Thursday, August 17

The Adventures of Henry Whiskers (Review and Giveaway!)

It's been awhile since my last giveaway, so I'm excited to offer not just one, but two books--the series The Adventures of Henry Whiskers, perfect for thrill-seeking beginning chapter book readers! Enter the giveaway below:

 
978-1481465748 | January 3, 2017978-1481465779 | August 29, 2017

The Adventures of Henry Whiskers
Written by Gigi Priebe, illustrated by Daniel Duncan

My rating: ★★★½

Publisher: Aladdin
Age: Grades 2 - 5
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: Adventure, Windsor Castle, mice, family relationships, courage

"Twenty-five generations of Whiskers have lived in Windsor Castle’s most famous exhibit: Queen Mary’s Dollhouse. For young, book-loving Henry Whiskers and his family, this is the perfect place to call home.

Tuesday, August 15

Top Early Readers/Chapter Books of the Month (August 2017)

Here we have my favorite books that are aimed at the younger grade-school kids, from early readers to chapter books. Also, stay tuned for later in the week for a giveaway of another awesome chapter book series!

The Good for Nothing Button
(Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!)
Charise Mericle Harper (and Mo Willems)

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1484726464
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: May 2, 2017
Age: Grades K - 2
Format: library book

Themes: emotions, imagination, birds

"Yellow Bird has a button. It does . . . nothing! It is a good for nothing button. Red Bird and Blue Bird are excited to try the button. But when they press it, they discover that the button makes them happy. Happy is something! A flabbergasted Yellow Bird insists the button does nothing. But it sure does seem to be making him mad. Mad is something! The hilarious debate that follows takes readers on an emotional roller coaster that pokes at the power of imaginative play."

A bit of a strange concept for a story (characters arguing over a button that does nothing?), but my initial skepticism gave in to an appreciation for its exploration of different emotions. This easy reader is another "Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!" book, so it follows that same style of simple illustrations, word bubbles, and typographical variations (you know, when the character emotion is conveyed through different fonts or all caps—that sort of thing). I appreciate this style; it's easier for kids to read and comprehend character voice, especially their emotions (which is really important with this story, since it is all about emotions). While, overall, it wasn't particularly funny or ingenious, it's definitely a good read.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers
Written by John Dougherty, illustrated by Sam Ricks

My rating: ★★

ISBN: 978-1101996621
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Date of publication: February 7, 2012
Age: Grades 1 - 3
Genre: Fantasy, Humor
Format: library book

Themes: quests, brother/sister relationships, kingdom, humor, badgers

"Welcome to the kingdom of Great Kerfuffle! Great Kerfuffle is really great. And there's usually a kerfuffle (the clue's in the name really). This particular kerfuffle started the day Stinkbomb's twenty dollar bill went missing. Stinkbomb and his little sister Ketchup-Face know exactly who took it: the badgers. After all, they're called badgers because they do bad things; otherwise they'd just be gers.

"They bring news of the badgers' treachery to King Toothbrush Weasel (don't get us started on the story behind his name…), who sends them on a quest to rid the land of badgers. What follows is a full on kerfuffle-fest, containing:  one deep dark forest, a grocery cart in distress, a song about jam—and, of course, a band of very tricky badgers."

Ah, so, so ridiculous. But it's supposed to be, so thus, it is successful—funny how that works, huh? Really, there's an art to being ridiculous, and Dougherty has the skill. This book doesn't come off as stupid or annoying, as could be the case (the characters are named Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face after all). It's clever and snarky in a self-aware, yes-I-know-this-is-ridiculous sort of way. There's a lot of illustrations and typographical elements that further these elements. The climax is a little hollow (it's a little rushed and feels more like an afterthought) and there's less focus on character development. But really, the story was created to be a galavant into the silly, and so it is. I'd recommend this to reluctant readers especially.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

The Unlucky Lottery Winners of Classroom 13
Written by Honest Lee & Matthew J. Gilbert, illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0316464628
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Date of publication: June 6, 2017
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Humor
Format: library book

Themes: money, lottery, classroom relations, luck, humor

"When unlucky teacher Ms. Linda LaCrosse wins the lottery, she shares her winnings with her class--giving each student over a BILLION DOLLARS! You might think this was nice, but it was not. It was a nasty idea! With great money comes horrible allergies, steep taxes, exploding volcanoes, and other problems. As the students of Classroom 13 are about to learn, winning the lottery is not always lucky."

It honestly felt like I was reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School—it's a hilariously cheeky look into a classroom full of comically diverse characters. This story, though, is specifically about the lottery and what happens when different kids get their hands on a billions of dollars (each chapter is about a different kid in the class). So Lee really lets his creativity loose (and is his name really Honest Lee??), making for some funny, crazy, and even thoughtful situations. Really, it's less of a story—with a storyline with beginning, middle, climax and all that—and more of a collection of stories (again, like Sideways Stories). My favorite part, though, is the author's encouragement of kid readers to write their own chapter of what they'd do with a billion bucks. Creative, funny, and easy to recommend.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Overboard!
(Survivor Diaries)
Written by Terry Lynn Johnson, illustrated by Jani Orban

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0544970106
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: July 4, 2017
Age: Grades 2 - 5
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: library book

Themes: survival, hypothermia, Pacific Ocean, lost children

"Eleven-year-old Travis and his family are on a whale watch off the coast of Washington when disaster strikes. The boat capsizes, throwing everyone into the ice-cold chaotic waves. Separated from their families and struggling to stay afloat, Travis and twelve-year-old Marina must use all of their grit and knowledge to survive."

Man, this book wastes no time getting the reader into a high-suspense, intense storyline. It's fast, action-packed, and informative, with a full survival story and useful facts in under 100 pages. Survival experts and Coast-Guard-approved-tips keep it authentic and educational. There are some sparse illustrations to help the story along, as well. Basically, kids will love it. I also appreciated the character development. While the main focus is the action, Johnson takes the time to share some character history, fears, and growth to make the whole story a bit more relatable. Really well done and easy to recommend, especially for fans of the I Survived series.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Saturday, August 12

Top Picture Books of the Month (August 2017)

There were a lot of great picture books published this summer, but here are some of my favorites. You'll notice most of them are based on humor... (what can I say, I love to laugh)

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective
Written by Jason Gallaher, illustrated by Jess Pauwels

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1481462716
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Date of publication: July 18, 2017
Age: 4 - 9 years
Genre: Mystery
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: forest animals, detectives, mystery, humor

"Help Whobert Whover, Owl Detective, keep his woods safe in this hilarious who-who-dun-it. What happened to Perry the Possum? Whobert Whover, Owl Detective, is on the case! Did Debbie the Duck whack Perry with her wicked wings? Or did Freddie the Frog soak Perry in his sickening slime? And what if the culprit is closer to home than Whobert expects?"

Whobert is adorable. Yes, I'm TOTALLY biased because—hello—I run a book review blog called Literary Hoots. But, sadly, he's not quite as wise as you might expect for an owl... (*giggle*). Okay, sorry, let's keep going. Really, the book, overall, is just awesome—but it takes a couple of read-throughs to really appreciate it. The writing has great flow, with a repetitive pattern of Whobert looking for clues, making an accusation, being totally wrong and starting again. Then the ending exploits that nicely and wraps up quite humorously—perfect for a readaloud or storytime.

The illustrations support the text beautifully because this is where the real humor comes in. Look closely at the clues illustrated—what is Whobert missing that the intrepid reader could discover? It's brilliant and demands to be looked at repeatedly, encouraging the reader to be their own detective. In storytime or with a child on your lap, this is a fantastic picture book to try out. I really hope more Whobert adventures are in the works.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monster's New Undies
Written by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Tad Carpenter

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0545879736
Publisher: Orchard Books
Date of publication: June 27, 2017
Age: 3 - 5 years
Genre: Humor
Format: library book

Themes: monsters, underwear, rhyming, humor

"These are my undies! / A sweet work of art! / Uh-oh! My undies! / They just fell apart. Monster is JUST FINE with his old undies, thank you very much. But when his undies fall apart, what's a monster to do? His mommy takes him shopping, of course! But finding the perfect pair of undies is not going to be easy..."

Rhyming text all about underwear? I would never NOT use this in storytime. Fun to read aloud and content kids love (I'm sorry, kids will never NOT laugh at underwear books—trust me, I did a whole underwear storytime). My only complaint is that it might be a tad too long; I honestly didn't know you could poeticize about underpants for so many pages. And the ending felt a bit abrupt. Still, with appealing illustrations and the chance to repeatedly rhyme words like "buns" and "rump," I know kids would have a lot of fun with it. See for yourself!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
Written by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Adam Rex

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0062438898
Publisher: Balzar + Bray
Date of publication: April 4, 2017
Age: 5 - 10 years
Genre: humor
Format: library book

Themes: games, battles, legends, humor

"You've played the game. Now read the legend of how it all began...Long ago, in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard, there lived a warrior named ROCK. Meanwhile in the Empire of Mom's Home Office, a second great warrior sought the glory of battle. And his name was PAPER. At the same time, in the Kitchen Realm, in the tiny village of Junk Drawer, lived a third warrior. They called her SCISSORS. These three were the strongest, smartest, and fastest in all the land. Time and again they beat the most fearsome opponents they could find: an apricot, a computer printer—even frozen, breaded, dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets! But when the warriors finally meet each other, the most epic round of battles begins...and never ends. That is why, to this day, children around the world honor these worthy adversaries by playing ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS!"

There's been a lot of buzz about this one—and for good reason. The writing is just so clever and the illustrations so totally epic. And of course, the two together make for a hilarious homage to a rather simple game. Who knew you could make Rock, Paper, Scissors so totally awesome? Gosh, even the publisher-provided summary is rather glorious. The length of this book, though, does lead me to say it'd be better for an older audience—grade-schoolers will love it. I think it'd make for a great classroom study, in addition to it being just an all around fun read.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Blue Sky, White Stars
Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0803737006
Publisher: Dial Books
Date of publication: June 13, 2017
Age: 4 and up
Genre: Poetry
Format: library book

Themes: The United States of America, the flag, patriotism,

"An inspiring and patriotic tribute to the beauty of the American flag, a symbol of America’s history, landscape, and people. It depicts a stirring tableau, from the view of the Statue of Library at Ellis Island to civil rights marchers shoulder to shoulder, to a spacecraft at Cape Canaveral blasting off. This book is an ode to America then and now, from sea to shining sea."

Man, I missed the ball on this one—what a perfect read for the 4th of July! I only missed it by a month or so. While the writing is poetic and evocative, it's Nelson's illustrations that make this book so successful. I'm a huge fan of his skill; the detail and realism in his paintings are awe-inspiring. Naberhaus outlines, while Nelson fills in the details. So, really, his work was perfect for Naberhaus' writing. Definitely take the time to really pore over the art in this book. This is one that can be appreciated by people of all ages.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Be Quiet!
Ryan T. Higgins

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1484731628
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: April 4, 2017
Age: 4 - 9 years
Genre: Humor
Format: library book

Themes: forest animals, humor, book writing

All Rupert the mouse wants is to star in a beautiful, wordless picturebook. One that's visually stimulating! With scenic pictures! And style! He has plenty of ideas about what makes a great book, but his friends just WON'T. STOP. TALKING.

Genius, really. Pure comedic genius. Higgins has delivered a story that not only makes you laugh out loud, but even explores aspects of the book writing and illustrating process. It's so meta; it breaks the fourth wall before the book even starts. The illustrations, with their comic-like word bubbles and action contributes to the humor even further. This would be such a great readaloud—the more dramatically read, the better (and it allows for a lot of drama!). Give this one a try!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, August 8

Top Board Books of the Month (August 2017)

We're going to change how I present my reviews (again). I think it'll be much better to highlight my favorite reads in each age category as a monthly review. So here are my favorite board books for this month!

Dinos on Deck!
Gareth Lucas

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-1626869387
Publisher: Silver Dolphin
Date of publication: June 13, 2017
Age: 2 -5 years
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: dinosaurs, pirates, treasure hunting, sounds

"Join your favorite dinosaur friends on an adventure in the seas! Hoist the sails, press the sound buttons, and laugh along as a Triceratops, a Stegosaurus, a T. Rex and more search for treasure. What will these dinosaur friends find when they open the treasure chest?"

Simple, short, and definitely a hit with toddlers. I mean, pressing sound buttons? Having a book make all sorts of noises? It's really quite obvious. I admit, I wasn't the most impressed initially (it is noisy). But for something so short and sweet, it still packs in some good stuff—it names some dinosaurs, has a rhyming text, has bright (and funny!) illustrations, and has a perfect little surprise at the end. I'd recommend this as a quick and fun storytime addition. If it's a really big hit, you could also try Dig, Dig, Digger! (another of Lucas' noisy books, all about construction).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Woodworks Nursery Rhymes: Wheels on the Bus
Elliot Kreloff

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1626869561
Publisher: Silver Dolphin
Date of publication: July 11, 2017
Age: 2 - 5 years
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: rhyming, play, buses

"The wheels on the bus go round and round! Climb aboard the yellow bus with this sweet playset featuring a chunky board book, a wooden school bus, and a playmat for added fun. Young readers will enjoy reading and playing along with their favorite nursery rhyme as they drive around the town and sing their way through the storybook."

Singing a book can be so much more satisfying than simply reading it.This book featuring the song The Wheels on the Bus is small, simple, and colorful. Really, this set is all about fun for tots: little chunky book (for little, chunky hands!), a toy school bus, and a large play mat to on which to drive that toy bus (it features city streets and bus stops). It's perfect for imaginative play. Overall, though, it wouldn't really work in a storytime or library setting—much more fun in a small setting, at home or one-on-one. There's also an Old MacDonald version, too, with a tractor and farm-setting playmat.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Flora and the Chicks: A Counting Book
Molly Idle

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1452146577
Publisher: Chronicle
Date of publication: March 7, 2017
Age: 2 - 5 years
Genre: Educational
Format: library book

Themes: counting, chickens, eggs,

"When a nest of eggs begins to hatch, just how many are there? And how will Flora ever keep up with so many chicks? Featuring fold-out pages and Molly Idle's graceful artwork, this counting book will delight young children as they master new words and concepts."

The story is in the pictures, with Idle's soft illustrations full of movement and grace. Each page's text is simply a number (it is a counting book after all), so the star is Flora and her adorable chicks. My toddler had fun with the fold-out pages (though was a tad disappointed that not every page had them) and we "cheeped" for each newly hatched chick--a way to make the counting even more fun. Since the emphasis is on the illustrations, I'd recommend this for a more intimate storytime session, enjoying all the aspects of the art.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals
Mo Willems

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1484767467
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: May 30, 2017
Age: 0 and up (yes, literally everybody)
Format: library book

Themes: babies, family relationships, how-to

"Mo Willems' introductory guide for new arrivals welcomes readers to the world using bold, eye-catching graphics and clever text that is perfect for reading aloud. With a fun and heartwarming message, Welcome playfully interacts with the reader with its meta-humor, while addressing such topics such as injustice, cats, friendship, and family. This one-of-a-kind guide to the world is a must-have for infants and new parents alike."

Okay, this isn't technically a board book. It just has really thick paper pages. BUT it's for babies, so I'm including it here. Okay, it's really for adults, too. The point is: it's a great book for a baby storytime. The illustrations are bright, with stark contrast--perfect for a developing baby's eyesight. It even has mirror pages, for admiring a baby's own reflection. The text? Well, that's really for the adults. It's a humorous how-to pamphlet for...well, life. The life of a baby, anyway. It's a meta instruction manual. Sweet and snarky all at once. Basically, it's a fantastic way to get parents excited to read to their newborns.

Find it at your library or on Amazon