Books We Read: February 2021

Over February, with our travel to Moab and a deep dive into history podcasts to find one we all enjoy (still a work in progress), we listened more than we viewed. These six favorites are the few we pored over slowly, or stayed in discussion afterwards.

1 Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel by Patricia Storace (Illustrated by Raul Colon) // Buy in CO
Bright, with captivating illustrations, this long-form story tells a parallel tale to the American Grimm version I grew up hearing. It’s not the version for your 4-year-old, purely based on length. My kids have heard Rapunzel before, and they still crowded around and sat quietly for this 30-minute read. Hair aside, it’s a new tale.

2 It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris (Illustrated by Michael Emberley) //
Buy in CO
We’re at the next point in our puberty journey, and I wanted to buy the next book in this series to leave lying around the house. Those with questions will browse, or take books into their room to look at privately. This series touches lightly on different types of families and sex, touch and consent, and offers windows into lots of relationships, focusing on respect as common ground. I love how it answers so many of the questions I had as a child whose parent felt uncomfortable discussing sex, but it delves into the heart of what I want my child to know about using respect and consent as a barometer for future relationships. We’ve already read Sex is a Funny Word together (highly recommend), and previous books in Harris’s series. This book, combined with each child’s book about general body care, and one we’re reading together on happiness (covers mood changes from a mindfulness angle), form the crux of my tween library. I’ve also got this one on deck for my daughter, based on its author, and my son is reading this one with his dad at bedtime.

3 Sweep by Louise Grieg (Illustrated by Julia Sarda) // Buy in CO
Sweep captivated us all with the story of a child whose actual sweeping turns tantrum and wrecks a whole town – sometimes how we’ve all felt during this pandemic. It’s a whimsical idea based on moods being “catchy.” We all stared at the pictures in horror as Ed’s anger gathers momentum, knowing to the core that this is how feelings feel in the moment. Grieg doesn’t shy away from the idea of repercussions, but she doesn’t allow them to effect the moment, only its aftermath. Wonderfully done.

4 Captain Monty Takes the Plunge by Jennifer Mook-Sang (Illustrated by Liz Starin) // Buy in CO
Okay, okay, this one seems pretty basic from the cover. It’s a classic reverse rescue: the mermaid saving stinky pirate, Monty the Malodorous, from drowning. The story is funny and clever, but what captured me were the drawings of the mermaid with a bigger body and hairy armpits (see below). I LOVE body stereotypes being demolished, and this felt striking, a level up on the female empowerment angle.

Partial illustration by Liz Starin, from Captain Monty Takes the Plunge by Jennifer Mook-Sang.

5 Wonderful Worms by Megan Cooley Peterson // Buy in CO
When I got this, I expected a little-kid level picture book about how worms work to reintroduce the thaw and rustlings of springtime to my kids. More a reminder than full coverage. What we got instead was an hour-long, deep dive into types of worms with unexpected side discussions and many, many Google searches. This book, published by the Smithsonian, covers all types of worms from a curiosity angle. Our family ended up talking about worms for a long, long time.

6 Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit by Linda Marshall (Illustrated by Ilaria Urbinati) // Buy in CO
Springtime is usually when I dig out the Beatrix Potter collection to read through again. My kids still delight in the collection of naughty animals. So reading about Beatrix Potter in this tribute to her life makes this even more poignant. As we read about how little freedom she has in the Victorian era, how much determination she uses to find her way amid setbacks and failures, I value her stories all the more. But she did much more to save her beloved English countryside than just write about it.

The links provided show where to buy the work, no matter where you live. However, please consider supporting independent bookstores. If you live in Colorado, these stores are my favorites:

I also support buying used whenever possible. Online, try

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