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.

Tuesday, March 14

Reviews of the Week 3/13

Anyone else celebrate Pi Day? I've got pi on the brain. Okay, mostly pie. Especially with pie making a repeated appearance in a reviewed book this week: The Warden's Daughter. Unfortunately, the pie references might've been the only part I really like in that book...

Friday, March 10

11 Nonfiction Picture Book Biographies About Amazing Women

Did you know March is National Women's History Month? And that we celebrated International Women's Day just two short days ago? So it only made sense to start gathering a list of some of my favorite women's biographies. In this case, I picked picture book biographies. I love this format because it makes biographies so much more fun for kids (okay, and for me, too). While I realize you're not always going to get every last fact about a person's life, picture book biographies do allow the sharing of inspiring messages—and, of course, gorgeous illustrations that really drive the emotional aspects of a person's story.

Here's my eleven favorite women's biographies for kids. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below!

Monday, March 6

Reviews of the Week 3/6

Hello and happy Monday! My reviews this week have quite the spread between topic and rating. That's all I have to say, really,'s Monday. 

Friday, March 3

Flannel Friday: Seashells!

After coming up with an underwater-themed storytime this week, I wanted to share the (free) printable flannel I made for Flannel Friday!

Okay, you're right, since it's printable, it's not really flannel (or felt for that matter). But hey! It works. Just stick a bit of Velcro or flannel on the back of the paper. The shells (vector images) can be found here: red seashell, yellow seashell, green seashell, orange seashell, white seashell. And of course, the crab is printable, too. 

So with this flannel, we played the ever favorite hide-and-seek game (a Little Mouse variation) with the crab hiding behind one of the shells. Then I let the kids guess which color shell we should look under and then we say this rhyme:

Little crab, little crab, where do you hide?
Are you in the red* seashell? Let's peek inside!

*Or whichever color. This is also a fun rhyme to practice sign language! You can do signs for the colors, "crab," and "seashell." The kids get ridiculously excited about finding the little guy. Hope you have fun with it, too!

Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime is hosting the Flannel Friday roundup today. You can also check out the FF website, Pinterest, or Facebook! Or use #flannelstorytime on Twitter!

Wednesday, March 1

Underwater Storytime

This storytime is targeted at preschool-aged kids at the library (but works for school and at-home activities, too!)

Monday, February 27

Reviews of the Week 2/27

Ah, Monday again. How was your weekend? I'm gonna brag about mine for a bit because, first of all, I got a new t-shirt (courtesy of GiftedShirts--thanks!) that is not only so incredibly comfy that I literally wore it all weekend...but it's book-themed, too. The "My Weekend is All Booked" is basically my new favorite, I'm not even kidding. And it just makes so much sense because I did, in fact, spend all weekend reading the most amazing book. Like, I'm still reeling from it. Yep, I've got a new 5-star review today. So. Good.

Friday, February 24

15 Fun Activities for Kids when reading Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

Welcome back to my new series of posts highlighting some of my very favorite, favorite 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! Previously, I've created fun activity lists for books like I Want My Hat Back and Mother Bruce. Now I'll share ideas for...

Yep, this year's Caldecott Medal winner, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, which truly deserves the honor. Now, with this being a book about an artist written by an artist who won the Caldecott (oh, and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award!), a lot of these activities are art based. Woo! But there's still some science, games, music, and food thrown in, too. Whichever of the activities you choose, they'll be perfect for the book's target age of school-age kids, or roughly 6 - 10 years old.

1. DIY spray painting—Jean-Michel Basquiat started out his career with a lot of graffiti. Have kids try it out (in a safer, more washable way) with washable paint put in spray bottles (see this instructable for more info and photo cred). Make a game of it by trying to shoot different targets with your paint.

Wednesday, February 22

The Blood Guard Trilogy Review (with Giveaway!)

Instead of the "Reviews of the Week" post I normally do, we're having an extra special series review of The Blood Guard with a giveaway! See below for full details!

978-1477847251 / March 4, 2014 978-1477826263 / August 18, 2015 978-1477827178 / February 21, 2017

The Blood Guard
Carter Roy

My rating: ★★★★

Publisher: Two Lions
Age: Grades 4 - 7         
Genre: FantasyFormat: ARC from publisher

Themes: secret societies, good vs. evil, action, adventure, magical abilities, family relationships

"When thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove's seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high-speed car chase, Ronan is shocked. His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped? And the kidnappers are after him, too? His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary. In fact, she's a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure—thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive.

"Now all those after-school activities—gymnastics, judo, survival training—she made him take, make sense. For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure—dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers. Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he's never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom's last words of advice: Trust no one."

Oh man. High-flying, non-stop, crazy-magic-infused action, muchachos. If you need a book series that will grab on to its reader firmly and not let go until its thrilling conclusion, look no further. Pretty sure I read these in less than a week. Let's break them down a bit, shall we?

Friday, February 17

The 2016 Cybils Winners! (And My Personal Runner-Ups)

Guess what?? Cybils, that's what. I had the awesome, amazing opportunity to be a Round 2 judge for the Cybils Awards again! Last year, I did the Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book category. But for 2016, I shook things up a bit and helped nominate the winner of the Board Book and Fiction Picture Book category. And on Tuesday, our decisions were finally announced!

Check out all the winners here!

Like last year, I thought I'd take the time to highlight a couple (personal, individual, outside-of-the-contest) runner-ups in my judging category.

Being a Round 2 judge means that you get to select the winning title from a group of finalists picked in Round 1. Well, let me tell you, all of the books are finalists for a reason! They were all so good. (You can see all the finalists on the home page). So really, pick them all up if you can. But here are my personal favorites:

Wednesday, February 15

Author AND Illustrator Interview: Stacy McAnulty & Edward Hemingway (with a GIVEAWAY!)

Dude today is so packety packed. I got to interview the amazing author/illustrator team behind Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He's the Favorite. Remember when I raved about it a couple weeks back? Yeah. Now I love it even more because of these people: Stacy McAnulty and Edward Hemingway. Not only are they super talented, but also hilarious. Also! It's my first time interviewing an illustrator, which just makes me so excited. And after their interviews, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a copy of the book! Wow, it is such a win-win-win day...

STACY MCANULTY is certain she's her mom's favorite. Her younger brother disagrees. She's the author of Beautiful, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach; and 101 Reasons Why I'm Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. Originally from upstate New York, she now lives in Kernersville, North Carolina, with her three children, two dogs, and one husband. She doesn't have a favorite. You can find her online at

EA: Hi, Ms. McAnulty! Thanks for doing this interview. So, based on your bio, it looks like you first studied Mechanical the heck did you make the jump from that to writing children's books??

SM: Ha! My past career always surprises people. But engineering and writing are not that different. They both require creativity, problem-solving, and stick-to-it-ness. Sure, engineering requires calculus and physics, and writers need a comprehension of language, grammar, and spelling (none of which I’m great at). Engineers and authors are both trying to improve the world. Engineers design better cars, turbines, computers, airline seats (I designed first-class airline seats). These items mostly make our lives better. Authors create books that also make our lives better by making us laugh, think, question, dream, or escape.

Monday, February 13

Reviews of the Week 2/13

Happy Valentine's Day! But do you know what else tomorrow is? The CYBILS award announcement day! I was lucky enough to be a judge in the Board Books and Picture Books category, and I have to say, there were some good ones this year. So be sure to check out that page tomorrow. In the meantime, here's some more book love...

Friday, February 10

Flannel Friday Roundup for 2/10

*Poof* From placeholder to roundup, here's the Flannel Friday for your week.

We've got a few flannels that were shared, all of which are fantastic, of course! So let's get started...

1. Kathryn from Fun with Friends at Storytime shared an appropriately snowy flannel: her collection of snowmen and snowmen rhymes. She's got a handsome set over there, so take your pick!

2. Maria from Storytime Universe has her five little footballs all ready to go in her flannel this week. Go team go!

3. Keith from Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime has a flannel to go with his Jill Be Nimble rhyme because, (and I quote) "Jill can jump just as well as Jack, yo." Love it!

4. Kate from Felt Board Magic has her flannel for five little raindrops, with both counting up and counting down rhymes, complete with free pattern!

5. As for me, I pulled out my old-but-still-successful Presidents' Day flannel featuring counterfeit money, a song, and game that gets kids recognizing presidents and cash quickly.

Thanks, everyone, for posting your fantastic ideas! Don't forget to check out the FF website to learn more, or see their Pinterest page for even more ideas, or follow them on Facebook!