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Saturday, August 6, 2022

Middle Grade Fantasy Pick: Secret of the Storm

 

Secret of the Storm

by Beth McMullen

Aladdin

An Imprint of Simon & Shuster Children's Publishing Division

2022

304 pages

ISBN: 9781534482852


When twelve-year old Cassie King's father dies, her mother retreats from the world and Cassie. Cassie feels like she's lost two parents and has no one to talk to or share secrets with. Cassie can't turn to her ex-best friend since her friend ditched her for the popular kids. The only outlet Cassie has is her volunteer work at the library where she spends hours with her "sort of" friend Joe.

Nothing ever happens in their boring town of Lewistown, California, until one day Cassie and Joe are trapped in an alley during a violent, magical storm. After lightning strikes a dumpster near them, the storm subsides and Cassie hears an animal crying. She discovers a tiny black kitten survived the strike and appears somehow unhurt. She names the kitten Albert and takes him home.

Soon Albert becomes something more than a tiny kitten and Cassie and Joe discover what Albert truly is and where he came from. Albert has unbelievable strength for a tiny cat and a symbol appears to Cassie. She thinks the symbol is a map, but doesn't know where the map is goes to. Lewistown is suddenly much more dangerous, yet exciting place. 

Cassie's goal is to protect Albert no matter what. With Joe's help, the two discover pieces of Albert's past. Miss Asher, the librarian, has secrets and is "the best librarian ever." Who doesn't love a librarian with a past?

A cliffhanger ending leaves readers wanting more, and Book 2 is already released! 

Highly recommended grade 5 and up. For readers who love dragons and fantasy.


Sunday, July 31, 2022

Special Picture Book: A Family Is...


 A Family Is...

by Lisa Thiesing

Illustrations by the author

Aladdin

An Imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

2022

40 pages

ISBN: 9781534465749

A charming, adorable picture book celebrates the meaning of family. Families are for belonging, hugs, getting dressed, playing, talking and even quiet times. Charming characters include rabbits, mice, fox, raccoons, bears, skunks and several others. 

Thiesing captures each character with warmth and whimsy. Families come in all types of animals and not only all of one type. Momma bunny says "Good morning!" to her daughter mouse. Another family is a dog, a cat and a mouse. 

The illustrations allow the author to show inclusion and belonging without stating it in text. This keeps the picture book warm and cuddly, not preachy. This is the perfect bedtime read for children and their families. 

Recommended for bedtime stories for children of all ages.


Sunday, July 17, 2022

YA Horror Anthology: Up All Night (now available in paperback)

 

Up All Night: 13 Stories Between Sunset and Sunrise

Edited by Laura Silverman

Algonquin Young Readers

Workman Publishing 

2022

352  pages 

ISBN: 9781643752631

Newly released in paperback format, Up All Night will be a hit with YA readers, teens and adults alike. Thirteen stories by favorite YA authors including Karen M. McManus, Julian Winters, Maurene Goo and many others will keep readers up all night. 

I reviewed the hardcover here https://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/search?q=up+all+night

Highly, highly recommended ages 12 and up. I loved this anthology. In fact, it's my favorite short story anthology ever! 


Biography Picture Book Pick: Because Claudette

 

Because Claudette

by Tracy Baptiste

Illustrated by Tonya Engel

Dial Books

Penguin Random House

2022

32 pages

ISBN: 9780593326404

NY Times bestselling author Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies) brings the story of fifteen-year old girl Claudette Colvin who refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white woman, igniting a movement for change.

Every school child has heard of Rosa Parks, but how many know about teen-age Claudette and her  brave stand and her arrest that started the Montgomery boycott? 

Because of Claudette and "good trouble," and the actions of the community, the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks' bravery, the bus boycott that citizens supported, the case went to the Alabama Supreme Court. In December 1956 the law changed and anyone could now sit anywhere on a bus. All because Claudette.  

Little things like taking a seat on the bus and standing up for what you think is right leads to bigger movements. There are so many things our children will need to address: climate change, endangered animals, the shrinking rain forest, rising sea levels, fossil fuels, war, drought, famine, equality for all including basic reproductive rights and the list goes on, Because Claudette may be the story to ignite their passions. 

Highly, highly recommended ages 6 and up. This is an important book for children.


Monday, June 27, 2022

Picture Book Pick: Take a Breath


 Take a Breath 

by Sujean Rim

Illustrations by the author

A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

2022

40 pages

ISBN: 9781543392530


Bob is a baby bird who yearns to fly like all the other birds. He tries and tries, but always ends up...not flying. Bob tries to stay busy to keep his mind off flying, but he wants so badly to be normal. 

A passing crow stops to ask Bob what's wrong. Bob tells Crow his troubles. Crow listens and agrees that learning to fly is tough. He had trouble himself. Crow encourages Bob to calm down and learn to breath. Bob thinks Crow is making fun of him because he's been breathing his entire life! But Crow shows Bob how to center himself, calm down and relax. They practice cleansing yoga breaths together. Bob feels so much better! He knows he can fly and he feels great about himself. 

The last line of the story is powerful: "Sometimes you just have to be grounded before you can fly." Anyone learning a new passion will love Take a Breath. 

The back cover illustration is a joke in itself. Well-done! 

Highly, highly recommended ages 3-8. 


Saturday, June 25, 2022

MG Pick: Field Guide To the Supernatural Universe

 

Field Guide To the Supernatural Universe

by Alyson Noel

Margaret K. McElderry Books

An Imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division 

2022

339 pages'

ISBN: 9781534498235


Max has been seeing ghosts for years, and he's blamed for all kinds of ghostly quirky pranks. Because others can't see Max's ghosts, poor Max takes the blame. When his father (who doesn't believe in ghosts) sends him to live with his grandfather for the summer, Max meets his eccentric grandfather, Ramhart Woodbead, world's greatest monster hunter and collector of extraordinary knowledge. The town of Glimmerville itself is enchanted: ghosts appear everywhere and none of them hide, werewolves, magic pies; it's a veritable Charlie and the Chocolate Factory full of supernatural. At first Max is scared and wary, but Wodehouse Manor begins to grow on him. 

When Ramhart's soul is stolen, Max must go on a hero's journey to find his grandfather's Guide To the Supernatural Universe to put his grandfather right. Glimmerville depends on Max to exist. Max has a habit of listing his top five terrifying things at the beginning of most chapters. It will keep middle grade readers turning the pages with anticipation of more magical discoveries like mutant glowworms, time slips, werewolves, zombies and supernatural storms. 

Time is ticking away and Max better hurry before Ramhart is doomed forever. Max must save the day in order to stay in the first place he feels at home. 

Alyson Noel's imagination truly knows no bounds. This is an enchanting tale is full of whimsy that rollicks and celebrates. I loved Field Guide To the Supernatural Universe and MG readers of all ages will love it, too! Bound to be awarded this year as one of the best books for middle grade, and you heard it here first! 

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who enjoys fantasy and fantastical beings. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

YA Pick: Go Hunt Me

 

Go Hunt Me

by Kelly Devos

Razorbill

Penguin 

2022

310 pages

ISBN: 9780593204856


It's senior year for Alex Rush and her friend group: business-like Hazel, beautiful Kenna, Reagan who is secretly in love with Alex, Alex's boyfriend Jax, sweet Maddie and computer wizard Carter. They've made horror films together for years, Alex REALLY needs this project to help her get into USC film school. When she's not accepted, she has a near breakdown in a restaurant bathroom. Lucky for her, a chance meeting with a famous actress becomes her opportunity. 

The friend group decides to set up a GoFundMe account. Using the money the group leaves for Romania with the idea of filming in Vlad Dracul's (Bram Stroker's Dracula) actual castle. The famous actress pulls all the permits and handles their travel arrangements, but leaving the kids to fend for themselves in a strange country inside an even stranger castle with an infamous past and taken care of by a creepy cousin of the actress.

Locked doors must remain locked he instructs them which only sets off their group paranoia. Soon, they realize this is the chance they need for all of them to get into their chosen schools and decide to go forward with filming their last film together. The castle proves to be as spooky as they thought when Alex catches a glimpse of a masked man and then their GoFundMe money goes missing. It goes from bad to worse when Maddie goes missing. 

Someone is after them, and there seems to be no escaping the castle or each other. One by one (And Then There Were None) the teens meet death. What is the truth? It all depends on who tells the story. 

Edge of your seat tingles and excellent pacing keep the reader wondering who will be next? And who or what is after them? 

Inspired by the story of Dracula with the right amount of One of Us Is Lying, Go Hunt Me is a winning read that will keep YA readers turning the pages as they hunger (pun intended) for more. Kelly Devos is at the top of her game, so watch out YA fans. I'm sure she has more creepy monsters for us! 


Highly, highly recommended grades 8 and up. Gore, violence but nothing teens haven't seen on CW or witnessed on the news or network television. 

 


Sunday, June 12, 2022

Sports Pick: Just Like Jesse Owens

 

Just Like Jesse Owens

by Ambassador Andrew Young

as told to Paula Young Shelton

Illustrated by Gordon C. James

Scholastic 

Available on shelf: August 2, 2022

20 pages

ISBN: 9780545554657

Set in the segregated South, a young boy tells about playing with both black and white kids because nobody what color you were on the playground. Color didn't matter to the kids. What mattered was how fast you were, how well you could throw a ball, how athletic you were. 

When Andrew asks his father who Hitler is, his father explains Hitler is the chancellor of Germany and that he believes White Christians are better than colored folks or the Jewish men his father trades with. He explains racism is a sickness and the only way to deal with it is to be the best person you can be. 

Father and Andrew to to a movie theater where they must sit in the "Coloreds only section," but Andrew doesn't care once the movie starts. He sees a newsreel of the 1936 Olympics and American athlete Jesse Owens. Jesse Owens inspired young Andrew to be the best he can possibly be "just like Jesse Owens."

 The author's and illustrator's notes as well as the paragraph at the end on Jesse Owens help children understand the time period (1936) and Andrew Young's rise in politics as he became an ambassador and "worked with the leadership of the city to bring the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta." 

What a lovely tribute to Andrew Young and his family. Soft pastel illustrations by Gordon C. James make Just Like Jesse Owens a piece of artwork with words. Likely to be heavily nominated for many awards this year, Just like Jesse Owens is sure to be in the running for the Caldecott and the Coretta Scott King awards. 

Highly, highly recommended grades 1-4 and for every American history classroom. 



Sunday, June 5, 2022

Turtle Rescue Pick: Hawaii Sea Turtle Rescue

 

Hawaii Sea Turtle Rescue

Fabien Cousteau Expeditions  

by James O. Fraioli

Illustrated by Joe St Pierre

Margaret K. McElderry Books

Simon & Schuster's Children;s Publishing Division

2022

112 pages

ISBN: 9781534420977


Hawaii Sea Turtle Rescue is a fictional work based on actual expedition.

Sea turtles are endangered. Sharks kill many of them and mankind hunted them to near extinction for the turtle's shell, but the biggest threat to sea turtles is the existence of ghost nets,ngled in one, they cannot surface for air. The grandson of Jacques Cousteau, Fabian Cousteau continues his grandfather's legacy to study, record and save marine life. 

Junior Expeditioners Bianca and Baylor join a sea turtle rescue team to locate a giant ghost net and make sure no other sea turtles or other animals are caught in it. Colorful illustrations bring this story to life in an easy graphic novel and reluctant readers will be caught up in the story. The graphic novel format helps struggling readers and will keep them turning pages. 

An enjoyable story with facts about the ocean, coral reefs, man's danger to the oceans, and ways we can all help save our ecosystem. The oceans are "...our planet's life-support system," which is a fact every human needs to know and respect. Endangering the oceans is endangering ourselves. 

Highly recommended for non-fiction readers, graphic novel fans and especially future marine biologists and everyone who chooses to save our planet. Grades 4-8.  

Friday, June 3, 2022

YA Feel Good Pick: Margot Mertz Takes It Down

 


Margot Mertz Takes It Down
by Carrie McCrossing & Ian McWethy
Penguin Books for Young Readers
Penguin Random House
2021
384 pages
ISBN: 9870593205259



Margot Mertz Takes It Down tackles online sexploitation and bullying, revenge porn, sharing images of underage girls without their permission and seriously bad and felonious online behavior. Margot Mertz is sly, sarcastic to the point of greatness, caustic to those who use others, and the girl every girl admires and every boy might be afraid to date (lol). 


If you have a mess online, if a spouse or former lover has posted something awful about you, if someone snapped a photo of you doing something "bad" at a party, Margot can take care of it. With her knowledge of hacking and help from her BFF hacker extraordinaire tech buddy Sammi, Margot hits villains where it hurts the most--their online presence. 


When a case is brought to her by a girl at her school, Margot's horrified that Roosevelt Bitches website is operating and has posted nudes of several girls at her school. Margot will be sure and make whoever (asshole) has posted and maintains this website pay. First things first, she makes a list of possible suspects (assholes) who either have the tech skills to pull a website off and/or an axe to grind against these girls. 


She decides she needs insider information and goes to great lengths to get Avery to "like" her. Avery is handsome and popular and knows literally everyone at Roosevelt and gets along with everyone. Plus, Avery is in almost every group or club on campus. 


The voice of Margot is hilarious and her footnotes are even funnier that the content noted. An awesome, funny read for anyone with a sense of humor. 
I read one review from a high school librarian who said she'd not put it on the shelf of her library because it's about revenge porn among high school minors and laced with f-bombs. My comeback to said librarian is: REALLY? Are you living in the past? It's all about online behavior and YES, minors send porn to each other. It's illegal, but it's happening. You can't stand by with your blindfold. I'd rather have teens read about it and a strong girl who takes action against a group of felons who tried very hard to ruin the girls' lives. 


grades 8 and up. If the f-bombs offend you, this isn't a book for you.

Highly, highly recommended and most likely to receive big awards this year.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Non-Fiction Pick: When the World Runs Dry

 


When the World Runs Dry: Earth's Water in Crisis

by Nancy F. Castaldo

Algonquin Young Readers 

2022

208 pages

ISBN: 9781616209711

"A wake-up call to readers about the facility of something many of us take for granted." 

---Horn Book Magazine 


The Earth truly is in crisis mode, but there is something we can do about it if we act now. Pollutants including coal, fracking, industrial waste, and algae blooms are contaminating America's water supply, The U. S. is not the only country in trouble. Worldwide, water supply and demand is in crisis. 

The rise of sea level and climate change is further destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of land. Droughts cause crops to fail and starvation crisis. Hurricanes bring in salt water to fresh water lakes and destroy ecosystems. There are small things we can all do to help save our water. 

In your own household, you can take shorter showers and run the dishwasher and washer only when they are  full. Collect rain water in a barrel to water outdoor plants. Try to reuse and recycle clothing. It takes water to create new clothing. 

Many case studies are cited and a useful glossary and resources page make this a stand-out book on the water supply and crisis. The index in the back also directs readers to useful pages for their own study or report. 

Highly recommended ages 10 and up and anyone who's studying ecosystems and water. 



Monday, May 30, 2022

Graphic Pick: The Sleepover

 

The Sleepover

by Michael Regina 

Illustrations by the author

Razoerbill

Penguin Random House LLC

2022

224 pages

ISBN: 9780593117361

Perfect for middle grade readers who enjoyed "Stranger Things" and a good scare. 

Three friends arrive for a sleepover at the Russo's. They are hoping to cheer up their bestie Matthew whose beloved nanny has died. He's missing Ruby and grieving, so his friends decide a friendship intervention is needed. Meanwhile ,Mrs. Russo is seeking a new nanny. Enter Miss Swan.

Miss Swan has something "off" about her. Matthew senses it, but his friends don't believe it. The boys believe in the old story about the Witch of the Woods who lures unsuspecting children into the woods and they're never seen again. Indeed, Miss Swan might be the monster they fear. 

The boys with the help of Judy (Matthew's younger sis) must face the monster and escape.

Illustrations are spot-on for spooky scenes and the monster is truly scary. 

Highly recommended grades 5 and up. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Graphic Kid Pick: Bug Scouts: Out in the Wild

 


Bug Scouts: Out in the Wild

by Mike Lowery

Illustrations by the author

Graphix (Scholastic)

2022

64 pages

ISBN: 9781338726336

also available in paperback (likely to be one Scholastic Book Fairs)


Four bug friends have a super top secret headquarters and form the Bug Scouts, taking an oath that, "all bugs are awesome" and pledging to be brave and seek adventures. The bugs are Doug ( a bug), Abby the worm,  Josh a grumpy spider who's there for the snacks and Luna the firefly. They even have patches for 238 different things. Abby wants all the patches.

The Bug Scouts go on a hike to "forage." A frog lurks nearby and everyone knows frogs eat BUGS! They come face to face with a sly frog who really wants to eat them so they RUN back to headquarters where they realize they did earn a badge for plants after all. 

So cute! Readers will love Bug Scouts. Mike Lowery is my favorite author/illustrator in kidlit. You must read his Everything Awesome series which is non-fiction but incredible FUN! 

Highly, highly recommended and likely to win graphic book of the year. You heard it here first. 

Grades 2-5 but this adult reviewer LOVED it! 


Saturday, May 28, 2022

Picture Book Pick: The Library Fish

 

The Library Fish

by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Illustrations by Gladys Jose

A Paula Wiseman Book

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

2022

32 pages

ISBN: 9781534477056


When librarian Mr. Hughes finds a fish in a bowl on the steps of the library with a note "I love stories," he decides to put the fish in the library. Library Fish loves it on Mr. Hughs desk where it can see all the children and what stories they are reading. Library Fish especially loves story time as she listens in with the children. She hears stories of interesting characters and wild places like outer space. She likes to travel in the bookmobile with Mr. Hughes as he passes out books to children. Mr. Hughes knows the exact book to give to each of his readers. 

One day there's a snowstorm, so the library is closed. Library Fish is sad that no one is coming in, but she knows how to find the perfect story. She launches herself out of her bowl and goes to the story time area. She begins reading. Outside,  the bookmobile honks its horn, and Library Fish realizes she can read to the little truck through the library window. Library Fish has a night full of adventures and climbs back into her bowl. 

The next morning Mr. Hughes comes in and swears Library Fish looks especially tired. She might have even yawned. When Mr. Hughes sees all the picture books on the floor and books propped up in the window and the Bookmobile truck pulled up to the window, he's confused and scratches his head. 

But readers know, Library Fish knows, and the Bookmobile knows who was reading the stories and sharing them in the window. 

Heartfelt and sweet, The Library Fish celebrates reading, libraries, books and smart, helpful librarians. It's nice to see a MALE librarian, and even more fantastic, he's a librarian who listens to the kid readers and matches them all with a book he knows they'll like. Library science is a science of the heart (I might need to trademark this sentence). TM. Library science is a science of the heart and it feeds the soul (TM Ha, even better) and it's nice to see an author celebrate the heart  and soul of a good librarian.


Highly recommended for any story time at every library and classroom. A must read ages 3-9. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Children's Poetry Pick: Zoobilations!


Zoobilations!

by Douglas Florian

Illustrations by the author

Beach Lane Books 

Imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

2022

48 pages

ISBN: 9781534465909


Zoobilations! is filled with animal poems and art. Fun animals include the naked mole rat, the hammerhead shark, the flying fox, the antelope and many others. My favorite poem is "The Antelope" which goes...

"I wanted to write a poem on an antelope.

But I cantaloupe." 

Young readers will giggle at Florian's sense of fun and the animals depicted in his art. 

A simple book but a must have for every child's collection. 

Highly recommended ages 2-8.