Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

New in the Nature Book series: A Shell is Cozy

A Shell is Cozy, by Dianna Hutts Aston/Illustrated by Sylvia Long, (May 2023, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797212470

Ages 5-8

Enjoy a study on the world of shells in the newest entry in Aston and Long’s Nature Books series. Ink and watercolor illustrations bring the many types of shells to life; Aston moves between brief and meaningful observations – “A shell is cozy”; “A shell is everywhere”; “A shell is athletic” – and more informative explanations to explain her observations. Cursive font poses the initial observations; smaller, print text the explanations. Each shell is labeled, helping facilitate understanding and knowledge. Aston writes to educate and to delight, including facts like jazz musician Steve Turre using “the same shell instrument… as his Aztec ancestors did…”, or that sea scallops “clap” their shells to swim away from predators. A great addition to a long-standing, popular natural world series.

Create an activity pack with a seek and find sheet from, a set of seashell identification cards from Cara Ratner on TeachersPayTeachers, and this field journal from the American Museum of Natural History.



A Beetle is Shy, by Dianna Hutts Aston/Illustrated by Sylvia Long, (May 2023, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797215877

Ages 5-8

The softcover edition of the 2016 book, A Beetle is Shy, hits shelves this week and is a good choice for libraries that need a backup or whose budgets are facing some challenges. Here, Aston and Long introduce readers to the many types of beetles: their life cycles, their sizes, where and how they live. They touch on the beetle’s prehistoric origins, with a beautiful rendering of beetles preserved in amber, and discuss the many areas of the world where beetles are on the menu! The ink and watercolor art is breathtaking, with vibrant colors truly showing off beetle’s jewel-like appearances. Scripted verse observations, like “A beetle is tasty”; “A beetle is prehistoric”; “A beetle is a digger… a runner… a hopper… or a swimmer” lead to brief informational text to explain. A great addition to your nature, STEM, and insect collection.

Do you have bug fans, or want to do a program on insects? You can put together a fun learning activity pack with this Beetle Mania activity from, a beetle coloring sheet, also from, a Build a Stag Beetle activity from Teaching Resources by AJ, and a beetle lifecycle activity sheet from itsMamaMiller, both from TeachersPayTeachers. DK has a good Beetle Facts for Kids webpage, and NatGeo Kids has fact pages on both the stag beetle and the dung beetle.

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Excellent Speculative Fiction: The Hitherto Secret Experiments of Marie Curie

The Hitherto Secret Experiments of Marie Curie, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, (March 2023, Blackstone Publishing), $18.99, ISBN: 9781665047036

Ages 12-17

An anthology that puts the science in science fiction, The Hitherto Secret Experiments of Marie Curie brings together 20 stories by standout names – Jane Yolen, Scott Sigler, and Jonathan Maberry, to name a few – who spin dark stories about Nobel Prize winning physicist Marie Curie. Driven largely by the childhood losses of her mother and sister, the stories and poetry in Hitherto dream of scenarios that formed Curie. Set in her young adolescence, there are dark tales, supernatural tales, and straight-up unnerving tales, with several mainstays: Curie’s break with religion, the Russian occupation of her beloved Poland, and her dedication to science and learning. Stories are rooted in science, and many include Science Notes to clarify the divergence of fact and fiction. Run from the whimsical, like Alethea Kontis’s “Marya’s Monster”, where Curie confronts the literal monster under her bed with level-headedness, to the bittersweet, as with Seanan McGuire’s “Uncrowned Kings”, where Curie battles the disease-carrying beast that’s infected her town. Stories like Henry Herz’s “Cheating Death” take a turn into horror, where Curie’s obsession with halting Death leads her to disturbing experimentation, and Christine Taylor-Butler’s “Retribution” is a science murder mystery (minus the mystery).

Every single story here is an excellent read, with something for dark fantasy, horror, and thriller fans alike. Science fans will rejoice at having Marie Curie front and center in her own adventures (I know I did), and resources for further reading keeps the momentum going, with books about Curie, women in STEM, and websites to explore. An excellent choice for YA collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

When You Joined Our Family explores adoption

When You Joined Our Family, by Harriet Evans/Illustrated by Nia Tudor, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644759

Ages 3-6

Adoption can bring up a lot of feelings and questions. When You Joined Our Family, written from an adoptive parent’s point of view, connects with them. A warm hug of a story, this could be any number of voices contributing to the narrative; a collection of adoptive parents talking about their experiences: “When you joined our family, I knew you were just who I’d waited and wished for”; “We spent time together, and you learned that I will always keep you safe”; “…I vowed to celebrate the ways you are unique… and the ways we are alike”. Positive, loving observations pair with multicultural, inclusive families of different ages, physical abilities, and households. Colorful digital illustrations are warm and inviting, showing families enjoying their time together. A very good choice for collections. Display with books like Jamie Lee Curtis’s Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, Carrie A. Kitze’s I Don’t Have Your Eyes, and Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three. Adoption & Beyond has a list of adoption books for children at their website.


Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

What About…? Great series for developing minds

Twirl Books has been great for producing high-quality, fun, and educational board books for the littlest learners. Their What About… series, originally published in France, skews slightly older and are “Illustrated Q&A Book[s] for Kids”.

What About: The Universe, by Bertrand Fichou/Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître, (Nov. 2022, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9791036345159

Ages 7-11

If you’ve been around kids, you’ve heard the questions: “Why don’t people on the other side of Earth fall into space?” “Is it cold in space?” “What’s in our solar system?” These questions, and many more, get answered thoughtfully and visually in What About the Universe, which begins with a glossary. I love this: get the vocabulary up front, preparing kids for words they’re going to see along the way! Answers are broken up into bite-sized, step-by-step responses, hopefully answering additional questions that pop up along the way. For instance, the answer to “How are stars born?” goes through a 5-step answer: “1) a nebula drifts through space; 2) the nebula shrinks, 3) everything starts to heat up; 4) the star ignites, and 5) planets form around the star”. Visuals make each concept easier to comprehend, and additional fun facts provide deeper context. Colorful cartoon artwork makes learning fun. An index makes searching for specific information easier, and a Table of Contents at the beginning helps readers locate their big questions with no fuss. A very good choice for reference and STEM collections.

I’m enjoying putting together activity packs these days; if you are, too, consider a few NASA coloring pages, a planets wordsearch from Ana DeSousa on TeachersPayTeachers, and this planet order worksheet from abunchofbrinsons on TeachersPayTeachers.  Have them available for any of your space fans!


What About: Philosophy, by Gwénaëlle Boulet & Anne-Sophie Chilard/Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître, (May 2023, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9791036353086

Ages 7-11

Kids are like mini-philosophers. Think of the big things they think about: “Why are there wars?” “What’s is fair or unfair?” “Why do I have to go to school?” There are 16 big questions in this book, all illustrated and considered with respect to the reader. Beginning with the biggie: “Why do humans exist?”, the book goes through age-appropriate explanations that consider existential theories and being self-aware. The authors explore concepts like being in love, being brave, and being free; what money is and why we use it, and abstract concepts like time.  Explanations are factual, non-judgmental, and age-appropriate, so younger learners will more easily be able to follow along and gain deeper understanding of emotions like anger or jealousy and how it makes a person feel. Overall, a good addition to the series and a good attempt at putting some big questions into context for younger readers. There is a table of contents, but no index in this volume.

PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization) is an organization that offers philosophy and ethics programming to students, educators, and families. Their philosophy toolkit offers free, downloadable lesson plans, organized by grade level, that you can share with your families and school partners.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

You Rule!: The best things is life are measurable in words!

You Rule!, by Rilla Alexander, (Apr 2023, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797211794

Ages 3-5

Sure, you can measure quantitatively – length, width, height – but measuring things with your heart is just as important and can be incredibly descriptive. You Rule! follows a child and their dog through the day as they help a caterpillar become a butterfly. They dash through spreads filled with common kids’ questions; imaginative, effusive responses help expand emotional vocabulary: How ready are you? Responses go from “not at all” to “fired up” and “rarin” to go”; How happy are you? calls forth responses like “exhilarated”, “pretty much ok”, “pleased as punch”, and “walking on air”. Bright, bold rubber stap and digital collage illustrations create eye-catching spreads and the positive affirmations for questions and responses make this a feel-good book to read again and again. Put this one in your collections and consider posting some of the words and phrases around your children’s area to keep these uplifting ideas in front of kids.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Underpants humor is a win: I Made These Ants Some Underpants

I Made These Ants Some Underpants!, Derick Wilder/Illustrated by K-Fai Steele, (May 2023, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781797202167

Ages 3-5

When a kid gets a day-of-the-week underwear set from his mom, there’s only one thing to do with the lackluster gift: share the wealth! Gathering his art supplies, he gets to work making bright orange underwear to spread far and wide. From his sister, to a line of ants and a pirate. all the way to a robot and the monster under his bed, the boy makes underwear for everyone, but no one seems that thrilled… which brings him to his own hilarious conclusion. The rhyming story is a delight to read, and underwear-based stories are always a home run with my storytime kids. The watercolor, ink, and pencil artwork is cartoony and bold, with expressive characters to keep the joke rolling. Details in the child’s room clue readers in to the underwear recipients. Endpapers show the before-and-after of household items and the Underwear Rampage. Kids will delight in hearing this one again and again.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Storytime Reading: I Did See a Mammoth!

I Did See a Mammoth! by Alex Willmore, (March 2023, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684645114

Ages 3-6

An expedition heads to the Antarctic to see penguins, but one young explorer has their sights set on a greater prize: a mammoth! Sure enough, every time the party is otherwise occupied, a mammoth appears, but does the group believe the excited kiddo? You never know what could show up on a scientific expedition in this hilariously fun story that makes for a spirited readaloud. Colorful cartoon artwork and bold black fonts add to the child’s exasperation as they desperately attempt to call the others’ attention to the discovery of a lifetime. Back matter features some information on penguins and mammoths, and the chances of meeting one or the other. A great choice for a storytime – pair with Russell Ayto’s Henry and the Yeti for a doubly fun storytime.

Posted in Uncategorized

Minecraft Cookbook: Great for Teens!

Minecraft: Gather, Cook, Eat! Official Cookbook, by Tara Theoharis, (Apr. 2023, Insight Editions), $27.99, ISBN: 9781647228262

Ages 12+

This is the kind of cookbook I’d put right into my Teen nonfiction section. Over 40 recipes for all skill levels, organized into appetizers and snacks, entrees, desserts, and drinks, and with fun Minecraft-y names, accompanied by color photos and meal planning suggestions? Home run. Minecraft icons on every recipe give cooks difficulty levels and player types that inspired the dishes; Minecraft artwork runs throughout. A chart lets readers see at a glance which are dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian. The dishes are fun and inventive, like Inventory Bread, a pull-apart bread that looks like different types of building blocks, or Nether Portal Rolls; cinnamon rolls with ube frosting to give the roll a deliciously purple sheen that matches Minecraft Purple. Recipes are detailed and easy to follow. Player Notes at the end allow for cooking or gaming notes as you cook. This should be a hit for Young Adult and New Adult cookbook collections.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Midnight Strikes: Groundhog Day meets Kill the Queen

Midnight Strikes, by Zeba Shahnaz, (March 2023, Delacorte Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9780593567555

Ages 12+

Anaïs Aubanel is a 17-year-old member of a prominent Proensan family liviing in the Ivarean kingdom. Her people have been outsiders, considered the backwoods magic users of the kingdom, since the Ivareans colonized them, but her family presses her to make a good marriage match, bringing her to the royal anniversary ball to scope out her chances. At the stroke of midnight, bombs go off, killing everyone at the ball – and then Anaïs awakens in her own bed, sure it was a dream… until it happens again. Over the course of the novel, Anaïs must reconstruct each day and figure out how to stop the carnage before it begins; in doing so, she uncovers a nefarious plot with an unlikely puppetmaster pulling the strings. A rich fantasy, Shahnaz explores colonization and the intertwining roots of magic and faith. Anaïs is a character readers will cheer on; the supporting characters become more real with each moment revisited. A good choice for fantasy readers.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Love is the muse in Maurice

Maurice, by Jessixa Bagley, (May 2023, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797211732

Ages 5-8

Maurice is a canine concert musician-turned-busker, motivated by love in this moving tale about the ultimate inspiration. Introducing Maurice as a musician who once played to large music halls until “times and things changed. They always do”, Maurice now brings joy to everyone around him as a street musician. He lives a quiet, kind life and draws inspiration from the many birds who share his apartment: “Though his own joys were small, they were his whole world”. He has named them all; he speaks lovingly to all of them, and they inspire him. Sadly, as “the melody of life change[s] once more”, Maurice’s busking cup runs dry and he must let the birds go, leaving his heart empty. Bagley’s stunning gatefold spread shows the beauty the birds flying off into the sunset and the devastation on Maurice’s face as he watches them leave. Moving toward a resolution, we learn that “hearts remember” kindness. In concert, Maurice is surrounded in the darkness of the concert hall and alone under the spotlight; as a busker, he is bathed in warm colors, surrounded by other canines who delight in his music, really delivering the message that Maurice is motivated by love and sharing his gift. A good choice for collections.

Maurice received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.