Friday, February 27

Flannel Friday: Five Little Ninjas

Today's flannel is where it's at. I'm really proud of this one! I made up the rhyme, designed the flannel characters, and the kids really enjoyed it.

What am I talking about? Ninjas of course! There's been a influx of awesome ninja-based picture books lately, and I decided to take advantage of that. You can see the whole storytime I planned here, with some inspiration from Falling Flannelboards and Anne's Library Life.

Here's the flannel:

And the rhyme:

Five little ninjas, in their dojo,
Practicing the ninja way
‘Til one little ninja gets his mojo:
“HIYAH! Ready to save the day!”

And each ninja practices and practices, counting down, until they're all ready to save the day. The kids really enjoyed the "HIYAH!" and it got some chuckles from the parents. I hope you like it, too!


Nikki at Hey There Library is hosting the Flannel Friday round-up today. You can also check out the FF websitePinterest, or Facebook! Or use #flannelstorytime on Twitter!

Thursday, February 26

She Dreamed of Dragons

She Dreamed of Dragons
Elizabeth J. M. Walker

My rating: ★★★½

ASIN: B00N4923OU
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Date of publication: August 27, 2014
Age: Grades 5 - 9
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: friendship, discrimination, power, competition,

Fifteen-year-old Trina is a dragon mage, attending the poor and decrepit mage academy in a country run by the witches and wizards--the same people that hunted dragons and other magical creatures to near extinction. And the same that are withholding financial support from the academy. So when news drifts in about a Royal Tourney, a competition to find the heir to the throne, Trina and her cousin enter--the only mages in the whole competition--with some hope of gaining support for mages. What she doesn't expect is becoming the frontrunner. Nor falling for a wizard.

Walker did a great job with this book in that she captured the dislike between two disgruntled races (wizards and mages), created an altruistic and brave heroine, added a touch of romance, and created an exciting plot. I enjoyed it. However, it did feel a bit lacking in some areas. In terms of character development, I felt that Trina was a little bit too altruistic and innocent, in that it came off a tad unbelievable. Especially for her age Also, I never really felt that the villain in the book was given full depth; I still don't fully understand why it was that she wanted to take over the kingdom. Was it simply that she didn't think the queen was proper or mannered enough? That seems a bit drastic.

As for the story, I really did enjoy the competition and the other characters involved there. The climax was pretty great, too, although I am sad that the reader did not get to go on the journey with Trina to find a dragon. Overall, it's a really cute story--an amazing fantasy story with an exciting plot, but not quite the depth I was looking for. I'd still recommend it, though.

Find it on Amazon

(I received a digital copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review)

Tuesday, February 24

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0802853851
Publisher: Eerdmans Books
Date of publication: September 15, 2014
Age: Grades 2 and up
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography

Themes: language, words, lists, accomplishments,

Awards: Caldecott Honor (2015), Sibert Medal (2015),

For shy, young Peter Mark Roget, books were the best companions and he took a lot of comfort in finding just the right word. It wasn't long before Peter began writing his own book—not a story, but lists. Peter took his love for words and turned it to organizing ideas and finding exactly the right word to express just what he thought. His lists grew and grew, eventually turning into one of the most important reference books of all time.

This is a fascinating book, filled with facts and tidbits that make any reader appreciate Roget and his thesaurus so much more. For instance, did you know that Roget invented the first portable, pocket-sized chess set? Seriously, what would we do without him. This book does an amazing job of introducing the reader to a fascinating man.

But besides the well-written story and inclusion of facts (which earned it the Sibert), there are the illustrations (which, of course, earned a Caldecott Honor). Melissa Sweet actually mimicked the lists that Roget would make, as well as included scraps of actual scientific papers, highlighting all sorts of words. The effect is striking and really makes the story that much better. My only complaint is that it can be a bit much; there's so much on the page. But it does invite the reader to really examine what's going on. It really is a superb book. Go and check it out.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, February 23

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh
Written by Sally M Walker, illustrator by Jonathan D. Voss

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-0805097153
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Date of publication: January 20, 2015
Age: 4 - 9 years
Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: bear, mascot, zoos, WWI

When Harry Colebourn saw a baby bear for sale at the train station, he knew he could care for it. Harry was a veterinarian. But he was also a soldier in training for World War I. So Harry took Winnie (short for Winnipeg, his company’s home town) with him to the training camp in England. Winnie followed Harry everywhere and slept under his cot every night. Before long, she became the regiment’s much-loved mascot. But who could care for the bear when Harry had to go to the battleground in France?

This is just the coziest of lovely tales. The illustrations are soft and beautiful, and really capture the story. Basically, I now wish I had my own bear. Which, of course, is the whole point: it's factual story behind the beloved storybook character, Winnie-the-Pooh—how the real Christopher Robin would visit Winnie and want his own bear. I didn't know about this inspiration for the character, and this book just helped me appreciate it all the more (the real Winnie-the-Pooh, not the Disney one). So definitely, you should pick this one up.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, February 20

Flannel Friday: Good-night, Owl!

Today's flannel is great for a storytime all about owls (like I just did this week) or for birds in general (which I hope to do soon).

Based on the book by Pat Hutchins, Good-night Owl utilizes all different kinds of fun bird calls and animal sounds that are keeping Owl awake. Then, when night finally falls, it's Owl that wakes everybody else! (credit: Read Rabbit Read)

I made the tree itself out of felt and printed clipart images of the animals. I didn't do every animal in the book (there's a lot), but enough that the kids would be challenged. They had a lot of fun making every sound with me.

You could use the book, but it goes something like this:

Owl was trying to sleep.
The dove cooed (coo! coo!)
And Owl tried to sleep.
The bees buzzed (buzz! buzz!)
And Owl tried to sleep.
And finally night fell. The moon came up.
The owl hooted (hoo! hoo!)
And woke everybody up!


Katie at Story Time Secrets is hosting the Flannel Friday round-up today. You can also check out the FF websitePinterest, or Facebook! Or use #flannelstorytime on Twitter!

Thursday, February 19


Written by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0385744256
Publisher: Delacorte
Date of publication: September 9, 2014
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Genre: Horror

Themes: fear, family, monsters, courage, depression

Charlie can't sleep. Not that he doesn't want to, but even little naps put him in a terrifying nightmare with a witch ready to eat him—a witch that sure looks a lot like his step-mom! And when his nightmares start entering the real world, he's sure "Step-Monster" is to blame. But then his little brother is kidnapped by the witch and taken to the Netherworld, and Charlie knows he has to go after him. Even if it means he has to face his worst fears.

This book is pretty dark and depressing at first; Charlie is sleep-deprived, depressed, angry, and having terrible nightmares. Also, it's loooooong. Like, almost-didn't-finish long. The beginning seriously drags, and the actual conquering of fears requires a lot of work. So I was a little surprised that it's targeted to kids as young as 8 years (according to the publisher).

But still. I did appreciate its message. It takes a lot of courage to face one's fears, whatever they may be. By the end, I was feeling pretty favorable towards the book. Once I got past the slow, depressing beginning, and Charlie was on the mission to save his brother, the plot was exciting and more upbeat. There were some pretty awesome characters. In the end, I say it's up to you. Pick it up if you like!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, February 18

Saturday, February 14


Happy Valentines Day! I'm celebrating with a book I love...and it has a red(ish) cover...aren't I festive?

(The Reckoners #2)
Brandon Sanderson

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-0385743587
Publisher: Delacorte
Date of publication: January 6, 2015
Age: Grades 8 and up
Genre: Science Fiction

Themes: superpowers, resistance, evil, secrecy

After the downfall of Steelheart, David thought life would be simpler. Instead, he has questions. Perhaps his answer lies in Babylon Restored, the borough once known as Manhattan. There, the high epic Regalia is taunting the Reckoners, drawing them to her city. But it's also where Firefight is, and David needs to know if she's really the villain people claim. These and other answers, however, just may cost David his life.

I loved this book. I love Brandon Sanderson. The way that he can create an entire community--world, really--where these amazing powers and abilities control the way everything works is amazing. That he can do it in a believable way is even more amazing. David is an even better character in this book. Whereas in the last novel where he was driven by revenge, his one goal in life has been accomplished. There's a hole in his heart. So what does that mean? His character evolves, beautifully.

I was a little confused at some of the events in the end (a little bit of, "Wait, what?"). There were some stretches. But it was just SO EXCITING it didn't really matter. It was one of those books that just didn't leave my mind even after I had finished it. I need the next book, Sanderson!! Everyone, read these books!

See my review for Book 1

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, February 13

Library Display: Blind Date with a Book

Yep. It's that time of year. Love is in the air. Red roses and cupids abound. And it's time to pick up a blind date with a book.

Thursday, February 12

The Rogue Knight

The Rogue Knight
(Five Kingdoms #2)
Brandon Mull

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1442497030
Publisher: Aladdin
Date of publication: November 18, 2014
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: courage, friendship, honor, dreams, illusions

Cole Randolph is still on the hunt for his lost friends who were all kidnapped from Earth and sold as slaves in the Outskirts. Working with his new friends, Mira, Jace, and Twitch, Cole is now in Elloweer, where nothing is quite as it seems. Still, there are clues that could lead him to a friend and to Mira's sister. But there's a threat in this kingdom that is beyond anything seen before, and it may cost Cole and his friends their very lives.

Are there some stretches in the plot? Yeah, but magic in the Outskirts can do just about anything. And it actually didn't bother me this time around, perhaps because it felt established from the first book. The point is: I loved this book. The ending is so intense and I really didn't predict it at all. Oh man, it was SO fantastic.

The characters are pretty awesome. We get an even more in depth history behind Mira and Twitch, which is nice. Cole is already getting used to the Outskirts, but when a fellow Earthling finds him, it authentically throws him for a loop. There's just some amazing elements to the story. I can't help it; I just love Mull's over-the-top fantasy adventures. Go and try it out!

See my review for Book 1.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, February 10

You Are (Not) Small

You Are (Not) Small
Written by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1477847725
Publisher: Two Lions
Date of publication: August 5, 2014
Age: 2 - 6 years

Themes: perspective, opposites, understanding

Who is the big one? Who is the small one? Two fuzzy creatures just can't seem to agree. Maybe some surprise guests can settle it once and for all. Also, I'm hungry.

So this book is the winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award and I am all for it! The text is very simple (an argument over big and small), but there is a lot of emotion in the characters and a bigger story being told than just what is in the words. The illustrations are also simple, but pack a big impact with facial expressions and actions. Plus, it's funny (I love funny!).

Why the Geisel Award? It's a book targeted at beginning readers, but packs so much into such simple text. Is it a silly sort of story? Yeah. But hey, it's funny and teaches about perspective. So! Give it a try!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, February 9

El Deafo

Special bonus book review in preparation for Virtual Book Club (#vbcbooks), being held tonight on Twitter. The author will be joining in our chat today! Come join the VBC every second Monday of the month at 9pm EST!

El Deafo
Written and illustrated by Cece Bell

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-1419712173
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Date of publication: September 2, 2014
Age: Grades 3 - 7
Genre: Nonfiction, Graphic Novel

Themes: super powers, memoir, disability, friendship,

Awards: Newbery Honor (2015)

Going to a new school or two and trying to make new friends is hard enough. But when your severely deaf and need to have a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That makes it even harder! And so Cece Bell recounts her adventures, from losing her hearing at a young age to having the powerful Phonic Ear strapped to her body, wondering if anyone will accept her for who she is, not for her disability.

El Deafo is an amazing memoir, but written in such a simple and approachable way. The graphic novel format is perfect for the story, because the loss of hearing (empty speech bubbles) is more poignant. The fact that everyone is illustrated as a rabbit further puts emphasis on the ears. The text is simple and straightforward, which makes the story all the more striking. But still, it tells a gripping story.

I will sum up my review this way: I wish I had read this beautiful book sooner. I had not initially read it in preparation for the Newbery awards because of the graphic novel format, not knowing if the committee would consider it. Well now I know! I'm so glad it won the Newbery. I definitely recommend it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

More Dan Santat: The Three Ninja Pigs and Ninja Red Riding Hood

Obviously, I'm still not over my excitement that The Adventures of Beekle won the Caldecott because I have found even more books of Dan Santat's illustrations to review (in addition to A Crankenstein Valentine that I reviewed last week). Here, I'm reviewing two of them, companion books written by Corey Rosen Schwartz.

The Three Ninja Pigs

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0399255144
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Date of publication: September 27, 2012
Age: 4 years and up
Genre: Fairy Tale

Themes: practice, training, bully, ninja skills

A certain trio of little pigs have had enough to the wolf huffing and puffing around town. The bully needs to be stopped! And so the three start training at the new ninja school. The first tries aikido, but tires of it quickly. The second tries jujitsu and is sure he's ready after a week or two. The third? She devotes herself to Karate. Now what will happen when the wolf comes around?

First of all, Schwartz wrote the whole thing in limericks. Which is quite a feat in itself. It's catchy, clever, and (most important to me!) hilarious. I loved it. And, of course, Santat's excellent illustrations only contributed to the clever hilarity of it all. Do you know what makes it even better? It's funny, but still has the fairy-tale-moral-of-the-story message: it's important to practice and train to be prepared!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Ninja Red Riding Hood

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-0399163548
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Date of publication: July 10, 2014
Age: 4 years and up
Genre: Fairy Tale

Themes: ninja skills, deception, stress management,

Wolf is STARVING, especially since some pigs started standing up to him with their ninja skills. So he decides to train as a ninja, and is soon ready to take on his next meal. Which happens to be a little girl in a red cloak visiting her grandma. But what happens if the little girl is a trained ninja as well? What is Wolf to do??

Even better than the first! Again, still in limericks (so funny) and another healthy does of clever hilarity. What I liked in particular, however, was telling the story from the wolf's point of view. He's hungry, he's stressed, and so he chooses accordingly. When it turns out to be the wrong choice, he's able to fix his mindset and work on being better. Who doesn't love a good redemption story? This one did have an actual, super-exciting fight scene, too, that was very well illustrated! I love these books. Go check them out!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Sunday, February 8

Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes
Sara Raasch

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0062286925
Publisher: Balzar + Bray
Date of publication: October 14, 2014
Age: Grades 8 - 11
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: identity, power, fear, balance

Sixteen years ago, Winter was conquered and enslaved with only a few refugees making it out, including the heir of the kingdom. Meira, an orphan included in this group, has been training her whole life to take Winter back with Mather, the king-to-be and Meira's biggest crush. But as her group gets closer to their goal, Meira is subjected to political manipulations, dark magic, and the truth of her destiny.

I was close to not finishing there in the beginning. Meira came off as pretty immature and a tad bothersome, especially any passage referring to her fascination with Mather. But! It did pick up, and became rather exciting. Like, went-to-bed-way-late exciting. So I'm averaging my review to be a 3.5. 

The characters did have some nice depth, what with some fascinating peeks into the past and some darker magical manipulations. I really really liked Theron, but who wouldn't? (Maybe he's a little too perfect?) It never really was a love triangle to me. Meira knew who she should like. But still, Meira, overall, bothered me. On the one hand, she'd have these super intense action scenes where she'd kick butt and be ninja-awesome. But then she'd go back to her confusing self-characterization (act for herself? act for Winter? soldier? a lady? back and forth and back and forth). I started to skim some of her musings.

But the story was great! Just the right amount of romance, some really exciting action sequences, and a great (albeit totally predictable) ending. Will I read the others in the series? Maybe.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, February 6

Flannel Friday: Football!

Living in Phoenix this time of year was a big deal to a lot of people. That's right. I'm talking about the Super Bowl! Since we Arizonans were hosting this year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to host a big football storytime party.

I have two flannels that we used. First, inspired by Leah & Mollie (at Sunflower Storytime), I used this "5 Little Footballs" rhyme:

Five little footballs trying hard to score
One makes a touchdown, hear the crowd roar! 
(at which point we all cheered and did our version of a touchdown dance)

Second, I did the kids' favorite game of hide and seek:

I hide the little brown football behind one of the helmets and let the kids yell out which color helmet they think hides the ball. Then we say:

Football, football, where do you hide?
Under the (color) helmet? Let's peek inside!

We do the sign language for the rhyme, too. It's great color practice.

Of course, you don't have to wait until your hometown is hosting the Super Bowl to do these! This is great for anytime you want to talk about sports. The kids really enjoyed them.


Bridget at What is Bridget Reading is hosting the Flannel Friday round-up today. You can also check out the FF website, Pinterest, or Facebook! Or use #flannelstorytime on Twitter!

Thursday, February 5

The War that Saved My Life

The War that Saved My Life
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0803740815
Publisher: Dial
Date of publication: January 8, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: WWII, love, family relationships, disabilities, abuse

Ada has never been outside her family's one-room apartment—her mother is too ashamed of her club foot. But when the time comes to ship her little brother, Jaime, out of London to escape the impending war, Ada sneaks out with him. And so the two end up with Susan Smith, a single woman in Kent who does not want children. But as Ada adjusts to life in the country and begins a real education, Susan adjusts to having the kids with her—perhaps even love them. But will her love survive a war? And the return of the kids' cruel mother?

This is a fantastic story, beautifully written to the point where anytime I wasn't reading it, I was still thinking about it. While not necessarily action-packed, it's emotionally-packed. Told in first person, Ada has a lot of emotional trauma to work through after moving from an abusive home to Susan's home—and Bradley does it right. Ada has amazing depth and believability.

However, the other characters fell a bit flat. Especially the mother. I had trouble understanding the mother's motivations (her cruelty, mainly). She's just plain mean. A lot of the stock characters in the village were pretty common. Still, overall, for it's emotional impact, I'd recommend it for sure.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

West of the Moon

West of the Moon
Margi Preus

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1419708961
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Date of publication: April 1, 2014
Age: Grades 6 - 9
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy(ish)

Themes: immigration, folktale, journey,

Astri, a young Norwegian girl, is desperate to join her father in America, but her cruel aunt and uncle sell her off to a deformed goat farmer. She makes a daring escape, reunites with her younger sister, and they set off on a journey to America with a mysterious companion. In their emigration, they go through dreams and reality as they run from the "goatman" and leave Norway for a new future.

This is a complex novel. On the one hand, it is an excellent examination of the pull of America during the 1800s and the influx in immigration. Preus was inspired by her own great-great-grandmother's journey from Norway, and she includes many of the troubles and maladies that would plague such a journey in that time. On the other, it runs parallel with classic folktales, particularly East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which Astri refers to throughout. Does Astri really have troll treasure? Is her hairbrush magical? Can her mysterious companion spin golden yarn? Can Astri really see Death? The delineation between real and fantasy is often blurred, making the story a rather fantastical historical fiction. Which may be confusing for younger readers.

Also, by combining folktale with the real hardship of immigration, West of the Moon does come off a bit dark. There are some mature elements to the story that make me put the book on the upper-end of middle grade fiction. For instance, (spoiler alert!!) Astri deals with an attempted rape from the goatman (very brief and is really only implied), the near-death of her sister (which prompts a vision of  Death himself), and a breech birth (and she's the one delivering the child). Besides the imagined darker elements like trolls, huldrefolk, and spells & curses. So it can get a little intense.

In the end, I can appreciate the fantastic writing that so excellently combined fantasy into history. Preus really does do an amazing job, and you can tell she's personally invested in the main characters and the story. As a whole, it also examines what is right and wrong in a very philosophical, appreciable way. But is it my style? And will kids really enjoy it? Hard to say. I'd recommend it selectively.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, February 4

Books & Libraries Storytime

This storytime was for a visiting preschool class here at my library, after a tour of the building. I wanted to educate them on all things library!

Tuesday, February 3

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure
Written by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1442496767
Publisher: Altheneum
Date of publication: April 8, 2014
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Mystery

Themes: courage, trouble, shapes, UFOs

When Tail, the squirrel, comes running in because something outside is BIG and SCARY, the chicken squad steps in to take the case. Dirt, Sweetie, Poppy, and Sugar may be chicks, but they know their stuff. However, asking Tail for more details is not working out (he keeps fainting) and who knows when that BIG and SCARY thing will strike again? What if it's coming for the chickens??

Turns out: this book is hilarious and I love it. A spin-off of the J. J. Tully Mysteries, and in the same vein as The Endangered Files, it's one of those satirical hard-nosed mysteries. It was a little harder to keep track of which chick was which (maybe if I tried harder), but they did have individual personalities. So the characters were cute, the story was great, and I liked the whole experience of solving the mystery. It's great for kids!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, February 2

A Crankenstein Valentine

A Crankenstein Valentine
Written by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0316376389
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Date of publication: December 16, 2014
Age: 3 years and up
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: mood, emotions, grumpy, Valentine's Day, friendship,

Sure we've all seen Crankenstein before, but have you seen him on Valentine's Day? YECHHHH! Cheesy cards, big smooches, heart-shaped everything, and coconut hiding in the chocolate—it's enough to turn anyone into a monster! But Crankenstein might be able to turn his day around with the help of a friend. Even monsters have a heart!

I thought I'd celebrate Dan Santat's Caldecott WIN today (YAY!!!! Called it!) with his most recent illustrated work. And his illustrations do not disappoint! This is one cranky Crankenstein, made especially obvious by the excellent emotions obvious in the pictures. Even the end pages are put to use. The story itself is pretty awesome, because, yes, it's true, Valentine's can be a bit gag-inducing. So why not make fun of it? I'm glad Berger brought out Crankenstein again. I think kids of all ages will definitely enjoy this one.

Find it at your library or on Amazon