tried to teach them to place less value on stuff, and more value on new experiences, quality time together, and doing those things you most enjoy. It became very apparent that our stocking stuffers didn’t pass our own sniff test. 

Books make a great addition to any stocking, along with other creative items like new crayons, markers, little notebooks to keep by their beds or scattered around the house, and reading-related products. These items also work because they are small enough to fit in most stockings, and yet pack lots of punch in terms of quality, fun reads, and improved literacy skills. The point is, think small, but mighty! 

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Book Review: Crafting With Nature Series

Flower, Leaf, and Seed Crafts round out the series.

Title: Crafting with Nature series, specifically Rock Crafts and Stick Crafts by Betsy Rathburn and Sand Crafts by Rebecca Salbeko

Publisher: Bellwether Media

Copyright date: 2020

Age range: 3rd through 8th grade, though it depends on the level of adult assistance

This unique crafting series for kids not only offers up crafting how-tos with objects you’re likely to find in your own backyard, also included are fun facts and additional background building relating to each craft. For example, included next to the directions for building a stick owl (p. 6 in Stick Crafts), is information about owls, with key vocabulary words in bold, such as “talons” and “roost.” A glossary in the back allows for quick reference. 

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Reading Your Way Through The Holidays

How many years in a row have you thought something along the lines of, “I wish we could sit around snuggling up and reading together as a family, but the holidays are just too busy.” Well, if your calendar looks anything like ours, some free time has definitely opened up in 2020. Cancelled parties and events, scaled back celebrations… plus all the time you typically spend just preparing for all this stuff is now available, too. We’re trying hard to look on the bright side and embrace what new traditions this might offer our families.

I know it’s still just mid November, though. And we have one very clear rule in our family, ingrained into our way of thinking since we were very young: Thanksgiving is the best of all the holidays and NOT just a stepping stone to the others. Well, Mom and Dad, it’s 2020 and we’re breaking the rules. Whether it’s the threat of shipping delays due to COVID, or concerns about in-person book browsing in a pandemic, this year it’s more important than ever to add books to the collection of a loved one in a timely and safe manner. And take advantage of a simpler, more manageable holiday schedule.

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