Sunday, August 2, 2015


Hi all you lovelies - just popping by to say that I'm taking a brief hiatus from blogging. Initially it started out because I was swamped with working, teaching, momming, etc. But now I've decided to step back and think about this site, what I've done with it so far, and the future direction I want it to take.

I may be back at some point - either to blog regularly again, to announce a new project, or just to say farewell. Until then, be good to one another and read good books.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review: The New Small Person by Lauren Child

Happy Saturday readers! It's a big day for us - the first-ever Independent Bookstore Day, plus Free Comic Book Day. No matter if you're celebrating one or both, this is a good opportunity to get out and support your local bookstores and comic shops, and find some terrific reads in the process.

And when you're out shopping today, remember to buy diverse books and comics when you find them. A lot is changing in the industry, and publishers are recognizing that readers want diversity. Let's show them they are doing the right thing when they publish diverse books and comics by supporting them with our dollars and our library checkouts.

Okay, off my soapbox and on to the review. I was thrilled when I saw that Lauren Child was publishing a book with African American characters. We've read a few of her Charlie and Lola books (I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato, anyone?) and really enjoyed them. I'm happy to report that The New Small Person, featuring Elmore and his little brother Albert, is not only diverse but exactly what you'd expect from Lauren Child: funny, touching and full of very recognizable pint-sized people.

Elmore is a pretty cool kid and he's livin' the life as the center of his parents' attention. All well and good until someone else, some *small person* comes along and starts throwing off Elmore's groove. It starts with the choice of cartoons (Elmore doesn't like small people TV) and pretty soon it's toys being knocked over and then the violation of Elmore's super-special jar of jelly beans. Not a good scene. What's worse, the small person isn't staying small - he's getting bigger, and the bigger he gets the more Elmore finds that his life is being changed in ways he doesn't at all care for.

While this isn't a radical departure from many other new-sibling books, The New Small Person is notable because it is sensitively done and really shows the relationship between the brothers deepening. Elmore isn't persuaded by any dramatic means but gradually comes to the realization that maybe having two smallish persons in the house isn't a bad thing. Still, there are lines to be drawn - Elmore's no pushover, you know.

Overall this is a great choice to share with older siblings as well as younger ones, to help shed some light on the big-little dynamic either before or after a small person enters the home. Tip: best read with jelly beans on hand (especially orange ones, a favorite of small persons).

The New Small Person by Lauren Child, published by Candlewick Press
Ages 3-6
Source: Library

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review - You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey

I love this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. The gloom of winter is starting to lift, the flowering cherry trees and rhododendrons are showing their colors, and the days are getting longer. This year we're hoping to get out and about more - since Sprout learned to ride his bike over spring break, he's itching to find new trails to ride on and new sights to see, which is just dandy with me and hubs. It's fun to see the interest he takes in nature and in exploring.

Tonight's pick fits in nicely with that interest, and Sprout's generally science-y inclination. Elin Kelsey's You Are Stardust came to my attention when I was perusing a list of new releases and one of them referred to this 2012 picture book as an essential part of library collections. My good-book-radar thus set on high alert, I checked it out and brought it home for Sprout, who was thoroughly engaged, as much by Kelsey's text as by the fanciful dioramas created by illustrator Soyeon Kim.

You Are Stardust aims to help kids understand the connections between themselves and the natural world - not a huge surprise as Kelsey is an environmental educator. The way she does this, though, is fantastic. This is far from your typical dry, dull science tome, but instead a rich book of possibility and thought-provoking scenarios, all accomplished with text that's spare but evocative. The imagery is stunning: "Be still. Listen. Like you, the Earth breathes." And it's fun: "You sneeze with the force of a tornado." (Sprout loved that one.)

Kim's dioramas are just as absorbing as the prose in You Are Stardust. I love the way she weaves a multiracial cast of kids into the scenes Kelsey describes, in such fantastic ways - riding on clouds, swinging from treetops. This would be a great title to use in a science-art crossover lesson plan, as it will appeal to both creatives and fact-obsessed students alike. Think how much students would enjoy reading this, then researching some more facts and creating a classroom diorama of one's own, filled with cut-paper crafts and small illustrations from all students. What fun!

Kelsey knows what facts intrigue kids, and uses them to prompt even greater curiosity about the natural world and our connection to it. We are all stardust, so Kelsey's thesis goes - and as such, we are all bound together in this life, and on this earth.

You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey, published by Owl Kids
Ages 4-6
Source: Library

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review - The Case for Loving by Selina Alko

If it's been quiet on the blog the last month, that's because I've had a few other things occupying my mind -- namely prep work to teach a class on Language and Literacy for the Young Child at my local community college. I spoke at this class last year and it was a wonderful experience, so when the opportunity came up to serve as co-instructor this year, I couldn't pass it up. But it has put a bit of a crimp in my free time to blog, so don't be surprised if new reviews are somewhat sparse for a few months.

Still, there are plenty of great books out there that I want to share, and today's is no exception. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko is a terrific addition to nonfiction shelves in classrooms and libraries. Alko and her husband Sean Qualls created this book as a labor of love; as an interracial couple themselves, the story of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter Loving is close to their hearts. As part of a transracial family, it's a story that hits close to home for me as well.

The case of the Lovings was ground-breaking in that it represented a landmark in the fight for marriage equality, which of course we see continuing today. Richard Loving was white and Mildred Jeter was black & Native American. Though they were deeply in love, in 1958 it was still illegal for them to marry in their home state of Virginia. The couple wed in Washington D.C. instead, where it was legal, but once they returned to Virginia they faced legal prosecution for "unlawful cohabitation". Though the Lovings chose to move to D.C., they longed to return home to Virginia, and their eventual legal battle finally allowed them the freedom to live, with their three children, in the place they called home.

Alko presents the story of the Lovings in straightforward fashion that makes it perfect for sharing with grade-school readers. (Though there are concerns that the story may not fully represent the racial dynamics - see an excellent critique of the book by Debbie Reese on her blog.) Young readers are likely to be as upset by the injustices visited upon the Lovings as adults are, and they'll celebrate the happy resolution to their case. I think the book provides a great opportunity to discuss the fight that many gay couples have today to gain the same marriage equality, and to discuss how we as a nation are continuing to change and progress in acceptance of one another.

I can't end the review of The Case for Loving without mentioning Sean Qualls' illustrations though, because for me the pictures are what makes this book sing. The small touches throughout each spread, coupled with the collage-style artwork, add a sense of whimsy to what otherwise could be a very heavy read. I think this is what makes the story work for the intended age - a great blend of powerful story plus art that keeps the tough parts for being overwhelming. It's very well-done.

Check out The Case for Loving and join us in hoping for everyone to realize their happy ever after.

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko, published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Ages 6-9
Source: Library

Monday, March 16, 2015

Picture Book of the Day - What a Wonderful World, illustrated by Tim Hopgood

If this feels a little like something you've seen before on Sprout's Bookshelf, you're right! I think this might be a first, that I am reviewing a book whose text I've already written, about but with a different version by a different illustrator. 

It's no surprise that there are a couple of picture book versions of Louis Armstrong's iconic song "What a Wonderful World". The text is just about perfect to share with young children - an homage to beauty and a testament to hope. Sprout and I have read the version illustrated by Ashley Bryan for a couple of years now, checking it out from the library whenever we stumble across it. He loves the Ashley Bryan version because one of his favorite preschool teachers used to share it with the kiddos, so I wasn't entirely sure how he'd take to this update, illustrated by Tim Hopgood. 

But you know what? As it turns out, Tim Hopgood's What a Wonderful World is a totally different experience for Sprout than the beloved Ashley Bryan version. I credit the illustration styles, which are much different. Hopgood's take follows a small boy and a bluebird, as they venture throughout different landscapes and scenes. In the forest, they're celebrating the trees; they sing about the sky as the boy flies in a balloon; they swim in the ocean (well, the boy does) and frolic with horses. And every page spread is alive with color and motion and vibrancy, a really exuberant love song to the wonderful world in which we all live. 

I've always enjoyed the message of this song, and this fresh new take by Tim Hopgood just deepens my affection. Whether you want to inspire a classroom of kiddos or spend some time creating one-on-one, What a Wonderful World is a perfect pick to launch art projects, nature walks or other creative endeavors. Just be prepared to harmonize as you read - this title is so absolutely joyful, you almost can't help but sing!

What a Wonderful World, illustrated by Tim Hopgood, published by Henry Holt
All ages
Source: Library

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall

Let's say you want to write a children's book, and you are doing so because you have a point to make. If you're like many authors, you start out with that point in mind, then whip up a plot that more or less covers the ground you want, populate it with somewhat unique characters, and finish off with a great big ol' teachable moment at the end. Not unlike the ABC After School specials of my childhood, these types of books are somewhat less than subtle, if you get my drift.

And guess what? Kids tune out halfway through reading this type of thing. Oh yeah, you think you've been clever by making the character a monkey who doesn't know how to climb, or whatever, but trust me, kids see through it.

That's what makes Michael Hall's Red: A Crayon's Story such a winner. Hall definitely had a message in mind when he wrote this beguiling picture book, but the story is so well-executed, it totally sneaks up on young readers. It's filled with bold graphics that grab the eye and lots of sly humor. And, best of all, the theme -- that sometimes we're labeled one way, but we really are something else entirely -- is general enough to apply to lots of different scenarios, making this a great choice for school and classroom libraries, since educators can use it with all types of kids.

Our hero is Red, a crayon who doesn't fit in. He tries to do all the things he's supposed to -- draw a red berry, a red ant, even mix with yellow to draw an orange -- but he just can't. The other crayons have lots of opinions on where Red is going wrong. He should press harder, maybe, or not be so lazy. Even the other art supplies get in on the advice, offering to loosen his label or even sharpen him (ouch!). But try as he might, Red just can't do what is expected of him, and he completely blames himself.

In the end, it takes a sharp-eyed crayon called Berry to notice what's up -- Red isn't red at all, he's blue! And once Berry points this out, Red's whole outlook is changed. Suddenly he's drawing blue sky and ocean, and loving every minute of his crayon-y life.

Of course kids are going to see the problem right from the get-go, and they'll cheer like Sprout did when Red finally figures out his true colors. I read an interview with author/illustrator Hall in which he talked about his own childhood being diagnosed as dyslexic, and having written Red: A Crayon's Story in part as a response to that experience, I think Red absolutely works in that context, but in others as well. To be honest, my own first response and that of others I know who've read this book is to think of kids experiencing gender-identity issues. This would be an enormously comforting book to share with a child who didn't feel comfortable in his/her own skin, due to gender or any number of other experiences.

But most of all, Red is a great book to share with all kids, to teach them through a fun, lighthearted story that we are all more than the labels we give one another, and that we need to look beyond the surface to see someone's true colors - and to celebrate them!

Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall, published by HarperCollins
Ages 4-6
Source: Library
Highly recommended

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review - The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Much as I hate the term "reluctant reader", there's no denying that it does refer to a certain category of kids, for whom books are generally more chore than charm. In some circles "reluctant reader" is automatically equated with boys, which I feel is a shame because there are lots of boys who devour books every bit as avidly as their female counterparts. But tonight's pick is one that will appeal to both boys who love to read and those who don't, and to pretty much anyone who enjoys a well-told, fast-paced story.

The book in question is the winner of the Newbery medal this year, Kwame Alexander's The Crossover. This book was kind of revolutionary as a win for lots of reasons - sports! boys! African Americans! novel in verse! Take any one of those items on its own, no biggie. But put all of that together in one book and you have a dark horse that still swept the big prize, and very deservedly so.

The Crossover tells the story of Josh Bell, who with his twin brother Jordan forms the heart and soul of their school's basketball team. The boys are tough and they've got basketball in their blood, as their dad is a former bball star. And at the start of the story, things are going pretty great for the pair. But then little things start to come between them, and aggressions flare up on the court and off. Pretty soon the two are adrift, apart, and not even Dad's famous basketball rules provide the guidance they need to keep on playing.

I won't say more because the impact of this story really needs to come firsthand. Suffice to say that the ending was a surprise, and yet totally authentic with the way Alexander set up the story. I struggled a bit at first with the sports terms but that's not something that's likely to bug the target audience (let's face it, I'm a middle-aged white librarian with nary a basketball reference to fall back on). And yet, even though this isn't the sort of thing I myself would be drawn to, I was absolutely bowled over by the voice here. It's incredible, as are the characters - realistic, conflicted, flawed and so human you can't believe it.

The Crossover is a quick read that will keep even those -- yes, I'll say it -- reluctant readers turning pages. But don't think that just because the book moves quickly that it's a throw-away. Far from it - in fact, Alexander's created a set of characters that will remain with the reader even once the last page has been turned.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Ages 9-12
Source: Library
Highly recommended

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Picture Book of the Day - Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

I'm always on the lookout for picture books about adoption and transracial families. Sometimes that means digging below the obvious choices -- many of which are overly sentimental, to be totally honest -- and seeking out titles that might not be instantly recognizable as fitting the bill for us. Fortunately that search paid off with our most recent read, and Sprout's current favorite, Wolfie the Bunny.

To tell the truth, we've been looking forward to Wolfie the Bunny for quite some time, as we were huge fans of author Ame Dyckman's first book Boy + Bot, a can't-miss choice if your kiddos love robots. Also we already knew illustrator Zachariah Ohora from No Fits, Nilson, about a gorilla with a real penchant for temper tantrums (super fun). So any project with the combined talents of these two wunderkinds was automatically on our TBR list. And luckily, Wolfie the Bunny not only lived up to our expectations, it far exceeded them - I had no idea that Wolfie was going to be such a great choice for its themes about sibling relationships, adoption, and families that don't exactly match.

The real star of Wolfie the Bunny isn't the title character, but his big sister Dot. Dot and her family, a respectable rabbit clan, are stunned when a baby wolf ends up on their doorstep. Dot's parents are totally enchanted from the get-go, but Dot's not convinced. Hello, he's a WOLF! Yet try as she might, Dot can't get anyone to listen to her concerns. Then one day, there's a showdown - will Dot's worst fears be realized??!?

I won't spoil the ending for you, but let's just say that this buck-toothed wolf baby is not the big villain of the story. Though they are rabbit and wolf, the relationship between these two kiddos mirrors any sibling relationship that humans have ever had. (Of course, being that he's an only, that dynamic mostly went over Sprout's head, but Hubs and I found it all-too-familiar.) As with Boy + Bot, Dyckman was clearly in her element writing Wolfie, because the humor throughout is totally spot-on. And bless the editorial hand that matched up this author and illustrator - Ohora's style matches Dyckman's lively narrative like the two were born to create picture books. So many great touches here, particularly the character development of the lovably-bescowled Dot. (Confession: she's my super-fave.)

If you're looking for a sibling story with just a bit of bite, look no further than Wolfie the Bunny. This family may not match on the outside, but when it all comes down to it, they're perfectly paired!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Picture Book Review - Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Hey friends! A lot has happened in the kidlit world since last I posted - namely, the Youth Media Awards (Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, etc.) given by the American Library Association. I've been crowing about it a lot on Twitter, but this year's awards were absolutely fantastic for the amount of diversity and kid appeal they included. So many great winners from so many diverse authors/illustrators! Check out the full list and make sure to buy or check out these and other diverse always, you can keep diverse books viable by purchasing them for your home, school or library.

It's shaping up to be an exciting spring for me personally and professionally. One of the highlights is that I get to attend the Children's Literature Conference at WWU, where guest speakers this year include Joyce Sidman, Kate diCamillo, Yuyi Morales and Matt de la Peña. Is that a lineup or what?? I'm super excited. I've been reading a lot of each author's backlist in preparation, and their new stuff as well of course, because WHY NOT? :)

Matt de la Peña is probably best known for his teen books, in particular The Living and Mexican WhiteBoy. Sometimes authors who write for older readers have trouble finding the right voice for the littles, but I'm happy to say that's not the case for de la Peña's new picture book, Last Stop on Market Street. This title is brimming with spirit and distinctiveness, in its depiction of a young boy, his nana, and the world of their city.

The story opens as CJ and his nana are leaving church. CJ is a curious guy, and he notices things - like why he and Nana take the bus when others drive cars, why he doesn't have an iPod when others do. Nana's got a simple response for everything, pointing out that what they have -- a bus with a cheerful driver, a fellow passenger with a guitar -- is plenty perfect. CJ visits with his fellow passengers, talking to a blind man about people "watching the world with their ears" and feeling the rhythm of the guitar player's song. Soon enough the pair is at their destination: the soup kitchen, in a rough part of town. CJ comments that the area is dirty; Nana responds "Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful."

Last Stop on Market Street is a terrific book for sharing with kids of all colors and backgrounds, because of how deeply it makes you think. de la Peña makes his point without being preachy or didactic - that beauty is everywhere, that we can find it particularly in helping our fellow man. It's the calm certainty of CJ's nana that bowls me over. She looks around at what quite clearly could be depressing sights, and finds grace and warmth and color where others see ruin. That's a message I want Sprout to know with certainty, and it's delivered with inclusiveness through the text and the colorful, appealing illustrations done by Christian Robinson (an illustrator to watch, in my estimation!).

Pair Last Stop on Market Street with other city-centered tales of gracious acts, like City Green or A Bus Called Heaven. What de la Peña and Robinson have created is a fresh classic, a book that keeps giving with each subsequent read - and believe me, it's one you'll read time and time again.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons
Ages 4-6
Source: Library
Highly recommended

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Multicultural Children's Book Day - TODAY!

Sprout's Bookshelf is honored to be part of Multicultural Children's Book Day this year. Here's the full list of 2015 co-hosts:

2015 Sponsors for Multicultural Children's Book Day:

MCCBD’s 2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global BookshopGold Sponsors:  Satya House,,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic PoofSilver SponsorsJunior Library Guild,  Capstone PublishingLee and Low Books,  The Omnibus PublishingBronze Sponsors:Double Dutch DollsBliss Group BooksSnuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

Today we are Celebrating:

A giant blog tour and Link-up

Our Big MCCBD Linky is LIVE today so that bloggers can link up their multicultural children's book reviews so that readers, parents, teachers, librarians, and caregivers can explore lots of books with diversity content via book reviews, book lists, and links. ADD YOUR LINK BELOW!

A giant networking event
Our goal is to also connect organizers, sponsors, co-hosts, bloggers, and others interested in expanding awareness of, and promotion of multicultural children’s books.

A virtual book drive
We have partnered with First Book for a Virtual Book Drive to help in our efforts to place multicultural books in locations where they are needed.

ALSO-We're hosting a Twitter party tonight at 9pm to 10pm EST using hashtag #ReadYourWorld. We will be talking about diversity in children's books and  giving away 10 packages of wonderful diversity and inclusive books for kids!!! Please join us!

Multicultural Children's Book Day Twitter Party
Use Hashtag: #ReadYourWorld

Today, January 27th

9pm to 10pm EST

Here's your chance to win 10 packages of Diversity Books for Kids and chat about multicultural children's books with MCCBD founders Valarie Budayr (Jump Into a Book) and Mia Wenjen (PragmaticMom)!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review - Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper {Multicultural Children's Book Day}

I'm so excited to be one of the co-hosts for this year's Multicultural Children's Book Day! This event, begun in 2014 by bloggers Valerie Budayr of Jump into a Book and Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom, aims to promote diversity in children's books by shining a spotlight on multicultural titles and all they add to the world of kidlit. It's a very necessary and also super fun way to emphasize that diverse titles help you #ReadYourWorld in your homes, schools and libraries.

As part of the event, I'm sharing our thoughts about the graphic novel Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper (note: I received a copy of the book for review purposes, but all opinions are my own). I have really been looking forward to reading this one thanks to a lot of prepub buzz on social media. And I'm thrilled to say that Lowriders in Space not only lived up to all that buzz, but even exceeded it in my estimation!

Lowriders in Space blends lots of threads, making it a perfect choice to hand to all sorts of kids, whether they are interested in cars, Mexican-American culture, or outer space. The story revolves around three characters: Lupe Impala (wolf/dog-human hybrid?), El Chavo Flapjack (octopus) and Elirio Malaria (mosquito). What, you don't think this is the most logical choice for characters? I didn't either, but Camper makes it work beautifully, as she demonstrates how this crazy crew blends their mad skills to restore an old car into a lowrider and win a car competition.

The car has to be something really special to win the contest -- no ordinary lowrider's going to get the top prize, which the friends desperately want so they can open their own garage. Fortunately, the gang hits on just the thing when they add rocket boosters. Unfortunately, the three artists and their car wind up in outer space, where they'll need all their wits and ingenuity not only to trick out their ride, but also to make it back home to earth in time to make it to the contest.

Camper's creativity is what sets Lowriders in Space apart from ho-hum graphic novels that crowd the shelves. I love the way she makes all these disparate elements merge into one cohesive story that kids will fly right through. There's plenty of Mexican-American slang as well as car culture and astronomy terms woven throughout, and Camper includes a glossary at the end to define any terms young readers might not know. It's especially great to have not only a diverse cast but also a female mechanic as the main character - big points for turning stereotypes on their heads, Ms. Camper. And the illustrations by Raul the Third make Lowriders in Space sing. This is art that's vibrant yet accessible, deliberate yet casual, and most of all the kind of thing kids will want to emulate themselves. Kudos to a talented team -- Lowriders in Space is graphic novel GOLD. Can't wait to read more of the Lowriders adventures!

Activity: Try out our Lowriders in Space Word Search!

Sprout's Bookshelf is honored to be part of Multicultural Children's Book Day this year. Here's the full list of 2015 co-hosts:

Many thanks to Chronicle Books for providing a copy of Lowriders in Space for us to review!

2015 Sponsors for Multicultural Children's Book Day:

MCCBD’s 2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold SponsorsSatya House,,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Picture Book Review - Where's Lenny? by Ken Wilson-Max

A little tip for all those folks who have emergent readers in your house -- don't box up the board books just yet. You may have felt like you could move on from these super-simple titles once your little one entered grade school, but the truth is that board books are perfect for kids just learning to read. The pictures are simple, giving lots of clues to support the interpretation of text. And the words tend to be manageable as well, with plenty of repetition and catchy phrases that inspire emergent readers. Plus your kids will be proud as punch to read some of their "baby" books on their own!

I was reminded of this as I sat down to blog about tonight's pick, Where's Lenny? by Ken Wilson-Max. Sprout wandered in, delaying his trip to the bath, and began immediately to puzzle through this cheery picture book. Though not a board book per se, the paper style and trim size definitely lend themselves to the youngest set. But Sprout was lured to it by the bright colors and that cover photo of Lenny, which made him want to read the book for himself. And really, who wouldn't want to read about this adorable chap?

Where's Lenny? features a game of hide-and-seek between the title character and his dad. The game takes the pair all over the house, encountering the dog, the goldfish and even Mummy. Lenny is clearly delighted to be leading his father on a wild goose chase, and the more Daddy guesses wrong, the more fun the sturdy toddler is having. At long last, Daddy and Mummy join forces and find their boy hiding under a blanket. And the escapade ends with a good bunch of cuddles, and some tickling for good measure. So fun!

Where's Lenny? is just one of several Lenny adventures by Wilson-Max. I love these titles because they include a multiracial family - it's always great to find books with parents of two different races, especially when the titles are as fun and upbeat as the Lenny books. Colorful and happy, these titles are a pure joy to read. Once you've read one, you'll be on the lookout for the rest!

Where's Lenny? by Ken Wilson-Max, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Ages 2-5
Source: Library

Look for Lenny Has Lunch, Lenny in the Garden, and Lenny Goes to Nursery School too!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Picture Book Review - Imani's Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood

Oh my word, such a stack of books to blog about! I've been reading and loving so many books lately - it seems like a great season for multicultural and diverse titles, at long last. Lots of these titles are by authors or illustrators whose work I've previously enjoyed, but every once in a while a new artist sneaks in and captures my heart. I *love* when that happens!

Today's pick is just such a title - one that I saw the cover for and instantly knew I had to read it. Take a look at this image and tell me Imani's Moon isn't going on your TBR list for that picture alone:

I'm quite happy to say that the book delivers nicely on the promise of that cover. Author JaNay Brown-Wood based Imani's Moon on the legends and culture of the Maasai people, who can be found in Kenya and Tanzania. Sprinkling in a bit of Maasai tribal dancing and a good dose of traditional Maasai storytelling, Brown-Wood created the story of Imani, a tiny girl who is mocked by others for her small stature. Imani is captivated by her mother's stories of Olapa, the moon goddess, and longs to touch the moon in honor of her heroine. But the task seems impossible, and Imani's initial efforts fail, garnering more jeers from the children in her village. Should Imani give up her unachievable dream?

Brown-Wood does an excellent job of blending mystical and realistic in Imani's Moon. Talking animals and feats of the fantastic are key components of her story. While kids aren't likely to believe that (spoiler alert) Imani really touches the moon, they will internalize the message that Imani's mama tells her: "(a) challenge is only impossible until someone accomplishes it." Those are powerful words, just the kind of thing I want Sprout to have implanted firmly in his head as he goes forth in the world.

I can't close out this review without mentioning the illustrations by Hazel Mitchell, because they really tremendous. Brown-Wood's text pays honor to the Maasai, as do Mitchell's illustrations, showing them as a joyous and soulful people who live close to the land and revere their traditions. Sprout especially enjoyed the spread showing the Maasai warriors dancing - it's an arresting image that evokes the spirit of this gathering, a celebration and a ritual that is deeply embedded in Maasai culture. Mitchell uses color to evoke emotions as well, keeping the moon a focal point as it is for Imani herself.

Don't miss Imani's Moon, a great addition to collections for its focus on bravery, honoring oneself and never giving up. Let the magic sweep you up, as it does Imani, to touch the moon.

Imani's Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood, published by Mackinac Island Press
Ages 4-6
Source: Library

Bonus: read more about author JaNay Brown-Wood in the Multicultural Children's Book Day Spotlight

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Review and GIVEAWAY! - Hissy Fitz by Patrick Jennings

Hello my lovelies, and welcome to 2015! We've had a wonderful winter break (until today that is, when Hubs succumbed to one of the bugs that's been floating around - luckily Sprout & I are as yet in the clear!). I hope you were able to enjoy some relaxation time around the holidays, whether or not you celebrate. It's really nice to just take a breath and recharge before the new year.

We're starting 2015 off with a bang here at the Bookshelf, with a review and GIVEAWAY of the new book Hissy Fitz by Patrick Jennings. This is a signed copy friends - you won't want to miss adding this hilarious chapter book to your collection!

Hissy Fitz couldn't have come along at a better time for us. Sprout's been in full learning-to-read mode, so we are gobbling up the easy readers, and our chapter book read-aloud time has been seriously extended. It's so exciting to see him really loving books in a whole new way, and nearly every night he tells me how he can't wait to read chapter books on his own. Because of that, I've been making it a point to choose books that he'll really love, which usually means funny books with vivid characters. Check and double check for Hissy Fitz.

This is the story of Hissy, a cat who just wants a decent days' sleep. Not so much to ask, right? Well it is in a household that includes one chatty grade-schooler, twin three-year-olds (one of whom just does not understand cats *at all*), and a carpenter dad. Add in barking dogs, a neighbor who fixes cars and all the noise that comes when the family is together, and you have one cranky, sleep-deprived Hissy. And he's going to do whatever it takes to get some peace and quiet - no matter what that might be. 'Cause this cat is ex-haus-ted!

We received an advance copy of Hissy Fitz to review, but even if we hadn't gotten a complimentary book, this still would have been a big hit in our household. Hissy's high jinks are seriously hilarious, as is his cranky demeanor. Jenkins clearly knows his audience -- he keeps the story moving at a perfect pace, and ratchets up the humor at just the right points throughout the plot. Sprout seriously cannot stop laughing every time we read a chapter, and in fact he was just begging me to finish the book before bedtime tonight. "I can't wait, Mom! I have to find out what happens!" were his exact words. Coming from a kid, you know that's high praise.

Hissy Fitz is perfect for kiddos just beginning to enjoy chapter books on their own. The language is simple but the action keeps them turning pages - definitely not a boring early chapter title! Hissy is the first book we've read by Patrick Jennings but I'm sure it won't be the last - Sprout's already begging me to get a copy of Guinea Dog, Jennings' award-winning title for middle graders, to read aloud soon. Can't wait!

Hissy Fitz by Patrick Jennings, published by Egmont Publishing
Ages 7-9
Source: review copy received from publisher
Sample: "I hiss at dogs. Swat at cats. Scream at children. Growl at old people. They call me crazy. Mad. Insane. Wild. And they're right. I'm everybody's worst nightmare, and I will continue to be until everybody gets quiet and lets me sleep."

If you'd like to have Hissy Fitz on your kiddo's reading list this year, maybe you'd like your very own copy?? You can win a signed copy!

(Prize provided by Egmont Publishing. Review is our honest opinion, 'cause we can't be bought, haha!)

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Monday, January 05, 2015

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Friday, January 09, 2015


Thursday, January 30, 2014
To Be Announced