Posted in picture books

Take a walk on the beach with Harry and the Pelican

Harry and the Pelican, by Amy Leaf/Illustrated by Tami Boyce, (June 2021, Leaf Publishing LLC), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1736380925

Ages 3-6

Harry is a young boy who goes for a walk on the beach with his grandpa and cousins. As he walks along toward a lighthouse, he discovers a pelican on the beach, and makes a new friend who’s also visiting with family. It’s a small moment story: taking one small moment and expanding on it, and Amy Leaf does it with a sweet story about a day out with family and the accomplishment of making it all the way across the beach. Back matter includes facts about pelicans, and Tami Boyce’s colorful artwork and expressive characters make for a fun beach story.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Legends of Olympus by Alane Adams: Go Questing!

I just finished both Legends of Olympus books by Alane Adams, who you may know from the Legends of Orkney series. If you have Percy Jackson/Rick Riordan readers in your library or your family, this is the next series to hand them. Let’s take a look.

Eye of Zeus, by Alane Adams, (April 2020, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781684630288

Ages 9-13

In the first book in the Legends of Olympus series, we meet Phoebe Katz, foundling. She was discovered by her social worker, Carl, as an infant, in a basket at a bus stop, and she’s been through a series of foster homes and schools since. Now 11 years old, she’s the ne’er do well at school, sticking with her two friends, Damian and Angie, to get through the days. But Phoebe learns that she’s not like the other kids – it’s not being a foster kid that sets her apart, either. Maybe it’s that giant statue of Atlas in New York’s Rockefeller Center, that starts talking to her, that gives her the clue? Phoebe has just learned that she’s a daughter of Zeus, king of the Greek gods, and more: she’s the twin sister to Perseus, slayer of Medusa. Being the daughter of THE head of the Greek gods brings trouble, though, especially when she learns that a prophecy claims she will destroy Olympus. Only a quest to collect six talismans from Greek monsters will fix everything, so Phoebe, Angie, and Damian are off to Ancient Greece to set things right. An exciting adventure through Greek mythology, with smart, likable characters kids will cheer for. There are interesting conversations to be had about friendship, loyalty, and found families, all topics kids will relate to. Black and white illustrations add to the interest.

 

The Medusa Quest, by Alane Adams, (April 2021, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781684630752

Ages 9-13

This is the second book in the Legends of Olympus series. Things have been looking up for Phoebe, but don’t get too comfortable! The three friends learn that their last visit to Ancient Greece has messed up mythology, and if they don’t go back to fix things, there’s going to be BIG TROUBLE. When they arrive back in Ancient Greece, Phoebe learns that her twin brother, Perseus, is in big danger of being turned to stone by the Gorgon, Medusa, so Damien and Angie join the quest to help Hercules get his confidence back and save Perseus. They have some help, from their friends, the Pegasuses and Phoebe’s half-sister, the goddess Athena, and they’re going to need it! The action is absolutely ramped up in this sequel, and the characters have grown from their experiences in the first book. There’s a strong emphasis on family and found family, and some particularly strong emotions running through the last quarter of the story. A sequel worth reading.

Author Alane Adams’s website has a wealth of information about her books, including book club kits and readalong videos.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Find the Extraordinary in all things

Extraordinary!, by Penny Harrison/Illustrated by Katie Wilson, (March 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684641444

Ages 4-8

When you think of the extraordinary, you tend to think big. Extraordinary acknowledges this, with dreams of soaring eagles and space travel: “the extraordinary bellows, it trumpets and booms. / It towers above us it blazes and blooms”. But consider the everyday moments that bring a touch of the extraordinary into our lives: turn to nature for incredible moments that often go overlooked. Extraordinary celebrates these moments, encouraging families to seek out these moments, whether it’s discovering a bird’s nest or a bug on a leaf, enjoying a cool breeze, or watching birds soar. Extraordinary is about finding the magic in the everyday and embracing it. Taking place over generous spreads and separate panels, the rhyming verse leads readers through image after image of families and friends spending time outdoors, together. Illustrations appear like watercolor paintings, gently colorful. Endpapers show a colorful outdoor landscape and a more sepia-toned version of the same landscape. A gorgeous Spring story.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

There’s no break being The Middle Kid…

The Middle Kid, by Steven Weinberg, (March 2021, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781452181806

Ages 6-9

It’s hard being the middle kid! The middle kid gets blamed when their little sister is crying, the one who gets picked on when the big brother is mad, and they’re just stuck in the middle; never the oldest, never the youngest. The middle kid telling the story takes readers through a day in the life of The Middle, starting with woken up by his siblings, through his brother’s “toughness training”, and getting a breather when his mom takes him to the library. During an exploring adventure with his siblings, he discovers that he can fit places his brother’s too big for and his sister’s too little for: he’s the perfect size. This realization helps him finish his day by inviting his siblings to create a blanket fort in the living room. Sometimes, being in the middle means you’re the perfect fit. A fun look at the life of a middle child that kids will recognize (my middle kid sure did) and laugh along with. I loved that Mom recognized the importance of taking a breather and giving Middle Kid his own space and time away from the chaos of siblings. Endpapers look like the scribbled insides of a marble notebook, as does the cover of the book when you slip off the jacket. Digital collage artwork is lively and expressive. Kids are going to love this one.

The Middle Kid has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

Posted in Uncategorized

In which I chat with The Ransomes!

I do a lot of virtual programming for my library system. It’s something I love doing, and my colleagues and I have gotten really good at just having fun with it. When I was invited to host an author/illustrator chat with Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome, I was thrilled and, quite frankly, terrified. I love the Ransome’s books. Their collaboration on Before She Was Harriet is one of my favorite picture book biographies of all time. James E. Ransome’s picture book illustration is stunning, with a masterful use of color and movement, all coming together to create beautiful landscapes that evoke emotion just as powerful as an author’s words. Lesa Cline-Ransome’s storytelling can go from powerful verse to factual text that never, ever speaks down to readers or makes things commonplace or – dare I say it? – dull. So I was about to speak to an author and illustrator I was in awe of. GAH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy Queens Public Library’s Facebook. Thanks again to The Friends of Pomonok Library and Former Councilman Rory Lancman!

I needn’t have worried. Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome were DELIGHTFUL. They took my gratuitous fangirling in stride and shared insights into their creative process; authors and illustrators that they enjoy, even how they met (at a Purple Rain party in college!). I discovered that Lesa and I share a love for dystopian sci-fi, especially for Neil Shusterman’s Scythe and Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts. James talked about being mentored by and working with Jerry Pinkney, and what an experience that was for him as an artist. He asked after my cat, who announced her presence during the backstage warm-up. It was a fantastic way for me to spend an evening, and I can honestly say that I’m a better person for having spent time with them.

If you haven’t read any books authored by Lesa, or illustrated by James, you are doing yourself a disservice. I’ve already put more books on my holds list, including Lesa’s middle grade novels, Finding Langston and Leaving Lymon. If you’re interested in the author talk, you can find it here on Queens Public Library’s Facebook page.

 

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Explore SIGHT!

Sight : Glimmer, Glow, SPARK, FLASH!, by Romana Romanyshyn & Andriy Lesiv, (July 2021, Chronicle Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781452179773
Ages 8-12
Art and science make a visually exciting combination in this book about sight, with a thoughtful narration linking scientific facts and infographics throughout. Kids are going to love the high-contrast artwork, with neon oranges, stark whites, and deep blues drawing them to pages on facial expression, deciphering symbols, and optical illusions. A philosophical narrative runs across the bottom of most pages, with thoughts like, “I see myself in the mirror. / I study my face carefully and know its tiniest details. / However, the reflection does not always how who I really am” and “I look at the world with wide-open eyes. / I yearn to discover the unknown, to see beyond the horizon, and to understand things that are not self-evident” encouraging introspection. Great for STEM collections. Display and booktalk with Professor Astro Cat books by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman, and Flying Eye Books, which tend to have similar artwork and use infographics, like Dieter Braun’s Wild Animals of the South, and Owen Davies’ Crazy About Cats and Get Smart About Sharks.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Always look for the rainbows.

There Is a Rainbow, by Theresa Trinder/Illustrated by Grant Snider, (Jan. 2021, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781797211664

Ages 4-6

Written in the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, There is a Rainbow is about coming through the dark times to the other side. Presented in simple statements, it’s a story of opposites; of going through the hard to get to the better; of our connections to one another, and ultimately, about rainbows. There are kids learning on screens; there are Black Lives Matter signs; there are thank-yous to heroes, all reflecting moments we lived through last year. There is also a thread of hope, in the form of the ever-present rainbow, encouraging us to keep going, because, as the book notes, “On the other side of a storm, there is a rainbow. On the other side of today, there is tomorrow.” For those of us who have come through so much, it’s a supportive message that pushes us to keep moving toward that light at the end of the tunnel. For future generations, There Is a Rainbow will stand as a testament to a moment in time where we stood, resilient, together against unbelievable events. An author’s note talks about writing the book during the pandemic. Grant Snider’s colored pencil artwork adds a gentle touch to the text, but shows strength in the details: trees standing in the wind, a chalk rainbow refusing to wash away in the rain, a series of cheery rainbows hanging in the windows, celebrating our first responders. Download a free activity kit and encourage your littles to talk about their feelings from the past year. Pair with Smriti Prrasadam-Halls and David Litchfield’s Rain Before Rainbows for an inspiring storytime.

School Library Journal calls There Is a Rainbow the “perfect pandemic book”. Can’t put it any better than that. There Is a Rainbow has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

You know you want to sing The Poop Song!

The Poop Song, by Eric Litwin/Illutarted by Claudia Boldt, (Apr. 2021, Chronicle Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781452179506

Ages 2-6

The author who gave us Pete the Cat’s I Love My White Shoes has bestowed a new musical gift upon us: The Poop Song. Perfect for potty trainers and preschoolers who are still getting on a potty schedule, The Poop Song is all about…. well, pooping! The hilarious rhyming song applauds the pooping habits of animals: “Cats poop in their own little box. / Mountain goats poop as they climb over rocks. / Fishes poop as they swim in the sea. / Caterpillars poop at the top of a tree.” After a group of animals, Litwin reinforces that everybody’s pooping, and that big boys and big girls poop in the potty, hearing a “happy sound”: a flush! It’s a fun way to encourage kids to use the potty, with loads of laugh-out-loud moments. Colorful digital illustrations and bold fonts make this as much fun visually as it is to read aloud. Download an MP3 to sing along with the book or make up your own tune! The Poop Song has its own webpage where you can download the MP3 or watch the YouTube video, and download a potty chart to help your little poopers track their new potty habits. Absolute fun.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Sharey Godmother has love to share!

The Sharey Godmother, by Samantha Berger/Illustrated by Mike Curato, (Apr. 2021, Imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250222305

Ages 3-6

Shari T. Fairy is a fairy godmother who LOVES to share. She’ll throw you a party, she’ll share her ice cream sundae, she’ll leave you surprises on your doorstep. She just loves to share! But when other fairies get in Shari’s ear, asking what she’s getting in return for all of that sharing, Shari starts to wonder… does she share TOO much? She tries not sharing, but is so unhappy… she realizes that sharing is who she is and what she does, and that sharing and doing good things has nothing to do with what you get out of it; it’s how it makes you feel. A feel-good story about how being kind makes your world a better place, The Sharey Godmother also delivers an important lesson to readers: don’t let other people influence what you think, feel, and do! Shari knows herself best; it’s when she lets others influence her that she doubts herself and ends up doing something that goes against who she is at heart. Mike Curato’s mixed media illustration is so much fun! Cartoon artwork, photographs of various textures, bold fonts, and vibrant color make this a perfect readaloud, and a perfect book for empathy, kindness, and socio-emotional collections.

Samantha Berger is the award-winning author of books like Crankenstein and Snail Mail. Her website is a delight, with links to information about her books, her blog, and video clips from her work on Sesame Street and Nickelodeon. Mike Curato is the award-winning author and illustrator of the Little Elliott books and the YA graphic novel, Flamer. His website has links to information about his books, along with links to videos, virtual events, and his shop.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Happy #OutdoorSchool Launch Day!

I’ve been blogging and Instagramming about Odd Dot’s Outdoor School series, and today is the big day: launch day! Keep your eyes on this space for news about a giveaway coming soon, and if you’re able, register for a launch event tonight, featuring series creators Jennifer Davis, Haley Blevins, Mary Kay Carson, and Jennifer Swanson discussing the series and answering your questions about mastering outdoor skills! The event is free and open to the public; all you need to do is register here with EventBrite!