Book Review– Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove

Book Review– Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove

I cannot claim to be any sort of an expert when it comes to Jazz music. I like the sound of it, can recognize some instruments, and can name a couple of legendary musicians, like Duke Ellington.  However, after reading Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove by Barry Wittenstein, I can add another musician to the list.

This picture book is a biography about Sonny Rollins, a jazz musician from New York City.  He came to prominence in the 1950s, in Harlem clubs, but then decided that the fame was too big and took a break from the scene. Even though he wasn’t playing in the clubs anymore, he was still playing…but standing on (not under, but ON) the Williamsburg Bridge! After two years of playing on the bridge, Sonny went back into the studio and recorded an album titled, The Bridge.

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I mean, look at this cover

There’s a lot to like about this book. As I’ve said before, I enjoy any book that I learn something new from and I definitely gained knowledge from this biography. I also liked the fact that Wittenstein has gone all in with the jazz theme. The text is written in a prose format that, if read correctly, has a jazzy feel to it. The parts of Rollins’ life have been divided into “sets”, just like we are at a jazz concert. And the illustrations…they are absolutely beautifully done by Keith Mallett and add so much to the ambiance of Rollins’ story and the setting.  Wittenstein also

This book is a great read, whether you are introducing your child to jazz, want to expose them to a small dose of history, or if you yourself are a jazz aficionado or a jazz novice like myself.

*I was given a copy of this book partly in exchange for a review. The release date for Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove is May 21, 2019.

Book Review– I’m Done! by Gretchen McLellan

Book Review– I’m Done! by Gretchen McLellan

Ever give your kids a task, and somehow, much sooner than you expected, you hear the words, “I’m Done!”? Like when I say “Clean up your room”, and even though the floor is littered with toys/clothes/etc, less than 5 minutes later I hear, “I’m Done!”, but a quick look in the closet or under the bed tells the true story of how “clean” it really is.

If you’ve ever had a similar experience with your own child, then this picture book by Gretchen McLellan is one you AND your kid will be able to identify with.

Little Beaver is supposed to be building a dam, but his other animal friends keep distracting him with plans to play, so he keeps telling Mama and Papa that he’s done. Time after time though, Mama and Papa have to redirect Little Beaver, reminding him that he’s not done yet. Eventually, everyone is happy and Mama and Papa got their dam (as they should have).

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Look at how pathetic his first efforts were…look familiar?

Besides the cute story line that I think many can identify with, another aspect of this book that I liked was all of the animal sounds throughout the book. Sounds like the beaver tail going “slap, slap, slap” make for a more entertaining story and are fun to read aloud.

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Naturally, when I read this with my kiddos, they had no idea why the book reminded me of them *eyeroll*, but they enjoyed it nonetheless, and I think your kids would too.

*I received a copy of this book from the author and Red Fox Literary in exchange for an honest review.*

Keep #RaisingReaders!

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town by A. LaFaye–a Book Review

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town by A. LaFaye–a Book Review

One of the many things I love about a good picture book is when I learn something new–whether its a person I hadn’t heard about or a time in history I knew little of, I love learning something new through the simplicity of a picture book. One of these more recent lovely occasions is through reading the book titled Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town by A. LaFaye.

This book is about a young girl named Dede who lives with her parents who are sharecroppers. They want to own their own land, but like many other African-Americans of that time, they are never able to get ahead. One day though, Dede notices a flyer that is looking for African-Americans to move to Kansas to develop and eventually own their own piece of land. Her family makes the decision to make that move, and during their first winter in Kansas, they meet the NiukaNska, or Children of the Middle Waters and develop a fellowship with them. In a few years’ time, the town of Nicodemus starts to develop, the family works hard and ends up owning their own place.

I love that this book takes place during the Reconstruction period, which is a time period I don’t feel is written about often. Additionally, although I myself live in the Midwest, I knew very little about Exodusters, who were African-Americans that migrated to the Midwest. Nicodemus, Kansas was an actual settlement that was created and inhabited by only African-Americans in the late 1800s–who knew? This book would be a great way to introduce kids to this period of time in our history. It’s straightforward, yet can still facilitate lots of discussion (especially through the details in the illustrations) about what was happening in our country during this time.

I would recommend this book for kids 3rd grade and up, in order for them to get a true understanding of what’s happening. Unless you’re from Nicodemus of course, then you and/or your child might have known all this history of course.

Keep #RaisingReaders!

 

Keeping Up With the Kiddos

Keeping Up With the Kiddos

In more recent years, children’s books have begun to discuss and reflect the issues of our times, including bullying, racism, and other issues. I think this is all great, it exposes young people to people and situations they haven’t yet encountered and/or provides them characters that they can actually connect to. However, it can also cause you to step up your parenting game to ensure that they are not learning any misunderstandings or that you’re available to answer any questions they may have.  This is especially true if your children are advanced readers.  Recently, I have had instances with both of my children that gave me reason to write this post.

My son loves graphic novels, and although it used to bug me at first, I have come around to the idea that as long as he’s in a book, we’re good. (Read about my trials here.) A while ago during a trip to the bookstore, he picked out Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Shell. I had heard of it, and heard good things about it, but hadn’t read it for myself. My son was enthralled with this book for a good 2 days, telling me about cool things he saw throughout the book. When I was finally able to get my own hands on it, I realized that it was about more than kids creating communities with cardboard boxes. In reality, although all the stories are connected, there are multiple story lines that include some heavy topics, including gender identity and divorce. My issue became that I didn’t know if my son, who generally pays more attention to the illustrations than the words, grasped those things.  So, knowing my child, I knew that we couldn’t rehash or reread the entire story again, however, we did have some conversation about a couple of the characters just to see if he had any questions about the story, which he did not. I don’t regret him reading the book at all, but I wish I would’ve been able to preview the book with him before he started reading it.

My daughter recently turned 10, and her reading preferences are starting to advance faster than her actual age. Recently, she checked out the audio version of The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore. This novel is about a 12 year old boy dealing with the aftermath of the death of his brother in a gang-related shooting. It’s been on my TBR list for a while, and although I would’ve preferred to read it first, I’m not in the habit of denying my kids books they want to read. I could tell that she really got it into the audiobook, because she would play it in the evenings, not just before bedtime. Honestly, I didn’t think she would stick with it, but she wanted to make sure she heard all of the story.  I kept the option open for her to talk about the book if she wanted, but she didn’t seem to need that.

I say all this to say that as you are #RaisingReaders, be sure to at least try to know what your child is reading, just in case their books are covering topics that may lead to other discussions.

 

I Have A Balloon by Ariel Bernstein—Book Review

I Have A Balloon by Ariel Bernstein—Book Review

Have you ever, even just for a moment, felt like deep down your children do actually love each other, but most of the time will do anything they can to irritate each other (and you)? Then you need to read this book, for yourself, and to them.

We came across this book at the library, quick shout-out to the librarians for putting it on display, it makes my quest for the perfect picture book so much easier. At any rate, I Have a Balloon by Ariel Bernstein was just right for a bedtime read for my kiddos.

We have two main characters, Owl and Monkey. Owl has a plain red balloon he isn’t super excited about. However, when he shows it to Monkey, all of a sudden, it becomes as he says, “The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now”, which of course means Owl suddenly loves it. Sound familiar or is it just my kids who don’t understand the concept of sharing with each other?

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Monkey starts to offer Owl different things to trade for the balloon, but naturally he doesn’t want any of these things. I mean, why would he, when he’s got this lovely balloon that he didn’t love 5 minutes earlier. *insert eye roll here*

I read this to each of my kids separately, and they both found the story funny.  I made sure I told them that Monkey and Owl reminded me of them, which they found amusing, but I was so serious. I love Monkey and Owl, and my children, and I do think they love each other, but would it kill them to share the balloon?

The best thing is, I discovered today that there’s a sequel to I Have a Balloon, titled Where is My Balloon?, and I can’t wait to read that one with my kiddos.