Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

What is it that Lou can’t do? February 10, 2017

louThe Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387279

Recommended for ages 3-7

Lou and her friends are adventurers! They run faster than airplanes, build mighty fortresses, and rescue wild animals. One day, though, Lou’s friends decide to make a nearby tree the location of their pirate ship, and Lou balks. She’s never climbed a tree before. She likes her adventures to be down, on the ground. Her friends scurry up the tree, but Lou’s not going. What will it take for Lou to get up that tree?

Kids will recognize themselves in Lou, whose got a vibrant imagination, a great group of friends, and a healthy fear of a climbing a tree, which – let’s be honest – can be a pretty scary thing. Like most kids, Lou tries to divert her friends’ attention by suggesting “not-up-a-tree games” and stalling (changing her shoes, claiming an injury, spotting an asteroid heading right for them). With her friends’ encouragement, Lou does attempt that climb – and when she doesn’t make it, her friends are right there for her, heading for a playground to continue their game. Is Lou defeated? Nope. She’s going to try again, maybe even tomorrow. Showing a child overcome her fear and her self-reliance when she doesn’t succeed the first time sends a positive message to kids who may struggle with anxiety over new situations; surrounding her main character with supportive friends sends a message to all kids, to support one another and to compromise.

The digital art is fun and will appeal to all kids; the group of friends is diverse and no one is relegated to “girl” or “boy” roles here – they’re all pirates, race car drivers, or deep sea divers. They’re kids, playing together, like kids do.

I loved Ashley Spires’ award-winning book, The Most Magnificent Thing, and her Binky the Space Cat series has been a winner at any library I’ve worked at. I love her positive messages of self-reliance and the power of imagination, and I can’t wait to get this book on the shelves next to my other Spires books. A great book for elementary collections and kids who are learning that it’s okay to be scared sometimes.

Check out Ashley Spires’ website for more of her artwork and information about her books.

 

And they lived happily ever after… January 3, 2017

princess-princessPrincess Princess Ever After, by Katie O’Neill, (Sept. 2016, Oni Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781620103401

Recommended for ages 9-13

Princess Sadie is so over the princes and their lame rescue attempts that she quietly sabotages her own rescues – that is, until Princess Amira happens along. Mohawked and determined to strike out on her own, in no mood to settle down to standard princess life herself, Amira frees Sadie and gives her self-esteem a much-needed boost. Joining forces, the two princesses face a jealous sorceress who has a very personal grudge with Sadie, and discover that they can create their own happily ever after, no princes necessary.

I adore this story. It has so many empowering messages, I want to hand copies of them out to every kid I see, every classroom I visit. It’s a story of doing it yourself; of self-esteem and loving yourself; of the freedom to love. The cartoon art is bright, happy, and even includes the cutest little dragon to fall in love with, because at heart, this is a princess story. It’s soft and feminine while delivering a strong, gorgeous message. Display and booktalk this with the Princeless and Lumberjanes series of comics and trade paperbacks – and read them yourself! They’re fantastic!

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This book has received a lot of buzz, including a lovely Lambda Literary review and a 2016 Best Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels nomination from the CYBILS. It was also awarded best book/graphic novel and shortlisted for best overall comic in the first annual Autostraddle Comic and Sequential Art Awards. Visit Katie O’Neill’s website to see and read more about her work.

This is an important book to have in your collections, and an adorable fantasy tale on top of it. Why wouldn’t you want a one-two winner like this?

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Art courtesy of StrangelyKatie.com

 

Who’s the newest and fairest of them all? December 27, 2016

charmedCharmed, I’m Sure, by Sarah Darer Littman, (Sept. 2016, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481451277

Recommended for ages 8-12

What happens when you’re the daughter of the fairy tale world’s version of Brangelina – Snow White and Prince Charming – and you can’t get a date for the Fall Festive school dance? This is Rosie White Charming’s dilemma in Charmed, I’m Sure. She grits her teeth and asks her mom – now a lifestyle blogger for her hugely famous brand – for help, receiving a complete makeover and magic compact from Snow White. At first, it’s great – guys are noticing her! Her friends think she looks fabulous! – but things aren’t always what they seem. Rosie swears the compact is talking to her, and it’s sounding a heck of a lot like the magic mirror that her evil step-grandmother used; next thing she knows, her friends are mad at her, and so is the cute guy she was talking up at the coffee joint. Rosie isn’t giving up, though – she’s going to find a way to get her happily-ever-after.

Charmed, I’m Sure is another fun entry into the flipped/fractured fairy tale genre for middle graders. It’s fun, has some cameos from other famous fairy tale offspring, and the characters are light and silly. There’s a nice message about staying true to yourself, and Snow White gets her message across to her daughter in a very sly way that will make you realize that she knows a lot more than she lets on. (Like most parents, am I right?)

A fun addition to your fun fairy tales collection. Talk it up with Jen Calonita’s Fairy Tale Reform School series and The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper for extra fun reading!

 

Life in Motion: Misty Copeland’s inspiring autobiography, edited for young readers November 24, 2016

misty-copelandLife in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Reader Edition), by Misty Copeland, (Dec. 2016, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 978148147979

Recommended for ages 8-12

Misty Copeland is amazing. The first African-American principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre didn’t start ballet until her early teens and has faced poverty, racism, criticism, and injury to do what she loves. In this young readers edition of her autobiography, she tells readers about the trials and triumphs she’s lived, the hard work she’s put in, and the sacrifices she’s made to get where she is in the dance world. We read about the custody battle between her mother and ballet teacher when she was 15; the rampant racism she’s endured, and she holds up to the light the eating issues that run rampant in the ballet community. We also read about amazing achievements, like her dancing on tour with Prince and her joy at meeting the dancers that inspired her the way she inspires a new generation of children.

Misty does not shy away from diversity here: she embraces it, giving us the names of the African-American dancers that went before her. She also doesn’t hide the fact that she’s taken some heat for being “too mainstream”; that bringing ballet to the masses is looked down upon – thankfully, that’s something she disagrees with. Ballet and dance, the arts, are for all – if she can inspire another kid to put on a pair of toe shoes, or sign up for hip hop classes because it’s something they love, she’s done right. Copeland is all about embracing your passion. Her confidence and gratitude come through in equal measure, and she dispenses advice for living and building one’s self-esteem throughout the book. Embrace your strengths and never give up – these are the lessons that kids will come away with after spending some time with Misty Copeland.

There are photos in the finished book (I’ve got an egalley), and more on her home page. You can also find her on the American Ballet Theatre page, which also has a section on education and training for readers interested in learning more. Display and booktalk this with Copeland’s picture book (illustrated by Christopher Myers), Firebird.

This book is a must-add to biography collections. Booktalk and display this if, like me, you’ve got kids that need to see someone smashing stereotypes and making it to the top of her (or his) game. If you have dancers in your home or your life, give this book to them and let them watch this ABC Sunday Spotlight from 2014.

 

Sometimes, being a princess ain’t all it’s cracked up to be… I Am NOT a Princess! October 3, 2016

princess_coverI Am NOT a Princess!, by Bethany Burt/Illustrated by Brenda McCallum, (Oct. 2016, Schiffer Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764352126

Recommended for ages 3-6

Eliza loved to twirl and twirl, and she loved dressing up like a princess. She flashed her beautiful dress, jewelry, and glass slippers; but Mom asked her to go grocery shopping with her. Grocery shopping?! Princesses don’t grocery shop! They have servants to do that sort of thing for them! Honestly! She twirls away, turning down opportunities to go biking with her best friend and play baseball with her brother and his friends. Princesses don’t do things that could get their dresses dirty! When Eliza’s dad offers to let her help him paint – something she loves to do – and she turns it down because princesses don’t paint, her dad asks her what princess do, then. Eliza realizes that, come to think of it, princesses – at least, the way she’s thinking of them – don’t do much other than twirl and look pretty. That’s no fun! Maybe she doesn’t want to be a princess, after all!

I have to admit, I was conflicted while reading this book. I grew up loving my Barbies and I see little girls around me, including my niece, love their Princesses, and they aren’t the type to turn down getting good and dirty while wearing a tutu. I can see where a little girl who may have a certain vision of being a princess in her head – the princesses that are waited on hand and foot and twirl around looking pretty – may need a slight dose of reality, but enjoying Disney Princesses isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Princesses like Merida and Mulan and Belle sure teach us that.

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I Am NOT a Princess is a good book to emphasize the importance of play-acting and the importance of having a strong sense of self. You can be a princess, and you can – and should – help around the house and go out and play. If you’re worried about a mixed message, talk about the positive characteristics of princesses: Belle’s love of reading and refusal to be bullied by the Beast; Merida’s skill with a bow and arrow; Mulan’s ability to train and fight toe to toe with the men in her army; Ariel’s rebellious nature. The most important characteristic any princess or prince needs is a good self-esteem.

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The cute art will appeal to readers, as will the pink and pastel colors. Eliza is adorable, and her twirling makes her especially fun and girly. I love the clear, glossy crown on Eliza’s head on the cover of the book; it’s a nice, added touch that will draw eyes (and fingers) to the book. Little girls in my library are always asking for “Princess Books”, so this, along with Kate Beaton’s Princess and the Pony, Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious books, Catherine Hapka’s Sofia the First, and my Disney Princess books, will make for a fun display. Just make sure that the little girls in your life know that balance is good – you can be a princess and help around the house and enjoy getting dirty; it’s not a one or the other choice.

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Blog Tour: Beautiful, by Stacy McAnulty September 3, 2016

beautiful_1Beautiful, by Stacy McAnulty, (Sept. 2016, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-7624-5781-6

“Every girl is unique, talented, and lovable… Every girl is BEAUTIFUL.”

Sure, sugar and spice and everything nice, is fine for some, but snips, snails and puppy dog tails are pretty great, too. Stacy McAnulty’s Beautiful sends an empowering message: You can be beautiful when you’re dressed like a pirate, when you’re digging in the garden, or you’re creating your own robot army. Loving yourself is beautiful, and Stacy McAnulty’s empowering message is conveyed by Joanne Lew Vriethoff’s gorgeous artwork, which shows beautiful little girls in all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities, laughing, having fun, being brilliant, and being beautiful.

This is the best kind of diverse book, because it encourages, it empowers, all kids to embrace life and joy. The message is clear, with pictures that interpret the text in the best way:

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The endpapers carry this celebration of beauty by featuring a field of pink, with crayon-drawn butterflies and flowers, and overlaid with brightly colored frogs, bugs, and snails.

This book is for everyone: for the little girl who knows she wants to be the president-ballerina-astronaut when she grows up; for her mom, who wanted (and maybe achieved) the same. For the dad whose little princesses sing “Let it Go” while playing with their Transformers, and the brothers whose sisters are right next to them, scaling a tree on a lazy day. Boys and girls, men and women alike, all need Beautiful in their lives, to remind them to embrace all forms of beauty where they discover them.

You can pre-order Beautiful from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound. You can also add it to your GoodReads.

Make sure you check out the rest of the stops on the BEAUTIFUL blog tour!

8/29 Flowering Minds
8/30 Kids’ Book Review
8/31 My Word Playground
9/1 Stacking Books
9/2 Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books
9/3 MomReadIt
9/5 Enjoy Embrace Learning
9/6 Geo Librarian
9/7 A Foodie Bibliophile
9/8 MamaBelly
9/10 Diapers and Daydreams
9/11 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
9/12 Unconventional Librarian

 

 

Spotlight On: I Wanna Be A Great Big Dinosaur! May 19, 2016

This latest spotlight is an adorable story about the grass being greener on the other side. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky presents…

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A little boy wants to be a Great. Big. Dinosaur! Luckily for him, a great big dinosaur is nearby, and is happy to show him the ropes: the roaring, the stomping, the eating LOTS of meat… but the boy has some pretty cool things to show the dinosaur, too! Playing video games and soccer, and eating ice cream are pretty awesome, after all.

Kids will see themselves in both little boy and dinosaur: each wants to try on the other’s life, just to see if things are as cool as they look. It taps into a child’s sense of imagination and play – who among us hasn’t wanted to be a dinosaur? A bird, a butterfly, or something other than who we already are? And when the boy sees things from a dinosaur’s point of view, he realizes that there are some pretty great things about being a little boy, too, and shares them with his dino friend. The verdict: you can be a little bit of both, and be very happy!

I love this book and can’t wait for it to enter my regular storytime rotation. My three-year old LOVES it. We stomp, roar, and chomp on imaginary pteranodon drumsticks as we read it. The art is vibrant and there’s a bigness to it, coming off the page and inviting readers to join in. Words like “STOMP!” and “ROAR!” splash across two-page spreads, contributing to the giant feeling of the story and the words and will keep younger listeners entertained and giggling.

Grab some shoe or tablet boxes, paper, and some dot art painters (really cuts down on the mess), and let the kids make their own dinosaur hats and tails! Add this book to your storytime rotation and your home and library/school collections; it’s a good one.

And now, the Sourcebooks Spotlight – keep reading for your chance to win your own copy of I Wanna Be a Great Big Dinosaur!

Title: I Wanna Be A Great Big Dinosaur!

Author: Heath McKenzie

Release Date: May 17, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Summary:

Want to find out what it takes to be a Great Big Dinosaur? This book is for you!

More than anything in the world, one little boy wants to be a great big dinosaur. And he’s in luck! A great big T. Rex shows up to teach him how to stomp and roar just like a dinosaur. But dinosaurs aren’t so great at soccer or video games… Maybe being a little boy isn’t all bad?

A story about being whoever (or whatever) you want!

Goodreads 

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes&Noble

BooksAMillion

!ndigo

Indiebound

Heath1About the Author (photo by Angela Ginsberg):

Heath McKenzie has illustrated numerous picture books and children’s book jackets. He lives with his wife and kids in Melbourne, Australia. Visit him online at heathmck.com.

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance at one of two finished copies of I Wanna Be A Great Big Dinosaur! (Runs May 1-May 31st; U.S. & Canada only)!