Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Picture Book Pick: I Love You, Fred

I Love You, Fred
by Mick Inkpen
Illustrations by Chloe Inkpen
32 pages
ISBN: 9781534414754

Fred is an adorable dog, full of energy and love. He knows how to sit and stay. He brings back the ball when you throw it. He knows words like "bed" and walk," but one word he can't figure out is FRED.

When Fred confronts another dog upstairs who looks like him and even has a ball like him, (it's his own image in the mirror), he wonders who the dog is and why the dog has no smell. Later, when he sees the dog again (in his own reflection in the pond), he panics but is saved by his boy. It's then Fred realizes FRED his his name. He is FRED.  He's so happy and delighted to have a name and be loved and cuddled by his boy.

Cute illustrations are spunky and playful depicting Fred's bouncy personality. This is a a true treasure of a picture book, and young readers who love dogs (or want a dog) will love Fred. A must have childhood read.

Highly, highly recommended ages 2 and up.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

YA Magical Realism Pick: Winterwood

by Shea Ernshaw
Simon Pulse
319 pages
ISBN: 9781534439412

Ethereal, mysterious, magical, and poetic, Winterwood will be your YA favorite read!

Nora Walker was born near the wild woods. Her family has been a part of the woods since before the woods themselves. The Walker women have a mythology of their own. Townspeople claim that the Walker women are witches and to be feared.

When a brutal snowstorm comes, Nora knows she'll be snowed in for weeks. There is no way to access the town for supplies or help and no contact with the outside world. She's not afraid; that's just the way things have always been, but when she finds an unconscious boy in the woods, she knows she has to save him. Her mother and her grandmother before her have left Nora with a spell book and book of healing cures. She works her magic, and the boy comes back to life. He's from the boys' camp on the other side of the lake, but doesn't remember much else.

Oliver has no memory of why he was in the woods or how he could still be alive. He's been missing for weeks, and there's no way he could have survived the wild woods. Nora knows something is wrong and the woods begin acting stranger than usual, but Oliver is so alone, Nora feels herself drawn to him. When a white moth begins to seek her out, she knows death is not far behind. What happened that night?

Suzy, a girl from Nora's school, one who has never spoken to her before, arrives on her doorstep, seeking a warm place to weather the storm. She has a tale of her own about the boys' camp. There is one boy dead and one boy missing. Nora knows she'll have to confront Oliver. What does he know about the dead boy? Did he have anything to do with his murder? The unexpected TWIST at the end is EPIC! I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Masterful storytelling and compelling, poetic prose that seems to sing off the pages make Winterwood the best YA read of 2019! This one will be up for awards season.

Beautiful cover art is a masterpiece of graphic design and marketing.

Highly, highly recommended. A must have and a MUST READ. 5 STARS!

Friday, January 10, 2020

MG Contemporary: The Disaster Days

The Disaster Days
by Rebecca Behrens
Sourcebooks Young Readers
292 pages
ISBN: 9781492673316

Hannah Steele ives on Pelling Island, a small island near the coast of Washington. It's quiet and quaint with picturesque views and friendly neighbors--neighbors who live half a mile away. Hannah's having a not so great day after her best friend begins to ghost her, clearly having a much better time with new friend Marley. Hannah is hurt and betrayed, but has to go about her afternoon as though nothing is wrong. Asking her bus driver to drop her off at the Matlock's house, Hannah is ready for her babysitting job.

It's a normal day on a small, quaint, quiet island. No need to worry about a tween girl in charge of two younger children. Then, an earthquake hits and the house is turned upside down. Terrified, the kids huddle together with the pet hamster and wait for the shaking to stop. Once it does, they discover that Internet and television is down. They are all alone without communication to the outside world and no adults nearby. Hannah will have to rely on her own strength and calmness to keep the kids' safe.

Zoe has been badly injured and is losing a lot of blood. It's all up to Hannah to figure a way out and find help for Zoe.

A quick read that should satisfy reluctant readers. Recommended grade 5 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Graphic Novel Pick: Nat Enough

Nat Enough
By Maria Scrivan
Illustrated by the author
240 pages
ISBN: 9781338538212

Available April 7, 2020

Charming illustrations by the author and believable middle school drama and angst will delight graphic novel readers. Natalie (Nat) has never believed she is enough: not smart enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough. This theme will resonate with every middle school reader! Even though she's nervous about going to a new school, Nat has high hopes since she'll be joining her BFF Lily, and they can face middle school obstacles together.

The first day and days following don't go as planned. Suddenly, Nat is not cool enough to be Lily's BFF. In fact, Lily is downright mean to Natalie. First by ignoring her, and then by leaving Nat toxic and hurtful notes. Worse yet, Lily is hanging with cool girl Alex who is good at everything she does.

Nat is going to have to "find" her voice and be who she is, not who Lily wants her to be. She takes a chance and enters a book contest, winning first prize and a trip to the state capitol! Even cute boy Derek takes notice. Through her art, Natalie finds her voice and wins the praise of her peers.

Recommended for graphic fans and anyone else in middle school! Grade 5 and up. This title will be on Scholastic Book Fairs next year.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Fantastic Middle Grade Pick: Operation Frog Effect

Operation Frog Effect
By Sarah Scheerger
Interior illustrations by Gina Perry
Random House 
306 pages
ISBN: 9780525644125

Operation Frog Effect is written as journal entries from eight diverse students in Ms. Graham’s fifth grade class at White Oak Elementary School. Each student has her own way of journaling. Blake draws his entry as graphic novel panels. Sharon writes her entries as poetry. Cecilia misses her grandmother in Mexico, so she begins each entry “Dear Abuelita” (as a letter to her grandmother) and includes English words for her grandmother to practice. Henry, a budding playwright, does his journaling as scenes from a play.

When an injured frog appears on the first day in the classroom, the class votes on what to do with him. It is decided to keep the frog and name him Kermit. Mrs. Graham allows a class vote on nearly everything. She does not appoint class duties, the students choose their role in the classroom with the caveat, choose wisely as this will be their job all year. 

The class learns many lessons about frogs and science, but more importantly, they learn about themselves and making a difference. Mrs. Graham teaches them that one small act can create a ripple effect. Later, that lesson is tested, and the students come together and work as a team to speak to the school board. 

Operation Frog Effect is a winning read that is a great choice for class reads and for the entire school to read. Like Wonder and Counting By Sevens, Operation Frog Effect teaches lessons without becoming preachy. Reluctant readers will find it entertaining and easy to read.

Fabulous, eye catching cover will make this book fly off the shelf. Illustrations help tell the story and keep visual learners entertained.

Recommended for younger middle grade readers age eight and up.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Arrivederci, Crocodile
Begun by Fred Marcellino
completed by Eric Puybaret
A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
40 pages
ISBN: 9871534404014

Arriverderci, Crocodile was begun by famous children's author and illustrator Fred Marcellino, but finished by Eric Puybaret after Marcellino's death.

A whimsical story of a wayward but humorous crocodile who is brought to France by Napoleon. Crocodile escapes and lives in the sewer until he realizes Napoleon is traveling to Italy.

Crocodile loves Italy and dances the night away with the royal crowd. The guests at the lavish gala think his "costume" is fabulous and don't realize he's a reptile! He travels to favorite tourist attractions and eats Italian cuisine until Napoleon recognizes his escaped "pet."

Crocodile escapes the ruler's grasp again in the most hilarious way!

Winsome illustrations and eye-catching cover will entice young readers. Comic illustrations of the hoi polloi versus the nobility are sure to bring on the giggles. The end papers miss an opportunity for fun crocodile facts and illustrations, and in fact, look like murky lagoon water color or pond scum. This is my only gripe about the book.

Recommended for historical content and kids who love crocodiles.

Pre-school to first grade.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Middle Grade Pick: Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen

Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen
by Nancy Viau
Schiffer Kids
184 pages
ISBN: 9780764357763

Delightful for younger middle grade readers and those girls (and boys) who enjoy science and BUGS!

Ten year old Samantha Hansen is all about rocks since her vacation to the Grand Canyon, but soon she discovers a new love: insects! (Well, insects, and her almost boyfriend Todd. Someday he could be her boyfriend once she's old enough, of course). Samantha gets mad when her best friend Kelli invites Todd over to her house. They've been friends forever and Samantha says, "Best friend. I've only gotten mad at her ten or fifty times since we met."

Samantha is excited when her class gets to visit an apiary, but worries "That Kid Richard" might like her. He's been nothing but a pest, teasing her all the time. Fourth grade is hard, and kids have to juggle terrible things like: learning fractions, liking a boy or not, wondering if the boy you like likes you back, worrying your best friend likes the boy you like, wondering why That Kid Richard is suddenly seeming a little bit cuter?

Samantha is a spunky, cute main character readers will love. Everyone will want to be her friend. Beautiful cover design and clever, colorful illustrations on end papers inside the cover will delight visual learners. Samantha shares her knowledge as she learns about bugs, and readers will learn new things with her.

Recommended grade 3 and up. Easy enough for age eight and could be enjoyed ages 8-10.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Middle Grade Pick: On Snowden Mountain

On Snowden Mountain
by Jeri Watts
Candlewick Press
193 pages
ISBN: 9780763697440

Twelve year old Ellen's father goes off to fight World War II, and her mother sinks into her deepest depression yet. Ellen has nowhere to turn except her distant Aunt Pearl. Pearl shows up, takes everything into her own hands and packs the family up to live in her small frame home at the base of the mountains in West Virginia.

Ellen is used to big city Baltimore and going to school with children her age. In the mountains, there's nothing but a one room schoolhouse, a gruff teacher, farm kids, mountain kids and a stinky skunk kid. There's nothing to do in the small village and Ellen isn't one to explore the mountain. Her mother is like a walking zombie, and Ellen fears she may end up with her mother's illness after she learns her grandmother also suffered depression.

Aunt Pearl's distance thaws out over time, and Ellen enjoys spending time with her and hearing about the past. Although her mother doesn't seem any better, Ellen gets a letter with news her father is coming home.

Issues of abuse, mental illness, poverty, depression, war and friendship are deftly handled by author Jeri Watts. Although the issues seem for a much older crowd this is a lower middle grade read that could easily be read by age eight and up.

Recommended grade 4 and up and for introspective readers who enjoy a "quiet" story.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Middle Grade Pick: Extraordinary Birds

Extraordinary Birds
by Sandy Stark-McGinnis
Bloomsbury Children's Books
214 pages
ISBN: 9781547601004

Eleven-year old December has seen her share of foster homes. They never seem to work out for her. She dreams of flying away like a bird. So much so, that she convinces herself that the scar on her back is where her wings are now forming. Once her wings are complete, she will fly away from all the human sadness.

December studies birds all the time; her constant companion and security blanket is a book her mother left behind: Complete Guide to Birds: Volume One. She knows the book by heart and if given a page number, she can tell what bird is featured on that particular page.

December knows more about birds that anything else, and when she's placed with a foster parent who rescues birds, it's a match made in heaven, but December fights it as the reader would expect. In school, December makes friends with another bullied student, Cheryllynne who adds to the story in all the right ways.

December knows that most bullies don't want to be mean; they do it because they've been hurt--which is a very mature thought for an eleven-year old to have. She is wise beyond her years, and young readers will have such empathy for her. They will root for December to find her place on the ground with foster mom Eleanor.

With her friendship growing between Cheryllynne and her heart open for family and a home, December is finally able to face her past abandonment. She helps a Henrietta the hawk rehabilitate and learn to fly again, and when she soars skyward, December knows everything will finally be alright. All animals need a home and maybe, just maybe, she's found hers.

What an extraordinary book! The is the gem of 2019 and a MUST READ which is likely to become One Book for many schools and will win many awards this season. Did someone say Texas Bluebonnets? This someone just did! And I'm always right about award books!

Highly, highly recommended and FIVE STARS! BOOK OF THE YEAR, in my opinion.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Alphabet Pick: Bear Is Awake! An Alphabet Story

Bear Is Awake! An Alphabet Story
by Hannah E. Harrison
Illustrations by the author
Dial Books
32 pages

Available November 26, 2019

A different kind of alphabet story! Bear Is Awake! features an adorable bear who wakes up early and a clever little girl who becomes his willing playmate. After his long winter nap, Bear is famished and quickly raids the little girl's family's pantry. She scolds him and they travel across the town to the library (my FAVORITE part!) where the L stands for library, listen and learn. The only drawback to this two-page spread is that the librarian appears to be a stereotype: although she is black, she is middle-aged and shown wearing glasses. Authors and illustrators should be more careful about picturing librarians and teachers as always female, always middle-aged and always wearing glasses, but the rest of the story makes up for this little error. Because I'm a career librarian and educator, I'm hyperaware of this long standing stereotype.

The girl and the bear share adventures, but she knows Bear must go back to the forest and she takes him there, tucks him in and leaves him a note after he falls asleep: See you in the Spring! the note reads.

Illustrations are wonderfully whimsical. Bear will become every child's new best friend. Children should easily be able to explain the message of this sweet story: friendship, care, love and empathy.

Bear Is Awake! is a must have for any child's book shelf and all pre-school collections. This is the best alphabet book you'll ever read! FIVE STARS!

Highly, highly recommended! I love this book! Picture book of the YEAR! This book could be used with older students in art classes and creative writing classes. Writers would have fun coming up with new alphabet books of their own.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Middle Grade Pick: Britfield & the Lost Crown

Britfield & the Lost Crown
by C.R. Stewart
Devonfield Publishing
386 pages
ISBN: 9781732961210

First in a planned seven book series, Britfield & the Lost Crown reads likes a fairy tale. Tom, an orphan, enlists the help of fellow orphans to escape the evil orphanage with his best friend Sarah. Before he leaves, his good friend Patrick  steals a folder from the office and Tom learns a secret about his past and parentage. His parents are alive! Now he has even more questions and no answers.

The pair escape a determined and dogged detective who makes it his business to catch runaway orphans and elude police capture as the navigate by a hot air balloon which just happened to be sitting unattended in a field along their way. Somehow, two kids with no knowledge of ballooning learn to fly the balloon all over England. The story rollicks along London and many famous landmarks.

The kids meet several people who help them unlock Tom's secret and set up the next book in the series. Tame enough for younger middle grade and easy to read, Britfield's page count may terrorize reluctant readers. In that case, perhaps an audiobook or full class read would work better.

This books seems set in the past and pre-Internet, pre-cells phone bygone eras, yet some dialog between the characters is slang of today. One in particular: a character asks, "Too much information?" which if TMI in text and recent (last decade). Dialog in particular is this book's weakness. As a career middle grade (middle school) librarian, the dialog is all wrong.

Recommended younger middle grade. Middle school readers may find the story too predicable.

Grade 5- 6. Grade 7 and up may want a more YA experience.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Alphabet Book Pick: P Is For Poppadoms! An Indian Alphabet Book

P Is For Poppadoms!
An Indian Alphabet Book
by Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal
Illustrated by Hazel Ito
Beachfront Books
32 pages
ISBN: 9781534421721

What a fun way to introduce learners to new words while learning their alphabet! American children may not be familiar with any of the Indian words in this book, but they will love learning about another culture and country. Colorful illustrations by Ito make the alphabet come alive, and the choices of words for each letter convey Indian foods, musical instruments, locations, people, festivals, animals, and flowers. Included is a page of the words written in the Indian alphabet to practice writing.

This is a must have for any multicultural classroom or library. Parents will love this alphabet book for its unique appeal and lessons about the world's largest population.

Highly, highly recommended for any child's library or book shelf. This is a gem of an alphabet book which teaches so much more than the letters of the alphabet. Purchase this one for a kid you love today!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Non-Fiction Dinosaur Pick: Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts!

Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts!
by Mike Lowery
Orchard Books
128 pages

Mike Lowery's colorful take on everything cool and/or weird about dinosaurs and paleontologists is the most fun reluctant readers and dinosaur fans could wish for! Brimming with interesting facts about dinosaurs and their times, readers will learn about fossils, dinosaur's closest relatives, the rise of of dino and the theories of what happened to them. Lowery includes dinosaur  jokes and How To Draw pages to entertain kids long after they've studied all the facts.

Factoids are illustrated with whimsy and text is easy to read. Visual learners will understand complex eras and plate tectonics through story (comic) bubbles in the illustrations. Full of jokes, puns, and trivia, Lowery has created a awesome learning experience.

This is a MUST HAVE for every elementary collection and middle school readers will love it. If you have a child in your life with dinosaur love, purchase this one for Christmas.

Highly, highly recommended grades 2 and up.

FTC Recommended Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Picture Book PIck: Fly!

by Mark Teague
Beachlane Books
40 pages
ISBN: 97815344451

fly! is a story done with illustrations and  no words. Illustration bubbles above the mommy bird and baby (teen) bird tell the entire story. Teague captures animal behavior well and develops character for both birds via personality through their actions and "dialog" between them.

Baby bird doesn't want to leave the nest where his mother feeds and protects him. Mother tells him he's getting bigger and birds are birds. Birds fly. Soon they will migrate to Florida (Welcome to Florida sign), and he needs to learn to fly. Baby bird imagines flying on a hang glider or using superhero powers complete with cape to fly, or maybe he can take a train or skateboard to Florida. Mother tells him in order to get food and stay safe from predators like cats and owls, he must learn to fly. That does it! The image of an evil owl sends baby bird into the air.

A sweet animal story and a mother's love for her child make fly! a special book. Young readers will have a blast creating dialog for each two-page spread. Early learners and creative writers could use the picture book to develop their own stories.

Highly recommended for all young readers and creative writers.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not received monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, October 25, 2019

MIddle Grade Pick: The Line Tender

The Line Tender
Kate Allen
384 pages
ISBN: 9780735231603

See  my review in VOYA Magazine 

Lucy Everhart is only seven years old when her marine biologist mom dies. Her fisherman father becomes grief-ridden and silent, so Lucy turns to the neighbors and best friend Fred who shares her love of the sea and adventure. Now twelve, Lucy and Fred visit the beach and local fishermen every day. The discovery of a great white shark at their beach sets Lucy on the path to find out more about her mother's study of local sharks. Fred is happy to  help. Twelve going on thirteen is a strange age, and Lucy begins to feel a little differently toward Fred. After their first (and only) kiss, Fred drowns! Lucy has lost two people central in her young life, and turns to her mother's research notes to help her cope. 

Beautiful illustrations of shark species open each chapter. Cover art is eye-catching with a multitude of shark swimming by a young girl holding a notebook. The story begins as a friendship story: tender and naive. After Fred's death, the story shifts as Lucy searches for answers in her mother's research. She gets help from an unlikely old fisherman. When Lucy finds her sharks, she is able to process the loss of her mother and best friend. Page count may scare off reluctant readers. Suited for well-funded upper middle grade collections. 

Recommended for thoughtful readers and animal lovers. The Line Tender would make a great whole class read for a pre-AP English class grade seven or eight. 

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book for an honest review. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.