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.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Fun Picture Book Pick: Roy Digs Dirt

Roy Digs Dirt
by David Shannon
Illustrations by the author
Blue Sky Press
40 pages
ISBN: 9781338251012

Available April 7, 2020

Is there a child (or adult) anywhere that can resist a book by David Shannon? I've yet to meet one!

Roy Digs Dirt is a rambunctious TAIL (put intended) of an even more rambunctious puppy. Roy digs dirt every day--he revels in being dirty and smelly. The only thing Roy doesn't like about dirt is ants! He loves dirt so much, he rolls in it, buries things in it and digs for treasure. Roy love mud even more and thinks mud is " dirt gravy!" Roy does not love baths, but he digs dirt!

Muddy footprints run across the end pages of this quaint picture book that is sure to become a classic "David" book. Shannon's illustrations capture every fun romp as Roy DIGS dirt. A must have for every library and every child's bookshelf.

Give this to your favorite little just in time for Easter (April 12)!

Highly, highly recommended ages 2 and up and everyone who loves David Shannon.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Adult Fiction Pick: Creatures

by Crissy Van Meter
Algonquin Books
256 pages
ISBN: 9871616208592

Creatures is a introspective study of a broken family: a mother who follows her own arrow wherever it may lead, many times far away from her young daughter, a father who knows more about creatures of the ocean than he does his own precious creature: an impressionable, quiet, often lonely daughter who craves her father's attention and love. Evangeline worships her father, an alcoholic, druggie who provides weed and coke for most of their island. The island itself, Winter Island, just off the coast of Northern California, often battered by storms and forgotten by time.

Growing up, Evie parents herself, going hungry and sometimes homeless, crashing at millionaires' homes, hanging out with Playboy bunnies, and pro athletes when they take an island rental or camping in a tent when her dad loses everything.

The book opens before Evangeline's wedding. Her groom is out at sea and a storm threatens his return and even his life. A whale has beached itself and lies rotting on the beach. That whale becomes a symbol of everything that is wrong with Evie and her mother. Her mother shows up with no notice and pretends to care about Evie's wedding. Evie grits her teeth as she tiptoes around her mother in order to create no waves.

The story is told going back and forth in time to child Evie and her dad's failures and abysmal parenting, and how it has affected Evie's lack of emotion. She cannot feel anything at all. Things that would break another person, Evie treats with no human emotion. It is interesting to see a character who appears stoic but is the most tragic person in the entire book.

Recommended for those who enjoy a character study and those who love tangled family relationships. There is no one in Evie's life who is able to help or save her from herself. Creatures is a sad, yet beautiful, book. The cover art is spectacular!

Adult book clubs may find much to talk about in this book, if they can pour more wine.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Children's Pick: The Way Home for Wolf

The Way Home for Wolf
by Rachel Bright
Illustrations by Jim Field
Scholastic Press
32 pages
ISBN: 9781338592740

Little wolf cub Wilf is a tough little guy who is as stubborn as the day is long. He wants to be a big wolf, strong and proud, and lead the pack, but others tell him he's too little. Longing to prove himself, he sets out strong and tough with the others, but he struggles to keep as they leave their old home. A blizzard separates him from the pack, and he's all alone and afraid. He falls through the ice into freezing water and is rescued by a sea unicorn who gets him to his next guide-helper: a giant walrus. With help from a string of polite strangers, Wilf is reunited with his pack. Wilf vows to help any stranger find their way back home, and the final page says it best, "...We're all just a handful of friendships from home."

A book about caring for others and guiding those who are lost is a lovely addition to children's lit. Beautiful and sensitive illustrations capture Wilf's fear and desperation when lost and his happiness and love when reunited with his family. The Way Home for Wolf will be in the mix for multiple awards for children's books and will be on the Scholastic book fair this year.

Highly recommended for early readers. A touching bedtime story.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Bug Dipping, Bug Sipping
(Ready To Read, Pre-Level One)
by Marilyn Singer
Illustrations by Lucy Semple
Simon Spotlight (Simon Children's)
32 pages
ISBN: 9781534441408

From beloved children's author, Marilyn Singer, Bug Dipping, Bug Sipping helps young learners become readers. Singer won national awards for Mirror, Mirror (NCTE 2015 Award for Excellence) and won the Cybils Poetry Award.

Beginning readers will love the cadence and rhyming prose where bugs zing, cling, disguise, crawl, rise and seem to come to life in beautiful illustrations by Lucy Semple. Colorful cover design makes this book a standout on any library or bookstore shelf.

A page of fun bug facts follow this charming story.

Highly recommended for any young reader and especially for kids who love things that crawl and creep.

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.