Monday, September 20, 2021

GENERATION MISFITS by Akemi Dawn Bowman - A story about learning to be yourself

graphic novel style light skinned eleven year old girl holding microphone and singing with four friends singing in the background
Why you want to read this book…  

I learned about this book from Feiwel & Friends Associate Editor Foyinsi Adegbonmire at a recent SCBWI workshop and I immediately found an e-version from a nearby library. How did I not know about this book before? I loved it!

This is a great book for anyone who feels like a misfit or that they don't belong. Although I know nothing about J-Pop, it didn't matter because the characters really came alive for me. They were so much like real people I got completely immersed in this story about Millie, a girl who was previously home-schooled starting middle school for the first time. 

As Millie began to find herself and make friends, we got to know four other girls with different backgrounds and experiences as well. This story touches on many common issues that kids struggle with including friendships, academic performance, parent expectations, bullies, gender, and being brave enough to be yourself.  


Here’s the summary from Amazon…   

Generation Misfits by Akemi Dawn Bowman is a heartwarming, fish-out-of-water own voices story about an eleven-year-old Japanese-American girl who finds her true friendsthrough the power of J-Pop!

Millie is attending a real school for the first time, and she dreams of finally having friends and a little bit of freedom. She finds her chance when she joins an imitation band of her favorite J-Pop group, where she's thrilled to meet a group of misfits who quickly become a tightknit group of friends that are like family.

But Millie soon realizes that one of them is dealing with problems bigger than what notes to hit when it comes time for their performance. Can Millie help her friend, even when their problem feels too big to say out loud?

Generation Misfits by Akemi Dawn Bowman was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2021. I read an e-book from my local library.

Additional Resources: has some resources such as how to pronounce the author's name and a story map lesson. 

For more great middle grade reads, visit Marvelous Middle Grade Monday organized by Greg Pattridge or check out some of the blogs in my sidebar.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

BECOMING VANESSA by Vanessa Brantley Newton - a book about starting school and being yourself


Black girl looking up at butterfly on a branch with book title above

It’s great to see a book that shows kids the way they are, with the things they notice and the way they actually talk! I especially loved the scenes with her family and how they quietly supported her. Another great back-to-school story that is also good for a preschool or kindergarten classroom book collection. 


Summary from the publisher

On Vanessa’s first day of school, her parents tell her it will be easy to make friends. Vanessa isn’t so sure. She wears her fanciest outfit so her new classmates will notice her right away. They notice, but the attention isn’t what she’d hoped for. As the day goes on, she feels more self-conscious. Her clothes are too bright, her feather boa has way too many feathers, and even her name is too hard to write.

The next day, she picks out a plain outfit, and tells her mom that her name is too long. She just wants to blend in, with a simple name like the other girls–why couldn’t her parents have named her Megan or Bella? But when her mother tells her the meaning behind her name, it gives her the confidence she needs to introduce her classmates to the real Vanessa. 

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley Newton was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2021. 


My thoughts as a creator:

This is a great mentor text for writers and illustrators! This book gave me insights into creating voice and creating believable side characters. I especially liked how the other kids in the class were curious and blunt, but didn’t come across as mean. Vanessa Brantley Newton is a master at using details to add personality and interest to her stories and to her illustrations. 

My thoughts as an educator:

 I liked this different take on a back-to-school story. I’m looking forward to sharing this with my kindergarten students and discussing how the main character’s clothes expressed her personality and feelings. Vanessa solves her problem in her own way, even though her family is there to support her.  

Ages: 3-7

Grades: preschool – grade 2

Themes: starting school, feelings, being yourself


Family connections: Ask you parents what your name means or why they gave you your name. How do you feel about that?

Writing: What is your favorite thing to wear? How do you feel when you are wearing it? Draw a picture of yourself in your favorite outfit.

Math Connections: How many butterflies are in this book? Count them! Draw a picture of your own with lots of butterflies (or caterpillars) to count.

Social-Emotional Learning: What do you do when you don’t feel like talking about something yet? Discuss. 


Additional Resources for Educators:

 On KidLit TV, Vanessa Brantley Newton discusses her life and her art style:

Here she teaches us how to make collage art!