Friday, March 27, 2020

Freeform Friday: My 2020 Book Fair Finds

This post was written back in late February 2020, several weeks before COVID-19 blew up our lives.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have thrown caution (and my budget) to the wind and bought ALL of these books, just to freshen up my kids bookshelves before the quarantine hit.

I love the week I get to volunteer at my kid's school Book Fair.  It seems most parents would rather eat glass than sign-up, but it takes me back to my old job at a bookstore -- the place where I first realized that I loved finding and recommending books to people.  I get to do the same for little kids and see their eyes light up.  And, yes, I have to explain sales tax about 9 million times but other than that it's just so much fun!  On that note, here are some amazing books that I found 
nestled among all the Jojo Siwa and Paw Patrol.  

The Books I Took Home (5 STARS)


It's Penelope's first day of school, and she can't wait to meet her classmates.  But making friends is hard when they're so delicious!  (Taken from book sleeve)

Why I brought it home:  The first time I read this book I cracked up.  And the second time.  And the third.  I retold it to my family over dinner (prior to its purchase) and they cracked up.  The illustrations are just so stinkin' cute with a hilarious story that teaches empathy in a unique and utterly memorable way.  First, Penelope T. Rex is scared to go to school, so her mother buys her a new backpack with ponies on it (because ponies are delicious!) and her father packs her a lunch (300 tuna sandwiches and a juice box).  And, yes, Penelope eats hers her classmates a couple of times...but she always spits them back out again!  All the kids are understandably wary until Penelope gets chomped by the class goldfish, Walter, and discovers it isn't that fun being eaten.  I had so much fun reading this to my kids and if I had to pick a favorite from the entire fair...this would be it.


Meet the little legends.  They're brave.  They're exceptional.  They changed the world.  An n important book for readers of all ages, this engagingly written and beautifully illustrated volume brings to life true stories of black men in history.  Among these biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop stars, athletes and activist.  The exceptional men featured include choreographer Alvin Ailey, writer James Baldwin, artist Aaron Douglas, civil rights leader John Lewis, filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, inventor Garrett Morgan, musician Prince, and lawman Bass Reeves.  The legends in this book span centuries and continents, but each one blazed a trail for generations to come.  (Taken from the back of the book)

Why I Brought It Home:  My knowledge of black history is woefully inadequate, but recently I've been making an effort to rectify the situation.  This book is another step in that direction, one that I'm hoping my children will make with me.  Each page is dedicated to one historical figure with an adorable (and surprisingly accurate) likeness of the individual on the opposite page.  The illustrations are aesthetically pleasing with engaging  and informative text that is just the right length for most readers.  In looking through the table of contents, there were only a few names that I recognized (further proof that I needed the book) but there is also a final section that gives brief histories on the more well-known black historical figures (Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, etc.).  It even has a section for further reading recommendations and a final page to create your own "Little Legend".  Overall, I'm quite pleased with this book and excited to share the stories with my kiddos.  The author has also written several other books I plan to acquire: Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World.  Both look wonderful!

REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

When best friends are not forever... Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little.  But one day Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group.  Everyone wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top...even if it means bullying others.  Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon.  Will she and Adrienne stay friends.  Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group -- or out?  (Taken from back of book)

NAT ENOUGH by Maria Scrivan

Natalie has never felt that she's enough -- athletic enough, stylish enough, or talented enough.  And on the first day of middle school, Natalie discovers that things are worse than she thought -- now she's not even cool enough for her best friend, Lily!  As Natalie tries to get her best friend back, she learns more about her true self and natural talents.  If Natalie can focus on who she is rather than who she isn't , then she might realize she is more than enough, just the way she is.  

Why I Brought Them Home:  Kids can be mean. So mean. I purchased both of these graphic novels because my girls seem to have the same struggles as the the main characters (self-esteem issues, struggles with friends and frenemies, etc.).  I hadn't read these through in their entirety when I purchased them, but I gave them both a thorough flip-through and felt they might be an informal (slightly sneaky) way to help them recognize their own worth and avoid the pitfalls of certain adolescent friendships.  My daughter, who struggles with self-confidence in reading, finished them rather quickly and we were able to talk about her take-aways on real friendship, boundaries, and confidence.  I'm pleased with what she learned and hope the lessons stick!

Honestly, I would have brought the rest of this list home in a heartbeat 
if I had enough money.  But this is the point where mine ran out...

The Ones I Desperately Wanted to Buy 
(aka. The Runners-Up)

DRAWN TOGETHER by Minh Lê & Dan Santat (Illustrator)

Sometimes you don't need words to find common ground.

When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens -- with a shared love of art and storytelling the two form a bond that goes beyond words.  

My Thoughts:  Drawn Together doesn't have many words, but like the two main characters, it doesn't really need them.  This book is simply gorgeous, with seemingly disparate characters finding common ground through art.  Both the grandfather and grandson have an artistic style that interacts with the other on the page in a beautiful explosion of style and color.  It's a feast for the eyes. 

The wall in the middle of this book is supposed to protect one side of the book from the other side.

Supposed to.

My Thoughts:  Things are not always as they seem.  This is one of those books that can be read for fun or plumbed for deeper meaning.  It starts with a knight safely ensconced on one side of the wall that protects him from the wild animals and giant ogre on the other side.  The knight, boasting of his own safety, climbs a ladder leaning against the wall, while, unbeknownst to him, murky waters begin to rise underfoot.  When all seems lost, the knight is saved by the giant ogre, who plucks him out of danger and brings him to the other side of the book.  It is only then the knight learns he might have been mistaken in his original assessment of the wall and the creatures on the other side.  I'll let you draw your own moral there, but I appreciated the lesson.


Llama Llama is growing up, but he still loves to play with all his toys!  When Mama Llama says it's time to clean up, Llama responds like any child more interested in playing than ignoring her!  But Mama has an imaginative response of her own.  What if she never cleaned?  What would happen then?  Well, Llama Llama is going to find out!  Here is a truly funny take on a childhood chore that all children will relate to and laugh at!  And it is sure to be helpful to get kids cleaning up!

My Thoughts:  Do I really even need to tell you why I was so tempted by this book? Of all the Llama Llama books, this one is my spirit animal.  My Patronus, if you will.  When little Llama doesn't want to clean, his mother decides to stop cleaning as well.  (Um...heck, yes!)  It was unbelievably satisfying to see.  Eventually the little Llama decides he doesn't like the mess and Mama Llama delivers her message and the moral of the story:  Grown up llamas clean, that's true, but little ones can pick up too!  They clean together...and then play together.  It's one of the better  Llama books.

SAY SOMETHING by Peter H. Reynolds

The world needs your voice.  If you have a brilliant idea...say something!  If you see an injustice...say something!

In this empowering new picture book, beloved author Peter H. Reynolds explores the many ways that a single voice can make a difference.  Each of us, each and every day, have the chance to say something: with our actions, our words, and our voices.  Perfect for kid activists everywhere, this timely story reminds readers of the undeniable importance and power of their voice.  There are so many ways to tell the world who you are...what you are thinking...and what you believe.  And how you'll make it better.  The time is now to: SAY SOMETHING!

My Thoughts:  I really loved the message of this book, which encourages the reader to use their voice, to express themselves through creativity, be a friend, share ideas, show off their style, say how they feel, and speak up for others.  We all have something to offer, so keep saying something until others listen!

NECK & NECK by Elise Parsley

Everybody loves Leopold the giraffe.  He inspires awe and wonder.  His adoring fans gaze and cheer.  Best of all, they feed him losts of deeeelicious snacks!  But, one day, a shiny bobble-headed new rival comes in and ruins everything...a giraffe-shaped balloon!  Just how far will Leopold go to prove that he's the hero of the zoo?

My ThoughtsNeck & Neck is a thoroughly adorable book about an attention-hungry giraffe who loses his cool when a helium-filled doppelganger steals his spotlight at the local zoo.
Leopold is determined to steal it back and sets out to destroy the balloon. His antics don't win him the praise he expects and it isn't until the end that puts a young boys happiness above his own that he becomes truly admired.   The illustrations are colorful, emotive, and oh-so-amusing and there are several pages where the giraffe's mischievous expressions are so well-drawn that I burst out laughing while reading.  Leo is a hoot.

I hope you found something to love among my book fair finds! I highly recommend that you pick up a few (or all) of these books for your young readers!  

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