Thursday, November 15, 2018

SERIES THURSDAY: Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare and Ivy + Bean: One Big Happy Family


It’s mayhem at the science fair! A squishy goo monster is a challenge for the Princess in Black — but luckily some science-loving princesses are on hand to help.

Princess Magnolia is excited. Excited and nervous. She’s going to the Interkingdom Science Fair today to present her poster about seeds and plants, and when she arrives, she sees that her friends are there too! Princess Honeysuckle made a mole habitat, Princess Sneezewort has built a blanket fort, and Tommy Wigtower has a talking volcano that’s saying “EAAAAT!” Wait, what? A surprise goo monster makes this a job for the Princess in Black, and the Princess in Blankets is on the scene to lend a hand. But will two masked heroes be enough to save the science fair? A little scientific problem-solving — and a lot of princess power — will make the sixth entry in the New York Times best-selling series a smash hit.


Another winning title for Shannon and Dean Hale.  The Princess in Black series is one of the most popular in my school library.  I also adore them.  It's great to have a series to hand girls who love princesses that has the princesses in the heart of the action and not waiting around to be rescued.  This book takes it a step further by having the princesses all participating in a science fair. Princess Magnolia is worried that her project, a poster of seed development, isn't going to be good enough, and she has reason to worry.  The other projects are fantastic.  But there seems to be something going on with Tommy Wigtower's volcano.  It's inhabited by a Goo Monster who thinks it's his home.  Soon the Princess in Black and the Princess in Blankets are required to help contain the monster and his unquenching desire for home.  In fact, it may take all the princesses to wrestle this monster.  But what should they do with him?  Another delightful tale of adventure and daring do, beautifully illustrated once-again by LeUyen Pham.


Ivy's worried. She's read a lot of books about only children, so she knows that they are sometimes spoiled rotten. They don't share their toys. They never do any work. They scream and cry when they don't get their way. Spoiler alert! Ivy doesn't have any brothers or sisters. That's why she's worried. How can she keep from getting spoiled? She could give away all her clothes, but she'd probably get in trouble. She could give away all her toys, but she likes her toys. There's really only one solution: she needs a baby sister, on the double! Luckily, Ivy and Bean know just where to get one.


I was thrilled when I heard that there was going to be another Ivy + Bean book.  Normally ten would be enough, but who can get enough of this daring twosome?  And I was right.  This is another winning story for an already fabulous series.  In this one, Ivy and Bean are attempting to find a way to get Ivy a sister so she doesn't become spoiled.  A girl at school tells them that only children are spoiled and Ivy is afraid that it applies to her.  Bean is rather skeptical but is always willing to help Ivy out.  This leads to a rather amusing series of attempts at sisterhood.  As in previous volumes, Sophie Blackall's black and white illustrations add the perfect touch, showing Ivy and Bean's antics with a deft hand. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

CYBILS JUNIOR HIGH NONFICTION: Unsinkable by Jessica Long & The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean


Born in Siberia with fibular hemimelia, Jessica Long was adopted from a Russian orphanage at thirteen months old and has since become the second most decorated U.S. Paralympic athlete of all time. Now, Jessica shares all the moments in her life—big and small, heartbreaking and uplifting—that led to her domination in the Paralympic swimming world. This photographic memoir, filled with photographs, sidebars, quotes, and more, will thrill her fans and inspire those who are hearing her story for the first time.


I really enjoyed this memoir by Jessica Long, Paralympic Swimming Champion.  The numerous photographs, beautiful book design, and casual text make it a great fit for it's intended audience.  Long tells her story in a fresh, appealing style.  She tells her story with honesty and openness, describing both successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses.  It was fascinating to read about her journey from Russian orphan to amputee athlete to Paralympian-in-training to Paralympic and World Champion.  The photographs are well-chosen and do a great job of highlighting the experiences that Long shares, taking the reader on the journey with her.  An inspiring and well-designed look into the experiences of  a young woman who found ways to overcome the challenges in her life.


A young readers edition of the New York Times bestseller The Disappearing Spoon, chronicling the extraordinary stories behind one of the greatest scientific tools in existence: the periodic table.

Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

The periodic table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of adventure, greed, betrayal, and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow elements on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

Adapted for a middle grade audience, the young readers edition of The Disappearing Spoon offers the material in a simple, easy-to-follow format, with approximately 20 line drawings and sidebars throughout. Students, teachers, and burgeoning science buffs will love learning about the history behind the chemistry.


Science is often seen as completely factual and unbiased.  The stories in this book make it clear that science is as full of human foibles and problems as any other field.  While the discoveries shared in the book are fascinating and informative, it's the stories surrounding those discoveries that make the book so entertaining.  If more science books were written like this one I think more young people would read them.  The focus of the book is the periodic table of the elements, its creation, and the changes that have been made to it over the years.  Thankfully there is a copy of the table included in the book for easy reference.  The book is divided into five parts.  The first part focuses on the creation of the table.  The second part focuses on radioactivity and the creation of new elements from old ones.  Part three focuses on mistakes and rivalries.  Part four focuses on the economic, political, and artistic repercussions of elemental science. And the last part focuses on the relevance of the stories and discoveries of the past to modern science.  There is enough science in the book that some background knowledge of chemistry is helpful, at least I found it so, even though it has been many years since I studied it.  The combination of science and stories is a brilliant strategy that helps make the science easier to understand and makes it seem more relevant when the discoveries are put in context.  Both the best and worst of human nature shine through in these stories.  A great book for both young science lovers and science teachers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

MMGM: Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo


From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo comes a story of discovering who you are — and deciding who you want to be.

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)


I love to read Kate DiCamillo's books because I always know going in that it's going to be a great story.  Some of her stories I love because of the humor, others because of the heart.  Louisiana's Way Home is full of heart.  After reading Raymie Nightingale I knew that Louisiana's Granny takes her away, but I did not suspect just how heart-wrenching of a journey that Louisiana would end up taking.  I immediately empathized with Louisiana at the beginning when she's wrestling with anger toward her Granny for taking her away from her friends and animals.  She felt she'd finally found a home and now it's all been taken from her.  But her Granny's tooth troubles made it a bit more difficult to be so angry with her as she is in so much pain.  Louisiana's resourcefulness is impressive, if rather risky at times. 

About halfway through the book, DiCamillo throws in a twist that I did not see coming and that left me as stunned and angry as Louisiana.  After everything that Louisiana has already experienced it just seemed so utterly unfair for her to experience such a tremendous blow.  And Louisiana struggles greatly with it, as would anyone.  But thankfully there are those around her that are willing to show her kindness as she struggles to find her way and figure out just where is home and how will she know it when she finds it.  As with her other books, DiCamillo somehow manages to write a story of hope in the face of tragedy and difficult.

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Duck and Hippo Give Thanks by Jonathan London


Duck and Hippo are thankful for good friends!

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and Hippo has his heart set on having a good old-fashioned feast with Duck and their friends. Together, Duck and Hippo go shopping for food and invite Turtle, Elephant, and Pig to share the special day with them. Then they get everything ready. But while Hippo goes to bed dreaming of his good old-fashioned Thanksgiving, Duck is busy making her own plans. There’s going to be a BIG surprise—one that will remind Hippo of all he has to be thankful for. Join Duck and Hippo for a memorable celebration!


Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including the Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, which has sold more than fifteen million copies. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more at

Andrew Joyner is an Australian illustrator and author whose work has been published in more than twenty-five countries. He has created the artwork for many picture books, and he is author and illustrator of a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. Andrew lives in South Australia. Learn more at


There’s more fun with Duck and Hippo in the free downloadable activity pages:

Duck and Hippo give thanks for good friends in this sweet book trailer.


I have enjoyed all the Duck and Hippo books.  And this book was no different.  Despite their differences or perhaps because of them, Duck and Hippo get along well.  Not perfectly of course, no friends get along perfectly all the time.  In this case, Duck and Hippo have different visions for what the perfect Thanksgiving dinner should look like.  One thing they do agree on though is that they want lots of friends there.  So while Hippo dreams of his nice, old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner, Duck makes plans to surprise her friend.  But will the surprise make things better?  or ruin Hippo's dream? Read and find out.  I am delighted to add this book to my collection of shareable Thanksgiving stories.  Thanksgiving doesn't usually get as many picture books about it as does Christmas or Halloween, so I'm glad to have this one.  A delightful story of friendship and gratitude that inspires a smile.


Two Lions is offering a set of all three Duck and Hippo books--DUCK AND HIPPO IN THE RAINSTORM, DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND, and DUCK AND HIPPO GIVE THANKS--to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses).

To Enter the giveaway, just make a comment below about your favorite Thanksgiving tradition.  Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you win.  Thanks!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018



An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA author Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they're bound to inherit. They're ready to stand up and be heard - but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response, and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change. A collection of essays, songs, illustrations, and interviews about activism and hope, How I Resist features an all-star group of contributors, including, John Paul Brammer, Libba Bray, Lauren Duca, Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Alex Gino, Hebh Jamal, Malinda Lo, Dylan Marron, Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, Rosie O'Donnell, Junauda Petrus, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Karuna Riazi, Maya Rupert, Dana Schwartz, Dan Sinker, Ali Stroker, Jonny Sun (aka @jonnysun), Sabaa Tahir, Daniel Watts, Jennifer Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson, and more, all edited and compiled by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.

In How I Resist, readers will find hope and support through voices that are at turns personal, funny, irreverent, and instructive. Not just for a young adult audience, this incredibly impactful collection will appeal to readers of all ages who are feeling adrift and looking for guidance.

How I Resist is the kind of book people will be discussing for years to come and a staple on bookshelves for generations.


I have rather mixed feelings about this book.  On the one hand the topic is a timely and important one and some of the articles have great advice for young people who want to get involved.  On the other hand, the quality of the material varies from entry to entry, just as one would expect with a book with multiple contributors.  Some of the articles I really enjoyed such as Hebh Jamal, who talks about activism as a grassroots effort that begins with people being willing to think, Rebecca Roanhorse, who talks about resisting in the very ways we live our lives, Dan Sinker, who points out the value in learning to make things, and Maya Rupert, who talks about her desire for a black Wonder Woman.  Other entries didn't resonate with me as much and even came across as confusing or just a bit odd.  The interviews could have used some more context and direction, they felt a bit wandering.  This would be a valuable book for teachers to use in teaching civics and activism and comparing and contrasting people's ways of resisting.  Some of the entries are very anti-Trump while others are more generic.  This works best as a browsing book.  I wouldn't normally have sat down and read the whole thing and I don't think most young people will either.  But there are some valuable ideas here and the idea of encouraging young people to stand for what they believe is a powerful one.


At thirteen, bright-eyed, straight-A student Sara Saedi uncovered a terrible family secret: she was breaking the law simply by living in the United States. Only two years old when her parents fled Iran, she didn’t learn of her undocumented status until her older sister wanted to apply for an after-school job, but couldn’t because she didn’t have a Social Security number.

Fear of deportation kept Sara up at night, but it didn’t keep her from being a teenager. She desperately wanted a green card, along with clear skin, her own car, and a boyfriend.

Americanized follows Sara’s progress toward getting her green card, but that’s only a portion of her experiences as an Iranian-“American” teenager. From discovering that her parents secretly divorced to facilitate her mother’s green card application to learning how to tame her unibrow, Sara pivots from the terrifying prospect that she might be kicked out of the country at any time to the almost-as-terrifying possibility that she might be the only one of her friends without a date to the prom.


I often enjoy memoirs.  There is something fascinating to me about getting a peek into someone else's life, especially someone whose life is so different than my own.  I grew up during the same time period as Saedi, but my experiences, unsurprisingly, were very different.  As an Iranian immigrant, one who was illegal for many years, she has some interesting insights into what it's like to grow up being tied to two cultures.  The contrast between her 'Americanized' upbringing and the experiences of her parents and other relatives was intriguing to read about, but naturally caused some issues in their relationships.  While some of her experiences are pretty typical of teenagers even today, others are much less common.  She tells about her crushes on boys, her relationships with her family, and going to school.  She even shares entries from her diaries.  The parts I found the most interesting though were the ones about being an illegal immigrant and the fear and emotional toll that it took on her and her family.  I was shocked that it took 15 years for her to finally become a legal citizen despite her families best efforts.  And the details about Iran and its culture were insightful and informative.  She also writes in a way that many teenagers will find easy to relate to, despite her age and growing up in a different time.  An enjoyable read, but not necessarily an award-winning one.

Monday, November 5, 2018

MMGM: Squint by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown


Flint loves to draw. In fact, he’s furiously trying to finish his comic book so he can be the youngest winner of the “Find a Comic Star” contest. He’s also rushing to finish because he has keratoconus—an eye disease that could eventually make him blind.

McKell is the new girl at school and immediately hangs with the popular kids. Except McKell’s not a fan of the way her friends treat this boy named Squint. He seems nice and really talented. He draws awesome pictures of superheroes. McKell wants to get to know him, but is it worth the risk? What if her friends catch her hanging with the kid who squints all the time?

McKell has a hidden talent of her own but doesn’t share it for fear of being judged. Her terminally ill brother, Danny, challenges McKell to share her love of poetry and songwriting. Flint seems like someone she could trust. Someone who would never laugh at her. Someone who is as good and brave as the superhero in Flint’s comic book named Squint.

Squint is the inspiring story of two new friends dealing with their own challenges, who learn to trust each other, believe in themselves, and begin to truly see what matters most.


With all the nastiness in the world today, it's refreshing to read a story that focuses on kindness, compassion, and friendship.  Flint, isn't comfortable around people, mostly because he can't see them very well and it's hard to read people you can't see well.  Plus, he's obsessed with the comic book he is creating to enter in a contest.  When McKell, one of the popular crowd, sits with him at lunch one day, he isn't sure what to think.  He wonders if it's a joke or if she's there to make fun of him like the rest of her friends do.  But it turns out she's there as a result of a YouTube challenge issued by her brother.  But neither Flint nor McKell is sure if they can trust the other, McKell hides her visits with Flint, and Flint doesn't know how to respond. But as the two continue to spend time together, they start to see the real in each other.  And as difficulties come, their friendship may be the one thing that gets them through it.  I'll admit, this one brought tears to my eyes.  The struggles of the two main characters are touching, and their relationship struggles as their relationship develops led to feelings of empathy from me.  The story feels real in the uncertainties and worries that Flint and McKell must face and in the strengths and weaknesses of all the characters.  There is a refreshing amount of depth here that many contemporary stories lack.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

SERIES THURSDAY: Raid of No Return/Lafayette!


A top secret mission needs volunteers.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States joined World War II. And soon after that, young pilots were recruited fro a very secret - and very dangerous - raid on Japan. No one in the armed forced had done anything like this raid before, and none of the volunteers expected to escape with their lives. But this was a war unlike any other before, which called for creative thinking as well as bravery.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all - if you dare!


As with his other books in the Hazardous Tales series, Nathan Hale takes an historical event and turns it into a graphic novel.  While the event is nonfiction, there is no way to know exactly what was said by what person when, so it's been fictionalized.  But these stories are very compelling and a great way to get young readers interested in history.  This tale focuses on a mission to avenge the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  It's intention was to make the Japanese people nervous about the military's ability to protect them.  The mission was audacious in the extreme.  And the pilots and crews recruited to fly the bombers knew going in that the chances were good they wouldn't make it home.  But they chose to go anyway.  Hale does a great job of showing the challenges of the mission and the courage of those involved.  This is another great book in a fabulous series.


Nathan Hale brings readers back to the world of the American Revolution for the first time since One Dead Spy—but this time, he’s following the Marquis de Lafayette into battle. An orphan who became a French nobleman, Lafayette was a major figure in the American Revolution who fought alongside iconic figures like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Lafayette! shares what happened before and during the war, including all the wild escapades the Frenchman embarked on across France and the colonies.


Nathan Hale has a way with history.  He tells the stories in such a way that young readers can at least begin to understand what happened.  Of course, it's hard to get into historical events and people in real depth in a graphic novel, but for young readers it's generally the action that matters most anyway.  And if there is one thing that Hale's Hazardous Tales series has it's action and plenty of it.  This volume focuses on the role that the Marquis de Lafayette played in the American Revolution.  Although the story does start with his father's death in battle, followed not long afterwards by his mother's death, and his guardian's.  His enthusiasm and interest in the military began early and his natural exuberance and courage made him a natural leader.  Not that he always played by the rules.  But he developed a bond with Washington and proved to be a valuable asset when it came time to fight.  He also played a role in getting the French to provide both troops and supplies to the American effort (even though he apparently also impeded his countrymen in their plot to take over the colonies).  Once again, Hale tells a tale of daring-do with lots of action and interesting characters.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018



The United States of America is almost 250 years old, but American women won the right to vote less than a hundred years ago.

And when the controversial nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution - the one granting suffrage to women - was finally ratified in 1920, it passed by a mere one-vote margin.

The amendment only succeeded because a group of women had been relentlessly demanding the right to vote for more than seventy years. The leaders of the suffrage movement were fearless in the face of ridicule, arrest, imprisonment, and even torture. Many of them devoted themselves to a cause knowing they wouldn't live to cast a ballot. This is their story.


In a relatively short number of pages, Zimet manages to tell seventy years of history relating to the women's suffrage movement.  A topic like this one could be very dry and boring but in Zimet's hands it turns out to be a fascinating and frustrating tale.  The focus is of course on the key players in the movement, but a number of radical women of the time are highlighted throughout the book including: Anne Hutchinson, Abigail Adams, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Sojourner Truth.  I appreciated how their efforts contributed to the work that was done later by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and those who followed them.  The movement wasn't successful because of the efforts of any one woman, but those individuals who were leaders are followed especially closely.  I also appreciated the fact that different perspectives were included in the story and that the flaws of those involved were not glossed over.  This is history-telling at it's finest and a compelling tale of the determination and courage of those who fought for a right that many never lived to see.  It reminds me of the importance of using that right to make a difference. 


For nearly 150 years, American women did not have the right to vote. On August 18, 1920, they won that right, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified at last. To achieve that victory, some of the fiercest, most passionate women in history marched, protested, and sometimes even broke the law—for more than eight decades.

From Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who founded the suffrage movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, to Sojourner Truth and her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, to Alice Paul, arrested and force-fed in prison, this is the story of the American women’s suffrage movement and the private lives that fueled its leaders’ dedication. Votes for Women! explores suffragists’ often powerful, sometimes difficult relationship with the intersecting temperance and abolition campaigns, and includes an unflinching look at some of the uglier moments in women’s fight for the vote.

By turns illuminating, harrowing, and empowering, Votes for Women! paints a vibrant picture of the women whose tireless battle still inspires political, human rights, and social justice activism.


Conkling has written a compelling narrative around the experiences of the major leaders of the women's suffrage movement.  Both those who helped start the movement and those who saw the final victory are included.  Conflict from without and within hampered the movement from the beginning, but the determination and courage of those who believed so firmly lead to the movement's survival.  Conkling includes lots of interesting stories, quotes, and details about both the people involved and the main events that either helped move the cause forward or lead to serious setbacks.  The strengths and weaknesses of the leaders are explored as well.  This book should be required reading for all young women when they gain the right to vote.  There is not way they could ever take the right to vote for granted again after reading this account of the sacrifices and suffering that lead to the final passing of the 19th Amendment.

Monday, October 29, 2018

MMGM: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy


She’s twelve. He’s dead. But together they’re going to save the world. Hopefully.

The iconic first book in the bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series.

Stephanie's uncle Gordon is a writer of horror fiction. But when he dies and leaves her his estate, Stephanie learns that while he may have written horror it certainly wasn't fiction. Pursued by evil forces, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source – the wisecracking skeleton of a dead sorcerer…


With a new book in the series coming out, the Skulduggery Pleasant series is being reprinted with new covers.  Not having read the series when it first came out, I was interested in reading it this time.  And I was not disappointed.  In fact if anything, I was pleasantly surprised at how compelling and interesting the story was.  With a main character who happens to be a walking, talking skelton, I figured the book would be more creepy than it turned out to be.  Not that there wasn't plenty of creepiness, just that the snappy banter between Skulduggery and Stephanie added humor to the story lessening the creepiness factor a bit.  Once the action gets going in the third chapter, it doesn't really let up until the end.  While their are brief respites for the characters, they go from one dangerous situation to another after Stephanie is left alone in the house her Uncle Gordon left to her.  She discovers magic and evil are alive in the world and joins Skulduggery in seeking her Uncle's killer.  But after Skulduggery is captured it's up to Stephanie to determine whether she's really ready to join this dangerous world or whether she should leave it to those with more experience.  (We all know what she chooses though, after all, she wouldn't be a main character if she didn't dive in 100%.)  The book is clearly British in origin, but other than a few British terms (bonnet for hood, etc.) the story is easy to follow.  And once the reader is dragged into the story, there's really no letting go until you know what happens.  Now I just need to get my hands on the rest of the series, because this is definitely a series where you don't want to read just one book.
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