Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me…

Pirate Nell’s Tale to Tell: A Storybook Adventure, by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty, (Sept. 2020, Sourcebooks), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1492698678

Ages 4-7

This rhyming tale of literacy on the high seas stars an all-canine cast. Nell, a younger pup, is so excited to join a pirate crew, but Captain Gnash scoffs at her bookishness and saves the ickiest tasks for her to do. A treasure map in a bottle shows up one night, but Captain Gnash manages to get himself and his crew into big trouble until Nell, and her Pirate’s Almanac, save the day! They finally make it to the island and discover the best treasure of all. Smart and light, this upbeat tale of books and how handy a little extra knowledge can be is great for library visits. Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty always manage to create the best stories about book lovers: they also wrote The Snatchabook and The Storybook Knight; both wonderfully woven rhyming tales of books and how they make things better. The colorful acrylic artwork will attract all readers; who doesn’t love a rollicking pirate story with sea monsters and treasure? Endpapers show off a cross-section of a pirate ship before and after the plunder. See if kids can spot the differences! Pair with Ronan the Librarian for the ultimate class visit storytime. Visit Helen Docherty’s website for downloadable goodies including masks and coloring sheets!


Daniela and the Pirate Girls, by Susana Isern/Illustrated by Gómez, Translated by Laura Victoria Fielden, (Aug. 2020, NubeOcho), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-17673-27-7

Ages 5-8

The second book to star Daniela the Pirate, Daniela and her crew spend a good part of this new adventure aboard their pirate ship, the Black Croc, tracking down a group of pirates called The Fearless Piranhas. They keep showing up to rescue sea folk just before the Black Croc arrives, and the crew is starting to get worried: what if they beat the Croc to the best treasure, too? Just as the Black Croc happens upon the Fearless Piranhas ship, they both get caught up in a dangerous storm: luckily, Daniela knows a friend who can help everyone out! The two crews finally meet and decide that teamwork is the best way to work! Upbeat and positive, this pirate story is all about sharing and teamwork, with the acknowledgement that sometimes, jealousy and competition can get in the way of how we perceive others. Gómez always uses bright, cheerful colors in her artwork; here, vibrant landscapes and pirates stand out against the light blue sea and sky, really giving the characters center stage. Originally published in Spanish, this English translation will appeal to pirate fans while teaching a lesson in kindness.

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour: You Can Call Me Katelyn

Ever wish you could change your name? A young girl decides to do exactly that in Keri T. Collins’s new picture book, You Can Call Me Katelyn.


You Can Call Me Katelyn, by Keri T. Collins/Illustrated by Marcia Adams Ho, (May 2019, Purple Butterfly Press),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1948604185
Ages 5-7

Inspired by Collins’s daughter and told in the first person from Katelyn’s point of view, readers learn that Katelyn was never thrilled with her name. Her parents didn’t even have a first named picked out for her in the hospital! Her parents settled on Carly, which she is NOT a fan of – and even less of a fan when she discovers that people can’t spell her name right. Katelyn decides to take charge of her happiness, which means changing her name: she likes Katelyn; a mashup of her two best friends’ names, and starts telling everyone around her to call her by her chosen name. Don’t want to call her Katelyn? She doesn’t want to answer you. She’s upbeat and enthusiastic, and lets readers know that all it takes is some determination and a little bit of sparkle to make the world a better place.

At some point, most kids aren’t in love with their names. It’s not like we have a choice when we’re born, after all. You Can Call Me Katelyn delivers a big message in a little story: overcome your fear and make changes where you can. It’s an inspiring message, and I’m sure this will be a popular read-aloud. I enjoyed the bigger message in this story – overcome fear and look within yourself for the power to effect change – and the author’s tips, available at the end of the book, for taking action and moving past fear. There’s a crown coloring sheet that kids can cut out and color; if you don’t want to damage your book, you can receive a coloring sheet via email at the author’s website.

The artwork is colorful and the pages are loaded with activity, always giving readers somewhere to look. There are humorous moments that kids will get a kick out of: Katelyn’s mother, holding her new baby in the hospital, covered with sticky notes scribbled over with baby names; baby Carly’s pacifier popping out of her outraged mouth as she sees her name misspelled on the sign welcoming her home from the hospital.

Pair this with some books and activities on the importance of names. Brightly has a great list and ideas here.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Dream Big: Be like the Marshmallow!

Most Marshmallows, by Rowboat Watkins, (Apr. 2019, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452159591

Ages 3-6

Did you ever consider the marshmallow? Well, Rowboat Watkins has, and the discoveries are pretty inspiring. Marshmallows, it turns out, are a lot like we are: they’re born to loving parents, live in houses and apartment buildings, and do a lot of the same things we do: they go to school, they celebrate birthdays, and they watch TV. BUT, did you know that some marshmallows know that ALL marshmallows can secretly do anything, including fly spaceships or scale mountains? What if we can, too?

Most Marshmallows is an absolutely adorable book with an uplifting message for readers. Illustrated with line drawings and real marshmallows, the cute level is through the roof as we see fluffy white marshmallows with adorable facial expressions sitting at family dinners, boarding school buses, and rocking little furniture, including tiny bookshelves and table settings. The text encourages kids to dream big by illustrating all the “normal” things marshmallows do, which happen to be the same things we humans do. Absolute fun, absolutely adorable, and absolutely perfect for storytime and anytime. Get this one on your shelves.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Hector’s Favorite Place shows kids how to face their fears

Hector’s Favorite Place, by Jo Rooks, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828683

Ages 4-7

Hector is a hedgehog whose favorite place is home. He doesn’t go out that often, because everything he needs is home; home is “cozy and snuggly and safe”. At the same time, though, Hector wants to do things with his friends! He’s invited to the most exciting things: playing in the snow, ice skating, going to a party. But every time Hector accepts an invitation, he starts thinking about all the things that could go wrong, becomes anxious, and cancels plans. He decides to confront his anxiety, be brave, and head to the Winter party in the forest; when anxiety rears its ugly head again, he closes his eyes and imagines himself having fun and dancing at the party – and discovers that he’s having fun! After the party and some hot chocolate, Hector’ decides that he’s ready to take on new adventures outside of his home.

Hector’s Favorite Place is a child-friendly look at getting past fear. The author uses cute animals and age-appropriate text to communicate situations that may make kids nervous. Having Hector use creative visualization by imagining himself having fun is a great way to communicate this strategy to kids, giving them the tools to tackle worry and fear of everything from going to a friend’s party to starting the first day of school. Back matter gives parents some helpful advice on managing worry in kids and how to model helpful behaviors.

Magination Press is a publishing imprint of the American Psychological Association. The publisher’s website offers links to brochures and research from the APA, links to social media, and and links to the APA Book and APA Style blog. KidPsych is a kid- and parent-friendly site with games and activities.

I’ve been enjoying the Magination Press books for toddlers and kids. I like the topics the authors explore, and I love the way the authors and illustrators come together to create a story that appeals to kids and speaks to them in a way that respects and understands their feelings and challenges. So far, every book I’ve seen from Magination Press earns a spot in my library.


Posted in Uncategorized

Wild Swans is a colorful, empowered adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale

Wild Swans, retold by Xanthe Gresham Knight/Illustrated by Charlotte Gastaut, (March 2018, Barefoot Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781782853626

Recommended for readers 7-11

The latest adaptation of Grimm’s Wild Swans is a beautifully illustrated, empowering retelling where a young woman breaks a spell to save her brothers, and assumes her place as queen of her kingdom. Young Eliza and her eleven brothers live with their father, the king, and their stepmother, the queen, who also has a gift with magic. When a plague devastates the land, Eliza’s stepmother turns the 11 brother sinto swans, so they can fly away from the plague, and sends Eliza to a remote village, untouched by the disease. Years later, Eliza receives word that the queen was able to discover a cure, but it was too late to save herself or the king. The kingdom is in chaos, and it’s up to Eliza to cure the plague and assume the throne, bringing peace back to the land. Throughout her adventure, she’ll befriend a young king, work her fingers raw to knit special shirts for her brothers to break the spell, and hold her own against a mob of villagers who think she’s a witch. All in a day’s work for a fairy tale heroine!

The artwork is stunning. There’s vibrant and angular artwork throughout the book, with gold and black drawings pacing the text between color panels. Eliza is a brave and focused heroine who doesn’t rely on a prince or king to marry her to gain her throne – she and the young king are dear friends, committed to one another as companions. She even declines an offer to serve as his new advisor, because she’s got a kingdom of her own to run. This is a nice addition to fairy tale collections, and great for a nice, empowering read.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Isabella is a Girl in Charge as she channels historic women

isabella_covIsabella: Girl in Charge, by Jennifer Fosberry/Illustrated by Mike Litwin, (Oct. 2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492641735

Recommended for ages 4-8

Isabella, the little purple-haired girl with the big imagination, is back in her fourth adventure: this time, she’s going all the way to the nation’s capital! Isabella wakes her parents up bright and early; they’ve got a big day ahead of them and Isabella doesn’t want to miss a second. As she and her family get ready to head out, Isabella imagines she’s different females politicians, first in their fields, from the first mayor to the first Supreme Court Justice. Isabella and her family have an important day to be part of: history is being made!

A good idea in theory, younger readers may need some prompting when first hearing the story; these names will largely be unfamiliar to them. Anyone reading the story out loud should mention beforehand that the women Isabella names are the first women in politics and what office they held. Kids will be better able to pick up subtle in-jokes in the text, too; for instance: When Isabella claims to be “Susanna, mayor of this here town,” her mother responds, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” If the children understand that Susanna Salter was the first female mayor, and she was mayor in Kansas, it’ll be more fun for them. Isabella’s adorable stuffed friend is with her, dressed in period clothing, in each spread – see if your readers can spot him (or her, if they like)!


Mike Litwin’s art, done with blueline pencil and Adobe Photoshop, is fun and emphasis on key words like names and identifying characteristics adds some punch. Brief biographies, quotes, and a timeline of women in politics, along with a list of books and websites for further reference, round out Isabella’s latest adventure.


The book is a good start for introducing younger readers to women in politics, and how long we’ve been around! It’s more of a companion volume to a lesson rather than a standalone. I haven’t seen an educator’s guide or activity kit yet, but there are some great resources about women and politics online, including printouts at Time for Kids. Most of the available information is branded for Women’s History Month, but we’re at a historic crossroads in history – celebrate women in politics NOW!

Jennifer Fosberry and Sourcebooks both offer links to Educator Guides for other books in the Isabella series and the companion book, My Name is Not Alexander. Illustrator Mike Litwin has samples of his artwork and animation on his site.

Posted in Uncategorized

Know Before You Grow: 100 Things to Know Before You Grow Up

100 things to know100 Things to Know Before You Grow Up, by Lisa M. Gerry, (March 2016, NatGeo Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9781426323164

Recommended for ages 8-12

It’s a NatGeo week this week, because their publicists were kind enough to send me a bunch of books to check out for my blog (and, by extension, my library collection). Today, I’m looking at one of the latest in their 100 Things series, 100 Things to Know Before You Grow Up, by Lisa M. Gerry. Think of it as a life skills primer: there are icons coding each of the 100 things, related to attitude (curiosity, responsibility, empowerment), skills (observation, communication, collaboration, problem-solving), and knowledge (our human story, our living planet, critical species, and new frontiers). Together, all of these things help readers become well-rounded, responsible teens and, eventually, adults.

There are fun skills, like making snow ice cream, how to fold origami, and how to create papier mâché; practical skills, like pumping gas, doing laundry, and writing checks, personal growth explorations like being tolerant, resolving conflict peacefully, and apologizing. Whether you see this as a summer challenge for your kids or patrons (complete any five skills for a prize this summer!), a bucket list for your pre-adolescence, or just a good guide to being the best person you can be, there are some great tips in here, combined with beautiful photos and interesting facts.

100 Things to Know Before You Grow Up is a good grad gift for elementary and middle schoolers, and it’s a good add to tween collections.