Saturday, March 30, 2024

What's Coming in April?

 April showers bring May flowers, right? I do hope we get a bit more rain than we have during the last months. Right now, we're a bit behind on the rainfall, and as a farmer, that does not make me smile. But I'm keeping a positive attitude and have no doubt that those flowers will be blooming and basking in rain and sunshine this month. A bit like my reading pile...

This month, I'm looking at about half of the reads hitting the picture book area, which is wonderful since that makes the longer middle grade and young adult reads a little more spaced out (for me). Middle Grade appears to be all over the place on the genres, hitting contemporary to scifi to fantasy to nonfiction. As for young adults, these appear to be heading in a more serious direction this month with a little fantasy thrown in, at times. As for the picture books...well, that's always a smorgasbord of  surprises. Here's a peek at what I'll be hitting this month.



WOULD YOU DARE PUT A DIAPER ON A BEAR?

The second I saw this one, a smile popped up on my face. I can see kids getting a kick out of diaper-meets-animal imagination. It should be light-hearted and simply fun, which is a good mix when done right. Be ready to smile with me as I start the month out with this read


Picture Book




NO ESCAPE

I do enjoy snuggling up with a thrilling tale and get the adrenaline going. While it's my first time reading one of this author's works, I have heard great things about another one, Escape Room. I just never had a chance to pick it up. So, I'm excited to dive into this one on the 3rd, especially since it circles around a similar theme.


Young Adult Thriller





THE MINOR MIRACLE

Play that Mission Impossible theme because today's read should head in a undercover direction...sort of. Superpowers hit a 7th grade boy and he's hired by the CIA to join a special unit and hunt down a dangerous criminal. Somehow, his trombone playing friend and 'perfect' everything friend get involved, too. This could go anywhere, exciting as well as humorous directions. I'm just not sure which yet.
We're going undercover to see what the truth is about this one on the 6th.


Middle Grade Superhero...spy?




TUGGOAT

I'll admit that I don't really know anything about this book, yet, but I found the idea of a goat...maybe, pulling a boat?...interesting. Can a goat pull a boat? I do wonder what it will tug and am excited to see where this tale heads. Find out with me on the 9th.


Picture Book
TO LOOK UPON THE SUN

Ready for a little history? This read heads back to pre-WWII and takes a look at a 17-year-old, pregnant girl, who is taken into a camp to help strengthen the Aryan race...except the Nazis don't realize that the child inside her springs from a Jewish lineage. I'm hoping this one stays in the YA range and think it will, since it circles around her determination to handle the problems inside the camp and keep her secret hidden. Find out more with me on the 12th.


Young Adult Historical
NIGHT BLOOMING JASMINE

A gentle read to lead into the night and invite to dreams and more...at least, that's what I hope this book will be. I believe this one takes a peek at those flowers, which bloom during the cooler hours, which separate day from night. Plus, isn't that snuggly cat cute? I'm going to yawn and snuggle into this read on the 16th.


Picture Book




NOT IF YOU BREAK UP WITH ME FIRST

I did a double-take when first reading this title and bet it will be a humorous read. Of course, it's a romance and will probably hold all sorts of warming moments and butterfly-stomach-emotional-zings...for middle grade. Yep, that's right. It's a middle grade romance...and that isn't something I see everyday in the realm of middle grade genres. So, I'm curious to see what this one holds on the 19th. 


Middle Grade Romance
THE HAUNTING OF LAKE LUCY

While I'm always game for a good ghost story and a bit of mystery, this one caught my attention because it's also written in verse. Not that I'm a huge fan of this writing style, but it can be potent when done well. Still, I can't remember running across a haunting, horror story for this audience level written like this. So, I'm curious. See how this works out with me on the 21st.


Middle Grade Horror




SNOOPY'S BEAGLE SCOUT TALES

Obviously, I'm hitting this read with very high expectations. Snoopy and friends have been around much too long, are much too loved, and much too 'classic' not to generate a whole different level of thoughts on the reviewer end when diving into these types of books. While part of me knows Snoopy is awesome, another part realizes that these stories may or may not hit modern day audiences in the same way. So, I'll be dragging my kids in to help me with this review and see what their thoughts are, too. And that on the 26th.

Children's Fiction /  Graphic Novel




NOT NOTHING

When I saw the blurb on this one, I had to get my hands on a copy. It surrounds a troubled middle grader, who's had a rough home life and now lives with his aunt, who treats him as if he's nothing. He runs into some trouble at school and is forced to work at a nursing home. There he meets a resident, who is over 100 years old, and they open his eyes with their tales about surviving the holocaust. I'm expecting depth and food for thought to shine through on the 30th.


Middle Grade Contemporary










Each month, I have more books on my pile than there are days to post a review. I always have one or two 'last minute' reads or ones I just couldn't squeeze in yet, which I really hope to somehow get to. Thanks to the wild-ride the literary and publishing world always offer, I can usually find a way to fit in an extra read or two. On the top of my pile for this month is...


STUDENT'S LITERARY TOOLKIT  (WORKBOOK)

This one goes in a slightly different direction than the books I usually present on Bookworm for Kids, but it caught my attention because I homeschool my high school daughter, and we've already gone through The Most Dangerous Game. So, I'm curious to see how this workbook goes through different aspects, and I'll be using, at least, one of these with my own daughter to see how they go. I'm not sure when I'll get to this one, but I'm shooting for the end of April...if that works.


Young Adult Literary Workbook



Thursday, March 28, 2024

Connor and the Taekwondo Tournament by Jen Malia

Today's read hit the shelves about two weeks ago and is the third (I believe) in the series. These books surround a club of five kids, who are neurodivergent, and focuses on an adventure for each of them. I haven't read either of the first two books, but I don't think that will be a problem, since these seem to be written as stand-alones if desired. I'm looking forward to see how the author handles packing the various aspects into a chapter book level.

So, let's take a peek!


CONNOR AND THE TAEKWONDO TOURNAMENT
The Infinity Rainbow Club
by Jen Malia
Illustrated by Peter Francis
Beaming Books
Chapter Book
123 pages
ages 6 to 9





Perseverance , thought Connor. To not give up even when it is hard to keep going . Connor loves practicing taekwondo at his dojang. Having ADHD means he has to work a little harder to keep his focus during sparring sessions, but that doesn't stop him from mastering new forms and rising through the taekwondo ranks. However, when Wyatt--Connor's nemesis--starts training at the same dojang, staying focused suddenly becomes a lot harder. Can Connor persevere and find his focus in time for the big tournament? 

Written by a neurodivergent author with three neurodivergent children, Connor and the Taekwondo Tournament meets a longstanding need for chapter books written from the perspectives of kids with ADHD and is the perfect addition to any young reader's shelf. The Infinity Rainbow Club is a chapter book series featuring five neurodivergent children in a club at their elementary school. The club provides a safe space for stims and different communication styles to be accepted and celebrated.


GOODREADS    /      AMAZON     /     B&N     /     BEAMING BOOKS



MY TIDBITS

Connor isn't happy. While he's done pretty well with his Taekwondo classes, everything gets messed up when his nemesis joins the same dojang. Not to mention that Connor loses when he faces him the first time at training. Connor also knows why he lost and what he needs to work on. He has to focus...not easy considering he has ADHD. While he usually can keep that in pretty good control, the mere presence of his nemesis has his brain shifted into high-gear. He has help and support, but whether or not it will be enough to help him remains to be seen.

Parents should be warned: more than a few readers will, most likely, want to take Taekwondo classes after reading this. The author doesn't shy away from details surrounding Taekwondo and makes this marital arts direction feel familiar and exciting by the time the book is done. The first pages already have Connor facing his nemesis in training, which draws in and sets the pace for the rest of the read. While Connor does have to face his relationship to this person, since they attend the same dojang, this read is more about Connor's struggles to get to where he wants to be. So, there's quite a bit of character growth.

The ADHD comes across very naturally and never takes on a forced atmosphere. Connor is very easy to root for, and his thoughts and concerns aren't only very self-aware but are completely understandable. He's determined and ready to put in the effort and work to meet his goals. He has a great support team with family and friends, which adds a wholesome touch. This stays very appropriate for the age group, while still diving into deeper themes. And it's pulled off well. It inspires those who can relate with Connor and helps strengthen awareness for those, who don't face the world in quite the same way.

Even reluctant readers will find this enjoyable, and not only because of the Taekwondo. The chapters are kept short, and while the vocabulary fits to the reading level, it also furthers and pushes reading skills without frustrating. The added illustrations give humor and familiarity at the right times, and offer a bit of fun throughout the read. It's an enjoyable read, carries quite a bit of depth, and inspires, too.



And here she is...

Jen Malia is a professor of English and the creative writing coordinator at Norfolk State University. Originally from Pittsburgh, Jen currently lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and three kids. Jen has written for the New York Times, the Washington PostNew York MagazineWoman's DayGlamourSelf, and others. Jen is the author of Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism as well as the Infinity Rainbow Club series. Jen was diagnosed with ASD in her late thirties and has three neurodivergent kids with different combinations of ASD, ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia.

Website: jenmalia.com
Twitter: @JenMaliaBooks
Instagram: @jenmaliabooks
Facebook: @MomWithAutism

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Dalmartian: A Mars Rover's Story by Lucy Ruth Cummins

I loved the play on words found in the title for today's read. And the green spots. So cute and clever! This is a science fiction picture book and promises to bring in quite a few familiar aspects, while shooting off into alien dreams. In other words, I have no idea what to expect but hope it will be fun. 

Get ready because I have a feeling that these aliens aren't exactly what one might expect!


DALMARTIAN
A Mars Rover's Story
by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book
48 pages
ages 4 to 8

COMING MAY 7th!!!

From the bestselling creator of Stumpkin and Vampenguin comes a whimsical picture book about the unexpected friendship that blooms between a boy and a dog of intergalactic origins.

A visitor from outer space comes to Stephen’s yard one night. It may look like a Dalmatian, but it certainly doesn’t act like one. At first, Stephen and the visitor get off on the wrong paw. They quibble over kibble, debate sleeping arrangements, and must abandon earth dogs’ approach to bathroom breaks altogether to keep the peace. Is a shared love of bacon a strong enough foundation for this ordinary earth boy and extraordinary out-of-this-world canine to learn to live in harmony?



MY TIDBITS

A story of the forming friendship between a boy and a dog takes on a eye-brow-raising and spacy twist.

One night, visitors comes to Stephen's yard, the kind found in a spaceship. Their mission is simple: collect specimens and head home without being noticed. But Stephen does notice. Before he can step outside, the visitors are gone. Mostly. One was accidentally left behind. While this visitor might look quite a bit like a Dalmatian, it soon becomes clear that it is not...and not only because of its green and not black spots.

The science fiction direction adds a fun twist to this tale about friendship. Plus, the dog is very cute...although it, maybe, wouldn't agree. It begins with a night scene, where a flying saucer lands in the yard behind a white house. This brings smiles to the adult readers, as it does bring a sense of nostalgia. After that, this tale heads into friendship and alien fun. Not only do the green-spotted Dalmartians grab attention, but the Dalmartian's 'human' side brings many pokes of humor and surprises. Stephen and the Dalmartian need to find middle-ground as they discover more about each other and learn to balance with the world around them. It's a give and take with growing concern and respect, which forms a wonderful message surrounding friendship, acceptance, and sacrifice.

The illustrations carry this read almost more than the text and are well done. They add little details, which bring humor and also help strengthen the main message. Young listeners can flip through these and revisit the story on their own. The text flows well and stays short, when needed, or offers more to reflect the situations. There's never a boring moment, which makes this a lovely read-aloud for even more impatient audiences. Part of me hopes that there might be, at least, another adventure with these two to come.



And here she is...

Lucy Ruth Cummins is an author, illustrator, and art director of children’s books. She was happily paired with Jean Reidy for both Truman, which was named a New York Times Best Children’s Book of 2019, and Sylvie. She is also the author-illustrator of StumpkinVampenguinDalmartian: A Mars Rover’s StoryOur Pool, and A Hungry Lionor A Dwindling Assortment of Animals. Lucy has swum in creeks, streams, gorges, rivers, swimming holes, pools (above- and in-ground), lakes (both Great and Finger), decorative fountains, and oceans. Her very favorite place to swim, however, is at her community pool in Brooklyn with her sons and her neighbors.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Wildcat Behind Glass by Alki Zei

I've really been looking forward to today's read. It's set in Greece in the 1930's and takes a look at the country's switch from a democracy to a dictatorship and Fascism at that time. It was published originally in Greek in 1963, was translated once into English around 1968, and is finally getting another, fresh run in the English language. It has been published in many languages since then and has received many awards. Plus, it should weave fantasy along the border of reality, while diving deep into a difficult part of history. 

I do hope this one is as good as it seems to be because...well, who doesn't love a good read?



THE WILDCAT BEHIND GLASS
by Alki Zei
Translated by Karen Emmerich
Restless Books
Middle Grade Historical
240 pages
ages 8 to 12 (and older)


COMING...
MAY 21st!!!







After its original publication in Greece in 1963, and the 22 translations, 39 editions, and many awards that followed, Wildcat Under Glass remains a beloved children’s classic. This translation by Karen Emmerich is the first in more than 50 years and breathes new life into the timeless story. 

Wildcat under Glass follows a young girl and her family as they adapt to life on a Greek island during the 1930s under a Fascist regime. Melia and Myrto are two sisters from an Aegean island who enjoy listening to their grandfather’s tales and share a secret language. Yet, what they truly cherish are the fascinating accounts of the wildcat's adventures told by their cousin Nikos. The wildcat in question is a stuffed feline that resides in a glass cabinet in their living room, with a blue and a black glass eye, which Nikos tells them he alternates based on his mood. One summer day, their lives abruptly change, leaving them to wonder who could be behind the potential harm to their beloved wildcat. Melia’s perspective provides a unique and childlike outlook on the historical period, with a dialogue that balances playfulness and introspection. 

The book analyzes and explores social issues while maintaining a universal appeal that transcends time and place. Despite being a historical narrative, the account has a timeless quality that makes it relatable to readers from all backgrounds. Since its initial publication 61 years ago, the book continues to be recognized and loved by readers and critics alike. Wildcat Under Glass (Restless 2024) will be the second-ever English translation of the book from the Greek, and the first one since Edward Fenton’s translation in 1968. 

This iconic piece of Greek literature has stood the test of time and continues to be enjoyed by both new and old generations. Its significance has been recognized internationally, with multiple awards, including the 2007 Premio Andersen – Il mondo dell’infanzia (Italy) and the 1970 Mildred L. Batchelder Award (U.S.).



MY TIDBITS

This is one of those rare reads, which masterfully weaves emotions and thoughts using imagination and harsh reality to deliver a tale that transcends age and time. 

Melia can't wait until their cousin Nikos returns and continues his stories about the stuffed wildcat, which stands in a glass case in their living room. It was killed after swimming across the ocean from the mainland to their Greece island and has two, differently colored eyes, always showing only one according to its mood...according to the stories. This time, Myrto is exceptionally excited about Nikos arrival because life around them is getting a little strange. The adults whisper and gossip about the king, dictators, and possible unrest, and Myrto is told to watch what she says or her father might lose his job. When Niko arrives, he tells his stories and plays with Myrto and the rest like always...but something's changed. His tales no longer are fueled by fantasy but carry information about the world. When he speaks about a war in Spain and possibly leaving for good, Myrto knows something's not right, but that's nothing compared to the shift in the atmosphere of everyone around her. The king has declared dictatorship, and while life still continues, it's nothing like before.

Myrto is a very playful girl, who isn't sure what she thinks of school, enjoys spending time outside, gets impatient during 'adult' events, and looks forward to the annual return of her favorite cousin. Her relationship with her sister, relatives, neighbors, and those around her comes across naturally. She's easy to relate to, and the author does a wonderful job at keeping the entire read as if it truly is through her eyes, the eyes of a middle grader. While she does have an active imagination and loves to have fun, like every other kid that age, she also picks up on the adults' worries, concerns, and mumblings...but then, what kid doesn't? While she doesn't understand everything that is going on, she does see and feel the changes, which gives this read its true impact. It's innocent, holds humor and playfulness, and weaves in imagination to create a potent mix.

The messages and historical aspects head in a serious direction, and there are moments which hit with emotion and tug at the heart. There is more than a little food for thought, and plenty of aspects can be used for discussions and offer material for classroom settings. Not only does the book dive into the historical, political and cultural aspects, but even the literary side offers many gems. Especially the symbolism surrounding the wildcat is a treat.

 Most importantly, this is a fun read. The humor and imagination keep a light playfulness humming along while the harsher side pokes in the background. I'm going to be tossing this read into my homeschooling line-up for next year because it's one that shouldn't be missed.


As an extra bonus...

Since there is so much to enjoy in this read on so many levels, the publisher offers a discussion guide packet for free! Head on over to learn more:

https://restlessbooks.org/discussion-guides/wildcat-behind-glass


And here they are..

Alki Zei, born in Athens in 1923, studied philosophy at the University of Athens, drama at the Athens Conservatory, and screenwriting at the Moscow Cinema Institute. She got her start in publishing by writing YA short stories for the Greek magazine Neaniki Foni.


During the Second World War, she was actively involved in the struggle for freedom and democracy and against the German occupation of Greece. Because of it, she became a political refugee in the Soviet Union from 1954 to 1964. Three years later, she was exiled once again, but this time to Paris, France. From 1974 until her death in 2020, she lived in Athens.


Zei penned books for mostly children and YA audiences, but her unassuming and straightforward method of writing, along with her narrative skills, has allowed her work to be enjoyed by all ages. Her books Achille’s Fiancée, The Wildcat Behind Glass, and Petros’ War are among the best-sold titles in contemporary Greek literature. 


Besides being a prolific writer, she was also a translator of children's books from French, Italian, and Russian, and was the Greek translator of authors Gianni Rodari and Vera Panova.



Karen Emmerich is a translator of Modern Greek poetry and prose. Her translations include Rien ne va plus by Margarita Karapanou, Landscape with Dog and Other Stories by Ersi Sotiropoulos, I’d Like by Amanda Michalopoulou, Poems (1945–1971) by Miltos Sachtouris, and The Few Things I Know About Glafkos Thrassakis by Vassilis Vassilikos. She is the recipient of translation grants and awards from the NEA, PEN, and the Modern Greek Studies Association. Recently, Emmerich was awarded the 2019 National Translation Award for What’s Left of the Night by Ersi Sotiropoulos. She is an associate professor of comparative literature at Princeton University. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

God's Rainbow by The Bible Tells Me So Press




GOD'S RAINBOW
The real meaning of the rainbow!
by The Bible Tells Me So Press
Picture Book / Early Reader
ages 4 to 8

God's Rainbow is a delightful children's book which presents the truth in the Bible about the rainbow, and what the rainbow really means. This beautifully illustrated book is sure to spark a loving and meaningful family discussion about the wonders, beauty, and meaning of the rainbow! Because rainbows are bright and beautiful, they are claimed by many companies, clubs, and clauses, with each one trying to define what the rainbow means. But what does the rainbow really mean? The Bible gives us a clear answer to who made the rainbow and why. It shows us that the real meaning of the rainbow is as beautiful as the rainbow itself.

GOODREADS    /     AMAZON    /    PUBLISHER


MY TIDBITS

Lovely illustrations are accompanied by an easy-to-read text, perfect for beginning readers.

This book dives into rainbows. Beginning with a short, cheerful introduction into how interesting and beautiful rainbows are, these pages then explore the meaning of the rainbow as found in the Bible. While I thought this would head into the story of Noah, it doesn't outside of a quick glance. Instead, it takes a more general view and looks at what the rainbow means from a Christian point of view. It embraces care, love, and the important promise, and encourages readers to remember these things whenever they see one.

The text is short, carries a bit of a poetic flow, and is appropriate for beginning readers, who are fairly sure of their words. The illustrations are bright and colorful, radiating cheerfulness and joy with every page...but then, this atmosphere tends to accompany rainbows. It's a wholesome read with more than a few positive vibes, and doesn't feel overly preachy. 

It makes a nice read not only for those, who want to try reading on their own, but also works well as a read-aloud in a group setting.


More about the publisher...

The Bible Tells Me So has over 36 English books in print with many available in several other languages, including Spanish, Dutch, German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Italian. We are in the process of converting print to ebooks.

We also have over 500 songs and over 200 videos on our website www.TheBibleTellsMeSo.com. Please visit!

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Happy Book Birthday, Closet of Dreams by Mark Ukra and Tara Mesalik MacMahon!

It's happy book birthday time! As usual, I'm a little off...and screaming this one out 2 days in advance...but I do enjoy book releases. This one caught my attention due to the mix of baseball, a closet of dreams, and a boy facing several problems. First, books which take a sport direction seem to often be popular in the middle grade realm, and secondly, I have a sneaking suspicion that this one slides into a magical realism category, which is often fun.

Anyway, let's take a look and see if this one invites to wonderful fantasy or not. 


CLOSET OF DREAMS
by Mark Ukra & Tara Mesalik MacMahon
Illustrated by Donna Dyer
Booklogix
Middle Grade
220 pages
ages 8 to 12


COMING MARCH 26th!!!




Meet a nine-year-old boy named Child who has big dreams-so big, he's actually got a Closet of Dreams in his home! But Child's fears are really big too, and his path is lined with curve balls, especially those spun by class bully, Eddie.

Follow along with Child's adventures as he discovers the secret powers of his Closet of Dreams and of his incredible animal friends from Kids Park-Ele the elephant, Sister Sue the hippo, and Clarence the bear-all under the guiding paw of Hilda the dachshund. You might just be in for a surprise!


GOODREADS   /   AMAZON   /   B&N


MY TIDBITS

Using the playful border between reality and imagination, this is a fun with meaningful moments.

Child has a lot to deal with, especially thanks to a bully at school, who believes he ratted him out to the principal. Child does his best to avoid the boy, which works sometimes better than others. Child does enjoy living with his Gamma, where he helps her take care of retired zoo animals at the park. But it's a simple life, and they only have enough money because Gamma's work allows them to live in a basement for free. To escape everything, Child plays in the closet, where Gamma stores all sorts of wonderful things, including a baseball jersey which reflects his own baseball dreams. 

While this is sold as a middle grade novel, the plot and text ease it into a category, where well-versed chapter book readers will even feel comfortable picking it up. The plot is straight-forward and the vocabulary works well for the lower end of the middle grade audience. Older middle graders might find it a bit too simple. While the two hundred pages might seem daunting for this level, it's a quick, easy read with short chapters, easy sentences, and enjoyable illustrations sprinkled in. The pacing stays steady, as well, and the plot moves right along.

Child is an easy character to identify with. His worries and thoughts steer around a school bully and desire to, maybe, play baseball. He deals with the situations in a wholesome way, but then, also has the wonderful support of his Gamma. The retired circus animals add a lovely twist, especially since some of them still don aspects of their circus costumes. While this part of the tale begins with both feet in reality, it slowly shifts with Child's imagination until the animals take on a more fantastical role. 

When I read this, I couldn't help but remember the movie Field of Dreams, although this book has very little in common with it. Still, the dream of baseball, facing difficult circumstances, and having a fantastical team (in this case, the animals) create a read full of goodness. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Keeping Pace by Laurie Morrison

 

KEEPING PACE
If Winning Isn't Everything... Then What Is?
by Laurie Morrison
Amulet Books
Middle Grade Contemporary
304 pages
ages 8 to 12

COMING...
APRIL 9th!!!


Laurie Morrison’s Keeping Pace is a poignant middle-grade novel about friends-turned-rivals training for a half-marathon—and rethinking what it means to win and what they mean to each other.

Grace has been working for years to beat her former friend Jonah Perkins’s GPA so she can be named top scholar of the eighth grade. But when Jonah beats her for the title, it feels like none of Grace’s academic accomplishments have really mattered. They weren’t enough to win—or to impress her dad. And then the wide, empty summer looms. With nothing planned and no more goals or checklists, she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be working toward.

Eager for something to occupy her days, Grace signs up for a half-marathon race that she and Jonah used to talk about running together. Jonah’s running it, too. Maybe if she can beat Jonah on race day, she’ll feel OK again. But as she begins training with Jonah and checking off a new list of summer goals, she starts to question what—and who—really matters to her. Is winning at all costs really worth it?

Engaging and heartfelt, Keeping Pace is about wanting to win at all costs—and having to learn how to fail.




MY TIDBITS


Grace is determined to beat Jonah and become the top scholar of the eighth grade, but unexpected, tiny incidents throw her out of her groove, and she loses to him. Again. It's an on-going competition between the two, and Grace is determined to beat him at something. When her best friend creates a summer-to-do-list for her, Grace makes sure to add the half-marathon to her list. After all, Jonah is taking part and this might just be her chance to prove she can beat him at something. Despite determination and a solid work-out plan, other things keep popping up to make Grace's life more challenging, including a baby-sitting job for her father's latest girlfriend's son. As she struggles to keep everything going, she's also discovering more about her own desires and emotions...and it might mean that what she's fighting for isn't really what she wants after all. 

The interactions between Grace, her friends, her family, and those around her come across extremely natural, making this an easy story to sink into. The dialogue flows with the finesse of usual conversation and lets the personalities shine through. There are ups and downs, heart-warming moments and clashes. Many of these will come across as familiar to readers and create situations they can sympathize with. Add Grace's determination and good moral compass, and she's a character to identify with and root for.

While Grace's desire to defeat Jonah drives the main plot, it's more like icing on a thicker cake as the subplots weave in more difficult themes. Grace's desire to win isn't simple and might hang more on her parents' divorce a couple years before. Her problems steering between two parents' lives will hit home with many readers, and the toss-in of baby-sitting the girlfriend's child adds a difficult twist, while offering new insights Grace needs. There are also things to be worked out between relatives and friends, but all of this includes wholesome moments and lots of growth. So, there are many great messages packed into this read. And there's a hint of romance, which will delight as well. 

The only weakness I found...and it's more of a personal opinion than a true weakness...is in the message of not being defined by your accomplishments. Grace hears this message over and over again, especially in connection to her grades. It hits strongly and while it is important to realize reaching high goals isn't everything, it almost undermines the idea that it's still important to try and give the effort. But as said, that's just me and it's still a very lovely read.

All in all, I found this to be a wonderful and extremely well done read, and believe it will connect with quite a few readers in a valuable way.

Friday, March 22, 2024

The Thingamajig by Rilla Alexander

 It was the title on today's read, which had me smiling. I've been known to 'forget' words and names on a daily basis and do tend to grab whatever term I can in a pinch. They say that the more kids a person has, the more that person forgets...which is probably true but only because there are that many more things to remember. So, this book caught my interest.

I'm not sure if it will be too simple or not...or even what to expect...but off we go!

Note: I'm just going to shove this one onto my possible favorites of the year list because it is super cute.




THE THINGAMAJIG
by Rilla Alexander
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book
48 pages
ages 4 to 8

COMING MARCH 26th!!!

A young elephant is on the case to find the miscellaneous objects their animal neighbors have lost in this playful and whimsical humdinger of a picture book.

Little elephant’s parent can’t quite remember the name of the thing they’ve lost, but they need it back! While on the hunt for the misplaced thingamajig, little elephant discovers other animals are missing things as well. Snail’s hoo-pull-dee-pewp for staying safe from the sun has disappeared. So has squirrel’s shis-moo for carrying acorns. And all the ladybugs are missing the ha-bee ja-bee they use for a table.

Is there a thief on the loose—or is there a simpler explanation for where all these different doohickeys have gone? Backmatter pages explain the around-the-world origins of each nonsense word appearing in the story.



MY TIDBITS

Giggles are sure to accompany this ever-growing adventure, while bringing a few new terms along the way.

It's gone! Little elephant is off on the search for this much needed object...if only he new the name. During his search, he meets many friends and asks for their help, but they're each on the search for something, too. Too bad, they can't remember the name of their objects, either. The clever frog realizes that these missing somethings can only mean one thing—a thief is in their midst. Now, they just have to figure out who it is and where their objects have gone.

From the very first page, the reader is drawn in to elephant's search and will hope that he finds whatever it is he's looking for. The mystery mounts with each met friend and their missing object, but it's the humor which takes over. Each character uses a different term for their missing object: thingamajig, ha-bee-ja-bee, etc. But it's the building list of these, which is repeated, that brings giggles and smiles. Then, comes the frog, who seems to be on the right track as he collects more detailed descriptions...which rolls right into more silliness.

The illustrations are simple, bright, and just right to let the tale hit with cuteness and humor. Each creature is easy to identify and carries personality. The atmosphere is always cheerful and the images invite to later flipping and viewing on their own.

The text is written in various fonts and flows well. It is kept short but gives enough to make it clear what is happening. Thanks to the growing list of fun words, this also increases in length at times, and these do add a silly twist while reading it aloud. These words gain even more meaning by the end of the read, where the author reveals that each term comes from a different language. The characters and terms are then identified with the originating language, which adds an educational direction, too.

It's a fun read, will have readers smiling, and even holds a wholesome message at the end. Add the educational value, and it's a treat.



And here she is...

Rilla Alexander is an Australian designer, illustrator, and artist whose work has appeared on everything from toys and teacups to buses and buildings. She explores creativity, ideas, and language through simple characters, graphic forms, and bold colors, inspiring both children and adults through books and workshops. Her picture books include The Best Book in the World, Your Rule!, Her IdeaThe New Rooster, and The Thingamajig. For more information, visit ByRilla.com.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

One Day This Tree Will Fall by Leslie Barnard Booth

Anyone else enjoying the beginning of Spring growth? We do have a few nights still, which hit pretty hard (26 degrees), but in general, things are warming up and blossoms are popping up here and there. I've already planted my first seeds and have seedlings growing in the living room window. So, today's read seems to hit with perfect timing. This one does appear on the shelves early next week, which might work great for themes surrounding nature and more....

Or I hope so. Honestly, I don't even know quite what this one is about (I just glanced over the blurb). Guess it's time to dive in and find out!



ONE DAY THIS TREE WILL FALL
by Leslie Barnard Booth
Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

COMING MARCH 26th!!!


Discover how a tree’s wounds and decay bring new life to the forest ecosystem in this lyrical nonfiction picture book for fans of Because of an Acorn and A Stone Sat Still.

When a tree falls, is its story over?

There are many ways a tree’s story could Gobbled up by a bird as a tiny seed. Damaged by wind or ice or fire. Chopped down and hauled away. But some trees—this tree—survives. And grows old. Riddled with scars, cracks, and crevices, it becomes a place creatures large and small call home.

One day, after standing tall for centuries, this tree will fall. But even then, is its story over? Or will it continue to nurture the forest and its creatures for many years to come? Complete with additional information about the role trees play in a forest ecosystem, this sweeping story invites readers of all ages to celebrate the incredible life cycle and afterlife of trees.





MY TIDBITS

The wonder of the cycle of life comes across in a heart-warming and touching way.

While beginning with the lovely illustration of a tree, which is decaying and about to fall, the tale immediately switches to when the seed of that tree first found root. Page by page, the tree grows and matures, but life isn't as calm and monotone as might first appear. Yet, every hurdle opens the door to more life and change...even at the very end.

With a poetic atmosphere, this read illustrates the path a tree takes from the first seed to the last, rotting moments on the ground. While this might seem like a straight forward process, the author and illustrator go beyond the general stages of growth and, instead, visit the various challenges and situations a tree comes up against. Changing weather, fires, and even human activities create changes, which affect the surrounding environment and the tree's ability to thrive. This is balanced out with the wonder of life as the tree meets each moment and continues to mature. Each stage offers new surprises, making this a positive read through-and-through.

The text is kept short and hits the intended audience level nicely. The short phrases accompany the beautiful illustrations and bring an almost poetic atmosphere, while stating only enough to keep the events clear. It creates a calming read-aloud and balances with the illustrations, allowing them to give the right impact with each scene. 

The continuous cycle of life comes across nicely and leaves with a sense of respect and hope. This read works not only as a lovely read for those quieter moments but can be used in conjunction with a fitting theme in a group or classroom setting.



And here they are...

Leslie Barnard Booth is the author of A Stone Is a Story and One Day This Tree Will Fall. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest, attended Pomona College and later earned an MFA in creative writing and an MS in education from the University of Oregon. Leslie lives in Portland, Oregon, and loves exploring the natural world with her family. Visit her at LeslieBarnardBooth.com.

Stephanie Fizer Coleman is an illustrator with a penchant for playful color and rich texture. She is the illustrator of many books, including Five Flying PenguinsBird Count, and Time to Fly. Stephanie grew up in a rural area, so it’s no surprise that furry and feathered creatures are her favorite subjects to draw. When she’s not drawing, Steph can be found sipping tea and reading books. She lives in West Virginia with her husband and two dogs. Learn more at StephanieFizerColeman.com.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Today's read... Pages of Doom by Jeff Szpirglas

Grab those blankets and flashlights because today's read heads into the realm of spooky tales and horror. This is the second in a series, and no, I didn't read the first one. I'm not sure what to expect in this read because while it holds a main story, according to the blurb, it seems to add others as well?

I'm just going to settle down into my comfy chair and find out.



PAGES OF DOOM
Book of Screams #2
by Jeff Szpirglas
Illustrated by Andrew P. Barr
Orca Book Publishers
Middle Grade Horror
192 pages
ages 8 to 12

COMING...
SEPTEMBER 17th!



Middle grader Tanya has managed to stop famed horror writer Joel Southland from stealing people's nightmares for his books.

The malevolent, sentient ink that had been the source of all his powers and successes now belongs to Tanya. But the ink—which feeds on nightmares—is growing hungrier and hungrier. It urges Tanya to plunder the dreams of others so it can feed.

Among Tanya's struggles to outwit the ink are eleven other creepy tales representing the dreams and nightmares of other characters in the book. From tales of dentists who are actually giant alien insects in disguise to a kid spotting a tombstone with his own name and death date, these stories are sure to thrill and chill.




MY TIDBITS

Scary stories meld with haunting nightmares as tales weave within a tale and form a chilling tomb from beginning to end.

Tanya might have stopped the evil ink from feeding on nightmares and gaining more power, but now, it's in her hands. And it's hungry. It's persuasion grows stronger by the day, and Tanya won't be able to keep control of it for long. Hoping to buy enough time to come up with a plan, she lets it feed little by little, but the ink isn't easily fooled. 

I didn't read the first book in this series, Book of Screams, but had absolutely no problem sinking right into this read. The book begins with a couple of short, horror stories before sinking into the over-reaching plot of Tanya and the evil ink. There's enough backstory dribbled in while Tanya considers her possibilities to understand the danger the ink poses and the impossibility (and danger) of her task. The tension stays high while she steers through school and those around her, but that's not the part of the book which really makes it shine. 

This is more a collection of horror stories, which range from scary to chilling to spooky and more. Each tale carries a very different direction and holds pretty unexpected endings. These are short, usually only a half-dozen pages or so, and end on the chilling moment. Every two or so tales, Tanya's over-arcing one comes in. This main tale holds slightly longer chapters and continue where the last one left off. So, a back and forth is formed, which keeps everything very loosely tied together and yet apart. It's a clever mix.

The artwork is well-done and adds a nice touch of scare and quirk, a bit like Goosebumps. It didn't take long to realize that the illustrations appear shortly before the story ends... a bit like a warning to the reader to get ready for the grab. 

While this book can be read in one sitting, it works very well for smaller reading bursts thanks to the short story set-up. Each tale is very original and holds on its own, making this great for reluctant readers as well. Spooky fans will enjoy the variety and mix, and be able to come back and visit their favorites time and again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Today's read... Bubba and Squirt's Shield of Athena by Sherry Ellis

Today's read is the latest in a series from a very talented author friend. So far, this series has melded humor with history with culture with action with magic... Yes, it's packed with all sorts of goodness, and the author has pulled it off well. So far. I'm assuming this one won't be any different. 

One of my favorite things about this series is the cultural and historical mix. Little facts are usually sprinkled in and built into the plot in such a way that readers learn without leaving the adventure. I have recommended this series to homeschoolers in the past, since it does give a nice extra on that front. 

Anyway, lets dive in and see if this latest adventure holds as much reading fun as the rest of the series...because I hear whispers that things are heating up for this duo fast.



BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S SHIELD OF ATHENA
by Sherry Ellis
Dancing Lemur Press
Middle Grade Fantasy
114 pages
ages 8 to 12


COMING...
MAY 7th!!!


A Greek Goddess and a Mythical Monster! When Bubba and Squirt travel through the mysterious vortex on a quest to save their father, they end up in Athens, Greece where they meet an old woman known as the Oracle of Delphi. Her intriguing riddles set them on a path that leads to the Netherworld, a place where danger lurks around every corner. With the help of their new friends and some unlikely allies, they must defeat the monster that holds their father captive. Will they succeed or be trapped forever in the labyrinth of the Netherworld?



MY TIDBITS

With high-stakes and a race against the clock, this latest edition to the Bubba and Squirt series packs excitement, danger, and a touch of history.

Bubba and Squirt are running out of time if they hope to save their father but aren't sure what to do next. Luckily, their Grandfather has an idea and leads them to a festival, where they learn about the shield of Athena. After portaling to Greece, an oracle reveals her visions, which hold clues on how to complete the quest. These aren't only difficult to encipher, but every step of the way, the danger grows.

This is the fourth book in the series, and while the author does give a quick skim of information to help readers settle back in (and this works wonderfully), it is better to read this as a series. We meet Bubba and Squirt where they left off in the previous tale. They need to figure out how to save their father. The tension and concern hit with the very first page and set the atmosphere for the rest of the read. Bubba and Squirt are running out of time, and that stays evident the entire way through. Still, the author doesn't forget to build in the historical goodness, which gives this read its special twist.

It's off to Greece in these pages and that doesn't happen without a bit of cultural and historical information throw in. There are quick facts and explanations dropped in during the tale. These are kept very concise and short so as not to cause any stumbles during the fast-paced plot, but at the end of the book, the main aspects are revisited with a little more information for learning purposes. The world building is also kept to a minimum, allowing the action and characters to drive the adventure forward. Still, small details are dribbled in seamlessly with the action and humor to allow readers to gain a little more insight on the foreign setting and culture. The author makes sure to weave in characters, who accompany Bubba and Squirt, and let a bit more insight on the country slide in naturally as they face one situation after the next.

And let's not forget the dusting of magic. Bubba and Squirt are still figuring out how that all works in as well.

This is a lovely read, especially for the younger end of the middle grade audience. The text fits well to those who have edged out of younger chapter books and are ready for more advanced reads...but aren't quite ready to grab up a thick novel, yet. The chapters are kept short, the action propels from one page to the next, and the sentences don't over-string into huge length. Even reluctant readers won't shy away from this one.

After this exciting read, it's clear that there's more to come, and it will be fun to see where Bubba and Squirt head next.

 

And here she is...

Sherry Ellis is an award-winning children's author and freelance writer. Her published books include Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China, Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure, That Baby Woke Me Up AGAIN, That Mama is a Grouch, Ten Zany Birds, and Don't Feed the Elephant. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

In addition to being a writer, Sherry is also a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano. She also enjoys hiking, bike riding, and SCUBA diving.