In My Library Tote: June Book Picks for Mom and Toddler

If you asked about my favorite things right now I’d have a pretty short list: ice cream, because duh, and books. Just about all I want to do right now is read, and the other day I made a list of all the books I wanted to read this summer and it’s ridiculously long. I likely won’t get through that whole list, but I may as well try. #dreambig 

Anyway, here are a few things that Jona and I have been reading semi-lately. (Somehow I’m about a month behind on sharing our reads, so these are all from a month or so ago.) 

{recent reads: for mom}

Looking for something to read? Here are a few I read in June--click through to read my reviews and see if any sound good to you.

If you’re looking for… 

{something to add to your audible queue} Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. One of the questions Anne asks her interviewees in her podcast, What Should I Read Next? (if you haven’t guessed, it’s my favorite), is “What do you want to be different in your reading life?” For me, the answer to that question is that I’d like to read more outside my “comfort zone.” Brown Girl Dreaming, because it’s not a book I would normally pick up, helped me to do just that. Writing in free verse, Woodson shares her own childhood story: an African American girl growing up in the 1960s and 70s, trying to find her place as she moves from South Carolina to New York and back. The free verse intimidated me about this book, but I’d heard that Woodson reads it herself in the audio version, and that it was worth a listen. I’m so glad I did, because while it did have a beautiful, poetic feel, I didn’t get too caught up in the structure or syntax, which can sometimes be a mental block for me when it comes to poetry. 
     Worth the read? Yes, but I would recommend listening to Woodson read it herself. This one is my pick this month. 

{a surprisingly tender post-apocalyptic tale} The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. Speaking of books outside my comfort zone, I tend to side-eye anything with a post-apocalyptic theme. However, I love it when I’m pleasantly surprised (I’m looking at you Station Eleven). I liked not knowing much about this book going in, other than that its protagonist, Melanie, is a very special, gifted girl, who enters and leaves the classroom each day guarded and in handcuffs. I’ll leave it at that, but if everything I just said turns you off from reading it, know that along with the bizarre there’s an engrossing, tender story that I had a hard time stepping away from.
     Worth the read? Yes, especially if you’re looking for a shake-up in your reading routine. 

{a bittersweet story, uniquely told} The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah. Ivo’s slow-paced life at the hospice care facility is a stark contrast to what it once was. To help him pass the time, one of his nurses suggests he play the “A to Z game” by thinking of a body part, and a memory that accompanies it, for each letter. We travel down memory lane with him, recounting many reckless decisions and wild years. The memories he keeps coming back to though, are the ones both most painful and most precious to him; the memories of the time spent with a woman he loved and lost. 
     Worth the read? Yes. A dying man reminiscing about a lost love sounds sad and cliche, but while the former is definitely true, the unique way Hannah weaves this story makes it fresh and unpredictable. 

{a YA novel with all the feels} Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I’m not a seasoned connoisseur of YA, but to me this was the epitome of the genre: a teenage girl is confined to her home because of a rare illness, and she’s learned to accept her fate. Until one day, a moving van shows up at the house next door and deposits a boy who seems destined to shake up her existence. If that doesn’t scream YA novel, I don’t know what does. And yet, despite it feeling very apropos of the genre, it didn’t seem cliche or overwritten, and the teenagers to me felt like real (if slightly precocious) teens. 
     Worth the read? Yes. If you want a quick read that will give you all the feels, pick this one up for sure. My only complaint is that I predicted the ending, and I hate it when that happens. 

{mysterious death and family secrets} Everything I Never Told You by Celest Ng. This novel begins by pronouncing that Lydia, the teenage daughter of a Chinese American family living in small town Ohio during the 1970s, is dead. Lydia, the middle child of the family, was viewed as a golden child, and the one who was destined to live out her parents’ hopes and dreams. When her body is found floating in a nearby lake, the search for answers leads to unearthed family secrets, unspoken dynamics, and destructive choices. 
     Worth the read? Maybe. This novel has a lot going for it; the characters are well-written and developed, and I felt like it was an authentic portrayal of many of the challenges families face. However, for me, having characters to root for is important, and I struggled to find that here. Also, I just wanted to beat my head against a wall as the story progressed; I desperately wanted this family to just talk to one another, dang it. All in all, I found this book frustrating, yet worth the read all the same. (Does that make sense? I think it’s a good book, I just struggled with it.) 


I never used to quit books, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve adopted a “life is too short for bad books” philosophy, and I no longer feel guilty for setting one aside when it’s clearly not for me. I started listening to Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson on audio, and I couldn’t get into it. The person reading the audio version had a voice that I found annoying, so I know that was a factor, but even past that I just couldn’t get into the plot, or attached to the characters. I can’t say that it’s a bad book, it’s just not the book for me. 

{recent reads: for the energetic toddler}

Need some ideas for books to read to your toddler? Here are 4 books that we really enjoyed this month. Click through to learn more about them.

If you’re looking for…

{a funny, non-annoying rhyming romp} The Great Sheep Shenanigans by Peter Bently. Lou Pine is a scheming wolf who is determined to have himself a tasty lamb for supper. But Rambo the Ram is onto the wily wolf and his plans and is having none of it. Lou continues to plot, and his efforts continue to get hilariously spoiled. 
     Toddler approved? Yes, extremely enthusiastically. We all had this book memorized during the few weeks we had it, because Jona requested it every day, multiple times a day. He loved Rambo the Ram and could hardly contain himself when Lou the wolf ended up in a very smelly situation. He still talks about the “sheep book” and it’s safe to say that this one was the month’s favorite. 

{a unique and beautiful bedtime book} Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley. Lucy and her family spend a long day at the beach, and everyone comes home yawning. However, when her mom falls asleep reading her a story, suddenly Lucy is wide awake, and everything in the house seems to be looking at her. After going on a little adventure to find a beloved stuffed animal, she sees everything around her start to yawn. Finally, Lucy is able to fall asleep herself. 
     Toddler approved? Yes, this one was also requested often. He especially loved the part where everything in the room (including the pictures on the wall) yawns. He would add in his own parts too (“the house yawned,” “the bed yawned,” etc.) which was adorable. I really liked this book because of the beautiful, colorful illustrations, and because it takes a situation that can be scary for a young child (being the only one in the house who’s awake) and turns it into one that’s comforting and familiar.  

{repetition and quirky illustrations} Stop Following Me Moon by Darren Farrell. I picked up this book because it is by the same author who wrote Thank You, Octopus, which was a favorite of Jona’s. A bear is fixing himself a picnic dinner of “borrowed” food, and he doesn’t appreciate the moon following him around and making him feel bad. He came by his picnic fare innocently, he swears. 
     Toddler approved? Yes, it wasn’t as big of a hit as Thank You, Octopus, but he did like it. He mostly liked repeating “Stop following me moon!” and “Jackpot!” I think the cute illustrations make this one. 

{a new perspective for the arachnophobe} Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham. A little boy leaves a box at the door of the zoo, and the keeper opens it to see a spider scurry out. Soon Helen the spider makes her home in various animal cages, and she keeps the animals happy by eating the pesky flies. However, when the zookeeper asks his crew to clean the cages and get rid of all the cobwebs, Helen loses her home and the animals are miserable. Fortunately, someone figures out that having a spider in the zoo isn’t such a bad idea after all.  
     Toddler approved? Yes, Jona enjoyed this one. Although it did lead to some interesting conversations when Aaron or I had to take a shoe to a spider who decided to take up residence in our house. I think (I hope?) he learned that “be nice to spiders” doesn’t apply when those spiders are in your bedroom.

What have you and your family been reading lately?

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