Thursday, November 29, 2018

SERIES THURSDAY: Epic Fails by Erik Slader and Ben Thompson


Although Orville and Wilbur Wright are celebrated today as heroes for their revolutionary contributions to science and engineering—they are acknowledged as the first men to successfully achieve powered, piloted flight—their success was hard-earned. (Spoiler alert: there were a lot of nosedives involved.) In fact, it took the self-taught engineers years of work and dozens of crashes before they managed a single twelve-second flight!

In this first installment of the brand new Epic Fails series, Ben Thompson and Erik Slader take readers through the Wright brothers' many mishaps and misadventures as they paved the way for modern aviation.

The Epic Fails series takes a humorous and unexpected view of history, exploring the surprising stories behind a variety of groundbreaking discoveries, voyages, experiments, and innovations, illustrating how many of mankind's biggest successes are in fact the result of some pretty epic failures.


Finding history books that young readers will pick up and read on their own can sometimes be a challenging task for me as a librarian. I am always thrilled when I find a book that is not only nonfiction, but has tremendous child appeal.  Slader and Thompson's new series, Epic Fails, is one such work.  The book is written in an appealing, narrative style that focuses on the most interesting aspects of the story they are telling.  This helps the book move right along, which is important for most young readers who prefer lots of action.  This volume in the series focuses on the Wright Brothers and their work on flight.  After giving a brief introduction to the work done by many in trying to get humankind into the skies, Slader and Thompson focus on the actual physical experiments that the Wright brothers performed.  While the background work the brothers had to perform to get their gliders built is described briefly, the flights the brothers attempted are the focus.  The book ends up being an easy-to-read retelling of the many failures that occurred before the brothers finally found success.  This is a great series for young history buffs and even reluctant readers. The photographs and illustrations break up the text nicely making for a much less intimidating read.


In this second installment of the Epic Fails series, explore the many failures that made up the Race to Space, paving the way for humanity’s eventual success at reaching the stars.

Today, everyone is familiar with Neil Armstrong’s famous words as he first set foot on the moon: “one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” He made it look easy, but America’s journey to the moon was anything but simple. In 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, into orbit, America had barely crossed the starting line of the great Space Race. Later that year, our first attempt was such a failure that the media nicknamed it “Kaputnik.” Still, we didn’t give up. With each failure, we gleaned valuable information about what went wrong, and how to avoid it in the future. So we tried again. And again. And each time we failed, we failed a little bit better.

The Epic Fails series by Erik Slader and Ben Thompson explores the humorous backstories behind a variety of historical discoveries, voyages, experiments, and innovations that didn't go as expected but succeeded nonetheless, showing that many of mankind's biggest success stories are the result of some pretty epic failures indeed.


As the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon approaches, there are numerous books being published on the topic.  This one works well for young nonfiction lovers who aren't ready for more detailed accounts.  The authors give a brief description of the circumstances that lead to the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.  This provides context for the operations that followed including the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.  Both failures and successes are described. The photographs were appreciated and the illustrations added humor to the book.  It works really well for the age-range it is aimed at.  The only issues I had with it were not enough references, and the incorrect quote attributed to Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon.  But since the quote is wrong in many available sources it isn't surprising that it's wrong here too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

CYBILS JUNIOR HIGH NONFICTION: The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix


 Interweaving handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his fight against the oppression of the German people during World War II. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was shocked to watch the German church embrace Hitler's agenda of hatred. He spoke out against the Nazi party and led a breakaway church that rebelled against racist and nationalist beliefs of the Third Reich. Struggling with how his faith interacted with his ethics, Bonhoeffer eventually became convinced that Hitler and the Nazi Party needed to be stopped--and he was willing to sacrifice anything and everything to do so.


Wow! Hendrix has really out done himself with this book.  It's hard for me to describe it adequately.  I recommend that if you can you get your hands on it and read it for yourself.  This book which is not a true graphic novel, there is too much text, tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who became part of a plot to assassinate Hitler.  Not only is the story a compelling one, but the way Hendrix has chosen to tell it is phenomenal.  The combination of illustration and text is seamless and the powerful images, both literal and figurative, really hit home.  In addition to telling the story of Bonhoeffer and his entry in theology, the book gives a good background on the rise of Hitler, which helps the reader understand why Bonhoeffer and his colleagues were so willing to risk everything to stop him.  Part graphic novel, part biography, and part history, The Faithful Spy, tells a story that every reader who picks up this book can't help but be changed by. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

MMGM: The Law of Finders Keepers by Sheila Turnage


Pirates, family, and the truth about Mo's Upstream Mother collide in the conclusion to the Newbery Honor and New York Times bestselling Three Times Lucky.

When the Colonel and Miss Lana share the clues about Mo's watery origins that they've been saving, it seems the time is finally right for the Desperado Detectives (aka Mo, Dale, and Harm) to tackle the mystery of Mo's Upstream Mother. It's the scariest case Mo's had by far. But before they can get started, Mayor Little's mean mother hires them to hunt in her attic for clues to Blackbeard's treasure, which could be buried right in Tupelo Landing. Turns out, the Desperados aren't the only ones looking. A professional treasure hunter named Gabe has come to town with Harm's estranged mother--and soon the race is on, even though the treasure's rumored to be cursed. As centuries- and decades-old secrets are dragged into the light, there isn't a single person in Tupelo Landing quite prepared for all that they uncover. Especially Mo.

The fourth and last book in the Mo & Dale Mystery series and the long-awaited conclusion to Three Times Lucky, The Law of Finders Keepers is a heartbreaking, heartwarming, honest, and hilarious adventure that you can read right after you finish Three Times Lucky.


I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the Mo & Dale Mysteries.  Mo is such a fun, fiesty narrator who isn't afraid to share what she thinks, polite or not.  Mo, Dale, and Harm make a great mystery solving team.  In this book, two mysteries collide when Mo and her friends are asked to find a pirate treasure before the professional treasure hunter can while simultaneously using newly available clues to hunt for Mo's Upstream Mother.  But things start going wrong right from the beginning, and one member of the detective team nearly loses his life, the trio wonders if there really is a curse on this treasure.  And it isn't looking good for Upstream Mother either as clue after clue leads to a dead end.  Can Mo, Dale, and Harm solve their mysteries before they get separated, maybe for good?  Once again, Turnage has created a delightful tale full of twists and turns as well as good solid detective work.  I've enjoyed the interactions of the characters at least as much as the mysteries themselves.  And I'm sad to say goodbye to Mo and her friends and family, but this book wraps things up nicely, although not perhaps in the way Mo would prefer. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: A Dastardly Plot by Christopher Healy


It's 1883—the Age of Invention! A time when great men like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nicola Tesla, and George Eastman work to turn the country into a land of limitless opportunity.

And it all happens at the world famous Inventor’s Guild headquarters in New York City—a place where a great idea, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck can find you rubbing elbows with these gods of industry who will usher humanity into the future.

Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

Molly Pepper, daughter of brilliant but unknown inventor Cassandra Pepper, lives with her mother in New York. By day, they make ends meet running a pickle shop; but by night, they toil and dream of Cassandra taking her place among the most famous inventors in America.

In an attempt to find a way to exhibit Cass’s work at the World’s Fair, they break into the Inventor's Guild, where they discover a mysterious plot to destroy New York.

The evidence points to the involvement of one of the world’s most famous inventors, and now it’s up to Molly, Cassandra, and a shop hand named Emmett Lee to uncover the truth—even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.


After loving his first series, A Hero's Guide, I was eager to pick up this new book.  And I was not disappointed.  While having more of an alternative history feel rather that the fairy tale vibe of the first series, the book still manages to have the trademark humor.  Molly makes for a great main character.  She's an empathetic character but she's also a fighter.  She's also rather impulsive which gets her into a lot of trouble, but luckily for her, she's also a quick study.  And she has others around her to help her.  In this story, Molly's mother is an inventor who wants to exhibit some of her inventions at the upcoming World's Fair, but because she's a woman and not a member of the Inventor's Guild, she has no place to do so.  In an effort to earn a place, Molly and her mother, Cassandra, break into the Inventor's Guild.  In the process they come across plans for an attack to take place at the Fair.  Their efforts to foil the plot result in some rather amusing disasters leading to Cassandra's incarceration in an insane asylum.  Only with the help of some other female inventors does Molly and her friend Emmett have a chance of rescuing her mother and stopping the evil plot.  Full of rather entertaining escapades and fascinating inventions, A Dastardly Plot, takes the reader on quite a ride, which ends up being as amusing as it is action packed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY (CYBILS): Diet for a Changing Climate & Fakers


The United Nations supports a compelling solution to world hunger: eat insects! Explore the vast world of unexpected foods that may help solve the global hunger crisis. Weeds, wild plants, invasive and feral species, and bugs are all food for thought. Learn about the nutritional value of various plant and animal species; visit a cricket farm; try a recipe for dandelion pancakes, kudzu salsa, or pickled purslane; and discover more about climate change, sustainability, green agriculture, indigenous foods, farm-to-table restaurants, and how to be an eco-friendly producer, consumer, and chef. Meet average folks and experts in the field who will help you stretch your culinary imagination!


This book was a truly eye-opening read.  I had no idea there was a movement underway intended to encourage people to eat weeds and bugs and invasive animals.  I found the book fascinating if rather revolting at times.  I'll admit that the thought of eating some of the things that are mentioned in this book made me a bit sick to my stomach.  But that is mostly because I've grown up in a culture where those things aren't considered to be food.  The book mentions a variety of different cultures where bugs and things have always been considered to be a valid food source.  In addition to describing the variety of different plants (weeds), bugs, and invasive species that can be eaten, the book also shares recipes, websites, and individual stories of those who pursue this diet.  An informative book that would be perfect for those looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly and are willing to consider stepping out of their eating comfort zone.  The book design is beautiful and eye-catching.


From the Trojan horse to fake news, scams have run rampant throughout history and across the globe. Some con artists do it for fun, others for profit. . . and every once in a while, a faker saves the world.

In this era of daily online hoaxes, it's easy to be caught off-guard. Fakers arms kids with information, introducing them to the funniest, weirdest, and most influential cons and scams in human history. Profiles of con artists will get readers thinking about motivation and consequence, and practical tips will help protect them from falsehoods. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is--except in the case of this book!


Deception has long been a problem in human society.  Wherever people gather together, there is bound to be someone wanting to take advantage of someone else.  Thus, books like this one are very valuable.  This book takes a look at some of the deceptions that have been and still are being practiced in human society.  Covering specific events and individuals as well as general types of deception, Wood gives the reader a basic education in the types of deception that can be found in the world.  The book takes a look at short cons (like pickpocketing), long cons (like Ponzi or pyramid schemes), carnivals and entertainment related deceptions (includes information on P.T. Barnum, the Prince of Humbugs), psychics, imposters, science hoaxes, medical deceptions, war deceptions, and mass media hoaxes.  Each chapter is informative and full of interesting information.  The stories included cover both historical tricks and more modern ones with specific examples described.  The photographs, sidebars, and illustrations help break up the text a bit.  Although it still makes for a pretty hefty read.  I found the book rather compelling however both because of the casual, friendly approach the author takes and because of the topic.  A valuable and entertaining book full of information that is both practical and fascinating.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

BLOG TOUR: Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins by Sue Fliess


It’s Christmas Eve morning, and Santa Claus is still in bed! He’s feeling stuffy and sneezy and slow as a yeti. Will Christmas have to be canceled? Not this year! Because Mrs. Claus is ready to take the reins in Santa’s place. With a plan in mind, Mrs. Claus assembles the crew, maps out the route, and preps the sleigh. Then, with a snap of the reins, she shoots off into the night. Delivering gifts all over the world without Santa’s magic won’t be easy, but Mrs. Claus proves she has some holiday sparkle of her own…

With lively rhyming text and adorable artwork, this delightful Christmas adventure will get kids into the holiday spirit.


Sue Fliess is the author of more than twenty children’s books, including Shoes for Me!, A Dress for Me!, and Books for Me!, all illustrated by Mike Laughead; and Let’s Build, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto. Sue loves the holiday season and hopes she made it onto Santa’s “nice” list this year! She lives with her family and their dog in Northern Virginia. Learn more about Sue online at

Mark Chambers is an award-winning author and illustrator of more than thirty-five children’s books. In 2013, Mark won the Sheffield Children’s Picture Book Award and was short-listed for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. In 2017, his artwork entitled “We Will Remember” was short-listed for the AOI World Illustration Awards. Mark lives and works in the United Kingdom and once spent Christmas in the Arctic Circle. Learn more about Mark online at
“The illustrations are bright and expressive…Young children will enjoy this exuberant adventure.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This is a nice addition to holiday stories with a little dash of girl power.” —Youth Services Book Review

Fliess has written a cute story about what happens when Santa gets sick on Christmas Eve.  At first he thinks they need to cancel the holiday, but Mrs. Claus volunteers to go in his place.  With the help of the elves, she gathers everything she needs and sets off into the night.  At first things run smoothly, but later in the night she runs into blizzards and other bad weather, the sleigh starts to leak, and the reindeer harnesses get tangled.  But holding on to her patience Mrs. Claus manages to solve the problems and finish the trip.  This is a light, fun read that emphasizes the fact that we all need help sometimes and that problems can be overcome.
Watch Mrs. Claus make HERstory in the adorable trailer!

Monday, November 19, 2018

CYBILS SENIOR HIGH NONFICTION REVIEWS: Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator/Victoria: Portrait of a Queen

On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history. 

The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune.
     Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece. Includes index.


While I've never read Frankenstein, I have of course heard of it.  And the fact that it is still around after 200 years says a lot about it's appeal.  I did find this book about the author absolutely fascinating.  Reef has done a fabulous job of creating a very readable informative book about Mary Shelley.  In fact, I found it rather compelling.

Mary Shelley was clearly a woman who knew her own mind, and experienced great emotion. Being surrounded by writers and thinkers from the time she was really small helps explain why she ended up being a writer and thinker herself.  It also explains why she was attracted to Percy Bysshe Shelley who had such a way with words himself.  Both were also passionate individuals who found a kindred spirit in the other.  The fact that Percy was already married to someone else didn't seem to bother either one of them.  But the scandal created when they ran off together never left them alone.  They were rejected by main society and so spent much of their time with others like themselves who found mainstream society restrictive and unwelcoming.  It was while spending time which such friends that Mary was first inspired to write Frankenstein.  The encouragement of her friends lead her to finish and edit the story before finding a publisher.

Mary continued to write and many of her writings were inspired by her own thoughts, and feelings, and experiences.  She experienced tragedy in her life with the loss of three of her four children at young ages, as well as becoming a widow after only ten years of marriage (she and Percy married after his first wife died).  She struggled to support herself on the little she could bring in from her writing as well as the money provided by her husband's family under strict conditions.  Despite the challenges in her life, she continued to write.

Mary's life really does read like one of her novels with a variety of dramatic ups and downs along the way.  Reef has done a wonderful job of bringing to life of an author who truly left her mark on the world.  The included drawings and poems add nicely to the atmosphere of the book.


Catherine Reef brings history vividly to life in this sumptuously illustrated account of a confident, strong-minded, and influential woman.

Victoria woke one morning at the age of eighteen to discover that her uncle had died and she was now queen. She went on to rule for sixty-three years, with an influence so far-reaching that the decades of her reign now bear her name—the Victorian period. Victoria is filled with the exciting comings and goings of royal life: intrigue and innuendo, scheming advisors, and assassination attempts, not to mention plenty of passion and discord. Includes bibliography, notes, British royal family tree, index.


I've developed a great appreciation for the biographies written by Catherine Reef.  Not only is the research amazingly complete, but the book designs are fabulous.  This book is truly beautifully designed in terms of book art, photographs and paintings chosen to highlight the text and the fonts used.  But beyond that is the text.  Reef really knows how to tell a story.  Her subject truly comes alive in this book as the reader follows her from an unhappy childhood into a sixty-year long life as queen.  The book looks at both Victoria's personal life and her public one sharing stories related to her family as well as stories related to her role as queen.  I appreciated being able to see Queen Victoria's strengths as well as her weaknesses.  This allowed me to see her as a human being and not just a celebrity loved by many.  She wouldn't have been the easiest person in the world to get along with, and yet she formed a few close friendships.  She loved her children and yet was very strict with them, alongside her husband.  I almost felt sorry for her oldest son, the crown prince, and his lack of freedom.  Reef has truly made her subject come alive, leaving me with a greater appreciation for Queen Victoria and the role she played in world history. 

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.

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