Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover


The Kissing Hand started a series of books featuring the lovable Chester Raccoon, a horde of fans young and old, and tons of teachers who enjoy using it for all sorts of lessons and activities. This latest book has Chester finally old enough to go on an overday (the nocturnal animal version of an overnight). His mother drops him off at his friend Pepper Opossum's home. Lots of other nocturnal animals are there, too - Stanley Squirrel, Badger, Cassie Raccoon, Sassafras Skunk, and Amber Porcupine. In typical sleepover style, they play games, have snacks, and finally get tucked in to sleep. Parents of youngsters who have been on their first sleepover will not be surprised by what happens as Chester tries to sleep in a strange place.

This will be a fun story to read with young children preparing for their own first sleepover, or to reminisce with those who have completed their first one. In classroom settings, it could be used with a study on nocturnal animals or habitats. (The list of snacks for the sleepover guests will be sure to elicit groans and calls of "Yuck!")

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Funny Girl


Editor Betsy Bird has collected some wonderfully funny writing, all by female writers. Well, there was one brother involved, but she assures us that they kept "him in line." (That would be Jennifer Holm's brother, Matt.) The book is a mix of graphic shorts, advice on various subjects, short stories (some semi-autobiographical), quizzes, and even MadLibs to predict your future. Whatever the chosen format, they are all humorous. There is Carmen Agra Deedy's story of her mother setting fire to the bathtub. Raina Telgemeier's "Killer Bee" incident. Mitali Perkins has a great "Brown Girl Pop Quiz" in which she points out that Western movies should be more like Bollywood productions. "Think of Jedi knights doing a choreographed number after the Death Star explodes," she suggests. The explanation of the Chinese Zodiac by Lenore Look includes things like lucky nail colors (if you are Rabbit, "None...The less noticeable your feet are, the better"), or unlucky career choices (for Monkey, "Involuntary astronaut in early space programs"). One of my favorites is the recurring "Fleamail" advice column by Bella and Rover, written by Deborah Underwood. This cat and dog team offer hilarious advice to other animals, once even trying out a "Pawed Cast" format.

If you know middle grade readers who are always asking for more "funny books," then you should add this to your shelf. Whether it is advice on playing imaginary games from Leila Sales or a babysitting comedy/horror tale from Shannon Hale, all the pieces in the collection fit the bill. On second thought, you had better buy multiple copies.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 General Relativity for Babies


How can you dislike a book that shows a pacifier seemingly being sucked into a black hole? At the very least that paci is warping space around it. Anyway, Chris Ferrie has distilled relativity down to its very basic tenets and presented it as a board book. (Picture physics concepts presented in the same way that Cozy Classics share great pieces of literature.) He starts with a ball, then goes on to explain mass, the effects of mass and space on each other, how that will affect particles, and ends up with black holes causing gravitational waves. I wouldn't blame people for using this book (or the entire series) as a sort of Cliff's Notes study guide. The graphics are very sparse and clean. There is only one concept presented per page. And it really is science in this wonderful little format. I can't wait to read the volume on rocket science.

If you have a budding genius in your household, or know one, or just think board books are cool - check out this book and its fellow titles.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Spring Reading 2017 Dream Magic (Shadow Magic, #2)


Perhaps thirteen really is an unlucky number, or maybe your thirteenth year is unlucky if you happen to be Lady Lilith Shadow, ruler of Gehenna. (Don't read this next bit if you haven't already finished Shadow Magic.) In the first book of the series we learned that Lily's family had been killed by her uncle, who used magical artifacts in an effort to seize the kingdom. Now, as the lone survivor, she is the queen of the land and only thirteen years old.

In this second volume of her tale, Lily has still more problems to deal with. Her faithful nursemaid and companion has left the castle. The executioner Tyburn is missing. The trolls are on the march and heading towards Castle Gloom. Villagers are disappearing. A strange wizard attacks the castle and steals a magical key. Eerie crystalline spiders seem to be coming from nowhere and attacking people. Rumor has it that other kingdoms are sending assassins after Lily, because they fear her magic. How much can one girl handle?

At least she has a few trusted friends to help out. Thorn, the squire (and former poacher), is ready to do whatever Lily needs from him - even take lessons with the dancing master. Hades, the giant bat, still comes when Thorn needs him and can help with the search for the missing. Lily has befriended a young troll named Dott who was found alone in the Spindlewood. And, of course, there are all the undead. So, can a young queen, a squire, a misplaced troll, and some zombies manage to save the day?

Author Joshua Khan continues the world-building of Gehenna and the other realms in his fantasy series. We find out more of Lily's family history, more of the background of each of the other royal houses, and more of the Gehennish people and customs. Some things they have in common with us, including tales of a boy with wings made of feathers and wax or a princess who can be awakened with a kiss. Other things are very different; a doctor who sews zombies back together, royalty who become living flames if they indulge their magic too much, and flying ships, for example.

Readers who enjoy fantasy with swords, sorcery, and similar elements will find the Shadow Magic series an entertaining read. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist


Anyone who has read Keating's chapter book series, My Life Is a Zoo, can tell you that she knows her animal facts. And if there was any question of that, her book, Pink Is for Blobfish, pretty much shut down any doubters. Now she has an awesome biography of Eugenie Clark, and this book is a sure-fire new favorite in any library's collection. It has so much going for it. There is the character of Eugenie - with her keen interest in the ocean and its inhabitants. Her lifelong search for more answers and deeper understanding will resonate with young readers who have their own favorite topics. (You must know someone who can tell you the names of all the various dinosaurs, or the stats on all the characters in their favorite video game.) 

The illustrations are another enticement to pick up the book and immerse yourself in the cool blues and greens of the underwater scenes. Or you may choose to laugh out loud at the spread showing Eugenie at the aquarium, pretending that she is walking along the sea bottom as she makes her way through the other visitors among the displays.

And then there are the "Shark Bites." These are extra tidbits of information in the back matter. They cover things mentioned in the book that would have broken the rhythm of the narrative to explain in too much detail, but that readers will probably be curious about. A timeline of Eugenie's life covers all the highlights and has illustrations of Dr. Clark and her beloved sharks to liven it up. And the author's note explains why Jess chose to write the biography and offers a short bibliography for those who would like to learn even more.

Altogether a fascinating story of an intrepid knowledge-seeker, beautiful illustrations, and great support material. Highly recommended for elementary school classrooms and libraries, and for young readers with an interest in sharks or oceanography.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective


In today's media, we are accustomed to TV shows or movies featuring female detectives, police officers, military members, or secret agents. But 160 years ago, women were not even considered for such jobs. That didn't stop Kate Warne from becoming the first female detective working for the Pinkerton agency. Yes, those Pinkertons, the ones who provided security for President Lincoln. Kate took on many cases - tracking down criminals of all sorts, and even spying for the Union during the Civil War. Not many people have heard of her, but recent books like this one by Marissa Moss are about to change that.

If you enjoy true tales of people who take their destiny in their own hands and don't let social expectations stop them from doing what they are good at, you should read this book. As the saying goes, "Well behaved women rarely make history." The society of her day may have frowned on her lifestyle, but she paved the way for other women in what had been an all male occupation. She even helped President Lincoln to reach Washington safely for his inauguration when his enemies plotted to ambush his train and assassinate him during the journey. We all owe her our gratitude and admiration.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

Spring Reading 2017 Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods


Warren, the hotel which also bears his name, and all his friends are back for another adventure. Since he learned that his hotel can actually walk (it's a bit like a Transformer), Warren has plenty of guests to care for and life seems good. But that always seems to be when disaster strikes. An accident with a bottle of sarsaparilla causes a chain of events that leave Warren stranded in a small shop while the hotel and his friends travel on without him, unaware. What can a rather short child do to catch up with a hotel on giant mechanical legs?

This installment of Warren's adventures contains many humorous moments along with dangerous situations for our hero and his companions. Among the perils they face are a coven of witches, a mimic who can assume anyone's form, an angry sap-squatch (no, that's  not a typo), and even a snake-oil salesman.  But with Sketchy's perception and speed, Mr. Frigg's research skills (at times he reminds me of Giles from "Buffy"), Beatrice and Petula's magical abilities, and Warren's own ingenuity and determination, there isn't much that they can't accomplish together.

If you enjoy zany stories reminiscent of Roald Dahl, you should read the Warren the 13th books.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Giveaway Celebrating Megan McDonald's National Schools Webcast

Register for the Megan McDonald National Schools Webcast!

Uber-RARE event alert! Candlewick Press is hosting a webcast with best-selling children’s book author and Judy Moody and Stink creator Megan McDonald on May 3, 2017, at 1 p.m. ET. And your class is invited to participate—for FREE!

Register and submit your questions for Megan here.

While you are waiting for the webcast, please enter the giveaway for a chance to win a boxed set of Judy Moody books. Good luck!

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