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 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, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Flash the Little Fire Engine has a big heart!

Flash the Little Fire Engine, by Pam Calvert/Illustrated by Jen Taylor, (Nov. 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5420-4178-2

Ages 3-6

Flash is a little fire engine who wants to do big things, but every time the alarm clangs at the firehouse, Flash arrives on the scene to discover another truck is there, better able to handle the challenge. Dejected, Flash heads back to the firehouse, only to discover the a sudden snowstorm has blocked the bridge, and there’s a fire in the town square! It’s up to Flash to save the animals in the burning animal shelter!

Flash the Little Fire Engine is a sweet story about a spunky little fire engine, and encourages us kids who were always at the front of the line when we lined up in size order. Flash may be too little for some rescues, but he’s always ready to help – and that determination pays off when the stakes are high and the other trucks can’t get through. The book also gives kids an introduction to other first response vehicles, like an airport crash tender, the ever-popular turntable ladder truck, and an airplane firefighter and foam tender. The text moves between the story narrative and sound effects, which are bolded, larger, and in bright colors, to draw attention and encourage the kids to howl along with you during a storytime reading. The digital illustrations are bright, bold, and give the vehicles big, expressive faces that will instantly appeal to Blaze and the Monster Machines fans. The kids in my library (heck, every library I’ve been at) LOVE vehicle books, and have a special love for fire engines, so I’ll be adding this to the storytime rotation, along with firefighter hat coloring sheets, like this one from

Pam Calvert is an award-winning children’s book author. Her books include the Princess Peepers series, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning; more recently, Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight, illustrated by Liana Hee; and other titles. Formerly a science teacher as well as a writing instructor and coach, she speaks to thousands of children every year. When she’s not speaking or writing, you can find her having fun with her family in Texas. Learn more about her online at or on Twitter: @PammCalvert.

Jen Taylor is an illustrator and arts-and-crafts enthusiast born and raised in New Jersey. She attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she majored in illustration and animation. She is the illustrator of the Brave Little Camper series as well as the picture book Ninja Camp, written by Sue Fliess. She previously worked in animation on such shows as Sid the Science Kid and MAD. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and their corgi, Rocket. Learn more about her online at

“Calvert deftly finds a new way to introduce kids to different kinds of firefighting vehicles…sure to slip in effortlessly with other firetruck books.” —Kirkus Reviews

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Maybe shows children their incredible potential

Maybe, by Kobi Yamada/Illustrated by Gabriella Barouch, (Sept. 2019, Compendium), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-946-87375-0

Ages 3-7

A girl and her sidekick, a small pig, take readers on an introspective journey in Maybe. Opening with the question, “Have you ever wondered why you are here?”, Kobi Yamada inspires and encourages listeners to think about what each and every one of us is here to accomplish – to invent something? to you build things?- and embrace everything life has to offer; everything we set out to do, from a place of love and the desire to be a force for good. Speak for those who cannot. Shine a light into dark places. Kobi Yamada’s words will fill readers with a sense of purpose; strengthening them against failure by acknowledging that it isn’t how one falls down, it’s how they rise. Gabrielle Barouch’s artwork explores fantastic, surreal landscapes with a hold in the corporeal world: releasing a birdcage filled with glowing butterflies into the night; watering flowers while standing in them.

Maybe is a lovely book to look at, and a book that’s filled with potential, just waiting to share it with others. Share this with your readers; read this to your class visits; let the kids know that, as Kobi Yamada says, “You already have everything it takes to do big things”.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Join the Red Rover as it wanders Mars

Red Rover: Curiosity on Mars, by Richard Ho/Illustrated by Katherine Roy, (Oct. 2019, Roaring Brook Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-19833-4

Ages 4-7

I am in love with this sweet, factual story about the Curiosity Rover, the robotic rover currently exploring Mars after landing in the Gale Crater in August, 2012. The story is straightforward, yet gives life to the Curiosity by referring to it as the “little rover” and wondering about its habits. Is it looking for water because it’s thirsty? It may seem lonely, but it has friends that came before. The narrator is the planet Mars, who seems to be watching Curiosity and its predecessors with interest. Mars states, “They call me Mars. I am not like your world”, and notes that life is hard for Curiosity: there are sand storms; the air is thin and it’s cold; it’s very, very, red. Through it all, artwork depicts the scrappy Curiosity rover, undeterred from its mission: it collects, its observes, it records. Back matter includes an annotated sketch of the Curiosity; facts about Mars, and brief profiles of the previous orbiters, landers, and rovers that have explored the planet (and that are in progress). There’s a bibliography and websites for further reading.

The story gives the Curiosity a personality of sorts, and the artwork presents a breathtaking artist’s rendering of the Red Planet. The sandstorms are chaotic, and a foldout of the red landscape is just stunning: the Curiosity stands on a cliff, overlooking the barren, beautiful world. Red Rover is a nice introduction for younger readers to the world of space exploration. If you have Wall-E fans, introduce them to Red Rover.

If you have readers who want more on Mars, Kiddle has Curiosity Facts for Kids; NASA’s Space Place has the Mars rovers broken out into trading cards with stats; and NASA’s FunZone has coloring sheets.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Ready… Set… Go! The Big Race is on!

The Big Race, by David Barrow, (Sept. 2019, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781610678803

Ages 4-7

The Big Race is a very tough race in which only the fastest, biggest, and strongest animals participate. So when little Aardvark decides she’s going to sign up to compete, she gets laughed at. Her competitors – a lion, cheetah, buffalo, and crocodile – all laugh at her, and tell her she’ll never finish, but she will defy them all. She’s not competing to win; she’s competing to have fun. The story shows each of the bigger, stronger animals pushing themselves to get to the next level in this triathalon-type race, but Aardvark? She’s pushing herself, and giggling, laughing, and enjoying the journey. Aardvark may not be the biggest, strongest, or fastest, but she has enough heart to power her through the finish line.

Originally published in the UK in 2018, The Big Race is all about embracing the journey rather than the destination, listening to the inner voice that tells you “I can!”, and doing the thing that may be a little overwhelming. It’s about self-empowerment and self-reliance. The other animals jeer at Aardvark, but they’re the ones arguing over the grand prize while Aardvark stands, surrounded by her friends, and receives her medal for finishing. It’s a sweet story about challenging oneself, and testing one’s limits.

The mottled artwork is bright, and the contrast between tiny Aardvark and her hulking co-competitors makes for a big visual. Remind kids to be present, and to adjust expectations once in a while.