Publisher’s Weekly Best Middle Grade Books of 2019

Publisher’s Weekly has released their picks for the best books of the year. They do three lists for books for children and teens. Here are the middle grade books that made the list:

All the Greys on Greene Street Dream Within a Dream

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan

The Line Tender Look Both Ways

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

The Lost Girl My Jasper June

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder

New Kid The Next Great Paulie Fink

New Kid by Jerry Craft

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

Other Words for Home Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

Queen of the Sea Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #1)

Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

The Strangers (Greystone Secrets, #1) This Was Our Pact

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia


Review: Finding Grandma’s Memories by Jiyeon Pak

Finding Grandma's Memories by Jiyeon Pak

Finding Grandma’s Memories by Jiyeon Pak (9780525581086)

Told from the point of view of the young granddaughter, this picture book explores the issue of having a loved one who is experiencing memory loss. The little girl loves having tea with her grandmother. She gets to pick a teacup from her grandma’s “treasure shelf” and then they share berry tea and cupcakes together as they tell one another about their day. But Grandma is starting to get confused. She has called the little girl by the wrong name, put her teacups on the bookshelf, and forgot to turn off the water. The next time the little girl visited, she and her grandmother looked at old photographs together. Then she had an idea to label things to help her grandmother remember too. Now she is also ready to share their stories with her grandmother if she has problems remembering.

Pak clearly shows the two generation connecting in this story of family love. The story transforms from the grandmother taking such good care of her granddaughter into needing more help to keep things straight. Nicely, there is no sense of panic in this book, just a steady sense of change and need for care. The use of small helpful ideas to implement also returns some ability to help to the young child in the story. The illustrations are bright and friendly, filled with smiles and connections to one another even as things grow more difficult.

An empowering story for young children about memory loss and helping a loved one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf. 

A Twitter Break


I’ll be taking a hiatus from Twitter, which is the last social media platform I actively use since I stopped using Facebook for personal things over six months ago. The Man Blueprint has a great article that nicely summarizes why I’m taking a break. A few months ago I really pruned back on the people I followed on Twitter, trying to get out of the political cesspool I had been swimming in there. It didn’t help, I still get news that made me livid over and over again as if playing on repeat.

So it’s time for a break. Next week I’ll do a new version of what used to be “what I shared on Twitter this week” and I’ll hopefully have found new ways to keep up with children’s lit news. Let me know if you have any tips for me!

Also, are you changing your usage of social media? I’d love to hear your experiences too.

P.S. – I’m also no longer having Waking Brain Cells post directly to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn when I post something, so feel free to subscribe via email or check in personally to find out what I’m up to in my little blogging world.



I will be on vacation this week, so there won’t be any book reviews or other posts. Enjoy the last days of August! I’ll be back next week hopefully with some more books finished.

Waking Brain Cells Anniversary


Waking Brain Cells turns 16 years old this week! I am so grateful to have been part of the children’s lit blogging community from the beginning. The changes I have been able to be part of over the years are inspiring and important. The face of children’s and teen lit is becoming more diverse, both in terms of creators and bloggers. I am happy to feature many diverse authors and creators on my blog, doing my small part.

Thank you for reading, for following, for listening. I value all of you and feel so much gratitude for being able to do this year after year.

Review: The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol (9781626724426)

The Little Guys are very small but when they work together they can do almost anything! Using leaves to float, they cross deep water. In the big forest, they hold hands to stay together and keep from being afraid. They find berries and form a stack to reach them. But as they continue their search for more and more food, they start using their combined strength in a way that upsets the rest of the forest. Chipmunks go flying, owls get forced out of their nests, and they even beat up a bear! Soon they have all of the food in the forest! But have they gone too far?

Brosgol follows her incredible Leave Me Alone! with this clever look at the impact of collective action and what happens when even the smallest of us upset the balance of nature and society. The text is simple and straightforward, told in the voice of the Little Guys as they head out scavenging. They are full of confidence as they make the trek to find food and it’s a stirring picture of the power of community until it goes awry in such a spectacular way.

Brosgol’s Little Guys are ever so adorable with their acorn caps and stick-thin limbs. Their orange bulbous noses also add to their appeal. With almost no facial expressions, it is impressive how she gives them emotions with body language. The dwarfing of their size in the forest and beside the other animals is also effectively portrayed.

A delight of a picture book that is an unusual look at sharing with your community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.

This Week’s Tweets

Here are the items I shared on Twitter this week. Have a very good holiday weekend!



2019 Summer Reading from The Horn Book: Middle School — The Horn Book #kidlit

Judith Kerr Obituary –

Q & A with Jasmine Warga #kidlit


Sarah Jessica Parker throws shade at de Blasio’s proposed library cut –


4 Reasons You Should be Reading Books Daily, According to Science #reading


15 Must-Read Queer YA Fantasy Books #yalit

The 2019 Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book goes to Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi –

Complicated Friendships, Classics Made Modern, and So Much Murder –

Elizabeth Acevedo’s Work Is a Welcome Rarity in YA Fiction –

Seven (Mostly New) OwnVoices Asian Book Recs for APAH Month –

Summer Book Preview: The 10 Books You Won’t Be Able to Put Down –

The YA Trans Ownvoices Masterlist –


2019 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are in their 67th year. The award ” recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage
children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.” The award is given to books in two categories: Younger Children and Older Children. There are also two honor books this year for each age group. Here are the winners and honor books:


The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López



Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes



The Day the War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love



The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson