Sunday, July 5, 2020

YA Romance: As much As I Ever Could

As Much As I Ever Could
by Brandy Woods Snow
Filles Vertes Publishing 
300 pages
ISBN: 9781946802583

A satisfying summer romance set in picturesque Edisto--a small beach town--what could be better than that? 

CJ doesn't drive. After a horrific car accident that kills her mom and sister, CJ suffers survivor's guilt. Her father becomes a shell of a man--sad. silent, unreachable. He drops CJ off at a small grocery store in Edisto, South Carolina, where she'll be staying with her Memaw for the summer. 

While waiting for her ride,  CJ meets locals Jen and Bo and hot guy Jett. Although instantly attracted to Jett, CJ is less inclined when she finds out he's a hot shot driver destined for NASCAR. 

Jett has his own problems, but with CJ's friendship, he begins to open up and deal with problems. Both characters help each other which is a fresh look at YA romance. CJ is no princess waiting to be saved. She is much stronger than she is vulnerable. Even in moments she seems weak, there is an underlying strength. Teen readers and romance readers need more stories where women are portrayed as strong even if they appear broken, 

Edisto is a compelling setting in that it sets up for the perfect beach read. Throw this novel into your beach bag and hit the beach. It has all the summer vibes necessary for a smoldering romance that is hard to resist. 

Perfect for anyone who loves a small town romance or readers who love tales of the South and fast cars! 

Recommended grade 9 and up and for all romance fans. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Best Picture Book of 2020: The Worrysaurus

The Worrysaurus
by Rachel Bright
Illustrated by Chris Chatterton
Orchard Books
32 pages
ISBN: 9781338634082

Winsome rhyming lines which sound like music by Rachel Bright and cute, captivating illustrations by Chris Chatterton make this picture book perfect! If you can only buy one book as a gift for a child, this is the one! 

Poor little Worrysaurus! He has planned such a fantastic day: he's packed his snacks and art supplies and begins his adventure, but it isn't too long and he gets anxious and begins to worry. He questions whether has has enough snacks or enough water.

He meets a little lizard who claims there might be a storm coming, and Worrysaurus starts to think of all the bad things that could happen. He feels a worry butterfly in his belly but remembers his mother's wisdom: 

"If it's not a happy ending, then it hasn't ended yet." 

What a beautiful sentiment! With that memory, Worrysaurus holds all his special items and toys and his worry begins to fade away. He shares his lunch with the lizard and realizes he has the power to calm the butterfly feeling in his own belly. 

In an anxious world, children will need to learn coping skills. The Worrysaurus teaches them about being anxious and worried, but learning to calm down. Because Worrysaurus seems like a cartoon or stuffed animal, kids won't take the story as a sermon. Young readers will empathize with Worrysaurus and want him to be okay. What a postitive picture book! 

Highly, highly recommended! FIVE STARS! This one will win awards and be the runaway picture book of the year! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Series Pick: Tyrannosaurus Wrecks (Book 6)

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks
by Stuart Gibbs 
A Funjungle novel (Book 6)
Simon & Schuster 
321 pages
ISBN: 9781534443754

An exciting mystery for middle grade/young adult readers who crave solving a case(s) that is/are tangled and full of suspicion. Stuart Gibbs is the master of entertaining stories and a cast of characters that are engaging and smart. 

When Sage invites Teddy to his family's ranch, no one suspects trouble. Somehow someone stole a 500lb. dinosaur skull worth millions in the middle of a rainstorm without leaving any clues! Sage's family was hoping/counting on the dig to help them save their cattle ranch. Teddy reluctantly agrees to help solve the mystery.

Meanwhile his old frenemies, the Barksdale twins contact Teddy. Their cat was swallowed by an anaconda and they want to know how to get their cat back.  Teddy's famous girlfriend Summer wants to help solve the T-rex case, but also wants to stay out of the public eye. 

Readers learn about smuggling and illegal trafficking of exotic pets, but this does not hurt the story. In fact, the two cases will keep readers guessing and Teddy is in more danger than ever before.

This is books 6 in the Funjungle series, but readers do not have to read the books in order, but really, why wouldn't they want to read them all? 

Highly recommended grade 5 and up and anyone who loves mysteries. An author note about animal trafficking and reptile and exotic pet smuggling is included as well as a note that dogs and cats need homes and love also. A caution to do research before purchasing any animal is included and I thank the author for this. So many times, parents buy/get pets for their children without doing proper research and then give them up or worse, set them free in the wild where the animal may not be able to care for itself. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Classic Retelling: Chicken Litttle: The Real and Totally True Tale

Chicken Little: The Real and Totally True Tale
by Sam Wedelich
Illustrations by the author
40 pages
ISBN: 9781338359015

Witty, whimsical, FUNNY, and clever! Sam Wedelich delivers a cute cautionary tale in his humorous imagining of the classic tale about a farmyard gossip! 

This little Chicken Little isn't much afraid of anything. She knows science, and can figure things out doing some fact-checking and information gathering. When a BONK on her head sends her scurrying for answers, Chicken Little is quick to gather facts. 

Scientific and fun sounding words will leave little ones giggling: preposterous, gravity, horde, meteors, utter, clucky, chaos!

Fun word play on the word pandamonium becomes hen-damonium. The barnyard chickens aren't much help as they band together clucking and worrying, but Chicken Little finds the answers and calms the crowd. 

Truly a fun read-aloud! Make sure you bring your character voices for performing this quirky read. Kids will create their own dialog and likely memorize the funny lines of this little beauty! 

STEM for beginning readers and scientists. Any young (or old) reader will chuckle at this beloved rendering of Chicken Little. She's not a worried little chick any more, she a boss chicken! 

Highly, highly recommended ages 4-8 and older for some of the ideas like "free-range" chickens and grin and nod to Snopes (Snipes). 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Scary Picture Book Pick: Shadow in the Woods and Other Scary Stories

Shadow in the Woods and Other Scary Stories, Book #2 Mr. Shivers series.
by Max Brallier
Illustrated by Letizia Rubenchi
Acorn Books
64 pages
ISBN: 9781338615432

A collection of five spooky short stories, Shadow in the Woods may become your little's favorite storybook. Marketed for ages 5-7, it's for those readers who aren't quit ready for Goosebumps series. Easy to read and beautifully illustrated, yet just creepy enough to leave readers with a few goosebumps and giggles of their own, this little book is a treasure! 

Max Brallier continues to entertain young readers with fun and spooky content! "Fingernails" is truly creepy, YIKES! 

If you have kids who love a little scare, Mr. Shivers books are for them. 

Recommended for beginning readers ages 5-7 and older! Fun stuff! 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Romance Pick: What I Like About You

What I Like About You
by Marisa Kanter
Simon & Schuster
409 pages
ISBN: 9781534445772

A cute read about falling in love in the digital world. A twist on the old tale of Cyrano except instead of her best friend writing her love interest, Halle is a screen presence named Kels, a dynamic food blogger with big personality. 

When Halle moves to her Gramps' small town, she finds herself face-to-face with Nash, the cool graphic artist she's falling in love with online. Faced with the dilemma of what to tell Nash and when, Halle needs to figure it out because Nash is in love with her, but not her. He's in love with online her: Kels.

For readers who enjoy romance and cute meet-ups. 

Recommended grade 7 and up. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Series Pick: The Unready Queen (The Oddmire, book 2)

The Unready Queen
The Oddmire, Book 2
by William Ritter
Illustrations by the author
Algonquin Young Readers
320 pages
ISBN: 9781616208400

Available June 23, 2020 (from Publisher's website; other sites have June 2, 2020)

Compelling, endearing, magical and quintessential fantasy, The Unready Queen will be the best book of 2020! Do yourself a favor: pick up The Changeling (Book 1) and this book! William Ritter knows how to tell a story that will transport readers to a magical world. Remember reading Harry Potter for the first time? The Secret Garden? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? That's the feeling The Oddmire books will leave you with.

The Unready Queen picks up where the story of The Changeling left off. Brothers Tinn and Cole are as close as ever. Tinn has learned he is not a human at all. The goblin who was supposed to swap babies, was frightened off before he could grab the human baby. Growing up, their mother Annie had a hard time telling them apart, but was adamant to treat each boy as her own. The boys are happy to be back from the Oddmire. They attend school which makes Tinn uncomfortable when he begins to change into his goblin self in front of others. Tinn tries to learn how to channel and control it. He spends more time in the goblin world.

In the Deep Dark, Fable, daughter of the Queen, is coming into her own magic. She befriends the twins and spends more time in the human world. When the kids discover that humans are seeking to destroy the wood for financial gain, Fable must fight for her home and its magical creatures.

Both mothers--the Queen of the Deep Dark, Rainn, and Annie, the human mother of the twins, are fierce, loving mothers. Their children, Fable, Tinn and Cole, are enveloped with love which is their saving grace. It is endearing to see such a kind family dynamic when so many middle grade and YA books show parents in a less than friendly light.

This coming of age story is about Fable as she learns of the woods and her own magic. While she loves playing in the human world with the boys, she learns that it is that world she must protect herself and her creatures against. This gem of a book is epic storytelling where Ritter deftly weaves an environmental message into its fabric. Not all human progress is good. It's better to leave the wild just that--WILD. In order for all creatures to survive, humans must respect their homes.

Finally, this is the second book in a series that lives up to book 1--in fact, book 2 is even better than book 1. William Ritter can do no wrong in the middle grade market. This is such a treat for middle grade readers. It is a magical book that takes its readers on a journey.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Middle Grade Pick: Premeditated Myrtle

Premeditated Myrtle
A Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery (Book 1)
by Elizabeth C. Bunce
AlgonquinYoung Readers
318 pages
ISBN: 9781616209186

Available October 6, 2020. Book 2, How To Get Away With Myrtle, available on the same date!

Clever and captivating, Premeditated Myrtle is the best young detective story in years! Set in Victorian England in a small town, the story satisfies with historical details and quaint setting.

Twelve-year old Myrtle Hardcastle is smart and inquisitive, armed with her mother's microscope and her father's love of the law, Myrtle is incorrigible and fearless. She loves science and forensics--certainly not conventional subjects for young ladies of her era and frowned upon by society--but Myrtle throws caution to the wind and fearlessly ventures where no young lady of breeding should ever tread. Young Ladies of Quality are not supposed to go gallivanting off  OUTSIDE AFTER DARK or poke their noses into mysteries and murder, but that doesn't stop the irrepressible Myrtle! With her loving governess at her side, Myrtle sets out to solve the mystery of her elderly neighbor's death. Miss Wodehouse's death was deemed "natural causes," but Myrtle knows something is fishy.

She finds evidence that Miss Wodehouse was murdered, and her father, the town prosecutor, arrests Miss Wodehouse's grounds keeper. Myrtle suspects her father has arrested the wrong man and sets out to prove it. When Miss Wodehouse's cat goes MIA, Myrtle wonders where Peony could have gone. And why were all of the old lady's lilies  burned in the garden? Who is covering up something much more sinister? A long lost niece arrives from America, but Myrtle doesn't trust her. Soon, a nephew also arrives. Suddenly, the deceased Miss Wodehouse has all sorts of relatives coming out of the Victorian carved woodwork.

Myrtle searches for clues to free Mr. Hamm and finds that Miss Wodehouse was creating a new species of rare lily. Could she have been killed for her flowers? If so, where are these magnificent flowers? Mr. Hamm burned all of them in the garden. Was he instructed to get rid of evidence or cover up something more nefarious going on?

Thank goodness for Myrtle Hardcastle who finds all the answers and pieces together means, motive and opportunity. Think Sherlock Holmes x Agatha Christie x Harriott the Spy, and you have the most fun character in kidlit in forever! Myrtle Highcastle is a hit! Readers won't have to wait for the next book in the series, How To Get Away With Myrtle (Book 2) is available on the same date.

Definitely a book that will win awards, you MUST READ Premeditated Myrtle. A MUST HAVE for all middle grade readers. A rollicking great tale full of unexpected twists, evil criminals, double dealings, a get rich quick scheme, THE will and estate, and deceptive, quick talking cons.

Highly, highly recommended! You must not miss this book. Pre-order today!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

PIcture Book Pick: Be You!

Be You!
by Peter H. Reynolds
Illustrations by the author
Orchard Books
(Scholastic imprint)
32 pages
ISBN: 9781338572315

Be You! is a celebration of loving yourself, accepting yourself, motivating yourself, and pushing yourself! Each two-page spread begins with a positive message, for example: "Be adventurous," or "Be curious," or "Be persistent." The second part of the spread explains how to be adventurous or curious or persistent.

Cute, clever and quirky illustrations will bring smiles  to toddlers, parents and graduates for this little gem of a book would make an excellent life guide. If only we could all be persistent, curious, adventurous, different and brave! What changes humankind could bring to this world! Never preachy or stuffy or moralistic,  Be You! is a manual for young children and adults alike.

Highly recommended for ages four and up. Great graduation present or daily read for children. A child would be happy to tell an adult what each message means and how they practiced it that day or week. Likely to become a classic, Be You! will surely be up for awards this year.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Swashbuckling Adventure: The Lady Rogue

The Lady Rogue
by Jenn Bennett
Simon Pulse
385 pages
ISBN: 9781534431997

Shoppers can NOT walk by this cover without picking up this book--that's how beautiful and eye-catching it is. Cover appeal alone will sell this story, but thankfully the story inside is even better than the cover! Do not make the mistake of labeling this book historical fiction. That would be a disservice. It is set in the past, but it's not dry or boring. It's ALIVE and lively with timeless appeal for anyone who needs an adventure.

From the peasant villages to the mountain passes through the Carpathans to the secret chambers and treasure to be found to the odd bookstore reeking of magic to the creepy cult of goons who follow her, Theo (Theodora) Fox, uses her intelligence and code breaking skills to find her missing treasure hunter father.

Abandoned by her traveling tutor, Theodora is now alone in Istanbul with no money and waiting for her father's return. Richard Fox has gone off in search of Vlad (Dracula's) famous bone ring. He is supposed to return and continue through Europe with his daughter. Theodora is surprised (SHOCKED) when she returns to her hotel and former boyfriend, love of her life, protege of her father is standing in her room. She's still mad at him for going away without saying good-bye, but she has only half the story. Huck Gallagher is the only person who can help her find her father. The two decide on a "truce" which doesn't last long and begin retracing Fox's journey. As the search for the fabled bone ring, it becomes apparent that they are not the only ones seeking it. There is an evil group of occultists who want the ring said to give its wearer power to defeat all armies.

Digging for clues in her father's diary, Theo and Huck venture into Romania and into the shadows of Gothic splendor. Readers will be captivated by the scenery. Like something out of Indiana Jones or The Mummy movies, The Lady Rogue is rich and layered with sights, sounds and smells. I was completely into this story and was sad when it ended. The love/hate dance between Theodora and Huck is a joy to read, and romance did not take over the story--thankfully! Huck is swoon-worthy and the quick banter between Theo and him is fun. This story would be a brilliant adventure movie, and I for one, pray for another Theodora Fox book.

Highly, highly recommended for YA readers. Grade 8 and up. One bedroom scene, but it's not graphic. Do NOT MISS The Lady Rogue; it's a MUST READ!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Adult Book Club Pick: Crushing It

Crushing It
by Lorelei Parker
Kensington Books
336 pages
ISBN: 9781496725714

Available June 30, 2020

Gamer and coder, Sierra Reid is dying to represent her company at a gaming convention in Europe, but boss Reynold has the final say, and he is unsure Sierra has the gift of public speaking. In a presentation for him, Sierra is so nervous, her stomach rumbles loudly enough to be heard across the room. Mortified, Sierra turns to Aida, her best friend, coworker, and roommate for ideas.

Aida suggests they go to a local bar where they are hosting their first ever annual Chagrin Challenge night, a competition where anyone can bring their most embarrassing stories and diary entries and read them to the audience. Aida pushes Sierra to read a an embarrassing diary entry from college. She'll get practice speaking to an audience. Sierra goes along with the idea and nearly chickens out, but in the moment she stands before the room and reads an entry about a college crush named Tristan. The audience laughs at funny, heart on her sleeve college Sierra, and this Sierra feels pretty good about everything until the next person up is TRISTAN! Her Tristan. Sierra looks for an exit, but Tristan is flattered. The night couldn't go any better, and the top performers advance to the next round in a week. Sierra and Tristan both advance.

Sorting her feelings out for ex-crush Tristan, overcoming her anxiety and speaking in front of an audience, and discovering new (crush) feelings for someone Sierra never saw coming is enough for anyone  to handle. On top of that, she must convince her boss she knows more about Castle Crush (her game) than anyone else, and she does. But is knowing the game enough to conquer her fears and present it to a room of international gamers?

Recommended for romance fans and gamers and book clubs. A fun read with enough comic moments to entertain. Women in gaming need representation in print and movies, and Crushing It answers that need.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Middle Grade Fun Pick: City Spies

City Spies
Book 1
by James Ponti
384 pages
ISBN: 9781534414914

Slick, clever and fun, City Spies is a dynamic new series opener by James Ponti.

Sara Martinez is a computer genius who can hack into any site. Usually, Sara doesn't cause any trouble. She only hacked the New York foster care database to report on the latest of her foster homes. She gets caught, and now awaits court. Enter a stranger who claims to be her lawyer.

He is an enigma and clearly (at least to Sara) NOT a lawyer. Sara agrees to work with this man in order to gain her freedom. The judge agrees for him to take Sara into custody, and he spirits her off to Scotland to meet his team of teen spies. Sara's savior is an MI6 agent who goes by the name "Mother." He has recruited kids from all over the world to train at FARM: The Foundation for Atmospheric Research and Monitoring, which is cover for  covert operations and tons of satellite feeds. Mother has a few enemies of his own (what did you expect from a career MI6 agent?)

Sara meets the team, each nicknamed for the city Mother found them in: Rio, Sydney, Paris and Kat. Each teen has skills that will be useful on any spy team. Sara, now named Brooklyn, is the team's computer genius. The team does several training drills before Mother tells them what their mission is: keep billionaire philanthropist Stavros Sinclair safe during a global youth summit. Everyone has a reason to be there, even the bad guys.

Sara is an engaging character who will resonate with readers. Fans of this book will probably follow the next books in the series. Ponti tells a smart story with enough high stakes details to engage middle grade kids.

Recommended grade 5 and up.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Beatles Song Remake: Children's Picture Book: with a little help from my friends

with a little help from my friends
by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (Sir)
Illustrations by Henry Cole
Little Simon
40 pages
ISBN: 9781534429833

Parents and grandparents know this book already, at least the song lyrics. Illustrations by master children's book illustrator and author Henry Cole imagines (pun, intended) the song for a younger crowd. The message is the same one from the 60s. We all need a friend; we all need each other.

The opening image shows two girls sitting alone on their school bus seats. Everyone else has seat mates and buddies. The two girls find each other at school and begin to form a bond until one girl moves away. They miss each other but write letters and keep in touch by phone. Finally, the girl travels by plane to visit her friend and they are happy again.

Simply lovely! A must have keepsake for every child's bookshelf.

Highly, highly recommended ages three and up.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Picture Book Pick: One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey

One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey
by Henry Cole
Illustrations by the author
Scholastic Press
48 pages
ISBN: 9781338359978

Available: April 7, 2020

Gorgeous black ink drawings by the author illustrate one paper bag's journey from the forest to the mill where it becomes a paper grocery bag. Next it is used at a country store--think old school grocery store with the owner/clerk managing his own store.

This little bag with a bright red heart becomes a child's lunch bag, a cover for his nightlight, a toy for his small dog to crawl into and lasts through the years traveling with the young boy to college! Later, the flower girl at his wedding scatters rose petals from the bag which now has TWO red hearts! This little bag has staying power, and becomes a mobile for their baby, a snack holder, and is adorned with THREE hearts. When Grandpa arrives to stay, the bag gets its FOURTH heart. Later, the family uses the well-worn bag with the family's history to plant a tree for Earth Day! The bag once again becomes part of the forest.

The full circle of recycling is beautifully done, and the note from the author about how he learned about Earth Day and how important ecology and recycling became in his life and in his school will touch the hearts of today's child readers. What a powerful message. There are NO WORDS in this book, but that forces the reader to interpret the story and message though the illustrations.

I am in love with this tiny work of art! Well-done, Henry Cole! The cover is not screaming, "Pick me up!" to child readers or adult buyers, but please, don't overlook this picture book. It's a must read for the future of our children and our planet.

Ages 3 and up. Pre-school readers will tell the story, and likely remember each picture as they memorize their telling. Older readers can learn to interpret using only visual pieces. This is a strong and effective way to teach viewing and speaking.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Beautiful Message: When You Need Wings

When You Need Wings
by Lita Judge
Illustrated by the author
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
40 pages
ISBN: 9781534437555

Simply beautiful illustrations take the reader on a magical journey into one child's imaginary world. A little girl feels alone and afraid as she goes off to pre-school, but the message is when you're afraid or lonely and you hear your heartbeat, that's really your strength and your wings. The girl imagines wings that can take her into a storybook land with her friendly, magical bestie, a winsome, cuddly tiger. Because the girl has her imagination and her wings, she can fit in and face anything. By the end of the story, other kids come near her and welcome her into their group.

The positive message and terrific artwork take this simple children's book to the realm of magical and MUST HAVE. Parents will love its inspiring message. Few words make the story easy for any child to understand. Parents may want to let their children tell their own story using the illustrations alone.

Highly recommended ages 3 and up.