Posted in Conferences & Events

BookExpo and BookCon are free this week!

It’s BookExpo week, and normally, I’d be running free in the Javits Center in New York City, talking to editors and fangirling over authors, then terrifying my family with the amount of books I’d bring home. This year, while my step count isn’t getting much action, I’m still online with BookExpo – yesterday was Librarian’s Day, so I was in education sessions for most of the day, which was pretty great – and School Library Journal’s Day of Dialog, which I’ve never been able to attend in the past. Right now, I’m watching Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram Kendi on one laptop while I type this post on another. What a time to be alive, amirite?

If you’re into books, you can’t beat BookCon, which has been the consumer/book lover lovefest that arrives at the end of BookExpo every year. This year, it’s free, too. And since I don’t have to work or run around with the kids this year, guess where I’ll be? My heart may run free in the Javits, but my brain and body will be here, on my couch, waiting to fangirl for Judy Blume. Check out details and the schedule here:

Taking place Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31, BookConline will feature sessions throughout each day with different authors and publishers to give viewers a front row look at debut books and behind-the-scenes peeks at some of their favorite titles. Participating authors include Jenny Han, Angie Thomas, Judy Blume, Joe Hill, Cassandra Clare, Jack Black, Adam Silvera and dozens more.

The full programming schedule for BookConline is now available below and HERE and all panels will be streamed for free on BookCon’s Facebook page and BookCon’s Facebook group.

Posted in Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Once Upon a Con: Bookish and the Beast keeps the magic going

Bookish and the Beast, by Ashley Poston, (Aug. 2020, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781683691938

Ages 12+

The third Once Upon a Con book is coming! I’ve been enjoying this series since picking up Geekerella back in 2017. Remixed fairy tales, updated to take place in a fandom world? Yes, please! In this third installment, we’ve got some returning characters, some new faces, and a familiar storyline with a little fandom magic.

Rosie Thorne is a high school senior, living with her widowed dad, and mourning her mom, who happened to be a huge fan of… you know it, Starfield, the sci-fi series introduced in Geekerella. She’s also stuck on her college application essays and on the memory of the masked General Sond cosplayer she met at ExelsiCon. While trying to do a good deed, she inadvertently stumbles into a house where Vance Reigns – actor, Hollywood bad boy, and Starfield’s very own General Sond – is hiding out from the paparazzi after a major scandal hit the tabloids. He’s predictably beastly (see what I did there?) to Rosie, who’s so taken aback that she ruins a rare book in the house’s gorgeous library. She offers to work off the cost of the book, which means she’s now spending every day in Vance’s presence. As the two get used to one another, literal and proverbial masks come off, but they’re both hurt and vulnerable people: can Rosie and Vance let their guards down enough to fall in love?

Bookish and the Beast has all the elements that make Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series so readable: great dialogue and pacing, fun characters that you want to fall in love with and hang out with, and most importantly, the genuine love of fandom. Her characters’ fandoms – in this case, Starfield – have passed on through generations, from parents to children, and it’s here that the heart of fandom lies. Fandom is a community, with its good, bad, and ugly, and Ashley Poston respects that community by creating characters that inhabit that space in her books and the readers who love them. Each character goes on their own personal journeys here, and so many relatable, enjoyable characters.

Rainbow Rowell readers, this series is for you. Check out Ashley Poston’s website for an FAQ, links to her social media, and more information about her books.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

David Almond asks: Why should children be at war?

War is Over, by David Almond/Illustrated by David Litchfield, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209860

Ages 9-12

Taking place in the UK in 1918, War is Over asks a timeless question: why do we expect children to fight our wars? Not having a child’s presence on the front, but the psychological war; the “us” and “them” mentality that permeates everything we do. John is a young boy whose father is fighting in the trenches of France while his mother works in a munitions factory. John’s teacher tells – bellows, really – that the students are fighting alongside the grownups, fighting the enemy in Germany that includes the children of Germany. But John certainly doesn’t feel like anyone is his enemy. When a classmate’s uncle tries to speak to the children, telling them that they are children and NOT at war with anyone, he’s attacked and taken away from the children, but he’s touched something in John,  who sees a sketch of a young boy among the man’s scattered papers. It’s a drawing of a German boy named Jan, the same age as John. John imagines he and Jan become friends, and dreams of a better world where children are children, not enemies, and create a peaceful world together.

This is a strong story of a sensitive boy trying to make sense of a world gone mad. It’s a story that’s as relevant today as it was in 1918, when the story takes place. David Litchfield’s black-and-white illustrations are moody, evocative, packing strong emotions. Visit his website to see some of his work from War Is Over. Poignant and ultimately hopeful, War is Over is a story that will resonate with kids and adults alike.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, programs, Storytime, Storytimes

Calm Down Zebra and a fantastic readaloud!

About two years ago, I was lucky enough to read and talk about a sweet book about the ABCs called Not Yet Zebra, by Lou Kuenzler and illustrated by Julia Woolf. It’s about a little girl named Annie, who wants to paint pictures of all her animal friends in alphabetical order, and an impatient Zebra who just wants to get his portrait done NOW.

Flash-forward two years, and Lou and Julia are back with Calm Down, Zebra! It’s a book that talks colors, and managing one’s emotions. Annie and Zebra are back; this time, Annie asks her animal buddies to help her teach her baby brother, Joe, about his colors. Frog offers up the green paint, and Lion gets yellow; Black goes to cat, but wait! Polar Bear has PINK STRIPES? It turns out that Zebra is at it again, running loose with a paintbrush and a wicked sense of humor. Can Annie reign in Zebra – or will Zebra show Annie that it’s okay to let loose and have fun once in a while?

Calm Down, Zebra, by Lou Kuenzler/Illustrated by Julia Woolf, (Apr. 2020, Faber & Faber),
$16.95, ISBN: 978-0-571-35170-1
Ages 2-6

Calm Down Zebra is adorably funny and teaches some lovely lessons beyond colors and the animals who sport them. There’s a sweet message about imagination, and the need to explore the creative urge: maybe even color outside the lines once in a while. Zebra may look like a cheeky menace to Annie, but you’ll quickly see that he, like a toddler or a preschooler, is exploring his natural curiosity. Lou Kuenzler has given us delightful characters in Annie and Zebra, who parents and kids will recognize in themselves instantly (you try herding a group of children when one class clown is the attention draw). Julia Woolf’s illustrations are too much fun; bright and bold colors stand out against pale or stark white pages, and colorful paint splatters will get little fingers itching to pick up brushes and stick their fingers in paint puddles of their own. A spread where a peacock gets to spread his wings is stunning, with silver and gold foil adding to his illustriousness. An elephant’s posterior provides a broad canvas for Zebra and will get plenty of giggles.

An activity kit loaded with Annie’s black and white paintings let kids create their own colorful animal friends. Let loose your inner Zebras and download it!

I was so excited to work with Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf’s publicist, Becky Kraemer, to arrange for the author and illustrator to have a book talk, plus readings of both Zebra books, for my library system! I’m pasting it here for you to enjoy, and I’ll be taking the link down in mid-June. Thank you to Faber & Faber, Becky Kraemer and Cursive Communications & Marketing, and most of all, to Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf, for a wonderful storytime and Q&A.

Posted in picture books

Books that love beautiful weather

I’ve been going through my TBR as we sit in time out for a little while. Today’s picture book slam is all about books to read while enjoying the beautiful weather. Grab some books (they’re available via ebook – check your libraries or order from your indies; many have ebooks!), sit outside with your littles, and enjoy every moment.

The Bear’s Garden, by Marcie Colleeen/Illustrated by Alison Oliver, (March 2020, Imprint/Macmillan), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250314819

A young girl envisions a community garden from a spilled plant in this story, based on the actual Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden in Brooklyn, New York. Living in the inner city, the girl sees potential in everything: a cardboard box, a tomato can, a seed. When her tomato can plant falls over, she sees “a baby garden”, and tends to the seedling where it landed. As her plant grows, people being slowing down, admiring her progress. But the girl has to leave, and she worries that without her love, her plants will suffer, so she makes the decision to leave her teddy bear behind. Under the bear’s loving eye, the neighborhood comes together to create a community garden filled with life, color, and love. Colorful and upbeat, The Bear’s Garden illustrates the beauty of imagination, creation, and community coming together. Endpapers are laid out like a map of the boroughs; the back endpapers focuses on Brooklyn, with a colorful burst of flowers noting where the Bear’s Garden can be found.

Consider a planting activity with your own kiddos – I love this Buzzfeed link that has different types of kitchen scraps that you can grow; Kids Gardening has a downloadable planting activity using kitchen scraps.

The Bear’s Garden has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Kaia and the Bees, by Maribeth Boelts/Illustrated by Angela Dominguez, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201055

Ages 4-8

Kaia is a little girl who is pretty brave, but one thing scares her: Bees. She tries to keep it a secret from her friends, but when she’s spooked by a bee flying by her, she turns to her beekeper dad: she wants to go up on the roof with him, to his apiary. She’s doing great with the bees, until she slips her glove off and one stings her finger! Just when Kaia thinks she’s done with bees, she has a moment where she faces her fears and discovers that maybe bees aren’t so scary after all.

A story about bravery and empathy, with a smart message about our environment and urban apiaries, Kaia and the Bees warmly addresses relatable fears – in this case, bees – and how the smallest steps can lead to big progress. Kaia is relatable; she’s brave and smart, but hides her fear of bees until she’s called out on it. Her beekeeper father explains how bees are important to our world, and how his work – the family’s work – as beekeepers helps keep bees safe and healthy. Maribeth Boelts, herself a beekeeper, brings her love of bees and social mindfulness to Kaia’s voice, while Angela Dominguez’s cartoon-realist illustrations give readers an expressive, accessible heroine and a multicultural family living and thriving in an urban setting. Endpapers give readers a peek into a beehive, complete with nonthreatening, cute bees.

There are some interesting facts about honeybees available from NatGeo Kids. Hobby Farms has information on beekeping safety for kids who want to be like Kaia. The New York City Beekeepers Assocation has education on urban beekeeping. Introduce kids to urban beekeeping with Kaia and with Lela Nargi’s book, The Honeybee Man; The Honeybee Conservancy also offers a good list of bee books for children.

 

Hike, by Pete Oswald, (March 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536201574

Ages 4-8

A dad and child wake up and hit the trail for a day’s hike. As they walk a trail together, they notice the beauty of their surroundings: spy a family of deer; track a black bear’s footprints; indulge in a snowball fight, and contribute their own offering to the forest: they plant a sprig from a tree. A celebration of the parent-child bond and our world, Hike is largely wordless, relying on the illustrations to tell the story. The colors are warm, drawn from nature, and the father and child share a visibly warm, loving relationship that invites caregivers and their kids to put on their hiking boots – or sneakers! – and explore their world. Be it a backyard, an urban neighborhood, or a suburban landscape, there’s always something to discover together. A sepia set of endpapers present a map, with start and finish points noted.

I loved the idea of a DIY Nature Journal like this one from KC Edventures. Last year, when I was home with my little guy during Spring Break, we made a nature journal with brown paper lunch bags and went wandering around our neighborhood, collecting cool leaves, acorns, and pebbles we found and liked. Kiddo loved it, and I printed out photos I snapped during our walk to add to the pages. The Pragmatic Parent has a great, free Nature Scavenger Hunt PDF that kids will love, too.

Hike has five starred reviews.

 

Solar Story: How One Community Lives Alongside the World’s Biggest Solar Plant, by Allan Drummond, (March 2020, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), $18.99, ISBN: 9780374308995

Ages 5-10

This is nonfiction that appeals to multiple grades. The story of the Noor Solar Power Plant in Morocco’s Sahara Desert – the largest solar power plant in the world – wraps around a story about everyday life in a small village next to the plant. Jasmine and Nadia are two friends who go on a class trip to the plant; during that trip, the girls’ class and readers will learn about Morocco and how the power plant creates jobs and improves the quality of life by bringing turnkey skills, technology, and the magic word, sustainability.

By giving readers relatable guides in the forms of Jasmine and Nadia, readers get a glimpse of life in a small Moroccan village, where the villagers have farm animals and cook on open fires, and the huge sprawl of the power plant and the modernity it brings while honoring the culture of the people who inhabit the area. The teacher engages her students, and readers, by asking thoughtful questions; most notably, “what does sustainability mean?”, to get her students and our readers ready for the school trip that illustrates how the power plant creates sustainability.

Watercolor illustrations and word balloon dialogue make this an enjoyable read. Warm yellows wander through the story, and earth tones and blues bring the reader to the land and its people. The teacher and many female children wear hijab. Sidebars throughout provide more detailed information about Morocco, the power plant, and sustainability. An author’s note showcases photos of workers at the Noor plant and a bibliography provides an opportunity for more reading. Endpapers bookend the story by having Nadia and Jasmine meet before the trip, and head back to school after.

A good addition to STEM collections. Toms of Maine has some easy to do activities to teach kids about solar power. Time for Kids has a 2016 article about the Noor plant.

 

That’s it for this time, I want to get this posted! More books coming!

Posted in Guide, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Book Tour: College Student Health Handbook

Hi all! I’ve got a blog tour for our seniors to have on hand as they get read for college. Good health practices never go out of style, as we’ve certainly learned this year, and whether you’re home or (eventually) headed to a dorm, there’s some important info to be found here.

 

The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness,
by Jill Grimes, MD, GAPP/Illustrations by Nicole Grimes,
(May 2020, Skyhorse), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1510751033
Ages 16+

5 Must-Have Items for Your College Freshman

You’re making a list and checking it twice…because especially if this is your FIRST kid heading off to college, you want to be sure you’ve included every critical item.

  • Twin XL (Extra Long) Sheets?
  • Command Strips in every shape, size and strength? Check.

(Much bigger deal for girls vs. guys, but this is the only way to hang stuff on walls.)

  • Dorm Bed Risers? (I highly recommend the ones with extra outlets.) Check.

Chargers, fan, laundry bag, clothes, shoes, coats…the list goes on. And on. And ON. What could possibly be missing? From my perspective as a seasoned move-in mom and a university doctor, here ‘s my list of the top five forgotten items:

  1. Small Tool Kit: Hammer, screwdrivers, wrench set, pliers, scissors, tape measure and level. This should be last in, first out, because you’ll often need these immediately to assemble and disassemble dorm room furniture or fix a stuck drawer. Pro tip: Add in a couple garbage bags; trash piles up as soon as you start unpacking.
  2. Backup Prescription Glasses: especially for the kid that ALWAYS wears contacts! Why? Because if you get a bad stye or “pinkeye” (viral conjunctivitis), or more commonly, you accidentally fall asleep in your contacts or get something in your eye that scratches your cornea- you CANNOT wear contacts for several days to a week or more. And seeing clearly tends to help grades. If you always wear glasses, the backup pair is for when yours break or disappear. And inevitably, it happens during midterms or finals.
  3. Small Lock Box: If you take prescription medications for ADD, this is a must. These stimulant pills sell for $5-10 each (a felony if caught!!) and dorm rooms are rarely private and/or consistently locked. Please remove the temptation for others and keep your meds safe. Lock boxes also work well for pricey jewelry, your passport, and while we’re at it, your backup glasses.
  4. Heating Pad: Okay, not critical, but a great way to guarantee your popularity! Seriously, few students have these, but those that do tell me “EVERYONE borrows it” for aching muscles, back spasms and “cramps”. Bonus points: in cold climates they can double as an electric blanket (just don’t fall asleep on top of one, as this can cause burns.)
  5. Solid Air Freshener: Plug-ins are rarely allowed in dorms, but you can place a solid or gel freshener in your closet (by your shoes) and tuck another under your bed. Extra-strong odors? Bamboo charcoal bags are a pricey option, but they work incredibly well. Choose a neutral or “fresh” smell, not “flowery” or “citrus” as you don’t know your roommate’s sensitivity to different scents. Bodies, dirty clothes, third-hand smoke and old dorms all get very smelly. Unless you are moving into a brand-new dorm with a neat-freak roommate, these fresheners can be lifesavers. Or at the very least, roommate-savers.

Bottom Line: Add these five items to your list for a smoother move-in and a healthier, safer semester! (If you’re flying, pack the glasses & shop for the rest when you arrive.) Good Luck!

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Two more original DC graphic novels! Gotham High and My Video Game Ate My Homework

I missed the boat on this one when they pubbed on April 7th, but now, you have no excuse: two more DC original graphic novels have been out for a month now, and I am about to rave them. I picked up these advance copies at ALA Midwinter earlier this year, and had the best conversation with the folks at the DC Booth. I hope you’re all safe and sound, if you’re reading this, and trust me, I’m working my way through the stack o’graphic novels you were kind enough to send me home with.

Gotham High, by Melissa de la Cruz/Illustrated by Thomas Pitilli, (April 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401286248

Ages 12-17

Melissa de la Cruz is a YA powerhouse: my middle graders can’t get enough of her Descendents novels, and my teens and YA readers devour her Alex and Eliza books. She can navigate complicated relationships between her characters, and who gets more complicated than the Joker, Catwoman, and Batman? Right? Gotham High is a YA take on Bruce, Selina, and Jack as teens – no capes, no superpowers, just the baggage they already come with (SO much baggage). Bruce is 17, just kicked out of boarding school, and has too many ghosts, in the form of memories, inhabiting stately Wayne Manor. Selina Kyle used to be the girl next door, now a Gotham High student that hangs out with Jack Napier, class clown with a heck of a mean streak. Bruce falls in with the two, and finds himself involved in a love triangle of sorts. But a kidnapping rocks Gotham High, and Bruce is thrust into the role of detective to get to the bottom of things.

Taking away the capes, gadgets, and makeup, Melissa de la Cruz gives us three incredibly complex, flawed characters, and brings us into their contentious friendship. She gives us chilling moments and dread realizations about the people each character will eventually become – with or without a costume. She makes them easily relatable and recognizable, and artist Thomas Pitilli gives us realistic characters with his artwork, with all the rah-rah high school spirit we expect to find in a high school hallway to the anger always simmering below the surface for each character. He captures the spirit of high school, in all its internal chaos, with style.

 

My Video Game Ate My Homework, by Dustin Hansen, (Apr. 2020, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 9781401293260

Ages 8-12

This is a fandom-filled graphic novel that kids and grownups alike will love Dewey is a 13-year-old kid on the verge of flunking science when he and his friends gets sucked into a video game adventure that presents them with challenges, fights with digital monsters, and puzzles to solve. Loaded with sight gags and wink-nudges to video games, con life, and overall fandom, kids (and big kids, like me) will see themselves in Dewey and Co.

The book encourages readers to problem solve and emphasizes the importance of cooperation and teamwork. The cartoony-realistic style and fantasy monsters are so much fun – perfect story to introduce if you have Dungeons & Dragons fledgling fans. If you have Secret Coders readers, give them this book, which will continue challenging their problem-solving skills and captivating them with a fun storyline.

Dustin Hansen’s also written the Microsaurs series, which never stays on my library shelves. (Which means I probably need to order them for my kid, because he would LOVE them.) I got to talk to him at Midwinter, and he’s one of the nicest people ever.