Friday, January 22, 2021

Board Book Pick: Tomorrow I'll Be Kind

 Tomorrow I'll Be Kind

by Jessica Hische

Illustrations by the author

Penguin Workshop


40 pages

ISBN: 9781524787059

A gentle board book for little hands that will inspire tenderness and kindness. Some words and behaviors for children to practice each day are: gentle, grateful, patient, honest and kind. Different animals illustrate each behavior in lovely rhyming verse by Hische. 

A MUST HAVE for every child. If we all practiced this book, the world would be a much better place. 

Highly recommended pre-school ages 2-7 and up. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Picture Book Pick: I Am the Storm


I Am the Storm 

by Jane Yolen & Heidi E.Y. Stemple

Art by Kristen & Keven Howdeshell

Rise X Penguin Workshop

Penguin Random House, LLC


32 pages

ISBN: 9780593222751

Beautiful artwork that mirrors four forces of nature: tornados, hurricanes, wildfires and blizzards is paired with gentle family bonding moments like playing cards in the basement, roasting marshmallows and hot dogs, picking wildflowers and visiting cousins quiet the storms. The weather is powerful, dangerous and unpredictable. Mother/daughter authors Yolen and Stemple remind parents and young readers the storms will pass and skies will clear. The constant throughout the story is the family unit staying together and comforting the children. 

"It's okay to be scared..." the book teaches because YOU are powerful like the weather. YOU are strong, wild and fierce and like the storm,  you are the calm. 

Well-done! I Am the Storm will be a favorite read aloud book for any family who lives in areas that experience fierce weather. 

Highly recommended! Fans of Yolen's work will love this book! 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Ready To Read Pick: Cat Has a Plan


Cat Has a Plan
Ready-To-Read series
written by Laura Gehl
Illustrations by Fred Blunt
Simon Spotlight
32 pages
ISBN: 9781534454118

Cat Has a Plan is a hilarious romp with three comic characters: Cat, Dog and Mouse. Beginning readers meet the three on page one and learn about words and word families that will appear in the story; for example "ad" which appears in the words: glad, sad and mad. Sight words like a, an, can and has are also on the page before the story. Questions at the end of the story help readers discuss. the story and new words. With a story this fun, young readers will thrive and learn to read while being entertained! 

Cat has a plan to scare dog. Dog gets mad and formulates his own plan which makes cat mad. Mouse is glad when both of them are mad. When the two realize they can make a plan together and "play" together everyone is happy. Illustrations of the "evil" (smart) cat and adorable, but unsuspecting, dog will captivate beginning readers. This book is on a number BEST lists for 2020. Don't miss this book!

Highly, highly recommended. The format of sight words, word families, new words, cute story, and questions at the end motivate readers to try the next book. Happy learning and happy readers! 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Picture Book Pick: Prairie Days

Prairie Days

by Patricia MacLachlan 

Illustrated by Micha Archer

Margaret K. McElderry Books

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing


40 pages 

ISBN: 9781442441910

Newbery winner MacLachlan depicts days gone by and harkens readers back to much simpler times (Wyoming, 1940s)  when the sky was big, life was slow, families were close, dogs slept on front porches and horses grazed in nearby fields. Farm life as the author remembers it is tranquil and lovely. 

Mixed media illustrations done in ink, acrylic, tissue paper and origami create a unique texture in the art by Micha Archer. This little picture book could win it all! 

Heartfelt, lyrical prose capture moments in time and childhood bliss. Every childhood should have memories of complete happiness! 

Highly, highly recommended. Prairie Days is the most beautiful picture book of 2020! 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Board Book Pick: Love Counts

Love Counts 
by Jo Parker
Illustrated by Matt Kaufenberg
Grosset & Dunlap
20 pages, board book
ISBN: 9780593382615
Available December 29, 2020 

What a fun and unique counting book! Instead of counting up, this book counts down from 10 to 1. Captivating rhymes will keep kids entertained and lively illustrations are colorful and HAPPY! The characters are full of life and love. The message is to remember thank all the people who work hard for us every day: the farmers who grow our food, doctors and nurses who help us stay well, truck drivers who deliver products for our use, teachers who impart wisdom, and neighbors who need a smile.

Sure to become a favorite in every child's reading time. This is one board book that toddlers will will memorize. 

Highly, highly recommended for little hands and learning brains! 


Middle Grade Pick: Echo Mountain


Echo Mountain

by Lauren Wolk

Dutton Books For Young Readers


368 pages

ISBN: 9780525555568

The Great Depression impacts twelve-year old Ellie and her family. Losing everything forces them to move from town to the wilds of Echo Mountain. Her father, a tailor by trade, must now learn a new life and  become a rugged “mountain man.” Her mother tries her best to make things work and hold the family together.

Feeling free, Ellie explores the vast richness of her surroundings reveling in nature and finding joy by discovering this new world and its secrets, but when a terrible accident injures her father, Ellie takes unfair and silent blame from her family. She feels she must make it up to them, so she seeks out the help of a healer far up the mountain known only as “the hag.” Whispered about by the locals, the “hag” has become a mysterious (and feared) legend. Ellie believes her father’s only hope lies in a natural treatment the healer is sure to provide. In her quest to find the hag, Ellie finds her own inner strength.

Prose as beautifully resplendent as the mountain setting, Wolk delivers in this brilliant tale of resilience, determination and finding yourself. Echo Mountain is the rare coming of age story that will resonate with readers of all ages. Recommended for any classroom reading group or book club, and Echo Mountain would be a fine read for background history of The Great Depression.

HIghly, highly recommended grades 4 and up. Don't miss this book!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Awesome Picture Book: Hurry Up! A Book About Slowing Down


Hurry Up! A Book About Slowing Down
by Kate Dopirak
Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Beach Lane Books
40 pages
ISBN: 9781534424975

Hurry Up! A Book About Slowing Down is brilliant! A young boy and his dog hurry everywhere. They hurry up and down and all around until they finally STOP! When the boy slows down and LISTENS, he hears and sees nature and wonder everywhere. He is able to enjoy the stars at night and listen to the buzz of insects. When he slows down, he can take a breath and relax. The joy of slowing down and finding the end of one's own rainbow is celebrated. We all need a happy story about slowing down right now.

Illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal shows the boy's harried, manic state in the beginning of the story and later nighttime illustrations in deep blue mimic the end of the day and bedtime. This is sure to become a favorite bedtime read. A must have for any child! 

Highly recommended! 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Non-Fiction MG Pick: How To Build A Story...or, The Big What If


How To Build a Story... or, The Big What If

by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Illustrations by Stacy Ebert

A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book

Atheneum Books for Young Readers


128 pages 

ISBN: 9781434438422

If you know a young person who wants to be a writer, this book is a MUST HAVE! If I were still teaching creative writing, I would make each student own a copy of this amazing, informative and FUN book about writing. While geared for grades 4-8, anyone who wants to be a writer or learn about writing will love this book. Unlike adult writing books, Dowell's book breaks the art of writing down to where it's understandable and fun. Her captivating sense of humor is echoed in the illustrations by Ebert. 

Every writer wanna-be needs to realize that rough drafts are just that: rough and EDITING is a must. Rewrites and re-do will happen again and again. It's part of the process. Writing takes time, effort and PRACTICE! 

Every story needs a character, the character needs a problem (if there's no problem, you have no story), there has to be some sort of resolution, whether it's good or bad. Also, your story needs the have some background but start with ACTION. Your protagonist needs to have something happen right away. There will be sticks and stones in the protagonist's way, but if there's a MONSTER (you'll have to read the book, to figure out what this means, wink), it makes your story much more interesting and the stakes are heightened. 

There are brainstorming activities, "the big take home," and "let's write" for students, teachers, writers, everyone! I've read many craft books, but How To Build a Story...Or, the Big What If is by far the most fun. It's adorable! 

So highly recommended, YOU NEED THIS BOOK NOW! Teachers of writing, YOU NEED THIS BOOK NOW! Writers, YOU NEED THIS BOOK NOW! 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Picture Book Pick: I Don't Want To Be Quiet!


I Don't Want To Be Quiet! 

by Laura Ellen Anderson

Illustrations by the author

Philomel Books

Penguin Random House LLC


32 pages

ISBN: 9780593117286

A young girl rebels when her mother shushes her because her baby brother is sleeping. "Stairs are for stomping..." the girl says. It's more fun to make noise. Quiet is boring. 

A trip to the library where her peers ask her (peer pressure!) to be quiet, they're reading, forces the girl to sit still and open a book. Suddenly, she's "spellbound!" Hours pass, and she's imagined pirate adventures, kings and queens, and whole other worlds. The next day, she learns more at school because she's still and LISTENS. She realizes there's a time to be quiet and time to be noisy, and when she is quiet, she notices things in her own world.

This is a sweet book with illustrations sure to please young readers. 

Ages 2 and up. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Non-Fiction Pick: If You Love Robots You Could Be...


If You Love Robots, You Could Be...

Ready to Read, Level Two

Simon Spotlight

by May Nakamura

Illustrated by Natalie Kwee


32 pages

ISBN: 9781534465237

This exceptional and informative non-fiction pick is for young readers who love robots or who have never even thought about robots--really, for every young reader. Vocabulary words in the glossary help kids understand jargon of robotics and various trades that work with robots in unique fields. 

There are several types of engineers who build and use robots: mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and software engineers. Some other jobs in robotics are animatronic technicians and robotics research scientists. Robots are found on movie sets, in hospitals, at industrial sites, in warehouses, construction sites, and even in protheses, artificial limbs for people who have lost an arm or leg. Using sensors, the prothesis moves the way a body part does. 

The publisher ages this book at five to seven years old, but this reviewer feels a wide range of ages would gain knowledge about careers in fields they may know little about. 

Recommended age 6 and up to middle school. Illustrations and glossary make this a great choice for reluctant readers. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

MG Mystery Pick: Coop Knows the Scoop


Coop Knows the Scoop

by Taryn Souders

Sourcebooks Young Readers


304 pages

ISBN: 9781492640189

Thirteen-year-old Coop (don't call him Cooper) lives with his gramps and his momma in Windy Bottom, Georgia, a quaint, quiet  town where the sheriff knows everybody and Miss Ruth and Miss Merriweather, the town gossips, are only too glad to share secrets with everyone the cafe /bookstore Gramps runs. Coop keeps his ear to the ground on the day the body is found. He knows the quirky ladies will know intel about the dead body, and he's keen to have a listen.  

Funny colloquialisms and Southern charm are found in every character's dialog. Coop's best friends are Liberty and Justice--no, really, that's their names! The kids agree to deliver donuts and coffee to the sheriff and his team down at the crime scene (the kids' secret plan to snoop), but when the blame begins to fall of Coop's gramps, Coop knows he needs to solve the mystery. There's no way his grandfather murdered somebody! 

Unique and funny characters will keep the pages turning and kid readers interested. Twists and turns abound, keeping the reader glued to the story. Souders does a great job with character interaction, believable dialog, and small town drama. Liberty and Justice are exactly the type of friends all kids will want to have. 

The author's nod to Shakespeare's tragedies and how the main character "kicked the bucket" is hilarious. They are: "stabbed, poisoned, or baked into a pie (that one's from Titus Adronicus)...". Coop's hair is "shaggier than a dog." Suds O'Leary owns the gas station and bait shop and wears a T-shirt promoting his business with "Suds Gave Me Gas," which backfires (yes, pun intended) his marketing plan! 

A very funny, punny book, indeed! 

Highly recommended ages 9 and up, and anyone in the South will hear their relatives' voices when they read Coop Knows the Scoop

Saturday, December 5, 2020

MG Pick: Second Dad Summer


Second Dad Summer 

by Benjamin Klas

Illustrated by Fion Arroyo

One Elm Books


224 pages

ISBN: 978194159242

Twelve-year old Jeremiah wants to spend a "normal" summer with his dad, but not his dad's new over-the-top boyfriend Michael. Jeremiah's parents are divorced, and Jeremiah knows Dad sometimes dates men and he sometimes dates women. Michael, though, irritates Jeremiah to no end. He's too flamboyant, too flashy, his bicycle has a sparkly unicorn on it which he refers to it as his "uni-cycle!" Not only that, he seems to know the history of every landmark, every building, every street. Jeremiah wishes he would stop being a tour guide and be quiet. 

Jeremiah's summer turns out pretty okay, after all. He meets the neighbors including a new friend Sage, and he comes to terms with people being different and families looking different. And different is pretty great! This is a sweet middle grade read that so many kids will relate to. A must-have for every library. Inclusive and diverse! 

Large print and shorter chapters are a plus. Illustrations appear on each page of a new chapter. 

Highly recommended ages 10 and up. Alert: There is a neighbor who smokes cigarettes (if that's a problem). 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Most Beautiful Picture Book! MUST HAVE Counting Creatures!


Counting Creatures 

by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Sharon King-Chai

Dial Books for Young Readers


58 pages 

ISBN: 9780593324530

Published Nov. 20, 2020 just in time for Christmas giving!

This is the most beautiful picture book I've ever seen. The art and design are so special it should win an award for engineering or architecture! If you have littles on your Christmas shopping list, get them this book. It's a must have!

A lift-the-flap book, each spread reveals a treasure! 


The colors jump off the page and transcend the picture book experience. This little gem is sure to win awards in every state and maybe even the national best children's book of the year! 

Highly, highly recommended. BUY THIS BOOK!

I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sixth Grade Alien Series--Middle Grade


New covers and new illustrations update Bruce Coville's 1999 Sixth-Grade Alien series for a new generation of 2020 readers. Illustrations by Glen Mullaly will keep reluctant readers turning the pages. Do not mistake this series for graphic novels. In fact,  there are many less illustrations than books like the Wimpy Kid. 

For early middle grade readers to grade six. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

MG FUN PICK: Iggy Is Better Than Ever


Iggy Is Better Than Ever
by Annie Barrows
Illustrations by Sam Ricks
G.P. Putnam's Sons
139 pages with winsome illustrations 
ISBN: 9781984913336

Read all the Wimpy Kid books, how about the Dogman series? EngiNerds? You better rush to the store or online and pick up this hilarious book! Iggy is the funniest, hugest personality in kidlit. It's not that Iggy sets out to be bad; he actually tries very hard to be good, but if there's one thing Iggy's good at, it's attracting trouble. 

The author cautions readers directly throughout the book that Iggy doesn't learn from his mistakes. In fact, most times her learns the exact opposite of what he was supposed to learn from getting into trouble. When he convinces his pals to stretch clear plastic garden tape across the road, the first few cars and drivers escape without peril and the boys get a good laugh. Iggy decides to up the game and uses a double strand, and who should come along in her car? Mrs. Wander, that's who. Mrs. Wander is the ancient and dreaded school principal. When her car hits the tape, she looks confused but STOPS to investigate. Did Iggy learn it's dangerous to play with people's lives and cars? No! He learns to run away and deny he had anything to do with such terrible treachery. 

Another time, Iggy tries so hard to blend in  and not cause trouble until the very last second of recess when he hurls a basketball at the grade six net. Does he make that basket and become the most famous boy in the school? No! He hits another teacher  dead on. She topples to the pavement, and Iggy fears she's dead. In Mrs. Wander's dreaded principal's office, Iggy is suspended from school. What's worse, his dad stays home from work with him, not his mom. Dad is NOT happy.

So dear readers, if you're looking for the famous character arc which is a must-have in storie in which a character goes through trials and tribulations and comes out the other side a better person, Iggy is not that character. But the author warned you from the beginning. This is Iggy's story, and Iggy is fun-loving, curious (which gets him into a lot of trouble!) and intelligent. 

A must read for MG. Reluctant readers will devour this book and laugh out loud, IRL (in real life). 
Highly, highly recommended. Any MG teacher or librarian will meet at least a few Iggys in their career. I know I did, and they kept me  in stitches. 

I received a copy of this book for review. I did not receive monetary compensation.