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

Learn about these Awesome Achievers in Technology!

Awesome Achievers in Technology, by Alan Katz/Illustrated by Chris Judge, (Aug. 2019, Running Press), $11.99, ISBN: 9780762463367

Ages 8-12

Kids have heard of the big names in Technology: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and, lord knows, Markus Persson (also known as Notch; Minecraft’s creator). But have they heard of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the particle physicist who invented the World Wide Web as a way to share information with other scientists? Or Marie Van Brittan Brown, the nurse from Queens who devised the first closed circuit TV system, in conjunction with her engineer husband? Awesome Achievers in Technology is a series of short bios on some of the lesser-heralded names in technology. The book is part biography compilation, part wacky facts and silly stories, and a sprinkling of dad jokes. There are 12 profiles and 13 biographies – Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus, the developers who created Siri, are included together – with black and white illustrations throughout. There are fun asides, including a “Get the couch potato back where he belongs” maze, remote control pop quiz, and wacky poems and stories from Katz’s memories.

All in all, a fun addition to biography shelves, and a good way to introduce kids to even more figures in STEM history. Awesome Achievers is going to be an ongoing series, with Awesome Achievers in Science hitting shelves on the same day as Awesome Achievers in Technology.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Valentine’s Day Readaloud: Love, by Stacy McAnulty

Love, by Stacy McAnulty/Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, (Dec. 2018, Running Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6212-4

Ages 3-8

Stacy McAnulty and illustrator Joanne Lew-Vriethoff team up again for Love, a sweet companion to Brave and Beautiful. Here, Ms. McAnulty and Ms. Lew-Vriethoff explore the sweet side of love, illustrated by children undertaking the kindest, most gentle tasks. Stacy McAnulty’s words take on even greater significance when paired with Joanne Lew-Vriethoff’s illustrations. “Love at first sight” features a spread of kids hugging shelter pets and new siblings; greeting a new friend in nature or a new, adopted sibling at the airport; “Love needs special presents and designer greeting cards” sees friends visiting and giving gifts and making cards for others, be it a sick friend, a grandmother, or someone who just needs a pick-me-up.

Love speaks to the value of time spent with friends and family, doing good things for the purpose of seeing one another smile. As Stacy McAnulty concludes, “Because nothing else matters without love”. The colorful illustrations and multicultural group of characters will keep readers interested. It’s a comfort to read stories that remind kids (and adults!) that the simplest things are the most important, and most remembered: time spent with family, friends, and community.

Love has a starred review from Kirkus, which also notes that this is a perfect read “for balancing the commercialism of Valentine’s Day”. Have your storytime group make their own “designer greeting cards” to give to someone they love. Maybe create a list of good deeds, based on the ones here, for readers to take home, reminding them of the power of kindness. This one is a good add to your storytime and empathy collections. Stacy McAnulty has valentines and worksheets based on Love available for free download at her website!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Can you help Yoga Frog cheer up?

Yoga Frog, by Nora Carpenter, (May 2018, Running Press Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780762464678

Recommended for readers 4-10

Yoga Frog likes to start his day off with some stretching, but sometimes he’s grumpy. He’s not much of a morning frog, and frankly, I don’t blame him. But Yoga Frog has a secret mood lifter for those tough to drag yourself out of bed mornings: yoga!

Yoga Frog introduces young readers to 18 different poses, each illustrated by our friend and guide, Yoga Frog. Each spread is brightly colored, with one page describing the pose, and the pose’s name in both English and Sanskrit; the facing page has our green amphibian yogi demonstrating the pose. Not every pose maps to its “real” English name; for instance, what grownups may know as “warrior” is “giraffe” here, in keeping with the nature-themed names. It doesn’t matter here, it’s gives the kids something fun to relate to and envision as they stretch and bend, releasing those endorphins and giving them a spot of Zen. The digital art is simple and sweet, with a big-eyed, friendly frog working his way through his asanas. A note to parents reminds caregivers about the benefits of yoga and breath awareness, and there’s a fun poster depicting the poses – not in order – that you can hang up and have kids refer to during a yoga storytime.

This nicely fits in with my yoga storytime books as a nice instructional. If you have a yoga storytime program, this is a nice add; ditto, if you need some yoga books for your collection. There’s a lovely emphasis on building childhood mindfulness lately – and it’s well-needed – so I’d jump on it.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Pink is for Boys… and an interview with author Robb Pearlman!

Pink is for Boys, by Robb Pearlman/Illustrated by Eda Kaban, (June 2018, Running Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780762462476

Recommended for readers 3-7

For those of us who are tired of the “blue is for boys, pink is for girls” madness, Robb Pearlman is here! Pink is for Boys is a lovely and fun concept book about colors that delivers the wonderful message that ALL colors are for EVERYONE. Spreads alternate between introducing colors and what else they’re popular for. In the first spread, a boy and a girl are getting ready for a party; he wears a pink shirt and bow tie; she’s got a pink dress with a long ribbon. The text reads, “Pink is for boys. And girls.” In the next spread, boys and girls wearing different shades of pink dance in a pink room, festooned with pink balloons and banners, and the text notes, “And bows on fancy clothes.” Each color is featured in the text and in the art, and shows boys and girls enjoying a game of baseball; playing royalty; enjoying nature and racing a go-kart; enjoying the summertime, teddy bears, pets, and most important of all, unicorns! Unicorns are for boys and girls! The text is decisive: all colors are for everyone. Period.

The art is adorable! Eda Kaban gives readers a diverse group of friends having fun together. Their faces are expressive and the body language between characters shows engagement and excitement. Make sure you look twice at the child on the unicorn; at the end of the book, you may become a little teary-eyed. Pink is for Boys is a fun summer reading addition to concept book collections and storytimes. Ask kids what they imagine when they think of different colors!

Pink is for Boys made Out Magazine’s list of 18 Essential LGBTQ Children’s Books for Every Age. Go, Robb!

I was lucky enough to be able to ask author Robb Pearlman a few questions about Pink is for Boys, writing, and a favorite subject to both of us, Star Wars:

Q: The most obvious question first: what prompted you to write Pink is for Boys?

Robb: I was prompted to write Pink is for Boys after attending a children’s birthday party at an ice skating rink. All of the children, including the boys, were required to wear pink wristbands to indicate that they were part of the group. One little girl decided to tease one of the boys for wearing something pink. He didn’t quite understand why wearing any color should be a source of embarrassment, and she was as disappointed that her attempt to anger him had failed. I, on the other hand, was delighted and inspired.

Q: Do you write every day, or does inspiration just strike you and get you started?

Robb: As much as I’d like to write every day, most of my writing is done on the weekends when I can devote chunks of dedicated time to it. I’ll sometimes write on my phone or iPad during my commute, too, if I’m in the middle of something that I can’t stop working on. But I’m constantly writing notes to myself about ideas, stories, or sometimes even just names to work on at a later time. Sometimes those notes are half sentences or just one word prompts, so it may take me a little while to remember what I was thinking in the first place.

Q: There’s a unicorn in Pink is for Boys! Any chance we’ll get a unicorn story out of you one day?

Robb: I’m a huge fan of unicorns because UNICORNS! I wrote a book for grown-ups, called 101 Ways to Use a Unicorn a few years ago, and I do have some half-finished stories for kids that I’ve been working on.

Q: Who would rock pink better: Han Solo or Chewbacca?

Robb: It’s hard to say! I think bright pink bandoliers would really pop against Chewie’s honey brown hair and make a statement of intergalactic proportions. But then again, Han would certainly rival Lando’s swagger if he sported a pink leather, instead of basic black, vest. I don’t see why they both can’t give themselves over to the pink side, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s “Let the Wookiee win,” so let’s go with Chewbacca.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Battle of Junk Mountain is underway

The Battle of Junk Mountain, by Lauren Abbey Greenberg, (April 2018, Running Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6295-7

Recommended for readers 8-12

Twelve-year-old Shayne is not having the summer she expected. Normally, she loves spending time with her grandparents and her “summer sister”, Poppy, in Maine, but things are different now. Her grandmother, Bea, hasn’t been quite the same since Shayne’s grandfather died in a fishing boat accident, and Poppy’s more interested in boys and makeup than she is in their summertime rituals. Shayne’s in Maine to help Bea get her home cleaned out: she’s always “collected” stuff, raiding yard sales and thrift stores, but she’s gotten a bit carried away since Grandpa died. Shayne refers to the pile of junk (“treasures”) on top of one table as Junk Mountain, but Bea just pooh-poohs any talk about there being a problem. But there are problems: Bea’s spending is out of control, and any attempts at getting the house cleaned up and selling her “treasures” off ends up getting Bea upset. Alone and conflicted, Shayne ends up befriending Linc (short for Lincoln), the Civil War-obsessed grandson of her grandmother’s next door neighbor. Shayne’s got to figure out a way to keep the peace in her shifting relationships this summer, or it will be the worst summer ever.

Told in the first person by Shayne, The Battle for Junk Mountain looks at how relationships shift over time; Poppy and Shayne’s friendship is going through its growing pains as the two start coming into themselves as tweens, but the big story here is the relationship between Bea and Shayne. What happens when that relationship changes? Shayne has some big ticket items to face in Junk Mountain: her grandmother’s collecting has turned into something bigger than she is, and she’s on her own for most of the novel while dealing with it. She also navigates two friendships: a changing longtime friendship and a new friendship with someone who doesn’t fit in with her usual summer traditions. It’s a gentle coming-of-age story that also has the ability to start a talk about big responsibilities kids face today.

There’s a free, downloadable study guide, with discussion questions and Common Core Standards, available through the author’s website. The Battle of Junk Mountain is good summer reading: easy to read, but filled with realistic, relatable characters that will leave readers thinking and talking.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Annie B is Made for TV!

Annie B, Made for TV!, by Amy Dixon, (June 218, Running Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780762463855

Recommended for readers 7-10

Annie Brown is an 11-year-old who always seems to come in second to her best friend, Savannah. Savannah seems unable to do any wrong: she wins the big awards at school, she’s the MVP of the school track team, and she’s a straight-A student. Savannah tries to be a supportive best friend, and when a local web show called The Cat’s Meow holds auditions, Savannah just knows that Annie has to try out! After all, no one comes up with wacky “As Seen on TV”-type products like she does! Annie’s own dad calls them her “wrinventions”, and they include things like Apology Armor (extra padding on those knees). But Annie freezes at the audition… and Savannah lands the role of announcer, which causes a rift in their friendship – even when Annie is brought on as a show writer. Can Annie outfit herself in some Apology Armor and patch things up with Savannah?

This is one of those middle grade novels that so many readers will understand! Who hasn’t felt jealous of a good friend, especially if they seem to have it all? Who hasn’t felt the disappointment of missing out on something like being cast for a school play, or making a sports team? Amy Dixon captures realistic scenarios and real feelings in the form of a spunky, funny protagonist who wants to be Lucy, but maybe is a little more Ethel. Annie B. Made for TV reminds me of Sarvenaz Tash’s Belle of the Ball, a great story from the anthology The Radical Element. It’s not always about being the one in the spotlight, but about knowing your strengths and how to work them. This one’s a fun, smart read for middle graders, and is filled with black and white line drawings of Annie’s best “wrinventions”.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Snail Mail celebrates the art of letter-writing!

Snail Mail, by Samantha Berger/Illustrated by Julia Patton, (May 2018, Running Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-762462-51-3

Recommended for readers 4-6

This adorable story celebrates the special touches that correspondence sent by “snail mail” – mail sent (GASP!) without electronic communication. Real letters! Birthday cards! Letters to Santa, postcards, and love letters! In Samantha Berger’s latest book, four snails (Dale Snail, Gail Snail, Colonel McHale Snail, and Umbérto) trek across the country to deliver a special letter from a Girl to her friend, a Boy. As they travel, they take the time to explore the country; the deserts, canyons, rainbows and sunsets, experiencing beautiful and not-so-great weather, until they arrive in a giant city and find the Boy.

Snail Mail is a love letter (wink) to slowing down and enjoying life. It’s about a handwritten letter and why they’re so much nicer than emails and texts; it’s about taking the time to write a letter, see a sunset, road trip across the country and experience life. As the author writes, “Although it took much longer, everyone agreed that some things were just A LITTLE more special when they were delivered by Snail Mail.” The snails each have their own personality, and work together to bring the Girl’s letter on a journey to its recipient, always uttering their Snail Mail Promise, “Neither rain, nor snow, nor heat, nor hail will stop a snail from bringing the mail.” Letter delivered, the snails are rewarded with their own mail: medals and a congratulatory letter; “something they could have only gotten through Snail Mail.”

Snail Mail is a thoroughly enjoyable story that would be adorable to follow or start off a program on letter writing and pen pals. I found this cute graphic organizer on This Reading Mama that would be great for teaching the parts of a letter to younger readers, and Reading Rockets has a nice introduction to letter writing for kids. has a starred review from Kirkus.

(Pair this with Dashka Slater’s Escargot and discuss: are Escargot and Umberto related? They share a common fashion interest!)

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Look Past: A Teen Hunts a Killer

lookpastLook Past, by Eric Devine, (Oct. 2016, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-7624-5921-6

Recommended for ages 15+

A teenage girl is brutally murdered and left to be found. Mary was the daughter of a prominent pastor and was in love with Avery, a transgender teen. Shattered by Mary’s death, Avery is hell-bent on finding her killer, but it turns out that Mary’s murder was a message to Avery: repent, or you’re next. As the messages become more repulsive and the killer begins contacting Avery, letting him know that his every move is being watched, Avery has big decisions to make. Does he betray himself by doing what the killer wants? And will that really keep him safe?

Look Past is an intense, brutal book. Mary’s murder is the catalyst, setting everything in motion, and is relived throughout the book. Religious fundamentalism and the violence hate can breed play a big part in Look Past, as does identity and the importance of being true to yourself. There are points in this book where it’s almost too much to take. Avery is a character I wanted to scream at and root for; at the same time, the intensity of Devine’s writing made me want to put the book down and take a break to just breathe – and I couldn’t I finished this book in two sittings, broken up only by the need to go to sleep so I could get to work the next day.

Look Past is a gritty novel about murder in which the main character is transgender. That’s TREMENDOUS. Avery’s a strong, queer character with a supportive family that’s not without their struggles, but ultimately loves their son and supports him. Avery’s best friend and girlfriend stand with him, even when it’s a hard choice; even when it could mean their lives on the line. It’s an unputdownable novel that thriller readers will love and LGBTQ readers will embrace.

This is the second Eric Devine novel I’ve read, the first being Press Play, which looked at hazing and violence in team sports. Eric Devine attacks issues of the day with gusto and doesn’t shy away from grim details or uncomfortable situations. He writes compulsively readable novels that teens and adults alike should read – take a break from your run-of-the mill thrillers and give Look Past a shot.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Blog Tour: Race Car Dreams by Sharon Chriscoe!

race-car-dreams_1

A race car finishes his race and gets ready for bed in this adorable rhyming bedtime story. Going through his nighttime rituals: he washes his rims, fills his tummy with oil, and heads to the library for a book to snuggle down with for the night. It’s a story that’s just perfect for bedtime, as my 4 year-old will gladly attest to; it’s entered our nightly reading routine, and the gentle rhyme and bright but subdued, kid-friendly art is a lovely transition from go-go-go running around all day to slowing down and getting ready for bed.

RaceCarDreams_int.indd

The endpapers bring us into and lead us out of the story with black and white checkered flag; in auto racing, it’s the checkered flag that waves when the winner has crossed the finish line; it’s a fun fact to add to a storytime and it adds both to the beginning and end settings for the story.

RaceCarDreams_int.indd

Cars fans, racing fans, boys and girls alike will enjoy this sweet bedtime story. I love that the race car snuggled down on its own with a good book, showing that while snuggle time with Mom or Dad is great, you can also be perfectly content to cuddle up with a night time read all on your own.

Is your little one a fan of “just one more book” at bedtime like mine is? Add Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Steam Train, Dream Train to the reading rotation for another rhyming dream story.

You can pick up a copy of Race Car Dreams for your little racer on September 13th. It’s available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or IndieBound. Support your local libraries and borrow it, too! Don’t forget to add it to your GoodReads!

Make sure to visit more stops on the RACE CAR DREAMS blog tour!

9/6 My Word Playground

9/7 MomReadIt

9/8 Unleashing Readers

9/9 Once Upon a Time…

9/10 Stacking Books

9/11 Geo Librarian

9/12 Flowering Minds

9/13 Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

9/14 Little Crooked Cottage

9/14 MamaBelly

9/15 #kidlit Book of the Day

9/16 Just Kidding

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Preschool Reads

The Seven Princesses: A fairy tale about sisters and your own space

seven princessesThe Seven Princesses, by Smiljana Coh (May 2017, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9780762458318

Recommended for ages 4-8

Once upon a time, there were seven princesses, all with diverse interests, who did everything together. But one day, they had the biggest fight in the entire history of princess fighting, and they all decided to build their own towers and be on their own. But that wasn’t the answer, either; the princesses really missed one another. What’s a princess to do?

Smiljana Coh’s book about sibling rivalry is a great story for preschoolers to early school-age kids, because it gets to the heart of sibling arguments: sibings are largely together day and all night, and space eventually gets tight, no matter what the living situation. Arguments are bound to happen; kids are all too quick to say things like, “I never want to see you AGAIN!”, but eventually, love wins out, and things get smoothed over. She also captures the feeling everyone around kids feel when there’s sibling unrest: the palette goes from soothing, happy pastels to washed out, sad, sepia-toned art, and she addresses how painful the sound of silence can be. When the princesses reunite, there’s joy in the kingdom again!

I also love that the princesses are such great girl-power figures for younger readers: the multi-ethnic princesses are interested in math, building, music, fashion design, gardening, animals, swimming, and the arts; one princess creates the blueprint for a grand castle layout. The royal parents show up in the beginning and end of the book; other than looking lovingly at one another and their kids, there’s not much of a role here, except to show a beautifully diverse family.

I can’t wait to put this into storytime rotation, especially since princess books are aces with my crowd. I’d spotlight this with both Kate Beaton’s Princess and the Pony and Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer; let girls see how amazing they are with these fun and fabulous role models.

Smiljana Coh is a Croatian author and illustrator. You can follow her on Facebook or check out her author website for more information.

Follow the Seven Princesses blog tour!

5/18 Anastasia Suen

5/20 Kid Lit Frenzy  

5/21 Mom Read It

5/23 Reading Through Life

5/24 Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books