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

Craft time? Any time!

During this last year, lots of us have started some new things: yes, I made my own sourdough starter in the beginning of the shutdown. I finally picked up my knitting needles again, and even managed to finish projects, rather than leave them in various tote bags stuffed into my closet. But one thing I haven’t been able to get back to is sewing. The wonderful folx at Schiffer sent me these two adorable sewing books, though, and I’m thinking that this may be where I pick up some felt, some thread, and a needle, because these are just too cute.

Sewing Simple Softies with 17 Amazing Designers, by Trixi Symonds & Deborah Fisher, (March 2021, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764361272

Ages 8-12

This book is ADORABLE. They have a softie sandwich! And a tiger with a tooth pouch for the Tooth Fairy! Seventeen projects, loaded with color photos, and with bright, easy-to-follow instructions make this a book I need in my home collection and my 745 section. The book is big on being accessible: no expensive threads, fancy machines, or pricey fabrics needed. This is all about learning to love creating with fabric and thread. Inspired by Trixi Symonds’s Sew a Softie initiative to teach kids how to sew, the book offers all you need to get you up and running on a sewing habit, from choosing tools and materials to deciphering the different kinds of stitches. A section for parents on teaching kids to sew is a reminder that this is supposed to be a fun learning experience where the kids get to have a say. Just offer a guiding hand, try not to take over the project. Designs are offered by popular creative bloggers around the world and include such fun projects as a koala softie, circus pincushion, and mermaid snuggle friend. The book includes templates for each softie, making this a fun book to pick up a new hobby. I love it!

 

The Zenki Way: A Guide to Designing & Enjoying Your Own Creative Softies, by Trixi Symonds, (March 2021, Schiffer Publishing), $22.99, ISBN: 9780764361494

Ages 8-12

What’s a Zenki, you ask? The simplest way to use your imagination and create a softie that speaks to you! Trixi Symonds of Sew a Softie also came up with this great idea to get kids sewing: two squares of felt, four straight lines to sew, and wide seam allowances to let all sorts of limbs, hair, and features be added in with no pinning. Just stick ’em in and sew! These little folx are loaded with character and will inspire kids to make their own Zenkis. All you need is materials and imagination (and a grownup to help out)! Fourteen Zenki patterns include the basics: square, circle, triangle, and mixed-up Zenkis; other patterns let readers add features and character to their Zenkis once they feel ready. Templates are in the back, and the book is filled with color photos and tips and ideas to help you along. A section on the Zenki pattern testers from ages 7-17 with their creations. SO kid friendly, with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions make this a definite must-buy.

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

Last-second stocking stuffers!

I know, the clock is ticking down, and you need stocking stuffers. I’ve got stocking stuffers. Read on.

Show-How Guides: Friendship Bracelets, by Keith Zoo, (Aug. 2020, Odd Dot Books), $5.99, ISBN: 9781250249968

Ages 6-11

Remember friendship bracelets? Wow, I made so many of those back in the ’80s. Well, they’re back! Odd Dot’s Show How Guides are a series of quick and easy, step-by-step books that walk readers through the steps in making different crafts, like hair braiding, making slime and sand, hand-lettering, and making paper airplanes. Odd Dot was kind enough to send me a copy of Friendship Bracelets, which I loved. Two-color illustrations include friendly shapes that talk to the readers; materials needed for each craft are up front, as is a short table of contents. These guides are all about the essentials: the basics needed to get started on your journey. You can always look for more complex stuff when you’re ready to move on. These books are no pressure. There are 10 types of friendship bracelets included here: macramé, zipper, twist, wrap, butterfly, box, fishtail, diagonal, chevron, and braid, and each bracelet has an illustrated, numbered, step-by-step series to complete the bracelet. It’s a great gift idea, especially if you want to pick up some materials (embroidery floss, a tape measure, pair of scissors, and a binder clip or tape) to put together a little starter kit.

Perfect stocking stuffer, and for me? Perfect make and take craft idea to put together for my library kids. Enjoy!

 

 

Brain Candy 2: Seriously Sweet Facts to Satisfy Your Curiosity, by National Geographic Kids, (Oct. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3886-1

Ages 7-12

More facts, more photos, more fun! Brain Candy 2 is the second Brain Candy book from NatGeo Kids. It’s digest-sized, fits nicely into schoolbags and Mom’s purse, and is chock-full of the coolest facts about just about everything and anything. Misleading animals names, sneaky animal predators, and wacky whale behaviors are just a few of the facts readers will find in here. Facts go from the giggle-worthy: birds, octopuses, and sloths don’t pass gas – to the spooky: visitors to a German castle report hearing the armor of the knights who once protected it. NatGeo always maintains a respectful sense of conservation and preservation, too, including facts about how much plastic has been pulled from our planet’s waters (hint: A LOT). Always informative, always fun, these digest-sized books are great gift ideas, are worth their weight in gold for my circulation, and are almost impossible to sneak out of my Kiddo’s room so I can review them.

Bundle this with some actual holiday sweets and call it a stocking stuffer. Ta-Da!

 

 

Nerdlet (A Little Book of Nerdy Stuff): Animals, by T.J. Resler, (Sept. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-38724

Ages 8-12

I’m going to take a moment to bask in the fact that being called a Nerd is having its moment. Okay, I’m done. NatGeo Kids’s Nerdlet is a little book made for “animal nerds”: kids who can’t get enough of reading cool facts about animals. Digest-sized like Brain Candy and Brain Candy 2, Nerdlet has all of the NatGeo-famous gorgeous color photos, with slightly denser text for a more middle-grader reader. Fun Facts and Nerd Alerts – callout boxes with bizarre and brainy facts – run throughout. Nerds of Note introduce readers to animal researchers and professionals. Discover an island of cats on Taiwan, follow a flow chart to discover what type of fox you’d be, and learn to tell the different types of spotted cats apart. Nerdlet has it all and then some. Perfect for animal fans! Buy a little plush or some animal toys (Kiddo has so many of those animal tubes laying around his room) and you’ve saved Christmas.

Posted in programs

Make and Take Quickie: Dawn from The Nocturnals

I’ve finally dipped my toe into the world of Make and Takes, and have had a good response! My first one was a colorful rendering of Dawn the Fox from The Nocturnals series. I started with the Heart Craft templates from The Nocturnals Book Club Kit (Halloween Edition), which I’ve linked to here. There are a bunch of great craft ideas in this kit, including heart crafts for Bismark and Tobin, in addition to Dawn. I printed out copies on different color paper, and mixed and matched to give some fun contrast. Cute, right?

 

I cut out all the pieces, so no one would have to worry about cutting small pieces at home. Things get lost, scissors slip, paper gets torn, you know the drill. I printed extra copies of the Dawn the Fix step-by-step instruction sheet that you see above (it’s in the Book Club Kit), and folded it in half, putting the pieces to assemble the Dawn craft in each one. Then, I made my flyer, with a little pizzazz: since we are only providing to-go service at the moment, I created a QR code that would link anyone interested in two of the Easy Readers (The Slithery Shakedown and The Chestnut Challenge) to the book detail page on our library’s website. We have the books available in eBook or in hard copy, so folks can borrow the ebooks right there on the spot or request them, no muss, no fuss. I also included links to The Nocturnals YouTube page, where author Tracey Hecht reads The Slithery Shakedown and The Chestnut Challenge. Voila! A make-and-take project, readaloud, and readers advisory all in one!

Nocturnals World, the website for The Nocturnals, has a lot of fun craft projects and helpful educational resources, so make sure to visit them. If you have any great make and takes you’ve worked on, please weigh in! Let’s share info.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

This Grandparents Day, let your kids read the stories to their grands

Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family, by Elizabeth Zunon,
(May 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $17.99, ISBN:  978-1-68119-640-4
Ages 5-9

A girl and her father bake a cake and reminisce about “Grandpa Cacao” – her father’s father – and his life working on a cacao farm on the African Ivory Coast. Lush images come to life through Elizabeth Zunon’s oil paint, collage and screenprint artwork; there’s gorgeous texture and movement across the landscape, and Grandpa Cacao appears as a pale image, illustrating his existence as a “mythical figure” in the girl’s imagination. Inspired by the author’s own “Grandpa Cacao”, this is a heartwarming link across generations and celebrating the joy of creating together and uniting families. Back matter includes author’s notes and maps on the realities of the cacao trade, the sobering perseverance of child labor, and fair trade. There are notes on the science and history of chocolate, and a cake recipe to try with the kids.

Grandparents Day Idea: Talk to kids about their grandparents’ stories. Where are their grandparents from? Do they have memories of growing up to share? Does the family have any special recipes that have been handed down through generations?

 

Looking for Yesterday, by Alison Jay, (Aug. 2019, Candlewick Press),
$16.99, ISBN: 9781536204216
Ages 4-7

A young boy tries to use science to figure out how to travel back in time, so he can relive the great day he had the day before. When he asks his grandfather for advice, he learns that memories are great, but it’s exciting to look forward to the possibilities of adventure in the here and now. Alison Jay gives her character a wonderfully childlike reasoning process – yesterday was so great, let’s try to get back there and live it again! – and has him go through the motions of working on the science to make it happen; her crackled oil artwork giving a vintage-looking life to the story. As the boy calculates going faster than light speed, we see his mind at work: he’s flying around the world, wearing a cape; using a time machine that looks like a giant unicycle; configuring a garbage can into a rocket. The boy’s grandfather walks him through a photo album as he recounts the past, drawing the boy into his adventures as the two fly on a scrapbook to see mountain tops, whales, and hot air balloons. The grandfather-grandson relationship is warm and loving, communicated with warm colors and body language. A great book to encourage kids to seize the day.

Grandparents Day Idea: Get out the photo albums and show kids your adventures! Show them your childhoods, talk to them about playing with your friends; going to school; exciting and ordinary things you did as a child. See how things are different, and how things are the same.

 

My Grandma and Me, by Mina Javaherbin, (Aug. 2019, Candlewick Press),
$16.99, ISBN: 9780763694944
Ages 4-8

This autobiographical story of a the author as a young girl and her grandmother, living in pre-revolutionary Iran, brought me to tears with it beautiful storytelling. The opening line – “In this big universe full of many moons, I have traveled and seen many wonders, but I have never loved anything or anyone the way I love my grandma” – poetically brings to life that everlasting love between grandparents and their grandchildren. Mira Javaherbin invites us to glimpse into her life as we see her lay across her grandmother during morning prayer; send down baskets to buy bread from the boy on his bicycle, bread piled high in a basket; waiting for her grandmother to break fast during Ramadan, so she can eat with her; hiding under a table strewn with her grandmother’s chadors, as she “helps” her make news ones. Lindsey Yankey’s mixed media illustrations create a cozy, welcoming space for us to spend time reading Mina’s story. Mina’s best friend and her grandmother are Christian; Mina and her grandmother are Muslim. The two girls play together while their grandmothers craft and enjoy each other’s company; each goes to their own house of worship and prays for the other. It’s a quietly strong celebration of two cultures, two faiths, living and playing together. With starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, this loving look at the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is a perfect gift book and storytime book.

Grandparents Day Idea: Do you have memories of your grandparents that you’d like to share with your kids? Talk to your kids about spending time with your grandparents as a child, or as an adult, if you have stories to tell. Ask them what they like to do when they’re with grandparents. Do they like to play board games together? Do they read together?
Around the Table that Grandad Built, by Melanie Hauser Hill/Illustrated by Jaime Kim, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick),
$16.99, ISBN: 9780763697846
Ages 3-7
A sweet take on the classic cumulative story, The House that Jack Built, this heartwarming story assembles a multicultural family for a celebration centering around a table that Grandad built. Each part of the celebration is warm, inclusive, and participatory: cousins gather sunflowers; Mom’s sewn napkins that go with the dishes; glasses come from Mom and Dad’s wedding, and flatware comes from Dad’s grandma, all coming together to create a global table where the family enjoys squash, tamales, samosas, and other tasty fare, all prepared by members of the family. It’s a celebration of family steeped in tradition, linked across generations. The acrylic, crayon, and digital artwork adds to the handmade feel of the story and is rendered with bright primary colors, making this an upbeat story that will work for any family gathering. (Definitely keep this one on hand for Thanksgiving.)
Grandparents Day idea: Prepare a favorite dish with your grandkids, or create something with them. If you have little ones, try a no-sew project, or consider a craft that brings your generations together – handprints are always a good choice, and you can easily take some inspiration from the choices out there, while making it your own.
Grandpa’s Top Threes, by Wendy Meddour/Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick),
$16.99, ISBN: 9781536211252
Ages 3-6
Henry loves to talk to his Grandpa, but Grandpa hasn’t been talking much these days; preferring instead to silently work on his garden. When Henry nudges Grandpa by indulging in his favorite game – Top Threes – Grandpa finally starts talking, giving thoughtful answers that ultimately rebuild the bridge between them. And then we find out what’s really going on: Grandpa is mourning Granny. In a moment that’s at once touching and heartbreaking, Henry asks Grandpa who his three favorite Grannies are, citing his favorites as his two grandmothers, plus the granny from Red Riding Hood. Grandpa recounts his favorite three memories of Granny as his three favorites, including the Granny that first held Baby Henry. The simple, moving prose is eloquent and full of feeling; full of aching and loss, and yet, instilled with deep affection and love for a grandchild and for a spouse. A beautiful, tender story that you may need a tissue or two for, but one not to be missed. Daniel Egnéus’s watercolor illustrations are digitally assembled, giving a mixed media, textured feel to the layers of the story with each turn of the page. Make this one available to kids who have lost a grandparent, and encourage them to talk about their Top Threes.
Grandparents Day idea: Talk about your Top Three moments; Top Three grandmas and grandpas, or Top Three anything.
Our Favorite Day, by JoowonOh, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick Press),
$16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0357-8
Ages 3-6
Grandpa has a routine he keeps to: a morning cup of tea, some light housework, and a bus ride into town, where he has lunch at his favorite dumpling shop, but Thursday is the best day of the week for Grandpa and his young granddaughter. It’s their day, and Grandpa is making sure it’s a good one! He chooses some crafting materials at a craft shop on his trip to town, gets two orders of dumplings to go, picks some flowers, and is ready to greet his granddaughter with a hug when she bounds out of the car! Together, the two enjoy their lunch, make a kite, and head out to fly it. With a narrative consisting of both omniscient narration and word-balloons, this adorably illustrated story is a wonderful way to celebrate grandparents and grandkids spending time together, and illustrates how important each is to the other. Grandpa has his own routine, but he lives for those Thursdays; he’s ready and waiting for his best buddy to arrive, and she can’t wait to get there. The affection and time they spend together is heartwarming and shows the mutual benefits of a multigenerational relationship. Joonwon On’s watercolor, gouache, and cut paper artwork creates texture and a scrapbook-like environment to envelop the reader. An absolutely adorable, touching story of grandparents and their grandkids.
Grandparents Day Idea: Craft together! Make a fun project together: it can be a kite, like the story shows, but it can be as easy as coloring together. I used to save a bag of fabric scraps from old clothes; when my Nana came to visit, I’d dump the bag on the table, and we’d make clothes for my dolls together. The craft doesn’t matter; the time you spend together does.
Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Read, Learn & Create: The Nature Craft Book is great for kids!

Hi, all! I know my posting schedule has been off the last several weeks, and I ask you all to bear with me. I’ve received a promotion and am getting into the swing of things at my new library (actually one of my first; I went back to my home away from home in Corona). I’ve been reading and furiously scribbling notes, though! More on the new digs shortly. For now, it’s back to my reviews!

The Nature Craft Book, by Clare Beaton, (May 2019, Charlesbridge), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-58089-843-0

Ages 3=

I LOVE nature crafts, and I love easy nature crafts. My first grader has a real love for wandering the neighborhood, collecting various leaves, snail shells, sticks, rocks… anything that strikes his fancy, and we’ve gone on some great nature walks in our neighborhood and local parks. I even brought home acorns from Rochester, NY for him when I was there for a library conference. He loved them!

The Nature Craft Book is part of Charlesbridge’s Read, Learn & Create series (there’s an Ocean Craft Book, too!) is is loaded with ideas, templates, and facts for you and your kids to enjoy. Every craft is created with a respect for nature and our environment; a note at the beginning mentions that “it’s hard for some plants and creatures to survive where factories or farms have replaced wild places”, and encourages kids to “attract wildlife” by planting wildlife-friendly plants and flowers, putting water out for birds, and keeping nature journals. It fosters a real love and respect for our world. Activities include different bird feeders, toilet paper tube owls, leaf printing, animal finger puppets. The crafts give us a chance to reuse household objects like yogurt containers, hangers, and tissue boxes, and to create with found objects like pine combs and twigs. Even little crafters can get in on the fun, coloring and creating simple, enjoyable art.  Facts about birds, freshwater wildlife, raccoons, and other wildlife give readers a quick, overall idea of different animals and plants. The crafts are easy and can be done on a budget, which makes this spot-on for me at home or at work. My kiddo and I have already created a couple of craft projects from here and are planning winter bird feeders for our backyard. The collage artwork is adorable and labeled to introduce kids to different kinds of animals, trees, and leaves.

Grab this series for your shelves. I know I will.

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

Happy Mail rejuvenates the lost art of letter-writing

Happy Mail, by Eunice Moyle, Sabrina Moyle/Photographs by Alex Bronstad, (Sept. 2017, Walter Foster Jr.), $14.95, ISBN: 9781633223677

Recommended for readers 9-13

Remember pen pals? Remember passing notes to your friends in class, or writing letters to your friends over summer vacation? I see kids with smartphones, texting one another now, and miss the creativity that came from letter writing. Letters between my pen pals and I were works of art, customized for the recipient. Luckily, handmade seems to be making a comeback, and Happy Mail is a book that wants to bring the art of “snail mail” back.

Part workbook, part guide to writing letters, Happy Mail includes over 40 tear-out cards, projects, and writing prompts to get kids’ creative juices flowing. A section on tools introduces readers to different types of pens and markers, for decorating letters; there are worksheets that let kids practice different lettering styles, and there are templates that kids can cut out to create emoji-based notes. (Heads-up: yes, this is a middle grade book, but there’s a poop emoji demonstrated on a card that reads, “You are the…” – get the meaning of my meaning? – but it’s cute, and overall, very kid-friendly.) I love the “list letter” idea, where you cut a piece of paper into strips to list all the great things about your friend, that will unfold as they open the card and read. There are fun techniques, like watercolor washing paper or masking fluid and watercolor paint to create your own personalized stationery style.

This isn’t a great choice for libraries, for obvious reasons, but it IS a great choice to give to kids, to get them in the habit of writing again. Have them write to a cousin, a friend, a relative who could use a pick-me-up. I want to create a program where the kids in my library write letters to the kids in one of my coworkers’ libraries – as soon as we work the logistics of that out, I’ll blog about it. In the meantime, maybe I’ll just go back to writing letters to my friends again. Remember how awesome it was to get mail that wasn’t bills?

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Handmade Holidays: Books for the littles

Don’t shoot me, I know we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet! But you and I both know that the holidays have a way of sneaking up on you, and I have some books that are perfect to let the kiddos make their own special gifts to celebrate the season. (Plus, you know me, I love a program in a book.)

Gift Boxes to Decorate and Make: Christmas, illustrated by Sarah Walsh,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763696375

Every single page in this book can be colored in and made into a box! Pages are perforated, to easily tear out, and scored for easy folding. This is such a great idea for storing little goodies for teacher gifts; you can take care not to rip the boxes when you open them and hang them up so you have a nice piece of artwork; or, you can keep little things like paper clips or rubber bands in them. It’s the gift you’ll enjoy receiving because it’s handmade, and the kids will love creating their own gift for you.

 

Make and Play: Christmas, illustrated by Joey Chou,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow), $11.99, ISBN: 9780763696160

From the time my older kids were little, we’ve had a tradition of buying ornaments to decorate and hang on our tree. I’d buy kits from Oriental Trading, plain ornaments at Michael’s, anything my boys could make their own; I date them and hang them on the tree, and it’s created a sweet legacy to look back on. This year, I’m going to give my 5 year-old a new project: Make & Play Christmas! There are 10 absolutely adorable die-cut pieces to press out and create, all with die-cut slots to easily fit pieces together, and holes to tie string or ribbon through, to hang on the tree. From angels and colorful ornaments, to Santa and his reindeer, there is something for every kid to enjoy. A fun activity section at the end has more ideas to get ready for the holidays: craft instructions for paper chains, reindeer prints, and DIY wrapping paper; the words to “Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Halls”, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”; and recipes for gingerbread cookies and snowball truffles. Way too much fun!

 

Press Out & Color Christmas Ornaments, illustrated by Kate McLelland,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763696184

For slightly older kids who want in on the fun (or little ones who want more to color), there’s Press Out & Color Christmas Ornaments. There are 20 die-cut ornaments in here for coloring; outlined in shiny gold foil and featuring beautiful designs including rocking horses, Russian nesting dolls, nutcrackers, and snowflakes. There are standalone pieces and pieces that fit together to make 3-D ornaments, and small holes punched in at the top to thread ribbon or thread through to hang up. Absolutely stunning.

 

Make & Play Nativity, illustrated by Joey Chou,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow), $11.99, ISBN: 9780763696177

Last one for now! This Nativity, also illustrated by Joey Chou, makes a great gift to place under someone’s tree. There are 20 press out and put together figures to create the Nativity scene. Pages are thick and sturdy, and the pieces fit easily together; ideal for little fingers; instructions are included for more complex pieces, like the manger. Christmas activities feature at the end of the book: the Nativity story; crafts, like Make a Christmas Star, Make an Advent Calendar, and Make a Christmas Angel; and Christmas carols “Away in a Manger”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and “We Three Kings”.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Ned the Knitting Pirate helped me get my knitting mojo back!

I used to be an obsessive knitter. Day and night, commuting, sitting at home, I’d have something on the needles, until… my mojo ran dry. I just couldn’t finish a project. I could start a project. If you love doing something and suddenly, one day, hit a rough patch, you know how much this stinks. It’s really been getting under my skin, really letting it get to me… and then, I saw a Tweet for a book giveaway.

Ned the Knitting Pirate, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Leslie Lammle,
(Aug. 2016, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1596438903
Recommended for readers 4-10

 

You know how sometimes, it’s the craziest thing that gets you back on track? Well, that was seeing this cover. First off, pirates. I love pirates. And Ned is a knitting pirate! I retweeted the cover to my knitting friends (all in various stages of mojo and lack thereof), and the response was just as enthusiastic as mine was! When author Diana Murray contacted me to offer me a review copy, I jumped at the opportunity, and I’m so glad I did.

First of all, look at this art. It’s simply adorable. The endpapers start the fun, introducing us to a sea monster and a mermaid. The rhyming tale kicks right in, as we meet the crew of the Rusty Heap. They’re a scurvy bunch of pirates, “tougher than gristle and barnacle grit”… they brag about their pirate-y roughness time and again, only to have Ned cheerfully chime in that he knits every single time. The captain is not thrilled with this. Pirates don’t knit! Oh, really? He sure changes his tune when a sea monster attacks them, and the only thing that stands between the crew and Davy Jones’ Locker is Ned and his knitting prowess: he fires a blanket at the monster, which curls sweetly around him and sends him off to sleep. Like the best knits do!

I read this to my kiddo in full pirate voice (my throat felt like it died the death of a thousand cheese graters, but it was all worth it), roaring and singing seafaring songs and pointing to my guy to chime in, “KNIT!” when Ned piped up. We had a blast with this book! The only thing I can’t believe is that it’s been out for a year and I wasn’t aware of it until now.

The cartoony art is adorable, and the rhyming pirate tale is complete with seafaring terms that every buccaneer-in-training will take to heart and love. And let’s take a moment to adore the fact that Ned is a GUY WHO KNITS. And he’s proud of it! More power to you, Ned! Bust gender roles – knitting is not just for girls! – and use your smarts to save your crew, thus getting everyone (literally) on board with the sticks! There is nothing like the soft feel of a homemade blanket to immediately put you to sleep, unless you’re one of my kids in infancy; nothing worked then. (But at least they were warm and wrapped in love.)

Bottom line: Ned the Knitting Pirate is SO GOOD. The words are fun and catchy; you want to speak like a pirate when you read this book. It’s perfect for a read-aloud, whether you read about pirates (may I suggest How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don’t Change Diapers, by Melinda Long) or about knitting (I love Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski and Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett), and it’s perfect for a feel-good read; you cannot be in a bad mood after sitting with this adorable book.

So, my knitting mojo? Well, after reading this book for the third or fourth time, Kiddo turned to me and said, “When are you going to knit me something?” And I felt awful, because I haven’t knit this kid anything. One single thing. And it’s time to remedy that. So I pulled together all my yarn, tracked down as many of my needles as I could, and together, he and I picked a dinosaur hat and a Grumpasaurus stuffy that I’m going to make for him. For the hat, I’m going to use the Antler Toque pattern from Tin Can Knits, because it’s cool and the cable pattern looks kind of like dinosaur plates; from there, I’ll knit up spikes to sew onto the hat, so he can be a Stegosaurus.

If you’re not a knitter, Ned the Knitting Pirate may just make you one. Enjoy. Check out Diana Murray’s author website for more info on her books (including the super-adorable Doris the Bookasaurus), news, and fun facts.

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

Little Women gets a middle grade update!

Littler Women: A Modern Retelling, by Laura Schaefer, (Sept. 2017, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481487610

Recommended for readers 8-12

The March sisters are back in this updated version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women. Now, they’re coping with a dad who’s deployed overseas, and the girls are contending with school dances, sleepovers, and crushes. The characters are a little younger: Meg is 13 and a freshman in high school; Jo is 12; Beth is 10, and Amy is 9, and their overall personalities are wonderfully close to their original personas. Jo loves hockey, while Beth prefers to stay at home or visit their neighbors, the Lawrences, to play piano. Laurie and Demi are back in this update, too, with age-appropriate crushes on the March girls. Author Laura Schaefer sticks pretty close to the original story, with a happier resolution to Beth’s story. Each chapter contains a fun activity from one of the March sisters, including crafts and recipes. The sisters also create a family ‘zine, which I love – and tips on creating one – and I’m thrilled to see that ‘zines are becoming a thing again, popping up in books like Littler Women and Moxie.

 

Littler Women is such a good introduction to the classic for middle graders. It encourages creativity and emphasizes the bond between sisters, between family, and between friends; there are disagreements between characters, but they are able to work things out every time. Talk up the similarities and differences between Little Women and Littler Women (don’t forget to mention Little Men), and maybe even have a viewing of one of the several movie adaptations of the original. Definitely fun reading, worth adding to your shelves or giving to a classic-minded reader who loves a good story.

Author Laura Schaefer is also the author of The Tea Shop Girls series. Her website offers links to her blog and information about school visits.

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

She’s full of glitter, she’s wielding a glue gun… She’s The Amazing Crafty Cat!

crafty-cat_1The Amazing Crafty Cat, by Charise Mericle Harper, (Apr. 2016, First Second), $13.99, ISBN: 9781626724860

Recommended for ages 7-10

Bridie is a little girl who loves, loves, LOVES to craft: so much, that she has an alter ego: the Amazing Crafty Cat! Crafty Cat can craft anything, anytime! Crafty Cat becomes Bridie again so she can go to school; she’s excited because it’s her birthday and she’s got special panda cupcakes for everyone during birthday break – even Anya, the class bully. She just knows these cupcakes will make her the school star… and then, Bridie falls, sending the cupcakes flying. She gets stains on her dress trying to pick up the cupcakes. Grandpa is supposed to come to the rescue, bringing something to hand out snack time, but that’s just a disaster. Things aren’t supposed to go wrong on her birthday! What is Bridie going to do? She’s got hungry classmates! Looks like a job for… THE AMAZING CRAFTY CAT.

The first book in the Fashion Kitty/Just Grace author’s new trilogy is just too much fun. There’s a great message about teaching kids resiliency and how to fall back on Plan B… and Plan C, if necessary. Plus, there are craft ideas and template at the end of the book! You know what I’m going to say… it’s a program in a book! Make Crafty Cat your next book talk/activity; do your scanning and photocopying ahead of time, and let your kids work on the crafts as you talk about things that went wrong for them (and you), and how you all bounced back from them. Such a fun addition to graphic novel and intermediate collections, you’ll never keep them on the shelf.  Now, we just need a Crafty Cat website with some videos…

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