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First, thank you to Carrie at There’s A Book for That for starting this challenge and to Leigh Ann of A Day in the Life and Cheriee of Library Matters for co-hosting the revival. Check out others’ fall updates on Library Matters.

In January, I shared about the #MustReadin2021 challenge and my plans. In April and June, I updated you all and it is time for the Fall update!

I chose 42 novels for my #MustReadin2021 challenge, and thus far, as of April I had read 13 of them, in June I was up to 20, and now I am at 25! (16 left to go!) I have linked each title to the IMWAYR post where I shared my thoughts on the books.

I also finished my #BitAbout Books Summer 2021 Reading Challenge!

I also challenged myself to the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge: 30 Books in 3 Months! I separated my challenge, and I aimed to complete 30 prose books and 30 graphic books from June to Labor Day. And I didn’t exactly meet my challenge, but I did finish reading 60 books in 3 months!

I finished my prose YA & MG books challenge and have moved into my second 30.

I almost finished my graphic novel/manga challenge, but if I add in the prose YA & MG novels I’ve read in addition to the 30 above, it perfectly finishes it!

I’m having so much fun doing these challenges!! Check out my Goodreads 2021 Challenge or my Goodreads Read Bookshelf to learn more about any of these books as well 😊
What are you reading? 

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“Recommended Mangas”
by Sabrina Kayat and Lisa Wojciechowski, rising 9th Graders and Kellee’s students 2020-2021 & 2018-2020 respectively

Spy Family by Tatsuya Endo
Recommended manga series by Sabrina

Preview: Spy family is about a master spy that goes by the name Twilight. When it comes to the dangerous missions he is assigned to, he always gets the job done. Him being a master of disguise, he wants to make the world a better place. When he finishes up his current mission, he gets a particular job that requires him to find a spouse and a kid, he just might have hit a dead end. When he does procure both a wife and a child for his mission to infiltrate an elite private school, he has yet to know the child he adopted is a telepath and his wife is an assassin.

Review: Having read the first volume of this manga, I can honestly say that this is a must read. This manga has a lot of dramatic irony, and uses it to make a hilarious story. Each character in this story (the spy, the assassin, and the telepath), all complement each other very well. When one character might be lacking in an area, another steps up and aids them. This story also has a lot of family themes and action. Overall, I recommend this manga to older teens.

Demon Slayer by Koyoharu Gotouge
Recommended manga series by Sabrina

Preview: Demon Slayer is about Tanjiro Kamado, a boy who regularly goes to a local village to sell coal and make money for his family. One day, he heads out to the village, where his life takes a turn for the worse. At his home, a demon killed his whole family, in the process turning his little sister Nezuko into a demon. Tanjiro decided he would do whatever it takes to turn his sister back to a human, and get revenge on the demon.

Review: Though I have not read the whole series, I recommend this manga to teens. This series has a straightforward story, and the artstyle is amazing. The characters are excellent, each having an interesting story and are likeable in their own ways. In the beginning, I had a hard time getting into it, but eventually it really picks up. All in all, I recommend this series.

Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
Recommended manga series by Lisa

Preview: Naruto is about a kid named Naruto who is in the Ninja Academy and is really struggling. He wants to be the leader of his village called a Hokage but there may be more to his destiny than that.

Review: The Naruto manga has some really great moments and is a great addition to the fandom. You don’t need to watch the anime to read the books which is also good. The dialogue is very fun, and the designs are really good for the most part. There’s not one time where I asked myself what was going on in the book; everything is very clear and well described.

Thank you so much, Sabrina & Lisa, for the recommendations!! As my Unleashing Readers readers and students know, I have been trying to get some good manga reading in, so I appreciate knowing which to move to the top of my to be read list!

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Long Distance
Author: Whitney Gardner
Published June 29th 2021 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

GoodReads Summary: From the creator of Fake Blood comes another exceptionally charming middle grade graphic novel about friendships both near and far, far away.

Vega’s summer vacation is not going well.

When her parents decide it’s time to pack up and leave her hometown of Portland, Oregon, behind for boring Seattle, Washington, Vega is more than upset—she’s downright miserable. Forced to leave her one and only best friend, Halley, behind, Vega is convinced she’ll never make another friend again.

To help her settle into her new life in Seattle, her parents send Vega off to summer camp to make new friends. Except Vega is determined to get her old life back. But when her cellphone unexpectedly calls it quits and things at camp start getting stranger and stranger, Vega has no choice but to team up with her bunkmates to figure out what’s going on!

Ricki’s Review: I read this book with my 7-year-old (he is not the target audience), and we really enjoyed it. The book has a very drastic twist towards the end of the book that will shock readers. The illustrations are wonderful, and the characters are quirky and fun, and I am glad that I read the book. It teaches about the layers of friendship, and the different ways in which we judge (and don’t judge) humans. Long Distance will offer teachers and students rich opportunities to discuss and consider how we think about others, and how we engage and participate in friendships.

Kellee’s Review: What a fun new graphic novel to add to my library! This book is going to have no trouble finding readers because it has a great mix of realistic (moving, friendship), information (all the science), and sci fi (you’ll see!). Because of these three factors, it is going to have a wide range of readers. The diversity of characters will help with the reach also: Vega is a girl of color, she has two fathers who are both people of color, and the twins at camp are characters of color also. Additionally to the diverse representation of identities, the characters area all quite different personality-wise, so every reader is going to find someone that they are rooting for or connect with. 

You’ll see below in the “Flagged Passages” that the illustrations are super colorful and eye catching, but not so busy that you lose focus. This is a huge benefit, specifically in middle school, because students love a color-filled graphic novel. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As described above, the twist in this book drastically shifts the storyline. Teachers might ask students to rewrite the twist to shift the story’s ending in a different direction.

The book also has a great SEL opportunity to look at how to make friends, using George as a great example of how not to. 

The text could also be used for prediction as the reader is as ignorant about the facts of the camp as Vega is but there are clues to something odd going on. As you read, students can look at the clues and try to make guesses about what the truth about the camp is. 

Also, the book has many cross overs with science! If you look at the “Flagged Passages” below, you’ll see that Vega is gifted a star chart by her friend and the author uses the opportunity to talk about what a star chart is. This happens a handful of times within the book with topics including astronomy, geology, and electrical engineering. In addition to the sidebars with info, there is science strewn throughout the narrative! 

Finally, Simon & Schuster has created “Drawn to Reading: A S&S Guide to Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom” which might assist you in utilizing this book with students. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Vega learn about friendship?
  • Which camper was most interesting for you? What did you find interesting about them?
  • Many of the characters have different hobbies. What are your hobbies, and how do they compare with those of the characters in the book?
  • How did the author tie science into this science fiction graphic novel? 
  • How does Vega’s interest in stars and space help her discover the truth about the camp? 
  • If you had been in Vega’s position, would you have stayed with George? 
  • How did Halley figure out where Vega was? 
  • What scientific information that was shared in the book would you like to learn more about? 
  • Do you think we are alone in this universe? 

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence, HiLo series by Judd Winick, Katie the Catsitter by Colleen A.F. Venable, Real Friends series by Shannon Hale, Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, Drama by Raina Telgemeier, Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

Recommended For:
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**Thank you, Audrey, at Simon & Schuster, for providing copies for review!**

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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

This book is especially for the Katherine Applegate fans! I present to you . . . The Wishtree by Katherine Applegate! This book is also a Teachers’ Pick on Amazon!!! This book is recommended for ages 8-12.

Red is a wishtree. His friend, Bongo, the crow, is one of his residents as you might say because she lives in Red. Red is the town’s wishtree so he gets covered in paper scraps and cloth that is carefully tied onto his branches with wishes for the future. Some of his other inhabitants are a family of owls, a family of opossums and a family of racoons. At night time a girl from a family that just moved in goes outside and sits quietly and waits for Red’s inhabitants to scurry forward. Bongo likes the girl, her name is Samar. When it’s wishing day, Samar ties a wish on Red that reads “I wish for a friend”. Will the wishtree be able to make up a scheme to help Samar’s wish come true?

I love this book for its really cute illustrations. They are remarkable even though they are not colored. They look more like pencil drawings but great ones at that! When I read this book I feel my heart warm up. This is such an amazing book and Katherine Applegate did an awesome job writing this book! I just can not express how much I love this book! The author wrote this book from an unexpected point of view. Who would have thought to write a book coming from the perspective of a tree! The perspective is fun because we are simply not trees, we will never be trees. It is exciting to imagine how something like a tree would think. Of course, like almost all of the Katherine Applegate books, there is a bit of humour just to keep the mood happy! I hope that you love this book as much as I do!

If you loved this book then I highly recommend Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate! The Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is similar to Crenshaw because it is the same type of heartwarming story. The problem is not the same but Crenshaw will touch your heart like The Wishtree.

 

**Thanks so much, Sofia. This book holds a special place in our hearts, too.**

 

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Kyle’s Little Sister
Author & Illustrator: BonHyung Jeong
Published June 22nd, 2021 by JY

Summary: My name is Grace, not “Kyle’s little sister!”

Having a good-looking, friendly, outgoing older brother sucks—especially when you’re the total opposite, someone who likes staying home and playing video games. Your parents like him better (even if they deny it!), and everyone calls you “Kyle’s little sister” while looking disappointed that you’re not more like him. I was really hoping I’d get to go to a different middle school, but no such luck. At least I have my friends…until he finds a way to ruin that, too…! Argh! What do I have to do to get out of his shadow?!

About the Author: BonHyung Jeong (Bon) studied Cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and Kyle’s Little Sister is her debut graphic novel, made possible with the help of numerous people. She hopes to make connections with others through relatable stories. Currently living in Korea, she’s always busy playing console games – exactly like someone in the book!

Review: As an oldest child, I never knew what it was like to be compared to a sibling in the same way Kyle and Grace are compared, but I definitely empathize with Grace’s feelings of being compared to a more successful sibling! Although many reviews said Grace seemed like a brat, I didn’t see it like that. I saw it as someone who just truly wants her own identity and to be valued for what she is not what she isn’t (Kyle). This is tough in middle school in general much less when you feel overshadowed by someone else. It definitely made me think about how I react when I teach a sibling of a past student!

I found the crushes and friendship drama all very realistic to middle school, especially 6th grade as kids figure out who they are as adolescents. I also enjoyed that the book did not show middle school as this daunting thing you should fear–Grace was excited to start middle school! Too often just the starting of middle school is blamed for drama, but this book focused more on friends who may be a bit different figuring out how to remain friends despite the differences.

This is a graphic novel that will find love with fans of Raina Telgemeier, Svetlana Chmakova, and Terri Libenson, so it is definitely worth adding to your collection. However, I do want to share that there was one real part that I hope kids reflect on instead of do what Grace does: When she stops being friends with Amy, her new “friend” starts ohysiclly and mentally bullying her, and Grace does nothing. I think Jeong did a good job showing why she did nothing, but I also hope that watching this bullying will make readers want to stand up to a bully the next time they see one!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What should Grace have done when Cam started picking on Amy?
  • Why is Grace so resentful of her brother? Are there incidences in the book that make you empathize for her resentment? How does Grace feel like Kyle’s shadow at home? At school?
  • Why does Amy yell what she does when she fights with Grace?
  • Why is what Amy was doing to Jay inappropriate?
  • How is Cam’s relationship with Grace another type of bullying?
  • Why does Kyle stand up for Grace even though he says she’s annoying?
  • How is Grace’s mental health affected as she questions her identity?
  • How did the author use illustration and color to portray mood?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Middle school friend and family drama graphic novels

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity and JY of Yen Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

Imagine how excited I was when I figured out Nidhi Chanani, the author of Pashmina, came up with a new book! I was dying to get my hands on that book and thanks to the Macmillan publishing house, I have! (Thanks so much Macmillan!) Introducing Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani! This graphic novel is recommended for ages 10-14.

When Shaheen’s music loving father goes missing she starts to panic. She starts to feel really bad because of all of the bad things she did to her dad. At first her family just thinks he is out for a long time but when days pass they start to worry. Her babysitter takes her out to distract her and they get a snack. After a long time passes Shaheen gets worried and drags her babysitter to her dad’s music shop. They have to break into their dad’s shop because it is closed and get scared when they see Shaheen’s dad’s glasses on the floor. They go upstairs to explore. You have to read the book though to see what kind of secrets they uncover!

I love this book because of the colors. This is about the most colorful graphic novel I have seen in my life and that is SAYING SOMETHING.That is one of my favorite things about this book because when the scene is really sad you still can not help feeling happy because of the flourishing colors and your mind can not decide whether you should be happy or sad. This is definitely one of those books to lighten your mood. I also love this book because the author is making a graphic novel mystery, something that you come across very little. This is a truly unique book! I hope that you enjoy this book too!

**Thanks so much to Sofia for giving us an advanced review of this book! We were excited to see it came out this week!**

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Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too!
Author: Maggie P. Chang
Published: June 29, 2021 by Simon Spotlight

Summary: Meet spunky, funny, and friendly Geraldine Pu as she takes on a bully and makes a new friend in this first book in a new Level 3 Ready-to-Read Graphics series!

Geraldine Pu’s favorite part of school is lunch. She loves her lunch box, which she calls Biandang. She can’t wait to see what her grandmother, Amah, has packed inside it each day. Then one day, Geraldine gets stinky tofu…and an unexpected surprise. What will she do?

Ready-to-Read Graphics books give readers the perfect introduction to the graphic novel format with easy-to-follow panels, speech bubbles with accessible vocabulary, and sequential storytelling that is spot-on for beginning readers. There’s even a how-to guide for reading graphic novels at the beginning of each book.

Review: The highest form of praise: My 4-year-old son wanted to read this book again two nights in a row. We went camping on the third night, and he was allowed to pick one book to bring, and he picked this one. He really liked learning about all of the different foods, and he liked discussing bullying. The book is structured like a graphic novel, which is a really clever way to structure an early reader. All of the pictures really appealed to him, and he loved reading the progression of the story. The book is divided into chapters, but we read it from start to finish each night. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Reading this entire book in one sitting will be difficult for an early reader, so my son and I structured it that he read all of the left pages and I read all of the right pages. The next night, he wanted to switch. The third night, he read the entire thing by himself. Readers could also take it chapter by chapter (a chapter or two each night). This book offers great discussions about our practices that seem “different” than those of our peers and how these make us uniquely wonderful. It is also a great book to teach about bullying. I love how the lunch box is personified! It made the book even more fun to read! Those who know me know that I don’t like reading levels. In our house, we read books at all levels, and I just support as needed. That said, this book would be great in the early elementary school grades. Don’t limit it just there, though. My 4-year-old really enjoyed it!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Geraldine feel about the different foods she eats at lunch? How does this change?
  • How does Biandang feel? How does he act as a support?
  • What changes Geraldine’s mind at the end of the story?
  • How can you celebrate your own friends’ lunches, no matter how different they may seem?

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Love: Graphic novels, books about feeling different, books about family

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**Thank you, Cassie, from Simon and Schuster, for sending a copy for review!**

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