Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#SummersCool: Picture Book Party!

Want to keep the kiddos reading and learning this summer? Picture books are the way to go! Fiction, non-fiction, a great mix of the two, picture books have them all and they’re fun to read with and to your littles. Give some of these a whirl:

Rover Throws a Party, by Kristin L. Gray/Illustrated by Scott Magoon, (March 2020, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780525646488

Ages 3-7

I get such a kick out of the Rover books that have been hitting shelves, introducing the Rovers as kid-friendly robots wandering around Mars. This latest one, Rover Throws a Party, inspired by the Curiosity Rover, is a great mix of fiction and non-fiction for preschoolers and early elementary learners. Rover is planning the best party in the universe to celebrate an anniversary on Mars, and there is so much to do! Will someone – or something – join Curiosity to celebrate? As the Curiosity trundles through each spread, there’s a fun story to read; a step in the party planning, and a fact about Mars or the Curiosity, related to the storyline. As Curiosity captures a sunrise, the accompanying fact tells readers that Mars sunrises and sunsets appear blue; Curiosity invites NASA to the party, and we discover that it takes about 20 minutes for a radio transmission to reach Earth from Mars. The digital artwork is bright and fun, instantly eyecatching, and just adorable: Curiosity wears a party hat on the cover; how can you pass that up? Endpapers feature NASA Mission Control and the Mars landscape, with party invitations and confetti strewn about. An author’s note, a bibliography, and Rover fast facts make this a storytime, science time pick.

Visit illustrator Scott Magoon’s website for some more info on Rover Throws a Party, including a link to fun printables (and storytime videos)! Author Kristin L. Gray’s website has link to her blog, information about her other books, and author fun facts.

 

The Blunders: A Counting Catastrophe!, by Christina Soontornvat/Illustrated by Colin Jack, (Feb. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201093

Ages 3-7

The Blunder Kids are driving their mom CRAZY. The 10 brothers and sisters “blundered” the laundry, the bathtub, and let the hamsters out and the dogs in. Momma Blunder needs a break, so she sends them out to go play, telling them to be back by sunset. No problem! The kids go play outside by the creek, but when it’s time to go home, the headcount doesn’t quite match up. No matter who’s counting -and each and every kid takes a shot at counting! – there are only 9 Blunders! Can you figure out where the mistake is? Thank goodness, Mom saves the day.

This is a sweetly fun story, based on a favorite folktale. Teachers and parents responsible for headcounts will get a big kick out of this, as (spoiler alert!) each child leaves themselves out of the counting, always leaving them one short. It’s great for interactive storytelling, because you can get kids counting along with you and asking them if they can figure out who’s missing and why. The digital illustrations are bright, bold, and characters have expressive faces that kids can easily read. The different headcounting methods are good for a laugh (“Raise your hand if you’re lost”), and the excuses for being late are just hilarious. Great for counting storytimes, and if you have Loud House fans, sign them up as Reading Buddies to read this one to younger readers; I got a real Loud House vibe from the big family and the general mayhem that goes along with them. So much fun for math-type reading.

Author Christina Soontornvat has a great author website with more info about the author herself, all of her books, and videos with book trailers and interviews. Illustrator Colin Jack has worked on books and for Dreamworks; check out his Instagram for more of his illustration.

 

Creature Features, by Big Picture Press/Illustrated by Natasha Durley, (March 2020, Big Picture Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210439

Ages 3-8

This is a fun animal book for younger kids: preschoolers to kindergarteners are the sweet spot, with older kids enjoying the cool animals that they may not see in animal books. Vibrant colors set off the pages, and each spread features animals with unusual, alliterative, characteristics: Enormous Eyes; Nice Noses; Excellent Ears; Terrific Tails; Dreaded Defenses; Huge Horns; Wonderful Webbed Feet; Lovely Long Necks; Tremendous Tongues, and Fantastic Fur. There’s an introductory paragraph about how these characteristics help the animals, and questions for observant readers to discover and answer. There is always something new to discover here, and the larger size and heavy cardboard pages make this a great transitional book for kids moving from board books to picture books. I enjoy books that give kids a look at different animals, and this has a bunch of good ones, including a sea hare (doesn’t look like a rabbit), an aardwolf (not in the Nice Noses section!), and narwhal, who’s become a popular picture book subject over the last few years. Worth the purchase for your animal book collections.

 

Ocean! Waves for All (Our Universe), by Stacy McAnulty/Illustrated by David Litchfield, (May 2020, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250108098

Ages 4-8

Stacy McAnulty’s Our Universe books have been home runs here at home. My kiddo – who just turned 8 in quarantine! – has asked me to get each one as it comes out, ever since I introduced him to Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years at a bookstore a couple of years ago. Ocean: Waves for All is the fourth book in the series; this is the nonfiction STEM series to spend your budget dollars on. Plus, it’s written in the voice of a surfer, which opens up amazing storytime readaloud possibilities for me. Win-win.

Ocean is the dude. Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Indian, it’s all excellent Ocean. Ocean is super laid-back, proud of itself – and why shouldn’t it be? Ocean covers over 71% of our world. Ocean is free: “no flag. No nationality. My waves are for all.” But DUDE! People visit outer space more than Ocean; what’s up with that? And Ocean is in some serious trouble, too; people are filling Ocean up with garbage; Ocean’s creatures are struggling to survive, and glaciers and icebergs are melting too fast. Loaded with amazing facts, Ocean is gorgeously illustrated and superbly written, and comes with a serious message: take care of our planet. Take care of our ocean. Ocean is drawn with a friendly face, big, blue eyes, and a smiling (and sometimes scared) mouth. Endpapers are bursting with color, giving readers a glimpse of the underwater landscape. Slip off the book’s cover to see a different view of Ocean. Don’t miss it.

Illustrator David Litchfield’s website has more of his artwork and links to his blog. Author Stacy McAnulty has a great author website with info about her books, activity sheets, and curriculum guides. It’s a great reference resource and storytime resource (SO MANY COLORING SHEETS).

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Epic Hanukkah Books Post!

Happy Hanukkah, everyone! I’ve been browsing a lot of lists, and found some books for the season to share with you. There aren’t nearly as many Hanukkah or Kwanzaa books as there are Christmas books, so most of these are not brand spankin’ new, but I’m still excited to spread the joy of the season with everyone. Let’s dig in.

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins & Paul O. Zelinsky, (Sept. 2018, Schwartz & Wade Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780399554193

Ages 4-8

Based on the All-of-a-Kind Family series of books (1951-1958) by Sydney Taylor, All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah celebrates Hanukkah with the All-of-a-Kind Family in New York’s Lower East Side in the early 20th Century. Four-year old sister, Gertie, is desperate to be part of the Hanukkah preparation, but Mama says she’s just too young to help make the latkes: she can get hurt by the potato peeler, cut herself with the knife, and get splattered by the hot oil. Frustrated, Gertie yells and stomps her feet, which earns her some thinking time in the girls’ bedroom; but Papa comes home and gives Gertie a very special Hanukkah task, and the family – Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, Gertie, Papa, Mama, and Uncle Hyman – enjoy their first night of Hanukkah meal together.

I haven’t read Sydney Taylor’s series since I was in grade school, but All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah brought me right back to the warm feeling of family I always had, reading these books. Paul O. Zelinsky’s artwork wonderfully sets the tone for the story, with a look at the lower east side’s crushed together tenement buildings and bustling city streets. He captures little Gertie’s spirit on every page, whether she’s dancing through the snow, placing herself in the middle of holiday preparation, or communicating her frustration at being too young to be part of the action. Bold lines and warm colors draw readers right in, and intimate family moments, like Gertie being held by her sisters or Papa holding his daughter after a long day (for both of them), bring all the love from their family to yours. I love the humorous moments, like Papa searching for Gertie as she’s hiding under the bed, asking a pillow or library book where his daughter is; it’s a sweet twist on the whole “wait ’til your father gets home!” business, and it reveals a playful nature in this family. Emily Jenkins has fully realized the family dynamic here, and Paul Zelinsky gives them life.

Back matter includes a glossary, an author note putting the story into historical context and her own relationship with Sydney Taylor’s books. An illustrator note talks about Paul Zelinsky’s deliberate decisions when making choices for the story’s artwork. There’s also a link to extra back matter, including downloadable coloring pages, educator resources, and a latke recipe.

An essential addition to your holiday collections, and a comforting storytime read. All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, and has been written up by The New York Times and the Jewish Book Council.

Grover’s Eight Nights of Light, by Jodie Shepard/Illustrated by Joe Mathieu, (Sept. 2017, Random House), $6.99, ISBN: 9781524720735

Ages 3-5

Hanukkah is coming to Sesame Street, and Grover is so excited! He and his Mommy decorate their home and open it up to their friends for the next eight days and nights. Grover’s Eight Nights of Light explains Hanukkah rituals to younger readers, from the shamash candle (the helper candle that lights the candles in the menorah) to the story of Judah Maccabee and the Hanukkah miracle. Some big Sesame Street names pop up here: Cookie Monster shows up and discovers that latkes are the same shape as cookies: what could be wrong with that?; Oscar the Grouch likes watching the dreidel fall over; Elmo and Abby arrive with gifts, the Bear family drops by to celebrate and trade gifts, Prairie Dawn sings a song with Grover, and Bert and Ernie accompany Grover and his mom to the food pantry on tzedakah night, when they perform an act of charity. Big Bird and Grover talk patterns of color candles in the menorah, and what would an 8-night holiday be without Count von Count? On the last night of Hanukkah, Grover and his Mommy have a party for everyone, and readers are invited to throw their own: the book includes stickers and a poster for a Pin the Candle on the Menorah game.

Sesame Street is synonymous with diversity and representation, and Grover’s Eight Nights of Light is a fun book that informs with love. The kids’ favorite characters are here, and present the history of Hanukkah in a child-friendly, accessible way. If you’ve got PBS/Sesame fans in your life, this is a great little gift to tuck into your gift bag for one of those eight nights. (Librarians, save the stickers and poster for programs; your book will last a little longer that way, too.)

From Joe Mathieu’s webpage

 

Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale, by Eric A. Kimmel/Illustrated by Matthew Trueman, (Sept. 2014, Disney/Hyperion), $16.99, ISBN: 9781423143550

Ages 4-8

A tale of miracles follows Simon, a Russian boy, who leaves home and heads to America in search of a better life. Once he secures a job, he’ll send for his mother, brothers, and sisters. But the ship hits and iceberg, and Simon saves a man’s life by switching places in a lifeboat with him. He’s marooned on an iceberg on the first night of Hanukkah, with only his menorah, candles, matches, and some food, which he shares with a polar bear who happens by. Over the next few days, Simon and the bear shares freshly caught fish with him and keeps him warm at night, while he lights Hanukkah candles and tells her stories. He reflects on the seven miracles he’s experienced so far, and prays for just one more: to be rescued and make it to America. Simon’s optimism pays off, and he’s rescued; reunited with the man whose life he saved, he discovers that there’s one extra Hanukkah miracle in store for him – just like the menorah has one extra candle.

Simon and the Bear pairs historical storytelling with a touch of holiday magic: and isn’t that the best kind? Matthew Trueman’s artwork, a combination of collage, crushed paper cutouts and acrylics, creates a textured story that comes to life as readers turn the pages. Icy blue shades add a little bit of chill to Simon’s marooning, but his ever-present knit red hat and the warm glow of the Hanukkah candles adds the optimism and warmth we all need. His family wears traditional Russian clothing for the time period, all in warm colors, really bringing the family together. Endpapers show a cold, clear, starry sky.

A cheerful story about optimism and the power of a good deed, and a nice addition to shelves and collections. An author’s note offers a brief explanation of the holiday. Simon and the Bear has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama, by Selina Alko, (Sept. 2012, Alfred A. Knopf), $16.99, ISBN: 9780375860935

Ages 3-7

A little girl has the best of both worlds: she’s a “mix of two traditions. From Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama”, in this lovable story about blending holiday traditions. Little Sadie and her family decorate their home for the holidays, leaving latkes out for Santa and hanging candy canes on the menorah, and sing Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs as they go caroling. The last night of Hanukkah is a big night, as Daddy stuffs a turkey with cranberry kugle and Mama makes sweet jelly donuts and fruitcakes for dessert. The families celebrate together, retelling the stories of both the miracle of the oil and the birth in the manger: “Wide-eyed, we listen to these traditional tales, which link us together today”. When everyone’s gone home, the family relaxes together and shares final gifts, getting ready to do it all again next year.

Selina Alko evokes big holiday feelings and childhood excitement here. Her gouache, collage, and colored pencil on watercolor paper artwork is bold and colorful, contributing to the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, and she brings Judeo-Christian traditions together with fun and childlike joy. A timeline at the end of the story illustrates all the holidays Sadie and her family celebrate together, from Hanukkah/Christmas (Kwanzaa gets a mention, but the family here is white) through to Easter and Passover, and Thanksgiving. Endpapers are colorful portraits of Sadie and her parents, and include icons for each holiday: a dreidel and a menorah, a tree and an angel. Inspired by the author and her husband’s decision to integrate each of their religious backgrounds into their home for the holidays, Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama is a lovely addition to holiday collections and storytimes.How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Mark Teague, (Sept. 2012, Blue Sky Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0545416771

Ages 3-6

Those misbehaving dinosaurs are here to demonstrate what to do – and what NOT to do – during Chanukah! We see Rugops fuss through prayer and Nodosaurs blow out menorah lights while Ichtyostega writes his own name on everyone’s gift cards and Chirostenotes grabs all the gelt, all while horrified parents bear witness. But we know that’s not really what dinosaurs do when they celebrate Hanukkah. Camarasaurus shows readers that dinosaurs sing every prayer, and Chirostenotes is sharing the gelt and taking turns with the dreidel. Dinosaurs give Bubbie and Zaida holiday kisses, and then head off to bed.

I remember reading the first book in this series – How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight (2000) – when my eldest was barely a year old; these books have become a touchstone in kids’ lives, with books to celebrate everything from managing emotions to table manners. Having Dinosaurs celebrate the holidays is just a natural addition to this series. The rhyming pattern is soothing and consistent through each book, and the dinosaurs are always drawn as larger-than-life goofballs having larger-than-life emotions: which is kind of what it’s like, being a kid. Different facets of the holiday get the spotlight, including latkes, gifts, lighting menorahs, and prayers.

Plus, kids love dinosaurs. So, home run. This series does well wherever it lives, so why not add to it?

 

Happy Hanukkah, Curious George, by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey, (Sept. 2012, HMH Books for Young Readers), $7.99, ISBN: 9780547757315

Ages 2-5

Six short rhyming stories show readers how Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat celebrate Hanukkah with friends. Each story, tabbed for little fingers to turn quickly to, looks at a different moment in the eighth night celebration: George and his friend wrap gifts and head out visiting; they arrive and the party begins; the Man in the Yellow Hat (with his hat respectfully off) lights the menorah, George and the children spin the dreidel, George tries to help makes latkes; George and the kids play; and finally, George does a mitzvah by cleaning up and packing up some latkes to take to a sick friend.

Illustrated in the classic Curious George style we all know and love, and with a shiny, silver foil cover, Happy Hanukkah, Curious George is a good add to toddler holiday collections. The book and tabs are in shades of blue and yellow, with colorful Hanukkah symbols on each tab, and Curious George is one of the most recognizable children’s icons in literature. His familiarity will draw in readers, and the rhyming cadence is perfect for storytime reading.

Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah, by Tilda Balsley/Illustrated by David Harrington, (Sept. 2010, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.95, ISBN: 9780761345077

Ages 3-7

Maccabee! is the historical Hanukkah story, made into a rhyming epic tale for younger readers. The polytheist Greeks and their leader, King Antiochus, weren’t happy that the Jews refused to bow to their gods, and decided to desecrate their holy ground, raise statues of their gods, and force the people into worship. Mattathias, an elder, turned to his sons, his son Judah, in particular, for support in raising a resistance. Judah led his army of Maccabees against Antiochus’ armies until they won, and then lead his people in rebuilding their civilization, devastated by war. An epilogue asks readers what Judah would do if he were alive today, and posits that he’d be pretty happy that his people are still thriving.

This is a very readable, child-friendly history of the struggle behind the celebration of Hanukkah. The rhyme scheme is simple and easily falls into pattern for a readaloud. A repeated phrase, “Sometimes it only takes a few, Who know what’s right, and do it, too”, brings home the message embodied by the Maccabees: see the need to do the right thing, and do it. It takes bravery, it takes strength, and it takes determination; here, the Maccabees model the behavior and inspire readers.

The artwork is bright, with a realistic cartoon feel: think of Judah Maccabee like a buff superhero. The spreads are full-bleed and colorful, with movement across the pages to keep little eyes engaged. Back matter includes a brief backgrounder on the festival of Hanukkah. This one’s a fun addition to holiday collections; it’s more history-based, yet still includes the focus on family that is central to the celebration.

 

My First Chanukah, by Tomie DePaola, (Sept. 2008, Grosset & Dunlap), $5.99, ISBN: 9780448448596

Ages 2-5

Tomie DePaola has a sweet board book that uses simple language and his immediately recognizable watercolor artwork to explain Chanukah to babies and toddlers. My First Chanukah simply and eloquently explains why families light candles (“to remember Judah Maccabee and his brothers”) and how the menorah is lit each night; he makes sure to cover latkes (“delicious potato pancakes”) and the dreidel, gelt, presents, and songs and prayers. He closes, reminding readers that they’ll celebrate again next year.

My First Chanukah covers the kid-friendly parts of Hanukkah: food, family, goodies, and together time. His illustrations are warm and intimate, with a welcoming glow from the menorahs and a smiley baby with its family. It’s a great pick to have in your board book collections, and a perfect storytime choice for the holiday.

 

That’s it for my first Hanukkah round-up! I’ve got a few more holds waiting to come in, so I hope to have at least one more post before the holiday is over. Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Two Halloween stories for your little monsters to love!

10 Busy Brooms, by Carole Gerber/Illustrated by Michael Fleming,
(Aug. 2018, Doubleday), $7.99, ISBN: 9781524768997
Ages 2-6

Originally published in hardcover (2016), this board book version of the rhyming, counting story follows a group of little witches as they rescue one another from mischievous skeletons, ghosts, and goblins. The digital artwork is bold and bright, and the witches have eschewed basic black for jewel tones and fashionable hats. There’s some diversity among the witches, too; something always nice to see. One witch even sports a hijab under her hot pink pointy hat! The fonts are bold and white, set off against the nighttime backgrounds of each spread, and the numbers are brightly colored, large, and bold. It’s a fun story for little Halloweeners to enjoy, and the sturdy board book will hold up to multiple readings.

 

How to Scare a Ghost, by Jean Reagan/Illustrated by Lee Wildish,
(Aug. 2018, Knopf), $17.99, ISBN: 9781524701901
Ages 3-7

The team that brought you How to Babysit a Grandpa, How to Raise a Mom, and How to Catch Santa are here to teach readers How to Scare a Ghost! First, you have to attract a ghost. There are several different ways to do this. Then, you have to make sure you have a real ghost, and not some kid dressed up for Halloween. Once you’ve got those two points down, you’re ready to scare! But wait! You’ve gone too far, and you’ve really rattled your ghost? Okay, the book has that covered, too, with ways to comfort, play, and choose a costume for your ghost. A combined handbook and story, How to Scare a Ghost features a brother-sister duo and a friendly ghost enjoying a Halloween together. Endpapers offer a variety of kids and ghosts in a variety of costumes, and the digital art is upbeat and cheerful. This one’s a cute add to holiday collections and great for readers who are a little shy around monsters and spookier fare.

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

Just Under the Clouds shows us the working poor

Just Under the Clouds, by Melissa Sarno, (June 2018, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9781524720087

Ages 10-14

Middle schooler Cora, her Mexican-American mom, and younger sister, Adare, are homeless. After her father died, she and her family have lived in a series of temporary homes and shelters in Brooklyn, New York, while her mother tries to make ends meet at an hourly retail job, giving up her art to keep her family going. Adare sustained brain damage at birth, so Cora must look after her when their mother isn’t around. When they get back to their room at the shelter and discover it’s been broken into, the family heads to Cora’s mom’s childhood friend, Willa, a successful lawyer with an apartment of her own, hoping to stay until a better, safer, placement comes through. Cora loves life in Willa’s stable home, but the girls’ mother is frustrated by what she sees as Willa’s meddling. Meanwhile, at school, Cora struggles with math and bullies, and meets a friend named Sabina, who lives on a houseboat and was homeschooled until this school year. Cora has both parents’ passions within her; she keeps her father’s tree diary with her and searches for a special tree that her father wrote about, paired with her mother’s artistic talent – with an arborial bent. She has the stress of caring for Adare, the stress of being homeless, and being bullied.

Just Under the Clouds is narrated in Cora’s voice; author Melissa Sarno creates a strong, moving narrative where we meet a family that often falls through the cracks in our society: the working poor. Cora’s mother, Liliana, is working at a job that doesn’t cover the cost of living for a family of three, let alone in metro New York, and her daughters are in school, clean, and fed, if not full. It’s a tale of poverty, grief, empathy, and hope. The book addresses childhood stress, which comes with long-lasting fallout, and caring for a special needs child, and how poverty affects those children receiving necessary services to help them. It’s a sensitive, painful look in our own backyards and courtyards, our own classrooms and workplaces, and deserves a space on bookshelves and in readers’ hands. Pair this with 1958’s The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carson, and ask readers how things have changed – and how they’ve stayed the same – over 60 years. Start a booktalk by asking your readers, “How would you feel if you lived in a place that wasn’t safe to go to alone?”

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen

Gork the Teenage Dragon serves up scaly green goodness

Gork the Teenage Dragon, by Gabe Hudson, (July 2017, Knopf), $24.95, ISBN: 9780375413964

Recommended for readers 14+

Gork’s a dragon, but don’t even think about mentioning Smaug to him. He’s not happy at all with the way dragons are portrayed in Earth fiction, and he’s here to set the record straight. So begins the story of Gork: teenage dragon, student at WarWings Academy, orphaned on Earth during his parents’ mating mission and raised by his scientist grandfather, Dr. Terrible.

Starting off on Crown Day – the day dragon and dragonette cadets at the Academy agree to be mating partners – Gork has one goal in mind: to get the luscious Runcita Floop to wear his crown and agree to be his queen. The problem? His nickname is Weak Sauce, his Will to Power ranking is Snacklicious (if you’re a gamer, think of Will to Power as a CON/DEX/overall attractiveness level) and he’s got a bad habit of fainting when he’s scared. If Runcita says yes, she and Gork will go off in his spaceship and find a planet to conquer together. If Gork can’t sea the deal, he’s doomed to be a slave.

Gork has a heck of a day ahead of him: Dean Floop – his intended’s father – hates him; his sadistic grandfather is on the run from the Dean, he’s being hunted down by a group of WarWings cadets that have murder on their minds, and the Trenx, a fellow cadet who had similarly low ratings, has seemingly blossomed overnight. Before the day is out, Gork will have to survive and learn some hard truths about his family. He’d better keep his best friend – a robot dragon named Fribby – by his side.

Gork is an out-there novel. It’s a page-turner, and Gork is an endearing first-person narrator, if a bit single-minded in focus. He’s obsessed with mating, but he is a teenager, after all. He refers a lot to his “scaly green ass” a lot, which gets tedious. Gork’s story uses fantasy to tackle some very real points: bullying, friendship, self-esteem, and falling in love. It’s a much deeper novel than the title “teenage dragon”encompasses; it’s a fantasy, a YA romance, and a coming of age story.

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

I’m a CYBILS Judge!

cybils

I can finally talk about it! I’m thrilled to be a CYBILS judge again, returning to the Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category. There have been SO many great books published, and I’ll be diving into the finalists this time around, as a second round judge. Wanna see who’s up for the award? Take a look, and adjust your TBRs accordingly.

grace-lin

When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2016, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 978-0316125925

Inspired by Chinese folklore, this companion to the Newbery Honor Winner, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is the story of a girl on a mission to save her kidnapped grandmother.

voyage-to-magical-north

The Voyage to Magical North, by Claire Fayers, (July 2016, Henry Holt & Co.), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1627794206

An orphan keeps house for an irritable magician and his equally obnoxious apprentice, and ends up accidentally becoming a pirate.

smallbone

The Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, (Sept. 2016, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0763688059

A boy runs away from his uncle’s home, discovers a bookstore run by a self-proclaimed Evil Wizard who won’t let him leave, but calls him his apprentice.

shadow-magic

Shadow Magic, by Joshua Khan, (April 2016, Disney-Hyperion), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1484732724

An outlaw’s son is sold into slavery. A girl is the last surviving member of her family, a line of dark sorcerers. Together, they’ll break the rules.

memory-thief

The Memory Thief, by Bryce Moore, (Sept. 2016, Adaptive Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781945293030

This was published as a Barnes & Noble exclusive in 2016, but is being published in wide release this March.

Twins wander off at a county fair; Benji, the brother, wanders into a tent where he meets an old man who collects memories. He asks to train as a Memory Thief and ends up on an adventure.

goblin-puzzle

The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice, by Andrew Chilton, (Jan. 2016, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0553520705

A fantasy adventure filled with dragons, goblins, and puzzles.

firefly-code

The Firefly Code, by Megan Frazer Blakemore, (May 2016, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1619636361

When a new girl moves to Firefly Lane, a girl and her friends start questioning everything they’ve known.

 

I’ll recap after we select a winner!

 

 

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Pretty in Pink? Pink is for Blobfish takes a look at pink animals

blobfishPink is for Blobfish, by Jess Keating/Illustrated by David DeGrand (Feb. 2016, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780553512274

Recommended for ages 5-8

Pink is for princesses, sparkles, and all things girly and pretty. Right? Um… maybe not. Have you ever seen a blobfish? It was voted the ugliest animal in the world by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society (yes, it’s really a thing) and it’s pink. So very pink. But that’s not the only pink animal! Pink is for Blobfish introduces readers to animals who are all perfectly pink – but you probably won’t find a princess in the bunch.

The first book in zoologist Jess Keating’s “World of Weird Animals” series, Pink is for Blobfish offers brightly colored pages with photos, facts, and hilarious and commentary, plus illustrations by David DeGrand, that kids are going to love.  You know those Weird But True NatGeo books? I can’t keep those on the shelves at my library. Kids love weird stuff, they love animal books, and let’s be honest – everyone is tired of writing reports about bears, snakes, and frogs when their animal reports are due.

There’s no way this book will go unnoticed on your shelf. Add to that the original, outright freaky looking animals with solid facts written by a zoologist and kids’ author, and you’ve got your kids’ science reports wrapped up this year. I’m also looking at incorporating this into a Discovery Club we’re working on at my library (more posts on that when I get it underway), because who wouldn’t love a weird animal program?

Check out Jess Keating’s author webpage, where you can sign up to receive her Creature Newsletters and find out more about her #KeatingCreature Twitter feature!

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Posted in Fantasy, Preschool Reads

Book Review: Doug Unplugged, by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf, 2013)

Recommended for ages 4-8

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This fun, retro story by Dan Yaccarino tells the story of a little robot boy who decides to “unplug” one day and explore the world. Little Doug is a robot boy whose parents plug him in every day so that he can learn while they head to work. One day, while learning about the city, Doug spies a pigeon at his window, and he’s fascinated. He unplugs himself and heads off on a day of exploration where he rides the train, scales a skyscraper, and makes a friend. After reuniting his friend with his parents, Doug decides to head home and tell his parents about his exciting day.

The story is sweet and packs a powerful message in our highly technological society. When most of our kids spend their days behind their iPads and computer screens, this simple message – unplug and learn by getting outside and doing – is a welcome sigh of relief. Packed with Yaccarino’s fun, adorable retro-futuristic artwork, Doug is a little boy on a big adventure that kids will enjoy living through vicariously. He may be a robot, but he’s easily distracted – there are many kids who can relate to the excitement of a pigeon landing on the windowsill at school or while doing homework at home. He spends a day exploring the city, yet manages to find a friend, and knows that he must go home at the end of the day. The art consists primarily of blues, greens and yellows, with other colors showing up to punch up the landscape. I read the digital version of this book, but encourage adult readers to use the physical storybook, which has smaller black font (it’s a great read-aloud book), usually at the bottom of the page or individual pictures so as not to detract from the artwork.  There are whole spreads and chunked panels throughout the book, giving a fully-fleshed-out feeling to this story. 

This would be a fun addition to a storytime on robots and would provide a more human perspective on a robot read-aloud. There are many robot printables and crafts online, and the author’s website offers information about his books, blog, social media, and speaking engagements.