Books by Antinuke

Finding books that connect young readers from rural New Hampshire to life across the country and the world is challenging.  Atinuke takes on that challenge.

She is the author of three series for 7-to 9-year old readers.  Each one brings readers to the country of her birth, Nigeria and helps them discover a bit of what it is like to live there.  Some of Atinuke’s characters live in city and others live in rural settings – all of them reflect her own young life. 

Atinuke is a storyteller.  Her voice bursts from the pages of her books.  Each is a joy to read.  The language sings in your mind or as you read it aloud.   The stories bring both the setting and characters to life.  I appreciate the repeated refrain at the start of each chapter connecting readers to the story and reminding them of what they already know.  

Too Small Tola is the first book in her newly launched series.  Tola lives with her Grandmommy, her sister and her brother in a rundown apartment house in the megacity of Lagos.  Tola and her sister really like school, her brother, not so much.  Moji, who is very clever, works hard at her studies.  She is hoping to be a doctor one day.  Dapo, who is very fast, hopes to be a futbol player – or a car mechanic.  Tola, who is small, is determined and strong.  Together with Grandmommy (who is very bossy,) they are a family.  They make best of what they have.

Readers will have the chance to consider the gifts of running water, electricity and schooling for all. They will be reminded of what it means to be small, youngest and seemingly unnoticed.  When readers look closer, they’ll find the joys each of those circumstances brings.    

The No.1 Car Spotter series shares the challenges and opportunities to be found when living in rural Nigeria.  I love sharing the tales of Oluwalase Babatunde Benson – the No. 1 Car Spotter in his village… in the world with my third graders and they loved him.

Anna Hibiscus is the main character of Atinuke’s third series.  She lives in a compound with her family.  They are separated from the city and the variety that surrounds them.


What authors have you found who share understanding of different cultures and places with your readers?  What books do you share to help children learn more about our world?

Happy Reading!📚

Anya and the Dragon

Anya and the Dragon by Sofia Pasternak is a fantasy adventure set in tenth century town of Zmeyreka.  The tale deftly combines Slavic folklore and Jewish traditions to introduce readers to domovoi, rusalkas, and many other magical creatures.  Magic has been banned in the Zmeyreka for ten years, but here and there it still thrives, and  surrounds Anya.  Her grandmother, Babula, has plant magic.  She makes medicines that help the community.  Dyedka, her grandfather, has animal magic that helps to keep the farm animals safe and thriving.   In fact many creatures, extinct in other parts of Russian are found in Anya’s village.  It is rumored to be the home to the last dragon.  The Tsar has sent a family of Fools – who are capable of, and allowed to perform Fools’ Magic- to capture and kill it if they find it. 

The Fools have seven sons – all named Ivan.  The first six Ivans are found in three sets of fair-haired twins who take after their father.  The seventh Ivan is a dark-haired like his mother.  He feels alone in his chaotic family.  He is eleven, as is Anya.  She is an only child of the only Jewish family.  She feels alone and apart in her village. Both are tolerated, but not fully accepted or included because they are seen as different.  Because of this, they are drawn to each other.  As the story unfolds, Anya and Ivan make some important choices – power or friendship, money or integrity, comfort or compassion.

I thoroughly enjoyed Anya – dedicated to her family, curious about others and trying to find her own place in the world.  Ivan is a one-of-a-kind friend from a unique family and also searching for his way in the world.  Both are firmly connected to their families, but both know there is more to life if they are open and able to be true to themselves.  

I also recommend Anya and the Nightingale, the sequel.  I like it as much, if not more.  Prejudice and stereotyping, tolerance, disabilities and diversity are entwined with the magic and adventure.  I am hoping there will be more books about these friends.

If you enjoy this time period and Eastern European folklore you will also enjoy reading the adult novels from The Winterlight Trilogy by Katherine Arden:  The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch.  I thought they were wonderful!

Do you have a favorite fantasy to recommend?   What culture’s mythology have you enjoyed exploring?  Please share your books and ideas in the comments.

Happy Reading!📚

Celebrate “Difference”

Reading about Unbound in early spring, I knew it was a story I needed to read.  I wanted to see how this gut-wrenching, true-life story would be shown.  What a book!  Written by Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, it tells the story of Joyce and her twin sister, Judith.  They are two peas in a pod.  They do everything together until kindergarten.  Joyce goes to school.  Judy stays home.  Judy, readers discover, has what will later be called Down Syndrome and the school that Joyce goes to cannot meet her needs.

Around the time of the twin’s seventh birthday, Joyce wakes up to find Judy missing.  Their dad had taken her to the state school to live and learn.  On that day, Joyce reports, the colors leave leave her world.

After thirty-five years, Joyce is able to become Judy’s legal guardian.  Judy is able to leave the institution behind and live with Joyce’s family.   Joyce takes her to the Creative Growth Center and enrolls her in classes.  This center is devoted to serving artist with disabilities of all kinds.  It takes time, but eventually Judy finds her medium.  She becomes a world renowned fiber artist.  For thirty years she creates and shares her joy and resilience with the world.

In the author’s note Joyce writes:  ” Wherever we live, we find many people who are a bit “different” in one way of another.  These individuals, because of their differences, are often thought of as being less than those of us who consider ourselves “normal.”  They are often kept at a distance, not included in the everydayness of our lives – sharing laughter, and meals, bus rides and work, cozy couch time and a welcome night’s sleep.  Because they are not valued, their unseen strengths and gifts often go unrecognized, unexplored and undiscovered.”

These words are true for Myron Uhiberg’s story too.  Reading The Sound of Silence ~ Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents by Myron Uhlberg filled me with respect and wonder for him, and guilt and disappointment for me and the society I am a part of.  There is such incredible strength shared within these pages of this book.  Myron’s story of growing up in the 30’s and 40’s is sometimes funny and other times heartbreaking.  His first language was American Sign Language.  It was how he spoke at home.  No one outside the deaf community communicated with his parents, so Myron found himself in the middle, between the deaf world and the hearing world.  He was the translator during Teacher/Parent conferences.  He was the one who got help when his brother has a seizure.  He was also the one who heard how cruelly and disrespectfully his father is treated at his job. It is a burden to carry and yet he does it. 

These two books – true stories – shine a light on the changes that have been made for the disabled community in our country.  I don’t feel satisfied and I can’t help but wonder what more I can and should be doing so that even more voices can sing and all of our lives can be enriched by hearing those songs.

Here are some other books you might enjoy that connect to the theme of celebrating “difference.”





Research has shown that reading literary fiction helps develop empathy.  Readers walk beside the characters of tightly written stories growing our capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.  Reading helps you dream of possible futures.  These books can help us  grow our understanding so that, as Maya Angelou reminds us, we can “do the best we can until we know better.  Then when we know better, we can do better.” 

Let’s all be better.  If you have another title to add to this collection, please leave your suggestion in a comment,  Thanks.

Happy Reading! 📚

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

Born as perfect as a snowflake with gorgeous blue eyes and dainty pearl pink toes, Princess Cora would one day become queen.  Her parents, The King and The Queen are determined that she be fully prepared.  Anxiety takes over and they develop a strict and unwavering schedule:  hours of boring lessons with ghastly dull readings, hours of exercise and laps in the converted dungeon, and three baths a day – being clean is important!  There are no days off.   There is no time for fun, and Princess Cora is absolutely sick of it.  In desperation she writes to her Fairy Godmother.

“Dear Godmother,

Nobody listens to me.  My mother and father won’t let me have a pet and Nanny says I don’t even want one.  But I do.  And I’m sick and tired of everything.  

Please help me.


  Princess Cora

Then she tore the letter into scraps and dropped them out the window.  But because it was a letter to her fairy godmother, every scrap turned into a white butterfly and flew away.”

Princess Cora wakes up to find a box at the foot of her bed with holes punched in it so something could breathe.  Opening the box, Princess Cora finds a scaly and green … crocodile.  They plan to switch places.  Princess Cora will have the day off for adventuring, and the crocodile, willing to fill in for CREAM PUFFS, will spend the day following the royal routine.

The Princess has a perfectly wonderful day.   Crocodile, Nanny, The Queen and The King do not!  Lessons are ultimately learned all the way around.  While it remains important for a future Queen to be clean, informed and strong, it is also important that the future queen have time to play, relax and enjoy the love of her very own fluffy, golden dog.

Laura Amy Schlitz’ writing, as always, is superb.That writing here is beautifully complimented by the illustrations of Brian Floca.  They go together perfectly.  What a fun book to read-aloud (or read on your own.)  I imagine even fourth and fifth graders will appreciate the havoc and humor the crocodile brings to the castle during a classroom read-aloud. The story will provide lots of opportunity to examine over scheduled lives and create plans to address them.

A prefect joy!  (I confess to being quite a fan of Laura Amy Schlitz  – reading her books is a joy.  I’ve loved them all! Here are some I think you might enjoy too. Her books are remarkably diverse.)



Happy Reading!📚

Books Lead to Hope

It was been a strange year and a half.  I don’t think anyone can argue that.  There have been many challenges ~ I’m getting used to the isolation … he’s so stressed … she’s a little more clingy, but I guess that’s predictable … I’m just so weary.  There have also been many opportunities ~ I’ve had time to slow down and think … she’s discovered a new passion … he’s spent lots of time adventuring in the woods … I have different options now than I had before.

Reading, “I don’t know if I can begin again” in my friend’s email last week made me think more closely about recent past, and what the future will offer.  I tried to think of ways to share HOPE with her.  Of course I thought of book….  How can books help?  Where can we find glimmers of light and sparks of joy to lighten our burdens and change our perspective.

Amanda Gordon was certainly a beacon of hope when I first “met” her at the inauguration.  Her new book, Change Sings, illustrated by Loren Long is a call to action.  Each step and action, no matter how large or small makes a difference.  We can change the world as long as we don’t “fear change coming” and choose to “sing along.”  This gorgeous book celebrates hope, music and care.  Each time I read it I discover something new.  What will you find when you read it?  What will you hear as you listen to the music of change?  How will this book lead you into your future?

I discovered the positivity of Chloe Wade in her books  Heart Talk and Where to Begin a few years ago.  When I learned of her new picture book, What the Road Said, I suspected it would be a good one.  It is. This book, all about life’s choices, is for readers of every age and every stage of the quest.  We are all on a road and in every second of our journey there are myriad options to take.  What can we do?  How will it go?  This book is hopeful, encouraging and realistic.  Each page offers advice and comfort.  Here are two:

WHICH WAY DO I GO?  That is your choice to make, said the Road.  BUT WHAT IF I GO THE WRONG WAY?  The Road curved a little, almost as if it was giving me a hug, and said, Do not worry.  Sometimes we go the wrong way to the right way.  WHAT IF I GET SCARED?  That is okay.  You are brave, said the Road.  BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BRAVE? I asked, The Road guided me through a very gloomy forest.  Even though I was frightened, I trusted the Road, and as I took one step, and then another step after that, the Road gently whispered, Being brave is when you are afraid of doing something, but you do it anyway.  Do not let what scares you keep from continuing on your path …

Be Strong by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hall looks at strength from many different angles.  Strength climbs rock walls.  Strength helps others when life is tough.  Strength keeps promises.  Strength makes things happen.  Strength can guide you toward making your world a better place.  “Together we can be strong.”

Finally, I Am Courage ~ A book of Resilience by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter Reynolds is an exploration of bravery.  The end flap shares: “…real courage comes from feeling scared and facing what challenges us anyway.  When our minds tell us “I can’t,” we can look inside ourselves and find the strength to say, “Yes, I CAN!”

These books have all been published in the last six months.  It can’t be a coincidence.  Clearly we are searching for words of encouragement, sparks of joy and glimmers of hope.  What books add light to your life?  If you don’t mind, share them in a comment so we can grow this list.  Books like this are a comfort.

Happy Reading! 📚


After reading Six Crimson Cranes, I decided to reread The Six Swans collected by the Brothers Grimm and Birdwing by Rafe Martin.  The Six Swans is an odd tale.  I wondered about that lessons that could be found in it and I discovered there were many.  Be mindful of those you are with.  Value collaboration over competition.  Trust your gut ~ if it doesn’t feel right, pay attention.  Dedication and determination have their own rewards.  A curse, or a blessing ~ it’s your choice.  Girls, small and unnoticed have remarkable strength and capabilities.

I noticed those themes in Elizabeth Lim’s wonderful book, and I found them echoed in Birdwing.  This is the story of Ardwin, the youngest brother.  The one whose shirt remains incomplete as the six-year curse comes to an end. Because of this, he alone, remains part swan.  The other princes and the princess – his brothers and sister – go off to lead their parts of the kingdom and thrive.  Ardwin’s wing causes him to be seen as a freak.  He is bullied and shunned by some in the court.  Ardwin is different and he has many challenges.  With the bad, comes some good.  The wing allows Ardwin to experience nature more fully and understand the ways of animals more completely.  While his brothers want nothing more to do with their swan past, Ardwin remains connected to the flock.  As he grows, Ardwin seeks to understand his place and purpose.  He begins a journey to discover his personal truth.  On the way he loses his life-long friends and gains new understanding of the human race. He is rejected completely by some and accepted fully by others.  He discovers that leadership is not rooted in power and authority, but in service and wisdom.

Reading Birdwing made me wonder about hope, longing and our human tendency to consider “what-if.”  Have you ever considered magic – how did it come into the world and why did it leave?  Ivnuk’s the walrus parting words  struck a chord, “You never know how things will come out once you start, do you?”  It seems to me that starting is the important thing. What journey can you start today?


Six Crimson Cranes

I know it’s not good practice to judge a book by its cover, but I did.  This cover art intrigued me.  And what’s better, the gorgeous cover is a clear nod to the writing inside.  In Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim has deftly woven East Asian folklore, dynamic characters and suspenseful adventure creating the vibrant Kingdom of Kiata.  Lim’s writing filled my senses and captured my heart from start to finish.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

“The bottom of the lake tasted like mud, salt and regret.  The water was so thick it was agony keeping my eyes open, but than the great gods I did.  Otherwise, I would have missed the dragon.”

So begins our journey with Princess Shiori’ama.  She is fiercely independent, dedicated to her family, impulsive, rebellious and … magic?!  How can this be?  Magic in a kingdom where magic is banned?!  Will her secret be discovered? Will  she be cursed and exiled, discovered and burned, safe and hidden?  None or all?

Silently Shiori travels across her kingdom to discover what fate has in store.  What can be completed?  What can be undone?  What is yet to finish?  Six Crimson Cranes is a joy you won’t want to miss… or to end.  Be patient.  The next part of the tale is planned for 2022.  I can’t wait!

Beginning Again

“Hi!”  It’s been a long time since I have written on this blog.  Ten years ago I learned about blogging when one of my students, a fellow book lover, asked me if I’d join him in beginning a book blog for kids.  I was game and so we began meeting twice a week to learn about blogging (with the support of our awesome tech teacher, Meghan Wyman) and to share books.

When we began in 2011 we wrote this on our About page:

We’re a teacher (teaching grade 3) and a student (6th grade) writing book reviews. We started reading books together 4 years ago and have been sharing ever since. We thought it would be great to have a place to go to find out about books and get recommendations. Historical Fiction and Realistic Fiction are our favorite genres right now. But we like to read all types of books too. Right now we are reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book Two – The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood. We LOVED the book The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. (We’re HUGE fans of the series!)

Ten years later in 2021 I added:

I’m a retired teacher who loves how reading adds to life.  Reading expands my life and helps me become a better person.  Reading teaches me about the world and the people in it.

I always have a book (or two or three…) with me wherever I go.  In the last few months, I’ve longed to share what I’m reading with others.  Books are better when shared and discussed.  So here goes…again.  If you find your way to this blog, let me know by subscribing or leaving a comment.  If you’ve got a book to share, please do.  Reading brings me joy, deeper understanding and renewed curiosity.  What does reading do for you?     Brenda

It’s been a wearying year for a number of reasons – all the ones you know from experiencing the trials of 2020/21, combined with my own.  I’m not in the classroom anymore.  I’m caring for my recently widowed, 90-year old mom and my 3- and 5-year old grandchildren .  I’m busy but, thankfully, I still have time for reading and journaling.  

Luckily, I’ve been able to stay connected to past students.  We write letters (no internet at mom’s). One recent note made me pause.  The writer told me he was feeling stressed. I thought, “Oh, you too?!”  I wondered what I could do to change that.  “Maybe,” I thought.  “I’d find myself smiling more, and sighing less if I started sharing books more often.  It’s what I love.  Maybe reading and sharing would reduce the worry and the weariness.”

So, here I am revamping the blog Matt helped begin 10 years ago.  Let’s see how it goes!

Good Books, Good Times!  poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins is the book that first came to mind with this blogging idea.  I keep these poems “in my pocket.”  I read them so often with my classes, they are a part of me.  “I met a dragon face to face…”  “Books to the ceiling, books to the sky…”  “Good books, good times, good stories, good rhymes…”  This collection shares the joys and comforts found through reading.  They share how books and reading transport you to new places, fill you with new ideas and support you as true friends do.  Savor them all and enjoy!


Happy Reading!📚