Monday, October 31, 2016

MMGM: Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban


A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II--and the dog she has to leave behind.

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family's life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It's 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn't until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can accept all that has happened to her family.


Historical fiction is a genre that many children avoid under the mistaken impression that history is boring or unrelated to their contemporary lives.  When I can get students to pick up books like this one, they learn differently.  Manami makes for a great sympathetic character.  Her love for her dog and her family shines through loud and clear, which is why when her dog, Yujiin, is taken from her on her way to the forced internment camp that she and the rest of her Japanese American family are heading to, she's unwilling to forgive herself.  As a result, she stop's talking.  Adjusting to this desert that is so different from the island she comes from is hard, but having her family helps, especially when her brother, Ron shows up to be with them. In addition, she loves her new teacher, Miss Rosalie.  Manami and her family must find a way to survive this utterly unfair treatment and make their fenced in new residence a home.  I have a hard time reading about the Japanese Internment during World War II because it was so wrong in assuming all Japanese Americans were possible spies, including children.  And like many such stories, this one had me in tears as I read about Manami's struggles coming to grips with the loss of almost everything familiar and her beloved dog. Sepahban has done a suburb job telling this story in flowing language.  The characterizations are beautifully done and the I could almost breathe the dust with Manami.  I'd say this one is worthy of Newbery consideration and a place in most elementary libraries.

Friday, October 28, 2016

BLOG TOUR with 2 GIVEAWAYS! Impyrium by Henry H. Neff

Welcome to Day #5 of the Impyrium Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of Imyprium by Henry H. Neff (10/4/16), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Henry and 10 chances to win a SIGNED copy of Impyrium, as well as a Grand Prize Giveaway!

From Ashes to Empire: Building IMPYRIUM by Henry H. Neff

IMPYRIUM is a fantasy story set 3,000 years in the future, after an event called the Cataclysm fractured major landmasses and ushered in a new age. The world changed, and not just physically. The Cataclysm coincided with a war in which mankind fought for its survival, and I was curious how things might play out over time. What kind of civilization would emerge from the ashes of this great conflict? Fortunately, I had some tools to help me organize my thoughts and lay the groundwork for what would become IMPYRIUM. When I was a history teacher, I came across a term called S.P.R.I.T.E., which was a helpful way of thinking about a civilization or people at a particular point in time. The acronym stands for Society, Politics, Religion, Ideas/Culture, Technology, and Economy. I’d have my students break down key aspects of each letter for the various groups we’d study. For example, S.P.R.I.T.E. was a great way to compare/contrast 19th century England and China, and identify the social, economic, political, and technological factors that led to the causes and outcome of the Opium War. A handy little tool, that S.P.R.I.T.E., and one that I applied to the world I was building.

With IMPYRIUM, I began with Society and Politics since a key trait of the empire is that it’s a deeply hierarchical and dominated by a small group of magical humans and dynastic families. Once I’d fixed this as the anchor, I brainstormed how this aspect of the world might shape and permeate the others. For example, it’s unlikely that the idea of “natural rights” would exist in such a society, or that its rulers would permit technologies that could help non-magical humans to level the playing field. Titles would be of tremendous importance, as would one’s family name and lineage. Public education would be designed to identify the best and brightest commoners so they could be whisked away to state institutions and trained as minor officials. This would provide the empire with capable administrators but it could also serve a more Machiavellian purpose: to indoctrinate potential threats, make them part of the system, and hold them up to the masses as examples of opportunity and upward mobility. The process enabled me to develop a world that I found interesting, but also plausible. And it was invaluable when it came to imagining what might occur if something upset the equilibrium. For example, what happens if a technology enabling ocean travel begins to fail? It wouldn’t simply impact the world economy; there would be a ripple effect. Trade shortfalls might spur social unrest. Rulers of distant regions might grow more independent, or even cease to pay tribute to the Divine Empress. Speaking of that Divine Empress, her ability—or inability—to address the situation might call into question her power and authority. All sorts of fun and dangerous situations might arise. And S.P.R.I.T.E. helps me think them through. Now, I’m a big geek and could do this stuff all day, but I also recognize that world building has its limitations. A cool world is not a substitute for great and memorable characters. Characters are the soul of a story, and what bring readers back for seconds. While S.P.R.I.T.E. helps me create a fun and interesting stage, Hazel and Hob will always be the stars of the show. Want to learn more about Impyrium’s world? Click here and dive into a tale where Old Magic meets new dangers.

Follow Henry: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Stop by WordSpelunking on Monday for day #6 of the tour!

Blog Tour Schedule:

October 24thCrossroad Reviews
October 25th — Book Swoon
October 26thLife Naturally
October 27thThe Fandom
October 28thGeoLibrarian
October 31st WordSpelunking
November 1stBookhounds
November 2nd The OWL
November 3rdMundie Kids
November 4thRavenous Reader


In the first book of Henry H. Neff’s new high-stakes middle grade fantasy series, two unlikely allies confront a conspiracy that will shake the world of Impyrium to its core. For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faeregines are ripe to fall. Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the remote provinces, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them. One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.

Henry H. Neff grew up outside Chicago before going off to Cornell University, where he majored in history. Before becoming a writer, he was a management consultant and also taught history at a San Francisco high school. Impyrium is his second series. The first, The Tapestry, is a five-volume epic that follows the life and adventures of Max McDaniels. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and two sons. You can also find him at


At 500+ pages, Impyrium is truly the beginning of an epic fantasy series.  Neff has done an amazing job of creating a dystopian world from top to bottom.  The amount of detail given is amazing, it's clear that the author has thought through his world very thoroughly (see account above).  But it's Hazel and Hob that kept me reading the book.  Hazel is a sweet girl, who through no fault of her own, happens to be one of the granddaughters of the Divine Empress, the last of the Faeregine dynasty.  She also happens to be the only one with any magical ability, which makes her priceless to her grandmother who is seeking for ways to keep the empire firmly under Faeregine control.  But Hazel has no interest in any of this, she's glad not to be the heiress and seeks only to enjoy time to herself to read and study magic.  Hob on the other hand lives a continent away from Hazel, deep in the Muirlands where he works deep in a mine to support his mother and sister.  What a mysterious man named Mr. Burke offers him a chance to find out more about his father and work against the Empire for a substantial amount of money, he can't bring himself to decline.  Neither Hazel or Hob however has any idea of the challenges and shocking events that await them.  When the two meet and become friends things change for both of them, both find their ideas of world changing more rapidly than they are prepared to handle.  And unfortunately, Hazel and Hob find themselves in the center of a plot to overthrow the empire.

I found it fascinating to follow along on the journeys that both Hazel and Hob find themselves on, as they work to make sense of what they are learning, and deciding what it is they really want to be and what they really care about.  I love this kind of fantasy because it has so much depth to it.  The characters, including both Hazel and Hob themselves, come across as real because they have both strengths and weaknesses, and sadly, that means they both face deception and betrayal.  This new series with its intricacies and details provides not only a fascinating story but a thematic portrayal of friendship under the most difficult of circumstances.

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  • One (1) winner will receive an Impyrium Prize Pack featuring a collector's box packed with a signed copy of Impyrium, bookmark, poster, Hob temporary tattoo, and a signed sketch by Henry H. Neff (not pictured: bookmark, tattoo, and sketch)
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Thursday, October 27, 2016

SERIES THURSDAY: Super Happy Party Bears by Marcie Colleen


The first book in a funny chapter book series filled with full color illustrations and adorable animals!

To the Super Happy Party Bears, everything is a good thing. Their entire attitude can be summed up in one word: YAY! They love doughnuts, dancing, and above all else—a good party. Not so for the rest of the animals living in the Grumpy Woods. They find the bears terribly annoying.

When a few beavers come to town, the Grumpy Woods are even grumpier than usual. These beavers are drying up their river with their dam . . . the beavers are ruining everything! They must leave—it is decreed!

But the Super Happy Party Bears just love the beavers! As the Grumpy Woods scheme to unwelcome them, the Super Happy Party Bears throw them a housewarming party that will prove dancing can always save the day.


The Super Happy Party Bears love to have parties for anything and everything.  Unfortunately, Mayor Quill and the other animals living in the Grumpy Woods prefer not to have parties of any kind.  When Mayor Quill receives complimentary letters from the Bears, he huffs out to their house to demand they cut it out, but he only succeeds in leading them to start another party.  But things get complicated when a family of beavers moves into the forest and cuts off the river by building a lodge.  Mayor Quill and the other grumpy animals seek to chase the beavers out, while the Bears do their best to welcome their new neighbors.  The full-color illustrations light up this book matching the light, humorous tone relating to the always happy bears.  This is the sort of book that leaves you smiling when you put it down and very possibly even laughing.


The second book in a funny chapter book series filled with full color illustrations and adorable animals!

The Grumpy Woods dislike Wallace Woodpecker only slightly less than the Super Happy Party Bears. They find his pecking preposterously loud, but the bears think Wallace is beating a nice rhythm--it's great for early-morning dancercise! The bears convince Wallace he has great skills to offer the woods, and they give him ideas for unsolicited handy work. Instead of endearing him to the neighbors, it annoys them even more. Can the bears really help this noisy neighbor?


Once again, the Super Happy Party Bears bring noise and confusion to Grumpy Woods.  At least according to Humphrey Hedgehog, Mayor Quill's assistant.  The Super Happy Party Bears have invited a woodpecker to live next door as their neighbor.  But according to Humphrey, this new inhabitant just brings chaos.  Can Wallace Woodpecker find a place to belong with the help of the bears or will the grumpy inhabitants drive him out with their grumpiness?  Colleen has created a fun, colorful new series that is bound to attract young readers.  The funny stories combined with the cheerful, full-color artwork make for an enjoyable read.  There is much here to discuss as well in relation to being cheerful versus grumpy, between making others feel welcome and driving them away.  This is a new early chapter book series that I can recommend with a smile on my face.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Atlas of Animal Adventures by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins


From the team behind the best-selling Atlas of Adventures. Head off on a journey of discovery, with this book that collects together nature’s most unmissable events from between the two poles, including epic migrations, extraordinary behaviors, and Herculean habits. Find hundreds of things to spot and learn new facts about every animal.


Wide-Eyed Editions has created a rather delightful atlas that works well for reading straight through or for just browsing.  Not only is the book crammed with fascinating information about various animals around the world, but the illustrator clearly meant the illustrations to be enjoyed.  When I read about hippos, for example, I do not expect to see a hippo floating on it's back or wearing a bib, or wearing a grass skirt.  Clearly the illustrator had way too much fun with this.  However, I am pretty sure that children will delight in looking for these little fun touches and learning a lot about world geography and animals along the way.  Each continent is covered with a few animals from each continent receiving special attention (their own two page spread).  If you have animal lovers at your house or library this book is bound to be a hit.

BLOG TOUR: Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern by Seth Adam Smith


Chased by a vengeful witch, hunted by an undead corpse, and guided by a secretive preacher, a boy must protect a magical lantern that can either save Boston . . . or destroy it.

In October of 1730, young Rip Van Winkle sneaks into a graveyard and comes face-to-face with the ghost of William Blaxton, the first settler of Boston. Warning Rip that the city is in danger, Blaxton gives him a mysterious gift: a pumpkin lantern with power over life and death. Before fading into midnight, the ghost tells Rip to take the lantern to Feathertop, a mythical pumpkin-headed scarecrow.

Pursued by Mistress Hibbins, a witch of terrifying power, and hunted by the nightmarish Midnight Minister, young Rip must rely on the aid of Jonathan Edwards, a stern and secretive preacher, and Nathaniel, a talkative, know-it-all raven. Guided by the magical light of the lantern, Rip races across New England to find Feathertop, save Boston, and become a most unlikely hero!

From the bestselling, award-winning author Seth Adam Smith comes The Pumpkin Lantern--a fantasy novel influenced by the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lloyd Alexander, and C. S. Lewis. Loaded with humor, action, suspense, and fascinating American history, The Pumpkin Lantern is also a poignant fable about faith, family, and the power of life over death.


Unfortunately, I have not yet had the time to finish reading this book.  What I have read however, I have enjoyed.  The first chapter is a doozy with Abigail and Josiah Van Winkle rescuing a baby from an open grave.  Young Rip it turns out has a special affinity with plants.  This particular ability allows Rip to do things that would be considered supernatural and must be kept secret from the Puritan community.  But Rip can't help but reach out to those in need, both human or plant.

Further thoughts will be added when I complete the book.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

BOARD BOOKS: Stanley's Shapes/Stanley's Colors by William Bee


Its another busy day for Stanley and friends. Stanley and Little Woo are learning about colors and vehicles. There's a red car, a yellow motorbike, and even a pink balloon!


Stanley is an adorable little hamster who actively travels around in his variously colored vehicles.  The colors are bright and appealing and sure to catch a youngster's eye.  The variety of vehicles provides another fun part of the story.  Stanley fixes his red car, delivers a flower in his orange truck, and loves riding his yellow motorcycle among other things.  There is much to talk about here with a young child providing an enjoyable reading experience that also helps children learn to start thinking and talking about what they read.  I loved the last page which shows all the different vehicles and colors and asks the child to identify as many as they can.


Its another busy day for Stanley and friends. Stanley and Little Woo are on vacation learning about shapes. Join them as they spot circles, squares, triangles, and more!


Stanley and Little Woo go on vacation while learning about rectangles, triangles, and circles.  Their suitcases are rectangles, the tent is a triangle, the golf shop's window is a square, and the wheels on the bicycles are circles.  I appreciate the fact that the book introduces shapes in the context of a simple story.  This provides plenty of materials for multiple readings as children notice different things as they read.  One thing I love about this sort of board book is the potential for discussing the different parts of the story, the shapes, the vacation activities, etc.  And then on the ride home, all the shapes can be found in Stanley's car giving children and parents a chance to recognize all the shapes at once.  This book can provide an enjoyable reading experience for parent and child.

Monday, October 24, 2016

MMGM: Took by Mary Downing Hahn


“Folks say Old Auntie takes a girl and keeps her fifty years—then lets her go and takes another one.”     Thirteen-year-old Daniel Anderson doesn’t believe Brody Mason’s crazy stories about the ghost witch who lives up on Brewster’s Hill with Bloody Bones, her man-eating razorback hog. He figures Brody’s probably just trying to scare him since he’s the new kid . . . a “stuck-up snot” from Connecticut. But Daniel’s seven-year-old sister Erica has become more and more withdrawn, talking to her lookalike doll. When she disappears into the woods one day, he knows something is terribly wrong. Did the witch strike? Has Erica been “took”?


Mary Downing Hahn has become one of my go to authors for middle grade scary books.  I've found her books fit into the solidly middle ground in terms of scariness.  Took is another example of such a book.  In this book we have an eleven-year-old boy whose family has just moved from a city in Connecticut to a very small town in West Virginia.  The old farmhouse they move into doesn't really fit into Daniel's idea of where he would like to live, nor his sister's either.  But after his father lost his job, downgrading was a must.  What Daniel doesn't know is that his family has had a spell put upon them leading them to this house.  And things go downhill immediately.  Neither Daniel nor his sister, Erica, are welcomed at school, in fact they are bullied from the first minute.  The kids' parents are unhappy and the conditions at home sink lower and lower.  As Daniel watches his sister especially sink into despair and obsession with her doll, he wonders if the stories he's been hearing about a young girl disappearing 50 years ago are related.  But he's reluctant to believe these stories until his sister runs off after they have a fight, and doesn't return.  Can Daniel find a way to get his sister back or while she remain 'took' like the strange young girl he finds in the woods?

Hahn does a great job of leading gradually to the climax where the story explodes with tension.  As the tension with Daniel's family builds, the reader has a pretty good idea of where things are headed, but of course can't do anything to stop it.  The obsession Erica has her with look-a-like doll becomes especially creepy as the story develops.  The question becomes, how is Daniel going to save his sister and his family from 'Old Auntie' and her pet 'Bloody Bones'.  Like all scary books though, the appropriateness of this book will depend on the reader and what he/she is ready to handle.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

BLOG TOUR: The Wishing World by Todd Fahnestock


In the Wishing World, dreams are real. You can transform into your own hero, find wild and whimsical friends, and wield power as great as your imagination. But Lorelei doesn't know about any of that. All she knows is that a monster took her family.

It happened during a camping trip one year ago. Hiding inside the tent, she saw shadows, tentacles and a strange creature. By the time she got up the courage to crawl outside, the monster--and Lorelei's mom, dad, and brother--were gone.

Lorelei is determined to find her family. When she accidentally breaks into the Wishing World, she discovers a way. It's a land more wonderful than she could have imagined, a land of talking griffons, water princesses, and cities made of sand, where Lorelei is a Doolivanti--a wish-maker--who can write her dreams into existence.

There's only one problem: the monster is a Doolivanti, too. What he wishes also comes true, and he's determined to shove Lorelei out, keep her family, and make the whole Wishing World his. To save them, Lorelei must find the courage to face him, or her next wish may be her last.


TODD FAHNESTOCK won the New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age Award for one of his short stories, and is the author of the YA bestseller Fairmist as well as The Wishing World. Stories are his passion, but Todd's greatest accomplishment is his quirky, fun-loving family. The Wishing World began as a series of bedtime stories for his children.

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Fantasy fiction is unique in that it opens the door to other worlds and other possibilities.  The ideas expressed in such stories are only limited by one's imagination.  And children have an ability to use their imaginations in such creative ways.  The basis for this book revolves around that idea.  The Wishing World that Lorelei enters seeking her missing family revolves around the dreams of children.  When Lorelei realizes that her parents are imprisoned by the Ink King within the boundaries of this magical world, she's willing to do anything to get them back.  

WIth the assistance of Gruffy, a griffin, Pip, a talking toucan, and Squeak, a wise mouse, Lorelei sets out to get her family back.  But there is more to this land than she knows and if she's not careful, her newly discovered power as a Doolivanti could harm this strange new world.  But Lorelei can't bare thinking of leaving without her family no matter the cost.  The creatures she meets along the way touch her life in unexpected ways as she touches theirs.  But dangers both before and behind threaten everything Lorelei is hoping to accomplish.  The unusual nature of the story and the fantasy world make this a rather compelling read.  The fact that the book is just over 200 pages is a nice bonus for those readers who aren't ready for the  often too long fantasy tomes available.  There is also some humor in some of the things that strong-willed Lorelei says and in the fact that she can't understand what Squeak, the smart mouse says.  

In addition to the creative nature of this story, I admired the fact that some rather important themes are imbedded in the story without being intrusive.  Once she starts to realize the power she holds, Lorelei is left having to make some really hard decisions, decisions that she really struggles with making.  The power of imagination to create or destroy also becomes clear as Lorelei faces off with the Ink King and the world he has built.  The Wishing World makes for an entertaining and thoughtful read with moments of laughter, tears, and hope aplenty.

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Extreme Wildfire by Mark Thiessen


In one moment, there’s a simple spark, and then roaring flames surge 200 feet into the air, devouring forests. Trees, from root to canopy, are burned to the ground. Airtankers and helicopters hover above, executing an air attack. Brave firefighters, equipped with flame resistant suits, leap from helicopters onto the treetops and descend to the blazing forest floor.

In this book, young readers will learn about the ecological impacts of wildfires, the ins and outs of fire science including tactics for prevention and containment, cutting-edge technology used to track wildfires and predict fire behavior, and about the impressive skill, survival tactics, and bravery required to control a wildfire. Also included are expert tips, fun facts, and breathtaking photos taken by the author.


Fire, a topic both fascinating and terrifying, takes center stage in this new book by National Geographic Kids along with the men and women who fight it. Thiessen tells stories about his own experiences getting firefighter certified and some of the fires he's witnessed.  I think that personal touch makes this book all the more compelling.  The variety of stunning photographs doesn't hurt the pull of the book either.  In addition to the stories about real fires, Thiessen also presents information about training, the different types of firefighters, strategies for fighting fires, as well as the basics of wildfires (such as that they require three things to occur: heat, fuel, and oxygen).  Other topics addressed include: fighting fires from the ground, fighting fires from the air, and the ecology of wildfires (why they aren't always bad, and how nature recovers).  The last section of the book talks about how we have to live with wildfires and what we can to do to avoid them when possible. This is a great resource for those interested in firefighting and a fascinating account of a natural phenomenon.

SERIES THURSDAY: Long Road to Freedom/Race to the South Pole by Kate Messner


Ranger is a time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training. In this adventure, he goes to a Maryland plantation during the days of American slavery, where he meets a young girl named Sarah. When she learns that the owner has plans to sell her little brother, Jesse, to a plantation in the Deep South, it means they could be separated forever. Sarah takes their future into her own hands and decides there's only one way to run -- north.


Ranger is such an appealing hero, especially since he doesn't know he is one.  As a dog, all he knows is that when his time traveling first aid kit hums, its time to go help someone.  Messner has created an appealing historical fiction series that draws kids in with it's time traveling dog as the main character.  Students at my school really like this series.  This series along with Lauren Tarshis's I Survived series are encouraging students to read historical fiction who would otherwise never pick it up because history is 'boring'.  But in this volume of the series, history is definitely not boring as Ranger sets off to help a young slave girl and her brother escape servitude.  There is plenty of excitement as Sarah and her brother try to work their way north to Philadelphia only to discover that Pennsylvania may not be far enough.  Along the way Ranger helps them avoid wolves and slave catchers.  The book contains plenty of excitement and tension while still conveying the drive for freedom that lead so many to accept the risks involved.  The book is child appropriate while still showing the value of freedom.  As always, Messner includes end notes that explain where she got her facts and which parts of the story are real.  I love reading these notes and hearing about the research that Messner does to make her stories feel so real.  A great series for young dog or history lovers that I hope will continue for a while.


Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, joins an early twentieth-century expedition journeying from New Zealand to Antarctica. He befriends Jack Nin, the stowaway turned cabin boy of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's ship. They're racing against a rival explorer to reach the South Pole, but with unstable ice, killer whales, and raging blizzards, the journey turns into a race against time... and a struggle to stay alive.


Once again, Ranger sets off through time to help a young person in trouble.  He arrives in time to save Jack Nin from drowning.  As Ranger travels with Jack and the rest of Captain Scott's crew, he has not idea that he will see and experience things that few ever do, penguins, killer whales, nasty blizzards, and deep crevasses.  But through it all Ranger travels by Jack's side wondering when he'll get to go home.  I enjoyed traveling with Ranger and Jack as Jack learns for the first time just what being an adventurer means.  For a long time he thinks that fame and fortune is what it's all about, but slowly he learns that maybe adventure isn't quite as much fun as he has always thought.  Messner has done a great job of using details from accounts taken from some of those who actually traveled with Scott to create a believable story with lots of exciting details.  Another fun read in an appealing series.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

BOARD BOOK REVIEWS: My First Book of Animal Hugs and Kisses/My First Book of Animal Opposites


Charming photos of wildlife combined with adorable comments offer a heartwarming look at creatures from around the world. Any toddler will love this vibrant book—as will adults sharing it with little ones.


There are several things that I look for when I review board books.  Bright colorful illustrations are a must for a board book. There needs to be things to attract young eyes.  This book definitely has that quality with gorgeous photographs of animals 'hugging' and 'kissing'.  The variety in the size of the picture provides a nice contrast for young eyes.  Board books don't necessarily need text but when they have text it needs to be short enough not to bog down the reading.  The youngest listeners need practice listening and interacting over books so they should provide a fun experience without being overly long.  This book provides simple text that combines beautifully with the photographs.  For example, the book starts with, "Some animals KISS to say "Hello!" followed by a picture of prairie dogs 'kissing' and the statement "Prairie dogs kiss".   The gorgeous photographs combined with the straight-forward text make for a fun reading experience for reader and child.  There may even be some giggles along the way as the child sees the different animals interact with each other.


This photo-illustrated gem teaches the youngest of children about opposites using examples from the animal kingdom. Families who love nature and the world’s wild places will enjoy sharing these animal opposites.


Books about opposites are a common thing for young readers.  What makes this one stand out are the gorgeous photographs.  Comparisons in terms of size, softness, habitats, transportation and other animal related opposites make this book not only a fun way to learn opposites but a fun way to learn about animals.  Lions, egrets, puffins, cheetah, tortoise, hippo, and crocodile all make an appearance along with a few other animals.  This book makes for a fun shared reading experience.

Monday, October 17, 2016

MMGM: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer


The compelling tale of a girl who must save a group of bonobos--and herself--from a violent coup.

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sanctuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.


Schrefer has crafted a story that is both eye-opening and touching.  A story that seems historical but is very much contemporary.  Through the eyes of one young girl, the reader gets a glimpse into the deep-seeded challenges of a conflict-riddled third-world country.  Sophie has come to stay at her mother's wild animal preserve in the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Being biracial complicates things a bit (Congolese mother, white American father) as she's seen as foreign both in America and in the Congo, but she's learned to deal with that.  What she doesn't expect to happen on this visit is falling in love with an injured baby bonobo that she can't help but buy from a local bush-meat trader.  This spontaneous act sets off a series of events that leaves Sophie feeling guilty and conflicted.   And things take a turn for the worse when just after her mother sets off to release some bonobos into the wild, the Congo once again erupts into devastating violence.  As Sophie struggles to keep herself and her bonobo, Otto, alive, she's forced to face the consequences of her own actions as well as the horrible results of war.  

Despite the devastation that Sophie sees both inside and outside of the bonobo sanctuary, Sophie remains determined to survive, but at what cost.  Is it possible to survive a war without being corrupted by it?  Several close calls (including a near rape) leave Sophie desperately hoping to find her mother in all the chaos.  The book does contain numerous references to violence including burned villages, dead bodies, and vague references to rape.  I found the relationship between Sophie and Otto to be very compelling as I read quickly to find out what would happen to them.  Schrefer has created a remarkable story of survival and hope in a world gone to pieces.

Friday, October 14, 2016

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Sword in the Stacks by Jen Swann Downey


Now official apprentices of the Lybrariad, Dorris and Marcus have joined Ebba in the immense time-folding labyrinth known as Petrarch's Library for the Summer Quarter.

Dorrie is eager to do well at her practicums, and prove her worth as an apprentice, but before she can choose between "Spears, Axes, and Cats: Throwing Objects with Precision and Flair” and "First and Last Aid: When No One Else Is Coming", mistakes made by Dorrie in the past cause trouble for the lybrarians.

The Foundation, once nearly destroyed by the Lybrariad, now has the means to rise from its ashes, and disappear reading and writing from the world. To make sure it succeeds, the Foundation sets in motion a dark plan to increase the power of a cruel figure from the fifteenth century.

To stop the Foundation, Dorrie, Marcus and Ebba will have to burglarize Aristotle, gather information among the suffragists and anti-suffragists of 1912 London, and risk their lives to wrest a powerful weapon out of the Foundation's hands - all while upholding the Lybrariad's first principle of protecting all writing, appreciated or despised. If they fail, reading and writing will only be the first things to disappear.


Dorrie and Marcus are delighted to be back in Petrarch's Library, as welcome apprentices this time.  But things aren't going as well for the Lyrariad as they would have hoped, and Dorrie feels partially responsible, since she and Marcus lost the page from the History of Histories that may lead the Foundation to change the past in seriously dangerous ways.  But in-between worrying about the Foundation's activities, Dorrie and her friends focus on learning from their classes.  Dorrie and her friends also discover a new ghost library where they work on helping Marcus and Dorrie fix past mistakes and make plans for stopping the Foundation's latest plot.  The thing that I like about this series is the way that historical characters and events are blended into the story.  For example, for one class, Dorrie and Ebba are assigned to help protect the efforts of an anti-suffrage group who they heartily disagree with when they would much rather help the suffragist they befriend along the way.  Can they find a way to do both?  I also love the idea of Lyrarians out in the world protecting free speech/intellectual freedom.  This is a fun series for children who love unusual libraries.  This is along the same lines as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, except with more serious themes and sword play.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Science of Fun Stuff To Go!


Become an expert on your favorite sports, treats, magic tricks, and more in this fact-tastic boxed set of six nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read books that are part of a series about the science of fun stuff!

Full of engaging science and quirky facts, this incredible Science of Fun Stuff collection will teach Level 3 readers everything they want to know about the behind-the-scenes physics, chemistry, and technology of baseball, amusement parks, magic, snow, candy, and airplanes! A special section at the back of each book includes Common Core–vetted extras on subjects like history, social studies, geography, and math, and there’s even fun quizzes so readers can test themselves to see what they’ve learned! Learning science has never been so much fun!

Included in this Science of Fun Stuff boxed set are The Innings and Outs of BaseballThe Thrills and Chills of Amusement ParksPulling Back the Curtain on Magic!The Cool Story Behind SnowThe Sugary Secrets Behind Candy; and How Airplanes Get from Here…to There!


The books in this series take readers behind the scenes of some really cool topics to explain the science that allows those things to exist.  This fabulous new series is both visually and textually appealing.  The cartoon illustrations add humor to the explanatory text.  The scientific terms for things are used, but most of them are explained as simply as it can be.  I learned quite a bit from these books and I've studied some of this material before.  A great series for children who are budding young scientists.

The Thrills and Chills of Amusement Parks takes the reader inside the science behind the creation of not only the rides such as roller coasters and bumper cars, but also takes a look at some of the treats and games as well.  Newton's three laws of motion are introduced and demonstrated as well as the concept of gravity and centripetal force.  The end of the book provides additional fun details about the history of amusement parks in America, the locations of some of the best known amusement parks and facts and figures about some of the most extreme rides.  This is a fascinating look at the science behind all the fun people have at amusement parks.

The Innings and Outs of Baseball focuses on the science of America's pastime.   The book looks at the science behind hitting, pitching with explanations of several different types of pitches and how they are possible), the stadium experience, and baseball experiments.  I didn't realize that certain pitches come about because of the way the pitcher holds the ball.  Some of the experiments performed over the years related to baseball are also fascinating.  Additional information includes a brief baseball timeline, women in baseball, and the anatomy of the human arm.  A brief quiz allows the reader to see how much they remember from the book.

Pulling Back the Curtain on Magic! I loved this one because like many people I'm fascinated by magic tricks.  This book shines a light on some of the major concepts behind magic (misdirection, illusion, distraction) as well details about how certain tricks work and why they do.  References to certain characteristics of the human brain were interesting as were the details about how magicians take advantage of them.  I think my favorite part of this book was the explanation for how you can get a straw to penetrate an apple.  It's science, not magic!  A great book for budding young magicians.

The Cool Story Behind Snow explores the water cycle and how precipitation forms along with the differences between rain, snow, sleet, and hail.  Additional information is provided on how a snow storm develops including details about blizzards and ice storms.  Weather balloons, weather prediction and weather records are included at the back. The illustrations add plenty of humor to this title making for both an entertaining and informative read.  

The Sugary Secrets Behind Candy taught me a lot about the processes involved in making sugar and chocolate.  I had no idea there was so much going on behind the scenes in candy production.  And the information about taste buds and how certain flavors are created was down right delicious.  I loved reading about the different kinds of candy found around the world as well as the candy history section and the Hershey timeline.  Lots of sweetness can be found in this book.

How Airplanes Get from There!  Flight is something that seems to fascinate both young and old.  In this book young readers can learn about the Wright Brothers as well as the basic principles behind how and why an airplane flies.  Instructions for building a paper airplane combine with suggestions for where flight might go next and amusing illustrations make for an appealing read for airplane aficionados.

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