Thursday, September 5, 2019

Grandparents Day Picture Books!

I'm so excited to share this varied collection of stories featuring the love and impact of a grandparent. And interestingly, each story focuses on a single grandparent. Use these to spark conversations about your own family or get one to read aloud and share with a grandparent.

Candlewick Press, 2018

Cecilia Ruiz, born and raised in Mexico City, tells a beautiful story in words and images. A grandmother lovingly tucks away spare money whenever she can in the hope of buying her granddaughter a large and special gift some day. When the government changes their currency the grandmother forgets to turn it in, and now she has a dusty jar of worthless money. What becomes of the money is the sweet idea of the granddaughter, who has grown up a bit.

Touching, sad, and relatable is this story of a grandmother and her granddaughter spending so much special time together, and then finding their visits less and less frequent. 

Both the story and the illustrations get two thumbs up!

Candlewick, 2019

Well, there's going to be a little something sad in many of these grandparent books, isn't there?
In this sweet story Wendy Meddour tells a tale of a small boy wanting the attention of his grandfather. Wanting him to see and hear him. Wanting him to play trains with him.

When it seems that the grandfather will only pay attention to the garden he is watering, the boy complains to his mother. She sends him off to ask his grandfather if he'd like a sandwich. The boy then spontaneously asks his grandfather what his top three sandwiches are, and so the game begins.

Once the grandfather has opened up about his top three sandwiches, more top threes emerge, leading up to a beautiful and touching final scene in which the two discuss their top three Grannies.

Daniel Egneus' watercolor illustrations convey just the right emotions and tone to the story.
Love it!

Candlewick Press, 2019

Jaime Kim's bright crayon and acrylic illustrations liven up this repeating story that centers around, you guessed it, a table that Grandad built!

And on that table go things from other family members: Napkins sewn by Mom, forks and spoons and knives from Dad's grandma, and flowers picked by a cousin. And around that table gather family and friends to feast and give thanks.

A cute one by Melanie Heuiser Hill!

Candlewick Press, 2019

Mina Javaherbin and Lindsey Yankey bring us a gentle story of a girl recounting her time with her grandmother while growing up in Iran. Through the story the young girl remembers with fondness all the simple and wonderful everyday things her grandmother did.

After reading this story invite listeners to share the simple and wonderful everyday things their own grandparents do. For me: Brewing the perfect cup of coffee, feeding the seagulls when the neighbors aren't home, and letting loose those happy and raspy laughs.

Candlewick Press, 2019

Oh my word, this one had me all glossy eyed by the end!

I couldn't stop admiring the gorgeous cut paper illustrations in Joowon Oh's story about an adorable Papa.

The first part of the book leads us on Papa's normal daily routine, and into the next day, where he buys some special supplies for his Thursday visit with his granddaughter.

I don't know if it is the simplicity of the story, the realness of it, or the yearning it stirs up to not waste any day, but this one got to me. Big time. Which is to say, I love it.

I hope you found a new book to check out!
Thanks to Candlewick Press for these review copies.
And thanks to you for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What if Everybody Thought That? *Giveaway and Review!*

What if everybody thought that? They might be wrong!

My thoughts: Surely share this with your students, patrons, children. Open up a discussion on why some people put limits on others, why some people doubt others, and what those limits and doubts are based on. Talk about whether we think that way. If we think that way about others or ourselves. I love how books like this can lead to beautiful and honest talks, sometimes truly changing the way we think and act.

One lucky winner will be sent the entire series of What if Everybody? books!
Enter below! Winner will be chosen at random and must provide a US mailing address. Good Luck!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Unstoppable Me: Review, Author visit, and Giveaway!

Today I'm hosting author Susan Verde and offering a giveaway!

Here is where Unstoppable Me came from, it's motivation, and the hope behind it, written by Susan Verde:

Unstoppable Me was brewing in my head and was actually on paper for quite sometime! Writing this story felt important to me for many reasons. I myself was a kid who had my own challenges and difficulty sitting still. I remember feeling like I was doing something wrong and being told to stop when I really couldn’t. As you might imagine this didn’t feel good. Then, as a teacher and subsequently a parent, I had students and my own kids who also needed to move their bodies in order to learn and thrive and find joy. I knew that I needed to take an approach with them that was different from my own experience. I knew they needed to be “seen” and appreciated and that as exhausting as it may have been I had to let them know that this wasn’t a flaw but rather a part of what made them special. This is what inspired Unstoppable Me

This story is one in which the main character sees himself as amazing with all of his energy and movement! I wanted this sweet child to own and love this part of himself, and in doing so it was my hope that the reader would do the same. Parents and caregivers sharing this story will see themselves in the illustrations as being both worn out but also unconditionally loving and appreciating this abundance of energy. Every person has their own challenges and their own way of learning and being in the world. My mission is to remind everyone that these parts of ourselves are worth loving and appreciating and to look for the positives. We are all worthy and we are all UNSTOPPABLE!!

I'd say this book is a perfect addition to any home, school, or public library. Best suited for ages 2-6 as a light and fun read, or a way to have conversations about how it feels to be Unstoppable, or to be around someone who is Unstoppable. My 3 and 5 year-olds give it two thumbs up! Andrew Joyner's illustrations perfectly capture that Unstoppable child! The pictures are bright, wide-eyed, motion!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 10, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6-10-19

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews and recommendations!

Today I'm highlighting books that publish this Tuesday, and one to celebrate Pride Month! 
Happy *almost* Book Birthday to 3 totally different books!
Spoiler, I liked them all!
Read to the end, there's a giveaway!

Books I've Recently Read:

Little Lunch: Triple Treats by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vance
Candlewick Press, June 2019
112 Pages
Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 2-4

This one very much reminds me of Sideways Stories in that we meet a group of school kids and follow them through a few different stories. Each story stars a new kid, so you get to know them in different lights.
Fast paced, humorous, and plenty of white space and pictures to support readers that are anxious to be reading chapter books.

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
First Second, June 2019
336 pages
Fantasy Adventure
Recommended for grades 4-8

When I began reading this story- "It's the night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival, when the town gathers to float paper lanterns down the river, Legend has it that after drifting out of sight, they'll soar off to the Milky Way...Ben and his classmates are determined to find out..." I had no idea that what would begin as a normal enough story of kids seeking adventure, would turn into a dazzling journey of fantasy and friendship. Ok, so those things are alluded to (clearly spelled out) on the back of the book, but they still sort of snuck up on me.

I loved the adventure, the never knowing what was coming next, the creativity, and the heart. I also loved the art. Go grab this one!

It Feels Good to be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni
Henry Holt & Company, May 2019

June is Pride Month, so spread some good vibes with books like this!
This simple story tackles a topic that people struggle with, and also celebrate, on a daily basis.
Add this one to your school and classroom libraries.

Here are the author's and illustrator's notes, they made the story extra special to me:

The Root of Magic by Kathleen Benner Duble
Delacorte Press, June 2019
224 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

A young boy sick with an unknown illness, a sister living in the shadow of her brother's needs, and a wicked snowstorm that lands this struggling family in the mysterious and magical town of Kismet, Maine.
Now, being a Mainer I always delight in reading books set in our state. Kismet is a fictitious town, but how delightful is this little bit of fate: Kismet Inn in Bath, Maine is located right down the street from where I sit typing. 

It's obvious to Willow that there is something odd about the town and the people in Kismet. Like how they seem to know things before they happen, and seem to be prepared, whether to hand someone the type of juice they want, or to save them from nearly dying.
The longer Willow, her brother, and her mother stay in Kismet, the more she worries her mother won't want to leave. Something seems to keep her there.
When all is revealed to Willow she will have a big decision to make, one that will effect her, her family, and maybe even an entire town. 

I asked a 5th grader to read the book and share her thoughts. She read it twice...think she liked it? ;)
Here's what she wants to say:
I had the opportunity to read Kathleen Benner Duble’s fantastic book, The Root of Magic. This story takes place in the quiet, mysterious town of Kismet, Maine. The main character, Willow, struggles with her parent’s divorce, and her younger brother, Wisp, is dealing with an unusual sickness. And in the middle of all this, she finds herself in Kismet. During her stay, many unexpected people and odd events keep one secret from all visitors, Willow included. I always found my eyes glued to each page as the mystery unfolds. If you are a reader who loves mysteries with twists and turns, while answers unwind, then this book is for you!
By Avery Steenstra 

From the publisher:
Kathleen Benner Duble is a critically acclaimed and award-winning author of many historical novels for children. Her books include Phantoms of the Snow, The Sacrifice, and Quest. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband. Visit her at
Twitter: @KathleenDuble
Instagram: @kathleenbduble

And, hoorah, a giveaway!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Blog Tour: Nixie Ness: Cooking Star

From Claudia Mills:

“The Joy of (Writing a Book about) Cooking”

I was so happy when I decided to write my most recent book, Nixie Ness, Cooking Star, about a group of kids in an after-school cooking camp. This is the first book in a new chapter-book series set in an after-school program, After-School Superstars, featuring a different themed camp each month. 

The cooking-camp setting gave me two pleasurable challenges: 1) thinking of fun culinary projects that could fill up the four weeks of the camp; and 2) thinking about how my four main characters could reveal themselves to readers by how they tackled these projects. When I teach workshops on characterization for kids, I always tell them that the best way to show character is to give your characters something to DO – and then watch them DO it!

So: what kinds of things would be fun – and feasible – for kids to cook? Confession: I’m not really much of a cook myself. Well, that would actually be a plus, I told myself. If I could cook these things, third graders could, too. I wanted to come up with projects that would connect with interests kids already have, as well as expanding and broadening their culinary horizons. Okay. . . . Week one would be devoted to making healthy and delicious lunches to bring to school. All kids look forward to lunch. Week two would begin with making pet treats: dog biscuits, cat cookies, bird suet (this became my favorite chapter) and then morph into pumpkin week. Pets and pumpkins are everybody’s favorite. Baking for fundraising bake sale would occupy week three. Everyone loves to bake. Week four would conclude the camp, and the book, with a Trip Around the World international banquet. For this, I had to find a simple recipe for saag from India – not that simple a task!

Once I had my activities lined up – hooray! – I could watch brainy Nolan, class-clown Boogie, perfectionist Vera, and big-dreaming Nixie get down to the serious – and comic – business of cooking. Nolan spouts a stream of food facts about everything from the origin of pita bread to the percentage of water in a pumpkin. Vera agonizes over whether she is chopping up ingredients for her pita-pocket-fillings in pieces exactly a quarter-inch square. Boogie shocks his teammates by sampling one of their dog biscuits. And Nixie fantasizes about achieving fame and fortune by becoming the star of the camp cooking video. 

Finally, I had the additional joy of testing the book’s recipes. My family loved the Morning Glory Muffins, and Tanky-the-dog loved the dog biscuits. But my son’s cat, Clementine, admittedly turned up her nose at the cat cookies (which Tanky then devoured). 

The next two books in the series are going to be Vera Vance, Comics Star, set in a comic-book camp, followed by Lucy Lopez, Coding Star. I’m done with figuring out all my comic-book activities, but now I’m facing the daunting challenge – technophobe that I am – of learning about coding. So wish me luck!

From the Publisher:


Best friends Nixie and Grace spend every afternoon together . . . until Nixie's mom gets a new job and Nixie must attend the after-school program, without Grace.

Third graders Nixie Ness and Grace Kenny have been best friends since they were two-years-old. They have always spent every afternoon after school at Nixie's house until Nixie's mom announces that she has a job, which means she won't be there to watch the girls after school, which means Nixie will have to go to the after-school program and Grace will be spending her afternoons at their classmate, Elyse's, house.

Nixie begrudgingly starts the after-school program, joining the cooking camp. And it turns out that the other children at cooking camp are nice, and the recipes they make are delicious. But Nixie can't really enjoy being an after-school superstar until she finds a way to overcome her jealousy about Grace and Elyse's budding friendship.

Perfect for fans of Judy Moody, Ivy and Bean, and Clementine, this new chapter book series features recurring characters, and each book will highlight one activity they do at their after-school program. The books are illustrated in black and white and include a bonus activity that corresponds to the book's plot. Nixie Ness: Cooking Star features a recipe for morning glory muffins. The next book in the After-School Superstars series, Vera Vance: Comics Star, is scheduled for release in Spring 2020.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5-20-19

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews and recommendations!

Books I've Recently Read:

Summer by Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Yu Rong
Imprint books, May 21, 2019
Enter to win a copy here: Summer Giveaway!

When Pencil Met Eraser by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr. Illustrated by German Blanco 
Imprint books, May 28, 2019

Super Summer: All kinds of summer facts and fun by Bruce Goldstone
Henry Holt, May 7, 2019

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

*Finding Orion* Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Welcome to the 2nd stop in the Finding Orion Blog Tour!
And what makes today extra special is that today is Finding Orion's book birthday!

Many of you have come to know and love Anderson's works, and are anxiously awaiting your chance to get lost in his newest story. And for those of you that have yet to fall in love with Anderson's unique story ideas and richly developed characters, well, this is the perfect time to acquaintance yourself with his writing.

Finding Orion takes readers on a trip across state borders, as three children set off to say a final goodbye to their grandfather, while their father must confront his own deep seeded emotions surrounding his past and the relationship between he and his father. If you think it's going to be predictable or easy you're in for an adventure you certainly didn't see coming!

Meet Cass:

The oldest of the Kwirk children. She loves acting, reading fantasy-romance-adventure stories, and knows how to fence. She also has a pet python.

Meet Orion:

Our title character, one boy situated between two sisters. Rion feels like he doesn't belong to this wildly quirky and intelligent family. He's a 12-year-old boy with a witty sense of humor, which you should be thankful for since he's the narrator.

Meet Lyra:

The youngest of the Kwirks, Lyra loves words. She is content to read the dictionary for fun, and delights in interjecting the correct or best suited word for any situation. Her vocabulary is far greater than mine.

Meet the parents:

Mom studies stars, hence the offsprings' names. Dad develops flavors for jelly beans. Both are super smart and endearingly supportive of each other. This is demonstrated as Mom stands by Dad, Fletcher Kwirk, as he hunts for his father's remains. 

Yeah. Did you see that last line coming?

What I didn't mention above is that while the Kwirks are discovering things about themselves, they are also on a journey to discover where Papa Kwirk's remains are hidden. It's going to take the family working together solving riddles and taking risks to follow this trail of clues.

I love this story that had me both laughing and reflecting.
My big takeaways: The unexpected can be delightful. Get to know the people that matter to you.

Enter to win a copy!

Thanks for stopping by!