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.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Your World Now! gives kids Three Golden Rules

It’s Your World Now!, by Barry Falls, (July 2019, Pavilion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843654315

Ages 3-7

Written as a love letter from a parent or caregiver to a child, It’s Your World Now is all about giving kids the three most important things they need to know: 1) the world is full of marvelous things; 2) things won’t always go their way; and, most importantly, 3) above all else, they are loved. Teaching kids to shoot for the stars, to be resilient, and to know they are loved above all things, It’s Your World Now is this generation’s Oh, The Places You Will Go! It’s us, handing the world over to our kids, letting them know that they can do anything; be anything; urging them to strive for everything, but to be realistic and understand that sometimes, things just aren’t going to go the way they want. That people are going to talk down to them, or assume that they know more. That’s okay – it’s been happening since the dawn of time. But the narrator reminds our kids that their lives are theirs, to do their own thing, and trust in themselves at the end of the day. And through these ups and downs, the knowledge that they are loved – so, so, very much – is something that will never change. It’s an inspirational, loving story that’s meant to inspire and lift our kids up, while giving us the nudge that we may need to keep going, too.

Bright, bold artwork throughout the book features kids and grownups alike, walking together in an exciting riot of color and images: Michelangelo’s David with a keyboard guitar; giant rubber ducks float in the water. Children see themselves as judges, doctors, deep-sea divers in old-fashioned bell helmets, or ride on a rocket ship through the stars. Endpapers sports birds, planets, and books, letting readers know that something exciting is about to happen.

It’s Your World Now! is a nice storytime selection and a great gift idea for the kid who means the world to you.

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

Wild History! Books about prehistoric animals

Kids love dinosaurs. This is a known fact, and my groaning 567.9 section is proof positive of it, but I like to branch out a little and get kids checking out what other prehistoric animals there are to learn about. There are several great new books out that will give my 567 section a nice boost.

Forgotten Beasts: Amazing Creatures That Once Roamed the Earth, by Matt Sewell, (July 2019, Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 9781843653936

Ages 7+

Originally published in the UK in 2018, Forgotten Beasts contains over 45 illustrated portraits and profiles of birds and beasts that roamed the planet alongside and after the dinosaurs. There’s the Opabinia, a 2-inch arthropod from 508 million years ago through 1936, when the last Thylacine, a carnivorous marsupial, went extinct. There are some names kids will recognize, like the ginormous shark, Megalodon; the saber-toothed tiger, also known as the Smilodon Fatalis, and the Woolly Mammoth (for the Ice Age fans!). Each picture is skillfully rendered in muted watercolors, showing readers that prehistory wasn’t relegated to muddy greens, browns, and grays. Each profile includes the animal’s size, weight, time period, and diet, and a descriptive paragraph or two, and a timeline helps readers envision when these animals, alongside dinosaurs, roamed the Earth. Endpapers feature the stars of the book in miniature, parading across the pages. A nice book to beef up your non-dinosaur prehistoric collections.

Life: The First Four Billion Years (The Story of Life from the Big Bang to the Evolution of Humans), by Martin Jenkins/Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick Studio), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0420-9

Ages 10-14

The cover alone will make readers stop and give this book a look. Starting with the Big Bang, Life: The First Four Billion Years brings readers along on a journey through Earth’s first four billion years, ending right before we humans show up. Life starts off with foldout spreads that detail the beginning of Earth; from there, the book moves into the Ice Age, life’s beginnings in the water, its move to land, the ages of dinosaurs and of mammals, and the breakup of Pangea and formation of the continents, and the “Road to Us”: evolution of homo sapiens. Illustrations are the focal point of the book, and Kate Greenway Medal winner Grahame Baker-Smith is at the top of his game, creating landscapes both lush and stark, with black and white and color artwork of a prehistoric world. Award-winning author Martin Jenkins writes for upper middle graders and older, making the science of prehistory accessible to all ages. A glossary and illustrated timeline of the planet make this a stunning volume to have on your shelves.

Prehistoric: Dinosaurs, Megalodons, and Other Fascinating Creatures of the Deep Past, by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld/Illustrated by Julius Csotonyi, (Sept. 2019, What on Earth Publishing), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-912920-05-1

Ages 7-11

Traveling backwards from present day to 541 million years ago, this slim volume is packed with illustrations, infographics, and easily digestible information about the earth through 17 eras. There’s information about climate change, ecosystems and extinctions. A running timeline at each right-hand page margin keeps readers up-to-date on the era and presents a visual representation of time covered as the book progresses.

Color illustrations are museum-quality; you can easily envision these bringing life to exhibits at any museum you may go to. Keeping in mind a younger and middle-grade audience, the information is broken up into short paragraphs, bold infographics, and callout facts. Back endpapers act as a visual table of contents. Keep Prehistoric in mind for your nonfiction sections; hand any of these books to your Apex Predators and Prehistoric Actual Size fans.

Prehistoric is produced in association with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Posted in Uncategorized

A greener, gentler world: The Green Giant

The Green Giant, by Katie Cottle, (July 2019, Pavilion Children’s Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-430-8

Ages 4-7

A little girl named Bea and her dog, Iris, spend summer vacation at Bea’s grandpa’s home in the countryside. One day, Iris chases a cat, sending Bea chasing Iris; the two discover a greenhouse packed with lush, green plants… and one of them is an honest-to-goodness giant! The friendly green giant befriends Bea, and tells her that living in the city was just too much: “…the city got more grey and it was hard to breathe. I had to leave”. Here in the magical greenhouse, the giant and all the plants have room to grow, and it shows: the illustrations depict bright, anthropomorphic foliage with smiling faces and outstretched branches and leaves. The greenhouse becomes Bea’s and Iris’s refuge for the summer, but all too soon, it’s time to go home. The giant hands Bea a gift of sparkling seeds, which she sprinkles outside her apartment window. A beautiful transformation takes place, turning the drab grey of the city into a green, yellow, and orange paradise! Will the giant return one day to see his friend’s handiwork?

The Green Giant is a lovely story about taking care of our world and encouraging green spaces. Katie Cottle takes an intuitive approach to talking green with younger children by creating a friendly green giant to explain that the city’s crowded, grey spaces made it too difficult to live – but, in an optimistic spark for the future, gives her seeds that will turn – maybe thanks to the greenhouse’s magic? – the concrete landsdcape into a living outdoor green space! The artwork is bright, bold, and primarily uses greens, oranges, browns, yellows, and blues, all coming to life from the a stark white background. Bea appears to be biracial; she is a child of color, and her grandfather presents as Caucasian.

Pair this with Ingrid Chabbert’s The Last Tree for an environmentally-focused read-aloud. You can also pair with Lois Ehlert’s classic, The Leaf Man, and invite kids to use leaves to make their own Green Giants and Leaf Men. Or invite parents to a container planting program, and encourage personal green spaces. Read an interview with author Katie Cottle on the Gardening Know How’s Blog, and visit her author webpage for more of her illustration work.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

Cats, Cats, Cats!

Call it the librarian in me, but I love cats, and stories about cats are the perfect mix of cuddly, funny, and just plain sweet. Here are a few new and coming-soon books featuring some favorite furry friends.

The Pawed Piper, by Michelle Robinson/Illustrated by Chinlun Lee, (July 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0165-9

Ages 3-7

A girl wants a cat to cuddle, so she sets to work, creating a trail for a potential new pet to follow, with all sorts of cat-friendly stuff, like yarn, soft cushions, boxes, and catnip. At first, her grandmother’s cat, Hector, shows up to visit, but wait! Hector’s brought friends! Many, many friends – in fact, it appears that Hector has brought all the cats to the girl’s house! The girl is thrilled at first, but feels awful and guilty when she notices all the missing cat posters going up around her neighborhood. She didn’t want to take anyone else’s cat, after all; she just wanted one of her own. After she returns all the cats to their homes, she discovers a happy surprise: one cat has been hiding in her drawer, and has given birth to kittens! Those cats get homes, too, except for one little one: that one is just for the little girl.

The Pawed Piper is a sweet “I want a pet” story that kids will love and laugh along with. The endpapers get in on the fun, plastered with Missing! cat posters across the front endpapers; the same posters stamped “Found!” across the back endpapers. The watercolor and pencil artwork makes for a soothing, enjoyable setting to a fun story. A fun addition to pet storytimes, and for cat and pet fans.

Big Cat, by Emma Lazell, (July 2019, Pavilion Children’s Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1843654292

Ages 3-7

I laughed out loud at this sight gag-heavy story. A girl named Isobel tries to help her grandmother find her lost glasses (the kids will find them easily – ask them!) when they come across a giant cat. It’s a friendly cat, and Gran welcomes the cat in, with all of her other cats. Gran, who still can’t find her glasses, doesn’t seem to notice that she’s inadvertently adopted a tiger, but the other cats sure do! He’s eating their food, he’s taking up all their space, and making life very inconvenient. Thank goodness Big Cat’s mother and father show up – with Gran’s glasses! – to take their son home. Gran’s reaction when she finally realizes that she’s been letting a tiger live with her is laugh-out-loud funny; her housecats’ reaction to the tiger living with them is even funnier; their protest signs and facial expressions are kidlit comedy gold. Big Cat is going into my regular storytime rotation for sure. My 7-year-old and I read it last night and decided that we need to read this very, very often, because it just made us feel happy.

Big Cat was originally published in the UK, and is Emma Lazell’s debut picture book. I’m already looking forward to her next one, That Dog!, which looks like it’s being published in the US next spring. This is one of those books where text and art come together perfectly to create sight gags, with perfectly innocent text wandering around the artwork. The artwork is bold and bright, with hilariously expressive eyes. There are such sweet moments in here, too, like the giant hug that Mother and Father Tiger give their son when they finally discover him at Gran’s. It’s just a great book filled with wonderful moments and I can’t wait to read it again and again. There’s a free, downloadable activity kit, too, with mazes, coloring sheets, and a Missing! poster (that you could probably use with The Pawed Piper, too…).

Kitten Construction Company: A Bridge Too Fur, by John Patrick Green, (Oct. 2019, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728318

Ages 7-9

The follow-up to last year’s Meet the House Kittens, this latest in the Kitten Construction Company series has Marmalade and friends facing a new construction project – building the new Mewburg Bridge! But Marmalade is afraid of water, and what do bridges cross? WATER! The kittens figure out a workaround, and they have to call subcontractors in to help with the demolition work. When the Demo Doggos show up to the site, though, Marmalade’s biased feelings about dogs stand in the way of true teamwork. Everyone is going to have to learn to work together to get the bridge done!

John Patrick Green creates stories that make me happy. Hippopotamister is all about a hippo finding his purpose; the first Kitten Construction Company story was about being taken seriously; and now, A Bridge Too Fur is about overcoming fears and biases, and embracing teamwork to make one’s corner of the world a better place. He tells big stories in a small space, with adorable artwork and situations that appeal to young readers while teaching them how to be a positive force in the world. That is good stuff, and that is the kind of book that flies off my shelves here at the library. Kids come for the cute animals, stay for the positive messages. There’s some fun humor on the down-low that sharp-eyed readers will catch, like references to a possum street artist named “Panksy”, and Marmalade knocking a mic off the podium when he goes to speak (because, that’s what cats do). A “How to Draw Kittens” section teaches readers to draw some of the characters in the story.

You simply can’t go wrong with a John Patrick Green graphic novel. The Kitten Construction Company is such a good series for intermediate readers; add this one to your collections.