Welcome to KidLit Gems!

About favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

September’s theme: Empowering Youth

NameplateAnnasGemII AM MALALA
The Girl Who Stood Up For Education
And Was Shot By The Taliban

Text © 2013 by Salarzai Limited
Written by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb 


12 and up

to Adult

Brown and Company, a Division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Awards: Non-Fiction Book of
the Year, National Book Awards

Once I had asked God for one or two extra inches in height, but instead he made me as tall as the sky, so high that I could not measure myself. So I offered the hundred raakat nafl that I had promised if I grew.

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for good reason.  Inspired by her passionate educator father and her political hero, Benazir Bhutto, she spoke out as an advocate for millions of education-deprived girls when she knew it could cost her her life. Then she got shot in the head at point-blank range on her school bus. Yet she continued to express her defiance against intellectual oppression from her hospital bed and continues to this day. In my eyes, she is the Nelson Mandela/Martin Luther King of the right to education.

In I Am Malala, you’ll learn why Malala doesn’t wear earrings; what she thought about  9-11; how she treats her impoverished peers; what a “ghost school” is; what she means when she says the music stopped; why Operation Silence and the death of some surprisingly vocal women enraged the Swat Taliban; who Gul Makai and Asia Bibi are; what IDP means; how Malala became friends with former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; why Birmingham is significant to her (not Alabama, but England); and how Malala and her family survived an earthquake, the biggest exodus in Pashtun history, government corruption, and the attempted-indoctrination of a brain-washing radio dictator, Fazlullah (Fazal Hayat).

Some book reviewers have expressed that they wanted less history and more emotional content. Granted, if you’re looking for all emotion and no history, this book might not be for you. But if you want to learn and be inspired, the backstory will explain how and why so many Pakistani’s came to accept jihad. And you’ll marvel all the more at the extraordinary courage of the story-tellers: 1.) a still-threatened Pakistani school girl who forgave her would-be-assassin and 2.) a busy foreign correspondent who managed to translate the good, the bad, and the ugly of Malala’s complex life to a culturally diverse world in strike-while-the-gun-is-hot hyper speed.

Thank you, Little, Brown and Company, for spreading Malala’s story. I commend you for your courage and vision.

The United Nations designated November 10 Malala Day. Let’s celebrate Malala-style: “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

We human beings don’t realize how great God is. He has given us an extra extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colors and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, a nose which smells the beauty of fragrance, and two ears to hear the words of love. As I found with my ear, no one knows how much power they have in their each and every organ until they lose one.
~ I Am Malala

~ Anna

“My year with Malala,” The Sunday Times, 13 October 2013 by Christina Lamb

Note that there is also a Young Reader’s Edition of I Am Malala, co-written by Patricia McCormick.

He Named Me Malala Official Trailer 1 (2015) – Documentary HD from Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films

GEM Ruby

We want to hear from you!
What book would you recommend to empower youth?


Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee style conversation about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Empowering Youth

Text © 2013, Trudy Ludwig
Illustrations © 2013, Patrice Barton



Age Range:
6-9 years

Grade Level:
First- Fourth

Alfred A.
for Young
an imprint of
Random House


  • 2013 Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Starred Review, School Library Journal
  • School Library Journal Best Picture Books 2013 Selection
  • Scholastic Instructor Recommended Back-to-School Picks 2013
  • USA Today Recommended Back-to-School Picks 2013
  • 2013 NAPPA Gold Medal Winner
  • The Children’s Book Review Best Picture Books 2013 Selection
  • Missourian October Book Buzz Pick 2013
  • Winter 2013-2014 Kids’ Indie Next List Selection
  • Oregon Spirit Book Awards 2013 Short List Selection
  • International Reading Association Teachers’ Choices 2014 Selection
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award 2015 Master List Selection



When the bell rings for recess, Micah and J.T. take turns choosing kids for their kickball teams. The best players get picked first. Then the best friends of the best players. Then the friends of the best friends. Only Brian is left, still waiting and hoping.
~ The Invisible Boy

I admit it: As a teacher, I sometimes lecture. I preach. I cajole. And in doing so, I risk losing my audience. Trudy Ludwig, however, spins a sweet story to sneak in her lesson of inclusiveness. In The Invisible Boy, Brian always seems to fly under the radar: Never picked for group work, never invited to parties, never really noticed despite his artistic talent and friendliness. It takes a new student’s arrival to change the class dynamics so Brian finally stops being so—invisible.

I’m normally a text-focused reviewer, but Patrice Barton’s illustrations really step up to enhance this story. When Brian feels sidelined, he’s drawn in black and white, contrasting wonderfully next to his colorful classmates. Each time he’s actually noticed or interacts with others, color starts to blossom on his cheeks. It’s a simple but effective technique to catch our eye and evoke sympathy for Brian. The ending is that much more satisfying when we finally get to see Brian in full, blessed color like the other kids.

Whether you’re hoping to teach inclusiveness, celebrate quiet talents, or just enjoy a story with heart, check out The Invisible Boy and feel your own color start to blossom.

~ Lou




Brian looks at the floor, wishing he could draw a hole right there to swallow him up.
~ The Invisible Boy

Everyone wants to be noticed. That’s why Nathan talks in his outside voice, why Sophie is a drama queen, and why the teacher can’t see past Nathan and Sophie. All of them are competing to be heard. But Brian has a bigger problem. He’s too introverted to demand attention. He’s the invisible boy.

Haven’t we all felt invisible?

Author Tracy Ludwig offers a solution, but it requires a risk. This risk entails looking outside of ourselves. Ludwig reminds young readers, old readers, introverts, and extroverts that happiness is accessible when we share the good that is within.

Illustrator Patrice Barton makes kids like Brian visible with humor and gentleness. Her images don’t reprimand, pity, or condescend. I like to imagine that her other tenderly-drawn characters, like those in Mine and I Like Old Clothes are the family members of Brian and his class–all on their own journey of acceptance.

The Invisible Boy and Ludwig’s other psychologically smart stories, like Confessions of a Former Bully and Gifts From the Enemy offer creative resources to replace isolation, exclusion, and aggression with companionship, empathy, and kindness. Children love Ludwig and her stories, because she understands. Parents and teachers, and counselors love Ludwig and her stories, because she empowers.

Who’s invisible in your life? Is it you? You’ll find a friend in The Invisible Boy.

~ Anna


KEM Diamond

Watch for my gem next week!

We want to hear from you!
What empowering children’s book do you recommend?


Welcome to KidLit Gems!

About favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

August’s theme: Survivor Stories

Text © 2011, (Reprint Edition 2013) Thanhha Lai





Harper, an imprint of Harper-

New York Times Bestseller





  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, 2011
  • Newbery Honor, 2012
  • Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor for Older Children, 2012
  • ALA Notable Children ‘s Book 2012, Middle;
  • Booklist 2011 Editors’ Choice, Books for Youth, Fiction, Middle Reader
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books of 2011
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books 2011, Fiction
  • SLJ Best Books of 2011, Fiction
  • Booklist Lasting Connections of 2012, Social Studies
  • Notable Children’s Book in the English Language Arts, 2012
  • CCBC Choices, 2012
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2012, World History & Culture

 Current News

Every Friday
in Miss Zinh’s class
we talk about
current news.

But when we keep talking about
how close the Communists
have gotten to Saigon
how much prices have gone up
since American soldiers left,
how many distant bombs
were heard the previous night,
Miss Xinh finally says no more.

From now on
will be for
happy news.

No one has anything
to say.

March 21


This loosely autobiographical middle grade masterpiece ranks right up there with  Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood; Sold; A Long Walk to Water; and The One and Only Ivan. Like the aforementioned stories, Inside Out & Back Again offers readers an opportunity to live another’s real life experiences in different skin in different cultures and different parts of the world. And these stories aren’t your run of the mill grind–but encounters with tribulation, hope, and survival. And, like Sold and The One and Only Ivan, the experiences are delivered through intimate first person, present tense verse.

War leaves Thannha Lai’s ten-year-old protagonist, Hà, and her three older brothers fatherless. Through Hà, Thannha brings us into parts of her own world as a citizen of Saigon, then a boat refugee, and an immigrant to Guam, Florida, and Alabama. In her homeland Hà feels smart, secure, and fearless. In America Hà feels dumb, lonely, and afraid.

Her discoveries made me laugh out loud:

. . .

I look up

Jane: not listed

sees: to eyeball something

Spot: a stain

run: to move really fast

Meaning: ______ eyeballs stain move.

And clutch my chair:

. . .  Everyone knows the ship
could sink,
unable to hold
the piles of bodies
that keep crawling on
like raging ants
from a disrupted nest.

And cry:

. . . What if
father is really gone?

From the sad look
on their faces
I know
despite their brave guesses
They have begun to accept
what I said on a whim.

Capturing such a comprehensive, novel in so few words is an exceptional feat. Many people live harrowing lives that will go unnoticed. Cultures and parts of the world will go unshared. But thanks to the talent and dedication of author Thanhha Lai, we can experience a taste of her life–as one smart, young, female Vietnamese survivor, because she’s discovered the perfect formula for translation.

If you like this KidLit Gem, you’ll also love Thanhha’s newest New York Times sensation, Listen, Slowly.

~ Anna

Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again Reading, 2011 National Book Awards

GEM Ruby

Watch for Kristi’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What’s your favorite survivor story for children?


Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Survivor Stories

Text © 2010, Edwidge Danticat
Illustrations © 2010, Alix Delinois



Age Range:
4-8 years

Grade Level:
3rd Grade

an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Kirkus, starred review


.. when the earth shook again and again, I was afraid. And sometimes I cried, because I missed Manman and Papa and my little sister, Justine. But in my mind, I played.
~ Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

Haiti’s 2010 earthquake didn’t end happily ever after, yet it’s the subject of an inspiring picture book. In Eight Days: A Story of Haiti, author Edwidge Danticat introduces us to Haitian daily life through Junior, a fictional boy pulled from the rubble after eight long days.

As we wait for Junior’s rescue, day by day, the story focuses on pre-earthquake Haiti. We daydream with Junior about his favorite, wonderfully ordinary activities—flying kites, eating sweet mangos, and helping Papa sweep up at work. Through his eyes, we feel the simple joy of jumping in puddles, racing bicycles around statues, and singing in the church choir. The text resonates with a child’s voice and word choices, letting us peek into a far-away culture full of light and joy despite unimaginable challenges.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or troubled, read Eight Days for a dose of hope, happiness, and humility.

~ Lou

EightDaysBeginningFourthDay ___________________________________________________________________

But then Oscar felt really tired and went to sleep. He never woke up. That was the day I cried. ~ Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

How often does news of natural disaster cause a knot in your stomach and a lump in your throat? Do you wonder how such global challenges affect children? Can you comprehend the anxiety felt by child survivors, like the Haitian children who worried for their families and loved ones after the January 12, 2010 earthquake? Edwidge Danticat could. Her own five-year-old had questions. Danticat wanted her daughter and other children to know that hope, memories, and imagination can survive disaster. That’s why she wrote Eight Days: A Story of Haiti.

Danticat wrote about struggle, determination, and loss through a small survivor named Junior. Through this creative format, kids can understand and accept, without feeling overwhelmed by sadness or despair. Alix Delinois’ beautiful, bright, colorful illustrations keep Haiti and its culture alive as it was and can be again.

Power in a picture book: If you want to assure children or yourself that it’s okay to talk about sad things–and that perseverance, empathy, and compassion can overcome tragic circumstances, look no further than Eight Days: A Story of Haiti.

~ Anna


KEM Diamond

Watch for my gem next!

We want to hear from you!
What’s you favorite survivor story for children?


Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Reptilian Tales

Text © 2004, David LaRochelle
Illustrations © 2004, Hanako Wakiyama



Age Range:
3-6 years

Grade Level:
2nd Grade

a division of Penguin Young Reader’s Group

Starred Review, American
Library Association

Publisher’s Weekly,
Starred Review

“Finally my mother got angry. She stomped her foot. She told the dragon to leave this minute OR ELSE. The dragon just shook his head. He went back to eating spaghetti in the bathtub.”

How to convince a reluctant mother to adopt a dog? First get an ill-behaved dragon, of course! In The Best Pet of All, Minnesota author David LaRochelle spins a new twist on a child asking for a pet. Cool retro illustrations by Hanako Wakiyama perfectly match this classic theme.

So what author’s technique makes this book shine? In my opinion, it’s LaRochelle masterful use of patterns to pace the story events. Everything begins with a child asking for a dog on Monday, and his daily requests continue. By Thursday, however, LaRochelle throws in a twist: a dragon. To avoid predictability, he then drops the days of the week pattern and switches to using repetition instead: Four attempts to find a dragon, three attempts to lure the dragon home, five dragon misbehaviors, and three attempts to dislodge the dragon from the home.

Young readers won’t close the book with a satisfied sigh and say, “Boy, that guy really knows how to move a story along with clever use of patterning.” But they’ll likely say, “Read it again!” After all, just like in show biz, it’s the skillful work behind the curtains that gets us clapping for an encore.

~ Lou

Dragons are not easy to find. At last I found a dragon. This dragon was at the drugstore. He was wearing dark glasses and a hat. ~ The Best Pet of All

David LaRochelle applies the lesser-of-two evils-principle to a picture book, making this the ultimate how-to guide for kids perfecting the art of persuasion regarding pet (specifically dog) ownership.

It seems unusual for someone with David LaRochelle’s artistic talent to step aside and let someone else illustrate his baby, but David LaRochelle has more humility than most and this gives way to literary success. It’s his humility and humor that has reaped him the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, SCBWI Golden Kite Honor Award, Minnesota Book Award, and his amazing books–over 25 of them, so far.

I wonder if he wants it back?Hanako Wakiyama’s flawless 50’s -60’s flavor makes me feel warm and fuzzy–and little again. Everyone wants that hip mom. And Wakiyama’s retro style reminds me of my vintage Whitman Tiny-Tot Tale Fun At The Beach by Gloria Trachtenberg, illustrated by Dagmar Wilson (that I borrowed  from my cousin in the 1960’s and never returned).

Tiny-Tot Tales' FUN AT THE BEACH

Tiny-Tot Tales’ FUN AT THE BEACH

BruceHaleWakiyama’s dragon reminds me of children’s author Bruce Hale, but it could just be the hat.

The Best Pet Of All is worthy to be read everywhere, even on the White House lawn.

Oh, wait! See below!

~ Anna


KEM Diamond

Watch for another pick from Lou next week!

We want to hear from you!
What’s you favorite reptilian tale?

August’s KidLit Gem Theme – Survivor Stories


June is our month to recognize fathers.
What children’s book would you recommend for Father’s Day?

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

About favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: KidLit Gems for Dad

NameplateAnnasGemIMY DAD IS BIG AND STRONG, BUT . . .
Text © 2012, Coralie Saudo
Illustrations © 2012, Kris Di Giacomo



                 Age Range:
4-8 years

              Grade Level:

       Enchanted Lion Books


Kirkus, Starred Review

At first, I try to be nice. ~ My Dad Is Big And Strong, But . . .

This father/child picture book is a French import that shows how humor and tenderness can survive translation. In it kids everywhere can experience the universally exhaustive side of bedtime manigances (That’s French for shenanigans. Aren’t you impressed?) The protagonist must convince his father that it is bedtime; that he’s read him enough stories; and no, the dark is nothing to fear. What a delightful way to affirm a strong and playful bond between a father and child. All this while empowering the child with a newfound empathy for his or her caretaker.

I hope Coralie Saudo’s deadpan text will make you laugh out loud while you study Kris Di Giacomo’s unique and funny illustrative style with its muted and earthy color palette. Wouldn’t you love to be a little birdie in the corner as Saudo and Di Giacomo tuck children into bed? With their humor and creativity, it must involve entertaining negotiation.

Fathers: experience My Dad Is Big And Strong, But . . . with your children. It might not make the lights-out process less eventful, but it’s sure to make the ritual more fun.

~ Anna




And when he looks at me with those pleading puppy dog eyes, I give in every time and read him another story. ~MY DAD IS BIG AND STRONG, BUT . . . (the next page)


GEM Ruby

Watch for Kristi’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book would you recommend for Father’s Day?


June is our month to honor our fathers.
What children’s book makes you think of your dad?

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: KidLit Gems for Dad

Text © 2002, Martin Jenkins
Illustrations © 2002, Jane Chapman



Age Range:
4-8 years

Grade Level:
3rd Grade


And because he’s egg-sitting, he can’t go off to the sea to feed. So that means two whole months with an egg on your feet and no dinner! Or breakfast or lunch or snacks.”
~ The Emporer’s Egg

With June honoring fathers, let The Emperor’s Egg serve as a shout-out to all those single dads, stay-at-home fathers, and any guys who shoulder the bulk of child-rearing. And yes, I’m also talking about penguins here.

The Emperor’s Egg draws us into Antarctic family life from a male Emperor penguin’s point of view. After the female lays an egg, she disappears to feed all winter. The male warms, protects, and hatches the egg, then feeds the chick until the female finally returns to land.

Stellar non-fiction picture books intertwine facts with emotion-evoking narrative. In The Emperor’s Egg, author Martin Jenkins slips in non-fiction tidbits while getting us to really care and root for the penguins. Illustrator Jane Chapman’s soothing acrylics capture charming penguin body language, while bringing life and depth to a barren landscape.

Whatever your family situation, if you’re looking for a Father’s Day book that really embodies dad devotion, check out this gem.

~ Lou

THEEMPORERSEGGIV ___________________________________________________________________

And when it gets really cold and windy, they all snuggle up together and shuffle over the ice in a great big huddle.
~ The Emporer’s Egg

THE EMPEROR’S EGG is an EGGcellent tribute to fatherhood; plainly stating the sacrifices that are made as the Emperor patriarch. I love how the narrative begins with the extremes of nature while the illustration portrays a simplistically painted landscape. The illustrations are seemingly simple, yet masterfully rendered. Much like the extremes of the Arctic cold and starvation, the bold brushwork allows the onlooker to feel the heaviness of the dire situation. Then, CHIP, as though the sound of the newborn chips away the icy cold, the narrative and brushstroke’s shift and we are introduced to the feathery ways of parenting a penguin chick. This to me is a true picture book, as neither the narrative nor the illustration would behold such beauty, if it weren’t for the other. A true union that hatches a gem worthy of royalty.

~ Kristi

THEEMPORERSEGGIII ____________________________________________________________________

It’s mom! She starts trumpeting “hello” and the father penguin starts trumpeting “hello” and the chick whistles. The racket goes on for hours, and it really does sound as if they’re extremely pleased to see each other.
~ The Emporer’s Egg

There’s something special about waddling penguins, newborn babies, and doting dads. Martin Jenkins, author of Chameleons Are Cool and Grandma Elephant’s in Charge, combines them to add another irresistible animal-centered picture book to the Read and Wonder series. Through Jenkins’ enthusiastic and conversational writing style young and old readers will fall in love with the biggest penguins in the world. Their unconventional, gentle, and efficient tag team-style cooperation toward making a family offer subliminal inspiration to us humans as we strive for a higher level of selflessness and commitment. Jane Chapman’s lifelike illustrations and Jenkins’ clever footnotes pull the story together for an authentic nonfiction experience. If you enjoyed National Geographic’s March of the Penguins, you’ll enjoy The Emporer’s Egg.

~ Anna


KEM Diamond

Watch for my pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book makes you think of your dad?


May is the month to honor mom.
What children’s book is your ode to motherhood?

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: KidLit Gems for Mom

NameplateKristisGemIHUSH LITTLE BABY
Text © 1997, Sylvia Long

of the
well-known lullaby


Age Range:
Infant –
7 years

Grade Level:
Preschool -2nd

Chronicle Books


Child Magazine “Best Books of 1997”
1997 Bookbuilders West Award

Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s going to show you a hummingbird. If that hummingbird should fly, Mama’s going to show you the evening sky. ~ Hush Little Baby, by Sylvia Long

Bedtime was such a special ritual for my children. And thanks to Sylvia Long’s, Hush Little Baby, we all sang a lullaby together as we read this book.  Long’s magical version of the lullaby quietly takes the reader on a journey out the bedroom window, all the while, reassuring the young child that Mama will be there at every turn of the adventure. Long’s rich illustrations are as peaceful as the setting sun, and as beloved as the creatures that scurry to bed at dusk. This book is a tribute and a celebration of motherhood, and all the blessings it beholds.

~ Kristi

When the nighttime shadows fall, Mama’s going to hear the crickets call.  ~ Hush Little Baby, by Sylvia Long

Sylvia Long’s masterful illustrations have the timeless appeal of Clement Hurd’s Runaway Bunny and Milo Winter’s The Hare and the Tortoise from The Aesop for Children.  Long says she changed the classic lullaby’s promises of materialistic reward (Papa’s going to buy you . . . ) to words offering comfort in the natural world. (Mama’s going to show you . . .) My thoughts: Papa needs to buy Mama a diamond ring. Fussy bedtime bunnies won’t find contentment in jewelry. Kudos to Long, for taking something beautiful and making it even better.

If you loved this cuddle time board book, you’ll also love Marla Frazee’s charming 2007 version, Hush, Little Baby: A Folk Song With Pictures.

~ Anna


Copyrighted material



Watch for Lou’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book is your ode to mom/motherhood?

June’s Theme – KidLit Gems for Dad


May is our month to recognize mothers.
What children’s book mothers go above and beyond?

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: KidLit Gems for Mom

Text © 2014, Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrations © 2014, Christian Robinson



Age Range:
4-8 years

Grade Level:

Antheneum Books
Young Readers

An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division


Kirkus, Starred Review
Horn Book Magazine, Starred Review
Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
Publisher’s Weekly, Best Summer Books 2014

Mrs. Poodle admired her new puppies, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston. ~ Gaston

Gaston is a story about a delivery room mix-up that goes right. What’s not to love? It has humor. Fi-Fi? Foo-Foo? Ooh-La-La? I bet Kelly DiPucchio’s critique group spit cappuccino out of their noses when they first read these names out loud.

It has smarts. Alliterations please the ears: “There was much to see. Daffodils. Ducklings. Dogs.” Attention-getting cues engage: “Would you like to see them again?”

It has heart. Despite parenting alone and discovering a post-delivery mix-up, the canine supermoms, Mrs. Poodle and Mrs. Bulldog, raise well-adjusted,  thriving offspring. This is the perfect book for those who question their place in the world. While researching Gaston, I was surprised by nature vs. nurture debates.  My take: While every family situation is different, one element remains the same. Belonging isn’t about similarities. It’s about love.

Christian Robinson’s retro illustrations, including the Poodle and Bulldog family pictures; make me miss my sentimental supermom; and my fairly normal, but unique gold, orange, and green childhood.

~ Anna

From that day forward the families met in the park every afternoon to play. Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette taught the poodle puppies a thing or two about being tough.

Likewise, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston taught the bulldog puppies a thing or two about being tender. ~ Gaston

Gaston reminds me of Romeo & Juliet, two families from opposite sides of the tracks, circling their territory. This age appropriate picture book’s delightful alliteration, rhymes and Matisse-esque illustrations contribute to the age-old adage, “opposites attract”.  Children will delight as the “brutish or brawny” and the “proper or precious” unite. Three cheers for the mothers in this story that wisely, stand-by as Gaston and Antoinette explore their true identities. And unlike Romeo & Juliet, where the families are meddling, there is a happy ending to this love story.

~ Kristi


GEM Ruby

Watch for Kristi’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s book moms excel in the motherhood department?


Welcome to KidLit Gems, a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Planting Seeds

Text © 2009, Jacqueline Kelly


Historical Fiction

Age Range:
9-12 years

Grade Level:

Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Macmillan Publishers


2010 Newbery Honor Award

2010 Bank Street – Josette Frank Award

The IRA Children’s Book Award
North Carolina Young Adult Book Award
Virginia M. Law Award
Judy Lopez Book Award

We arose in the dark, hours before sunrise, when there was barely a smudge of indigo along the eastern sky and the rest of the horizon was still pure pitch. ~ The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

In The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate the beloved Callie Vee’s independent and curious nature takes the reader on an adventure into the lives of a spirited, small town Texas family. Kelly’s rich settings and attention to detail aptly fits the scientific investigations that 11-year old Callie and her cantankerous Granddaddy explore.  And like Darwinism, the strong survive! The question is, will Callie endure, or will she be like the green grasshoppers that get eaten before they fully mature? I found myself rooting for Callie to evolve beyond the southern ladylike conventions of “housewifery” so she could follow her intellectual inquisitiveness..
~ Kristi

Great. I could see the newspaper: Girl Scientist Thwarted for all Time by Stupid Sewing Projects. Loss to Society Immeasurable. Entire Scientific Community in Mourning.  ~The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The book cover reveals that its author, Jacqueline Kelly, is not only a Newbery-winning novelist; she’s also a practicing physician and lawyer. For Dr. Kelly, Esquire, I apologize, but this cosmically lopsided distribution of brilliance made me swear in my Yosemite Sam voice, “Oooooo. I hate that woman.”

Luckily, southern charm and dry humor won me over. Calpurnia made me laugh out loud when she compared unpleasant thoughts to “a bothersome, bad smelling dog demanding attention” and wondered why dogs have eyebrows. I’m convinced that Calpurnia earned her doctorate in the sciences–and maybe a law degree and a Newbery, too. By page 340, I vicariously celebrated the victories of Calpurnia and Jacqueline. You might say I evolved.
~ Anna


Watch for The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. Expected publication date: July 7, 2015.

KEM Sapphire

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