Friday, August 7, 2020

Bodega Cat

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Bodega Cat by Louie Chin. Grades 1-5. Pow! Kids Books. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Chip is the cat who runs his family's bodega (neighborhood grocery store). From helping with the breakfast rush to counting inventory, to making deliveries, Chip keeps things running pretty smoothly. He knows the best spots for napping, he plays with the neighborhood kids after school, and life is pretty sweet for this bodega cat. 

This delightful, colorful picture book oozes personality and will enchant young animal lovers, whether they live in the city or the country. For kids in New York or large cities, this book is an ode to their way of life. For kids in the rest of the country, this is a peek into city life. No matter where they live, cat-lovers will fall in love with Chip who takes absolute credit for the success of his family's bodega. 

This one's a bit long for storytime, but I think elementary school kids will really enjoy it. Try it on fans of Detective Larue: Letters from the Investigation by Mark Teague or Bink the Space Cat by Ashley Spires. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks. Grades 4-7. 304 pages. Katherine Tegen Books. Review copy provided by my local library. 

What do you do when life throws you a curveball? Zoe Washington plans to spend the summer baking and avoiding her ex best friend who happens to also be her next door neighbor. Now that she's turned twelve, she's finally old enough to apply to be a contestant on her favorite kids' baking reality show IF she can prove to her parents that she's mature enough to handle it. But when Zoe grabs the mail early one day, looking for a birthday card from a generous aunt that's on its way, she discovers a letter from the father she's never met, the father who's been in jail since before she was born. And, without telling her mom who discourages Zoe from knowing anything about her birth father, Zoe writes him back.

Zoe's a character that I was so glad to get to know, and this book is the perfect combination of sweet and serious. It touches on prejudice and our flawed legal system, leavening the serious subject matter with Zoe's exploits in the kitchen and her friendship struggles. I really enjoyed the book and would hand this to readers of A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee or One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

My Hair

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

My Hair by Danielle Murrell Cox. Ages 0-3. Board book. HarperFestival, June 2020. Review copy provided by my local library. 

With playful rhyming text and simple pictures that portray African American children with a wide range of skin tones (including a child with vitiligo and children with freckles), this board book is a celebration of many different hairstyles. This is an affirming book to have on hand for African American families and a book that could be included in any toddler or preschool unit about all about me or human bodies. 

It gently sets boundaries ("My hair is mine / from curls to puffs / You can look / but please don't touch"). It includes lots of great vocabulary words, both hairstyle words (Bantu knots, braided, puffs) and non-hairstyle words (funky, snip, slay), making this board book a solid choice for early literacy storytimes. The trim size is a bit small for sharing with a group, but the pictures are simple and bold, so it could work. And add it to the growing list of board books that can help families who are not used to talking about race start a conversation with small children.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

2020 Indiana Authors Awards: Children's Shortlist

Yesterday, the children's shortlist for the Indiana Authors Awards was announced! Do you know about the Indiana Authors Award? These biennial awards recognize the best books written by Indiana authors from the past two years. Authors who have lived full- or part-time in Indiana for at least 5 years or who have deep connections to the state but are not currently living in Indiana may be considered for these awards. I was so pleased to see an excellent shortlist in the children's category. I haven't read every book on this list yet, but the ones I have read are wonderful and they all deserve a spot on your library shelves. 
Indiana librarians, this is an easy idea for a display, book list, or spotlight! 

Read more about these books and their authors here! Winners in all categories will be announced September 1. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Mya in the Middle (The Magnificent Mya Tibbs) by Crystal Allen. Balzer + Bray, 2018. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Granted by John David Anderson. Walden Pond Press, 2018. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Book of Flight: 10 Record-Breaking Animals with Wings by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sam Brewster. Phaidon, 2019. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Clackety Track: Poems About Trains by Skila Brown, illustrated by Jamey Christoph. Candlewick, 2019. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings. Random House, 2018. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Hello, I'm Here! by Helen Frost and Rick Leider. Candlewick, 2019. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Wake Up, Woods by Michael Homoya and Shane Gibson, illustrated by Gillian Harris. Rubber Ducky Press, 2019. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2019. 

Monday, August 3, 2020


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Heartstopper: Volume 1 by Alice Oseman. Grades 7+ 288 pages. Graphix, 2020. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Oh, this book, it did make me squee. This delightful graphic novel is the story of two high schoolers, Charlie and Nick. On the surface, they're complete opposites. Charlie's a brooding, openly gay drummer and Nick is a popular, athletic rugby star. They meet by chance, seated next to each other in class, and when Nick sees how fast Charlie can run in PE class, he invites him to join the school's rugby team. And although Charlie's best friend teases him for liking a straight, rugby player, Charlie agrees. 

One thing to know is that this is the first volume of the story and it ends on a cliffhanger that actually make me say "Noooooo" out loud. The next volume is due out in the US in November. But a further thing to know, which is possibly a slight spoiler, is that the entire graphic novel trilogy is a prequel to a teen novel starring Charlie's older sister, so if you're concerned about Charlie & Nick, you can go look that one up. There's a reason I'm filing this under "romance", is what I'm saying. 

Hand this to fans of Rainbow Rowell's Pumpkinheads or Kevin Panetta's Bloom

Friday, July 31, 2020

Baloney and Friends

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Baloney and Friends by Greg Pizzoli. Preschool - 2nd grade. 96 pages. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. Review copy provided by my local library. 

This is the new book that I'm handing all my Elephant and Piggie fans. With the adorable cartoon illustrations and speech bubbles and the cast of silly characters, I think E&P readers will eat this one up. Put aside your reservations about an anthropomorphic pig named Baloney (scream emoji) and just enjoy the hijinks in the episodic chapters. In the three chapters and three mini comics, Baloney performs a magic show for his friends, braves the swimming pool, and more. Hand this one to newly independent readers who love to laugh; it's perfect for fans of Narwhal and Jelly, too. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Recent Books on Homeschooling: Update Your Collection!

If ever there's a time to add to and update your books on homeschooling, now is the time. With so many school districts uncertain about in-person school, virtual learning, and more, you'll likely have more families choosing homeschooling than ever before. So, what books do you need to have on your shelf? 

The answer to that is honestly as varied as your homeschooling families themselves. That's the whole point of homeschool: you can do it the way you want to do it, which means there's no STANDARD way to homeschool. You should definitely open lines of communication to your families who already homeschool to see how you can best support them. But what about folks who are new to homeschooling and just looking for resources to get started? Today I've got a list of books on homeschooling published in the last decade. 

Here's where I tell you that I am not and have never been a homeschooling parent, nor was I homeschooled myself. These are some of the new and recent homeschool books that I've purchased for my library and if you're looking for some newer titles to update your shelves,  they may fit the bill! 

First, for the librarians... 

I have to put in a plug for Helping Homeschoolers in the Library by Adrienne Furness. ALA Editions, 2008. Yes, it may be a little older, but it has some great information about different types of homeschooling, how to approach homeschoolers at your library, and how to design programs and services for homeschooling families. (This one I can give a personal recommendation for since I have read it and found it super useful as I was developing homeschool programs at my various libraries.) 

Now, recent books for parents new to homeschooling: 

The Everything Guide to Homeschooling: All You Need to Create the Best Curriculum and Learning Environment for Your Child by Sherri Lisenbach. Everything, 2015. This guide was revised and updated in 2015. 

Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Creative and Comprehensive Homeschool Curriculum by Rebecca Rupp. Broadway Books, 2020. This book was originally published in 2000 and an updated edition just came out this January. 

Homeschooling for Dummies by Jennifer Kaufeld. For Dummies, September 2020. You may laugh, but parents who are brand spanking new to homeschooling may be seeking this title out. First published in 2001, wait for the new edition coming in September. 

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Norton, 2016. This fourth edition came out in 2016. 

by E.D. Hirsch. Bantam, 2013-2015. 
You may have editions of these books from way back when, but K-4th were revised and updated starting in 2014, so make sure you have the newer editions if you think they'll be useful. If you don't want to purchase books from several years ago, a pro tip for figuring out what skills to cover in each grade level is to advise families to purchase a grade level workbook. They don't have to actually do all the worksheets, but it'll help them determine what skills to cover. (Credit to Janssen at Everyday Reading for the pro tip!)

What would you add to this list? Feel free to leave more suggestions in the comments! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Nest That Wren Built

The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine, illustrated by Anne Hunter. Preschool - 1st grade. Candlewick Press, 2020. Review copy provided by my local library. 

This lovely book gives a detailed look into the life of a family of wrens as they build a nest, lay eggs, and raise their chicks. Using the cadence of The House that Jack Built, it has a wonderful rhythm and structure to the text, but the text is not cumulative so it doesn't get as cumbersome as that structure sometimes can. The book has wonderful vocabulary words and would make a good early literacy storytime choice. I love that it mentions all the different materials - rabbit fur, string, etc. - that go into the building of the nest. This is a book that takes it a step further than your typical birds-build-a-nest arc and it's a good choice for young naturalists. It's perfect for sharing in springtime or any time you want to learn about birds. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Friday Night Wrestlefest

Friday Night Wrestlefest by J.F. Fox, illustrated by Micah Player. Preschool - 2nd grade. Roaring Brook Press, 2020. Review copy provided by my local library. 

I knew just who I would hand this book to from the moment I picked it up. Do you have kids in your life that love wrestling? This book is their next bedtime story. Trust me. It's Friday night and after pizza for dinner, it's time for the family wrestling match. Meet Dangerous Daddoo and the twins, Peanut Brother and Jellyfish in the ultimate showdown. The book's written like a WWE announcer and the story has the same awesome moves and surprising twists as your favorite wrestling matches. 

Hand this to families with young wrestling fans or pair it with NiƱo Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales for an ultimate storytime showdown. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

We Are Not Free

Book cover image of We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee. Grades 7+. HMH Books for Young Readers. September 2020. Review copy provided by publisher. 

So, this book didn't have me at hello. It took me a little bit to get into it, but after the first chapter or two I couldn't put it down. This book is a masterpiece. It's not only a brilliant piece of historical fiction that brings the Japanese incarceration during WWII to brutal light for young readers, but it's a striking portrait of teen life. These kids are living in desert camps in the 1940s, but they're also falling in love and rebelling against their parents and playing sports and staying out too late and trying to figure out their futures. 

Each chapter is narrated by a different teen and the story unfolds over the years Japanese Americans (American citizens!) were held in prison camps. I wasn't sure how I would like that many narratives, but I loved that each chapter is unique and the narrators really stand out. It's an amazing accomplishment of writing. 

Hand this to fans of Ruta Sepetys, particularly her works that are told from multiple perspectives like Salt to the Sea and The Fountains of Silence. I would also hand it to fans of George Takei's wonderful graphic novel memoir They Called Us Enemy

Coming in September! Pre-order today!