Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Series fiction gift ideas!

There are some nifty things about series fiction: there are usually a few published throughout a calendar year, and they’re usually reasonably inexpensive, so you can scoop up a few as a nice gift. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately.

Anna Hibiscus

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-678-6
Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-679-3
Love From Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-680-9
You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-681-6
Good for readers 6-8

This series is wonderful. While it is a running series, you won’t be lost if you don’t read in numerical order. I came in on books 4-8 and have the first four on request from another library; I was captivated by this slice of life series about a young girl who lives with her paternal, extended family, in Africa. The book celebrates African culture and community, family, and empathy. In Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus, Anna has returned to beautiful Africa after vacationing with her maternal grandmother in Canada. She’s thrilled to be home, gains a new pet, and eases back into daily life. Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! sees Anna and her family returning to her grandparents’ village, where life is slower; there’s no running water or electricity, and kids don’t go to school. Anna learns how to make new friends and learns from them even as she teaches. In Love from Anna Hibiscus!, Anna’s grandfather discovers that an old friend of his has passed away, leaving a young grandson, Sunny Belafonte, on his own. The boy is starving and steals in order to eat; Grandfather and Anna know they must intervene. You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! is the strongest book in this very strong series: Grandfather is becoming more and more tired. Anna is left to work through the grief that that comes with a death in the family. The books paint a beautiful picture of everyday family life and the compassion Anna and her family have for others. Anna and her family are African but for her mother, who is Anglo-Canadian; something that is communicated through illustration. The black and white illustrations throughout show a loving family and scenes of African life: Anna teaching village children to write the alphabet using sticks and the ground; Grandmother weaves a basket; the kids ride an uncomfortably crowded bus to Grandfather’s village. Originally published between 2012-2016 by Walker Books, the series is now available from American publisher Kane Miller. Give this set to kids and broaden their horizons.

 

Animal Planet Adventures

Dolphin Rescue, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-169-6
Farm Friends Escape!, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-416-1
Puppy Rescue Riddle, by Catherine Nichols, (Sept. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-008-3
Zoo Camp Puzzle, by Gail Herman, (Sept. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-009-0
Good for readers 6-10

Simultaneously available in hardcover or $5.99 paperback, this Animal Planet fiction series debuted earlier this year and blends fiction and nonfiction. I enjoyed the first two books, Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape!, earlier this year; I just read the next two, Puppy Rescue Riddle and Zoo Camp Puzzle, and can honestly say I get a kick out of this series. It’s a true series in that each book is its own separate adventure; there’s no crossover with other characters or locations, so every book stands alone and makes it easy to dive in and enjoy whatever appeals to readers. Don’t like farm animals much? No worries, just read another book. There’s a major plot running through each book and a mystery subplot that the characters must work together to solve: with Puppy Rescue Riddle, a group of friends volunteer at an animal shelter and have to find a puppy who’s gotten lost in a house; Zoo Camp Puzzle stars twin siblings, temporarily living with and being homeschooled by their father at a zoo while he works on a book. The twins notice that animals are going into hiding, and work to get to the bottom of the mystery. Zoo Camp Puzzle has fun word searches and puzzles throughout (which will necessitate a “Do Not Write in This Book” label on my library copy). Each book also has a cute flip book feature – flip the pages, and see dolphins swim, ducks waddle, puppies run, and zoo animals shuffle along.  The illustrations are in color, and full-color nonfiction sections throughout each book provide information on veterinarians, how animals react to changes in weather patterns, and more. The set is available in both hardcover and paperback. Great set for young animal fans.

 

Ella and Owen

Ella and Owen: The Cave of AAAAAH! Doom!, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (March 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0368-6
Ella and Owen: Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster!, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (March 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0369-3
Ella and Owen: Attack of the Knights vs. Dragons, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (May 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0372-3

Dragon siblings Ella and Owen are forever bickering. Owen is bookish and likes staying home, reading; Ella is adventurous and always ready to push the envelope. In The Cave of AAAAAH! Doom!, the two search for a cure for Owen’s cold, only to go up against an ogre and evil vegetable wizard. In Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster!, the siblings want to surprise their mom with a cake made of delicious stinky fish, so off they go. They end up turned into newts by a wizard named Ken, bargain with a pixie, and find a stinky fish monster: a very large, very grumpy, stinky fish monster. Knights vs. Dragons goes a little deeper as the dragons find a group of knights who hate dragons because they’ve followed a culture of hating dragons for years: fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have always hated dragons; that’s just the way it is, right? When the knights encounter a group of trolls who hate knights for the same reason – and are a lot bigger, stronger, and scarier than the knights are – Ella and Owen have a chance to teach the knights a valuable lesson about acceptance. This is a fun series – there are four in print at the moment – that kids who love dragons and silly fantasy will enjoy. There are black and white illustrations throughout, but, sadly, no recipe for stinky fish cake.

Unicorn Princesses

Unicorn Princesses: Sunbeam’s Shine, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Aug. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193267
Unicorn Princesses: Flash’s Dash, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Aug. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193304
Unicorn Princesses: Bloom’s Ball, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Dec. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193342
Unicorn Princesses: Prism’s Paint, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Dec. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-168119338

This series is a no-brainer for fantasy fans who love their unicorns and My Little Pony books. A human girl named Cressida is convinced that unicorns are real, happens upon the Rainbow Realm where unicorns live, and befriends them, receiving a magical key to re-enter their realm whenever she wants to visit. She helps the unicorns out with each visit. In Sunbeam’s Shine, a wizard’s mistake costs Princess Sunbeam her magic yellow sapphire, which causes her to lose her powers. The key to regaining them is to enlist the help of a human who believes in unicorns! In Flash’s Dash, the big Thunder Dash race is coming up, and Princess Flash lets non-unicorns compete for the first time. Cressida’s invited to take part, but the bumbling wizard (who’s also a lizard) casts a spell that covers the track in sticky goo. Bloom’s Ball has Princess Bloom trusting the wizard-lizard with a spell to deliver her special birthday ball invitation by mail, but an errant word brings on an army of quails who wreck the party, leaving Cressida to help salvage the day. In Prism’s Paint, that wizard – seriously, why is he even allowed to practice magic at this point? – changes Princess Prism’s power from turning objects different colors to removing color altogether. Cressida’s got to help find the rainbow to restore Prism’s power. The series is adorable, wacky, and full of good-hearted dilemmas, with black and white illustrations throughout. Bloom’s Ball and Prism’s Paint are due out on 12/26, making them good Kwanzaa gifts, or hold onto them for Little Christmas in January. There are two more books forthcoming in 2018. Trust me, someone you know loves unicorns. I have one little girl at my library waiting desperately for these next two books to come out. Want to mix it up a little? Consider some My Little Pony books, or anything in the Rainbow Fairies series by Daisy Meadows.

Happy reading and happy holiday shopping!

 

 

 

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

Animal Planet chapter books: Nonfiction Nibbles for intermediate readers

Animal Planet Chapter Books: Bugs (Book #3), by James Buckley Jr. (June 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-756-3

Recommended for readers 6-10

A step up from early/easy reader animal facts books, Animal Planet chapter books (not the Animal Planet Adventures fiction/nonfiction series) are full-color, fully illustrated chapter books for intermediate readers. The first two in the series, Sharks and Dinosaurs, published in late 2016; Bugs and Snakes arrive this month.

Chapters are loaded with facts and photos of… well, bugs. There are three “Bug Bites” sections that take closer looks at bug bodies; extreme insects examines some of the crazy stats of the biggest, heaviest, longest bugs around, and we get a deeper look at the roles of an ant farm’s inhabitants. There are callout facts throughout the chapters, and an “In Your Newsfeed” section updates readers on breaking news in the field. For instance, did you know that researchers are looking into sticky caddis flies to develop new bandages for humans? You do now! Fact Files go further in-depth on insect biology; topics include how insects walk using three legs at a time, with the other three balancing, and special modifications some insects have for survival.

I’m always on the lookout for good, intermediate-level nonfiction and series nonfiction. This fits the bill nicely.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Realistic Fiction

#AnimalPlanetAdventures mix fiction and fact for maximum fun!

Animal Planet has great nonfiction for kids. I particularly love their Animal Bites series, which looks at animals from different habitats, and offers a rich mix of beautiful photos and easy-to-read facts. For those beginning readers who want to feel part of an animal adventure, Liberty Street – Animal Planet’s publisher, a division of Time Inc. Books – introduced Animal Planet Adventures chapter books earlier this year. I read the first two adventures, Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape!

Animal Planet Adventures: Dolphin Rescue, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-417-8

Dolphin Rescue introduces us to siblings Maddie and Atticus, who live off the coast of Maine with their single dad and volunteer at the local aquarium. While trying to solve a rash of trash dumping incidents happening throughout their town, they notice a pod of dolphins in the nearby cove, looking very distressed. They’ll need to use their knowledge of animals, plus their problem-solving skills to help the pod out.

 

Animal Planet Adventures: Farm Friends Escape!, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-416-1

In Farm Friends Escape!, we meet cousins Luke and Sarah, who spend every summer at their grandparents’ farm. This year, their grandparents put them in charge of running the farm’s petting zoo. They’re thrilled, even if they don’t always agree on how to get things up and running. A mysterious kid lingers around the farm, though; and while they’re trying to figure him out, they discover that somehow, the animals have all gotten loose! The cousins need to track down each of the petting zoo escapees, relying on their animal knowledge and deduction skills – and they need to figure out how they got loose in the first place.

Animal Planet Adventures is a great way to reach readers who may struggle with nonfiction, but love a good story. There’s a little bit of mystery in each storyline, so your series fiction fans who love books like Ron Roy’s A to Z Mysteries, Capital Mysteries, and Calendar Mysteries will gobble these up. Books are in full color – both story illustration and nonfiction sections – and feature the beautiful photography that we already love in Animal Planet books. Nonfiction sections are spread evenly throughout the book, so it flows with the overall narrative of the story, often fleshing out information contained in the plotline. I don’t know if future books (there are two more adventures – Puppy Rescue Riddle and Zoo Camp Puddle – releasing in September) will introduce more new characters or if we’ll meet Mattie, Atticus, Luke, and Sarah again, but the character pair-ups are fun and appeal to both boys and girls. I’ve just ordered a set of Adventures for my library, because series fiction and animal nonfiction is aces around here. Display with your series mystery fiction and your animal nonfiction – it all works!

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

Animal Planet’s Animal Atlas is a passport to the world’s habitats

animal-planet-animal-atlas-hardcover-book-658_670Animal Planet Animal Atlas, by Animal Planet (May 2016, Animal Planet), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1618931658

Recommended for ages 7-10

I have tons of animal nonfiction books in my library, and I have a bunch of really good books on habitats, too.  What Animal Planet’s Animal Atlas does it bring together explanations of different biomes/habitats, and the animals who live in them on each continent and in the oceans of our world.

The atlas begins with a map to present the major biomes of the world, and describes each biome: alpine, desert, marine, grassland, rain forest, temperate forest, tundra, and taiga. Animal tour guides for each continent take readers through a look at different animals that inhabit each biome on each continent, and features like ROAR (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) – Animal Planet’s initiative, dedicated to improving the lives of animals worldwide – empower kids with knowledge about how humans are working to change the world for the better through conservation and protective measures. Surprisingly Human boxes provide facts about the similarities between animals and people. Each continent section ends with a spotlight on an animal from the area, giving readers a close-up look at animals like the bald eage, anaconda, or Sumatran tiger. Spotlights include a Where in the World section, where maps detail the animals’ living areas; Animals Facts, and information on what they eat and how animals adapt best to their environments.

Combining colorful illustration and full-color photographs of over 200 animals, the atlas is a great resource for young readers. It’s got information ready at a glance for my Corona Kids, who come in asking for books about various habitats and then, what animals live in those habitats. It’s a strong companion book for slightly bigger kids, who will need more in-depth books to complete a report, but it’s a great starting point for anyone who wants a little more info on different habitats, and who may not realize that different continents have so many different biomes. A brief glossary and index round it all out.

This is a good addition to primary nonfiction collections if you have strong books that provide more detail that kids can jump to if they want to go further into a topic. Or, if you’re like me, and your kiddo just loves learning about different animals, where they live, and what they eat, it’s a nice add to your bookshelf. The passport and guide animal features add a cute touch that brings something different and fun to learning. Hmmm… now, I’m thinking of an animal program for my Discovery Club… learning about a new animal each week, and stamping a “passport” with an animal sticker or stamp… I’ve got to talk to my Discovery Team!

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Animal Planet’s Animal Bites series is great for young readers!

Animal books are KING with younger readers. I gush constantly about the NatGeo books, but I’ve just been made aware of Animal Planet’s Animal Bites series: books spotlighting animals from different habitats, like Farm Animals and Wild Animals, and loaded with bite-sized info (see what I did there?), questions for discussion, and yes, outstanding photos.

wild animalsEach book is organized to guide readers through information about family relationships, animal bodies, ecosystems, play time, conservation, and so much more. Check boxes throughout prompt discussion about whether these animals are friendly or would make good pets (bears, not so much; horses, yes) and discussion questions ask kids to compare themselves with animals: do you like to play games, like a border collie does? We get infographics on featured animals, including geographic location, weight, and height, and to help younger kids form a more solid frame of reference, a comparison to something most of us see every day, from a truck to a computer printer.

I love the emphasis on conservation, particularly in the Wild Animals book. Features on animals that have been saved from the brink of extinction, like the gray wolf, make very real the idea that conservation works when there is awareness.

Each book ends with a quiz, an activity and a craft, and a robust list of resources, a glossary, and an index. Endpapers lead readers in and send them off with a gorgeous photo of an animal.

There are over 200 photos in each book, along with infographics, maps, and informative Quick Bites. Other books in the series include Animal Planet Polar Animals and Animal Planet Ocean Animals.farm animals

Further committing to conservation, a portion of the proceeds benefits Animal Planet’s R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) campaign that partners with leading animal organization to make the world a better place for domestic and wild animals.

My 4 year old LOVES these books: trying to get them back so I could refer to them for this review was fun (he’s at school right now). Every page is a new discovery, something waiting for him to find and explore. Sometimes, he plays with his animal toys, showing me his horses when I read the section on horses; he’ll show me a lion when I get to a spotlight on lions. If he asks why his shark is missing, I’ll explain that I have to buy him a copy of Ocean Animals. 😉

Kids love animals. Animal Planet books make it easy for you to bring more animals into their lives, and even more importantly, to discuss humane treatment of animals and the importance of conservation of our planet with them. The books are a nice, sturdy softcover, perfect for tucking into your tote bag when you’re traveling (or sneaking your kid’s copy out so you can read it on the way to work), and it’ll hold up to repeated reads.

Animal Planet: Animal Bites – Wild Animals, by Laaren Brown (Animal Planet, June 2016), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1618934147

Animal Planet: Animal Bites – Farm Animals, by Laaren Brown (Animal Planet, June 2016), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1618934130

Recommended for ages 4-8