Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Chapter books to take on a camping trip

I know, right now, camping is probably the furthest thing from your minds, but why not? My older boys loved “camping out” in our living room, spreading comforters on the floor for cushioning, and staying up all night giggling and falling asleep while talking into the wee hours of the morning. My eldest “camps” in his little brother’s room in the dog days of summer, when Gabe’s air conditioner is a lot cooler than Will’s. And Gabe and his buddies have had sleepovers where they camp out, sleeping bags all over the living room, and stuffed animals, action figures, and assorted iPads strewn about. So why not consider a camping trip for your kiddos now? Hike on over to a room that can fit you all, and settle in with some snacks, some games, and some good books.

McTavish Goes Wild, by Meg Rosoff/Illustrated by Grace Easton, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $21.99, ISBN: 9781536203318

Ages 7-10

Originally published in the UK, this is the second book in the McTavish Stories series, starring a rescued dog and his adopted family – although, as McTavish would tell you, he’s the one who rescued them. The Peachey family is a little quirky, as most families are; in this second installment, the family frets over where to go on vacation. Young Betty Peachey wants to go camping, but Pa Peachey is convinced that nature is far too dangerous to be out and about in. Teenage brother Ollie just wants to be somewhere where there are dance clubs where he can find a girlfriend, and big sister Ava wants to stay home and read German philosophy. Thank goodness for Ma Peachey, who sides with Betty. Once out in nature, McTavish sees that it’s up to him to get this family acclimated to the Great Outdoors, in sweet and fun fashion. The story is gentle, moves at a leisurely pace with humor throughout. Black and white drawings give life to the text. Intermediate readers will get a kick out of this quirky family and their canine companion, who seems to be two steps ahead of the game. You won’t need to have read the first book, Good Dog McTavish, to jump right into this series, but animal fiction fans will want to – make sure you have both on the shelf.

The Infamous Ratsos Camp Out, by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Matt Myers, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536200065

Ages 6-10

The fifth book in the Infamous Ratsos series Ralphie and Louie Ratso going on a camping trip with the Big City Scouts, with Grandpa Ratso as their guide. Even with Grandpa’s guidance and experience as a Scoutmaster, the Scouts learn that camping isn’t as easy as they think it is: pitching a tent, making a fire, and finding their way through the woods is hard! They have to learn to work together, and they have to learn that asking for help is the most important skill a Scout – or anyone – can have. With fun scout-meets-urban living references to badges like City Smarts and Cleanup, and scouting levels like Streets and Avenues instead of Cub and Weeblo, this is a cute addition to the series. Black and white cartoony illustrations of the Ratsos throughout the book really engage the reader. Enjoy a chapter sample from Candlewick’s page and consider adding this series to your intermediate collection if you haven’t yet.

Make some merit badges – all you need is paper, scissors, and imagination! Come up with fun merit badge ideas: ate a vegetable, read for 30 minutes, Kitchen Science, Minecrafter. The possibilities are endless, and we’re not going anywhere, anytime soon. Make it fun.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

When the World is Full of Friends, it’s a pretty great place

When the World is Full of Friends, by Gillian Shields/Illustrated by Anna Currey, (Feb. 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681196268

Recommended for readers 3-6

The rabbit family from When the World Was Waiting for You and When the World is Ready for Bed returns in this sweet book about play and discovering new friends. Siblings Albert, Tom, Flossie, and Pipkin love to play, and wish they had more friends to play with. They see a squirrel family across the stream, and put their heads together to figure out how to cross the stream to play together, turning the experience into a fun game in itself. The takeaway? “Playing with friends was wonderful!”

This is a great bedtime, quiet time, or circle time story. It’s got a calm pace, with soft watercolor and ink art. The messages of friendship and working together to play together reinforce positive lessons, and the opening and closing rhyming verses beautifully bookend the story narrative. Add this one to your storytime collections.

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 Fiction, Intermediate

The Major Eights: New intermediate series for girls who wanna rock!

The Major Eights: Battle of the Bands, by Melody Reed/Illustrated by Émile Pépin, (Jan. 2018, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0564-2

Recommended for readers 6-8

Jasmine, Maggie, Becca, and Scarlet are four eight year-old friends who love rocking out together, even if their bands major gigs are happening in one another’s basements. Jasmine’s competitive streak gets the best of her when she enters the girls into a Battle of the Bands happening at the Fall Festival – and now they all have to learn how to really play and sing, AND come up with a song to perform!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the formation of The Major Eights: a fun new intermediate series about four friends who navigate friendship and music together. Books look like they will spotlight one character – in Battle of the Bands, it’s Jasmine; in the next book, Scarlet’s Big Break, it will be Scarlet – and bring the group together to help the character achieve her goal. The story is heavy on friendship and working together, with some conflict resolution to help the characters grow. The characters are multicultural. Black and white illustrations keep the pace moving for younger readers who are getting used to longer chapter books.

Battle of the Bands is a fun, easy read for chapter book readers. Test these out with your Ivy and Bean and Jasmine Toguchi readers, and tie a fun reading group activity into it, like band poster contest or a talent show.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Ballpark Mysteries goes to Cooperstown!

Ballpark Mysteries: Christmas in Cooperstown (Super Special #2), by David A. Kelly/Illustrated by Mark Meyers, (Sept. 2017, Random House), $5.99, ISBN: 978-0-399-55192-5

Recommended for readers 6-9

Confession time: While I steer a lot of my readers toward the Ballpark Mysteries books, I hadn’t read one until Christmas in Cooperstown. I’m really glad I did read it, though; despite not being much of a sports fan, I do enjoy a fun mystery, and Christmas in Cooperstown was just what I needed.

Best friends Mike and Kate are volunteering to wrap presents for a charity, Cooperstown Cares, at the Baseball Hall of Fame. As a thank you, they and their friends are invited to a sleepover at the Hall of Fame, which is pretty fantastic. It’s a good thing, too – Mike notices that the Honus Wagner card – a rare baseball card that can go for millions of dollars at auction – has been stolen and replaced with a fake! He and Kate have to track down the clues, find the card and the culprit, and deliver the charity’s gifts on time. Pretty big order!

Sports fans will really enjoy the tidbits of sports history here. I was interested in the science behind discovering the fake card, and using his dad’s business as a baseball card dealer opens the door to some fun trivia and facts throughout the book. “Dugout Notes”, a regular feature in the Mysteries, on Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame finish up the book, along with a recipe for All-Star Blue Chip Muffins, which have a little cameo in the story.

Readers can pick up Christmas at Cooperstown without having read other Ballpark Mysteries; there’s enough exposition that you can easily get into the groove of things. Black and white illustrations by Mark Meyers keep things interesting and moving along.

I got to meet David Kelly at KidLitCon this past weekend and he is the nicest guy! It’s always a bonus when you find out that an author is pretty darn cool on top of being a good writer. He was kind enough to pass on a set of his MVP series for my library kids, too!

MVP – Most Valuable Players – is another sports mystery series for intermediate readers; like Ballpark Mysteries, you can dive into each one separately, with no stress. In the first story, The Gold Medal Mess, we meet the MVPs on the opening spread, where we get their “stats” via an illustration and quick character description: Max is a great athlete and detective; Alice is an archery ace and animal lover; Nico can’t wait to practice and play; Luke loves to exercise his funny bone, and Kat, Luke’s twin sister, captures the best game-day moments on camera. The kids are getting ready for their annual school Olympics, but someone is leaving threatening letters, telling the school to cancel the Olympics or else. When things start going wrong on the big day, it’s up to the five friends to figure out who’s causing the trouble and save the day before someone gets hurt.

Each MVP book covers a different sport and features black and white illustration. The cast is a diverse, all-star group of kids with different interests and talents, and who work together to solve mysteries, help others, and take on bullies. Each book includes bonus facts on each featured sports: The Gold Medal Mess has Olympics facts and photos; other books have terms and diagrams. I’m putting these up on the “NEW” shelf tomorrow, and I expect they’ll be gone just as quickly as I get them up there. A good add to sports fiction and mystery collections!

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Crafty Cat heads to Crafty Camp!

Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis, by Charise Mericle Harper, (Aug. 2017, 01FirstSecond), $13.99, ISBN: 9781626724853

Recommended for readers 6-9

Birdie is headed to Monster Craft Camp! It’s a day of crafting at school, headed up by the custodian, but it’s a day of crafting, and Birdie – who’s alter ago is Crafty Cat – is prepared! Now, if only her best friend, Evan would show up on time… and oh, Anya, the meanest girl in school, is here today, too. Looks like this may be a job for Crafty Cat!

This latest installment of Crafty Cat tackles handling a difficult member of a group project how to make the best out of a situation when things don’t go as planned. Monster Craft Camp isn’t exactly what Birdie thought it would be, and Anya is being her rude, mean self, but just when Birdie finds herself getting frustrated and sad, Crafty Cat takes over and saves the day! It’s a fun way to communicate resiliency, optimism, and working with difficult partners.

As with the previous Crafty Cat adventure, there are crafts and at the end of the book.  A handy supply list tells readers what they need, and step-by-step directions walk little crafters through their own monster crafts. There are templates available for photocopying.

This is such a fun little series for younger readers! A definite add to the graphic novel shelf.

Posted in Fiction, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Size matters not: Just ask Little Captain Jack!

Little Captain Jack, by Alicia Acosta/Illustrated by Monica Carretero, (Apr. 2017, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945415-0-6

Recommended for readers 4-8

Once upon a time, there was a tiny pirate named Captain Jack. He was so tiny that he had to weigh himself down with a heavy sword in his belt, an iron telescope around his neck, and some rocks in his pockets, so he wouldn’t be blown away! Everyone called him Little Captain Jack. He was so little that his crew didn’t hear him when he yelled to them, and he was constantly in danger of being stepped on! One day, during a battle between Captain Jack’s crew and the bad pirate Badlock’s crew, Jack was taken prisoner and locked in a dark cellar. Although he was scared, he accepted an offer of help from a mouse… who got some help from a seagull… and Captain Jack learned, from that day forward, that “great things could come in all shapes and sizes, big or small!”

Captain Jack is fun reading and kids will appreciate the message that size doesn’t matter, especially when you work as a team! The tiny pirate still manages to command his own ship and crew (even if they don’t really hear him… or see him that often), and when he’s in trouble, his crew is frantic. He means a lot to his crew, whether he’s big or small – just like a family. Teamwork helps bring Jack back to his crew, sending a positive message about working together.

The cartoony art will appeal to readers, and the endpapers – drawn to look like a map of Penny Island, where we assume Captain Jack is spending time these days, has fun, eyecatching details like a giant squid, a whale, and a lake monster. A nicely detailed compass rose adds the opportunity to talk about directions. Plus, pirates are a home run with little ones: you can pick from any number of pirate adventure stories for little ones! You could pair these with any number of pirate books for little ones! Add a pirate hat craft to use up some old newspaper and you have a nice, environmentally friendly storytime activity.

Little Captain Jack was originally released in Spanish (Pequeño Pirata Serafin, ISBN: 978-4-945415-1-3), and is available in both Spanish and English.

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Star Scouts gets the merit badge for fun reading!

starscouts_1Star Scouts, by Mike Lawrence, (March 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626722804

Recommended for ages 8-12

Avani Patel is not feeling this new scouts Flower Scouts troop her parents signed her up for. She’s the new kid, her parents figured it would be a new way to make friends, but the Flower Scouts are so lame. All they talk about are boys and makeovers; it’s totally out of line with her interests, like rodeos and adventure. Things change for the better when Avani is accidentally picked up by an alien named Mabel, who happens to be a scout – a Star Scout – working on one of her badges. The two girls hit it off, and Avani finds herself an unofficial Star Scout! She’s zooming around on a jetpack, working on teleportation, and avoiding the xenoscatology lab; she’s made some out of this world friends, and she’s happy. When Star Scouts announce their yearly camping trip, Avani manages to fib her father into signing off on the trip – she’s going away to camp, she doesn’t need to mention that it’s not exactly on the planet, right? But shortly after arriving at Camp Andromeda, Avani finds herself on the wrong side of a rival group of aliens; Avani, Mabel and their friends are in for a heck of a week, if they can work together to get through it.

Star Scouts is a fun outer-space adventure for middle graders. It’s scouting with a little more adventure added in, and lots of hilarious bathroom humor (look, I raised three boys, I find poop and fart jokes funny) to keep readers cracking up. There are positive messages about friendship and working together that parents and caregivers will appreciate, and the two main characters are spunky girls that aren’t afraid to take on an adventure.

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If you want to go the sci-fi way with displays and booktalks, you have to pair this with Zita the Spacegirl and Cleopatra in Space. You can revisit this book when you’re getting ready for Summer Reading by booktalking this with camp books like Camp Midnight, Beth Vrabel’s Camp Dork, and Nancy Cavanaugh’s Just Like Me.

Check out more of Mike Cavanaugh’s illustration at his website.

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

Trains and tracks love to play in Old Tracks, New Tricks

oldtracks_1Old Tracks, New Tricks, by Jessica Peterson, (March 2017, The Innovation Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1943147243

Recommended for ages 3-6

Trixie, Tracky, and Tinker are three wooden toy tracks that are excited when a little boy brings them home. They’ve been waiting to join a train set of their own! Things are a little different than they expected, though, when they arrive.  The trains are bossy and mean, and the old tracks just snore on the floor. These tracks aren’t about to just snooze their days, away, though – they get to work and show the old tracks (and trains) some new tricks – and then share them with readers!

This is such a fun little rhyming story full of adorable photo and digital art! The facial expressions digitized onto the toys give a fun feel to the story and little additions, like stickers, paint, and crayon, personalize the characters, really making the toys look and feel like they’ve come from a child’s room. Younger audiences will love the rhyming cadence, and the bright colors really catch a reader’s attention.

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The book includes instructions for the track tricks used in the story. Tips offer ideas for experimenting and suggest adult help where necessary. A website dedicated to the book (maybe it will become a series?) is coming in January, and further resources, like printables and educator resources, may be on the way in the future.

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This is a fun go-to for storytime, especially if you’ve got room for a couple of trains and tracks to keep out so the kids can play and explore with parents after storytime. If space or budget is an issue, there are fun paper trains you can make as a post-storytime craft. You can hand out some paper track printables, if time permits, and have parents and kids fit together their own train routes. This is one of those books that will be a great resource for preschoolers and school-age kids alike; you can discuss ideas like teamwork, bullying, and welcoming a new friend.

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Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Rainstorm, by Barbara Lehman/Illus. by Harry Bliss (Henry Holt & Company, 2004)

rainstormRecommended for ages 3-6

When the moon comes down, in pieces, on a neighborhood street, everyone works together to get it fixed and back up in the sky.

Influenced by the events of September 11th, Jean Gralley wrote this story about a neighborhood’s first responders and citizens coming together in the wake of a potential disaster: the moon falls, breaking into pieces, from the sky. The story celebrates teamwork and its accomplishments as evidenced by the Fire Chief, Rescue Workers, Helper Dogs, and “people everywhere”, all who come running to help, in answer to the question, “Who will make it right again and set it in the air?” A Fred Rogers quote at the beginning of the story reminds children to “Look for the helpers”.

The gouache and mixed media illustrations on white backgrounds soften the images; the author is not interested in focusing on catastrophe, but on collaboration – an important message for a preschool audience. The sparse, rhyming text sits on the page, never intrusive, in a plain black font. Volunteers smile and cheer one another on in their mission, making sure to include everyone: even the Helper Dogs. The book has been used to help children deal with fear and grief surrounding current events like disaster, war, and ever-changing security alerts because of its messages of endurance and optimism.

The book would be a good addition to a read-aloud on rescue workers – firemen, policemen, medical technicians, doctors and nurses – for its positive portrayal of these first responders and their ability to work with everyone around them. Displaying toy fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances around the storytime area will set a mood for the storytime and allow for play. There are firemen and policemen printables available online that children can color and bring home.