8 Books to Read with Your Kids This Month by Madeleine Riley

My reading pile is stacked with amazing children's literature right now, including this stack of eight picture books that are perfect for reading aloud with the littles in your life. We are a few weeks away from the start of a new school year, and I'm moving from second to first grade -- my youngest grade yet! I always gravitate towards picture books leading up to a new school season, as I'm looking to stock my shelves (and library holds list) with great picture books to share in our first few weeks of school. Here are the ones on my radar this month!

Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman

Thank you to Running Press Books for my free copy!

It's 2018 folks, and I'm still telling my students that no color gender specific. I love this for a beginning of the school year read aloud, to remind students that all people can like all colors. Bonus: these illustrations include a diverse array of children without making a big deal of it.

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It's Show and Tell, Dexter! by Lindsay Ward

Thank you to Blue Slip Media for my free copy!

Dexter T. Rexter is back and ready for show-and-tell day at school, but he's feeling really nervous. What if his owner decides to pick another toy? What if he's not cool enough? Or interesting enough? This fun picture book is silly and a good base for discussions about being yourself.

The Squirrels' Busy Year by Martin Jenkins

Thank you to Candlewick Press for my free copy!

This beautifully illustrated picture book is the perfect introduction to the cyclical nature of the four seasons. It follows a family of squirrels as the seasons change throughout the year. It's simple and could be a great mentor text for teaching perspective. It also includes questions in the back, to encourage young readers to look carefully through the book and think further about the science behind the seasons.

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Henry and the Yeti by Russell Ayto

Thank you to Bloomsbury for my free copy!

This quirky book made me giggle and I can't wait to share it with my students this year. Henry believes fiercely in yetis, yet everyone in his life demands proof of their existence. So, Henry sets out to find a yeti. This simple and charming tale would make for perfect bedtime reading.

Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

Thank you to Bloomsbury for my free copy!

I absolutely love this picture book. It'll be the first book I read to the kids this year, with a message that "normal" doesn't exist, and when you feel free to be yourself, you'll discover more in common with others!

Maximillian Villainous by Margaret Chiu Greanias

Thank you to Running Press Books for my free copy!

Maximillian Villainous hails from a long line of infamous villains, but he's the oddball of the family. He's rather friendly and kind, and that makes his parents worry that he'll never live up to the family name. This story is great for beginning of the year reads or teaching that golden life lesson of, "If everyone's doing it, doesn't mean it's right!" Kindness prevails in the end, and Maximillian is endearing for readers of all ages. (This title releases on August 28, 2018.)

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Bear's Scare by Jacob Grant

Thank you to Bloomsbury for my free copy!

Bear loves a neat and tidy home. (Bear is my kindred spirit.) One day, he notices that something isn't quite right. There's a spiderweb...in his neat and tidy home. Bear searches everywhere for the spider, creating and mess and accidentally ripping his favorite teddy bear in the process. He's lots all hope when the spider reveals itself with a kind deed, and suddenly, Bear is happy to share his home with a new friend.

Eraser by Anna Kang

Thank you to Blue Slip Media for my free copy!

If you're a fan of The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, then I think you'll like this one. Eraser is frustrated that she lacks the creativity of her school supply friends. Everyone else gets to make things, and all she can do is clean up their mess. She feels unappreciated until she realizes that everyone makes mistakes, and therefore she's one of the most important friends to have around.

If You Liked That, Read This! by Madeleine Riley

If you read and loved...

...Read This!

If you also enjoy witchy tales and The Wicked Deep is on your top ten list for the year (so far), I'd highly recommend Sea WitchThis new young adult fantasy is a fractured fairytale take on The Little Mermaid. Henning writes the backstory for Ursula the Sea Witch, giving us a peek at how and why she came to be such a dark and loveless creature. This tale introduces us to Evie, Anna, and Niklas, three best friends whose lives are shaped and shattered by the will of Urda, goddess of the sea. There's magic, betrayal, and just the right amount of romance. The coastal setting reminded me of The Wicked Deepbut there are more similarities throughout -- particularly, the teenage love stories and dangerous magic. Both are perfect for fall mood reading, when the ocean gets dark and choppy, and a cool, salty breeze is in the air. You can expect to see both these titles on my Spooktober Reads list this year, but I'd put yourself on the holds list for Sea Witch now, as it's made quite the debut this month.

Review: Fruit of the Drunken Tree (& Giveaway) by Madeleine Riley

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Note: This title was received free by Top Shelf Text in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

I will admit, I was intimidated when picking up this book. It received high praise from early readers, and it was obviously heavy in content. Those two factors made for a lot of trepidation on my part, something I've been experiencing this year with all of the biggest releases. Sometimes, the hype for a book can overshadow the story. In this instance, Fruit of the Drunken Tree proved itself to be worthy of a top spot on my summer reading list. 

The story follows a family and their maid, living in Columbia at the height of drug lord Pablo Escobar's power. Told in alternating perspectives of the seven-year-old daughter and the maid, the reader witnesses firsthand the physical and emotional destruction of the various para-military groups. I won't go too far into detail, because I think the heavy subject requires an immersive reading experience, but I will point readers to the author's note. This novel belongs to the own voices category, meaning that the author wrote this having experienced something similar herself. 

Like many books with alternating perspectives, I was a bit more invested in one voice over the other. I wished that the chapters from the maid's perspective had been lengthier or more fleshed out -- hers was the story line I was most interested in. However, I saw the point that the author was making in keeping her somewhat removed and mysterious. The other perspective, that of a child, made for a more accessible reading experience on my end. As the child learned more about the political situation and came to realize the dangers threatening her family, I was able to orient myself so that I could follow along. Aside from having seen a few episodes of Narcos, I had very little background knowledge on this time period and on Columbian culture. Not only was this book raw and incredibly moving, it also taught me about the setting and piqued my interest for fiction set in South America.

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5

  • Title: Fruit of the Drunken Tree
  • Author: Ingrid Rojas Contreras
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books, 2018
  • Buy it on Amazon
  • Find it on Goodreads
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Doubleday Books

Giveaway with Doubleday Books

I'm giving away one copy of this book to a TST reader! Make sure to enter on Instagram. Giveaway is for US entries only and closes 8/12 at 5pm ET.