Thursday, April 26, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 This Is a Taco!


Taco is a squirrel named for his favorite food, tacos. As the text of the book provides facts about squirrels, Taco appears in the illustrations and comments on or demonstrates the facts. Squirrels are "know for their silky, soft fur," says the book. And readers see Taco in a stylist's chair under a dryer and with his toes all ready for a pedicure. Or when the tree climbing ability of squirrels is mentioned, Taco is shown at the top of a tree that bends under his weight and then catapults him through the next few pages. Just as the text mentions how flying squirrels glide from branch to branch and then "glide gently to the ground for a graceful landing," Taco face-plants into the dirt with a loud "WHAM!"
The protagonist has already admitted that he only agreed to be in the book because he was told that there would be tacos, so when the text starts talking about hawks swooping down and carrying off squirrels - he takes matters into his own paws. Out comes a red pen and he begins to make corrections like the one shown on the cover of the book. 

This book will remind readers of several other picture-book favorites. Bingham's Z Is for Moose is a similar story, since Moose also does some editing of the text in his quest to make a place for himself. Wiesner's The Three Pigs comes to mind as Taco manipulates the text to suit himself and even pulls back the corner of a page. And the meta-awareness is very apparent in Taco's last lines. He directly addresses readers, "Kids, remember, if you want tacos in your story, then YOU make sure there are tacos in your story." 

Whether readers enjoy stories with animals, stories where the characters manipulate the book, or just humorous stories in general - this is a title that will please them all. Highly recommended for elementary grades.

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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Gordon: Bark to the Future


Imagine the agents of CONTROL as furry house pets and then the agents of KAOS as insects and you have the basic idea of PURST (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel). These fearless pets each have their assigned space station (home) where they defend their humans from alien attack (insects). If you have read any of the Binky the Space Cat stories, then you know all about PURST. In this latest adventure, Binky is put out of commission by an alien invasion and Gordon must find a way to save everyone - his friends and his humans. "This dog's deadliest weapon is his brain," so he sits down to think up a plan. Using the time machine prototype is the only possible option, but when the aliens change the setting from days to years - Gordon may just be stranded in the past for good!

A mix of "Get Smart" and "Back to the Future," Gordon's quest has him working on his own in a past when there is no "equal opportunity program yet" and PURST is still FURST (a felines only agency). Binky is just a kitten with no training, so how can Gordon get back to the future without altering the past? As Gordon says, "The past needs a poop scoop because this place stinks."

Readers who enjoy funny stories about pets, secret agents, and time travel will have a great time reading the latest adventure of this deteremined canine agent from PURST.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Ghost Friends Forever: My Heart Lies in the 90s

Gr 4–6—Fifteen-year-old Sophia Greene-Campos's parents divorced last year. Now she lives with her dad, while her brother Felix lives with their mom. Felix didn't take the divorce well, and his best friend Jake broke up with Sophia at the same time. However, Sophia is determined to carry on with the family business of paranormal investigations. When she encounters Whitney, a ghost who needs help moving on, she decides to tackle the case on her own. But her attempts to solve it are complicated by her crush on Whitney. The story keeps readers busy working out the double mystery of why Sophia's parents divorced and what caused the other girl's death. A few surprises near the end will have readers hoping for a sequel. Illustrations are done in rich colors, with flashbacks set off by a more subdued palette, and swirls of purple indicating when spells are cast. Although the characters have different skin tones and hair colors, they all look fairly similar in age—even the parents and teachers seem more like college kids than thirtysomethings. VERDICT A mix of mystery and romance, perfect for middle grade readers who enjoy urban fantasy.

This review was first published in the February 2018 issue of School Library Journal, p.88.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Giveaway: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

The assistant superintendent has given each of the librarians a copy of this wonderful book in honor of National School Librarian Day, so now the ARC that I had needs a good home. Please enter to win and good luck!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Wonky

Howie is a turtle who is excited about the possibility of making a friend in robot club. As the students all pair up, no one chooses Howie as a partner. He is a bit despondent until Lincoln the ostrich comes rushing into the room. Lincoln seems too fluffy and bouncy, but the teacher puts them together. Howie knows "everything about robots, from B.E.N. to 7-Zark-7." And it turns out that Lincoln's father works in the robotics field and has taught Lincoln everything from "audio receptors to zero gravity chips." Perhaps these opposites are just right for each other.

This is a mix of STEM ideas and also the theme of friendship. As the partners work on their design, readers will learn the parts of a robotic body and the fact that robots don't have to be humanoid in shape. They will also learn that folks who don't seem much alike might turn out to have a lot in common - like wanting to keep their sister out of their room! The illustrations show a variety of animals gathered in the club and a wise old owl, complete with glasses and a mortarboard, is the teacher in charge of the club.

As Howie explains at the end of the story, "Wonky means odd but wonderful." That is a very good description of the book itself. Recommended for STEM and robotics clubs, or for a story to share with classes on the first day of school as everyone worries about making friends.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes.

Spring Reading 2018 The Slithery Shakedown (The Nocturnals)


The characters from The Nocturnals continue to migrate into readers for younger children. Dawn, Tobin, and the vastly amusing Bismark first appeared in The Moonlight Meeting and now their adventures continue in The Slithery Shakedown. Bismark impatiently waits for his friends to join him, but when they do - an unwanted creature also appears. A shimmery blue snake decides that a silly sugar glider would make a lovely breakfast. Luckily for Bismark, his friends stand up to the hungry reptile.

The illustrations make the characters come to life. Some show Bismark tapping his foot or with steam coming out of his ears in impatience. Tobin and Dawn look at his antics with knowing smiles. And when the snake appears, Tobin hides behind Dawn with his arms wrapped around her leg and his body shivering in fear.

Back matter includes a picture and short description of the nocturnal animal species from the story. There are also some facts about pomelos and nocturnal animals in general. A very good book for young students just starting on independent reading, especially those who are interested in animals.


If you haven't seen the first of the readers, The Moonlight Meeting introduces the characters and sets their adventures in motion. Stay tuned for further books in the series and check out The Nocturnals website.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong's Life in Jazz


Lil Hardin Armstrong was a jazz pioneer and yet her name is not recognized by many people. Yet, if you mention her husband, Louis Armstrong, you get nods and smiles. Part of that is probably due to the way women and female musicians were viewed during Lil's time. Band leaders and top-paid musicians were male, and women were there to sing backup or to listen adoringly. But without Lil's help, we may never have heard of Louis Armstrong. 

The book traces Lil's life from where she grew up in Memphis, home of Beale Street and the blues. Although her mother didn't want her to listen to that "Devil's music," the influence seeped into the way Lil played the hymns on the church organ. And when she lost her place during music lessons, she would improvise and make up her own tunes. She moved with her family to Chicago and heard more great musicians of the time like Jelly Roll Morton, finally earning a place as pianist for a jazz band. From those early music lessons to her marriage to Louis, to the Great Depression and even taking jazz to Paris after the war - Lil played hard and with a beat. She was swinging and improvising and doing it with style. 

Michele Wood's illustrations show events like Lil singing in church, her jazz wedding, and fronting a combo on stage in Paris. "Hot Miss Lil" is easy to spot in her bright yellow dresses. Back matter includes a brief biographical essay, a couple of archival photos, a list of Lil's songs available online, a timeline of her life, an author's note, and a bibliography.

This is a great addition to picture book biography collections in schools and children's library sections. It would fit well into lessons on music history, the Great Migration, Black History Month, and Women's History Month.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Sharks: Nature's Perfect Hunter (Science Comics)


One of the most often visited sections in an elementary school library is that which holds the books on sharks. Young readers are fascinated with these sea creatures in all their various forms. So I can easily predict that the latest Science Comics title will see high circulation rates and probably need replacement quite quickly.

The book begins with an introduction by marine conservation biologist, Dr. David Shiffman. He tells of his own fascination with sharks and his appreciation for the book and its contents. The book itself is filled with diagrams and images of the different species of sharks. One scene which will make adults grin in recognition shows a man tossing chum and a shark rising out of the water just as it happened in the movie "Jaws." Other pages show a series of creatures from various time periods all declining to swim in the ocean because there are sharks in there.

There are incredible facts such as, you are "more likely to be hospitalized for being struck by lightning...than for getting injured by a shark." The part that sharks play in the complex ocean food webs, the range of their sizes (from fitting in the palm of your hand to whale proportions), and pages showing the various orders of sharks within the Superorder Selachimorpha will satisfy those thirsty for details. 

The images and text work well together to illustrate the amazing range of adaptations sharks have developed since their first ancestors appeared (an estimated 400 million years ago). With over 500 species, there are many opportunities for variation. Some species have phosphorescence. Thresher sharks use their tails as whips to stun their prey. Some species like the mako are even warm-blooded. One ability that will captivate readers who enjoy the gross and gruesome shows a shark turning its stomach inside out to expel what it cannot digest.

Folk lore and pop culture are also included. The Hawaiian legends of shapechanging shark gods, movies such as "Jaws," and the popularity of shark fin soup are all covered. Historic events like the early twentieth century shark attacks (covered in one of the I Survived books by Lauren Tarshis), as well as the more recent survivor story of Bethany Hamilton are also discussed.

Back matter includes a large spread showing the shark family tree, a glossary, and suggested phrases to use instead of the vilifying "shark attack." At the bottom of the glossary pages are illustrations of various shark egg cases (a.k.a. mermaid's purses).

Highly recommended for elementary and middle grade readers who enjoy nonfiction and books about animals.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Blue Grass Boy: The Story of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass Music


Music lovers will feel like organizing a barn dance when they read this picture book biography of Bill Monroe. The author traces the birth of bluegrass music from Monroe's childhood in Kentucky to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Participating in a "sundown jamboree" with his family, Bill would hear jigs, hymns, and ballads. But he also listened to the sounds of nature and learned to play a mandolin. He refined his skills playing at hillside dances and picked up the rhythms of the blues. Everywhere he went he kept his ears open to new sounds and styles, and finally he put them all together to make something new - bluegrass. And the rest is history. 

The text flows along like the songs of a homey bluegrass tune. And the illustrations have a down-home simplicity which fits perfectly with the subject. Several images are especially eye-catching. One shows Willie as a young boy with his eyes crossed and sounds (pictured as zigzagging lines), filling his ears. Another shows an antique radio on a U.S. map, with Monroe's band standing on top, and many small figures across the country dancing to the music coming from the radio's speakers. That especially captures the reach and appeal of bluegrass music.

Back matter includes more factual details and black and white photos of Monroe's life. An extensive bibliography, source notes, and picture and text credits give readers places to look if they want to learn more. And a final page features a large photo above the lyrics to the song, "Uncle Pen," written in remembrance of Bill's uncle.

Highly recommended for elementary school libraries and public library children's collections. Good for early grade biography projects, music appreciation and history units, and enjoying pieces of American cultural history. 

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 The Stone Girl's Story


What if you were carved from stone, but alive? What if you slowed and eventually went to sleep as the carved marks wore away with time? This is what had begun happening to Mayka's friends. Their father was a stonemason who carved them all, but now there is no one to keep the marks fresh and clear.

Mayka begins a journey to find a stonemason who will come to help them. She heads down into the valley and toward the great city looking for someone who can save her friends. Everything is new and different. As she travels down the mountain she echoes Sam Gamgee's words as he follows Frodo out of the Shire: “This is it,” Mayka said, “the farthest down the mountain I’ve ever been.” As she and two of her friends cross the valley they meet another stone creature who would like to find a mason to change the marks and make her more than a decorative figure. When this little creature asks, "“Do you think . . . Could I . . . Maybe I could ask him to recarve me?” it reminded me of Dorothy's friends in The Wizard of Oz as they each join her quest to see the wizard and ask him for a favor. 

It's not surprising that so many other stories seem to cast a reflection here and there in the book, the stories carved onto each stone creature are what brings them to life - so readers know that the author understands the value of stories. Those glimmers of other books show how many stories have soaked into her own skin. As Mayka talks to one of the humans in the city, he tells her that he doesn't have a story. "Did all flesh creatures deny their part in their own story? Doing that didn’t exempt you from having a story; it just meant other people would shape your tale for you. You have to seize your story, Mayka thought. That’s what stone creatures do."

I won't tell you what happens anything else, we should all experience stories in our own way. I will say that if you are a lover of stories, you will enjoy this one. There are themes of friendship, courage, love, and claiming our strengths to live our story to the fullest. As Mayka would say, "We make our marks our own.

Readers who enjoy fantasy, adventure, friends joining together for a good cause, and a bit of magic will love this book. Highly recommended for middle grade and early YA readers.

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

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Children's Book Review Anniversary Tour


  1. What was your vision when you began The Children's Book Review? You reach children, parents, educators, librarians … was there one audience that was your main focus?

The vision was simple: To spread the word about amazing and inspiring kids books to anyone that would listen. Originally I imagined the TCBR readership would be parents and caregivers—I am completely humbled and overjoyed that the TCBR audience has grown to include educators, librarians, authors, illustrators, and other industry experts.

  1. What has been the most difficult part of providing all the incredible information that you share? Is there anything that has been easier than you anticipated it would be?

Time! There are so many amazing books, authors, and illustrators out there—I wish there were more hours in the day so that I could share more of them. As for finding anything to be easier than anticipated … still working on TCBR after 10 years. The past decade has proved to me that passion and hard work really do make a difference. Best. Job. Ever!

  1. Your book, 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up, came out at the end of 2016. Did you ever think when you started TCBR that you would someday be writing your own book?

I had the dream to write a children’s book a few years before I started working on The Children’s Book Review. So, as you can imagine, I was beside myself to see this dream come to fruition—there were tears of happiness.

  1. Who is the one author that you have always wanted the chance to meet? Has that meeting happened yet?

Katherine Paterson! I just loved Bridge to Terabithia as a child—the fact that she trusted a young person to be able to cope with one of life’s harder issues through storytelling was so powerful. While I haven’t met her in person, I did get to interview her over the phone to discuss the movie version of The Great Gilly Hopkins. And I could keep going with authors I’d like to meet … Judy Blume, J.K. Rowling, Jacqueline Woodson, Kate DiCamillo, and Katherine Applegate. I wish I could have met Maya Angelou, Roald Dahl, William Golding, and Harper Lee.

  1. What plans do you have for the future? Will TCBR change or expand? Another book from your own pen/keyboard? A well-deserved vacation?

Yes! A few quiet plans are buzzing around at TCBR headquarters… but remember my answer to the second question: Time! As for another book, I sure hope so. I have a fun and interactive picture book manuscript I’m shopping around to agents at the moment—fingers crossed. And yes please for a vacation!


The Children’s Book Review 10th Anniversary Giveaway!
Enter for a chance to win a special prize pack that will help a lucky reader create a fun kids reading nook—including a framed TCBR original print created by children’s author & illustrator Alexandra MacVean.
One (1) winner receives:
  • A framed and matted TCBR original “Growing Readers” print. Frame size: 12.25 X 12.25
  • A Black Stripe Teepee from Crate and Kids
  • A copy of 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up, autographed by Bianca Schulze
  • A $20 Target gift card
Value: $291.95
Giveaway begins March 30, 2018, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends April 30, 2018, at 11:59 P.M. MT.
Giveaway open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.
Prizes provided by The Children’s Book Review


TCBR Original “Growing Readers" Print
Alexandra MacVean was commissioned to create a commemorative illustration that honors 10 years of The Children’s Book Review’s mission of growing readers. She is a professional award-winning, freelance children’s illustrator who creates vibrant, whimsical illustrations for children’s books, greeting cards, and more. Her desire is to touch the lives of adults and children alike, bringing some sort of hope, peace and love along the way. The 6″ x 6″ print is surrounded by white mat and a thin white frame that looks great in any space.

Black Stripe Teepee  
Crate and Kids Overview: Our black and white teepee has a simple yet bold design that can match all types of home decor. Plus, this striped play teepee is crafted from durable cotton canvas and bamboo, so it’ll last and last.

101 Books To Read Before You Grow Up
Written by Bianca Schulze
Illustrated by Shaw Nielsen
Publisher’s Synopsis: 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up provides a comprehensive list of kid-friendly books for children to read before they grow up. This must-read review list acts as an interactive journal where kids can document the books they read, why they like them, and how they rate them. Divided into sections by subject, from fairy tales and fantasy to sports and nonfiction, 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Upcelebrates the importance of reading and encourages family participation to develop lifelong readers. The perfect reference guide for book lovers of all ages, 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up helps both kids and parents decide which books to read next!
Ages 5-11 | Walter Foster Jr. | October 10, 2016 | 978-1633221697


The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association For Library Service To Children) Great Web Sites For Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literature and literacy. TCBR publishes reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. TCBR also produces author and illustrator interviews and shares literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers and librarians to grow readers. Bianca Schulze is the founder of TCBR and the bestselling author of 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up (Walter Foster Jr. 2016), an Amazon “Best Book of the Month” in October 2016.



March 30
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April 18
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April 25

The Fairview Review is working in partnership with The Children’s Book Review to promote this anniversary tour. Happy 10th and wishing you many more!!