What We’re Reading Wednesday: September 2nd

Welcome back to What We’re Reading Wednesday!  More great book selections from the Review Team this week:


from Trisha (~okieOLIO~)

sitti's secretsNaomi Shihab Nye’s picture book Sitti’s Secrets holds a special place in my heart because I can intimately relate to Mona, the young American girl who travels to the “other side of the earth” to visit her grandmother, Sitti, in a small Middle Eastern village. The pages evoked fond thoughts of my own Sitti, who also calls me habibi (“darling or sweetheart”), and enjoys yogurt and flat bread for breakfast. But Nye’s story is one that has the capacity to speak to every child (and parent) despite their background.

Through Mona’s bright and simple portrayal of the vast differences between her life and her grandmother’s, the barriers of language, culture, and distance seem to shrink away. As she and the wise elderly woman share time, chores, meals, songs, and secrets, their strong bond and genuine communication are evident. It is a thoughtful affirmation of the power of love to transcend diversity, and also positive encouragement for hope and peace.

The poetic, lyrical text is fittingly illustrated by Nancy Carpenter’s exquisitely ethereal mixed-media paintings that fill the page with flowing images that feel like a giant hug that envelopes Mona, Sitti, and you. The pictures faithfully maintain the authentic connection between the girl and woman from two different worlds, even when they are separated by “fish and cities and buses and fields…”

The language level and engaging illustrations are well-suited for preschool ages, but all ages will delight in Mona’s wonder-filled encounters with the new sights, sounds, and tastes she is introduced to. Also, the story offers plenty of potential for learning opportunities about culture, geography, government, and family traditions for older children. While there are other books that depict lessons through multicultural grandparents, this one stands out to me for its layered appeal: a wonderfully emotive story, a profoundly meaningful message, and an accessible global perspective.

All this in a beautiful package! I whole-heartedly recommend this book for any young habibi in your life.

Early Elementary

from Emily (The Pilot’s Wife)

“..for this story, you only need to know three things: 1. They are a little bit rat.  2. They are a little bit mole.  3. They are all naked.”

Many of my very favorite children’s books are filled with humor for several reasons.  First, I love to laugh!  Making a new friend is all the better when they make me laugh, and finding a good book that tickles my funny bone is a delight.  I love funny books for kids, as well, because for many children reading can be difficult.  As a teacher, I love to show them a side of reading that can be fun!

moleratpicNaked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems is ranking high on my list right now for that very reason.  C’mon, you know any book with the word ‘naked’ in the title is going to elicit giggles from the under 10 crowd. (And probably the rest of us too, if we’re honest!)

I was first introduced to Mo Willems’ work with his book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and since it was a huge success with my kindergarten class, I couldn’t wait to read more.

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed is actually about, well, a naked mole rat getting dressed!  Willems uses witty text and hilarious illustrations to tell the tale of the odd Naked Mole Rat, Wilbur, who enjoys being stylishly clad, and wants to convince his reluctant friends to do like-wise.

My favorite aspect of this book, other than it making me burst out laughing in the library, is Willems attention to detail.  In one illustration is a sign hanging in the Naked Mole Rat colony that reads:

*No Shirt
*No Shoes
* Service

I love it!

Underneath all the sillies, this is a wonderful book about tolerance and the beauty of accepting each other’s differences.  But if you and your children don’t collapse into a fit of giggles while learning that lesson, I’ll be amazed!

Put this book in your Amazon cart, or on your library reserve list today.  And go ahead and toss in everything else you can find by Mo Willems while you’re at it.

Upper Elementary

from Katie (This Natural Life)

Many of us are probably familiar with the story of Anne of Green Gables – the winsome, fiery redheaded girl who speaks her mind as freely as she shares her heart. Lesser known than Anne but perhaps even more memorable, Emily Starr is the heroine of the three books which form the “Emily” trilogy, written by the same author as the “Anne” stories, L.M. Montgomery.

emilynewmoonWe first meet Emily in Emily of New Moon. She is eight years old, and very early in the story, she becomes an orphan when her dear father passes away unexpectedly. Her mother had died when she was four, and so she is sent to live with relatives – the conservative Murray family, who live on New Moon Farm. The story follows Emily as she grieves her father, finds solace in her writing, and settles into her new home. She discovers friendship in Ilse and Teddy. And she becomes acquainted with – and eventually grows to love – her new family.

In Emily Climbs, Emily leaves New Moon to attend high school on one condition: she may not write any fiction while she is there. Emily boards with her Aunt Ruth, who appears to be a cold and distant woman, and she must learn how to make her way in this new place. She finds that her writing improves as she draws upon her creativity in new ways. Her friendship with Teddy continues to deepen and grow, and even offers the possibility of love. At the end of the book, Emily turns down an offer to accompany a famous author to New York in favor of returning to New Moon.

emilysquestThe trio concludes with Emily’s Quest. Here we discover that Teddy and Emily’s love is emerging just as Teddy leaves home to study art. However, as circumstances shift and communication falters, Emily encounters many unexpected turns in the road, including an accident that threatens her life, an engagement, heartbreak, and her first published book. In the end, though, all is as it should be (which means you will have to read it to find out what happens!).

What can’t be summarized here are the unique qualities that make Emily who she is. She is intelligent, imaginative, and hopeful. She has a sensitive spirit with a touch of “second sight,” which allows her to see and feel more than she is often able to understand. She is quietly prideful, fiercely loyal, and always conducts herself with class. Where the “Anne” books are sometimes unrealistic and over-simplistic (though I do love them so!), the “Emily” books dig a little deeper, and do not flinch from dealing with ugly truths and broken people. However, the author handles it all in a way that is still accessible to and appropriate for young people. The “Emily” books would be a wonderful addition to any library. Once you get to know her, Emily is certain to win your devotion just as surely as Anne did.

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  1. I need to read the Emily books! I devoured all the Anne of Green Gables books, so I know I’ll love these. Thanks, Katie, for the detailed description–it caught my fancy.
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..to my dad, on his birthday =-.

  2. Trisha, we just got a copy of Sitti’s Secrets and I really love it!

    Meghan, I’m glad! I hope you love them. 🙂
    .-= Katie ~ This Natural Life´s last blog ..Life Adjustments =-.

  3. Emily great choice. We LOVE all things Mo Willems and “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed” is one of our FAVORITES! Can’t wait for “Pigs Make Me Sneeze”. Next month.

    The fun part of Mo Willems’ books are they are something we as parents can get a little laugh at as well. At bedtime when Kate is trying her best to stay up late we lighten the moment by referring to her as “Pigeon”. As in “Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late” another Mo Willems book.

    Trisha we look forward to checking out “Sitti’s Secrets”. We are always on the look out for new books to love. 😀
    .-= Julia Janzen´s last blog ..Sundays =-.

  4. Oh, I LOVED the “Emily” books when I was younger. (Can you imagine why they caught my attention??) I just may have to give those a re-read!
    .-= Emily @ The Pilot’s Wife´s last blog ..Weekend Recap =-.

  5. @Julia— Thanks! Isn’t he just a hoot? I’ve loved everything I’ve read by him. Looking forward to his new one as well.
    .-= Emily @ The Pilot’s Wife´s last blog ..Weekend Recap =-.

  6. How funny! Our neighbor just left a copy of Sitti’s Secrets on our backdoor step two days ago! We love it. We’re a Jewish family, and we are so glad to have a book for our children that features Palestinian children, and helps our children to develop cultural empathy and understanding. What a blessing!

  7. These all look like excellent picks.

    I have never heard of the Emily series, Katie! I loved Anne, though, so I am sure I would enjoy Emily as well.

    Emily – I can’t WAIT to find Naked Mole Rat. I think both of my girls would have fun with that one.

    Trisha – Sitti’s Secrets looks like a book that would speak to my heart. I am enchanted by the connection between generations. Thanks for sharing this book!
    .-= Megan´s last blog ..What We’re Reading Wednesday: September 2nd =-.

  8. I love Mo Willems but haven’t seen this one. Can’t wait to get it and read it with my kids!
    .-= wesleyjeanne´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday :: Simple Gifts =-.

  9. @katie – i’m thrilled to learn that Montgomery has another series. can’t wait to meet Emily. and i’m so glad you’ve enjoyed Sitti’s Secrets. @julia and @tamara, i’m sure it will become a favorite in your homes as well.

    @emily, if Naked Mole Rat is anything like Willems’ Elephant and Piggie, i know it will have a place on my shelf! thanks for the entertaining description.
    .-= trisha´s last blog ..kid lit =-.

  10. I am looking forward to falling to the floor in a fit of giggles. That alone makes me want to run out for the Mo Willems book!
    .-= turnitupmom´s last blog ..Permission to Nap =-.