Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Tis the season to be reading!

You want seasonal books? I got seasonal books. I got Hanukkah books, I got Christmas books, I got winter books, I got all the books: I’m just posting a few at a time, to keep the thrill of the season alive. Join me and enjoy!

The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story, by Rabbis Kerry & Jesse Olitzky/Illustrated by Jen Kostman, (June 2020, Kalaniot Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-9988527-5-1

Hanukkah is coming! The candles are so excited! Who will be the first candle on the menorah this year? The candles all discuss among themselves why each should be the first candle. All except Flicker, the smallest candle in the box, that is. Little Flicker is always the first candle to support his friends, whether it’s through cleaning up the hard to reach areas of the box, or making sure the others have enough to eat. Waxy, the wisest candle, recounts the story of Hanukkah and the importance of each candle in the menorah, and decides to make Little Flicker his helper candle: the shamash.

Soft, cheerful colors and gentle storytelling make this a wonderful Hanukkah story with a great message: “Hanukkah is a reminder that sometimes, even when you are small, you are still capable of miracles”. The cartoony artwork will appeal to all kids, and reminded me of The Day the Crayons Quit. Most of the artwork revolves around the crayons, but there are people in here, too; a family celebrates the season together with the brightly lit menorah burning in the background. Back matter has more to learn about Hanukkah, including the blessings to light the menorah by. Add this to your holiday reading every year, whether you celebrate Hanukkah or another seasonal holiday. It’s got a wonderful message that kids will love to hear.

I’m very excited because Kalaniot Books, The Littlest Candle‘s publisher, is a new imprint that will publish books for children on Jewish culture and history. So I’m hoping to bring more exciting titles to you in the future!


Elf, based on the film by David Berenbaum/Illustrated by Kim Smith, (Oct. 2020, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781683692409

Ages 4-8

Quirk Books has the best in pop culture books for kids and I am here for it. The newest? This year’s Elf, adapted from the hilarious 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf. The story of Buddy the Elf, the human raised by Santa’s elves, who goes to find his dad in crazy New York City and ends up saving Christmas is adorably rendered here with cartoon artwork and a mix of narration and word balloons, usually capturing some of the best movie moments. Endpapers bookend the film, showing Buddy at the beginning and end of his journey, and the art is so cheery and colorful, you won’t help but want to read this again and again. Absolutely wonderful, and perfect for a Pop Culture storytime (psst… Quirk publishes picture books about Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2) along with classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and so many more.

My only question: when do we get a picture book adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story? Come ON!


Mouse’s Night Before Christmas, by Tracey Corderoy/Illustrated by Sarah Massini, (Oct. 2020 Nosy Crow), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214406

Ages 3-7

This sweet take on the classic A Visit from St. Nicholas/’Twas the Night Before Christmas stars a mouse who desperately wants a friend. The lonely mouse lives in a grandfather clock and wishes for a friend to give presents to… when who should land on his roof but old Saint Nick and his reindeer, forced down during a storm! The Mouse happily offers to guide Santa on his way, and spends a happy Christmas Eve as Santa’s helper. When he drops Mouse off, he comforts a disappointed Mouse by reminding him that Christmas isn’t over yet… and Mouse has to discover his own gift. A touching story of friendship, the rhyme is set to the rhythm of the original Clement Moore poem; you’ll fall right into it as you read it out loud. The mixed media illustrations are comforting and warm. Kids will love curling up with this lovable story of finding friends.


Gigantosaurus: The Holiday Party, by Cyber Group Studios, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Entertainment), $5.99, ISBN: 9781536213409

Ages 3-7

Gigantosaurus is an animated dinosaur show currently streaming on Netflix and available on Disney Junior and the books have started hitting shelves. Based on the episode The Shortest Day, The Holiday Party Tiny, a triceratops, decides to throw a big party in celebration of the shortest day of the year. She’s planning food, music, presents, and the biggest party ever! But everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and Tiny is devastated. And then Giganto shows up: the big scary guy! Will Tiny’s party be saved? A holiday story about celebrating, friendship, and wrong expectations, The Holiday Party is digitally illustrated and includes both narration and speech bubbles. It’s a fun read for kids who love dinosaurs, and the stickers on the last two pages will make this a super-fun holiday treat. If you’re including this for your library shelves, slice those stickers out and give them away to your kiddos!

Posted in Media

Broadway HD, Puffs, and Playlists

A couple of my friends and I went to see the off-Broadway Harry Potter/Hufflepuffs tribute, Puffs, a couple of years ago and it is hilarious. I mentioned it the other day, saying we should really try to see it again, only to be told that the show has closed in NYC. ARGH.

That said, I just found out that there’s a Broadway show subscription service: BroadwayHD is a thing! BroadwayHD is a for-pay streaming service for live theatre, and from what I’ve seen so far, there are some really great shows on here. Including Puffs, The Sound of Music, The Wind in the Willows, and Peter Pan. In fact, there’s a back-to-school, family-friendly playlist available. Here’s a rundown of some of the performances.

  • Wind in the Willows – Join Ratty, Badger, Mole and the impulsive Toad as they embark on a series of riotous adventures spiraling from Toad’s insatiable need for speed!  Featuring eye-poppingly beautiful design, exuberant choreography and a gloriously British score, The Wind in the Willows recently brought comedy, heart and thrills to the world-famous London Palladium for a strictly limited summer season.


  • The Sound of Music – In this exciting production of the universally beloved musical which made its broadcast debut in the UK on ITV, the enchanting Kara Tointon (Mr Selfridge, EastEnders) delivers a “mesmerizing performance and incredible vocal talents” (Daily Mail) as Maria, an apprentice nun who is tasked with caring for the children of a retired naval officer (Julian Ovenden, Downton Abbey).  With Maria’s love for music and unwavering confidence, she brings a new zest for life back into the household.  The performance is supported by Katherine Kelly (Mr Selfridge, Coronation Street) as Baroness Elsa Schraeder and Alexander Armstrong (The Armstrong and Miller Show, Danger Mouse) as Max Detweiler, and also features two songs not in the original movie but part of the stage show since 1959, “How Can Love Survive,” and “No Way to Stop It.”  THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE also features showtune favorites like “The Sound of Music,” “Edelweiss,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “My Favorite Things” and many others.
  • The Woodsman – Based on the beloved writings of L. Frank Baum, The Woodsman, an imaginative retelling of the origins of Oz’s Tin Woodsman, is the story of the Tin Man, the woman he loved, and the witch that would stop at nothing to keep them apart. Through spectacular life-size puppetry and original music, the ensemble of Strangemen & Co. presents an inventive take on one of America’s original fairy tales.
  • Railway Children – The Railway Children tells the story of Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, three children whose lives change dramatically when their father is mysteriously taken away. They move from London to a cottage in rural Yorkshire with their mother, where they befriend the local railway porter, Perks, and embark on a magical journey of discovery, friendship and adventure. But the mystery remains – where is Father, and is he ever coming back?
  • Puffs – For seven years a certain boy wizard went to a certain Wizard School and conquered evil. This, however, is not his story. This is the story of the Puffs… who just happened to be there too. A tale for anyone who has never been destined to save the world.  The New York Times proclaims PUFFS, “A FAST-PACED ROMP through the ‘Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic.’
  • Prince and the Pauper – From BBC and based on the Mark Twain classic, Prince and the Pauper is a classic trope. The show captures a classic trope of two individuals switching places. You’ll feel the chill in the castle air and smell the foetid London streets in this richly atmospheric tale of Tudor England. Mark Twain’s story of mistaken identities stars Keith Michell, who re-creates the role that made him famous (King Henry in the classic BBC series The Six Wives of Henry VIII). Street urchin Tom Canty could be Prince Edward’s identical twin brother. When they get mixed up, no-one will believe their stories.
  • Peter Pan – A smash hit when it debuted in 1991, this production of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby toured the globe and continues to be beloved by theater goers.  The show was filmed in 2000 and features spectacular flying sequences as well as the tunes that everyone loves such as “I’m Flying” and “I Won’t Grow Up.”
  • Hetty Feather – A BroadwayHD original production debuting for the first time exclusively on BroadwayHD. From the best-selling author Jacqueline Wilson, the tale of plucky Hetty Feather is brought thrillingly to life on stage by award-winning scriptwriter Emma Reeves (CBBC’s The Story of Tracy Beaker) and by Olivier Award-nominated director Sally Cookson, whose many five star productions include Peter Pan, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and Stick Man.  With an original musical score by Benji Bower, circus skills and a huge heart, Hetty Feather is a terrific adventure story! Starring BAFTA-nominated actress Phoebe Thomas in the title role, this production of Hetty Feather was filmed from the 2015 Olivier nominated production on the West End in London.
  • Cirque du Soleil: Toruk – The First Flight – Toruk – The First Flight is a live immersive multimedia spectacle that brings to the stage the breathtaking world of James Cameron’s Avatar like you have never seen it before. Through a riveting fusion of cutting edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world and “makes the bond” between two kindred artistic visions that capture the imagination. It is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic coexistence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things. Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, Toruk – The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film Avatar, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

BroadwayHD introduces award-winning theater from all across the globe with both classic and modern productions. It’s a great way to introduce your family to  live theater.   In addition to the shows highlighted above, fans can expect to see the full works of Shakespeare, awe-inspiring performances from Cirque du Soleil and a selection of the world’s greatest musical including Kinky Boots,  42nd Street, The King and I, Sound of Music, An American in Paris, and Peter Pan.  All performances are adapted specifically for streaming audiences to maximize the entertainment experience.   To learn more, visit There’s a 7-day free trial available; afterwards, it’s $8.99 a month, or $99.99 a year.



Posted in Preschool Reads, Tween Reads

The YouTube Kids App makes the holidays merry and bright with playlists and a Gift of the Month!

‘Tis the seasons to be jolly—especially for families with the YouTube Kids app!

A month-long extravaganza celebrating the holidays kicked off this week, with festive content including playlists from Gordon Ramsay and KIDZ BOP! Little fans and their parents will be able to cuddle up with a mug of hot chocolate and watch some cool playlists they won’t be able to see anywhere else – I mean, come on; where else but the YouTube Kids app are you going to see Gordon Ramsay rocking an elf outfit, while dispensing culinary advice?

The holidays are right around the corner and Gordon is sharing his favorite holiday cooking videos with the YouTube Kids App! You can check out the playlist here, if you have the YouTube Kids app, but if you aren’t viewing from a phone or tablet, fear not! Check it out here.

In the mood for more of a dance party? KIDZ BOPS Holidays has your back with a Winter Wonderland playlist, packed with KIDZ BOP’s favorite music and dance videos.  You can watch their rocking playlist by clicking here on the YouTube Kids app, or here, if you’re not viewing from a phone or tablet.

There’s new, original programming hitting the app this month, too! Do you remember growing up with Woody Woodpecker? Well, he’s back, and the YouTube Kids app has him. Watch the first new season of the beloved show in two decades, reuniting the gang for the first time (Andy Panda, Chilly Willy, Wally Walrus, Buzz Buzzard, Winnie, Splinter, and Knothead).  You can see it here on the app, and here if you aren’t viewing from a tablet or phone.

There are more Oddbods to be had this month, too! Oddbods, the popular preschool show, is returning to YouTube Kids with the exclusive Oddbods: The Festive Menace Holidays Special. One of the hot new preschool shows is returning to YouTube Kids with another exclusive special! T’was the night before Christmas and trouble is brewing, Santa’s gone bad and it’s the Oddbods doing! You can check out the fun and mischief here using the app, or here if you aren’t watching on a phone or tablet.

In Santa’s Apprentice, Santa doesn’t want to retire, but rules are rules and he must train someone to replace him.  The lucky winner, to be chosen from among millions of children, must be named Nicholas, be an orphan and have a pure heart.  On the other side of the planet, there is a little boy who is a perfect match, but his lack of self-confidence and fear of heights make him a poor contestant.  Will Santa agree to step down, and help his apprentice take his place?  Check out Santa’s Apprentice here using the YouTube Kids app, or here if you aren’t watching from a phone or tablet.

As a very special bonus, during their holiday celebration, YouTube Kids will be giving something special to their viewers everyday with their “Gift of the Month.” Until January 1st, the YouTube Kids app will feature a Gift Box icon that kids can click on to see a very special video presented to viewers each day by the YouTube Kids characters.  Each of them chose their videos based on a favorite theme or topic.  Kids can simply click on the Gift Box in the app and enjoy a fun surprise!

The YouTube Kids app is the first Google product built from the ground up with kids in mind. The app makes it easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore and is available for free on Google Play and the App store. YouTube Kids continues to put parents in the driver’s seat with additional parental controls that allow parents to choose what is right for their family.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Tween Reads

Newsprints blends steampunk with Newsies

newsprintsNewsprints, by Ru Xu, (Jan. 2017, Scholastic Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-545-80312-2

Recommended for ages 8-12

In an alternate universe, a young orphan named Blue is a girl, disguised as a newboy. With seemingly constant war going on, girls are expected to help the struggling economy by baking cookies, but Blue has no interest in that. She loves She lives with her guardians, the father figure of whom happens to be the town Mayor, and she loves working as a newsie for The Bugle, the one newspaper that tells the truth in an environment of “fake news” (flashing light for extra relevancy alert, folks). It’s not always easy to keep her secret, but Blue lives in fear of being found out and losing everything she loves: her family, her job, her lifestyle. When she meets a strange kid named Crow, she brings him into the fold; Crow has secrets of his own, which Blue can respect. When government officials appear on the scene, in search of missing military technology, there are more questions than answers, and Blue’s determined to stick by her friend, no matter what his secrets may be.

Inspired by manga, Newsprints tells a relevant story on so many levels: we have truth in the media, gender identity, and the power of friendship. Blue is a girl who doesn’t wants to do what she wants to do, not what society is telling her that her gender should be doing. She enjoys the freedom afforded to newsies, and embraces the dangers that come with a life on the streets. She gets the Crow has secrets he wants to keep, motivated only by a desire to help a kindred spirit survive and be safe.

My biggest issue with Newsprint was what I saw as disjointed storytelling, but that is entirely my issue. I’m not a regular manga reader, and Newsprints seems to follow manga-type storytelling, which isn’t always linear. The kids in my library love this book – my two copies have been out since I put them out on the shelves – and the emerging themes in the story make this a strong selection for booktalking.

Scholastic has a 34-page excerpt available for free, if you want to take a look and decide whether Newsprints is for you. Ru Xu has a Tumblr with an author calendar and links to her webcomic, Saint for Rent, which updates three times weekly.

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Enter the Arena!

arenaArena, by Holly Jennings, (Apr. 2016, Ace), $26, ISBN: 9781101988763

Recommended for ages 14+

In the not too-distant future, gaming goes even more hi-tech. Athletes are gamers now, and the RAGE tournament is the Virtual Gaming League’s top competition, pitting the best against the best. Live, virtual gladiator games, with the players battling one another on a bloody virtual reality field and taking no prisoners. The pain is real, though – just because you don’t die when your throat is cut doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt like hell. Kali Ling is one of the top RAGE competitors, part of the top team, Defiance. Virtual gaming is everything to her – her ticket to fame, fortune, and freedom – until the morning she wakes up next to her teammate and sometime friend with benefits, Nathan, dead of an overdose.

Kali finds herself named Defiance’s team captain and Nathan’s memory all but erased. There’s a cover-up in play, because no one wants to talk about the drug abuse going on in the virtual gaming world; no one wants to hear the ugly side of the glitzy business. But Kali is determined to fight in the virtual world and outside of it to wake people up.

Arena is going to be a huge summer hit with gamers and sci fi fans. It’s been compared to one of my all-time favorite books, Ernest Kline’s Ready Player One, but I think it’s grittier and tackles harder subjects like drug abuse in sports, constructing the perfect media image, and the problem of celebrity as role model. Although Arena takes place in the future, it sounds surprisingly similar to problems we have today in our very real world of sports. It’s a wake-up call on one hand, and a tremendous sci-fi novel with a kickass female lead character (and two equally kickass female supporting characters) on the other. That’s what’s going to get this book into people’s hands, and that’s how the message is going to be relayed.



Arena has ethnic and sexual diversity. Much of Kali’s internal healing comes from Taoist texts, including the Tao-te Ching, so make sure to have some of those titles (and Sun Tzu’s Art of War) ready for readers who will go deeper. Pair this up with Armada, Ready Player One, and the Vault of Dreamers books for readers who are gamers and dystopian, media-driven future aficionados.

This is Holly Jennings’ debut novel – and there’s going to be a sequel, so get ready. I’m looking forward to seeing what else she gives us. Arena is out tomorrow, but you can check out Holly Jennings’ author website for an excerpt right now!