Friday, September 22, 2017

By the Great Horn Spoon

By the Great Horn Spoon
by Sid Fleischman
Little, Brown and Company, 2013.
Historical fiction.

I absolutely loved this book as a kid. Sid Fleischman is a safe bet when it comes to historical fiction. In this book, young Master Jack, a boy who considers himself a gentleman, makes a plan to restore his family's fortune in the California gold rush. With his butler by his side, Jack embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. The two city-folk-turned-miners seem to encounter one hilarious adventure after another. As a side note, it was this book that taught me mules were a cross between horses and donkeys, and that they can't reproduce. I haven't listened to the audio version of this book yet but I'm sure it's hilarious.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate

The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate
By Shannon and Dean Hale
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Candlewick Press, 2017. Intermediate. 90 p.

Are you looking to help a child bridge from easy readers to chapter books? The Princess in Black series is perfect! Chapters are filled with fun pictures and an intriguing story. This is the fifth book in the series. Princess Magnolia has to again keep her superhero self a secret at her playdate with Princess Sneezewort. Both girls hear cries of help! They individually sneak out to see if they can help the situation. Princess Sneezewort remembers an article she read in a magazine about "The Princess in Black" and follows the steps on "How to Be a Monster-Battling Hero" herself. Each princess in disguise offers specific skills and talents on their adventure together.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts : A Novel
by Avi
Workman Publishing, 2017. Fiction. 308 p.
Oliver lives with his older sister Charity and a neglectful father, in 1700's England.  When Charity leaves for London to seek a better life and future, Oliver is left in the dubious care of his father. One day catastrophe strikes and Oliver, Charity and their father are swept away by the forces of fate and the corruption of London to progressively more dire situations. 

Here is a book for kids who like A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Oliver is an endearing character with a lot of pluck and an undying love for his sister which drives him forward in the face of insurmountable odds. Avi includes healthy helpings of both adventure and humor and his depiction of 18th century London will help readers appreciate the rights and luxuries they enjoy of modern American society.  

DISPLAY: The Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos is a lively holiday that is observed in Mexico and some other Central and South American countries each year in November. It honors and celebrates family members past and present.

Celebrate Day of the Dead with Paper Crafts
By Randel McGee
Enslow Elementary, 2015. informational
Learn to make a skull mask, a skeleton candy basket, fancy cut-paper window banners, and more as you explore the important symbols of Day of the Dead.

Day of the Dead 
By Linda Lowery
Carolrhoda Books, 2004. Informational
This colorful informational book introduces the holiday, Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, and describes how it is celebrated in Mexico and in the United States.

Just in Case 
By Yuyi Morales
Roaring Book Press, 2008. Picture Book
As Senor Calavera prepares for Grandma Beetle's birthday he finds an alphabetical assortment of unusual presents, but with the help of Zelmiro the Ghost, he finds the best gift of all.

By Raina Telgemeier
Scholastic, 2016. Comics. 239 pages
Cat and her family move to northern California because Cat's sister, Maya, needs a more humid climate because of Cystic Fibrosis. In their new town there is a strong tradition of interactions with ghosts, culminating with the Day of the Dead celebration in November. Cat is not at all interested in becoming more acquainted with the dear departed, but Maya is fascinated with them, and that is what frightens Cat most.

Mi familia calaca = My Skeleton Family 
By Cynthia Weill
Cinco Puntos Press, 2013. Spanish Picture Book
Welcome to the Family Calaca! It's just like yours: father, mother, sister, brother, abuelita, gato, but with one difference, they are all skeletons. Learn about family life from a Day of the Dead perspective!

¡Bienvenido a la Familia Calaca! Es como el tuyo: padre, madre, hermana, hermano, abuelita, gato, pero con una diferencia, todos son esqueletos. Aprenda sobre la vida familiar desde la perspectiva del Día de los Muertos!

Rosita y Conchita : a Rhyming Storybook in English & Spanish 
By Eric Gonzales
Muertoons Publishing, 2010. Spanish Picture Book
Un cuento cariñoso de gemelas alejadas, pero con el poder del corazón no quedarán separadas ... Incluye una sección que indica cómo celebrar el Día de los Muertos y cómo hacer calaveras de dulce.

A touching tale of twin sisters a world apart, but to find each other they must rely on the closeness of their heart. Includes a section on how to celebrate the Day of the Dead and how to make your very own sugar skulls.

Funny Bones: Posada and his Day of the Dead Calaveras 
By Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015. Biography
Funny Bones tells the story of how the amusing calaveras--skeletons performing various every day or festive activities--came to be. They are the creation of Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada whose art is beloved by many but whose name has remained in obscurity.

The Day of the Dead = El Día de los Muertos
By Bob Barner
Holiday House, 2010. Informational
With sugar skulls, sweet-smelling marigold petals and joyful songs, Hispanic families welcome back ancestors on this annual November holiday.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Littles: And How They Grow

Littles: And How They Grow
By Kelly DiPucchio
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017. Picture book.

Littles have busy days filled with feedings, snuggles, teething, walks, and baths – days that fly by as they grow bigger. Kelly DiPucchio’s rhyming text about all the ways babies and toddlers are loved is paired with AG Ford’s adorable illustrations of multicultural little ones. A lovely celebration of a baby’s first years.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Serafina and the Twisted Staff

Serafina and the Twisted Staff 
By Robert Beatty
Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 370 p.

In this sequel to Serafina and the Black Cloak (reviewed previously on our blog here) Serafina is still working to guard the Biltmore Estate and her family and friends. In this time-around things are a little mysterious in the wood surrounding Biltmore—and eventually within the Biltmore manner. Wolves come and chase Serafina through the woods, animals are either leaving the area or are under some sort of spell that controls them, and even the rats and insects inside Biltmore try to hurt Serafina. To top it all all, Serafina cannot change into her animal self the same way her mother does—which means she is more susceptible to all the dangers going on around her.

This is a good edition to this series. (And if you need a good audio book, this happens to be one that is quite enjoyable to listen to.) Readers who like characters being just as important to a story—it takes just as much time for Serafina to figure out more about herself and her family as it does to describe the action—will enjoy this book; especially if it is important to have the setting feel almost like another character. Biltmore is a character in its own right. And having been on vacation to Biltmore, I quite liked that all the bits that were described were just how I remembered them when looking at my vacation photos. This book is just a touch scary but full of friendship, adventure, animals, and courage.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

From Story Time: The Letter "B"

Read in Book Babies

Written by Nancy Shaw
Illustrated by Margot Apple
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989.  Picture Book.

Sheep on a deep-sea voyage run into trouble when it storms and are glad to come paddling into port.

Read in Toddler Time

By Il Sung Na
Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.  Picture Book.

This is a story about a bird, a balloon, and a bear--and finding the courage to make a friend.

Read in Preschool Time

By Jennifer Gray Olson
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.  Picture Book.

Does this little bunny have what it takes to become...a super awesome ninja?

Read in Preschool Time

By Jeremy Tankard
Scholastic Press, 2007.  Picture Book.

Here's a cure-all for a bad mood.  After all, don't you ever feel grumpy?

Read in Monday Cuentos

By Ed Vere
Editorial Juventud, 2015.  Spanish Picture Book.

Max tiene mucho sueño. Antes de irse a la cama, Max solo necesita darle las buenas noches a la luna. Pero ¿dónde está la Luna?

Read in Friday Cuentos

By Emily Gravett
Picarona, 2016.  Spanish Picture Book.

Tres cerditos de circo capturan a un lobo salvaje y le hacen hacer trucos indignantes, seguros en la creencia de que nunca los morder̕a.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Coraline (the audiobook)

Coraline (the audiobook)
by Neil Gaiman

Coraline is a great read. But I find myself recommending the audiobook more than the actual book. Why? First, because the audiobook is narrated by the author. Gaiman's voice can somehow be both childlike and creepy while still sounding like a perfectly normal English adult. I don't know how he does it. The second reason is that this audiobook is a whopping 3 hours long. If you need a road trip book for kids, this one is great. The whole story is contained in a short enough time period that younger ones can actually keep a handle on what's going on.

A note about the actual story: Coraline is spooky and fast-paced, but sweet. Gaiman manages to create a child character that is actually childlike while writing an intriguing tale. Too many middle-grade readers feature 11-year-olds that act 25. So way to go Neil!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Boo Who?

Boo Who?
By Ben Clanton
Candlewick Press, 2017. Picture Book

Boo is a ghost that doesn't feel like he belongs even though those around him try to be friendly. It doesn't help that he can't join in their fun of playing tag, bouncing ball or pick up sticks. But it all works out in the end when Boo finds the perfect game that they all can play.

Clanton is fast becoming one of my favorite picture book author/illustrator with his humor and clean line illustrations.  A light way of discussing the difficulties of new friendships and fitting in. An extra treat about Boo Who? is that it brings back other Clanton characters like Rex from Rex Wrecks It!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Shadow Cipher

The Shadow Cipher
(York #1)
by Laura Ruby
Walden Pond Press, 2017. Fiction. 476 p.
Tess and Theo Biedermann, and their neighbor, Jamie Cruz, live in one of the historic Morningstarr buildings in an alternate New York City.  The Morninstarrs were a family of brilliant architects and engineers who created smart robots and interactive buildings that permeate the York society.  They also created the Cipher, a puzzle that was supposed to lead to an amazing treasure, but during the 50+ years since it was created no one has been able to solve it.  When an upstart developer threatens to pull down Tess and Theo's apartment building, the twins team up with Jamie in one last effort to solve the cipher and use the treasure to save their home.  As they pursue what seems to be a new line of clues, they discover that the world around them is more mysterious and dangerous than they could have imagined.

This book is getting a lot of attention.  It is a fast paced, fresh, steampunk mystery that will appeal to both boys and girls. Ruby has created a host of quirky and interesting characters, and the book ends on such a tantalizing note that readers will be dying for the next one in the series to come out.  (476 p.)