Ground Zero

Author: Alan Gratz

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: February 2/21

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for a digital eARC of this book.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for a digital eARC of this book. 

Alan Gratz’s latest book, Ground Zero will have fans familiar with his books and his writing lining up to read this one as he tackles a topic that is a tough one – in time for the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

As with previous books, Gratz uses two perspectives to give us a glimpse into two parts of the world – New York City, the day of 9/11 and present-day Afghanistan. Nine-year-old Brandon is with his father in the North Tower due to his suspension. It is just him and his dad, with no one else able to look after him, Brandon has to go to work with his dad. Flash forward to the present-day, and we meet 11-year old Reshmina in war-torn Afghanistan. Reshmina puts her entire village at risk when she rescues a badly injured American soldier nicknamed Taz. 

For some readers, this may be the first time they read a book about 9/11, and the story of Brandon is detailed and gut-wrenching. Readers get a feel of what happened and what individuals there that day went through. If unfamiliar with the details, I suspect many will want to know more about the events of that tragic day, leading to richer discussions.

Reshmina’s story is just as important. Alan Gratz’s research allows readers to experience Reshmina’s life and what life is like in war-torn Afghanistan. Reshmina has only lived in a country that has been ravaged by war, whether it be different countries invading her homeland or its civil war. Ground Zero shares the point of view that the people of a particular country may not see another county’s involvement as positive. It may be more harmful, placing the lives of the Afghanistan villagers in danger. The tumultuous relationship with her brother and the Taliban demonstrates how families are torn apart and will allow for discussions about global and internal relationships.

Those familiar with Refugee may go ahhhhh, he did it again tying these two stories together told years apart, and I must admit it is a great way to sync them and provide hope. I would be remiss if I did not mention that despite the research that Gratz did for this novel – he did not reach out to an #ownvoices author. Having an author from Afghanistan co-write or even consult today is something that editors and publishers need to be on the look-out, and then suggest/guide authors to ensure that all voices are heard and represented.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Allies, Refugee, Grenade,and Ban this Book

RECOMMENDED: Gr. 5+

#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) Jan. 25/21

This week I got lost in an adult audiobook that has occupied most of my reading time. I am listening and enjoying Robert Galbraith’s latest Coroman Strike book, Troubled Blood.  I received this from the library early this week, and with it being just under 32 hours, it has been the book dominating my time. And oh my, Robert Glenister does a fabulous job with the many accents and characters narrating. I will look at listening to more books performed by him. When I finish Troubled Blood, I will look at the library due dates and adjust my next audiobooks accordingly. Some may lapse, and all that means is I will enjoy them later.

I did manage to read one of the Winter Challenge Books, one of the two books I have slated for the two books by one author. The plan is to read one more from the challenge before the end of the month to make a total of four. So what did I read from my Winter Challenge list? 

Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca. A beautiful verse book that deals with culture, identity, family relationships, cancer and death. I loved every moment reading this book. Rehe is an only child who feels torn between her two worlds, her American school life and her Indian home life, but when her Amma becomes sick, everything in her world changes. Released next week, pre-order this is one for your classroom and libraries – readers in grade 5+ will love this one.

This week’s picture book highlights continue to include my nonfiction holds from my public library as I continue to play catch up with 2020 titles. Oh, how I miss purchasing books and simply browsing at my local indie bookstore. Here were four favourites from this past week.

The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer introduces readers of all ages (including adults) to poignant Black events, people, places and publications. The end matter includes additional details for the words used for specific letters. Loads to learn, unpack and discuss with gorgeous illustrations that include two-page spreads that also add to the learning by sharing specifics, so be sure not to miss them.

Cubs in the Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo’s First Woman Zookeeper by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Julie Downing, is a beautiful story sharing the life of Helen Martini. As a young married couple, Helen and her husband Fred yearned to have a baby of their own. When this did not happen, her husband brought home a lion cub until the zoo took it away. Soon tigers arrived and 

Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay by Alexandra Stewart, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, is a powerful story of how Everest was conquered not just by Sir Edmund Hilary but also Tenzing Norgay. Enthralled with the unique approach to this story, I will write a separate post on this book. 

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery by Meeg Pincu, illustrated by Yas Imamura, tells the story of many curious individuals from all over the North American continent who solved the mystery of monarch migrations. Nothing says teamwork like this book, and the best part is that you can become part of the team. Another book where I liked the way the story unfolded interspersed with facts about the monarch butterfly.

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? changed from becoming a meme for adults but also to including children’s lit. This idea came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too, and hence a version for #kidlit began! So join in on the fun every Monday by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading, and show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Happy reading!

Laurie

Seven Voyages: How China’s Treasure Fleet Conquered the Sea

Authors: Laurence Bergreen and Sara Fray

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

Release Date: Jan. 19/21

Length: 176 pages

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to the debut author Sara Fray, the publisher and Edelweiss + for an eARC copy.

I have never described myself as a nonfiction reader, but lately, I am discovering that I enjoy reading about various explorations. I did not know anything about China’s explorations, but I was about to learn a lot and be fascinated.

Seven Voyages: How China’s Treasure Fleet Conquered the Sea provides readers with some background information about the Yongle Emperor, Admiral Zheng He in charge of the fleet , the construction of the boats and the seven voyages taken with these ships. 

The first few chapters introduce Zheng He and the Yongle Emperor and the relationship between the two men. Zheng He, born Ma He was the son of a Muslim family. When Yunnan city was captured, Ma He, now a prisoner, was castrated and became a eunuch (a common practice of the time). Ma He served in Zhu Di, the Prince of Yan’s, household and later became the Yongle Emperor. Ma He became a trusted advisor and soldier to the Prince, and when he usurped his nephew, (the Emperor at that time), Zhu Di, Prince of Yan, became the Yongle Emperor. The new Emperor promoted Ma He to be the Grand Eunuch (the highest possible rank) and gave him his new name, Zheng He. 

Learning where the two men came from and how their paths crossed allowed me to see the connections and how they both respected one another despite the class differences. The Yongle Emperor provided Zheng He with some extraordinary opportunities to represent the Emperor and China. In return, Zheng He wanted to represent the Emperor in the best light and not let him down. Throughout the book, it talked about how Zheng He tried to use diplomatic measures rather than force when dealing with other countries or dignitaries.

Knowing nothing about this fleet and little about this time in history, I became enthralled with the building of the Treasure ships themselves. The sheer size of these boats and what they had aboard was simply mind-blowing. The Treasure ships were 450 feet in length, ships that housed horses carry supplies, and transport troops ranged from 165 -339 feet. The illustration that compared the Treasure ship and Columbus ship demonstrated how Columbus’s ships simply dwarfed in size. For years, Emperor Yongle would build over 1 600 of these types of vessels. Each of the seven voyages varied in the number of ships and the size of the personnel. The first voyage had 317 ships and 28 000 crew members. Compare that to Christopher Columbus with three ships and 90 crew or Ferdinand Magellan who had 5 ships and a crew of 257.

The number and size of the ships for the voyages were astonishing, but onboard, those ships are what displayed innovative thinking. The vessels would have not one but two hulls and house water tanks that would hold enough fresh water for the entire crew for thirty days. It had floating gardens to grow food and tanks to keep caught sea life fresh. They used pulleys, adjustable rudders and early forms of the compass, all evidence of Chinese ingenuity.

The Yongle Emperor wanted to dominate not only the seas but establish ports and routes for trading power. Each of the Seven Voyages had a specific purpose and goal and laid a foundation for the subsequent voyages. The voyages also served to transport royalty and dignitaries bearing gifts to and from China. During this time, it was evident that the Chinese dominated when it came to the sea.

I appreciated the maps and illustrations showing the cross-sections of the boats. Despite having those text features, I still had oceanic maps open on my phone to learn more about the routes. I admire the scaffolding of the voyages and the patience and strategy it took to build safe ports and routes. I think readers interested in exploration will find these voyages fascinating. Many (like myself) unfamiliar with this time of exploration will learn a great deal. 

Beneficial for readers interested in learning about Chinese exploration of the seas in the early 1400s, there is a great deal to discuss. The implications of ceasing the explorations and how history may have looked very different if the Chinese had continued to use the fleet. This book would be best suited for upper middle-grade readers due to some content explained in a fair amount of detail (concubines and subsequent violence). 

Other Books By Laurence Bergreen: Columbus: The Four Voyages, Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu and Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

Amari and the Night Brothers

Author: B.B. Alston

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: Jan. 19/21

Length: 431 pages Audio: 11 hours & 12 min.

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Amari is a thirteen-year-old living with her mom in a less than desirable neighbourhood. Amari, like her older brother Quinton, attended school on a scholarship, but then Quinton disappears. Quinton was the perfect older brother and called his little sister Amazing Amari, always building her up and instilling confidence in her. After he goes missing, many suspect that perhaps Quinton was not in a summer leadership camp and tutoring kids but got himself mixed up in something that got him trouble and resulted in his disappearance. Amari refuses to believe this, and when a dream allows her to talk to her brother, she discovers that if he went missing, he left her something that will explain everything – a briefcase with a nomination and an address.


Once she makes her way to the address, Amari discovers that she has a one time chance to earn a spot in the Secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, just like her brother. Amari is now determined to find out what happened to her brother and accepts the opportunity to attend the summer camp. There she will compete as a trainee to become a Junior Agent like Quinton, to find him.


Once inside, Amari realizes that just like the world she lived in, dealing with racism and prejudice, this new world presents similar problems. Thrust into a world Amari knows little about compared to her fellow competitors who grew up in the Supernatural world, Amari must quickly adapt and adjust. Upon entering as a trainee, she becomes aware that everyone has a unique ability that gets publically announced, and her talent is illegal – providing even more antagonism.


When the evil magician Moreau threatens the Supernatural World, Amari realizes the connection between Moreau and Quinton. Her brother Quinton was looking for Moreau and knows finding Moreau is the key to finding her brother despite the majority of the Bureau being against her.

There is so much to love about this book. A Black fantasy protagonist for middle grade, giving so many readers a mirror to see themselves! Amari becomes a strong female protagonist by making mistakes but finding the courage to do what she knows to be right. Then there are the friendships that develop between fellow underdog and roommate, Elsie, a weredragon, who is the last of her kind and Dylan, the son of the Director of the Bureau and twin of Amari’s nemesis Lara. The relationships are complicated and believable. The many different career options and departments within the Bureau are imaginative with descriptions that provide readers with a clear picture. The plot twists that kept me reading well into the wee hours of the morning will engage readers of all ages.

Men in Black meets Harry Potter is what first came to mind when I began reading Amari and the Night Brothers. The intricate beings and worlds that exist right in front of our eyes and the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and its special departments secretly protecting us and those beings – Men In Black. The strong characters, the quests, the friendships that evolve – Harry Potter. Amari and the Night Brothers take the best qualities of the two to provide readers with an exciting new series.

B.B. Ashton has delivered a debut that has put him on the map for the imaginative, well-developed, fast-pacing, cannot-put-down plot with characters that you are rooting for and secretly wanting justice for those who are not deserving. If you haven’t preordered this debut (out next week) due yourself a favour and gift yourself this gem – I cannot wait for the adventure to continue!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Gr5+

The Sea in Winter

Author: Christine Day

Publisher: Heartdrum

Release: January 5/21

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

I requested this eARC because I enjoyed the author’s first book, I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE, and the cover on this book totally sucked me in. I’m so glad I did, because this is a book I’ll be recommending for several reasons. It’s also from a new publisher, Heartdrum, that’s focus is Native creators and their stories. I’m excited to read other releases from them, including an anthology entitled ANCESTOR APPROVED which comes out in Feb, 2021.

All Maisie wants to do is recover from her ACL injury, and get back to dancing. She has dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer, and auditions are already taking place for summer intensives. But although she’s making strides, the injury is taking time to heal, and she’s frustrated, feeling alienated from the world that she feels is like a second home. Her mom and step-dad want to help her, but she has so many feelings inside that she starts directing them at the people she loves. A family hiking trip leads to emotions coming to a boil, just when Maisie is going to need her family the most.

I loved this story, partly because Maisie’s passion was so palpable, but also because the frustration, impatience, and longing to return to something she loved is so relatable. Many young athletes will face a setback at some point in their lives, and learning how to deal with the realities of it and looking outside the narrow path one has chosen is a valuable learning experience. I also really loved her relationship with her family, and how supportive her mom and step-dad try to be. There is a lot of love in this family, clearly visible even through the hurt and anger. I also really enjoyed Maisie connecting to her family heritage. Her mom is Makah, her father was Piscataway, and her step-dad, Jack, is from the Elwha Klallam Tribe. Jack knows a great deal about the Pacific Northwest history, and through his stories, and the stories of her mom during their hiking trip to her area where she grew up, there is a lot of valuable Native history taught through this story.

I will definitely be adding this book to my collection in the new year, and look forward to reading more from this author.

Recommended: Gr. 5-8

Take Back The Block

Author: Chrystal D. Giles

Publisher: Random House

Release Date: January 26/20

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the author and publisher for an eARC of this book.

Here’s an example of a great debut middle grade novel; it’s an excellent length at 240 pages, has short chapters, and tells a story that focuses on community and taking action to protect things that matter. It sheds light on the important issue of Black neighborhoods that are being sold and transformed into middle or upper class areas, and the history that is lost in the process.

Wes has grown up in Kensington Oaks, in the same house his mom grew up in, and that his grandfather spent ten years saving to purchase. He knows his neighbors, his friends all live here, and he’s got lots of wonderful memories from his neighborhood. But things start to change when a development group offers to buy the homes in the area to make way for new ventures. Not only does it divide the residents as people wonder what to do, but it also starts to break up Wes’s group of friends. Wes tries to bring everyone together in an effort to Take Back The Block and save it from being demolished, but even with hard work there are some changes that just can’t be prevented. Wes and his friendships are transformed, as is Kensington Oaks, in ways that no one could have predicted.

There are a lot of elements of this story that I really liked. I loved the sense of community that existed in Kensington Oaks, even when people where fighting over whether to stay or leave. Seeing a close-knit Black community in a positive light, with little crime and families who cared about their neighbors, broke many stereotypes that we often find in books (I loved that the Black police officers used to coach the baseball teams). I also loved that the history of the neighborhood was tied to the only Black lumber mill owner, and that his legacy is remembered as the story unfolds. The characters come from very different family situations and backgrounds, so we get a chance to see a wide-range of experiences, while the group of friends maintain their connections. The involvement of Wes and his family in protests for different causes, Wes’s social studies project on a modern issue in today’s society, and his involvement with Save Our City and other aid organizations is inspiring for young readers who desperately want to find ways to bring about change.

I was reminded many times of TIGHT by Torrey Maldonado and his books that focus on young middle graders, while at the same time I thought of SO DONE by Paula Chase and her characters that dealt with Black friendships and the bonds of the neighborhood. I would definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading more from the author.

Recommended: Gr. 4-7

Nourishing and Noteworthy

November


In my first Noteworthy and Nourishing post, I talked about Melissa Stewart’s five nonfiction classifications. I continue to learn and grow as a nonfiction reader and added an asterisk non-category of what Melissa Stewart called Informational Fiction (you can read more here). It is a reminder for me to differentiate between Ms. Stewart’s 5 Kinds of Nonfiction and Informational Fiction, which is not nonfiction. We need to be clear, letting readers know that there are parts of these books that are fictional and therefore are NOT nonfiction.

Below are the five genre types that Ms. Stewart created with a brief description so you can ponder my category choices of the books shared. 

  • Traditional: what we typically think of nonfiction: writing/prose that explains, describes and informs the reader – mainly text with illustrations or photos alongside. (Think: True Book series and author Seymour Simon books)
  • Browseable Nonfiction: writing that has short amounts of text in a block- like layouts with illustrations. (Think: Guinness World Record Books)
  • Narrative Nonfiction: tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution). (Think: Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla)
  • Expository Literature: well researched, engaging design, art and layouts with rich language and a particular text structure (Think: Jess Keating’s World of Weird Animal series, Pink is for Blobfish, Cute as an Axolotl)
  • Active Nonfiction: the result of the maker movement writing that teaches skills and has readers engage in an activity or activities. (Think: Cookbooks and How to Books)
  • *Informational Fiction: Books that provide nonfiction information using fiction to present that information. Methods may include invented dialogue and/or imagined scenes or use made-up characters, animals or inanimate objects as narrators (pseudo-narrator). 

Based on the true story of Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor Sachiko, we learn the history of her grandmother’s bowl and how it came to be a symbol of peace. A moving recount of the after-effects of the Nagasaki bombing and how the survival of Sachiko’s grandmother’s bowl offered hope and connections to family members lost.  A Bowl Full of Peace is another much-needed addition of books to share in November for Remembrance Day.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Health

Nonfiction CategoryNarrative Literature – tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution).

Hall-of-Famer Elgin Baylor changes the game of basketball not only on the court with his athletic prowess but off the court by standing up for equality. I am not a big basketball fan but appreciated learning more about Elgin Baylor’s journey and the social justice story off the court. The illustrations by Frank Morrison are riveting and capture the grace and athletic ability of Baylor. This book received the Orbis Picture Book Award for 2020.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Physical Education

Nonfiction CategoryNarrative Literature – tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution).

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team
by Christina Soontornvat

A meticulously researched book detailing the people and the events that led to the successful rescue of the Thai Boy’s Soccer Team. What stands out for me as a reader was the focus on the many Thai individuals that made the success possible. The way Ms. Soontornvat weaved background information allows readers to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the rescue.  For more detail please read my earlier post on this phenomenal book

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Life Sciences, Social Studies, Health

Nonfiction CategoryExpository Literature – well researched, engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions.

I love April Pulley Sayre’s photographing skills and marvel at the photos she captures. In her latest book, she answers the question, what is it like to be a frog, with an insight of someone who spends time with them, as noted in the back matter. Rich in vocabulary yet sparse in length, Being Frog allows the reader to see life as a frog. A beautiful book that brought back happy childhood memories of catching and releasing leopard frogs and will spark new readers to see frogs in a new way. 

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Life Sciences, and Social Studies, Arts Education

Nonfiction CategoryExpository Literature –  engaging layout with unique and stunning photos along with rich vocabulary with poetic phrasing

What a unique hands-on way to engage readers to learn about an insect people know by name but know little or very little about them beyond the differences between a butterfly and a moth. Readers learn facts about moths, lifecycle and characteristics along with step by step instructions about how to attract moths for a closer inspection.  You’re Invited to a Moth Ball, would be a great story and evening activity as a family or as a kid get together.  

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts and Life Sciences

Nonfiction CategoryActive NonFiction & Expository Literature– provides the steps to take to study moths at night while including information about moths, with an engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions.

#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading) November 23/20

Not a very productive reading week, Kaizer was on his second week living with the cone and also had a lot of appointments with my mom, so that took away reading time. I did manage to get my Willow nominee books read and listen to the second book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series. I am enjoying revisiting the series in a different format.

Last Week

Genius Jolene by Sara Cassidy, illustrations by Charlene Chua: One of the appealing factors of this book is that the setting of the story is inside a truck. Jolene’s dad is a truck driver, and Jolene is spending time with him on the road. The story shares their adventures and that every year on their trips, they decide to rate different foods, this year being onion rings. Jolene’s parents have divorced because her dad came out as gay, and the parents have an amicable relationship. The focus is not necessarily on Jolene’s father’s relationship, but they do encounter an individual who states that it is horrible and a sin. 

Burning Bridge by John Flannagan, narrated by John Keating: Book 2 in the Ranger Apprentice series, has Will, Horace and Gilan on a special mission for the Ranger Corps, travelling to Celtica, a neighbouring town to Araluen. They discover that all the villagers have vanished, and Gilan suspects Morgrath has devised a faster way to go through the mountain pass. Gilan rides off to warn King Duncan and his army, leaving Will and Horace to follow the Wargals. Along the way, they encounter a young girl Evanlyn, who claims to be a maid to a lady of the Araluen court but is the Princess herself. As they continue to follow the Wargals, they discover that Morgrath has built a bridge that the three must destroy with a cliffhanger ending. An enjoyable series, anew listening to them.

Up Next

Skyhunter by Marie Lu narrated by Natalie Naudus: I have had some trouble focusing on this one, so may come back to it another time.

Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini by Betsy Uhrig: I am continuing to enjoy this book but having trouble finding time to sit down and read. My focus has been tough – not the book, but for me. Hoping this week will allow me some time to enjoy. Reluctant reader Alex has been asked to help his aunt review a book she has written. It is incredibly dull, so Alex and his friends are providing suggestions with the help of a ghostwriter. Funny and a mystery to solve – a welcome combo.

Picture Books and Nonfiction Books: Scouring the piles to decide what to highlight for this week’s Favourite Finds for Everyone and Nourishing and Noteworthy posts. There were a lot of great books read this week and, I am grateful to the digital titles also available from my public library.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama and narrated by the author. Delving into an adult book that arrived from my local library. I enjoyed Michelle Obama’s Becoming so much I thought I would listen to his memoir as well.

Down the Road

Royal Rangers #4 The Missing Prince by John Flanagan: well, I have moved up in the queue for this book but still waiting.  I think that I will probably get others books before this one, so we will see.

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? has changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too, and hence a version for #kidlit began! So every Monday, join in on the fun by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading and to show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Happy reading!

Laurie

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

Author: Christina Soontornvat

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: October 13/20

Page Length: 288 pages

Reviewer: Laurie

As the world followed the news and the planning involved with the rescue of the 13 members of the Thailand Wild Boar Jr. soccer team, I also breathed a sigh of relief. I was thrilled when I heard that Christina Soontornvat would tell the story of the rescue in the form of a book that would be published later. I was not familiar with Ms. Soontornvat’s work at the time when I heard the announcement that she would share the story, but I felt reassured knowing it would have an #ownvoices author. 

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team is a detailed account of what happened from the time the team entered the cave to the celebration and their recovery once rescued. It is worth reading not only the author’s note but the acknowledgements as well, to appreciate the time, energy and dedication to write this book, highlighting the efforts of everyone that assisted but also placing the spotlight on the people of Thailand.

For those unfamiliar with the events that unfolded, on June 23, the Wild Boar Jr. soccer team decided to explore the most famous cave Tham Kuang Nang Non- the cave of The Sleeping Lady after their soccer practice. Twelve boys ranging in age from 11- 16, with assistant coach Ekkapol Chantawong biked to the cavern and entered, planning to leave by five to be on time to celebrate a teammate’s birthday at his home. It wasn’t until July 10 when the last of the 13 left the cave along with the remaining divers.

Although this book is about the boys, their coach and the rescue, Ms. Sootornvat intertwines factual information seamlessly as the story begins, progresses and concludes that allows the reader to have a deeper understanding of the complexity of the rescue and Thailand itself. For example, to understand how the water flooded the cave so quickly, readers learn about the weather, in particular details about what happens during the monsoon season. Then there is the composition of the mountain and the cave itself. Sensory details, diagrams and photos give the reader a clear picture of what it would be like to be in Tham Kuang Nang Non and what is happening when it begins to flood.

Ms. Soontornvat carefully crafts this factual information building our background knowledge allowing the reader to understand the “why” behind what is happening without overwhelming the reader. The text features, such as the maps and charts, act as handy references enabling the reader to review or clarify the impact of what is happening at specific stages of the rescue.

The collaboration and ingenuity displayed by the many Thailand volunteers were there from start to finish. From ensuring there was food for the family and rescue team, getting kids to make sure the masks would fit the team members, to using whatever materials available to divert the water away from the cave all contributed to a successful rescue and just a few examples.

One truly can feel the passion that Ms. Soontornvat felt when she wrote this book and the pride she has for the people of Thailand and the country itself. She has taken the time to let readers not only experience the rescue but to get to know the people, the land and the culture of Thailand. Readers know that although the rescue was through the aid of many countries, the people of Thailand played a vital role. 

I learned so many things, all the intricate details that made the extraction so challenging, and know when I read it again and I will learn something new. I think this was a labour of love for Ms. Soontornvat and provided readers a model for meticulous research and an incredible gift of the power of story.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: A Wish in the Dark, Snow Place Like Home (Diary of an Ice Princess #1)  and The Blunders: A Counting Catastrophe! 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Gr. 4+

#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) Nov. 16/20

Another busy week of shovelling as we received more snow and my poor dog got “fixed” as they say, so lots of time devoted to him as adjusted to life with the dreaded cone and therefore not a lot of reading accomplished. Despite that, oh how the books were EXCEPTIONAL!

Last Week

  • Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow #3 by Jessica Townsend, narrated by Gemma Whelan. Ms. Townsend has down it again. Although darker and hitting a little too close to home with a mysterious disease attacking the Wunimals, this series is phenomenal and can stand right alongside Harry Potter. In the third installment, Morrigan Crow, the only Wundersmith in Wunsoc is learning the Wretched Arts. As Morrigan learns more about her abilities and the past Wundersmiths, readers see more of the political side of Nevermoor and how many people have something to gain by using Morrigan. I hope we do not have long to wait for the next book in the series.
  • Dear Justyce by Nic Stone, narrated by Dion Graham: Dear Martin was so incredibly strong, but Nic Stone has raised her game to another level with this book. Written in a similar format to Dear Justyce, we meet Quan, incarcerated for the murder of a police officer. Pleading not guilty, Quan writes to Justyce (the protagonist of Dear Martin)  and details just how systemic racism has landed him where he is in this cell. This was gut-wrenching to read because it is sadly too accurate. Quan will stay with me for a long time. This is a must-read.
  • All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat: I am so so glad that this book #ownvoice author Christina Soontornvat shared this story and provided the details from the Thai perspective. Learning about the Thai Navy SEALS and the work that Thanet and Colonel Singhanat did to divert the water out of the cave and seeing the photos of what they accomplished was incredible. Soontornvat expertly intertwines the expository information as it comes up in the exploration of the cave by the boys or the rescue. Well researched and a personal author note make this a favourite nonfiction read for me this year.

Up Next

  • Skyhunter by Marie Lu narrated by Natalie Naudus: I have enjoyed other books by Ms. Lu, so I was happy that the audiobook came in from the library. Looks to be another dystopian type book – a genre I haven’t read for a while.
  • Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini by Betsy Uhrig: I started this one based on a conversation during the #MGBookChat by @aslan_magic, who was reading it and finding it funny. I wanted something light, and yes, it is quite humorous. Reluctant reader Alex has been asked to help his aunt review a book she has written. It is incredibly dull, so Alex and his friends are providing suggestions with the help of a ghostwriter. Funny and a mystery to solve – a welcome combo.
  • Genius Jolene by Sara Cassidy, illustrations by Charlene Chua: This is a Shining Book nominee, and I am looking forward to reading this one as there are not many chapter books that include LGBTQ+ characters.

Down the Road

Royal Rangers #4 The Missing Prince by John Flanagan: well, I have moved up in the queue for this book but still waiting. 

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? has changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s’ lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too and hence a version for #kidlit began! So every Monday, join in on the fun by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading and to show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Happy reading!

Laurie