Posted in picture books

If there was ever a timely book… King of Boredom

King of Boredom, by Ilaria Guarducci, (Apr. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764359743

Ages 5-8

Pale, thin Ben is a kid who never enjoyed himself. His favorite color is light gray, he likes plain white pasta, he doesn’t really do a whole heck of a lot, and no matter what his parents do, he’s just bored. He pronounces himself the Supreme King of Boredom, locks himself in his room… and decides to make himself a throne. And if you make a throne, you should really have a castle, right? As the Supreme King of Boredom, Ben adds onto his empire, aided by a cardboard box, scissors, some buttons and thread, and the toys in his room. He even takes a lovely queen, who pledges to be bored with him forever. WAIT! Is that… a slight smile?

Who doesn’t have a King (or Queen) or Boredom at home these days? Ben is incredibly relatable to kids stuck indoors and BOOOOOOOORED, and those kids who just don’t know what to do to NOT be bored. The dramatic pronouncement of Supreme King of Boredom is all Ben needed to spark his creativity: he’s got a cardboard box, some supplies, and – whether he realizes it or not – a little bit of imagination. At once a fun book on making and a boredom buster, King of Boredom is a smart summer reading choice for kids who need a little push in the right direction. Colorful artwork, with a taciturn Ben in the center of it all, makes for a fun read. Grab some cardboard, some paper, tape, and glue, and see what you and your Boredom Royalty can create together.


Just to clarify, King of Boredom – as with most of the books I read and write about here – was provided to me for free by Schiffer in exchange for a review. I haven’t added this disclaimer in the past, but I want to make sure I’m FTC complaint, so I’ll be tacking a little boilerplate at the bottom of future reviews going forward. Thanks, all!


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Izzy Gizmo returns with the Invention Convention!

Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention, by Pip Jones/Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, (March 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-164-5

Ages 4-7

Readers met Izzy Gizmo, a little girl who loves to invent and create, two years ago. She’s finally back in Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention, where Izzy, Grandpa, and her best buddy, Fixer, are invited to Technoff Isle’s annual Invention Convention, where she’s up against other kids. They have to make a machine that will impress The Professor, and the winner becomes a member of the Genius Guild! Izzy’s ready to get down to business, but the obnoxious mean girl Abi von Lavish seems to be taking everything Izzy needs to create her invention – until Abi’s drill breaks and she discards it without a second glance. Fixer has an idea, but will Izzy see past her own frustration to understand?

Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention has all the fun and charm of the first book, with the added positive emphasis on making, repurposing, and recycling. In a time where Fix-It Clinics are popping up all over the nation – including libraries! – Izzy hits on a few important topics. Reusing and repurposing materials is the primary objective, but readers will also notice that while Izzy’s fellow competitors are using machines that eat up a lot of energy or cause pollution, Izzy’s using wind, manual (or bird), and solar power to make her Fix-It machine a success. And Izzy also speaks to readers about frustration, and how sometimes, our feelings can get away from us. She takes her irritation out on Fixer, only to be gently guided back in the right direction by Grandpa. The pencil, ink, oil pastel, monoprint, and digital illustrations are bright and give a real feel for the hustle and bustle of a science fair, with lots of movement and activity packed into each page. Perfect for Science Fair season and beyond, Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention is fun reading with smart lessons for all. Publisher Peachtree has free, downloadable activity sheets and a teacher’s guide available.


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

Art takes on a new dimension in The Maker

The Maker, by D.F. Anderson, (Jan. 2018, Underdog Books), $14.95, ISBN: 9780991800346

Recommended for readers 9-13

Thirteen-year-old Nate loves to draw. It’s one of his lasting connections with his father, who’s been gone for months, with no word. His mother’s boyfriend, Ted, goes at Nate whenever he gets a chance, insulting his artwork and attacking his grades; his mother is no comfort. Things change rapidly for Nate when a group of aliens show up at his window one night, telling him that he and his father are Makers: artists with the talent to bring their drawings to life. Nate’s father hasn’t abandoned them, he’s been kidnapped, and the aliens from the planet Meer are relying on Nate to help them save his father and the other kidnapped Makers before a cruel alien race wipes them out – and then heads for Earth.

The Maker has a great concept: using living beings as 3-D printers, when you think about it. By channeling their talents, Makers can give life to their drawings to create starships, cities… the sky’s the limit. The Makers connect with an energy source, mica, to give shape to their ideas; they can collaborate on large projects, or work individually to create small, detailed pieces. Readers will get into the sci-fi adventure story and relate to Nate, a kid who’s been put down to the point where he doesn’t believe in his own talent until put to the test – and then exceeds his wildest dreams. The evil parent/boyfriend situation is addressed in a neatly wrapped-up plotline. There are warring alien races, planet-eating machines to stop, and strong relationships that sci-fi and fantasy fans will enjoy, plus some moments of humor, including an evil alien who can be tortured… by pulling on his toe. Made you smile!

Add this to collections where you have sci-fi readers. Display this with some maker titles, and have a booktalk ready when kids come over and ask why it’s there.


Posted in ALA Midwinter, Conferences & Events

My first ALA Midwinter!

I attended my first ALA Midwinter this past weekend, and weather be damned, I had a great time. I wasn’t on any committees this time, but I was one of ALSC’s live bloggers, attended some great events, sent home an insane amount of ARCs, and, the most exciting event for me, attended the Youth Media Awards.

First things first: ALA is HUGE. The Georgia World Congress Center is tremendous. I’m a New Yorker, I’ve been to BookExpo and New York ComicCon at the Javits Center, but the Georgia World Congress Center is even bigger. I felt like I was a librarian Dora the Explorer, heading off with my tote bag, rather than my backpack, exploring the terrain. Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about a snarky fox stealing my swag, and I was surrounded by pretty amazing librarians and their families. There were kids galore at the conference, which made me happy: let’s get the kids excited about what we do! Bring the next generation in!

midwinter_1Contemplating the big questions at the Penguin Random House booth

Let’s talk about the ARCs. Advance Reader Copies. I thought I brought home books from PLA last year, but no. I sent home a LOT of boxes – thanks for having the Post Office on site, ALA and USPS! – and a tube, because there are posters that I have the bulletin board space for (and a really cool Dragonwatch poster from Shadow Mountain) and can’t wait to show off to the kiddos here. I can’t wait to dive into these beauties and start reading and reviewing; some of the books I took home included the sequel to Joshua Khan’s Shadow Magic, Dream Magic; a new Gum Girl adventure, called Gum Luck; an Animal Planet intermediate fiction series, and the Shannon Hale/LeUyen Pham collaboration, Real Friends.  There is so much great intermediate series fiction and middle grade fiction coming out!



There were several maker events, and that’s right up my alley. One of my favorites was the DK maker event promoting their new book, Out of the Box. It’s filled with cardboard engineering projects. Projects that you can make using cardboard! I’m a librarian, I’m surrounded by boxes all day long, I got this! We each received a tote bag, and sat at tables with toilet paper rolls, paint pens, scissors, and instructions on making our own cardboard tube owls. My fellow make-brarians and I had a blast, laughing, talking, and trying to make our owls look like… well, owls.

myth reality

I call this “myth vs. reality”.

A Scholastic literary event spotlighted some upcoming middle grade fiction. In Gordon Korman’s newest book, Restart, we meet a bully who’s lost his memory; Natasha Tarpley’s novel, Harlem Charade, blends mystery and art, starring a protagonist trying to solve the mystery of who attacked his grandfather, and Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang collaborated on This is Just a Test, which takes an often hilarious look at a Chinese-American Jewish boy in the early 1980s, who’s worried about nuclear war and his two warring grandmothers.


Each author spoke briefly, introducing themselves, their books, and what led him or her to write these stories. In a fun departure from the usual author readings, the authors engaged one another by turning their excerpts into a brief radioplay, where each participant took on a character role to act out the story. Scholastic was also kind enough to give us a tote bag full of books – the books spotlighted at the reading, and new selections from Emma Donohue, Kathryn Lasky, Lamar Giles, and Amy Sarig King.



I wanted so badly to meet John Lewis. I’ve been a fan of his since I read March: Book One several years ago, and was hoping upon hope that I could get to shake his hand. It wasn’t to be, sadly; the line to meet him stretched around the exhibit hall, and I chickened out. There will be another time, I hope.

Finally, the big time: the ALA Youth Media Awards. The biggies. The Caldecott, the Newbery, the Printz, all the big ALA awards for children’s and teen books happen here. It was such an experience, being in the room with other librarians and book lovers, celebrating the authors who have created memorable characters, told incredible stories. When John Lewis’ March: Book Three received an unprecedented FOUR AWARDS, we almost took the roof off of the Center! People were hugging, cheering, crying… it was an unforgettable moment, and I’m so grateful that I was there to enjoy it. You can find the full list of Youth Media Award winners here.

My first ALA was a heck of a great time. I’m not sure I’ll make it to ALA Annual this year, but there’s always next year. Lord knows I’ll be reading ARCs until then!

I’ve Storified my ALA Midwinter pictures here, if you want to see more.


Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Create and learn with Maker Lab

maker lab_covMaker Lab – 28 Super Cool Projects: Build * Invent * Create * Discover, by  Jack Challoner, (July 2016, DK Publishing), $19.99, ISBN: 9781465451354

Recommended for ages 8-12

I saw a mockup copy of this book at PLA earlier this year, and stopped dead in my tracks, for two reasons: I LOVE DK books, and anything Maker or STEM grabs my attention, because I have kids at home and at work, so I’m always on the lookout for projects to bring to them. When an e-ARC was available on Edelweiss, I jumped at it.

There are 28 projects in here, 90% of which you probably have the  materials for in your home or can easily get to. The book is divided into four sections: Food for Thought (kitchen science); Around the Home (pretty self-explanatory); Water World (projects working with water); and the Great Outdoors (stuff you can do outside). Each project is beautifully photographed and step-by-step instructions and photos take burgeoning scientists through each experiment/project/activity. Each project has a notation of approximate time the activity will take, difficulty (easy-medium-hard), and adult supervision is always encouraged, particularly when using sharps, like scissors, or hot liquids. A “How it Works” section explains the science behind each project, adding some nice science inquiry. A glossary and index complete the book.

Maker Lab is created in association with the Smithsonian Institution and supports STEAM education initiatives, and it’s just fun. I want to add this book to my two science clubs at work, and get my little guy making a rubber band solar system with me at home. I know I’m a DK fangirl, but with good reason: they create great material for anyone who wants to learn.

This book will be a big help during science fair season, so maybe get an extra copy.


maker lab_3

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Knit, Hook, and Spin teaches kids the fun of making

knit hook spinKnit, Hook and Spin, by Laurie Carlson, (June 2016, Chicago Review Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781613734001

Recommended for ages 8+

If the kids in your life – or you – want to be crafty but aren’t sure where to start, this is a great book to have handy. Knit, Hook, and Spin is an easy-to-follow primer that includes over 70 projects for beginners. Clear instructions and illustrations teach you how to knit, crochet, spin yarn, tie dye, weave, and even make your own plarn (yarn from plastic bags). Big on making and recycling, there are instructions and invitations to repurpose clothes; unravel an old sweater to get some yarn for a new project, or tie dye a t-shirt to give it a new look. Weave a rug out of brightly colored plastic bags that you brought your groceries home in last week.

Fiber facts and tidbits about fiber art and crafting history are included throughout, giving kids an understanding of the long-standing history of handmade clothes and everyday accessories that they’ve now become part of. The emphasis is on practice and developing a love of the craft, rather than unnecessary, expensive gadgets: Carlson teaches readers to make weaving looms from sticks or paper plates; knitting needles from chopticks, if that’s what you have around. She notes when adult supervision is suggested, and I hope this gets parents and kids crafting together. There’s no downside to together time or crafting time.

This is a great book for kids and adults, who want to learn to craft but aren’t sure where to go. When I first learned to knit and crochet, I went straight to the children’s section of my library, because I wanted simple, step by step instructions. The wealth of different crafts here makes this a valuable addition to collections where there’s an interest in crafting.

Laurie Carlson’s blog is rather new at the moment, but does include a nice post on the benefits of kids crafting.

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

STEM Siblings: Nick and Tesla are back!

nick and teslaNick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown, by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hocksmith/Illustrated by Scott Garrett (May 2016, Quirk Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-59474-866-0

Recommended for ages 8-12

Super smart siblings Nick (short for Nicolas) and Tesla are back, and so is Uncle Newt, plus friends Silas, and DeMarco! Nick and Tesla are having a heck of a summer: their parents are still missing, and all signs point to them being kidnapped, possibly by an evil mastermind. This latest installment in the popular middle grade mystery series has brother and sister working together to create all sorts of solar-powered gadgets that will get the attention of their government contact, distract the bad guys, and save the day. Let’s hope it’s enough!

This is such a fun series for middle graders, because it puts the power in their hands. Nick and Tesla are competent, smart kids that aren’t middle school pariahs; they have fun, wacky friends, and they have a strong, supportive – if eccentric – family. They can MacGuyver a solution to seemingly every problem: from getting a secret agent’s attention, to cooking hot dogs using a Pringles container and solar power. The best part? The kids can recreate the experiments! As with the other books in the Nick and Tesla series, Solar-Powered Showdown features five projects readers can make along with the twins: a a hot dog cooker, listening device, nighttime LED signal cannon, range rover, and alarm bell. All solar-powered, and all easy to make (with adult supervision).

You don’t need to be intimately familiar with the series to pick this one up – this is the first book I’ve read in the series; it’s been on my “to get to” list for a while – because the text will fill you in, usually via humorous footnotes, on what’s happened in the previous books. A note at the beginning of the book lets parents and kids alike know that project instructions should be reviewed by an adult, and that adults should supervise and assist on each project. The instructions are detailed, numbered, and illustrated, really encouraging kids to go for it and create exciting, sustainable things!

The Nick and Tesla website has videos, educator guides, book excerpts, and downloadable shopping lists, by book, for each of the projects featured in the novels. You can submit your own work for them to check out, too.

I’m working on a lot of STEM/STEAM ideas for Summer Reading, so this series will be on display, along with Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders and HowToons graphic novels (the second Secret Coders book is due out in August!), and Jon Sciezska’s Frank Einstein series of novels. Get kids thinking and creating this summer!

Need more ideas? Science Bob has tons of them on his own website, and his Instagram has some very cool science facts and videos, like Tesla coils at work and BB8 droids under construction.