WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Beatryce Shortword


In this review Kathy Short and Marilyn Carpenter share their responses to The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo with illustrations by Sophie Blackall.

MARILYN: As soon as I finished this book, I eagerly read it again. With the first reading, I found the plot most engaging. On the second reading, I admired the author’s craft. The story takes place in the Middle Ages during a time of war. Five characters carry the story. First, the reader meets a monk, Brother Edik, who has written a prophecy about a girl who will unseat a king. Next, we are introduced to a cranky and fearsome goat, Answelica, who has a major role in the story as a protector of Beatryce, a young girl that Brother Edik finds ill, wounded and bloody curled up next to that goat, fast asleep. It turns out that the child has experienced a horrific trauma that has left her without any memory except that her name is Beatryce. As Brother Edik comes to know her he discovers that she can read and write which is dangerous because there is a law that says that no girls or women can read or write. Brother Edik shaves her head and disguises her as a young monk. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: I Dream of PoPo


Blackburne, the author of I Dream of PoPo, and Kuo, the illustrator, capture the close bond between a girl and her grandmother in rich text and detailed illustrations. Their story starts in Taiwan where they share precious times together rocking, walking in the park, celebrating New Year’s, eating special foods. Then, the girl and her parents move to San Diego, California. Popo sends the child off with, “Call me every week and tell me about your adventures.” The child reports that she is learning a new language, but misses Popo’s noodles. The granddaughter learns English, “the words form easier on my tongue.” But when she visits Popo the Taiwanese words feel “strange in my mouth.” Yet their hugs are “as tight as before.” When Popo is sick, her granddaughter sings to her and says, “I wish I could reach across the ocean and hold her up.” The story ends with the child dreaming about her Popo. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Sweet Pea Summer


Sweet Pea Summer is the perfect book to enjoy reading aloud during the summer. A young English girl tells the story of a summer when her Mom had to go to the hospital, and her Dad takes her to be with her grandparents in a country village. Of course, the girl misses her parents and has trouble concentrating on her reading, or her art because she is worried about her mother. Then Grandpa suggests that she help him in his large garden full of flowers and vegetables. Grandpa gives her the job of taking care of his prized sweet peas. She also has the opportunity to enter the sweet peas in the village flower show at the end of the summer. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Cat Man of Aleppo

Cover of The Cat Man of Aleppo, depicting a man in a red and grey jacket surrounded by cats with a city in the background.
This true story of The Cat Man of Aleppo will always remain in my heart. In this time of the virus and difficult challenges, this true story is an inspiration. A note from the Cat Man, Mohammad Alaa Aljsleed, in the beginning of the book says, “This is a story about cats and war and people. But most of all, it is a story about love”. His love for cats and how he cared for them after the terrible destruction of the civil war in Syria is the focus of the story. Continue reading

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MTYT: Picturebooks That Highlight Kindness

Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

As we end this month, and 2020, there is more to say about kindness. There is still more to think about in respect to both small and large decisions and actions made. The decisions we have made as individuals, as communities, as societies, will be written about and scrutinized for many years to come. A lot of it will be negative, sad, and horrific. We must remember, however, in the hopes that we will learn to do better as we move forward.

It should also be remembered that throughout this year there have been countless acts of kindness, and those must also be allowed to shine. They, too, have much to teach us. While we focused on novels from areas around the world, we end this discussion with a list of picturebooks for considering kindness and the potential for it.


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MTYT: 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto

Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

This week, Marilyn, Holly, and Jean discuss the harrowing story of Mira in 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto by David Safier and discuss how even in the darkest of times, the smallest act of kindness can change things.


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MTYT: The Blackbird Girls

Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

This week Marilyn and Holly are joined by Jean Schroeder to discuss The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman, and how one act of kindness creates a ripple effect that deeply changes the lives of two young girls.


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MTYT: Beast Rider

Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This week, Marilyn and Holly give their takes on Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and Marïa Elena Fontanot de Rhoads and the kindness that helps Manuel on his painful and difficult journey to his brother.

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MTYT: Small Mercies


Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This month we present four stories from around the world that highlight events in which incidents of kindness shine within dire to horrendous circumstances. In many ways, the kindness shown in these narratives is both courageous and unexpected. We begin with Small Mercies (2020) by Bridget Krone, an author from South Africa and features an interracial family. We then move to Beast Rider (2019) by Tony Johnston and Marïa Elena Fontanot de Rhoads about a young boy making his way to Los Angeles from Mexico. In week three, Marilyn and Holly are joined by Jean to discuss The Blackbird Girls (2020) by Anne Blankman, who relays a story of Chernobyl, and then during week four, the three of us examine 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto (2020) by David Safier. The four books stand as testaments that it takes people to enact kindness as the world negotiates a new normal as well as changes that have long been delayed. And finally, in week five, we talk about picturebooks that present acts of kindness that can be paired with one of these four books or used on their own.

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WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Santiago’s Road Home

Cover of Santiago's Road Home, depicting a young boy, and little girl, and a young woman on a yellow road leading into the distance away from houses in the foreground.In Santiago’s Road Home, Alexandra Diaz tells how twelve-year-old Santiago makes it across the border between Mexico and the U.S. only to be captured by the Border Patrol and placed in a detention center. Santiago has a traumatic family history as an orphan who is passed between his grandmother who abuses him and an aunt who is unkind. When the aunt sends him back to live with his grandmother, Santiago decides to live on the street. Fortunately, he meets Maríe Delores who gives him food and offers to take him to the U.S. with her and her young daughter, Alegría, since Maríe Delores has a sister in the U.S. and plans on living with her. Santiago is able to help the two as they journey to the border. Their relationship develops and he comes to consider them his sisters. Continue reading