Wednesday, December 6, 2017

CYBILS JUNIOR HIGH NONFICTION NOMINATION: The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found by Martin W. Sandler


The exciting true story of the captaincy, wreck, and discovery of the Whydah the only pirate ship ever found and the incredible mysteries it revealed.
The 1650s to the 1730s marked the golden age of piracy, when fearsome pirates like Blackbeard ruled the waves, seeking not only treasure but also large and fast ships to carry it. The Whydah was just such a ship, built to ply the Triangular Trade route, which it did until one of the greediest pirates of all, Black Sam Bellamy, commandeered it. Filling the ship to capacity with treasure, Bellamy hoped to retire with his bounty but in 1717 the ship sank in a storm off Cape Cod. For more than two hundred years, the wreck of the Whydah (and the riches that went down with it) eluded treasure seekers, until the ship was finally found in 1984 by marine archaeologists. The artifacts brought up from the ocean floor are priceless, both in value and in the picture they reveal of life in that much-mythologized era, changing much of what we know about pirates."


Pirates have been romanticized for a long, long time in movies, books, and other media.  This book goes a long way towards revealing the truth about so many of the myths that exist around pirates and how they lived.  I appreciated greatly how straight forward Sandler is about piracy and the reasons behind it and how those who really lived it actually lived.  This book does focus specifically on the experiences related to one specific ship, first as a slave ship and then as a pirate ship.  Details about the ship itself, what made it remarkable, and the people who sailed on her fascinated me.  Short segments about slaver, piracy and artifact conservation added greatly to my understanding of the rest of the narrative.  

I admired the way the author worked hard to make it clear the details about the ship and the people, especially Black Sam Bellamy, have been truthfully documented and which stories are still legend or rumor.  The clear, well-written narrative was easy to follow and the story told in a compelling way. The book is beautifully designed with the first part of the book focusing on the Whydah before it sank and the end of the book focusing on it's ongoing recovery.  I found the parts about the search for the Whydah's remains just as compelling as the parts about the pirates. 

The book demonstrates what is so powerful about narrative nonfiction while also including source notes, a bibliography, and an index.  A fabulous book for both leisure reading and teaching.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

CHRISTMAS PICTURE BOOKS: A Christmas for Bear/Red & Lulu/Elf in the House


Bear's minimalist holiday celebration has an eager Mouse feeling a bit anxious in this humorous and heartwarming story about the unlikely, lovable pair.

One frosty night, Bear hears a tap, tap, tapping on his front door. "Merry Christmas!" cries Mouse. Mouse is there for a Christmas party, and Bear has never had one before, but he's certain that pickles (preferably from France) must be an essential component, along with the reading of a long and difficult poem. The problem is, whenever Bear comes back from the kitchen with more treats, Mouse has vanished -- only to be found, small and gray and guilty-eyed, scurrying under the bed or rifling through the closet. Will there be even a tiny present involved? "Hogwash!" scolds Bear. Get ready for holiday anticipation and the best kind of surprises as the curmudgeonly Bear and a hopeful Mouse return in a warm, funny tale full of holiday cheer and true friendship.


Bear is his usually grumpy self as he and Mouse get ready to celebrate the Christmas season. But things take a sad turn as Mouse looks for a present and doesn't find one. Once again, Becker has told a story that children will be able to relate to as Mouse gets sadder and sadder when he can't find a present. But even grumpy Bear can offer a surprise which most children will eagerly predict.  Once again, Becker takes readers into a rather unusual friendship and leaves with a smile on their face.


Separation and miles cannot keep a determined cardinal from his loved one in an ode to serendipity and belief that is destined to be a new Christmas classic.
Red and Lulu make their nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree. It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cozy in the cold months, and once a year the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. But one day, something unthinkable happens, and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each another again. Luckily, it's just the season for miracles. . . . From Matt Tavares comes a heart-tugging story combining the cheer of Christmas, the magic of New York City, and the real meaning of the holiday season: how important it is to be surrounded by love.


Gorgeous illustrations and a unique perspective combine in this new book by Matt Tavares to create a book that I will read for many Christmases to come.  Red and Lulu are cardinals that live in a beautiful evergreen tree in the front yard of a friendly family.  Each year they enjoy listening to carolers sing about their tree.  But when Red returns from hunting for food to see his tree being hauled away and Lulu with it, he's desperate to see where it goes.  His best efforts, however, aren't enough to allow him to keep up with the truck and the tree.  He keeps hunting for Lulu and his tree throughout the city with no luck.  Just as he's ready to give up, he hears a sound that he recognizes.  When he follows the sound, he discovers just what miracles Christmas can bring.  Not only is this a sweet story of love and Christmas, but a tender story of miracles and overcoming the odds.  But my favorite part is the absolutely amazing illustrations that shine with light and joy which beautifully compliments the softly falling snow.  This book is a Christmas classic in the making.


The anticipatory excitement of Christmas Eve builds in a festive way in this follow-up to the much-loved Ghost in the House.
There's a girl in the house on this snowy Christmas Eve.
Creeping down, step by step, here she comes.
But what's going on?
Santa's snacks are gone,
And the only thing that's left is . . . CRUMBS!
Follow a child on a most magical night as she looks for the source of the sound that woke her up. In a lively, cumulative story full of page-turn reveals, all is not what it seems. While the little girl searches the house, she encounters some unexpected new friends. But the biggest surprise is sure to come last!


This simple story about a young girl discovering visitors in her house on Christmas Eve makes for a cute, cumulative story that builds until the final surprise (which isn't too surprising, but will undoubtedly make preschoolers squeal with joy). When the girl discovers the cookies left for Santa have been eaten, she follows the crumbs to see where and to whom they lead.  Each segment of the story leads to a page turn of a surprise which allows the story to build to its climax.  It would also be fun to stop along the way and see if young listeners can guess who or what will appear next.  A cute story time or lap read that will have young listeners eagerly awaiting the turn of the page.

Monday, December 4, 2017

MMGM: The World's Greatest Adventure Machine & The Afterlife Academy by Frank Cole

My school was lucky enough to have Frank Cole come speak to us a couple of weeks ago.  He turned out to be a very entertaining presenter.  His stories were hilarious and his advice about becoming an author, fabulous. So I am happy to be able to highlight a couple of his books.


An adventure novel about four lucky kids and a mysterious, but thrilling ride for fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Jurassic Park!

CastleCorp and the famous Castleton brothers are unveiling the World's Greatest Adventure Machine! The roller coaster is an experience like no other, and four lucky kids have won the chance to be the first to ride it.

There's Trevor, whose latest stunt got him in trouble at school again. There's Devin, whose father is pushing him to be the next Internet sensation. Nika's wealthy grandfather isn't too pleased about her participation. And Cameron, he'll be the first to tell you, is a certified genius. 

The whole world is watching. But as the kids set off on their journey, they begin to realize that there is perhaps more to their fellow contest winners than meets the eye. And the Adventure Machine? It might just have a mind of its own.

Join the contestants on their wild ride if you dare. Your adventure starts now!


In a book full of interesting twists and turns (literally and figuratively), the four main characters are in for the ride of their lives.  Each of the four kids, Trevor, Cameron, Devin, and Nika have been chosen in a contest to be the first to ride the World's Greatest Adventure Machine!  And all four are thrilled with the opportunity.  But were they really chosen randomly?  As they learn more about each other and the Castleton brothers, who are behind the ride, they start to wonder if there is more going on then they were told.  Each of the four kids also has something that makes him or her unique.  What are the odds that they would have been chosen for a ride that seems to have gone so horribly wrong?

I can safely say that I've never read a book like this one.  It's full of adventure, humor, and loads of fun.  And the Adventure Machine.  I really wished that it was real.  A ride like that would be awesome in the real world, as long as it didn't go horribly wrong of course ;)  I especially enjoyed the way the kids' strengths complimented each other in rather unusual ways.  This is not the typical story of friendship built through adversity, although that does come into the story. Truly this is a delightful story full of heart, humor, and imagination.


For fans of "Because of Mr. Terupt," "Mr. Terupt Falls Again," and "Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library," this funny, suspenseful adventure is about two very different twelve-year-old boys who must save the world from demons while dealing with parents, school, bullies, and girls.

Walter Prairie knows how to deal with bullies. He just has to beat them to the punch. But he doesn't see the biggest hit of his life coming when he is struck dead by a bolt of lightning. Before Walter even knows what's happened, he is sent to a Categorizing office, fast-tracked through the Afterlife Academy, and assigned as a Guardian Agent to protect a High-Level Target.

Walter's HLT, Charlie Dewdle, isn't exactly the most popular kid in school. He's what you might call paranormally obsessed. When Charlie finds an ancient book with spells that can be used to open the Gateway for demons to wreak havoc on earth, it's up to him and Walter to fight an eclectic horde of enemies and protect humankind at all costs.

But saving the world isn't so easy. Especially when your protector doesn't know the first thing about the Underworld, bullies like Mo Horvath are trying to hunt you down, pretty and popular Melissa Bittner is suddenly talking to you, and your parents think you're going crazy.


I'm not quite sure how to describe this book. Funny, yes.  Creepy, yes, there are demons after all.  Creative, yes.  Action-packed, yes.  These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think about this book.  I think the combination of humor and action are what make the book a winner in my mind.  Many middle grade readers love both of those things after all.  I also really appreciate the fact that the plot isn't like any plot I've ever read before.  Admittedly, while there are a lot of books available about guardian angels or some such idea, this book creates a guardian AGENT, and a completely untrained one at that.  Some other things that I enjoyed about the book include: demons using human games such as Jenga and Old Maid to torture each other, the back and forth dialogue between Walter and Charlie once Walter 'possesses' Charlie, and the involvement of Charlie's parents at the end of the story.

While I did figure out who the 'real' villain is in the story (other than the Underworld creatures), it didn't bother me too much because of the creativity exhibited in the rest of the story.  And the author does through in a red herring or two as well.  Both Walter and Charlie are fun, interesting characters that I had no trouble rooting for, but their differences were what made the book so entertaining.  This is a fun book, perfect for reluctant readers who like lots of action and who don't mind a monster or two.

Friday, December 1, 2017

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh


We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh returns with Spirit Hunters, a high-stakes middle grade mystery series about Harper Raine, the new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. A riveting ghost story and captivating adventure, this tale will have you guessing at every turn!

Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?


Ellen Oh has created a story of great creepiness, which is to say that young readers are bound to eat it up.  Not only is there the mystery of what happened to Harper that led to her stay in a mental hospital followed by a stay in a regular hospital, but there is the mystery of the new house.  Since Harper doesn't remember what happened leading up to and including her hospital stays, she feels a bit lost.  And when her brother starts talking about someone that no one else can see or hear, she's worried about him.  But unlike her mother and father and older sister, she senses something is very wrong with her brother.

When Dayo, a new friend from the neighborhood, starts telling her about the tragedies that have occurred at her house, and that most people believe the place to be haunted, it troubles Harper further. And after several attacks on herself, along with strange dreams that almost seem to be memories, Harper is desperate for some help.  As Michael (her brother) starts acting very strangely and even cruelly, Harper knows that something needs to be done before her brother is lost forever.

Oh has written a very compelling story with a huge dose of scariness.  I also enjoyed the Korean cultural references.  This is a nice stand alone novel for middle grade readers who want something scary.  There are some really scary parts in the story involving ghost possession which might be too much for some young readers.  It was refreshing though to read a scary ghost story with some unique aspects to it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

CYBILS SENIOR HIGH NONFICTION: How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana


This profoundly moving memoir is the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.


I found this book both heart-wrenching and inspiring.  Sandra's story is an important one.  Unfortunately, there are far too many others who could tell similar stories of life as a refugee.  I was fascinated as Sandra starts by introducing the event that changed her life forever, the massacre at Gatumba Refugee Camp.  Then she shares what her life was like leading up to that pivotal event.  I enjoyed this part of the book as I read about a culture and way of life very different from my own.  When she returns to the shocking events that occurred when she was ten, that cost her her beloved little sister and left her suffering from delayed PTSD (it all comes back to haunt her in her late teens).  That part was hard to read.  It's hard to comprehend what leads people to do such evil things as massacre the innocent just because they are from a different culture/tradition.

The story of how Sandra and her family came to the United States, found a way to cope with the culture shock while simultaneously living with the difficulties caused by the massacre is a powerful one.  At least I found it so.  Life as a refugee is difficult, no matter the circumstances.  But adjusting to a new country, a new language, and a new culture is hard enough without the challenges of dealing with trauma on top of that.  Sandra's family's difficulties weren't over.  As she struggles to adjust to school, she runs into numerous challenges, but she finds a way to carry on.  But she never forgets her people and what happened to them.  She gets involved in telling not only her own story but the story of her people.  She has what I would call some rather remarkable experiences. 

All in all, I found this a remarkable story that reminds me of the importance of people telling their own stories and that the only way to overcome the prejudices that continue to plague society is to tell those stories and listen to the stories of others.

Friday, November 24, 2017

CYBILS SENIOR HIGH NONFICTION: Survivors Club by Michael Bornstein & Debbie Bornstein Holinstat


In 1945, in a now-famous piece of archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved Michael’s life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.


This is a remarkable book.  Michael Bornstein and his daughter have clearly worked hard to tell the story of Michael's (and his extended family) experiences during the Holocaust.  While Michael himself was just a child when he ended up in Auschwitz and still a child when he was liberated, he's used the memories of numerous family members and friends as well as records and photographs from several Holocaust museums to round out the story.  And while as the author says, "the underlying events are entirely factual, there is some fiction here: conversations had to be imagined, thoughts and feelings projected, certain names changed and some minor details adjusted to put this into narrative form"; the underlying truth of the story is incredibly touching and powerful.

Reading about the courage of Michael's father, the horrible actions of the Nazi's, and the difficult circumstances that Michael's family and neighbors faced truly left me both horrified and in awe.  After the Germans invaded and the Jews were forced into unpaid labor and strict curfews, Michael's father, Isaac was made the head of the Judenrat--a group of Jewish men called to put the German's plans into effect.  And while Isaac hated this position, he used it to help his people as much as possible.  The way Isaac and his fellow Jews gathered money from those under their care and used it to bribe the Germans allowed numerous lives to be saved.  And even when Isaac had the chance to flee and save himself and his family, he stayed.  And when the camps could no longer be avoided, Michael and family, continued to hope that somehow they might survive it all.  And while not all of them did, a surprising number of Michael's family members did survive to carry on after the war.

This book beautifully demonstrates both the horrible things that people are capable of but also the resilience of the human soul.


Monday, November 20, 2017

EARLY CHAPTER BOOK SERIES: King & Kayla by Dori Hillestad Butler


Kayla made peanut butter treats for Jillian's new puppy, Thor. But now the treats are missing. 

What does Kayla know? There are three treats missing. King was in the kitchen. King's breath doesn't smell like peanut butter. 

What does King know? There's an intruder in the house. 

How will they solve the mystery?


I'm always on the lookout for fun early chapter books.  These books need to be fast moving with short, easy to read sentences for children just learning to read.  But the stories and illustrations are important as well.  In this first of a new series, King wants to eat the peanut butter treats that Kayla has made.  And when some of the treats go missing, King is blamed at first.  At least until Kayla goes through and lists what they know, which includes the fact that King's breath proves he didn't do it.  King, with his powerful nose, realizes something that Kayla does not: THERE'S AN INTRUDER IN THE HOUSE!  Together, Kayla and King must solve the mystery in order to enjoy the rest of the treats. A fabulous, funny new mystery series perfect for young readers. 

Kayla and Mason both got mysterious letters, written in code. 

What does Kayla know? The same person left both letters. It's someone she and Mason both know. 

The two letters are the same, except for the second word. 

What does King know? Jillian left the letters. What do the letters say?


In this delightful early chapter book, King and his person, Kayla, must solve the puzzle of a coded message left on their porch.  But King, the dog, has a clue that Kayla does not, he knows, thanks to his talented nose, who dropped it off.  But Kayla and her friend, Mason are puzzled.  It's up to King to find the clues necessary to figure out the mystery.  The short text and cute illustrations make this a great series for readers who are ready to move up to short chapter books. 


A lovable dog helps his human girl solve a mystery. King and Kayla are playing fetch with their friends, Jillian and Thor. Jillian throws Kings favorite ball too hard, and now its gone missing! King and Kayla must put together the clues to figure out where it went and who has it.


In this third book in the series, King's ball goes missing and he is frantic to get it back.  It's just right for fetching after all.  After Kayla lists all the clues she has, King uses his additional information from a neighborhood cat to try to find his ball.  He's determined to succeed, even if it means leaping into the neighbor's yard.  This is a fun addition to the series with an amusing twist at the end.

NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS: Bertha Takes a Drive/Nina/Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper


It's 1888 and Bertha Benz's husband, Karl, has invented the prototype Benz motorwagen. But the German government declares the vehicle illegal, and the church calls it the devil's work. Unbeknownst to her husband, Bertha steals away with her two sons and drives nearly one hundred miles to prove just how amazing the motorwagen is. Bertha's mechanical savvy gets the boys to Grandma's house safely, and the remarkable mother/son road trip reduces global concern about moving vehicles.


I'm a big fan of books that highlight the actions of brave, clever women.  Jan Adkins has done an admirable job of telling one story from the life of one such women.  I had to laugh at the determination of this woman, Bertha Benz, to prove to both the church and Emperor Wilhelm II that her husband's invention, the Benz motorwagen, has the potential to change lives for the better and isn't the threat they think it is.  She sneaks out with her two teenage sons and makes her way across bumpy, rough terrain 60 miles to her mother's house.  Naturally, the car broke down several times, but thanks to Bertha's ingenuity and knowledge of her husband's invention, the car was repaired and the trip continued.  

The inclusion of drawings of the motorwagen, including one of the engine were a great touch.  The timeline of significant events in automobile history was great as well.  I especially appreciated the author's note at the end where she explained the difficulty in getting the story right since not all the details of the time and place and conversations are known.  It's always reassuring to know however that the author does everything in her power to get it right.  A fascinating slice of history.

Ages 9-12


A stunning picture-book biography of the High Priestess of Soul and one of the greatest voices of the 20th century.

With evocative black-and-white illustrations and moving prose, readers are introduced to Nina Simone, jazz-music legend and civil-rights activist. Shared as a lullaby to her daughter, a soulful song recounts Simone's career, the trials she faced as an African American woman, and the stand she took during the Civil Rights Movement. This poignant picture book offers a melodic tale that is both a historic account of an iconic figure and an extraordinary look at how far we've come and how far we still need to go for social justice and equality. A timeless and timely message aptly appropriate for today's social and political climates.


This is a book filled with symbolism and imagery.  While that makes for a beautiful book, it also makes it confusing for younger readers, which is why I would recommend this book for older children.  It would even make a great addition to units on the Civil Rights movement, that continues today.  The book starts with Nina, a mother, singing a lullaby to her own child, and telling the story (very briefly) of some of her early experiences with music and racism.  The comparison of black and white lives to the keys on the keyboard (whites are whole and more numerous, blacks are 'half' and limited in number) is brilliant and thought-provoking, especially when the illustration on the next page shows whites and blacks sitting and standing in order like a piano keyboard.  The lyrical language makes references to taking wing and flying  which the illustrations also show as well as flying dandelions symbolizing Nina's and other civil rights activists dreams for a better life.  While additional information about Nina and her life and work would have been appreciated, the book makes for a powerful introduction to the issues involved in the civil rights movement as well as the experiences of one young girl.


Snappy rhymes invite young readers to watch workers dig, pour, pound, and bolt a skyscraper into existence. Simple yet satis-fying sidebars provide further information about each step in the construction process. Perfect for preschoolers and all those who dig diggers.

Quirky, colorful art enhance the appeal of a construction site with all the equipment and sounds of building.


This is a great book for young building enthusiasts.  Not only is there great information about the building of a skyscraper (I learned a lot!), but the combination of rhyming text and expository text make the book appropriate for young listeners and older readers.  In fact, I quite enjoyed reading the rhymes out loud, to me that's the best gauge for judging rhymes. I also loved the illustrations which do an excellent job of showing the steps in the construction process.  The illustrator also included labels for the different materials and equipment used in the building process. This is a fabulously put together book.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

SERIES THURSDAY: The Adventures of Henry Whiskers/Long Way Home by Gigi Priebe


Henry Whiskers must face his fears and rescue his little sister from the scary Rat Alley in this fun, fast-paced debut chapter book set in Queen Mary’s historical dollhouse at Windsor Castle.

Twenty-five generations of Whiskers have lived in Windsor Castle’s most famous exhibit: Queen Mary’s Dollhouse. For young, book-loving Henry Whiskers and his family, this is the perfect place to call home.

But when the dollhouse undergoes unexpected repairs and Henry’s youngest sister, Isabel, goes missing, he risks everything in a whisker-whipping race against time to save her. His rescue mission will take him to the murky and scary world of Rat Alley, and Henry will have to dig deep and find the courage he never knew he had in order to bring his sister back home.


Henry is not a particularly adventurous mouse.  He prefers to sit in the Queen Mary's historical dollhouse and read books from the library.  After all, since his father's death it's been his job as the oldest Whisker child to help his mother take care of the dollhouse.  But when his sister Isabel goes missing and Henry is the only one to know where she might be, he has to step out of his comfort zone and go find her, even if it means facing Titus, the cat, or the rats.  I enjoyed this for the most part but I didn't fall in love with it.  I guess I just didn't find it extremely compelling.  But it is a cute story and I absolutely fell in love with the dollhouse.  Sigh.  I mean, a dollhouse with real books, cars that run, and real kitchen appliances.  How awesome is that.  I'd recommend this series for those readers who love animals stories but aren't yet ready for Warriors by Erin Hunter or Redwall by Brian Jacques.

Henry Whiskers and his cousin, Jeremy, must find their way back home—Queen Mary’s dollhouse—and to Windsor Castle with the help of a mysterious treasure map in this fun, fast-paced follow up to The Adventures of Henry Whiskers.

Little Henry Whiskers is thrilled when he discovers an old, crinkly map, complete with a giant X marking a spot, full of treasure—at least, that’s what Henry thinks. All he knows is that this map is something BIG—he can feel it right down to the tip of his tail.

But before he can share his exciting find with his cousin and best friend, Jeremy, they find themselves in the danger zone: The Windsor Castle Kitchen. And after being unceremoniously caught and thrown out of the castle, with nothing but the map, the two little mice realize they have bigger problems than being caught in the kitchen! How will they get back to the dollhouse?

With the help of his cousin, Jeremy and a fellow field mouse named Wisely, the cousins battle a hungry falcon, an endless and stormy lake, and the maze of landmarks on the Windsor Castle Grounds as they try to find his way back home—and discover the mysterious map is more connected to the Whiskers family than either of them could have ever imagined.


In this cute follow-up to The Adventures of Henry WhiskersHenry and his cousin Jeremy get carried away from Windsor Castle and dumped outside.  Henry and Jeremy have to find a way to survive and make their way home.  And just what does the map that Henry found just before disaster struck mean?  This book is a nice read, but nothing that really jumped out at me.  Maybe it was the unrealistic behavior of some of the animals that bothered me, beyond the walking, talking mice that is.  A cat's claws don't click on the floor because they remain sheathed except when in use.  Hawks don't dump prey in an empty nest.  These things aren't likely to bother young readers though, who will be focused on Henry and Jeremy's risky attempts to find their way home, and be curious about the mysterious map and just what it might lead the mice to find.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017



In this groundbreaking debut essay collection, featuring never-before-seen photos, actress Lily Collins—star of Mortal Instruments and the upcoming Rules Don’t Apply—is opening a poignant, honest conversation about the things young women struggle with: body image, self-confidence, relationships, family, dating, and so much more.

For the first time ever, Lily shares her life and her own deepest secrets, underlining that every single one of us experiences pain and heartbreak. We all understand what it’s like to live in the light and in the dark. For Lily, it’s about making it through to the other side, where you love what you see in the mirror and where you embrace yourself just as you are. She's learned that all it takes is one person standing up and saying something for everyone else to realize they’re not alone.

By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Lily’s honest voice will inspire you to be who you are and say what you feel. It’s time to claim your voice! It’s time to live your life unfiltered.


I don't read a ton of memoirs, not because I don't like them, but because I'm choosy in who I want to read about.  Not all the subjects of such books are worth reading about.  But I thoroughly enjoyed Lily Collins memoir.  The book is written as a series of essays which makes it easy to follow with plenty of nice stopping places.  Each chapter focuses on one aspect of her life that Collins wants readers to know and understand.  It's so easy to think that people who are famous don't have any problems, at least not the kind that 'ordinary' people have.  This memoir proves that that is not the case.

In a very open, honest, and engaging style Collins talks about her experiences growing up.  Traveling with her mother, struggles with perfectionism and eating disorders, and abusive relationships all play a part in her early years.  Thoughts about her own mistakes as well as struggles in relating to boyfriends and even her father are openly discussed.  I found her openness refreshing.  It was also interesting to read about her early endeavors as a teen in publishing, acting, and modeling.  But I think the parts that touched me the most were the discussions about the mistakes she made as she sank deeply in anorexia and bulimia.  She honestly admits that it's a struggle that continues to play a role in her life.

Collins' opinions about tattoos and the importance of developing a voice in order to stand up for yourself were also delightful and thoughtful.  The black and white photographs added a nice touch as they showed Collins at various times in her life as well as other important things in her life.  I found it especially intriguing to read about how she has come to terms with her struggles and overcome some of them.  The book is both entertaining and inspiring.

The only issue I had with the book was a bit of swearing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

EARLY READER SERIES: Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virjan



What this story needs is a pig in a wig, on a boat in a moat with a frog, a dog, and a goat on a log. . . .

As a panda in a blouse, a skunk on a trunk, and more hop on board, it becomes clear that what this story really needs is a bigger boat! Join Pig on an exciting boat ride as she discovers that life is more fun with friends in this fantastic funny read-aloud with cumulative text from author-illustrator Emma J. Virján.


 "What this story needs is a pig.  A pig in a wig, on a boat..." And so begins this ode to the joys and chaos of friendship.  But beyond the obvious themes is something that makes this book perfect for librarians like myself to use in teaching lessons about story elements.  As the story begins, a main character is presented (the pig in a wig), then a setting, followed by secondary characters (a frog, a dog, and a goat on a log), and finally a plot/problem appears as the boat in which the pig resides gets full of other characters and things (like a house).  Then when the pig objects to the crowding (the climax of the story), a solution is found.  But it turns out the solution isn't ideal and creates another problem, which then must be solved in the conclusion.  The book is a delightful way to help children understand how stories are created and makes for a great inspiration for writing stories of their own.


Join Pig in another fun read-aloud adventure on the farm and find out if she'll ever catch some ZZZs!

What this bedtime needs
is a pig in a wig
brushing her teeth,
combing her hair,
and getting ready for bed
with her pink teddy bear.

But with a honk, a quack, a moo, and more, it turns out what this bedtime really needs is a quieter place to sleep!


In this second amusing story in the Pig in a Wig series, the main character is trying to get to sleep, when the other farm animals come to visit.  The problem is that they do so very loudly.  Once again we have a delightful book for teaching young children about characters, and settings, and plots, as well as about secondary characters, and problems and solutions.  On top of that the rhyming scheme is delightful and makes the book fun to read out loud. And the cute twist at the end doesn't hurt things either as it shows the fun that can come when things end a bit differently than one might expect.



Join Pig and her friends in another fun read-aloud adventure as they figure out a way to keep the picnic fun and games going, even with a little rain.

What this story needs
is a pig in a wig
baking bread,
pouring punch,
and meeting a friend for a picnic lunch.

But just as the outdoor fun and games get started, a thunderstorm rolls in and it turns out what this story really needs is . . . another place to eat!


In this third book, our friend the pig in a wig sets out with a delicious picnic lunch to have some fun with her friends. And while things are great for a while, as happens in all great stories, a problem arises, one that isn't too surprising (a rainstorm), but which makes the book great for teaching children about predicting events.  It also makes for a great opportunity to talk about solving the problem.  The simple rhyming text and colorful pictures are attractive and appealing to youngsters as well, which doesn't hurt any.  That red wig is, after all, very eye-catching.


 Join Pig and her friends in their latest adventure as they get ready to put on the best show ever! From author-illustrator Emma J. Virján comes another funny read-aloud with catchy, rhythmic text and big, bold illustrations.

What this story needs is a pig in a wig,

building a stage, arranging a stand,

and getting ready to conduct the Pig in a Wig Band.

But when a surprise guest shows up onstage, scaring Elephant, there’s a BANG and a CLANG as everyone topples over! Will Pig and her friends be able to get back on track to finish the show?


The pig in a wig gathers her supplies and her friends for a concert in the park.  Things are banging along swimmingly until a surprise arrives creating chaos.  Oh, no, what will they all do!  But pig in a wig is determined, nothing shall stop her from putting on a show.  This fourth book gives the reader and listener ample opportunity to pretend to play instruments and make lots of noise, especially when the bangs and clangs arrive.  The rhyming cadence of the story and pleasing illustrations make this a great series for teachers and families of preschool and kindergarten children.


 The fifth and final book in the popular PIG IN A WIG series!

What this story needs is a pig in a wig, rushing to her car, dashing into place, ready to start the cross-country race!

Pig zooms off and takes the lead! But oh, no! There's a rumble, a pop, and a hiss, and Pig gets stuck in the mud. Will she be able to get back on track and finish the race? From author-illustrator Emma J. Virján comes another funny read-aloud with catchy, rhythmic text and big, bold illustrations featuring everyone’s favorite pig in a wig!


The pig in the wig rushes out her door to get to her car and the cross-country race. But can she win after disaster strikes?  With the help of the race crew, she just might still have a chance.  Once again, Virjan has presented the reader with an adorable, surprisingly simple, and enjoyable story about an interesting character.  Despite the simpleness of the story, the fun language and a theme about not giving up make this a great book for sharing and enjoying.  
Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Story Time kit by Kristin Aagard