Monday, June 30

This Is What Happy Looks Like

This is What Happy Looks Like
Jennifer E. Smith

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0316212823
Publisher: Poppy
Date of publication: April 2, 2013
Age: Grades 7 and up
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Themes: fate, movie stars, paparazzi, family relationships, love

Ellie O’Neill has just received an email that she’s sure is meant for someone else. Intrigued, she decides to reply and soon finds herself enjoying their instant connection—with guarded identities, of course. Little does she know she’s emailing Graham Larkin, a popular teenage movie star. And he’s just decided to take his next movie location to Ellie’s hometown in attempts to take their relationship from virtual to face-to-face. But can the two really have a normal relationship? Especially when Ellie has a secret that is threatened by the paparazzi’s constant presence?

Um, it was a stretch. A really fantastical, didn’t-quite-convince-me sort of stretch. It was cute and clean, which is good... But the story had weird gaps or lack of development that just made the plot a tad ridiculous. The characters were a little flat, but still lovable in their own way. I did enjoy the emails interspersed between chapters to give another point of view to the story. But really? Random email from a movie star? Personal biases aside, I think it is a good, fun romance that teenage girls could enjoy.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Saturday, June 28

Oldies: Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins
P. L. Travers

Reynal & Hitchcock (1934)
Age: Grades 2 - 6
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: nannying, magic, London, growing up

Blown in with the east wind, Mary Poppins is definitely the most unusual nanny the Banks have ever had. From sliding up the banisters and changing the taste of medicine, to jumping into chalk drawings and being the star of show at the zoo, there is something magical about her. Jane, Michael, and the twins hardly know what to do! Every day spent with Mary Poppins brings a new surprise.

Of course I’ve only seen the movie, so I didn’t actually know what to expect with the book. It’s a little…crazy. Each chapter is a different adventure with Mary Poppins. Some of them I expected, because Disney’s movie pulled his scenes straight from the book. The others…well, they were weird and crazy and magical. So if you prepare yourself for weird, then you’ll probably enjoy it. Vague enough for you?

It's a masterpiece in children's literature, but if you're still curious, my rating is ★★★ 

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, June 27


Vince Vawter

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0385742443
Publisher: Delacorte
Date of publication: May 14, 2013
Age: Grades 5 and up
Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: stuttering, race, communication, identity

Award: Newbery Honor (2014)

An 11-year-old growing up in Memphis has no problem pitching on the baseball field, but speaking is a daily struggle. He stutters to the point where he cannot even say his own name. But this summer, he takes his friend's paper route, knowing he'll have to interact with strangers. It's the run-in with the local junk man that gets him into serious trouble, however. It's a summer that will change his life.

I'm torn over this book. I will first start with the praises, because it deserves many. Told from the boy's perspective (and as it is partly a memoir) the author is able to express the frustrations of stuttering in a deeply intimate way. He also addresses serious topics such as race in 1959 Tennessee, and discovering one's identity. The writing style is genius and unique. However, (yes a big however), from a purely entertainment perspective, this story was--dare I say it--boring. I don't know that a child would pick it up to read for fun, but it is an excellent tool in the classroom. I can understand why it was nominated for the Newbery, but I don't think I'll be reading it again.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Thursday, June 26

Sophia's War

Sophia's War

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9781442414419
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Date of publication: September 25, 2012
Age: Grades 4 and up
Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: American Revolution, espionage, betrayal,

Sophia Calderwood is writing her story of the Revolutionary War. She strongly believes in the freedoms America is fighting for, and after the tragic demise of her brother in one of the British prison ships, she swears to avenge his death. Her opportunity comes when she is recruited to be a spy and discovers that the beloved General Benedict Arnold is planning to turn over West Point to the British.

This was a fantastic book, especially since the other characters are true historic figures—this story is very much based on truth. It is perfect for the fifth graders studying up U.S. history and I recommend it, despite a slow climax and difficult vocabulary. The ending is worth it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
Candace Fleming

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780375841989
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Date of publication: February 8, 2011
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: biography, flying, female pilot, mystery

Awards: Cybils Awards for Young Adult Nonfiction (2011), NCBLA - Notable Children's Books in the English Language Arts (2012) 

Growing up, Amelia Earhart was a tomboy and loved to play and romp around. However, her family had to move a lot, and her dad was a drunkard. They were very poor, but Amelia didn’t let that stop her when she saw her first plane. She was soon a very popular pilot, thanks to some skillful publicity and her daring feats. But, of course, it was her disappearance that is a puzzle even today. Where did Amelia Earhart end up?

It's true; I'm a bit behind since this came out a while ago. But Amelia Earhart was my first biography report as a young girl and I’ve always been fascinated with her story. This book was fabulously written—unbiased, factual, yet entertaining—breaking up the chapters with her last words over radio when she disappeared. I definitely recommend it.

Find it at your library, or on Amazon

Wednesday, June 25

The Best All-Around Libraries

I think it's pretty clear that I love libraries. One does not usually strive to be a librarian if this is not the case. Obviously. So, inspired by my love and because I feel like it, it is time for a just-for-fun post. Oh yeah. You get to see my very favorite libraries. No categories, not based on any real statistics or anything. Just my preference in looks, collection, and sentiment. Get ready...

Tuesday, June 24

Blue Chameleon

Blue Chameleon
Written and illustrated Emily Gravett

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9781442419582
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date of publication: February 18, 2014
Age: 2- 6 years
Genre: Educational

Themes: colors, shapes, patterns, friends

Chameleon is a little blue. But maybe if he matches the banana or striped sock or swirly snail, they’ll want to be friends. He can match anyone, but no one seems to be sticking around. Is there someone out there just like him?

This book is perfectly simple, an adorable introduction to colors, shapes, and patterns. The illustrations pair with the text in a clever, fantastic sort of way. Oh, and they’re really good. Basically, I really enjoyed this book. It’s adorable! Go check it out!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monument 14

Monument 14
Emmy Laybourne
(Monument 14 #1)

My rating: ★★

ISBN: 9780312569037
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date of publication: June 5, 2012
Age: Grades 9 and up
Genre: Dystopian/Apocalyptic

Themes: natural disasters, apocalypse, order, community

First the deadly hail fell, and the school bus driver crashed through the Greenway to save the students. Then, a massive earthquake hits, destroying the nearby chemical weapons plant. With deadly poisons leaking into the air and water, the 14 students seal themselves into the department store and struggle to maintain some semblance of order. But how long will they be trapped inside? Is there anyone left to save them?

Put 6 teens, 2 pre-teens, and 6 little kids in a ginormous department store, and you’re going to get some major drama. Tedious drama. Dragging drama. Sure, there are some exciting scenes, and the characters are good (Josie was awesome). Yes, they’re facing the end of the world; angst is to be expected. But I’m not won over. It’s not my style. That being said, perhaps teen readers can better relate the angst of the teenage characters.

Warning: Explicit Content

If you really want to, find it at your library or on Amazon

Sunday, June 22

How to Get a Reluctant Reader Reading

As a librarian, I pretty much think reading is the greatest thing ever. Ever ever. A lot can be learned from reading, plus it gives a huge boost to the imagination. I’m an advocate for early literacy and getting children started on books as soon as possible. Why? Because reading is necessary. As a student, in a job, whatever it may be, reading is important. Well, what happens when it doesn’t come easy? Or it just plain is no fun? How can you—a parent, librarian, teacher, whoever—help kids pick up a book? I’m not an expert, but I have been studying this for a while, and here’s some quick suggestions that I have.

Friday, June 20


Ursula Vernon
(Dragonbreath #1)

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9780142420959
Publisher: Puffin
Date of publication: June 11, 2009
Age: Grades 2 - 4
Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel

Themes: underwater adventure, best friends, homework, bully

Danny Dragonbreath may not be the best student. He may put his best friend, Wendall the iguana, in various dangerous circumstances. He may still be struggling with the whole breathing fire thing. But that doesn't stop him from being awesome. And if he has to do a report about the ocean, then he will explore the ocean. Giant squid or no.

I liked it. I did. I mean, Danny is just that average student that I think a lot of boys can relate to. The idea is kind of weird: a lone dragon attending a school for reptiles and amphibians and he seems to be the only semi-mythical creature around. But hey, he's a cool kid and knows how to handle dangerous situations (dive in head first). In the end, I appreciated the writing with a good mix of vocabulary, I liked the real life emotions/struggles being examined (dealing with a bully, the consequences of procrastinating homework, etc.), and I like Danny. He's a cute little dragon. I'm not going the read the many other books in the series, but I think kids would enjoy them.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Thursday, June 19


Megan Miranda

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9780802723109
Publisher: Walker
Date of publication: February 5, 2013
Age: Grades 9 and up
Genre: Mystery, Horror

Themes: Murder, hallucinations, boarding school, self-doubt

Mallory killed her boyfriend. Everyone in the town knows, and they know it was ruled as self-defense. But what really happened that night? Even Mallory can't remember, and she feels haunted by Brian's presence, and plagued with self-doubt. Her parents ship her off to boarding school, and she can't help but hope for a new start. But in a school where secrets are like currency, it becomes quickly apparent that her past will follow her, putting herself and her loved ones in danger.

This one was a page turner, for sure. I couldn't put it down, especially because I couldn't predict the ending--partly due to a shocking revelation, but also partly due to a weird split in the plot that was a tad confusing. The characters were somewhat flat, which contributed to the surprise ending (like, where did that come from?). But I like Mallory's character and the doubt she struggles with throughout the story. Overall, I would recommend it for a good thriller.

Warning: Explicit Content

Find it at your library or on Amazon

An Annoying ABC

An Annoying ABC
Written by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0375867088
Publisher: Knopf
Date of publication: September 13, 2011
Age: 3 - 7 years
Genre: Educational 

Themes: verbs, alphabet, classmates, negative actions

This is not your typical alphabet book. It tells the story of a class where each of the students’ names start with a different letter in the alphabet. But they're also acting out and dealing with the frustrations of each other’s actions. For instance, “Petunia pestered Quentin. Quentin quarreled with Roland. Rolan rumbled, Stella stumbled, Todd tumbled…” and so on until you get to Zelda.

I loved this book because the verb vocabulary is rich and clever--an excellent learning opportunity for children. Also, it focuses on consequences to negative actions, (because the students are "annoying" each other, after all) but also on how to make things positive again. The pictures are good enough, but the alphabet really is the star. I would definitely recommend it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, June 18

My New Friend is So Fun!

My New Friend is So Fun!
(An Elephant & Piggie Book)
Written and illustrated by Mo Willems

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9781423179580
Publisher: Hyperion
Date of publication: June 3, 2014
Age: Grades K - 3

Themes: Friendship, jealousy, misunderstanding, sharing

Of course Gerald and Piggie are the best of friends. And Snake and Bat are, too. But what does it mean when Piggie and Bat are playing together? Gerald and Snake fear they just might be having too much fun without them!

Let's face it: I LOVE Elephant & Piggie books. I have a huge collection of them at home. But this one...not so much. Maybe I'm too much like Gerald and can't imagine Piggie with anyone else. So here it is from an unbiased perspective: This book is a good example for kids on how to deal with best friends and the jealousy they might feel when their friend is spending time with someone else. Mo Willems is quite the expert in dealing with different emotions (oops, I got biased again). Anyway, you should read it and see what you think.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

I've Lost My Hippopotamus

I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus
Written by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0062014573
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of publication: March 13, 2012
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Poetry, Humor

Themes: Animal life, poetry, rhymes 

I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus is a collection of a hundred or more of Prelutsky’s poems. The general theme behind the poems is animal life, such as “If Pigeons Weighed as Much as Pigs.” But of course, his humor is prevalent with poems about such animals as the "wiguana," "halibutterfly," and "gludu." The corresponding pictures are rather entertaining.

I did start out rather biased because I love Jack Prelutsky’s work. This new collection did not disappoint. They are still very imaginative with just the right amount of humor. Plus, he is able to find a rhyme for the word “subterfuge.” Yeah. It’s a perfect read for children—sometimes challenging, but always fun.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, June 17

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer
John Grisham
(Theodore Boone #1)

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9780142417225
Publisher: Dutton
Date of publication: May 25, 2010
Age: Grades 4 – 8
Genre: Mystery

Themes: Legal system, murder, justice, court

Theo, the son of two lawyers, is well on his way into the legal system himself. He much prefers studying law in his “office” at his parents’ firm or hanging out at the court house than anything else. But now he is stuck at school while the biggest murder trial the town has ever seen is taking place at the court house. Theo thinks the suspect is guilty, but knows the prosecution has little to no evidence. What if Theo was the one to find key evidence? Something that would change the outcome of the whole trial?

While it was a hugely anticlimactic book, I actually still liked the story. Grisham is a legal genius after all, and does a fantastic job of describing and explaining every aspect of an exciting murder trial to his young audience. Theo is rather endearing and I enjoy his character immensely, as well as those around him. The story doesn’t have a climax, and it sort of just ends…(perhaps it continues somewhat in the next books?) but it’s a great book for kids, especially those ones that are watching “Perry Mason” reruns in their spare time (Theo’s favorite show). Overall, I would recommend it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Storytime: Presidents' Day

This storytime was for a preschool-aged group at my library.

Monday, June 16

Helen's Big World

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller
Written by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Matt Tavares

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0786808908
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Date of publication: October 16, 2012
Age: 6 - 8 years
Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: biography, hardship, dedication,

Helen’s Big World is a simple biography of a most amazing woman. The author gives simple accounts of Helen’s life from when she first lost her sight and hearing, to college, and to her honorable death. It is intermingled with quotes from Helen Keller herself to really emphasize each difficult stage in her life and, of course, her work with Anne Sullivan.

This is a great, easy biography. I love how poignant the story becomes when one can read Helen’s own words. The illustrations are big and beautiful, the book is sure to entertain and educate children. I recommend it, especially when trying to introduce young kids to nonfiction.

Find it at your library or on Amazon


Written and Illustrated by John Rocco

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9781423121909
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Date of Publication: May 24, 2011
Age: 4 - 8 years
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: family, relationships, power outage, New York City

Awards: Caldecott Honor (2012)

Blackout starts out showing the busy and noisy lives of New Yorkers. One young child in particular wants to play a board game with his family, but each member turns him down, as they are too busy with other things. He goes off to play a video game when the power goes out. Suddenly, the parents cannot work and the sister must get off the phone and finally, the son has a chance to spend quality time with his family.

I loved this book and its simple, unobtrusive message about the importance of making time for family. Of course, the illustrations are fantastic as well (it is a Caldecott Honor, after all). I think it would make a really good book to have in the home, maybe while reading with a flashlight and all the lights out. I recommend it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon


Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Illustrated by Scott Magoon

My rating: ★★

ISBN: 9781423106852
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Date of publication: April 7, 2009
Age: 2 - 6 years

Themes: responsibility, talent, jealousy

Spoon is a story about a young spoon who finds the work of fork, knife, and chopsticks more interesting than his own—he doesn’t get to spear, cut, or be paired for life like they do. But then his mother reminds him how fun it is to dive into a bowl of ice cream or measure ingredients. It even depicts fork, knife, and chopsticks being jealous of spoon. The young spoon feels better and, as it is the best part of his job, is “spooned” by his parents when he falls asleep with them.

I did laugh at the end, but did feel the story was a little didactic and unoriginal. I suppose if you wanted to teach children that each person can be good at their own thing, this is one of many that could get the job done. The pictures were cute enough. Otherwise, I don’t think I would recommend it.

If you really want to, find it at your library or on Amazon

I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back
Written and Illustrated by Jon Klassen

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 9780763655983
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date of publication: September 27, 2011
Age: 4 - 8 years
Genre: Humor

Themes: humor, stealing, lying, revenge,

Awards:  New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books (2011), Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor (2012)

I Want My Hat Back documents a bear’s journey to find his beloved hat. He goes to several different animals in turn to ask if they have seen his hat, but each one answers no. A deer finally asks a simple question that jogs his memory back to a certain lying rabbit, and he storms back for his hat. The rabbit is doomed.

I laughed out loud reading this book. It’s simple, yet hilarious. I most appreciate that it will get the kid thinking--what was it about the rabbit that's suspicious? What do you think happened to the rabbit? If anything, you'll want to read it because it's funny. I definitely recommend it.

Find it in your library or on Amazon

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys
Written by Bob Raczka, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9780547240039
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date of publication: October 4, 2010
Age: 4 to 8 years
Genre: Poetry

Themes: seasons, activities, childhood,

"The wind and I play
tug-of-war with my new kite.
The wind is winning."

Boys just want to have fun, right? Guyku is a book of haikus that are about boys’ activities during the four seasons. Moving from spring to winter, it highlights simple season activities like camping, going back to school, and seeing your breath in the cold. There are several haikus for each season.

The simple verse makes it an easy, enjoyable read and the illustrations are simple, but fantastic. I’m sure, children (especially boys) would enjoy it. It's a good read aloud, and perfect for teaching kids about the haiku structure. It would be a good themed storytime book for something like seasons, poetry, or boys. I recommend it!

Find it in your library or on Amazon

Friday, June 13

Counting By 7s

Counting by 7s
Holly Goldberg Sloan

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780803738553
Publisher: Dial
Date of publication: August 29, 2013
Age: Grades 5 and up
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: tragedy, family, adoption, connection

Willow Chance is a genius, albeit socially awkward. She would much rather spend time in her garden, count by multiples of seven, or diagnose medical conditions. Her parents are really the only ones who get her. But one day, Willow comes home from school to learn both her parents have been killed in a car crash, and Willow must face the world alone. Who will help her?

I love this book, mainly because it is not a tragedy. It is, instead, the journey of a broken girl to find a new--and very diverse--surrogate family. Willow is a character who comes off very strange in the beginning; but her heartbreak makes her seem so human, I felt I could instantly connect with her. I love the other characters, too. They're rather eccentric and awesome. Some elements of the story are told through their perspective and it adds fantastic depth. I thoroughly recommend this book.

Find it in your library or on Amazon

Thursday, June 12

Storytime: Opposites

This storytime was a for a combined toddler and preschool-aged group at my library. It is targeted more towards the toddler age group, however.

The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist
Brandon Sanderson

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9780765338440
Publisher: Tor Teen
Date of publication: May 14, 2013
Age: Grades 6 - 12
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Steampunk

Themes: steampunk, chalk, elite group, abductions

In an alternate version of our world, there is an elite group of fighters called Rithmatists. Skilled in chalk drawing, their creations come to life to defend and attack, and they’re the only defense against the wild chalklings. Joel wishes to be a part of that group, but missed his opportunity for inception years earlier. Still, he studies them with a fierce passion. When Rithmatist students start disappearing from his school, leaving only a chalk-ridden battleground and traces of blood, Joel jumps into the investigation with vigor. Who is taking the students and how can he be stopped?

Um. Yeah. This book was just really hard to get into...slow to start and slow to build up drama. Probably because the drama centered around chalk. Yes, chalk. What's so threatening about chalk? Still, the characters were good (even if it took forever to go into their stories with more depth) and the mystery was hard to solve. The detail Sanderson puts into the Rithmatist world is, of course, amazing. In the end, I did like it, but I probably won’t be searching out the rest of the books in the series when they come out. Surprising, since I love Sanderson’s other books immensely…

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, June 11

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Kate DiCamillio
Illustrations by K. G. Campbell

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 9780763660406
Publisher: Candlewick
Date of publication: September 24, 2013
Age: Grades 4 and up
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Superhero Comic (yep)

Themes: super powers, family relations, cynacism, adventure

Awards: Newberry Medal (2014)

The squirrel did not notice the Ulysses Super-Suction, Multi-Terrain 2000X vacuum come up from behind. Self-proclaimed cynic Flora, having observed the accident while reading her favorite super hero comic, ran to his aide. She was amazed to find the squirrel not only alive, but bestowed with the powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry! And so begin their adventures together. Flora just may learn to feel hope and love once again.

I loved it. Simply perfect. The characters are eccentric, but so lovable—for crying out loud, it’s a squirrel that writes poetry! The format is inventive: half novel, half graphic novel. Plus, that makes it a quick, fun read. My favorite part is that, even though it’s this quirky story and format, it still has depth. It tackles Flora’s strained family relations and her own cynical attitude. It totally deserves the Newberry.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, June 10

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
Alan Bradley
(A Flavia de Luce Novel)

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780385343459
Publisher: Bantam
Date of publication: February 7, 2009
Age: Grade 10 and up
Genre: Mystery

Themes: Murder, puppeteering, cold case, post-war Britain, 

In this, the next adventure of the intrepid 11-year-old detective, Flavia de Luce has witnessed the gruesome electrocution of famed puppeteer Rupert Porson. But surely it wasn’t just an accident? Clues indicate otherwise, but also connect this death to one years earlier that was unsolved by the local police. Flavia is determined to figure out the motives or reasons behind each of the deaths, perhaps catching another murderer. But will she entangle herself into a too dangerous situation?

With a vocabulary that stretches the capacity of my brain, I do thoroughly enjoy these novels. I never try to tackle many at the same time, but they do lend themselves to a nice fallback when I’m looking for an interesting read. And bonus! The reader on the audiobooks does a fantastic job. In this novel, Flavia is as nosy as ever, and I liked how it all wrapped up in the end. I do recommend these novels.

Find it at your library or on Amazon