Thursday, January 18, 2018


Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package by Kate DiCamillo and Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen another story in the Tales From Deckawoo Drive series.

Eugenia Lincoln, the older of two sisters living on 52 Deckawoo Drive, does not like surprises and does not indulge in frivolity.  She's practical and has no time for fun silly things like an accordion.  One day a little man shows up at her door trying to get her to find that little bit of music in her heart.  Everyone has a bit he claims.  

After a night of music and merrymaking by everyone but Eugenia, she bumps into little Stella on her way to the trash who asks to try the accordion.  Before Stella could play anything, Eugenia accidentally squeezes out a bit of music on the keys and Stella excitedly claims that she just made music and should keep on playing.  

Maybe there is a place for some frivolity in Eugenia's life after all.  Will she ever find out who sent her the accordion?  Maybe it doesn't matter anymore.  

A beginning chapter book perfect for 2nd-4th grade readers. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Alan the alligator has enormous and brilliant white teeth. He does much to take care of them, brushing for at least ten minutes. These chompers are useful for many things but when he couples them with a variety of scaring techniques, the other animals are not amused; just downright scared! That is, until one day, a beaver comes and discovers a secret that Alan has been hiding. Instead of keeping the secret to himself, beaver shares it with the other animals. Will Alan find other ways to scare his friends?  

Jarvis’ story and illustrations in Alan’s Big Scary Teeth are hilariously fun and although Alan has a bit of a problem with scaring others, readers will find ways to root for him too.

For ages 3-7

Tuesday, January 09, 2018


Third grade can be so much fun! Friendships start to blossom and interest in school activities start to grow. When an upcoming musical is announced, excitement within the third grade class escalates and everyone starts to wonder who will be in it and which starlet will take the lead role. Could it be Shai, who’s ready to take center stage?  Or could it be super-confident Gabby?  Whoever it may be, taking a lead in the musical isn’t just about playing a part but also having naturally wonderful characteristics.

The part goes to…

Quvenzhané Wallis, along with Nancy Ohlin create this delightful beginning chapter book for students who really want to stay true to themselves but are are at times unsure.  With a strong support system, even third graders can get through tough situations.  Read Break an Egg!  

For grades 3-4.

Thursday, January 04, 2018


There are many roles in middle school that each person assumes. There are athletes, popular kids, nerds, teacher's pets, and over-achievers. Gracie doesn’t buy into any of it. She just goes with her own flow, even with family challenges at home. She is not considered a fashionista or 'big girl on campus;' she’s just a regular middle school girl who is witty, charming, and a good friend. She also happens to have a crush on a boy. The only problem is that her BFF has a crush on the same boy. When her very shy friend asks her for some help, what will Gracie do?

In, Well, That Was Awkward, Rachel Vail skillfully weaves the trials and tribulations of a middle-schooler in a relatable story. Despite her many challenges Gracie is somehow able to bring her strength and courage to the forefront. Rachel Vail's inclusion of middle-schoolers from different ethnic backgrounds is a plus.

For ages 12 and up.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


There are many types of dogs one can find at an animal shelter.  But did you ever see one that was as tall as a building and could belt out a loud roar?  In Anna Staniszewski’s story Dogosaurus Rex, Ben’s pet, Sadie, is everything and more, from sitting on command to rolling over, she is the perfect dog.  Some people in the community are a bit leery of her talents until a situation arises and she’s put to the test to make a performance of a lifetime.  

This humorous story will be enjoyed many times, and fans of Kevin Hawkes- the illustrator who brought The Library Lion to life- will not be disappointed with his latest work.  For ages 2-7 and of course, anyone who wants a dogosaurus as a pet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


In Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Zachariah OHora, three small, adorably fuzzy, and sadly illiterate rodents evidently have yet to read the definitive book on lemmings, which CLEARLY states that lemmings do NOT jump off cliffs.

Aboard the S.S. Cliff (a barge which may or may not in fact be a large whale), First Mate Foxy, the very much literate arctic fox, is surprised by the revelations of his new leisure reading material, Everything About Lemmings. “Huh! Says here, lemmings don’t jump off cliffs,” he muses aloud.

Unfortunately, the three aforementioned local lemmings also suffer from selective hearing, in addition to being highly suggestible and terrible eavesdroppers. At the mention of “jump,” they immediately dive enthusiastically overboard, which in turn necessitates a quick rescue effort by Foxy. He takes the impressionable lemmings under his wing, gives them tiny hats as well as ridiculous, yet apt, names (“Jumper,” “Me Too,” and “Ditto”) in order to better scold them.

What follows is a hilarious tale of repeated dives, rescues, scoldings, and schoolings.

The author explains the inspiration for this picture book as a late discovery that lemmings don’t jump off cliffs, followed immediately by the thought: “‘OH NO! DID ANYONE TELL THE LEMMINGS?!’ So we made this book. You’re welcome, lemmings.” The author-illustrator duo previously collaborated to create the equally charming picture books Wolfie the Bunny (reviewed here) and Horrible Bear!

Ages 4+

Monday, December 18, 2017


Mango is such a unique name and this middle-schooler wears it with pride! Mango comes from a loving family and their bond is felt through and through. She’ll need to reach deep down within herself though when she is accused of some wrongdoing at school. It isn’t her BFF that sees her through. Instead, it is a new acquaintance that makes the difference, helping Mango see things in a different way.  

Fracaswell Hyman's story highlights a middle schooler’s dilemma of doing what’s right. Sure there are life’s challenges and school drama, but the love and support from her family in this story are memorable, and Mango’s courage to step up is admirable. Readers just might find Mango a friend they can turn to.  

For ages 9-12

Thursday, December 14, 2017


"When's my birthday? 
Where's my birthday? 
How many days until my birthday?"* 

So begins the jubilantly poetic picture-book salute to all things to all things birthday, When's My Birthday? written by Julie Fogliano (the poet behind the lovely When Green Becomes Tomatoes) and illustrated by Christian Robinson (the artist of the Newbery winner and Caldecott Honoree Last Stop on Market Street). The verse, related to us by an omniscient child narrator, espouses pure, unadulterated joy. All the whos, whats, whens, and hows are all covered here (no need for whys of course)--the prospective presents and party and cake are imagined and anticipated down to the last detail. The infectiously questioning refrain above is almost certain to be familiar to parents and caregivers everywhere, and this charming celebration of celebrations will inspire bliss and excitement when shared with toddlers through kindergartners looking forward to observing their own birthdays.  

*Just in case anyone is wondering, this reviewer's birthday is coming up at the end of this month. You know, for the record.   

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Hippo and his friends are going to enjoy a wonderful meal under the beautiful sunshine. When each friend presents a special treat, Hippo realizes that he has nothing to share. Oh no! He decides to excuse himself from the group to search for somethings special to eat. That’s when the adventure begins. Hippo is gone so long that his friends set out to search for their pal. Will their adventures end soon so that they can continue their special feast?  

From veteran children’s book writer Jonathan London, the story shows that friendship is strong no matter where you’re at and that getting together just makes everything better. Check out Duck and Hippo Lost and Found, with illustrations by Andrew Joyner.  

For ages 4-8

Thursday, December 07, 2017


Leo is terrified of the monster under his bed--and Under-The-Bed Fred really is under the bed. One night, when Leo can't hold it (you know what "it" is of course) in any longer and just has to go! He asks the monster to give him safe passage to the bathroom and when he's safely back in bed, seeing how easy it all was, he strikes up a friendly conversation with the monster, who now calls himself Fred.  

Desperate to bring something to class for show and tell, Leo decides to bring Fred to school. It all starts out well enough until his entire class runs out of the room terrified of Fred's many scary monster impressions. 

Pick up this fun beginning chapter book by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Colin Jack, to meet the not-so-scary Fred.   

For readers in 2nd- 3rd grades. 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


Pete the Cat wants to have fun and dance. His moves are not always flawless, but who really gets it right the first time? With some encouragement from a wise friend, Pete the Cat decides to just get up and move.

From the creators of Pete the Cat, Kimberly & James Dean write another smash hit, Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie, that offers a celebration of your true self, talent, and abilities. For parents and teachers to share with children who can use a boost of Pete the Cat’s optimism and perseverance.

 For ages 2-8

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Pranks are being set off throughout an elite school in Washington D.C. so Florian and Margaret are engaged as consultants by the FBI to investigate them and the perpetrator.  Everyone is brilliant and seemingly unfriendly so there's no lack of suspects among the the children of prominent Washingtonians. Every move is calculated and watched so they really have to put their T.O.A.S.T. skills to use. 

Is the president's daughter involved?
Is the school bully behind it? 
What about Victoria, the leader of the popular girls? 
Or, that gifted violinist who just appeared out of nowhere? 

The two friends have impressed the school director with their T.O.A.S.T. skills but a good first impression is not enough to solve the case.  

In this sequel Vanished!, James Ponti explores the complexity of friendships and social structure within the exclusive and intense lives of elite private middle school students.  

For readers in 5th-8th grades.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


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Such a fun picture book to share with young children and the illustrations by Tom Lichentenfeld will make readers want to get up and move too- adding to the simple message of including others so that the fun can be enjoyed by all.

Eric Litwin has done it again!  He’s written another awesome story. First, it was Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes and now it’s this rockin’ and rollin’ story called Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown. Groovy Joe, too, steps to the beat of his own ‘drum’ (actually to a guitar) and here he uses numbers and a catchy tune to entice the reader. Groovy Joe will show readers that when it comes to numbers and parties, there’s always room to add more.

For ages 3-8

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Truly knows herself very well. Just turn the pages and you’ll feel her sense of self and boundless energy.  

Kelly Greenawalt’s story, Princess Truly in I Am Truly, Amariah Rauscher’s lined drawings and whimsical shades of color bring Truly and other characters a powerful yet gentle touch; her girl-power, individuality, self-confidence, and diversity shine through in each scene.  A wonderful picture book story to share with young children.

For ages 3-6.


In this graphic novel sequel to Sunny Side Up by siblings Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (reviewed by Cecile here), Sunny Lewin’s surprising summer vacation at Gramp’s retirement community in Florida is over, and she’s ready to start middle school back home. Well, sort of. Things haven’t been the same since her older brother, Dale, was sent away to boarding school for his troubled behavior.

As Sunny goes about her days, there’s a palpable emptiness in all the spaces Dale previously occupied. Memories of the gentle brother he used to be are a distressing specter, pursuing Sunny at home and school. Even when Dale returns home for the holidays, he’s different-- withdrawn and angry. Sunny loves her brother, but she doesn’t love the tense atmosphere and constant fights that his presence brings. How can love be so complicated? How do you love someone, even as you hate the things they do?

Swing it, Sunny is a poignant reflection of a family in crisis, presented in an age-appropriate and compelling format. Set in 1976, the semi-autobiographical story features plenty of contemporary pop-culture snippets within the series of vignettes. And despite its difficult premise, it features a cast of extremely supportive friends and family members. Like life itself, even amidst troubled times this middle grade tale is ultimately filled with joyful moments and always-Sunny optimism.

Grades 5-8