Sunday, August 22, 2021


Do third graders have strong opinions? Ask one!

AVEN GREEN SERIES by Dusti Bowling, Sterling Children’s Books, 2021



Chapter book readers love series because they make friends with the main character and want to follow her from book to book.

Meet Aven Green.

Feisty. Fun. Filled with energy. She bounces from being a sleuthing machine to becoming a competitive baker. Next on her list is to be a musician. But which instrument will she choose?

Aven was born without arms. She tells the reader that up front. The rest of her is a solidly built third-grade girl. She has a curious mind and a vocabulary that plays havoc with word choices. Employing her feet, she meets daily challenges with courage and humor while she learns new skills and adapts to surroundings that didn’t plan for her.

Parents will want to follow Aven’s adventures, too. How else will they understand why their children are trying to use their feet instead of their hands to get dressed, brush their teeth, and turn the pages of a book?  

Best-selling author Dusti Bowling clearly knows and understands her readers as well as her lively characters.  Aided by easy to read facial expressions and body language sprinkled throughout the pages by illustrator Gina Perry, Aven and her friends fairly skip off the page to meet readers where they are, learning to navigate the choppy seas of growing up. Aven’s  mom and dad and the parents of her friends are kind and supportive with a dash of good humor and strength. 

The author spent years writing and researching Aven. Jessica Cox was one of her inspirations. Cox is a Motivational Speaker and Life Coach, the world’s first licensed armless pilot and the first armless black belt in the American Taekwando Association.   

Covid has caused the author to miss the school visits she loves, and that has been a downer. However, she has enjoyed slowing down and spending more time with her family and more time outdoors in the desert many of her characters explore. She’s grateful for zoom technology, virtual school visits, and Tuesdays. Those are the days – Tuesdays -- when Dusti Bowling regularly schedules classroom visits.  She derives “joy and happiness” from talking with kids.

In classrooms virtual and in person, Dusti encourages children to make reading a part of their lives. Her advice to those dreaming of becoming a writer: “Reading is the best thing you can do.” Her message to parents is to allow kids to choose what they want to read. Their tastes will grow and develop as they do.

In her own home, Dusti reads with and to her children whom she homeschools.  At the end of the day, they listen to audio books together.

In the meantime, Aven, the sleuth, baker and soon to be musician, is pondering her next life’s work. She will inspire the young readers at your house, and YOU, too.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Building Someday

 How Do You Build the Future? 

What is your picture of “someday?” 

How do you get there? 

Where do you start?  


BRICK BY BRICK by Heidi Woodward Sheffield, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020


Luis is proud of his Papi who builds big city buildings, brick by brick. His Papi works hard. 

At school, Luis works hard, too, book by book, especially books about dogs. While he makes tiny bricks with clay and builds a tiny house the right size for a tiny dog, Luis dreams of living in a house and asks his Papi, “When?” 

His Papi says, “Someday.”

If you’ve missed old fashioned values of love for family and pride in a job well done, then this is a book to read to your kids over and over again. The surprise ending is a happy one, the way the best stories leave you feeling warm inside.

Heidi Woodward Sheffield, the author/illustrator, has won awards for her illustrations from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, but this is her first picture book. You will understand why it won the prestigious Ezra Jack Keats Award. 

This is a book to enjoy. Page by page. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021


This middle grade novel is well deserving of the awards it has received so far this year, including Golden Kite and Newbury honors. A bridge building book, this one will lead to discussions about difficult subjects. Parents will want to read it before and with their daughters and their sons.

 FIGHTING WORDS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020.

10 year old Della is nearly killed when the meth her mom and her boyfriend are cooking in the bathroom of a sleazy motel blows up. Her mom is incarcerated and another of her mom’s boyfriends takes custody of Della and her older sister Suki. He says he is the girls’ father.  Nobody bothers to check. Both girls 
suffer failures of a system designed to protect them but not getting the job done.

This could have been a hard hitting YA told from Suki’s point of view. The author chose, and I think rightly so, to make Della the main character and show how and where gender disrespect and sex abuse can be called out at an age earlier than most adults would think.

Victimized by the boyfriend claiming to be the girls’ dad, Suki was Della’s protector. Always. Through Suki’s actions, the girls escape the fake father and are placed with Francine, a tough as nails foster mom. She has been down a few rough roads herself and knows how to call things what they are. She tells both girls about their experiences, “It is not your fault.” and “You need to have a childhood. I am here to take care of you.” And most importantly, “You can be kids.”

It’s a triumph when Della reacts to bra strap snapping bully Trevor by standing up to him and saying, “Never touch me or any girl in this class without permission ever again.” The 4th grade class is shocked into silence. Instead of getting herself in trouble by calling Trevor bad names or trying to get even other ways which always ended in getting Della in trouble—thanks to lots of therapy here—Della emboldens other girls to stand up and say, “He did this to me, too.” Adults realize they had not been paying attention. They had missed this problem. At the same time, Della feels a flicker of empathy for Trevor. What made him the way he is?

The book ends before the girls face the offending pseudo dad in court, but the reader is left with hope that the girls have begun to heal.

Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley creates memorable characters strong enough to overcome unbelievable odds and convince readers that life can be hard but kids can be stronger.  Like Fighting Words, her novel The War That Saved My Life also won a Newbery honor. Both novels deserve a thorough reading by adults who care what happens in the lives of the children around them. For helpful resources see the author’s web as well as her Author’s Note in Fighting Words.


Hillview School Library