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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! 

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. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

MG Pick: Music For Tigers


Music For Tigers

by Michelle Kadarusman

Pajama Press Inc.


192 pages

ISBN: 9781772780543

Governor General's Award Finalist

Kirkus Starred Review

Music For Tigers is a life-changing book bound to stick with you long after you finish it. Kadarusman takes readers on a journey to the other side of the world into the thick growth of the Tarkine forest of gum trees, lush vines, giant spiders, weird creatures and the elusive (and thought to be extinct) Tasmanian tiger. This unique setting introduces stunning wildlife: bandicoots, devils and the special tiger will capture the interest of even the most reluctant reader. 

Louisa is sent to stay with her strange and silent Uncle Ruff, an uncle she doesn't know and barely understands. Ruff is ROUGH--a man of few words and not one to coddle a child. Besides playing her beloved violin, Louisa begins exploring her surroundings deep in her family's wilderness sanctuary and reading her grandmother's notebooks. She meets Colin who is on the spectrum and they become fast friends. Learning about the land and its "extinct" tigers fills Louisa with hope and love. When she realizes there is one tiger in danger because its home will soon be destroyed, Louisa (with Colin and Uncle Ruff) has to locate, capture and relocate the cat. Using her music, Louisa draws the beautiful cat to her. 

This coming of age story with the elements of conservation, an appreciation and acceptance of the neurodiverse, a celebration of aboriginal peoples, the importance of saving the planet, practicing love and hope will pull on your heartstrings. Pages that follow the story give us hope as a planet--the Tasmanian tiger might still exist! 

Highly, highly recommended for ages 8 and up! An excellent whole class read which could be taught across several subject areas: geography, history, science, reading, ecology, and perfect for discussions about empathy. A MUST READ and a MUST HAVE for every library and every middle grade reader. 

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!