Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Who Wants to Be a Princess?

Who Wants to Be a Princess?: What It Was Really Like to Be a Medieval Princess
By Bridget Heos
Henry Holt and Co., 2017. Picture book.

Have you ever dreamed of being a princess and frolicking through the forest with your animal friends while wearing a pink, frilly dress? Well, the real truth of being a medieval princess was quite different. Dresses were itchy wool and castles were damp, dark, and smelly. But there was also horseback riding, archery, and language lessons to look forward to.

Join Princess Beatrice in this funny, upbeat comparison between a fairytale princess’s life and a real historical princess’s life. Beatrice’s day might not be as glamorous, but it certainly is fascinating!

Monday, June 26, 2017


The Music of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori & the Invention of the Piano
By Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. Biographical Picture Book.

This book fascinated me. I had no idea how the piano was invented. It turns out that there was a brilliant man with a job title that told the world just how gifted he was (the job title of “Master Instrument Maker and Tuner”). This man was Bartolomeo Cristofori. Apparently before the piano was invented people could play a harpsichord and play loudly (or forte) or they could play the clavichord and play softly (or pianissimo). Musicians couldn’t do both. So Cristofori went about experimenting and inventing something he called the new instrument (that could play both loud and soft notes) the pianoforte (piano=soft; forte=loud). And with this invention musicians all over the world started creating new melodies that could handle all sorts of different dynamics. I liked how this book was a story that had little facts thrown in on the side (like the different names for musical dynamics or extra quotes and bits about Cristofori’s life). And seeing how most people around the world have heard of or have played (or banged the keys of) one of these instruments—it is great to know about the person who invented it. And it turns out he was a pretty neat inventor.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Lexie the Word Wrangler

Lexie the Word Wranger
Written by Rebecca Van Slyke
Illustrated by Jessie Hartland
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017. Picture Book.

Lexie is a true cowgirl who takes her duties seriously. She spends her days solving word problems around her ranch. One day she discovers there is a word rustler who is going about causing word troubles. She sets out to solve the mystery of what is happening and who is mixing up all the words. Lexie ends up finding a way to give the word wrangler a second chance to solve problems instead of create them.

The text reads with a slight southern accent, which creates a fun experience of being part of the illustrations and experiences on the ranch. Van Slyke presents a positive message about hope and seeing the best in others. Lexie is a strong female character with perseverance. There is also an opportunity to learn about compound words, letter arrangement, and spelling. It is a great read for children just learning to read and spell. Vocabulary specific to the Lexie's ranching world is throughout with a dictionary in the back of all the new words introduced.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

DISPLAY: Tess Hilmo

Tess Hilmo grew up in Southern California and graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in communications. She started writing when she was pregnant with her second child, and her first book was published twelve years later. That book, With a Name Like Love, earned a Kirkus starred review and other honors. Tess is now the mother of three children.

By Tess Hilmo

While visiting her eccentric aunt who lives in Wyoming, twelve-year-old Jade befriends a boy who believes he is a descendant of Butch Cassidy.

By Tess Hilmo

Thirteen-year-old Olivene Love gets tangled up in a murder mystery when her itinerant preaching family arrives in the small town of Binder, Arkansas in 1957.

By Tess Hilmo

Historical fiction about two siblings and a friend trying to find a new family and a home after the Great Chicago Fire.

CHARACTER COUNTS: Snail & Worm Again

Snail & Worm Again
By Tina Kugler
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. Easy Reader.

Snail & Worm are two very silly and very supportive best friends who are back at it again with this sequel to SNAIL & WORM. What these two friends lack in brains, they more than make up for in heart in three new short stories.

Snail & Worm are destined to become popular among their readers for their sweet stories that are humorous enough to even make grown-ups chuckle (no, really). Plus, the illustrations even manage to make snails, worms, and beetles look super cute - not an easy thing to do. This is a great pick for an Easy Reader on the easiest side.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Save Me a Seat
By Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Scholastic, 2016. Fiction. 2016 p.
In India, Ravi was the top student and the best a cricket.  Now on the first day in his new school in the United States, he finds that he is no longer a star. At his old school he would have never associated with a kid like Joe, who is big and awkward, and has a learning disability.  Now the two boys find themselves thrown together in the same remedial class, united because they are both victims of the same bully and in need of a friend.

The chapters in the book alternate between Ravi's and Joe's point of view and are written by Varadarajan and Weeks respectively.  Both authors make their characters totally believable and sympathetic, and help the reader understand their different challenges.  This is a heartwarming read for those who like the books of R. J. Palacio and Lisa Graff.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter

 CHARACTER COUNTS: Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter

By Eugenie Doyle
Chronicle Books, 2016. Picture book.

What happens on a real family farm in winter? This picture book shows how one family gathers the last of the harvest, cuts back berry canes, covers fragile strawberry plants with straw, and gets their chickens snug before cold weather. They remember the good memories each plant or animal gave them and look forward to the promise of spring.

The author and her family operate The Last Resort Farm in Vermont, and so the details in this book are specific and accurate and are very enlightening as to how a real, modern-day farm runs. The pastoral scenes are beautiful and restful. This is a great choice for a simple bedtime book or a more in-depth first look at where our food comes from.

Monday, June 19, 2017


Real Friends
By Shannon Hale
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
First Second, Roaring Brook Press, 2017. Graphic Novel, 207 p.

This is a graphic novel memoire that explores the friendship (both the good and the bullies) that young Shannon had while in elementary school. Plus it show some of the complexities with Shannon’s relationship to her family—especially her sister. This book is a great conversation starter for young readers who are navigating their own friendships and relationships with siblings. Also, it shows how being a friend, not just being popular, is important. Basically, this is a great place to start a discussion about what makes a person good and kind verses what tendencies make people mean or bullies. And let’s face it, pretty much everyone has to figure out these character traits in their friends at one point or another.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

CHARACTER COUNTS: Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
Written By F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell
Illustrated by Rafael López
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Picture Book. 2016.

This book is based on the true story of a neighborhood in San Diego, California. The illustrator, Rafael López , took the initiative to bring together an entire neighborhood in a creative process to brighten up his community.  It is truly inspiring the efforts and lengths he went to. He gathered people from different experiences and backgrounds to collaborate together.

The picture book begins with grayed hues and gradually bright, beautiful colors and illustrations transform the story. I imagine the community being transformed the exact same way. I became a part of their cause and almost felt paint splatters on my own face and arms. I was left wanting to visit San Diego to see the beautiful neighborhood I imagined with the help of the illustrations.

Anyone can take steps to change the world around them! It can be pulling people together in your own community to paint beautiful surroundings for everyone to enjoy just as the neighborhood in this story.

Friday, June 16, 2017


The Inn Between
by Marina Cohen
Roaring Brook Press, 2016.
Fiction, 198 p.

Quinn and Kara, BFFs since kindergarten, are taking a last road trip together as Kara's family moves to California. Both girls are devastated: Quinn is worried about being left alone, and Kara is worried about Quinn's increasingly erratic behavior. As a mark of forever friendship, the girls tie their thread bracelets together for most of the trip, an action that binds them together through the very worst.

Somewhere in the dark, empty Nevada desert, Kara's sleepy father declares that's it's time for a rest. The family stops at the strangely elaborate Inn Between, whose slogan is "We've Been Expecting You." The inn is old fashioned but gorgeous and the family plans to stay a couple days; unfortunately, it only takes one night for strange things to start happening... and for people to start disappearing.

This book focuses on the power of love, forgiveness, family, and eternal friendship.