Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Itty-Bitty-Kitty-Corn will steal your heart

Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn, by Shannon Hale/Illustrated by LeUyen Pham, (March 2021, Abrams Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419750915

Ages 4-8

An adorable pink, fluffy kitten is positive she’s a unicorn. She feels like one on the inside, so she must be… a Kitty-Corn! Her friends, a parakeet and a gecko, insist that there’s no way she’s anything other than a cat -she meows in her sleep, after all! – , When a unicorn shows up to change all of that by saying that he, too, feels like a Kitty-Corn, these two new friends see one another for who they really are. Adorably illustrated, with just too-cute, huggable, expressive animals, Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn is a story of identity and seeing others for who they really are. A spread where Kitty tells Unicorn, “I see you” is beautiful; a lovely statement on visibility and existence; of knowing yourself and seeing others – and most importantly, letting others know that you see them.  Cheerful, appealing characters and a lovely story flow make this a great storytime read-aloud. Publisher Abrams has a free activity kit with coloring pages. Consider this book, and Lulu is a Rhinoceros, for Visibility Days storytimes and displays.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Let’s Get Sleepy! plays seek and find up ’till bedtime

Let’s Get Sleepy!, by Tony Cliff, (Aug. 2020, Imprint), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250307842

Ages 3-6

A group of kittens are trying to track down a mouse they call wee Sleepy, the Prince of the Night. Where can he be? This adorable seek-and-find adventure does double duty as a rhyming bedtime story that will have your Kiddos joining the kittens in their search for Sleepy. Searching their neighborhood block, a weekend parade, the beach, Mount Snow, even a swamp, slug caves, and the moon, Sleepy always manages to stay ahead of the kittens – will Sleepy stay ahead of your Kiddos? Tony Cliff, the author-illustrator of the Delilah Dirk graphic novel series, is an Eisner, Shuster, and Harvey award nominee and brings his talent for creating fun, fast-paced cartooning to this children’s adventure. The crowd scenes have movement and a sense of delightful play, and the rhyming text has repetitive phrases like, “Is this where he’ll be? We’ll search and we’ll seek and we’ll ask friends that we meet”, and – naturally – “Let’s Get Sleepy!”, that encourage readers to chime in along with you as you’re reading. You ask them to guess if the cats will find him on the next spread, or where he could be hiding – and then seek him out. An amusing brainteaser for bedtime, Let’s Get Sleepy is a nice addition to smaller storytime groups (or virtual storytimes) and bedtime reading.

Publisher Macmillan has a free, downloadable activity kit with instructions on making a felt bed for Sleepy, a Make Your Bedtime checklist, and more!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cover Reveal: YES & NO by Elisha Cooper

How adorable is this new cover for Elisha Cooper’s new book, Yes & No?

Yes & No, by Elisha Cooper, (April, 2021, Roaring Brook Press),
$18.99, ISBN: 9781250257338
Ages 2-6

Elisha Cooper is the critically acclaimed author/illustrator of many children’s books, including Caldecott Honor-winning BIG CAT, LITTLE CAT. This new story is a timeless tale of friendship, adjusting your perspective, and the joys (and trials) of siblinghood.

As a mother of three children, a dog, and a cat, I can tell you that sibling relationships cross species lines. Reading the sneak peek at Macmillan’s website, I realized it, and you will, too, with chuckles and grins. Visit the book’s page at Macmillan’s site for yourself – Elisha Cooper’s artwork is always a joy to see.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Next Stop: Christmas!

5 More Sleeps ‘Til Christmas, by Jimmy Fallon/Illustrated by Rich Deas, (Oct. 2020, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250266477

Ages 3-7

Jimmy Fallon’s newest picture book outing is an ode to the anticipation that seems to increase exponentially, the closer Christmas morning gets! In this rhyming tale, a boy is counting his “sleeps” until the big day. He knows he’s been good and that Santa will take care of business, but going to sleep every night is SO HARD when Christmas is so close! “5 more sleeps ’til Christmas. / I’m not sure I can wait. / I get good grades, / I fed the dog. / I even cleaned my plate. Gary’s chew toy Peppy / is helping me count sheep. / But it’s not working! We’re still up! / We cannot fall asleep!” Colorful illustrations set against the deep blue night time sky and the dark warmth of the boy’s night time room, combined with the adorable, expressive main character and his faithful pup, Gary, are full of holiday anticipation that kids and adults alike will remember and enjoy revisiting time and again. Absolute holiday fun that will brighten up your shelves.

 

Claris: Holiday Heist (The Chicest Mouse in Paris), by Megan Hess, (Oct. 2020, Hardie Grant), $17.99, ISBN: 9781760504953

Ages 4-8

Fashion illustrator Megan Hess’s series about the Claris, “chicest mouse in Paris” sees her fabumouse main character visiting New York along with her friend, Monsieur the Cat, and the family they live with. The Brat – the family’s spoiled daughter – is throwing tantrums per usual, but the real story is in the title. Claris and Monsieur spy a thieving cat on a shopping trip, and follow the felonious feline to his home and demand his return his booty! Will the cat burglar give up his life of crime and embrace the giving spirit of the holidays?Eloise and Olivia fans will love this chic, smart, determined little heroine as she takes on the streets of New York’s chic shopping district. Author Megan Hess’s fashion illustration expertise makes for gorgeous fashion sketches throughout, with bright, colorful moments that pop against the black and white backgrounds. Rhyming text makes the story a fun readaloud.

 

Dinosaur Christmas!, by Penny Dale, (Sept 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214499

Ages 2-6

This is the seventh book in Penny Dale’s Dinosaur series! This time out, Santa’s stuck and it’s dinos to the rescue! Trucks, plows, even helicopters arrive on the scene to dig Santa out and get him back on his way. Short sentences, repetition and sight words, and sounds like “crunch, crunch”, “swish, swish”, and “scoop, scoop” make this a fantastic readaloud choice (have a sensory storytime with this book and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt). Flannels and/or toy dinos are always fun to add. Watercolor and ink dinosaurs look realistic and friendly, and colorful endpapers show dinosaurs that appear in the book, with their names clearly spelled out, along with the vehicles they use in the story. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spotlight on small press and self-published books!

Beautiful, Wonderful, Strong Little Me!, by Hannah Carmona Dias/Illustrated by Dolly Georgieva-Gode, (Nov. 2019, Eifrig Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1632331694

Ages 4-7

A rhyming story that celebrates multicultural diversity, Beautiful, Wonderful, Strong Little Me! stars Lilly, a young girl with dark skin, curly hair, freckles and full lips. She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s funny, and she’s friendly – but she doesn’t look like her friends, and she’s tired of being asked where she’s from. She’s no puzzle to be solved! She tells her friends she’s proud of who she is, but what she looks like is only a small part of that: she’s courageous, funny, resilient, and kind. And that is perfect! The joyful rhyming text is filled with a sense of play, self-respect, and self-love. The artwork is cartoony and cheery, with a diverse group of friends playing together on each spread. An author’s note encourages readers to come up with adjectives for themselves, and provides a framed space for a self-portrait.

A fun readalike to books like Karen Beaumont’s I Like Myself! and Grace Byers’s I Am Enough.

 

 

Goldilocks and the Six Simple Machines, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Nicole Hehn, (Jan. 2020), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0916176457

Ages 4-7

Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but what would have happened if Goldilocks had come in and started fixing things up in the Bear home? If Goldilocks had poured the precise amount of milk into the porridge to cool things off; fixed a wobbly table leg and squeaky chair? Would the Bears still be angry? (I would; I mean, she broke into their house.) If the bears discovered a sleeping Goldilocks in their beds, how would they move her to wake her up and thank her for all the repairs? In this STEM take on the classic story, Lois Wickstrom’s Goldilocks uses six simple machines: wheel and axle, an inclined plane and wedge, a screw, lever, and pulley, to show how Goldilocks was able to make life a little easier for the bears. The Bear family is gracious and Goldilocks is sweetly helpful in this retelling. The font design is exaggerated to add a dimension of fun to the story, but they can distract. The artwork could use a little finesse, but overall, a fun book to read in STEM classes and for STEM storytimes.

There are some great fairytale STEM projects available online, and the Goldilocks story has given rise to several. There’s a lesson plan available from the Utah Education Network; Teach Beside Me has a fun STEM project, as does Momgineer. Teachers Pay Teachers has a cute STEM project, where kids can make a latch for the three bears’ door.

 

Daisy and Friends: Outside Our Window, by Barbara J. Meredith/Illustrations by Kalpart, (Oct. 2018, Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency), $11.50, ISBN: 9781949483574

Ages 3-6

The third in a series of books about a cat named Daisy and her three dog friends, Daisy and Friends: Outside Our Window is all about the changing seasons. Phrased like a rhyming game, Daisy and the dogs each start with the phrase, “Looking out our window, what do we see?” Answers reflect those flora, fauna, and weather that map to different seasons: Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bumblebees welcome the spring; squirrels and chipmunks gathering acorns and seeds give hints that fall is on the way. Short, rhyming sentences, consistent question and answer patterns, and plenty of sight words give burgeoning learners a lot to enjoy and see here! The digital artwork is playful, and the dialogue between Daisy and her dog friends makes for good readaloud material, especially if you have a volunteer who’s comfortable reading! There are four Daisy and Friends books available: Daisy and Friends: Waiting for the School Bus was published in August!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Catkwondo takes aim!

Catkwondo, by Lisl H. Detlefsen/Illustrated by Erin Hunting, (Sept. 2020, Capstone), $17.95, ISBN: 9781684461004

Ages 4-7

Kitten wants to break a board in her taekwondo class, but she’s got a lot to learn! Her sensei, Master Ca,t teaches her to prepare her body and mind, and makes it look so easy! As Kitten struggles to learn and master her forms, Master Cat is there with encouragement and advice. Kitten practices her forms while reminding herself of the five tenets of taekwondo: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. Her classmates all help her as she keeps her eye on the prize: breaking that board! Adorable digital illustrations and short sentences make this a sweet story about teamwork and working toward a goal. A list of Korean terms used in taekwondo adds new words to readers’ vocabulary.

Kitten’s moments of frustration and her joy at success will resonate with readers, and images of classmates with advanced belts working to help Kitten improve nicely promote the value of working together. Master Cat is wizened and cheerful, and his little charges all have cartoony, expressive faces that will attract younger readers. Read alongside SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki, a different martial arts story with a zen outlook… and cats.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Toddler Reads

More Books for Babies and Toddlers!

I’ve been getting SUCH good book mail for the littlest readers! Here’s another catch-up round of goodies for the wee ones.

Up Cat Down Cat, by Steve Light, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536210316

Ages 0-3

This is the second concept board book from Steve “Have You Seen My…” Light and I love it! Up Cat Down Cat is all about opposites, as illustrated by a black cat, a white cat, and a blue mouse. White Cat sprawls out, playing with the mouse, to illustrate long, while Black Cat, curled in front of a mouse hole, demonstrates short; White Cat sits miserably in a tub, soaking wet, while Black Cat sits on the tub edge, nice and dry. In the most cat-like demonstration of up and down, White Cat knocks a vase off a shelf, as Black Cat observes it crash and break. Steve Light’s collage work is eye-catching and colorful, with the Black and White Cats providing a bold contrast.  Up Cat Down Cat is a fun addition to concept board books for your littlest readers.

 

Mama Baby, by Chris Raschka, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763690601

Ages 0-3

Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka creates a book that captures Mama and Baby Playtime! Mama and Baby clap together, make faces together, and play peek-a-boo together. But Mama has to leave for a second, and Baby is confused. Mama? Oh, no! Mama comes back just in time to comfort baby, and all is well. Simple, sweet watercolor artwork focuses exclusively on imaginative play and the relationship between a mother and her child; bright white pages are clean and let the colorful artwork stand out. The perspective shifts between mother and baby, letting little hands turn the book around to explore from different points of view. Mama Baby is sweet, relatable, and perfect for reading and cuddle time.

Mama Baby has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and The Horn Book.

Bathtime with Ducky Duckling, by Lucy Cousins, (Feb. 2020, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536209655
Ages 0-3
This is the cutest bathtime book that you can put in the bath with your little ones! Ducky Duckling is so excited about bathtime! Ducky jumps into the water and splashes with friends, with a fun rhyme that will make bathtime an even more fun time! Lucy Cousins’s art is instantly recognizable; it’s bright and fun, bold and cheery, and the book is SO SQUISHY! With three rhyming spreads and illustrations of bathtime fun, this will make for many fun bathtimes. Invest in some soapy crayons and rubber duckies and enjoy!
Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novels, Life Stories

I’ve been really loving the graphic novels coming out this year. Lots of life stories have found their voices in the pages of graphic novels; it’s a trend I’m enjoying, because the artwork really helps bring a person’s story to full, visual life, with little nuances and nods to things not always easily described with just words. Shades of grey; pops of color; a flash of a poster in a teen’s room: these are all things that a graphic novel can illustrated and communicate much more easily and quickly, reaching visual readers who may otherwise not experience the full breadth of a story. Here are some great lives I’ve read about recently.

Frankie, by Rachel Dukes, (Oct. 2020, Oni Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781549306884

Ages 12+

This is the sweetest book! Cartoonist Rachel Dukes is the Lucy Knisley of pet parenthood, as she chronicles life with her cat, Frankie. Rachel and their spouse, Mike, find the cutest black and white kitten outside their door, and Rachel is in love. Inspired by Rachel’s webcomic, Frankie is a series of vignettes in pet parenting, with comics taken from their webcomic and with some new material. Cat-lovers and pet-lovers will all recognize moments like Frankie choosing Rachel’s backpack over a snuggly new bed; the conversations we have with our furry friends; the nicknames we give them, and many, many, bedtime moments (what is it about sneezing in our faces as they settle in on our chests?). Frankie is adorable and full of personality that comes shining through the page. Rachel’s artwork is fun and expressive, silly and upbeat: it’s just what so many of us need to read these days! Each vignette has a name that pet parents will relate to, including moments like “Language Barriers”, “The Box”, “Night Song”, and “Cuddles”. Rachel includes a section on Quick Tips for Aspiring Cat Parents. Talk up to your readers who love Chi’s Sweet Home and Pusheen, and visit Rachel’s Frankie website for adorable downloadables! See more of their artwork on Rachel’s Instagram, and read more of their comics and buy some swag by clicking here, at MixTape Comics.

Little Josephine: A Memory in Pieces, by Valérie Villieu/Illustrated by Raphaël Sarfati, (Apr. 2020, Humanoids Inc.), $17.99, ISBN: 9781643375342

Ages 12+

Visiting nurse Valérie Villieu tells the story of Josephine, a patient that touched her heart, in this aching and quietly lovely story that examines the bonds between patient and nurse while it gives readers a look at the unsettling treatment of the elderly by overwhelmed social workers and home health aides. Josephine, an Alzheimer’s patient, lives alone in a Paris apartment when Valérie is assigned to her. While Josephine is at first resistant to Valérie’s help, the two eventually find common ground in humor. As Valérie strives to learn more about her charge, she discovers that Josephine is a playful, charming woman who enjoys conversation. Valérie expresses her frustration at an overloaded health care system, which leaves an elderly woman in the care of a conservator who just isn’t able to keep up with their caseload – a relatable, upsetting issue. Josephine’s lapses are creatively envisioned in fractured panels, where she’s swept away on her bed, or thrust into the middle of a chaotic panel. The colors are muted shades, giving the story a quiet dignity, even as we ache, seeing Josephine increasingly lost in her own world. A beautiful story of connection and a painful memoir of Alzheimer’s from a caregiver’s point of view, Little Josephine is gorgeous storytelling. Back matter includes an author’s note on Alzheimer’s Disease.

Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, (May 2019, Oni Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781549304002

Ages 14+

Gender Queer is illustrator Maia Kobabe (pronouns: e/em/eir)’s autobiography. Assigned female at birth but never quite feeling that designation fit, Kobabe journals em’s journey through fandom, identity, and sexuality; finally coming to the discovery that nonbinary and asexual are the best descriptors. From a rustic childhood, through puberty, high school, college, and grad school, we walk with Maia through years of introspection and self-discovery. Written as a journal, readers will hopefully see themselves, or gain an understanding of others as Kobabe describes the trauma of body dysmorphia and gynecological exams; appreciate em’s supportive family, and come away with sensitivity and compassion. Have this available for readers who identify as nonbinary or asexual. There are some strong resources to keep available for asexual and nonbinary readers, including Queer Books for Teens, and booklists from YALSA, Book Riot, GoodReads, and Tor. Author Jeanne G’Fellers has an excellent author webpage, including The Enby Booklist, containing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry with a non-binary focus. There is a lesson plan available for Gender Queer through Diamond Bookshelf.

Gender Queer has a starred review from School Library Journal, is a 2020 ALA Alex Award Winner and a 2020 Stonewall — Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award Honor Book.

Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger’s, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color, by Julie Dachez, (Oct. 2020, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620107669

Ages 12+

From her opening dedication: “This comic is dedicated to you. You, the deviants. People who are ‘too much like this’ or ‘not enough like that’, Julie Dachez creates a safe, welcoming space for readers delving into her graphic novel, revealing what life is like for a person living with Asperger’s Syndrome. Twenty-seven-year-old Marguerite loves staying home with her books, her little dog, her purring cats, and her soft pajamas. Within her silent apartment, they form her “cocoon”. She’s stressed by commuting to her job, but relies on routines to usher her through her day. Coworkers don’t seem to understand her. Her boyfriend is frustrated because she doesn’t want to go to parties and socialize as he does. As she searches for answers to her anxiety, she discovers that she is not alone: there is a community of people with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, and their experiences are there, online for Marguerite to read. No longer in the dark and alone, she begins a search for the right therapist, and the resources she needs to advocate for herself.

Julie Dachez’s black and white artwork skillfully uses reds and yellows to communicate Marguerite’s stressors and anxiety: loud conversations and everyday noise; panels are bathed in red to denote stressful moments in Marguerite’s day, when her defenses are running low, gradually fading back to black and white as she separates herself from social situations to recharge. Her red sneakers are the sole point of red that provide a reassuring, routine constant. Back matter includes a history of autism, information on Asperger’s Syndrome, and a list of resources for further reading (incuding children’s books!). A good book to have in your collection; consider also purchasing Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women, a nonfiction graphic novel by Dr. Sarah Bargeila and illustrated by Sophie Standing.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, geek culture, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Reading Rundown, Reading Challenge!

There are SO many great books coming out over the next few weeks, WOW. My reading mojo came back with a vengeance, thankfully, about a month ago, and I have been working on the TBR; everything I pick up has been really good stuff. I’m also starting to come out of an overall blue period (like Picasso, but not as talented), so I’m hoping my blogging can keep up with my reading habits. Let’s give it a whirl.

Con Quest, by Sam Maggs, (June 2020, Imprint), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250307279

Ages 9-13

The first book is Sam Maggs’s middle grade novel, Con Quest. If you already know Sam Maggs, I welcome you, my geek friend. If you don’t, this is a great place to start. She’s a geek girl who’s written comics, nonfiction about fandom, and awesome women in history, but this is her first middle grade novel. And what a novel it is. It’s a love letter to fandom and con life; to Supernatural fans and quests for charity; to friendship, family, and that first blush of a new crush. If you dig fandom, are in fandom, or are fandom-adjacent, you’ll recognize the players here. At a con that’s remarkably similar to San Diego Comic Con, twin siblings Cat and Alex are competing in an intense quest, run by one of their fave celebs, to benefit a charity. The big prize is getting to meet the celeb, but first, they have a gauntlet of geeky challenges to complete, all while dodging their older sister, who is SUCH a drag. There are great, realistic characters here – con life is truly stranger than fiction, friends – and moments you’ll recognize and love. The characters are fun and diverse, with a diversity in gender identity and culture; one of the main characters, Alex, is autistic and Sam does a good job at describing how he experiences things, as opposed to his slightly intense (and sometimes frustrating) sister, Cat.

Introduce Cat and Alex to your readers, then get a (virtual) library con up and running to introduce them to the joy that is fandom. Hey, Free Comic Book Day is running for most of the summer!

 

Diana and the Island of No Return, by Aisha Saeed, (July 2020, Random House Children’s), $16.99, ISBN: 9780593174470

Ages 9-13

All hail the middle grade superhero novels! We are – hopefully – getting our long-awaited Wonder Woman 1984 movie this October, so TALK THIS UP. Our tweens and teens have Tempest Tossed, a phenomenal Wonder Woman original graphic novel; middle graders and tweens now have Diana and the Island of No Return, by Aisha Saeed. Here, Diana is a tween herself, a princess forbidden to learn to fight, despite living on an island of warrior women. She’s hoping to persuade her mother, Queen Hippolyta, this year… maybe during the festivities, when her best friend, Princess Sakina arrives, they can plan an approach? Before the festivities begin, Diana discovers a stowaway – a BOY – on Sakina’s mother’s ship, and learns that the entire island of Themyscira has been put under a sleeping spell. Diana and Sakina, the only two awake on the island, must travel with this boy to his island, where a demon lies in wait, wanting to capture Diana.

This is the first in a Wonder Woman trilogy, and Aisha Saeed wastes no time getting to the action. Diana and Sakina’s friendship is well-written and realistic; she creates larger-than-life figures and makes them very human; the girls are giggly best friends who plan to sleep in the same room so they can stay up all night, and yet also ready, at a moment’s notice, to go on a dangerous mission to fight a demon and free their mothers. It all comes together beautifully, with great world-building, pacing, and storytelling. I can’t wait for the next book.

Follow the DC Comics Kids Twitter and Instagram for DC Kids Camp activities. There are coloring sheets, videos, and crafts that everyone will love: you know you want to color, too.

 

Rise of Zombert (The Zombert Chronicles), by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Ryan Andrews, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536201062

Ages 8-12

This first book in a new middle grade series is a good one for kids who want to read something creepy, but not TOO scary. In a corporate town where everything is owned and run by YummCo Foods, a black cat escapes a lab. He’s found by a girl named Mellie, who discovers the filthy, ragged cat in a dumpster and takes him home to nurse back to health. She names him Bert and decides that he’s going to be the pet she’s always wanted… but Berg wants blood. He has a taste for heads, in particular; after decapitating Mellie’s stuffed animals, he heads out for less stuffy game. As cats would do, Mellie discovers Bert’s version of sharing a meal with her, when she keeps finding headless birds and mice left for her. Mellie’s best friend, Danny, is convinced the cat is a zombie, and readers will get the feeling that there’s a lot more going on at YummCo than the oh-so-friendly representatives will let on. And Bert? Well, he can’t really understand why Mellie isn’t appreciating his gifts, he still feels something for the girl, but nothing can stop him from his mission: revenge and freeing the other animals in the lab.

I loved how this book built and built up the suspense, but it ended so abruptly, I had to check and make sure I wasn’t reading an excerpt. It’s a fast-paced read, and will definitely invest readers right away. The black and white sketches add to the moody atmosphere of the book, and the ending will leave everyone waiting for the sequel. Kara LaReau is the author of the Infamous Ratsos series, so she knows how to write for a younger audience and get things moving along quickly. Ryan Andrews illustrated another book I love, The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.

 

The Mulberry Tree, by Allison Rushby, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536207613

Ages 9-13

I LOVE a good creepy book, and this one is amazing. If you’re a Mary Downing Hahn reader, run to your computer and request or buy The Mulberry Tree. Ten-year-old Immy (Imogene) and her parents have moved from Australia to the English countryside as her father battles depression. They decide to rent an adorable thatched English cottage, but the realtor – and the town – have their misgivings about anyone living there. You see, there’s an cursed mulberry tree in the backyard; a tree that’s rumored to have stolen two girls away on the eves of their 11th birthdays. People cross the street rather than walk by the tree, and when Immy’s father speaks out on the ridiculousness of a tree kidnapping girls, Immy finds herself even more of a pariah at school. But when she starts hearing a strange song in her head, and seeing the tree move, she begins to wonder whether the rumors may be true after all. What’s the story of the tree? Immy’s going to have to do some investigating to find out, and she’d better hurry… her 11th birthday is coming.

This book hooked me from the first page. It deals with depression and grief, and how it can drive a wedge into a family; a spooky tree with a cursed history, and mean girls. If you have readers who love a bit of the creepy, with some supernatural thrown in, give them this book. I read this one in one night, because I refused to put it down until I was done. The setting, the pacing, everything built at such a wonderful pace, and the resolution… chef’s kiss good. One of my favorite Quarantine Reads so far.

Allison Rushby wrote 2018’s The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery; an historical fiction ghost story. It’s a good one; pick it up if you haven’t had the chance yet.

 

Last but not least, a reading challenge! What better way to keep track of all of the great books you’ve been reading with your kids (you are reading with them, aren’t you?) than by working through reading challenges together? I just received an email with seven printable challenges, all free, all downloadable, through Redbubble. There’s Book Bingo; a Cross-Genre reading list; a Habit Tracker; a Create Your Own Reading List; and my favorite, a Reading Coloring Sheet where you can color in books on a bookshelf as you read (and, if you’re like me, try to write itty bitty names on the spines). These add a little bit of color to the same old boring reading logs the kids get sent home with every summer, so try one or two out. You can view all the reading challenges here.

As always, I received eArcs of all the books I talked about in exchange for reviews. Thanks for reading, and go get some books!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade

The Great TBR Readdown Continues: Real Hamsters Don’t Bite

Real Hamsters Don’t Bite, by Alexis Cleoford, (May 2017, Amazon Digital Services), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1548365233

Ages 8-11

My TBR read-down continues with this short novella from author Alexis Cleoford, who generously emailed me a PDF of her book, Real Hamsters Don’t Bite. It’s the first book in an humorous animal series, Mighty & Brennon. Mighty and Brennon are two housecats who are not thrilled about being sent to a “pet hotel” while their humans are on vacation. When they arrive home, Mighty – the leader – decides it’s time to strike out on and find Cat Land, a sort of paradise for cats, where they’re treated as they should be (remember, people used to worship cats: they have never forgotten this). They also stumble onto a mystery: hamsters are attacking cats! But… real hamsters don’t bite, do they?

Real Hamsters Don’t Bite is a novella – only about 50 pages – and is available via ebook or paperback through Amazon. Narrated in the first person by Mighty, the bolder cat of the two, there’s some humor and a sense of adventure. Brennon is the more cautious of the two, giving readers a nice little dramatic – and fun – foil to play off of. Black and line drawings throughout add some interest. Give Real Hamsters Don’t Bite a shot if you have animal fiction fans.