An Un-Calibrated Centrifuge

Anastasia Krupnik

Anastasia Krupnik - Lois Lowry

I read and loved Anastasia Krupnik as a kid. (The book seemed so much longer then.) Great, realistic contemporary middle grade fiction. A lot happens in a very short book. Made me love Wordsworth. 

The Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone - T.H. White

Another from NPR's Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf. The rating is entirely indicative of my enjoyment of the book and does not reflect the quality of the writing/story. 


I do not like this type of fantasy, and it was kind of a slog for me to finish this book. Very similar to when I had to read The Wizard of Earthsea. High(ish) fantasy just doesn't do it for me. Unfortunately that means there's a lot of it that I'm reading to finish this list. While I didn't love the book, I did find parts very funny. 

Song for a Whale

Song For A Whale - Lynne  Kelly

I enjoyed this book, but I wanted to like it more. Portions reminded me of The Thing About Jellyfish, but it didn't resonate with me like that book did. I did enjoy all the parts about Iris's deafness and Deaf culture.

The Princess Diaries

The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot

The early 2000s were a wild time. If I had read the book back then I might have liked it. But in general I think the movie did it better. The book laid on the diary format too hard. It's like that break up book by Daniel Handler where the MC is writing a letter... I just don't believe Mia taking the time to write all this stuff down as it's happening. Also there was some racial stereotyping with the German and Japanese tourists among other things you probably couldn't get away with in books today.

If Not, Winter

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho - Sappho, Anne Carson

someone will remember us

                                     I say

                                     even in another time


It's so frustrating to read these fragments. I just want to know what the whole poems were.


Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World - Rachel Swaby

I'm looking for books for summer reading, and this one looked promising. However, out of the 52 women in the book only THREE (3) are women of color. Three? In a book of 52? That number is pathetic.


I did read the three profiles of Alice Ball, Jane Wright and Chien-Shiung Wu, and they were pretty interesting. On the whole the book seems like an invitation to seek out longer more in depth biographies on all these women who each no doubt deserve more than five pages apiece about their accomplishments and contributions to science.

Pink and Say

Pink and Say - Patricia Polacco

Wow. This book is intense but in a good way. Polacco handles the race and class of the boys well. The dialect is enough to get a sense for the way they talk but not over the top stereotypical. I like when Pink explicitly says his master is a bad man even though he taught him to read (going against many typical slave narratives). 

The Mitten

The Mitten - Jan Brett, Jan Brett

I particularly enjoyed the framing device with the mitten windows giving a sneak peek into what was going to happen next. The illustrations are so wonderfully detailed I want to crawl inside them like the animals crawling inside Nicki’s mitten.

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems (Reverso Poems) - Marilyn Singer, Josée Masse

Wow, these are clever. I think fractured fairy tales can be really difficult to do well without feeling derivative, but Singer nails these on the head. They are all so well done and thought provoking, particularly “Do You Know My Name?” about Rumpelstiltskin and the girl he spins for.

A Pizza the Size of the Sun

A Pizza the Size of the Sun - Jack Prelutsky, James Stevenson

I enjoyed this collection of poems. Silly poems that make kids laugh are always fun and an easy way to get kids reading poetry. However, I’m not a fan of the “Swami Gourami” poem. The poem and the illustrations seem stereotypical and inaccurate. Swami is a term for Hindu teachers who generally don’t wear turbans or tell the future (as far as I know).  

George and Martha: Two Great Friends

George and Martha Two Great Friends Early Reader - James Marshall

I am charmed by George and Martha who are reminiscent of Lobel’s Frog and Toad. “The Tub” was my favorite story from the book. It packs such a punch in so few pages. Each of the stories are concise yet complete making it a great choice for young readers who might not have the attention span for longer books.

Not So Different

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability - Shane Burcaw, Matt Carr

I think often people are embarrassed to ask questions about disabilities, and the book really confronts Burcaw’s SMA head on. The book is frank, funny, educational, and a good resource for able-bodied kids to see that people with disabilities aren’t so different from themselves.

Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends

Mouse and Mole, Fine Feathered Friends - Wong Herbert Yee

Mice and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends brings together several elements that I like in children’s easy readers: fun situations, good friendship, and subtle humor told in simple language with clear illustrations.

Juana and Lucas

Juana and Lucas - Juana Medina, Juana Medina

It does feel a little strange to read about a character’s struggles learning in English… in English. But the book describes Juana’s frustrations in a very empathetic way. It left me very impressed with everyone who learns English as a second language and who is bilingual. The book is full of visual interest from the character diagrams to the bright watercolor illustrations. Even the text varies in size and shape adding to the story in a similar way to the text in the Geronimo Stilton paperback series, though the effect in Juana and Lucas is used more sparingly and less obtrusively. Spanish is sprinkled throughout the book always accompanied by context clues to aid comprehension.

Ivy and Bean

Ivy and Bean - Annie Barrows, Sophie Blackall

Ivy and Bean is a good transitional fiction book with supportive illustrations on every page. The dynamic between Ivy and Bean is realistic and irresistible. It's not a series I'm likely to read more of, but kids who enjoy the first volume have several other books in the series available to them.

Separate Is Never Equal

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation - Duncan Tonatiuh

The book touches on colorism, an issue often glossed over or never even addressed in children’s books. The Mendez case led to the desegregation of California public schools and was influential when Brown v. Board of Education went before the Supreme Court. The case should be more well known and hopefully Tonatiuh’s book helps the story reach more people.