Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

‘Tis the Season to be Reading!

Seasons Readings! I’ve got a bunch of holiday and winter books to talk about over the next couple of days. Let’s start with Christmas!

How Winston Saved Christmas: An Advent Story in Twenty-Four and a Half Chapters, by Alex T. Smith, (Sept. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6\

Ages 3-10

How Winston Saved Christmas is adorable. It’s an Advent storybook and activity book, starring a mouse named Winston, who discovers a little boy’s note to Santa and is determined to deliver that important message in time for Christmas! Start reading on December 1st, a chapter a day, leading up to the big day. Each chapter is about three pages, and the book is beautifully illustrated with color artwork. After each chapter, there’s a story-related craft that you can easily do with your kiddos. Great for the library, great for a way to end a day in the classroom, great to do with your own kids at home. The crafts are simple and don’t require lots of time or materials, making this a wonderful way to spend holiday time with your kiddos. Tips for next year, Christmas poems, and an author’s note finish everything off and get you ready for the holidays; the chapters and craft ideas are laid out in the front of the book, written on little gift tags, across an opening spread before the story begins, so you can get a peek at each activity (and gather your materials in advance).

This is an adorable way to prepare for the holidays. I think Winston will become a regular part of our holiday celebrations.


The Lobsters’ Night Before Christmas, by Christina Laurie/Illustrated by Elizabeth Moisan, (Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-5826-5

Ages 3-10

Who doesn’t know and love Clement Moore’s classic poem, A Visit by Saint Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas)? Add some ocean life to the mix for an Underwater the Sea holiday storytime with The Lobsters’ Night Before Christmas! Read the rhyming tale of Sea Nick, pulled in his clamshell by his eight minnows, each with a distinctive species name, as he fills skate cases with holiday gifts and moves on to the next cave. There are lobster and fish facts woven into the rhyme, making this a great story for sea life readers. Elizabeth Moisan’s watercolor artwork brings a soft, underwater feel to the illustrations, and she’s hidden a lobster, hiding in the eel grass, for sharp-eyed readers to find. Make it a game to see who can find the hidden lobster! The endpapers are loaded with tiny little lobsters, some holding little red stars for a tree. The cover is die-cut in a pine tree shape, adding fun to the design. Back matter includes an All About Lobsters feature, with information about what lobsters look like, eat, how they molt, and how they’re affected by climate change.

A cute read and gift for your sea life readers.

More winter and holiday books to come! If you know of any upcoming or new Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other multicultural holiday books, please tweet me @roesolo or email me here and let me know!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

Penguin, Adventurer, Treasure Hunter: Mr. Penguin has it all!

Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure, by Alex T. Smith, (April 2019, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-68263-120-1

Ages 8-12

Mr. Penguin is ready for an adventure! He opens up a small office, dons a dashing hat, packs a lunch of fish finger sandwiches, and waits for a phone call. When Boudicca Bones, from the Museum of Extraordinary Objects calls him to hunt down a lost treasure somewhere in the museum, he and his sidekick, Colin the Spider, are ready! The only thing is, treasure bandits have escaped from prison and have managed to find their way into the museum, too. It’s up to Mr. Spider and Colin to keep one step ahead of the bandits and keep themselves safe in the process!

Written by the author of the Claude chapter book series, Mr. Penguin is a perfect next step for intermediate readers who are ready to take on meatier chapter books, but aren’t quite ready for that big jump into middle grade fiction. Mr. Penguin is hilariously earnest, often stumbling into situations where his smarter, less verbal colleague, Colin, can save the moment. There’s a plot twist that readers will laugh out loud about

The artwork is largely black and white, with pops of orange to make images pop. If you have Claude fans – and why wouldn’t you? – or have readers that love adventure, hand them Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure.


Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

The Tale of Angelino Brown will make you happy cry.

The Tale of Angelino Brown, by David Almond/Illustrated by Alex T. Smith, (Feb. 2108, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763695637

Recommended for readers 8-12

Bert Brown is a tired school bus driver who’s burned out on his job. When he starts feeling chest pains behind the wheel one day, he’s sure he’s having a heart attack – but no! – there’s a little angel in his pocket! The sweet little angel shows a liking for gumdrops, offered by one of the kids on the school bus who notices the little visitor, and Bert brings the angel home to his wife, Betty, who’s thrilled. They name the angel Angelino and Betty sets to work finding foods that he likes, and making clothes for him. Betty decides that Angelino needs to be in school, and since she’s the school cook, he tags along with her for a school day, where he enchants (most of) the teachers and students around him, particularly the expressive art teacher, Ms. Monteverdi. Everyone is just happier, better, when Angelino is around, but two shadowy figures are keeping an eye on Angelino. When the time is right, they kidnap him, hoping to sell him off; what even they don’t realize is Basher, a lifetime bully, is coming for Angelino, too. Can Bert, Betty, and Angelino’s schoolmates save the day?

This story just made me feel happy inside, and not in a goofy, syrupy way. Angelino appears into the lives of a married couple who’ve been going through the motions for a long time, bringing joy to them after a tragedy of their own seems to have had a hand in closing them off. Everything he touches is filled with good and happiness – he’s an angel, complete with little wings, and happy little farts (my kids do love a good fart joke) that will give readers the giggles. The baddies here aren’t completely bad – there’s some interesting character study here for all involved – and the humor takes some amusing pot-shots at the Seriousness of the Education System, which is always good for getting a laugh out of me. Angelino has no memory of who he is and indeed, must learn how to speak, read, and write, but he’s up to the challenge and even advocates for himself when the chips are down. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the fun.

This one is a win for summer reading kids who “don’t know what to reeeeaaaaaad”.  A gentle, sweet fantasy with just a hint of flatulence. The Tale of Angelino Brown has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

Claude and Mr. Bobblysock find their way to the Big Screen

Claude on the Big Screen, by Alex. T Smith, (Oct. 2017, Peachtree Publishers), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-68263-009-9

Recommended for readers

Claude the Dog and his best friend, Mr. Bobblysock, are back for another adventure: this time, they wander onto a movie set, save the day by filling in for the two stars, and save a classically trained gorilla actor who’s afraid of heights! Written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith, the Claude series is a fun, early chapter book series that sports two-color illustrations and a quirky sense of style. The characters and writing are flamboyant fun, with exaggerated fonts, gigantic wigs, a gorilla in a smoking jacket, and a dog in a beret. It’s dry wit for the elementary school set.

There are seven Claude books out right now. Give these to your readers that appreciate humor with a twist. Introduce them in a read-aloud, letting kids hear the tongue-in-cheek manner of the narrative. Dress up socks and have the kids make berets – have fun with Claude!

Posted in Uncategorized

Meet Claude in the Country!

claudeClaude in the Country, by Alex T. Smith (Apr. 2016, Peachtree Publishers), $12.95, ISBN: 9781561459186

Recommended for ages 7-10

Claude is a beret-wearing housedog, living with his human family, Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes, and his best friend, a red striped sock named Mr. Bobblysock. One day, they decide to go on a walk in the country and find themselves at Woollybottom Farm. Spending the day helping Mrs. Cowpat, the farmer, turns into quite an education for Claude as he washes pigs (giving them quite the pampering), checks out competitive vegetable competitions, and his chased by a bull! Will Claude and Mr. Bobblysock go country, or will they go back home when the day is done?

The Claude books by Alex T. Smith were originally published in the UK; the first, Claude in the City, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2012. I’m always happy to see a good intermediate series hit bookshelves, so I’m thrilled that this series is coming to US audiences. I received my ARC from the Peachtree Publishers booth at PLA, where the rep talked the book up so much, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. Claude’s adorable, and seems to have a habit of meandering into situations where he happily dives into new experiences. Mr. Bobblysock is there as a companion, but tends to be pretty sleepy, so Claude takes the lead.

Animal fiction always does well for me, as does humor, so the combination of the two, with the adorably cartoony two-color art from Alex Smith, seals the deal. I just found out that Disney Junior UK has picked up Claude for an animated series, so let’s see how he fares on our shores, and maybe we’ll get some more Claude in our future. This is a fun beginner chapter book series for kids who are ready to start testing the waters beyond Easy Readers. Booktalk them and display them with your Mercy Watson and Leroy Ninker books; pit Claude against Bad Kitty to see whose adventures are more hilarious!

Check out more of Alex T. Smith’s art on his author webpage, including an adorable 90th birthday wish for the Queen of England.