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Sunday, May 19, 2024

MG Pick: Faker


 Faker

by Gordon Korman

Scholastic Press

2024

224 pages 

ISBN: 9781338826760

Available for pre-order and on sale July 2, 2024 

Twelve-year old Trey is the son of a con man. His father has been in the con game forever and it's the only life Trey has ever known. When he was younger, he knew they moved a lot and he had to change schools frequently, but Trey learns about his father's game and does his part to help his family. Doing his part means making friends with kids who are from wealthy families and introducing Dad to them. The game is then on! Trey is torn between helping his dad and questioning the morality of it all, but  Dad says they only take from those who are so rich they won't even miss the money. 

If a con goes sour or his dad suspects the marks are savvy to his game, the family knows the term "Houdini" means LEAVE NOW. Trey and his sister do not have time to pack a bag or say goodbye to the new friends they've made. It's "get out of town" time. They ditch their phones because the phones can be tracked. They jet off to a beach somewhere for a "vacation" which means Dad will plan their next game. They buy new clothes, new phones and have no contact EVER to the people they have met. 

The con life is getting old, but Trey is excited when his dad makes him a full partner to the scams. Younger sister Arianna voices her opinion about Dad favoring Trey because he's a boy, but Dad assures her that her time will come. 

The next town they move to is in Kentucky and Dad's new scam is selling shares in a "secret" start up company that will manufacture the El Capitan, a car Dad  has made using his specifications to look like the grandest new car on the market. It is so captivating to the eye, and Dad makes sure to influence Trey's friend's parents by his well-timed, smooth delivery, salesman smile and his demeanor that all say El Capitan is the "next big thing," He assures would-be investors the car will be unattainable, rare, and in such short supply, they better act quickly. 

Trey is sailing along great, making new friends, enjoying himself until he gets an anonymous note warning him: I know what you're doing. Now he's freaking out! What if anonymous blows up their game? Trey is saved by a friend who knows the con game well because his family has their own game. 

His friend says the FBI isn't too far away, so Dad dumps the scam claiming the El Capitan has mechanical problems. Trey and his family are forced out of crime, but Dad has an answer for everything. Their future looks bright! 

Faker is a rollicking joy-ride full of humor and heart. Korman, always a masterful storyteller, shines in this latest book. Faked is by far the best book Korman has put out in a very long time. Highly entertaining and easy to read for even the most reluctant of readers. 

Highly, highly recommended ages 8-12 and even older if the reader loves Korman and diabolical antics. 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Picture Book Pick: Floof

 

Floof 

by Heidi McKinnon

Illustrations by the author

Algonquin Young Readers 

Imprint of Workman Publishing Co., Inc.

Hatchette Book Group, Inc. 

32 pages

2024 

ISBN: 9781523525867

Floof is a fluffy, floofy cat who loves mischief-making. He's very busy all day. He has tons of work to do: unrolling the toilet paper, spilling coffee on the laptop, teasing the dog--(who is not his friend, but Floof doesn't care), playing in an empty box, rolling the ball for the dog--teasing again!, napping in a plant, napping in the laundry, napping on a stack of books. He's VERY busy. 

The illustrations tell the true story of Floof. He's a busy cat to be sure. His "work" is anything but work. For anyone who has ever loved a cat, Floof is the epitome of catastic. He's high energy, funny, silly, and a real charmer. 

Floof is a fun picture book for ages two and up. Readers will compare Floof to their own cat or cats they've known. 

Highly recommended for all animal lovers and little troublemakers. A must-have for every bookshelf and library. 


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Poetry Pick: In and Out the Window

 

In and Out the Window 

by Jane Yolen

Illustrations by Cathrin Peterslund

Philomel

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

2024

208 pages

ISBN: 9780593622513


From beloved author Jane Yolen comes In and Out the Window, a treasure of middle grade poetry sure to make readers want to share her poems and write ones of their own. 

In "Hook in the Water," Yolen writes, "Each poem a hook/flouting in the tide./ An invitation/to open wide..." Poems featured in the book are about school, after school, hobbies, friendship, the seasons, sports, pets and all the things important to kids ages eight to thirteen. In "Crayons: A Rainbow Poem," the poet says, "This box contains the wash of blue sky/spikes of green spring,/ a circle of yellow sun,/triangle flames of orange and red," capturing all the crayon colors in the box. 

"Winter Prayer" features this beautiful personification of, "Nature, in her grace, falls white/upon the rock's shoulder..." The book opens with "Why to Write a Poem" which is my personal favorite as a poet/reader/lover of poetry. Yolen says, "To sing up the sunshine/To bargain the moon,/ To follow the rainbow..." answering her own title's question. 

Complete with an index that makes it easy for children to find their favorite poems easily, this book of poetry will be read again and again. A must-have for every poetry collection, libraries should multiple copies as it will be widely checked out. 

The book would be a great introduction to any poetry unit regardless of grade levels. The poems are easy enough for ages eight to thirteen, yet also an asset for high school age students to learn the basics of poetry. 

Highly, highly recommended for all poets. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Environmental Pick: Planting Hope: A Portrait of Photographer Sevastiao Salgado

Planting Hope: A Portrait of Photographer Sebatiao Salgado

by Philip Hoelzel

Illustrations by Renato Alarcao

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

2024 

48 pages

ISBN: 9781534477650

Beautiful artwork in watercolor and pencil illustrate the story of an important couple of environmental pioneers from Brazil. Sebastiao Salgado grew up in a green space in Brazil surrounded by the nature of beauty. As a child, he ran through the hills, fields and forests and swam in the rivers near his home. 

Later when he went to the city, he met Lelia and they marry. As the government in Brazil became precarious, they fled to Paris where Sebastiao began to photograph the world as he saw it. They traveled the world with Sebastiao clicking photographs of refugees fleeing their homes and people working. He captured war and Presidents of nations. After seeing the death of thousands in Rwanda, the couple go back to Brazil and his family's farm which he's inherited. Gone are the green fields and the mighty trees of his youth.

The land is ruined but he calls in a forestry expert who helps him plant trees. Every year the couple visited the trees they planted and watched the land heal. Meanwhile, photography kept them busy. They traveled to the North Pole and the Amazon and showed people of the world that we are all responsible for saving our planet. 

Returning to Brazil once more, they established The Environmental Education Center in Aimores, Brazil. They teach students and biologists with their seedlings and research. Because of the photography and care for the land, Sebstiao brought attention not only to Brazil, but to all corners of the world. 

Glorious artwork on the end papers draw the reader in. Visually stunning art by Renato Alarcao is award worthy! This is an important biography and non-fiction picture book and is a great introduction to any unit on ecology and environmental science. Young scientists may learn there are careers in photography and research. 

Highly, highly recommended as one of the most beautiful picture books of the year. Grades 2 and up. 



Friday, April 12, 2024

Halloween Pick: How Do Dinosaurs Say Trick or Treat?

 

How Do Dinosaurs Say Trick or Treat?

by Jane Yolen 

Illustrations by Mark Teague 

Scholastic Press

2024 

48 pages

ISBN: 9781338891980

Available July 2, 2024 

How Do Dinosaurs Say Trick or Treat? is the latest edition of the talented team of Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. Any fan of dinosaurs or Halloween will love this picture book. 

End pages are colorful and fun illustrations of various types of dinosaurs. Not only will children read a fun story, but likely true dino fans will memorize each dino name and locate them in the pages. 

Winning, rhyming text by Yolen never gets stale. Fans of the series of Dinosaur books by this talented team will consider this a must-have, must-read. You must read this book out loud. Young kids will love it! 

Highly, highly recommended for dino fans and everyone else. Ages 2 and up. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Healing Picture Book Pick: Moonlight Memories

 

Moonlight Memories: A Story of Healing After Loss

by Amanda Davis

Illustrations by Michelle Jing Chan 

Worthy Kids

2023

32 pages

ISBN: 9781546003168


Piper feels empty after the loss of her mother. She doesn't want create art anymore until  she gets a telescope as a gift. Not only does Piper see stars in the skies, she sees her mother's face, "...a face that tucked her in at night...A face with cheeks that smelled of sweet vanilla..." Piper feels her creativity switch on; she draws again. Soon, her sketchbook and her room is filled with drawings of her with her mother. 

She wonders if her father will see what she sees when he looks through the telescope, but she decides to wait to ask him. One night, Piper looks through the lens and doesn't see her mother anymore, but she remembers all the memories, the "moonlight memories," of her mother. She leads her father to the telescope and says, "Your turn." 

Moonlight Memories is a quiet book, but deals with huge feelings. Full of hope, healing and love, it's a gem of a read. Illustrations by Michelle Jing Chan are transcendent. A stellar work of art with a beautiful message of hope, this picture book is a must-have. 

Ages 2 and up. This is a great book to open up conversations about loss of a parent and healing. 

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Poetry Pick: Black Girl Your Are Atlas

 

Black Girl You Are Atlas

by Renee Watson

Art (collages) by Ekua Holmes 

Kokila

an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC

2024

96 pages 

ISBN: 9780593461709

Black Girl You Are Atlas is a breathtaking triumph celebrating a young girl's thoughts as she grows up black and female in America. Watson uses autobiographical stories and captures moments in history and how she experienced them as a child. She includes poems about Michelle Obama, Rodney King and Breonna Taylor. 

Magnificent does not do this book justice. It is the most powerful book of poetry since Maya Angelou or Langston Hughes. In "Black Like Me" Watson asks, "can i be Black & brilliant?/ can i be jazz & gospel, hip-hop & classical?/ can i be christian & accepting? can i be big & beautiful?" 

In "Underbelly," Watson uses repetition of "Black girl body..." to begin each line. This poem is a compelling statement of power, weathering the storm, pushing through, being proud, and finding happiness. 

Black Girl You Are Atlas is a wonderful book gift for any girl or woman. It is a celebration of being black in America but should be read and enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their skin color or country of origin. This is one book you will not forget. 

Collage art by Ekua Holmes captures not only the joy but also the sorrow and sadness of the prose. 

This is a must-have, must-read for everyone. Any library collection should purchase multiple copies as this book will not sit on the shelf. 

So highly recommended, I'd give it more than five stars.  


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Picture Book Pick: You Are My Pride

 

You Are My Pride: A Love Letter From Your Motherland

by Caldecott Honor Book author
Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Coretta Scott King Illustator Award winner
E.B. Lewis
Astra Books for Young Readers 
2023
40 pages
ISBN: 9781635923872

Weatherford captures the voice of Mother Africa and speaks to the readers as, "Child" in this powerful, lyrical beautiful story of the beginnings of us: humans. Evocative and captivating, readers will be enchanted by the prose and the glorious illustrations of the first humans throughout our history until today. 

Humans encounter fierce storms and even fiercer predators to the oceanbound sailing ships that set off to search the unknown. The final spread features the ocean and the words, "Here are your beginnings. Here is your home." 

Pages follow titled "Our Beginnings" and feature a timeline of early human evolution and developments from the first creature that walked upright on two legs to the Homo sapiens or modern humans. Young readers will be fascinated by the voice of the narrator, Mother Africa. What a joy to read!

You Are My Pride: A Love Letter From Your Motherland received starred reviews and editorial love from major book review sites. A must-have, must-read for every child. A lovely book for storytime.

Highly, highly recommended ages 4-8. Do not miss this book! 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Picture Book Pick: Remember

 

Remember 

by Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate

Illustrated  by Michaela Goade, Caldecott Medalist

Random House Studio

Penguin Random House, LLC

2023

40 pages

ISBN: 9780593484845

Remember is a poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo captured in full color illustrations by Michaela Goade. It is a poem of remembrance but more importantly, a tribute to the earth, the sky, and the universe which we are all a part of. 

Animals have tribes and families and histories, so we should remember, "Talk to them, listen to them. They are alive poems." Living poems! Aren't we all? It's a great message to young readers and to all ages. We have only one planet, as we are increasingly aware of. It's up to humans to remember and to preserve for all living things. 

This beautiful picture book is a must have for well-balanced collections for all ages. Every child will love the message. 

Highly, highly recommended ages 2 and up. 




Thursday, March 21, 2024

Picture Book: Dark Cloud


 Dark Cloud

by Anna Lazowski

Illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee

Kids Can Press

2023

32 pages 

ISBN: 9781525306570

Abigail has a dark cloud that follows her everywhere. Sometimes it is a cloud or fog or a shadow, but everywhere she goes, the cloud is there. Everything she does, the cloud hangs about. 

Illustrations by Penny Neville-Lee capture Abigail's feelings and mental outlook. When she goes to the library, she finds a book about a blue ocean and visits the beach afterwards. She traps her dark cloud in a sand castle. She realizes that she is not the only person who can have a dark cloud. Sometimes adults have them also. 

As she begins to manage living with her cloud, the book's illustrations erupt in full color and blooming flowers. Even though Abigail's cloud is still there, she sits among the flowers. She is able to escape her cloud and play with new friends. 

The author's note is helpful and will open the talk with young children about their emotions. Abigail's story will help them understand that it is okay to feel things and it is okay to talk about emotions. Endpages in the front are in black and white. Endpages in the back are in glorious full color and show how Abigail grows and accepts her feelings and emotions. 

Dark Cloud is a must-have for every child's bookshelf. Every library should have several copies. 

Highly, highly recommended ages 4-8. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Picture Book Pick: My Cat Does Ballet

 

My Cat Does Ballet

by Robert Heidbreder

Illustrated by Matt Schu

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division

2023

32 pages

ISBN: 9781665917032

A boy shares his love of dance with his pet cat in this cute pas de deux of a picture book. He talks to all his friends who are cat lovers. Each friend's cat has a unique skill like riding on the running vaccuum cleaner, hiding socks, shredding toilet paper or climbing curtains. The boy thinks all his friends must be jealous because his cat does ballet. 

In an attempt to show them, the boy invites all his friends with their cats to his Corps de Chats to teach all the cats ballet. The music begins and the cats dance, all except the boy's cat who falls asleep on the couch. 

Recommended for any lover of dance especially ballet. Ballet terms are used in the text and movements are gracefully illustrated by Matt Schu who has the cats leaping and moving into ballet poses. Famous ballet dancers' short biographies follow the story as well as a glossary of ballet terms with a cat showing the movements and poses. 

A winner of a picture book and must have for dancers. The opportunity to design beautiful end papers was overlooked. When readers open the book, they are greeted by dull, drab green papers. The publisher missed a huge design element which is a fail. Otherwise, My Cat Does Ballet is highly entertaining and informative, 

Pre-school to grade 3. 



Saturday, March 16, 2024

Bugumentary Pick: In a Patch of Grass

 

In a Patch of Grass 

by Fran Hodgkins

Illustrated by Dan Tavis

directed by Steven Spielbug

starring David Antenborough

Tilbury House Publishers 

2023 

32 pages 

ISBN: 9780884484639


In a Patch of Grass is a clever "bugumentary" directed by Steven Spielbug and starring David Antborough. The two bug stars direct and narrate the makings of a small ecosystem populated by grasshoppers, ants, worms, spiders and other insects and creatures. 

Steven Spielbug directs the action of each bug actor and David Antenborough hosts the film shoot until a nosy, friendly dog interrupts and breaks up the set, sending bugs scurrying hither and yon. 

The bug actors are featured on the front cover giving readers a hint what they'll discover inside. The endpapers are lively and buggy, The cast and crew are explained in detail in order of appearance. The quotes from various "publications" on the back cover are from the International Film Crickets Society, The Daily Mantis, The Hollywood Rolypoly and The New York Treehopper. 

Comic relief, silly puns, Hollywood movie making, cartoon speech bubbles and captivating illustrations make this whimsical picture book a must have. For insect lovers everywhere ages 2 and up. 

Highly, highly recommended. 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

LOL Alphabet Board Book Pick: G Is for Gross

 



G Is for Gross

A BabyLit Book 

by Greg Paprocki

Illustrated by the author 

BabyLit

2023

32 pages 

ISBN: 9781423664963


Hilarious illustrations and giggle-worthy text will delight both toddlers and adults. Author/illustrator Paprocki uses mid-century modern colorful illustrations in a throwback nod to cartoons and Mad Magazine comics. 

Some of the gross whimsy included are: "D is for dirty diaper," "F is for fart," "O is for outhouse," and of course, "V is for vomit," In almost every page spread, characters are seen holding their nose, looking a little queasy, screaming and/or running. 

Pages include the trusty pet dog or cat, and even one pet octopus peering out of a fish tank. What a fun read-aloud! Young readers will laugh and love saying the words out loud: poop, vomit, toxic, and zombie are lovely examples. 

If only Paprocki had written this decades ago! Today's toddlers get to have all the fun, but their parents and adults can have fun reading this uproariously clever book. Sturdy board design will last hours (years) for little hands turning the pages. Kids will probably memorize their favorite page spreads and shout out, "P is for poop!" for example, whenever this book is opened. 

Highly, highly recommended. If you buy one alphabet book, G Is for Gross needs to be the book. Never have I ever had this much fun reading an alphabet book. 

ages 18 months to 3 years.  


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Clever Non-Fiction Board Book Pick: Copy That, Copy Cat!

 

Copy That, Copy Cat! Inventions Inspired by Animals 

By Katrina Tangen

Illustrations by Giulia Orecchia

Barefoot Books

2023

34 pages 

ISBN: 9781646869992

 Copy That, Copy Cat! will entertain and delight young readers. With its clever lift-the-flap interactive design and fun facts, kids will have a great time guessing the answer to each rhyming riddle. The science behind each invention inspired by animals is concise and easy to understand. 

This sturdy board book will stand up to hours of love and learning in little hands. Although the design is for much younger kids, the information inside will appeal to all levels of elementary school through middle school. Lifting the flap on each invention reveals fascinating details about how scientists use biomimicry to design new inventions. The term biomimicry gets a full page of information. The animals featured on the cover appear again on the last page with their own flap. Readers lift the flap to reveal how animals inspired inventions such as robot arms and better light bulbs.

Fun rhyming text and colorful illustrations make this book a sure winner. Highly recommended for any reader who loves non-fiction and science. Beginning readers will love lifting the flaps and figuring out each riddle. 

Ages 2-middle school. 

 

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Board Book Pick: Sneak! A Slide-and-See Book!

 

Sneak! 

A Slide-and-See book!

by Beatriz Gimenez de Ory

Illustrated by P:aloma Valdivia

English translation by Lisa Rosinsky

Barefoot Books

2023

18 pages 

ISBN: 978888590195

What a fun book! Interactive pages "hide" animals. As the readers turn the page, each animal is revealed. The creative slide-and-see design is a genius design in engineering. A chameleon becomes a leaf. a leopard hides in a tree, a sea dragon looks like seaweed until readers turn the page, and an owl butterfly looks like a pair of eyes until young readers discover it is the markings on the butterfly's wings. 

New animals kids may not have seen before include: an arctic fox hiding in the pristine snow, a patoo, a bird that looks like a dead tree branch. and a leaf insect looks exactly like the plants it hides in. 

A page is included with a description of each animal and how they use camouflage to hide and survive. Sneak! is the cutest and most brilliant board book in recent memory. You must buy this for every tiny reader you know. 

Highly, highly recommended 10 months and up. If you're a school librarian at an elementary that has preK or K, you must buy several copies. One for check-out (which may not age well) and one to share at story time. Kids will love to guess what animal is hiding. The text gives clues to help them out.