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

NatGeo’s Our Country’s Presidents: Essential Desk Reference

Our Country’s Presidents: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S Presidency (2020 Edition), by Ann Bausum, (Jan. 2021, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-42637199-8

Ages 8-13

This latest update to the NatGeo desk reference includes coverage of the 2020 Presidential election and results. Every U.S. President, from George Washington to Joe Biden, has a profile; there are full-page official portraits, and over 400 illustrations, from period artwork to contemporary black-and-white and color photographs. Six sections examine the Presidency in different eras: The Presidency and How it Grew 1789-1837; From Sea to Shining Sea 1837-1861; A New Birth of Freedom 1861-1897; America Takes Center Stage 1897-1945; Seeking Stability in the Atomic Age 1945-1989; and Pathways for a New Millennium 1989-Present. Each presidential profile includes a facts-at-a-glance box with the President’s signature and fast facts, including landmarks, political party, number of terms, Vice President, and terms of office. Thematic spreads explain important themes to emerge and define different presidencies, and reference aids help direct learners to more resources. A comprehensive resource and great desk reference; get a copy for your Reference section and for your circulating collection if you have the budget.

Posted in Uncategorized

A word about yesterday.

I’m not posting reviews today as we try to process what happened in our nation’s capital yesterday. I’m trying to think of how to explain this to my Kiddo, and I’m sure many of you are, too. The only thing I feel I can offer is information about how government should work, and maybe that’s where we begin.

This article on explaining protests and activism, from PopSugar, offers some helpful guidance.

The Encyclopedia Britannica explains the Constitution to kids here.

Going to work on a display of government/social justice books next. Stay safe, please.

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

Last Minute Shopping? No worries, find a bookstore!

I saw a piece on the news today that said today – December 23rd – is the second biggest holiday shopping day of the year.

https://giphy.com/embed/3oEjI1erPMTMBFmNHi

via GIPHY

If you still have kids and teens on your shopping list, I humbly offer a few more suggestions to make the season bright.

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, by Carrie Ann DiRisio and Broody McHottiepants/Illustrated by Linnea Gear,
(Oct. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781510726666

Recommended for readers 13-17

You know him. You may have loved him. He’s the EveryBroody – that dark, brooding bad boy main character that shows up in darned near every YA novel. He’s got a deep, dark history; he has trust issues; he may be an intergalactic prince, a scoundrel smuggler, or… dare I say? a sparkly vampire. Here, we get the scoop – straight from the Broody’s mouth – on what it’s like to be a Brooding YA Hero. It’s a writing guide with a wink and a nudge to YA tropes, with some straight talk – in the form of nemesis Mean Girl Blondi DeMeani – about smashing the patriarchy and recognizing the value of diverse characters. Give this to your fanfic writer, your feminists, and anyone who loved Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. And if you’re not already following the @broodingYAhero account on Twitter, you are doing yourself a disservice.

 

Hey, Baby! A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery, by Stephanie Drimmer,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329319

Recommended for ages 4-12 and beyond

It’s an entire book of baby animal pictures. The cutest, funniest, littlest baby animals. This is a win-win for everyone! Added to the pictures are the sweetest companion folktales, stories, and poems, to make this a great gift for new moms and moms-to-be, kids who love their baby animals, and middle-aged librarians who follow accounts like @emergencykittens and @fluffsociety on Twitter. Add a copy of NatGeo’s Animal Ark, for more beautiful photos and poetry by Newbery award winner Kwame Alexander.

 

A World of Cookies for Santa, by M.E. Furman/Illustrated by Susan Gal,
(Oct. 2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt),$16.99, ISBN: 9780544226203

Recommended for readers 7-10

Take a tasty sleigh ride around the world and find out how children across the globe celebrate Christmas, from the different names Santa goes by (Papai Noel, Father Christmas, Christmas Baba, to name a few) to the tasty treats left out for Santa and his reindeer to enjoy on their journey. Try your hand at a multicultural Christmas with nine recipes for holiday cookies, included at the end! Pair with a copy of Clement Moore’s classic The Night Before Christmas and add a few cookies.

 

Top Elf, by Caleb Zane Huett, (Sept. 2017, Scholastic Press),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-05212-1

Recommended for readers 9-12

Santa’s ready to pass on the Big Red Suit. The call to competition goes out across the North Pole, and Ollie the Elf decides to go for it. Thing is, he’s up against Santa’s kids, a bullying elf named Buzz, Ramp, who swears he’s a kid, but looks and smells suspiciously grown-up, and even his best friend, Celia. How’s Ollie going to prove he’s the Top Elf for the job? This middle grade story is pure Christmas fun and adventure with a touch of Christmas magic. Stick this in a stocking for readers who love a good giggle, and add a couple of candy canes and some hot cocoa mix – maybe with a Minecraft or Lego mug. 

 

Ultimate Dinopedia, Second Edition, by “Dino” Don Lessem/Illustrated by Franco Tempesta,
(Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329050

Recommended for readers 8-13

It’s the ULTIMATE dinosaur encyclopedia! This updated edition is one of the most comprehensive dinosaur references going, with profiles on favorite dinos like the T-Rex and Velociratpr, to new finds like the Anzu, Kosmoceratops, and Yi. There are maps, comparison renderings to show kids how they stack up against different dinos, and descriptions of dino diets, geographic areas, and eras. There are over 600 dinosaurs in this volume, with profiles for 10 newly discovered dinos, and a comprehensive dino dictionary. Full-color illustrations from dinosaur artist Franco Tempesta come right off the page – look at that T-Rex on the cover! – and “Dino” Don Lessem – a world-renowned dinosaur presenter who also happened to be the dinosaur adviser for the first Jurassic Park movie – writes in a language that respects, but never speaks down, to readers. Kids love dinos. They’ll love this book. Tuck a tube of dino toys in the stocking and call it a holiday.

 

The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag, (Oct. 2017, Scholastic Graphix),
$12.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-08951-6

Recommended for readers 8-13

Aster is a 13-year-old, raised in a society of of supernatural beings. The girls are raised to be witches, the boys, to be shapeshifters. That’s the way it is, and anyone who falls outside those lines faces exile. Aster waits for his ability to shift to kick in, but is fascinated by magic, despite the disciplinary action and ridicule he faces. Aster befriends a non-magic neighbor named Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, who has her own frustrations with gender lines at her school; neither can figure out what the big deal is, saying, “You should just be allowed to do it!” Charlie discovers Aster’s magic abilities, and tries encouraging him to continue practicing magic; Aster will need that support when a mysterious force threatens his community; he may be the only one able to save them. A brilliant story about smashing gender expectations, The Witch Boy is a brilliant, compelling story about finding one’s place and speaks volumes to every kid out there who feels, at some point, like she or he doesn’t fit in. Molly Ostertag is the writer/artist on Shattered Warrior and the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist. The Witch Boy has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and Fox Animation has feature film rights. Bundle this one up with Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School.

 

Bet You Didn’t Know!, by National Geographic Kids, (Aug. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1426328374

Recommended for readers 8-13

Kids love fact books; when they’re accompanied by amazing photos and include facts like, “A storm on Neptune was a wide as THE ENTIRE EARTH”, “Chewing gum can make your heart beat faster”, or “The Bahamas once had an undersea post office”, this becomes GOLD. Pair this one with NatGeo’s Weird But True Christmas, and you’re set.

 

The World of the Bible: Biblical Stories and the Archaeology Behind Them, by Jill Rubalcaba,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426328817

Recommended for readers 9-13

More than a book of Bible stories, The World of the Bible is a great reference for budding history buffs and archaeologists, going deeper into the text to study the time periods and geographic locations where these stories took place, to learn more about human history. Stories like Moses and the Ten Commandments and the Garden of Eden get a closer look, accompanied by classic paintings, photos, and illustrations of the lands where the events in the Bible took shape. Give to your budding young Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.

 

1,000 Facts About the White House, by Sarah Wassner Flynn, (Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2873-2

Recommended for readers 8-13

Wild and crazy facts about the most famous house in America: The White House. Learn about White House ghosts, events like the Easter Egg Roll, and presidential pets. Check out photos of the interiors and exteriors of the White House and grounds, and view some of the history-making moments that took place there. Learn about the different people who live and work there, those who keep it safe, and those who built it. There are groups of fun lists, like 25 Rooms That Rock, and there are loads of cutouts and info bits throughout. It’s a fun reference on American History for history fans. Pair with a copy of Weird But True! US Presidents and you’re set.

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

Important Reading: Fault Lines in the Constitution

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today, by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Sanford, (Sept. 2017, Peachtree Publishers), $19.95, ISBN: 9781561459452

Recommended for readers 10-14

You don’t need a political science degree to see that it’s been a pretty tumultuous year for our country. You don’t even need to watch the news: stick a toe into the social media waters or just go out in public, and you’ll hear all about our current political climate. What tweens and teens may not realize is that a lot of the political issues we’re struggling with today have their roots in the U.S. Constitution. Husband and wife scholars Cynthia and Sanford Levinson examine this document in detail, from its creation to the present, to point out fault lines – cracks in our foundation – how other countries may deal with similar issues, and suggestions for how to address the flaws.

Big-ticket takeaways include the Electoral College and state-by-state representation: how it’s great to be a tiny state, not so much a big state. An honest, no-holds barred look at our governing document, Fault Lines in the Constitution is an important book to have in libraries and classrooms today, tomorrow, and for years to come. Includes a timeline, extensive notes, bibliography, and index. Fault Lines in the Constitution received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist.

 

Cynthia Levinson holds degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University and also attended the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. A former teacher and educational policy consultant and researcher, she is the author of the award-winning and critically-acclaimed We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. Sanford Levinson is an American legal scholar and a professor at the University of Texas Law School. He holds degrees from Duke, Stanford, and Harvard universities and is the author of several adult works of nonfiction.

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

Time For Kids Presidents is a good desk reference for middle graders

tfkpresidentsTime for Kids: Presidents of the United States, by Editors at Time for Kids, (Jan. 2017, Time for Kids), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1683300007

Recommended for ages 8-12

Time for Kids’ Presidents of the United States is a slim, backpack and desk-friendly reference guide for middle graders. Loaded with color photos and illustrations, there are facts about the Presidency, branches of government, political parties and why we have them, a spotlight on the First Ladies, and more. Each President receives a brief biography, fast facts, including birth and death dates, political party, Vice President, wife, children, key dates during his administration, and a Did You Know? fact. A 2016 election spotlight and President portrait gallery completes the volume, along with links to the White House website, Presidential homesteads and museums. The volume includes an index.

This is a helpful resource for middle graders – it will help with social studies and current events homework, and provides a quick, easy reading experience by chunking information into readable bites. A good buy for classroom libraries and social studies collections.

 

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Gifted versus Ashkind: Helena Coggan’s The Catalyst

catalystThe Catalyst, by Helena Coggan, (Oct. 2016, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763689728

Recommended for ages 12+

A dimensional cataclysm on our world turned the human race against one another: some are green-eyed Gifted, who wield magical powers; others are dark-eyed, non-magical Ashkind. A fragile peace is in place after a great war between Gifted and Ashkind, but there seems to be signs that something’s brewing again. Rose is a 15 year-old girl whose father, David, is in charge of the Department, a brutal law enforcement agency. David and Rose are gifted, and something… more. Something they must keep others from finding out. A mysterious murder suspect knows their secrets, though, and he’s blackmailing Rose into helping him – putting her loyalty to her father, and the Department, to test.

Helena Coggan was 15 years old when she wrote The Catalyst, and that alone makes it pretty darned impressive. She’s got some solid world-building in this first book (the second, The Reaction, has already been released in the UK), and I liked a lot of her character development. The action is well-paced, and the dystopian elements of the individual leading a group against the shadowy government is tweaked to include magic elements, a nice update to the genre. There was quite a bit to keep sorted for me at first, especially with the introduction of other groups like the Host; it took me a few re-reads of some pages to set them within the frame of the book. All in all, a good addition to dystopian/sci fi collections for those with strong readerships.

Helena Coggan’s got a WordPress site that has a nice photo and description of The Reaction, for anyone who wants to know more about the Angel Wars series.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

“Weekend Person Needed” at The Ministry of Ghosts

ministry of ghostsThe Ministry of Ghosts, by Alex Shearer (May 2016, Sky Pony Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781510704732

Recommended for ages 8-12

Minister Beeston, from the Department of Economies, is a superior bean counter. Nothing goes to waste under his watch, so when The Ministry of Ghosts comes to his attention, he is determined to shut them down: ghosts! Preposterous! The fact that they’ve been around for hundreds of years, with no proof that ghosts exist makes him even more flustered – think of all the taxpayer money that’s been wasted! He’s having no more of it. He gives the Ministry three months to prove the existence – or nonexistence – of ghosts, or he’s shutting them down, and reassigning some members to the Department of Sewage! The horror! The Ministry takes action, ultimately hiring help: a boy and a girl, Tim and Thruppence, after hearing that ghosts may be more likely to appear to kids. As the twosome commence investigating, they won’t believe what they learn, and neither will you.

I enjoyed Ministry of Ghosts. It took a bit to ramp up, but once the storyline kicked in, it was a fun read with likable characters and a good sense of humor. There are a few plot twists that are very satisfying. It’s not a scary story – kids looking for a scary book or some thrills and chills aren’t going to find it here, but readers will find a book with great dialogue between characters and a sweetly humorous story that will make you feel good at the close.

I’d booktalk this with Karen Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and Laurel Gale’s Dead Boy. YA Books Central has an excerpt if you want to read more.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

That’s Not Fair! introduces kids to rights, freedoms, and making choices

notfairThat’s Not Fair! Getting to Know Your Rights and Freedoms, by Danielle McLaughlin/Illustrated by Dharmali Patel  (Apr. 2016, Kids Can Press), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771382083

Recommended for ages 7-11

The latest book under Kids Can Press’ CitizenKid imprint, That’s Not Fair! is a companion introduction to civics for middle graders. Using a series of six case studies/short stories starring Mayor Moe and his fellow councilors, each study looks at a problem that arises, a decision to address the issue with a new law, and the consequences – intended or, more usually, unintended – of that law. Bug, the only councilor that seems to think things through, is the first to exclaim, “That’s not fair!” and points out why proposed legislation is unfair, leading to a deeper discussion on the topic. It’s a smart way of explaining the often convoluted legal process to kids, who are quick to point out when something is fair versus unfair (bedtimes were big battlefields in my home).

Each story concludes with talking points for readers: Why did the councilor(s) make their decision? Did the new law achieve its purpose? Were there any unexpected results? These aren’t right/wrong answers; they’re jumping off points for discussions to provide understanding. A Note for Parents and Teachers and definitions of the rights and freedoms covered in each story are included at the end of the book. Dharmali Patel’s illustrations are brightly colored and fun, keeping kids’ interest as they visualize each scenario. Bug is depicted as a somewhat literal lightning bulb literary reference, buzzing and lighting up to call attention to problematic legislation and ideas.

A good companion book for collections that feature books on how communities work and function, and the legislative process.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Forget Democrat or Republican, Vote SQUID!

presidentsquid_1President Squid, by Aaron Reynolds/Illustrated by Sara Varon (March 2016, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452136479

Recommended for ages 5-8

This is a big election year, so get read for tons of election books – we had the adorable Monster Needs Your Vote last year, which also taught young readers a little bit about the election process, and this year, we’ve got President Squid, by Aaron Reynolds and Sara Varon, two of my favorite authors/illustrators: Aaron Reynolds, who’s given us great books like Superhero School, Chicks and Salsa, and Creepy Carrots, and Sara Varon, who’s most recently re-published her all-ages graphic novel, Sweater Weather, along with favorites like Bake Sale and Odd Duck.

Squid has had a huge realization: There’s never been a giant squid president before! He’s more than ready and willing to take on the job, and he’s got five reasons why: He wears a tie (very presidential); he’s got a TITANIC house (get it? Titanic?); Presidents are famous (Squid has a book named after him, after all); they get to do all the talking, and most importantly, Presidents are the BIG BOSSES. Since Squid is pretty bossy, he’s a shoo-in, right? Well… maybe. When Squid realizes that being President is hard work, he sets his sights on an even bigger office.

Much like younger readers, Squid knows that being President is a big, important job, but he only sees the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. President Squid is good fun; a book that can start conversations as to what a President’s real duties are, as opposed to what Squid sees. You can even talk about why the President is considered a big boss; why does he wear a tie? What makes him famous, and what’s the name of the President’s big house? Homeschool Journeys has a great printable pack of election-related worksheets and activities that can accompany a reading of the story. Chronicle also has a free, downloadable activity kit to accompany President Squid, with printables that let you make your own election!

presidentsquid_4

The ink and brush artwork on Bristol paper, colored in Photoshop, is fun and eye-catching. Black font is expressive and bold, making for a fun, easy-to-read storytime or independent reading selection.

Remember to Vote Squid (hey, you can even make up Monster vs. Squid election buttons for a book battle!) and add this to your collections if you’re looking for some fun, election-related books for younger readers.

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Aaron Reynolds is a Caldecott honoree and New York Times bestselling author. Sara Varon is a recipient of a Sendak Award Fellowship and an Eisner nominee – together, they’re unstoppable!

Posted in Uncategorized

#Presidents: Follow the Leaders – A funny social media guide to the Presidents

follow_pres#presidents: Follow the Leaders, by John Bailey Owen (Aug. 2015, Scholastic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780545849388

Recommended for ages 8-13

Imagine for a minute, if all the Presidents – all 44 of them! – were on Twitter? And they could talk to one another? Can you imagine what you’d find out if you were able to follow them? That would be the best history lesson ever!

#presidents: Follow the Leaders does exactly that. We hear from the Presidents – and some Vice Presidents and First Ladies! – as they tell us a little bit about themselves and react to other Presidents. There are hilarious screen names, too: James Madison, our shortest President and the author of the Constitution, goes by @LILJCONSTITUTION; William Henry Harrison, who caught a cold during his inauguration speech and died after 32 days in office, can be found @ILLWILL_H. Bill Clinton can be found @CLINSTAGRAM, and our current Prez, Barack Obama, is @BAMIMOBAMA. We’ve got some guest stars, like the White House Pets, Camp David, the Secret Service, and the White House Chef, and the Rules of Running for President makes sure everyone knows how the process works.

There are profile pictures, hometowns, hilarious hashtags, even #tbt pictures. A timeline of the U.S. Presidency rounds out the book. It’s a fun companion to a kid’s history books, but make sure no one’s doing their history homework with this as their sole source of information (I can see some of my patrons trying it)!

Author John Bailey Owen is a humorist. His author website offers blog posts and links to his other books.