Recently Read: Great Picture Books!

I have had the great luck- again!- to have read through another stash of tremendous, unique, and fun picture books. You will see some returning favourites here including: the latest from Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak with the stunning The Fog; the newest (and wonderfully madcap) collaboration from Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell; a new and awesome Olivia from Ian Falconer; more Nerdy Birdy; the latest from Canadian author-illustrator Ashley Spires; a fun and lovely cat counting book from Viviane Schwarz; and a follow-up of sorts to the very funny Creepy Carrots. There are also some utter gems from newer author and/or illustrators here, so be sure to take a look through the whole list!

The Sheep Who Hatched an Egg by Gemma Merino
Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley, illus. Tracy Subisak
Counting with Tiny Cat by Viviane Schwarz
Lily Wool by Paula Vásquez
Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani
Nope! by Drew Sheneman
The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires
The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead, illus. Matthew Cordell
Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Peter Brown
The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illus. Zachariah OHora
Nerdy Birdy Tweets by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Matt Davies
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex
Olivia the Spy by Ian Falconer
The Fog by Kyo Maclear, illus. Kenard Pak
This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson, illus. Suzy Lee

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Picture Book Reviews: Color Blocked & Give Me Back My Book!

Color Blocked by Ashley Sorenson, illus. David Miles
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: April 4, 2017 by Familius
Book Description:

The color is blocked! Readers must rub, turn, and tap the pages to straighten out pipes, unplug corks, and keep the color flowing. But watch out – the color might run faster than you can keep up! Along the way, readers will learn primary colors, how mixing colors can make secondary colors, and why you should never, ever, put too much trust in a narrator.

If you ever use stories such as Press Here, Please, Open This Book!, A Perfectly Messed-Up Story, Tap the Magic Tree, or any kind of delightful, interactive picture book for a read aloud and/or storytime, then you might want to add Color Blocked to your list! This picture book, written by Ashley Sorenson and vibrantly illustrated by David Miles, is another fun, perfect-for-read-aloud picture book to add to your repertoire. Color Blocked works well as the storytelling approach is appropriately straightforward, allowing for the hands-on aspects of the story to really take center stage.

Readers are immediately taken into a colourful world when everything goes black and white! ‘Uh-oh. Color’s blocked!’; readers are then asked to ‘gently shake this book from side to side to unclog the pipe’. From there, we’re taken on a fun, hands-on journey (along with a committed turtle as our guide), as we try to unclog and untwist pipes- all the while learning about creating colours from mixing different shades. Color Blocked will work very well as a read aloud pick as the storytelling approach is appropriately straightforward, allowing for the hands-on aspects of the story to really take center stage. A truly fun book that I think will go over very well for preschool-age storytimes and up, Color Blocked is an unpretentious, enjoyable reading experience that begs to be shared and experienced with and by young readers.

 

Give Me Back My Book! by Travis Foster & Ethan Long
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

This book is full of wonderful WORDS and beautiful PICTURES! And it’s EXCITING! And it’s FUNNY! It might be the BEST BOOK EVER-if we could decide whose book it is. Redd and Bloo explore the way a book is made and accidentally build a friendship, too, in this tale told only in dialogue. Travis Foster and Ethan Long offer a hilarious story about the joy of reading, which brings people together in unexpected ways, proving that each book truly belongs to . . . the people who love it.

If you are already familiar with Ethan Long’s zany and jolly approach to storytelling (Fright Club, Pig Has a Plan and numerous other popular titles!), then you might already be aware of the kind of story you might be getting here with Give Me Back My Book! Co-authored with illustrator Travis Foster, Give Me Back My Book! is a conversational-based picture book with a wacky, farcical edge.

Friends Redd and Bloo experience a bump in the relationship when Bloo discovers that Redd might have just taken his favourite green book. Alas, Redd, in a truly stubborn fashion that exasperates Bloo tremendously, refuses to give back the green book- until it is snatched away from them both by a sly, hat-wearing worm named Bookworm. Redd and Bloo then must come together to ‘bait’ Bookworm: by creating the most fascinating, captivating new book to make Bookworm return the stolen green book. Give Me Back My Book! relies, as Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie titles do, on speech bubbles/character dialogue to carry the entire story. While this format can be tricky, it actually works well here as the back-and-forth is pretty straightforward, clearly delineated- not to mention that the bright and funny illustrations more than perfectly highlight the key moments of the story! I have had the opportunity to read this story multiple times now, and I find that it grows on me more and more each time I read it. I think for an older, willing, and receptive storytime audience (Kindergarten-age, perhaps and above) might especially appreciate the farcical nature of the story; but it’s also wholly enjoyable as a story experienced in pairs or smaller groups! Altogether, a totally entertaining read from the team of Foster and Long that fans of authors such as Ed Vere, Mo Willems, Ame Dyckman, or Jan Thomas might flock to.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: Say Zoop! by Hervé Tullet

An awesomely fun, interactive picture book here on the review docket!

Say Zoop! by Hervé Tullet
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Make some noise! Shout OH!” Whisper “oh!” Say “Zoop”? Yes! “Zoop!” “Zoop!” “Zoop!” The newest book from Herve Tullet magically responds with bursts of color and moving shapes, empowering children by letting their imaginations liberate and direct each page’s reaction. Tullet’s books define the genre of participatory bookmaking, encouraging readers to explore and interact with the physical book in all its dimensions. The reward is tremendous: a journey of whimsy and sheer fun that extends well beyond the book’s pages. In this worthy and exhilarating companion to the bestselling trio launched with Press Here, Tullet’s beloved dots will have readers literally “Ooh”-ing and “Ahh”-ing out loud in a happy collective encore.”

 

Since reading and falling in love with Hervé Tullet‘s brilliant, storytime game-changer Press Here, I’ve been a HUGE fan/appreciator of interactive picture books- and of Tullet’s work! While I would argue that Tullet’s post-Press Here works haven’t quite reached the epic storytime status or incredible effortlessness of his smash bestseller, his work is always cause for celebration, wonder and awe. Say Zoop!, Tullet’s latest, is wonderfully fun, thoughtful, engaging interactive picture book that begs for multiple reads and multiple explorations.

Say Zoop! is a book of sounds, shapes, colours, movement- and like Tullet’s previous work, relies on reader (and/or storyteller) whimsy and imagination. The picture book begins with the question: ‘Hi! Are you really sure you want to play?’ and a simple blue dot above; the reader then turns the page (after answering YES, I hope!) and is asked to put their finger on the blue dot and say ‘OH!’. From there, readers are taken on part one of a merry, busy, journey with the blue dots: of saying everything from loud, huge OH’s, to softer, smaller OH’s, counting OH’s, multiple OH’s, and shivering OH’s. Lest you think Tullet would let readers off with just deceptively simple OH’s and blue dots, you would be mistaken, for we are then introduced to new friends including a red dot (AH!) and a yellow sun-like dot (WAHOO!), and more intricate word/sound/shape play.

Busy, fun, hard-to-put-down and utterly delightful, Tullet absolutely has another picture book winner here with Say Zoop!.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (71): Children’s Titles from Jason Reynolds, Robin Stevens, Celia C. Pérez & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

 

 

This week: more children’s fiction! I can’t help it, folks- children’s fiction is one of my reading loves…and there is so much GREATNESS out there in this area that my to-read pile grows and grows. Some of this week’s picks are inspired by recently read incredible, moving, and overall wonderful reads. I just finished reading Jolly Foul Play, the fourth in the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries series by British author Robin Stevens, and immediately added Mistletoe & Murder (book number five) to my list. It had been some time since reading book three in the Murder Most Unladylike series, but starting Jolly Foul Play brought Stevens’s brilliant 1930’s English world of young detectives all back- and it is a tremendous series that gets even stronger, sharper, and more engaging with each entry. Truly great. I also recently read Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds (mentioned here) and it is excellent- a highly, highly recommended read. I have Patina (Track #2) on my must-read, though for this Must Read Monday I am including another of his acclaimed middle grade novels, As Brave As You.

Last, but certainly not least, this week also includes: James Nicol’s The Apprentice Witch, which I picked up on a whim and looks delightful; the fantastically spooky and strange sounding The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter; and Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk, which I have been reading rave reviews about.

 

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
Publication: May 3, 2016 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Book Description:

When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally.

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck and—being a curious kid—Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he covers it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).

How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.

Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?

 

Mistletoe & Murder (Murder Most Unladylike #5) by Robin Stevens
Publication: October 20, 2016 by Puffin
Book Description:

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

The fabulously festive fifth mystery from the bestselling, award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.

 

The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Dial
Book Description:

Sophie Seacove is a storyteller. She tells stories of what the world would be like if madness hadn’t taken over. If her parents hadn’t sold her off as a servant to pay for their stupid vacation. If she wasn’t now trapped in a decaying mansion filled with creepy people and surrounded by ravenous sea monsters.

The mansion has plenty of stories, too: About fantastical machines, and the tragic inventor who created them. About his highly suspicious death. And about the Monster Box, a mysterious object hidden in the house that just might hold the key to escaping this horrible place—and to reuniting Sophie with her family.

But not everyone wants Sophie to have the Monster Box, and as she gets closer to finding it, she finds herself unspooling years-old secrets—and dodging dangerous attacks. Sophie needs to use her brains, her brawn, and her unbreakable nature if she wants to make it off this wretched island…and live to tell this story.

 

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
Publication: July 25, 2017 by Chicken House
Book Description:

Arianwyn has flunked her witch’s assessment: She’s doomed. Declared an apprentice and sent to the town of Lull in disgrace, she may never become a real witch– much to the glee of her arch-rival, Gimma.But remote Lull is not as boring as it seems. Strange things are sighted in the woods, a dangerous infestation of hex creeps throughout the town, and a mysterious magical visitor arrives with his eye on her.

With every spirit banished, creature helped, and spell cast, Arianwyn starts to get the hang of being a witch–even if she’s only an apprentice. But the worst still lies ahead. For a sinister darkness has begun to haunt her spells, and there may be much more at stake than just her pride . . . for Arianwyn and the entire land.

 

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
Publication: August 22, 2017 by Viking
Book Description:

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Must Read Monday (70): Children’s Fiction from Mary E. Lambert, Beth McMullen, Dusti Bowling & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: all children’s fiction! A mish-mash of genres is on the roster, with everything from mystery, adventure, to contemporary titles. We have: The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow from Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, which sounds like a delightful mystery; the well-reviewed contemporary title Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert; Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, which I’ve been reading tremendous early reviews for; Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen which sounds like a zippy middle-grade Gallagher Girls; and Julie Bowe’s lovely sounding contemporary Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd).

 

 

The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson, illus. Roman Muradov
Publication: December 1, 2015 by Delacorte
Book Description:

Fear Not the Unexpected.

Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom.

As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past.

Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure.

 

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
Publication: February 28, 2017 by Scholastic Press
Book Description:

Annabelle has a five mile rule: She must keep her friends from coming within five miles of her home. That’s because Annabelle’s mom is a hoarder. Their house is full of stuff: canned goods, broken toys, old newspapers… It’s everywhere except for Annabelle’s spotless room. Annabelle can’t let anyone find out what her house is like. They’ll realize that her mom is crazy. They’ll make fun of her. Or feel sorry for her. Or try to help.

But when the newspaper piles come crashing down on her sister’s head one morning, it kicks off an epic fight between her parents that ends up with her dad taking off — and her fix-it-all grandmother stepping in.

As Annabelle realizes how bad things have gotten for her little sister, while trying to navigate her first crush, not to mention stay sane herself, she’s forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe she can’t keep all her secrets to herself. Maybe she can’t just throw her mom’s things out… maybe she has to let some people in.

 

Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) by Julie Bowe
Publication: March 21, 2017 by Kathy Dawson Books
Book Description:

It’s the start of a new school year and Wren Jo Byrd is worried that everyone will find out her parents separated over the summer. No one knows the truth, not even her best friend, Amber. When even her new teacher refers to her mom as Mrs. Byrd, Wren decides to keep their divorce a total secret. But something else changed over the summer: A new girl named Marianna moved to town and wants to be Amber’s next bff. And because of her fib, Wren can’t do anything about it. From take-out dinners with Mom to the tiny room she gets at Dad’s new place, nothing is the same for Wren anymore. But while Marianna makes everything harder at first, Wren soon learns that Marianna once had to ask many of the same questions–the big ones, as well as the little ones–that Wren is asking now.

 

Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen
Publication: July 4, 2017 by Aladdin
Book Description:

A girl discovers her boarding school is actually an elite spy-training program, and she must learn the skills of the trade in order to find her mother in this action-packed middle grade debut.

After a botched escape plan from her boarding school, Abigail is stunned to discover the school is actually a cover for an elite spy ring called The Center, along with being training grounds for future spies. Even more shocking? Abigail’s mother is a top agent for The Center and she has gone MIA, with valuable information that many people would like to have—at any cost. Along with a former nemesis and charming boy from her grade, Abigail goes through a crash course in Spy Training 101, often with hilarious—and sometimes painful—results. But Abigail realizes she might be a better spy-in-training than she thought—and the answers to her mother’s whereabouts are a lot closer than she thinks…

 

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Expected publication: September 5, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books
Book Description:

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

 

Recently Read: Great Picture Books from Carey Sookocheff, Jonathan Fenske & more!

Some great picture books I’ve recently read and would recommend!

Let’s start off with a lovely new picture book from Canadian author-illustrator Carey Sookocheff:

Wet by Carey Sookocheff*
Publication: June 20, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
This is a quiet, restrained, straightforward story about- you guessed it!- everything wet. From slowly lowering into a pool, to the ever-present puddle at the bottom of a slide, to happy wet kisses from pets, a young boy takes us through the ups and downs of things that get wet. There’s a calm and sweet end to the story that adds to the book’s already-peaceful, perfect-for-nighttime feel. Sookocheff, illustrator of the Buddy and Earl series, has a wonderfully clear, unfussy style of illustration, and uses a suitably delicate colour palette to go along with her latest quiet, gentle story.

 

Now here are three terrifically fun, slightly wacky, perfect-for-storytime picture books:

 

I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor, illus. Jean Jullien
Publication: July 11, 2017 by Candlewick Press

The team behind one of my go-to preschool read alouds- Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise– is back with a Halloween-ready story about a little monster who claims to want to be in a scary story…but does monster really want the spookiness and frights that go along with starring in a scary story? This is a slightly more text-heavy picture book, but the interactive element and story is so appealing that I think this could be perfect for a preschool and up ages storytime.

 

Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske
Publication: April 25, 2017 by Scholastic Press

Fenske, author-illustrator behind the delightfully zany Barnacle is Bored, is back with a follow-up of sorts. No Barnacle this time, but starring a pink plankton, Plankton is Pushy is a Mo Willems’-esque story about manners and patience. Plankton is a surprisingly determined protagonist, and readers of all ages will be on edge to see what happens when his silent- and arguably impolite co-star- Mussel- finally reacts.

 

Marigold Bakes a Cake by Mike Malbrough
Publication: July 18, 2017 by Philomel Books

Mike Malbrough’s debut picture book looked so appealing and adorable that it was on one of my Must Read Monday posts. I’m happy to say that Marigold Bakes a Cake is just as delightful and madcap as I hoped. Orange tabby cat Marigold- a serious, composed baker on Mondays- is the star of the book, with an awesome assortment of birds that make for one bonkers mess. Malbrough’s illustrations are so expressive and vibrant- super!

 

*I received a hardcopy of Wet courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (69): Children’s Titles from Victoria Jamieson, Casey Lyall, Beth Vrabel & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: more children’s fiction! It’s been a few weeks since the last Must Read Monday post, and while I haven’t been able to get in much reading, my to-read pile has SOMEHOW grown…! In any event, here are some titles I have my eye on for August and September release: the third installment of the totally charming From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess from Meg Cabot; the newest graphic novel from Roller Girl author-artist Victoria Jamieson; the latest contemporary title from wonderful middle-grade author Beth Vrabel; Ben Hatke’s newest graphic novel in the Mighty Jack series; and last, but not least, the second novel in Casey Lyall’s utterly terrific Howard Wallace, P.I. mystery series.

 

Royal Crush (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #3) by Meg Cabot
Expected publication: August 1, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Being the newest princess of Genovia is WAY more complicated than she expected, but Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is getting used to it. She gets to live in an actual palace with two fabulous poodles, a pet iguana, her very own pony, and, best of all, a loving family to help her figure things out!

And right now Olivia, having finally admitted that she likes Prince Khalil as more than just a friend, could REALLY use some advice. What is a princess supposed to do once she’s found a prince she likes? With her half-sister Mia busy enjoying her honeymoon, Olivia turns to Grandmere for help.

The third book in the middle-grade Princess Diaries spin-off series, written and illustrated by New York Times-bestselling author Meg Cabot.

 

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (Mighty Jack #2) by Ben Hatke
Expected publication: September 5, 2017 by First Second
Book Description:

Like a bolt from the blue, Jack’s little sister Maddy is gone―carried into another realm by an ogre.

When Jack and Lilly follow Maddy’s captor through the portal, they are ready for anything . . . except what they find waiting for them in the floating crossroads between worlds. Even the power of their magic plants may not be enough to get them back to earth alive.

Alone and injured, Jack and Lilly must each face their own monsters―as well as giants who grind the bones of human children to feed their “beast” and a fearsome goblin king in the sewers down below.But when Jack finds himself in a tough spot, help comes from the most unlikely person: the goblin king!

 

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
Expected publication: September 5, 2017 by Dial Books
Book Description:

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind–she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

 

Shadow of a Pug (Howard Wallace, P.I. #2) by Casey Lyall
Expected publication: September, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books
Book Description:

Middle-school detectives Howard Wallace and Ivy Mason are itching for a juicy case. But when their friend and cohort Marvin hires them to prove his nephew— über-bully Carl Dean—didn’t pugnap the school mascot, they’re less than thrilled. To succeed, not only must Howard and Ivy play nice with Carl, they’ll have to dodge a scrappy, snoopy reporter and come face-to-face with Howard’s worst enemy, his ex-best friend Miles Fletcher. Can Howard deal with all these complications and still be there for Ivy when her life is turned upside down? Or will he once again find himself a friendless P.I.?

 

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel
Expected publication: September 12, 2017 by Running Press
Book Description:

Twelve-year-old Caleb is shorter, frailer, and more protected than most kids his age. That’s because he has cystic fibrosis, a diagnosis meaning lungs that fill with mucus and a shortened lifespan. Caleb tries not to let his disorder define him, but it can be hard with an overprotective, prying mom and a big brother who is perfect in every way.

Then Caleb meets Kit-a vibrant, independent, and free girl who lives in a house in the woods-and his world changes instantly. Kit reads Caleb’s palm and tells him they are destined to become friends. She calls birds down from the sky, turns every day into an adventure, and never sees him as his disorder. Her magic is contagious, making Caleb question the rules and order in his life. But being Kit’s friend means embracing deception and, more and more, danger. Soon Caleb will have to decide if his friendship with Kit is really what’s best for him-or Kit.

Picture Book Review: Charlotte the Scientist is Squished by Camille Andros & Brianne Farley

Review: Charlotte the Scientist is Squished by Camille Andros, illus. Brianne Farley
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

Charlotte is a serious scientist. She solves important problems by following the scientific method. She has all the right equipment: protective glasses, a lab coat, a clipboard, and a magnifying glass. What she doesn’t have is space. She has so many brothers and sisters (she is a rabbit, after all) that she is too squished to work on her experiments! Can she use science to solve her problem? This funny, satisfying story is a playful introduction to the scientific method and perfect for sparking an interest in STEM subjects.

Joining the wonderful, growing stream of science-leaning picture books, Camille Andros and Brianne Farley’s Charlotte the Scientist is Squished is a beautifully illustrated, utterly delightful story that comfortably and easily introduces the scientific method to children- with an adorable story to boot.

You might be wondering how a picture book can all of those things, and I think it comes down to how debut author Andros approaches the story, and how Secret Tree Fort illustrator Farley captures the spirit of the story. The story is set-up with readers being introduced to scientist Charlotte and her big problem: she is squished and unable to properly conduct her science experiments. Her rabbit family is so large and her siblings are making things very difficult for her. So, Charlotte approaches her problem of being squished with the five steps of the scientific method. Andros, with Farley’s delicious illustrations, outlines the five steps- from question, hypothesis, experiment, observation, conclusion- in a comfortable, understandable fashion, that works beautifully due to Andros’ natural storytelling style. Readers get to go along a journey with Charlotte as she experiments with everything from trying to make herself invisible to commandeering her carrot-like rocket ship to space.

Charlotte the Scientist is Squished eases along into a satisfying, well-deserved ending for both Charlotte and her family, all the while maintaining a nice balance between the sweet storytelling side and the science side of things. I think this could make for a great read aloud for a preschool and up age group; older children might be more curious in the science leanings and have their interest piqued by Charlotte’s scientific approach, while a younger audience might especially adore the delightful, bright illustrations and happy ending. Overall, a lovely, fun, educational read that promises and delivers on storytelling, illustrations and a unique angle.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: Pete With No Pants by Rowboat Watkins

Review: Pete With No Pants by Rowboat Watkins
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: May 2, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Meet Pete.

Pete is gray. He’s round. And he’s not wearing any pants.

So Pete must be a boulder. Or is he a pigeon? Or a squirrel? Or a cloud?

Join Pete in his quest to answer the world’s oldest question: Why do I have to wear pants? Wait, that’s the second oldest. Born from the one-of-a-kind imagination of Rowboat Watkins, this hilarious book (the asides just beg to be read aloud) about finding out who you are features a satisfying and touching ending that will encourage young readers to be true to themselves as it reminds the adults in their lives to support them no matter what.

I like- no, love- a picture book with a funny title, and Pete With No Pants might be up there with the best of them! (Just say it aloud a few times and try not to laugh). The extra good thing about Rowboat Watkins’ Pete With No Pants though is that it is not just a picture book with a fun-to-say-title, it’s also a very good read. Slightly off-kilter, a little sweet, a little sly- like a combination of Mo Willems, Jory John and Bob Shea- Watkins’ sophomore picture book is great.

We meet Pete the elephant ‘shortly after breakfast’, as he decides he is a boulder. Why? Well, he’s big, gray, and not wearing pants- just like a boulder. Pete then proceeds to go through a range of emotions as he quickly goes from professing his love of boulders, to having a very one-sided game of knock-knock with a boulder, to soon declaring ‘Wah! Boulders are the worst‘. We follow Pete as he experiments with being a squirrel, faces his mother’s exasperation at his lack of pants, and unexpectedly finds a wonderful person who loves him for exactly who he is.

Pete With No Pants is a busy, funny, sometimes subversive, story that utilizes speech bubbles and concurrent dialogue from multiple characters; the story relies, to a certain degree, on reader understanding and comprehension, or an able storyteller. Watkins’ illustrations are terrific- expressive and comical, and perhaps do best to be viewed up close. I can see using this story as a read aloud for preschool and up ages: a smaller, enthusiastic crowd with an eye and ear for the wacky and unexpected might especially appreciate Pete With No Pants. I have had my own experience of reading this story to my daughter (almost three) and she loves it best when I perform it in a kooky, loud fashion, with voices. My daughter might just be especially enamored with Pete as she gets to happily giggle and shout for a book called Pete With No Pants (again, just try not to laugh saying that title!)…but that’s totally okay by me!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (68): Children’s Fiction from Paul Mosier, Adrienne Kress & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: children’s fiction titles! The following six titles are a mixture of ones from debut authors and ones that are totally new-to-me-authors. There is Canadian author Adrienne Kress’s The Door in the Alley, which looks and sounds like the start of terrifically fun adventure/mystery series; Melissa Savage’s Lemons, a Bigfoot-centred adventure/mystery; and Paul Mosier’s contemporary and contemplative-sounding Train I Ride. Then there is the wonderfully creepy and dark-sounding The Gravedigger’s Son by Patrick Moody; Kristi Wientge’s contemporary middle grade debut Karma Khullar’s Mustache; and a beautiful and unusual-sounding fantasy called The Unicorn in the Barn written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn.

 

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier
Publication: January 24, 2017 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a suitcase, memories both happy and sad, and a box containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own past begins to emerge. And as much as Rydr may want to forget about her life in California, on the train she finds that maybe her past can help her deal with her present. And maybe hope and forgiveness are all around her and, most important, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

 

The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1) by Adrienne Kress
Publication: April 25, 2017 by Delacorte Press
Book Description:

Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, “The Explorers: The Door in the Alley” is the first book in a new series for fans of “The Name of This Book Is a Secret” and “The Mysterious Benedict Society. “Knock once if you can find it but only members are allowed inside.

This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It s not the one you re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.) This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer.

 

Lemons by Melissa Savage
Publication: May 2, 2017 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

What do you do when you lose everything that means anything?

Nine-year old Lemonade Liberty Witt doesn’t know the answer to that question, except what her mom taught her. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what if those lemons are so big that you forget how? How do you make lemonade out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California and live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? In a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. With tall pines instead of skyscrapers and dirt instead of sidewalks. Not to mention one woolly beast lurking in the woods.

That’s right, Bigfoot. A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town like he’s someone real important, like the mayor or something. And the people here actually believe he’s real and hiding somewhere out in the pine filled forests. How can anyone possibly be expected to make lemonade out those rotten lemons?

 

The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illus. Rebecca Green
Expected publication: July 4, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

For years people have claimed to see a mysterious white deer in the woods around Chinaberry Creek. It always gets away.One evening, Eric Harper thinks he spots it. But a deer doesn’t have a coat that shimmers like a pearl. And a deer certainly isn’t born with an ivory horn curling from its forehead.

When Eric discovers the unicorn is hurt and being taken care of by the vet next door and her daughter, Allegra, his life is transformed. A tender tale of love, loss, and the connections we make, The Unicorn in the Barn shows us that sometimes ordinary life takes extraordinary turns.

 

The Gravedigger’s Son by Patrick Moody
Expected publication: August 1, 2017 by Sky Pony Press

Book Description:

Ian Fossor is last in a long line of Gravediggers. It’s his family’s job to bury the dead and then, when Called by the dearly departed, to help settle the worries that linger beyond the grave so spirits can find peace in the Beyond.

But Ian doesn’t want to help the dead—he wants to be a Healer and help the living. Such a wish is, of course, selfish and impossible. Fossors are Gravediggers. So he reluctantly continues his training under the careful watch of his undead mentor, hoping every day that he’s never Called and carefully avoiding the path that leads into the forbidden woods bordering the cemetery.

Just as Ian’s friend, Fiona, convinces him to talk to his father, they’re lured into the woods by a risen corpse that doesn’t want to play by the rules. There, the two are captured by a coven of Weavers, dark magic witches who want only two thing—to escape the murky woods where they’ve been banished, and to raise the dead and shift the balance of power back to themselves.

Only Ian can stop them. With a little help from his friends. And his long-dead ancestors.

 

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
Expected publication: August 15, 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Debut author Kristi Wientge tackles the uncomfortable—but all too relatable—subject of female body hair and self-esteem with this sweet and charming novel in the tradition of Judy Blume.

Karma Khullar is about to start middle school, and she is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend. Or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima. Or even that her dad is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mother to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized that she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip.

With everyone around her focused on other things, Karma is left to figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise all on her own.