Monday, February 24, 2020

Winter Reading 2020 The Devil and Dayna Dalton

The Bulwark anthology of books keeps growing, sort of like that puddle in the middle of Old Jericho Road, although not in so sinister a way. This new book picks up the story of Dayna Dalton, reporter for the Bulwark Advance and friend to Sheriff Clay Finnes. Readers saw a bit of her in the story of Clay and his determined efforts to get his wife and child back, but now she is the central character in her own drama - complete with menacing wolves (werewolves, Hellhounds,?), a wacky neighbor who acts more like a wicked witch than her name Mrs. Sweetpea gives her credit for, and a mysterious stranger whose eyes sometimes appear amber and at others red with perpendicular irises. Has Dayna's bad luck in romance landed her in another mess that she will regret or has she stumbled onto something bigger than the everyday life of a small-town reporter? Plagued by regrets for past hookups, her unrequited crush on the sheriff, and the hatred of the sheriff's wife, Dayna tries to figure out what she wants from the future.

This series continues to interweave the stories of the Bulwark residents, their relationships, and the influence of powers from beyond the mundane. Each has a different protagonist, but keeps the setting and the other characters in play for a sense of continuity.

For YA and up - due to sexual content.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Winter Reading 2020 Professor Astro Cat's Deep-Sea Voyage

The team of Walliman and Newman continues to offer books on fascinating subjects for young readers. This time they show Professor Astro Cat and his team on a voyage of discovery throughout Earth's oceans. From the various birds flying above the waves to the extreme limits of Challenger Deep, the amazing creatures and natural processes within the waters are presented in eye-catching images and fascinating detail. The book features spread after spread showing the various depth zones, the interior of a research vessel, denizens of a coral reef or the mysteries of the Mariana Trench. Closeups, sidebars, and diagrams share information about the water cycle, how wind causes waves, and the bodily structure of polyps and sea urchins. There is an excellent explanation of plate tectonics, hot spots, and the formation of seamounts and volcanic islands. Life on the Antarctic and Arctic ice is covered, as well as visit to the Galapagos Islands. Dangers such as pollution and overfishing are discussed, as well as what readers can do to help preserve the ocean. A final spread of "Factoroids" offers trivia nuggets such as, "More people have stepped on the surface of the Moon than have been to the Marian Trench." A table of contents, index, and glossary help readers to locate specific information quickly or increase their understanding of new terms.

A great book to read cover to cover, or dip into at points of interest. Perfect for intermediate and middle grades. I read an e-book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Winter Reading 2020 From an Idea to Disney

Beginning with the childhood of Walt Disney, this slim volume covers the development of Disney from the opening of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in 1923 to its place as the biggest entertainment company in the world. Throughout the book, there are illustrations, definitions of key terms, fun facts, and quotes from Disney.  Readers may be surprised to learn that Walt's first success was with a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, before Mickey Mouse was even a glimmer of an idea. Back matter includes a time line, extensive source notes, and a bibliography. Highly recommended for readers with an interest in Disney movies and characters.

P.S. Did you know that Steamboat Willie  (which starred Mickey Mouse) in 1928 was the first cartoon to have sound?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Winter Reading 2020 From an Idea to Nike

Beginning with the background of founder Phil Knight, this slim volume covers the development of Nike from its first inspiration to its current status. Throughout the book, there are illustrations, definitions of key terms, fun facts, and quotes from Knight. Along with detailing the beginning of Knight's idea for a shoe company (written up for a college assignment), there are explanations of the company's early partnership and then going out on their own and the employees choosing the "swoosh" symbol and the name Nike, their celebrity endorsements, and their effort to stay ahead in the industry. Back matter includes a time line, a list of Nike's top endorsement deals, extensive source notes, and a bibliography. Highly recommended for readers with an interest in sports and successful entrepreneurs.

P.S. Did you know that the "Just Do It" campaign is now "part of  America's Story at the Smithsonian National Museum?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Winter Reading 2020 Anteater Adventure


In her True Tales of Rescue series, Kama Einhorn visits the Caves Branch Lodge, where Ella has been rehabilitating anteaters for 10 years. Abi, the most recent tamandua visitor, was rescued by humans who found him on the forest floor with a broken leg and injured eye. Abi narrates the story of how Ella became an anteater expert and all the wok she does to help him recover and return to the wild. Photos show the enclosures, food, and antics of Abi as he slurps up termites and chows down on avocados and dragon fruit. Back matter includes an interview with Ella, tips on how to draw an anteater, a glossary, and a guide to some words in Kriol (spoken in Belize). Woven into the narrative are facts about how anteaters live in their natural habitat. 

Perfect for middle grade fans of narrative or creative nonfiction, those researching animals of Central America, and readers interested in animal sanctuaries and rescue efforts.

Winter Reading 2020 Raccoon Rescue


This book follows the rescue, recovery, rehabilitation, and release of a group of 4 young raccoon kits. Just over two weeks old when their mother fails to return to them, they are taken in by WildCare. As one of the kits who serves as narrator for the story says, "We were young, but we knew the truth. If humans can touch a wild animal of any age or size, something has gone terribly wrong." The growth of the kits and their care as they go from living in the apartment of a volunteer to larger and larger enclosures, and then their final release into the wild is covered. Photos show the kits as they grow and explore each new habitat. There are also sidebars on what rescued kits are fed, detailed explanations of raccoon physical adaptations, and what makes a successful release. A description of a school visit to the sanctuary covers the topic of animals that serve as "ambassadors" at the sanctuary because they are unable to be released back into the wild.

Perfect for middle grade fans of narrative or creative nonfiction, those researching urban animals, and readers interested in animal sanctuaries and rescue efforts.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Winter Reading 2020 The Second Sky

Gilbert the penguin longs to fly even though his family tells him to give it up. He observes other birds and imitates them, but it never works. When he jumps from a high perch (hoping it will help him soar), he tumbles down and falls into the ocean instead. To his surprise, he learns that swimming along underwater is very like flying and the sea overhead is like a second sky.

The illustrations show wintry white skies and dreamy blue ocean depths. The scenes of Gilbert diving among the "swaying gardens and mighty mountaintops" trace his path with a white wake and streams of bubbles. The images of Gilbert face-planting and sprawling on the ice after trying to fly are especially comical. 

A story perfect for encouraging little ones to hang onto their dreams and find ways to achieve them.

Winter Reading 2020 My Wild Cat

Originally published in France in 2018, the English edition was published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in September 2019. A child narrator explains, "My cat is a wild animal." Examples are given, such as the way the cat stalks prey and has patience, or how a cat is a carnivore. On many of the pages there are scientific facts (listed in footnote style) which share details such as "A cat can run 100 meters in only 9 seconds." The illustrations show the cat investigating under a rug, nestled in the bathroom sink, and a lively spread of the cat leaping at prey with paws extended and eyes focused on its target.

A fun read for those with pet cats, or longing for one. The balance of everyday cat activities with the specific scientific details makes it a good discussion starter. Recommended for early elementary readers. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Graphic Science Biographies from Graphic Universe


This new nonfiction graphic novel series focuses on famous scientists from childhood through the hardships they endured in pursuit of their passions—from Albert Einstein's divorce and his move to America during the Nazi rise to power in Germany, to Marie Curie's struggle to obtain an education in Russian-occupied Poland. The author also discusses unexpected opportunities, like Charles Darwin's life-altering voyage on the Beagle. Bayarri infuses cartoon illustrations with historical details that should open up class discussion about world events—such as Curie taking her X-ray machine to the front lines of World War I to assist injured soldiers. Back matter includes an archival photo or image of the scientist, as well as a glossary, a time line, an index, and a list of further resources. These first titles in the series highlight only one woman and no people of color—hopefully future installments will address these deficits. VERDICT These simple introductions to famous figures of science may lead students to explore further.

My review first appeared in School Library Journal.

Greta's Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet

Using easily accessible language, Camerini drops readers straight into the day that Thunberg began her strike for climate change. The following chapters describe how the young activist became concerned about the environment and what other activities she has used to draw attention to conservation issues. The author uses the schoolgirl's own words to bring her personality onto the page. Thunberg draws parallels between how she engages in advocacy and American students protesting gun violence: "Children won't do what you tell them to do, but they will follow your example." She also explains the reasons behind her actions and conveys the urgency of the situation, "Our house is on fire: our house, planet earth, is going up in flames." Details about the challenges she has overcome due to Asperger's syndrome are included, as well as insight into Thunberg's family and their support of her efforts. Back matter contains an explanation of global warming, suggested steps to take, a glossary, a time line, and a further reading list. VERDICT Camerini offers a detailed look at this youth activist. Sure to be popular for biography projects.

Would pair well with Our House is On Fire by Jeanette Winter.

My review first appeared in School Library Journal, December 2019.

The Rainbow Flag: Bright, Bold, and Beautiful

The iconic rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBTQ pride, was created by a group of friends in San Francisco in the 1970s. A colorful spread shows townhouses, streetcars, musicians, and marchers with signs against a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge—images synonymous with San Francisco. Details include artist and flag designer Gilbert Baker's fascination with flags and knowledge of color and fabric, and how the friends made a flag for the Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978. The text explains that the parade "had once been a march, with people demanding the right to love whomever they wanted." Marchers carry signs with supportive slogans like "Lesbian Liberation" and "Gay is Good," but neither the narrative nor the illustrations go into depth about why "not everyone agreed with them." The actual process of dyeing the cloth and assembling the flag is described. The strips of colored cloth are shown billowing from a rooftop clothesline, feeding through a sewing machine, waving overhead at the parade, and held in the hands of the friends. The narrative paints a story of friendship, cooperation, and community. Back matter includes an author's note and suggestions for further reading. VERDICT A positive addition to collections looking to offer age-appropriate LGBTQ topics for the primary grades.

My review first appeared in School Library Journal, November 2019.

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver is best known as an agricultural expert who discovered versatile uses for the peanut. This story focuses on his first garden. Hidden beneath the trees where no one could tease or belittle him, Carver studied nature and the "more he experimented, the more he learned." The narrative starts in 1921 with Carver addressing Congress on the importance of the peanut and impressing an audience of white men at a time when "African- Americans were…treated as second-class citizens." Readers are then transported back to 1874, to the Missouri farm where Carver was born into slavery, and then to the end of slavery and the planting of his first garden. The narrative then focuses on Carver's determined search for education and finally his work as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute. The beautiful oil on board illustrations show the wonder of young Carver as he contemplates the petals on a flower or the first green sprouts of spring. Barretta's prose, combined with Morrison's art, fully illuminates the depth of Carter's considerable contributions to the science of agriculture, the farming community, and racial equality. Back matter includes a time line of Carver's life, a bibliography, and suggestions for further reading. VERDICT A well-thought-out biography that highlights a different side of Carver and will be a first purchase for school and public library collections.

My review first appeared in School Library Journal, December 2019.

Snug Harbor Stories (Wallace the Brave Series #2)

Charismatic, curious Wallace is always pulling his friends along on adventures, from convincing them to see how close they can get to a skunk without getting sprayed to leading them in search of Sasquatch. This second collection of Henry's syndicated comic strips (after the Eisner Award-nominated Wallace the Brave) captures the endless possibilities of childhood. The humor is perfect for middle graders, but older comics fans will love it, too—sophisticated pop culture references ("We're gonna need a bigger net") will have parents and teachers chuckling along. The expressive illustrations, reminiscent of classic comic strips, bring the characters to life, from Spud's fearful reaction when Wallace announces they are hunting for a giant snapping turtle, to Amelia's anger when a neighbor hands out raisins instead of candy on Halloween. VERDICT Henry cites Calvin and Hobbes as an influence, and the similarities are clear. Though lovable, self-assured Wallace is a worthy successor to Calvin, he's a strong hero in his own right, and Wallace the Brave is bound to be a future classic.

(My review first appeared in School Library Journal, November 2019)

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Winter Reading 2020 Rebelwing

It may sound like the beginning to an odd joke, but what do you get when you cross a group of high school kids with assorted skills and a sentient cybernetic dragon? The answer is a story that explores teenage feelings of attraction, intrigue, responsibility, and rebellion. But those kids also happen to be citizens of New Columbia (the former District of Columbia), and are swept up in the conflict between the Barricade Coalition and the United Continental Confederacy, Inc. The UCC and the Barricaders have been fighting since before these kids were born, but the uneasy peace has been broken lately by rumors of wyverns (war machines from the UCC), being sighted over the Barricade's walls. When Pru accidentally stumbles on an experimental dragon meant to fight the wyverns, she is unwillingly pulled into a conflict that could escalate into open warfare again at any moment.

So - what do a rich boy who can sing rebellion songs in three languages, a cybernetics expert who is part bionic herself, a rich girl with motivational skills, and a book smuggler have to offer the last bastion of the free world? Dealing with everything from possible romance between the teens to freedom of speech and the passing of the guard from one generation to the next, this story will sweep you off your feet as surely as a cybernetic dragon could.

Great for fans of The Hunger Games and similar tales of a dystopian future where youngsters are fighting for freedom and defending what they love. I read an e-book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Here in the Real World Awareness Tour 2020

Enter for a chance to win a Sara Pennypacker book prize pack!
Five (5) winners receive:
  • A hardcover copy of Here in the Real World
  • A paperback copy of Pax
Giveaway begins January 21, 2019, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends February 21, 2019, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, who are eighteen years of age or older in their state or territory of residence at the time of entry. Void where prohibited by law.
HarperCollins is responsible for prize fulfillment.


Written by Sara Pennypacker
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the author of the highly acclaimed, New York Times bestselling novel Pax comes a gorgeous and moving middle grade novel that is an ode to introverts, dreamers, and misfits everywhere.
Ware can’t wait to spend summer “off in his own world”—dreaming of knights in the Middle Ages and generally being left alone. But then his parents sign him up for dreaded Rec camp, where he must endure Meaningful Social Interaction and whatever activities so-called “normal” kids do.
On his first day Ware meets Jolene, a tough, secretive girl planting a garden in the rubble of an abandoned church next to the camp. Soon he starts skipping Rec, creating a castle-like space of his own in the church lot.
Jolene scoffs, calling him a dreamer—he doesn’t live in the “real world” like she does. As different as Ware and Jolene are, though, they have one thing in common: for them, the lot is a refuge.
But when their sanctuary is threatened, Ware looks to the knights’ Code of Chivalry: Thou shalt do battle against unfairness wherever faced with it. Thou shalt be always the champion of the Right and Good—and vows to save the lot.
But what does a hero look like in real life? And what can two misfit kids do?
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | February 4, 2020 | ISBN-13: 978-0062698957
Available Here:

Chapter 1
  Ware patted the two bricks stacked beside him on the pool deck, scored on the morning’s ramble.
Tomorrow he’d bash them into chips to build the ram- parts of his castle, but tonight he had another use for them.
He swirled his legs through the water, turquoise in the twilight, and at exactly 7:56, he snapped on his gog- gles and adjusted them snug. “The boy began to prepare himself for the big event.” He whispered the voice-over, in case anyone had their windows open, or the Twin Kings were lurking around.
The Twin Kings weren’t twins, just two old men who dressed alike in plaid shorts and bucket hats. They weren’t kings either, but they paraded around   Sunset Palms Retirement Village like royal tyrants, making life miserable for anyone they encountered.
Ware had studied the Middle Ages in school. Back then, kings could be kind and wise, kings could be cruel and crazy. Luck of the draw: serf or knight, you lived with it.
The first time the Twin Kings had come across Ware, he’d been cheek down in the grass, watching a line of ants patiently climb up, then over, then down a rock, thinking about how much harder human life would be if people didn’t know they could just go around some obstacles. “Space Man” they’d dubbed him, claiming they’d had to yell at him three times before he’d lifted his head.
Now, whenever they found him, they delivered some zinger they found so hilarious they had to double over and grab their knees. The comments were not hilarious, though. They were only mean.
Which was okay—people made fun of him for spacing out; he was used to it.
No, the mortifying thing was when Big Deal came out and sent the kings slinking away with a single glare. An eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy was supposed to protect his grandmother, not the other way around.
“Oh, they’re harmless,” Big Deal had said last night, laughing and making him feel even more ashamed. “They’re deathly afraid of germs, so just tell them you’re sick. Diarrhea works best.”
As if he’d called them up by thinking of them, the Twin Kings rolled around the corner, hands clasped around their royal bellies. “Earth to Space Man!” the shorter one cackled. “Don’t get your air hose caught in the drain down there!”
Ware glanced back at his grandmother’s unit, then faced them. “Better stay away. I’m sick.” He grabbed his belly and groaned in a convincing manner. The Twin Kings scuttled back around the corner.
Ware raised his eyes to the clock again: 7:58. He kicked off the seconds in the water.
At 7:59, he picked up the bricks. Then he slowly filled his lungs with the sunscreeny air—hot and sweet, as if someone was frying coconuts nearby—and slipped into the deep end. The bricks seemed to double in weight, sinking him softly to the bottom.
He’d never been on the bottom before, thanks to a certain amount of padding that functioned as an internal flotation device. “Baby fat,” his mother called it. “It’ll turn into muscle.” Witnessing his bathing-suited self in his grandmother’s mirror every day, he realized his mother had omitted a crucial detail: how it would turn into muscle. Probably exercise was involved. Maybe tomorrow.
Ware located the four huge date palms—each one anchoring a corner of the pool. Their chunky trunks staggered in the ripples like live gargoyles.
At eight, the twinkle lights winding up those trunks were set to come on. Tonight he would see it from the bottom of the pool. Okay, the big event was not exactly a dazzling spectacle, but he’d discovered that everything looked more interesting through water—mysteriously distorted, but somehow clearer, too. He could hold his breath for over a minute, so he’d have plenty of time to appreciate the effect.
Five seconds later, though—a surprise. The palm fronds began to flash red.
Ware understood right away: ambulance. Three times already in the weeks he’d been at Sunset Palms, he’d been awakened by strobing red lights—no shock in a retirement place. He knew the drill: the ambulance cut the siren at the entrance—no sense causing any extra heart attacks. It parked between the buildings, and then a crew ran around poolside where the doors to the units were sliders, easier to roll the stretchers in, haul the people out.
Don’t be afraid, he telegraphed to whoever lay on the stretcher, the way he had the other times. Scared people seemed like raw eggs to him, wobbling around with- out their shells. It hurt just to think about people being scared.
While he watched the date palms pulse, he thought about being happy instead. How happiness could sneak up on you, like, for instance, when your parents send you away for the summer to your grandmother’s place, which you know you’ll hate, but it turns out you love it there because for the first time in your life you have long hours free and alone. Well, except for maybe two old men so harmless they’re afraid of germs.
An egret, as white and smooth as though carved from soap, glided through the purpling sky. In a movie, a sin- gle flying bird like that would let you know that the main character was starting out on a journey. Ware wished, the way he always did when he saw something wonderful, that he could share things like this. You see that? Wow. But he didn’t really know anyone besides his grandmother here, and she hadn’t been feeling well today, had barely stepped out of—
Ware released the bricks, burst to the surface, snapped off his goggles, and saw: Big Deal’s sliding glass doors gaping open like a gasp, two EMTs inside, bent over a stretcher.
A third EMT squinted toward the pool, her white coat flashing pink in the lights, as if her heart beat in neon. Mrs. Sauer from Unit 4 hovered behind her, bath- robe clutched to her chest, face clenched. She raised one bony arm like a rifle and aimed her finger right at Ware.
Ware shot over to the ladder, slapped the water from his left ear, his right, and as he scrambled out he heard, “That’s her grandson. Off in his own world.”
At eight exactly, the twinkle lights came on.


Sara Pennypacker is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pax; the award-winning Clementine books and its spinoff series, Waylon!; and the acclaimed novel Summer of the Gypsy Moths. She divides her time between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Florida. You can visit her online at


Instagram: @HarperKids


January 21
The Children's Book Review
Tour Kick-Off and Giveaway
January 21
Rosco's Reading Room
January 22
Book Review
January 23
Over Coffee Conversations
January 24
Word Spelunking
Book Review
January 25
Glass of Wine, Glass of Milk
Book Review
January 30
Book Review
February 4
The Children's Book Review
Book Review
February 5
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Book Review
February 6
Fairview Elementary School (Library)
February 7
Tales of A Wanna-Be SuperHero Mom
Book Review
February 10
Teacher Dance
Book Review
February 11
icefairy's Treasure Chest
Book Review
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