Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Billy McGill is ALONE! Until…

ALONE!, by Barry Falls, (March 2021, Pavilion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843654858

Ages 3-6

This rhyming, cumulative tale is hilarious fun with a seek-and-find. Billy McGill is a boy who lives all alone on the top of a hill, and he’s very happy that way: until a mouse finds his way into Billy’s home! Naturally, Billy has to get back to the status quo, so he goes and gets a cat, which leads to getting a dog, a bear, a tiger, and ultimately, a veterinarian to check on the tiger, who’s developed a cold. When the vet brings in a friend and his son, Billy has had far too much and heads out to find a place where he can be ALONE. But he discovers that maybe being all alone all the time isn’t so great after all. A humorous story with a good message about the need for both having one’s own space and making time for connection, ALONE! is a relatable book, especially these days when so many of us are living on top of one another. Readers are challenged to look for the tiny mouse in every spread – he’s not always that easy to find! – and the friendly, colorful art invites readers to join right in with the fun. A good rhyme scheme, a funny story, and definite flannel potential makes this a delightful storytime choice.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Folx and children of all ages, I present… The Greatest Show Penguin!

The Greatest Show Penguin, by Lucy Freegard, (Feb. 2021, Pavilion), $22.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-483-4

Ages 3-7

Poppy is a show penguin descending from a long line of show penguins. She’s been in show business from early on, and the audience loved her, but she wasn’t enjoying herself. She didn’t like the crowds, bright lights, and noises, and, despite worrying about disappointing her family, stops performing, only to discover a talent for the backstage business of putting on a show! The Greatest Showpenguin is an engaging story about finding your talents and discovering your strengths. Poppy’s parents are supportive and encourage her to pursue what makes her happy; Poppy is happy when she feels in control of her life and her environment, which will resonate with readers. The illustrations are cheery, colorful but not overwhelming. Endpapers feature Poppy, rolling in a hoop, across the spreads. A fun storytime that would pair nicely with Hannah E. Harrison’s Extraordinary Jane (2014).

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Magical, snuggly bedtime stories

Who doesn’t love a good bedtime story? And now, with virtual programming here for good, we can hold virtual pajama storytimes at any time! Here are a few adorable new bedtime stories to read to your littles, whether they’re curled up in your lap at home, or gathered around their devices for your storytime.

It’s So Quiet: A Not-Quite-Going-to-Bed Book, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, (Feb. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452145440

Ages 3-7

As the sun goes down and the night drifts in, a little mouse isn’t able to fall asleep quite yet: it’s too quiet! Mom tells the little mouse to let the sounds of nature help them drift off to sleep: a croaking bullfrog, a snoring grandfather and his dog’s tail thumping against the porch; a coyote howling at the moon, all around the little mouse, there is sound – and maybe he would like it a little more quiet after all. Sherri Duskey Rinker creates wonderful bedtime stories that play with sound, rhyme, and repetition – Steam Train, Dream Train and Good Night, Good Night Construction Site are stalwart storytime favorites with my library kids – and It’s Too Quiet continues this fun tradition. Sound effects repeat and get their own exaggerated fonts, calling attention to them and making for flannel and finger puppet storytelling. Digital illustrations are cartoony and expressive, with bold lines. A great bedtime and storytime book that’s sure to pack in the laughs.

It’s So Quiet has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Ella’s Night Lights, by Lucy Fleming, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212693

Ages 3-7

Ella is a little girl with moth wings and antenna, who sleeps in the nook of a tree by day. By night, she flies around, collecting light and bringing it to anyone that needs it, repeating a gentle rhyme: “Here’s some bright light. / Here’s a night light, / a little ray to calm your fright”. Ella wants so much to see the sunrise, but her delicate wings make that impossible, until her animal friends come together with a plan to celebrate her kindness. Ella’s Night Lights is a warm story of kindness and friendship, with soft digital illustrations and quietly colorful spreads bringing life to cold, snowy landscapes. The endpapers are soft yellow, with moths flitting across the pages. Ella’s evening rhyme is a lovely way to send dreamers off to sleep, especially for those who may appreciate a little extra light in the room.

 

Bedtime for Albie, by Sophie Ambrose, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211184

Ages 3-7

It’s time for bed in the savanna, but Albie, a young warthog, still wants to play! He runs off to ask his other animal buddies to play, but everyone’s going through their night time routines. That doesn’t stop Albie, who decides he’ll just play on his own… but it’s not really much fun playing all by himself, so Albie heads back to his mother, who has the best night time routine waiting for him. Kids will relate to this story about not being ready for bed just yet, and the different animals going through bedtime stories and baths is a good way to prompt conversation about our own bedtime routines: brushing teeth, washing up, stories, what else can you think of? The phrase, “skippety trot trit trot”, used when Albie dashes off, repeats often enough that you can invite readers to chime in. Watercolor and pencil illustrations are soft, with earthy colors and friendly animal faces. Endpapers show a grayed-out area of the savanna. A fun story on which to end the day.

 

While You’re Sleeping, by Mick Jackson/Illustrated by John Broadley, (Feb. 2021, Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1843654650

Ages 4-8

While you’re tucking your little one into bed, there’s a whole world hustling and bustling outside. While You’re Sleeping is all about the folx who work while the rest of the world sleeps: people who clean public transportation and offices; delivery drivers; mail sorters, bakers, shopkeepers, and more, all work through the night to get the world ready for everyone else that next morning. Even the animal world doesn’t settle in for the night: foxes pass humans on the street as they forage for food, bats and owls hunt for prey. John Broadley’s illustrations remind me of Beth Krommes’s artwork; there’s so much detail to be discovered. Colors grow warmer as the night turns to dawn, with red-orange sunlight streaking through windows and down streets. Read with Karen Hesse’s Night Shift for a storytime about night time jobs.

While You’re Sleeping was originally published in the U.K. in 2020.

Posted in picture books

Delightfully Different Fairy Tales put a modern spin on the classics

Delightfully Different Fairy Tales, by David Roberts & Lynn Roberts-Maloney, (Oct. 2020 Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1843654759

Ages 4-7

Illustrator siblings David Roberts and Lynn Roberts-Maloney have come together to put a modern, vintage spin on three classics fairy tales: Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty. Each is set in a different 20th century (give or take…): Cinderella takes place in the Roaring ’20s, Rapunzel, in the 1970s, and Sleeping Beauty, in the 1950s and beyond. The storytelling incorporates moments from each time frame, and the art – THE ART! – is filled with nods to each decade. Cinderella’s evil stepmother and stepsisters have cloches and Louise Brooks-like bobbed hair; the dressing gowns are fabulously glamourous and the headdresses are incredible. Rapunzel has that long, flower child straight hair that was so popular in the 1970s, spins David Bowie’s iconic Aladdin Sane album on her turntable and has Saturday Night Fever, Abba, and Elton John posters on her wall. Her Prince Charming is in a band called Roger and the Rascals, and he sports platform shoes of his own. Sleeping Beauty has a decidedly modern spin as Annabel, our Beauty, comes of age in the mid-20th century, pricks her finger on a turntable needle and falls into a deep sleep; her aunt turns Annabel into a rose and herself into a light, that she may shine on her through her slumber. When a young girl browses the story of Sleeping Beauty one thousand years later, she’s convinced it’s a true story, awakens Annabel, and introduces her to the sci-fi world Annabel dreamed of as a child. The artwork is gorgeous; it has a Tim Burton-meets-The Questioneers type of style that’s playful and fun to read. (Note: David Roberts is the illustrator of the Questioneers series!) Give your fairy tale fans a dose of nostalgia – or introduce them to the 20th Century – with this volume.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Challenge Everything activates teens/young adult activism

Challenge Everything: An Extinction Rebellion Youth Guide to Saving the Planet, by Blue Sandford, (Sept. 2020, Pavilion Books),

Ages 12+

The coordinator of Extinction Rebellion Youth London, an activist group, is behind this straightforward, illustrated guide that encourages readers to challenge everything: government, big business, even ourselves. Blue lays out the crisis facing Gen Z in a no-nonsense, no drama statement: “We are a generation that has never known a stable climate and that will be defined by how the world responds to the climate and ecological crisis”. Blue calls for readers to research and know their facts before taking action (THANK YOU), and to boycott businesses that pollute the environment, treat their workers poorly, or are unethical. Blue calls for craft activism to do away with the disposable, “fast fashion” trends and encourages readers to repair, mend, and repurpose clothing; reconsider our diets and cut down or cut out animal products; make our leaders accountable and, most importantly, figure out our own moral grounds. Worksheets throughout invite readers to engage in some introspection and create action plans. The last few years have seen our young people take on greater roles in activism than ever before, and the literature out there is reaching younger kids, encouraging them to act and take charge. Whether it’s organizing beach cleanups or asking readers to make businesses and people accountable for their actions, there are ways for everyone to be involved. Challenge Everything is written for middle schoolers through college, and you can use this book in virtually any kind of programming: journaling, advocacy, STEM. Give it a look and consider it for your budding activists.

Posted in picture books

A new Christmas origin story: The Three Wishes

 

The Three Wishes: A Christmas Story, by Alan Snow, (Nov. 2020. Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1843653868

Ages 5-8

Long ago, when people moved about the land, a boy watched over and herded his family’s reindeer. At the annual gathering, he noticed the reindeer heading into a mysterious cave and followed them, discovering a secret inner world where it is eternally summer. The boy wants to return home, but is told that it is not possible. He’s given three wishes and asks for freedom, happiness, and time. During the year, the boy works alongside the residents of the inner world to learn about the earth; he is allowed to visit his family as long as he doesn’t wake them. Time doesn’t move as he visits his sleeping family and leaves small gifts for them so they know he was there. Every year, he returns to his family for his nightly visit, and back to the cave world for the rest of the year, adding nearby families on his visits. The residents of the cave world reward him with special gifts, like a sled and a magic feather for his reindeer, to aid him on his way, and his family leaves a special gift for him on his visit. This is a new take on the Santa Claus story, and I loved the gentle, yet bittersweet, storytelling; take care for younger readers that may be disturbed by the boy being separated from his family, but they should get the idea as the story goes on and more information is revealed. The artwork is muted, darker, and rich. The Three Wishes is a good additional book for your holiday shelves.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, gaming, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Tween Reads

Here it is… The First Holiday Gift Guide of the Season!

Finally, right? Here is my little contribution to the holiday season’s gift guides: a few of these over the next couple of weeks, as I try to match my Reader’s Advisory skills with my love of gifty books and book-adjacent goodies.

Build a Skyscraper, by Paul Farrell, (Sept. 2020, Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.69, ISBN: 978-1843654742

Ages 3-8

If you haven’t played with Paul Farrell’s Build a Castle, you have been missing out, but no worries: just in time for the holidays, he’s released Build a Skyscraper, the next in his series of graphic-designed cards that let you and your kiddos create the skyscraper of your dreams. The box contains 64 cards with slots cut to let you build and expand your building in any way you like. Add glass, decorative elements and flourishes, and build up or out. It’s all up to your little one! Perfect for stocking stuffers, this is great for hours of play and you can build a new skyscraper each time. An 8-page booklet contains some inspiration and descriptions of skyscraper elements. Get out the minifigs and let them move into a new neighborhood!

Elevator Up card game, (2020), $9.99

Ages 7+

Created by a 17-year-old, Elevator Up is – in the words of creator Harrison Brooks – “kid-created, kid-designed, kid-marketed, kid-shipped, and kid-loved card game”. It’s pretty easy to pick up, fast-paced, and way too much fun to play. The goal is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards as your elevator rides through a building. You can use cards to get your opponents stuck, sent back down to the lobby, or have the doors closed on them. There are a lot of laughs to be had – my Kiddo loves closing the door on his older brothers – and the chance for friendly trash talk is high. Support indie game makers and kid creators, give this one a look. For more information, check out the game website at PlayElevatorUp.com.

 

Lost in the Imagination: A Journey Through Nine Worlds in Nine Nights, by Hiawyn Oram/Illustrated by David Wyatt, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536210736

Ages 8-12

This book is just amazing, perfect for the reader always looking for new worlds and new adventures. Taken from the “found” journals of the late theoretical physicist Dawn Gable, the book is an armchair adventure: writing, drawings, research, and keepsakes from Dr. Gable’s nightly journeys into fantastic worlds: Asgard, Camelot, The Lost City of Kôr, and a city of machines, Meganopolis, are only a handful of the worlds explored here. Fantasy artwork brings readers from the fantasy of Camelot, with knights and shields, to the steampunk mechanical world of Meganopolis; dragons fly around Wyvern Alley, with fantastic beasts sketched on journal pages to delight and entice, and the ancient ruins of Atlantis wait for readers in its underwater kingdom, with squid and nautiluses. Perfect for your fantasy fans and anyone who loves the “Ology” series by Dugald Steer. Books like this are a gateway to more reading, so have some Tales of Asgard and Thor on hand, Gulliver’s Travels, or Tales of King Arthur handy.

Keeping this short and sweet, but there is much more to come!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

That Dog! is an extraordinary sleuth!

That Dog!, by Emma Lazell, (Apr. 2020, Pavilion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843654476

Ages 4-7

Emma Lazell’s follow-up to last year’s Big Cat is just as hilarious! Penny is a lady who loves dogs, and her assistant, Pat, is charged with getting them. But THEY’RE DOGNAPPERS! Penny tells Pat about the latest dog on her mind: he’s spotty all over. The thing is, Pat isn’t too bright; he brings back a spotty.. snake. Pat doles out a different character trait, and each time, Pat brings back the wrong animal! But That Dog is on the case, because the police are on the hunt for these kidnappers and the dogs they’ve stolen; and That Dog is putting together lots and lots of clues!

Loaded with sight gags and moments just begging for kids to call out, “THAT’S NOT A DOG!”, That Dog! is a comic story of observation and following directions. The watercolor artwork is cartoony and silly, with clues not-so-hidden around the spreads: Penny’s Wanted! poster is framed on her wall; That Dog reads a newspaper where Pat is the cover story; he even completes a crossword puzzle that lets readers know that he’s no ordinary mutt!

Originally published earlier this year in the UK, That Dog! is here on U.S. shores, and I can’t wait to see what Emma Lazell has for us next. In the meantime, publisher Pavilion has some great free That Dog! downloads: a free weekly planner, an activity kit, and a how to draw That Dog! sheet.

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

#SummersCool: Art and Architecture, Music, and Science

The latest edition of #SummersCool is here! Get ready for a full day of fun!

 

Build a Castle, by Paul Farrell, (April 2020, Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.99, IBN: 9781843654469

Ages 7+

Way too much fun, this box of 64 slotted cards let kids build castles with all the details: heraldry, arches, arrow-slit windows, flags, and more. Brightly colored in reds, blues, and yellows, with bold black outlines, kids can read up on different architectural features and get an idea of the basics from the included foldout sheet, and let their creative energy take them wherever they want to go. I worked on these with the Kiddo, and he ended up incorporating his Lego bricks and minifigs to come up with a fantastic spread that covered our dining room table. The box is just the beginning – print out some paper knights, draw some dragons, and have a great time!

Turn it Up! A Pitch-Perfect History of Music That Rocked the World, by Joel Levy, (Dec. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1426335419

Ages 8-12

From the earliest music to K-Pop, Turn It Up! is a comprehensive guide to the history of music and its influence on the world. Six sections organize music into time periods, beginning with the earliest instruments, including wind instruments played on crops, and string instruments handed down from the gods. Isn’t It Romantic? introduces readers to orchestras, operas, and Classical and Romantic music’s origins in the 18th ad 19th centuries. Thoroughly Modern Music explores the 20th century, and the changes to music brought by the emerging film and radio industries; All-American Sound is all about the American sound of Jazz and Blues, influenced by African culture. Play it Loud covers protest music, the British invasion that brought the Beatles to American shores, and the distinctive style of 1970s rock. Pop Goes the Music is about pop, punk, rap, and hip-hop. Spotlights on instruments, musical terms, superstars of the music world, and notes about essential pieces of music give readers a well-rounded backgrounder in music history. There’s a timeline, glossary, further resources list, and index to complete this volume. Let your kids create a Spotify playlist with music they like; create one for them.

 

Extreme Ocean: Amazing Animals, High-Tech Gear, Record-Breaking Depths, and Much More!, by Sylvia A. Earle and Glen Phelan, (March 2020, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9781426336850

Ages 8-12

I love NatGeo’s animal compendiums, and Kiddo does too – he usually runs off with mine as soon as they arrive! After retrieving Extreme Ocean from his bookcase, I was able to sit down and see what deep sea explorer Sylvia A. Earle had to say about some of her ocean explorations. Filled with colorful, vibrant photos, Extreme Ocean is all about the oceans that cover over 71% of our world: and the dangers they face. The information is organized into five chapters: Blue Heart of the Planet is about the ocean itself; Life Beneath the Waves is about ocean life; Going Deeper, Staying Longer covers exploration, and An Ocean in Trouble and How to Save an Ocean is a call to action for readers to educate themselves about dangers like pollution and overfishing, and what scientists and conservationists are doing – and what readers can do – to turn the tide in our favor. Extreme sections in each section look at major happenings, from tsunamis to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a polluted area of the Pacific Ocean that may measure as large as the state of Alaska. There are experiments for kids to try at home, and Who’s Who callout boxes bring readers’ attention to different ocean dwellers to discover. There’s a glossary, list of resources, and an index. A great companion to NatGeo’s Ultimate Oceanpedia and Captain Aquatica’s Awesome Ocean, and a book kids will love.

 

Acadia Files: Book Four, Spring Science, by Katie Coppens/Illustrated by Holly Hatam, (March 2020, Tilbury House Publishers), $13.95, ISBN: 978-0-88448-604-6

Ages 7-11

The fourth book in Acadia’s Science Notebook series is all about Spring! This season, Acadia investigates dinosaurs, meteors, and mass extinctions. She also looks at parasites, ticks, and the diseases they can spread, including Lyme disease and malaria. She also looks through her previous seasons’ notebooks and puts together her inquiries from all four of them, to give herself – and readers – a rounded, holistic understanding of the natural world. This is such a great intermediate STEM/STEAM series for kids; it’s part science, part chapter book, with a handwritten, journal feel throughout that should inspire some of your kiddos to start their own journaling. I fall back on this one quite often because it’s so easy. Kiddo and I used this as a guideline to make our own journal and had a great time wandering our neighborhood to fill it up. Enjoy a chapter read and activity in the video below.

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

#SummersCool Math books that your kids will love! Honest!

I do not take Math lightly. It’s one of those subjects I have endless admiration for, and way too much fear of. I encourage my kids, and my library kids, to love Math. Embrace Math, run to Math and dance in a field of flowers with it: you get my drift. It’s too late for me, go… go forth and calculate, my children.

So, when I was invited to review two Math books, I was a little terrified. Cool Math? Geometry is as Easy as Pie? I broke out in a cold sweat just thinking of them. I needn’t have stressed. These books are SO much fun (and tasty, as you’ll see). C’mon, join me for an exploration of Math.

 

Geometry is as Easy as Pie (Pieces of Cake series), by Katie Coppens, (March 2020, Tumblehome, Inc.) $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-943431-52-6

Ages 8-12

I know Katie Coppens as the author of the Acadia Files series (I’ve got a writeup about the latest one coming), but she writes about Math, too! Her first book, Geology is a Piece of Cake is a companion of sorts to her latest, Geometry is as Easy as Pie, and it’s an oh-so-yummy way to learn about angles, polygons, and symmetry. Katie Coppens uses pie to explain geometry, but she goes above and beyond the usual “look at this pie chart and imagine it’s a piece of pie” business. She BAKES PIES to illustrate the seven fundamental concepts of geometry. With direct, parent- and child-friendly explanations (she is an English and Science teacher), she discusses mathematical concepts, including calculating radius and diameter, and – naturally – she devotes time to talk about pi (π). You’ll feel a rumbly in your tumbly as you look through her lovely photographed pies; you may want to get a shopping lists together, too, because she includes recipes. Geometry includes pie-centric review questions and a photo gallery of “Just Desserts”, making this a phenomenal way to spend the summer learning math and baking with your kiddos. Yum.

 

Cool Math: 50 Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages, by Tracie Young & Katie Hewett, (March 2020, Pavilion Books), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-448-3

Ages 11+

Geared more toward middle and high schoolers Cool Math (originally released in the UK as Cool Maths, because they can even make Math sound cooler than we do) is so much more than a rundown of 50 Math facts for kids. Think of the NatGeo digest books on weird stuff, silly stuff, cool facts, and add Math to it. That’s Cool Math. With a cover that looks like chalk board gone wild, and with page backgrounds like chalk board, graph paper, and lined paper, this is the notebook your cool nerdy friend would have put together with all their doodles during the school day. Tips and tricks make your life easier throughout the book, like how to multiply by 9 on your fingers. IT WORKS. I tried it. Remember PEMDAS and FOIL? They almost gave me a nervous breakdown in 8th grade, but they’re here in this book, and they’re not as terrifying any more. Real-life tips, like the Super Speedy Recipe Converter and How to Tip put an end to questions like, “When will I ever need this in my life?”

A smart, witty, companion to keep handy, Cool Math takes a lot of the fear out of Math and makes it… dare I say… pretty cool.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve received copies of each of these books from the publisher/their publicists in exchange for a review.