Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Books from Quarantine: Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem by Kate DiCamillo

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem, by Kate DiCamillo/Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Tales from Deckawoo Drive), (June 2020, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536201802

Ages 7-10

When my bigger little ones (my first and second graders, usually) come into the library, many of them automatically ask me for Mercy Watson books. They love Kate DiCamillo, they love Mercy Watson and all her friends on Deckawoo Drive, and they love Kate DiCamillo at an early age; when they’re a couple of years older, and come in looking for Tales of Desperaux, I remind them that this is the same author they’ve been reading since they picked up Mercy Watson, and that smile, that book hug, it makes every day I’m there fantastic. Yeah, I’m rhapsodizing again; forgive me. It’s been going on three months since I’ve been around my Corona Kids and I’m missing them, big time. Every book I read, I know just the kid I want to tell about it. This is hard, folks. Don’t think for a second it isn’t.

Okay. So, let’s talk the newest book in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series. Stella Endicott loves school and loves her teacher, Miss Liliana. She’s so excited to work on her assignment, to write a poem, because she knows just who she’s going to write about: Mercy Watson, the pig who lives next door and relaxes on a couch! She creates a lovely poem, but class know-it-all Horace Broom insists that she’s lying: wizards don’t play accordions, and pigs don’t live in houses! Annoyed not only by Horace’s lack of imagination, but the fact that he called her a liar, Stella shouts back at him, and the two are sent to the principal’s office, which leads to an adventure where the two will learn to see things from the other’s point of view.

The Deckawoo Drive books just make me happy. They’re funny, upbeat, and always have a good message to share. Here, we learn that it’s good to be literal and metaphorical. It’s balance! Stella is smart and spirited, and Horace may have learned his lesson about offering uninvited criticism. Gouache artwork from Chris Van Dusen is automatically recognizable: kids will spot this book on a bookshelf (literal or virtual) a mile away. Mercy’s cameo is adorable – if you have the space in your reading area, stick some cushions or pillows on the floor with a stuffed pig and let your kids curl up with their Mercy to read, imagine, and create with.

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem has a starred review from Kirkus. Want to visit Deckawoo Drive and spend some time with Mercy? Visit the Mercy Watson website for information about the books, resources for parents and educators, join the fan club, and play some games.

Kate DiCamillo is the Newbery-Award winning author of Flora & Ulysses and The Tale of Desperaux, and a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Chris Van Dusen is the illustrator of the Mercy Watson and Deckawoo Drive series, and an author-illustrator of books including The Circus Ship and Hattie & Hudson.


Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, picture books, Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Let the Shopping Season commence! First up: Gift Sets!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK? Where the heck did this year go? Welp, my friends, this means that the holidays are upon us, and that means shopping. But since I *am* that gift-giver that buys books for a good chunk of my shopping list, allow me to share some suggestions with you, to take some of the stress out of your holiday shopping season.

First up is one of my favorite trilogies of all time, next to the vaunted, original, Star Wars saga.  I present to you, The Hat Box.

Jon Klassen’s Hat Box, by Jon Klassen,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $59.99, ISBN: 9780763666972
Ages 3-8

Three of the greatest storytime books ever written: This is Not My Hat; I Want My Hat Back, and We Found a Hat, all contained here for your reading enjoyment. The box is gorgeous and sturdy, holding three picture books (This is Not My Hat includes its Caldecott Medal sticker; I Want My Hat Back comes with Geisel Honor sticker) and a print from I Want My Hat Back – I call it “the moment of truth” print. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve read it. For a reader who loves Jon Klassen’s artwork, or a reader you want to introduce to Jon Klassen, you cannot go wrong here. This is a perfect gift, and it’s already in a box. All you need to do is wrap it, or stick it in a gift bag. This is topping my gift shopping list this year.


For your middle grade readers and lovers of realistic fiction, there’s the Raymie Nightingale 3-book collection:

Raymie Nightingale 3-book collection, by Kate DiCamillo,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $59.97, ISBN: 9781536210385
Ages 9-13

Another beautiful and sturdy box, containing three hardcovers of Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale trilogy: Raymie Nightingale (with National Book Award Finalist sticker); Louisiana’s Way Home, and Beverly, Right Here. They’re hardcover books, jacketed and with Amy June Bates’ gorgeous artwork. A note from author Kate DiCamillo will welcome readers and make them feel like these books speak directly to them (which is Kate DiCamillo’s enduring gift as an author).

I remember when I received my first boxed set of books; like many folks of a certain age, I received E.B. White’s trilogy: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan for a gift one year. I still have my copies, worn with love and many, many, readings. Every time I see a boxed set of books, I still get that warm feeling that I got when I first slipped my E.B. White books out of their casing. Pass this set onto a reader and give them a lifetime of reading.


Last but not least for this gift set post, we have the Guess How Much I Love You 25th Anniversary slipcase.

Guess How Much I Love You (Slipcase Edition), by Sam McBratney/Illustrated by Anita Jeram,
(Sept. 2019, Candlewick Press), $33.99, ISBN: 9781536210644
Ages 0-5

Guess How Much I Love You is 25 years old? Yikes, my kid is old; I picked up a copy of this book at my local bookstore back when I was pregnant with him, and curating a library to read to him. (He’s 20 now, and that really hurts to write. Yikes.) The slipcase is as beautiful as the book, with beautiful artwork on the front and back of the box, embossed title and spine, and that quote we still whisper to our children: “I love you right up to the moon–and back” right there, to run your fingers over, time and again. The book is perfect, and the keepsake art print is perfect for framing. Give this to moms-to-be, and let them frame that print for their nurseries. Give it to your 20-year-old who needs to know you love them to the moon and back, even now.

This was a quick kickoff to the holiday shopping season, but there are more books to come! Keep an eye out; I’ve got a mountain of books to talk about, plus some state library antics to dish on. (That’s why I went for a week without posting – sorry!)


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mercy Watson gets a picture book prequel!

A Piglet Named Mercy, by Kate DiCamillo/Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, (Apr. 2019, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763677534

Ages 3-7

Mercy Watson, star of six chapter books, gets her start in this prequel picture book by her team, author Kate DiCamillo and illustrator Chris Van Dusen. Here, we meet the Watsons, an ordinary married couple that feels maybe a little too ordinary. But when a piglet gets bounced out of a truck and ends up on the Watsons’s doorstep, it’s love at first sight. The neighbor, Eugenia Lincoln, may not be thrilled, but her sister, Baby Lincoln, joins the love fest right away. Mr. and Mrs. Watson are over the moon with their new baby, swaddling her in a blanket and giving her a bottle of milk. Baby Lincoln even names her, calling her a mercy, and the name sticks. You don’t need to be familiar with the chapter book series in order to love A Piglet Named Mercy, and it will serve as a nice lead-in to the series, allowing young children to grow up with Mercy. The artwork is bright and cheerful, with a retro twist; Mrs. Watson rocks an apron and headband, and vaccums and sweeps the porch while Mr. Watson trims the hedges, mows the lawn, and washes the car; they have apple cheeks and big smiles. Eugenia and Baby Lincoln have old-school updos and sweaters with long skirts; for someone who’s a conformist, Eugenia is rocking some fabulous blue hair.

A Piglet Named Mercy is sweet reading – a nice adoption story, too – and will bring in new Mercy fans while giving the existing fans a new story to enjoy.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

Good Rosie!: New Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss!

Good Rosie!, by Kate DiCamillo/Illustrated by Harry Bliss, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763689797

Ages 4-7

Rosie is a sweet-faced Jack Russell terrier who lives with her human friend, George. She and George have a quiet life together, and Rosie feels lonely as the two go through their daily routine. George decides to shake things up a bit, and brings Rosie to a dog park, but Rosie’s a bit nervous, overwhelmed by all the new, strange dogs there. When a big St. Bernard named Maurice lumbers over to her with his stuffed bunny, Rosie is immediately on guard. How can Rosie make some new friends?

Kate DiCamillo has the gift of words, and Harry Bliss creates hilarious and poignant moments in this comic panel-styled story about making new friends. Rosie looks into her water bowl and sees her reflection, which she thinks is another dog; when she barks at the dog, she feels lonely, because “the other dog never answers”. Later, on her walk, she barks at a dog-shaped cloud; its lack of response makes Rosie “feel lonely in an empty-silver-bowl sort of way”. It’s just wonderful writing that speaks directly to the reader, eliciting that same disappointed, lonely feeling that Rosie experiences. And then, there are moments when the art and words come together to produce moments of sheer delight, as when Maurice introduces himself to Rosie: “‘My name is, uh, Maurice,’ says a very big dog. ‘And I have a bunny.'” The words are adorable, and the size difference between Maurice and Rosie make the full-page panel come to life.

The story addresses social skills when new friends come together: Rosie is lonely, but overwhelmed when thrust into a new social setting; Maurice needs a little bit of help with his social skills (and understanding his size in relation to other dogs), and Fifi, another small dog with a sparkly collar, is excitable and jumpy, which confuses Rosie and Maurice, who don’t immediately know how to react to her. With a little help from the grownups, and some get-to-know-you time between the pups, the day at the park ends with a group of new friends who look forward to playing together again.

This is a great back to school story for kids, especially for new Pre-K or Kindergarteners, who are starting school for the first time. I love this sweet story, and so will your readers (and you). Know a kid who’s starting school, or starting a new school, soon? Cuddle up with them and let them know that if Rosie can do it, so can they. Good Rosie! has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus.