2016 Goodreads Challenge Update #2

2016 Goodreads Challenge 2

It took me a little longer than expected to read the next 10 books in my Goodreads challenge. This is due to many reasons: I got sick with a particularly nasty sinus something or another — twice — in the past few months, and I find it hard to read when I’m not feeling well. I’ve also been going through phases where I’d rather reread favorites instead of reading something new. And there were a couple of books that I picked up, read a few chapters, then put down again. But I made it! So here we go:

Winter –> I bought this book when it first came out, and I started reading it right away. I inhaled the first 1/3 of the book, and I was certain that I’d finish it before 2016, but then the middle part dragged on, and I ended up putting it down for…a month or two? I don’t know. It was awhile. But once I picked it up again and managed to get through the slow middle part, I inhaled the rest of it. Over all, I thought it was a good ending to a beloved series (even if the middle part was kind of slow).

The Walls Around Us –> I picked this book up during a phase where I wanted to read something, but didn’t feel like reading anything in particular. The book had been on my To Read list for awhile, and I had an arc of it laying around, so I picked it up. This book and how I feel about it is a perfect example of how being a mood reader affects what you think of books. I think this book is incredibly well written. The characters are vivid and the mood is eerie and suspenseful. But, as I was reading it, I thought it was just okay because I just wasn’t in the mood for a spooky magical realism book about murderous ballerinas.

The Shadow Queen –> I wasn’t going to read this one initially because I am SO OVER the whole fairy tale retelling genre. (I’ll probably get back into it when it becomes popular again, but for now I’m DONE). But then I heard that the Snow White character also has magic, and that there are DRAGONS in it, so I decided to pick it up. Again, this is a book that has good writing, good characters, nice setting, okay plot…but I felt very meh about it. I didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it. It was just okay. I did, however, recommend it to a friend who I thought would enjoy it. She was interested enough to pick it up, but I haven’t heard about whether she finished it or not.

Illuminae –> This book! THIS. BOOK! You can imagine that after reading several books that were just meh, I was starting to feel very apathetic about reading. But I heard a lot of good things about this book, so I picked it up. And, OH BOY, I am so glad that I did! This book is storytelling at it’s finest, and it’s just so visually appealing! My review of it on Goodreads is simply, “This book is a work of art,” and it really is. It’s also science fiction done right, and I am so much in love with this book!

Into the Dim –> And we’re back to a book that’s just okay. This book was described as Outlander for the younger crowd. While I haven’t read Outlander, I’ve seen bits of the show, and I generally really like time travel stories, so I picked it up. And. Yeah. It’s decent. The characters are good. The setting is…well, the setting is really well done. The plot is okay. I can totally see why there are so many people loving this book, but for me it was just okay.

The Dragonet Prophecy & The Lost Heir –> The Wings of Fire series is really popular at my library, so I decided to read the first book to see what all the buzz was about (and to help with my reader’s advisory, of course). I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, but there you go. I love the characters and the world building and the plot. And the writing is such that I found it really hard to put down. If I were a 10-year-old, I would be GEEKING OUT about this series. But I’m not 10, so I’m not geeking out, but I did really, really enjoy it. I don’t know if I’ll read anymore in the series…but maybe.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook –> I picked this one up solely because the premise of a child being raised in a prison was very intriguing to me. I have to admit that this book was wonderful, but I didn’t love it, love it. And I’m not sure how many kids would enjoy it.

First & Then –> I was so excited about this book because I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen retellings. Seriously. A great Sunday afternoon for me would consist of a Jane Austen movie, tea, and some form of baked goods. Since I was so excited for this one going into it, I was doubly disappointed to find it very meh. (Are you seeing a theme here?) There were some good things about this book, but I mostly found it boring and a little baffling (Why does this girl who seemingly has only 1 friend get invited to the popular parties? Why does the writing sometimes try to imitate Jane Austen, but then goes back to a typical YA writing? Why is a girl pregnant when we never really expand on that story?) UGH!

The Wrath and the Dawn –> And we are finally, FINALLY, back to a book that made me love reading all over again! This one came out last year and has had a lot of good reviews. It’s a retelling of 1001 Nights (there’s been a lot of those lately), and I completely fell in love with the world and the characters. I’m pretty sure I read this book in a day, and I have the sequel on hold at my library, and I am waiting very impatiently for it to come in!

And there you have it! Goals for my next ten books include trying to read an adult book (I’ve fallen so behind on my adult book reading that it’s kind of sad). I also would really like to throw in some nonfiction too, but we’ll see if that happens.

10 New-ish Picture Books That are Storytime Gold

Storytime GoldHoot and Peep1. Hoot and Peep by Lita Judge.

Exquisite illustrations reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night really make this picture book stand out as a gem. The story features a pompous older old brother who wants to share his owly wisdom with his little sister and doesn’t seem to appreciate his sister’s unique voice. When I shared it in storytime, I invited the children to “hoo” along with the owls, which ended up being a big hit! This book is a tad on the longer side, so it’s best to share it slightly older preschoolers, though the toddlers in my group enjoyed “hoo-ing” just as much as the older kids. “Hoo-ing” aside, this is also a quieter book, best shared at the start of storytime before the wiggles really take over.

Super Jumbo2. Super Jumbo by Fred Koehler.

Every child dreams of being a super hero, and this picture book perfectly captures the imaginative ways children pretend to save the day. Prior to storytime, I enjoyed examining the pictures and got a chuckle over some of the details. During storytime, I appreciated the spare text that makes this book great for sharing with wiggly kids and toddlers. I also loved the opportunities for open-ended questions that this book presented. Examples include: “Who is he helping?”, “Do you think they want to be helped?”, and “What’s Super Jumbo’s greatest weakness?” The story ends with the message that helping a friend makes the world a little more super.

Get Out of My Bath3. Get Out of My Bath by Britta Teckentrup

This is an older one (copyright, 2015), but I didn’t get a chance to use it in storytime until recently because it had been so popular that it was almost constantly checked out! This is an interactive book in which you tilt and shake the book to make the bath water move. While I’m not thrilled with the way elephant asks the other animals to leave her bath (“Get out of my bath” just seems a little rude to me), the kids definitely enjoyed the story and parents wanted to check the book out after storytime. The illustrations are also cute, and the fact that this book is interactive and short makes it perfect for a wiggly crowd!

Opposite Zoo

4. The Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na

I’m sure it’s a surprise to no one that a book by Il Sung Na is on this list. This book features Na’s whimsical artwork and also focuses on a favorite topic for the younger crowd: opposites! A monkey visits its neighbors in a zoo, and the readers are introduced to various opposites by the animals. Some are predictable: the sloth is slow, and the cheetah is fast. But other pairings are more imaginative. When I read this in a family storytime, the kids loved pointing out the various opposite pairs. The short text and colorful illustrations makes this book perfect for a toddler storytime, but it works equally well for the slightly older crowd.

Good Night Like This5. Good Night Like This by Mary Murphy

Pretty much everything by Mary Murphy is storytime gold, but I love this book in particular because of it’s twilight colors and the calming text. This is a perfect book calming down a hyper-active bunch (if they are able to be calmed down, that is), and it’s also great for a quieter bunch. Perceptive children may even spot the silhouettes of animals telling others good night on each page.

I am bear6. I Am Bear by Ben Bailey Smith and Sav Akyuz

I gotta warn you, this book could wrinkle some parent noes over the fact that the bear starts out bare. I personally feel, however, that it’s a good opportunity to expand vocabulary and maybe talk about homophones (plus the kids will get a good laugh). Bare bears aside, this book is wonderful. Full of bright colors with only two sentences per spread, this could work very well for kids of all ages. There’s also an opportunity for a game of peek-a-boo, and who doesn’t love shouting out BOO in storytime?

Puddle7. Puddle by Hyewon Yum

Okay, I haven’t actually tried it yet, but I have grand plans for this book in storytime. My plan involves paper, crayons, and having the kids draw their own version of puddles while I read the story. At the end, we’ll all stand up, put our puddles on the floor and jump in! Depending on the crowd, this could either be a great extension activity or a disaster. Still, I’m super excited to try something creative with this imaginative book!

Peddles8. Peddles by Elizabeth Ross Stanton

Speaking of imaginative stories, Peddles is about an adorable pig who thinks outside of the box. When Peddles discovers his love for dancing, he goes off to find some appropriate footwear. After a few unfortunate options (paint cans, flower pots, and even bee hives) Peddles finds a nice pair of red boots. Unfortunately, he finds it difficult to walk in said boots until he gets some help from his barnyard friends. Featuring pencil and watercolor illustrations and focusing on the themes of creativity and teamwork, this is a great one to share in storytime!

Strictly No Elephants9. Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Montchev

I feel like I say this a lot — or, at least, I think it a lot — but this book is SO FRIGGIN’ CUTE! A little boy with a pet elephant is excluded from a pet club due to his unusual choice of pet. While this is very disheartening the boy eventually finds other children with weird pets and they start their own club. The illustrations are charming and the story could open up a great conversation about inclusion and treating others as you want to be treated. If that’s a little heavy-handed for your storytimes, you could also change the conversation to what kinds of unusual pets the kids would like to have and make a chart of their pets (unusual or otherwise) to add a STEM activity!

Dear Yeti10. Dear Yeti by James Kwan

Two hikers set out to meet the illusive yeti in this wonderful story. Told through a series of (storytime-short) letters to the yeti, we follow the hikers and see how the yeti watches over them on their trip. When a mean, old grizzly attacks, the gentle yeti saves that day using only words (no violence). The story ends with the hikers getting a letter back from the yeti. This is a sweet story to share with a storytime crowd.


2016 Goodreads Challenge Update

2016 Goodreads Challenge

It was really hard for me to set my Goodreads challenge this year. In 2015, I pledged to read 50 books, and I was able to surpass that pretty easily, but this year, I wondered if I should set a lower goal so that I could reread more books (I do not count rereads in my Goodreads challenge). I ended up sticking with 50 because it seems like a decent number of books for a librarian; however, I also decided to keep a Word document of every single book that I read this year, which includes things that I don’t count towards my Goodreads challenge, including: picture books, early readers, books I didn’t finish, and rereads. According to Goodreads, I’ve read 10 books so far and am 6 books ahead of schedule. According to Microsoft Word, I’ve read 29 books so far this year. Hmmm…

Anyway, here’s the Goodreads books:

The Sword of Summer –> Can you believe that this is the first Rick Riordan book that I’ve read? I tried picking up The Red Pyramid a few years back, but didn’t get more than a few chapters into it. I’ve always been curious as to Riordan’s appeal, and I do love me some Norse mythology, so I picked this one up. Despite thinking that it could have been edited down to less pages, I really enjoyed it! I absolutely love the characters and world building, and I can totally see why kids/tweens/teens/adults are into these stories. I may pick up another Riordan book before the year’s out! (Maybe.)

A Thousand Pieces of You & Ten Thousand Skies Above You –> I kept seeing these books on Tumblr, so I checked them out to see if they were actually good or if the Tumblr crowd was just reblogging them due to their pretty covers (you can never be sure with the Tumblr crowd). While I can’t speak for the rest of Tumblr, I think these books are good. They’re a very unique blend of sci fi (which isn’t my absolute favorite genre) and historical fiction. The characters are fully developed and you really do grow to love them. I also loved the world building. I couldn’t wait to see where they’d end up next and how they’d all be connected in that world. So, yeah, two very high thumbs up from me. (And it doesn’t hurt that the covers are pretty.)

Baba Yaga’s Assistant –> We have A LOT of graphic novel fans at my library, so I spent this month trying to catch up on some great graphic novels that I heard about but never got around to reading. This one was recommended to me by a coworker. I liked it. It was an interesting spin on Baba Yaga, and I really loved the protagonist.

Meet the Bigfeet –> This is an early chapter book that I stumbled upon while helping a young reader find a chapter book to read. I don’t know why I didn’t know about it before, seeing as it’s written by KEVIN SHERRY, but every librarian misses a book here and there. I thought this one was a great book for the early chapter book crowd. (Side note: I probably shouldn’t count early chapter books towards my Goodreads challenge, but eh…)

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword –> This is another graphic novel series that I heard a lot about over the years but never got around to reading until recently. I really loved the sense of family in this one and how it blended with elements of fantasy.

Monstrous –> I picked this one up because I saw the review for the second installment and I thought the cover (of both books) looked cool. It started out as a slow read for me, and I almost put it down, but I kept reading and ended up really liking it. I love that it’s a retelling of Frankenstein and that it has a very girl power vibe to it.

Zita the Spacegirl –> Another graphic novel. I don’t really have much to say about this one.

Awkward –> Last graphic novel! I picked this one up because I thought it could be a good one to recommend to Raina Telgemeier fans. I tried book talking it to one girl and was unsuccessful in convincing her to check it out, but I will continue trying because I think it does have high kid appeal and a pretty cool story.

The Siren –> This one was such a disappointment!!! The writing style was awesome as ever and the characters and world building were amazing, but the romance fell flat (they went on two dates and considered themselves in love) and the book was 90 percent pining from afar.

What I Read in 2015

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It is mid-December as I type this, and I am currently 49 books into my 50 books reading goal for the year (this count does not include rereads, picture books, or early readers). I’m smack dab in the middle of Winter by Marissa Meyer and will be picking up Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. And with several days off of work for the upcoming holidays, I am fairly confident that I will reach, and possibly surpass, my 50 book goal for the year.

2015 was a FANTASTIC reading year for me! I can’t even tell you how many times I found myself so completely absorbed in a book that I lost track of time and space and sorta forgot who I was for a bit. This usually doesn’t happen to me very often, but there was just something about this year. Maybe it was a good year for books in general. Or maybe I’m just getting better at finding stuff that I like. Or maybe the planets and stars just aligned in such a way that all Tauruses had a good reading year. I don’t know. But I do know that I had so many feels about so many books, that I just have to talk about them. So here’s an end of year reading survey. Be careful; it’s long.

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What I’m Reading

Some of my favorite posts on other peoples’ blogs are of the “What I’ve Been Reading” variety.  I don’t even care if they include detailed reviews or short synopses or just a few bullet points about what they liked or hated about the book.  I just love these types of posts and want to start including my own from time to time.  So here we go:

Ophelia and the Marvelous BoyOphelia and the Marvelous Boy
By Karen Foxlee

Goodreads SummaryUnlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

My Thoughts:  I should admit that I personally feel that the Snow Queen plot is a bit over done in children’s literature, and it’s never been one of my favorite stories.  So I went into this story with low expectations.  What saved this book, for me, was the setting.  I may not like the Snow Queen plot, but I do love museums, and the majority of this story takes place in one of the most interesting museums I have ever encountered.  I loved how big the museum is, how much history it possesses, and how it has rooms upon rooms of seemingly random objects!

Another plus for this story is the main character.  Ophelia is portrayed as a very realistic girl.  She is grieving for her mother and trying to connect with her father and sister, all the while trying to help this mysterious boy even though the thought of helping him and going against the Snow Queen terrifies her.  She is nervous — almost to the point of panic — yet courageous.  She is flawed and innocent, yet intelligent.

While this book isn’t one of my favorites and even felt slow in parts, I still enjoyed it overall.  Which is saying a lot, considering I really don’t like the Snow Queen plot.  I would definitely place this book in the hands of fantasy enthusiasts.

By Rainbow Rowell

Goodreads Summary:  “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

My Thoughts:  Okay, this isn’t a children’s book.  It isn’t even a YA book (though I can see it having a YA audience).  This is an adult book that came out in 2011 and focuses on characters who are 28 and who are trying to make that final transition into full blown adulthood.  I loved this book!  Maybe not as much as I loved Eleanor and Park or Fangirl, but I still really, really enjoyed it.  Rowell has a talent for writing characters who could very well be my best friends.  Her stories are bits and pieces of my own experiences sewn together and — okay — given a bit of fictional flair.  This book may not be the next great American novel, but it’s definitely a story to get attached to.

a snicker of magicA Snicker of Magic
By Natalie Lloyd

Goodreads Summary:  Introducing an extraordinary new voice—a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

My Thoughts:  I’m calling it now…this one’s a Newbery contender.  This book has the unique talent of combining the ordinary with just enough of the fantastical to make you believe that maybe, just maybe, magic exists.  A strong cast of characters, an intriguing setting, and a whole lot of ice cream makes this a book worth reading.

Two things that I really loved about this book were Felicity’s penchant for seeing words, and the fact that Jonah’s in a wheelchair but it isn’t made into a big deal.  The words that Felicity sees are no doubt magical in themselves, and I firmly believe that Lloyd considered each word she chose for Felicity to see with great care.  The groups of words usually have a cadence that feel as though they belong with one another, and often they represent the characters or situations being mentioned in the book.

As for Jonah being in the wheelchair…  Usually in media, the characters don’t possess any real handicaps, or if they do, their handicaps become their story.  That isn’t the case with Jonah.  Yes, he’s in a wheelchair, but he is not helpless and the chair does not define who he is as a person.  He is an amazing character, who does a lot of good and becomes Felicity’s quasi-crush (this isn’t a romance, but the crush is hinted at for both parties).  While I don’t have a problem with stories that focus on handicaps, I still think that it’s very refreshing to see a character who’s in a wheelchair, but isn’t defined entirely by the wheelchair.

Perfect for Storytime: March/April Edition

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I’ve been a bit remiss with my posting lately.  I wish I could promise that I’ll rectify this problem, but the truth is that my updates will most likely become more and more sporadic as Summer Reading draws nearer (and I’ll probably go on a full on hiatus in June and July…you’ve been warned).  But it’s not summer yet, so here are a few books that are perfect for storytime!


Orangutangled by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Published 2/11/14

This wild romp of a book is perfect for any jungle themed storytime!  Two orangutans wake up, craving a snack, in the middle of the night.  They find some delicious mangoes in a tree, but when they reach for them, they lose their balance and the mangoes and monkeys come crashing crashing down and end up orangutangled!  Several other jungle animals attempt to free the primates but end up being orangutangled as well!  The illustrations, rendered in ink, brush, and photoshop, fit well with this silly story that kids will love.

DangerousDangerous by Tim Warnes
Published 3/1/14

This book is short and simple, but would still be wonderful to share in storytime.  Mole loves labeling things, but when he comes across an alligator, he doesn’t know what to label it.  So he labels it many things, such as bumpy and lumpy and dangerous.  The alligator wants to befriend mole (and, believe it or not, his reasons aren’t nefarious), but mole grows angry when the alligator continuously eats all his labels.  In the end, they both apologize and mole gives alligator a new label: friend.  The cartoonish illustrations are awash with bright greens and yellows, and the text is large enough to read easily to a group.  But the best thing about this book is the vocabulary.

the short giraffeThe Short Giraffe by Neil Flory
Published 3/1/14

Boba the baboon wants to take a picture of the tallest animals, the giraffes.  But there’s one tiny problem — Geri the giraffe is much smaller than his friends, and it’s difficult to get him into the shot.  They try stilts, a turtle tower, and even helium, to no avail (but some hilarious pictures result from it).  Finally, a tiny caterpillar suggest that instead of raising Geri up to their heights, the taller giraffes should bend down to Geri’s height.  This works perfectly and the final picture of the giraffes is the best one yet.  The giraffes look a little silly, and the text can’t decide if it wants to rhyme or not, but overall this is a great story to share for a jungle theme, a big and small theme, or a theme about being a little different.

go go go stopGo! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper
Published 2/25/14

This terrific book combines the concept of stop and go with construction!  One day, little green said a word:  Go!  And the construction trucks woke up and got to work.  But when there’s a little too much go and things get out of hand, little red steps in with a new word:  Stop!  They work together with hilarious results and a bridge gets built.  And just as the cars start to drive over the bridge, little yellow rolls into town.  I bet you can guess little yellow’s word!  This book would work well with any construction, things that go, or movement storytime!

tiny rabbit's big wishTiny Rabbit’s Big Wish by Margarita Engle
Published 3/4/14

Tiny rabbit wants to be big and strong, but the only thing that seems to be big for him are his ears.  However, he soon realizes that his big ears are very useful because they allow him to hear all sorts of things — including a hungry lion.  And his tiny frame is useful too because it allows him to hide from the hungry lion.  The acrylic illustrations are adorable, although I’m not quite sure what forest animals are doing in a jungle animal habitat.  Also, the text in this book is a little bit on the tiny side, which is appropriate for the story but it makes group sharing a tad bit difficult (but not impossible, especially if you practice beforehand).


Perfect for Storytime: February Edition

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February is slowly creeping to an end, which means it’s time for me to talk about a few of my favorite new picture books!  I was able to keep a better eye on the new books that came in this month, and I was also able to read a good selection and ended up writing reviews for a few on Goodreads.  I’m going to post my favorite books today, so here we go:

I HatchedI Hatched by Jill Esbaum
Published 1/23/2014

This picture book features rhyming text that details the hatching and first day of a baby bird. The ink/watercolor/pencil illustrations steal the show as the young bird discovers running, singing, and eating, among other things. The book ends with another hatching and the baby bird says hello to a sister. The rhyming text and large scale illustrations makes this book perfect for sharing with a group.

How to Wash a Wooly MammothHow to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson
Published 1/21/2014

Joining the ranks of other great odd pets picture books, How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth is a hilarious step-by-step bathtime story that preschool children will love!  While this book would work well for storytime, I would also encourage parents to check it out after storytime so that they and their little ones can pour over the illustrations.  There are some details in the pictures that they may not have noticed in a storytime crowd, but would love to laugh over together in a one on one reading session.  One of my favorite things about this book in particular is the mammoth’s facial expressions.

MonsterBeGoodMonster Be Good by Natalie Marshall
Published 2/26/13

Colors abound in this short picture book in which the audience is in charge of a group of rowdy monsters.  If a monster is noisy, children can tell him to be quiet.  If a monster is selfish, children can tell him to take turns.  Storytime crowds will love the chance to tell monsters to “sit still” and “go to sleep” and parents will appreciate that this book introduces a fun way to talk to their kids about manners and other social situations (including bullying).  What I love best about this book, is what usually grabs my attention when it comes to picture books:  bold, bright, and fun illustrations!


Big Rig by Jamie A. Swenson
Published 2/4/14

While there are a lot of things to love about this picture book about an 18-wheeler big rig, two things that really stand out for me include:  the terminology and the sound effects.  This book introduces young children to the work, mechanics, and terminology of trucking.  The word ‘cargo’ is explained in the text, and the other terms are defined in a glossary at the back of the book.  While adults will love the fact that this book helps expand a child’s vocabulary, children will love sounding the horn along with the truck throughout the story.  I can already see myself going “URRRNNT-URRRNNNT!” in storytime now!

And now two books that would be great for toddler or baby storytimes:

NestNest by Jorey Hurley
Published 2/4/14

Wonderful photoshop illustrations chronicle a year in the life of two birds.  With one word per page, this book would be perfect for baby or toddler storytimes, though it could also work well with a slightly older group under the right circumstances.  While not nonfiction, this book could still be used as a way to introduce habitats.  My favorite thing about this book is how the seasons change in the illustrations.  This book would be perfect for a birds, homes, forest, or seasons storytime.

say hello like thisSay Hellow Like This! by Mary Murphy
Published 2/11/14

Reminiscent of Murphy’s “A Kiss Like This,” this picture book is bright, colorful, and has ample opportunity for little ones to make animal sounds.

Perfect for Storytime: January Edition

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A few years back, when I was still a very new full time librarian, I used to read Awesome Storytime. Back in the day, this blog had a series that I loved called “Storytime Contenders.”  As someone who was new to children’s services and who hadn’t read a picture book since 1st grade, this series was immensely helpful to me.  Not only for finding quality books to use for storytime, but also as a collection development tool.

Since the first couple of months at my new job were very busy for me, I fell out of the habit of checking out new picture books.  In order to rectify this, I’ve decided to start a monthly blog series similar to Storytime Contenders.  Each month, towards the end of the month, I’ll post a list of a few of my favorite new-to-me picture books.  My hope is that this series will not only keep my butt in gear about reading new picture books, but that it’ll also be beneficial for others as far as storytime planning, collection development, or just providing a place to talk about a picture book that is particularly awesome (or not awesome).

So here we go:

Love Monster Rachel BrightLove Monster by Rachel Bright
Published 12/24/2013 (American Version)

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this picture book features a cuddly and very lonely monster who just wants to be loved!  He searches high and low and even middle-ish for someone who will love him as he is, googly eyes and all.  Just as he starts to believe that he’ll never find a companion, his luck changes and a bus driven by another monster rolls into town.  I love the use of color in this book — bright pastels darken as the monster gets sadder, but the light from the incoming bus brightens the pages once again!  The theme of feeling alone or out of place is universal, and is something that children will empathize with.  The story does run slightly on the sappy side, but not overly so and would be all kinds of amazing for a Valentine’s Day theme storytime!

Planes Fly George Ella LyonPlanes Fly! by George Ella Lyon
Published 7/23/2013

In many ways, this picture book is reminiscent of Airplanes: Soaring! Diving! Turning! by Patricia Hubbell.  However, while I love Hubbell’s version, I personally think this one outshines it for several reasons.  First, it covers not only different planes and what they can do, but also the different people associated with planes, such as pilots and air traffic controllers (and even passengers).  Second, it doesn’t shy away from introducing airplane terminology (I had to look up what ailerons were!).  Lastly, the large scale, digitally rendered illustrations are spectacular!  They give kids a sense of how massive some planes can be, and make the readers feel as though we’re going on a journey with the planes.  Plus the bright use of color is very eye-catching.  I’m definitely excited to try this one with a Things That Go theme for storytime!

Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy LambPaul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb
Published 12/10/2013

Fantastic oil illustrations depict a fish’s world in this (possible Caldecott contender?) picture book.  Paul, a fish who barely pays attention to the world outside his fish bowl receives a new companion one day.  Bernadette, a lovely salmon-colored fish, enhances Paul’s life by encouraging him to see past his fish bowl glass and admire the world around them.  Kids will delight over how Paul and Bernadette confuse real world objects (my favorite is the tea pot/elephant mix-up).  In the end, Paul not only has a new friend, but he also has a new appreciation for the world around him.  Sweet, charming, and lovely to look at, this is a great story to share with the storytime crowd.

Michael_Austin__JunkyardJunkyard by Mike Austin
Published 1/7/2014

This picture book features two robots: one a brilliant green and the other a combination of black and red that invokes the sense of rust.  These robots find themselves in the midst of a junkyard and immediately get to work clearing it away for the green of a garden.  There are plenty of books out there about keeping our world green; however, I feel like this one holds its own with its rhyming text and boldly colorful illustrations.  What I love best about the illustrations (other than how bright the colors are) is the fact that, in the beginning of the story, the junk illustrations are very cacophonous, but the resulting garden at the end is very tranquil.  This book can work equally well for a robots, messy, or garden theme!

Book Review: The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine.  G. P. Putman’s Sons.  Grades 5 – 8.  304 pages.

The year is 1958 and 12-year-old Marlee has a lot on her mind.  Her older brother has left for college, her crush is cheating off of her in math, and her older sister — one of the few people that Marlee is able to talk to — has to live with their grandmother in order to go to school due to the fact that the high schools of Little Rock, Arkansas are closed to prevent integration.  At night, Marlee listens to the lions of the Little Rock Zoo roar, and she wishes that she could find her own voice.  When she meets Liz, a spunky and vociferous girl at school, the two form a strong friendship, and Liz helps Marlee gather the courage needed to speak up for herself.  All seems to be going well until it’s discovered that Liz is a light-skinned African American who’s trying to pass in a white junior high school.  Liz is forced to attend a different school, and the two girls try to keep their friendship alive even though there are threats all around them.

This is an intriguing and well-written novel that focuses on a time period that’s largely neglected:  The year after the Little Rock Nine, when the high schools of Little Rock closed to prevent further integration.  With themes of racism, change, growing up, and finding one’s voice, this is a perfect book for a book talk during Black History Month or to recommend to a teacher who’s doing a lesson plan on this time period.

Marlee and Liz are strong and likable characters, and I think many junior high students will relate to Marlee’s quest of overcoming her shyness and finding her voice.