Brown Girl Dreaming: A Review

April 10, 2019

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming Review

  • Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Poetry, Memoir, Middle Grade, Racism, Prejudice, African-American, Family Life

*This post contains amazon affiliate links.


In free verse, Jaqueline Woodson shares her experience as an African-American growing up in South Carolina and New York during the 60s and 70s. An award-winning book, Brown Girl Dreaming is a poignant and inspiring story of a girl finding her voice and her place in the world. Even though she struggled with reading in childhood, she loved stories and blank writing paper as she held her dream of writing close to her heart.


10 Reads For Middle Grade March

March 6, 2019

10 Reads For Middle Grade March

Middle Grade March

Image Source: Canva

To participate in #middlegrademarch, I’ve compiled a list of ten great Middle Grade Reads! There are many wonderful middle grade books from which to choose and even though I haven’t read extensively in middle grade, these titles are stories that I’ve recently read and thought were exceptional because of their themes and/or diversity.

Often, children fall in love with reading in Middle Grade. Was this your experience? At last, children in Middle Grade have “learned to read” and they can fully immerse themselves in the world of words as they “read to learn” and “read for enjoyment.” They have more autonomy to choose their own reading material and can pursue individual interests. Many stories promote great family read aloud experiences. As a bonus, most Middle Grade stories have heartfelt themes without the angst and/or objectionable language of YA. Reading builds understanding and compassion.

For adults, Middle Grade books make the perfect palate cleanser or fit the description of books that can be read in a day. I strongly believe that great Middle Grade literature can be enjoyed by adults!

In addition to all the above reasons to read Middle Grade literature, I appreciate the authors who write diversely for Middle Grade readers and write on difficult themes or topics in an easy to read and understandable manner. If we buy and read more Middle Grade diverse literature, it will encourage publishers and writers to produce more. I think it’s important for children to see themselves in literature. (more…)

Review: Amal Unbound

December 21, 2018

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound 2

Genre/Categories: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction, Pakistan


Amal, living with her loving family in a quiet Pakistani village, dreams of becoming a teacher. Her educational goals are temporarily disrupted when her parents require Amal to stay home to care for her siblings while Mom recovers from childbirth. Amal is determined to keep learning despite the setback. However, events spiral out of control when Amal must work as a family servant for a corrupt landlord to pay off the family debt. Although Amal faces difficult challenges in her new and restricted life, she learns to work with others and is brave enough to take risks to affect change.

Amazon Early Rating (December): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

“If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Part of the purpose of this blog is to read diversely and to support women authors, so I’m thrilled to bring you this review.

Themes. This riveting story of a brave girl adapting to and affecting change in her circumstances is an inspiring story for all middle grade students and adults alike, and it serves as an introduction to the topic of indentured servitude as we experience forced labor through Amal’s circumstances. Nothing accomplishes building compassion and promoting understanding better than quality literature. Other themes include class structure, sexism, poverty, and the limitations that come from being born female.

Education. One reason this is an important book is for children to realize how important education is in a girl’s life and that not every girl in the world has this access. Even during Amal’s time working as an indentured servant, she didn’t give up hope of an education. In fact, the meaning of Amal in Arabic is “hope.” The author points out that millions of young girls fight for their right to an education. We may be most familiar with the popular and well-known Malala, and Amal represents all the lesser known brave girls everywhere.

Why read children’s literature? The story may seem idealistic and simplistic to an adult, but reading it as if you were the target audience (4th grade and up) will enable you to appreciate the introduction of a difficult and troubling topic to a young audience. In addition, I feel it’s important that children from every culture are able to find themselves in stories (realizing that Amal is only an example of one girl, from one family, and she is not a stereotypical representation of all girls from Pakistan culture). If we are buying these stories, publishers will take notice and more diverse literature will find its way into bookstores and classrooms. Finally, adult readers might want to make recommendations or buy gifts for children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Great literature can be enjoyed by every age, and this is a great example of a book to read with your children to generate important discussions.

Amal. Our strong-willed protagonist is a likeable and memorable character who is brave, smart, realistic, determined, smart, kind, inspirational, and a fighter. We read about her in honor of brave girls everywhere. A great companion read for this would be I Am Malala.

Recommended. I’m highly recommending this book for readers 4th grade and up, for readers who appreciate compelling stories, for fans of diverse reads, and for those looking for a strong female heroine. It will be on my best of 2018 list and it’s one I will widely and enthusiastically recommend.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Amal Unbound

(Isn’t this a striking cover?!)

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Aisha Saeed

Aisha SaeedAisha Saeed ( is a Pakistani American writer, teacher, and attorney. Her writings have appeared in publications including The Orlando Sentinel, Muslim Girl magazine, and BlogHer. As one of the founding members of the much talked about We Need Diverse Books Campaign, she is helping to change the conversation about diversity in literature. She is also a contributing author to the highly acclaimed Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, which features the story of her own (happily) arranged marriage. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.

Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

Looking Ahead:

To finish out 2018, the last posts I’m planning include one focusing on goals and challenges, one analyzing end of year numbers, a December Wrap up, and one featuring my best reads of 2018.


Check Out My Gift Ideas For the Readers on Your Holiday Shopping List!

Books are wonderful last minute gifts.

“Everyone Gets a Book!”

gift stack of books

In Movie News….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might want to put these three books on your winter to read list in preparation!)

Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

 Let’s Discuss

Do you read Middle Grade or Young Adult literature?

Do you enjoy reading diversely about other cultures?

Are you finding time to read in December?!

It’s time to start thinking about your best read of the year!

***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.



Summer Reading Ideas For Children

June 1, 2018

summer reading

If you have children in your family, what are your reading plans for the summer? Let’s talk summer reading for children with a focus on diverse reads!

Reading Clubs

May I encourage you to start a reading club with your children or grandchildren or niece or nephew? It’s a great way to promote literacy, make memories, and capture some bonding time. Some parents read books together with their children and other parents might assign reading to be discussed later at a special one-on-one lunch or dinner date. Reading the same high quality literature opens the door to many rich discussions of theme, character motivations, consequences, etc…. the discussion topic possibilities are limitless. Today I’m recommending great middle grade literature that adults will enjoy as well. It’s also fun if the book you’ve chosen has a movie adaptation for a family movie night.


wild robot

The Wild Robot series by Peter Brown is popular with upper elementary and middle grade readers. (I haven’t read them)


Reading Interviews

I’ll also encourage you to interview your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews about reading.

Here are reading interviews I recently conducted with two elementary aged boys in my family.

Jjacksonackson, age 9, 3rd grade

Q: Do you have a favorite book?
A: The Bible (I like reading the stories in my Children’s Bible)

Q: In school, what’s the best book you’ve read and what caused you to love it?
A: Charlotte’s Web is my favorite book because I like Wilbur, the pig.
Q: What did you like about Wilbur?
A: Wilbur was childish, funny, friendly, and a dare devil.

Q: Why do you think reading is important?
A: Reading is good for vocabulary.

Q: What is your favorite type of story to read (genre)?
A: I like the I Survived stories. I like real stories that could have really happened.

Q: If your friend wanted you to recommend one great book to read, what book would it be?
A: I would recommend Charlotte’s Web.   

Then he asked me a question: What book would YOU recommend for ME? (great question that I wasn’t prepared for!) I recommended Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell because of his preference for survival stories (and because it’s a traditional 4th grade core lit text). I might reread it with him so that we can have a “book date”!

dylanDylan, age 12, 6th grade

Q: What is your favorite book ever?
A: The BFG is my favorite book.
Q: Why did you choose that one as your favorite?
A: I liked the plot and character development.

Q: Do you enjoy reading?
A: I enjoy reading when I have time and when I’m not busy with school projects.

Q: What is your favorite genre?
A: I don’t have a preference for genre. I like fiction and nonfiction. My main preference for books is that they are engaging and hold my interest. I also really enjoy a series.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to read?
A: Reading helps you be a better speller and writer. I noticed recently that I was writing better because I had noticed the way an author had written something.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: I’m reading Roar of Thunder, Hear My Cry with my class.

Q: How do you get ideas for what to read next?
A: I ask my friends what they’re reading or I hear them talking about books.

Q: What is the next book you’d like to read?
A: I’d like to read The Hunger Games next. I heard some friends talking about it and it sounds interesting to me because it’s a series.

Q: Do you have a favorite character from the books you’ve read?
A: I like Harry Potter because he’s such a relatable character, and I can relate to the issues in his life. I think lots of kids like Harry Potter because he’s relatable.

Q: Do you have a favorite setting from the books you’ve read?
A: I loved the setting in Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. It would be great to live on an island and try to survive.

Q: If your best friend asked you for a book recommendation, which book would you recommend?
A: I would recommend Harry Potter. I really like that Harry Potter is a relatable character and that it is a series.

My Recommendations For Summer Reading With a Focus on Diverse Reads

I know there are hundreds of great books to recommend for children, but here are a few that I have read recently that parents might enjoy too (arranged by category):

* * * Diversity * * *

crenshaw 2

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Genre: Fiction (Categories: poverty, homelessness, imaginary friends)
My Rating: 4 stars
Katherine Applegate is a popular children’s author best known for “The One and Only Ivan.” Crenshaw is a thought-provoking, beautifully, and creatively written story exploring poverty, homelessness, and imaginary friends. Because the content of this book builds compassion and the topic of homelessness might worry some readers, I recommend this as a “read together” book. (the main character is a boy)


Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Genre: Fiction (Categories: physical differences, kindness, compassion, acceptance)
My Rating: 5 Stars
Wonder has been positively reviewed by parents, teachers, and children,  it inspired the national “Choose Kind” campaign, and many of you have seen the movie. However, if you haven’t read the book, I think it’s a must read experience for everyone! This easy to read, engaging, and thought-provoking read paves the way for grand discussions and builds compassion and empathy…..I believe that the best teaching occurs within the context of a story. My full review here.

El Deafo

El Deafo by Cece Bell
Genre: Graphic Novel (Category: hearing loss)
My Rating: 3 Stars
For older elementary school readers who love graphic novels, this story about a girl who wears an assistive device for hearing is informational, heartwarming, and builds understanding. Although all characters are rabbits, I forgot about that once I became engaged with the story! Graphic novels are sometimes a great choice for reluctant readers.

*Several of the books below also fit in the diversity category.

* * * Historical Fiction * * *


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
(sequel: The War I Finally Won)
Genre: Historical Fiction (Category: World War11)
My Rating: 4 Stars
This author has also written “Jefferson’s Sons.”
The War That Saved My Life (and it’s sequel) is a WW11 historical fiction story about an adventurous, feisty, and brave girl with an invincible spirit who is shipped out of London along with her younger brother to escape the war.


Refugee by Alan Gratz
Genre: Historical Fiction (Category: refugees)
My Rating: 5 Stars
(this would also fit in the diversity category)
Recommended for mature middle grade readers, this is a riveting refugee story told from three perspectives over several decades and several locations (Syria, Germany, Cuba). It’s an engaging, unputdownable, and relevant read for middle graders and adults, and it features two boys and one girl as main characters. Refugee is one of my favorite mature middle grade reads and you can find my full review here.

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Genre: Historical Fiction (Categories: Vietnam to America, new culture, bullying)
My Rating: 5 Stars
(this would also fit in the diversity category)
Told in free verse from the perspective of ten-year-old Ha and inspired by the author’s own experiences, this is a poignant and beautifully written story of a family’s escape from Vietnam to America. This refugee and immigrant story builds compassion and is filled with thoughtful reflection as Ha experiences grief, bullying, learning English, new foods and customs, a neighbor’s kindness, finding her voice, family loyalty, and the comfort of old traditions. A perfect read for older elementary or middle grade readers and enjoyable for adults as well. Don’t miss this beautiful book!

Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Genre: Historical Fiction (Categories: African-American, prejudice)
My Rating: 4 Stars
(this would also fit in the diversity category)
Stella by Starlight is a beautifully written and important historical fiction read for middle graders with important themes (personal and historical) that will allow for a great discussion. Stella is brave, curious, kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and an aspiring writer with a unique voice. She is a relatable and memorable character for readers as she deals with racism, the KKK, and community issues.

* * * Memoir * * *

we beat the street

We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success by Sampson Davis
Genre: Nonfiction (Categories: memoir, friendship, education, career, African-American)
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
(this would also fit in the diversity category)
This is an inspiring (and sometimes gritty) story of how three aspiring boys of color from poor communities became friends and supported each other in their common goal of becoming doctors. We Beat the Street is the middle grade version of a YA book, The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise to Fulfill a Dream. Today, they can be found at The Three Doctors Foundation.

* * * Science * * *

Finding Wonders

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins
Genre: Historical Fiction (Category: women in science)
My Rating: 4 Stars
Finding Wonders is a beautifully and creatively written historical fiction story for older middle grade girls that explores the childhood lives of three girls who are curious, love questions and the world around them, and are persistent in pursuing their love of science and scientific inquires. Each girl grows up to become a scientist and makes important scientific contributions. Middle grade girls will enjoy reading about the early interests of these real women scientists (in a historical fiction format). This story could easily lead into research projects.

* * * Classics * * *

Of course, parents and grandparents can always revisit beloved classics with their children and grandchildren. For example,
Little Women
Anne of Green Gables
Emily of New Moon
Nancy Drew Mysteries
The Hardy Boys
Chronicles of Narnia
The Hobbit
Little House on the Prairie
Ramona Books
…and many, many others!

Reading and Dyslexia

* * * * * Listen to This or Read the Show Notes! * * * * *

Listen to 6th grade Ben on the Modern Mrs Darcy “What Should I Read Next” podcast talk about reading! It’s a guaranteed delightful episode. Ben has dyslexia and has used audio books to become an avid reader. This is a great bookish discussion that will motivate kids toward their summer reading goals and includes some terrific recommendations.

A few titles Modern Mrs Darcy suggests for Ben:
The Red Wall Series by Brian Jaques (fantasy….written especially for audio enjoyment)
Gregor The Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins (fantasy, author of Hunger Games)
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Van Glaser (similar to Penderwicks series)
Sammy Keys and the Hotel Thief Series by Wendelin Van Draanen (funny mysteries….tough girl main character)
Green Ember Series by S. D. Smith

Links I Love:

The Novel Endeavor: 10 Perfect Audio Books For Summer Road Trips

The Novel Endeavor: Fairytale Retellings for Families

Ten Ways to Woo a Reluctant Reader

Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

PBS: The Great American Read

How many books have you read of the hundred on the list? Which ones will you vote for? Were you surprised by any on the list? Do you plan to vote on your favorite reads? I’ve already voted for Gone With the Wind!

Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting recs for Dads …… I’ll be in the process of reading Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown….. releasing 6/5)…my most anticipated new release of the year! My husband and I plan to “buddy read” it and a review will be coming some time in June. I’ve read some positive early reviews already.

Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear about your summer reading and, if you have children in your life, what summer reading looks like in your family.

Do you have a book your children have enjoyed that you can recommend?

Also, please share what you’ve been reading lately and/or your thoughts about The Great American Read sponsored by PBS.

I enjoy a good middle grade read once in a while. Do you ever read children’s literature?

***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.