Monthly Archives: January 2017

Keep on Steppin’

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

“I ain’t never heard of no sickness that makes you kill little girls just because you don’t want them in your school. I don’t think they’re sick at all, I think they just let hate eat them up and turn them into monsters.”

 I’ve been staring at The Watson’s Go to Birmingham-1963 on my bookshelf for a good long while now. I was told that it was good. That is was funny. But due to the title, I assumed it would be heavy. I can be destroyed by these middle grade novels. Nothing pulls at the heart strings like the voice of a child trying to make sense of an adult world.

I was right, but I was also wrong. This was heavy. But it was also very funny, and it was funny more than it was heavy. The (Weird) Watson’s live in Flint, Michigan. They’re a family of five; Byron’s thirteen, Kenny’s ten (?), and Joey’s six. Their dad works for one of the auto companies in Michigan, and the family is blue collar, bordering on poor. Despite the lack of funds, they’re happy. They’re lovable, like the Bagthorpe’s or the Durrell’s (these are my favorite dysfunctional families). Byron is a bully with a heart. Kenny’s sensitive and smart. And Joey’s the only girl and spunky. They play, get in trouble, watch cartoons, freeze during the winter, and deal with school. They’re normal, and although the world is harsh, they seem to be okay.

The family goes to Birmingham to visit their Grandma Sands in 1963.

Of course things change. Being black, in the south, in the 1960’s… what a cruel world. Another world entirely from what the Watson’s were accustomed to in northern Michigan.

“Man, they got crackers and rednecks up here that ain’t never seen no Negroes before. If they caught your ass out here like this they’d hang you now, then eat you later.”

The climax doesn’t occur until the end of the story…

The Watson’s are in Birmingham to visit Grandma Sands, and to leave Byron who needs some time away from the trouble in Michigan. It’s quiet in Birmingham, slower.

Then, one Sunday morning, there is a loud noise. No one knows what it is. Their dad thinks it could be a sonic boom.

They run into town where the church has exploded:


Addie Mae Collins- Born 4/18/49, died 9/15/63

Denise McNair- Born 11/17/51, died 9/15/63

Carole Robertson- Born 4/24/49, died 9/15/63

Cynthia Wesley- Born 4/30/49. Died 9/15/63


Read this. It’s powerful like only children’s literature can be.

Top Children’s Books of 2016

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

I read over eighty books this year, but that number does not include the children’s books I read with my niece. If I had included those, my total book count of 2016 was well over 200. Norah and I love picture books (I think I love them slightly more). We also love Captain Underpants and Junie B. Jones. And we love animal books. And farting and pooping books. We have eclectic taste. So here’s the best children’s books I read this year!

This wonderfully illustrated book features an overwrought grandma, more than a handful of grandkids, some bears, goats, moon aliens, and wormholes. Also some beautifully knitted sweaters. If all these things sound swell, please pick it up at your local library and read it to the nearest child. They’ll thank you, and you’ll thank you.

I just think Carson Ellis is perfect. This book doesn’t even need to be read(it’s hard to read, because Ellis made-up her own language for the bugs). I gave it to my niece and she could figure out what was going on without the words. But here’s another thought: this would be great for phonetic practice, and less frustrating to read for kids who have a hard time memorizing sight words! But the illustrations make this book, so read it or just look at the pictures, either way Carson Ellis is a true master of her craft.

Must be read out loud with feeling! This would be a great book for a kid with a new baby brother or sister. I love Kate Beaton’s books. Have you read Hark, A Vagrant? No? Read it! I follow her on twitter, and she has an adorable little Scottish Terrier, which just adds to her over-all aura of fun. Here’s a link to her website:

Like Carson Ellis, I think Raina Telgemeier is perfect. This was just one of like ten of her books that I loved this year. Catrina and her family have to move to a new town because her little sister is sick. This is a fun book, but it deals with hard, sad topics. Recommended!

Umm, yeah. Sarah and Norah love this lots. Each page has a small illustration of an animal and one sad animal fact. Like, wolves without a  pack lose their howl. It’s adorable and was a Christmas present for Norah this year.

Do you remember those really good cartoons they used to make in the nineties when we were kids, but they don’t make anymore because…? I’m talking like- Rugrats, Doug, Bobby’s World, Hey Arnold, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, CatDog just to name a few of my favorites. They had those crisp blue skies, well groomed shrubbery. They always lived in quaint suburban homes that had big fenced in backyards (well not all the ones I listed fit this description, but I think you know what I’m talking about). That’s what this book reminded me of: a nineties cartoon, and I loved it.

This is just one in a series of many bug books by Elise Gravel. They’re short, cute pictures, and have an appropriate amount of facts for a young age group.

One of three Emily Brown books. They’re all adorable, and by the author who wrote the How to Train Your Dragon series.

Reimagining Greek heroes and monsters through board books. Yeah, Medusa’s got her own book. In case you’re wondering.

A biography of the story of the real Winnie that became Winnie the Pooh. Winnie started his journey in Canada right before WWI. It’s a really engaging read.

This was my favorite picture book of 2016. We lost our Golden Retriever at the end of 2015. Tuesday is a therapy dog for Luis who was a soldier and suffered from PTSD. It’s endearing, sweet, touching, and made my heart feel a lot of things.