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! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Series Pick: City Spies: Golden Gate (book 2)


City Spies: Golden Gate (Book 2)

by James Ponti


Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division


432 pages (but these pages are so great, you'll want more the minute you read the last page!)

ISBN: 9781534414945

See this page for a fun seek and find!

Another blockbuster by James Ponti! The City Spies series is my favorite tween/teen reads in a long time. Perfection! Book two is BETTER than book one which is an uncommon feat for most authors, but not a pro like Ponti. He pulls out all the stops: a young team of teens brought together by an agent they call Mother train in a castle in Scotland. They learn all kinds of great things and use competition to hone their skills in cryptology, bomb building, lock picking, escaping a dangerous spot, hand to hand combat--you know, the normal things kids learn at boarding school. 

Aboard the Sylvia Earle, two of the City Spies are undercover posing as "normal" school kids on a trip to inspire girls to pursue the sciences. MI6 places Brooklyn and Sydney on board to insure the safety of two girls--one a daughter of a member of Parliament and the other a daughter of a Duke, #32 in line for the crown. When hijackers board their vessel, Sydney isn't where she should be--fast asleep on board. She's in the water on a solo scuba dive. Brooklyn wakes the two girls she's supposed to protect and hides them. Worried about Sydney, Brooklyn has her hands full.

When she's not fighting huge men, she's outsmarting the hijackers. She is able to send a message to the Coast Guard who are on their way. The girls save the day! Brooklyn argues with Sydney and is jealous of her. She regards Sydney as the "ultimate spy," and feels like a failure next to her. 

The two girls will have to quell their differences. Back at the castle, Mother divulges his secret: his own two children are in danger and someone inside MI6 is a double agent. Using the embedded metadata from a photograph, the team discovers Mother's children are in San Francisco. It's time to head there, locate and save the kids, and stop the rogue agent wherever they are. 

Full of twists and turns, crosses and double crosses, plus teen drama and tough friendships, City Spies: Golden Gate delivers! 

Readers will love, love, love this book! Waiting for book 3 will be a Herculean effort. 

Highly, highly recommended. This one will be in the running for many best lists and awards! 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Ready*To*Read Pick: Bird Singing, Bird Winging


Bird Singing, Bird Winging

Ready*To*Read Pre-Level One

by Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by Lucy Semple

Simon Spotlight

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

32 pages


ISBN: 9781534441439

Colorful illustrations capture all kinds of birds and their behavior from woodpeckers to eagles to penguins--birds of every size and color. Children will see each bird in their habitat doing what they are most famous for--woodpeckers pecking for food, penguins staying warm, eagles hunting, mama bird tending. 

Simple words will become easy sight words for early readers. The rhyming text make this a fun read aloud that children will want to practice for themselves. Marilyn Singer has a magic ear for rhyme and it makes Bird Singing, Bird Winging a real stand-out. 

Three pages follow with interesting facts about the various birds featured in the book. Young readers will learn fascinating things about the birds they see in their own neighborhoods or at the aviary. 

Highly recommended ages 3-5. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Beautiful Picture Book: Together We Grow


Together We Grow

by Susan Vaught

Illustrated by Kelly Murphy 

A Paula Wiseman Book

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534405868

Together We Grow is a beautifully rendered picture book. One stormy night, a family of foxes wonder where they can find warmth and a place to stay dry. The barn is crowded with all the farm animals, but foxes don't belong among the domesticated animals. 

Fear sets in as they search for a place. A small chick approaches them and invites them in. There is a place for everyone. The foxes enter the barn and aren't a threat to the others. Pigs, cows, horses, geese, raccoons, rabbits and foxes bed down for the night because together they grow. 

The message is clear: there is a place for everyone. Everyone is accepted and welcome. Together we are better. 

The illustrations will steal your heart. The animals' faces are expressive and lovely. Rhyming text captures the foxes' plight and the animals' delight. This is a MUST HAVE, MUST READ for every child, every parent and every adult. Buy this book for the child in your life. 

Highly, highly recommended ages three and up! 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Non-Fiction Pick: Cougar Crossing

 Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood's Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife

by Meeg Pincus

Illustrated by Alexander Vidal 

Beach Lane Books

Simon & Schuster


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534461857

Beautiful cover illustrations will help this picture book fly off the shelf! It's not easy being a cougar, aka mountain lion, aka puma in a crowded city like Los Angeles. When a male cub grows older, he wants to have a large area to roam and find a mate, but P-22 is stuck in a small area with freeways all around him. With no clear way to get the nearby mountains, P-22 began to enter yards, pools, shopping areas, even tourist attractions until he found himself in Griffith Park, a small city park in the middle of L.A. When he's caught on camera, he becomes an international celebrity which was a godsend for him and all the area's wildlife. 

Because P-22 gave a face to the puma's plight, concerned humans began building the animal crossing at Liberty Canyon which is expected to be completed by 2024 and it will be the largest animal bridge or crossing in the world. Pumas and other wild animals will be able to make their way across a nature bridge covered in grass and trees to safety. 

A page showing twenty years of history of the mountain lions who live around L.A. is fascinating. It's sad to realize more cougars are killed by cars and rat poisoning. Hopefully the law will be passed that prohibits certain dangerous poisons in order to save L.A.'s cougar population. A helpful list of websites and facts follow. 

This one is a MUST READ, MUST HAVE purchase. Buy this book for your favorite child.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Board Book: Non-Fiction Pick: This Little Environmentalist: a Love-the-Earth Primer


This Little Environmentalist: A Love-the-Earth Primer

by Joan Holub

Illustrated by Daniel Roode

Little Simon

Simon & Schuster 


26 pages

ISBN: 9781534475588

Publication Date: March 30, 2021

This Little Environmentalist is the seventh book in the series This Little in board books. Featuring double page spreads on ten people who worked to help save the planet, This Little Environmentalist will start arly readers thinking about how humans impact the environment and what one person, no matter how small or how young or where they live can change our planet for the better. It is a breath of fresh air that the people featured are from many different countries including Brazil, Kenya, India, Canada, the USA and Sweden. 

Featuring Rachel Carson who changed the way farmers sprayed for pests, saving bees and birds and Sylvia Earle who studied the ocean and helped keep our ocean animals and plants thriving. Vandana Shiva started seed banks and encouraged farmers and others to save seeds and share them to ensure the future of crops. Autumn Peltier fought for clean water for everyone, rich or poor. With an emphasis on women in environmentalism, this is an exciting first read. The last pages feature seventeen more important people who have helped save our planet with a blank spot for "you!"

Highly recommended for little hands and hearts! 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Adult Book Club Pick: At the Edge of the Haight


At the Edge of the Haight

by Katherine Seligman

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill


292 pages

ISBN: 8781643750231

As a reporter living in San Francisco, author Katherine Seligman delivers a story ripped from the headlines, so terrible, but so unavoidable, yet often forgotten the next minute. Homelessness, especially in the soaring cost of living and tech bubble of billion dollar industry, is often ignored. People who live in San Francisco see the homeless every day, but do they SEE them? If they knew their stories, would they SEE them then? 

Maddy Donaldo is a twenty-year old runaway who's been living in Golden Gate Park with a ragtag group of her found family and her dog. She knows how get food, when the shelter can take her in, where she can sleep safely, how to avoid danger, and when to trust. When she accidentally stumbles upon a homeless, dying boy taking his last breaths, she realizes the murderer is standing nearby and that he saw her. Maddy needs to disappear before he can get her and kill her. 

On the run with her constant companion, Root, she moves night after night never sleeping in the same place. She avoids her old haunts and even some of her old "family." When the parents of the dead boy and the police close in on Maddy, she feels even more trapped. She doesn't want to relive anything. There's nothing she can tell them that will help. She's terrified the killer will find her. With the help a few caring adults, Maddy reaches a crossroads. 

She must decide to go home--which is what everyone but Maddy wants or stay "free" but always looking over her shoulder. 

This book was a tough read for me. It is not a feel good book, but you will feel empathy and sadness for Maddy. I was rooting for her and Root the entire time. This would be a good book for a book club. Maybe readers will come away with more understanding of homelessness and all the reasons someone could end up on the streets. I hope this book allows for discussion and change and makes cities act to help the homeless by finding them schools, books, job training, and daily needs. The problem (especially since Covid) has only gotten worse. 

Recommended adult reading. This book won the Pen America Literary Award and the 2018 PEN Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and  presented by Barbara Kingsolver. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Women in History Month Picture Book Pick: Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat


Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat 

by Mara Rockliff

Illustrations by Giselle Potter 

Beach Lane Books 

Simon & Schuster 


32 pages

ISBN: 9781534460072

We should all thank Frieda Caplan, the lone woman working in produce in 1956 in Los Angeles, California. All the other produce sellers were men and they offered the same, boring produce for sale: potatoes, apples, tomatoes. All those are tasty and great but Frieda tried everything. She began by selling mushrooms. She became so good at it, she was known as the Mushroom Queen. She introduced kiwifruit, jicama, seedless watermelons, Asian pears and many more new fruits and vegetables to our palates and PLATES.

In 1956 when she started selling produce, the average grocery store only carried around sixty-five produce items. Today, over eight hundred items are found in the supermarket. From Buddha's hand to starfruit to alfalfa sprouts, we can look to Frieda Caplan as the reason we know and love these foods today. Quite the rabble rouser, when Frieda was honored in 1979 as "Produce MAN of the Year," she handed the award back to the presenters. After that, a new title was given to this honor: Produce Marketer of the Year which she then accepted. 

In 2020, Frieda died at age ninety-six after enjoying "...a long and FRUITful life," the book notes. A page of notes about Frieda follow the story complete with a list of sources.  

A loving tribute to an outstanding pioneer in nutrition and a strong market expert,  Frieda Caplan is presented by the author and illustrator in this easy to understand, yet entertaining book about a little known female figure in history. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Quirky and Rollicking: Spacebot



by Mike Twohy

Illustrated by the author

A Paula Wiseman Book 

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


48 pages

ISBN: 9781534444362

What a great read-aloud. The rhyme and rhythm of this story can't be missed. Please, please read this aloud to your own kids and classrooms of children. Spacebot is a MUST HAVE, MUST READ picture book! 

Late one night, strange sounds. A pup looks up and spots a UFO! When the strange, rumbly ship lands, pup runs to greet a space robot dog just like him. He wants to play with the new entity but it has other ideas. Suddenly the household appliances want to hang out with the robot dog. Poor pup feels left out as the mechanicals have a great party flying around the back yard. When it's time for Spacebot to leave, he tosses Pup a red ball. Pup puts it on his nose and now he looks like Spacebot, but that's not all. Pup discovers his ball is magic.

Spacebot gave his friend a great gift until his return trip soon. 

Easy rhymes, fun to say and lots of white space give this book its charm. Young readers will soon be able to read the story on their own, but it's much more fun with a crowd. Pup may be my favorite character in a picture book. He's WONDERFUL! Kudos to Mike Twohy for creating an interesting, unique and charming story sure to captivate all readers. 

Highly recommended! All pre-school and up. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Non-Fiction Teen Pick: Kids On the March


Kids On the March: 15 Stories of Speaking Out, Protesting and Fighting for Justice

by Michael G. Long

Algonquin Young Readers 


304 pages

ISBN: 0781643751009

On Sale Date: March 23, 2021

Kids On the March is a detailed history of young people who stood up and spoke out against the policies and behaviors of their politicians and government. They were and are the voice of change and the voice of the future. 

Michael G. Long tells fifteen stories of history being made from 1903 with the March of the Mill Children to the Climate Strike of 2019 and the protests of policing policies in the deaths (murders) of black men and women  in 2020 and the national movement of protests that swept the nation after the killing of George Floyd. 

Whether it's marching, wearing a black armband, signing petitions, gathering at state houses, peacefully demonstrating, making and carrying signs, young people were brave and believed in making their country a better place for all. There are tips for marching--how to decide if you'll participate, what to do on the day of the march, what to do after the march. A detailed bibliography and many black and white photos make this book a great reference. 

Inspiring stories of kid-led marches and movements will move readers to become involved in their present and their future. 

The publisher recommends ages 10-14. I think this book has a wider audience with an older age group including high school. 

Recommended for any history and government buff and for any research on children-led movements. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Non-Fiction Picture Book Pick: Harlem Grown


Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

by Tony Hillery

Illustrated by Jessie Harland

Paula Wiseman Books

Simon & Schuster


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534402317

Harlem Grown is a feel good read about one man, a big idea, an empty, abandoned lot full of trash and a school full of hard-working kids. When Mr. Tony visits their school, he sees the ugly lot of trash the kids call "the haunted garden" and he begins to clear the trash himself. With a new, clean lot and he began to put in fresh soil and plant seedlings. A girl named Neveah helped Mr. Tony and soon her friends joined in. 

They planted 400 seedlings per child. This was great for the kids who had no art or gym classes. They spent their energy in the garden. After the first plants failed, Mr. Tony built raised beds and they planted again. In a neighborhood that has fifty-five fast food restaurants but no grocery store to buy fresh produce, Mr. Tony taught the kids and their families to run the garden and reap the rewards in fresh food. Soon other sites opened. Now there are twelve gardens all over Harlem with twenty-two full time employees. Harlem Grown uses mentors from the neighborhood to teach the younger kids about hard work and good nutrition. 

From one man and one seed, a movement and foundation was born. Truly an inspiring story of hope for a blighted neighborhood and a chance for the children to have pride in their work, rescuing one vacant lot at a time and turning it into a garden of sustenance to feed their neighbors. 

Folk art illustrations are colorful and beautiful. The story of Mr. Tony and his gardens is included following the story and instructions on how to start a garden and additional resources for future study.  

HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Every child should have this book. Every adult should read this book. Everyone should look at their own neighborhood and find a project to make it a better place. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Non-Fiction Picture Book Pick: The Beak Book


The Beak Book

by Robin Page

Illustrations by the author 

Beach Lane Books

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Group


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534460416

A closeup of special beaks that are designed to sip nectar or water, snapping up prey, boring into trees for insects or plucking up grasses. Readers will learns different birds have unique beaks depending on what they use them for. Colorful illustrations highlight each beautiful bird and easy to read informative text and each bird's name appear son the pages.

Young readers will learn about vultures, puffins, macaws, eagles, scarlet ibises and many other fascinating types of birds. A handy reference of bird sizes and where they live follow with webpage links and books for further reading and discussion. 

This book is a must have for any picture book collection and animal lover. 

Highly recommended ages 3-8. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Funny Picture Book: Vinny Gets a Job


Vinny Gets a Job

by Terry Brodner

Illustrated by the author


Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534413566

What a fun and FUNNY picture book! Vinny the dog notices Mom puts on nice clothes and leaves the house every day. He asks his brother, the smart cat, where does she go? The cat says she goes to her job. Vinny decides that sounds like a fun idea and wants a job of his own. He dresses in his best suit and goes out looking for a job. At the first place, the restaurant gives him a job cleaning tables. Being a dog, as Vinny certainly is, he cleans the tables HIS way. The nice lady who hired him promptly fires him. 

His next position is at a flower shop where he's told to water the plants and flowers. You can imagine how a dog waters the flowers! Young readers will giggle and squeal at Vinny's antics. He goes to the natural art museum and is told his job is to watch the T Rex display. Being a dog, those bones look delicious! It's too much for poor Vinny. He grabs a leg bone and runs home. Mom assures Vinny his real job is waking her up in the morning and being a good dog. The museum, meanwhile, is still looking for its missing bone!

Kids will love the dog/cat relationship in which the cat, clearly, is the more intelligent of the two. Vinny is priceless as an adorable, lovable dog who's only trying to do what his bosses tell him to do. 

A MUST READ for every family who loves their four-legged siblings! 

Highly, highly recommended as a bedtime story and fun read-aloud. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Picture Book Pick: Here Comes Ocean


Here Comes Ocean
by Meg Fleming
Illustrations by Paola Zakimi 
Beach Lane Books
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
40 pages 
ISBN: 9781534428834

A boy and his playful puppy enjoy a day at the beach in this fun rhyming picture book. Putting his toes in the sand, the boy meets a friendly crab and spots bird tracks left by sand pipers. A big wave crashes over the boy and his dog but they are still happy and safe. The boy and his family to watch the sunset and tells the ocean goodnight.

Beautiful illustrations b Zakimi show the sea's creatures and every shade of blue and green and in between highlight the beauty of a day at the beach. End papers have each sea creature and its name.  A picture book does not have to teach a lesson or morals. Here Comes Ocean captures a family outing, a memorable moment a child will always remember. 

Highly recommended ages 2 and up. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Beautiful Art! Dinosong



by Tim McCanna

Illustrated by Richard Smythe

A Paula Wiseman Book

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


ISBN: 9781534430020

32 pages

Rhyming yet sparse text is brilliantly brought to life with glorious and colorful artwork by Richard Smythe. Three dinosaurs set off on an adventure to explore their world. They encounter rain, volcanos, thunder and lightning, and earthquake before finding a safe place to call home. 

Young readers who love dinosaurs will see A sauropod, a triceratops and and ankylosaur. A page of fascinating dinosaur facts follow the story. 

Rhyming text MUST be read aloud: "Chip chop/Trip trop, Flip flap/Flunk. Dinosong will be a favorite for many young readers. 

Highly recommended ages 3-8 and all dinosaur fans.