Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Tales from the TBR: NatGeo’s Explorer Academy – Star Dunes

Explorer Academy: The Star Dunes (Book 4), by Trudi Trueit, (March 2020, National Geographic), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426336812
Ages 8-12
I am WAY behind on my Explorer Academy reading; Book 6 is coming out in October and I’ve only just finished Book 4, which came out in hardcover last year, and in softcover in January of this year. But do NOT be me: this middle grade adventure series has been one of the best I’ve read over the last few years; I’ve given it to my nephew, who’s devoured each book, and I talk it up to my library kids, who love all the cool James Bond-type intrigue and gadgets, along with the piece-by-piece solving of a mystery that takes Cruz Coronado, our main character, and his friends, all over the world. In this fourth installment, Cruz and Company take on poachers and heal mountain gorillas in Africa as they continue on their hunt for Cruz’s mother’s next clue. Meanwhile, not all is well at the Explorer Academy as Cruz gets some unsettling news and discovers that one of his classmates is increasingly hostile to him, calling him a “hero hog”. On the up side, a new student at Explorer Academy will satisfy longtime readers who were probably wondering when that particular development would finally happen (I know I did!). The cast we’ve all grown to know is here, and even first-time Explorer Academy readers will find themselves comfortable in this fourth volume – but really, to know the whole story, you should read the first three, too. Color illustrations and an introduction to the scientists that inspire the adventures in the book make this a great middle grade series. Hand this to all your action adventure readers – it’s science fiction that’s closer and closer to realistic fiction every day.
Posted in Tween Reads, Animal Fiction, Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade, Fiction

Blog Tour: PAWCASSO by Remy Lai!

If you haven’t yet read and enjoyed Remy Lai’s books, you really must. She has a wonderful way of looking at life, whether it’s finding a way through grief by making cakes (Pie in the Sky), or striking out on one’s own to prove their independence (Fly on the Wall). Her newest book, Pawcasso, is about a lonely girl and a neighborhood dog with a shopping basket who quickly garners a fan club.

Pawcasso, by Remy Lai, (May 2021, Henry Holt BFYR),
$21.99, ISBN: 9781250774484
Ages 8-12

Jo is an 11-year-old girl who has trouble connecting with new friends. As she stares out her window, she’s drawn to a neighborhood dog who trots around, shopping basket in his mouth, stopping at stores and picking up groceries. Everyone seems to know the pup, and, intrigued, Jo follows him, to try and figure out where he lives. People from the neighborhood see Jo following “Pawcasso”, as he’s become known, and assume she’s his owner: chaos ensues as Jo just kind of allows everyone to believe Pawcasso is her dog, including the neighborhood dog catcher, who’s on Pawcasso’s trail after receiving complaints about an unleashed dog in the neighborhood. Jo finds herself in an uncomfortable middle as she’s caught in her own lie, and may have to come clean and risk the new friendships she’s formed, in order to keep Pawcasso from going to the pound.

Remy Lai’s artwork is here in full color, and she brings Pawcasso, Jo, and their little neighborhood to life with friendly, colorful panels. The story will appeal to a wide range of readers, from dog- and pet-lovers, to graphic novel and realistic fiction fans, to readers looking for a good story about friendship, family, and fun.

Pawcasso has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness. Visit Remy Lai’s author webpage for more about her books and to sign up for her newsletter!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Board Books everywhere!

It’s time for another board books rundown! I’ve got a pile that begs to be shared and enjoyed. Let’s see what’s cooking.

My Big Birthday Party, by Jeffrey Turner, (May 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361050

Ages 0-3

Schiffer’s board book program has just taken off. They’ve been putting out consistently great concept books, working with great authors and illustrators, for a few years now and I get excited whenever a box shows up for me. Author Jeffrey Turner has been putting out a series of board books to explain concepts, starring a fluffy white poodle. My Big Birthday Party explains opposites, framing the words in the context of Poodle’s birthday party. Lights are off, then turned on to reveal friends of all shapes and sizes, holding gifts; we see the group from the front and back; piles of gifts are closed, then opened; we see a page loaded with colorful balloons, illustrating “more”; when Poodle’s friend Porcupine enters the page, we see a burst balloon, and “less”. Colorful, bright digital artwork holds exciting reveals on each page, and a note about the science of magnets – a branch concerned with opposites! – closes out the book. It’s a great way to communicate the concept to newly budding STEM/STEAM learners. Schiffer Kids’s Resource Hub has free, downloadable coloring sheets, too!

 

Smile, Baby! (Beginning Baby), (June 2021, Chronicle Books), $8.99, ISBN: 9781452170923

Ages 0-3

Chronicle has a new board book series debuting, and it is adorable. Beginning Baby addresses developmental milestones, teaches motor control and self-identification, and is loaded with friendly characters and bright colors. A series of questions about finding baby’s smile, nose, ears, eyes, cheeks, and mouth take readers through each page, with a die-cut revealing a mirror for baby to see themselves in at all times. Each question comes with an activity for baby and caregiver: blow a kiss, pat baby’s cheeks, find baby’s ears and nose. Perfect for lapsit reading, this is a great way to bond with baby: let baby see you reading in the mirror with them, and let them learn the parts of their face with colorful words paired with loving gestures as you tickle baby’s cheeks, blow kisses, give a brushing kiss on their eyes. What a fun way to snuggle and read together!

 

10 Hugs and Kisses (Beginning Baby), (June 2021, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781452170947

Ages 0-3

Another Beginning Baby book! This one is all about cuddles and counting from 1 to 10. Sweetly affectionate animals count their hugs and kisses through each rhyming spread, making for a perfect lapsit where caregiver and little one can join in for hugging, smiles, and butterfly kisses. A big number on the left-hand page stands out against the background; the book invites readers to trace the numbers as they go through the story. Pairs nicely with Karen Katz’s Counting Kisses.

 

Welcome to Shape School!, (Beginning Baby), (June 2021, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781452170947

Ages 0-3

It’s a day at Shape School! Our animal friends (Gabriel Gabriel Giraffe, Elijah Elephant, Riley Narwhal, Mia Monkey, Layla Llama, Paisley Octopus, and Mateo Red Panda) want you to help them navigate all the space challenges they encounter in school: count squares, touch the three points on a triangle, outline the ovals in a book nook, and press hearts in the garden, for starters. There are 9 tabs that let kids explore each shape, and something new to discover on each spread. Helping develop story-following and fine motor skills and helping reinforce understanding shapes, this is just an adorable book for littles to enjoy.

 

Who is Hiding in the Sea?, by Marc Clamens & Laurence Jammes, (March 2021, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764361029

Ages 0-6

A board book and puzzle all in one sends kids underwater to explore. Four underwater spreads to discover, and eight punch-out puzzle pieces of underwater friends to set into their homes. Each animal fits into a die-cut piece hidden under flaps: who lives in the sea anemones? Where does the seahorse call home? Facts under each flap provide a little more information on the animal that fits in the space, and colorful artwork gets readers’ attention with cute, friendly underwater buddies. Great for developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination for littles, learning about underwater life and habitats for bigger kids, this is a collection you’ll need a few copies for if you’re circulating the book (or put out when you put your toys out).

 

Who Is Hiding in the Forest? by Marc Clamens & Laurence Jammes, (March 2021, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764361012

Ages 0-6

Another Who is Hiding? book by Marc Clamens and Laurence Jammes, this board book includes 8 puzzle pieces of forest friends. Kids can look for homes for a badger, squirrel, fox, wild piglet, fawn, bat, beaver, and owl, across four wintry forest spreads. Who hides in the tree, and who makes a lodge out of mud and banches? Where do these little animals go to stay warm? These are such sturdy pages, flaps, and puzzles pieces, assuring that they’ll hold up to multiple reads. Make sure to have a few copies on hand, especially if you’re putting them into circulation. Pair with animal coloring sheets, like these cute ones from Simple Everyday Mom, or animal toys and go over names for each animal.

 

Mommy, You’re Amazing, by Roger Priddy, (March 2021, Priddy Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781684491254

Ages 0-3

Part scrapbook, part board book, Mommy, You’re Amazing is a celebration of moments between mommy and child. Each spread has a rhyming passage about why Mommy is amazing: for discovering new things, dancing and singing together, or playing imagination games being just a few of the great things mommies do. Each spread has a space for a keepsake, whether it’s an envelope to hold little treasures, like those dandelions we all get, or slots to slide in photos, drawing spaces, or a spot to write a story. It’s a warm, loving keepsake that moms will adore (and a darned good baby shower gift).

Posted in picture books

Spring and Summer stories to make you smile

With Spring and Summer come a lighter type of picture book: open spaces, verdant greens, cheery yellows, happy colors and stories about enjoying the outdoors. I’ve got a few picture books here that are perfect for those longer, warmer days.

Free, by Sam Usher, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536217049

Ages 4-7

The boy and his grandfather from Sam Usher’s Seasons With Grandad series are back! In Free, the boy and Grandad care for a sick bird who returns to them every day. Grandad looks up new ways to get the bird to reunite with other birds, but it looks like their new feathered friend needs a bit of help, so they gather their equipment and strike out to find a tree for their new friend. Sam Usher brings his touch of magical realism to this story of a boy, his grandfather, and a little bird that needs their help, elevating it from sweet to simply extraordinary. Ink and watercolor illustrations are expressive and provide a soothing, intimate feel to the storytelling and the relationship between Grandad, Boy, and Bird. Riots of color in strategic moments make for a delightful surprise. I love Sam Usher’s books, so this one is a definite buy for me.

Free has a starred review from Kirkus.

(UK edition image taken from Amazon.com: the US edition notes that one of the birds “was sick”.)

 

Sweet Pea Summer, by Hazel Mitchell, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210347

Ages 4-8

A girl’s her father brings her to spend the summer with her grandparents when her mother has to go into the hospital. To keep her occupied, her grandfather invites her to help in his garden, asking her to look after his snow peas. She learns to care for them and nurture them, taking great pride in the growing pods, and her grandfather suggests she may even get to enter them in the flower show when the season ends. So what happens that causes the flowers to start dying? Stumped, the girl tries multiple fixes until she discovers the reason. A gently told story of love, nurturing, perseverance and determination, this is a beautifully illustrated story, with colorful spreads of the English countryside and cheery gardens. There are so many details to discover in the sprawling townscape and countryside, from bustling businesses and commuters to the playful garden animals hopping and frolicking around the greenery. A book that encourages readers to endure hard times and embrace the support around them, Sweet Pea Summer is a good warm-weather read. Have some sweet pea coloring pages handy for an accompanying storytime activity. Pair with Zee Grows a Tree for a storytime about the love between nature and kids.

Visit Hazel Mitchell’s author webpage for more information about her books, her artwork, and a host of printable activities about her book, Toby.

 

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, retold by Georghia Ellinas/Illustrated by Jane Ray, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217735

Ages 4-8

The companion to last year’s William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a dreamlike, picture book interpretation of the famous Shakespeare comedy, great for new audiences. The Fairy Kingdom is up in arms as King Oberon is in a disagreement with his wife, Queen Titania; a group of young nobles arrive in the magical forest from Athens, all in love with the wrong person; and Puck, a mischievous servant of King Oberon’s decides to stir up some trouble just for the fun of it. Retold from Puck’s perspective, this is a very readable, enjoyable breakdown of the hilarious story of mistaken identity, love, and mischievous fairies. Shakespeare’s famous ending, “If we shadows have offended…” closes the story. The artwork is a tapestry of beautiful color, artwork that captures the playful spirit of the play and the otherworldly characters in the story. Moonlight figures heavily in the artwork, a glowing sheen adding illumination and bringing out the details in each character. A great read-aloud idea for older classes (1-3 grades, for instance), consider an Introduction to Shakespeare display for your Children’s Room with books like Anna Claybourne and Tilly’s Where’s Will?, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review series by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Zack Giallongo, and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, by Henry, Joshua, & Harrison Herz. Visit ilustrator Jane Ray’s website for free printable coloring pages.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Rock From the Sky is here!

The Rock from the Sky, by Jon Klassen, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536215625

Ages 4-8

Any time Jon Klassen releases a new book is cause for celebration. The Rock from the Sky, his newest, is an hilarious study in dialogue, sight jokes, and a little touch of science fiction. A behatted trio of animals – a turtle, an armadillo, and a snake – touch on that creeping feeling that something’s just not right; feeling like a third wheel, and imagining the future, all with the deadpan humor that makes books like his Hat Trilogy such storytime gold. Klassen’s digital and watercolor artwork sets a sepia-toned stage that works perfectly with the dry humor to create a darkly hilarious story atmosphere. Candlewick has an activity kit, teacher’s guide, and author notes available for free download. You can’t miss with Jon Klassen; The Rock From the Sky is an instabuy for me.

The Rock From the Sky has six starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books, and The Horn Book.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Tales from the TBR: Otto P. Nudd

Otto P. Nudd, by Emily Butler, (Dec. 2020, Crown Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9781524717759

Ages 8-12

My latest TBR pick is the animal adventure Otto P. Nudd by Emily Butler. Otto P. Nudd is a raven, a bird for the ages: just ask him; he’ll tell you. He’s simply brilliant, has a wife, Lucille, and an egg on the way, and he spends his mornings with Bartleby Doyle, an old inventor who’s been taking care of Otto since he found him on the forest floor, having fallen from his nest as a baby. He’s friends with Pippa, a girl who’s just lost her father, and Bartleby’s neighbor. It’s all lovely and cozy until one morning, when Bartleby injures himself while testing out one of his experiments before Otto arrived to assist him. Now, Otto is locked out of the workshop, Pippa’s in school, and Otto’s puffed-up ego has alienated him from all of the animals he knows! He’s going to have to reconsider the way he approaches others and ask for help if he’s going to be able to help poor Bartleby. A funny, quirky story about friendship, being kind, and making amends, I loved spending time with Otto and his friends. There’s a tough squirrel named Marla, and a group of dumpster-diving birds that kids will love, especially when they interact with Otto; a side plot explores a developing crush between Pippa and a school friend, and the heart of the story is Otto’s deep love for his human friend and the roots of that relationship. It’s a great choice for a middle grade book group, and there are passages that make for good readalouds. Black and white artwork throughout the book introduces readers to the adorable characters, and a few cut-away chapters provide readers with deeper dives into STEM and friendship, courtesy of Wilma the Mouse and her friend Raúl the Guinea Pig. Hand this to Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate fans; display with classic animal adventures like E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swan.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

More Mother’s Day Wishes!

I’ve got more Mother’s Day books for the big day, but first, Everything Is Mama Activity Pages from Jimmy Fallon’s publisher, Macmillan! Enjoy three pages of activities and coloring with the kiddos!

What the Road Said, by Cleo Wade/Illustrated by Lucie de Moyencourt, (March 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250269492

Ages 6-10

If loving advice for living a good life could be summed up in verse, What the Road Said is it. Poet, activist, and one of Marie Claire’s 50 Most Influential Women in America Cleo Wade reminds young and grown readers alike to pay attention to the journey, not the destination. Sometimes, you may think you’re on the wrong path: keep going; “sometimes we go the wrong way on the way to the right way”. You may not always move forward, and you may need help on the way or feel alone. Keep going, the poem urges. Lead with kindness and love, even when met with hate, and just keep going. Illustrator Lucie de Moyencourt’s watercolor and ink artwork begins with an urban landscape, with nature scenes painted on buildings; a child watches them as they walk, and the city streets give way to lush, green pastures, beaches, dark forests, mountains, even outer space, the child following paths up mountains and through the woods; standing triumphant on the top of the world, and meditating on the growth from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Together, Cleo Wade and Lucie de Moyencourt encourage readers to reach for the stars on their journey through life. These comforting, inspiring words and artwork are the perfect story to pass to your little ones and they’re the words we parents need sometimes, because, as Cleo Wade states in her author’s note, “Being a grownup is hard and the Road  reminds me to take it one day at a time”.

 

I Love You, Baby Burrito, by Angela Dominguez, (January 12, 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250231093
Ages 2-5
This book is ADORABLE. A set of new parents greet their new baby – swaddled like a burrito – in this bilingual book of pure joy. Tender images of parents and baby pair with images of a new bird family in a nest outside the family’s window. The parents gaze, hold, and swaddle their little one, marveling at their new bundle, taking such care with every moment. Spanish words are in bright green, and English prose repeats the phrase, helping emphasize terms in both languages. A glossary at the end provides phonetic pronounciation. Mixed media illustrations are soft, gently colored, giving a real feeling of those quiet moments when baby and parents are still getting to know one another. I can’t wait to read this to my library families. An excellent Mother’s Day gift or baby shower gift, too; consider pairing with Hayley Barrett and Juana Martinez-Neal’s Babymoon.
Posted in geek culture, Graphic Novels

Free Comic Book Day announces their full line-up!

Free Comic Book Day is a little different this year: it’s taking place in August, rather than May, but hey! You can go get your books in person this year! There are 50 great titles up for grabs this year, and there are more kids’ books than ever – Bailey School Kids! Who Was HQ! The Last Kids on Earth! So many favorite book series are making their way to graphic novel formats! I can’t wait to tell my library kids that graphic novel count more than ever!

While you wait for August 14th, watch the video and make sure you note which books you’re going to want. Prefer to view the list rather than watch the video? Visit the Free Comic Book Day website.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Craft time? Any time!

During this last year, lots of us have started some new things: yes, I made my own sourdough starter in the beginning of the shutdown. I finally picked up my knitting needles again, and even managed to finish projects, rather than leave them in various tote bags stuffed into my closet. But one thing I haven’t been able to get back to is sewing. The wonderful folx at Schiffer sent me these two adorable sewing books, though, and I’m thinking that this may be where I pick up some felt, some thread, and a needle, because these are just too cute.

Sewing Simple Softies with 17 Amazing Designers, by Trixi Symonds & Deborah Fisher, (March 2021, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764361272

Ages 8-12

This book is ADORABLE. They have a softie sandwich! And a tiger with a tooth pouch for the Tooth Fairy! Seventeen projects, loaded with color photos, and with bright, easy-to-follow instructions make this a book I need in my home collection and my 745 section. The book is big on being accessible: no expensive threads, fancy machines, or pricey fabrics needed. This is all about learning to love creating with fabric and thread. Inspired by Trixi Symonds’s Sew a Softie initiative to teach kids how to sew, the book offers all you need to get you up and running on a sewing habit, from choosing tools and materials to deciphering the different kinds of stitches. A section for parents on teaching kids to sew is a reminder that this is supposed to be a fun learning experience where the kids get to have a say. Just offer a guiding hand, try not to take over the project. Designs are offered by popular creative bloggers around the world and include such fun projects as a koala softie, circus pincushion, and mermaid snuggle friend. The book includes templates for each softie, making this a fun book to pick up a new hobby. I love it!

 

The Zenki Way: A Guide to Designing & Enjoying Your Own Creative Softies, by Trixi Symonds, (March 2021, Schiffer Publishing), $22.99, ISBN: 9780764361494

Ages 8-12

What’s a Zenki, you ask? The simplest way to use your imagination and create a softie that speaks to you! Trixi Symonds of Sew a Softie also came up with this great idea to get kids sewing: two squares of felt, four straight lines to sew, and wide seam allowances to let all sorts of limbs, hair, and features be added in with no pinning. Just stick ’em in and sew! These little folx are loaded with character and will inspire kids to make their own Zenkis. All you need is materials and imagination (and a grownup to help out)! Fourteen Zenki patterns include the basics: square, circle, triangle, and mixed-up Zenkis; other patterns let readers add features and character to their Zenkis once they feel ready. Templates are in the back, and the book is filled with color photos and tips and ideas to help you along. A section on the Zenki pattern testers from ages 7-17 with their creations. SO kid friendly, with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions make this a definite must-buy.

Posted in Uncategorized

Mother’s Day is Coming!

Hi all! Mother’s Day is coming THIS SUNDAY. Wow, that got away from me; 2021 is serving a lot of the same stuff 2020 did. ANYway, let’s see what kind of books we’ve got for Moms, along with plenty of books to snuggle by.

How BIG Is Baby?, by Kirsten Hall/Illustrated by Aki, (April 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452173825

Ages 3-5

This lift-the-flap is SO CUTE. A great book for siblings-to-be, each spread takes a child and their mom through the nine months of pregnancy. From the initial “We’re having a baby!” announcement, our new sibling is so excited! As mom and child share their journey together, lift-the-flaps reveal how big baby is at each stage; the storytelling gives readers an idea of size: a poppy seed, blueberry, grape, all the way up to a pineapple! Flaps reveal the growing baby in Mom’s belly, with fun facts about baby’s development. At the end of the story, Mom, big sibling, and baby all lay together in a big snuggle. Adorable artwork will endear this to parents and kids alike, and big siblings will be excited to see how their new baby is developing.

 

Overcoming the Mom-Life Crisis: Ditch the Guilt, Put Yourself on the To-Do List, and Create a Life You Love, by Nina Restieri, (April 2021, Post Hill Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781642937213

I normally cover kids and YA here, but it’s Mother’s Day, and parenting books fall under my Children’s Room purchases, so here we are. Many, many, MANY moms have guilt. We’re measuring ourselves against working moms if we stay at home; we measure ourselves against stay-at-home moms if we work. We’re not Pinterest Perfect; we’re not Instagram Fabulous enough – we beat the heck out of ourselves! Overcoming the Mom-Life Crisis sees us and wants us to put ourselves first (sometimes is okay, right?). It’s a handbook, it’s a guide to self-care, it’s a real-talk path from someone who’s been there. It’s a good choice for your parenting collections.

 

The ABCs of Being Mom: Advice and Support from the Mom Next Door, Birth Through Kindergarten, by Karen Bongiorno, (April 2021, She Writes Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781647420109

Another solid parenting guide, this one for new moms through the start of school, The ABCs of Being Mom is a book that takes into consideration that, other than the What to Expect books, there’s no handbook for being a Mom. Written by another mom, the book breaks down ages and stages and provides tips, suggestions, organization tips, and helpful information with each page. Helping moms navigate the changes and mini-upheavals, this is a book version of coffee with your mom friends. Another good choice for your parenting collections.

 

What are some books you’re looking forward to for Mother’s Day? Post ’em here!