Friday, October 31

Three Halloween Crafts & Stories

Happy Halloween! I'm going to be extra festive today. This here is a post with Halloween crafts and corresponding Halloween stories all in one! We had an awesome party at the library with stories and crafts as the main event.

Thursday, October 30

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing
(Tupelo Landing #2)
Sheila Turnage

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-0803736719
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Date of publication: February 4, 2014
Age: Grades 5 and up
Genre: Mystery

Themes: haunting, ghosts, moonshiners, the past, family, friendship, murder

When Miss Lana makes a rush decision at an auction, she becomes co-owner of the old, dilapidated Tupelo Landing Inn—with its own resident ghost in the small print. The Desperado Detective Agency (aka Mo and Dale) decide to add paranormal investigations to their job description. Also, an interview with a ghost would be great for their history assignment (extra credit). They end up discovering that "ghosts" take on many forms, whether it's a spirit haunting a building or memories haunting someone's past.

I love this book. A positively chilling ghost story, but with enough humor to make me laugh out loud. Like, a lot. Have I mentioned that I love this book? The southern wit, amazing characters, and intriguing mystery—just like Turnage's first book that I reviewed—make it a favorite. I'm so glad Turnage was able to repeat her first impressive performance. And with the introduction of some new characters, Harm in particular, that continue to give the story real depth and believability. I love this book. Go read this series.

Read my rave review for Book 1

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, October 29

Halloween Storytime

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


I interrupt regularly scheduled programming for this: Happy Book Birthday! A special review for a recent release. (This post was meant to be published yesterday, but you get the point...)

Ally Condie

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0525426448
Date of publication: October 28, 2014
Age: Grades 7 and up
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction

Themes: Dystopic society, corrupted government, underwater, family, relationships

Rio has dreamed of real air, real dirt, and sky. Instead, with the unexpected desertion of her twin sister, Bay, and the death of her parents, she is stuck. She is trapped in the underwater city of Atlantia, originally built to save humanity from the pollution and dangers Above. All alone, she hides the secret of her siren voice, and searches for a way to escape to the sunshine. In the process, she uncovers other secrets about her mother's death, her sister's decision, and the corrupted system of the Divide.

The story is captivating, albeit not completely unique (it vaguely reminded me of City of Ember). How it's written... Well, Condie's writing style can be very methodical. So, on the one hand, you get a good picture of the setting and characters. But on the other, it can be slow and redundant. It took some time to really get going. As for the characters? I especially admired True, the romantic interest in the story. He was selfless and hiding some fascinating secrets. Rio, as a character, was rather depressing and did not seem to evolve enough. She comes off selfish and woe-is-me. Overall, I do like it. It's up to you if you want to read it.

Find it at your library or on Atlantia

Tuesday, October 28

M is for Monster

M is for Monster: A Fantastic Creatures Alphabet
Written by J. Patrick Lewis, Illustrated by Gerald Kelley

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1585368181
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Date of publication: August 1, 2014
Age: Grades 2 - 5
Genre: Nonfiction, Poetry

Themes: folklore, mystical creatures, monsters, multicultural legends

From Frankenstein's origin as a scary story told among friends to the lesser known Chinese legend of Xing Tian, this book has descriptions of menacing and mysterious creatures from all over the world. A simple poem about the creature accompanies a greater, in-depth look at their origin and multicultural impressions. All while following the alphabet.

Everything is a win with this book. First of all: J. Patrick Lewis is a former U.S. Children's Poet Laureate and Kelley provides illustrations that are detailed, beautiful, and (with some monsters) positively chilling. Second: the range of creatures examined is excellent: the pop-culture phenoms (zombies and vampires, for example) in the same book as the lesser known (like the Jersey Devil, which I had never heard of and am now educated on). Third: it's part of a series of alphabet/fun facts books (like A is for America and P is for Pirate, which is totally next on my reading list) so if kids like this, they're sure to seek out the others. Here's the publisher's full list.

Basically, I recommend it to everyone. It's great for the classroom, in the library, or at home.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, October 27

3 Favorite Monster Picture Books

As it is Halloween on Friday, I'll be specializing in all sorts of ghoulish posts this week. This post lists my new favorite monster picture books. Which are actually good for anytime of the year...

The Monstore
Written by Tara Lazar, illustrated by James Burks

ISBN: 9781442420175
Publisher: Aladdin
Date of publication: June 4, 2013
Age: 3 - 7 years

In the very back of Frankensweet's, with a special knock and some squirmyworms, Zack enters the trapdoor to The Monstore--the specialty monster shop. His little sister won't pay attention to his "Keep Out" sign, and he's sure a monster will get the message across. But when things don't go as planned, Zack discovers the Monstore's "No refunds, no exchanges, no exceptions" policy. Now what?

I love this story. Kids will love this story. Especially when you can relate to the whole annoying-sibling aspect. The illustrations are fantastic with a variety of funky monsters, and the story is really rather unique. Plus, it has a real life lesson: always check a store's return policy. But really, check out this book!

(It's at the library or on Amazon)

Zombie in Love
Written by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell

ISBN: 9781442402706
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Date of publication: August 23, 2011
Age: 4 - 8 years

Mortimer is hopelessly looking for love. He's too stiff to dance gracefully, his arms fall off at the gym, and most girls seem to be a bit put off by his smile. So he puts an ad in the paper. Surely the girl of his dreams will answer it?

Zombies need some lovin' too, man. Mortimer is just about the most lovable zombie you will ever meet; you can't help but hope he'll find his love. The illustrations add just the right amount of silly and gross, the story is clever, and the ending is perfect. Totally recommended. And, the best part is, the sequel, Zombie in Love 2 + 1 is coming out in December. I'm looking forward to it.

(It's at the library or on Amazon)

I Need My Monster
Written by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam

ISBN: 978-0979974625
Publisher: Flashlight Press
Date of publication: April 1, 2009
Age: 5 - 8 years

Ethan is quite upset to discover that Gabe, the monster that usually lives under his bed, has gone on vacation. How is he going to fall asleep now? He immediately puts in a request for a substitute, but the teeth aren't sharp enough, or tail scary enough--they just aren't as good! Will any monster be able to compare to Gabe?

While inducing giggles, it also prompts some chills--this book has a perfect balance of silly and scary. It's a great for a bedtime book because it can dispel the greatest fears while encouraging children to stay curled up in bed. The variety of monsters are all imaginative and the illustrations are captivating. I highly recommend it, if you haven't read this popular book already!

(It's at the library or on Amazon)

Saturday, October 25

Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct
(The Naturals #2)
Jennifer Lynn Barnes

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1423168324
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: November 4, 2014
Age: Grades 8 and up
Genre: Mystery

Themes: serial killers, criminal profiling, FBI, psychology, copycat killer, torture

Cassie and the rest of the Naturals—teens with innate criminal-profiling abilities working for the FBI—should just be working on cold cases. But there's a new case: the FBI is facing a brutal murderer mimicking the work of Dean's incarcerated father, Daniel Redding. Even though Dean wants nothing to do with the man, there seems no other way to solve the case than to interrogate the former serial killer. The team must work past Redding's mind games and enigmatic Q&As to discover the identity of his "student"—before he strikes again.

Riveting, suspenseful, unpredictable. It's all there. Some may complain that the whole basis of the story (teens working for the FBI) is unbelievable. But honestly, that doesn't matter. What matters is the amazing ability Barnes has to tell a story about a psychotic serial killers. She can put you in their heads—give their perspective—with expert ability (she does have a PhD in Psychology). And it's totally terrifying. Even if it is teens doing the profiling in this story, the process of solving the case is in no way toned down. This book will keep you on your toes until the very end. Highly recommended.

And just so you know: even though it is about teens and written for teens, it is still a very brutal serial killer who kills in rather graphic ways. So no sex or language, but you want to keep that in mind.

Read my review for Book 1.

Pre-order now on Amazon!
...or wait on the hold's list at your library

(Digital ARC provided through NetGalley)

Friday, October 24

10 Unexpected Places for a Library

I work in a public library. Which is pretty standard and expected. But did you know that there are rather unique libraries all over the world? I took the liberty of choosing my favorite...

Thursday, October 23

Three Times Lucky

Three Times Lucky
(Tupelo Landing #1)
Sheila Turnage

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-0803736702
Publisher: Dial
Date of publication: May 10, 2012
Age: Grades 5 and up
Genre: Mystery

Awards: Newbery Honor (2013), ALA Notable Children's Book

Themes: murder, small town, orphan, past

Miss Moses LoBeau lives in Tupelo Landing, NC, population 148, where everyone knows your business. She washed up in the creek during a hurricane and was taken in by the Colonel (cafe owner) and Miss Lana (the ever pleasant cafe hostess). And, while she is looking for her "upstream mother," she'll defend her loved ones with a fiery passion. So when a mysterious detective comes to town investigating a murder, it's imperative that she and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, investigate for themselves--especially when Colonel and his mysterious past become suspect.

Murder mystery AND southern small town wit? I loved it. I love this book. Mo LoBeau is clever, daring, and yet...because of her insecurities about her past, she is a vulnerable and, therefore, believable character. Every character is amazing and well-developed, actually. The story itself? Well, I do love a good mystery. Especially when amnesia and betrayal is involved. So I think you should totally read it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, October 22

Fire Safety Storytime

Bonus storytime idea today!

Since it's Fire Prevention Month, we invited the local firefighters out to the library to talk to kids about fire safety.

Bilingual Fall & Family Storytime

This storytime was for a Migrant Head Start preschool in my area. They were already studying fall, furniture and families, so we (myself and a Spanish-speaking coworker) catered to those themes.

Tuesday, October 21

The Good, the Bad, and the Monkeys

The Good, the Bad, and the Monkeys
(Comics Land)
Written by Scott Sonneborn, illustrated by Jess Bradley

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1434262837
Publisher: Stone Arch
Date of publication: August 1, 2013
Age: Grades K - 3
Genre: Graphic novel

Themes: monkeys, ranching, robbers, bravery

Jake is a rancher, taking care of a herd of monkeys. While taking them out to pasture in the banana grove, a group of monkey rustlers come roaring in and start nabbing the monkeys! They're all in cages before you can blink an eye! Luckily, Jake and his trusty horse, Horse, bravely take on the challenge. Will the monkeys be saved? Does Jake even want those darn monkeys back?

It's funny, it's imaginative, and it cleverly encourages kids to read. Thus, it is rather genius, no? The whole series is made up of easy-reading graphic novels, perfect for reluctant readers everywhere. Besides a cute story, there is a glossary of terms used, a sneak preview of the next book, activities, and a how-to-draw instructional. If you have a child who isn't too excited about reading on his/her own, give this book a try.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Other favorites from this series:

My Little Bro-Bot
Written by Donald and Amy Lemke, illustrated by Jess Bradley

Tells the cute story about a little brother robot needing his big sister's help, even as he grows bigger than her.

Frank 'n' Beans
Written by Donald and Amy Lemke, illustrated by Jess Bradley

Frank doesn't want to finish his beans. That is, until a giant comes along, steals them, and takes Frank on a wild adventure.

Monday, October 20

What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World

(Bonus book review today: we're talking about the Virtual Book Club book! We meet on Twitter and you can join in too! Just follow along with #vbcbooks!)

What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World
Henry Clark

My rating: ★★½

ISBN: 978-0316206662
Publisher: Little, Brown
Date of publication: July 2, 2013
Age: Grades 3 - 7
Genre: Science Fiction

Themes: gadgetry, interplanetary portals, alien invasion, adventure, mind control

The three of them found the sofa while they were waiting for the bus, just plopped down by the curb, probably waiting for a trash pickup. When searching the cushions, River, Freak, and Fiona discover a rare and (as eBay soon reveals) valuable zucchini-colored crayon. Upon marching up to the house of the sofa's owner to return the crayon, they are pulled into a zany plot hatched by their eccentric neighbor to stop an evil billionaire from enslaving the entire world. Because the crayon is the key.

The story is thoroughly inventive; it takes quite the imagination to hatch a plot to takeover the world based on something found in a sofa. The characters are endearing, each with their own challenges that shape their actions. And some (younger) kids may really go for this. It is, after all, a rather fantastical adventure. So stop here if you want to read it.

Because, oh my, I could barely finish it. And I only did so because it was a book club book. It was definitely not my style with the far-fetched plot and extremely convenient coincidences that make these kids capable of stopping a billionaire alien. So. Many. Literary shortcuts. (Which, if you remember, was pet-peeve #14.) It's cute, it really is. But I really couldn't enjoy it fully there as it got close to the ending.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Dojo Daycare

Dojo Daycare
Written and illustrated by Chris Tougas

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1771470575
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Date of publication: September 9, 2014
Age: 3 - 6 years

Themes: daycare, fighting, respect, kindness

When ninja moms and ninja dads drop off their ninja children at the Dojo Daycare, the kids have some trouble settling down for snacks or storytime. No, they'd much rather be fighting, despite the Master's attempts to teach honor, kindness, and respect. Will he ever be able to get them to calm down?

I'll admit, it was the concept that drew me in. I mean, how cool are ninjas?? In the end, however, I was most impressed with the rhyming scheme. The story and the characters were ho-hum for me, but it still instills a good lesson about respecting your teacher. Kids will enjoy the story and listening to (or reading) the rhymes. Overall, it's not anything too exceptional, but something fun to pick up if you're interested.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Saturday, October 18

Infinite Sea

Infinite Sea
(The 5th Wave #2)
Rick Yancey

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780399162428
Publisher: Putnam
Date of publication: September 16, 2014
Age: Grades 10 and up
Genre: Science Fiction

Themes: aliens, humanity, trust, survival, extermination

The 5th wave of attack from the Others is underway, and survival is nearly impossible. Cassie, Ben, and Ringer, as some of the few humans left on Earth, are now seeing the depths to which the Others will sink to exterminate the human race. But they, in turn, will show the Others how far humanity can rise in this battle between hope and despair, trust and betrayal.

And it is quite the battle. I'm still reeling! My mind is reeling...and I'm pretty sure I really don't really know what's going on. It is SO complicated with all the alien mind tricks. You have no idea who you can trust. Also, it is told from multiple perspectives. Like a lot. And being the second in the series it's hard to tell if all the loose ends will wrap up and if there's actually a point to all of this complicated story line. But HOLY COW it is SO exciting and SO hard to predict and just...prepare yourself. That is all I can say. This is really hard to review. And so four stars: the writing and characters are superb, and yet, too complex. Personal bias.

See my review for Book 1

Warning: Explicit Content

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, October 17

Read for the Record

So I've got a special post today...

On Tuesday (October 21st), our library is going to break a world record! (Well, participate in the attempt to do so, anyway...) But, the point is, you can, too! The idea is to see how many people we can get to read the same book the same day.

Thursday, October 16


Wendy Van Draanen

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780375825446
Publisher: Ember
Date of publication: October 1, 2001
Age: Grades 6 - 8
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: friendship, communication, misunderstandings, relationships, family

When Juli first saw Bryce, she was sure it was love at first sight (even if she was only in second grade). When Bryce first saw Juli, he ran. And he's been avoiding her ever since, even as she keeps chasing after him. Until now. As the two enter into eighth grade, it gets turned upside down: Bryce may now realize there's more than meets the eye even as Juli decides Bryce isn't all he seems.

Told between the two alternating view points, Van Draanen masterfully captures the maturing view of these two kids. And their budding little romance. Also, it's adorable. The story is just about the cutest little romantic comedy-ish book for pre-teens that I've ever seen. There is some drag and a little bit of stalling, but it's still good. I recommend it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, October 15

Storytime: Autumn Leaves

Bonus storytime today! This storytime was for toddlers and their caregivers at my library. I don't normally do Toddler Time, but my coworker was out so I got to sub-in! I followed her plan, so credit is hers.

Storytime: When I Grow Up...

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

Tuesday, October 14

Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana

Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana
Written and illustrated by James Dean

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780062303820
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date of publication: September 30, 2014
Age: 4 - 8 years

Themes: negative experiences, overcoming, bananas, favorites

Pete the Cat loves bananas. They're just so perfect. But then he bites into a brown, mushy banana. He doesn't feel too good. And with that, Pete the Cat isn't so sure he'll ever be able to eat another banana. Not even banana bread or cream pie. Not even a deluxe banana split. Will he ever be able to recover?

The drama. I mean, how many have gone through this? After one horrible chicken sandwich, I chirped my chips and it took so long before I could eat another one. And now Pete the Cat must go through it. Alright, so I'm being a little funny about it, but it's the same idea. Is one bad experience going to ruin it for the rest of your life? The story is about courage to overcome the negative experiences. And about how a cat loves bananas. All around, it's a winner.

The writing is very simple--perfect for beginning readers. Plus, it's a favorite character. This is Pete the Cat's most recent book; there's plenty more where this came from. Get your reader hooked!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, October 13

Mix It Up!

Mix It Up!
Written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9781452137353
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date of publication: September 16, 2014
Age: 3 - 5 years
Genre: Educational

Themes: colors, mixing, interactive, blending

Ever want to finger paint without the mess? From the author of Press Here comes another interactive experience for readers: what happens when you mix paint colors? Try pressing the pages together, shaking the book, or dabbing with a finger to see the colors combine. Just watch out for the splatter.

It's genius. Hervé Tullet is thoroughly impressive in his ability to get kids' imaginations going. And, you seriously get to finger paint without the mess. It's educational: a comprehensive exploration of the color wheel, plus shades and tints. It's a win-win-win situation. I loved Press Here and this is the perfect companion to it. I definitely recommend it.

It works really well to read one-on-one with a child because it demands interaction. If you were to read it in a class or storytime setting, I think it would be a lot of fun to have the kids imagine they each had the book in their hands. Then they can all do the actions with you. Really, you can have a lot of fun with this. Especially if you are willing to get actual finger paints out to explore the world of color. Enjoy!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, October 10

Eric Carle Spotlight & Craft

At a recent youth librarian training conference, I got to see an awesome documentary on picture book author, Eric Carle. He's a brilliant author/illustrator who is most famously known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Here's a trailer for the documentary:

from Kate Geis on Vimeo.

If there is some way you can get your hands on this dvd, I would highly recommend it. Some libraries do carry it, or you can purchase it from Eric Carle's museum shop.

What I was most impressed by, in the end, was how simple his art really is. Anyone can do it. Especially kids! So I think we should try it out. There is a simplified slide show of how he does his work on his web page. He uses a razor to cut out the shapes of tissue paper he's painted. He then glues all the shapes together on some art board to create his characters.

We can take his method a variety of ways. If there's time, painting tissue paper all kinds of colors is really fun. After it dries, you then trace each shape and glue it all together.

But say you just have one storytime. Basically, it's time to cut out some colored tissue and make some fun collages.

Thursday, October 9

365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Book of Precepts

365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Book of Precepts
R. J. Palacio

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 9780553499049
Publisher: Knopf Books
Date of publication: August 26, 2014
Age: Grades 5 and up
Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: quotations, kindness, integrity, overcoming adversity

In his English class, Mr. Browne assigns a monthly essay to his students where they are required to analyze a precept, or adage. At the end of the year, he gives them a postcard with his address and asks that they send him their own precept. And now, with thousands of inspirational words in his possession, Mr. Browne has compiled a book with a precept for each day of the year. Focusing on kindness and overcoming hardship, he hopes all can benefit from some uplifting messages.

As a companion to Wonder, this book has its fictional elements: Mr. Browne the teacher and his correspondence with various students correlates with the main novel. It wraps up some loose ends and delves deeper into the Mr. Browne's character. But the sayings that fill the pages are true quotes from some of the most inspirational people in history. And they are incredibly uplifting indeed. Even if you haven't read the main novel (which you totally should, oh my gosh, it's beautiful), the precepts in this collection are fantastic. I wanted to rip out some pages and stick them on my wall so I could look at them every day. If you want to be uplifted, whether you are 12 or 112, you should definitely give this book a try. 

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, October 8

Tuesday, October 7

Oldies: Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking
Astrid Lindgren
Original illustrations by Ingrid Vang Nyman

Rabén & Sjögren (1945, Sweden)
First translated and sold in the US in 1950
Age: Grades 2 - 6
Genre: Fantasy (ish)

Themes: eccentricity, independence, friendship, behavior,

After travelling the seas with her father--who was washed away in a storm--Pippi Longstocking takes a suitcase of gold and her pet monkey, Mr. Nilsson, to live on her own in Villa Villekulla. She soon becomes friends with her very polite neighbors, Tommy and Annika. The two soon grow to admire Pippi and her fearless antics, outspoken opinions, and spirited enthusiasm as they go on adventures together, including school, the circus, and a birthday party. They can always count on Pippi to do the unexpected.

She's traveled the world, had very little formal education, and grown up around a bunch of sailors; she's very eccentric. And weird. The book is weird. And yet...her fearlessness and unabashed antics do elicit some admiration. She's a superhero in her own right. She does what no one else can, and thus, she is a beloved classic character. I'm glad I finally sat down to read it through.

I think kids can still enjoy it today. Each chapter is a short story in itself, so it's great for teachers to read aloud to a class (works for 2nd or 3rd grade), to read as bedtime stories at home, or for beginning chapter-book readers to try on their own. It's a classic, it's funky, and I like it.

In case you're curious, my rating is: ★★★

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, October 6

25 Funny Picture Books for Everyone

Sometimes, when you read to kids all day long, you can get really sick of picture books. But do you know what helps me? The really funny ones. The ones with a subtle adult humor, as well as the basic kid's humor. I'll read those over and over. So this here is a list of my very favorite funny books. Ones where the adult and child can both laugh.

Saturday, October 4

Better Off Friends

Better Off Friends
Elizabeth Eulberg

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9780545551458
Publisher: Point
Date of publication: February 25, 2014
Age: Grades 7 - 11
Genre: Romance

Themes: best friends, family, popularity, relationships

Macallan and Levi really are best of friends--they hang out after school, their families are really close, and they share a ton of inside jokes. They date other people and still banter as buddies. But as they progress into their high school years, can the really remain such? People assume they're together, they have trouble paying attention to their dates, and maybe...maybe Levi is developing some feelings. Could he convince Macallan that she should give it a shot? Or will it cost them their friendship?

Cute and clean and funny. Everything a good romance needs, right? It didn't really stand out in any one way or another. I did feel like the ending kept on dragging ("oh my gosh, really, they're still avoiding it") but I also didn't want to put it down. Also, it definitely sends the message that guys and girls can't really be best friends without it developing into something. Which I think is a little silly, but that's personal bias. In the end: yeah, it's good. Read it if you want.

Find it at your library or on Amazon