Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Brace Yourselves. The Alpacalypse is Here.

Last year, there was a great disturbance in the Force (or something like that) when a Llama ate too much cake, which led to the destruction of the world. This year, Llama, in his quest to avoid housework, has unleashed something so great, so much bigger than all of us, that there may be repercussions for years to come.

Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Heather Fox,
(May 2020, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250222855

Ages 3-6

I am slightly obsessed with picture books, I’ll be the first to tell you. Llama is one of my latest obsessions. The first book, Llama Destroys the World, is HILARIOUS. Like, my Kiddo and I attempt to read it together where I’m the narrator and he’s the Llama, and we can’t get through it in one shot because we’re laughing so hard. So when I had the chance to receive a copy of Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse from the publisher, you bet your bippy I said yes. And it is every bit as laugh-out loud funny as the first book.

Llama wakes up one day and decides to make a big breakfast, but with big breakfasts, comes big messes (Llama, Llama, you clean as you go!). Not really on board with cleaning up, he instead creates the Replicator 3000 and invites his friend, Alpaca, who happens to love cleaning, over for lunch. You follow where I’m going? Oh yes. With a mighty ZOOP!, there are two Alpacas. But why stop there? Llama keeps pressing buttons, and Alpacas keep replicating, filled with scrubbing, sweeping, vigor. They take to the streets! They storm the town! No one is safe! The Alpacalypse is here! What will Llama do? And will he have learned his lesson by the end of the book? You have to read it for yourself, but trust me: this is comedy GOLD. Kiddo and I read this one out loud together, too; he cackles his way through both Llama and Alpaca’s voices, and I giggle through the narration. It’s never going to get old, mark me.

The artwork is just so much fun. Big-eyed Llama and Alpaca dance across the pages, their expressive faces really making the text come across even funnier, and the wild, cartoony, bold artwork just invites readers into the fun. Pizzas and cake decorate the endpapers. The only way this would be even more fun is to print out Llama coloring sheets and activities, courtesy of the author and illustrator.

I can’t wait to see what Llama has in store next. A must-add to your storytime collections and heck, your personal ones, even if you don’t have littles. Read it to yourself, you need a laugh today.

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

Are you a Book Scavenger? Read, Play, and Find Out!

bookscavengerBook Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (June 2015, Henry Holt), $16.99, ISBN: 9781627791151

Twelve year-old Emily is on the move again. Her unconventional parents are on a quest to live in all 50 states, so she and her brother don’t get a chance to put roots down anywhere. This move takes them to San Francisco, where Emily’s idol-Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the game Book Scavenger-lives. Shortly after arriving, she and her new friend James discover a strangely new copy of the classic Edgar Allan Poe story, The Gold Bug; they learn that Griswold has been viciously attacked and is in the hospital, and people start showing an unusual interest in her copy of The Gold Bug. Could there be a connection?

This is a new spin on the middle grade mystery, with a real-life tie in that’s interesting and brings kids into the world of The Book Scavenger. Influenced by the online site Book Crossing, where you leave books for people and record where you’ve left and discovered books, Book Scavenger creates a game where you can attain levels of detective-dom by finding books and hiding books using clues to lead your fellow players to them. Chambliss and publisher Henry Holt have brought Book Scavenger to life, hiding advance review copies of Book Scavenger all over the country and inviting readers to locate them – go to to get on board and join the fun!

There is some great discussion on cryptography and hidden codes used in the book – James and Emily are fans that bring the practice into their school after being caught passing notes – and the book becomes a true whodunit, with readers trying to figure out who could have been behind the attack on Garrison Griswold, and more importantly, what is the secret of The Gold Bug? The characters are likable, even if Emily does become frustrating in her single-mindedness over solving the mystery at points, and Book Scavenger makes for exciting summer reading.

Check out Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s author page for updates on what she’s working on.


Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place – A Hilarious Whodunit!

scandalous sisterhoodThe Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry (Roaring Brook Press, Sept 2013) $15.99, ISBN: 9781596439566

Recommended for ages 10+

In Victorian England, seven girls are students at St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls when their headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her brother, Mr. Godding, drop dead at the dinner table, poisoned. Once the girls are sure that the poisoner isn’t among them, they figure out their next steps – namely, how to get Mrs. Plackett and her brother out of sight, and creating a cover story that will allow them to continue on at St. Etheldreda’s, unchaperoned, mistresses of their own destiny! The only problem – the poisoner REALLY wants the targets out of the picture. And if everyone thinks the headmistress and her brother are still alive, then the girls may still be in danger.

The seven girls are often identified with an adjective that gives readers a background on their personality: Disgraceful Mary Jane, who’s more concerned with the attention of the opposite sex than she is about keeping to their cover story; Stout Alice, who’s stout of heart as well as body; Dour Elinor, who could be the mother of the goth movement; Dull Martha, who’s… well… not that bright; Dear Robert, a kind soul with nothing bad to say about anyone; Pocked Louise, the burgeoning scientist with a bit of a blemish condition, and Smooth Kitty, daughter of a businessman, who seems to have inherited his smooth talking business acumen. Their personalities clash and meld according to the situation as they work together to keep up their façade and solve the mysteries that continue to pop up around them.

The book is darkly funny – think the Gashlycrumb Tinies in finishing school. It’s a comedy of manners meets a Victorian crime drama, and Julie Berry – a noted middle grade and YA novelist – embraces the genres. I enjoyed every second I read this book. If I were to find out that somehow, some way, we’d get to go on more adventures with the Sisterhood, I’d be thrilled!

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place hits stores on September 23rd. I’ve already got my order in for my library – this will make for fun Fall reading! Treat yourself and your middle graders/tweens to this hilarious whodunit.

Julie Berry’s author page provides links to social media and information about author visits, plus book info.

Take a look at The Scandalous Sisterhood’s book trailer – then get your order in!