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Monday, September 6, 2021

Fun MG Pick: Pizazz


Pizazz (book one)

by Sophy Henn

Graphic illustrations by the author 



208 pages 

ISBN: 9781534452431

Meet Pizazz, an unlikely nine-year old superhero who hates being super all the time. Every time she's having fun with her friends, she gets a message from her mission control dog (who wears a space helmet and receives and transmits messages to the superfamily) that she must drop everything and zoom off to save the world again and it's getting old. 

Not only that, being a superhero means ALWAYS wearing the same outfit. And it gets worse. Everyone else in her family has cool superpowers, but Pizazz's superpower is super embarrassing. Pizazz longs to be normal like real people. 

Readers who love a quick read and reluctant readers will find Pizazz and easy, entertaining humorous story. Pizazz has just enough snark to keep the pages turning. Graphic elements mixed with pages resembling Dog Man and Wimpy Kid books will draw those fans to this book. 

Recommended ages 8 and up. Easy chapter book for grades 3 and up. Fans will be happy to know there's two more books in the series. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Bestselling YA Authors Anthology: Up All Night


Up All Night: 13 Stories Between Sunset & Sunrise

Edited by Laura Silverman

Stories by Karen M. McManus, Nina LaCour, Maureen Goo, et al.



352 pages

ISBN: 9781643750415

What happens when a group of teen friends get together after dark? Is an amazing idea and Up All Night is a true winner. This is the best teen anthology published and a must have for every teen collection. 

This collection of diverse short stories and genres represents some of the best voices in Young Adult fiction. The stories feature cultural diversity, LGBT, and non-binary voices. Editor Laura Silverman crafted a volume of coming-of-age stories that will appeal to any YA reader. 

Stories include horror, romance, first love, high school woes, graduating high school, losing friends, a super-hero story and a haunted house. Readers will encounter characters with typical teen situations: siblings, blended families, first crush, the excitement leading up to the prom, pets,  a "Never Have a Ever" game that goes frightfully wrong. Every story takes place after dark and before dawn as teens navigate all-night "parties" and adventures. 

Warning: One story "Con Nights, Parallel Hearts" has abuse which some readers may find triggering. 

Stories by Karen M. McManus, Maurene Goo, Kayla Whaley, Marieke Nijkamp, Laura Silverman, Amanda Joy, Tiffany D. Jackson, Brandy Colbert, Kathleen Glasgow, Nina LaCour, Julian Winters, Francesca Zappa, Anna Meriano.

Highly, highly recommended. If you can only afford to buy one anthology, make it this one! Reluctant readers may find this a great choice as they can choose to read any or all the stories.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Vibrant and Musical: A Song of Frutas


A Song of Frutas

by Margarita Engle

Illustrations Sara Palacios

Antheneum Books for Young Readers


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534444898

Colorful, magical and musical, A Song of Frutas is a joy to read! 

Margarita Engle weaves English and Spanish text together she explains in her author's note, "...because that is the way people talk on both shores of the strip of sea that separates Cuban and Cuban American family members." A Song of Frutas is a love poem to Cuba and Engle's abuelo (grandfather) who sold fruit from his cart always singing the names of the fruit he has for sale: mångo, limæon, piña, coco and plæatano. Young Margarita would walk with him taking in the sights and sounds of a vibrant city scene. Women are hanging laundry out to dry, other vendors are singing their own songs to sell their wares. 

Every New Year's Eve there's a celebration where they eat twelve grapes and make a wish for each month of the coming year. Now that an ocean separates her from her abuelo she wishes for a day both countries can be friends and open up. She misses her abuelo and his songs of frutas, but she writes poems and verses in her letters to him and imagines birds carrying her letters to her beloved grandfather. 

Also in the author's note is information about travel restrictions between America and Cuba that made it hard for Cuban Americans to visit their homeland. Engle states that she began returning to see her family in 1991. This is an important book for all collections. Palacios' illustrations are wonderfully rendered capturing the heart and soul of Cuba. 

Highly, highly recommended. This book WILL win multiple awards for both Engle and Palacios. 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Halloween Pick: Hardly Haunted


Hardly Haunted

by Jessie Sima

Illustrations by Jessie Sima 

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


48 pages 

ISBN: 9781534441705

A lonely, empty house on a hill thinks she might be haunted. She wants someone to buy her and move in and make her a home, but no one does. Only the funny black cat hangs out with her. 

House decides to be very quiet and maybe no one will notice she's haunted. But here comes a powerful wind that makes her roof moan, her foundation groan, her pipes rattle. House is impressed because all that noise was fun! 

She decides she'll wait for the right family who doesn't mind the fact that she's haunted. And a family of ghosts decide to make House their home. The house on the hill is happy.

Adult readers will have fun reading the creepy noises out loud and young readers will giggle and help with the "reading" of the noises. 

The character of House is a brilliant storytelling decision to personify a haunted house as the main character. Creative and whimsical, outright fun and only a teensy bit spooky, this is a great pick for Halloween story time. 

Highly, highly recommended for all young readers. This book is likely to be in the mix for many awards. 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Series Pick: The Oddmire: Deepest Darkest (Book 3)


The Oddmire: Deepest, Darkest (Book 3)
by William Ritter
Algonquin Young Readers
320 pages
ISBN: 9781643750927

Entertaining, Thrilling, Non-Stop Action 

Book Three in William Ritter's The Oddmire series does not disappoint. The "twin" brothers Tinn and Cole go in search of Cole's missing father who disappeared when they were both babies. They enlist help from their two best friends, Evie who knows all about strange creatures and Fable, destined to become the next Queen of the Wild Wood. 

Going underground in search of their father worries Tinn. He's afraid if they do find him alive, his dad won't accept him as the goblin he truly is. The character of Tinn is so lovable, readers will want to hug him and comfort him in his pain. 

 The boys' mother Annie travels with them and their friends. She has hope to see her husband alive again, but there is ancient evil building and they will have to work quickly to complete their mission. 

Ritter has a knack for creating magical, whimsical creatures, and Deepest, Darkest is full of trolls, spriggans, elves, nymphs, goblins and more.

Readers will be on the edge of their seats with the pages turning at a fierce pace. Don't start this book at bedtime because you'll be up all night finishing it. It's that great! 

Highly recommended for fans  and readers of the first two books, and if you've not read The Oddmire series, what are you waiting for? 

A must have for all middle school libraries and readers.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Halloween Treats: Three New Books for Littles

 Just in time for Halloween: Here are three great new books from Simon for your youngest readers. 

                                                                    BOO! BAA, LALALA!

by Sandra Boynton 

9781534452831Boo! Baa,  Lalala! a cow discovers a new sound as she says "Boo!" for Halloween. She's answered by another voice, "Baa!" This is a quaint read aloud for the youngest readers. Priced at $5.99 it's a true bargain for parents. 

Knock Knock, Trick or Treat! A Spooky Halloween Lift-The-Flap Book 

by Amy E. Sklansky

Illustrated by Chiara Galletti


This is a must-have for all kids! Rhyming text and lift the flaps reveal Halloween favorite characters appear: a witch, a mummy, a ghost, a zombie, a skeleton, Frankenstein and even a cyclops! Lovely little fun book for parents to read and kids to lift the flaps to uncover monsters. 

How To Hide a Ghost: A Lift-The-Flap Book

by MacKenzie Haley 


Rhyming text and winning illustrations make this a gem. The cover even has a lift-the-flap. Innovative design on each flap will keep kids entertained as they discover how each one lifts. 

All three books are highly recommended for the youngest readers. Why not purchase all three for someone you love this Halloween? 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Middle Grade Pick: The Girl and the Witch's Garden


The Girl and the Witch's Garden
by Erin Bowman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
273 pages
ISBN: 9781534461581

Twelve-year old Piper Peavey doesn't want to stay at her grandmother's cold and imposing estate. She wants to stay with her sick father. Dying of cancer, Dad needs her, but Aunt Eva insists Piper must stay at the mansion because she has a busy job and must be in Colorado. 

Dumped at the Mallory Estate, Piper expects to be met by her grandmother and finally spend time with her runaway mother. She hasn't had any contact with her mother since she was a baby, but she longs to meet her and find a relationship. When she's greeted by four orphans her mother has taken in, she's gobsmacked. Her mother who never had time for her has now adopted a band of orphans in her place? Things don't make sense and Grandmother is strangely missing. Pipe knows something isn't right. 

When her mother sits down for dinner in the vast dining room she lays down the law. She will not dine with Piper. Piper must stay away from her part of the mansion and no sneaking around the grounds. Also, there's a strange Persian cat who seems to patrol the children whenever they are someplace they shouldn't be. 

It doesn't take long for the kids to fill Piper in: her mother is looking for a way into the garden to find a magical elixer that grants immortal life. What Piper wouldn't give to find that elixir and save her father's life! Nothing is as it should be and Piper's going to have to work hard to figure out puzzles and clues to find the elixir. 

Beautiful cover art will help sell this story. 

Readers who love a smart girl and solving mysteries with a little magic will like this book. 
Recommended grades 4-7. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Native American Pick: Living Ghosts & Mischievous Monsters

 Living Ghosts & Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories

by Dan SaSuWeh Jones, Ponca Nation (written and selected stories)

Illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre, Tonava Nation 

Scholastic Press


176 pages

ISBN: 9781338681604

Publishing Date: September 7, 2021

What a welcome addition to any folklore, myths and legends collection. Compelling and entertaining stories from various Native American Nation members and collected by Dan SasSuWeh Jones,  the former Chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and consultant for National Geographic Encyclopedia of the American Indian insure this book will be a bestseller and likely multiple awards winner. The state of Oklahoma is likely to make it the state winner of 2021. 

The publisher recommends this beauty for fans of Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys legends, stories and myths and readers who want to know more about Native American stories. 

The author informs readers that as a young child he listened to ghost stories every night from elders around him. Later, he traveled across the country seeking out other tribes' stories. One common thread ran through all the stories: ghosts. Ghosts, the author states, are a part of every day life. 

From the story of his great-aunt who visited them daily titled "My Great-Aunt's Last Ten A.M. Visit" to Herman Viola's (Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian) story of his dead brother who comes home titled "You Don't Live Here Anymore" readers will find the stories entertaining and provocative. These stories are not soon forgotten. "You Don't Live Here Anymore" sticks with me always. Their father goes to the gate of the property and tells the spirit, "You don't live here anymore. Join the spirit world. We love you and miss you, but it's time for you to go." It is heart-breakingly beautiful and filled with paternal love. 

You must have this book or buy it for a special reader. It's a must-have, must-read.

So highly, highly recommended grades 3-7.

Monday, June 14, 2021

MG Pick: Better With Butter

Better With Butter

by Victoria Piontek

Scholastic Press


320 pages

ISBN: 9781338662207

Twelve-year old Marvel has anxiety disorder and you name it, she's afraid of it or anxious about it. When she freezes up onstage, she becomes the laughing stock of her entire school. She tried to tell her mom she couldn't do it, but Mom sent her to school anyway. Now the brunt of jokes and terrorized by mean eighth grade boys, Marvel is afraid to walk home alone. 

She sees the mean boys standing around something and forgets to be afraid. The boys are scaring a baby goat. Each time they do, the goat faints and they laugh. Marvel forgets to be afraid and stands up to the boys, rushing in to comfort the poor creature and warning the bullies off. Marvel doesn't know where her bravery came from, but she knows the goat needs her and she needs the goat. She names her Butter and takes her home. 

Her mother doesn't want a pet goat, but when her dad comes home from the military, he sees that Butter is a good therapy pet for Marvel and builds an enclosure for her. Mom insists Marvel try to find Butter's owner. As girl and goat form an unbreakable bond, Marvel's anxiety disappears. With Butter, anything is possible, but someone answers Marvel's lost pet ad. 

Marvel may have to face the future alone and she's terrified. Readers will love Marvel and her voice! She's more feisty than she thinks she is, and readers will notice her strength even when she does not. 

Highly, highly recommended grades 3-7. A feel great book about the power of pets and love and overcoming anxiety. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Inspiring Pick: 1000 Timeless Quotes: The Thoughts of 1000 People


1000 Timeless Quotes: The Thoughts of 1000 People

compiled by Elizabeth Hamm



172 pages

ISBN: 9781098357016

Inspirational quotes to make readers pause, consider, ponder and think. What could be a better gift for a new graduate or a child going off the college or off to another state or country? This useful quote book has an eclectic collection of quotes from people in a wide variety of fields, from all parts of the world and over centuries of time. Opening with Horace, "Seize the day," the reader knows they are in for a great book of life lessons and wisdom. 

Quotes include those from astronauts, scientists, philosophers, teachers, religious figures, emperors, heads of state, geniuses, critics, humorists and artists can become talking points for any group setting be it book club, classroom, or even religious meeting. 

"No one was ever wise by chance..." Seneca

Imagine what a great science teacher or philosophy teacher could do with that quote! 

Highly, highly recommended as a daily inspirational book. 1000 quotes, 1 to ponder each day, gives the reader 1000 days of great thoughts. A brilliant book for teaching and learning. Grades 6 and up and thoughtful younger children can think about the easier ideas. Excellent for meeting starter or starting your day with a new thought. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Graphic Novel Pick: Long Distance


Long Distance
by Whitney Gardner
Illustrations by the author
Simon  & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
320 pages
full color illustrations
ISBN: 9781534455665

Available June 29, 2021
simultaneous release both in hardcover and paperback

When twelve-year old Vega's family moves from Portland to Seattle, she's not happy. She's missing her life, her school and her best friend Hailey. The girls text and Facetime but it's not the same as being together. Fearing Hailey has replaced her already, Vega mopes around he house. Not even her telescope can calm her, so her parents decide to send her to summer camp to meet "new friends."

At the camp, Vega's phone quits working. Now she can't reach Hailey at all. She decides to write a real letter and send it, but she makes the mistake of not mailing it herself. It's hard to know who to trust as the camp gets stranger and stranger. 

Vega, Gemma and Querty discover speakers in rocks and worry who's watching them and why.The kids notice there's no birds or squirrels near the camp. Vega can't find the North Star or any stars because  clouds obscure the sky every night. Three friends in the woods at a camp they don't trust and strange things are happening to the sky. What could go wrong? 

You'll have to discover on your own and you won't expect the twists! My favorite character is Qwerty. Quirky, strange, funny, Long Distance is bound to be a big hit among graphic novel fans. 

Recommended ages ten and up. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Charming! Picture Book Gem: Secret, Secret Agent Guy


Secret, Secret Agent Guy

by Kira Bigwood

Illustrations by Celia Krampien 

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division


32 pages

ISBN: 9781534469211

Simply charming and laugh out loud funny, Secret, Secret Agent Guy is a WINNER! Think Harriet the Spy, 007 and Inspector Gadget, and you'll understand. 

Secret, secret agent guy is prepared for his next mission: Operation Lollipop. He has everything he needs: a grappling hook, night vision goggles, a walkie talkie and even a "jet pack." As he sneaks around the house, he must avoid Mom and Dad and snatch the lollipop. 

Mom has sent a spy! Oh, no! Not that guy! Oh, yes, he's on the friendly side. As our agent escaped detection, he is bested by an opponent who's outsmarted him! Spy kids will love this book. 

For every kid who spies on the parents, every kid who searches for clues, every kid who walks around with a magnifying glass, every kid who writes in invisible ink, every kid with a spy coat or vest, every kid with binoculars or a telescope, Secret, Secret Agent Guy is their book! 

Charming, lively illustrations and rhyming text to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" make this an unforgettable read. This will be a bedtime favorite for generations.

Secret, Secret Agent Guy is the most fun, most entertaining, most creative picture book I've read this year and it will win awards! Get ready, Kira Bigwood and Celia Krampien, you have pulled off the BEST PICTURE BOOK OF THE YEAR! (and I'm always right). 

Highly, highly recommended. A MUST HAVE! 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Great Fun! Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf


Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf

by Sam Wedelich

Illustrations by the author

Scholastic Press


40 pages

ISBN: 9781338359008

Chicken Little is the bravest little chicken in the barnyard. She's smart, scientific and well-read. When she meets the Big Bad Wolf, she realizes he's not scary, simply misunderstood. 

The other chickens in the coop want to fly the coop, but everyone knows chickens aren't the world's greatest flyers. Chicken Little decides to investigate why everyone is so afraid of he Wolf. She asks him if he's big and bad, and he assures her that he tries to be be a good person. He's actually a vegetarian, so there is no danger in him eating the chickens. 

Poor Wolf has nowhere to go. He doesn't fit in with his pack (being a vegetarian and all), so the chickens decide he can join them. They have a "pot-cluck" dinner to help welcome him. The message of inclusion and acceptance is delivered with humor and grace. 

Wonderfully captured with illustrations from the author and tongue-in "beak" writing, Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf is a must read for all littles. Parents will love its wit and word choices. 

Highly, highly recommended! 


Friday, April 30, 2021

Novel In Verse: Your Heart My Sky


Your Heart My Sky

by Margarita Engle


Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division


205 pages

ISBN: 9781534464964

Gripping, profound, moving, Your Heart My Sky is a must-read.

Cuba 1991: a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Cubans are starving including fourteen-year old Alina. Skipping forced work camp and putting her family in danger, Alina happens upon a mystical dog she befriends. The "singing" dog is starving like the people, but he leads Alina in her search for food. They meet a boy, Amado, who skipped out on work to forage for food and the trio become a unit.

Police patrol the streets looking for anyone who has not reported for forced work, so Alina and Amado hide in the shadows in order to keep their parents safe. Hunger is constant. It is the only thing Alina can think of except the fact she can share her hunger with a sensitive boy. Together, they search and hope and dream. Their island has no opportunity for them and no food, yet it is their homeland and their soul. 

The Pan-Am Games are to be held in Cuba, and all the food is for tourists, not for citizens. Alina dreams of opening a restaurant and having enough food to feed not only herself but hungry guests. The kids plant a garden with the hope of harvesting food. "How can love be enough in a time of hunger?" Alina asks. 

Thousands of islanders are leaving Cuba in rafts, hoping to reach freedom and food, but many drown. Alina and Amado consider taking the chance, but worry one of them will drown. What will the survivor do? How lonely is survival? Amado realizes, "Hope is the only cure for hunger." They will stay in their homeland and they will nurture their garden and they will work for their dreams to become reality. 

The author's note is especially poignant and Cuba's singing dogs are real (Engle believes so, and I agree).  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Non-Fiction Pick: A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You


A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You: A Laugh-Out-Loud Guide to Life on Earth 

by Mike Barfield

Illustrated by Jess Bradley


Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

original copyright 2020 in U.K.

2021 U.S. edition

128 pages full color illustrations 

ISBN: 9781534467217

Where was this ESSENTIAL book when I was in middle school? The author explores the human body, the animal kingdom and earth and science. Fun, fascinating facts and cartoon-like illustrations by Jess Bradley make this a great pick for reluctant readers and fans of non-fiction. This is a teaching tool for any beginning science class as well. 

Features include "A Day in the Life of a Hiccup," "A Day in the Life of a Pimple, how your major organs work, and "You and Your Poo" teaches how to tell if you need more fiber, more water or if your poo is healthy! Any middle school reader will love that! 

In the animal world, earthworms, spiders, dung beetles, weird types of fish like the gulper eel and the long-nosed chimaera, koalas, skunks, pandas and other animals are highlighted. Did you know pandas poop up to fifty times in one day or that worms can be both female and male? 

In the science and earth section, readers will learn about some plants, fungi, weather, volcanos, auroras among many other subjects. A fun-filled, illustrated glossary ends the book.  Kids won't even realize how much they've learned because this little gem is so much fun to read. Who knew science was so cool? 

HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This is a must-have, must-read for any science buff and even those readers, like me, who really aren't into science. Note to educational publishers: maybe if you made science books more fun, more kids would excel in the sciences. 

Grade 4 and up. Easy to read, each page is filled with illustrations and fun facts. The pages will turn fast!