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

A fun Summer mystery! Saltwater Secrets

Saltwater Secrets, by Cindy Callaghan, (Apr. 2021, Aladdin), $7.99, ISBN: 9781534417434

Ages 9-13

Originally published in hardcover last year, the paperback release of this fun Summer mystery is perfect for beach reading while ruminating on how water ices can save the world. Half-sisters Josie and Stella spend every summer together: Josie lives in Australia with her mom, while Stella lives in New York with her mom and stepdad. They share their summers – and their dad – together at the Jersey Shore, where they have their rituals. This year, Stella is pushing back against those rituals, because she’s on the verge of high school and wants to act more adult; Josie revels in their childhood memories. What starts out as a story where two sisters are growing up yet afraid of growing apart gets infinitely more interesting when you realize that chapters alternate between the sisters’ story and a debriefing at a police station. Something big has happened, as the story unfolds through each chapter, and it has to do, somehow, with the new smoothie store that took the place of Josie’s beloved water ice shop; a pop star coming to perform a concert at the pier, and the jellyfish population, currently undergoing a marine life crisis. This family story becomes a co-plot to an environmental mystery that brings the sisters back together to solve as they work out their growing pains, and it is guaranteed to keep readers glued to the pages. There’s a fun cast of supporting characters, great pacing and dialogue, and an eloquent statement about the environment and how we affect it, for better or for worse. Put this on your shelves with other summer books like Kayla Miller’s graphic novel, Camp, Mae Respicio’s Any Day With You, Melissa Savage’s Lemons, and – naturally! – Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Summertime Rumble! Beach Toys vs. School Supplies

Beach Toys vs. School Supplies, by Mike Ciccotello, (June 2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374314040

Ages 3-6

It’s beach toys versus school supplies in a sandcastle contest to beat all sandcastle contests! Shovel is relaxing at the beach when Ruler shows up to start working. Shovel doesn’t want to think about school just yet! The two decide to find out who’s better – beach toys or school supplies – with a sandcastle building contest, and the two teams set to work. Just as the winner is determined, a big wave threatens to wipe out one of the castles: will the two groups work together to save the castle and enjoy the summer?

An adorable look at the balance between work and play, Beach Toys vs. Sand Castles is filled with fun and wry observations about both sides: the school supplies naturally only want to work and appear pompous, while the beach toys are all about fun. Messages about teamwork and respecting the need for a work and play balance come across playfully and with equal weight to both sides. Cartoon artwork is colorful, with anthropomorphic supplies bearing fun, exaggerated expressions. Endpapers show the toys and supplies standing off against one another; look for my favorite, the backpack, pocket unzippered to reveal a menacing box of colored pencils shaking a fist.

Absolute fun, with a free, downloadable activity kit, to boot! Find it here. Read this to your preschoolers and kindergarteners who may be annoyed by already seeing school supplies creeping back into stores and assure them that there’s room for both.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Uncategorized

Intermediate Book Bundles!

I’ve been bundling again, and Macmillan was kind enough to give me some book bundling ideas from their imprints. This bundle is a mix of intermediate chapter books and graphic novels, and I think this will be a super popular mix.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, by Debbi Michiko Florence/Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic, (July 2017, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), $15.99, ISBN: 9780374304102

Ages 6-9

I read the first Jasmine Toguchi book back in 2017 and loved this fresh new face on my chapter book shelves! Since then, there have been three more Jasmine Toguchi books, and I know my library kids enjoy Jasmine as much as I did. In her first book, 8-year-old Jasmine really wants to be part of the mochi-making process when her grandmother flies in from Japan, but she’s not 10 yet, so her family says, “no way”. But Jasmine is set on building up her arm strength to be able to heft that mochi hammer. An author’s note and microwave mochi recipe at the end introduce readers to Japanese culture, and Jasmine is a spunky, smart young heroine that readers can immediately feel close to; she could be a friend at school or from the neighborhood. Black and white illustrations throughout are playful and let us into Jasmine’s world.

Author Debbi Michiko Florence’s website is amazing, from the adorable and colorful mochi at the top of the page, to the printable activities tied to each of her books, to her colorful and blog, always loaded with photos and updates.

 

Doggo and Pupper, by Katherine Applegate/Illustrated Charlie Alder, (March 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250620972

Ages 6-9

Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate and illustrator Charlie Alder join together to create an adorable story of two dogs. Doggo is a family dog who has his routines, like taking naps, walking the family’s daughter, and snuggling little family members. He has calming pursuits, like watching TV, even skateboarding, but it’s a pretty routine life, even if he does wistfully remember his younger, wilder days. When the family decides to get a new puppy, Doggo’s world is turned upside down! Pupper wants to talk ALL NIGHT. He is silly and lazy and… he’s a puppy! When Pupper gets sent to charm school, he returns home a different, more sedate Pupper, which gets Doggo thinking… he misses that wacky little Pupper. He quietly takes the pup out for a night of fun, where the two can let their wild sides out with no damage: or charm school. A sweet story of friendship and enjoying childhood, Doggo and Pupper is a story early graphic novel readers will love. Cat, the family cat, is there to add wisdom to the story, and Doggo has sage advice about puppies at the end of the story; good advice for anyone considering a Pupper of their own. Colorful collage and digital artwork are adorable, and the story is organized into easily readable chapters that give kids a place to pause.

Doggo and Pupper has a starred review from Booklist.

 

Blue, Barry & Pancakes, by Dan & Jason, (March 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255556

Ages 4-8

Childhood best friends Dan and Jason give kids a new graphic novel series about the hilarity of friendship. Blue is a worm, Barry is a frog, and Pancakes is a giant bunny, who live in the same house and get into the wackiest of situations. In this first graphic novel, Barry is just about to finish his tower of waffles when Pancakes insists they hit the beach. When Barry and Pancakes start playing with Blue’s collector beach ball, a giant whale eats it and sends the trio off into a silly adventure that will have every reader giggling uncontrollably (at least, my 8 year old did). The facial expressions, the frenetic pace of the action, and the “what next?” moments all make this the graphic novel kids will be asking for this summer. Reading takes you everywhere? It sure does here, as the trio goes from home, to the beach, to the inside of a whale, a rowboat, a UFO, the inside of a volcano, and more! If you asked one of your library kids to make up an adventure right on the spot, I guarantee you they’d come up with something very close to Blue, Barry and Pancakes. Endpapers show off other items in Blue’s collection, which makes me wonder what we’ll see in future adventures…

This is the first in a planned trilogy – the second one is due out in a matter of DAYS (stay tuned). Visit Dan and Jason’s website to see more about their projects, including Blue, Barry and Pancakes.

 

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say!, by Angela Dominguez, (Jan. 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62672-858-5

Ages 7-9

I read the first Stella Diaz book in 2018 and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with this shy second grader who had to find her voice. Stella Diaz loves fish and learning about the oceans and ocean life; she loves spending time with her mom and brother, and loves spending time with her best friend Jenny. She’s also incredibly shy and can’t find the words she wants to use, so she tends to stay quiet, afraid she’ll speak Spanish instead of English, or pronounce her words wrong. Either way, she’s made fun of by the class Mean Girl, but when her teacher assigns presentations that means Stella will have to speak in front of the class, she works to defeat her fears and find her voice. It’s a wonderful story about friendship, making new friends, and facing challenges. It’s infused with Mexican culture and Spanish language, inspired by the author’s own story of growing up Mexican-American, and features black and white illustrations throughout. There are two additional Stella Diaz books now, with a third coming next year – I’ve got books 2 and 3 on my desk right now, so keep an eye on this space for more.

Visit author Angela Dominguez’s website for more about her books!

 

How are you feeling about the book bundles talking? Too much? Not enough? Less description, more visual? I’d love to hear what you think!

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 picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: IT IS (NOT) PERFECT

It’s a good day when Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant put out another book, especially when that book is one of the (NOT) books, starring two of my favorite fuzzy friends. Tomorrow is that day, my friends.

It Is (Not) Perfect, by Anna Kang/Illustrated by Christopher Weyant,
(May 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542016629
Ages 3-7

Purple and Brown are enjoying a day at the beach, gleefully constructing a sand castle. After an initial round of consideration, each decides it’s not yet perfect, adding little finishing  touches. But it seems like all their friends around them (you’ll catch very familiar faces and legs) have an opinion, too. As Purple and Brown try to appease everyone, driving themselves to include every change, the sweet little sandcastle becomes and overwrought palace… and Mother Nature hasn’t yet contributed her opinion.

What makes something “perfect”, and at what point do we appreciate something (or someone) simply for what it is? These are the questions posed here, and Kang and Weyant do so in a way that takes a potentially overwhelming or upsetting subject and makes it fun for kids to digest and laugh at. Most of us are people pleasers at heart, and kids more than most are easily stressed out trying to make everyone around them happy at their own expense. It Is (Not) Perfect shows them the sillier side of what happens when you try to please everyone, while showing readers that there’s always something waiting around the corner, that doesn’t care about anyone’s idea of perfect. Be happy and embrace what you’ve got! If you think its perfect, it is. And so are you.

Psst…publisher Two Lions has a Teachers Pay Teachers page, with loads of downloadables available for free, including educator guides and activity kits for You Are (Not) Small.

 

Christopher Weyant’s artwork is familiar and adorable, with lots of familiar friends from past (Not) books, a bright beach setting, and enthusiastic dialogue balloons that make this so much fun to read with a partner (like my 7 year old). He brings such life to Anna Kang’s fun storytelling; a sense of play runs throughout all of the artwork.

Yet another must-add to my storytime collection – and yours! – and a great inspiration for sand castles everywhere. Don’t let quarantine woes get you down: make moon sand with your kids at home. It will be PERFECT.

Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small as well as series titles That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. They also wrote and illustrated Eraser, Can I Tell You a Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher’s work can also be seen in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.

Twitter: @annakang27 @chrisweyant05

Instagram: annakangbookschristopherweyant 

Facebook: Anna Kang – Author; Christopher Weyant

“Colorful cartoon illustrations add a lightheartedness to what could be a stressful real-life situation for kids. Another life lesson neatly packaged in child centric humor.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This award-winning duo have created a lovely tribute to the old adage that perfect is the enemy of good. Recommended for purchase for all collections.” —School Library Journal

Posted in Uncategorized

Two picture books about summer… and life

Waiting for Chicken Smith, by David Mackintosh, (May 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207712

Ages 4-8

A young boy waits for his friend to show up at the family’s summer rental in this story about summer, relationships, and change. The boy, a child of color, narrates the story as he waits for Chicken Smith to show up. The boy talks about Chicken Smith, his dog, Jelly, and the fun summers the two friends have had in the past as he waits, holding a “crazy shell from the gas-station shop” as a gift. Where the heck is his friend? Readers know; in the beautifully detailed pages, we see an empty cabin with a “Summer Rental” sign. The boy’s sister finally manages to get his attention, and the two glimpse a whale: something he and Chicken Smith have never been able to catch together, not even with binoculars. The boy and his sister head back to the cabin and enjoy their evening together, and he wonders if he’ll see Chicken Smith next year.

Originally published in the U.K., Chicken Smith is a story about change and summer friendships. Readers feel the boy’s longing as he waits for his friend; it’s in his voice as he recalls summers past, the cool shell he found for him, and the fact that he’s so focused on waiting for Chicken Smith that he ignores just about everything going on around him. His sister is finally able to get through to him through sheer persistence, and that’s when the Chicken Smith spell is broken: there’s a whale to watch. The story is almost achingly sad at points; when the boy askis, “What is taking Chicken Smith so long, anyway? We’re missing out on everything”, we just know he won’t be there this year – and sure enough, the next page shows an empty cabin, and the boy describes the windows being shut and seeing a cobweb with a fly in it. David Mackintosh pulls readers and the narrator back from the brink by giving us a new relationship to discover: the relationship between the boy and his sister, brought together by the whale. The two go back to their cabin and look at his whale book, then make plans to go on a shell hunt. The boy ends on an optimistic tone, hoping he’ll see Chicken Smith next year, but deciding to enjoy his sister’s company for this year. The pen, pencil, ink, watercolor, and kraft paper artwork come together to create a child’s scrapbook-like feel for summer memories.

Waiting for Chicken Smith has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Sea Glass Summer, by Michelle Houts/Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, (May 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763684433

Ages 5-8

A boy named Thomas explores the beach by his grandmother’s seaside cottage. Using his grandfather’s magnifying glass, he discovers the complex beauty in nature: grains of sand look as big as rocks, and clamshells have swirls of color. But the discovery of sea glass is what really fascinates Thomas. Learning how sea glass is made – a piece of glass, dropped into the sea, becomes worn smooth and cloudy over time – and that his grandfather said that “every piece of sea glass has a story all its own” fuels his imagination; he finds himself dreaming of ship christenings and ships caught in storms; stories that could give rise to the found glass on the beach. When he and his grandmother head back to the mainland, the magnifying glass shatters, and he tosses the glass into the sea. Years later, a girl named Annie discovers sea glass on the beach, and brings her discovery to her grandfather, an older man she calls Papaw Tom.

Sea Glass Summer is a moving inter-generational story that beautifully recreates the feel of summer: warm, lazy days on the beach; the smell of the sea air, the grains of sand, rough against your fingertips, the smooth sea glass in the palm of your hand. In between these cozy summer memories, there’s a story that reaches across decades, linking a grandfather and his granddaughter, in a story that stirs the imagination and tugs at the heartstrings. An author’s note notes that sea glass was more common in the days before recycling awareness.

I loved Sea Glass Summer. This one is a summer classic.

Sea Glass Summer has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, picture books, Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Upcoming books to get kids excited for summer

I know, I know, we’re not even heading into Spring yet, and here I am, talking about Summer-themed books. Honestly, though, can you think of a better time to imagine grains of sand running through your fingers, the warm sun on your back, or the smell of the woods after a summer rain? Here are a few upcoming books to whet your readers’ appetites for the longer, warmer days of summer.

Grains of Sand, by Sibylle Delacroix, (Apr. 2018, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472050
Recommended for readers 4-7

A young girl and her brother come back home after a family vacation; her shoes are filled with sand. What to do with all of it? Should they plant a field of umbrellas to wave at the sun? How about a forest of windmills, or a castle fort? The possibilities are as endless as a child’s wish for the summer to stay. As the girl falls asleep in her father’s arms, she extracts a promise that they’ll return for more sand, next year. This sweet love letter to summer and family uses grainy gray and white artwork, with splashes of yellow and blue, and will enchant young readers and make us adults smile and remember our own summer vacations. You’ll feel the sand run through your fingers and smell the ocean as you turn each page. It’s the perfect way to greet a summer full of possibilities. Originally published in 2017 in French, this English translation of Grains of Sand has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Be Prepared, by Vera Brosgol, (April 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626724457
Recommended for readers 10-14

A semi-autobiographical graphic novel about author/illustrator Vera Brosgol’s life, Be Prepared tells the story of Vera, a girl who desperately wants to fit in, but she doesn’t have the money that her fancier suburban friends have, and her Russian household doesn’t quite match her schoolmates’ WASP-y upbringing. When the girls start talking about the lavish summer camps they’re heading to for the summer, Vera does some research and finds an option even her single mom can afford: a Russian summer camp.  How can Mom say no? She’ll be able to make friends and learn more about her Russian heritage. Mom gives in, and Vera and her brother are off to camp – but it’s nothing like Vera expects. She’s got history lessons and tests?! Awful outhouses? And mean girls in Russian camp, too?! This hilarious look back at summer camp is great for tweens and young teens who know just what it feels like not to fit in. I really enjoy Vera Brosgol’s cartoon art, especially those giant, expressive eyes that communicate volumes. Vera Brosgol’s picture book, Leave Me Alone! is a Caledecott Honor book and her graphic novel Anya’s Ghost is a Cybils, Harvey, and Eisner Award winner. See more about her books and artwork at her website.

All Summer Long, by Hope Larson, (May 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9780374310714
Recommended for readers 10-13

Thirteen-year-old Bina is not looking forward to this summer. Not only is her best friend, Austin, heading off to soccer camp this summer, but he doesn’t even seem interested in keeping up their Summer Fun Index anymore! Bina consoles herself by getting lost in music and finding an unlikely friendship with Austin’s sister, who has similar taste. When Austin comes home, he’s acting more distant and weirder than ever. Can Bina and Austin ever get their friendship back on an even keel? This great graphic novel will resonate with tweens who are navigating their own growing pains and the evolution so many friendships go through in that summer space between middle and high school. It’s funny and touching, loaded with understanding. An A+ summer read. Hope Larson is an Eisner Award-winning comic and graphic novel artist whose books include Chiggers (2008), Goldie Vance (ongoing), and Compass South (2016). Her 2012 adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time earned her a second Eisner.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Media, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

In Which I Explore an An Animated Book: Hondro & Fabian

Hondo & Fabian. Written and Illustrated by Peter McCarty. 6 minutes. DVD. Weston Woods. 2006. $ 59.95 ISBN 0-439-84909-8

Suggested for ages 3-6

When I saw the animated books at my local library, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was I just going to be staring at a static series of pictures with a voiceover laid over the whole business? I decided to give it a shot with Peter McCarty’s Caldecott Honored-story, Hondo & Fabian. I am very happy to say I was delighted by what I watched.

hondo & fabian

Hondo & Fabian is the 2003 Caldecott Award-winning story of Hondo & Fabian, a dog and cat who live in the same household and have very different experiences one day, when one goes to the beach and one stays home with the family baby. Who has the better day?

Weston Woods produced this animated version of the book for schools and libraries, and author Peter McCarty’s soft, grey pencil on watercolor paper illustrations come to life as narrator Jeff Brooks tells the tale of the two friends who spend their day in two different ways. The illustrations are animated, allowing viewers to see Hondo’s ears blowing in the breeze as he hangs out a window, and Fabian putting his claws to work, shredding toilet paper. The story is brief, and Joel Goodman and David Bramfitt’s music adds to the beauty of the artwork, bringing with it a relaxing feeling as the story’s events unfold. Readers will enjoy viewing this story about pet friends; the option to use English subtitles will allow for new readers to read along with the narration. A study guide comes with the DVD that provides pre- and post-viewing activity ideas that can be incorporated into a storytime session, such as a discussion about pets and which animals are pets versus which are not.

This would be an interesting addition to a pet-related storytime. The DVD could break up the routine of a traditional read-aloud and attract renewed attention from attendees. The Perry Public Library’s Parade of Pets storytime theme has pet-related songs and fingerplays, and having a sing-along to an animal song-related CD, like Raffi’s Animal Songs, would make for an interactive and fun time.

The Hondo & Fabian animated book has received numerous accolades, including designation as an ALA Notable Video; Honorable Mention from the Columbus International Film & Video Festival; and was an Official Selection at the Kids First Film Festival.

The Hondo & Fabian series of books by Peter McCarty also includes Fabian Escapes.