Friday, July 31

Wild About Reading Library Display

It's not anywhere close to unique, but hey, that just makes it classic. This here library display is simple for anyone to do. I'm talking about gettin' wild...

What I'm really proud of is the felt animal prints I made. Yep, hand cut from patterns I found online. Can you see the texture?

It just adds a bit more glam to it. Safari glam. Just what is needed in the library!

Thursday, July 30

Fuzzy Mud

Fuzzy Mud
Louis Sachar

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0385743785
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Date of publication: August 4, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 6
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: scientific discovery, virus/disease, bullies, friendship, environmentalism

Fifth-grader Tamaya and seventh-grader Marshall have been walking to and from Woodridge Academy together since elementary school. But their routine is disrupted when bully Chad challenges Marshall to a fight. To avoid the conflict, Marshall takes a shortcut home through the off-limits woods. Tamaya, unaware of the reason for the detour, reluctantly follows. They soon get lost. And then they find trouble. Bigger trouble than anyone could ever have imagined.

I liked this book, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. Which, really, coming from Louis Sachar, I shouldn't be, but there has been a lot of mixed reviews for this one. Mine is favorable and this is why: the pace and intensity of the action made it really hard to put down. The format of the book means that the majority of it takes place only over a couple of days—which each chapter reminds you with a time stamp. But then, Sachar puts in some random flash-fowards from a U.S. Senate investigation that reveals just enough jaw-dropping information to keep you glued to it. It's super suspenseful!

Granted, with the rushed storyline, there isn't a whole lot of character development. And since the whole book, practically, is leading up to the climax, the ending is a bit abrupt. But I think that it works. It's no Holes, so stop wishing it was. It's just a fun, suspenseful read that I think kids will really enjoy. I recommend it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

(Digital ARC provided through NetGalley)

Monday, July 27


Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-1481415248
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date of publication: June 9, 2015
Age: 4 - 8 years

Themes: rain, play, disappointment & joy, origami

A little boy takes a boat made of newspaper out for a rainy-day adventure. He dances in the downpour and plays in the puddles, but when he sends his boat floating down a gutter stream, it quickly gets away from him. The little boy eventually finds the soggy, ruined boat and sadly makes his way home. But when the rain lets up, he finds himself on a new adventure altogether.

It's a wordless picture book that is so simple in its telling—and yet, it carries some amazing depth and emotion. The illustrations are monochromatic, with the boy's yellow rain suit being the sole, bright point on every page. He is full of energy and excitement, especially when contrasted with the grey and wet world. Besides the story told, I really liked the detail of the illustrations in themselves; water is not an easy element to illustrate, but I love the texture and realism Miyares conveys.

Honestly, I just have to show you some of my favorite pages. Then you'll begin to understand.

This will be one of my Caldecott votes for sure. Highly recommended.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Saturday, July 25

An Ember in the Ashes

It's been awhile since I've done a teen book review. Thought I'd better do one for this book since it is AMAZING (oops, I spoiled the review for you).

An Ember in the Ashes
Sabaa Tahir

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-1595148032
Publisher: April 28, 2015
Date of publication: Razorbill
Age: Grades 9 and up
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: loyalty, agency, prophecy, courage, enslavement, relationships

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. It is in this brutal world that Laia ekes out a living with her grandparents and older brother—that is, until, Laia's brother is arrested for treason. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire's greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school's finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he's being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

World-building: superbly mesmerizing.
Characters: utterly amazing.
Storyline: unique and gripping.
Everything about this book: downright awesome.

I mean, honestly, it's getting to the point where I'm insulted when people say they don't like it. That's when you know I have it bad for this novel. I couldn't stop thinking about it when I was done; I wanted to reread it immediately. Thank goodness there's more to the series, just so I can see more from this author.

Okay, okay, I'll go about it a bit more professionally: Tahir's debut novel expertly combines an Ancient-Rome-inspired setting with a unique storyline involving the deepest heartbreaks and hardest challenges. The reader can't help but be gripped by it because it's just so extreme in its emotion. It is brutal—casual mentions of rape, torture, and cruelty are rampant, with a few more detailed scenes of some heartbreaking violence. But all of this really underlies the deeper desperation of the characters, making their development that much more poignant.

It's told in alternating points of view, between Laia and Elias. Both have their share of action and heartbreak, and there is a budding romance between the two. Which, (this may be my only—small—complaint) is a bit difficult since they each have other romantic interests (a love square?). But since those romantic scenes are so sparse, it really didn't detract from the story. Overall, honestly, I want you to read this. It's amazing.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Thursday, July 23

Heroic Girls in Historical Fiction Tween Books

There have been some pretty great middle-grade historical fiction novels released of late that I think show heroism at its finest—particularly from some talented and brave young girls. Here are my seven favorites.

Tuesday, July 21

Oldies: Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea

Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea
Written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0152009014
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: March 30, 1994
Age: Grades K - 3

Themes: old age, friendship, pets, cats

Mr. Putter lives all alone in a big white house with a porch. He has no one to share his English muffins. He has no one to share his tea. He has no one to listen to his stories. And he has the most wonderful stories to tell. Mr. Putter is tired of living alone. He wants company. But company is hard to find. And then he meets Tabby...

Even though the first book in the series was written 20 years ago, this was my first time picking up a Mr. Putter & Tabby book. Which is a real shame, seeing as it is a continuing series and the most recent picked up a Geisel Honor award this year. But back to reviewing this book...

It made me laugh out loud (like, quite loudly). It made me feel sappy. It made me appreciate the simple things. I thought it was wonderful and I loved it. But these are all my own personal reactions. As for why I didn't just give the book a straight-up 5-star rating was that I have a bit of trouble imagining it being quite as enjoyed by younger readers. This first book in the series is about, quite frankly, a lonely old man. Which isn't quite the action-driven plot needed capture a young or reluctant reader. I laughed at the old-man jokes—will kids? I don't know.

The characters are fun and believable. I do appreciate the simple text (no crazy vocabulary) and small chapters. The ultimate friendship created and humor shared make it something I would recommend, though I wouldn't be offended if every kid didn't love it. So it's up to the reader.

Readalikes include Rylant's other early chapter books about pet adventures: Henry & Mudge, and Annie & Snowball.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, July 20


Kevan Atteberry

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-0062307835
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date of publication: January 27, 2015
Age: 2 - 6 years

Themes: friendliness, emotions, bunnies, monster

Declan is the friendliest of monsters, saying hi to everything he comes across—"Hello, clouds" and, "Hello, butterfly" and even, "Hello, dirt." But when it comes to bunnies? Well, his excitement might just be too much! Will his friendliness be contagious? Or will his enthusiasm keep scaring the bunnies away?

It's SO flippin' adorable. And funny. And it's SUCH a good read aloud. I honestly want to try it out in storytime right now. And not because the storyline is all that intricate or exciting—quite the opposite, in fact, with simple and repetitive text. No, what makes it so intriguing and fun is the full range of emotions that little Declan expresses! From ultimate excitement to utter despair, the illustrations and simple text really capture the emotion behind it all. Which is just fantastic for little kids and their reading comprehension. Just try this one out, honestly.

The blurb says it's good for fans of Sandra Boynton and Mo Willems—and I actually agree. Also a good readalike would be Banana! by Ed Vere.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, July 17

Book Scavenger

Book Scavenger
by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1627791151
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Date of publication: June 2, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 6
Genre: Mystery

Themes: ciphers, San Francisco, scavenger hunts, friendship

For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it's the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger. Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. But when Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, they're sure it's from Griswold himself, and might contain the only clue to his mysterious new game. Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold's new game—before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.

I enjoyed it. Let's start with that. Besides the fact that the main character loves books and is named Emily, I thought she was believable and likable. Unlike Escape from Mr. Lemocello's Library (which Bertman's book will be compared to throughout its life—unfortunately, because Bertman's is much better), the main character is not simply solving a game. She's dealing with best friend issues and figuring out what it means to be a friend. She's dealing family issues and identity. There's a bully at school she despises. I could go on, but the point is: Emily has depth and I appreciated that. If it had simply been about the puzzle, I don't think I could've finished the book.

But don't get me wrong—the puzzle is fascinating, too. Mainly because it ties in actual location history (San Francisco) and actual literary history (especially stuff surrounding the life of Edgar Allen Poe) that it becomes fun and educational. So I definitely appreciate the book. It's not my favorite, because it can be a tad childish, but still recommendable.

Better readalikes than Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library would be other puzzle mysteries like The Westing Game.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Thursday, July 16

My Five Favorite Storytime Tools (Besides Books)

So, obviously, storytime is storytime because you're sharing stories. You're highlighting books the library has to offer. But! There are so many things to supplement the stories of storytime that make storytime that much more fun for everyone involved! How many times can I say storytime?

Storytime. Storytime. Storytime.

So, here are some of my favorite supplementary tools for my storytimes (and since I usually work with preschoolers, that's the age I'm targeting).

Tuesday, July 14

What About Moose?

What About Moose?
Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Rebecca J. Gomez
Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1481404969
Publisher: Atheneum
Date of publication: June 9, 2015
Age: 4 - 8 years

Themes: friendship, teamwork, bossiness, frustration

When Fox, Toad, Bear, Porcupine, and Skunk set out to build a tree house, they know just what to do: they'll follow a plan and work as a team. But when bossy Moose barges in and upends their plans with some of his own, his friends become more and more frustrated… Will they all be able to work together? What about Moose?

Another impressive book from Corey Rosen Schwartz (and Rebecca J. Gomez!) with completely adorable illustrations from Yamaguchi. While my favorites will still be Schwartz's ninja fairy tales, this book has a pretty valuable lesson on teamwork. It does a great job of showing how it makes others feel when one person is overly bossy. Even I got annoyed with Moose while reading. The redemption at the end is extra sweet because of it.

The fact that this story is told with an impressive rhyming scheme is just another plus. Do note, however, that it does include some pretty complex vocabulary (such as "dictator"—which they also rhymed!) and it's not laid out in perfect rhyming blocks. For instance, continuations of rhymes occur over a turn of a page. I had to read it twice to get the rhythm down (which is important when reading aloud).

In the end, I wish it had more humor and had made me laugh. While not my favorite, I'd still recommend it. If just for how adorable the animal illustrations are (oh my gosh, the toad!).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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

Monday, July 13

Sea Rex

I'm back from the beach! So it only makes sense to review this book...

Sea Rex
Written and illustrated by Molly Idle

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0670785742
Publisher: Viking Books
Date of publication: May 26, 2015
Age: 3 - 5 years

Themes: beach, friends, fun, surprises

Cordelia and her Cretaceous companions are headed out for a fun day at the beach! They're prepared with sunscreen, a picnic, and lots of beach gear. With the lifeguard watching over, the friends enjoy cannon balls and surprise swimming buddies. Because life's a day at the beach when you have good friends!

It's the illustrations. Honestly, Molly Idle is a Caldecott honoree for a reason. The text for this book is cute and educational/informative (though the flow is interrupted with a number of ellipses), but the story is really told through the many different scenes of play at the beach. My favorite favorite detail, by far, is the little boy tan line the T-Rex ends up getting after some sun bathing. It's just darling! Really cute, and I'd recommend it for sure, especially when preparing for a trip to the beach. And I like that it's good for boys and girls alike.

As another companion book to Tea Rex, it's obvious readalikes would include Idle's other books. Also, look for other beach books with favorite characters, such as Duck & Goose Go to the Beach and Curious George Goes to the Beach.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, July 3

Happy Holiday

Welp, not only is it a holiday tomorrow, but I'm taking my own holiday. I'll be off for the next week basking in the sun at the beach. With a few choice books of course.

So cheers, my friends. In the mean time, feel free to browse past reviews, library-isms, and my just for fun posts.

(Gatsby and fireworks...great literature celebrating the 4th, right?)

Thursday, July 2

Lost in the Sun

Lost in the Sun
Lisa Graff

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0399164064
Publisher: Philomel
Date of publication: May 26, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: guilt, friendship, anger, family relationships, baseball

After a freak accident in 5th grade that left one kid dead, Trent is left with a brain full of terrible thoughts he can't get rid of—he’s pretty positive the entire disaster was his fault. So now that middle school is starting, he feels like he's getting a fresh start, a chance to prove to everyone that he's not the horrible screw-up they seem to think he is. But it isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little—the girl with the mysterious scar across her face—that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it.

Trent has a lot to deal with—emotionally and socially and mentally. Which is understandable, considering it involves guilt over the death of one of his friends. But once again, it is tough to read. There's depression, anger, and a whole-heck of a lot of guilt. While it is realistic, it can be tedious. What I did appreciate is the ending. Which, let's be honest, is not going to be the case for everyone; it's a pretty up-in-the-air ending. But it was very realistic. It marks the beginning of Trent's fresh start, so not every question and conflict is answered yet. Graff's writing and the story is extremely well done, it's just the content that may or may not be fun for every reader.

The main characters were extremely well done as well, especially Fallon Little. Her depth of character is amazing, and that's even without finding out the story behind her scar. Trent's dad however? A total jerk with no apparent reason for being such. I was bothered by him and their whole relationship. So overall, I can appreciate the talent it took to write, but I would be pretty selective in my recommendation.

Readalikes would include Umbrella Summer (which is the companion novel, actually), and Finding Audrey (for the slightly older middle-schooler)

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, July 1

Storytime on Unshelved

Ever feel that drag right before a vacation that makes working impossible? I leave Friday and I'm sure getting stir crazy in here!

Luckily, I can look at comics to make me feel better. And since I normally talk about storytimes on Wednesdays, I made sure that they're all storytime comics.