A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Recommended for ages 10 and up this is a classic retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Instead of staying in their own story Hansel and Gretel go on a storied adventure though other classic fairytales. Great for kids/parents who love to see a twist on their favorite fairytales. The author also has a sequel that focuses on Jack and Jill called In a Glass Grimmly. 

No Ordinary Sound: Melody

This past year (2016) American Girl released their newest doll, Melody, an African-American girl living during the 1960s. Her dreams of becoming a famous singer runs along the racial tensions and protests happening around her. A very timely novel for our country. The end of the book also gives more information about the time period, specifically about Detroit, MI where Melody lives. 

As a child I had the Addy series and doll. It was interesting to read about slavery through a young girls perspective who was the same age as me. I am glad to see an addition to the American Girl collection that features another person of color during an important part of American history. 

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper

Ku Klux Klan, blacks attempting to vote in the South,and racial tensions, all things that make a teacher/parent hesitate in reading this book. Stella by Starlight is that but so much more, a girl who struggles in school, familial love, and perseverance are also present.

One night Stella and her little brother see a KKK meeting and her community rallies together to fight racism as best they can. This includes her father registering to vote, Stella writing about the racism she is facing and white and black neighbors coming together in solidarity. Recommended for ages 8-12. I read it to my 6 year old and we had an age appropriate conversation. Read Brightly has a great pdf to help navigate the conversations needed when reading this novel. 

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia is a very practical girl, she uses the scientific method to explain away anything that sounds implausible. She is also a girl who has recently lost her mother and is trying to navigate her grief along with her changed sister and father. The classic Snow Queen story is the backdrop of this one, Ophelia and the boy without a name must stop the evil Snow Queen in time. This novel deals with grief, bravery and friendship told in a way that is great for beginning and comfortable chapter readers. The Brightly website has great resources to tie in with this book, including author Q & A, crafts and discussion topics! 

Brown Girl Dreaming

A winner of numerous awards, this book is absolutely beautiful. Told in verse form it follows Jackie through her formative years and her travels between the North and South during the 1960s and 70's. During her childhood she lived in both places, the segregated Southern town of Greenville, South Carolina and New York City. As she matures the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Revolution shapes young Jackie. A great read to give a personal narrative for important American events.    

Penguin Random House has a great resource guide for teachers for all of Woodson's children's book. 

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Manic Magee crosses two heady themes, homelessness and racism. Manic Magee is an orphaned boy who is extremely fast and seems to be oblivious to the racism plaguing his new town. The story takes place in a fictional town in Pennsylvania where the East and West End is divided by Hector Street and race. A great middle grade book for all! It is interesting (typical school aged antics) while making age appropriate themes on topics sometimes hard to make digestible for children.

The Illustrated Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

The Harry Potter series is a classic for so many reasons; fantastical settings, relatable characters, and hard truths digestible for kids. The illustrated Harry Potter Book 1 is beautiful and is great for established chapter readers and reluctant readers. I find illustrated texts a happy medium for all reading levels and types. 

Weekend Review: Chasing Vermeer

Art, history and mystery all wrapped into one! Chasing Vermeer, as you could have guessed, involves a Vermeer painting, mysterious letters and puzzles. Recommended for grades 5th and up, but it can be read by older students too! 

Weekend Book Review: Greek Mythology

Olympians: Ares by George O'Connor

This is a series of graphic novels that focuses on Gods and Goddess, so if your kid is even slightly interested in Greek mythology they will love this series. What I love about the series are the strong female characters and the larger questions that it raises that can be applied to future discussions/lessons. 

Ares centers on the famous Trojan War but specifically from the Gods and Goddess's perspective. It deals with sibling rivalry, parent-child relationships and the damage that can ensue when someone's only goal is revenge. Ares is the God of War and the story begins with the difference between him and his sister Athena, whose specialty is strategy of war while Ares's is pure destruction. This dynamic is a basis for a lot of sibling rivalry between the two. Great for reluctant readers, I always recommend graphic novels/comic books for reluctant readers and not so strong readers, it is a great medium to ease them into reading. 

The first few pages are set in the middle of a battle, that being said there is violence. 

Weekend Review: Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan is the heroine of this coming of age comic book. Kamala is a Pakistani American who loves comics but can't seem to create the balance between her Muslim faith/upbringing with her American/secular neighborhood. All of this is compiled with the normal struggles a teen girl faces. I love this comic book because it hits intersectionality, a study of different forms of oppression/discrimination, specifically gender and religion. This can be a great stimulant for a discussion on assumptions made regarding what a girl, religion, or heroism look like and the dismantling of these assumptions.