Monday, February 25, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Hex Vet: Witches in Training


Clarion and Nan are training to be veterinarians under the supervision of Dr. Talon and Nurse Chantsworth. After all, magical pets need care, too. But when the experienced practitioners rush off to help a manticore deliver triplets, the young witches are left on their own at the clinic. There's a bugbear in the basement, the weather outside is awful, and the town busybodies are giving Nan a hard time over her family's reputation. And then the real trouble begins... What can a couple of apprentices do when all the creatures escape their cages and turn vicious? Teamwork is a good start.

The color palette on the cover is used throughout the book, giving it a fantasy feel that matches the events and characters. The action is resolved enough to satisfy readers at the end of the book, but also leaves plenty of possibilities for the future. There is also a brief section on "How to Make a Comic Page" with illustrations from the story as examples. The creator, Sam Davies, is well-known for her online comics at Stutterhug. And for those who enjoyed Witches in Training, a second book, The Flying Surgery, is due out in December. 

This title was on the recent Scholastic Book Fair, recommended for ages 8 - 12. I read a copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2019 The Chestnut Challenge

Fans of The Nocturnals and their leveled reader series will easily recognize Dawn, Tobin, and Bismark. But who is this new character with them on the cover of the book? That is Chandler, a "conniving chinchilla." When he finds the friends playing Chestnut checkers, Chandler announces that he is the "real chestnut champion" and challenges Tobin to a game. The mild-mannered pangolin enjoys playing for fun, not competition. He reluctantly agrees to play this new acquaintance, but something underhanded is happening during the game. Will the Nocturnals figure out what is happening?

Each of these stories has a gentle lesson to learn about friendship, acceptance, or sportsmanship. Reading about the friends and their adventures is an entertaining way to learn  how to get along with others. Who wouldn't be amused by Bismark's dramatic reactions? "Chirping chickadees!" he shouts when he loses the game. And after all his boasting, he is the one who points out that Chandler "seems a bit braggy." (Takes one to know one, right?) Dawn is always calm and gentle in her reminders about proper behavior, while Tobin truly just wants everyone to have a good time together.

Back matter includes facts about each animal, what it means to be nocturnal, and a description of chestnuts. There are also printable activities to download at If you haven't met these friends yet, be sure to check out the entire series - and there are chapter books for independent readers, too.

I had the chance to spend some time with author Tracey Hecht and the Fabled Films gang at ALA MW 2019. They even had a plush model of Bismark in their booth!

The Chestnut Champion goes on sale April 23, 2019.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek


"Pa liked that just fine, saying it was best, safer for me, the last of our kind, the last one. But I'd read about those kinds in the magazines. The eastern elk, the passenger pigeon. The extinctions." From the beginning, this book will capture your attention, break your heart, have you crying and mad enough to spit all at the same time. Cussy Mary is a "blue," one of a small group of people with a blue tinge to their skin; she even has the nickname "Bluet." She also is one of the Pack Horse Library Project workers. Being a Book Woman is a bit extraordinary, but Cussy Mary enjoys providing books to her patrons scattered up and down the hollers despite the natural hazards as well as the danger from mean-spirited residents who distrust anyone different.

As you read, you will see the natural beauty that surrounds the harsh living conditions of the miners and their families. The fact that they are trying to survive the miserable economy of the 1930s makes the outlook even more bleak. Modern readers will be amazed at the home remedies Cussy Mary's neighbors try and the edibles they manage to forage from the woods around them.

But the most enjoyable thing to see is Bluet's spirit, her inner strength despite all the sorrows and hardships, and the hope for a better future for her will keep you reading until the last page.

If you enjoy historical fiction with resilient heroines, you must read this book.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes. Pub date is set for May 7, 2019.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 My Cat Looks Like My Dad


We often hear that pets and their owners resemble each other. We can see from the cover that there are some likenesses. Both Dad and the cat are ginger-haired and blue-eyed. As we read on through the book we learn they have similar tastes in foods, naps, and singing. They even share the bad habit of never replacing the toilet paper roll.

Thao Lam's collage style adds dimension to the illustrations. Some show Dad and the cat at their morning stretches on Dad's yoga mat, or Mom covering her ears as cat sings along with Dad at the piano. Others show how the narrator is similar to Mom.

Besides the wonderful scenes of Mom, Dad, and the cat - there is also a surprise ending that will have readers laughing out loud.

Great for read-alouds, bedtimes, or any other time that a book and a laugh are called for.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 You Are Never Alone


The creative pair who brought us You Are Stardust have created another book that combines whimsy with wisdom. The text reminds us of the myriad connections between us and the world. We "gobble fruits from plants pollinated by bats by night and bees in the day." Whether it is the air we breathe or the food we eat, everything in our lives is interlinked in many ways. 

Kim's dioramas create illustrations that are as layered as those connections. Children shrink to the size of microorganisms, or help a beaver gather sticks. Others swim the sea with whales or ride on beetles. The tiniest details are there - seeds on strawberries, tiny plankton in the sea, and snails crawling on mangrove roots. 

Anyone teaching the interconnectedness of nature - food chains, ecosystems, etc. will find this book a wonderful introductory text to spark discussions and inspire student dioramas and displays. But this is also a book to simply savor and reflect on. It offers hope and comfort and an antidote to loneliness. As it tells us, "You are never alone. Feel gravity hug you tight as you twirl around the sun."

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes. The text I have quoted may change slightly before final publication (although I hope not).

Winter Reading 2019 Crown of Feathers


Looking for some epic fantasy? How about an empire with a history of devastating war between factions supporting royal sisters? In the aftermath of the war the animages who fought on the losing side have been driven into hiding in outlying areas. The valiant Phoenix Riders, known as phoenixaeres, have been destroyed. And the Empire keeps tight control over the borders, eager to prevent any resurgence of their fallen foes.

Even if you are not so much into world building and all the history and backstory that go into it, perhaps you will be lured in by the characters and all their quirks. Here's a quick sampling...There are Veronyka and her sister Val, orphaned daughters of Riders, and now living on the run - but keeping the dream alive that the Riders will rise again. Sev, an unwilling soldier of the Empire, is also an animage in hiding. Tristan is the son of a Phoenix Rider, and his father also has the dream of bringing the Riders back.

There are politics, jealousies (historical and current), possible love interests, magic, and the beautiful and deadly phoenixes. What more could you really want?

Just released this week and ready for YA or mature middle grade readers. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Watch the trailer on YouTube:

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Can You Crack the Code? A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography

Let me just say that the subtitle is not kidding. This books covers codes from the ancient Greeks, through Caesar, Samuel Morse, Alan Turing, and up to the current day. Each chapter discusses the methods used to keep messages secure over the ages - from writing them on paper to be swallowed, sharing special code words, supercomputers using prime numbers to create encryption, and even biometric security. There are activities throughout the book that challenge readers to try their own skills at the various forms of deciphering and code breaking. 

Photos of figures like Morse and Turing, as well as devices like cipher disks, the Enigma machine, and Bletchley Park's Bombe (the machine that cracked the Enigma code), add interest and reinforce that these are historical facts. There are also jokes such as, "Why don't Vikings send emails? They prefer Norse Code."

Sidebars provide information on the Code Talkers of WWII, as well as the women and African Americans who served as cryptoanalysts during the war. There is also information on the coded telegrams that Abraham Lincoln used to communicate with the Union Army. Readers may visit to volunteer their help to decode Civil War telegrams and add them to archives.

If you have middle grade readers who are interested in mathematics or codes, this is the next book you need to show them. I read an ARC, but publication is scheduled for March 26.

Winter Reading 2019 Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective

Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective by A. B. Greenfield

You might think that a pampered and rather lazy cat (although he won't admit it), would make a rather poor detective. But when Ra answers a plea for help (after some judicious blackmail by his friend Khepri), he finds out that being the Great Detective is rather fun. He gets to put his knowledge of the royal palace and its inhabitants to good use, and there is a chance for glory and for everyone to praise him.

Author A.B. Greenfield was inspired to write this story after visiting the British Museum's Egyptian Sculpture Gallery and seeing "a cat wearing an Eye of Horus amulet...if you look closely, you'll notice a scarab beetle riding on top of the cat's head." And some people think museums are boring!

Ra goes from sunbathing by his favorite pool to tracking a thief through the palace and avoiding kicks, styluses thrown in his direction, accusations of having a girlfriend (yuck), and the claws of a leopard. With his sidekick Khepri, a scarab beetle, and some help from a kitchen cat named Miu, Ra the Mighty will do his duty to the Pharaoh and justice.

The interactions between Ra and Khepri are especially funny, although the whole book is a mix of clues and laughs. For instance, Khepri tells him, "Ra, you need to get out more. I've known mummies with more interesting lives." And while Khepri seems to be a very astute sidekick, we sometimes wonder about Ra's judgment. His opinion of the Pharaoh's wife is based on the fact that she "had been known to feed me from her own plate - a sign of good character if there ever was one." 

Details of ancient Egypt are worked into the story. Animals kept as pets by the royal household really did include cats, leopards, turtledoves, and baboons. Many people did wear an Eye of Horus amulet for good luck. And there actually was a "Director of Royal Loincloths." What a job!

Some of the details are confirmed in the author's note, and there is also a list of sources. Ra's next adventure is due in October 2019, Ra the Mighty: The Great Tomb Robbery. Until then, share this book with middle grade readers who enjoy animal protagonists and mysteries.

GIVEAWAY Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants

I picked up this ARC at ALA Midwinter and have already book-talked it to librarians in my district. Now it's your turn. Enter on the form below for a chance to win, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Sherry Sejnost!

GIVEAWAY One Iguana Two Iguanas: A Story of Accident, Natural Selection, and Evolution

Wish that you had a copy of this JLG selection from Sneed B. Collard III? Enter using the form below - and good luck!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Beware the Mighty Bitey

With elements similar to the Billy Goats Gruff and stories like Who Sank the Boat? or The Mitten, this book is full of quirky characters and laugh out loud moments. The Mighty Bitey are actually piranhas who lurk beneath a rope bridge in the jungle. Why are they waiting there? For some lunch to fall into the Nippy Pool, of course. And when some animals cross over on their way to a party, the piranhas convince each of them to stay on the bridge and play the musical instruments they are carrying. As the bridge dips lower and lower, readers will be turning the pages to see if disaster has struck yet.

Besides the humor of the story, including a twist at the end, there is also rich vocabulary. Words like lurking, wheedled, rickety, and delicately add to the descriptions of the situations and characters. There are also many instances of onomatopoeia - croak, creak, snap, scritch-scratch, even an oom-papah!

The illustrations are colorful and their black outlines emphasize each figure. I'm very curious about why the Chief Bitey is wearing a band-aid and how it stay on underwater. The smallest of the piranhas appears holding a knife and fork in his fins with a napkin around his neck as the bridge dips dangerously close to the water, while another piranha licks his lips. (Do fish have lips?) 

This is a story that will be read and re-read, but there is so much to enjoy that it will be a pleasure each time.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher. 

Winter Reading 2019 The Cyclops Witch and the Heebie-Jeebies

Have any readers who love spooky characters, but don't want a really scary story? Young readers who are always asking for stories with cryptids or legendary creatures? Try the Cyclops Witch with them. This is a brave witch who isn't frightened by much. But one night something comes to her door that makes her "shiver, quiver, and twitch." (I love how those words are shadowed on the page so that they really seem to be quivering.) It seems that although winged monkeys and ice trolls might not scare her, she is very afraid of ... kids!

So she comes up with a plan to frighten the children away, using all the fearsome creatures that live nearby. When her plan doesn't work out quite as she expects, the Cyclops Witch may need courage to face this troop of scouts that have found her.

It turns out that once you overcome your own fear, you might just be able to help others overcome theirs. As the kids explain, "While not all fears are bad, some can get out of hand - sometimes we're just scared because we misunderstand." That's a good lesson for all of us.

The illustrations are vibrant and full of creatures like the mothman, leprechauns, pumpkin heads, and sea monsters. The children are a mix of genders and ethnic backgrounds. The witch also has a raven friend named Lenore who always notices when someone comes tapping at the door.

Besides satisfying the craving for "monsters" without being a scary book, the story also does a good job of showing that sometimes fears are unfounded or blown out of proportion. Good for elementary readers.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher. Publication is scheduled for April 9.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Small World

Small World by [Mercurio, Ishta]

"When Nanda was born, the whole of the world was wrapped in the circle of her mother's arms: safe, warm, small." As Nanda grows from that newborn child her world grows with her. She ventures out into the larger world of her family, then playmates, and larger and larger places and challenges. Readers see Nanda working in her room with portraits of female astronauts on the wall, reading science textbooks, piloting a small airplane. Eventually we see her on another planet. "And the Earth, softly glowing. A circle called home: safe, and warm, and small."

The repetition of those phrases closes the circle of the story. It also reinforces the idea from the title that Earth is a small world. We can interpret that as a statement of size within the vastness of space, or perhaps it is only small in terms of how much all its inhabitants have in common. A discussion about circles of belonging would be a good followup after reading. This would also be an excellent story to begin a conversation about role models (all those astronaut posters show her enthusiasm), and about how they can inspire us to reach our goals.

The author's note explains how things like the Earth can be both big and small at the same time - everything is relative. It also explains how Nanda was chosen for the name of the protagonist of the story. For all those who appreciate seeing diversity in books, it is wonderful to see a brown-skinned young woman succeeding in her aspirations and to hear that her name was inspired by women from the Indian Space Research Organization. It is a small world indeed.

I had the pleasure of meeting the creators of the book and having a copy autographed for our school library. The book actually goes on sale July 2.

Winter Reading 2019 Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants


Ada is full of questions as always. Why does her mother's coffee have a stronger smell than her father's?  Why do her brothers shoes stink so much? What kind of birds are in her backyard? And then, a man in puffy pants comes floating in to her backyard. Floating! It turns out that her friend Rosie Revere's uncle was wearing pants filled with helium and the person who was holding the safety rope let go. Off floated Uncle Ned and now the girls and Iggy Peck have to get him down before he floats away and is lost forever.

Ada uses what she knows about predicting the direction of the wind, gases, buoyancy, and temperature to bring Uncle Ned back down to safety. Her friends Rosie and Iggy have ideas too, but this situation is more suited to Ada's scientific knowledge than to Rosie's inventions or Iggy's architectural know-how.

The scenes with Ada's family are very believable. Her cat and older brother run when they see her tapping her chin, because they know she is about to experiment on something and they don't want to be the subject of her study. Her mother and father encourage her gently, "Keep investigating ... you'll figure it out." But they also make rules such as, "Don't take Arthur's things without his permission." Even when they become exasperated with her experiments or endless curiosity, they always love her and forgive her enthusiasm.

Many of us have loved the picture book adventures of these friends and rejoiced when the chapter book series began. The Questioneers book 2, carries on the proud tradition and leaves us ready for more STEM fun with the whole gang. In the back matter there is an explanation of Citizen Science with specific details about the Great Backyard Bird Count that Ada is practicing for in the story. There is also a very funny "Ode to a Gas!"

Fun for early chapter book readers with art by David Roberts to capture some of the humor.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes. (Pubs in April.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon: The True Story of Alan Bean

The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon: The True Story of Alan Bean by [Robbins, Dean]

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon missions, Dean Robbins has created a picture book about astronaut Alan Bean. Bean was part of the Apollo 12 mission and the fourth man to walk on the moon. Working with Bean, author Dean Robbins tells of the astronaut's childhood model airplanes, his time as a Navy pilot, and his trip to the moon.

The pages are filled with color. The green, red, and yellow on those models hanging in that boyhood bedroom; the white, green, and blue seen from a cockpit; and the stark colors of space. The text explains how Bean tried to explain the beauty he had observed in space and how far short his words and photographs fell. That is when he fell back on his painting skills to truly capture his experience.

Sean Rubin's illustrations include several images of Bean's paintings. Some are on the pages describing how he created the paintings of the moon landing, and others are on the pages about the museum exhibition of Bean's work.

As Robbins explains in the author's note, "Science had sent people to the Moon, but Alan knew that art could express how it felt to be up there." A photo of Bean at his easel is included with the note, as well as a comparison of several of his photos and the paintings he made based on those pictures. Back matter also include a timeline from the launch of Sputnik 1 up through Messenger's voyage to Mercury in 2011,  along with a few photos from various missions during those years.

This would be a great addition to any collection on the space program or picture book biographies in general. It is also portrays a melding of art and science that any STEAM program could use to illustrate how each way of looking at the world supports the other.

I read an ARC supplied by the publisher for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2019 A Ray of Light: A Book of Science and Wonder


If you have read A Drop of Water and wished for more books like it from Walter Wick, your wait is over. With the same painstaking care, he has created an excellent book that explains light. Everything from energy, incandescence, waves, the color spectrum...practically every topic within the study of light is discussed. 

The explanations are easy to understand and the photographs clearly illustrate the concepts. For instance, there is a full page image of a prism splitting white light into the visible spectrum, then a closeup of the spectrum is shown beneath the text. A pair of photos show color wheels at rest, and then the same wheels spinning so that all the colors blend together into a dull gray.

There are also several pages on how a lens can intensify light, or be used in telescopes and microscopes to magnify the appearance of objects. Sunlight, spectroscopic analysis of distant stars, pigments, colors in nature - Wick covers so many concepts that it is hard to believe it all fits within so few pages. And the back matter explains the experiments shown in the photos in more details, as well as how the photos were made.

This book is a must for science classrooms and school library collections.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Jacob's Room to Choose


This sequel to Jacob's New Dress centers around the problems Jacob and his friend Sophie have when they use the restroom at school. Since Jacob loves to wear dresses, the boys chase him out of their bathroom. The same thing happens to Sophie in the girls' restroom because she is wearing shorts rather than a dress; the girls tell her she has to use the boys' restroom.

Luckily, they have an awesome teacher who wants all the students to feel safe at school. She leads the class in an activity about making assumptions based on appearance, then asks the question. "I wonder if there is another way?" The problem-solving that the kids do is helpful and positive.

The authors include a letter in the back of the book that explains how their son's experiences as a young child who did not dress in the expected gender-conforming style caused stressful situations and even violent reactions by other boys - especially in restrooms. Their own knowledge of the difficulties for children in those situations led them to write both these books to help others understand.

This would be a helpful book for families dealing with similar situations, or for teachers like Ms. Reeves who are trying to provide a safe learning environment for all their students.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes. (Any quotes or character names may change before final publication.)

Winter Reading 2019 Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born


With two powerhouse names like Miranda Paul and Jason Chin working on the book, it is no surprise that everyone is eagerly awaiting publication. The rhyming text captures the stages of prenatal development and also the anticipation of the family preparing for the baby's arrival. 

"Small. Ball. The point of a pin. Then it divides...Our story begins." Readers see parents and the big sister to-be snuggled on the bed and reading a book, Hello Baby.  And as the pages turn, the baby grows and the family assembles a crib, buys a Big Sister t-shirt, and feels the flutters as the baby moves.

The text names the features the baby is developing and the movements the family can feel. The captions for the illustrations of the growing baby tell the month, weeks(s), trimester, and what the actual size would be. Back matter gives more details about the development of full-term babies, but also includes a "What if...?" section that talks about twins, preemies, and the sad event of a miscarriage. There is also a list of things babies can do before they are born and a comparison of gestational length for various mammals. 

The images come full circle to show the family gathered around the hospital bed with the new baby nestled in the mother's arms. (I heard that Jason modeled the characters after his brother's family. If so, his brother has an adorable family.)

A wonderful book with basic details in the main text and extra facts available for those who want them. This would make a great gift for an expectant family that already has a curious sibling to-be.

I heard people talking about this book at NCTE and kept my eye out for it at ALA MW. Holiday House had f&gs at the booth and they were nice enough to let me have one. (Thanks Holiday House peeps!)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Pandora's Legacy


Three siblings follow their cat into the woods, and stumble onto a strange site full of classical statues. After knocking over a jar and breaking it, they discover that their cat is now possessed by Prometheus. They also learn that they are descendants of Pandora, and find themselves fighting off creatures such as chupacabras, homicidal mermaids, and a bankunawa - to name a few. 

Imagine typical teens sorting out the powers of the various monsters and trying to get the backstory from Prometheus (when was the last time you had a useful conversation with your own cat?). Using some modern technology in a surprising way, the kids must round up all the escaped monsters while trying to figure out what has happened to the rest of their family.

The author has worked on several other titles, and the illustrators have worked on titles such as the Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover. For fantasy lovers that enjoy mythological characters and young adventurers, this promises to be a good series. 

Winter Reading 2019 Do You Like My Bike? and Hello, Crabby!

Scholastic's early reader line, Acorn, features several different series and I picked up copies of a few titles at ALA MW. These are good choices for beginning readers who want to move to independent reading. The illustrations support the text and the simple sentences build the reader's confidence. 


For fans of Elephant and Piggie or the classic Frog and Toad stories, here are two new friends for readers to meet. Hedgehog wants to show Harry his new bike, a bike which has everything. He even offers to let Harry ride it. Why does Harry turn him down? Could he really not like the bike with its basket, squishy handlebars, and even a bell?

Repetitive sentences make reading easier for beginners, and the illustrations support the text and add to the humor of the story. A new bike is a relatable topic for young readers and other books in the series center around a sleepover and a checkup.


From the author of A Pig, A Fox, and A Box comes a very crabby character. Crabby is a crab who is grumpy, crotchety, and downright determined not to smile. No matter what the other characters say or do - even baking him a chocolate cake - Crabby remains consistently glum.

The book is full of jokes that readers can discover. Crabby says that something is fishy and a passing fish asks, “Is that a bad thing?” Crabby complains that Barnacle “is always hanging around.” For readers who are not familiar with sea creatures, it will be fun to learn about their characteristics and how they add to the humor.

There is even a guide on how to draw Crabby. What more could you ask for?

Winter Reading 2019 Over the Wall

Anya climbs over the wall into the abandoned city looking for her brother. He and the other young men his age entered the city the day before for their manhood trial and he is the only one who didn't return to his family. Memories of him are slowly escaping from their minds and Anya can't even think of his name, but she is determined to save him.

Inside the city, everything is desolate and there are only demons left in the places that used to hold hundreds of humans. With the help of a possibly reliable resident, Anya sets out into the empty streets to search for her brother. 

Scenes vary from closeups of details to long views of the echoing avenues and architecture. Readers get a small bit of backstory from what Anya shares with her brother when trying to revive some of his memory, but are left wanting more. The limited palette of black, white, and purple adds to the shadowy and eerie tone of the story.

I met the creator, Peter Wartman, at ALA Midwinter and had my first introduction to Anya's world.

Winter Reading 2019 Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends


Albee traces the earliest forms of domesticated dogs through their appearance in artwork of the ancient world to modern day canines working as therapy dogs, pets, canine police dogs, and other occupations. Famous dogs such as Lassie, Belka and Strelka, Sirius the Dog Star, and several presidential pooches are profiled. Other details include Stubby, the WWI hero, the Iditarod, and the faithful Hachiko, along with Rin Tin Tin and Toto. Various chapters break the stories into time periods - ancient world, Middle Ages, Renaissance, 17th and 18th centuries, 19th century, early 20th century, and modern times.

With interesting text supported by vintage photos and images of artwork from the different cultures and times, along with lovely photos of different breeds - this is the perfect book for dog lovers of all ages. Hand this to readers who have already finished all the titles in your pet section and keep asking for more.

Winter Reading 2019 - Indestructibles

Have you encountered the Indestructibles yet? These books are made of Tyvek, and are assured to be chew proof - rip proof - nontoxic - and 100% washable. Remembering the days when books for very young readers were made of cloth, cardboard, or plastic, it seems a brilliant idea to make them out of something synthetic that can stand up to any abuse.


The foods in Baby, Let's Eat! are sorted out in 2-page spreads by color. Foods like red raspberries, orange sweet potatoes, yellow star fruit, green kiwi, and purple figs are all shown against a contrasting background and labeled for easy identification.


Each spread has a sentence to help identify where the vehicles belong. "We are driving on the road!" accompanies cars, a truck, and a motorcycle. "We are cruising through town!" showcases a bus, fire engine, and other city transportation. Other pages show air, water, and construction site vehicles. Perfect for young lovers of machines that moves. 


The pages depict several kinds of baby animals, each labeled with the name of the animal and the name for its young. Opossum/joey and sloth/cub for example. After the first two pages that announce "There are all kinds of babies in the world," one spread shows animals playing,another eating, another making noise, and another snuggling.

Other titles in the series focus on a farm, the city, home, neighborhood, and other topics that relate to the lives and interests of young children.

Winter Reading 2019 Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners


Nye, author of The Turtle of Oman and 19 Varieties of Gazelle, has a new collection of poetry. "This sequence of ninety-five poems pays tribute to the essential voices past and present that have the power to provoke us, lead us, and give us hope." The poems touch on various topics of interest with some dedicated to specific people, or with titles that name the inspiration for the verses.

One of my favorites refers to Emily Dickinson. 
"What would you do if you knew
that even during wartime
scholars in Baghdad
were translating your poems
 into Arabic
still believing
in the thing with feathers?"

Others refer to Lucille Clifton, Walt Whitman, Longfellow, and other notables. The verses share happiness, nostalgia, sadness, reflections on places from Baltimore to Belfast, and experiences of all sorts.

After reading through the book, the sentiment in 'Anti-Inaugural" is not a surprise. 
"I pledge allegiance
To respect
For every one
Of you
Talking truth 
is hard
Staying silent
should be harder
My voting preference?
Every person
In this city"

If you are already a fan of Nye's poetry, then this collection will be like a return to a familiar friend. For those who are encountering her writing for the first time, this is a representative sample of her abilities. She is lovely to meet in person, as I was lucky enough to do at NCTE 2018.

Winter Reading 2019 Super Sons: The Polarshield Project


The sons of Superman and Batman meet up in this Cli-Fi graphic novel. In a world where the polar ice caps have already melted and tons of refugees from flooded areas have to be resettled, tensions are running high. Many who live in the areas where "floodies" are relocating feel resentful and angry at the crowding and strain on resources. With Clark, Lois, and Bruce off to investigate matters, the kids are left in town and decide to do some research of their own. 

In this version of the DC Universe, Ian Wayne and Jon Kent don't know each other. But they manage to find each other at school and begin an adventure looking into recent outbreaks of a strange flu that lands people in the hospital with a coma. Could there be a link between the victims and can a few kids working on the school newspaper find it? Jon and intern Tilly meet up with Ian and the mysterious Candace, who is researching old legends related to the legacy her mother left her.

With the adults out of town, or out of commission, can four kids with various skills uncover a widespread conspiracy and stop the damage before it is too late?

Both young men wrestle with the responsibility of their abilities. Jon has promised not to use his strength to fight or to hurt others. Ian has all the wealth and resources of Wayne Enterprises at his command, but will he use them ethically? And what will Candace do with her legacy? Her mother told her that, "Power is nothing without compassion." What power was she referring to and does Candace now have it?

There are multiple threads of intrigue and storyline to keep readers guessing and coming back for more. There is also plenty of humor. For instance, Ian's secret identity as BatKid complete with a baseball bat and a baseball studded with nails for weapons. "BatKid. Isn't it obvious?" he asks.

Recommended for readers middle grade and up who enjoy superheroes and graphic novels. I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2019 Sal and Gabi Break the Universe


Sal Vidon is a complicated kid. He loves to work magic and is excited about his new magnet school and the chance to improve his stage skills. He is also nervous about his ability to access alternate dimensions, especially since his calamity physicist father tells him that it could release calamitrons and break the universe. Sal also has some things working against him; he is the new kid, he gets bullied by a much larger and athletic kid (yes, Sal is short), he has diabetes, and ... oh yeah, he keeps pulling versions of his dead mother from parallel universes (see above warning about calamitrons).

So, when Sal winds up in the principal's office for the third time on his third day of school, it doesn't seem like the place he would make a new friend. But, somehow, he and Gabi seem to connect. As they learn more about each other, these two seeming opposites have an incredible adventure. It includes masks, lie detectors, lots of Cuban food, dad jokes, homework, and other random stuff.

Readers who see the Rick Riordan Presents label may be expecting another series that features mythology from a culture they may not be familiar with. Sal's story has large amounts of Cuban culture and talks about magic and whether Sal is a brujo or not, but it has more to do with the culture of friendship, family, and food. No gods or goddesses make an appearance, although there is an entropy detector with an attitude, but those looking for cultural diversity will not be disappointed.  There is also the added layer of the school (staff and students) dealing with Sal's diabetes. As Sal says, the students and faculty of Culeco have a lot to learn about how to make a school safe for diabetics."

Recommended for middle grades and up. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Winter reading 2019 Endurance: My Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery


I readily admit that I am a space junkie and I love reading memoirs and accounts of space travel by astronauts. That being said, Scott Kelly's book is a great read for anyone interested in the space program (even casual fans who are not as geeky about it as I am). 

Kelly describes his path from being a kid in New Jersey to the America record holder for consecutive days in space. He writes of his family, school years and time as a military pilot and  progress to the space program. Those chapters are shuffled between the descriptions of his time in space and keep either part of the narrative from stretching too long. The amazing way he managed to turn his life around from being a student who wasn't very interested in school to one who found his goal and worked toward it is very inspirational. As he writes, "For my entire K-12 education, I pretty much ignored my teachers and daydreamed."

He doesn't stint on the details as he describes the training for space, the duties assigned to those awaiting a chance to use that training, and the work involved once they reach their destination. Most people think of astronaut as a glamorous job - but they don't think about how repairing the toilet on the ISS is one of the duties that is required. It's not all spacewalks and Skype sessions with school children. 

The need for lengthy exercise sessions is another drawback, although necessary for health on return to Earth. "Sometimes I reflect that future generations may live their whole lives in space, and they won't need their bones at all. They will be able to live as invertebrates. But I plan to return to Earth, so I must work out six days a week." (When I read that, I pictured the roly-poly people on the ship in the movie "Wall-E.") 

Kelly also discusses the pain of being so far away when an emergency came up and his family needed him - such as when his sister-in-law was shot or when his daughters were sick or having a hard time.

Whether you are interested in record holders, the space program, the limits of human endurance in various conditions, or just enjoy memoirs and autobiographies - this is a fascinating book and very enjoyable. Due to the details he shares, this book would be best for YA and adult readers.

Winter Reading 2019 Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale


She's appeared in numerous Batman comics. Her own monthly feature title began in 2018. She's been played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Anne Hathaway, and Halle Berry in various film incarnations. And in many of those instances readers and viewers caught snippets of backstory. Well ... Lauren Myracle has written a story that covers the very young years of Selina Kyle's life up to the start of her time on the streets as a teenage runaway.

Be warned, this is not for the faint of heart. The abusive conditions of Kyle's home, her rebellious spirit, and the various losses she suffers will all cause sympathy pains. But they also show her resilience and explain her disdain for rules and the status quo. Among the other scenes, we see some of her history with Bruce Wayne and the beginnings of their complicated relationship.

Selina is smart, determined, believes in looking out for those she cares for, and comes much too early to the knowledge that we can't always protect those we love. As she adjusts to life on the streets, she is also making the choices that will define who she becomes. This is not an easy story and there are a lot of gray areas - which are reflected in the color scheme of the artwork. 

Recommended for YA readers who enjoy DC comics, superheroes and villains, urban survival stories, and young women who can kick butt when needed.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes. I was also lucky enough to meet the author at ALA Midwinter.

Winter Reading 2019 Mera: Tidebreaker


Fans of Aquaman and the other characters from his story will be happy to see more of Mera. In this title featuring her first meeting with Arthur Curry and her first visit to dry land. Fed up with her father's refusal to let her lead their people in the fight against Atlantis for Xebellian freedom, Mera decides to take matter into her own hands and assassinate the heir to the Atlantean throne. But is she cut out to be a villain and murderess? 

Mera finds that many things are not what she expected - about life on land and about Arthur. As she struggles through various situations she learns more about life outside Xebel and about the young man she has come to kill. Readers get to hear her thoughts and doubts, her conversations with trusted friends back home, and to see her interactions with Arthur. The pent-up frustrations of a young princess sidelined by her father and the forces ruling their colony mesh with typical young adult angst and the drive to DO something, even if it might be the wrong thing. And her final choices set up the story to continue into the future of Atlantis and Aquaman.

 The illustrations capture the fierce determination and vulnerability of Mera as she transitions from sea to land. They also show the complicated push & pull between the princess and Arthur. There are the beautiful details of Xebel in contrast to the rather seedy look of the waterfront town where the Curry family lives. The difference between Mera's relationship with her father and Arthur's relationship with his own dad come through visually and verbally.

A great read for anyone interested in the DC Universe, particularly the Justice League and Aquaman. But also fun for anyone who enjoys strong female characters and coming of age stories. (recommended for ages 13+)

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes.