Wednesday, December 16

Oldies: Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia

We have a winner! Congrats, Apelles, on winning the drawing for a signed copy of Alistair Grim's Odditorium! Stay tuned for more giveaways to come!

Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia
Written by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Lynn Sweat

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 9780688061029
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of publication: August 18, 1986
Age: Grades 1 - 3

Themes: Christmas, holiday prep, humor, play on words

On Christmas Eve, Amelia Bedelia has to get the Rogers house ready for a visit from Aunt Myra. But as usual, Amelia takes directions literally and turns the house upside down delicious. She makes a cake with lots of dates, stuffs the stockings, and figures out the perfect star for the top of the tree.

Amelia Bedelia is a classic and beloved character. There's not a whole lot I can add, but I'll mention my favorite aspects anyway. This specific book in the series is a personal favorite--one I grew up with. In fact, I can say, as I child, I was confused about the date cake (I didn't even know "dates" were a food until years later, ha!). So, with that in mind, I'd say that Amelia Bedelia books are much more successful when a child can read the book and discuss it with an adult. It's a prime opportunity to learn about homonyms. I should've asked my mom what dates were...

The simple illustrations fit the story—straightfoward and literal. It's hard not to like them. The text and vocabulary? It is a bit more difficult. With a fair bit of text on each page, and with over 60 pages, it's not the easiest reader, but a good stepping stone to chapter books. I'd definitely recommend the series, especially with the even-better modern Amelia Bedelia books (both readers and chapter books) that are reaching a whole new generation. Love 'em all.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, December 11

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum (and BOOK GIVEAWAY!)

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum
(Odditorium #2)
Gregory Funaro

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1484700075
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: January 5, 2016
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: love, family relationships, magic, Arthurian lore, good vs. evil

Grubb, once an orphaned chimney sweep, is enjoying his apprenticeship on the Odditorium with genius sorcerer Alistair Grim. However, the rest of England is convinced that Grim is a villain. The real villain? Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium's power source for himself. With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium's crew embark on a perilous adventure to find the legendary sword Excalibur: the only weapon capable of penetrating Nightshade's magical suit of armor. Along the way, they must battle a banshee assassin, sea monsters, and a mad witch bent on revenge. But that's not all. Unbeknownst to Grubb and the others, their fate has been written in an ancient Avalonian prophecy—a prophecy that holds the key to a destiny not even Alistair Grim could have imagined.

Was I super excited to get my hands on this sequel? Oh yeah. Was it worth it? Definitely. This story was just as action-packed and exciting as the first with some extra intrigue thrown in. A lot of the storyline motifs echo the first book—such as love being the best magic, what family means, etc.—but there's a new Arthurian spin. The hunt for Excalibur and the surrounding lore give the tale some nice depth. The only (small) complaint I had was that the story almost had two climaxes, so that I felt like I was on a bit of a roller coaster. Kids, I'm sure, will love it, though. It's just that much more exciting!

The characters are, again, fantastic. Grim could be a tad annoying because he has a habit of not sharing his plans. Good thing Grubb is just so trusting and loving (he's such a great kid!). And the way Grubb narrates the tale provides just enough humor and enticement. Both are still troubled by their pasts and new intrigue provides some more depth to these characters. New characters add some charm, too. Love it.

So if you loved the first, you're going to love this one. Be excited. If you haven't touched the series—I highly recommend it. In fact, I'm so excited about it, I want to give you a copy of the first book! AUTOGRAPHED! Yay! (In case you want to brush up on why the first book was so fantastic, see my review here). Enter the drawing below for a chance to get the book (just before Christmas—what a perfect gift!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And don't forget! Book #2 will be here January 5th!

Pre-order now on Amazon
Or wait for it at your library

(Digital ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review)

Wednesday, December 9

Literary Gift Guide Collection

With all the holidays coming up, I thought I'd pull out my old gift guides--blow off the dust, in a way--to help provide inspiration for gift givers.

If you're reading this blog, there's a good chance you like books. Or at least know somebody who likes books. This list is for such a book lover. It has all the cool things. Basically, it's my Christmas wish list.

Delving deeper into the book lover's wish list: all the best bookends. Technically, if you've got a book lover on your gift-giving list, there's a good chance they have a lot of books that need to be held up somehow.

But what about for those who don't love reading? Especially of the younger variety?

Talking about reluctant readers here. Yep. If you've got a child on your list who just isn't a fan of the written word, try loosening their reluctance with some of these book recommendations.

Hopefully you can find just the right something for that special someone on your list!

Tuesday, December 8

Picture Perfect

Picture Perfect
(Sofia Martinez)
Written by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kim Smith

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1479557776
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Date of publication: February 1, 2015
Age: 5 - 7 years
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: family relationships, Hispanic Americans, identity, sisters

Sofia is sick of looking exactly like her sisters. She wants to stand out! And when school picture day comes around, Sofia thinks of the perfect way to make that happen.

It's a simple story; there's nothing too extraordinary about it. There's some standard characters and the plot is somewhat drab. Sofia herself, though, is a pretty fun and spunky character. And I did appreciate the Spanish vocabulary lesson—any Spanish words that Sofia and her family use are highlighted and there's an index in the back with the translation. There's also other helpful hints and activities at the end. The illustrations are vivid and cute, if somewhat standard.

Overall, I feel like it's just okay. It's a perfectly relatable story (as a younger sibling who always tried to outshine her siblings, I can attest) that many kids might appreciate, but it probably isn't something they'll seek out. I'd recommend the series for kids learning some Spanish.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, December 2

Storytime From Space

Have you guys heard about this? It's the COOLEST storytime ever. Which is saying a lot, because I have some pretty cool storytimes (I'm so humble). But this storytime?

It's from astronauts. In the Space Station. Yeah.

They have already sent one collection of picture books and had a set of storytimes filmed. Totally awesome, you could show them in a classroom or a space-themed storytime or just watch it in your underwear before bed. So are they going to do more?

Well guess what tomorrow is?? Launch day for a second set of picture books! More info can be found on their home page. Seven books will be included, but I want to highlight my favorite and share some coordinating activities.

Tuesday, December 1

I Really Like Slop

I Really Like Slop
Written and illustrated by Mo Willems

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1484722626
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: October 27, 2015
Age: 5 - 8 years

Themes: food, trying new things, friendship, politeness

Piggie really likes slop. She likes it so much, she wants Gerald to try some! But can Gerald find the courage to do it? Or will the smell alone be too much to handle?

I know, I know, I'm reviewing yet another Elephant & Piggie book. But each one is unique! This time, it's the illustrations, really. The story is simple enough, and I appreciate the lesson it teaches. But it's the illustrations that really put it over the top. They're super hilarious and RICH with emotion. They're very exaggerated, but I think that fits the nature of the story. Another winner in my book!

Find it at your library or on Amazon