Friday, June 2

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley (Review and Blog Tour!)

Welcome to Literary Hoots for this stop in the blog tour of The Explorers: The Door in the Alley! I'm excited to share my thoughts on this most adventurous of adventure stories. And talk about a pig in a teeny hat, of course.

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley
Adrienne Kress

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1101940051
Publisher: Delacorte
Date of publication: April 25, 2017
Age: Grades 3 - 6
Genre: Mystery
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: adventure, secret societies, missing person, friendship, exploring, maps

"This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.) This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer."

Tuesday, May 30

Reviews of the Week 5/29

Amazing how a small vacation can totally throw me off my blogging groove... But, of course, I still read books. And I still like to share what I read. So while there haven't been many other posts on this here blog other than reviews recently, I'm giving myself a pat on the back for still blogging. And maybe I'll find the mental reserves to put some other content out there. Eventually. (Ah, well, just keeping things honest, right?). Here are some more awesome books to check out:

Monday, May 22

Reviews of the Week 5/22

I've got some extra special tidbits included with today's reviews: Shannon Hale, the author of the now bestselling and highly-acclaimed Real Friends, is local and I was able to go to her book talk just this weekend. So, not only do you get to hear my thoughts on her newest book (woo! right?), but learn some extra special background info (the fascinating tidbits she shared). Plus some other awesome book highlights, in the board book and picture book categories.

Friday, May 19

Reviews of the Week 5/15

I don't really know why this didn't get posted at the beginning of the week. Do you ever have one of those weeks that are like, "*Poof* it's Friday!" and you don't remember how you got to the end so fast? Actually, you know what. The whole month is going too fast. How is it already this far gone in May. What the heck. Maybe the books are just sucking me in too much. They're like a time warp. (#bookloverproblems)

Wednesday, May 17

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior (Review and Giveaway!)

For yet one more giveaway, I have a fantastic new graphic novel, which is a genre I don't tackle often enough. Good thing I have opportunities like these to share some graphic-novel-goodness with you. Thanks to Random House for providing me an ARC and for sponsoring this giveaway! Enter below...

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior
Written by Mark Siegal & Alexis Siegal
Illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, & Boya Sun

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1101935866
Publisher: Random House
Date of publication: May 2, 2017
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: adventure, heroes, friendship, alternate universe, elemental powers

"The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye...

 - The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.
- A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.
- Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

"When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!"

Friday, May 12

Flannel Friday: Five Hungry Ants

I really am cheating at this whole "flannel" Friday thing, since I actually like making printable versions instead (sharing, is caring, right?). So here is a "flannel" you yourself can use--just print the images included! Check it out:

This is a classic flannel that I've since learned by attending storytimes with my daughter. The toddlers just think this rhyme is absolutely hilarious and I had to share my own printable version here. It's a counting down rhyme about some cute little ants trying to get some food at a picnic. Here's the rhyme with actions:

Five hungry ants marching in a line, (hold up five fingers)
Came upon a picnic where they could dine. (eating motions with hands to mouth)
They marched into the salad, (march in place)
They marched into the cake, 
They marched into the pepper… 
Uh oh! That was a mistake! (hands to face with shocked expression)
(do your most dramatic sneeze! seriously, the more exaggerated, the more hilarious)

Four hungry ants... (and so on counting down)

These ants at a picnic could go great with a bugs storytime, summer storytime, or with whatever suits your fancy. To get the free printables, just click on the links below. You can attach a little flannel or velcro to the back to get them to stick to your flannel board.

Free vector images to print: ant, salad, cake, and pepper*

(*Pepper shaker clipart credit here under Creative Commons License)

Anne at So Tomorrow is hosting the Flannel Friday roundup today. You can also check out the FF website, Pinterest, or Facebook! Or use #flannelstorytime on Twitter!

Tuesday, May 9

Reviews of the week 5/8

Four stars all around today. So, yes, these are some pretty great books that I'd definitely recommend. I mean, don't risk a trip and a face plant in your rush to the library or book store, but they're still pretty good. Four-star good.

Friday, May 5

11+ Awesome Spanish/English Bilingual Picture Books

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I'm feeling pretty festive today (or maybe I'm just craving tacos...) so I thought I'd share some of my favorite Spanish picture books. Or really, to be more specific, the Spanish bilingual books and Mexican culture stories I enjoyed using my Head Start Preschool storytimes (you can see a couple highlighted bilingual storytimes I did here). So here are my top eleven! Plus some more, because I always seem to think of other random titles here and there in my descriptions. There are, of course, many more awesome bilingual books, so if you have a favorite, don't forget to share them in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 3

Share, Big Bear, Share! (Review and Giveaway!)

Oh yeah, did I mention my giveaway frenzy was continuing into May? Yep, so much to "share" (pun intended...). This time we're going back to the picture book audience with this new title from Maureen Wright's Big Bear series, Share, Big Bear, Share! So enjoy this blog tour stop, check out my review, and enter the giveaway below!

Share, Big Bear, Share!
Written by Maureen Wright, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1503951006
Publisher: Two Lions
Date of publication: April 25, 2017
Age: 3 - 7 years
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: sharing, forest animals,

"Big Bear's forest friends eye his berries hungrily, but he doesn't notice as he digs into his delicious snack. When the old oak tree says, 'Share, Big Bear, share,' he thinks the tree has said, 'Hair, Big Bear, hair!' One comical scene follows another as Big Bear keeps misunderstanding the old oak tree's message until things finally get sorted out. Whimsical illustrations highlight the humor in this gentle story about the importance of sharing something special with friends."

Friday, April 28

15 Fun Extension Activities for The Adventures of Beekle

Welcome back to my series of posts highlighting some of my very favorite, favorite picture books and the supplementary games, songs, and activities you could use with them. This could be useful for library programs, the classroom, homeschooling, or (of course) to just have fun with your kids! You can see all my book activity ideas here. But today, I'll share ideas for...

Not only one of my favorites, but also a Caldecott winner! The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat is an awesome story with even awesome-er illustrations. It's colorful, it's bright, it inspires share lots of awesome activities. These are targetted at the book's target age group of about 4 to 7 years old. Check them out below!

1. Draw your own imaginary friend -- This one pretty much goes without saying, but this book does provide the most excellent of opportunities to exercise one's imagination. So draw a portrait of your buddy, whether he/she comes purely from your mind's eye or whether you draw some inspiration from Beekle's end pages. Giant sketchbook and pen are not necessary (but could be fun!)

Dan Santat at work, from The Horn Book

Wednesday, April 26

Feminist Baby (Review and Giveaway!)

You see the pattern now? Yeah. Like I said, lots of love to giveaway this month. With this fourth giveaway, we're going to deviate from all of these picture books that I've been giving away and cater to an even younger crowd. Yep, start 'em young with Feminist Baby, a board book from Loryn Brantz. Check out my review and then enter the giveaway for a copy of the book, a pin, and an adorable tote! (Thanks to Disney Books for sending me a copy and providing a prize pack!)

Feminist Baby
Written and illustrated by Loryn Brantz

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1484778586
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: April 11, 2017
Age: all ages
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: babies, rhyme, gender roles, humor

"Feminist Baby likes pink and blue.
Sometimes she'll throw up on you!
Feminist Baby chooses what to wear
and if you don't like it she doesn't care!

"Meet the irrepressible Feminist Baby in this refreshing, clever board book about a girl who's not afraid to do her own thing, and wants to make as much noise as possible along the way!"

Monday, April 24

Reviews of the Week 4/24

This week, I'm excited to share a new middle-grade book that's really unlike anything I've ever read. It's timely and well-written for our country today. So definitely give that a look-see. And the other two? Well, they're almost a given due to their fantastic authors/illustrators...

Thursday, April 20

Happy Dreamer (Review and Giveaway!)

Continuing with awesome book giveaways here on the blog, I'm lucky enough to share Peter H. Reynolds' newest book! Here's my review and don't forget: enter to win the book and a Doodle Pillowcase below! (Thank you Scholastic for sending me a copy and providing the prize pack!)

Happy Dreamer
Written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0545865012
Publisher: Orchard Books
Date of publication: March 28, 2017
Age: 4 - 8 years
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: imagination, dreaming, individuality

"While the world tells us to sit still, to follow the rules, and to color inside the lines, Happy Dreamer celebrates all those moments in between when the mind and spirit soar and we are free to become our own true dreamer maximus! This empowering picture book reminds children of how much their dreams matter, and while life will have ups and downs, readers should stay true to who they are, to tap into their most creative inner selves, and to never ever forget to dream big!"

Tuesday, April 18

Reviews of the Week 4/17: Earth Day Reads!

Earth Day is coming up! And books are a great way to celebrate, of course (books are always a great way to celebrate). I have a BUNCH of new reads that celebrate all things Earth and wanted to share three reviews here. Lot's of nonfiction/animal/earth-science love today!

Friday, April 14

Reviews of the Week 4/10

This month is full of new books to review and giveaways to share! my schedule is a little in flux. But! There's still plenty to see and get excited about. This week's picks are quite the range—a big contrast between city living and the great outdoors. 

Wednesday, April 12

How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea (Review and Giveaway!)

Yes, another giveaway! I'm pleased to share a review and giveaway for quite a special book, a unique story that's perfect for your next tea party. But what's more important? In the spirit of the book's message, the author, Kate Hosford will donate $1 (up to $500) for every retweet (be sure to include @khosford_author!) of a review or interview from her blog tour to First Book. Established in 1992, First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need. So pass along this review!

How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea
Written by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1467739047
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Date of publication: March 1, 2017
Age: 5 - 9 years
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: tea, friendship, internationality, royalty, journey

"Each day when the Queen wakes up, three maids dress her, two more style her hair, and her butler James makes her tea. But when she grows dissatisfied with her brew, the Queen and James set out in search of the perfect cup. With each stop on their hot-air balloon journey, the Queen encounters new friends who expand her horizons—in the kitchen and beyond." (Check out the fun book trailer here!)

Friday, April 7

"First Stories" Board Books Review

While I may not have a regular "reviews of the week" this week, I do want to share a review of three special board books. This series has a particularly timely recent release, what with the success of Disney's new Beauty and the Beast movie...

Tuesday, April 4

Author AND Illustrator Interview: Anna Kang & Christopher Weyant (with a GIVEAWAY!)

Guess what?? I got to interview the amazing creators behind I Am (Not) Scared (which I raved about a couple weeks ago), the third book from Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant featuring the antics of two fuzzy (if contradictory) friends. Basically, this awesome husband-and-wife, author-and-illustrator team are super talented, brilliant, and hilarious. Just check out some of their responses! And, of course, stick around because, at the end, there's a HUGE giveaway to enter that includes their newest book and more!

Friday, March 31

More Funny Book Covers for April Fools

Happy April Fools! I decided to expand on my April Fools display from last year (which was originally inspired by Hafuboti) with five more popular picture book covers that have been specially photoshopped...April Fools style. I love me some funny books!

I've included the Google Drive pdfs in the caption of each of the photos below, so you can download these copies whichever way you please (for free!) and print them off for your own hilarious book display. Kids are sure to love them. Try setting it up where kids have to write down the correct titles, if they know it. Or have them design their own April Fools picture book cover!

Wednesday, March 29

Reviews of the Week 3/27

Extra! Extra! (Hey why did newsboys call out "extra?") Anyway, the point is, I've got extra reviews this week, what with all the extra great stuff being released (oh my gosh, the more I say "extra" the weirder it soundswhat a weird word). After my special spotlight on Dragonwatch on Monday, I've still got three more books to share with you this week. 

Monday, March 27

Dragonwatch (Blog Tour and Review)

"A Fablehaven Adventure"!? I mean really, you could just stop now and know that you need to get yourself a copy of this book. The Fablehaven books are Brandon Mull's first series and honestly, one of my favorites. This sequel series, Dragonwatch, is just about the most exciting news ever. And so we're celebrating with a blog tour all over the interwebs all month long! So here's my review of this newest foray into the Fablehaven universe...

Dragonwatch: A Fablehaven Adventure
Brandon Mull

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1629722566
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Date of publication: March 14, 2017
Age: Grades 4 and up
Genre: Fantasy
Format: ARC provided by publisher

Themes: dragons, magic, mythical creatures, uprisings, sibling relationships

"In the hidden dragon sanctuary of Wyrmroost, Celebrant the Just, King of the Dragons, plots his revenge. He has long seen the sanctuaries as prisons, and he wants nothing more than to overthrow his captors and return the world to the Age of Dragons, when he and his kind ruled and reigned without borders. The time has come to break free and reclaim his power.

"No one person is capable of stopping Celebrant and his dragon horde. It will take the ancient order of Dragonwatch to gather again if there is any chance of saving the world from destruction. In ancient times, Dragonwatch was a group of wizards, enchantresses, dragon slayers, and others who originally confined the majority of dragons into sanctuaries. But nearly all of the original Dragonwatch members are gone, and so the wizard Agad reaches out to Grandpa Sorenson for help.

"As Kendra and Seth confront this new danger, they must draw upon all their skills, talents, and knowledge as only they have the ability to function together as a powerful dragon tamer. Together they must battle against forces with superior supernatural powers and breathtaking magical abilities.

"How will the epic dragon showdown end? Will dragons overthrow humans and change the world as we know it?"

Oh, Kendra and Seth, you are exactly as I remembered you. Despite the last book of the Fablehaven series being released seven years ago (seven years??? holy cow), this continued where that story left off with hardly a hop, skip, or jump. It was seamless. In fact, that may be my only (small, very small) criticism. A lot of the character development and histories are dependent on the fact that you have read Fablehaven. That is not to say that this isn't a fantastic story by itself, but that the characters and setting are somewhat flat unless you've read the other books. I had trouble remembering where Kendra and Seth's parents were, who many of their old friends were, and many other small details in their history.

By depending on Fablehaven to provide the character depth, however, Mull is allowed to jump into the action of the series right away. Which he does. This new plot is very exciting and a definite success when it comes to the dreaded realm of "sequels." It doesn't feel like it's trying to rewrite what happened in Fablehaven, nor does to fall flat in relation to it; the new problem that has arisen with the dragons feels justified. The characters (while they do have quite the history in the other books) do still get the chance to grow and develop some more in this one. New characters are introduced and easy to love. And man, it's all so exciting. Hint: the cover gives one scene particular justice. It's just that epic.

In the end, it's pretty easy for me to recommend this book. Mull's writing is to the point and very much action-driven; basically, kids will love it. Kids who loved the Fablehaven books will love it even more. This is, no question, a must have. And if you haven't read the Fablehaven books and are hesitant to read this? Easy, just read the Fablehaven books because they're freakin' amazing, too, okay??

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Thursday, March 23

National Poetry Month Library Display

Ages ago, when working at my old library, I found this image on Pinterest:

As far as I can tell, the image came from Greenville County Library. So I'm giving them the credit, though I will admit that it could've come from anywhere (oh the joys of Pinterest).

But the point is: I got out a poster board and copied it exactly to hang as a display in my library. Because I think it is hilarious. And it worked so well to promote our (somewhat rarely used) poetry section. In fact, I've got a list of some of my favorite poetry books below.

Monday, March 20

Reviews of the Week 3/20: Picture Book Edition

There's a lot of great picture books being published of late--it's hard to keep up! But here are another three that were pretty impressive in their illustrations and ideas, even though each of them are very different. See for yourself!

Friday, March 17

Donuts Storytime

Donut? Doughnut? Donut. In case you're wondering, National Donut Day is the first Friday in June. You know, in case you need a storytime idea or some donut activity ideas. This storytime is designed for preschool-aged kids.