Posted in Intermediate, picture books

A piece of Candy gets her big shot in Digestion: The Musical

Digestion: The Musical, by Adam Rex//Illustrated by Laura Park, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452183862

Ages 5-8

Publisher Chronicle Books calls it “The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body meets Hamilton”, and how can you top that description? Digestion: The Musical is a look at digestion, set as a musical: a small-town piece of candy desires to be something important and a chorus of mini-carrots guide readers through all the action. Cameos from body parts, including an explosive appendix, kidneys, and intestines, and an old piece of swallowed gum add to the hilarity. Kids are going to laugh out loud reading this one (there’s an entire disco number dedicated to Number Two) and guaranteed, they’ll remember all about the digestive process after reading this one. An illustrated glossary defines terms. Endpapers highlight a cast of food characters sitting in the audience and working backstage. Digital illustrations are vibrant, colorful, and cartoony and will win readers over.

If you have felt foods left over from a storytime, get them out and invest in some more felt to create your own digestive system and take your storytime to another level.

Digestion! The Musical has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

 

Need to know what this book would sound like set to music? Ponder no longer:

Posted in History, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Seen and Unseen captures the Japanese American Incarceration

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration, by Elizabeth Partridge/Illustrated by Lauren Tamaki, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781452165103

Ages 10-14

The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor guaranteed America’s involvement in World War II, but it also sparked a wave of anti-Asian sentiment that resulted in Japanese families – included American-born citizens – sent to internment camps across the country. Three photographers – Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams  – captured the lives of the incarcerated families, now revisited in Seen and Unseen. Partridge, award-winning author and Dorothea Lange’s goddaughter joins forces with illustrator Lauren Tamaki to create a unique nonfiction story of these interrupted lives, with Tamaki’s artwork woven in with black and white photographs and quotes from those who were there. Each photographer approached the project with their own goals: Lange was critical of the U.S. policy that imprisoned the Japanese; she intended to show the incarceration in all of its brutality. Miyatake was a Japanese-born photographer interned in one of the camps; he smuggled in photography equipment to show the public what really went on in the camps. Adams hoped to concentrate on the resilience of the imprisoned. All three accomplished their initiatives, leaving a body of work that shows future generations that fear and mistrust can divide a nation. Photographs, illustrations, and primary sources, plus generous back matter and notes make this an excellent, necessary purchase for elementary and middle school nonfiction collections.

Seen and Unseen has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus.

Posted in Graphic Novels, History, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novel Biographies: Nat Love and Bluma & Felix Goldberg

Best Shot in the West: The Thrilling Adventures of Nat Love – The Legendary Cowboy!, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, Jr./Illustrated by Randy Duburke, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797212517

Ages 10-13

Originally published in 2012, this graphic novel biography of Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, one of the most famous African-American cowboys in the Old West. Based on Love’s 1907 autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick,” Best Shot in the West‘s adaptation by children’s literature greats Patricia and Frederick McKissack is told in Love’s voice, from his 1854 birth into slavery in Tennessee; his leaving home to find work as a cowpoke and his adventures across the country, and his decision to marry and work as a railroad porter in his later years. The McKissacks created a faithful adaptation that appeals to a younger readership, and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award Winner Randy Duburke’s painted work brings Love’s work to life, with gray wash over color to add a sepia-toned aging to the artwork. A good purchase for libraries with robust graphic novel biographies and historical U.S. collections. Pair with books like Black Heroes of the Wild West and Bad News for Outlaws for a display on the Wild West your readers didn’t learn about!

 

 

We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story, by Frank W. Baker/Illustrated by Tim E. Ogline, (Sept. 2022, Imagine & Wonder), $19.99, ISBN: 9781637610206

Ages 14-18

In 2000, Holocaust survivor Felix Goldberg handed media literacy educator Frank W. Baker a copy of the speech he’d just delivered to a South Carolina synagogue and asked him to “do something with this”. Baker worked with the Goldberg’s children and illustrator Tim E. Ogline to bring Felix’s and Bluma’s stories to the world. Rendered in stark black and white, their stories unfold: Felix’s and Bluma’s early lives in Poland parallel the growing wave of hate and rage running through Germany; the antisemitic propaganda that dehumanized and turned a nation against a people; the explosion of violence that began the Holocaust. Felix and Bluma experienced untold horrors across concentration camps and death marches, losing family members but finding one another in a displaced persons camp, and arriving in America to begin a life together. It is an moving and powerful story, and a strong book to put on shelves next to Maus. Back matter includes a timeline of events; a glossary; recommended resources for further reading, and an index. You can find a Readers Guide at the Stories of Survival website.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

New nonfiction for Back to School

So the kids have been back to school for a minute. My Corona Kids are back in the library in full force – where were you all Summer, my friends? – and roaming the nonfiction stacks in search of stuff that interests them. I love this time of year, because this is the time where kids come in looking for nonfiction that relates to things they may be starting to learn about, or come across in school; whether other kids are talking about things they pick up on, they’ve seen something either in the halls or the library, or just noticed on TV. They’re in a learning frame of mind, and want nonfiction that sparks their brains. I’ve got some good picks here to share.

National Geographic Kids Dinosaur Atlas, by National Geographic, (Sept. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 9781426372797

Ages 7-10

This is a no-fail, no-brainer purchase: it’s NatGeo Kids and it’s dinosaurs. Both are easily the rock stars of my nonfiction collection. The Dinosaur Atlas is everything my kids (my own and my Corona Kids) love: full-color artists’ renderings of dinosaurs (now with feathers!), vibrant color photos of fossils and fossil sites, and readable maps to highlight where featured dinosaurs lived. Organized into periods of time: Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous, the “Preshistoric Planet” section is further organized into habitats, dinosaurs, and life in each era. “Finding Fossils” organizes dinosaur-centric areas of the world and further breaks down into spotlights on locations and the dinosaurs who roamed them. Fast facts, paleontologist profiles, and dino timelines run throughout the book; phonetic spelling helps reader pronounce each name. Back matter includes a Dino Dictionary, glossary, and further reading resources. This oversized reference is magic for dinosaur collections and is an essential purchase.

 

Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff: Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Aug. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426372803

Ages 7-10

Nat Geo Kids’s Can’t Get Enough series has a new home run: Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff is loaded with photos, facts, games, and jokes about space. Great for trivia and STEM/STEAM groups: quiz your kids on astronaut facts or print out pictures of clocks to illustrate how long a day is on other planets; Try It Out! spreads help guide you and your readers through outer space crafts like a scale model of the solar system. Keep one in reference for yourself and put one in circulation. The Can’t Get Enough books are fun, loaded with facts, and just great purchases.

 

5,000 Awesome Facts About Animals, by National Geographic, (Sept. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426372612

Ages 8-12

These facts books are a staple in my collection. My readers love fast, fun facts, accompanied by the gorgeous photos of adorable animals. This is an animal fan’s dream; a trivia fan’s delight, and a program backbone: Animal Jeopardy! Animal Question of the Day! Help, I need some extra facts for a report I’m writing on [insert animal here]! One of my Corona Kids was in last week and asked for “books with fun facts about animals”; books like this are tailor-made for those kids. Each section has a fun title to bring related facts together: “24 Burly Facts About Animal Tough Guys”; “100 Pup-ular Facts About Dogs”; “15 Facts About Animal Mascots to Cheer For”. Facts are fun and informative: Socks, the Clinton’s Presidential cat, was the first presidential pet to have a website, and the Obama’s dog, Bo, had  his own trading card. Ostriches flutter their wings to create a breeze to cool themselves down. A group of mountain gorillas is called a troop. You can have endless fun with this book, and your readers will love it.

 

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World, by Annette Roeder/Illustrated by Pamela Baron (Sept. 2022, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791375144

Ages 8-12

I love finding a good architecture book for middle grade. Recent picture book biographies like Maya Lin’s picture book biography, Maya Lin: Architect of Light and Lines, and Andrea Beaty’s Questioneers picture and chapter books have led to an interest in how buildings look. Plus, you know… LEGOs. The Power of Architecture showcases 25 modern buildings from all over the world: buildings like the TWA Flight Center at New York’s JFK Airport (I can confirm, it’s a beautiful building) and the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg Germany; the scrap metal lily pads of Dandaji Regional Market in Niger, Africa, and the sustainable, environmentally beneficial Tree House in Singapore. Beautiful illustrations give each building center stage and factual, interesting text describes the buildings and what inspired their architects. Thought-provoking questions and suggestions to inspire young architects and designers run throughout the book. The beginning spread shows each building’s location on a world map and a timeline lays out each building’s construction and a biography on each architect. Prestel Junior’s books bring together art and nonfiction in the best of ways and have quickly become stars in my collection. A good purchase if you have budding builders. Put this out during your LEGO challenges and see who it inspires.

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World was originally published earlier this year in Germany.

 

 

Sleuth & Solve: Science: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries, by Ana Gallo/Illustrated by Victor Escandell, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797214559

Ages 8-12

The latest Sleuth & Solve book from Ana Gallo and Victor Escandell is all about the “why”: what are the scientific causes to these 21 mysteries? Mysteries are classified by subject, with a key to the symbols used in the book. Each mystery has a difficulty grade from Easy to Difficult, and if you were interested in making this a STEM challenge (ahem!), each mystery has a point value. Mysteries are presented across every spread, with a flap disguising the solution: NO CHEATING! Mysteries include a little girl who swears she’s too sick to go to school – but what will her doctor say? Another mystery ponders whether a group of researchers will be able to set out on their journey to the polar ice caps; what does a flock of cranes have to do with this decision? The principles behind each experiment are revealed in the back matter. If you have a strong science experiment/science fair collection, this is a good one to consider.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Underwear can kill you and other Fake News!

Killer Underwear Invasion: How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories, by Elise Gravel, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781797214917

Ages 8-12

Beneath the giggles – and there are many – lies a smart and frank discussion about fake news and disinformation. Elise Gravel breaks it down for middle graders in this graphic novel treatise on responsibly consuming media, with hilarious yet sobering examples. Gravel places fake news in an historical context by starting with a town crier announcing that “an evil magician has turned the king into a goat” and uses examples of politicians, puppy-pinching, and medicinal shampoo consumption to illustrate concepts like clickbait, conspiracy theories, and viral news stories. Her trademark colorful blob creatures lead readers through laugh-out-loud scenarios presenting readers with the whys, hows, and consequences of fake news. Gravel provides straightforward guidelines for readers to follow: thinking critically; checking sources and how to find reliable sources; separating fact from opinion, and more. An excellent introduction to being a smart media observer for middle graders and middle schoolers. A first purchase.

Get a free downloadable teacher’s guide on Chronicle’s Killer Underwear book detail page, and visit Elise Gravel’s webpage for free downloadables – her latest on Peer Review is a perfect accompaniment to Killer Underwear – and blog entries.

Posted in Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Great TBR Read-Down: The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel

The Other Half of Happy, by Rebecca Balcárcel, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797213910

Ages 10-12

Seventh-grader Quijana is half-Guatemalan and half-American, but has always identified more with her American half. She never learned Spanish; something she didn’t think about until her Guatemalan relatives move to her family’s Texas town, and when Latinx kids at her new middle school call her an imposter or “coconut” – white on the inside – for having a Latinx name but not embracing the heritage. Her father wants to take the family – Quijana, her parents, and her 3-year-old brother, Memito – to Guatemala over winter break but Quijana has no interest in going and plans to take a bus to Florida to spend time with her mother’s mother, who’s undergoing cancer treatment. She plans to raise the money for the bus ticket by selling a traditional Guatemalan garment, a huipil, gifted by her father’s mother. Narrated in the first person by Quijana, The Other Half of Happy examines identity, first crushes, friendship, and family relationships. Quijana’s biracial identity clearly comes through as the story develops, and the characters are all multidimensional, realized people. Rebecca Balcárcel makes Quijana incredibly believable: she’s taking on an incredible amount of stress on the home front, while working through school relationships and discovering herself. Introspective and always honest, The Other Half of Happy is a brilliant book about cultural identity and being a tween. Back matter includes quotes from Quijana’s grandmother, from Don Quixote, poems, a game, and notes from Quijana’s grandmother’s science notebook; there’s also a discussion guide. Consider this one for your Oceans of Possibilities book lists and discussion groups.

The Other Half of Happy has starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. Visit Rebecca Balcárcel’s author webpage to sign up for a newsletter and to learn more about her books.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Visiting neighbors, Moonlight Prances, and board books for all!

Be My Neighbor?, by Suzy Ultman, (Feb. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $15.99, ISBN: 9781452177120

Ages 2-4

Hello hello hello! A family of cats has moved into the neighborhood, but they’re still settling in, and want to bake a batch of cookies to greet their neighbors. They need a few things in order to get things underway, though: maybe you can help? Seek and find meets lift the flap in this entertaining book with a playful and chic sense of style. The cats head to each house on their block – each spread in our book – to ask for a different ingredient, letting readers play and explore the different flaps to find the ingredients. Ingredients all collected, the family heads home to bake and deliver the yummy cookies! The repetitive, introductory phrase, “Hello, hello, we are new. May we borrow *INGREDIENT* from you?” eases readers into a comfortable routine, and each animal’s home is filled with delightful little details. The cats have hanging balls of yarn as an art piece, while a panda soaks in a tub, a “nap time” tea bag submerged in the water. The horse family has a coffee table book of Horse Tales and a pony puppet theatre, and the koalas are a STEM-loving family with a lab and a Jane Goodall fan club banner (that reveals a Katherine Johnson fan club banner on the flip side). They’re so much fun, so personal with little details, that kids will turn to this one again and again. Flaps are sturdy but small, so the littlest toddlers may need someone to ease those flaps open at first. Absolute fun.

 

Moonlight Prance, by Serena Gingole Allen/Illustrated by Teagan White, (Apr. 2022, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781452174068

Ages 0-3

An enticing rhyming, interactive board book inspired by the author’s late night with her infant son, Moonlight Prance is a celebration of nocturnal animals that is an adorable bedtime story. Sturdy sliding panels and pull tabs let readers play with foxes and fireflies, hedgehogs and porcupines, and other adorable animals illustrated by artist and naturalist Teagan White. Pair with its companion book, Sunrise Dance, also by Serena Gingole Allen and Teagan White, publishing in April 2022, for an animal storytime that takes readers through a whole day with cheerful, playful animal friends.

Bundle and display with books like Sleepyheads, by Sandra J. Howatt and Joyce Wan; Sandra Boynton’s The Going to Bed Book, and Isabelle Simler’s Sweet Dreamers. Want to stick with the nocturnal animals theme? Mrs. Jones Creation Station has a nice list of books for you.

 

 

Sunrise Dance, by Serena Gingole Allen/Illustrated by Teagan White, (Apr. 2022, Chronicle Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781452174051

Ages 0-3

When the Moonlight Prance is over, the daytime animals wake up for a Sunrise Dance! The companion book to Moonlight Prance is every bit as interactive and playful, with daytime dwellers like shimmying salmon, dancing dragonflies, and marmots who mambo. Sliding panels, pull tabs, and movable discs let playful little explorers in on the fun as they move a group of dancing ducklings back and forth on the book’s cover, help dragonflies dance across the pond, and more. The rhyme is playful, introducing groups of animals at play, and the illustrations show the sunlight growing in strength across the spreads; starting with a pinkish sky as the sun first awakens through to a warm light that brings out the gentle color in all the animals and their surroundings. A young boy appears at the end, inviting readers to talk about what they plan to do on this bright day. Great to partner with Moonlight Prance or read alone, Sunrise Dance is a fun way to engage little learners and teach them about diurnal animals, versus the nocturnal friends they meet in books like Moonlight Dance.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Age-Old Question: What is Love?

What is Love?, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Carson Ellis, (Dec. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452176406

Ages 3-6

A young boy asks his grandmother that question we all hear at some point: “What is love?” Grandmother can’t answer that, so the boy goes out into the world and asks everyone he comes into contact with, receiving hundreds of different answers: it’s a fish; it’s a horse; it’s the night; it’s a blade, it’s any number of things, but one thing we know for sure, there’s no one answer. The boy returns, years later, to his grandmother, and as he cuddles her, he realizes that he has his answer. A gentle story about the subjectivity of love and the journey to learn what defines it, only to discover that it’s in one’s heart all along, What is Love? is uncomplicated and profound all at once; it’s the easiest thing in the world to some, yet to explain or define it can confound others. Playful, colorful gouache artwork and the repetition of the question, “What is love?” and the oft-repeated response, “You do not understand”, makes for moments of introspection as readers consider what each of these things mean to others: the blade to a soldier; applause to an actor. Ask little ones what love feels like to them, and give them some paper and crayons.

Marc Barnett is an award-winning author, including two Caldecott Honor books. Find more about his books at his website, where you can sign up for his newsletter. Carson Ellis is an award-winning illustrator with a Caldecott Honor book to her credit. See more about of her illustration at her website.

What is Love? has starred reviews from BookPage and School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Two fun books about cats

Inside Cat, by Brendan Wenzel, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452173191

Ages 3-5

Caldecott Honor author/illustrator Brendan Wenzel brings readers a new story about cats from a different point of view. Where 2017’s They All Saw a Cat showed us how other creatures perceive cats, Inside Cat shows us how a house cat perceives his world. Using rhyme and repetition, we follow Inside Cat as he wanders through a room, stops at windows, and looks outside. Cat’s imagination fills in what he perceives the rest of the outside world entails, from birds wearing clothes stolen off a clothesline to a giant salt shaker shaking snow just outside the window frame. Inside Cat is pretty confident that he knows everything about what goes on in the outside world… until he ventures outside for the first time. Mixed media illustrations and playing with color let readers create their own stories about what goes on outside Cat’s window – or their own! Endpapers get in on the fun. A story that encourages imagination and plays with perception, kids will love hearing Inside Cat again and again.

Inside Cat has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. While I didn’t see an Inside Cat activity kit, you can use many of the cat-tivities (I had to) from the kit for They All Saw a Cat.

 

Bathe the Cat, by Alice B. McGinty/Illustrated by David Roberts, (Feb. 2022, Chronicle Books). $17.99, ISBN: 9781452142708

Ages 3-5

Grandma’s coming to visit, and it’s time to clean the house! Daddy is calling out chores, all written out with fridge magnets, but Cat will do anything to get his name off that list. As the chores get wackier and wackier, Daddy and Papa are desperate to know who’s messing with the list! I mean, really: sweep the dishes? Scrub the fishes? The clock is ticking! Can these dads and their kids get it together and get the house clean in time? A laugh-out-loud story about a cat who’s a step ahead of its family, with bright, eye-catching pencil and watercolor artwork. There are two brown-skinned dads and a diverse group of kids, and the chaos is fun and relatable as they turn into a whirlwind of misguided chores as Cat, firmly set against having a bath, gives knowing smiles and side-eye expressions in between spreads showing them playing with the magnet letters and creating all sorts of wacky chores. There are thoughtful details, like various Pride flags decorating the refrigerator and Grandma’s tote bag (I see you, Philly!). A fun, quietly meaningful book that embraces the chaos of family life and shows a fun, positive depiction of an LGBTQ+ family. Pair with Friday Night Wrestlefest by JF Fox and Micah Player for more stories about family hijinks.

Download a fun activity kit, complete with a chore list and wacky word scramble, to hand out at storytime.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Redlocks and the Three Bears flips fairy tales for fun

Redlocks and the Three Bears, by Claudia Rueda, (Nov. 2021, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452170312

Ages 3-5

Claudia Rueda’s newest story is a sweet, humorous take on Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and that old trope of the Big Bad Wolf. Mama Bear is just about to get the porridge on the table when a knock sounds at the Bear Family’s door: it’s Little Red Riding Hood, and there’s a bear after her! Baby Bear convinces his parents to give Red some shelter; porridge is eaten, chairs get broken, a bed is too soft… but is the Big Bad Wolf really that bad? Redlocks takes a compassionate look at the maligned image of the Big Bad Wolf, who always finds himself in trouble throughout fairy tales, and offers readers some food for thought on how bad reputations can hurt.

The story offers a fun take on the Goldilocks story, with Little Red Riding Hood taking on some of Goldie’s actions in the story; narrated by Baby Bear, we get an empathetic storyteller who just wants to make others feel better. Colored pencil illustrations are soft and use warm colors with expressive characters and gentle movement moving the action forward. Mama’s porridge recipe is part of the back endpapers, and looks like it was written by Baby Bear himself.

A fun cameo from The Three Little Pigs and a twist ending will have readers chuckling, and the easy-to-read, unfussy storytelling is great for a readaloud. Grab your flannels for Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs for this one!

Visit Claudia Rueda’s author website for more of her illustration work and information about her workshops.