Monday, October 1, 2012

Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Uma has a brand-new pair of very nice red shoes and a very big question: what is infinity? She knows that it's big, but how big is it? It makes her feel small to even think about it. Her friend calls it a number that keeps growing forever. Another friend says that the infinity symbol is like an eight that never ends. Different people tell her different things, but nothing helps her to feel like she understands infinity... and no one is noticing her new shoes. This is turning into a very confusing day!

This picture book so smartly captures that moment when a child first starts thinking about a big question. When did I first learn about infinity? I know that I can't remember. There was the common retort of "blah blah blah times infinity" followed by "blah blah blah times infinity plus one," which someone always points out is the same as infinity. That's still pretty mind-bending: how can infinity and infinity + one be the same thing?! Uma's quest for truth and the answers that she gets from the people around her all ring pretty true, and nestled underneath this mathematic exploration is the warm relationship between a girl and her grandmother. A quick search of my library catalog shows a definite lack of books that deal with the concept of infinity, so any book on the topic would be a welcome addition. This book, though, with its truly accessible story and lovely and unusual illustrations can easily stand on its own merits; even without a collection development need, this is a book that children's libraries should be looking at.

Check out Kate Hosford's website.  Also check out Gabi Swiatkowska's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Carolrhoda Books/Lerner.

Find it at Amazon.

Read it with:
Big Bouffant by Kate Hosford
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
The Cat in Numberland by I. Ekeland
Summertime Waltz by Nina Payne

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dinosaurs in Space by Pranas T. Naujokaitis

Everyone thinks that dinosaurs became extinct...but they didn't. When the Big Bang happened, they just went into space and became dinosaurs in space! Some landed on Planet Lettuce, while others landed on Planet Meatball. While in outer space they have to deal with scary aliens and dangerous black holes, but if anyone's up for the challenge, it would be dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs and space: a perfect combination. They're both things that interest many kids, so putting them together in a book that's aimed at supporting young readers makes so much sense. The stories have really positive messages (don't judge things before you try them, accept people's differences and find your similarities, look before you leap) that adults (and probably some kids) will easily recognize, but they don't come across as too preachy. The darkness of space provides a great backdrop for the colourful dinosaurs, and the mixture of text in speech balloons and text boxes will encourage readers to play with words and explore where words are on the page. This book has "high interest" written all over it; libraries should definitely consider it for their graphic novels/early reader collections.

Check out the Tumblr of Pranas T. Naujokaitis.

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Balloon Toons/Blue Apple Books.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Hiccup! by Mike Herrod
Dinosaurs?! by Lila Prap
Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea
A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit by Elise Gravel
Prickles vs. the Dust Bunny by Daniel Cleary

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hiccup! by Mike Herrod

Jamie is already nervous for the big school play, but when he gets the hiccups, it's so much worse! The last time he had the hiccups it lasted all day. This could ruin the play! Can Jamie and his friend Jenna find a way to stop the hiccups before it's too late?

There's something naturally funny about hiccups. They're involuntary, make a funny sound, and usually aren't serious enough to cause a lot of physical pain. It's not a surprise when Jamie starts suffering from hiccups; the cover of the book makes it very clear that that's going to happen, so you can anticipate the big moment. Going from person to person collecting ridiculous suggestions for getting rid of the hiccups provides a lot of humour, including physical humour. As a Balloon Toons title, the story is told in a graphic novel format. The number of panels on each page varies, which keeps the appearance of the story interesting and unpredictable. The pages are colourfully vibrant and the text (shown in speech balloons) is easily readable. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Balloon Toons series of books, and with great titles like this I can't wait to see more.

Check out Mike Herrod's website for more of his work.

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Balloon Toons/Blue Apple Books.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler
I Can't Stop Hiccuping! by Lauren Child
A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit by Elise Gravel
Prickles vs. the Dust Bunny by Daniel Cleary
Doggie Dreams by Mike Herrod

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Big Girl Panties by Fran Manushkin illustrated by Valeria Petrone

This little girl is so excited - she's ready for big girl panties! Not diapers, but actual underwear. Fun underwear, stripped or dotted underwear, underwear for every day of the week. Animals don't wear panties, babies don't wear panties, only big girls like moms and sisters and aunties wear panties!

Underwear is often played for laughs in children's books, so it's great to see a book where underwear is shown as a triumphant achievement. This is a fun book; the big, bright illustrations and sense of humour can easily appeal to children. It's a great book to read with kids who have just moved out of diapers (or who need a bit of encouragement). A great book for libraries, public or at home, as well as a gift for young kids.

Check out Fran Manushkin's website and Valeria Petrone's website. 

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Bear in Underwear by Todd H. Doodler
Potty by Leslie Patricelli
Dinosaur Vs. The Potty by Bob Shea

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

Coming back to her hometown of Winston hasn't been the happy homecoming that Clare had hoped it would be. Her father has moved on with a new life, her mother and her grandmother barely talk, and her old best friend Rachel seems to have changed in different ways. The town is also gripped by the threat of a serial killer: two years ago a boy was killed, one year ago a girl disappeared. The anniversary of that date is coming up, and no one knows what might happen. Clare also has a secret gift - the ability to touch a piece of clothing and relive the memories and experiences of the wearer. A torn and bloodied jacket has recently come into her possession...could it be a clue to solving the mystery?

I quite enjoyed this story. There was a wonderful old-school Lois Duncan vibe to it while being thoroughly modern at the same time. Clare is a likeable heroine who deals with things both down to earth (trying to get her mom and grandmother into the same room) and otherworldly (figuring out how to deal with her psychic gift). She does some questionable things (particularly when she's around the missing girl's old boyfriend, a suspect in her disappearance) and rarely thinks of her own safety, but in a way that makes sense for a teenager who is slowly becoming overwhelmed by her circumstances. I could see this book being an excellent pilot for a series and it would have fit in perfectly among the psychic/special talent crime solvers who had TV shows not that long ago. A solid pick for mystery fans who like a bit of the supernatural (but not vampires or werewolves).

Check out Sophie Littlefield's website

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Random House.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
A Bad Day for Mercy by Sophie Littlefield
Vintage Veronica by Erica Perl

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule by Kashmira Sheth illustrated by Carl Pearce

Ishan wants a dog. He really, really wants a dog. But his mom has a rule: no dogs allowed. So Ishan comes up with a plan. If he's very, very helpful around the house, maybe his mom will see that he's responsible enough for a dog! But whatever he does, nothing seems to go exactly the way he planned. Will his mom ever see how much he wants a dog?

This story is sure to resonate with kids who really, really want something that their parents won't let them get (like a dog). A lot of kids want dogs. I never really wanted a dog (and the only pets I ever had growing up were pets), so I didn't relate personally to that, but I can still identify with wanting something really badly and being told no. Anyway - all that aside, I think that young readers will find lots to like in this book. Ishan is a sympathetic character; he doesn't invite trouble, it just sort of finds him. The action in this story (dealing with a sibling and your parents, neighbourhood bullies, inadvertently creating disasters, the unfairness of being young) is relatable across cultures. Don't be surprised if we see more stories about Ishan and his family in the future.

Check out Kashmira Sheth's website as well as Carl Pearce's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Albert Whitman & Co.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Ten Kids, No Pets by Ann M. Martin
Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth
I Don't Want a Posh Dog by Emily Dodd
The Boxcar Children Beginnings by Patricia McLaughlan

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dino-Football by Lisa Wheeler illustrated by Barry Gott

On any given Sunday you can find two Dino-teams fighting for football glory out on the grid-iron. But in the Mega-Bowl, it's down to two teams: The Redscales vs. the Greenblade Snackers. As the fans cheer from the packed stands, the Redscales get out to an early lead, but the game is far from over. Who will be the winners at the end of the day?

I knew vaguely about the Dino-sports series but hadn't read any until I started Dino-Football. I can see how the concept can easily sustain a series. The rhyming text keeps the story moving, and the illustrations are incredibly detailed (for one example of this, check out the spread that has the list of players' names). The pictures play with size and perspective and really dominate the story. I'm not really in the book's dino-loving, sports-enthusiast preschooler demographic, so about 3/4 of the way through the book even though I was enjoying it I was also ready for it to be ending. I think that those in the aforementioned demographic, though, will happily follow the action from end zone to end zone. There's lots of action, the dinosaurs have lots of expression, and the energy pops off the page. For the Dino-Sports series, it's the book equivalent of a touchdown.

Check out Lisa Wheeler and Barry Gott's websites.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Lerner.

Find it at Amazon. 

Read it with:
Dino-Soccer by Lisa Wheeler
Dino-Baseball by Lisa Wheeler
Dino-Hockey by Lisa Wheeler
Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bedtime for Boo by Mickie Matheis illustrated by Bonnie Leick

Boo is so excited for his first night of haunting. He's the littlest ghost in his ghost family, and he's looking forward to all the spooky swirling, whistling, and flying like all the big ghosts do. When his mom tells him that it's time for bed, Boo isn't tired! His mom suggests that he listens to all the sounds in the house to help him get to sleep. Will listening to all the rattling and whooshing help Boo drift off to dreamland?

When I think of ghosts, I don't tend to think of them crawling into bed! But as the cover promises, that's just what happens in this spooky bedtime story. The story is more comforting, though, than truly scary; Boo the ghost takes comfort in the noises that are familiar to him (and, in a neat twist, are also the noises that could keep an anxious child up at night). The bedtime routine is one that could work on human kids as well as ghost kids. I enjoyed the spooky-sweet mix of Bonnie Leick's illustrations, and I might be imagining things but I thought I saw a shout-out to Madeline in the book's first few pages of text. This could easily become a Halloween favourite, yet I can also see it being a popular bedtime book for ghost-loving kids all year long.

Learn more about illustrator Bonnie Leick at her website.

I received an advance review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Golden Books (Random House).

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Kai-lan Loves YeYe by Mickie Matheis
Wolf Camp by Katie McKy
Blossom and Boo Stay Up Late by Dawn Apperley

Monday, August 27, 2012

Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Unexpected Twist by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Christina Flores is going to be an Olympic gymnastics champion someday. That's her goal and that's her mom's goal; every day each work toward it in their own ways. Christina practices her routines while her Mom watches them and points out areas that Christina should work on. There's a big competition coming up, and it could be one to put Christina and the other Texas Twisters on the radar for the next Olympic Team. Christina starts working extra hard...and ignores the pain that she feels in her foot. At this crucial point in her career, is her body going to let her down? And is she going to let down her mother?

I was anticipating the 'Do I want to stay in gymnastics?' plot in Jessie's book, but it also gets visited from a slightly different angle in Unexpected Twist. Since the first book in the series, Christina's been shown to be a little tightly wound - focused on gymnastics but almost to the exclusion of everything else. She, like Noelle, feels the pressure of a family who has committed themselves to her gymnastics, although where for Noelle's family it's more the sacrifice of money, for Christina's mom it's the sacrifice of a life outside of her daughter.  Even through to the book's resolution I was never quite sure why her mom has built her life this way: is she living through her daughter? Did she have a lack of support growing up? Is she doing it to fill in all the lonely space in her life due to her absent husband? But I guess it's not really a book about Christina's mom - it's a book about Christina and what happens to her when she starts to question how clear her vision of being an Olympic champion is. The book explores the area between how one person sees something and how different it is from how someone else sees the same thing; Christina and her mom have a big fight on Christmas because her mom thinks she's ungrateful while Christina just wants to show her frustration. She learns about controlling the things that are within her control and dealing with the things she can't. Christina hasn't always been sympathetic when seen through the eyes of the other gymnasts, so this glimpse into her life really rounds out the series. This is the fourth of four scheduled books, but there are some story strands started her that could easily carry the series through more books in the future.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy
Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Winning Team by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts:Balancing Act by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Sethie (her preferred abbreviation for Sarah Beth) has everything under control. She knows exactly what she needs to do to keep her grades up. She knows exactly what she needs to do to get into a good school. She knows exactly what she needs to do to be with the boy she likes. She also knows exactly what she needs to do to keep her weight going in the right direction: down. But despite all of her efforts, is Sethie close to losing it all?

The book begins with a letter from the author that details why she wrote this book. She talks about her own body issues and how they have shaped her life. The book is at times to hard to read because it goes into some very dark places; Sethie spends a lot of time in darkness. I was glad that the book was written in third person; this put a bit of space between me and Sethie's mind but not enough to distance me from the story. I particularly liked the parts of this book that explored Sethie's relationships with the people around her: her mom, her friends, her boyfriend. How does her illness shape how she sees people? Are her interpretations of situations reliable? If they were describing the same situation, what would they say about it? As Alyssa B. Sheinmel notes in her introduction, there is no shortage of books that look at teen girls struggling with anorexia, bulimia, and body image, but for those who are looking for an issue-based novel The Stone Girl paints a dark and complex portrait of a girl who is struggling to keep everything together.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Clean by Amy Lynn Reed
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Non-Post: Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm taking a day off from book sharing today to celebrate my birthday, but I will be back soon with lots of great books new and old.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where's Ellie? by Salina Yoon

You wouldn't think that it would be hard to find a hiding elephant, but Ellie is really good at hiding! Is she behind a houseplant? Or behind some flowers? She could be anywhere! Where is she hiding now? Flip the pages and find out!

The illustrations in this board book are big and brightly colourful. Kids have the chance to 'discover' what's hiding behind different plants and trees. As in any 'where is blank?' book, the story builds to a triumphant conclusion; its staying power comes from whether or not kids will want to flip it over and start again, and for this title I think they will (at least for a few times). This would be a solid addition to any library's board book collection.

Check out Salina Yoon's website.

I received a review copy from Edelweiss courtesy of Random House for Young Readers.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Where's Eddie? by Daniel Nunn
Humpty Dumpty by Salina Yoon
Find My Feet! by Salina Yoon
Where's Spot? by Eric Hill

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty by Carolyn J. Brown

Eudora Alice Welty was born in a small Southern town in 1909. After spending time at school, as a photographer, and exploring other paths, she started gaining recognition for her writing and later became a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. In many ways, she lived a daring life - a life that spanned most of a century. Learn more about this woman, her life, and her writing in this new biography published by the University Press of Mississippi.

For many years I have been meaning to explore the works of Eudora Welty. I don't think that I've actually read any of her writing, although I do have a photograph of her library hanging in my living room. When I saw this new biography, I jumped at the chance to read it. It's concise and direct and informative; it provides not only a great introduction to the life of Welty but also the world in which she lived. There are lots of photographs to illustrate her family, her homes, and her work, and in particular her work as a photographer. I did briefly pause to think of who this book would appeal to; it's positioned as a biography for young adults, but how many young adults have read Eudora Welty? Is she on school reading lists? Is there a demand for a book like this? But then I decided that there is always a demand for well-written and well-researched biographies of accomplished women. It might take some handselling from librarians and booksellers to help people to be aware of this book, but it would be well worth including this in a non-fiction collection to have on hand for the right reader.

Check out Carolyn J. Brown's website.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of University Press of Mississippi.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef
The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty: A Biography by Suzanne Marrs

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Deep-Sea Duel by John Sazaklis and Art Baltazar

The Aquafamily is ready for an awesome under-sea family reunion - but the evil Ocean Master is determined to spoil the day. It's up to Aqualad and the Superpets to save everyone. It's going to be tough, but if they work together they just might be able to stop Ocean Master in his tracks.

Young fans of superheroes have a fun book to explore in Deep-Sea Duel. I don't know very much about Aquaman or the Aquafamily, but you don't need to have a lot of background knowledge to enjoy this book. Characters are explained at the beginning and end (names as well as where they fit into the Superhero/Superpet world). Illustrations are integrated well with the text, and the amount of white-space around the large words make this a solid choice for independent readers. I can see this being a hit with both young readers who like action and young readers who like animals; if you know a reader who likes both things, try to get this book into their hands.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
The Cat Crime Club by Steve Korte
Midway Monkey Madness by Sarah Hines Stephens
The Fantastic Flexy Frog by Michael Dahl
The Fastest Pet on Earth by J.E. Bright

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Reaching High by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson

Jessie can stay calm when it comes to performing routines in the Texas Twisters gym, but she's nervous about starting high school. It hasn't been long since she started taking gymnastic lessons again after spending some time dealing with an eating disorder. Her other friends from the team aren't in high school yet, so Jessie is nervous that she's going to be all alone. After a few tense run-ins with one particularly mean girl, Jessie decides to befriend her by agreeing to be part of the cheerleading team. Her coach and friends don't think this is a good idea, but Jessie doesn't understand why they aren't being more supportive. She just wants to have a life of her own - is that such a bad thing?

(Spoilers below!)

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, the third in the four-book "Go-for-Gold Gymnasts" series. I was expecting there to be a book where one of the gymnasts questioned her commitment to being an Elite-level gymnast, and after Jessie was revealed to have an eating disorder in the first book, it made sense that as she re-evaluated her life she would also re-evaluate how she felt about being a competitive gymnast. The surprise part came from the ending, where she decided to re-commit herself to gymnastics; that wasn't what I was expecting but, in the course of the story, it was a plot point that felt earned. Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson are able to craft a story that pulls back the curtain on gymnastics and shows how hard and lonely it can be while still illustrating why someone would be willing - would want - to be a part of it. Jessie makes decisions that make me want to sit her down and have a good talk with her, but she shows that even when she is making bad choices she has a good heart and a good head. I'm really looking forward to spending some time with Christina, the one remaining narrator, in the fourth book of the series.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Go for the Gold by Elizabeth Levy
Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts: Winning Team by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson
The Go-for-Gold Gymnasts:Balancing Act by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson