Tuesday, June 27, 2017


For every child that has experienced the aching uncertainty of loneliness and belonging, here is a story drawn from celebrated children’s book author Shannon Hale’s memory of finding, losing, and reimagining friendships.

Growing up as a middle child of five, young Shannon constantly finds herself the odd one out as her older and younger siblings pair off to play. Desperately lonely, Shannon is ecstatic to make one good friend on her first day of kindergarten. She and her new friend, Adrienne, are inseparable as they embark on imaginative adventures at school and home, and Shannon is confident that she has found all she needs in Adrienne.

But when Adrienne joins the popular girls’ group in third grade, things get complicated for Shannon. Where does she stand? Is she in the Group? Are these girls her friends? Why does one girl in the Group keep telling lies about her to the others? Does she still have a best friend?

Spanning the author’s elementary school years, Real Friends by Shannon Hale presents a story that is authentic, compelling, and relatable, with artwork by LeUyen Pham that is appealing and complementary. It’s a perfect fit for Raina Telgemeier fans.

For other great middle grade graphic novels about friendship check out Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl (reviewed by Meghan here), Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward (previously reviewed here), and Cece Bell’s El Deafo (reviewed by Anush here).

Grades 3-7

Thursday, June 22, 2017


As Bulldozer watches all his fellow construction vehicles working away--stirring, lifting, scooping--he wonders how he can help too. Bulldozer is eager to find his calling and help the others accordingly, but the other trucks tell him building skyscrapers is only a job for rough, tough trucks. So when they do find a suitable job for Bulldozer, they are perplexed to find him sitting still, not flattening the pile they asked him to clear. Why won't Bulldozer just help out and do his job? 

Bulldozer Helps Out by Candace Flemming, illustrated by Caldecott-winning artist Eric Rohmann, is definitely not your average construction vehicle book (though it will certainly please that crowd too!). It also offers a heartwarming and adorable twist that shows how toughness takes many forms, not just might and muscle, and that everyone has their own purpose to serve--they just have to find it.

With delightfully bright and bold art and a message that's both inspiring and cleverly told, this captivating picture book will appeal to toddlers through kindergartners, and anyone who's looking for their place to belong.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


The cat arrives in to town walking slightly askew.  The townspeople begin to notice the tilted cat and that things are no longer their usual selves like the hair cuts are different and yet everyone loves them.  Catawampus' tilt begin to change people's attitudes, how they look at things and even they build, too.  

Was this Catawampus' intent?  Did he mean to change everything? Check out the endpages with a drawn map showing Catawampus' route through town.  The Catawampus Cat by Jason Carter Eaton and illustrated by Gus Gordon is a silly and enjoyable read for readers 4 years old and up.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Old MacDonald had a farm and on his farm he had a collection of vehicles.  From a plane to a fire truck, he had it all. This retelling of the traditional song "Old MacDonald" introduces a variety of vehicles and the noises they make. 

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go by Jane Clarke, with illustrations by Migy Blanco, is a great read on the subject of transportation.   With colorful and large illustrations, this is definitely a great read a-loud for children ages 2 and up. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Attention adventure and robot lovers, this book is for you. Otto the robot loves to seek adventures despite the dangers. Otto sets off to explore space in his spaceship but things don’t go as planned and he lands on Earth.  What will he find there? 

See Otto, part of The Adventures of Otto series written by David Milgrim, tells an exciting story of a robot through easy and repetitive vocabulary and illustrations.  It's perfect for readers who enjoy space, rockets and adventures, and those practicing to read on their own. 

Thursday, June 08, 2017


It’s 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, and ten-year-old Beans Curry has had enough of working for close-fisted hoodwinkers. With an eye towards enterprise, he and his eight-year-old brother, Kermit, have been taking on odd jobs around town to help their unemployed parents make ends meet in a time when everyone is struggling.

Like everyone else in the close-knit community of Key West, Florida, Beans isn’t ready to trust the stranger in a shiny automobile from Washington D.C. with New Deal aspirations to turn the island into a tourist destination. Why would people want to travel across the country just to vacation in a town full of dilapidated homes, overflowing garbage, pot-holed dirt roads, and swarms of scraggly children? And besides, how can you trust a guy who walks around town in his underwear? Bermuda shorts, he says? — Beans doesn’t think so.

When a local bootlegger offers Beans a tidy sum to create a distraction, Beans seizes the opportunity to help his family. But after tragedy strikes as a consequence of his actions and the community mistakenly lauds him as a hero, Beans decides he will do anything to repay their trust. Saving Key West will be his biggest enterprise yet.

Jennifer Holm’s middle grade novel Full of Beans is a heartfelt and humorous prequel to her 2011 Newbery Honor Book Turtle in Paradise. The author’s note includes additional information on the background of Key West and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which ultimately saved the bankrupt town and shaped its history as a present-day tourism hotspot.

Grades 4+

Monday, June 05, 2017


The refugee crisis around the world has been featured in the news a great deal recently and Rosemary McCarney's nonfiction picture book Where Will I Live? is a moving and important introduction for readers who still might be a bit too young to understand all the nuances of this complex and timely topic.

McCarney boils this intricate issue down to the basics with simple text beginning "...When Soldiers fight or danger comes families must pack their things and search for a new place to live." It features stirring and poignant photographs of refugee children and families all over the world--from Hungary to Rwanda, Lebanon to Greece, and beyond--who have been displaced from their homes and cities and countries and are looking for a new place to belong. In portraying the moments of sadness and dire need as well as moments of forming bonds of fellowship even in such harrowing circumstances, McCarney shows just how much human beings have in common and how the need--not just for shelter, but for community--is universal no matter where in the world someone is born.

This precursory resource on refugees is both poignant and topical, and should prove useful as an introduction to this current worldwide issue for children in kindergarten through second grade. In order to further supplement this simple nonfiction picture book with more concrete information, look for more detailed and complex resources in our children's nonfiction section.

Thursday, June 01, 2017


What's black and white and (soon to be) read all over? The hilarious book The Skunk by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. Why would a skunk be following you? That's what the tuxedoed man at the center of this whimsical picture book mystery wants to know. Everywhere he goes--down sidestreets, on the ferris wheel, to the opera--the skunk is only a few steps behind. What does he want and why won't he just leave our main character alone? 

With funny yet understated text and droll illustrations, young readers will delight as the narrator goes to greater and greater lengths to lose the skunk hot on his trail. But he spends so much time trying to get away from his notoriously smelly pursuer, he hasn't thought about how he might feel if he actually gets what he thinks he wants. 

This stinking cute picture book makes a winning read-aloud for preschoolers to second-graders alike.