Posted in picture books

Freedom Soup celebrates an important New Year tradition

Freedom Soup, by Tami Charles/Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, (Dec. 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763689773

Ages 5-10

Belle and her grandmother, Ti Gran, are making soup – but it’s not just any old soup, it’s Freedom Soup. As the girl and her grandmother dance and cook, Ti Gran tells Belle the history behind the Haitian soup: it’s the history of Haiti, the history of revolution and freedom, and the history of family, as the recipe is passed from generation to generation. As the two create the recipe, readers are witness to a celebration, watching grandmother and granddaughter dance and cook, the girl learning from her grandmother about food, history, and life.

The very story in Freedom Soup teems with rhythm and movement. Belle and Ti Gran listen to Haitian music as they prepare the soup; the two dance as they cook, and the ingredients come alive with their own movement: garlicky herbs click clack as Belle mashes them; ribbons of steam dance; the soup’s delicious scent swirls around the kitchen, all coming together to set the stage for Ti Gran’s story about Haitian slaves making soup for their masters and finally, triumphantly, making soup for themselves to celebrate their independence. Belle and Ti Gran celebrate Haiti’s freedom, too, as does the rest of their family, who arrive to eat soup, dance, and celebrate. The story reads like a poem, inviting the reader in by tempting their senses with sights and smells. Jacqueline Alcántara’s mixed media illustration creates a warm, homey setting, with prominent yellows and browns, calming blues and childhood kitchen whites. There’s movement on each spread, making this a book you’ll want to move with as you read it (and you should!). Back matter includes a recipe for Freedom Soup, and a note from the author about her husband’s Ti own Gran, who inspired the book.

Put Freedom Soup on your shelves and add it to your New Year’s storytimes. With relatively little about the Haitian revolution available for children, particularly younger children, this is an excellent start – or addition – to collections.

Freedom Soup has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath, by Todd Tarpley

Even ninjas have bathtime! This picture introduces us to a ninja who sees danger lurking everywhere – with hilarious consequences for his father, at bathtime!

Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath, by Todd Tarpley/Illustrated by Vin Vogel,
(Jan. 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542094337
Ages 3-6

Will the Ninja heads home after a training session covered in mud, leaves, dung, and with flies swarming around him. It’s hard work being a ninja, and he’s worked up a heck of an appetite, but Dad and Mom are not having it – he stinks! It’s off to the bath with Will before he can get some chicken nuggets, but… WAIT! Are those poisonous flies he sees, just waiting to attack his father? “…you’re not going to say ‘Ninja to the rescue!'”, exclaims dad: “Whenever you say that, something bad happens!” But it’s too late. And sure enough, as Will defends his father from deadly flies, angry alligators, and an invading army of samurai, Will yells his trademark phrase, causing catastrophe and hilarity. Dad eventually gives in and enjoys the wacky fun, and even get Mom in on the laughs.

This is an adorably fun book that kids who love (or loathe) bath time will get a kick out of. The repeated phrase, “Ninja to the rescue!” just begs for readers to squeal along during a readaloud: teach your kids some fun, wacky karate poses to affect when they yell it, with a hearty “Hi-YAH!” to signal when it’s time. The digital illustrations are bold and bright, with expressive characters and and constant motion on each spread. Pair with a bathtime book like Laura Gehl and Joyce Wan’s I’m Not Taking a Bath, or a ninja story like Todd Tuell and Tad Carpenter’s Ninja, Ninja, Never Stop!

There are oodles of rubber duck and ninja crafts available online, too. I’ve used this adorable ninja shape craft from No Time for Flash Cards, and the kids love it – just a little prep, and you’re good to go. Glued to My Crafts has a cute paper plate duck craft. Give it a whirl!

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Dewey Fairchild, Sibling Problem Solver, is on the case!

Dewey Fairchild, Sibling Problem Solver (Dewey Fairchild, Book 3), by Lorri Horn, (Aug. 2019, Amberjack Publishing), $13.99, ISBN: 9781948705417

Ages 8-12

Dewey Fairchild is a kid who likes to solve problems and eat cookies. He’s solved kids’ problems with parents and problems with teachers; in his third adventure, he sets his sights on solving sibling problems, even taking on parents as clients! Together with his assistant/cookie supplier, Clara – kind of the Alfred to Dewey’s Batman – and her dog, Wolfie, Dewey’s third adventure will make him look at his own relationship with his own siblings as he takes on new clients.

This is the third book in the Dewey Fairchild series, but you don’t need to have read the first two to enjoy this one. Dewey is middle grader who likes to solve problems and has a secret office that allows him to get some headspace from his family and enjoy the cookies that his 94-year-old assistant, Clara, bakes up as he puzzles out cases. The book emphasizes the problem-solving process, as Dewey interviews new clients, stakes out spaces to see client and sibling interactions for himself, and consult his notes as he works on solutions. As Dewey works through sibling problems, he sees shades of his own interactions with his older and younger sisters – and puts his own theories into action.

Dewey is a likable character, and his emphasis on observation and problem-solving will score big with parents and kids alike. Black and white illustrations of cookies in the process of being nibbled away head up each chapter and will make you hungry. Bake up a plate or two of cookies for a discussion on this one; there’s a lot to discuss here. Give this to your kids who enjoy light mysteries (and have aged up from intermediate titles like the A to Z Mysteries and Cam Jansen) and encourage them to see their own relationships with parents and siblings in a new light.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver received a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Storytime is book review time! Something For You, With All My Heart, C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan

I’m a #SaturdayLibrarian today, so I figured that best way to catch up on book reviews was to put them in front of my toughest audience: TODDLERS. See, on Saturdays, I do storytimes in my children’s room’s Family Place center, which, in Corona (my library), is a little area full of learning toys for the kids to explore. So this is an audience that’s not always going to be riveted to my every word, ya know? I have to be on top of my game for Saturday Storytime, and I need books that are going to keep the kids and parents entertained. These three fit the bill.

Something for You, by Charlie Mylie, (Nov. 2019, Farrar Straus Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374312350

Ages 2-6

A sweet book about friendship, Something for You is about a mouse who wants to cheer up a sick friend. He searches for something to make her smile, but things don’t always go as planned. Mouse learns that just being a friend is all we need. The watercolor artwork brings a delicacy to the story, and the characters are drawn with kind, expressive faces; their movements also delicate and nurturing. The mouse who searches for something for his friend gently wraps a scarf around a cold pigeon and shares a flower with a bee – even if he’s a little grumpy about it! The story incorporates panels into the storytelling, allowing for a nice sequential feel, while showing small moments coming together to create a story.

This was the first book up, and the kids were intrigued. The cover caught their eye, and I asked, “Isn’t it nice when someone does something for you? Don’t you feel good when you do something nice for Mommy or Daddy?” Moms and dads smiled, and toddlers looked at them skeptically, but seemed to go along with it. The framed window, giving readers a view into the mouse caring for his sick friend, also caught the kids’ eyes: we’re natural spectators, right?

Something for You is adorable, and perfect for stories about kindness and empathy. Toddlers and preschoolers are the spot-on audience for this one, but older kids – Kindergarten and first grade, especially – will enjoy this one, too. Reading this book can lead to some wonderful discussions about friendship.


With All My Heart, by Stephanie Stansbie & Richard Smythe, (Dec. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $15.99, ISBN: 9781684129102

Ages 2-6

This is the sweetest book about parent-child love. A big bear and little bear cuddle together, splash, explore, and enjoy making memories together in this ultimate cuddle-sit rhyming story with die-cuts throughout the book. The verse reads with a soothing cadence and is a love letter to caregiving, to parenthood, to loving a child: “I saw your sweet smile/and I knew from the start,/I’d love you forever/with all of my heart”; “Each day, more than ever,/I love your sweet smile,/And feeling you close/as we cuddle a while”. Die cuts on each spread spotlight words in hearts, leaves, and star shapes.

The parents loved this one, and snuggled their little ones (still clutching their toys) into the laps and pointed out the bears, the diecuts, and details like the warm sun, the soft and silvery moon, the little moments between parent and child. This is a nice storytime/lapsit-cuddlesit/bedtime book to have in your collection, and would pair nicely with Anna Pignataro’s Our Love Grows, Margaret Wise Brown’s A Long Time That I’ve Loved You, and the classic Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney.

I’ll be reading this one again and again.


C Jumped Over Three Pots and a Pan and Landed SMACK in the Garbage Can!, by Pamela Jane/Illustrated by Hina Imtiaz, (Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764357954

Ages 2-6

I had to end on a silly note! After a rousing rendition of the Alphabet Song, I launched into a spirited reading of this hilarious rhyming story. The alphabet letters are at camp, when C, trying to show off to A and B, decides to leap over  – you guessed it – three pots and a pan. C jumps a little farther than expected, though, and lands – SMACK! – in a garbage can, sending the rest of the alphabet into a tizzy as they search for the letter E, who has three arms and can help pull C out. But E’s gone missing, along with three other letters! We have an alphabet mystery with dramatic tension here, and the repeated phrase, “C jumped over three pots and a pan and landed smack in a garbage can” make this a laugh-out loud book to read aloud. This is made for silly, emphatic reading out loud: I smack my thigh to emphasize the word “smack”, which gave the kids an extra giggle. It’s a fun take on concepts, and is PERFECT for kids who love Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr.

The artwork is fun, adorable, and bold, with large letters that have arms, legs, and expressive faces. The primary colors are bright and playful, set against a camp setting complete with tents, boats and rivers, and grass.

Parents and kids alike enjoyed this one, and I’ll be coming back to this book again and again. If you do storytime crafts after your storytimes, there are loads of ideas to enhance your program. There are Do-a-Dot printables (perfect for little hands), letter crafts (my second grader did these in preschool, but the teachers used construction paper and cut out the shapes for the kids to decorate), and hundreds of alphabet coloring sheets. A quick Pinterest search or Internet search will lead you down the wonderful rabbit hole of alphabet coloring and crafts. Enjoy.

And that was my storytime today!

Posted in Uncategorized

I haven’t blog-faded! I’m back!

A very belated Happy New Year, everyone! Now, let me dust off the cobwebs and update you all.


So the end of the year was… overwhelming. 2019 was a heck of a year for everyone, wasn’t it? For me, it included going back to a library that I loved, getting into the swing of things here, and increasing my involvement in the profession. All great things, but very, very overwhelming when it all seems to happen at once. Throw in the usual family wackiness, holiday craziness, and life in general, and by the end of the year, I was in desperate need of some downtime.



While I took my vacation, I was sure I was going to get ALL THE REVIEWS done. But that was not to be. Once I started indulging in self-care, I realized how much I needed it. So I read stuff, did some research I promised myself I was going to do, and kept life to a bare minimum.


Of course, that’s when the blues hit. Because the beginning of 2020 was, for lack of a more educated term, BANANAPANTS. But I’m working on my brain, I’m continuing self-care, and, most importantly, I’m ready to read and blog about books again. So thanks for sticking around, even during the quiet time. I’m looking forward to talking about library stuff, books, and life in general with everyone in 2020. Some quick updates that I’ll be covering in future blog posts, in addition to reviews:

I’m finally incorporating Bookstagramming into my Instagram account, which has previously been me sharing pictures of my kids, my cat, and once in a while, my library. It’s a spot for me to talk about grown-up books that I read, and right now, I’m taking the lead from a few librarian friends and keeping count of each book I read for the year using Instagram, so there’ll be mini-reviews. I’m trying to figure out how to get the widget to appear on this blog, but in the meantime, find me on Instagram @roesolo.

I’m heading to ALA Midwinter in a couple of weeks! I’ll be Instagramming and Tweeting, and together with my ALSC mentee, Samantha, we’ll be blogging for ALSC. This is super-exciting, because I haven’t been to ALA Midwinter since 2016. Sadly, I’ll be leaving before this year’s Youth Media Awards, but my friends and colleagues, including Samantha, should be attending, so I’ll be retweeting whatever they post.

I’m a CYBILS Judge again! Once again, I’m happy to be a second round judge on the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category; this is one of the strongest groups of books I’ve seen yet. I’ve just finished Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, which blew my mind, and I’m working through the hilarious Homerooms and Hall Passes by Tom O’Donnell now.

Are you a Youth Services librarian with a program you want to talk about? Are you into the geekier side of life, and want to talk about a pop culture program you’ve got going on at your library? (Come on, where are my gamers and my geeks?) The New York Library Association (NYLA) is accepting program proposals for the 2020 conference, with a deadline of January 31st. I’m the Secretary of NYLA’s Youth Services Section (YSS) and the Vice President of NYLA’s Pop Culture Roundtable (PCRT), and I’d love to see folks at our conference later this year! Get more information about the program proposal process here, and submit your proposal here by January 31.

More NYLA YSS stuff. The Spring Conference is coming up on May 15, and will be held in Clayton, New York this year. We have scholarships! Apply here!

I’ll be talking more about the nuts and bolts work of the profession this year, as I’ve been lucky enough to get involved with some of the major organizations in our profession. More to come on those.

And now, to get to work on reviews….

Posted in Fantasy, picture books, Preschool Reads

The Great 2019 Read-Down: Fairy Tales

I love a good fairy tale, and the end of 2019 brought some fun new ones. Here are two of them.

If the Shoe Fits…, by Deborah Guarino/Illustrated by Seth Hippen, (Nov. 2019, Schiffer Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764358432

Ages 5-8

This fun take on Cinderella is the story of Murray, a humble shoemaker who meets a fairy godmother on a very special night. The fairy godmother’s out of magic, and needs some help in the form of a pair of shoes, so her poor godchild could make it to the royal ball. But Murrays clerk, Mona, has designs on being a royal bride herself, and when word gets out that the prince is trying to track down the mysterious woman who left her shoe behind at the ball, she begs Murray to make a shoe in her size, so she can make the big switch and land her prince. Murray, who’s desperately in love with Mona, complies, even though it breaks his heart, but never fear – the fairy godmother isn’t letting anyone take the day away from her godchild!

Told in rhyme, with a sweet Happily Ever After for everyone, is an adorable fractured fairy tale that kids will enjoy and get a good laugh from. The characters are goofy and kind, and the rhyme cadence is instantly familiar once you start reading, letting you fall right into the storytelling. Animator Seth Hippen’s art is cartoony and exaggerated, and loads of fun to look at as you read this progressively crazier fairy tale. Fractured fairy tale lovers will get a big kick out of this.


The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears, by Alastair Chisholm/Illustrated by Jez Tuya, (June 2019, Kane Miller Books), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-849-0

Ages 4-8

This book is a RIOT. It’s a fairy tale with The Princess Bride-type humor and takes on fairy tale tropes with delight. A child named Jamie gets ready for bed, and Dad sits down to tell a bedtime story to Jamie’s liking. What we get is a laugh-out loud story of a prince who sets out to rescue a princess – who doesn’t need rescuing, THANK YOU VERY MUCH – and a witch who can turn things to stone or jello, and hideous broccoli castles. Jamie has opinions throughout Dad’s story, which changes events in the telling, and ends with a drowsy kiss goodnight and the promise of more stories to come. My second grader loves the Interrupting Chicken books, and had a ball reading this one with me.

Jez Tuya’s digital artwork adds so much fun and color to this fun, colorful story! Big, expressive eyes, little nuances like the story’s characters showing up as toys in Jamie’s room, and wink/nudge moments throughout the storytelling make this artwork and story a great marriage.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears is officially one of my bedtime go-tos, and I’m eyeing it for a potential stuffed animal sleepover kickoff in 2020.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Read-down 2019: The NonFiction

So I was just looking at my TBR (to be reviewed) pile and said, “WOW. I can’t go into the New Year like this.” So on these last two days of 2019, my friends, I give you some quick-picks to take us out of this year and into the next. Let’s start with Nonfiction, courtesy of National Geographic.

Nerd A to Z, by TJ Resler, (Aug. 2019, NatGeo Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3474-0

Ages 8-12

We did it! The nerds have inherited the earth. It’s cool to be one of us now, and NatGeo Kids’s Nerd A-Z is a desktop reference to the nerdier side of life. Organized alphabetically, information is highlighted with icons, letting readers know about the nerdiest, coolest bits of science, culture, history, technology, geography, and design/engineering. Flow charts help readers figure out what kind of Nerd, Science Scholar, History Hero, Geography Genius, Tech Titan, Design Devote, or Culture Connoisseur they are. It’s all in good fun, loaded with facts and full-color pictures. Want to know where the shipwreck capital of the world is? (Psst… it’s Greece’s Fourni archipelago)? How about finding out about 26 huge map mistakes (like the mythical mountains of Kong, Africa), or the origins of the Jedi? Are Zombies more your thing? There’s a whole spread about them in here, including an FAQ on why vegetarian zombies would eat your brains just as quickly as you could say, “Graiiiiiiins”. There’s a fantastic section with further resources and bibliography. Nerd out with all this info at your fingertips.


The Book of Queens, by Stephanie Warren Drimmer, (Nov. 2019, NatGeo Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3535-8

Ages 8-12

All hail the Queens! From the opening page featuring Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, get ready to enter a world where girls rule – and have, since the beginning. Organized into eight chapters loaded with profiles of women throughout history, culture, science, politics, and entertainment, The Book of Queens profiles over 100 outstanding women, including architect and designer Maya Lin; Empress Cixi, who led China into a period of modernization; media queen Oprah Winfrey; suffragette Jeanette Rankin, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. There are gorgeous color photos, tons of facts and a diverse, richly multicultural group of women (with little fact boxes on impressive men, to share the space). The book challenges readers to think about wearing their own crowns down the line: “Modern-day queens found their own companies, invent new technologies, and take charge of changes they want to see become reality. Nowadays, you don’t have to have royal blood – or wait around for a handsome prince – to rule.”


The Book of Kings, by Caleb Magyar and Stephanie Warren Drimmer, (Nov. 2019, NatGeo Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426335334

Ages 8-12

The boys get their day in this reference of kings, kicking off with a full-page picture of Henry VIII, no turkey leg in sight. Meet kings from history; revolutionary leaders and legendary heroes; stars of the silver screen and stage; science, media, and industry. You’ll see Lin-Manuel Miranda, who made Alexander Hamilton the most popular Founding Father; Kwame Alexander, and Langston Hughes, kings of the written word; and Babe Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat”. There’s some equal respect paid to the ladies, with “Commanding Queens” callout boxes. Learn about famous crowns and swords, discover different types of armor through the centuries, and read about how two kids from Cleveland created one of the greatest superheroes of all time: Superman. Fictional kings, like Aragorn (Lord of the Rings) and T’Challa (Black Panther) have their moment here, as do giants of science, like Isaac Newton and Carl Sagan. A final word to boys challenges them to think about wearing their own crowns: “Today, there are many different kinds of kings: kings who develop lifesaving technology, kings who write plays that make us laugh and cry, kings who find something they don’t like about the world and do everything they can to change it for the better.”

Both The Book of Kings and The Book of Queens are great desktop references for you to have handy, and just fun reading for kids.


Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner, by Anna Claybourne, (July 2019, NatGeo Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3451-1

Ages 8-12

Ah, the gross-out factor. The kids at my library (and my home) love the grossest humor, shrieking with delight and horror at facts and picture of boogers, poop, bugs, you name it. NatGeo, with their fingers on the pulse of all things kid, has answered the call with Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner: Revoltingly True Tales of Foul Food, Icky Animals, Horrible History, and More, a tome loaded with the grossest stories, quizzes, photos, and facts that you’ll ever want to know about. A “Yuck-o-Meter” lets readers know exactly how gross the territory is: Eww, Gross, Nasty, or Disgusting, and a content warning gives the heads-up to readers with gentler sensibilities and stomachs can make the choice on whether or not to continue. There are stories about the grossest toilets in history; facts about spit; a section dedicated to cockroaches that I just skipped right the heck by; a section on weasel butts, and a spotlight on a Taiwanese toilet cafe that serves poop-shaped ice cream. Good lord.

Need I say it? Kids love it.