Thursday, March 31

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals
Written and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1481448895
Publisher: Altheneum
Date of publication: March 15, 2016
Age: 4 - 8 years

Themes: animals, surprises

There once was a hungry lion, a penguin (Well he was just here…), a little calico kitten (I could have sworn I just saw him…), a brown mouse (Now wait a second…), a bunny with floppy ears and a bunny with un-floppy ears (Okay this is just getting ridiculous), a frog, a bat, a pig, a slightly bigger pig, a wooly sheep, a koala, a hen, and also a turtle. Hey! What’s going on here…

When Jon Klassen (of I Want My Hat Back fame) calls this book "so smart and so cute and so dark all at the same time" then you KNOW there's some sketchy things going on. I mean, I should've seen it coming, really. (Gall, this book is so hard to review without giving it all away). Basically, it's just my style: cheeky illustrations, several surprising twists, a dark humor, and something that I'd think twice about reading in my preschool storytime. I laughed, it's true, and there will be many a kids who laugh, too. And perhaps some concerned parents... I just have to recommend it. It's too funny not to!

Readalikes would definitely include I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, and even a bit of Mother Bruce. Oh and Carnivores, of course.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, March 30

Judging By Its Cover: Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye

Welcome to the "Judging By Its Cover" review series: which is when I pick a book at the library based solely on the enticings of its cover...

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye
Written by Tania del Rio, illustrated by Will Staehle

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1594748035
Publisher: Quirk Books
Date of publication: November 24, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 6
Genre: Mysteriously Spooky Steampunk Fantasy Graphic Novel (Okay, we'll go with Mystery)

Themes: orphan, hotel, witchcraft, family relationships, heritage

Meet Warren the 13th. He's the lone bellhop, valet, groundskeeper, and errand boy of his family's ancient hotel. It's a strange, shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and mysterious riddles—and it just might be home to a magical treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye. But if Warren is going to find the hidden treasure, he'll need to solve several other mysteries first: What is the strange creature lurking in the hotel boiler room? Who is the ghostly girl creeping around the garden's hedge maze? And why is the hotel's only guest covered in bandages?

Yes, the illustrations of the cover caught my eye, so I checked out the book. And, boy oh boy, the rest of them did not disappoint! All of the illustrations were expertly rendered with utmost style and finesse. Staehle used his fantastic designs to carry the creepy Victorian theme by using a monochromatic scheme (red) in a wood-engraved-style with classic typography. Basically, the illustrations are why I liked the book.


As for the actual story, however...well, it left a bit to be desired. Probably because the illustrations set the bar so high. It was fine. That's about it. The characters were sub-developed, cliche, and cute; the plot a bit twisted and broken, with odd little jumps and sudden discoveries. It was just okay. (After reading more about the creation of the book, and the fact that Warren is Staehle's brainchild, it feels like del Rio wasn't quite as invested  in the story as Staehle. But that's just my observation.)

So will I read any sequels? To be honest, I won't read them so much as look at all the pictures. Still, the simplistic story might be good to recommend to kids who love Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman, The Series of Unfortunate Events or other such spooky tales. And I'd definitely show the illustrations off to people of all ages. See them for yourself!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, March 28

April Fool's Library Display: 11 Funny Book Covers!

I'm admitting straight up that the idea for this display is not mine. Rebecca from Hafuboti was so nice as to let me expand on her posts Library Fools and More Foolish Than Ever with eleven of my own silly/funny/foolish book covers. I love photoshop and I love funny books, so basically, it was a match made in heaven.

So without further ado, here are eleven book covers of popular picture books/early readers for your April Fools pleasure. Hang them up on a bulletin board or wall for patrons enjoyment. Or number the covers on display and have kids write down the correct title for each number for a small prize. OR, even better, have some blank papers out for kids to make up their own silly titles or stories!

Friday, March 25

Easter Library Display

Easter is this weekend! Who's excited to eat a ridiculous amount of jelly beans?? And/or chocolate bunnies?? And/or, as the case may be, those marvelous marshmallow, ooey-gooey goodness known as Peeps??

Why do I bring up Peeps? Well I have to give a shout-out to my former coworker, Heather, who made this awesome library display:

For Peeps sake, people, just read a book! And Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 24

Flannel Friday: Chester's Colorful Easter Eggs

While I realize Easter is only two days away and I'm sharing this idea a bit late...that's okay. Right? You can tuck away the idea for next year! Besides, it's too cute not to share!

I can't take credit for this; my former coworker is the brains and talent behind it. It's simple but perfect for young storytime attendees learning their colors!

This flannel is based on the book Chester's Colorful Easter Eggs. Chester is excited to dye Easter eggs this year and carefully dyes his six eggs each color of the rainbow (my coworker designed the eggs of the flannel to look just like Chester's). Then he hides them for his friends to find!

We used the flannel with a bunny puppet while reading the book, as Chester decorates each egg. But they'd also be perfect to use as an egg-hunt-type of game where you place the flannels in the different parts of the room and see if the kids can spot them. Or after you read the book, you could do "Brown bear, brown bear" rhyme for Easter (Easter bunny, Easter bunny, what do you see? I see a red egg looking at me!).

Anyway, it's simple but really adorable. Hope you enjoy it! Happy Easter!

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

Tuesday, March 22

Dodsworth in Tokyo

Dodsworth in Tokyo
Written and illustrated by Tim Egan

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0547877457
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: April 16, 2013
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Educational

Themes: travel, Tokyo, Japan, traditions, behavior, friendship, ducks

Dodsworth is nervous. Sometimes Duck can be a little out of control. But Dodsworth's duck companion is surprisingly well-behaved during their visit to Tokyo...although he does fall into the koi pond at the Imperial Palace and becomes the center of attention at a Sanja Festival. What will Dodsworth do about his friend?

So I picked this book out on a whim while browsing the library. It's the fifth in a series of Dodworth's travels (New York City and London and other such places) and I'm saddened to learn it's the last! Yes, this book was fantastic in that it can tell an engaging story while also thoroughly educating a young reader about Tokyo customs and destinations. It's fabulous! I do wish Egan would keep writing about even more cities—especially such foreign ones like Tokyo where the customs would be so different.

As for the writing, illustrations, and such...they're not the most exciting I've seen, but still good. The illustrations are rather understated and the sentences are pretty simple. It definitely higher level early reader (four chapters, lots of words on a page). Really, I enjoyed it for its educational elements and touches of humor (Duck doesn't know how to fly or swim—makes for some funny situations). I'd recommend it, especially for the travel-loving family! I will be reading the other four books, and crossing my fingers for more.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, March 21

Peep and Egg: I'm Not Hatching

Peep and Egg: I'm Not Hatching
Written by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Joyce Wan

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0374301217
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Date of publication: February 9, 2016
Age: 2 - 6 years

Themes: chicks, eggs, fear, persuasion, sibling relationship

Egg is not hatching. No way. No how. It is too scary out there. Peep wants Egg to hatch so they can do fun things together, like watch the sunrise, splash in puddles, and play hide-and-seek. But Egg doesn't want to deal with bugs, getting wet, and the dark. Will Peep be able to convince Egg to crack?

I thought this would be fun to read what with it being spring and Easter just around the corner. And certainly, this book fits the bill and would be a fine addition to a storytime or themed readaloud. But really, it was just okay. I felt that the excuses to not hatch became too many, and too whiny. It became a little tedious and overly predictable. Very repetitious. Which, yes, that can be good for young readers, but it might get a little long if reading aloud to a storytime audience. The illustrations are bright, bold, and simple. And they definitely add to the text. I enjoyed them in all their Hello-Kitty-esque glory.

Overall, it's just okay. It's nice to have this time of year, but I won't miss it. See what you think for yourself.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, March 18


Written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0544472709
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: March 1, 2016
Age: 3 - 6 years

Themes: dogs, pets, food, graphic novel format

There's a new dog in town and he is focused on finding a treat, no matter the cost. But endless tricks and futile searching (you can't eat Grandma’s dentures!) can be pretty exhausting. Just when he’s about to give up hope...what’s this? TREAT!

Told entirely with one word—"treat," of course—this makes for a great companion to Sullivan's first book, Ball (which I haven't read, but with this book, I'm thinking I've got a pretty good idea how it goes). The different emotions expressed through typography and illustration make it extra fun to read, especially if you read it aloud; it'd be perfect for storytime. It definitely captures the voice of a dog's one-track mind!

So, while I would recommend it for dog-lovers and storytimers, I didn't particularly enjoy it myself. The illustrations aren't my favorite (I'm not personally fond of the style, but to each their own, of course) and the dream sequence was weird...but hey. I imagine there will be plenty of other fans of this book.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, March 16

Duck Duck Dinosaur

Duck Duck Dinosaur
Written by Kallie George, illustrated by Oriol Vidal

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-0062353085
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date of publication: February 9, 2016
Age: 3 - 7 years

Themes: family relationships, sibling rivalry, love, dinosaurs, ducks

Three eggs in a nest begin to wiggle and wobble, until CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! It’s a! Meet Feather, Flap, and Spike. They’re three unlikely siblings who each want to stand out. But together, they make the biggest splash!

So I've recently become quite the fan of Kallie George, what with all the Magical Animal Adoption Agency books I've been reading (book 1 & book 2), and I was pretty dang excited to see this new picture book from her. It did not disappoint! It was downright ADORABLE. George expertly captured the competitive sibling relationship and ever loving mother. Combined with the action-packed illustrations of the cute family...the book is just excellent.

It also makes for a super awesome readaloud; all the different character voices--especially Spike's lines!--are so fun. It's perfect for storytime. A touch of humor, a lot of cuteness, and altogether a great book. The half-star off is my small observation that it felt a bit formulaic (not as memorable) but really, I'd still use it.

A definite pick-up for storytime and a recommendation to try it out. Readalikes include Wolfie the Bunny and Mother Bruce.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, March 14

9 Children's Books for Pi Day!

Or Pie Day. Let's be honest. Yes, today is 3/14 and it is time for some delicious pie!

Which, on this blog, means highlighting my favorite children's books that are all about pie! And then you can go get yourself a slice of something delicious, like I plan on doing.

Friday, March 11

Fortune Teller Library Display

Or do you call them Cootie-Catchers? One and the same, my friend. The point is, here's an idea to help patrons figure out what to read next. Like so:

Thursday, March 10

Sizing-Up Sequels: 3 Picture Books

So I guess picture books don't really have "sequels" so much as series continuations or companion books, but you get the idea. See other sequels sized-up here.

Tuesday, March 8

Mouse Scouts

Mouse Scouts
(Mouse Scouts #1)
Written and illustrated by Sarah Dillard

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0385756020
Publisher: Yearling
Date of publication: January 5, 2016
Age: Grades 2 - 4

Themes: mice, scouting, gardening, friendship, problem solving

Best friends Violet and Tigerlily can’t wait to start earning their merit badges in Mouse Scouts. But their troop leader, Miss Poppy, is one strict rodent. And earning their first badge—planting a vegetable garden—is hard work. Will the troop drive unwanted pests from the garden and earn their Sow It and Grow It badge? And will they ever get Miss Poppy to smile?

It's cute. There's not necessarily any aspects that make it stand out, but it gets the job done. Violet and Tigerlily are the typical introverted/extroverted friends. We do learn why they became friends, which was nice, but not a whole lot else. The illustrations are a nice addition, adding to the cuteness. What I did particularly enjoy was excerpts from the "Mouse Scout Handbook" at the end of every chapter; it added a nice touch of humor and information to the story. What surprised me was how aware the mice are that they're...well, mice. Living with humans. One scout even has a bent tail due to a run-in with a mouse trap. It was strange, when one is used to animal-perspective books that don't include humans.

In the end, I probably wouldn't jump to recommend it, but it's nice to know it's there—like if a child particularly enjoys scouting or gardening. It also goes well with the other "mouse" chapter books of late, such as Sophie Mouse or a classic like The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, March 7

Be a Friend

Be a Friend
Written and illustrated by Salina Yoon

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1619639515
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Date of publication: January 5, 2016
Age: 3 - 6 years

Themes: mime, friendship, communication, individuality, loneliness

Dennis is an ordinary boy who expresses himself in extraordinary ways. Some children do show-and-tell. Dennis mimes his. Some children climb trees. Dennis is happy to BE a tree. But being a mime can be lonely. Will Dennis be able to make a friend? Even if he is different?

I'm a fan of Yoon's friendship stories. I mean how adorable is Penguin and Pinecone?? This one was not my favorite of her's, however. I will say that the illustrations were fantastic, especially when dealing with Dennis' mimes--red dotted lines: such a great idea. And the characters had great emotion. But the text almost detracted from all of that. It's simple and too the point...but in a way that felt it wasn't adding anything to the story. I think this book would've been better as a wordless picture book (or nearly wordless). Which would've gone better with the "mime" theme, anyway.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, March 4

St. Patrick's Day Library Book Display

Okay, we're going to try a little experiment here. Though I'm not actually at the library creating displays anymore...I still like creating displays. So this post is about what I would create for this time of year.

Yep, it's time for a St. Patrick's Day display!

So, basically, I saw this quote somewhere in passing, and thought it'd make a pretty perfect St. Patrick's Day book display sign. So here's a free printable! You can click on the image to download for yourself, or get the 11" x 17" .pdf from Google drive.

And just to help you get a feel for what it may look like on display, here's my obviously-photoshopped inspiration picture!

What's great about this display is you can highlight any collection, really—nonfiction, picture books, etc.—just find the books with the green covers! Add some four-leaf clovers for some extra luck and you're in business. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2

Guinness World Records Early Readers

ISBN: 978-0062341853ISBN: 978-0062341822

Guinness World Records: Wacky Wheels & Daring Dogs
Written by Cari Meister

My rating: ★★★★

Publisher: HarperCollins
Date of publication: February 2, 2016
Age: Grades K - 3
Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: world records, dogs, transportation, curiosities & wonders

From the largest monster truck to the loudest bike horn, these Wacky Wheels Guinness World Records will rev the engines of imagination. And what about dogs that surf, recycle, and scooter? Dogs of all breeds and sizes are impressive. From heroic rescues to zany tricks, the awe-inspiring pooches in Daring Dogs have gone above and beyond to earn their Guinness World Records.

These books are SO fun. They're perfect for kids! What kid doesn't love impressive cars and dogs? The pictures are vivid and are a big support to the text--how fun is it to read about five tennis balls in one dog's mouth if you can't see it?? I also appreciated when the pictures offered scale--like the cover of Wacky Wheels with the little boy off to the side. Or the three-inch tall puppy next to a soda can. Pictures are definitely what make these books fun. The text itself does have some challenging vocabulary, so some adult help may be needed. But still: SO FUN.

I will admit, I did like Daring Dogs a little bit more because there are just some ridiculous vehicles in Wacky Wheels. I mean, the worlds largest motorized shopping cart? That's 'Murica for ya. Anyway, the point is, I recommend them to any and all fact lovers.

Find Wacky Wheels at your library or on Amazon

Find Daring Dogs at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, March 1

A Night Divided

A Night Divided
Jennifer A. Nielsen

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-0545682428
Publisher: Scholastic
Date of publication: August 25, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: family relationships, Berlin Wall, East Berlin, Cold War, escape

With the rise of the Berlin Wall one night in 1961, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city. But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

So excellently done! I love it, it's so good. What makes for a good historical fiction? When I learn something new about some event in history (even driving me to do my own research) AND become invested in the characters (both real and fiction) AND (spoiler!) get a happy ending. Nielsen did all of this and more. I learned so much about the Berlin Wall and life in East Berlin, but in such a way that it didn't feel like felt like I was there. And the characters! They each have their own motivations and fears to overcome. I particularly enjoyed Gerta's evolving relationship with her mother.

Now, is it particularly exciting? Well, it is a lot of tunneling and a lot of holding your breath with each near miss with the authorities. Will kids like it? I hope so. I know I still enjoyed it. Is it as gruesome and heartbreaking as it could be? No, but that's okay, because it's middle-grade fiction. I think Nielsen did an excellent job.

Readalikes would include The War that Saved my Life and Chasing Secrets, and actually, it would fit well on this book list.

Find it at your library or on Amazon