Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Graphic Novels, I Read Stuff/Kiddo

Introducing… The Kiddo!

Hi all! I’ve been radio silent for a while, because I’ve been home enjoying my midwinter break vacation with my kiddos. Imagine my delight (and abject terror) when he announced that he wants to be a YouTuber, and that he wanted his first video to be about books. I went back and forth on this for a while, but here I go… I’d like to introduce you all to my kiddo, Gabe.

It’s his first, and he’s 7, but I think – in my very biased opinion – he’s adorable. I hope you enjoy hearing about kids’ books from an actual kid.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a big ol’ TBR to start writing up!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

She-Ra Chapter Books are here!

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Origin of a Hero (Book 1), by Tracey West/Illustrated by Amanda Schank, (April 2019, Scholastic), $$5.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-29842-0

Ages 7-10

Once upon a time, it was the 1980s, and I was a He-Man/She-Ra fan. I’d turn on the TV when I got home from high school, and keep it on in the background as I did my homework, talked on the phone, and got on with my day. Years later, She-Ra relaunched on Netflix, and despite an initial redesign uproar, it’s gotten pretty rave feedback. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet (my TBW – To Be Watched – list is almost as terrifying as my TBR), but I have to find a way to make that happen now that I’ve read the first chapter book in the new series, Origin of a Hero.

Not a mere relaunch, but a continuation of the original He-Man and She-Ra universe, Origin of a Hero introduces us to Adora and Catra, two girls being raised by a group known as The Horde. The Horde is at odds with The Rebellion, a group of princesses who are fighting to keep their world, Etheria, safe from The Horde. But Adora and Catra don’t hear that story: to them, The Horde is fighting the good fight against the evil, awful princesses. Adora and Catra are like frenemies, because Adora is the golden girl and the apple of the Shadow Weaver’s eye – the mother figure to both Adora and Catra – where Catra is jealous, but too fond of breaking rules and taking the easy way out to excel. Adora stumbles on an artifact – a sword – that gives her a vision of a warrior in white, and calls to her about honor, and she’s confused, but drawn to the sword. Meanwhile, a princess named Glimmer and her best friend, Bow, go searching for ancient artifacts and guess who they bump into? When the group is set upon by a giant robot insect, they seek shelter in an old ruin with the word “Eternia” written in runes that only Adora can read. Once inside the ruin, Adora finds that there’s more to the sword than just visions: it gives her the power to transform into the legendary She-Ra!

What a great beginning for a new generation of She-Ra fans! Adora has her nemesis origin up and running, because we all know Catra is bad news. She’s learned that Fake News has formed her life thus far; being raised to believe that the princesses are evil and The Horde is good, and being faced with the destruction and devastation wrought by The Horde when she meets Glimmer and Bow in the Whispering Woods. More of the original universe’s story is yet to be revealed, but with a second book, Island of Magical Creatures, already available and a third book, Song of the She-Witch, coming on November 5, I’m hooked and ready to commit to this series – and get my library kids in on it. And I’ll be pulling up She-Ra on Netflix to see if it lives up to the hype. The books are illustrated in two-color pink and white, with swords, stars, and runes decorating the borders of each page. This is an intermediate series to get in on now; the books are coming out pretty regularly and the series is starting its fourth season on November 5. Check out the trailer.

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

Middle Grade Quick Takes: The White Tower and Lions and Liars

Two more from the great TBR read-down! I’ve got some realistic fiction and some dark(ish) fantasy for you, right here!

The White Tower, by Cathryn Constable, (Sept. 2017, Chicken House/Scholastic), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-15746-8

Ages 8-12

Livy is a 12-year-old English girl who is still reeling from the recent death of her best friend is uprooted when her father accepts a prestigious job as the librarian at Temple College: a position that comes with a spot in the school for Livy and a new home for the family. Livy discovers the stone Sentinels – angels – on the roof of the school are tied into the school’s history, and that the school’s founder and her possible ancestor, Peter Burgess, was consumed with studies on gravity and flight. As Livy tries to fit in at school, she also finds herself drawn to the Sentinels and their secrets; a mystery between the school’s previous librarian, the current headmistress, and Peter Burgess moves the story forward.

Character development takes a back seat to the many subplots, leading to an at-times confusing story that has strong fantastic elements that I would have liked to explore more. Livy is a developing character who would have benefitted more from a stronger subplot on grief and loss, and the main plot – the Burgess mystery – being more defined, less stretched out between characters. If you have strong fantasy readers who liked Constable’s previous book, The Wolf Princess, this may work for them.

 

Lions & Liars, by Kate Beasley/Illustrated by Dan Santat, (June 2018, Farrar Straus Giroux), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-374-30263-4

Ages 8-12

This case of mistaken identity at a summer camp for unruly kids is at times, hilarious; at times, touching. Fifth grader Frederick Frederickson is not the big kid on campus. He’s not even really the small kid on campus. According to his friend Raj’s “food-chain theory about life”, there are lions, like Devin; the big kid on campus. There are gazelles, the kids who are bullied by the lions. There are meerkats, who watch the world go by, and then, there are fleas, who live on the butts of the meerkats. According to Raj, Frederick is a flea. This doesn’t sit well with Frederick; things only get worse when his long-awaited family vacation is canceled because of a Category 5 hurricane threat. After his friends pull a mean prank on Frederick at a birthday party, he’s had enough, and pushes back. The only problem is, pushing back ends up with him stuck on a boat that leaves him on the shores of Camp Omagoshee, a summer camp for troubled kids. It gets worse when he’s mistaken for camper Dashiell Blackwood, whose name tag is the only one left. Assuming Dash’s identity, he finds himself in the big leagues for a change: Dash is legendary for being bad, but Frederick? He tries to convince his cabin mates, Nosebleed, Specs, The Professor, and Ant Bite, that he is every bit as tough as they come, but even Frederick isn’t sure if he’s going to be able to back up Dash’s fame. When the camp is cleared out when the hurricane starts heading in their direction, Frederick and his new group learn that they have to work together to stay safe, and maybe they’ll even become friends.

At its heart, Lions & Liars is about cliques and labels. The mistaken identity plot makes for some laugh-out loud moments, especially as Frederick tries to live up to Dashiell Blackwood’s infamous camp legend, but there’s also the stress of living a lie and the risk of being discovered. What happens when real friendships are made on the foundation of lies? The characters are nicely developed, and go beyond their “bad kid” label to show readers what constitutes a “troublesome child” in others’ eyes. Dan Santat’s black and white illustrations will keep readers turning pages. Kate Beasley has a great post about the labels kids get stuck with on the book on Nerdy Book Club.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Middle Grade Quick Takes: Toy Academy, Ask Emma, Confusion is Nothing New

Every now and then, I dive into my TBR, which accumulates at an astonishing rate. This week, I managed to read a few more from the TBR, and wanted to give a quick take on them, since they’ve been out for a while but still deserve some mention.

Toy Academy: Some Assembly Required (Toy Academy #1), by Brian Lynch/Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, (Jan. 2018, Scholastic), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-14845-9

Ages 7-10

This is the first in a new intermediate/middle grade series, and it’s SO much fun. Grumboldt is a stuffed animal of some sort – he has a somewhat amusing and dubious origin – and desperately wants to belong to a kid of his own. He meets a transforming car robot named Omnibus Squared, who, as it turns out, is recruiting toys for Commander Hedgehog’s Institute for Novelty Academia – The Toy Academy. Grumboldt manages to talk his way into admission, and tries desperately to be a great toy, so he’ll be assigned to a great kid, but he’s got some challenges. There’s a bully (it’s always a soldier, isn’t it?) named Rex constantly bugging him, and he can’t stay awake during Bedtime Prep. When Commander Hedgehog’s arms go missing, though, Grumboldt sees a chance to help out and make good at Toy Academy after all.

Have readers who love Toy Story? (Seriously, who doesn’t?) Give them Toy Academy. It’s sweet, hilarious, and loaded with toy references that everyone – kids and grownups alike – will recognize and get a laugh out of. Brian Lynch is a screenwriter with Minions and The Secret Life of Pets to his credit, so he knows how to write things that kids like. Edwardian Taylor’s art is a perfect match for the wacky, fun storytelling and gives us characters we’ll know and love for books to come: Grumboldt is a lovable plush with mismatched parts; Micro is a lively action figure whose collectable status limits her movement – she’s stuck in a plastic bag, because she HAS VALUE; Commandant Hedgepig is a knockoff, off-brand version of Commander Hedgehog who insists on being called his proper name rather than his emerging nickname, Bootleg. The second Toy Academy book, Ready for Action, is also available, so put these on your series purchase lists if you don’t have them already.  The kids will love them.

Ask Emma, by Sheryl Berk & Carrie Berk, (May 2018, Yellow Jacket), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0647-2

Ages 8-12

Emma is a 13-year-old seventh grader who loves to give advice, whether or not it’s asked for. She decides to start an Ask Emma column, so she can make herself available to all of her classmates at Austen Middle School, but quickly discovers that she’s a bit tone deaf in the process; she tends to push her best friends into doing things her way. She even tries to get the cute new guy, Jackson Knight, to join all the groups she thinks he should and tell her all about himself, but he gives a little pushback, which adds to his mystery. Emma starts getting some negative comments on her blog, and things start going haywire in Emma’s real world, too. When a hurtful picture of Emma starts making the rounds around the school, she decides to nip a potential cyberbully in the bud and takes action.

This is the first book in a new series from The Cupcake Club authors Carrie Berk and Sheryl Berk, and it left me a little wanting. Emma never really sees how self-absorbed she is, or apologizes for the things she does to her best friends. Her friends turn their backs on her when another student that Emma tries to “help” lies to make herself look good, but she never has that aha! moment when she examines her own behavior. A few negative blog comments and one mean picture become an overblown cyberbullying campaign, which, in this day and age, is forward thinking – catch cyberbullying in its early stages, before it becomes something out of control – but her related blog entry makes it sound like she endured a hateful campaign where she was bullied day and night. This one is a little out of touch; maybe an additional purchase where the authors are popular. The additional characters, including Jackson Knight and Emma’s best friends, Izzy and Harriet, seem interesting and I’d like to read more of their stories.

 

Confusion is Nothing New, by Paul Acampora, (May 2018, Scholastic Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-20999-0

Ages 9-13

Fourteen-year-old Ellie Magari just found out her mother, who left her and her father when Ellie was a baby, has died. Never having known her mother, Ellie tries to figure out who her mother was, especially when her father presents her with a box of her mother’s memorabilia, mysteriously sent to Ellie. She discovers that her mother was the singer in an ’80s tribute band, married her *other* high school sweetheart, and that the band is playing the local college soon. Ellie struggles with learning about her mother and how to grieve someone she never knew, while expressing frustration with her father’s reluctance to talk about her at all. Thankfully, Ellie’s friends, her principal, and an interesting new music teacher are there to help her put together the rest of the missing pieces.

Confusion is Nothing New is good, and yes, I say that partly because I love all things ’80s. (I would make a heck of a playlist to booktalk this book.) But aside from the music, it’s got a solid, readable story, and the characters have incredible heart and humor. Ellie is a likable, relatable character who takes no foolishness when a teacher treats her friend badly; she’s also vulnerable and working her way through big revelations dropped on her throughout the book. I loved her school band friends and the ease of their relationships; their humor, and their loyalty to one another. This one is a good read for tweens and teens – it’s on the cusp of being YA, but not – who want to read about another character figuring it out as best as she can.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Survival nonfiction: Lost in the Antarctic (and a giveaway!)

Lost in the Antarctic: The Doomed Voyage of the Endurance, by Tod Olson, (Jan. 2019, Scholastic), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-20734-7

The latest entry into Tod Olson’s Lost series takes a deeper look into Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 voyage to the Antarctic aboard the fated ship, the Endurance. Shackleton and a full complement of 28 men and a few dozen sled dogs boarded the ship, ready to attempt the first crossing of the Antarctic continent; nature had different ideas as the ship and crew endured oceans of ice that trapped and eventually crushed the ship, leaving the men to fend for themselves on the ice.

This is not a gentle story. Tod Olson writes of desperate men trapped in horrific conditions, fighting to survive; the story has riveting, gritty moments that will make the brutal world of the Antarctic come alive. Photos and details from primary sources, including Shackleton’s own journal, make the story come alive for readers. Have readers who love Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series (seriously, who doesn’t)? This is the next step. Want to make fiction readers love nonfiction just as much? This is the series for you and them.

I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of this series before: there are four books so far, and each book comes with incredible resources, including free, downloadable discussion guides and supplemental information – including multimedia resources – on Tod Olson’s author site. You can go directly to the Lost in the Antarctic resources here.

Get this series on your shelves now! You’ll be happy you did, and so will your readers.

Tod Olson is the author of the historical fiction series How to Get Rich and the four books in the Lost series–Lost in the Pacific, 1942; Lost in Outer Space;  Lost in the Amazon; and Lost in the Antarctic. He has written for national magazines on the Columbine school shooting, homeless teens, the murder of Matthew Shepard, and many other stories of interest to children and young adults. Tod holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Vermont with his family, his mountain bike, and his electric reclining chair. To learn more, and to download free teaching resources, visit his website: todolson.com.
 
Praise for previous titles in the Lost series
 
★”A riveting, completely engrossing true survival story.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“Engaging… A great choice for collections.” —School Library Journal
 
One lucky winner will receive Lost in the Antarctic, courtesy of Scholastic, Inc. (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Kwanzaa Books made the holidays bright!

My holds are in! I’ve got Kwanzaa books for everyone! (Okay, for kids. But that’s the most important audience here, right?) Let’s start the fun.

K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book, by Juwanda G. Ford/Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max, (Nov. 1997, Scholastic), $10.95, ISBN: 0-590-92200-9

Ages 3-7

This holiday abcedary starts off with a history of the Kwanzaa holiday and the seven Kwanzaa principles, then journeys into the alphabetic aspects of Kwanzaa. Using English and non-English words, readers learn a Kwanzaa vocabulary, from Africa to Zawadi. There are phonetic pronunciations for all African words, which is a huge help for readers just learning about Kwanzaa and its icons, and Juwanda G. Ford explains each aspect of the holiday simply and fully enough for a child to understand, appreciate, and learn: the mkeka is a special mat used when setting a Kwanzaa table, and mazao are the fruits and vegetables symbolizing the harvest, set on the mkeka; neighborhoods are part of the Kwanzaa celebration, promoting community, working together, and respecting where we live, to make the world a better place. Gele, the cloth that African and African-American use as a headwrap, shows pride in African heritage, as does Jewelry, which also allows families to practice the creativity principle, Kuumba.

Ken Wilson-Max’s illustrations are lovely, featuring African-American families and African icons, instilling a pride in the beauty of African heritage. His illustrations are boldly outlined and feature bright colors, appealing to little eyes. Each letter and its corresponding word are emphasized with bold, black font that let the words pop off the page. The alphabet

K is for Kwanzaa lets kids learn about the holiday from A to Z, and is an enduring holiday book. It’s a strong introduction to Kwanzaa, and to African heritage.

 

It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Kwanzaa!, by Rex Perry, (Sept. 2004, Jump at the Sun), $3.50, ISBN: 0-7868-0924-8

If the holiday standard, “It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas” is stuck in your head as you read this Kwanzaa carol, don’t worry – I found myself reading along with a similar cadence, adjusting for some of the text. Families together, snow falling, and the repetitive phrase, “It’s beginning to look at lot like Kwanzaa!” invites readers to join this book’s family as they prepare for the holiday. The family wears Kwanzaa colors and kente, share food, and gifts, and touch on all of the holiday principles in the text. As Kwanzaa’s end nears, the family reflects on the holiday and the promises made for the year, and looks forward to the new year.

The artwork is bright, with bold outlines and warm colors that draws readers right into the story. Family members hold and dance with one another, having fun and showing affection, making the warmth contagious. You’ll want to cuddle your little ones as you read this rhyming story, guaranteed. The story focuses less on the facts and iconography – although they are present and alluded to in the text – and more on the family and togetherness theme of the season. A nice add to your holiday sections.

 

 

Celebrate Kwanzaa with Boots and Her Kittens, by Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy/Illustrated by Valeria Docampo, Translated by Joe Hayes & Sharon Franco, (Feb. 2007, Alfaguara), $11.95, ISBN: 9781598201352

Ages 4-8

It’s time to come together and celebrate Kwanzaa, but wait! Boots the Cat is missing! A young boy and his family pull together and put the principles of Kwanzaa to work as they spend each day searching for the cat – with a sweet surprise on the last day.

Celebrate Kwanzaa with Boots and Her Kittens is half fiction, half non-fiction. The first half is the story of Boots and her family. The family dresses in African garb and have African decorations, including drums and masks, displayed in their home. The colors are warm and earthy. A page-a-day calendar and family members holding scroll with the day’s principles teach readers about each day’s principle and message.

The non-fiction section of the book uses photos and artwork to provide information about Kwanzaa, its place in African-American family homes, and how different families celebrate.

The combination of fiction and non-fiction in one spot makes this a good addition to your holiday shelves. It’s hard to find now, but check your local libraries for a copy!

 

A Kwanzaa Miracle, by Sharon Shavers Gayle/Illustrated by Frank Norfleet, (Sept. 1996, Troll Communications), $3.50, ISBN: 0-8167-4182-4

Ages 5-9

This touching story is all about families. Ashley and Darryl Parker are siblings who are excited for the holidays; their parents are on the planning committee for their building’s Kwanzaa celebration, but their grumpy neighbor, Mrs. Parker, doesn’t seem to be interested in anything other than snapping at the kids. When Ashley and Darryl have a snowball fight and hit Mrs. Parker’s window, they expect to feel her full fury – and discover that their neighbor is a kind, loving person. With this new development, they work with the families on the planning committee to honor Mrs. Parker and reunite her with her sister.

This is a loving, kind story that will touch any reader. It busts that “mean old neighbor” trope and reminds kids – and adults! – that everyone has their own challenges. Darryl and Ashley are good kids who build a bridge between their neighbor, their building (community), and her sister. It’s a great story, and the oil painted artwork by Frank Norfleet gives us realistic characters and settings, with warm colors and expressive, kind faces and body language. The principles of Kwanzaa, explained in the back matter, are communicated through the characters’ actions, opening up the chance to discuss with your readers, and see if they can find examples of each.

I wish this was still in print! It’s such a wonderful book – check your local libraries, and third party sellers have some available.

 

My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz, (Nov. 2003, Square Fish), $7.99, ISBN: 9781250050465

Ages 3-6

Karen Katz brings her adorable collage and mixed-media artwork to this adorable celebration of Kwanzaa. The text is spare but informative, speaking directly to children about each day of Kwanzaa, and how our protagonist – a young African-American girl – celebrates it. Phonetic pronunciation of the principles and and terms help introduce new vocabulary, and each explanation is empowering, offering ways for kids to take part in the celebration. From asking her mother to braid her hair “in a fancy African way” on the second day of Kwanzaa (kujichagulia – self-determination) and feeling pride in her heritage, to dreaming of being an African dancer like her Aunt Tasha on the fifth day (nia – purpose), to painting clay pots and weaving baskets on the sixth day (kuumba – creativity), there’s something for every child to take to heart.

Karen Katz’s illustrations are precious. Her characters have round, sweet faces with gentle expressions. They all wear bright colors and have braided, beaded, and natural hair. A kinara appears on every spread, another candle lit, to visually represent the days of Kwanzaa. Holiday cuteness for littles and bigger kids alike.

 

 

So that’s my Kwanzaa book wrap-up! What have I learned from this year and last year’s roundups? That we need more Kwanzaa and Hanukkah books: published more frequently, in greater volume, and that stay in print longer. How can we make that happen next year?

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Sarai: From viral video to chapter books!

Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome, by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown/Illustrated by Christine Almeda, (Sept. 2018, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-29131-5

Ages 7-9

Fourth grader Sarai Gonzalez is awesome. She can bake, dance, and runs her own cupcake catering business, so when her grandparents learn that they have to move, because the home they’re renting is being sold, she takes action. She’s going to raise the money herself! Okay, with the help of her siblings, too, but they’re going to raise the money together and buy back her grandparents’ house! Sarai didn’t realize a few things, though: houses can be expensive, and younger siblings can test your patience! Sarai’s determined to make it all work, though, and she’s got a lot of support behind her.

Sarai Gonzalez is a real-life viral video star and social activist. This new chapter book series, starring Sarai and co-written with kidlit superstar Monica Brown (Lola Levine series, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina), is a fun new series starring a child of color and filled with positive messages about family and social activism. Sarai wants to make positive change and finds ways she can take action to affect change. There are black and white illustrations throughout that show fun family life: dancing with grandparents, pictures of crazy cousins having fun together, a neighborhood coming together for a good cause. I liked the sprinkles of Central and Latin American (Sarai’s family hails from Peru and Costa Rica – pura vida!) life and food; I would have really liked Sarai’s limonada and chicha morada recipes at the end of the book, and a little glossary of Spanish words. That said, my ARC is nowhere near a final copy, so that could be something in the works. Fingers crossed.

Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome is a fun new chapter book that’s adding much-needed diversity to kids’ books. Don’t pass this one up.

Want to see Sarai in action, and dance to an infectious tune? Enjoy her appearance in Bomba Estéreo’s Soy Yo!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

BookExpo: The Picture Books!

Okay, another BookExpo post at last. There was SO much to see, it couldn’t be contained in just one post. Here’s a little bit of a rundown on picture books I saw/picked up.

June

A Home for Leo, by Vin Vogel, (June 2018, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781503902602

Recommended for readers 4-8

Leo’s a baby who becomes separated from his family and ends up being raised by seals. He loves his seal family, but his differences – he doesn’t look like anyone else; he can’t hold his breath for as long as they can – weigh on him, making him feel like “an empty shell”. He’s found by a family who “rescues” him from the seals, and his parents, who recognize him on TV, come to take him home. Leo’s happy to be with his family, but there’s a lot to adjust to, living among people. He misses his other family, and he misses the sea… maybe there’s a way that everyone can be happy? The digital illustrations are bright and defined, with friendly and diverse families. The story is a nice pick for adoptees, or just about any kid who doesn’t feel like they fit in.

 

August

The Kiddie Table, by Colleen Madden, (Aug. 2018, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-68446-002-1

Recommended for 5-8

An 8-year-old girl has to sit at the kiddie table at the family Thanksgiving dinner, and she is NOT having it! This laugh-out-loud rhyming story will have readers laughing along with you as our protagonist endures the indignity of being given a sippy cup, and having her toddler cousins pelt her with food before she finally blows her stack. When Mom calms her down and gives her a talking to, readers will learn how to maturely handle a situation before the meltdown hits, and how to ask for what you want when things don’t go your way. I love the colors, the artwork, and the extra details, like the child art hanging from the walls, Thanksgiving dishware, and naturally, flying food. A fun add to your holiday bookshelves!

 

Grow Up, David!, by David Shannon, (Aug. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 9781338250978

Recommended for readers 3-7

David’s back! The little boy who’s perpetually in trouble shows readers what it’s like to be the kid brother in his fifth picture book outing (not counting the Diaper David board books). From the cover of the book, where David jumps up and down on his older sibling to wake him, it’s a nonstop “David!” fest that echoes sentiments every little brother or sister has heard time and again: “You’re too little!”; “Stop following me!”; “That’s MINE!”; “Give it back!” As with other David stories, just when David has driven everyone berserk, big brother takes a step back, engages David, and the story ends with a hug. Or a noogie. You be the judge. Who doesn’t love a David story? My 6-year-old loves David’s antics – mostly because they map so well to his own – and with two much older brothers, this book is going to ring very true for him, just like it will for other readers who have older siblings, cousins, or students in school that like to throw their age differences around. David Shannon books are a win for all!

 

Boo-Boo! (Terrific Toddlers), by Carol Zeavin & Rhona Silverbush/Illustrated by Jon Davis, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781433828751

Recommended for readers 3-5

This sweet little book is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. A little girl named JoJo likes to run! She falls down and bumps her chin, sending Daddy running to pick her up. The little toddler cries about her “boo-boo” while Daddy comforts her and takes her home to fix the boo-boo. There’s wonderful repetition here: the toddler repeats everything Daddy suggests, but with “NO!” in front of it: “No fix!” “No wash!” “No Band-Aid!”, all of which are age-appropriate responses. Daddy responds appropriately, too, keeping his cool and finding simple methods to deflect JoJo until the boo-boo is taken care of, and JoJo and Daddy are both happy again. The artwork is soft and realistic; JoJo and her dad are wonderfully expressive, and a note to parents and caregivers helps parents understand how to cope with their own boo-boo moments. JoJo and her dad are people of color. I really like this Terrific Toddlers series and think I’ll be putting a set in my library.

 

September

The Steves, by Morag Hood, (Sept. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6914-2

Recommended for readers 3-7

Next up, another hilarious book from Morag Hood, whose 2017 book, I Am Bat, made me laugh out loud trying to get through storytime. The Steves promises more of the same: two puffins, each named Steve, battle it out who’s the better Steve. The Stevest Steve, if you will. Like two preschoolers, the insults fly fast, furious, and absolutely hysterical. When the insults go too far, the Steves have a time-out, work out their differences, and… are joined by another Steve. This book begs to be read out loud, and the art will make readers laugh as hard as the text, with accusatory feather-pointing, mountains of fish, and colorful, bright artwork.

 

My Wish For You, by Kathryn Hahn/Illustrated by Brigette Barrager, (Sept. 2018, Scholastic), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-15040-7

Recommended for readers 4-8

Actress and author Kathryn Hahn’s inspiration for this book is her six-year-old daughter; these are her wishes – all parents’ wishes – for their daughters as they grow. Illustrated groups of diverse young girls play and grow together across the spreads as life advice counsels them to “Be afraid. Be fearless. Have BIG, BIG feelings”; and “Make sure you are HEARD. SAY what you mean unless you can’t find the words. Then SHOUT it out till the words come back”. Uni the Unicorn illustrator Brigette Barrager creates fun, light images of girls climbing trees, catching stars, listening to music, and playing dress-up together, creating a very sweet love letter from mothers to daughters, with an undercurrent of empowerment. I’d pair this with Stacy McAnulty’s Beautiful; check A Mighty Girl for more girl-empowering titles to display, booktalk, or buy.

 

Star in the Jar, by Sam Hay/Illustrated by Sarah Massini, (Sept. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6220-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young boy finds a fallen star, prompting him and his sister to find a way to send the star back home. When they succeed, he discovers not that he lost something by giving it away, but that he’s found a friend. Published in the UK earlier this year, Star in the Jar is an upbeat, quiet story about friendship, empathy, and a little magic.  The siblings have a close relationship, and work together on solutions to return the star to its home in the sky. A nice addition to picture book collections and could be a cute bedtime story/pajama storytime choice.

 

 

October

Pterodactyl Show and Tell, by Thad Krasnesky/Illustrated by Tanya Leonello, (Oct. 2018, Flashlight Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781936261345

Recommended for readers 3-7

This rhyming tale about a boy who brings his pterodactyl to school for show and tell will have readers laughing as the dino wreaks havoc on the school day. He tries to eat some classmates, and has teachers hiding behind their desks, but he also finds time to have fun in the playground, enjoy a math lesson, and demonstrate how to brush his teeth! The kids aren’t as open to the new experience as the ptero’s human is, but he gets a quick promotion to fourth grade out of it. Too bad the fourth grade doesn’t seem to allow show and tell! The rhyming is fun, but the pictures sell it in this book; the expressive, goofy-faced pterodactyl is never a threatening figure, which makes the reactions from classmates and faculty even funnier. Watching a winged dinosaur upend the school from classroom to cafeteria is likely every kid’s dream, and will go over in a big way here. Absolutely fun reading – who doesn’t love a dinosaur?

 

Good Morning, Snowplow!, by Deborah Bruss/Illustrated by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson, (Oct. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 9781338089493

Recommended for readers 4-7

This gentle rhyming story about a snowplow driver and his dog getting ready for a night’s work is perfect for readers who love Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Mighty, Mighty Construction Site. Acrylics, colored pencil, pen, and collage artwork comes together to create weathered-looking trucks and snowflakes that dominate the pages while still appearing delicate. A good addition to your seasonal and transportation books.

 

 

Lorraine, the Girl Who Sang the Storm Away, by Ketch Secor/Illustrated by Higgins Bond, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-1692-4

Recommended for readers 4-8

Another rhyming story! I love it! This story of a young, African American girl named Lorraine, who lives with her grandfather, Paw Paw, in Tennessee is too much fun. The girl and her grandfather make music together: she’s got a penny whistle and he’s got a harmonica (called a French harp here). They start noticing things going missing around the farm, but that’s pushed aside by the arrival of a big storm that terrifies Lorraine. She and Paw Paw try to make some music to push away the noise, but discover their instruments are missing! Thankfully, Paw Paw encourages Lorraine to sing instead, and the two sing away that storm. The next morning, the storm has passed and they discover their missing treasures in the base of a tree, downed by the storm. The crow that’s been visiting them has been stealing stuff from them all along! This is a beautifully illustrated book, depicting a loving relationship between a girl and her grandfather; the fonts change size and color for emphasis and become part of the scenery. The acrylic paint creates a realistic slice of life in the Tennessee Hills. Absolutely add this to your shelves.

 

Miracle on 34th Street, by Valentine Davies/text adapted for picture book by Susanna Leonard Hill/Illustrated by James Newman Gray, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-6986-9

Recommended for readers 4+

Here’s one for the Christmas collections! For the first time, the popular Christmas movie is being adapted into a picture book. Oscar-winning screen writer Valentine Davies penned this story about a little girl named Susan, who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus until she meets Kris, a jolly, bearded gentleman who plays Santa at Macy’s. When he reveals that actually is Kris Kringle – Santa Claus – Susan isn’t sure, but he encourages her to be childlike and believe in things, even if you don’t always have proof. When he’s taken to court by a jealous supervisor at Macy’s, it’s up to Susan’s mother’s friend, Fred, to convince the judge of the same. This adaptation retains the heart of the movie classic, with warm-colored illustrations. Schedule a viewing of the classic film and get your displays up!

 

We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands, Illustrated by Rafael López, (Oct. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-17736-7

Recommended for readers 3+

Finishing strong here! The popular folk song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, gets a multicultural, nonsectarian adaptation with Rafael López’s beautifully illustrated update. The award-winning illustrator puts the world in “our” hands – the kids’ hands – and creates a feeling of empowerment and unity through diversity and understanding.  The words can be sung to the tune of the original folk song, or make up your own tune! Invite readers to clap along, hold hands, and dance along. It’s a feel-good book with a feel-great message! There’s sheet music for instruments at the end of the book, and a note about the original song. The mixed media illustration is incredible, with bright colors, blending, and texture. A must-add, and I’m keeping my eye on this for Caldecott.

 

That’s it! Whew! And this is just a smattering of what we’ve got coming our way this Fall. Get those book carts ready to order!

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

Put The Serpent’s Secret at the TOP of your TBR.

The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1), by Sayantani Dasgupta, (Feb. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1338185706

Recommended for readers 9-12

Kiranmala is an ordinary 12 year-old girl, living in New Jersey, with her totally embarrassing parents who keep calling her “Princess” and telling her stories about Indian mythology: so annoying. The thing is, they’re not telling stories. Kiranmala is a real Indian princess, she’s from a secret fantasy world, and she’s a totally awesome demon slayer. And she discovers all of this when she gets home from school, on her 12th birthday, to find her parents gone and a gross, slobbering, rhyming rakkhosh demon coming for her. While she’s trying to figure out what is going on, two princes show up to help out, bring her back to the secret world where she’s from, and help her rescue her parents. Oh, and save the world. No pressure.

This book is un-put-downable. Sayantani Dasgupta packs so much action into this story, yet gives us wonderful character development and a fabulous introduction to Indian mythology (black and white illustrations throughout help). Seriously! I tweeted at NatGeo Kids while I was reading The Serpent’s Secret, because I think it’s high time we got an Indian Mythology compendium to join their Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and Roman Mythology volumes. Rhyming demons? Talking birds? They have flying horses, too? There’s so much I need to know here! To be fair, Ms. Dasgupta does give us a bit of an introduction at the end of the book, but with all these wonderful Southeast Asian books hitting shelves (looking at you, Aru Shah and the End of Time), it’s time to join the party. There is a wealth of rich storytelling that readers are gaining access to; let’s give them the context, the origins, of these stories.

I know I’m gushing, but I’m not even sorry. Kiran is a fun, sarcastic, tween heroine, and she’s surrounded by a hilarious, exciting, and straight up gross cast of characters. And this is only the first book of a new series? Sign me up. I want more! Give this to any of your fantasy fans; especially those Rick Riordan readers who have already demonstrated their love of Greek, Egyptian, Norse, and Roman mythologies. Give this to the kids in your library who want heroes and heroines who look like them. Give this to the kids in your library who need to understand that there are heroes and heroines who don’t look like them.

The Serpent’s Secret has starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal.

Sayantani Dasgupta has an author website and a list of appearances and events.

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

Last Minute Shopping? No worries, find a bookstore!

I saw a piece on the news today that said today – December 23rd – is the second biggest holiday shopping day of the year.

https://giphy.com/embed/3oEjI1erPMTMBFmNHi

via GIPHY

If you still have kids and teens on your shopping list, I humbly offer a few more suggestions to make the season bright.

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, by Carrie Ann DiRisio and Broody McHottiepants/Illustrated by Linnea Gear,
(Oct. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781510726666

Recommended for readers 13-17

You know him. You may have loved him. He’s the EveryBroody – that dark, brooding bad boy main character that shows up in darned near every YA novel. He’s got a deep, dark history; he has trust issues; he may be an intergalactic prince, a scoundrel smuggler, or… dare I say? a sparkly vampire. Here, we get the scoop – straight from the Broody’s mouth – on what it’s like to be a Brooding YA Hero. It’s a writing guide with a wink and a nudge to YA tropes, with some straight talk – in the form of nemesis Mean Girl Blondi DeMeani – about smashing the patriarchy and recognizing the value of diverse characters. Give this to your fanfic writer, your feminists, and anyone who loved Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. And if you’re not already following the @broodingYAhero account on Twitter, you are doing yourself a disservice.

 

Hey, Baby! A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery, by Stephanie Drimmer,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329319

Recommended for ages 4-12 and beyond

It’s an entire book of baby animal pictures. The cutest, funniest, littlest baby animals. This is a win-win for everyone! Added to the pictures are the sweetest companion folktales, stories, and poems, to make this a great gift for new moms and moms-to-be, kids who love their baby animals, and middle-aged librarians who follow accounts like @emergencykittens and @fluffsociety on Twitter. Add a copy of NatGeo’s Animal Ark, for more beautiful photos and poetry by Newbery award winner Kwame Alexander.

 

A World of Cookies for Santa, by M.E. Furman/Illustrated by Susan Gal,
(Oct. 2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt),$16.99, ISBN: 9780544226203

Recommended for readers 7-10

Take a tasty sleigh ride around the world and find out how children across the globe celebrate Christmas, from the different names Santa goes by (Papai Noel, Father Christmas, Christmas Baba, to name a few) to the tasty treats left out for Santa and his reindeer to enjoy on their journey. Try your hand at a multicultural Christmas with nine recipes for holiday cookies, included at the end! Pair with a copy of Clement Moore’s classic The Night Before Christmas and add a few cookies.

 

Top Elf, by Caleb Zane Huett, (Sept. 2017, Scholastic Press),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-05212-1

Recommended for readers 9-12

Santa’s ready to pass on the Big Red Suit. The call to competition goes out across the North Pole, and Ollie the Elf decides to go for it. Thing is, he’s up against Santa’s kids, a bullying elf named Buzz, Ramp, who swears he’s a kid, but looks and smells suspiciously grown-up, and even his best friend, Celia. How’s Ollie going to prove he’s the Top Elf for the job? This middle grade story is pure Christmas fun and adventure with a touch of Christmas magic. Stick this in a stocking for readers who love a good giggle, and add a couple of candy canes and some hot cocoa mix – maybe with a Minecraft or Lego mug. 

 

Ultimate Dinopedia, Second Edition, by “Dino” Don Lessem/Illustrated by Franco Tempesta,
(Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329050

Recommended for readers 8-13

It’s the ULTIMATE dinosaur encyclopedia! This updated edition is one of the most comprehensive dinosaur references going, with profiles on favorite dinos like the T-Rex and Velociratpr, to new finds like the Anzu, Kosmoceratops, and Yi. There are maps, comparison renderings to show kids how they stack up against different dinos, and descriptions of dino diets, geographic areas, and eras. There are over 600 dinosaurs in this volume, with profiles for 10 newly discovered dinos, and a comprehensive dino dictionary. Full-color illustrations from dinosaur artist Franco Tempesta come right off the page – look at that T-Rex on the cover! – and “Dino” Don Lessem – a world-renowned dinosaur presenter who also happened to be the dinosaur adviser for the first Jurassic Park movie – writes in a language that respects, but never speaks down, to readers. Kids love dinos. They’ll love this book. Tuck a tube of dino toys in the stocking and call it a holiday.

 

The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag, (Oct. 2017, Scholastic Graphix),
$12.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-08951-6

Recommended for readers 8-13

Aster is a 13-year-old, raised in a society of of supernatural beings. The girls are raised to be witches, the boys, to be shapeshifters. That’s the way it is, and anyone who falls outside those lines faces exile. Aster waits for his ability to shift to kick in, but is fascinated by magic, despite the disciplinary action and ridicule he faces. Aster befriends a non-magic neighbor named Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, who has her own frustrations with gender lines at her school; neither can figure out what the big deal is, saying, “You should just be allowed to do it!” Charlie discovers Aster’s magic abilities, and tries encouraging him to continue practicing magic; Aster will need that support when a mysterious force threatens his community; he may be the only one able to save them. A brilliant story about smashing gender expectations, The Witch Boy is a brilliant, compelling story about finding one’s place and speaks volumes to every kid out there who feels, at some point, like she or he doesn’t fit in. Molly Ostertag is the writer/artist on Shattered Warrior and the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist. The Witch Boy has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and Fox Animation has feature film rights. Bundle this one up with Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School.

 

Bet You Didn’t Know!, by National Geographic Kids, (Aug. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1426328374

Recommended for readers 8-13

Kids love fact books; when they’re accompanied by amazing photos and include facts like, “A storm on Neptune was a wide as THE ENTIRE EARTH”, “Chewing gum can make your heart beat faster”, or “The Bahamas once had an undersea post office”, this becomes GOLD. Pair this one with NatGeo’s Weird But True Christmas, and you’re set.

 

The World of the Bible: Biblical Stories and the Archaeology Behind Them, by Jill Rubalcaba,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426328817

Recommended for readers 9-13

More than a book of Bible stories, The World of the Bible is a great reference for budding history buffs and archaeologists, going deeper into the text to study the time periods and geographic locations where these stories took place, to learn more about human history. Stories like Moses and the Ten Commandments and the Garden of Eden get a closer look, accompanied by classic paintings, photos, and illustrations of the lands where the events in the Bible took shape. Give to your budding young Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.

 

1,000 Facts About the White House, by Sarah Wassner Flynn, (Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2873-2

Recommended for readers 8-13

Wild and crazy facts about the most famous house in America: The White House. Learn about White House ghosts, events like the Easter Egg Roll, and presidential pets. Check out photos of the interiors and exteriors of the White House and grounds, and view some of the history-making moments that took place there. Learn about the different people who live and work there, those who keep it safe, and those who built it. There are groups of fun lists, like 25 Rooms That Rock, and there are loads of cutouts and info bits throughout. It’s a fun reference on American History for history fans. Pair with a copy of Weird But True! US Presidents and you’re set.