Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

Bow-Wow-Meow takes a sensitive look at identity

Bow-Wow-Meow, by Blanca Lacasa/Illustrated by Gómez, (May 2017, nubeOCHO), $16.95, ISBN: 978-84-94515-7-5

Recommended for readers 4-8

Fabio’s a dog that really isn’t into doggish things. He doesn’t play fetch, he doesn’t roll over to have his belly tickled, he doesn’t wag his tail, and he doesn’t bark. His family tries to teach him how to act like a dog: they throw sticks, they roll around on the floor, and they bark at him. Fabio is uninterested. One night, Max, a little boy in the family, discovers that Fabio is going out at night, and follows him: right into a group of cats engaging in very catlike behavior, from coughing up hairballs to playing cards (hey, are you with your cat 24/7?). Max can’t believe how happy Fabio is as he sharpens his claws, climbs drainpipes, chases mice, and bow-wow-meows along with his feline friends. The next morning, when Max’s parents try to get Fabio to act like a dog, Max quietly acknowledges Fabio, making him the happiest member of his family.

Recognition and visibility are important. When Max acknowledges Fabio, when he sees Fabio for who he really is, Fabio’s whole world changes; Max’s world widens that much more. Bow-Wow-Meow sensitively handles identity and diversity for young readers. By telling Fabio’s story using dogs and cats, kids are entertained and enlightened in a sweet, fun way that leaves the pathways open for discussion again and again. Gómez’s bold artwork is fun and expressive and will appeal to storytime audiences. Younger readers may struggle with some pages, where the black text is superimposed over a dark background.

I’d love to read this with Jules Feiffer’s Bark, George, for a good storytime on diversity and animals. You can also display and pair this with books like Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino, or Jacob’s New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman. Mothering.com has a good article with recommendations for kids’ books that defy gender.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cultivate your little scientist with Baby University’s books

Baby University, from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, are a cute series of board books that break down principles of science for little ones. Written by quantum theorist and dad Chris Ferrie,  the first four books: Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Rocket Science for Babies, and Quantum Physics for Babies all use the example of a child’s toy – a ball – to explain science to the littlest scientists in training. The covers are adorable, incorporating pacifiers into the scientific art.

newtonian

Newtonian Physics for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656203) introduces babies to a bouncy ball, explaining in short, bolded sentences how gravity affects the ball, which leads to an exploration of mass, acceleration, and force. Being Newtonian Physics, we also see the apple, and gravity’s effect on the apple and Sir Isaac Newton. The ending proudly exclaims that the reader is understands Newtonian physics.

relativity

General Relativity for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656265) uses the ball to explore mass, black holes, and gravitational waves. Babies are pronounced experts in general relativity at the end.

rocket-science

Rocket Science for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656258) looks at the ball, but changes the ball’s shape to a wing to explain air movement, lift, and thrust. From there, we learn how to put wings on a rocket to make it move, and how a rocket requires an explosion to propel it forward. Readers are affirmed rocket scientists at the book’s end.

quantum

Quantum Physics for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656227) demonstrates energy and atoms – starring the neutrons, protons, and electrons – by using the ball. Readers learn about movement within the atom, and are bestowed with the quantum phycisist title at the end.

The books are simple and fun, with clean, computer-generated art and simple explanatory text. Are my toddlers at storytime going to get this? No, but it’s not going to stop me from handing out small rubber balls to parents to let the kids play with and get a feel for as I read the books. It’s exploring scientific topics early, introducing babies to the words and letting them become household names, words that maybe won’t frighten them when they get older, if they grow up hearing them. I’d read these with preschoolers, too, when they can grasp ideas a bit more.

I love STEM, and I love helping young children fall in love with science, especially the sciences (and their accompanying mathematics) that scared me away when I was a kid. These are fun, bright books to get in front of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers now, if just to introduce exciting new words to their vocabularies. At least, your little one learns that Sir Isaac Newton was beaned on the head by an apple. At most, you get a Nobel Prize winner who thanks you in his or her speech.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

Ella and Owen: Dragon sibling adventures

Ella and Owen: The Cave of AAAAAH! DOOM! (Ella and Owen #1), by Jaden Kent, (March 2017, little bee books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1499803938

Recommended for ages 6-9

The first book in a fun intermediate series, dragon siblings Ella and Owen have two very different personalities. In their first adventure, bookish Owen is perfectly happy to be home in bed with a book, nursing a cold. More adventurous Ella has different plans: cave exploring! She lures Owen by promising him that there’s a chance to get ogre toenails for his collection. They explore some caves, tangle with an ogre and an evil vegetable wizard, and quite possibly, find a cure for Owen’s cold.

Kids in my library are warming up to this series. If you have Dragonbreath fans, introduce them to Ella and Owen. It’s silly, boogery fun, with black and white illustrations throughout. the second book in the series, Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster, is already available; the third (Knights vs Dragons) is out in May, and the fourth (Evil Pumpkin Pie Fight) is out in July.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Sleeping Beauty, reimagined: Spindle Fire

Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1), by Lexa Hillyer, (Apr. 2017, HarperTeen), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062440877

Recommended for ages 14+

This Sleeping Beauty reimagining gives us parallel narratives of two sisters: Aurora and Isabella, the princess and her bastard sister, and Belcoeur and Malfleur, fairies whose longstanding feud may bring down the kingdom. It starts like the familiar tale of Sleeping Beauty, with a twist: in this world, fairies may bestow gifts upon you, but it’s a tithe – ain’t nothing for free. Aurora’s parents, the king and queen, give up Aurora’s sense of touch and ability to speak in order to receive her gifts. Malfleur, like the fabulous Maleficent, storms in and puts the spinning needle curse on Aurora, but this time around, a fairy offers to mitigate the curse not out of the goodness and kindness of her heart, but for another tithe: sight. The queen offers up Isabella – called Isbe – bastard daughter of the king, as tithe. So we’ve got one sister who can’t speak or feel, another who can’t see, but they communicate with a language all their own.

There is a lot of story here: there’s turmoil in the kingdom; Isbe runs off while the Aurora falls victim to the spindle. Malfleur is getting an army ready to march and take over the kingdom as Isbe tries to wake her sister; Aurora wakes up in an enchanted world, meeting a woodsman that she eventually falls in love with. There are moments where Spindle Fire is really good storytelling, but there are moments where there’s almost too many threads; too much going on to get the proper gist of the story. I liked the interactions between Aurora and Isbe, and I really loved reading the backstory between the two faerie queens: more of that, please! The ending leaves readers with no question: there will be a sequel (and GoodReads has this listed as Book One).

If you have reimagined fairy tale readers, this is a good add; romance readers will enjoy the chemistry between each of the sisters and their paramours.

Posted in Non-Fiction

Celebrate Earth Day! Books about our big, blue dot.

Families on Foot: Urban Hikes to Backyard Treks and National Park Adventures, by Jennifer Pharr Davis & Brew Davis, (March 2017, Falcon Guides), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-4930-2671-5

I’ve been waiting to talk this one up! Published in partnership with the American Hiking Society, this is the book you want if you want to start – or already are a fan of – hiking and taking nature walks with your family. You’ll find tips and information on hiking etiquette, packing, safety, urgent matters like diaper blowouts, using technology like smartphone apps and GPS, activities to keep all ages engaged, and 9 tasty trail mix recipes that are nature-friendly. There’s information on hiking with special needs children and seniors; comprehensive online resources, and a state-by-state directory of family-friendly trails. Full color photos and first-hand stories from the trail will have you packing a bag and getting ready to hit the road.

 

Ranger Rick’s Travels: National Parks!, by Stacy Tornio & Ken Keffer,
(Aug. 2016, Muddy Boots), $14.95, ISBN: 9781630762308

Now that you’re ready to hit the trail, Ranger Rick’s Travels: National Parks will tell you where to go! Ranger Rick and his friend Deputy Scarlett take readers on a scenic tour of America’s 58 national parks, which profiles including stunning photos and facts, top nature picks on plants and animals to look for, and a bucket list for each park.

 

Change the World Before Bedtime, a collaboration by Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, and Karen Good (Schiffer Publishing, 2012). $16.99, ISBN: 978-0764342387

I tend to think of Change the World Before Bedtime as an accompanying read to 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World, by Melanie Walsh. The story tells kids that anyone, big or small, can do things to bring about positive change. Over the course of one day, a group of children make positive decisions and take action to brighten the world around them, tying on their “hero capes” and eating a healthy breakfast, spending the day doing random good deeds, like picking up litter, visiting a sick friends or family, donating clothing, toys, and food to the needy, and keeping a positive mindset.

 

The Earth Book, by Todd Parr, (March 2010, Hachette), $11.99, ISBN: 9780316042659

Who does social justice better than Todd Parr? The Earth Book – printed with recycled material and nontoxic ink – empowers kids to work together to make the Earth feel good, from planting a tree to reducing, reusing, and recycling. The Earth Book is great for toddlers and preschoolers, who may otherwise feel left out of the action.

 

These Bees Count!, by Alison Ashley Formento/Illustrated by Sarah Snow,
(March 2012, Albert Whitman), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807578681

I love this book and its companions, These Seas Count!, These Rocks Count!, and This Tree Counts! In These Bees Count, kids learn the importance of bees to our society by helping pollinate flowers and producing honey. There’s a counting aspect to the books, too, making it accessible to preschoolers and possibly younger; introduce the counting concepts and talk about the good things bees do.

 

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth, by Mary McKenna Siddals/Illustrated by Ashley Wolff,
(March 2010, Tricycle Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781582463162

What’s composting? Glad you asked! This A -to-Z explains composting, how to make a compost pile: what to throw in? what to keep out?, and how composting helps keep gardens growing healthy and happy. It’s great for toddlers and preschoolers who can learn their ABCs through gardening, after they practice their 123s with the bees (above)!

Gabby and Grandma Go Green, by Monica Wellington,
(March 2011, Dutton), $10.99 via Kindle, ASIN: B01F2IJRXA

If you can buy this through a third-party seller or see it in a bookstore, it’s worth it to make the purchase. I really hope this one comes back into print, because I love this story. It’s a good intergenerational story, with young Gabby and her Grandma going green by sewing their own cloth bags, buying veggies at the Farmer’s Market, and recycling their bottles. I love this book and use my battered old copy during my Earth Day storytimes.

These are just a few great Earth Day titles. For today, go out and enjoy the planet! Tomorrow, go to your library or bookstore and check a few out for yourself and your family.

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

The Principal’s Underwear is Missing!

The Principal’s Underwear is Missing, by Holly Kowitt, (May 2017, Macmillan), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250091321

Recommended for ages 8-12

Ordinary sixth grader Becca Birnbaum accidentally power slams a volleyball right into eighth grade It Girl Sloan “Selfie: St. Clair, setting off a chain of events that end up with the principal’s new, very large bra missing – and with the girls being the last ones to have it in their possession

The Principal’s Underwear is Missing (originally titled The Principal’s Bra is Missing) is one of those middle school tragi-comedy of errors that middle graders love. Ordinary Girl ends up with the In Crowd, but for how long, and is everyone happy with the arrangement?

I wasn’t in love with the two main characters. Becca is the run of the mill Nerd Girl who doesn’t stand out preferring to blend in with her small group of fellow nerd friends. Sloan, called “Selfie”, thanks to her habit of shooting selfies at all the lavish parties and locales she attends, is self-absorbed to the point of mania. When Becca, desperate to make up for the volleyball accident that left Selfie in a cast, tries to retrieve a confiscated shopping bag from the principal’s office, she grabs the wrong bag and sets the story in motion. From there, Becca takes the responsibility for the whole incident, while Selfie just meanders through the novel, alternately shooting selfies and crying about being in trouble while letting Becca do all the work. Becca never makes Selfie take responsibility for her own actions, preferring to drag Selfie along on their adventure.

Look, I’m reading this as a 40-something year old Mom who worries about my kids standing up for themselves. Are middle graders going to get a kick out of this book? Yes. It’s funny, it’s got underwear humor, and a kinda-sorta unlikely friendship between two school social classes. It’s a quick read, and perfect for a beach bag take-along. But if you’re book-talking this one, talk about Selfie, taking personal responsibility, and stereotyping in middle grade books. Please.

Posted in Fantasy

My Eventbrite-Inspired Dream Author Panel

Do you guys know Eventbrite? It’s a self-service ticketing platform where you can find people and plan events all over the world. I register for my Urban Librarians Unite events through Eventbrite all the time; in the world that helps people find and plan events. Anyway, Eventbrite asked me to come up with a dream author panel – how do I do that? It’s like selecting a favorite book (or 5), THERE ARE SO MANY.

If you know me, you know that Neil Gaiman is the constant. The given. Always, just like Snape. So I had to build the panel around Neil. I had Tolkien and CS Lewis – hey, it’s my dream panel, they can Skype in from the afterlife. I considered Gail Carriger and Cherie Priest. I drove myself crazy until I settled on a group of authors whose works I love and who all gel together pretty well, with a moderator that would take this panel from awesome to incredible. I give you: The Dream Panel.

Wil Wheaton narrates and is included in Ready Player One, and he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fan who is witty, asks thoughtful questions, and is hilarious, making him a perfect moderator for this bunch.

So now that I’ve pulled this group together, I think one of the main themes of the discussion could be setting fantasy in a realistic setting. I’m awful at coming up with questions, but a few I managed to wrack my brain to come up with include:

  • We have new gods: namely, gods of entertainment and technology, in Gaiman’s American Gods. How do these new gods figure in your (Doctorow, Neuvel, Cline) worlds? Could they find a place in these worlds?
  • Can you envision your novels taking place in the same universe at the same time? What would Cory Doctorow’s Homeland Security do, or the Nameless Man from Waking Gods, if the Armada spaceships invaded one morning? Sylvain, would they get Themis up and running in time?
  • What inspires you to base your writing in the near-future or present?
  • Your books all seem to be so well-researched. Do you outline what you’re writing about and research as you go, or do you prepare beforehand? (It’s the librarian in me, I need to know!)

Who’s on your dream panel? I’d love to hear! And I’d love to hear how you create your own interview questions, because I want to get better at this!

Thanks again to Eventbrite for the inspiration for this post; now I want to plan another one, maybe even branch out into favorite characters. In the meantime, you can search for book conferences in your area by going to Eventbrite’s website; signing up is free!