Friday, May 27, 2016

Grumpy Pants

Grumpy Pants
By Claire Messer
Albert Whitman & Company, 2016.

A penguin comes in from out in the rain. This penguin is grumpy! He takes off his “grumpy” clothes from his coat to his underwear (that children will laugh about…especially because the “grumpy” underwear has hearts on them). But still the penguin is grumpy. Finally there is something that helps penguin feel better.

Children who have been grumpy will relate to penguin and how sometimes it is hard to stop being grumpy. Grownups who read books with kiddos will be happy to have a book that offers a suggestion to being grumpy—or at the very least a way to talk about how being grumpy is a feeling that will eventually pass. The illustrations are uncluttered and have about 5 or so colors that make readers pay attention to each bold detail. This will be a great story to read before bed or at a story time or in another large group. (And I particularly enjoyed the extra little details that are for adults! For example, take a look at what is written on the washing machine.) This book is fun for little ones who tend to get grumpy every now and again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Display: Books with Great Fathers

In honor of Father's Day here is a display of books with great father characters.

By Mary Ingalls Wilder
HarperTrophy, 1933. Fiction. 372 p.
Nine-year-old Almanzo lives with his family on a big farm in New York State at the end of the nineteenth century. He raises his own two calves, helps cut ice and shear sheep, and longs for the day he can have his own colt.

By L. M. Montgomery
Children’s Classics, 1908. Fiction. 240 p.
Anne, an eleven-year-old orphan, is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister on a Prince Edward Island farm and proceeds to make an indelible impression on everyone around her.

By Ralph Moody
University of Nebraska Press, 1950. Biography. 260 p.
The Moody family moves from New Hampshire to a Colorado ranch. Experience the pleasures and perils of ranching in 20th Century America, through the eyes of a youngster.

By Alexander Kwame
Houghton Mifflin, 2014. Newbery. 237 p.
Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.

By Pam Muños Ryan
Scholastic Press, 2015. Fiction. 585 p.
Lost in the Black Forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and finds himself entwined in a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica--and decades later three children, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California find themselves caught up in the same thread of destiny in the darkest days of the twentieth century, struggling to keep their families intact, and tied together by the music of the same harmonica.

By Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic, 2007. Fiction. 341 p.
In 1859, eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman, the first free-born child in Buxton, Canada, which is a haven for slaves fleeing the American south, uses his wits and skills to try to bring to justice the lying preacher who has stolen money that was to be used to buy a family's freedom.

By R.J. Palacio
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Fiction. 315 p. 
Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.

By Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 2013. Fiction. 229 p.
Seven-year-old Billy Miller starts second grade with a bump on his head and a lot of worries, but by the end of the year he has developed good relationships with his teacher, his little sister, and his parents and learned many important lessons.

By Jeanne Birdsall
Random House, 2005. Fiction. 262 p.
While vacationing with their widowed father in the Berkshire Mountains, four lovable sisters, ages four through twelve, share adventures with a local boy, much to the dismay of his snobbish mother.

By Sarah Weeks
Scholastic Press, 2012. Fiction. 152 p.
When she suspects that her father has a girlfriend, Melody and her best friend are determined to figure out who it is and why it is a secret.

By Beverly Cleary
Harper Trophy, 2006. 165 p.
The family routine is upset during Ramona's year in second grade when her father unexpectedly loses his job.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Clark in the Deep Sea

Clark in the Deep Sea
By R. W. Alley
Clarion Books, 2016. Picture book.

On a rainy spring day, Clark and his three siblings are entertaining themselves quietly on the porch. But when Gretchen’s stuffed bear falls off the steps, the soggy backyard becomes an ocean and Clark embarks on a rescue mission. Facing dangers such as the hungry Fur-Shark (the family dog) and the Million-Mile Eel (the garden hose), Clark will need all his daring and a little help from his brother and sister to save poor Bear.

Written and illustrated by the veteran illustrator of the Paddington Bear books, this is a sweet and simple story about the power of imagination and the warmth of sibling companionship. The change from the light pastels of the porch scenes to the vivid colors of the imaginary ocean scenes adds some nice differentiation and drama. Watch for two new books about Clark’s siblings coming out in the fall of 2016.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party

Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party
by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
Candlewick Press, 2015. Intermediate Chapter Book.

The superhero Princess in Black is at it again protecting her kingdom from monsters big and small. Under her secret identity, Princess Magnolia, she decides to throw herself the perfect birthday party. But just as all her guests begin to arrive, the monster alarm goes off. Princess Magnolia must figure out how to sneak away and stop the monsters without anyone being the wiser that she is actually the Princess in Black. Unfortunately, that's a little  difficult to do when you are both the birthday girl and the party host. Especially when the monsters just keep coming. Will Princess Magnolia's secret be discovered? Read this fabulous book to find out.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America

Gordan Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America
By Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Albert Whitman & Company, 2015. Biography.

While growing up, Gordon was told by his white teachers that all he and other African Americans would do when they grew up was be porters and waiters. As a 14-year-old, Gordon did become a waiter--until at the age of 25 he was inspired to purchase a used camera and taught himself to take on shooting portraits and fashion. A model encouraged him to take his talent to the city, where he won a chance to be a government photographer. Determined to use his lens to showcase racism, he chronicled a day in the life of a cleaning woman who worked in his building, capturing the famous photo “American Gothic”. He became a renaissance man whose photography not only made it in Vogue and Life magazine but also wrote novels and poetry, composed music, and made movies. Further information about Gordon can be found at the back of the book along with a sampling of his photography.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Woof: A Bowser and Birdie Novel
Written by Spencer Quinn
Read by James Frangione
Scholastic Press, 2015. 293 pgs or 7 hrs.

In review a of Woof, Stephen King said that "Spencer Quinn speaks two languagessuspense and dogfluently." 

This is a story best told by a dog, and there's no dog better to tell it than Bowser, the city mutt who finds a new home in the Louisiana swamp with 11-yr-old Birdie. The day that Birdie saves Bowser from the the local shelter happens to be the same day that her grammy's prize stuffed marlin is stolen from their small bait and tackle store. The theft sets off a chain of events that turn the fun-loving duo into a pair of amateur sleuths, ultimately confronting a crime much bigger than a stolen fish. 

Quinn will have you falling in love with Bowser's loyalty, optimism, and short attention span. If we could hear the thoughts of dogs, I'm pretty sure they'd sound a lot like Bowser. This book frequently caught me off guard, causing me to burst out laughing at Bowser's happy confusion, related in a sincere and straightforward manner that I couldn't help but adore. I usually like to read rather than listen to my books, but this is a great story to digest in audio version. James Frangione brings Bowser's personality to life more successfully than I ever could on my own. 

The Slowest Book Ever

The Slowest Book Ever
By April Pulley Sayre
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Boyds Mills Press, An Imprint of Highlights, 2016. 174 p.

This is a book to read SLOWLY. Meaning that there are loads of little tidbits of information about slow things (slow animals, slow plants, slow thoughts on space, etc.) that you don’t want to rush through. Because if you did rush to read this book, you might miss something! But even though readers might want to read the information in a leisurely manner, there is so much mind-boggling facts to learn that readers most likely won’t read this book slowly. And those reluctant readers out there who love reading books where you can read bits and pieces of chapters and skip chapters you aren’t interested in, this is a great choice. And Sayre is quite humorous. There I was reading along and suddenly I found myself chuckling about true facts—which of course made this read all the more enjoyable. My only complaint is that there just wasn’t enough information about sloths. They are mentioned, but I just enjoy reading about that particular species so much that I wish there were more information on sloths. So, if there are any non-fiction fans out there, this just might be the next book for them.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Violet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale

Violet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale
Written by Alice Kuipers
Illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Little, Brown and Company, 2016. Picture Book.

Violet wants to write a wonderful fairy tale but Victor, who would rather discuss Australian animals, is not in the mood. Eventually, Victor takes a turn writing and the story begins to head in a different direction of which Violet does not approve. The twins begin to alternate turns of adding and changing the story until they finally work together to create a fabulous fairy tale.

This sequel to Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book is simple yet captures sibling relationships well. The illustrations combine pencil drawings and real collages and create a work-in-progress feel to the story. As the twins alternate who is writing the story, two distinct colors are used to indicate which twin is writing. Although younger children might struggle to follow who is speaking or writing, children will enjoy the twists and turns the twins add to the story.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

Cover image for From the notebooks of a middle school princess

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
by Meg Cabot
Feiwell and Friends, 2015. Fiction. 182 p.
Olivia is average girl going to an ordinary private school.  She lives with her aunt and uncle, but she corresponds with her widowed father regularly.  One day she is accosted by the "popular girl" who claims Olivia is a princess.  That is ridiculous, of course.  How could plain, ordinary, Olivia be the half-sister of one of the most famous princesses alive?

This is a darling new series for younger readers by the writer of the successful Princess Diaries series. Olivia is an appealing character who learns, like her big sister, that being a princess is more than wearing fancy dresses and living in a castle.  The book has several black and white illustrations, some of which are by the author, who, like Olivia, likes to draw animals.  This book is available from the library in print, on CD, as an ebook and e-audiobook download.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Lonely Ones

The Lonely Ones
By Kelsey Sutton
Philomel Books, 2016. Fiction. 240p.

“I want to inform them
 that I am not silent
because I have nothing to say.

 I am silent
because nobody is listening.”

Fain misses the days when she felt close to her siblings, when her parents weren’t stressed and arguing about her father’s unemployment, and when peers at school didn’t have complicated ulterior motives. As her loneliness grows, Fain spends more and more of her time writing the fantastical stories that she loves. During the night, her fantasy world comes to life and she lives for the adventures she will go on with her monsters and imaginary creatures. But as new people at school seek to befriend her and loyalties between her siblings are tested, Fain must decide if she will stay hidden in her fantasy world or if she will embrace the messy vulnerability of real relationships.

This novel in free verse is a very quick read but has a lot of depth, sensitivity, and emotional truth. A realistic but hopeful story about growing up, family problems, and the loneliness that can be felt even within a crowd. Fain’s search for the balance between the comforts of escaping into imaginary worlds and the self-respect and connection that comes from reaching out to others and pushing through emotional hurt is brilliantly done.