Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cybils 2016: Fiction Picture Books Judges

In case you missed the announcement last week, the Fiction Picture Book panelists and judges for Cybils 2016 are official. I am honored to have been selected to help judge the fiction picture books, including board books. That means I'll be reading a lot of picture books over the next couple of months. And I'll be sharing many reviews with you all as we work towards finding the best picture books of 2016.

Nominations open October 1st, so head on over to the Cybils website next week to nominate your favorite picture books published in 2016.

Fiction Picture Books Round 1 Panelists
We will be wading through 100+ nominated books, making sure every nominated title is read by at least 1-2 panelists. We will narrow the list down to our shortlists (5-7 titles) come December.

Deb Nance - The Reader Buzz
Jennifer Wharton - Jean Little Library
Kirsti Call - Reading for Research
Lynne Marie Pisano - My Word Playground
Ami Jones - A Mom’s Spare Time
Sue Morris - Kid Lit Reviews
Kate Unger - Mom’s Radius

Fiction Picture Books Round 2 Judges
The members of this group will each read/review all of the shortlist books and determine a winner by February 12th.

Teri Lesesne - Goddess of YA
Mel Schult - Let’s Talk Picture Books
Benji Martin - Tales of an Elementary School Librarian
Lauren Davis - Happily Ever Elephants
Emily Andrus - Literary Hoots

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kid Lit: Hungry Bird

I received this book for free from Scholastic at BEA 2016. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

Hungry Bird by Jeremy Tankard

Published on September 27, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Bird is hiking with his friends when his tummy rumbles.

But no one packed him a snack that he likes!

With every step, his hunger mounts until he collapses on the ground.

How will Bird survive if he doesn't eat the perfect something this instant?!

The hilarious blue-feathered anti-hero who first starred in Jeremy Tankard's high-flying debut, Grumpy Bird, returns in another laugh out loud melodrama. For every child who has ever needed a snack right now, and for every parent who has had to cope with a hangry, fussy child, Hungry Bird is sure to satisfy.

My Thoughts:
This story is great! Parents and kids alike will be able to relate to Bird's dilemma. He's hiking with his friends: raccoon, beaver, rabbit, sheep, and fox, when he gets hungry. He asks fox if he's brought any snacks. Fox brought berries. Bird doesn't like berries, so he passes. But he continues to get hungrier and hungrier, his attitude getting worse and worse as he asks each of his friends what they've brought.

Both humorous and instructive, this book is a great read aloud. It will have kids laughing at Bird's increasing hysterics and overly dramatic responses to his friends. But it's also the perfect opportunity for parents to talk with kids about their own behavior as they get hungry. I'll even use it to talk with my 6 year old about preparing for outing himself as we recently had an episode on a bike ride where he was indignant that I hadn't remembered snacks.

The illustrations in this book are very vibrant. The text uses capitalization to add emphasis and tone. It's a perfect read aloud for ages 3-6 and even a good independent read for ages 6-8. There is a decent amount of text per page, but the print is large and easy to read.

My Rating: 4 stars

On the blog last year...

Book Review: God-Shaped Hole

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Littlest Big Foot (MG)

I received this book for free from the publisher at BEA 2016. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

Published on September 13, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner comes a laugh-out-loud funny and painstakingly real tale of friendship, furry creatures, and finding the place where you belong.

Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one.

But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—NoFurs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star.

Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else.

My Review:
I’ve enjoyed several of Jennifer Weiner’s adult books, especially Little Earthquakes, so when I saw that she’d written a middle grade book, I had to snag an ARC at BEA. I enjoyed this story, but the execution wasn’t as good as I would have hoped for. Jennifer often writes about characters who have issues with their body image or don’t fit in well with other women, and this middle grade book is similar. It’s about two young women who stand out in their communities. Millie is the smallest in her tribe of Yare, a.k.a. Bigfoots. She is the chief’s daughter, posed to take over when he dies, but far too interested in the No-Fur (human) world. Alice is a large girl with an uncontrollable mane of hair who’s been kicked out of school year after year. This year she’s landed at an experimental school in upstate New York right across the lake from Millie’s clan. The girls start an unusual friendship and fight against the powers that be. It’s fun and cute, and I know young kids will enjoy their tale.

Also in the mix are Jeremy and Jo, also teens who don’t fit in and are obsessed with hunting Bigfoot. They met over an online quiz that Jo gives to Jeremy and they have a lot of sophisticated technology, and medical equipment at their disposal. Jeremy attends the local middle school, and Jo, who is wheelchair bound, is home schooled. I enjoyed all of the characters. Even the bully, Jessica, is well written.

But the issue I had was with the pacing. The exposition is almost half of the book. I think this is going to be a series, given the number 1 on the spine of my ARC, but even still, it was a lot of introduction before the action got started. Also, the book alternates between Alice’s, Millie’s, and Jeremy’s points of view, and it often backs up to re-tell a portion of the story from another perspective. It seemed to slow things down even more.

The last 50 pages or so were high action and great suspense, so I have great hopes for the future books in the series. I will definitely come back for more, but this first book was a little slow going.

My Rating: 3 Stars

On the blog last year...

Book Review: All Roads Lead to Austen

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Juvenile Pile: Robots, Monsters, Dragons, and More

Christopher got a little carried away this week and pulled all of the books of his bookshelf and put them on the couch in his room. He seriously thought we could read them all before bedtime. And he tries to tell me he doesn't like reading. Ha!

Since finishing Dog Man, we've been doing a hodgepodge of reading. I am anxious to get into another longer book with him, but I'm waiting for more to come in to the library. For now, I've been reading to him a lot. I'll share more of what he's been reading next week.

I was hoping Frankencrayon would be a fun Halloween-y story. It wasn't what I expected at all. And, honestly, I was distracted the whole time by thinking the layout of the pages reminded me of Red: A Crayon's Story. Turns out this book is by the same author, so at least I was right there.

It's kind of a fun, interactive book because the characters in the story (the crayons) are aware they're in a book, and they can't go on with the story because of a scribble on one of the pages. I wish I'd enjoyed it more, but it fell a little flat for Christopher and me.

3 stars
I picked Mr. Wuffles because Christopher loves cats, but this book was a little too bizarre for us. It's a graphic novel style book about some tiny aliens. Mr. Wuffles, the cat, plays with their spaceship while they befriend some mice that live in the walls. Honestly, I was pretty confused about what was happening. There was a lot of weird characters in speech bubbles to indicate the alien language, but there is only one caption in English, so it's essentially a wordless picture book.

2 stars

Raybot reminded me a little of Bear and Bunny from last week's Juvenile Pile list. It's a story about a robot who is searching for a friend after reading about one on a scrap of paper in the garbage dump, where he lives.

He doesn't know what the best friend looks like because that piece of the paper ad was ripped off, but he knows the best friend is supposed to say, "Bark!" He encounters many animals along the way and eventually finds the one he's looking for and more. It's a cute story with fun illustrations.

3 stars

Wolf Camp is kind of similar to Lion Lessons, only this time it's a dog trying to learn to be a wolf instead of a little boy trying to be a lion. The dog goes to wolf camp, along with other dogs, and tries to learn about being a wolf: howling, hunting, and sleeping outdoors. It's written in 1st person, which was unusual, but fun. The best part? Listening to Christopher make howling noises and making some of my own.

4 stars

I saw this series in our school's Scholastic order form, so I reserved Who Would Win? Lion vs. Tiger from the library. Jim had Christopher read some of it to him one night, and then I read the rest to him the second night. It has a lot of interesting facts about lions and tigers: height, weight, claw length, brain size, eye sight, etc. in an attempt to outline who would win in a fight. Then there is a staged battle at the end of the story. We were pretty surprised by who won. The last page is a checklist where you're supposed to tally up who was better on various categories. That had us checking back through the book to find the facts. It was really fun. I know we'll read more in this series.

5 stars

Ogres Awake is another graphic novel style picture book. I love this type of book because it's all dialogue, and there are great emotions. This story is about a tiny knight and his steed who see sleeping ogres in the land outside the castle. They rush to tell the king and are confused when he isn't concerned. The ending wasn't what I was expecting, nor what the knight was expecting, but it was a good resolution. There were actually a lot of words in this book even though it's written as a comic strip. There are others in this series too. I'll have to check them out.

4 stars

I finally got to read The Story Book Knight to Christopher the other night. You know from my review that I really enjoyed this book. I was very happy that he liked it too. He liked the dragon and the griffin the most. We both loved the illustrations and all the stories that Leo read to the "monsters". I think Christopher enjoyed the bookish-ness of this story almost as much as I did.

I'm seriously considering changing my rating on this book. It just makes me smile. If you love books, you really need to read this one. It's so adorable!

4 stars (but maybe it should be 5 stars)

What did you read to your children this week?

On the blog last year...

YA Book Club: September 2015

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kid Lit: How to Track a Truck

I received this book for free from Candlewick Press at BEA 2016. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

How to Track a Truck by Jason Carter Eaton

To be published on September 27, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Want a pet truck? Rumble up to this handy guidebook offering everything you need to know. Bone up on habitat: monster trucks like abandoned parking lots; moving trucks live in busy neighborhoods; ice-cream trucks and snowplows migrate in the winter. Pick the right breed for your home (a car transporter in a small apartment would not be a wise choice). Learn to identify your truck by its tire tracks, and soon, with the lure of some orange cones, you’ll have a loyal vehicle following you home, a happy hum under its hood. With an eighteen-wheeler-size nod to pet-care guides, Jason Carter Eaton and John Rocco put young readers in the driver’s seat for a road trip to truck-dreamer bliss.

My Thoughts:
Based on the book title, I wasn't exactly sure what this book was going to be about. But I loved the smiling kids on the front. And what little boy doesn't love trucks! I know my son did when he was younger. Anyway, this story is adorable. A little boy is talking to the readers and telling them how to track down and catch a truck to keep as a pet.

He talks about all different kinds of trucks with funny personifications, like ice cream trucks traveling south for the winter. This step by step guide is sure to have young readers giggling. It's very creative. I especially loved the comments about laying out construction cones for the truck to follow and making the truck feel useful. 

The illustrations that accompany this story are delightful. The colors are vibrant and the tone is whimsical. This was an all-around fun read.

My Rating: 4 stars

I'm linking up with Booking Mama today for Kid Konnection. Every Saturday Julie hosts this link up for all things relating to children's books.

On the blog last year...

The Lunar Chronicles Read Along: Scarlet

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Whole 30 Weeks 2 & 3: Recipes

I'm now finished with 3 weeks of Whole 30. I'm not going to list my specific meals like I did in my Whole 30 week 1 recap, but I did want to share some of the recipes I've been cooking. Mostly, I want to plug these amazing cookbooks that I've been relying on for the last 3 weeks.

With Whole 30, you cannot eat any pre-packaged food and also no sugar, no dairy, no soy, no legumes (not even peanut butter). There is a lot of cooking going on in my house. But it's been really great otherwise. I am loving the food I am eating, and while I still feel the same as far as my energy levels, I can tell I'm losing weight. I am not allowed to weigh myself until October 1st, but let's just say that I forgot how comfortable jeans are supposed to be because mine have been so tight for so long.

I'm starting to look ahead to October, and I know I won't be adding much back right away. I don't really miss any foods yet, but I do miss the convenience of pre-made food. Jones breakfast sausages are the first thing I'll bring back because breakfast is the hardest meal to cook. I'm always short on time in the morning.

Otherwise, I like eating only 3 meals per day. Most days I am not hungry between meals, and when I am, I just eat a mini-meal snack, i.e. almonds and apple slices. I am no longer relying on junk to make myself feel better. Gone are the late night snacks or mid-day snacks where I eat just because I'm bored. Food doesn't help my emotions. It's meant to nourish us, and that's all.

What I've been cooking the last two weeks

Ultimate Taco Night

I made homemade guacamole and salsa from the Whole 30 cookbook on a Sunday afternoon for an epic taco night on Monday.

Whole 30 page 308

Whole 30 page 319

I didn't mind at all that my taco salad didn't have any cheese on it because the flavors of the guac and salsa were so good. And I ate the leftover meat, salsa, and guacamole all week long for breakfast - taco omelet (sort of - more of an egg/meat mash) with salsa on top and a side of guac.

Garlic Lime Shrimp & Spring Chopped Salad

This shrimp recipe was so easy and so good. I broiled it instead of grilling, but it was very shrimp scampi like, and I know I'll cook it again.

Well Fed page 75

I paired the shrimp with this spring salad which was fresh and delicious, even left over.

Well Fed 2 page 208

Classic Chili (Beanless)

I really don't like the beans anyway. I was just ate them because I thought they were healthy. This chili recipe from Whole 30 was more of a stew, but it was surprisingly delicious even with the red pepper, which I normally don't like.

Whole 30 page 342

Salmon with Mango Salsa, Zucchini & Tomatoes, and Potatoes/Asparagus

This salmon recipe was a little too spicy the first night, but it was a bit milder leftover. I think the mango salsa absorbed some of the spice or something.

The first night I had this salmon I paired it with this zucchini and tomato recipe from Williams Sonoma. I added summer squash to make more veggies. When I dished up the leftovers, I left off these extra veggies and instead had them with hard boiled eggs the next day for breakfast. 

Chicken with Rainbow Veggies

My sister found this recipe on Buzz Feed. It was the easiest recipe I've made all month. I swapped the potatoes in for the peppers since that's what I had on hand, but it was super tasty.

Chicken Chowder

This recipe from Whole 30 was a little odd. It uses coconut milk to thicken the sauce, and it was a bit too coconutty for me the first night, but it got better as it sat in the fridge. I also didn't puree the broccoli because I don't have a food processor, so it was thinner than it should have been - more of a chicken noodle soup consistency than a cream of chicken thickness.

Whole 30 page 336

What have you been cooking this month?

On the blog last year...

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my fall TBR

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Kid Lit Blog Hop: My Day Is Ruined

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published on September 1, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Braden was so excited for his upcoming Championship baseball game! The night before he dreamt of that moment -- THE moment -- the oohs and ahhs of the crowd as he scored the game-winning run! But imagine his surprise when he woke up to pouring rain -- and NO GAME! This, coupled with some events at school that don't go his way, send Braden on an overreaction tailspin! Will Braden be able to recover from his overreacting tendencies and practice the tips of flexible thinking that his teacher and mom teach him? Find out in another comical story by Bryan Smith.

My Thoughts:
I loved Bryan Smith's What Were You Thinking?, so when Boys Press contacted me about reviewing My Day Is Ruined!, I immediately said yes. My son (age 6) struggles with behavior and emotional outbursts when things don't know his way, so I was anxious to get my hands on this next book about flexible thinking.

In this book, Braden (a 3rd grader) learns how to adjust his thinking when unexpected circumstances "ruin" his day. The examples were very applicable to other children: rain cancels his big baseball game, the school cafeteria changes the menu for lunch, and his little brother cannot wear his school t-shirt on spirit day because it is dirty.

Similar to What Were You Thinking?, this book offers a 4 step process for kids to follow to adjust their thinking and come up with a new plan - instead of throwing a temper tantrum. I thought the steps were fairly easy to follow and doable for young children. The final page in the book offers some extra tips for parents and teachers on activities to try with their children.

This book was pretty wordy, so it's definitely aimed at older children - ages 6-10. I am excited to read it with my son, and I will be sharing information about it with his school principal as their theme for the school year is flexible thinking.

My Rating: 4 stars

I'm linking up with Reading Authors today for Kid Lit Blog Hop. This exciting, monthly hop, is where they develop an engaged group of people who love everything that has to do with children's literature. Everyone is welcome to join: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers!

On the blog last year...

Re-Read: The Martian
(This is kind of creepy because I just started re-listening to this book again yesterday.)