Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction

A Nocturnals Easy Reader! The Moonlight Meeting

The Nocturnals: The Moonlight Meeting, by Tracey Hecht & Rumur Dowling/Illustrated by Waymond Singleton, (Sept. 2017, Fabled Films Press), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-14-9

Recommended for ages 5-8

YAY! One of my favorite recent middle grade series is expanding to easy readers! The Nocturnals: The Moonlight Meeting introduces younger readers to my favorite Nocturnal group of friends: Tobin, the pangolin, Dawn, the fox, and last but never least, Bismark, the sugar glider (don’t dare call him a squirrel). An unlikely pomelo fruit brings the three new friends together, as Tobin – forever hungry – and Bismark disagree over ownership rights. Readers get a fun dose of fart humor thanks to sweet Tobin, who’s a bit nervous and has… well, a bit of a reaction. (Readers familiar with Tobin and the latest middle grade Nocturnals story, The Fallen Star, will enjoy the reference.)

Waymond Singleton’s artwork is perfect for an easy reader audience, giving the group more definition and providing an animated feel. Bismark is all wide eyes and open mouth; Tobin’s glance is shyly cast downward, and Dawn is ever gentle and ready to step in to help. As with the middle grade novels, The Moonlight Meeting emphasizes friendship, teamwork, and sharing. Fun Facts at the end of the book provide descriptions about the real-life Nocturnal counterparts. The brief sentences and easy dialogue make this a great step for readers who are ready to move on from Level 1 readers. A leveling guide on the back of the book, similar to the Step Into Reading series, explains each leveled step for parents and caregivers. This works well with a preschool or kindergarten read-aloud, too.

I can’t wait to introduce The Nocturnals to my storytime group. The group’s website at Nocturnals World is a treasure trove of information for caregivers and educators, featuring curriculum guides, library resources, discussion guides, and activity kits. If you’ve got animal fiction fans, get them hooked early and add The Moonlight Meeting to your easy readers.

 

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Posted in Fiction, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Size matters not: Just ask Little Captain Jack!

Little Captain Jack, by Alicia Acosta/Illustrated by Monica Carretero, (Apr. 2017, nubeOCHO), $15.95, ISBN: 978-84-945415-0-6

Recommended for readers 4-8

Once upon a time, there was a tiny pirate named Captain Jack. He was so tiny that he had to weigh himself down with a heavy sword in his belt, an iron telescope around his neck, and some rocks in his pockets, so he wouldn’t be blown away! Everyone called him Little Captain Jack. He was so little that his crew didn’t hear him when he yelled to them, and he was constantly in danger of being stepped on! One day, during a battle between Captain Jack’s crew and the bad pirate Badlock’s crew, Jack was taken prisoner and locked in a dark cellar. Although he was scared, he accepted an offer of help from a mouse… who got some help from a seagull… and Captain Jack learned, from that day forward, that “great things could come in all shapes and sizes, big or small!”

Captain Jack is fun reading and kids will appreciate the message that size doesn’t matter, especially when you work as a team! The tiny pirate still manages to command his own ship and crew (even if they don’t really hear him… or see him that often), and when he’s in trouble, his crew is frantic. He means a lot to his crew, whether he’s big or small – just like a family. Teamwork helps bring Jack back to his crew, sending a positive message about working together.

The cartoony art will appeal to readers, and the endpapers – drawn to look like a map of Penny Island, where we assume Captain Jack is spending time these days, has fun, eyecatching details like a giant squid, a whale, and a lake monster. A nicely detailed compass rose adds the opportunity to talk about directions. Plus, pirates are a home run with little ones: you can pick from any number of pirate adventure stories for little ones! You could pair these with any number of pirate books for little ones! Add a pirate hat craft to use up some old newspaper and you have a nice, environmentally friendly storytime activity.

Little Captain Jack was originally released in Spanish (Pequeño Pirata Serafin, ISBN: 978-4-945415-1-3), and is available in both Spanish and English.

Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

The Nocturnals Return in The Fallen Star

The Nocturnals (Book 3): The Fallen Star, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Kate Liebman, (May 2017, Fabled Films Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781944020057

Recommended for readers 8-12

The lovable group of Nocturnal sleuths is back in their third adventure, this time with high stakes: the forest’s pomelos have been poisoned, and the flowers that cure the sickness are disappearing! As the group watches a star fall one evening, they meet a mysterious aye-aye, Iris, who declares that the forest is being invaded and monsters from space have poisoned the pomelos! Dawn, ever the thoughtful and skeptical fox, is suspicious, and seeks a more down-to-earth reason, but things become more tense when they discover that animals in the forest are getting sick, including poor Tobin, who’ve all eaten pomelos. The blue flowers that help cure the sickness are disappearing, and a strange blue glow shows up right before the flowers start disappearing. This sounds like a job for the Nocturnals!

This third book in the animal friends series takes no prisoners: things are tense, with the friends racing against time to help their sick friends and find out the truth behind the poisoned fruit and disappearing cure. Bismark is in full narcissist with a heart of gold mode, proclaiming he speaks alien (and then slipping and admitting it was gibberish) and wooing Dawn every chance he gets. Dawn is still the most focused and perceptive member of the group, and sweet, gentle Tobin is the source of possibly the greatest fart joke in the history of children’s literature, giving readers much-needed comic relief throughout the white knuckle moments The Fallen Star is filled with.

We also meet some more animals in this book; most notably, an Aye-aye named Iris, and the woylies, a group of small marsupials who pitch in to help the Nocturnals. You can find more information about Aye-ayes at Zooborns.com, and Whiteman Park, a conservation center in Australia, has a downloadable fact sheet available on the endangered woylie.

This Aye-aye has its eyes on you! (source: Zooborns.com)
Woylie: Now say it with an Australian accent! (Source: whitemanpart.com.au)

Teamwork, friendship, and determination sees the friends through this latest adventure, and there’s a lovely message about tolerance that is especially important reading.

Things have started taking off for Nocturnals since the first book published last year!  The Nocturnals World website offers Boredom Busters, face painting tips, and a wealth of educational resources for classrooms and libraries, and the New York Public Library, in conjunction with Fabled Films, launched a read-aloud writing program in New York City public schools.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Detective Gordon and Buffy the Mouse are on the case

detgordon_acaseinanycase_cover_lrDetective Gordon: A Case in Any Case, by Ulf Nilsson/Illustrated by Gitte Spee, (Mar. 2017, Gecko Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781776571086

Recommended for readers 6-8

Swedish author Ulf Nilsson’s third Detective Gordon series pairs the toad detective with his mouse sidekick for a very important case and a little bit of a misunderstanding. Detective Gordon has taken a break – he may have retired – and Buffy is holding down the fort in his absence, until she has to call him out of retirement when two schoolchildren go missing. Buffy has her own way of doing things, and Detective Gordon has his own way of doing things; the friends have a misunderstanding, but put aside their differences to work on what’s important. After the case is solved, they resolve their own differences.

This was my first Detective Gordon book. You don’t need to have read the previous books; readers can jump right in and follow the Detective and Buffy’s adventure. It’s a great next step for Frog and Toad readers, with a similarly tender pace and narration. Nilsson creates an adventurous subplot for the two missing kindergarten children, who want to create the steps that bring one of their favorite storybooks to life; he also explores themes of friendship, conflict resolution, teamwork, and talking things over. Gitte Spee’s soft colors and gentle characters will attract readers who love a good animal tale. This makes a good read-aloud selection, too, with many discussion topics to introduce to the kids in your classroom, library, and home.

Detective Gordon: A Case in Any Case received a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Time Museum has something for everyone – no matter what time you’re from!

time-museum_1The Time Museum, by Matthew Loux, (Feb. 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781596438491

Recommended for ages 8-12

Delia’s the class bookworm, the class nerd… you get the idea. When school’s out for the summer, all her brother wants to do is go swimming, but Delia has found something much more exciting: the possibility of an internship at The Time Museum, courtesy of her Uncle Lyndon! The Time Museum is kind of like the Natural History Museum, but on an Earth-wide basis. All time eras are welcome, as Delia learns when she meets some of the kids she’s competing against for the internship: Michiko, a Japanese girl from 2217; Titus Valerius Marianus, from Ancient Rome; Dex, who’s a Neanderthal, thank you very much, not a caveman; Reggie, a 51st century Canadian boy genius, and Greer, a prickly Scottish girl who’s already been time traveling. As they train for the internship, they must also go through time trials – going back – or forward – in time to find and collect anachronisms. They’ll also learn that working as a team is much harder, but more beneficial, than going it alone.

The Time Museum is a fun middle grade romp for every kid that wants to live Night at the Museum or catches every episode of The Librarians. Whether Delia and her friends are running away from dinosaurs or discovering a robot playing strip poker, there’s something here for everyone to laugh at. There’s a positive message about healthy competition and teamwork going hand in hand, there’s a giant, talking brain, and a super-cool android librarian that uses android cats to fetch books. If I had a library like that, I’d never leave; I’d just hang out at my reference desk, covered in robot kittens.

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The Time Museum is a lot of fun, and maybe it’ll turn even reluctant readers into readers who see the fun in history. Add to your graphic novel shelves, and talk this one up with some good, tried and true Geronimo Stilton, our favorite time-traveling journalist mouse. Get out your Time Warp Trio series to create a fun display for everyone.

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Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Assassin’s Creed goes YA with Last Descendants

assassinLast Descendants: An Assassin’s Creed Novel, by Matthew J. Kirby, (Aug. 2016, Scholastic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780545855518

Recommended for ages 12+

Owen is going through some rough stuff. He and his mother live with his grandparents; they were forced to after his father was arrested for robbing a bank and died in prison. Owen believes he was innocent, but that doesn’t stop his grandparents from badmouthing his dad whenever they get a chance. His best friend, Javier, has been more distant lately, so he really feels alone until the school IT guy, Monroe, invites him to use his device called the Animus, which will help him explore memories buried in his DNA. He convinces Javier to come along and make sure things sound on the level, and Javier ends up having a shared genetic memory in the Animus with Owen. Use of the Animus sets off some kind of alarm, though, and Monroe brings the two teens to a hideout he’s established, where they meet four other teens who have used the Animus. Monroe explains that the group all have roots in one (or both) of two ancient orders: the Brotherhood of Assassins or the Templar Order. There’s a precious relic that needs to be found, and their group is the only group that can do it through a shared genetic experience. The teens find themselves in the bodies of their ancestors, transported into the 1863 New York City, on the even of the infamous Draft Riots.

This is the first book in a YA Assassin’s Creed series, based on the insanely popular video game. I’ve never played Assassin’s Creed – I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m fairly inept beyond a joystick and firing button – but I love the mythology behind the game, which my eldest has played for years. Having a YA series that follows teens descended from the Assassins and Templars, going through different eras in history? I loved it! We get a look at the Gangs of New York-era Lower East Side through an interesting fantasy perspective, with some nice groundwork about the two dueling factions in place for newbies to Assassin’s Creed (I double-checked some info with my son as I read). Being a Gangs of New York fan and a student of Lower East Side history, I was thrilled to see how Kirby worked the gangs into the main storyline. The story flows through multiple perspectives, yet he keeps everything together so readers shouldn’t be confused by whose voice they’re reading, especially appreciated when characters are in the Animus and living through their ancestors. There’s great character development, action, and he doesn’t flinch from the racism that fueled the riots. The ending leaves no doubt that there will be a sequel, and I can’t wait to read it.

I’ve liked Matthew Kirby’s writing since I devoured Icefall four years ago. He creates great characters and skilfully weaves historical fiction and fantasy. With an Assassin’s Creed movie hitting theatres in a little more than two weeks, this is a book you need front and center on your displays (and on your holiday lists – we all know someone who loves this franchise). Put this one on your purchase lists.

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

Blog Tour: Busy Builders, Busy Week! Interview with Jean Reidy!

busy builders_1Busy Builders, Busy Week, by Jean Reidy/Illustrated by Leo Timmers, (June 2016, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1619635562

Sunday! Dream day! Study, scribble, scheme day. Map, measure, plan a treasure. Gather up a team day!

The author-illustrator team that brought us All Through My Town – a storytime staple at my library – comes together to bring readers a book about working together! Over the course of a week, animal characters pull together to build a brand new playground in their community. Each day brings new things to do, from planning, to digging, to fixing and planting!

This is such a fun story to read out loud, and has entered regular rotation at home. Kids can practice their days of the week and get lost in the rhyming story, which has the added benefit of showing readers how to group tasks to get things done in the best way. On Sunday, the builders come up with plans for their big job ahead; on Monday, they clear the area. Tuesday is for infrastructure: cement, pipes, boards, fixing fences. On Wednesday, we load everything up and take it on the road. Thursday is for getting the place shaped up: drills, nails, rake and spread. Friday, the plants go in and the final details, like painting and sanding, get the park ready for their big opening on Saturday!

I love Leo Timmers’ bright, bold acrylics here. The bright colors and cartoony animal characters are a perfect accompaniment to Jean Reidy’s bouncy, happy rhyming text. Even the endpapers bring on the fun, with yellow, diamond-shaped construction signs featuring different animals working at different tasks leading readers in and out of the story.

Transportation books have done well at all of my libraries, so this is a no-brainer for my collection. If your readers love books like Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, and Kate and Jim McMullan’s series (I Stink!, I’m Brave!, et al), this is a perfect fit. Busy Builders also lends itself to a days of the week read-aloud, right next to fun books like John Himmelman’s Chickens to the Rescue!,  or Albert Bitterman’s Fortune Cookies.

I was lucky enough to get a few minutes with author Jean Reidy, and we talked about Busy Builders, Busy Week! Read on!

 

MomReadIt (MRI): I love the idea of the characters coming together to create a playground! Did you decide on the idea of building the playground as the best way to talk about the days of the week, or did the story come together separately?

Jean Reidy (JR): A little bit of both, I’d say. When my editors at Bloomsbury asked me to write a days-of-the-week book for their list, I loved the idea. So I brainstormed a variety of approaches that ranged from the mundane to the wildly weird. But that’s the way I like to work, creatively uncensored, putting all the possibilities out there. I’ve always wanted to write a construction trucks book, so when I hit on the notion of a “construction week” the only decision left was, “What can we build in a week that will resonate with a child?” Well, a playground, of course. Even better, a playground designed by illustrator Leo Timmers. And while the premise was fun and uncomplicated, the idea of a community coming together to transform an old, abandoned city lot into something fun and beautiful felt like it added an additional layer of meaning to the essential story. I like that layer. I think it gives readers more to talk about. And Leo did a fabulous job bringing it to life.

MRI: When you were working on the text, did you plot out the different phases of construction to help you group together the tasks the characters undertake each day?

JR: That would have been really smart, eh? But my process was a little looser than that. I tried to keep my free association of the topic going as long as I could before I forced it into any kind of order. I wanted to fully explore all the fun possibilities for structure and language. So, I developed word lists—starting with the days of the week and then all the construction actions, sounds, vehicles and tools I could think of. I played with those lists until I sounded out the bouncy rhythm and rhyme scheme I wanted for my young readers. From there, I made sure that the construction tasks were logically ordered and grouped so that the artwork could then bring sense to the process of building the playground.

MRI: You’ve also written a book called ALL THROUGH MY TOWN that features animals as the main characters. Do you think these two books could take place in the same storytelling universe? Could the kids from All Through My Town come and play at the new playground built in Busy Builders, Busy Week?

JR: Oh my goodness! What a brilliant idea! I love unexpected connections, surprises and meta moments in storytelling. So let’s play that out. ALL THROUGH MY TOWN is loosely modeled after the Chicago suburb in which I grew up—a self-contained town with its own shops, library, gardens, fire department and only thirty miles from Chicago. The Chicago and Northwestern train line—now called the Metra—whistled through multiple times each day, taking commuters to and from the Windy City. BUSY BUILDERS, BUSY WEEK! takes place in an urban area where the characters transform an old empty lot. So yes, let’s have our town characters hop on their train and visit their city friends—all meeting up at that brand new playground. Bloomsbury, how ‘bout it? Readers, toss me a title! Let’s do this!

 

Jean Reidy photoJean Reidy is a two-time winner of the Colorado Book Award. Especially gifted at writing for very young children, Jean is a frequent presenter at national and local literacy, writing, and education conferences and at schools across the country—in person and via Skype. She is a member of the Colorado Council International Reading Association and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she serves on the board of Reach Out and Read Colorado. Jean writes from her home in Colorado where she lives right across the street from her neighborhood library, which she visits nearly every day. Visit her at www.jeanreidy.com and on Twitter: @JeanReidy.

 

Follow Jean on the BUSY BUILDERS, BUSY WEEK! tour!

Mon, Aug 22 Cracking the Cover
Tues, Aug 23 Literary Hoots
Wed, Aug 24 NC Teacher Stuff
Thurs, Aug 25 Mom Read It
Fri, Aug 26 Unleashing Readers
Sat, Aug 27 Booking Mama
Mon, Aug 29 Bluestocking Thinking
Tues, Aug 30 Jean Little Library
Wed, Aug 31 Geo Librarian
Thurs, Sept 1 Mrs. O Reads Books
Fri, Sept 2 Where Imagination Grows

Click here for a free classroom curriculum guide and storytime kit!

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