Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade

An animal whodunit! Homer on the Case

Homer on the Case, by Henry Cole, (Apr. 2022, Peachtree Publishing), $8.99, ISBN: 9781682633571

Ages 8-12

Award-winning author and illustrator Henry Cole has a new adventure for middle grade animal fiction fans. Homer on the Case is a whodunit starring a homing pigeon named Homer who’s taught himself to read! He lives with his human friend, a boy named Otto, and Otto’s grandfather, who passed his love of raising and training homing pigeons onto Otto. Over the years, Homer’s taught himself to read using the newspapers that Otto lines his cage with, and he loves reading the newspaper to find out what’s been going on. When he and his parrot friend, Lulu, witness a series of robberies committed by animals running throughout the park, they decide to investigate: after all, their humans have been affected! Once they follow the crooks to their hideout, they discover that they need some human help: Lulu can say some human words, and Homer can read… can they put their skills together to get the people to pay attention? Fun storytelling with action and humor make this an easy handsell to readers. Henry Cole has a light, fun storytelling voice and imbues his animal characters with human qualities that endear them to the humans in their stories, and the humans who read them. Black and white illustrations start off each chapter and give readers a sneak peek at what they can expect to discover in the pages ahead.

Homer on the Case was originally published in hardcover in April 2021. Peachtree Publishers has a free, downloadable discussion guide available. Henry Cole’s author website has fun games related to his books, a library of information on each of his books, and information about school visits.

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

Blog Tour and Giveaway: My Grandma’s Photos

The latest children’s book to hit American shores, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids, is the beautiful and poignant My Grandma’s Photos, originally published in Turkey in 2019.

My Grandma’s Photos, by Özge Bahar Sunar/Illustrated by Senta Urgan,
Translated by Amy Marie Spangler
(Jan. 2022, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542031158

Ages 5-8

Seen through a child’s eyes, My Grandma’s Photos is the story of an aging grandmother, a grandchild, and a group of old photos that transports Grandma from her chair back into her robust, joyful life. She takes Ali, her granddaughter, into this beautiful world with her, and Ali sees her grandmother’s life unfold before her eyes: family picnics, climbing trees, becoming a master seamstress, falling in love and marrying Ali’s grandfather. It’s beautiful and moving; at moments, it brings on the tears, but they’re cleansing, renewing. Grandma lives her life once again and Ali finally sees her grandmother’s vibrant, full life as she’s never done before.

 

Senta Urgan’s artwork captures the essential moments, using pastels and collage to create living photos that exist outside the borders to reach out and draw both Grandma and Ali into their world. The artwork is the heartbeat to this fantastic story; Urgan uses real photos and illustrates a world around them, blending them together with photos and sketches, to create a dreamlike landscape where readers can play along with the characters. An essential story to have on hand to give to readers who may have aging family members.

 

 

“A gentle book about remembering, as well as grieving, a life well lived.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“This depiction of a tender, loving relationship is touched with magic, and Ali’s participation in his grandmother’s experiences brings them both much joy.” ―Booklist

“[A] beautiful, heartfelt story about loss and love.” ―School Library Journal

One lucky winner will receive a copy of My Grandma’s Photos, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

Özge Bahar Sunar is a former teacher turned children’s author. She has written multiple picture books, including the bestselling The Hedgehog and the Exhibit, illustrated by Ceyhun Şen, which was translated into seven languages. Sunar lives with her two children in Antalya, Turkey, where she loves to think up new stories while hiking in the wild. Find her on Instagram @ozgebaharsnr.

Senta Urgan is a graduate of Mimar Sinan University, where she studied sculpture. Since 2010 she has been illustrating books for children, including picture books and novels, and also works as a graphic designer. She is the founder of the brand Mala Hermana Handmade, where she exhibits her illustrations and ceramic art. Find her on Instagram @toporulkesindekikes.

Amy Marie Spangler is a cofounder of Istanbul-based AnatoliaLit Agency, and a commercial and literary translator with numerous books and short stories to her credit. Find her on Twitter @Amy_Spangler.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Sleepover bonding time with Grandpa: Time for Bed, Old House

Time for Bed, Old House, by Janet Costa Bates/Illustrated by AG Ford, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209983

Ages 3-7

Isaac is looking forward to his sleepover at Grandpa’s house, but he’s a little nervous about being away from home. After and evening of games and snacks, Grandpa and his dog, Snuffles, teach Isaac how to put the house to bed. As they go through each room, turning off lights and pulling down shades, Isaac is initially frightened by the sounds the old house makes, but Grandpa wonderfully observes that “this old house makes sleepy sounds, just like you… you yawn. You stretch. I bet you even snore”. As they end up in Isaac’s room and settle down for the night, Isaac is content, saying good night to the house, and looking forward to the next day.

This is a wonderful and cozy story about a grandparent and grandchild. Janet Costa Bates’s quiet storytelling wraps readers up like a blanket, tucking them in with her words. AG Ford’s watercolors envelop readers in the welcoming setting, with warm golds leading Isaac and Grandpa through the house as they help ready it for the night, and cooler blues and purples to provide the cover of darkness. When Isaac goes to bed holding Bear, a smile on his face, readers won’t be able to help but smile themselves, having heard a wonderful story. Front endpapers show Snuffles heading toward Grandpa and Isaac, most likely; back endpapers show him sleeping in his dog bed. The opening spread begins the story as we see Grandpa and Isaac on Grandpa’s porch, waving goodbye to a car pulling away, presumably Isaac’s parents, with his mom waving out the window. Isaac and his family are people of color. A perfect bedtime story, grandparent story, and first sleepover story for all collections.

Time for Bed, Old House has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus and has also been named a Book of Distinction by the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books.

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

Another good middle grade mystery! Coop Knows the Scoop!

Coop Knows the Scoop, by Taryn Souders, (July 2020, Sourcebooks Young Readers), $7.99, ISBN: 9781492640189

Ages 8-12

I pulled Coop Knows the Scoop off my TBR yesterday morning, and I finished it this morning. That’s how good this middle grade mystery is. Cooper Goodman – call him Coop, please! – lives with his mom and grandfather in Georgia, where he helps out in his mom’s bookstore/coffee shop when he’s not in school. His dad, a Marine, died in action, and his Gramps is the retired town doctor. It’s small town life, where everyone knows one another, and it’s pretty idyllic, until the morning a skeleton is discovered buried at the playground. After some DNA testing, the skeleton is revealed to be Coop’s grandmother, Tabby, whom everyone thought left Gramps years ago, when Coop’s dad was little more than a baby. When Gramps falls under suspicion – they always suspect the spouse, right? – Coop enlists his best friends, twin siblings Liberty and Justice, to help him search for clues and exonerate Gramps.

Written in the first person from Coop’s point of view, I could not put this book down. It’s got all the elements of a good whodunnit: a scandal, a quirky cast of local characters, smart dialogue, fleshed out characters with good backstories that make just about everyone a suspect, and an impending sense of danger that you just know is going to explode when you get these elements mixed together. You and your readers are going to want to know what the real scoop is, and that’s going to keep all of you reading this book until you get to the end, and its very satisfying conclusion. Put this on your mystery lists, for sure.

Read more about Taryn Souders and her books at her author website. Coop Knows the Scoop is a 2021 Edgar Award nominee for Best Juvenile mystery novel. Download a great activity kit, including a recipe for sweet tea, through publisher Sourcebooks, Download a discussion guide from Sourcebooks here, too!

Posted in picture books

Spring and Summer stories to make you smile

With Spring and Summer come a lighter type of picture book: open spaces, verdant greens, cheery yellows, happy colors and stories about enjoying the outdoors. I’ve got a few picture books here that are perfect for those longer, warmer days.

Free, by Sam Usher, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536217049

Ages 4-7

The boy and his grandfather from Sam Usher’s Seasons With Grandad series are back! In Free, the boy and Grandad care for a sick bird who returns to them every day. Grandad looks up new ways to get the bird to reunite with other birds, but it looks like their new feathered friend needs a bit of help, so they gather their equipment and strike out to find a tree for their new friend. Sam Usher brings his touch of magical realism to this story of a boy, his grandfather, and a little bird that needs their help, elevating it from sweet to simply extraordinary. Ink and watercolor illustrations are expressive and provide a soothing, intimate feel to the storytelling and the relationship between Grandad, Boy, and Bird. Riots of color in strategic moments make for a delightful surprise. I love Sam Usher’s books, so this one is a definite buy for me.

Free has a starred review from Kirkus.

(UK edition image taken from Amazon.com: the US edition notes that one of the birds “was sick”.)

 

Sweet Pea Summer, by Hazel Mitchell, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210347

Ages 4-8

A girl’s her father brings her to spend the summer with her grandparents when her mother has to go into the hospital. To keep her occupied, her grandfather invites her to help in his garden, asking her to look after his snow peas. She learns to care for them and nurture them, taking great pride in the growing pods, and her grandfather suggests she may even get to enter them in the flower show when the season ends. So what happens that causes the flowers to start dying? Stumped, the girl tries multiple fixes until she discovers the reason. A gently told story of love, nurturing, perseverance and determination, this is a beautifully illustrated story, with colorful spreads of the English countryside and cheery gardens. There are so many details to discover in the sprawling townscape and countryside, from bustling businesses and commuters to the playful garden animals hopping and frolicking around the greenery. A book that encourages readers to endure hard times and embrace the support around them, Sweet Pea Summer is a good warm-weather read. Have some sweet pea coloring pages handy for an accompanying storytime activity. Pair with Zee Grows a Tree for a storytime about the love between nature and kids.

Visit Hazel Mitchell’s author webpage for more information about her books, her artwork, and a host of printable activities about her book, Toby.

 

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, retold by Georghia Ellinas/Illustrated by Jane Ray, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217735

Ages 4-8

The companion to last year’s William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a dreamlike, picture book interpretation of the famous Shakespeare comedy, great for new audiences. The Fairy Kingdom is up in arms as King Oberon is in a disagreement with his wife, Queen Titania; a group of young nobles arrive in the magical forest from Athens, all in love with the wrong person; and Puck, a mischievous servant of King Oberon’s decides to stir up some trouble just for the fun of it. Retold from Puck’s perspective, this is a very readable, enjoyable breakdown of the hilarious story of mistaken identity, love, and mischievous fairies. Shakespeare’s famous ending, “If we shadows have offended…” closes the story. The artwork is a tapestry of beautiful color, artwork that captures the playful spirit of the play and the otherworldly characters in the story. Moonlight figures heavily in the artwork, a glowing sheen adding illumination and bringing out the details in each character. A great read-aloud idea for older classes (1-3 grades, for instance), consider an Introduction to Shakespeare display for your Children’s Room with books like Anna Claybourne and Tilly’s Where’s Will?, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review series by Ian Lendler and illustrated by Zack Giallongo, and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, by Henry, Joshua, & Harrison Herz. Visit ilustrator Jane Ray’s website for free printable coloring pages.

 

Posted in Fantasy, picture books

An adventure with Grandmother… We Became Jaguars

We Became Jaguars, by Dave Eggers/llustrated by Woodrow White, (March 2021, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781452183930

Ages 5-8

Bestselling author Dave Eggers creates a story about a boy, his grandmother, and the wild world. A young boy’s grandmother comes to visit him, with her long, white hair and her spotted black and yellow coat. When his parents leave the two alone, Grandmother suggests the two become jaguars and explore the night! The two roam the night, having adventures, until the boy decides it’s time to head home. Was it all in good fun? Eggers’s dreamlike storytelling has a childlike feel, as he blends the fantastic – “She laughed like great thunder and I laughed like lesser thunder and we jaguared on” – with the adorably kidlike – “I didn’t want to eat raw rabbit so I said I was allergic” – to create a story that will transport readers to rainforests and the Himalayan mountains. Woodrow White’s mixed media illustration opens up an incredible, exotic world. A gatefold panel begins with the boy and his grandmother transforming into jaguars, and opens to place them, fully “jaguared”, in a wild, nighttime world. The grandmother’s jaguar face looks self-assured; the boy’s, tentative, like he’s never quite sure about this whole experience. When the two drink from a lake, their blurred reflections reveal their human faces. Endpapers show the light and dark of their journey, with vines striping the pages, and bursts of color at the edges. A stunning and playful story.

We Became Jaguars has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and School Library Journal.

Posted in Uncategorized

Women to Know: Dovey Johnson Roundtree

We Wait for the Sun by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe/Illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, (Feb. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250229021

Ages 4-8

A young girl and her grandmother enjoy each other’s company in the time before dawn. Civil rights activist, attorney, veteran, and minister Dovey Johnson Roundtree collaborated with author Kate McCabe on this, a favorite childhood memory, before her death in 2018 at age 104. We Wait for the Sun is a moment in time between child and grandparent, engaging every sense through Ms. Roundtree’s, Ms. McCabe’s and enjoying each other’s company in the early hours before dawn. Every sense is engaged: readers will hear the swish of Dovey’s grandmother’s skirts; smell the damp earth and feel the dewy air; hear the perfect, pre-dawn silence with the sounds of nature as a backdrop, and taste the explosion of berries on their tongues and Dovey samples the berries she, her grandmother, and her grandmother’s friends pick them together. Raissa Figueroa’s artwork is lush, splendid, filled with joy in the present and anticipation of the dawn. Endpapers show juicy blackberries in the pre-dawn darkness, moving toward the sunlight, in four gorgeous panels. Comprehensive back matter includes a note from Katie McCabe on the importance of Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s relationship with her grandmother, biographies on both Dovey Johnson Roundtree and her grandmother, a timeline of her life, and a bibliography.

We Wait for the Sun has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

A puppy searches for his “yip” in a new series

Finding My Yip (Boomers Tales, Book 1), by Christine Isley-Farmer/Illustrated by Taylor Bills, (March 2021, Wandering in the Words Press), $8.95, ISBN: 978-1733212663

Ages 7-10

Boomer is a young Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, adopted by Nana Weathers and her nine-year-old orphaned granddaughter, Chloe. Chloe has a stutter and wants to sing like her Nana, a music teacher, and Nana is confident that Boomer – a puppy who can’t “yip!” just yet – and Chloe can help one another. Chloe and Boomer quickly bond and discover other friends at dog obedience classes. Nana’s magic ring helps her communicate with Boomer, and Chloe’s love encourages Boomer to keep trying and find his Yip; Boomer’s and Nana’s love and encouragement help Chloe find the confidence to be part of the school talent show. Narrated by Boomer, the story is a cute intermediate read for animal lovers with likable characters. Black and white illustrations are cartoony, cute, and will keep readers turning pages.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Not So Fast, Max! is all about patience and preparing for Rosh Hashanah

Not So Fast, Max: A Rosh Hashanah Visit with Grandma, by Annette Schottenfeld/Illustrated by Jennifer Kirkham, (March 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781735087511

Ages 4-8

Max and his sister Emily are so excited: their Savta (grandma) is visiting from Israel, in time for Rosh Hashanah! Max can’t wait to make caramel apples, but Savta has a fun day planned first. She takes Max and Emily apple picking, and while Emily enjoys every moment, Max is so impatient! He wants his caramel apples! Savta’s quiet patience wins out, though, and Max discovers how much fun a beautiful fall day with Savta can be. She juggles, she can play ball, and she tells stories about her safta when she was a little girl! At the end of the day, they head home and it’s time to make those apples. Looks like Max’s patience has paid off after all! A gentle Rosh Hashanah story about the new year, Not So Fast, Max teaches readers about the beauty of traditions and celebrates the bond between grandparent and grandchildren. Facts about Rosh Hashanah, a glossary of Hebrew words, and tasty recipes for Savta’s Apple Cake and Max’s Caramel Apples make up the back matter. Endpapers feature decorative fall leaves and crisp red apples, bringing to mind the Fall season and the sweetness of the holiday. A lovely story and a lovely addition to your collections.