Sunday, December 31, 2023

Favorites of 2023!

Goodbye, 2023!

It's time to bring my reading year to a close, and what a year it's been.

The biggest surprise was the decreased number of books I covered. Not that it's really surprising. With a new job and more visiting to do with my kids (one more in college), time got tight. Super tight. Still, I did my best to stay on track, which worked most of the time. Others...well, not so much. Here's a quick run-down of the statistics (and it is quick, since I've never been a huge statistics guru). 

Total reviews (not incl. spotlight posts, interviews, Mommy & Daddy Day reads): 308 
That's a drastic drop from 340+ last year. 

Here's the breakdown in age groups: 

Young Adult: 65
Middle Grade/ Chapter Book: 115
Picture Book: 124
Graphic Novels: 28

When looking at 2022, it's clear that the decrease slammed into the young adult group. (Ouch.) Well, I know what I'm going to aim to improve next year.

Breaking it down into the top five genres (I ignore picture books): 

Fantasy: 46
Science Fiction: 27
Mystery/Thriller: 28
Nonfiction: 17
Contemporary: 48

The rest fell into 'other' genres. 

The lines between the five main genres aren't actually crystal clear. So many reads carry aspects of several genres. I simply took the one I found most prominent and slid the book into that category...although others might have a different opinion of where they truly belong. 

I noticed that contemporary got the upper-hand this year. Mystery went up as did science fiction. There seems to be a more serious atmosphere, in general, to the reads I've been getting. I do wish there was a bit more imagination, adventure and fun with less attention on 'teaching'. But that could just be me. Humor as a genre only held importance in the graphic novel section...which I was sad to see. I also noticed that picture books seem to be extremely centered on messaging, this last year. So, I'm going to be on the prowl to find more entertaining tales . Plus, the lack of boy main characters is weighing down on me. So, I'm going to try to up my game on that end, too. If I can change all of that up a little? We'll see!

Now, it's off to...

 
FAVORITES OF 2023!!!


After looking through the reviews, which hit Bookworm for Kids during the last 365 days, I do have some favorites (as every year). Obviously, not everyone will agree with me...and they might think I'm totally off my rocker (probably am)...which is totally fine. My opinion shifts with the day and mood, too, which doesn't make things much easier. If you feel that I've missed a title, which really stuck out to you during this last year (one that I reviewed on here), please feel free to mention it in the comments below! 


PICTURE BOOKS

As the most visited category of reads on Bookworm for Kids (by far!), you'd think it'd be very easy to point out the best. But it's not. There are just too many to choose from. I did manage to find my favorites, though. 



Super sweet!


By far my favorite!
Definitely my favorite
 with monsters and heart!

Funny and adorable!



MIDDLE GRADE

This year started off with a bang for this age category. The first months held so many amazing reads that I felt like I was placing too many into my favorite list. But then, summer hit and it slowed down. These last months have been...well...don't get me wrong, there are many enjoyable reads...but that special spark to shove them into the best category has been missing. I'm betting it's just me. Even readers have ups and downs with mood swings. Plenty of them. But here are three which really stuck out to me.


Heart-warming with history
and surprises

Mystery and tension to enjoy


Fun, haunting paranormal



YOUNG ADULT

This turned into an extremely tough category to draw 'winners' from. Whatever reading-slumpy-thing I was feeling really hit the young adult direction.  It could also be due to the fewer books I read in this category...less to choose from. So, we're going to have to change that in 2024 and pack more of these in because I do enjoy a good YA.


Hit the theme so well

Tough topics and very well-written


Hits the upper-end of the age group,
but such a grabbing read!



And that's it! How did you reading year go? Notice any trends? What were your favorites?

The most exciting thing about this post is that it isn't really an end, but launches off a new year of reads to come! (I'll be peeking at some of those tomorrow)

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 30, 2023

Today's read... Robotics; Notes Volume 1 by 5pb and Keiji Asakawa

Today's read is the last one of the year, and while this might not be the most earth-changing, mind-blowing book, it's a direction I haven't hit this year...and looks like it might be tons of fun. Mecha manga has been around...well, a long time (wasn't that an eye-opening, fact-filled statement—haha). But I remember robots flying around, saving the planet from all sorts of monstrous aliens/robots/beasts or whatevers. I even had an action figure or two in this direction. My only action figures. Ever. 

So off we go into the world of robots and see if the future holds exciting imagination to help ring in the upcoming year!



ROBOTICS; NOTES VOLUME 1
by 5pb
Illustrated by Keiji Asakawa
Udon Entertainment
Young Adult Science Fiction / Manga
356 pages






The year is 2019, Steins;Gate world line "1.048596%". On the island of Tanegashima, augmented reality has exploded in popularity and robots are becoming last year's fad. In danger of being closed, the Chuo Tanegashima High School Robotics Research Club decide on one final project... to build their own GIANT ROBOT!

GOODREADS   /    B&N   /   BOOKSHOP


MY TIDBITS

Enthusiasm, determination, and robotic fun create an entertaining tale with characters to cheer for.

The Chuo Tanegashima High School Robotics Research Club (and yes, that is a mouthful) has long seen its glory days and has dwindled down to a membership of two. Aki and Kai are childhood friends, and since it was Aki's sister who brought the club to its peek, they aren't about to abandon the club completely. Aki is determined to make the club shine again and complete her sister's left project, a gigantic robot, before they graduate in a few months. Kai stays at her side but would rather spend his entire free time playing his favorite video games and letting everything sputter silently to an end when they graduate. Aki really needs his help as well as that of others, but everyone and everything seem to ignore her. But she's not about to give up.

This manga stems from another tale, which I didn't realize when picking it up. Not that it really matters, nor did I look into this to learn more. While it's clear that there is more to this world when reading through these first chapters (just impressions and hints), this story does carry itself from beginning to end. The school setting opens things up, giving readers a chance to get to know Aki and Kai before things really get going. This did create a slower read than I expected, but it wasn't boring, either. Just more emotion and character time than I anticipated. Especially Aki wins over and drives the atmosphere with her contagious and unstoppable enthusiasm—it'd be fun to have a friend like her. It's hard not to root for her every step of the way. Her attitude contrasts sharply with Kai, so much so that I really wasn't sure how they remained the friends they are, but it gives variety and promises enough future character arc to win over. Plus, it builds the platform for the humor, which adds wonderful spark.

The illustrations bring over the scenes nicely . They support the humor with the right flair, while still bringing across the mecha aspects well. There are character summaries tossed in, every now and then, which added background and details to each one as well as a short list and definition of terms, which readers may not have run across before. Even sight fans will, however, know these already.

The second half of the book picks up speed as the robotic end gets a bit more underway as does the contest and such. There are a few secrets which surprise, but it's the character interactions, hopes, dreams, and working together which drive this tale forward. It's full of positive vibes (mostly thanks to Aki) and propels into the rest of the series well

Friday, December 29, 2023

Today reads... The Seaside Corpse by Marthe Jocelyn

Today's read comes from a series I accidentally ran across earlier this year...and I'm so glad I did. It's a historical mystery, which weaves a younger Agatha Christie into a series of murders, which she has to solve despite being only twelve-years-old. I've only read book 3 in the series, so far, but was already hooked by the smooth writing, vivid historical elements, and fun characters. I hope this next installment holds as much goodness as the last.



THE SEASIDE CORPSE
Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen #4
by Marthe Jocelyn
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
Tundra Books
Middle Grade Mystery / Historical
354 pages
ages 8 to 12






For young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, an opportunity to dig up fossils becomes even more thrilling when a corpse washes ashore.

After an invigorating but not exactly restful trip to a Yorkshire spa during which she survived a near brush with death and foiled a murderer, aspiring writer Aggie Morton and her friend Hector are thrilled to have the opportunity to stay at a camp by the sea and watch real paleontologists at work. The famed husband and wife team of the Blenningham-Crewes are about to become even more famous with the recovery of the fossilized bones of an ichthyosaur from the sea by Lyme Regis. This news has already caught the attention of an American millionaire, a British museum and a traveling circus owner, who each want the bones for their own collections. Tensions are running high throughout the camp, from the cook, to the collectors, to the Blenningham-Crewes themselves, and become downright dangerous after Aggie and Hector make a discovery of their own: a body on the beach. Not a fossil, but a human body.

GOODREADS   /   AMAZON  /    AVID BOOKSHOP


MY TIDBITS

This is the last book in the series, and it not only ends with a full cast of characters (old and new), but rounds off the adventure in a wonderful way.

Aggie has every right to be excited. Not only is she the first female in the family to go camping, to attend an archaeological dig, and to ride in a motorcar, but she's going to spend the adventure with her best friend Hector before he heads back home. When her brother-in-law drops her off at the camp and digging site, things aren't exactly like she expected, but none of it is a problem...except for the dig's professor, who seems to make everyone hate him thanks to his horrible attitude. Then, there's the rich American, who wants to purchase the huge fossil they crew is working so hard to recover. And there's a circus. Every moment seems to carry something new until a corpse is left after the tide. Now, Aggie has to deal with another body, and it wasn't the kind she was expecting when she first came to the dig.

I just discovered this series with the last novel and am already sad to see it come to an end...which means I'll just have to go back and discover the first two, now. In this one, we find Aggie as she's headed off to an archaeological dig, not because she wants to become one (she's a writer through and through) but her brother-in-law managed to get her a spot. And that's also where the lovely dive into history comes in. Not only do we accompany her in her first exciting ride in a 'motorcar', but the attitudes of the time period surrounding women and social levels is very clear. There is also a rich setting thanks to the research done by the author, which surrounds the location, a well-known fossil discovery, and the involved people. Plus, this entire thing winks toward Agatha Christie (Aggie). While it's well done on the historic end, it also manages to keep the characters easy to relate to. Readers will have no trouble understanding the decisions, concerns, and thoughts of Aggie and her friends. And that without the mystery ever talking down to them.

One of my favorite aspects of this series is the ability of the author to open the door to 'adult' aspects while still staying true to the audience. There is a murder. Things aren't always pretty. Violence happens. Danger occurs. And the relationships between people isn't rosy or simple. Aggie handles everything as best she can and has a wonderful friendship as well as a terrific aunt at her side. It's quick-paced and doesn't leave a boring moment the entire way through. Each character has depth, and there are enough sub-plots to keep Aggie on her toes.

As to the mystery, I did find the other novel a bit better on the detective and clue end. This one has it's secrets and Aggie as well as Hector do have to figure things out, but not to the same depth or extent as before. This tale allows some aspects to unfold with time or observation, but considering there are other ends to wrap up (this begin the last in the series), there wouldn't be room for more. The author ends the series nicely, while still leaving enough of the door open to show that Aggie's life still holds much more to come. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Today's read... The Fall of the House of Tatterly by Shanna Miles

I had today's read on my schedule a few months ago, but it ended up accidentally slipping through the cracks. Yes, I have plenty of cracks surrounding my reading pile...something which probably isn't great to have around that many books but happens. So I was thrilled when it popped up again because I was looking forward to reading it. The thought of an old estate with ghosts and the boy on the cover along with the vegetation had me picturing all sorts of wonderful spooky situations. So, let's dive in and see if this book was worth the wait.


THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF TATTERLY
by Shanna Miles
Union Square Kids
Middle Grade Paranormal
280 pages
ages 8 to 12





Twelve-year-old Theo Tatterly’s ability to see ghosts is a useful skill in a house full of dead relatives, but it makes him a loner at school and everywhere else, where ghosts eternally pester him for help. For Theo, life is easier on the periphery. When his first failed exorcism portends an end to the Tatterly line, Theo must bring together his entire family—living and dead—to save the home they’ve lived in for generations . . . and maybe the world.

Author Shanna Miles’s story of magical modern-day Charleston crackles with unforgettable characters and pays homage to the city’s rich culture, folklore, and history.

GOODREADS    /     B&N   /   BANK SQUARE BOOKS


MY TIDBITS

Ghosts, demons, and unique family bonds create a read rich with atmosphere and a character to root for.

Theo has been left at the family estate while his mother deals with the death of his father. While Theo can't seem to fit in at school, the array of ghosts and his other family members keep him busy. Actually, it's his deceased aunts, which pester him the most. In any case, he does have enough to do thanks to his paranormal talents, which have him and his cousins dealing with all sorts of situations surrounding the afterlife. That is until things start getting strange, and he realizes that there's more to deal with them than any of them every expected.

I've been looking forward to diving into this one for quite some time, but the universe...maybe ghosts... delayed things a bit. Still, I'm glad I finally got to it. Theo is a super sweet guy with a big heart, tons of determination, and even more patience...and considering his ghostly aunts, he needs plenty of it. Better yet, he doesn't attack everything alone but finds support in his family. This adds a cushion of wholesome goodness to contrast the other problems he faces. Theo also has a lot on his plate as he deals with the absence of his parents and takes on ghosts, demons and more. With all of this going on, there's definitely excitement, surprises, tense moments, and emotions too. The entire array settles into a surprisingly easy read, which will especially work well for the younger end of the middle grade audience.

I enjoyed the hints of history and myth as they wove around a imaginative world. I adds a wonderful atmosphere. Still, it would have been nice to have a bit more depth on this end to tie it better together. While the ghostly and demonly threats are grabbing, the entire paranormal world stays blurred below the surface. The background and details to build the foundation aren't fleshed out as much as they need to be for older readers. Also, there are moments where the pacing slows down, but this does allow emotions to settle in and character depth to form. There are more than a few characters, which grab attention with their quirks and personalities.  

It's a fun read with humor, heart, creepy moments, and situations. Readers, who enjoy paranormal adventures and a touch of Southern myths, will have no trouble sinking in and getting lost in the adventure.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Today's read... A Morning With Blueburry by Jon Seymour

Today's read hits upon a breakfast favorite in our household—blueberry muffins! I don't remember our muffins ever bouncing around with as much energy as the one on this cover (although the kids would love that), and that's what made me want to take a peek. 



A MORNING WITH BLUEBURRY
by Jon Seymour
Picture Book
47 pages
ages 4 to 8




Do you love muffins? Do you love reading stories about muffins?? Then look no further!

A MORNING WITH BLUEBURRY is a fun and silly adventure of a muffin trying to overcome challenging obstacles to achieve a goal.

Paired with even sillier, low-impact illustrations, this book will allow a child's imagination to 'launch through the air' while also hinting at the importance of perseverance, creative problem-solving, and most importantly— believing in oneself.

 

A portion of the proceeds from this book will go to support both local and international organizations that help children live their best lives. Additional proceeds will go to support reforestation efforts across North America.




MY TIDBITS

Blueberry muffins hit a new category after launching into this fun adventure...and I do mean launching.

This is a book, which brings out giggles and smiles from beginning to end. From Blueburry's morning greeting of friends during a counter-march to his love for something sweet, his cheerful attitude wins over. As does his love to eat something sweet even at the cost of going to extremes. It's something listeners can get behind, laugh at, and cheer for until the last page. 

One of the more unique aspects of this read is the illustrations. They stick to a more minimalistic style and approach. Not only is the entire book in black and white, but not every page holds a visual scene...although these still hit 70-80% of the time (my guess-timate since I haven't counted it out). Blueburry and his friends come across with enough familiarity to make them recognizable, but still have a cartoonish flair, which fits well to the humor. These illustrations center mostly on the character and include few other details outside of what is necessary to the story. They are well done, but I'll admit that I would have liked to have seen more of Blueburry's 'crazy' moments rather than imagining them. On the other hand, it does promote using the imagination.

At the end of the book, there's a well-laid out recipe for muffins and a how-to-draw section so listeners can create their own Blueburry (or similar) characters. So, there is quite a bit of goodness and fun in these pages. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Today's read... Pets and Kisses by Alexis Spinner

Today's read wanders into the realm of pets...in this case, cats. I do tend to be a dog-person, but with the farm, we have our fair-share of these cute characters as well. When I saw that this read teaches kids how to handle their pets with care, my interest was sparked. It shouldn't head into a true guide book direction (not practical things such as food, bedding, etc), but instead, address how to behave around cats. Since I haven't seen a picture book addressing this theme in awhile, I wanted to take a peek.

So, if you received a cat recently or are maybe planning on getting one, this one might be for you.


PETS AND KISSES
by Alexis Spinner
Illustrated by INDOS Studio
Mascot Kids
Picture Book
38 pages
ages 4 to 8






Learn how to treat a cat―it’s not that hard to do. Give them all your love, and they’ll unconditionally love you.


GOODREADS   /   AMAZON


MY TIDBITS

New cat families can find more than a few helpful hints to become friends with their felines.

A little boy can't figure out why the two cats run off or scratch him. They never seem to want to be snuggled or pet. He would really enjoy learning to become friends with them, and to do so, has a few things to learn first.

This book is ideal for young readers, who can't seem to get along with the family cat (especially newer ones). While it does center around a boy's desire to learn how to behave around the cats, it's more of a guide to several do's and don'ts when children are dealing with cats. Everything from treating cats roughly to putting cat toys in the mouth are mentioned. The tips are understandable, make sense, and easy enough for the age group to grasp and remember. These do handle mistakes younger children tend to make when dealing with animals for the first time. So, it is well-directed toward the audience.

The entire thing is written in rhyme, which wasn't my thing but works well enough. The vocabulary and explanations are age appropriate and presented in an understandable way. It did hit me a little too directed as the read went on (not woven into a story form as first thought, but rather, clearly listed suggestions) and tended very heavy to the 'don't' side, when I do wish there had been a few more positive situations as well. But it does work very well for a group setting, teaching kids how to handle cats properly, or even opening up to a theme surrounding cat/pet care, in general. It hits its purpose on spot and does a nice job in the process.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!

MAY YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES HAVE

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS !



I'll be back with a few more reads to close off the year on the 26th!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Today's read... The Seed of Faith: A Christmas Miracle by Daniel Patronelli

Only a couple more days until Christmas is here! Today, I'm taking a peek at a read, which addresses the reason behind the season...more or less. This read has gotten tons of praise and won several awards. It's said to embrace the Christmas spirit while packing adventure and Christian goodness as well. I'm ready to snuggle up with it in front of the fireplace and will share my thoughts below.



THE SEED OF FAITH
A Christmas Miracle
by Daniel Petronelli
Illustrated by Emily Pritchett
Walnut Ridge Publishing Company
Middle Grade Religious Fiction
74 pages
ages 6 to 10





It’s Christmas Eve in the small foothill Village of Shiloh. A father retells the miraculous story that no one will ever forget.
A group of young boys lost in a powerful storm
fight to survive on that glorious night.
The incredible chance encounter with a kind stranger, may be their only hope..

This award-winning book chronicles the spiritual journey of these children.
The lessons learned, the gift received and the lives that were changed.

This timeless Christian tale centers on the true meaning of Christmas; helping those less fortunate, love thy neighbor and assures children …and adults, that if we lose our way, face hardship or struggles, that God is always there by our side.





MY TIDBITS

With all sorts of goodness, this is an adventure to enjoy with the entire family during the Holidays.

This read does have a Christian twist (obviously), and it does it while presenting an interesting story along the way. There are more than a few lessons along the way, ones which encourage and guide without growing overly preachy. The characters come across with a lovely naturalness, which invites in and brings a sense of familiarity, while the problems faced do pack just the right amount of tension.

This one is great to snuggle up with and enjoy as a before-bedtime-read and will have readers Winter dreaming as well.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Library Read... Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey

With all of the Christmas chaos nearing its peak, there's nothing more relaxing than sitting down in front of the fireplace, cuddling up in a fuzzy blanket, enjoying the lights on the Christmas tree, and diving into a warming read. I'm hoping this one carries a bit of humor and tension, and doesn't only stick to romance...okay, I want tons of humor and tension. But I'll take a few snowflakes and jingle bells, too. Best of all, this is one I picked up at the local library. So, it let me step back from the hectic of shopping for a while as well.


CAROLS AND CHAOS
Suitors and Sabotage #2
by Cindy Anstey
Swoon Reads
YA Historical Romance
329 pages








A lady's maid and a valet become entangled in a yuletide counterfeiting scheme in this romantic Christmas YA adventure.

1817. The happy chaos of the Yuletide season has descended upon the country estate of Shackleford Park in full force, but lady's maid Kate Darby barely has the time to notice. Between her household duties, caring for her ailing mother, and saving up money to someday own a dress shop, her hands are quite full. Matt Harlow is also rather busy. He's performing double-duty, acting as valet for both of the Steeple brothers, two of the estate's holiday guests.

Falling in love would be a disaster for either of them. But staving off their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when a devious counterfeiting scheme reaches the gates of Shackleford Park, and Kate and Matt are unwittingly swept up in the intrigue.

Find this one at your local library
(or you can order through your favorite sites, too)


MY TIDBITS

Life between elites as a maid during the 1817 comes to life with Christmas cheer, romance, and intrigue too.

Kate Darby's life is more than a-bustle as she does her best to care for her sick mother, while trying to save up enough to open her own dress shop by working as a maid. Of course, the Holidays add more than a little stress to the mix. As if that wasn't enough, a familiar face slides into the mix. Matt Harlow isn't only attractive but has his sights on Miss Darby...not that he doesn't have enough to do as a valet for two brothers at the same time. The last thing they need is to let their feelings get involved, but even romantic sparks are not nearly as dangerous as a new threat happens upon the estate. A counterfeiting scheme is something both want to steer very clear of, but somehow, they get wound up in it anyway.

I have not read the first book in the series, but that didn't prove to be a problem. This novel dives head-first into the past and lets 1817 come to life. Kate Darby immediately grabs sympathy with her determination, kind heart, and juggle to not step on anyone's toes in the process. The predicaments she finds herself in offer tension, while weaving in a bit of humor, too. She has a lot on her plate, and it makes her endearing. But then, Marr Harlow packs tons of personality and is hard not to like.

The attitudes, habits, ideals, and dreams of the time period come across nicely and understandably. The details and scenes hold historical richness, and it's hard not to get lost in the world. There is enough excitement to make it interesting and there are more than a few unexpected moments. There were times that it flowed a bit slower than I prefer, but that's more due to my short attention span. The characters carry depth, the intrigue is well presented, and there are more than a few moments to bring smiles and chuckles. Even the romance wins over without being cliche or too predicable. 

This is a fun read for historic romance fans, who enjoy well woven tales and depth.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Today's read... The Baker's Dozen by Aaron Shepard

If we lived in Europe, today's read might have been a better fit toward the beginning of this month. December 6th is Saint Nikolaus Day in several countries. In Germany, we would invite Saint Nikolaus and Knecht Ruprecht into our house every year (many communities do have people who play the roles and go to the houses. My husband and older son enjoyed doing this a couple of years themselves). But since this, obviously, does have a connection to Santa Claus...although a thin one in many respects... I decided to take a peek at this read 

Also, it isn't a new release but rather has been around for a few decades. So, let's take a peek!



THE BAKER'S DOZEN
by Aaron Shepard
Illustrated by Wendy Edelson
Skyhook Press
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8



Van Amsterdam the baker was well known for his honesty as well as for his fine Saint Nicholas cookies. He always gave his customers exactly what they paid for -- not more and not less. So, he was not about to give in when a mysterious old woman comes to him on Saint Nicholas Day and insists that a dozen is thirteen!
 
The woman's curse puts an end to the baker's business, and he believes it would take Saint Nicholas to help him. But if he receives that help, will it be exactly what he imagined?
 
Find out in this inspiring legend from Dutch colonial New York about the birth of an honored American custom.
 
GOODREADS   /    AMAZON    /    BETTER WORLD BOOKS


MY TIDBITS

There are those stories, which can be told over and over again year after year. This is one of those.

Van Amsterdam baked the most delicious things, and everyone loved to visit his shop, especially when it came time to bake the Nikolaus cookies. He wasn't only great a baking. He was very fair as well and made sure that customers received exactly what they paid for. No more and no less. When an old woman entered his shop and excitedly announced she wanted a dozen cookies, she delight turned to anger as he gave her twelve. She claimed thirteen complete the dozen, and he wouldn't budge. What happened next turned his ideals upside down.

This story takes its inspiration from a legend during colonial New York, and the story telling lets that time period shine. It carries a traditional flair, flows wonderfully, and allows listeners to sink into the world. It makes for a lovely read-aloud and reminds of a fairy tale. There's a dusting of magic, an important lesson to be learned, and the importance of generosity beams bright. While it does center around the Saint Nikolaus celebration of December 6th, it does work very well for Christmas, too.

The illustrations are very well done and bring the historic scenes across with authentic atmosphere. There are tons of details worked in, which invite listeners to explore each image again and again on their own. The emotions and situations come across clearly as it balances right with the text.

This is one of those reads to put on the Christmas bookshelf and enjoy whenever the Holidays roll around.



And here they are...
 
Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of "The Legend of Lightning Larry," "The Sea King’s Daughter," and many more children’s books. Once a professional storyteller, Aaron specializes in lively retellings of folktales and other traditional literature, which have won him honors from the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Bank Street College of Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the American Folklore Society.
 
Wendy Edelson has applied her award-winning skills to a wide range of illustration projects, including picture books, pet portraits, posters, and puzzles. Among her clients have been Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the U.S. Postal Service, Cricket Magazine, McGraw-Hill Education, and the American Library Association.


While putting this post together, I ran across several readings of the story on Youtube and thought I'd share, at least, one of the links with you to enjoy, too.



Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Today's read... A Gift From Daniel by Marie Le



A GIFT FROM DANIEL
by Marie Le
Illustrated by Jason Fruchter
Simon Spotlight
Early Reader Chapter Book
32 pages
ages 5 to 8








A new generation of children love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, inspired by the classic series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood! Daniel Tiger makes gifts for family and friends in this holiday-themed Pre-Level 1 Ready-to-Read.
Daniel Tiger wants to give his friends and family special presents, but he doesn’t have enough money to buy them! Then his mom reminds him that homemade gifts are even better than store-bought, and Daniel learns to embrace his creativity and the joy of giving. © 2023 The Fred Rogers Company. All Rights Reserved.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON


MY TIDBITS

Holds an important message about gift-giving, while inspiring readers to create their own gifts.

Daniel Tiger enjoys spending time with Miss Elaina. One day, she gives him a gift. Daniel is so touched that he wants to give her one, too. After talking about it at home, he decides to make one for Miss Elaina and hopes she'll like it.

Fans of the series will recognize Danie Tiger and the other characters right away. The settings come across very familiar (directly from the show) and invite in with their colors and every day details. Daniel, of course, is a very kind soul, and it's easy to understand that he wants to do something for Miss Elaina, too. I especially enjoyed watching Daniel create his own gift, since it does remind readers that they can do this as well. The reminder that self-made gifts are especially special adds just the right touch and does inspire kids to do the same.

The text is just right for beginning readers and helps them exercise their reading skills, expand their vocabulary, and still, not push too hard. It's concise and brings across the story in an interesting way, which will even appeal to more reluctant readers. 

This isn't really a complete Christmas read, but rather, lets the illustrations strongly hint at the season (colors and wintery scenes). So, this can be read at other times and used as a general gift-giving read as well.



And here she is...

Maria Le grew up in Oklahoma and now lives in New York City, where she writes and edits children’s books. She loves pottery, boba tea, and Chihuahuas.
























 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Today's read... The Caroler by Liza Martini

The Nutcracker belongs to Christmas as much as candy canes and jingle bells. So, I was excited to get this retelling in my hands.



THE CAROLER
    by Liza Martini
Middle Grade Holiday Fantasy
129 pages
ages 8 to 12











Have you ever wondered where the Nutcracker got his fierce eyes? His disturbing set of choppers, or the lever in his back? He wasn’t always such an odd-looking fellow. In The Caroler, the story intertwines with The Nutcracker: The Story of the Hard Nut to bring this folktale by E.T.A. Hoffman into the 21st century, and throw some light on a beloved, yet peculiar fairy tale.

In a dark basement one July afternoon, a nutcracker awakes in his excelsior crate and is surprised to see two other figurines, Carol and Glory, staring back at him from the opposite end. He’ll have to get used to much more than shared space before long. When toys and dolls with human likeness are animated by an itinerant Grace Light, their stories become linked. The story of bacon and sausages, greed and gluttony, curses and a need for redemption is the backstory of The Nutcracker told throughout. But he has lost all hope of living as anything but this wooden manikin form. It is Carol who gradually draws him out of his hard shell, and makes him aware of the caring heart he once had. Carol is cautious but kind, believing, “No one can help how they are formed, or sketched, or molded. She believed that goodness should be expected and returned.” Glory, a shimmering tree-topping angel, is no stranger to miracles and unusual phenomena. Her arming presence helps bring the story to its “logical conclusion.”

The Caroler is for Nutcracker fans, fans of Christmas Carols, and stories full of miracles, curses, and redemption.



MY TIDBITS

With a refreshing twist on The Nutcracker, this tale touches with fairy tale vibes and brings more than a little magic to the season.

The original tale reflects clearly in this story, while still taking enough of an original weave to give it a bit of a Toy Story atmosphere...of course, set in modern day. The story begins at a market, where Carol and others are being sold on sale. The scenes soon leads to basement storage, where the Nutcracker comes in. From there, the tale unfolds with vivid world building and scenes to get lost in. The rich stories behind the characters make them easy to sympathize with and sets the stage for the growth each will experience during the adventure. There's tons of heart woven into the tale to create a read, which leads to more than a little thought.

The writing flows nicely and held some of the same feel as the original tale, while still edging enough toward the modern world to be familiar. It's steady paced and would even work well as a bedtime read (spread over more nights). It is a lovely read for the Holiday season, especially for fans of magical tales with adventure and heart.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Today's read... Searching for Home by Chantal Bourgonje

Today's read just seemed perfect for a wintery read. Or maybe, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas (although I'm well aware that the chances of that are zilch). Still, scenes of snowflakes and dreams of friendship are something I can't turn away. So, let's just take a peek, shall we?



SEARCHING FOR HOME
by Chantal Bourgonje
Beaming Books
Picture Books
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

COMING...
JANUARY 30th!!!

Noa is an excellent finder. But he can't seem to find any friends. Noa the house-sprite likes his home . . . but it doesn't have any friends in it. Determined to change that, Noa sets out on an adventure to find a home with friends. Along the way, he meets Bear, Ferret, and Wolf. Together they face daunting dangers and witness breathtaking beauty, all in search of a new home . . . until they come to realize that maybe the real home is the friendships they made along the way. The timeless message and whimsical art of Searching for Home make this the perfect gift book for folktale enthusiasts and fairy tale lovers. Young readers will resonate with Noa's hunt for true friendship, and might just be inspired to go on an adventure or two of their own. Oftentimes, rich friendships are waiting just around the corner.



MY TIDBITS

The search for friendship leads to unexpected adventures with whimsical moments, which warm despite the cold snow.

Noa is a super finder. He can find almost anything...except for friends. There aren't any of those in his house. So, he heads out to find a new home even though it is cold and snowy outside. When a crisp breeze blows his hat away, Noa's chase leads to his first encounter. 

This is a cute read to cuddle up with, especially during the colder months, since much of it takes place in a wintery landscape. The icy scenes fit well to Noa's lonliness. His desire to have friends will ring familiar with young readers, gaining instant sympathy. While the entire read begins on a sad-ish note, the author immediately adds a dose of whimsical fun to the illustrations. This lighter side continues with each creature Noa meets and makes the journey that much more inviting...especially since it's fun to see who he'll meet next. Plus, there are dangers to face and surprises to keep the tension high. And all of this remains very age appropriate.

Pastels make each scene a wintery dream. The animals are very recognizable and still hold a tad bit of imaginative flair.  Instead of sticking only to full page scenes, the author keeps the pace quick by breaking some up into little short moments. It ends up giving the tale the needed epic journey atmosphere without even the slightest hint at dragging things out. This makes it a great read aloud for even more reluctant listeners.  

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Library read... Santa Claus Doesn't Mop Floors by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones

After all those book birthdays, I thought it was time to hit the library again and see what I can find on the holiday front. I ran across this book (published in 2003) and found the title cute. I've never heard of the series. So, the characters are going to be very new, and I really don't know what to expect. But that's the part of the fun when visiting the library—there are shelves and shelves full of surprises.



SANTA CLAUS DOESN'T MOP FLOORS
The Adventures of Bailey School Kids
by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones
Scholastics
Middle Grade Fiction








A classic Bailey School Kids adventure is back with a new cover art just in time for the holidays! The fresh look of this long-time favorite makes it the perfect gift this season.

There have always been some pretty weird grown ups in Bailey City, but the new custodian at the Bailey School is one of a kind. When he appears out of nowhere just before Christmas to help out at the school, Mr. Jolly's white hair and beard and longing for cold temperatures bring the fabled St. Nick to everyone's mind. Could this man really be Santa Claus? The Bailey School Kids are going to find out!

GOODREADS   /  And at your local library!


MY TIDBITS

With school humor, a little drama, some mischief, and a dusting of Christmas magic, this read is still fun twenty years after it first hit the shelves.

There's a new janitor at the school, and the kids can't help but notice that he looks quite a bit like Santa Claus. Not that he can be. After all, Santa Claus doesn't wear shorts or clean schools. But then, there is the strange, small man that sometimes is found talking to him. In any case, that won't stop the kids from causing a bit of mischief...or maybe, it will. Some aren't ready to take the risk of possibly having Santa Claus right there and knowing when to put them on the naughty list.

This is a fun, easy read, which manages to gently wrap the wonder of Christmas into a read with middle school flair. The Bailey School kids come across naturally, although a few of them are always open to pranks and some not-so-good nonsense. Readers will enjoy the antics, and immediately suspect that none of it is really a good idea. The tension around the truth behind the janitor makes it hard to put the read down and difficult to predict whether or not he is Santa Claus. But then, this is a quick read, which doesn't lean much on descriptions and lets dialogue and action drive the plot forward. It's especially well suited to the younger end of the middle grade audience and will even draw in more reluctant readers.

While there is a bit of mischief and magic, there are also wholesome messages surrounding friendship, standing up for what you think, and kindness. 

Friday, December 15, 2023

Today's read... Prick by DL Hammons with Giveaway!


PRICK
by DL Hammons
YA Suspense






 

People are dying under mysterious circumstances in the small town of New Haven. And the city’s best hope of uncovering the truth rests with a troubled teen and the girl who can’t stand him.

Cassie Underwood’s life is shattered when her younger sister dies in a freak car accident. In her grief, Cassie unfairly blames her sister’s constant companion—Taggart McGill—a boy with a sketchy past and abrasive personality. As Cassie attempts to recover from the loss, she struggles to honor her late sister’s memory by befriending the person she resents most.

Things get complicated when Cassie overhears a fellow student asking Taggart to convince the police another death in the accident had nothing to do with the crash at all. Taggart surprisingly agrees and a suspicious Cassie decides to accompany him in his snooping. She soon learns everything she knows about Taggart is wrong… and he has insight into things that link the car accident to other suspicious deaths in their close-knit community.

Now it seems there’s only one thing keeping Cassie’s name off the growing list of victims—finding out who Taggart McGill really is.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble


EXCERPT:

“Didn’t my sister ever tell you that the way you dress is a bit clichéd? I mean, look at you. The isolated loner, the social outcast, in a dark hoodie? Really?”

I wasn’t sure what changed, maybe something in his posture, but he seemed to soften.

“It might be cliché, but it’s practical.”

“How so?”

Taggart pulled a pair of white earbuds from inside the sweatshirt and plugged them into his ears, then pulled up his hood, which completely covered his face, blocking me—and everything else—out.

I leaned over the edge of the table, pulled back his hood and yanked out his buds. He didn’t resist.

“Point taken.”

“Obviously not.”



DL Hammons wrote his first piece of fiction decades ago … to impress a girl (it was moderately successful), and he hasn't looked back.

He wrote a script for a 15-minute audiotape in the style of old radio shows (i.e., Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy), for which his group received an A+ and he was praised for the originality of the story. He was hooked. He later joined the school newspaper and made a name for himself authoring sports articles and feature pieces.

Unfortunately, the seed planted in high school would lay dormant for decades while DL faced the realities of adult life. College exams, school loans, early morning alarms and late-night dinners, business trips, heart-stopping love, dirty diapers, mortgages, coaching clinics, scholarship applications, and everything else that tends to induce follicle disembarkation and enlarged prostates. It wasn't until his children had flown the coop that "the itch" returned, and he had the time to give it the attention it deserved.

Growing up as a military brat, DL moved around quite a bit as a kid. After graduating from LSU and raising a family in several southern states, he now makes his home in Central Arkansas where he has spent the last dozen years perfecting his voice, splitting his writing time between YA and Adult Mystery/Suspense. Other than being an author, DL claims that the most interesting thing about him is that he lacks a sense of smell. Other passions include (but are not limited to) his family (including his two mini-Australian Shepards) music, movies, video gaming, and cool weather camping.

DL is represented by Tina P. Schwartz of the Purcell Agency.

Knight Rise and Fallen Knight are part of his adult Silent Sleuth series, and PRICK is his first Young Adult book - part of the Taggart McGill Mystery series.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Threads


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