The Tea Book

This week we’re reading a delightful adult nonfiction that covers the history of one of the world’s most popular beverages: tea! With wit, world experience, and a love for one of the most history-changing beverages ever, Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby (owners of the company teapigs) bring us their wonderful manifesto and historical compendium all in one simply titled The Tea Book: All Things Tea.

Summary: Looked at as one of the most versatile beverages in the world, tea is not only a refreshing drink but is also an inherent part of cultures from all around the world. From the UK’s traditional teas that make one think of high royalty or the social custom of drinking in the Middle East to the unique yak butter/salt tea drink of the Himalayas, there is no shortage of history to tea. The Tea Book is packed with more than just worldwide knowledge about tea however – it also serves as a recipe book and an instructional manual. Enjoy your own tea-smoked duck breasts or indulge in a slice of Jewish Honey Cake as you learn about the growth and careful packaging of tea leaves. No matter where you come from or how new you are to tea, by the time you’re done, you’ll be wondering why you haven’t been drinking tea sooner.

My Thoughts: I’ve been drinking tea from a young age, but I never knew quite as much about it as I do now that I’ve read this wonderful book. Packed with colorful illustrations, whimsical graphics, and gorgeous photographs of tea shops from around the world, this is a book that every tea-drinker should read at least once. If you’ve ever had a curiosity about the beverage or dabbled in tea-tasting yourself, this is the book for you.

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Annie’s Life in Lists

Once in a while there are interestingly formatted books that come into the children’s genre. Kristin Mahoney recently released a quaint book called Annie’s Life in Lists.

The Story: Annie loves making lists, but she doesn’t quite like her freakishly amazing memory. In fact, it is this particularly amazing memory that makes her blurt in front of the school principal and get herself kicked out of school. Annie can’t get rid of the feeling that it’s her fault they are moving too and she’s not the only one. Her older brother Ted is just as unhappy, leaving Annie with only her lists to cling to. As she enters a new school year and tries to navigate her way around without ruining it by her freakish memory, Annie may learn that life doesn’t quite fit into all of her lists and that sometimes that’s okay.

My Thoughts: This was a pretty entertaining read. Annie is a sweet main character and her struggle to find herself and break out of her introverted shell is one I can relate to. I recommend this middle-grade book for young readers.

Parental Advisories: There is a little bit of mention of racism in this book with Annie’s new best friend Zora who is black and has a crush on a white boy whose grandmother disapproves of their friendship. I’ve expressed my ire with the way contemporary politics has crept into children’s books recently, but at least the main focus of the book tends to be on the plot and this is only made small mention of.

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The Button War

There are a few authors who manage to write books that are intriguing and of a consistent quality again and again. Author AVI manages to do both with his  children’s book The Button War.

The Story: This is a time before any world wars. While political tension rises in Russia-occupied Poland, the truth of human nature is revealed in village boys Patryk and Jurek. While the roots of World War I are built upon and the flames of war lick at the borders of the country, the village children are caught in their own war – for the buttons off of uniforms. At first, it is a mere game, Patryk humoring the vain and puffed up Jurek. But soon it has turned into a vicious race to become known as the king, a race that could endanger not only the boys’ collections but their entire future.

My Thoughts: This book reminded me of Lord of the Flies. With its eerie psychological underpinnings and characters that are very adult, AVI weaves a tale that is worth reading and having discussions about. I highly recommend this for readers who are of a more mature intellectual level and who can really think about what this book is telling us.

Parental Advisories: This book is fairly clean, though it does hold hefty depictions of violence and showcase the brutal nature of mankind. This book has kids killing adults, stripping buttons off of the jackets of dead men, and even kids threatening death on each other. That having been said, this is still a very good read. The brutality is part of the point of this book. It is worth reading and discussing.

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And the Ocean Was Our Sky

In this twisted parody of Herman Melville’s epic Moby Dick, esteemed author Patrick Ness of A Monster Calls fame weaves a fascinating new tale. And the Ocean Was Our Sky is the perfect read to curl up with on these nippy evenings if you’re in the mood for a dark adventure.

The Story: Bathsheba may have once enjoyed the hunt of her whale pod into the Abyss Above, but life has tired her and reduced her to merely relating the sorrows of her youth. For the truth is, it was her fault that her pod died. When the whales heard tell of the devil himself, Toby Wick, their Captain led them on a hunt to find the enemy. Bathsheba and her pod find a young man with no desire to hunt and even less desire to be killed in the pursuit of Toby Wick. The prophecy that surrounds their trail may be clear to their Captain, but she is hardly certain about the path that they are taking. Death is in their future and Bathsheba is uncertain of whether she wants to join her pod in their fate or turn tail – before she’s too far gone.

My Thoughts: Patrick Ness wrote a thought-provoking beauty with A Monster Calls, and he continues writing in the same vein with And the Ocean Was Our Sky. Bathsheba is a main character whose world weariness is haunting. I really found this weird parody of Moby Dick to be an interesting novel that made me look at the original in a completely different way. The illustrations, with their smoky not quite concrete quality, lent themselves perfectly to the text. I highly recommend this picking up, regardless of whether you’ve read Herman Melville’s classic.

Parental Advisories: Though this may be a YA read, it’s surprisingly clean!

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The World War II Invasion That Changed History

It’s a sad thing, but I find more and more kids don’t know much about America’s history. This week we’re reading another nonfiction book which tells the story of one of the most iconic military invasions in recent history with D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History.

Summary: June 6, 1944 is a date that should and indeed did, go down in history as one of the most important moments in not just US, but also world history. But what the history books merely take a glance at, Deborah Hopkinson explores with breathtaking candor and research. This book discusses how crucial all of the players are, from the highest military officials to the men who made it happen, to those who spread the word about it. World War II’s shining example of American patriotism, ingenuity, and perseverance is encapsulated in this read which discusses the events and people that led to the landing on the beaches of Normandy.

My Thoughts: I am a huge fan of US history. Having had a lot of family members in the military, books regarding military history and/or service have a lot of importance and significance to me. Deborah Hopkinson does an incredible job of telling the story of D-Day, pulling from witness accounts to newspaper reports and more. Her work is a stunning tribute to the lives of the men and women involved in making sure that liberty triumphed.

Parental Advisories: There are few uses of mild swearing by military officials and violence is discussed (though not at length or in gory detail). If you have any serious concerns, read through the book first. I definitely think this is a comprehensive read that deserves attention from adults as well as children. It definitely crosses demographics successfully.

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Her Story

Once again we’re going through a nonfiction read. This time it is a colorful book of biographies entitled Her Story: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World.

Summary: Designed like a scrapbook or collage, Her Story tells the story of women who are truly inspiring. These are women who are not just renowned for being women, but for women who did things that no one had done before or for doing great good for their people, their country, and the world. The book is separated into sections for those who were pioneers in different fields. For example, while you may find women like Joan of Arc or Harriet Tubman in the “Believe and Lead” section, you’ll find artists like Beatrix Potter and Billie Holiday in the “Imagine and Create” section. The book does its best to give an impartial view of the lives of these woman, discussing their triumphs as well as their failures. No one is a perfect leader and the book does its best to show that many of the women in the books were as human as the rest of us.

My Thoughts: While this book is aimed at girls, I recommend this read to anyone. Heroes are not relegated to being models for just members of their own gender. Those who do good can be an inspiration for anyone. That having been said, I don’t necessarily think every single woman featured in this book is a role model for children or adults. Their stories are not particularly inspiring in any manner; personally I don’t find someone living as they liked cause to prop a historical figure up as a hero. That is not to say the majority of the women in this book don’t deserve their spot – most do! I still highly recommend this book as it is one of the few on the market that manages to shine a light on some of the women in history without spending a lot of time putting their male counterparts down.

Parental Advisories: I’d recommend researching the lives of the women you don’t know too much about and discussing their lives with your children. Letting your child get only a brief exposure and then thinking that the policies and ideas they advocated for were great because “a book said so” is one of the surest ways to do your child a disservice. Other than that, this book is ready to hand to your kids.

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The Silk Roads

This week’s read is another nonfiction aimed at children packed chock-full of entertaining facts and figures to entertain. Curious kids and adults alike will enjoy this fascinating book, The Silk Roads: An Illustrated New History of the World, which tells the story of one of the most influential trade routes in history.

Summary: The Silk Road is renowned for being the connector the ancient world, but it’s not often you will find a book aimed at children discussing all the different roads that can claim the title of being one of the “Silk Roads”. The story of their birth and use is a look at not only commerce, but also the ancient world. For the first time in history, peoples from around the world could trade freely and interact, leading to a greater market than ever before. But the path to the Silk Road was not always an easy one and its existence was fraught with many battles. The Silk Road tells a story of shifting political climates, the very first marketers, the evolution of capitalism, and a world coming into its own as much as the road itself was.

My Thoughts: I recall learning and reading about the Silk Road from China multiple times in my youth. Marco Polo made the trade route especially famous during his travels. Neil Packer takes the basic knowledge that most readers will know and manages to tell a riveting story about ancient and even more recent history with it. Fans of history will be thrilled with this book and I highly recommend homeschool educators pick this read up; it will not disappoint. The art within is quirky and intriguing, sure to make readers keep turning the pages to see more.

Parental Advisories: None! The book does describe some of the wars fought and there are some mildly violent images in the book, but nothing excessively gory or gratuitous.

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Estranged

If you’re anything like me, you might have grown up watching cult classics like Labyrinth, clutching worn copies of Spiderwick to your chest, and searching for fairies around every tree trunk in the park. While we may not discover any secret world of the fay anytime soon, Ethan M. Aldridge’s new book definitely takes one back to a magical world that feels both familiar and new at the same time.

The Story: There are two worlds on this Earth. In one of them lives the Childe. Once upon a time he was a normal human like any other, with a family that loved him and a home above ground. But now he is the property of the king and queen of the fay, their “son” to the court, but a mere collector’s item to show off in reality. In his place is Edmund, the changeling who has fooled everyone into thinking he belongs in the human world. When a mysterious villain named Hawthorne appears, the Childe and his companion Wick the golem must go find the only person who can help them – the changeling himself. Together with their big sister Alexis, a few magical friends, and what little power they have, the Childe and Edmund will have to put aside their differences and help each other if they want to save the world and maybe find their true homes along the way.

My Thoughts: From the first moment I saw this book advertised on Instagram, I was in love. The artwork definitely reminds me of Brian Froud or Tony Diterlizzi with the character design, hooking me when I read a sample. The characters are vivid and entertaining and the themes are sweet. Who wouldn’t want to be as awesome an older sister as Alexis or have a friend like Wick? Seriously, this is a read I highly recommend.

Parental Advisories: The worst language in this book is the term “c**p.” Language rules vary from household to household, as do restrictions on fantasy entertainment, so give this a read and decide what you’re comfortable with. As far as I’m concerned, this is a pretty clean read that is worth a look through even as an adult.

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Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Sticky-Fingers Cure

Missy Piggle-Wiggle strikes gold a third time in this sequel series to the beloved Miss Piggle-Wiggle books. Once again, humor, childhood magic, and simply life lessons abound in this entertaining children’s series.

The Story:  Winter has come to Little Spring Valley and with it strikes the Effluvia, an incurable virus that makes the upside-down house do the unthinkable by turning right-side-up! Though Missy is unsure how to fix it, that won’t stop her from curing the children. No matter the problem, she knows how to solve it. Whether it’s fixing Louie’s sticky-fingers habit or Rosie’s forgetfulness, Missy knows just what to do. If only she could say the same for the house. Will she ever be able to find a cure?

My Thoughts: Ann M. Martin’s follow-up series is a delightful tribute that I enjoy paging through when each subsequent novel comes out and Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Sticky-Fingers Cure is no exception. The book is written in a format that makes it ideal for bedtime reading or easy storytimes, with each chapter containing a single story that wraps itself up before the next chapter begins. This book is perfect for middle grade readers and parents reading to their children.

Parental Advisories: While an adversity to this does rely on your worldview, Ann M. Martin has included a family that includes two moms in this book. Families should be aware of this when picking the book up. Other than than the obvious politicizing sneaking its way in, this is a clean and fun read.

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Confusion is Nothing New

This week we’re reading a recent release about loss and finding oneself called Confusion is Nothing New.

The Story: Ellie just wants life to be normal, but that’s sort of hard when your dad’s just told you that the mom you never knew is dead. While she’s dealing with the consequences of a conflict with her former music teacher, Ellie must discover the truth of who her mother was. Why didn’t she ever reach out? Who was she really? Most importantly, Ellie must choose how she wants to remember the woman who not only left her, but the only parent she’s ever known. Even if her father would like to completely forget about the past, she’s got to discover the truth for herself. With her friends by her side, a good soundtrack, and perhaps a little luck, Ellie might just be able to find the truth – even if it is a little confusing.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this read for its streamlined plot and memorable characters. Paul Acampora is a talented author, deftly weaving a story that is relatable for both adults and kids.

Parental Advisories: There are a lot of…interesting messages going on in this book. One character claims that one shouldn’t judge a female character for leaving her husband and child because their audience doesn’t judge the man who does the same. Another scene has kids explaining why the Go-Go’s were the first all-girl band in only 1982 by explaining, “Boys”. There is one swear word, though it is on the milder end of the spectrum. I’d advise reading this one yourself if you are truly concerned, though Paul Acampora never gives parents a real need to.

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