Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Intermediate Nonfiction to love!

I’ve got some great middle grade nonfiction here, if you’re shopping for your back-to-school carts. My library kids tend to be nonfiction readers, so I’m always looking for fun, interesting books for them, and I think these will fit the bill nicely. Take a look, see what appeals to you!

What a Wonderful Phrase: A collection of amazing idioms from around the world, by Nicola Edwards & Many Montoya, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684642991

Ages 7-10

This collection of phrases and idioms from all over the world is a great little resource. Kids will easily recognize some phrases, like “buttering a person up”, and “raining cats and dogs”, but will they know where “seeing a peacock dance in the jungle” comes from? How about “peeing in your shoes will only keep you warm for a little while”? The origins of these phrases are interesting and amusing, and this little collection contains explanations, a phrase in its native language and phonetic pronunciations, and colorful illustrations. There’s no cow on the ice here (Swedish for “no rush”), but consider this one for your quirky readers who enjoy playing with language. What a Wonderful Phrase is a companion to What a Wonderful Word (2018).

 

Is There Life on Your Nose? Meet the Microbes, by Christian Borstlap, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $17.95, ISBN: 9783791374970

Ages 6-10

This is going to be huge with my library kids. Microbes make up every part of our day-to-day life, and this book is all about those microbes and where they live: on your nose, in boiling water or the arid desert, even underground. Filled with fun facts and entertaining illustrations, Is There Life on Your Nose? is all about microbes: how they breed, how they contribute to our lives (we wouldn’t have pickles, cheese, or bread without them!), how they can generate clean energy, and even how they can make us sick, in the form of viruses. It’s a great introduction to a timely subject, explained with humor and smart facts that will help kids understand – especially now – those little, microscopic creatures we share our world with. Are you doing STEM activities again, either in-person or virtually? Pair a reading of this with some of these experiments from Go Science Girls – I’m thinking of the hand-washing one in particular for my kiddos!

 

The Weather Pop-Up Book, by Maike Biederstadt/Illustrated by Michael Prestel, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $25, ISBN: 9783791373935

Ages 7-10

Just because kids are getting older doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate a good pop-up book! This book on weather is a great way to communicate the power of weather and the devastating influence of climate change. Spreads on storms, rain, tornadoes, heat, and snow fold out into 3-D landscapes, with paragraphs on each weather phenomenon. The opening spread explains “why weather is the way it is”, and the final spread on climate change explains how it affects weather, and what we can expect as weather patterns are further affected. A good addition to your reference section – if you’re putting this into circulation, it may wear out pretty quickly, but it will be a popular choice.

 

Explore! America’s National Parks, by Krista Langlois/Illustrated by Hannah Bailey, (June 2021, Kane Miller), $18.99, ISBN: 9781684641932

Ages 7-12

Who’s up for a road trip? This voyage through America’s 61 National Parks will have readers ready to pack their backpacks and head out with this book as their guide. Beautifully illustrated, laid out by geographic region (West Coast, Alaska, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Central, East, and Tropics), and with a strong message of environmental respect and care, this is a treasure trove. United States maps highlight each region and its parks; a descriptive paragraph on states covered and activities to discover entices readers to turn the pages and dive in. Fact files give the statistics for each park, including size, state, founding date, and one fun fact; ranger tips help readers plan for a safe and exciting visit. Want to help scientists estimate how many bears live in Denali? Want to learn where the best place is to listen for the Mexican spotted owl? You’ll find all the answers in here. Armchair explorers and travelers, natural world fans, anyone who loves NatGeo books. Need a program idea? Take virtual tours through each of the parks using this book as your guide.

The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes, by Silke Vry/Illustrated by Finn Dean, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374741
Ages 7-10
Part activity book, part reference guide, this book on mazes and labyrinths will send puzzle fans over the moon. Organized into four sections: I Think I’m Going Crazy! explains the differences between a maze and a labyrinth, how detours can lead us to our goals, and mazes and labyrinths within our bodies and our lives; Winding Paths as Far as the Eye Can See spotlights famous labyrinths from history; To The Center, Please! looks at the journey to the center of a labyrinth – and how to get back out, and Strange Paths! leads readers to mazes all around the world. From Theseus and the Minotaur’s labyrinth of legend to the quiet contemplation of walking a labyrinth in n nature, beautifully illustrated spreads include mazes and activities for readers to complete and ideas to mull over. A guide to solving mazes will help readers before they wander into a maze (hey, Fall’s coming… corn mazes!). Back matter includes more information about famous labyrinths worldwide and a glossary. Great for reference collections. History fans and brain buster fans will devour this one.
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Explorer’s Code is great for puzzle mystery readers

The Explorer’s Code, by Allison K. Hymas, (Sept. 2020, Imprint), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250258854

Ages 9-13

Idlewood Manor was a home with a storied history, but has been empty for decades, until recently. The current owner has opened the doors, and a group of guests is coming to stay for a weekend; among them, Charlie, a math whiz who won the trip for his family, and his sister, Anna, who is far less scholastic in her pursuits, but that’s because she’s got the entire world to explore, just like her idol, explorer Virginia Maines. Also visiting with her family is Emily, whose historian parents have their own reasons for wanting to visit Idlewood. The three kids separately discover mysterious clues to Idlewood’s history, and the history of those who lived there; they also notice that other guests seem to have a major interest in unlocking the Manor’s secrets. It’s a race to solve Idlewood’s mysteries, but can the three kids work together to solve them in time? Loaded with actual puzzles, ciphers, and riddles, The Explorer’s Code is full of mystery and scandal,with very likable, realistic characters at its core. A note about ciphers at the end invites readers to test their own coding mettle. The relationships are spot-on, with the ups and downs experienced by Anna and Charlie, who were close when they were younger, but have drifted apart in recent years, and Emily, desperate to make her parents proud of her. Anna and Emily rush into things for different reasons: Anna, because she’s caught up in the spirit of curiosity and adventure; Emily, because she feels like she’s racing against the clock. Charlie is slow and deliberate, thinking things through, which clashes with his sister’s impulsive wandering. Together, these qualities make them stronger – something they have to work on over the course of the story. Perfect for readers who enjoyed Ben Guterson’s Winterhouse, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger series, and of course, Chris Grabenstein’s Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade

Halloween seek and find with Waldo

Where’s Waldo? Spooky Spotlight Search, by Martin Handford, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211580

Ages 5-9

Waldo’s getting into the Halloween spirit with his newest Spotlight Search book! Similar to the Spectacular Spotlight Search (2018), this book contains six seek and find challenges, all under cover of darkness – but fear not! You have a glow-in-the-dark spotlight searcher to help you shed some light on the details! Look for Waldo, Woof, Wenda, Wizard Whitebeard, and Odlaw in every scene, in addition to changing, challenging checklists on each spread. And don’t forget to find all the carved pumpkins! Inspect ghostly galleons and shipwrecks, stage a great escape from a hidden cave and watch dragons fly, and seek shelter at a gloomy castle, where you can join a creaky dance party! Sharpen your eyeballs and wield your spotlight wisely, and have fun!

My third grader thoroughly enjoys the Waldo books, and has been swooping his spotlight around since this book arrived at our house, courtesy of Candlewick. Need more temptation? Fine. Remember, the first Where’s Waldo was a banned book. Scandal!
These books are classic fun and belong with your I Spy books and your puzzle books. They keep readers sharpening their attention skills and they’re just fun to do. Enjoy.
Posted in geek culture

Help! What do I do with these kids on Thanksgiving?

Are you facing down a day with restless kids? Dreading hearing the inevitable…

I hear you. That’s why I’m loading up on goodies to keep around the house when my 6-year-old starts up. (I can put the older two to work; they’re in high school and college.)

 

First off, Pinterest is a lifesaver. I’ve linked to a “Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids” search, so you can see a smidgen of the ideas waiting for you, most of which can be accomplished with stuff around the house. Toilet paper rolls? GODSEND. They can be turkey bodies; they can be Batman gauntlets or Wonder Woman bracelets; they can be snowmen, they can be anything! Stock up, have construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, and watercolor paints on hand (and newspaper to protect your table). The kids will love the chance to create.

Print out a bunch of pictures for coloring, and leave ’em around with crayons and colored pencils. Crayola has a bunch of Thanksgiving pictures, Hanukkah pictures, and Kwanzaa pictures, plus printables that let kids cut out and create their own turkeys, and even Thanksgiving Bingo! for a family game. Sesame Street’s got fantastic printables, including activities and different holidays; so does Disney Family.

Of course I have books! This is a book blog!

Around the World in 80 Puzzles, by Aleksandra Artymowska, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536203080

Ages 7-10

Puzzles!!! Who doesn’t have love puzzles? These aren’t your regular old crossword, word search, or Hidden Picture puzzles, though. These are puzzles made into an art form. Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic, Around the World in 80 Days, these puzzles feature steam trains, sailboats, parachutes, gliders, zeppelins, and more to take readers around the world. Each puzzle takes up a two-page spread and offers visual challenges to readers: find the safe path through a canyon that will avoid scorpions; discover lizards hiding in breathtaking Islamic architecture, or wander through jungle vines, in search of snakes and parrots. All mazes are in full-color and star a young boy who starts readers off on the adventure as he sits, reading, in his treehouse and grabs onto a balloon; the adventure ends when the balloon returns him to his little hideaway. The answers are at the back of the book, but that’s no fun! Get family members working together to solve the mysteries.

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets Christmas Coloring Book, created by Russell Ince, (2013), $11.00, ISBN: 089945589887

My friend picked this coloring book up at BookExpo this year, and I’m so glad she did. There are some beautiful Christmas pictures to color in this book; from Nutcrackers to Santa; holly mandalas and knotwork ornaments; Christmas stockings and presents. My little guy and I broke this out the other night and just went at it. There really is something soothing about coloring, and these meditative Christmas designs bring back memories of old-fashioned Christmases. If you can grab a copy for yourself, leave this one out and let the grownups and kids pair up together for some impressive artwork.

Games are great to get everyone going after the turkey coma threatens to kick in. We’re big on tabletop gaming in my family, so I’ve got a bunch handy, across age groups.

Machi Koro is a Pandasaurus/IDW Game that’s a big favorite with my older kids and me. (Me, primarily, because I love watching the two of them trash talk one another as they try to outdo one another). Think Monopoly, but faster-paced and with 100% more opportunity for smack talk. You’re the mayor of Machi Koro, an up-and-coming city, and you’ve got your work cut out for you: develop the city into the largest city in the region. It’s card and dice-based, for 2-4 players. We have the Harbor Expansion, which adds some more cards to the game and provides a few new building opportunities.

King of Tokyo is a board and dice-based game for 2-6 players. Because who doesn’t want to be a giant monster that destroys Tokyo? My littlest guy gets in there with the rest of us, no problem; one of us helps read the cards with him, but really, this game is about the dice and the hit points your monster can take. Actually getting hold of Tokyo is only part of the battle: fighting to keep it is quite another story!

Monsters in the Elevator is one of our favorites. It’s a cooperative game that brings math to the table. You’ve got a bunch of monsters, each with a different weight. You’ve got an elevator that goes up 20 floors. Monsters get on, monsters get off; monsters pass gas and clear out, monsters rush in to get to their destinations. You need to get that elevator up to the 20th floor, safely, so you need to keep your math skills sharp and maintain that weight! You can easily accommodate between 2 and 10 players, but I’d say anywhere between 3-6 is the best number. Younger kids can easily play this with help.

I couldn’t talk tabletop games without mentioning my first grader’s favorite game, Nightmarium. This one is fantastic for pre-readers all the way up to teens and adults. It’s a card-based game, and each monster comes in three parts: you have feet cards, body cards, and head cards. Monsters need to be built from the feet up, and you need to build five to win. Once you complete a monster, they have certain abilities that activate for that turn, depending on the cards making them up. We play this one a lot. It’s hilarious, and can be quite cutthroat. Enjoy.

 

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

The Holiday Shopping has started… buy some books!

It’s that time of year again, where I dig deep to find all sorts of great books to add to your holiday shopping lists. This is the first round, so I’m thinking this post will suggest books and goodies to bring when you celebrate Thanksgiving, or the Fall Harvest, with your families and friends. These books will be fun for the kiddie table – before the food, naturally!

City, by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick Press), $22, ISBN: 9781536202571

Ages 3-7

This book is just too much fun. First of all, it’s huge: over 40 inches high by over 17 inches wide, making it almost as big as some of the kids you’ll be seeing this holiday season! My niece giggle-shrieked when I stood the book up next to her, and that was that. She was hooked. It’s a gorgeous, funky concept book, introducing readers to different sights of city life: streetlamps, subways, coffee shops, fountains, zoos, even skateboarders are all here, with retro chic, bright art. The only words are the descriptive words for each picture; the endpapers are loaded with pictures of the smaller details of city life: a cat, a server, a scale, a shrub.

Put this in front of the kids, and let them have at it. My niece and my son loved talking about things they recognized: my niece remembers taking a train to work with her mom, and my son talked up the subway when I took him into the city on our winter break. And they both pretended that I was in the coffee shop and the bookstore, so it’s nice to know they think of me.

City is a gorgeous gift book that can be a coffee table art book for kids, or a prompt for creativity. Its only limit is the imagination.

The Smithsonian Exploration Station sets are fantastic gifts. Bring one or two of these with you, and set the kids up in their own personal science labs while the food cooks.

Smithsonian Exploration Station: The Human Body, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867215

Ages 4-10

The Smithsonian sets are contained in a nice, sturdy box that holds a lot of stuff. The Human Body box includes a 56-page fact book, 30 stickers, a plastic model skeleton kids can put together, and 25 fact cards. It’s similar to the Adventures in Science kit Silver Dolphin put out earlier this year, and my son loved them both. Learn what makes your blood pump, your muscles stretch and how your different systems come together to make you walk, run, eat, sleep, and play. Older kids can help younger kids with some basic terms and reading, and the littlest ones can still enjoy putting the stickers on the skeleton body while bigger kids help put the skeleton together.

 

Smithsonian Exploration Station: World Atlas, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867208

Ages 4-10

This set was hands-down my son’s favorite set. A blow-up globe, a world map and stickers of landmarks from all over the world, and cardstock puzzles of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and a Mayan Pyramid? Plus, a 56-page fact book that tells readers all about the cool landmarks as they decorate their maps? SOLD. We spent three days working on the map, at which time he told me that he wants to see every single one of these sights. We built the cardstock models, which called for much dexterity – so I called my eldest son in to help, because I tend to become a little exuberant, shall we say, with my papercrafting. My son also loves his inflatable globe, and asks me to point out cool places to him; some from the map, some, the countries that his friends at school hail from, some, names of places he hears about on TV. It’s a great set.

 

Smithsonian Exploration Station: Space!, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867222

Ages 4-10

Kids love planets! The Space! Exploration Station includes a 56-page fact book, astronaut and rocket plastic figurines, stickers, and glow in the dark stars to make their own constellations. There are incredible, full-color photographs and text that explains the makeup of our solar system, galaxies, planets, and constellations. Let the kids decorate your dining room to and eat under the stars!

Every single one of these kits is such fun, and urges kids to be curious and explore the world inside them and around them. If you have the budget for it, throw these in your distributor cart and get a few sets for your STEM/STEAM programming, too. The Smithsonian has a good science education channel on YouTube, with kid-friendly videos that make for good viewing.

 

Where’s Waldo? The Spectacular Spotlight Search, by Martin Handford, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536201765

Ages 5-9

Waldo’s back with a new trick: this time, the spreads have all gone dark! Luckily, the Spectacular Spotlight Search comes with a cool spotlight viewer to help you find him, and the challenges he sets out for you. There are six puzzles and a magic slider that slides into the scene to “light up” small sections – like a spotlight. Find Waldo and other familiar characters, plus other hidden challenges and games on each spread.  My 6-year-old and my 3-year-old niece had a blast with this book, eventually recruiting me for my Waldo-finding skills (narrator: The children were better.)

If you have puzzle and game fans in your family, this is a great gift to bring along. If you’re looking at it for your library, I suggest keeping it in reference; that spotlight will go missing or get beaten up in no time. But it’s good Waldo fun.

I have so much more to come, but I think this is a good start. A little something for everyone and plenty of hands-on fun!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Discover the secrets of Winterhouse!

Winterhouse, by Ben Guterson/Illustrated by Chloe Bristol, (Jan. 2018, Henry Holt & Co), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250123886

Recommended for readers 8-12

Elizabeth Somers is an 11-year-old orphan, living with her awful aunt and uncle. She has vague memories of the accident that took her parents’ lives, and a pendant around her neck, given to her by her mother. But a mysterious benefactor has paid for Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle to go on vacation over winter break, and she’s sent off to the Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the odd but kind Norbridge Falls. There, Elizabeth makes her first real friend – an inventor named Freddy, whose family sends him off to Winterhouse every winter break – and discovers a strange book in the library. She learns that the Winterhouse has some very deep secrets, but she’s not the only one trying to discover them: there’s a very creepy married couple that seems to be trying to figure things out, too. And why are they inviting her to tea? Mysteries abound in the first story of a new trilogy.

Winterhouse is loaded with puzzles for readers to piece together as they go. You’ve got a bookish heroine, a kid inventor who loves word puzzles almost as much as our heroine does, and a mystery code that will make or break our characters. There’s an awesome librarian, if I may say so myself, and a quirky proprietor whose secrets run deep: in short, a wonderful and group of characters that readers will enjoy adventuring with and discovering more about. Angular black and white illustrations by Chloe Bristol add interest to the book’s surroundings, and the beginning of each chapter provides a word ladder to introduce readers to a fun pastime that comes up throughout the novel. Other word games include anagrams, ambigrams, and a Vigenere Square – a code that holds the mystery to the story. Author Ben Guterson explains the puzzles and codes on his webpage. There are some great book references in Winterhouse, too: some of Elizabeth’s favorites include good readalike suggestions, like The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. (I’d also add Jennifer Chambliss’ Book Scavenger and Greenglass House by Kate Milford.)

 

A fun beginning to a new middle grade series. Give this one to your code breakers, for sure.