Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Dewey Fairchild, Sibling Problem Solver, is on the case!

Dewey Fairchild, Sibling Problem Solver (Dewey Fairchild, Book 3), by Lorri Horn, (Aug. 2019, Amberjack Publishing), $13.99, ISBN: 9781948705417

Ages 8-12

Dewey Fairchild is a kid who likes to solve problems and eat cookies. He’s solved kids’ problems with parents and problems with teachers; in his third adventure, he sets his sights on solving sibling problems, even taking on parents as clients! Together with his assistant/cookie supplier, Clara – kind of the Alfred to Dewey’s Batman – and her dog, Wolfie, Dewey’s third adventure will make him look at his own relationship with his own siblings as he takes on new clients.

This is the third book in the Dewey Fairchild series, but you don’t need to have read the first two to enjoy this one. Dewey is middle grader who likes to solve problems and has a secret office that allows him to get some headspace from his family and enjoy the cookies that his 94-year-old assistant, Clara, bakes up as he puzzles out cases. The book emphasizes the problem-solving process, as Dewey interviews new clients, stakes out spaces to see client and sibling interactions for himself, and consult his notes as he works on solutions. As Dewey works through sibling problems, he sees shades of his own interactions with his older and younger sisters – and puts his own theories into action.

Dewey is a likable character, and his emphasis on observation and problem-solving will score big with parents and kids alike. Black and white illustrations of cookies in the process of being nibbled away head up each chapter and will make you hungry. Bake up a plate or two of cookies for a discussion on this one; there’s a lot to discuss here. Give this to your kids who enjoy light mysteries (and have aged up from intermediate titles like the A to Z Mysteries and Cam Jansen) and encourage them to see their own relationships with parents and siblings in a new light.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver received a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for your Spring radar!

Spring always brings some good books to read. In April and May, there’s a little something for everyone – come and see!

April Books

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest, by Sarah Hampson/Illustrated by Kass Reich,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383615
Recommended for readers 4-8
Dr. Archibald Coo is a sophisticated pigeon who’s tired of the way he and his fellow pigeons are treated by humans. They’re shooed at, swatted, and treated like a general menace. Dr. Coo remembers when pigeons enjoyed a higher profile in history: in ancient Greece, they delivered news about the Olympic Games; during World War I, they carried messages across battlefields. Now? pfft. So Dr. Coo and his pigeon friends organize and decide to strike: they disappear from every public space, leaving a confused public wondering what happened. Dr. Coo heads over to the mayor’s office a history of the pigeon and a note, asking for tolerance, opening the door to a new era of pigeon-human relations. It’s a cute urban story with a wink to New York and other urban spaces, and has a nice thread about inclusivity and diversity running through the book. Gouache paint and colored pencil art makes for a soft illustration, with attention to the different types of pigeons – there are! – in the cityscape. This would be cute to booktalk with James Sage’s Stop Feedin’ Da Boids!

My Teacher’s Not Here!, by Lana Button/Illustrated by Christine Battuz,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771383561
Recommended for readers 4-6
Kitty gets to school and knows something’s up when her teacher, Miss Seabrooke, isn’t there to meet her. What’s going on? There’s another teacher there today! How does school even work when your teacher is absent? This sweet rhyming tale about a student’s first substitute teacher is great for younger kids who are just getting into the swing of school routines and provides some fun advice for coping with and adjusting to unexpected change. Kitty teaches readers some coping strategies, including helping out her friends and the teacher by contributing to class and modeling good behavior using cues she learned from her teacher, that the substitute may not be aware of. This is an animal story, so kids will enjoy seeing the “ginormously tall” teacher, a giraffe named Mr. Omar; pigs, elephants, bears, a whole menagerie of students. Hand-drawn artwork and digital collage come together to create colorful, textured, cartoony fun. This one’s a good addition to preschool and primary collections.

Tinkle, Tinkle Little Star, by Chris Tougas,
(Apr. 2018, Kids Can Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781771388399
Recommended for readers 1-3
One of my favorite books coming out this season is this adorable board book! Set to the tune of everybody’s favorite classic song, this sweet and funny version is all about where not to go: not in a plane, not on Grandpa’s knee, not at a puppet show. Luckily, the poor Little Star gets relief by the story’s end, and sits on a potty to… “Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star”. It’s adorable with the cutest digital art. Little Star is beyond cute, and gender neutral! Sing along at storytime – I know I’ll be throwing plenty of voice inflection (“Did you just pee on this page?”) and leg-crossing as I read this one. Absolutely adorable, must-add, must-give for collections and toddlers everywhere.

May Books

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book, by Alice Kuipers/Illustrated by Diana Toledano,
(May 2018, Chronicle), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452152325
Recommended for readers 7-9
Polly Diamond is an aspiring, biracial young writer who discovers a magic book on her doorstep one day. Not only does the book write back to her when she writes in it, Everything she writes in the book happens in real life! At first, Polly is psyched: who wouldn’t be, right? But you know how it goes… for every magic journal action, there’s a pretty wild reaction! Written in the first person, with excerpts from Polly’s book, including a pretty great intermediate-level book list for awesome display purposes (“Read Polly Diamond’s favorite books HERE!”). Chapter book readers who love books like Juana and Lucas (on Polly’s favorites list), Jasmine Toguchi, and Katie Woo will thoroughly enjoy Polly’s adventures. There are short, descriptive sentences and a nice amount of new words – Polly is an aspiring writer, after all! Lots of fun for chapter book readers; I’d have kids create their own aquariums as a related craft.

Old Misery, by James Sage/Illustrated by Russell Ayto,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771388238
Recommended for readers 5-10
Readers with a darker sense of humor (and parents who are Gorey fans) will get a chuckle out of Old Misery, the story of a cranky old woman named – you got it – Old Misery, and her old cat, Rutterkin. She’s broke, and the apples keep disappearing from her apple tree! Lucky for Old Misery, she’s not completely heartless and feeds a wandering visitor, who grants her one wish: she wants all the apple thieves to be caught in the tree until she lets them go! Old Misery decides to play a little risky game when Death himself shows up at her door – and she sends him to the apple tree. Be careful what you wish for! The black and white, pen and ink artwork has a creepy, quirky feel to it, which will appeal to kids who like Lemony Snicket’s work, but may go over some kids’ heads. Old Misery narrates the story, offering an opportunity for a fun read-aloud.

Binky fans, Gordon’s got his own adventure! For readers who love Ashley Spires’ Binky the Space Cat graphic novels will love Gordon, fellow member of PURST (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) and Binky’s house-mate, as he finds himself traveling through time to stop an alien invasion. But Gordon travels back too far – before PURST even exists! He’s got to get back to his normal time and set things right! This is fun reading for graphic novel fans, and a nice addition to a popular series. There’s time-travel, problem-solving, aliens, and humor, along with fun art.

See How We Move!: A First Book of Health and Well-Being, by Scot Ritchie,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781771389679

Recommended for readers 5-8
Author Scot Ritchie’s multicultural group of friends are back together again. Last time we save them, they visited a farm to learn how to grow grains and vegetables in See How We Eat!; this time, Pedro, Yulee, Nick, Sally, and Martin are training as their swim team, The Flying Sharks, prepares to compete. They learn about using proper equipment for different activities, warming up before beginning your activity, teamwork and encouragement, goal-setting, nutrition, the mind-body connection, and more. There are suggestions for fun activities and words to know, all coming together to give kids a fun story about a group of friends staying strong and having fun together while encouraging kids to create lifelong habits of health, nutrition, and physical fitness. I like this See How! series; it offers a wealth of information on healthy living, made accessible to younger readers. I can easily read this in a storytime and get the kids talking about the different ways they play, how they eat, and good habits to get into.

The Bagel King, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Sandy Nichols,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN; 978-1-77138-574-9
Recommended for readers 4-8

Zaida, Eli’s grandfather, gets bagels from Merv’s Bakery every Sunday morning. One morning, when no bagels show up, Eli gets a phone call: Zaida’s fallen on his tuchus and can’t get the bagels! Eli and his family aren’t the only ones waiting on bagels, either – Eli visits Zaida, only to discover that Zaida’s friends are verklempt, too. No bagels! What a shanda, as my stepdad would say! Eli helps care for his zaida and keep him company, but he knows the best way to cheer Zaida up, and heads to the bagel store on his own the very next Sunday. This story is the most charming book about grandparents and grandchildren, loaded with compassion, a wink and nudge type of humor, and loads of fun, new Yiddish terminology. If you’re an urban dweller, like me, these words are kind of a second language: Zaida is grandfather, and tuchus is your bottom; there’s a little glossary of other Yiddish words that show up in the story, too. (Verklempt is overwhelmed with emotion, and shanda is a shame – you won’t find them in the story, but all I could hear was my stepdad when I read this, so there you go.) I loved the sweet storytelling, the compassion and the decision to act on Eli’s part, and Zaida and his group of friends were wonderful. It’s got an urban flavor that everyone will enjoy, and is good storytelling. Use this story as an opportunity to get your kids talking about relationships with their grandparents: what do you call your grandparents? Do they cook, bake, or shop for food? Do you go with them? (I’d love to get some bagels to hand out with my group… hmmm…) The acrylic artwork has a soft, almost retro feel, but really emphasizes the relationship story with colors, gentle expressions, and soft lines.

The Golden Glow, by Benjamin Flouw,
(May 2018, Tundra/Penguin Random House), $17.99, ISBN: 9780735264120

Recommended for readers 4-8
A fox who loves nature and botany goes on a quest for a rare plant to add to his collection. The Golden Glow is a plant from the Wellhidden family, and only grows high in the mountains. There’s not even a picture of it; it’s never been described. Fox packs his supplies and heads off to the mountains, meeting different animals and noting different plants and trees along the way. When Fox finally reaches the mountaintop, he waits… and discovers the Golden Glow! It’s stunning! It’s breathtaking! And Fox realizes that “the golden glow is more beautiful here on the mountaintop than it ever would be in a vase in his living room”. Part story and part nature journal, The Golden Glow is just gorgeous and teaches a respect for nature. The angular art draws the eye in; there’s so much to see on every page, every spread. Flouw creates detailed lists of Fox’s hiking pack, plus trees and flowers that he encounters on his way, and a map of different zones on the way up to the mountain, from the foothill to snow zones, all in beautiful detail for younger readers to enjoy. Fox’s decision to leave the flower where it is presents a love of and respect for nature that can lead to a great discussion on conservation. Bright red endpapers with angular design could be a topographic map of the area – talk about how different areas look from above! I know it’s way early, but I’ll quietly whisper this one now: Caldecott contender.
Posted in Preschool Reads

Wanda’s Better Way – good STEM reading!

Wanda’s Better Way, by Laura Pedersen/Illustrated by Penny Weber, (July 2017, Fulcrum Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-68275-014-8

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young girl finds a better way to do things as she goes through her day. The grownups around her think she’s not interested in the task at hand, but she’s really at work observing problems and creating workarounds – and then goes on to engineer them. When Wanda’s dance teacher suggests she consider gymnastics because she doesn’t appear interested in dance, we discover that she’s engineering a solution to the cluttered and messy dressing room. When she offers to help her landscape designer mother, she finds a solution that will keep squirrels out of a bird feeder. When she helps her chef father in the kitchen, she finds an easier way to separate eggs – and makes that her science fair project!

With short, easy to read and understand sentences and realistic illustrations, Wanda’s Better Way is a nice way to introduce STEM concepts and the scientific method to younger budding scientists and readers. Wanda’s ideas come to her in step-by-step thought bubbles and she’s illustrated with a light bulb going off over her head when solutions to come her. It’s a time-honored and effective way to communicate ideas! Kids will see how Wanda works out the problem and can discuss how she implements her solutions. Wanda tries on different career ideas while talking to her mother and father; something many kids will be familiar with. We’re often our kids’ first exposure to careers, so why wouldn’t they consider doing what we do? Wanda ultimately decides that she wants to be a scientist, which offers a nice topic for discussion: Wanda wants to be a scientist because she realizes her strength in figuring out problems. What are you really good at, and what can you do with your talent?

Wanda and her brother are biracial, with an African-American mother and white father. It sends a positive message about girls of color taking an interest in STEM! There is a two-page, age-appropriate explanation of the scientific method.

I’d put this with my Andrea Beaty books – Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect – and my other STEM picture books, like Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing and Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With a Problem? and What Do You Do With an Idea? Great for STEM storytimes, and if you have blocks or other maker goodies handy, you can let the kiddos play for a little while and work up their own engineering challenges.

Laura Pedersen is an author, humorist, and playwright. Her website offers more information about her books and theater projects. Illustrator Penny Weber’s website has a gallery of her artwork.

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

Summer of STEAM: Girls Who Code Two-Fer!

I love coding and playing around with computer science-y type stuff. In my mind, I look like this:

When I create this.  (This is actually mine! I created it using Scratch.)

I do my best to get science in front of my own kids, and my library kids, at every opportunity. The kids here at my library are Minecrafters, so I feel like I’ve got an in and am working on building a nice, tech-friendly nonfiction section; the next additions on my list are from the organization, Girls Who Code.  If you aren’t familiar with Girls Who Code, they are a New York-based organization on a mission to close the gender gap in the tech industry and the classroom. They teach girls to embrace tech and to code, to create, and most importantly, not to fear science and math. Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Hauser, two GWC grads, wrote Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done, where they talk about their GWC experience.

Now, Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code founder, is releasing her own book, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World (Aug. 2017, Viking, $17.99, ISBN: 978-0425287538). It’s a coding beginner’s guide, a spotlight on women in the computer science industry, an empowering career guide, and introduction to STEM for girls, all rolled up into one volume. It’s fun and easy to read, with Reshma speaking to readers in a comfortable, friendly voice; she gets some help from a group of illustrated, diverse girls: Lucy, Erin, Sophia, Leila, and Maya. The illustrated group of friends (more on them later) explain concepts and act as a step-by-step example of different stages of coding and creating.

What sets Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World apart from all the other coding books out there? Glad you asked. The tone, for starters, is fun, light, and personal. Reshma and her group of illustrated friends are talking straight to readers. The two-color illustrations are fun, like those you’d find in a middle grade novel, and feature characters from different ethnicities; Leila rocks a hijab, Maya is an Asian fashionista with a sleek bob; Lucy is African-American, Sophia is Latina, and Erin is a blonde. The group of friends come together to create apps and problem solve their coding; we’re invited along for the ride. Not sure you want to go into computer science? That’s no problem, either: GWC points out how many careers and hobbies incorporate coding these days, from baking, to politics, to social justice, sports, and art.  You’ll learn new terms, like pseudocode – that’s when you write out the steps of your program in plain language, to brainstorm and go over your program before starting to code. There are further Web resources and a glossary to complete this trusty guide to STEM life. Trust me, you’ll never look at the mere making of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again after you read this.

Also arriving the same day as Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World is the first in a new GWC series of fiction chapter books, starring the Girls Who Code we met in the previous book: Lucy, Erin, Sophia, and Maya (Leila’s arriving in the next book) come together thanks to a coding club in the new adventure, The Friendship Code, by Stacia Deutsch.

Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code, by Stacia Deutsch, (Aug. 2017, $12.99, ISBN: 9780399542510)

 

We get some background on each character: there’s been some past drama between Lucy and Sophia; Erin is an army brat who’s new in town; Maya is the fashionista who has a fashion column in the school newspaper; Sophia’s an athlete, and Lucy is fixated on learning to code so she can create an app to help her sick uncle remember to take his medicine. Thanks to the Coding Club, the girls learn that coding is more than just banging out numbers on computers (sometimes, to Lucy’s chagrin). With a fun mystery thrown in, the GWC series is like a Babysitter’s Club for a new group of tech-savvy kids. The series is great for intermediate-level readers; black and white illustrations and a quick pace make this novel a fun read that introduces younger middle graders to beginning coding terms and STEM. The mystery is even written in pseudocode – maybe a fun thing to introduce to your kids! Slip a pseudocode note into a lunchbox here, introduce a pseudocode scavenger hunt there… the possibilities stretch far and wide. Where Girls Who Code: Learn to Code, Change the World is best for your middle schoolers and upper middle graders, Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code is a great way to get younger middle graders familiar with the characters, the language of coding, and the fun of STEM.

In October, we’re getting another nonfiction/fiction GWC combo, when Code It! Create It! and Team BFF: Race to the Rescue! hit shelves. I’ll be waiting!

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Is Jasper John Dooley Public Library Enemy #1?

jasper john dooleyJasper John Dooley: Public Library Enemy #1, by Caroline Adderson/Illustrated by Mike Shiell (Apr. 2016, Kids Can Press), $15.95, ISBN: 9781771380157

Recommended for ages 7-10

Poor Jasper! He borrowed a book from the library, so he could practice reading. He wanted his skills to be sharp when it was his turn to sit on the big, comfy chair at the library and read to Molly the dog, that’s all! But Jasper accidentally dropped the book in the tub and drowned it, and THEN, his father set it on fire by trying to dry it in the stove. And THEN, he shot it with a fire extinguisher! Now, Jasper and his dad are Book Killers, and he’s terrified that he owes the library $2500 for the book! How can he raise that much money before Wednesday, when it’s his turn to read to Molly?

This is the sixth book in the Jasper John Dooley early chapter book series, and it’s adorable; great for young readers who are ready to advance from Easy Readers to chapter books. Jasper is very likable, and his reasoning will click with readers: his mom reads in the bathtub, so it should be easy, right? He misjudges a decimal point when trying to determine the price of the book he needs to replace, and comes up with $2500 instead of $25. He feels huge responsibility for the library book in his care, which provides opportunities for discussion about responsibility and taking care of others’ belongings, as well as realizing that everyone makes mistakes – even parents – and that, yes, accidents happen.

This is the first Jasper John Dooley book I’ve ever read, but I would like to get these on my library’s shelves, because they’re great reading. Like most series fiction for emerging and newly independent readers, you don’t need to read from book one to pick up the series; they’re independent stories with characters that you’ll get to know right away. Black and white llustrations add to the enjoyment of the story. You can easily have a read-aloud with this book: classes will get a kick out of it! Good role models, sweet humor based on misunderstanding, solid discussion points make this a good addition to your series collections.

Learn more about the Jasper John Dooley series on the Kids Can Press webpage.

Posted in Media, TV Shows

Media Review: Jake and the Neverland Pirates (Episodes: The Golden Egg/Huddle Up) (Walt Disney Studios, 2011)

Directed by Kelly Ward. Disney Junior, 22 minutes. Walt Disney Studios. 2011

Recommended for ages 2-5

Jake_and_the_Neverland_Pirates_3489

Jake and the Neverland Pirates is Disney Junior’s answer to Dora the Explorer. Jake (voiced by Colin Ford) and his friends, Izzy (voiced by Madison Pettis) and Cubby (voiced by Jonathan Morgan Heit), are a multicultural group of children playing pirate games along with their parrot friend, Skully (voiced by David Arquette). Disney favorites Captain Hook and his mate, Smee, always seem to find a way to show up and meddle in their fun. Each 11-minute episode involves a quest of some sort, and Jake and his friends interact with the viewer by asking them to help out and solve problems and cheer them on. Each episode’s close rewards the team – and the viewer – for their teamwork by providing them with “pirate doubloons” that goes in the group treasure chest, which the viewers help Jake count. In The Golden Egg, Jake and his friends find a gold-colored egg, and set off to find who it belongs to. Captain Hook (voiced by longtime Captain Hook voice actor Corey Burton) and Smee (voiced by Jeff Bennett) are hot on the team’s trail, thinking the egg is an actual gold egg. Huddle Up finds Jake, Izzy and Cubby playing a game of “pirate football” until Captain Hook steals the ball, believing it has special powers. Jake and his friends set off on a quest to get the ball back from Hook.

 

The series is highly interactive, and children familiar with Dora will enjoy the familiarity. Like Dora, each episode resembles a video game, with tasks to complete; the team collects gold doubloons that float in the air to put in their treasure chest at the end of each episode. Members of the pirate rock band, Captain Bogg and Salty, end each episode with a pirate song.

 

Captain Hook and Smee are similar to Dora’s Swiper, the wily fox who tries to swipe Dora’s objects. Jake and his friends go on quests and provide the viewers with prompts to help them along; there are musical interludes throughout each episode, and a celebration at the end. It’s a good introduction to mainstay Disney characters – Peter Pan has appeared in at least one episode – for younger viewers, and Captain Hook and Smee are goofy here, less threatening than they are in the movie Peter Pan. Each episode emphasizes the importance of teamwork. With the Disney name on the cartoon, caregivers know the production values will be high. The animation is computer-generated, with bright colors and fluent action to keep viewers’ attention. The main characters have expressive, happy faces while the antagonists have exaggerated features that make them less menacing, more caricature-like.

 

Each episode runs roughly 11 minutes, which makes this a good addition to a pirate story time or a teamwork story time. The show is a pleasant way to keep children entertained while reinforcing lessons on preschool basics and teamwork, and the musical ending provides an opportunity to get the kids up and dancing. Learning a pirate jig would be a fun way to conclude a library program showing a Jake and the Neverland Pirates episode. The Jake and the Neverland Pirates section of the Disney website offers free printables that attendees can color and take home, and the Oriental Trading catalog and website has a wealth of pirate supplies that can be bought in bulk for relatively low cost, including fun pirate eye patches to hand out.