Posted in Uncategorized

Gift Guide for Little Readers

What do you get the littlest readers? (Hint: BOOKS) Come on, everyone else is going to get them all the toys.

Alphabet Street, by Jonathan Emmett/Illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Oct. 2019, Nosy Crow), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536208276

Ages 0-4

How fantastic is a lift-the-flap book that also folds out into a little neighborhood street? It’s an alphabetical trip through 13 storefronts, where each store is named after neighboring letters (Alfie’s Bakery; Coffee & Donuts; Elegant Fashions) and feature two big flaps, where little explorers can discover an alphabet lesson. The reverse side of the flaps is a bright, bold, park play area, making this absolutely perfect for kids to bring out their toys to interact with the storefronts and the book characters! The construction is sturdy, and will hold up to lots of play; the book is held together with a blue satin ribbon to keep everything together when not laid out. There’s eight feet of play here, so kids can play together or fly solo. If you put a copy in your storytime reference, your library kids will love you.

I am a big fan of Ingela P. Arrhenius’s art, which is so perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who love to see big, expressive, and friendly animal faces. The retro art, the big, bold color, it all makes for fun, tactile learning play.



100 First Words, by  Edward Underwood, (Sept. 2019, Nosy Crow), $9.99, ISBN: 9781536208221

Ages 0-3

This giant board book is loaded with words to explore – there are bunches of them hidden behind flaps, where a fence can reveal a pig; fold back a leaf to discover a caterpillar; discover a cat hidden behind a houseplant. Big, bold words are paired with bold, bright artwork, and sturdy flaps will hold up to curious little hands that want to explore over and over again. There are animals; household items; means of transportation (including a rocket ship!); body parts; baby esssentials, like diaper, cup, pajamas, and teddy: all easy words for you to share with your little one, and most easily enough spotted in the wild that you can point them out and reinforce the picture-word connection. Edward Underwood is great with concept art for little ones, and makes this book absolute fun.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

‘Tis the Season to be Reading!

Seasons Readings! I’ve got a bunch of holiday and winter books to talk about over the next couple of days. Let’s start with Christmas!

How Winston Saved Christmas: An Advent Story in Twenty-Four and a Half Chapters, by Alex T. Smith, (Sept. 2019, Silver Dolphin), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-983-6\

Ages 3-10

How Winston Saved Christmas is adorable. It’s an Advent storybook and activity book, starring a mouse named Winston, who discovers a little boy’s note to Santa and is determined to deliver that important message in time for Christmas! Start reading on December 1st, a chapter a day, leading up to the big day. Each chapter is about three pages, and the book is beautifully illustrated with color artwork. After each chapter, there’s a story-related craft that you can easily do with your kiddos. Great for the library, great for a way to end a day in the classroom, great to do with your own kids at home. The crafts are simple and don’t require lots of time or materials, making this a wonderful way to spend holiday time with your kiddos. Tips for next year, Christmas poems, and an author’s note finish everything off and get you ready for the holidays; the chapters and craft ideas are laid out in the front of the book, written on little gift tags, across an opening spread before the story begins, so you can get a peek at each activity (and gather your materials in advance).

This is an adorable way to prepare for the holidays. I think Winston will become a regular part of our holiday celebrations.


The Lobsters’ Night Before Christmas, by Christina Laurie/Illustrated by Elizabeth Moisan, (Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-5826-5

Ages 3-10

Who doesn’t know and love Clement Moore’s classic poem, A Visit by Saint Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas)? Add some ocean life to the mix for an Underwater the Sea holiday storytime with The Lobsters’ Night Before Christmas! Read the rhyming tale of Sea Nick, pulled in his clamshell by his eight minnows, each with a distinctive species name, as he fills skate cases with holiday gifts and moves on to the next cave. There are lobster and fish facts woven into the rhyme, making this a great story for sea life readers. Elizabeth Moisan’s watercolor artwork brings a soft, underwater feel to the illustrations, and she’s hidden a lobster, hiding in the eel grass, for sharp-eyed readers to find. Make it a game to see who can find the hidden lobster! The endpapers are loaded with tiny little lobsters, some holding little red stars for a tree. The cover is die-cut in a pine tree shape, adding fun to the design. Back matter includes an All About Lobsters feature, with information about what lobsters look like, eat, how they molt, and how they’re affected by climate change.

A cute read and gift for your sea life readers.

More winter and holiday books to come! If you know of any upcoming or new Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other multicultural holiday books, please tweet me @roesolo or email me here and let me know!

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, picture books, Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Let the Shopping Season commence! First up: Gift Sets!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK? Where the heck did this year go? Welp, my friends, this means that the holidays are upon us, and that means shopping. But since I *am* that gift-giver that buys books for a good chunk of my shopping list, allow me to share some suggestions with you, to take some of the stress out of your holiday shopping season.

First up is one of my favorite trilogies of all time, next to the vaunted, original, Star Wars saga.  I present to you, The Hat Box.

Jon Klassen’s Hat Box, by Jon Klassen,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $59.99, ISBN: 9780763666972
Ages 3-8

Three of the greatest storytime books ever written: This is Not My Hat; I Want My Hat Back, and We Found a Hat, all contained here for your reading enjoyment. The box is gorgeous and sturdy, holding three picture books (This is Not My Hat includes its Caldecott Medal sticker; I Want My Hat Back comes with Geisel Honor sticker) and a print from I Want My Hat Back – I call it “the moment of truth” print. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve read it. For a reader who loves Jon Klassen’s artwork, or a reader you want to introduce to Jon Klassen, you cannot go wrong here. This is a perfect gift, and it’s already in a box. All you need to do is wrap it, or stick it in a gift bag. This is topping my gift shopping list this year.


For your middle grade readers and lovers of realistic fiction, there’s the Raymie Nightingale 3-book collection:

Raymie Nightingale 3-book collection, by Kate DiCamillo,
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $59.97, ISBN: 9781536210385
Ages 9-13

Another beautiful and sturdy box, containing three hardcovers of Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale trilogy: Raymie Nightingale (with National Book Award Finalist sticker); Louisiana’s Way Home, and Beverly, Right Here. They’re hardcover books, jacketed and with Amy June Bates’ gorgeous artwork. A note from author Kate DiCamillo will welcome readers and make them feel like these books speak directly to them (which is Kate DiCamillo’s enduring gift as an author).

I remember when I received my first boxed set of books; like many folks of a certain age, I received E.B. White’s trilogy: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan for a gift one year. I still have my copies, worn with love and many, many, readings. Every time I see a boxed set of books, I still get that warm feeling that I got when I first slipped my E.B. White books out of their casing. Pass this set onto a reader and give them a lifetime of reading.


Last but not least for this gift set post, we have the Guess How Much I Love You 25th Anniversary slipcase.

Guess How Much I Love You (Slipcase Edition), by Sam McBratney/Illustrated by Anita Jeram,
(Sept. 2019, Candlewick Press), $33.99, ISBN: 9781536210644
Ages 0-5

Guess How Much I Love You is 25 years old? Yikes, my kid is old; I picked up a copy of this book at my local bookstore back when I was pregnant with him, and curating a library to read to him. (He’s 20 now, and that really hurts to write. Yikes.) The slipcase is as beautiful as the book, with beautiful artwork on the front and back of the box, embossed title and spine, and that quote we still whisper to our children: “I love you right up to the moon–and back” right there, to run your fingers over, time and again. The book is perfect, and the keepsake art print is perfect for framing. Give this to moms-to-be, and let them frame that print for their nurseries. Give it to your 20-year-old who needs to know you love them to the moon and back, even now.

This was a quick kickoff to the holiday shopping season, but there are more books to come! Keep an eye out; I’ve got a mountain of books to talk about, plus some state library antics to dish on. (That’s why I went for a week without posting – sorry!)


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

Space Opera: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, by K. Eason, (Oct. 2019, DAW), $26, ISBN: 978-0-7564-1529-7

Ages 14+

The first in a duology, How Rory Thorne Broke the Universe starts out with a hard fairy tale line: the new princess is born to the Thorne family line, and fairies come to bestow gifts on her. One fairy is pretty teed off that her invitation… got lost in the mail, let’s say, but there’s no spindle and no curse here. She bestows a dubious gift on the princess; the gift to see through lies of flattery and kiss-uppance. Rory is the first female baby to be born to the Thorne line for a while, so her birth throws things into a bit of a tizzy; it’s a tizzy that’s even more stirred up when a terrorist attack kills her father and the king of a neighboring planetary federation. Her mother gives birth to a male Thorne heir around the same time, which gives us an antagonist to watch out for in the next book.

Rory’s betrothed to the prince of the neighboring federation, and sent to live there while she waits to turn 18 and become his wife. Meanwhile, the Regent –  not her betrothed’s mother, since she also managed to get killed off – is a sleazy minister with his own power game at play. Rory, her body-maid (a badass half-cyborg named Grytt), her Vizier, Rupert, and two guards under Grytt, Thorsdottir and Zhang, keep an eye on things, because the Regent is up to no good. When the Vizier is arrested after trying to poke around and find out the Regent’s deal, Rory takes over and discovers a plot that will have major consequences for Rory, her family, and their corner of the universe. She enters her own Game of Thrones to outwit, outplay, and outlast the Regent.

Rory Thorne is a great character. She’s a smart, savvy teen princess who is ready to defend herself and throw down with anyone who gets in her way. But the book falls a little flat for me. There’s a great deal of worldbuilding, but tends to drone on at points and left me putting down the book to find something else to pique my interest between chapters. Is it YA? It’s definitely YA crossover material. Nothing too violent or overt for teen audiences, but it may not hold your usual readers’ attention. Talk this up with your space opera readers.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Unhinged History, where the oddest of couples change the world: The Bathysphere Boys

The Bathysphere Boys: Beebe & Barton (Unhinged History), by Ted Enik/Illustrated by G.F. Newland, (Sept. 2019, Schiffer Books). $16.99, ISBN: 9780764357930

Ages 7-10

This second book in Schiffer’s Unhinged History series brings together William Beebe and Otis Barton, who came together to create the bathysphere, an invention that sent the two underwater explorers more than half a mile underwater in 1930. The two were able to sees, close-up, underwater sea life that redefined deep-sea exploration. The story, written in slant rhyming, tells the story of the two very different personalities, who clashed throughout the invention process and, in 1934, split up for good after their historic dive. The story mentions the sphere’s return to life in 1994, when a renovation to the New York Aquarium gave the sphere a facelift, and where it proudly stands today. Back matter includes drawings of some of the sea life discovered during the deep sea dives, Bathysphere schematics, a timeline of human diving, and a profile on explorer Gloria Hollister, who worked with Beebe and Barton and who made her own deep sea dive in 1934.

Cartoon illustrations and a rhyme scheme outside of the norm make this an interesting choice for intermediate and middle grade readers who have an interest in science and underwater exploration. I like the idea of bringing together people who may not always have the most harmonious relationship, but who work together to affect great change: it’s a good way to show kids that you may not always get along, but there’s a value in putting aside differences to work together. A note on slant rhyming (also called “lazy rhyme”) will help readers ease into reading the story, which may feel off at first.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mr. Scruff pairs perfect dogs with their perfect humans

Mr. Scruff, by Simon James, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209358

Ages 3-7

Every dog has a human companion that’s just perfect for them: Polly and Molly have matching hairdos; Minnie and Vinnie are laid-back, with floppy ‘dos to match. But Mr. Scruff, sitting alone in a shelter, waits for the day when his person walks in the door. When a young boy named Jim walks in and sees Mr. Scruff, the two bond quickly; despite his parents’ protestations that “he’s so big, and you’re so small!”, Jim takes Mr. Scruff home. Meanwhile, Mr. Gruff arrives at the shelter and finds a pup that he decides to bring home, too. He names the pup Tim, and as the story notes, “and though it doesn’t rhyme, it’s all worked out just fine”. A sweet, heart-warming story about the relationship between humans and their dogs, Mr. Scruff is a rhyming storytime hit.

Simon James’ watercolor illustrations give readers cuddly dogs and smiling, friendly human counterparts strolling through cities and parks. The warm colors are comforting and add to this “adopt-don’t-shop” story. Mr. Scruff is a big, scruffy mutt and steals the reader’s heart with his facial expressions; first, tentative, later, with a smile as he heads out toward his forever home. Mr. Gruff is a scruffy human whose heart is stolen by teeny tiny Tim, who he tucks into the crook of his arm and brings home. Adorable, cuddly, and easy to read aloud, Mr. Scruff is a good choice for your dog fans.

Posted in picture books

Love makes us rise: Love Love Bakery

Love Love Bakery: A Wild Home for All, by Sara Triana Mitchell/Illustrated by H2 Alaska, (May 2018, Lucid Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1632961976

Ages 5-8

Love Love Bakery is a book I received last year, and am kicking myself for not getting to it sooner. Based on a bakery in Texas, Love Love Bakery is a love letter to coffeehouse culture: inclusive, a little chaotic, and delicious, with a strong sense of community. Bakers John and Jane get the shop ready in the morning as Jane’s son has breakfast on the porch. He leaves for school with his friends, telling mom “not to let things go nuts today”. The barista joins John and Jane, and the shop comes to life as the neighborhood wakes up and drops by. Sure enough, the place gets a little nuts, but it’s a chaotic joy that brings people together over coffee and conversation.

H2 Alaska’s watercolor artwork brings a comfortable, warm feel to the story, and introduces neighborhood people that may be familiar to readers, whether we’ve spotted them at our local Starbucks or the indie coffee place in town: the paint-spattered artist, the chattering book group, the new person in town looking for somewhere to be. We have a diverse, multi-generational crowd coming together in a place that welcomes all. The storytelling is comforting, describing a routine day in a convivial community, and offers a look at the sheer numbers that go into making a day’s worth of coffee and baked goods. There’s coffee and baking-related (groan-worthy) punnage, a glossary at the end, and a recipe for pretzels.

Love Love Bakery is a sweet read that you can pick up online. Sara Triana Mitchell’s author website has more information about her books.