Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The weather outside is frightful, but the books are so delightful!

Seriously, though, here in New York, the weather IS frightful, and I’m getting over a 3-week stint with bronchitis. Luckily for me, I’ve got a yummy mug of hot chocolate and a stack of winter books that let me enjoy a nice, snowy evening… vicariously.

The Boy and the Bear, by Tracey Corderoy/Illustrated by Sarah Massini,
(Nov. 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208146
Ages 2-5

A lonely boy wishes for a best friend to play with. A shy bear wants a friend to play with, and sends a message in a paper boat to the boy. The boy’s joy turns to apprehension when he discovers his new friend is a bear, but together, the two navigate a friendship as they learn to play together. When Bear has to go away when the weather changes, Boy is worried: will his friend ever be back? The Boy and the Bear is a sweet story of friendship through the seasons, with beautiful mixed media illustrations and sparse verse that travels through each spread. Perfect for storytime and cuddle time… and a stuffed animal sleepover.

 

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper/Illustrated by Carson Ellis,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763686987
Ages 4-8

Easily my favorite book in this bunch. A celebration of Yule, of the Solstice, of darkness and light. The Shortest Day brings the reader through history, where early people gathered on the shortest day to drive the dark away, to the present day, where people gather to “carol, feast, give thanks,/ And dearly love their friends,/ and hope for peace”. The book and its beautiful gouache illustrations connect us to one another and generations and civilizations long past, set to Newbery Medal winner Susan Cooper’s poem. Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis creates a mood filled with warmth through the darkness, togetherness, and joy; the illustrations vividly communicate the waiting and the the relief the season is well-known for. The Shortest Day has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, Shelf Awareness, and Book Page. This one is on my Caldecott watch list.

 

A Day for Skating, by Sarah Sullivan/Illustrated by Madeline Valentine,
(Nov. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763696863
Ages 3-7

What a day to go ice skating! This rhyming story is all about a day in the life of an ice skating pond. Kids and parents lace up and skate across the ice; slipping and falling is all part of the learning process. Warm up with a hot cocoa in the cottage by the pond as hockey players raise a clatter and figure skaters glide by. When the sun goes down and everyone heads home to warm baths and beds, the pond is ready for the next group of skaters: the local wildlife explores. A Day for Skating is a lovely welcome to winter fun, with a note at the very beginning of the book about ice safety, especially if you’re not skating at a rink. Front endpapers start the story by showing a car heading somewhere, presumably the pond; back endpapers show a quiet, empty pond at night, with the marks left by skaters earlier in the day. Watercolor, pencil, and digital illustrations make every spread a welcoming winter scene, with calming blues and winter whites throughout. Add this to your winter storytimes for rhyming fun.

 

Snow Still, by Holy Surplice, (Oct. 2019, Nosy Crow),
$8.99, ISBN: 9781536208344
Ages 0-3

This padded board book is the perfect toddler story for the wonder of winter. A little fawn discovers winter, and romps and plays through the forest, discovering and playing as it goes. Each spread illustrates a different two-word snowy phrase: “Snow white. / Snow slide. / Snow chase. / Snow hide” as the fawn wanders through a winter wonderland with animal friends. The watercolor illustrations are quietly engaging, with a curious little fawn and a winter white forest background. The rhyming text and easy sight words will engage toddlers and early preschoolers. A great lap-read on a cold winter day or night.

 

The Little Snowplow Wishes For Snow, by Lora Koehler/Illustrated by Jake Parker,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201178
Ages 3-7

This is an adorable seasonal read that works wonderfully for winter storytimes! The second Little Snowplow book sees Little Snowplow go through the seasons, desperately wishing for snow. But when winter arrives… no snow! On his birthday morning, though… there’s snow! Will Little Snowplow get all his plowing done in time for his birthday party? The pencil and digital illustrations are colorful, giving the vehicles sweet faces full of expression. Publisher Candlewick offers a free, downloadable activity kit that includes games, coloring sheets, even birthday invitations. Preschoolers love their vehicle books; add this to your storytime collection and watch them light up.

 

Snow Leopard: Ghost of the Mountains, by Justin Anderson/Illustrated by Patrick Benson,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205404
Ages 5-8

Zoologist and filmmaker Justin Anderson weaves a story of a zoologist who travels into the Himalayan mountains in search of the elusive snow leopard. Anderson’s story – inspired by his experiences – is beautifully descriptive, with facts in smaller callouts throughout the book. His respect for and awe of the snow leopard and her habitat shines through in his descriptions, brought to life by Owl Babies illustrator Patrick Benson, whose earth-colored and winter watercolors transport us to a different world. Endpapers with footprints in the snow bring us into and lead us out of the book. Back matter includes an author’s note about snow leopards and the need for conservation and awareness, an index of key leopard terms, and resources for more about saving snow leopards.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Two YA nonfiction titles for the weird fact fans in your life

Next up, with the new school year upon us, I look for nonfiction that will inform and entertain. Sometimes, I find nonfiction that is just so out there, I have to suggest them because they’re freaky, fun, and will give readers who equate nonfiction with boring a nudge and a wink, and maybe – just maybe – make a nonfiction reader out of one or three.

History’s Weirdest Deaths, by James Proud, (June 2019, Portable Press), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-757-3

Ages 15+

The title tells you all you need to know here: it’s a collection of stories and facts about freaky deaths throughout history. There are famous last words, unsettling statistics about Japanese pufferfish consumption, an unbelievable number of stories about people who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and unusual methods of execution. Each page has something new and bizarre to be discovered, like the story of 13-year-old William Snyder, who died in 1854 after “being swung around by the heels by a circus clown”. Or Joao Maria de Souza, who was crushed in 2013 when a cow wandered onto his roof and crashed through his ceiling, crushing him. There are also famous firsts: first death by robot, first death by auto accident, first spectator to die after being hit by a baseball during a game, and the first – and only known – jockey to win a race after dying. Illustrations add to the tongue-in-cheek morbid humor.

Strange Hollywood: Amazing and Intriguing Stories from Tinseltown and Beyond, by the Editors of Portable Press, (May 2019, Portable Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-677-4

Ages 15+

This is the latest in Portable’s Strange series and is loaded with stories about Hollywood, with a big emphasis on Hollywood’s Golden Age: stories about Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Elvis, and Audrey Hepburn get a lot of page space; teens may not know the names, but the stories are a hook. There are quotes, Tweets, and facts in here, too, making this an easily readable book with tidbits to make readers laugh or wince. The recent Twitter feud between Armie Hammer and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is in here, and there are highlights called, “Putting the REAL in Reality TV” that squeal on the dubious verity of some of the more popular shows out there. Crazy lawsuits get touched on, too, like Hormel Foods, makers of canned meat Spam, suing Jim Henson Productions over naming a villainous Muppet Treasure Island character Spa’am. It’s morbid in some spots, head-shaking and wincing in others. An additional grab if you have nonfiction readers who love the gossip rags. Illustrated in two-color throughout.

 

Posted in Horror, Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Teen

Book Review: Ex-Heroes, by Peter Clines (2012, Crown)

exheroesRecommended for ages 16+

Peter Clines’ Ex series, beginning with Ex-Heroes, is one of those series created for adults but easily crosses over into the teen readers’ market. It provides an interesting new take on the zombie apocalypse, with this universe offering superheroes who continue protecting humanity by creating a haven in an abandoned Hollywood movie lot for survivors.

As with the best post-apocalyptic/zombie tales, the interplay between people facing the end of the world is what makes Ex-Heroes compelling reading. You not only have survivors, The survivors are split into those inside the sanctuary and those outside – inside the sanctuary, we have the superheroes – metahumans – and “regular” people. Outside, there are predatory gangs that have turned the surrounding areas into their kingdom. They try to infiltrate or sabotage the heroes’ camp and supply runs, but have been largely unsuccessful until they find themselves with a terrifying advantage that could destroy everything the heroes have striven to build. Add in the fact that within the sanctuary, there’s dissension in the ranks as more and more people find themselves uneasy about being governed by superpowered individuals, and you have a the makings of a compelling post-apocalyptic saga.

The best zombie stories are not so much about the undead, but about the survivors and how people break down – or endure – life at the end of the world as they know it. Here, Ex-Heroes shines. The relationships between heroes is complex to begin with, and the stress of the situations around them, added to the fact that there are now superpowered undead to compound the situation, amp up the action and the desperation. We get origin stories and back stories for the major heroes: Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. and The Mighty Dragon, and the action shifts pretty seamlessly from past to present, giving us a full picture.

While written for adults, Ex-Heroes is an accessible book for teen audiences who enjoy horror/post-apocalypse fiction. The violence is not gratuitous and while there are allusions to sex and some language and overall content, I see no reason why a mature teen would not be able to read and enjoy this book.

Ex-Heroes is the first book in Peter Clines’ Ex series, which also includes Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, and Ex-Purgatory.