Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

June Picture Book Roundup

There are so many good books for Summer Reading hitting shelves in June! Let younger readers explore new worlds and meet new friends with some of these picture books.

Seven Pablos, by Jorge Luján/Illustrated by Chiara Carrer, Translated by Mara Lethem, (June 2018, Enchanted Lion Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781592702534

Seven boys share the same name. Seven short vignettes share the stories of seven lives, taking readers from the copper mines in Chile to a refugee family living in Mexico, from a garbage dump in Peru to a streets of the Bronx, New York. Seven Pablos sheds light on the living conditions of children around the world in sparse, quietly powerful text. Graphite pencil art creates a dreamlike atmosphere for this lyrical story by Poet Jorge Luján.

Seven Pablos is deeply moving and continues to call attention to the plight of migrant and refugee families around the world. One scene expresses the rage these kids hold within them, as one Pablo tells a visiting poet that he wants to be a “big guy in a uniform” so he can “beat people up and get away with it”. A refugee Pablo recites a poem – in actuality, written by a 9-year-old Argentine child – where he imagines soldiers crushing roofs with their boots. Luján ends his story with the beautiful reminder that there are many Pablos in the world, and each one has a heart that beats with the rhythm of our world.

The Turtle Ship, by Helena Ku Rhee/Illustrated by Colleen Kong-Savage, (June 2018, Lee and Low Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781885008909
Recommended for readers 6-12
This folk tale is based on Korean history. A boy named Sun-sin dreams of seeing the world with his pet turtle, Gobugi, and discovers his chance when the king announces a contest: design the best battleship to defend the land. The winner will receive ten bags of copper coins and the chance to travel with the royal navy. After a few failed attempts at a design, Sun-sin notices that his turtle is strong, slow, and steady, and decides that the best design will be based on Gobugi. At first, he’s laughed at in the king’s court, but when a cat tries to attack the turtle, the king and his court all see that there is something to the boy’s idea. Thus, the Korean Turtle Ships were created, and the boy grew to be famed Admiral Yi Sun-sin.
The story is best served by the incredible paper collage artwork, created using paper from all over the world. The art gives the story drama, color, and texture, and the story itself is as good for read-alouds as it is for independent reading. This is a nice addition to historical collections and cultural folktales. An author note on the Korean Turtle Ships provides some background on the legend of Yi Sun-sin and the Turtle Ship design.

Johnny, by Guido van Genechten, (June 2018, Clavis Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781605373775

Recommended for readers 3-5

Johnny is an adorable spider with a secret to share, but everyone’s afraid of him! Wanna know his secret? It’s his birthday, and he wants to share his cake! This adorable book by Guido van Genechten is a good story to read when talking to kids about judging others based solely on appearances.

I have to admit, I needed to read this one a couple of times because I felt so bad for Johnny! It’s his birthday, and he’s all alone because everyone’s afraid of him! And then I figured it out: that’s the point. I mean, I know it was the point to begin with, but having Johnny celebrate with only the reader by the story’s end leaves a reader feeling badly – and that’s the time to talk about empathy. Ask kids how they would feel if people didn’t want to be near them because someone didn’t like the way they looked. Ask how they would feel if they had a birthday party and no one came! And then, for heaven’s sake, throw Johnny a birthday party: have some cupcakes and fruit punch, and sing Happy Birthday to the poor guy. He deserves it. Guido van Genechten’s cute, expressive, boldly outlined artwork is instantly recognizable and appealing to younger readers.

 

Swim Bark Run, by Brian & Pamela Boyle/Illustrated by Beth Hughes, (June 2018, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781510726963

Recommended for readers 3-7

Daisy the Bulldog is so proud of her humans, Brian and Pam, when they compete in triathlons. She wonders if she could train and compete like they do, and decides to enlist the help of her fellow doggie buddies, Rascal, Atticus, and Hobie, to hold their own Dog-Athlon! Daisy is full of energy at first, but when she starts getting tired, a familiar face at the finish line gives her the boost she needs!

Swim Bark Run is a cute book about physical activity, competition and cooperation, and determination. The digital artwork is bright and cute, giving the dogs happy, friendly faces and includes a nice amount of action as the pups train for their big day. There are positive messages about working together and encouraging one another. This is a cute additional add for readers who like animal books and books about physical fitness.

Seven Bad Cats, by Moe Bonneau, (June 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492657101

Recommended for readers 4-7

A child gets ready to go out on a fishing boat, but seven bad cats make progress very difficult. I love this rhyming, counting tale of seven cats who do what cats do best: get in the way! They eat from the traps, take naps on the oars and steal the child’s gloves, and generally make themselves a nuisance until the boat flips over, and the cats band together to save the day. The book counts up from one to seven until the boat flips everything over, including the story, and the countdown from seven back to one ends the fun. The watercolor artwork adds a nice, watery feel to this seafaring tale, and the cats are hilarious, using their whole bodies to get up to all sorts of no good; even appearing in mug shots on one page. They sprawl, they curl, they stretch, and they swim – they may not like it, but a cat’s gotta do what a cat’s gotta do! This one is a thoroughly enjoyable add to storytime and concept collections. Give this to your cat loving kids! (Also good for a readaloud with flannels or beanie babies.)

 

Finn’s Feather, by Rachel Noble/Illustrated by Zoey Abbot, (June 2018, Enchanted Lion), $17.95, ISBN: 9781592702398

Recommended for readers 4-8

In this touching story about grief, loss, and remembrance, a young boy named Finn finds a feather at his doorstep. It’s white, amazing, perfect. It has to be from his brother, Hamish, and Finn tells his mother and his teacher, who take a deep breath and smile; Finn doesn’t understand why they aren’t as excited as he is. His friend Lucas is, though: it’s got to be an angel’s feather, it’s so perfect, and the two friends take Hamish with them on the playground, running with the feather as if it were an additional friend. Finn uses the feather as a quill to write a note to Hamish that evening, and sets the envelope holding the letter in a tree, so the wind will carry it to Hamish.

Inspired by author Rachel Noble’s loss, this moving story about a sibling grieving and remembering is gentle, understanding, and an excellent book to have available for children moving through grief. The soft pencil artwork and gentle colors provide a calming, soothing feel to the story.

 

Ready to Ride, by Sébastien Pelon, (June 2018, words & pictures), $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277737

Recommended for readers 3-7

A young boy finds himself bored on a day home, until his mother sends him out to play. An imaginary friend joins him, and together, they learn to ride a bike! This is a fun, light story about imagination and getting outdoors to play. The imaginary friend is a big, white, two-legged figure – think yeti without the shag – wearing a pointy pink hat and protectively towers over the boy, helping him learn to ride the bike. When the boy heads home after a day of play, his new friend disappears, which is a bit of a letdown. Maybe he’ll show up again. There’s a “Certificate for a Super Cyclist” at the end of the book; a cute prize for kids who learn to ride. This one is an additional add if you’ve got kids who like bike-riding.

Advertisements
Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Eoin Colfer’s Illegal is a powerful statement on behalf of refugees

Illegal, by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin/Illustrated by Giovanni Rigano, (Aug. 2018, Sourcebooks), $19.99, ISBN: 9781492662143

Recommended for readers 10+

The Artemis Fowl graphic novel team assembles to bring readers a powerful, emotional story about the struggles of undocumented immigrants: in this story, three African siblings. Ebo’s alone. Orphaned and living in squalor, his sister set out months ago to find her way to Europe and a better life, promising to send for Ebo and their brother, Kwame, when she gets settled. But the boys can’t wait any longer, and Kwame sets out next. Ebo follows Kwame, and the brothers endure a journey across the Sahara Desert to find their way to the sea. The journey is inhumane, often unbearable, but Ebo will not be denied. He deals with loss, hunger, and thirst; filthy living conditions; and brutal treatment by nature and man, but he holds out hope to be reunited with his sister, and the promise of a better life somewhere else.

There’s been quite a bit of attention focused on undocumented immigrants, and it’s a conversation we need to continue. War, disease, poverty, and hunger are global problems that force men, women, and children to undergo unthinkable scenarios for the sole purpose of cultivating a better life. Illegal, while fictional, is inspired by true events: just pick up a newspaper or turn on the news. Ebo’s story is one story of millions: the United Nations records 65.6 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide. Told in Ebo’s voice, readers will feel like they are reading a private journal. His voice is strong and clear, and evokes anger, grief, and the desire to do more. The artwork supports the text, laying out the slums of an African neighborhood; the devastating stretch of desert, and the terrifying expanse of the ocean. Ebo’s face will stay with readers long after they finish the book.

(Images courtesy of Entertainment Weekly‘s article)

Illegal should be on every middle school and/or high school’s Summer Reading list, and needs to be discussed in our classrooms and in our homes. The book is currently out in the UK, and there are teaching materials online, including this downloadable one from the U.S. publisher, Sourcebooks. Author Andrew Donkin has articles about Illegal on his website, and Eoin Colfer has the US and UK covers on his website. Entertainment Weekly has a featured excerpt and The Guardian made it the Children’s Book of the Week when it was published in the UK in October 2017.

Illegal was shortlisted for the 2017 Irish Book Awards and was chosen for EmpathyLabUK’s Read for Empathy List (a downloadable copy of which can be found here). I’ve embedded the trailer below:

 

Booktalk and display Illegal with Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys’ Child Soldier and Barron’s Children in Our World books (Refugees & Migrants, Poverty & Hunger, Racism & Intolerance, and Global Conflict).

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade

Spotlight on THE DOUGHNUT FIX

Yoinks! I had a scheduling malfunction yesterday; please enjoy today’s spotlight on Jessie Janowitz’s book, The Doughnut Fix (also reviewed here last month): and enjoy a giveaway opportunity (read through to the end of this post)!

Title: The Doughnut Fix

Author: Jessie Janowitz

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

Superfudge meets The Lemonade War in this funny, heartwarming series debut about change, adventure, family, and of course, doughnuts.

Tristan isn’t Gifted or Talented like his sister Jeanine, and he’s always been okay with that because he can make a perfect chocolate chip cookie and he lives in the greatest city in the world. But his life takes a turn for the worse when his parents decide to move to middle-of-nowhere Petersville—a town with one street and no restaurants. It’s like suddenly they’re supposed to be this other family, one that can survive without bagels and movie theaters.

His suspicions about his new town are confirmed when he’s tricked into believing the local general store has life-changing chocolate cream doughnuts, when in fact the owner hasn’t made them in years. And so begins the only thing that could make life in Petersville worth living: getting the recipe, making the doughnuts, and bringing them back to the town through his very own doughnut stand. But Tristan will soon discover that when starting a business, it helps to be both Gifted and Talented, and It’s possible he’s bitten off more than he can chew…

 

Jessie Janowitz grew up in New York City and is still living there with her husband and three children, all of whom love doughnuts as much as she does.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound

 

Rookie Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts*

Parental supervision necessary for frying

Makes 8 doughnuts and 8 doughnut holes

Ingredients

Vegetable oil

1 (8-count) tube of premade, large biscuit dough (found in the refrigerated dough aisle at supermarkets)

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Fill a large saucepan with vegetable oil to a depth of 1 inch.

Heat oil over medium heat until it reaches 365°F. You can measure the temperature with a cooking oil thermometer. Or, drop a single kernel of popcorn into the oil as it’s heating. When the kernel pops, you’re ready to fry.

While the oil heats, open the biscuit tube and separate the rounds. Use a 1-inch-round cookie cutter to cut a hole in the center of each biscuit. Save the holes.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a large shallow bowl.

Add 2 doughnuts to the hot oil at a time. Cook, turning once, until golden brown—about 1 minute per side.

Drain on paper towels and immediately toss in the cinnamon sugar to coat. Cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining doughnuts and holes.

* Ready to graduate from rookie to experienced baker? You can make the Doughnut Stop’s life-changing chocolate cream doughnuts too. Visit jessiejanowitz.com for the original recipe.

 

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 cup light brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 pinch of salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

18 ounces semisweet chocolate, in bars

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut parchment paper to cover baking sheets.

Put the light brown sugar, granulated sugar, and softened butter into a large mixing bowl and cream together in an electric mixer on medium.

In a small bowl, crack the eggs and mix them with the vanilla extract.

Combine the egg mixture with the sugar and butter mixture and mix thoroughly on medium.

In another bowl, combine the baking soda, salt, and all-purpose flour.

Add the flour mixture to the sugar and butter mixture in the large bowl and mix on low. Don’t overmix.

Break the chocolate bars into chunks.

Add the chocolate, coconut, and walnuts to the mixture and stir with a spoon.

Once combined, scoop the dough out with a tablespoon and place the balls on the baking sheet. Leave about two fingers width between each cookie.

Bake cookies for 12 minutes.

Remove cookies from the oven and leave on the baking sheet for 1 minute. Then, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

 

Want a chance at winning your own copy of The Doughnut Fix? Check out this Rafflecopter giveaway! U.S. addresses only, please. Good luck!

Posted in picture books

Under the Sea books for your favorite fishy fans!

The weather’s warming up, so why not start thinking of ocean-y fun? I’ve got a couple of fun, new books that are perfect for fans of sea life!

Shark Nate-O, by Becky Cattie and Tara Luebbe/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Apr. 2018, little bee books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0496-6

Recommended for readers 4-7

Nate LOVES sharks. He’s got shark posters and books, spouts shark facts all day, and pretends to be a shark, chomping his way through the schoolyard and the dinner table. But Nate has a secret that’s keeping him from fully realizing his full shark potential: he can’t swim. And his school swim team is named The Sharks! Luckily, Nate has the tenacity of a great white, and takes lessons, determined to get on the team and show his brother – who’s also on the swim team – who the real shark is.

This is a fun story about overcoming fear. Nate loves sharks, but he’s got to learn how to swim; his first lesson doesn’t go so well – he feels like a “great white wimp” – but he doesn’t give up, and works harder, until he’s good enough to make it on the team and compete at the swim meet. The art is kid-friendly, with a great cover: Nate casts a shark-y shadow as he stands at the tiled floor of a pool area; the endpapers show wavy, bluish-green water with a single shark fin navigating the spreads. There’s a spread on different kinds of sharks, with fun facts (the blue shark eats until he throws up – and then goes back to eating). Kids, parents, and caregivers alike will enjoy reading this one.

 

Inky the Octopus: Bound for Glory, by Erin Guendelsberger/Illustrated by David Leonard, (Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN:9781492654148

Recommended for readers 4-8

Based on a real-life story, Inky the Octopus is a rhyming tale about an octopus who escapes his New Zealand aquarium tank and heads out for the open sea. When we first meet Inky, he’s bored, maybe even a little sad, with his fish friend, Blotchy, for company. But he spies an open drain and that’s it: “Out of this tank, I must be free/I must explore the open sea!” Inky gets ready to make his escape, asking Blotchy to come with him – an invitation that his friend politely declines. The next morning, the discovery is made: Inky is gone, free to experience life in the ocean.

The real-life Inky escaped from his National Aquarium of New Zealand tank in 2016, when aquarium keepers came into work and noticed that the octopus wasn’t in his tank. It appears that he slipped through a small opening in his tank, maneuvered across the floor, and slid down a 164-foot-long drainpipe that led out to Hawke’s Bay. There’s even a real-life Blotchy, but he’s another octopus, not a fish. While there are other children’s books about Inky, including 2017’s Inky’s Great Escape by Casey Lyell and Sebastià Serra, Inky the Octopus is officially endorsed by the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

The artwork is adorable and the rhyming text gives a nice cadence to storytelling that allows for dramatic embellishment (at least, when I read it: he’s an octopus, he’s got eight arms, give him some grand gestures!) Inky has big, sweet eyes that will appeal to readers and have them falling in love with the sweet cephalopod, rooting for him to make a run for it. Information about the real-life Inky at the book’s conclusion adds a nice learning opportunity for readers.

 

Sea Creatures from the Sky, by Ricardo Cortés, (Apr. 2018, Black Sheep), $16.95, ISBN: Ricardo Cortés

Recommended for readers 4-8

A shark’s tale of being kidnapped by aliens! Kind of. A shark speaks directly to the reader in rhyme, confiding in us a true story that happened to him: he was kidnapped by aliens from the sky. Now, remember: when a shark looks up, that’s the sky. We know it as the surface. As the shark notes: “There is something else/and that’s no lie. It stole me from the ocean, and took me to the sky.” The poor shark sees a yummy fish, goes for a snack, and discovers – whoops! – the fish has a hook. And those aliens were terrifying: “In ships they steered? Faces with beards? Heads with two ears? It was all just too weird.” To add insult to injury, no one believes him. What’s a poor shark to do?

I loved everything about this story. The art is just beautiful, from the endpapers that could be a starry night sky or the surface of the water at night; the combination of realistic and almost dreamlike renderings of sea life, from the hazy, colorful jellyfish to the crisp spread of rays making their way through the story, to the black-eyed protagonist whose tale will make you chuckle and yet, feel for his plight (gender pronoun is mine; the character has no determined gender in the story). It’s a look at preservation and oceanography from a different point of view, and makes a realistic-looking shark less threatening, even likable. Kids will appreciate the misunderstood predator; how many times have kids been called out for exaggerating a recollection that is absolutely true from their point of view? Sea Creatures From the Sky provides a good jumping-off point to discuss point-of-view storytelling and what exactly the humans were doing with the shark when they “measured, probed, and spoke in strange code”. This one is a must-add to storytimes and books where sharks and undersea life are popular. Which, really, has to be, like every collection. Kids LOVE sharks.

Ricardo Cortés illustrated one of my baby shower gifts, Go The F**k to Sleep (no, I’ve never read it to the kiddo, but it did comfort me on many a sleepless night), and its child-friendly companion, Seriously, Just Go to Sleep.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Tween Reads

Books to inspire your young scientists!

This is an incredible year for children’s books! There’s something for everyone available or coming soon, with wonderful artwork and text that draws readers right in. This time around, I’m looking at some fun science books for readers – and caregivers will like them, too.

Izzy Gizmo, by Pip Jones/Illustrated by Sara Ogilve,
(March 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-68263-021-1
Recommended for readers 4-7

 

Izzy Gizmo is a curious little girl of color who loves to invent, tweak, and discover. Her inventions don’t always work, but she discovers that she has to put her frustrations aside when she rescues a crow with a broken wing. He wants her to help him fly again, and he’s willing to stick with her through trial and error, until she can get it right. I love the bright colors and chaotic art in this story; it lets readers know that creativity is often messy and wild; the story assures readers that mistakes are just opportunities to filter out what isn’t working and concentrate on what will work; and I love the story of endurance and perseverance. Izzy’s grandfather and her crow friend have faith in Izzy; she just has to find her faith in herself. The gray and white endpapers feature different gears and mechanical parts, letting readers know they’re going to put on their engineering hats to help Izzy out, and the art – a mix of pencil, ink, oil pastel, monoprint, and digital technique – create a busy background that provides a glimpse into the mind of a scientist. Originally published in the UK in 2011, Izzy’s just arrived here in the U.S. and her rhyming story would be a great addition to collections where Andrea Beaty’s Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist, Scientist are popular.

 

Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See?, by Chris Ferrie,
(Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492656180
Recommended for readers 3-6

 

Set to the cadence of the classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, scientist and dad Chris Ferrie introduces little readers to some of history’s greatest minds with Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See? There is a strong mix of disciplines and diversity represented here, with Einstein sharing space with Grace Hopper, Ahmed Zewail, George Washington Carver, Katherine Johnson, and more. It’s noted as a “scientific parody”, and it certainly is a fun book that will make everyone smile, but kids are introduced to names and ideas, and that’s just great. Starting off with the question, “Einstein, Einstein, Who Do You See?” and the response, “I see Marie Curie in her laboratory”, the story goes on, introducing scientists and their accomplishments, in the soothing rhyme style we’ve grown up hearing and enjoying. Chris Ferrie has given us Baby Science board books and a fun take on Goodnight, Moon with Goodnight, Lab; let’s hope he keeps finding new, fun ways to make science lovers out of our kids.

 

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything, by Ian Lendler/Illustrated by Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb,
(Apr. 2018, First Second Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722446
Recommended for readers 7-10

This one’s one of my standout favorites. Author Ian Lendler and illustrators Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb drill down the history of everything to one humble dot. From one dot’s excited burst of joy comes the Big Bang, bringing new dots together to form planets and, eventually, life. The dots are animated, dancing, playing, even running away from other dots that want to eat them! The artwork is bright with a retro feel and uses the dot theme as a focal point through the story, gently leading readers on a trip through time and space. It’s a simplified look at the formation of the universe, but works nicely for younger readers. Give this one to kids who like Stacy McAnulty’s Earth: My First 4.5 Billion Years, and Dominic Walliman’s Professor Astro Cat books, published by Nobrow.

 

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby/Illustrated by Rebecca Green,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781771387200
Recommended for readers 7-10

The latest from Kids Can Press’ Citizen Kid imprint, Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea is a fictional story about a Bangladeshi boy named Iqbal, who comes with a clean, solar-powered cookstove for his science fair project. He sees his mother force to cook the family’s meals indoors during monsoon season, but the family has no stove: she cooks over an open fire, which produces smoke that makes breathing difficult, especially for his mother and baby sister. He learns about solar energy cooking, wins first place in the science fair, and introduces a sustainable and healthier way for families to prepare meals. The artwork illustrates everyday life in Bangladesh and communicates the closeness Iqbal shares with his family and his hard work to create a science fair project that accomplishes the dual purpose of getting him a good grade and helping his family. The story shows readers that kids can make a difference, and that healthier living doesn’t depend on expensive gadgets – a little research, and you can make the world a better place with tools right in front of you. The book includes more information on cookstoves, a glossary, and instructions for making a DIY solar cooker. Great for class projects and science fair ideas!

Audrey the Inventor, by Rachel Valentine/Illustrated by Katie Weymouth,
(May 2018), words & pictures, $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277584
Recommended for readers 4-7

Audrey could hang out with Izzy (first book) and Andrea Beaty’s gang. A wild-haired, redheaded little girl who uses measuring tape for ribbons, Audrey is a curious kid who wants to be an inventor – but she doesn’t know what to invent! She sets off on a host of different ideas, some involving her poor cat, Happy Cat, all of which end up in the “rework” pile. She’s ready to throw in the towel, but decides to give it one last try after getting some encouragement. Little touches, like featuring a graph paper background and visualizing Audrey’s thought process and her doodles, invite kids to share their own ways of working out ideas. The collage, watercolor, and pen artwork comes together to create a busy story about a busy mind. A fun add to creative collections.

These books offer a great way to introduce the scientific method, even for younger grades. Little Bins for Little Hands has a good article, with tips on using the scientific method – and including links to experiments – for preschoolers.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Fiction plus food is a winning reader combo!

Who doesn’t love curling up in your favorite reading spot with a snack and a book? These middle grade reads feature yummy treats as part of their stories – perfect for reading groups and snack suggestions (minus the flying pig cookies: read on)!

Love Sugar Magic, by Anna Meriano/Illustrated by Mirelle Ortega, (Nov. 2017, Walden Pond Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062498465

Recommended for readers 8-12

Leonora Logroño’s is an almost 12-year-old whose family owns Love Sugar Magic, the local bakery that makes the most delicious cookies and cakes. She’s the youngest among her five sisters, and she just knows the family is keeping something secret from her. With a little snooping and gentle, sisterly nudging, Leo learns the truth: her family are brujas – witches – who infuse their baked goods with rich magic. Leo discovers she has some magic ability already – it usually manifests in early adolescence – and decides to put it to the test by helping Caroline, her best friend, with a crush on at school, but things go upside down pretty quickly… Leo may need to draw on her sisters to make things right!

I adore this story! It’s got humor, great characters with a rich Mexican heritage, and they’re strong, smart young women. Leo is headstrong, sure – what tween isn’t? – and reacts to feeling left in the dark about family business by taking matters in to her own hands. It’s one thing, after all, to enchant flying pig cookies, but it’s entirely something else to play with someone’s free will. But the magical mix-ups are largely hilarious and mostly harmless. Readers can relate to Leo’s frustrations about being considered “too young” for the secret stuff, and author Anna Meriano makes Love Sugar Magic into a nicely handled cautionary tale about rushing into things without taking the time to think. I’m thrilled that this is the first book of a new series – I want to spend more time with the Logroño family. Especially that feline snitch, Mr. Gato. There are some tasty-looking recipes at the end of the story – you’re on your own for the magic – and the book is sprinkled with Spanish and English phrases that really bring readers into its world.

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness.

 

The Doughnut Fix, by Jessie Janowitz, (Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492655411

Recommended 8-12

Eleven year-old Tristan is a New York City kid who’s pretty happy with life as it is until his parents announe that they’re moving upstate. Petersville, New York, to be exact. It ain’t Westchester, this is up in the mountains. There’s one road, no restaurants, and a general store that used to sell legendary doughnuts, as Tristan discovers one morning, as he rides around town trying to find something to do. But Millie, the general store proprieter, stopped making the donuts, and if Tristan – a baking enthusiast who’s sold on the legend of these doughnuts – wants the secret recipe, he has to provide Millie with proof that he’s going to use it wisely. He needs a business plan. Luckily for him, Petersville does have a public library (whoo hoo!), and with the help of his new friend, Josh, Tristan starts pulling it all together to bring the chocolate cream doughnuts back to Petersville.

The Doughnut Fix surprised me with its depth and its readability. It’s very readable, very engaging, and provides smart tips on starting one’s own business for kids – throughout the story, Tristan refers to his library copy of Starting Your Own Business for Dummies, and drills things down into kid-digestible bits. It’s empowering! Teachers can challenge kids to read this book and create their own summer job business plans, or librarians (and caregivers) can produce a similar challenge as a summer reading program. There are recipes and a recap of important information for starting a business at the end of the book. The story emphasizes themes of friendship, collaboration, planning, and budgeting, offering solid life lessons for middle graders.

Both books are great reading group selections that lend so much to deeper exploration, from Mexican culture and its celebration of ancestry, to life in a small town versus life in a city. Food is the easy in to discussing these books, but there are great ideas waiting to be touched on in each. These are great adds to your shelves or your gift list.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Fun concept books: ABC French, Alphabet Boats and This is London!

This is such a great Spring for toddler and preschooler books! I’m super excited about new concept books for my collection; I never feel like I have quite enough. It’s always great to find a fun new take on the ABCs, too – take a look for yourself!

ABC French (Little Concepts), Illustrated by Daniel Roode,
(Feb. 2018, Quarto Group), $12.95, ISBN: 9781633224124
Perfect for readers 2-6

Fantastique! A picture book that introduces kids to a different language is always fun! ABC French illustrates the names of animals (and a few objects) , all dressed for a circus parade. The alphabet goes according to the French word – C is for chien (dog), D is for dauphin (dolphin) – and offers the English translation underneath. Each letter is highlighted in a brightly colored circle at the top of the page. The digital illustrations are bright and fun, with a strong sense of play that will appeal to kids and their caregivers – you may pick up a word or two, yourself! I really enjoy this Little Concepts series from Walter Foster Jr./Quarto Group; their ABC Baby Signs book, released back in October 2017, teaches kids and parents alike how to use sign language to communicate simple words and ideas.  You may recognize artist Daniel Roode’s illustrations from his Broadway Baby book, My Favorite Things.

 

Alphabet Boats, by Samantha R. Vamos/Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke,
(Apr. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580897310
Perfect for readers 3-7

I’m most familiar with Samantha R. Vamos thanks to her book, The Cazuela That the Maiden Stirred (2011, illustrated by Rafael López), and was happy to discover that she and artist Ryan O’Rourke have several other alphabet vehicle books available: 2013’s Alphabet Trucks, and 2015’s Alphabet Trains! Alphabet Boats introduces readers to all sorts of new boats, from airboats (watch out for gators!) and barges to water taxis and zebecs. The text is in rhyme, giving read-alouds a nice cadence to flow with. There is a brief description at the end of the book for each type of boat named – who knew that Very Slender Vessel was really a type of boat? Ryan O’Rourke’s Adobe Photoshop illustrations have lively movement to them and include each letter smartly worked into the art: alligators munch on letter As; catamarans sport the letter C on their sails; a tugboat tugs a boat loaded with Ts. Kids who love vehicle and transportation books will enjoy this series, for sure. Find fun printables on Samantha R. Vamos’ author page.

 

L is for London, by Paul Thurlby, (Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky),
$19.99, ISBN: 9781492660934
Perfect for ages 3-8

L is for London speaks to me as an Anglophile (although, why no Doctor Who references… no T is for TARDIS?). I love Paul Thurlby’s vintage-looking art – any of these illustrations could be tourism posters for London – and the book provides a little history on each spread, with an explanation of the illustration. From the iconic Abbey Road to the London Zoo (he needed something for Z), every spread provides something to love. There’s a sneaky little fox hiding in each spread, so challenge readers to find them all. The endpapers feature some well-known British figures: the marching Royal Guards, black taxis, red phone boxes, and red mailboxes. It’s a great way to introduce younger readers to other countries, and pairs so well with some of my favorite books by Miroslav Sasek: This is London, This is Paris, This is New York. Thurlby is an award-winning illustrator with a nice collection of concept books, including NY is for New York and Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet.