Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Celebrate holidays with Ellie May!

Ellie May on President’s Day, by Hillary Homzie/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, (Nov. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898195

Ages 6-10

Second grader Ellie May loves learning about the US Presidents and is desperate to show her patriotism during Presidents’ Week at school. She just has to be flag leader during the Pledge of Allegiance during this week! She is on a mission to be presidential and to make sure her teacher, Ms. Silva, knows it; this way, she’ll be sure to get picked. But Ellie can’t seem to catch a break, whether she’s chopping the class plant (a cactus!) while trying to relive George Washington and the cherry tree, or taking apart the pencil sharpener and making a big mess, while attempting to tinker like Abraham Lincoln. Don’t even ask about how she tried to make her little sister, Midge, a flag, so she could teach her the Pledge at home. Ellie’s got a good heart and means well – she just has to learn to let that shine through, and most importantly, to be patient.

This is a brand new chapter book series that celebrates popular classroom holidays, and stars a dynamic, funny child of color named Ellie May. Second graders will love her, and they’re sure to see themselves reflected in her and her quest to be noticed. Patience? Who needs patience, when you’re eager? Ellie discovers she has a lot to learn as each of her attempts to show off for her teacher end in near catastrophe, but she’s surrounded by supportive friends, family, and teachers who are there to slow Ellie down and put her on the right path. Written in the first person from Ellie’s point of view, and illustrated with black and white sketches throughout, kids will enjoy this one – and it’s a great series to feature in classrooms and libraries. back matter includes the history of the Pledge of Allegiance, and of the Presidents’ Day holiday.

 

 

Ellie May on April Fools’ Day, by Hillary Homzie/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, (Dec. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898201

Ages 6-10

Ellie May is back, and is ready for April Fools’ Day! Her class is allowed to celebrate, as long as the pranks are made in good fun. Ellie decides she’s going to prank her friend, Ava, whose birthday celebration is taking place on the same day! After a few attempts at pranks fall flat at home and at school, she’s ready for the big day: but this is Ellie May, after all, and her attempt at a silly goof goes awry when she gets carried away in the classroom. After sitting it out and thinking it over, Ellie May starts understanding the true meaning of a good-natured prank, apologizes to her friend, Mo, and to Ava, and celebrates April Fool’s Day with her whole class as her teacher takes them outside for a rare bird sighting!

This second Ellie May story is every bit as fun as the first one. Ellie is trying so hard to make a name for herself that she gets a little carried away, but it’s never mean-spirited, and she’s always got someone there to point her in the right direction. Kids will see themselves and their classmates in this one, and the story lends itself to a good discussion about how getting carried away can lead to hurt feelings or hurt body parts. The teacher’s April Fools’ Day activity is a fun one – I may have to try that one in the library. Back matter includes an explanation on April Fools’ Day’s history and traditions. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the fun and promote reader interest.

This series is going on my to-buy list. Chapter books do really well here at my library, and books about classroom holidays – holidays, in general, for my growing readers – are always in high demand. I’ll have to mention this series to a few visiting teachers, too!

 

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Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Get some Autumn Science in with The Acadia Files

The Acadia Files, Book Two: Autumn Science, by Katie Coppens/Illustrated by Holly Hatan, (Sept. 2018, Tilbury House Publishers), $13.95, ISBN: 9780884486046

Ages 7-10

Part science journal, part chapter book, The Acadia Files is a planned 4-book series that introduces readers to 10-year-old Acadia Greene, who loves science and investigating. She often goes on adventures with her best friend, Isabel, her dog, Baxter, and her science teacher Mom. Autumn Science, the second book in the series, is a 5-chapter book where Acadia works on conservation and environmentalism, learns about frogs, and why leaves change color. She also learns about the water cycle in a chapter called, “Drinking Dinosaur Pee” – yes, my friends, think on that for a little bit! – and discovers the International Date Line and figures out time zones in “What Time Is It?” Finally, the bane of the cooler weather – cold season – gets its due in “The Germ War”, which explains the importance of washing one’s hands and other ways to stay healthy.

Each chapter can be read as a standalone adventure. Full color illustrations throughout give a journal-type feel to the book, including “entries” made by Acadia; there are washi-taped photos and data jotted down in the pages, experiments, new science vocabulary words, and each section ends with further questions to discuss in a “Things I Still Wonder” list. A section on “further exploration”includes links to all topics covered in the book. Endpapers look like a molecule party gone wild, and the cover looks like a decorated cardboard cover. Readers with even a passing interest in science should gobble this one up, and I’d love to see science programs (program in a book!) in libraries use this book to create some STEM fun – there will be four books in the series, after all; one for each season! Which reminds me… I think a “Dinosaur Pee” program would do GANGBUSTERS here at my library. Excuse me while I go make some plans…

Give this to your readers who liked Lucy’s Lab. Display with… what else? Science Comics!

Author Katie Coppens is a science educator. You can visit her author website to learn about author visits and see more of her books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

There’s an Anthill for Sale! Wait… maybe.

Anthill for Sale, by Johnny Ray Moore/Illustrated by Zuzana Svobodova, (Nov. 218, Big Belly Book Co.), $10.95, ISBN: 978-1-7325541-1-5

Ages 3-6

This whimsical rhyming tale tells the story of Alvin, an ant, who puts his home up for sale… but has some reservations about the whole thing. We meet a hilarious group of potential buyers, including a stinkbug, a mole, and a centipede, all of whom want to remodel the home in their own fashion. Each one gets a hearty heave-ho from Alvin, who has so many memories much invested in his home, that it’s almost impossible to think of having someone else living there. He and his wife raised their family in that anthill, after all; and entertained countless family and friends there. He finally turns to his wife and says, “This anthill is full of our dreams. They have made us so happy, day in and day out, They have taught us what life really means”.

With bright, bold illustrations and a relaxing cadence to the rhyme, parents will relate to Alvin’s reluctance to sell his longtime home, and kids will understand how memories form who we are. This one is an nice additional purchase to picture book collections. The Not-the-Mama-Dad Blog has a great interview with author Johnny Ray Moore, where he talks about his inspiration for the story.

 
Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Celebrating Happy Papas!

Happy Papas, by Kathleen T. Pelley/Illustrated by Mariya Prytula, (July 2018, CWLA Press), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1587601682

Ages 3-6

A companion to Happy Mamas (2016), Happy Papas celebrates dads in both the animal and human world, taking readers through a Happy Papas kind of day: as the sun pops up; as the sun sails high; as the clouds and sun play peek-a-boo; as the shadows gather, and finally, as the moon blooms. Otter dads, meerkat dads, tiger dads, and all sorts of human dads celebrate the day-to-day joys of fatherhood as they play, protect, cook for, and cuddle their little ones.

Written in verse, the storytelling moves along at a soothing cadence, with sound effect words like “screech and squawk”, “giggly wiggly”, “wade and wallow”, and “slide and pop”, using both alliteration and rhyme to play with language. There are all kinds of Happy Papas, and all kinds of Happy Babies and Kids. Perfect for storytime, the soft colors and realistic illustrations will attract readers’ attention, and the simple black font lets the artwork take center stage.

This is a sweet tribute to dads, and a lovely read-along with Happy Mamas for a Mom and Dad tandem bedtime reading, or a Family Storytime.

Author Kathleen Pelley has a podcast and literacy resources on her website. You can find more of Mariya Prytula’s watercolor artwork at her website.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

More Moomins! The Moomins and the Great Flood

The Moomins and the Great Flood, by Tove Jansson, (July 2018, Drawn and Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770463288

Ages 7-12

This Moomin tale is an illustated novel, rather than a picture book or graphic novel, and gives us a bit of a Moomin origin story. Moominmama and little Moomintroll are in search of a winter home, and in search of Moominpapa, whose restless nature led him to wander off with the Hattifatteners. As they wander through a precariously dark forest, they meet a small creature who joins their journey, despite being a bit cranky; they also meet a beautiful, blue-haired girl who lives in a tulip. Throughout the arduous journey, Moominmama and Moomintroll face each adventure with courage and kindness, helping every creature they meet, always hoping that maybe… just maybe… their journey will reunite them with Moominpapa.

Originally written during the 1939-1940 Finnish-Soviet Union conflict, The Moomins and the Great Flood was author Tove Jansson’s escape from the horrors of war. She uses a catastrophic flood to unite her characters, who could even be seen as refugees, all experiencing some kind of loss, displacement, or danger from the flood. The sepia and white artwork lends an old-world feel to the artwork, and the prose reads like adventure stories I read growing up. The book is relentlessly optimistic, with moments of near despair; it illustrates perseverance and the strength of family units when facing adversity. I’ll booktalk this with picture books like Nicola Davies’ The Day War Came and the Children in Our World book series.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

The Goblin Princess: Dust that house, and untrain your dragon!

Originally published in the UK, The Goblin Princess is a sweet chapter book series perfect for kids who are ready to branch out from easy readers. Let’s meet The Goblin Princess and her family.

The Goblin Princess: Smoky the Dragon Baby, by Jenny O’Connor/Illustrated by Kate Willis-Crowley, (Oct. 2018, Faber & Faber), $8.95, ISBN: 9780571316588

Ages 7-10

Matty is a goblin princess, but she’s also the odd goblin out in her family. She’s always being told to untidy her room, and eat up her slug porridge; her family – like most goblins – is also terrified of pretty things, like kittens and butterflies, and reading fairy tales are sure to give them nightmares, but Matty just doesn’t fit in. When the family dragon, Sparks, lays an egg and a sweet little blue dragon emerges, Matty falls in love. But little Smoky is polite and sweet, and the untraining her father, the Goblin King, calls for doesn’t quite take. Luckily for Matty, little Smoky finds some talent in burning the toast (a goblin delicacy)! When Matty and her family go on a goblin family picnic at the Dragon Lagoon, Matty and Smoky have a little side adventure of their own, meeting nasty hobgoblins and kind Forest Fairies (who aren’t at all terrifying) – and maybe Matty can convince her family that she and Smoky are just naughty enough after all!

The Goblin Princess: The Grand Goblin Ball, by Jenny O’Connor/Illustrated by Kate Willis-Crowley, (Oct. 2018, Faber & Faber), $8.95, ISBN: 9780571316601

Ages 7-10

The next book in the Goblin Princess series picks up fresh off the heels of Smoky the Dragon Baby. The royal Goblin Family is preparing for the Grand Goblin Ball, but there’s trouble afoot: the hobgoblins are planning to crash the party and CLEAN! And PAINT! And worst of all, they’re planning to capture Smoky! Luckily, some of the Forest Fairies overheard the plot and warned Matty in time. Matty and Smoky join forces with their new friend, Dave – a Frog of Mystery and Magic – to beat the hobgoblins and save the party! Recipes for Scary Potato Faces, Ghoulish Goblin Drinks, and Peppermint Cream Bugs let readers plan a Goblin Ball of their very own!

The Goblin Princess books are sweet, entertaining, and upbeat. Kids are going to get a kick out of the backwards world that the goblins live in: messing up your room? Eating sloppily and having food fights? Untraining your dragon and being an irresponsible pet owner? It sounds awesome, right? Which makes poor Matty and Smoky outsiders in their worlds, and sets the stage for some hilarious happenings. Kate Willis-Crowley’s watercolor artwork adds an incredible cute factor to the storytelling, with adorable characters like Smoky the Dragon and Matty the Goblin, and great visuals for events like the Goblin buffet, complete with Key Slime Pie and Mice Cakes.

Pictures all come from Kate Willis-Crowley’s blog.

I enjoyed the first two Goblin Princess stories, and look forward to the third one, The Snow Fairy (it looks like it was just published in the UK… can we get a copy stateside soon?) Readers who love enjoy fantasy will enjoy the close friendship between Smoky and Matty, and get a kick out of Smoky’s baby talk. The bad guys aren’t terribly bad. The hobgoblins, for instance, really just want Smoky around to warm up their food; nothing truly nefarious (unless you count cleaning and painting the Goblin castle: that’s just horrible). Give this to your Unicorn Princesses/Hamster Princess/Princess in Black fans.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Webcomics on Wednesday: The Bug Zapper!

“In a town full of bug villains, it’s up to one superhero to keep them all in line!” With that, we begin the saga of The Bug Zapper, a superhero who defends his neighborhood against buggy bad guys like Butterfly Bob, who defaces public parks, and a car thief who goes by the Mean Mosquito. But has Bug Zapper met his match when he meets Bumblebeezy, a bank robber who teams up with the Bear-acuda?

The Bug Zapper started life as a webcomic, and has since moved onto books, but there’s a nice, extended preview available at writer/artist Tom Eaton’s website, and The Bug Zapper Tumblr has sneak peeks at art and appearances for kids who are interested in following. It’s a good series for younger graphic novel readers – Kindergarten through third grade – that features a fun superhero and supervillains that are more goofy than terrible. Bug Zapper faces off against bugs, superheroes, robots, and bears, in his future issues, but the extended preview offers his origin story: we all need to start somewhere, right?

Give The Bug Zapper a space on your webcomics list, and see how the kids respond! The first two collected issues of The Bug Zapper are available for purchase on Tom Eaton’s website.