Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Halloween-ish Reading: Ghostology

Ghostology: A True Revelation of Spirits, Ghouls, and Hauntings, by Dugald A. Steer & Lucinda Curtle/Illustratrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert, Garry Walton, & Doug Sirois, (Aug. 2020, Candlewick Press), $27.99, ISBN: 9781536209150

Ages 8-12

A spooky letter from a ghost hunter who’s just seen too much. A tome filled with information, including notes about (in)famous hauntings and maps of haunted rectories, and sketches of ghost towns; journal excerpts and information on hunting ghosts, with flaps and secret notes throughout. And… a missing page, torn from the book? Are those… notes from a ghost, scribbled hastily all over the book? Ghostology is a ghost-hunting adventure in a book, with fun facts on putting together a ghost-hunters kit, detailed information on the types of ghosts and a map of notable spottings, haunted houses, hotels, and forts, and so much more. Perfect for Halloween collections and for readers who love reading about ghosts all year long, but make sure you keep a copy on your Reference shelf; my library kids love the “-Ology” books, but they are eaten alive in circulation.

Back when I used to have actual people and programs in my library – fun times, right? – I used the “‘Ology” books as part of my program planning. I would recreate notes, leading kids to clues that they could look up in the books (Wizardology); read excerpts and use codes (Spyology) as part of dossier files I’d hand out to the kids. They are just so much fun for grownups and kids alike – imagine what I’d have been able to do for this last year’s Imagine Your Story Summer Reading? Now, to think about ways to recreate these programs virtually… Actually, these are pretty much made for Escape Room planning, so let me just get my notebook out and start writing!

The ‘Ology books are largely authored by Duglad Steer and have been around for a while, but as they’ve had different publishers, it’s hard to find one spot for all of them. I linked to Candlewick’s page earlier, and I also found a Beautiful Books page that lists quite a lot of them. If you click through to the Ghostology book detail page, check the lower left-hand part of the screen for more titles by Dugald Steer, and that’s also a pretty detailed list. Dugald Steer also has an ESL-ology website for teachers and educators, with free tools for English lessons in the classroom!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Fair Shares teaches kids about equity

Fair Shares, by Pippa Goodhart/Illustrated by Anna Doherty, (Jan. 2020, Kane Miller), $$12.99, ISBN: 9781684640485

Ages 3-7

Hare and Bear both want some of the tasty-looking pears in a tree, but can’t reach. Hare finds three chairs, but Bear says it’s unfair if Hare takes two chairs, to Bear’s one – but once they’re on the chairs, Bear is the only one that can reach! Luckily for Hare, Beetle steps in and explains that “giving everybody the same thing isn’t always fair”. Whew! Bear realizes that Hare really does need two chairs to reach the pears. Now, what does Beetle want to eat?

Originally published in the UK in 2019, Fair Shares is a beautifully smooth and straightforward explanation of equity, Fair Shares teaches readers of ALL ages that equal doesn’t always mean fair. Bear, who towers over Hare, only needs one chair to reach the pears. With just one chair, Hare is still struggling. Once Bear realizes this simple fact, he’s happy to let Hare get his share. The digital artwork is wonderfully textured, and Anna Doherty’s scanned ink and pencil textures give the story a lovely fall feel, with deep reds, greens, and yellows, and a fuzzy Hare and furry Bear. The ending will surprise and delight readers. Beautifully done, and an essential book to keep on hand.

Free Spirit Publishing has an article, with additional book suggestions, on teaching kids the difference between fair and equal. Teachers Pay Teachers has several free, downloadable classroom printable posters that explain and illustrate equity, including this one from the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, this equity classroom poster from Panda Circus, and this equity poster from Studying Education.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Tag Your Dreams!

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, by Jacqueline Jules/Illustrated by Iris Deppe, (Apr. 2020, Albert Whitman & Company), $17.99, ISBN: 9780807567265

Ages 7-10

I’m getting that TBR under control a little more every day! Tag Your Dreams is a book of poetry about sports and play for kids, but it’s more than that. These are poems about endurance, self-esteem, community, and reaching goals. It’s about a girl reaching out to a new friend by reciting a rhyme that her Guatemalan grandmother taught her (“Clapping  Hands”); it’s about a girl, swimming gracefully, mermaid-like, as she remembers being bullied for her weight earlier that day (“Mermaid Manatee”); a father and son cruising through a park on matching scooters (“Kick Scooters”), and a playground where “Spanish jumps just as high as English” as the kids skip rope and sing together. A multicultural group of adults and kids come together on these pages to play, to laugh, and to inspire readers. Jacqueline Jules, award-winning author of the Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez book series, created 31 poems about the power of play and the power of persistence to motivate readers: motivate them to play, motivate them to embrace themselves, and work as part of a team while striving to be their best. Iris Deppe’s colorful artwork shows children and grown-ups together in various stages of play: clapping hands underneath a tree, reaching for a ball in the outfield, or walking a trail with grandparents. A nice addition to poetry collections, with positive messages that we need more than ever these days.

Jacqueline Jules’s author webpage has information about her books and plenty of free, downloadable activities connected to her books.

Posted in gaming, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Blog Tour: You’re Pulling My Leg Jr!

My family and I are gaming fans. We love our tabletop games, and I also love finding new games that will get my third grader thinking and using his imagination. I’ve also been looking for ways to game with my library kids now that we’ve gone virtual. You’re Pulling My Leg ticks both of these boxes, and the best part is that it’s easy, fun, and hilarious.

Here’s the deal: You’re Pulling My Leg! is adapted from a board game to adapt to… well, *gestures* THIS. The game, now in book format, has two volumes: You’re Pulling My Leg!, and You’re Pulling My Leg! Junior Edition, both by Allen Wolf and Morning Star Games. The objective is to come up with hilarious stories, based on a prompt, while your fellow players try to figure out whether or not you’re bluffing.

You’re Pulling My Leg! Junior Edition, by Allen Wolf,
(Aug. 2020, Morning Star Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9781952844027
Ages 9+

You’re Pulling My Leg!, by Allen Wolf,
(June 2020, Morning Star Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1952844003
Ages 12+

 

Here’s an example: the question is “Tell Me About Something You Found”. Folks, I’m a children’s librarian in an urban public library system. I guarantee you I will tell you a story of something I found that you will either scream with laughter or horror over, but I can get outrageous and YOU MAY NOT KNOW, or I can be kind of low-key and keep you guessing. A conversation from a game about two weeks ago:

Me: “One day, when I was cleaning out the shelves in the storage room, I found – behind the craft sticks and the finger paints – a box of comic books from an old Summer Reading program I’d run. So, you know… I was there, and the comics were there, so I started looking through the box, right? Because there may be an issue of Batman I hadn’t read before, and my lunch hour was coming up. So I’m shuffling through this box of comics, and I find a photo. It must have fallen off the person’s desk when they were packing the box, because there was no way this photo was sent to me on purpose, it was buried at the bottom of the box. The photo was of a guy dressed up like Batman – no, seriously, like Batman, with the cape and the boots and the belt and all of it! But when I looked closer… it was STAN LEE. What the heck was Stan Lee doing dressed as Batman?”

Kiddo: “No way, Mom! Stan Lee does Marvel movies, you’d never find him dressed like Batman.”

Foiled again, my friends. My kid knows me too well. But you have to admit, I made it plausible, right? Let’s try another example.

Me: “Tell me about a time when you caught something.”

Kiddo: “This one time… in gym… at school… my friend and I were throwing a basketball at each other back and forth, because it was gym, right? So he threw it to me, and I caught it, and I kicked it at him, and he picked it up and he sneezed on it but he didn’t tell me and when he threw it at me and I grabbed it, it felt wet and then I ended up catching a cold because he had a cold and that’s why he sneezed on it.”

Me: “Oh my GOD, that’s SO GROSS, WHY WOULD HE SNEEZE ON THE BALL? Is that why you had that cold at the end of last year? Is that how I caught that cold? I felt like garbage for a week, WHAT THE HECK MAN?”

Kiddo: “Gotcha.”

Me: “You made that up?”

Kiddo: giggles madly

Me: “Don’t you ever tell me you can’t write a personal narrative for ELA ever again.”

You see, my friends? This game is GOLD. Librarians, if you’re doing virtual programming, including class visits, this is perfect for getting kids playing and laughing along with you. You can make it as quick or stretch it out for as long as you’d like, and you’ll never play the same game twice. Are you doing a NaNoWriMo program? Let this be your guide. Do your kiddos need to write a small moments personal narrative? There are plenty of ideas here. Each book comes with pages dedicated to Game Highlights, where you can write down some of your funnier/more poignant observations and return to them to expand on, or just keep as a fun journal of a really stressful time. Enjoy.

Games Website: MorningStarGames.com

Twitter: @MorningStarGame

Facebook: @morningstargames

Instagram: @playmorningstargames

Author Website: AllenWolf.com/yourepullingmyleg/

Twitter: @theallenwolf

Facebook: @theallenwolf

Instagram: @theallenwolf/

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Sometimes A Wall…

A group of children play with walls, both figurative and literal, at the neighborhood playground in this rhyming picture book that explores the feelings that come up when walls enter the conversation. Walls have been a big topic of discussion in our adult lives over the last few years, and a book like Sometimes a Wall… helps put things into perspective for children AND adults.

Sometimes A Wall, by Dianne White/Illustrated by Barroux,
(Oct. 2020, OwlKids), $19.95, ISBN: 9781771473736
Ages 3-7

 

There are so many walls at the playground! A sprinkler can make a spill wall; kids can climb a rock wall. These are walls that invite people to work together, to play together. But some walls come between people, as one child finds out when friends make a wall to hide behind, taunting and being cruel to those left out. Being behind a wall gives children a different point of view, as we see one child adopt a crown and refuse to play with others entirely, and then we discover that walls can separate and bring feelings of isolation and regret. But these kids can look at a wall as a new opportunity, and decide to make it a structure that welcomes everyone in the end. Some paint and a feeling of community is all it takes to mend walls and hearts.

The story is touching, using few words, but they are words that wield power, especially when paired with Barroux’s colorful artwork. When the children work together, there’s color and happy faces; when the wall initially goes up, the landscape is dominated by the giant gray wall, giving the children’s cruel facial expressions even more menace; putting a gray cloud around the child left brings a sadness to their posture and to the reader. The artwork and text work beautifully together, never overwhelming the page or the reader, to tell a moving story as eloquently and simply as possible.

A wonderful book to have ready to read to younger children, and a good choice to have available for school-age children, to start important discussions.

A conversation with a friend got author Dianne White thinking about different kinds of walls, both physical and metaphorical. Sometimes a Wall… is an exploration of these, and, with it, an invitation to take down barriers and find common ground. Dianne’s other books include Green on Green and Who Eats Orange? A long-time elementary school teacher, she lives with her family in Gilbert, Arizona. To learn more, and to download discussion guides and more, visit Dianne’s website at DianneWrites.com. You can follow her on Twitter @diannewrites or on Facebook.

Barroux lives in Paris, France, and has studied photography, art, sculpture, and architecture. His work has been published in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He believes that the world needs fewer walls and more trees. You can follow him on Instagram @barrouxillustrations.

“Rhyme, rhythm, and simple art – all including references to walls – show children expressing different emotions and behaviors… Mending walls for the nursery crowd.” – Kirkus Reviews

Author Dianne White has put together a fantastic packet of information for readers, parents, and educators:

The “Why” Behind the Book

A Letter to Parents and Educators

A Letter to Young Readers

Discussion Guide

Sometimes a Wall… Discussion Guide

 
A lesson in 3 Movements…
Intro to the Unit (PLEASE READ FIRST!)
1st Movement: TOGETHER (I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët)
2nd Movement: APART (Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi)
3rd Movement: REGRET. NEW START? (Sometimes a Wall… by Dianne White, illustrated by Barroux)
 
Coloring Pages for Younger Students
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A Little Space for Me addresses kids’ need for their own space

A Little Space for Me, by Jennifer Gray Olson, (July 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250206268

Ages 3-6

In a story that speaks to all of us, but especially young children, A Little Space for Me is a relatable story of a little girl who needs a little space of her own from time to time. The opening sentence says it all: “Sometimes my life feels very crowded”: the art depicts a young girl sitting on a window seat of a living room, along with five other family members and a pet cat. The child’s life is crowded; her space gets too loud, messy, scratchy, bright – you get the idea. After seven months of quarantine and living in the age of the Coronavirus, this an unbelievably relatable observation. The artwork speaks volumes, showing the girl, curled into herself against the white space of the page, with a riot of color swirling around her as becomes “too much for no reason at all”. She needs space, and claims it for herself: in the story, she physically grabs the page and pulls it down, revealing a black and midnight blue stretch of our space that she puts into a bottle around her neck and claims more and more, as her need for space grows. When she decides to share her space, we see members of her family all have a piece of the space in their heads; their hair revealing the calming cosmos of space as the main character sits in a cross-legged meditation pose with her fingers in a meditation mudra.

Artwork and simple text really reaches readers in this story, made even more relevant by current events. When I first read this, pre-pandemic, I thought of many of my library families, many of whom live with extended family, which can make for crowded spaces. Reading it now, it takes on even greater relevance, as many of us are still sheltering in place, remote learning, with several family members working and attending school together in the same space. The book brings home the importance of meditation and mindfulness and the need to give kids their own space, and, even more important, to help kids understand how to recognize their need for space and ways they can claim that space. This is an excellent book to read at storytime, and an excellent companion read to Charlotte and the Quiet Place (2016) by Deborah Sosin and Leyla by Galia Bernstein (2019).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, by Josh Funk

Josh Funk returns with the latest in his It’s Not A Fairy Tale series with a sassy little girl who’s one step ahead of the narrator. Get ready, friends, because…

It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, by Josh Funk/Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor,
(10/2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542006668
Ages 4-7

Little Red is a little girl who lives with her family in a little cottage in the woods, so when the Narrator shows up and starts telling her to put on a red cape and go visit her sick grandmother in the woods, she’s got questions. Lots and lots of questions: why is the Narrator sending a little girl with a giant basket into the woods all alone? Why does she have to wear red? And why does she have to walk, when she usually takes a carriage? Regardless, she listens to the narrator and heads off to Grandma’s, in spite of being concerned about the Narrator’s willingness to keep putting her in danger, and meeting an amusing, if unexpected, cast of characters. The story of Red Riding Hood is turned on its head as the Narrator becomes flustered and Red keeps pointing out big problems in the story.

With different fonts to denote different speakers (Narrator in conversation mode versus Narrator in story narration mode, plus word balloons for character dialogue), expressive sounds and snappy back and forth banter between characters, the laughs come fast and frequent for readers here. Edwardian Taylor’s artwork is hilarious fun, loaded with little extras, exaggerated expressions, and fairy tale cameos aplenty.

The This is Not a Fairy Tale series is just too much fun, and a welcome addition to fractured fairy tale collections. The kids in my library love them – especially when I give Narrators and characters different, increasingly manic voices. You can’t read these with a serious voice, and that is a good, good thing. Let yourself be as silly as you want to be – your littles will appreciate it.

 

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s do it. I’ve got a great giveaway thanks to Two Lions/Amazon Publishing.

Two Lions is offering all three books in the It’s Not a Fairytale series–It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, and It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood  to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses only, please). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

 

Like the characters in his books, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go—so he writes his own. He is the author of many popular picture books, including the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor. He lives in New England with his family. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com.

 

Twitter @joshfunkbooks

Instagram: @joshfunkbooks

 

Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator of multiple children’s books, including Race!, written by Sue Fliess; the Toy Academy chapter books, written by Brian Lynch; and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, written by Josh Funk. He lives in Texas with his partner and their four dogs. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com.

Twitter: @edwardiantaylor

Instagram: edwardiantaylor

Tumblr: Edwardian Taylor

Posted in awards, Cybils, Graphic Novels

Cybils Check-In: Graphic Novels

Yesterday was the closing date for the 2020 Cybils nominees: did you get your picks in? So now, the reading begins. Actually, the reading’s been going on; I’m a first-round judge in Graphic Novels this year, so my Holds list runneth over with all sorts of great nominees.

This year, because of… well, 2020 being 2020, Graphic Novels is collapsed into one category, and we’re reading both YA and Middle Grade graphic novels, which fits perfectly in my wheelhouse. I’m thrilled with the graphic novel storytelling happening these days; there are great autobiographical stories, like Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl, and great realistic fiction, like Nat Enough. Fun fantasy stories, like Dungeon Critters, and all the superheroes you can imagine, thanks to DC’s middle grade and YA original graphic novels. I’m proud of this medium and what it’s accomplished: there’s a lot of respect for the power of sequential storytelling now, and being part of the Cybils Graphic Novels panel means so much.

No spoilers here – I won’t be writing about the novels we’re discussing, but full disclosure, several novels were on my review list before they were Cybils nominees. I’ll review those as I normally would, mention that they are a Cybils nominee, and that’s it.

 

I’ve got a stack of books to get to, so I’ll close here for now. More to come!

Posted in picture books

G’day, mate! This baby kangaroo’s mom has a Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch!

A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch!, by Janet Halfmann/Illustrated by Abira Das, (May 2020, Pen It! Publications), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1951263126

Ages 4-7

A little gray kangaroo wants to wander off on his own, but can he find his way back to Mum’s pouch? He can if he and his friends decorate it so her pouch stands out – a real bobby-dazzler! Award-winning author Janet Halfmann‘s newest book is an amusing little story of a kangaroo and his mom, and a bunch of Austalian animal friends that give Mama Kangaroo a bedazzling. The phrase “bobby dazzler” is British slang for somethin outstanding, striking, or showy, and boy, does her pouch get the showy treatment! A lorikeet and an emu contribute some feathers; a sugar glider shares some blossoms, even an echidna contributes some spikes – yikes! Little Joey has a lot of friends, but he finds a way to include everyone’s contribution. It’s a good thing, too: the easy-to-spot pouch does the trick when he has to dash for Mama when a dingo makes an appearance!

The artwork is cartoony and cute, with smiley animals and a bright Australian landscape. A little note about Australian kangaroos accompanies fun kangaroo facts, and lists of Australian words, animals, and plants. A cute read-aloud for animal fans, especially fans of those ‘roos! Have some Aboriginal-inspired coloring sheets available for storytime.

Janet Halfmann is a multi-award-winning children’s author who strives to make her books come alive for young readers and listeners. Many of her picture books are about animals and nature. She also writes picture book biographies about little-known people of achievement. Janet has written more than forty books for children. Visit Janet at: janethalfmannauthor.com
Posted in Librarianing

You CAN judge a book by its cover

I’ve been reading librarian Becky Spratford’s RA for All blog for a few months. She’s a horror fan – that’s how I found her blog – and she has some great Readers Advisory articles. Since RA is possibly my favorite part of librarianship, I get a lot out of her posts and I’ve started incorporating some of her ideas here. Today, I want to talk about book covers. Becky Spratford has some good posts on book covers; her Deep Dive Into Book Cover Design has links to interesting articles on book cover design, and her July post on making book covers work for us spoke to my soul.

See, I’m a merchandising fiend. When we were open to the public, I’d wander through my library shelves and put books that had great covers face-out, sure; I’d also put books face-out that needed some extra notice (read: low circ). I love making up displays with fun things to print out, and books to show off. Because in spite of the fact that we say we don’t want to judge books by their covers, we also say that a picture is worth a thousand words! A book cover is artwork, and we love to look at art. We’re largely a visual people, after all. Book covers appeal to visual learners, inviting them inside to see what lurks beneath the surface.

Even putting together my Bitmoji library, I put thought into book covers. I’m creating multiple displays, after all! Do I put new books down that the kids may not have seen, since we’re all under quarantine? Do I put down favorites that will bring them to the library website? Do I plop in a mixture of both? It’s a dance. (I ended up going with both established favorites and new books.)

Display your book covers proudly! Think of them like your own little art gallery, and invite others to enjoy them, too. You may pick up a few new readers along the way.