Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Holiday Giveaway: How to Catch an Elf!

The holidays are just around the corner and it’s time to catch an elf!

catch-and-elf

Sourcebooks’ newest holiday picture book, How to Catch an Elf (ON SALE; October 2016, $10.99), is the latest from the gang who brought us the New York Times bestseller, How to Catch a Leprechaun. This time out, one of Santa’s elves is wise to kids’ tricks: they can’t catch Santa, so they’re going to try and catch him! He’s got to navigate all the traps that kids set – and keep Santa safe and delivering presents! -as Christmas Eve progresses.

The endpapers bring you right into the fun, with peppermint candies across a pale blue background. The digital over sketched artwork is adorable – I love Santa’s and the elf narrator’s sweet facial expressions, and the traps are hilariously complex, like mad scientists in training got together and worked on them. The rhyming text makes for some fun reading, and watching the duo dodge flying food, prowling pets, and the Elf Snatcher 3000 allow for kids to point out some wacky Christmas fun. This is a great Christmas read-aloud – make sure to get those milk and cookies ready before you settle down with this book and your favorite little elves on Christmas Eve.

Want a chance to win a $50 gift card for some last-minute holiday shopping? It’s simple – snap a photo of your very own #elftrap and post it with the hashtag #catchanelf, to be entered to win a $50 gift card for last-minute holiday shopping! There are more details on the Sourcebooks Pinterest page. Good luck!

Want a chance to win your own copy of How to Catch an Elf? If you’re a US or Canada resident, just enter this  Rafflecopter giveaway and I’ll contact you if you’re a winner! This giveaway also runs through December 16, so enter now!

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Posted in Fiction, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Holiday Book Shopping: Science and Tech

Books make fantastic holiday gifts! Need a stocking stuffer or are stumped by a kid who has seemingly everything? Try one of these!

I am guilty of favoring books in the STEM/STEAM areas, because that’s what I love evangelizing to my own kids and the kids at my libraries. Take a look – you don’t need to be a Stephen Hawking-in-the-making to enjoy these.

scratch-playgroundScratch Programming Playground, by Al Sweigart, (Oct. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1593277628

Recommended for Ages 8-12

I love working with Scratch for young coders. It’s all about teaching kids how to computer code using interconnecting blocks of code, and the Scratch program, developed at MIT, is free and available online. Scratch Programming Playground walks kids (and grownups – I used this book extensively while putting together programs for this coming winter) through the process of learning Scratch by making cool games, like Fruit Slicer (a Fruit Ninja clone), Brick Breaker (where my ’80s friends at?), and Asteroid Breaker (Asteroids! Remember that one?). There are tons of full-color visuals and step-by-step breakdowns that will have kids programming in no time. I buy No Starch books for my libraries all the time – they’re great to have on hand.

 

how-things-workHow Things Work, by T.J Resler (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2555-7

Recommended for ages 7-12

Know a kid who’s constantly taking everything apart to see how it works? This is the book for her or him. It’s loaded with gadgets and how they work; fun facts; in-depth pieces on technology and how it works; profiles of scientists and innovators, and yes, experiments that are totally safe to try at home (with adult supervision, please). Learn how a tablet really works, how an aquarium works to keep fish healthy and happy, even how a toilet works, complete with diagram. Design a roller coaster with your kids – it’s easier than you think! Because it’s a NatGeo Kids book, you know the writing is great; it speaks to kids in easy, clear, fun language that educates and never talks over their heads or down to them. The photos are amazing, and the dog on a surfboard (page 131) is worth the cost of the book all on its own.

science-encyclopediaScience Encyclopedia: Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2543-4

Recommended for ages 8-13

I know, it’s a NatGeo Kids lovefest right now, but it’s well-deserved. The Science Encyclopedia is info-packed with everything kids need to know about physical and life sciences, covering matter, energy, electronics, the universe, and more. There are record breakers, key dates in atomic science, and activities to try at home. Information is presented in 2-page spreads broken out into subject-specific blocks, with stunning photos, fun facts, and hilariously bad jokes (Where does bad light go? A prism!) A glossary, index, and additional resources round this volume out. Fantastic gift for any tween who wants to know more about everything.

 

These are all available now, either in your local bookstore or online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or IndieBound.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Babymouse comes to picture books!

I’m a huge Babymouse fan. She’s smart, she’s a bit sassy, she’s a great read for kids. The Babymouse graphic novels do gangbusters, no matter what library I’m at, and my kids’ book club had a Babymouse discussion that ended up being more about laughing and talking about the crazy things Babymouse (and Squish, her graphic novel counterpart) come up with. Today, I’m super excited, because Babymouse is coming to picture books!

babymouse

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes will be out in October, but I was able to get a sneak peek at a few pages, thanks to Edelweiss, where I get a lot of my advance reader copies. The book is colorful, as opposed to Babymouse’s 2-color graphic novels, so this will get me a lot of mileage at storytime. The book is still set up like a graphic novel, with word balloons, narration boxes, and mini panels popping up here and there.

babymouse_1

babymouse_2

babymouse_3
Here’s the story: Babymouse ate all of the Christmas cookies her mom made for Santa, so now she can make him something he really wants—CUPCAKES! But a dragon rears its fiery head, and Sir Babymouse has to defeat him to save Christmas – or, you know, a cupcake or two.

I love that the Holms are bringing graphic novels to different formats. Their board books, I’m Grumpy and I’m Sunny, are adorable and perfect introductions to the graphic novel medium for babies and toddlers. Get your kids started on comics early!

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes, by Jennifer L. Holm/Illustrated by Matthew Holm, (Oct. 2016, Random House Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781101937433

 

 

 

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish!

Not Very Merry CoverThe Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen/Illustrated by Dan Hanna (Sept. 2015, Macmillan), $16.99, ISBN: 9780374355494

Recommended for ages 3-7

The grumpiest fish in the sea is back, and this time, he’s stressed out over holiday shopping. He’s so worried about finding the perfect gifts for all of his friends, that he’s missing the whole point of the h0liday season – it’s the thought that counts, after all! He learns that making handmade gifts that speak from the heart are the best gifts of all – a valuable lesson for kids and adults alike.

The kids in my library LOVE Pout-Pout Fish. When I first got here, there were two board books of the original story that were worn to the point of falling apart (they’ve been replaced). I can’t wait to bring this story out as the holiday storytimes get a little closer (I have to do Thanksgiving, after all!), with a fun craft afterwards that will show the kids how delighted their parents are with their own handmade gifts.

The book is written in rhyme, perfect for young audiences to follow along. Pout-Pout’s initial refrain about gift-giving: “A gift should be big, and a gift should be bright, and a gift should be perfect—guaranteed to bring delight! And a gift should have meaning, plus a bit of bling-zing, so I’ll shop till I drop for each just-right thing.” will resonate with grownups who work themselves into a state each and every holiday, and maybe give them the message to slow the heck down and enjoy the season.

How happy are we when our kids give us a handprint on a piece of construction paper, or a tissue paper flower? It’s a gift made for us, with love. And it goes beyond that – look at the success of Etsy, the site where crafters sell their handmade stuff. We want that personal touch, that connection. I knit for my friends and family, and the time and love that goes into my gifts means that anyone who gets something handknit from me is pretty amazing in my life. It’s a message that we seem to inch away from a little more every year; maybe the Pout-Pout Fish will help bring us back to that all-important message this holiday season.

Dan Hanna’s art is absolutely adorable. Pout-Pout has a big, gloomy pout as he rushes around trying to make everyone happy – but himself. Paired with Deborah Diesen’s rhyming text, kids will giggle and engage with this book right away. My toddler loved it!

Add The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish to your holiday libraries and get your winter crafts ready. But wait – you can also enter this Rafflecopter giveaway//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js for a chance to win your own copy!

INTERVIEWS WITH THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR!

Deborah Diesen - Author PhotoDeborah Diesen, Author

Since the first book, we’ve seen Mr. Fish go to school, learn to smile, face the dark, discover how to dream and play hide-and-seek. What do kids (and their parents) love most about the series?

I think one of the things that makes Mr. Fish an appealing character for many kids and parents is that kids and parents alike can identify with his experiences. Toddlers sometimes pout; so do adults! Preschoolers have things they’re scared of; so do adults! Kindergarteners get nervous about starting something new; so do adults! Mr. Fish’s experiences provide a way for kids and grown-ups to explore those issues together. In addition, the stories have rhyme, repetition, and wordplay, which are fun in a read-aloud book. And Dan Hanna’s illustrations! They’re fantastic. They truly bring the stories to life.

What do you hope young readers (ages 3-6) will learn from The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish? Is there a message here for grown-ups as well?
I hope that Mr. Fish’s latest tale will help children to realize that presents don’t need to be expensive or complicated or splashy. Simple, heartfelt presents that connect us to one another are the best gifts of all. A drawing; a craft project; time spent together; even just a smile! These sorts of gifts are the most cherished and the most enduring. It’s a lesson we grown-ups have to re-learn periodically as well.

Do you have any tips for parents of toddlers about the joy of giving presents, rather than just receiving them, this holiday season?
Kids love to give presents, and they especially love having an active role in the process of creating the presents. Try a craft idea or project that’s extremely simple and stress-free, and then let your child have at it with a minimum of help. The more messy, lopsided, and imperfect the results the better! Have fun with the process, and as you do you’ll create not just gifts but memories as well.

Dan Hanna, Illustrator

danhanna by jennifer beckwithThe items in the shop and the gifts Mr. Fish imagines in this story are so detailed and quirky. How did you come up with them? Did you have a specific inspiration?

For the imagined gifts, I drew on my own experience as a kid where I would dream up magnificent presents for my family and friends.  Eventually, as with Mr. Fish, I would have to confront reality and drastically scale back my plans.

The shop items are based on all the goofy stuff you can find on the shelves of some of the more interesting gift shops.

Of all the items that the Pout-Pout fish dreams up (robot, spaceship, submarine etc.), which one would you love to get this Christmas?

The Submarine!  When I was a kid there was an ad in the back of a comic book for a submarine.  The ad went something like this: “Deluxe Submarine!  Life Size!  Torpedo Tubes!  Absolutely NO Cardboard Parts!  Only $10!!

I saved up the money and sent away for it.   As I waited for it to be delivered my dreams were filled with visions of underwater adventure.  Eventually it arrived and sank my dreams into the abyss.  It was just a cardboard box with torpedo tubes made from toilet roll tubes.  It was even more depressing than the Sea Monkeys and X-Ray Glasses.

What do you think was your most valuable childhood experience?
Being bored.  I firmly believe that having enough free time to sit around and be bored is very important for the development of a healthy imagination.

What do you want the students to get out of your school visits?
That being a writer or illustrator is like being a wizard.  Your magic wand is a pencil.  Your potions are words and scribbles.  And the spells you cast will be the stories you write and the pictures you draw.  So pick up a pencil and make some magic happen!

THE NOT VERY MERRY POUT POUT FISH BLOG TOUR

Chat with Vera chatwithvera.blogspot.com

MomReadIt https://momreadit.wordpress.com/

Anakalian Whims anakalianwhims.wordpress.com

Mymcbooks Blog mymcbooks.wordpress.com

Outnumbered 3 to 1 http://www.outnumbered3-1.com

Picture Books Review http://www.picturebooksreview.com/

Check It Out https://maclibrary.wordpress.com/

Jumpin Beans http://jumpin-beans.blogspot.com/

Caiafa Craziness http://www.caiafacraziness.com

TeacherDance http://www.teacherdance.org/

Kid Lit Reviews http://kid-lit-reviews.com/

Heck of A Bunch http://www.heckofabunch.com

Leslie Lindsay http://leslielindsay.com/

Double Duty Twins doubledutytwins.com

GeoLibrarian http://geolibrarian.blogspot.com/

Cassandra M’s Place http://www.cassandramsplace.com

Philly Burb Moms http://www.phillyburbmoms.com

Not So Average Mama http://www.notsoaveragemama.com

Tales of Mommyhood http://www.talesofmommyhood.com/

Susan Heim on Parenting susanheim.blogspot.com

Bookish Babes https://bookishbabes.wordpress.com/

Bea’s Book Nook http://beasbooknook.blogspot.com/

Bumbles and Fairytales http://bumblesandfairytales.blogspot.com/

Be the Difference http://mariadismondy.com/blog/

Stacking Books http://www.stackingbooks.com/

Local Busy Bees http://www.localbusybees.com

Reading through Life http://readingtl.blogspot.com/

Parenting Healthy http://www.parentinghealthy.com

Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com/

Kristen Remenar http://kristenremenar.com/

Oh My! Omaha http://www.ohmyomaha.com/

My Silly Little Gang http://mysillylittlegang.com/

The Corner on Character http://corneroncharacter.blogspot.com/

Mommy Ramblings mommyramblings.org

SoCal City Kids socalcitykids.com

Saffron Tree http://www.saffrontree.org

Mrs Brown Loves Bookworms http://mrsbrownthebookworm.blogspot.com/

The Neighborhood Moms http://www.TheNeighborhoodMoms.com

Inspired by Savannah http://www.inspiredbysavannah.com

The Reading Nook Reviews http://www.bookrookreviews.com/

In the Pages Blog inthepages.blogspot.com

Writers’ Rumpus http://writersrumpus.com/

Miss Marple’s Musings http://www.joannamarple.com/

Investing Love http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/

Natural Mama http://www.naturalbabygoods.com/

One Crazy Kid http://onecrazykid.com

Mommy’s Block Party http://www.mommysblockparty.co/

Mommy Has to Work http://mommyhastowork.com/

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Book Review: Twelve Bots of Christmas by Nathan Hale (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2010)

Twelve Bots of ChristmasRecommended for ages 3-7

This robot variation of The Twelve Days of Christmas, complete with Robo-Santa, electronics, and droids, has the potential for an interactive read-aloud with audiences familiar with the Christmas classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  In this retelling, Robo-Santa gifts twelve days of cyber gear, from a cartridge in a gear tree, to five BOT-TO-RIES, to twelve Beat Bots thumping. The electronic gifts will be fun for a younger generation for whom computers, tablets and iPhones are common household items, and the computer-generated illustrations manage to avoid looking flat, as tends to be the case with this type of art, thanks to subtle shading that offers depth of image. The left hand page of each spread features the text, Robo-Santa, and the growing group of gifts joining him. The right page features a full-bleed image of the day’s gift. Robo-Santa and his bots have fun and often exaggerated expressions, and the subtle details contained in the pictures reward careful viewers with fun details, including little gears that take the place of stars in a night sky, and a moon that looks similar to the Death Star from the Star Wars movies. The font is a plain black font that resembles old computer print. The endpapers offer a crush of presents, preparing readers for a fun holiday read.

This would be a fun addition to a holiday read-aloud or a robot read-aloud that takes place during the holiday season. The tune of the classic song is repetitive enough that singing along should be encouraged; the repetition of the gifts given will make the song easier to pick up as the story progresses. Incorporating a flannel board with robot images could make the read-aloud even more fun for younger audiences, who can also be encouraged to hold up the number of fingers that denotes each day in the song. Oriental Trading offers robot rubber ducks or robot tattoos in bulk that could be a fun gift from Robo-Santa to attendees at the end of the read-aloud, along with a robot hand stamp.