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

On the blog last year...

Re-Read: Fangirl (YA)

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

Book Review: 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.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Early Graphic Novel: Dog Man

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

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

Published on August 30, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
New from the creator of Captain Underpants, it's Dog Man, the crime-biting canine who is part dog, part man, and ALL HERO!

George and Harold have created a new hero who digs into deception, claws after crooks, and rolls over robbers. When Greg the police dog and his cop companion are injured on the job, a life-saving surgery changes the course of history, and Dog Man is born. With the head of a dog and the body of a human, this heroic hound has a real nose for justice. But can he resist the call of the wild to answer the call of duty?

My Thoughts:
This book really held my son’s interest. We read it almost every night for about 3 weeks. It’s 120 pages long, so I was pretty proud that he made it through the whole book all on his own. He enjoyed it so much that he went back and re-read portions with my husband or me to catch us up when the other of us had put him to bed the previous night. That fact alone makes this an amazing book!

Dav Pilkey is well known for his Captain Underpants series, which is aimed at kids in grades 4-6 I believe. This book is geared towards a slightly younger audience. It’s written at a 2nd grade level I think. And it’s written “by” the 4th graders in Captain Underpants. The content definitely seems like 4th graders wrote it, but, thankfully, the spelling is correct in this book except for a few made-up works, like “supa” instead of “super”.

The book is broken into 4 chapters. The first chapter tells of the creation of Dog Man, which is a little gruesome. Dog Man is made from a cop and a dog, Frankenstein style. The book glosses over what happened to the human consciousness when this happened, but my son (age 6) was a little disturbed.

The second chapter is the beginning of Dog Man’s days as a crime fighting dog-man police officer. A sneaky cat named Petey is the agent of the evil mayor’s plan to take over the city with her Robo-Chief cop robot. It’s silly, but fun. The rest of the book continues in a similar 4th grade logic and humor kind of way. My 1st grader loved it.

The second book in the series comes out in January, and we will be getting it right away. Any book that holds my son’s interest is worth buying and reading, even if it’s not what I would call classic literature.

My Rating: 4 stars

On the blog last year...

Life Milestone: First bank account

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Juvenile Pile: Library Read Alouds

Christopher read Dog Man all week again this week, and we finally finished it last night. My review will be up tomorrow morning. That means the books I'm sharing here today are the ones I've been reading aloud to him before he took his turn reading each night.

Christopher picked out The Pirate Jamboree from the school library this week. I told him to pick books he actually wanted to read because his selections from last week never got read.

This book was OK. It was one of those books that describes all of the characters (in awkward rhymes) but doesn't really tell much of a story. I think younger kids (ages 2-4) would have enjoyed it more. I was very bored, and Christopher flipped through the Pokemon book he'd selected the whole time I was reading.

2 stars

Bear and Bunny reminded me a lot of Winnie-the-Pooh. The bear and the bunny are very much like Pooh and Piglet. They're best friends, and the sing cute little songs to themselves. Even the illustrations reminded me of Pooh and Piglet in The Hundred Acre Woods. I wouldn't have thought I would have liked a Winnie-the-Pooh wannabe book, but I loved it. The characters were so cute. They want a pet and they search the forest for a good one. It's just adorable.

5 stars

I first heard about Lion Lessons on Lessons by Sandy back in July.

It's a cute story about a little boy who takes lessons on how to be a lion. The lion tries to teach him how to roar, how to look frightening, how to hide, and how to pounce. The boy is terrible, which makes it funny.

Christopher and I gave our best roars while reading the book. It was fun. The ending of this book is super cute. We both enjoyed this one.

4 stars

I heard about Snappsy the Alligator on Nerdy Book Club in an article about the sequel coming out next year. Since I always like to read books in order, I reserved this from the library.

In this story, Alligator is basically being followed by the narrator, and the narrator is talking about his life. I liked that idea. It's kind of like reality TV (which I actually hate), but in book form it was pretty funny. It's a good way to teach kids about story telling - just recounting what happened during someone's day. It's very creative and original.

4 stars

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read was featured in Book Page's Children's Corner email blast. This story was interesting. A young boy has two cats, and they always bug him when he's trying to read, so he decides to teach them how to read. While the idea is kind of ridiculous, the story is pretty cute. Both cats do eventually learn to read, and they play act the stories with Nick.

Christopher loves cats, so he thought this story was pretty cute. And the ending is cute and funny.

4 stars

Christopher and Jim first read Nanobots, but he wanted to read it again with me the next night. That's always a good sign. This book is almost non-fiction. It describes different nanobots, which are featured in the story. While nanobots doesn't actually exist, the book explains that they probably will with the next 20 years. Christopher thought that was pretty cool.

After all of the introductions, there is a little bit of adventure at the technology show that the nanobots are being displayed at - kind of like in Big Hero 6. I think this is planned to be a series. Or I hope so anyway.

4 stars

The Not So Quiet Library wasn't as good as I was hoping. It's about a boy and his brother (who is a bear - what?!) who like to visit the library. While they're trying to read quietly, there are a lot of loud booming noises. It turns out to be a monster. It's trying to eat the books. The boys (or boy and bear) explain that books are for reading and instead feed the monster donuts. All is right in the world once again.

I think younger audiences would like this one more than we did. It was just too simplistic and not exciting enough.

3 stars

I read about A Tiger Tail on Celebrate Picture Books. It's a first day of school story. A little girl wakes up on the first morning of kindergarten with a tiger tail. She's embarrassed to go to school because she thinks the other kids will make fun of her. She tries to get rid of it in many ways, but nothing work. And her parents aren't making a big deal about it. They make her go to school anyway.

The resolution is really cute. I think it's a story kids can relate to even though the tiger tail part isn't realistic. It's about being different and feeling out of place. But then celebrating everyone's differences. It's really cute.

4 stars

What have you read with your kids this week?

On the blog last year...

Book Beginnings and Friday 56: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Kid Lit: Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!

I received these books for free from Hyperion Books for Children at BEA 2016. That fact in no way influenced my opinion of the books or the content of these reviews.

Author/Editor Comments from BEA:
I got to hear Mo Willems and the two authors discuss these books on a panel at BEA. Mo knew it was time to end the Elephant & Piggie series. He wanted them to go into retirement, and since people often spend a lot of time reading during retirement, he thought it would be nice to have a new series of be the books that Elephant & Piggie are reading in their retirement.

Mo wanted all of the books to dialog driven and comedy driven, like the original series. He found the whole process freeing because he could do things that he wouldn't do with Elephant & Piggie, i.e. hard knowledge (math) in The Cookie Fiasco. These new stories came from the new authors themselves, and Mo was pretty proud of the funny stories they'd created. They worked on the books together over Skype, and Mo helped a lot with the pacing of the books (i.e. when Walt falls down in We Are Growing, he suggested adding a beat for the "Thud").

Dan Santat came to Mo with 5 ideas. He'd never written an early reader, and because the format is longer, he felt like he could stretch the ideas out. These books are twice the length of a picture book, and that made it a lot of fun. Dan has experience with graphic novels, so he loves having the pictures tell half of the story.

Mo liked 2 of his ideas and made them better (i.e. changing passive voice to active voice). He thought it was a really great learning experience. Mo was very helpful and never said, "it should be this," he just gave suggestions. The Cookie Fiasco is about justice and fairness. Because of the large cast, Dan tried very hard to give them all equal time - his own neuroses of justice coming out in his work. I loved listening to him talk about the hippo's character and how he couldn't stop breaking the cookies because he was so nervous.

Laurie Keller has written many picture books, and she was used to writing wordy text. This was her first time writing an early reader, and she said it was challenging to trim down to just a few words. Her favorite part to write is always the dialog, so she loved writing only that part. These books are intentionally all dialog, so they can be read together by the parent and child. Mo suggested that parents read them slowly on purpose, so that maybe the kids will jump in and start reading.

Laurie also learned a lot from Mo during this process. She was taking it all very seriously, so Mo suggested the character of the weed, and then the weed became her favorite character. We Are Growing is about discovering who you are.

Laurie has the idea to put Pigeon in her book, so now it will be in every book. (Dan had to go back and add him in to The Cookie Fiasco.) Then Dan had the idea of the 3-D characterized heads of the authors on the back cover. It definitely sounded like they all had a lot of fun creating these books.

The Cookie Fiasco (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #1) by Dan Santat

To be published on September 20, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Four friends. Three cookies. One problem. 
Hippo, Croc, and the Squirrels are determined to have equal cookies for all! But how? There are only three cookies . . . and four of them! They need to act fast before nervous Hippo breaks all the cookies into crumbs!

My Thoughts:
This book completely captures the spirit of the Elephant & Piggie series. The large dialog to show emotions is the same. The characters are just as endearing, and the serious problem needing to be solved is so fun. There are four friends and only three cookies. How can they divide them equally?

I especially love how this issue in the story is essentially a math problem. I always loved math, and I enjoy when math is introduced in ways that aren't always noticed. Kids can learn to solve these real life "word problems" in a fun way.

I know this is a book we will read over and over again. It makes a great independent read for early readers, and it would be a terrific read aloud for younger kids. The intro and closing with Elephant & Piggie is wonderful too. It really ties it to the original series for younger readers who are missing their favorite characters.

My Rating: 5 stars

To be published on September 20, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Walt and his friends are growing up! Everyone is the something-est. But . . . what about Walt? He is not the tallest, or the curliest, or the silliest. He is not the anything-est! As a BIG surprise inches closer, Walt discovers something special of his own!

My Thoughts:
This book is cute. Eight blades of grass are growing. They're so proud of themselves. It's adorable. Then they start to notice their differences: one is curliest, one is tallest, two are pointiest, etc. But the last one, Walt, doesn't know what he is. When the lawn mower comes along, he is finally able to determine what he is.

This story is creative and fun, but to me it felt a little bit more geared towards a younger audience (ages 3-5) with all of the adjectives. It's still a fun read - independently (ages 6-8) or as a read aloud (ages 3-5) - but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as The Cookie Fiasco.

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...

Adjusting to a new schedule

Book Review: The Truth According to Us

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Great Reads from August 2016

Since my adult and young adult reviews are now posted on Opinionated Book Lover, I wanted to still share my recommendations for readers of Mom's Radius who don't also read Opinionated Book Lover.

Here are the great books I read in August that were not reviewed on this site. Click on the book title to open my full review from Opinionated Book lover.

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Mara Carlyle’s senior year is going as normally as could be expected, until—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last teenager to blow up without warning or explanation.

This book wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was so different. And the main character and narrator was sarcastic and just fun to read.

4 stars

Boy, 9, Missing by Nic Joseph

Francis lost his brother that night in what was ruled a tragic accident. ...the lone witness, Sam, the nine-year-old son of friends. ... And now, twenty-three years later, Sam's own nine-year-old son has disappeared.

This book is the suspense story I was hoping for when I read Before the Fall. I couldn't stop reading. I wanted to know what had happened to both boys in the story.

4 stars

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us. 

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

I thought this book was a nice conclusion to the series. Although I admit, I was pretty confused while reading the majority of it.

4 stars

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. 

I had never heard of this book until I saw it was The Deliberate Reader online book club selection for September. I enjoyed it more than I expected to.

4 stars

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The monster showed up after midnight... But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments…

I read this for my family book club. It's illustrated by Jim Kay and is pretty short, but it's intense albeit a little confusing at times. I'm looking forward to the movie, which comes out in December.

4 stars

Today's post will be linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for her Quick Lit series.

On the blog last year...

Book Review: Ana of California

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kid Lit: This Book Is Not About Dragons

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

This Book Is Not About Dragons by Shelley Moore Thomas

Published on September 13, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Meet a mouse narrator who stubbornly insists that this book contains absolutely no dragons—not even a claw nor a flame nor any large, pointy scales. Readers will know better—and enjoy being in on the joke—as a flock of dragons chase the mouse to the very end of the book within the book. Suspense builds humorously as the energetic text insists there are no dragons in this book, leading to a clever, unexpected ending. Clever artwork by Fred Koehler provides fun scenes to linger on and details to discover over multiple readings.

My Thoughts:
This book reminded me a lot of The Monster at the End of this Book, which was one of my favorite books as a child. In this story, the mouse is insisting that there are no dragons in the book, but every page has a dragon on it - even if it's just a small part, like the claws. I could almost hear the giggling of small children in my head, even though I read this book alone.

Kids will love finding the dragon on every page. And the mouse's explanations of the dragons actually being clouds, or a truck, or a bunny, will make them laugh for sure. It's a cute story that I wished I could go back in time and read with my son when he was 3 years.

It's perfect for ages 2-4, and it could even be a good independent read for older kids because I think they'd still find it fun. I loved the ending.

My Rating: 4 stars

On the blog last year...

Mini Reviews: Lunar Chronicles Short Stories

Monday, September 12, 2016

Reading Together Middle Grade Book: Dancing Home

As part of the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club's Modern U.S. topic, I'm sharing my review today of Dancing Home, the selected middle grade book. We will be discussing this book on Facebook for the next 3 weeks.

Dancing Home by Alma Flor Ada

Goodreads Summary:
Mexico may be her parents’ home, but it’s certainly not Margie’s. She has finally convinced the other kids at school she is one-hundred percent American—just like them. But when her Mexican cousin Lupe visits, the image she’s created for herself crumbles. 

Things aren’t easy for Lupe, either. Mexico hadn’t felt like home since her father went North to find work. Lupe’s hope of seeing him in the United States comforts her some, but learning a new language in a new school is tough. Lupe, as much as Margie, is in need of a friend. 

Little by little, the girls’ individual steps find the rhythm of one shared dance, and they learn what “home” really means. In the tradition of My Name is Maria Isabel—and simultaneously published in English and in Spanish—Alma Flor Ada and her son Gabriel M. Zubizarreta offer an honest story of family, friendship, and the classic immigrant experience: becoming part of something new, while straying true to who you are.

My Review:
This book is cute. It's the story of cousins who come from very different worlds: Margie lives in California with both of her parents, Lupe is from Mexico where she lives with her mother who has moved on to a new man and has young twins after Lupe's father disappeared in America. Margie's mother invites Lupe to come stay with them in California.

Things change for Margie after Lupe arrives. The other kids at school begin teasing her again, and she's expected the translate the teacher's words for Lupe, but Margie doesn't speak Spanish fluently anymore. Margie begins questioning her own identity as her parents seem closer to Lupe than they do to her.

I enjoyed reading about these girls coming together. Margie has a wonderful new friend who helps bridge the gap. The characters in this book seemed genuine. The POV changes back and forth between Lupe and Margie, which was a little confusing as it's all in third person, but helpful to get insight into the two girls' minds.

The adults in this book were a little ridiculous at times, especially at the school, but the sentiment was good. A lot went on during this short book, but it worked fairly well. There is a lot to discuss with this book, but it's not too heavy for middle grade readers. And the Spanish phrases were easy to understand as they were almost always repeated in English.

My Rating: 3 stars

On the blog last year...

Find Me Tag

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Juvenile Pile: Making Reading a Competition

Christopher's 1st grade teacher wants him to be reading 30 minutes per night by second semester. As you know, we've been struggling with even 15 minutes over the last 6 weeks. When I read about this post about getting kids to read longer, I knew I needed to print this reading log.

It's hard to know whether this sheet has been working or whether it's just Dog Man. Christopher has only been reading that book for the last week or so. He's enjoying it so much that's he's reading it with both Jim and me. Backing up when we alternate nights to read the full story with each of us. I'm hoping we'll finish this week, so I can write a full review.

Meanwhile, I have been reading a couple of picture books to him on my nights. We'll pick up another longer read aloud when he's finished with Dog Man, so we don't have to keep two stories in our heads from night to night.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles sounded really cute, and it is. It's about a man whose job is to uncork the bottles in the ocean that contain messages, and then he has to find the people they're intended for. He's sad because he never gets a letter. One day he finds a letter with no names attached to it, so he goes around town trying to find out who wrote it. The ending is cute - although over Christopher's head. He was really bored by this book, but I thought it was super sweet. Although I wanted to know who wrote the letter!
4 stars

It's been a while since we read The Day the Crayons Came Home even though we own it. That's the bad thing about getting books from the library. I always want to read new books, although sometimes Christopher would prefer books he's familiar with.

This book is the sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit, which I actually like more. In this book Duncan receives post cards from all of his lost and abandoned crayons. There's some more subtle humor and a really awesome crayon house at the end. This series is really creative.
4 stars

I was really excited to read Saturday to Christopher on Friday night. It is about the excitement of the weekend - time spent with parents when they're not working. And it's cute, but it's not as fun as I was hoping it would be. And Christopher didn't seem very into it either.

I don't know if he was just too old for this book or what. Maybe it's better for ages 2-4? It reminded me a little of the Little Critter series in the way that the boys imagines things to be different than what they are. And the ending is adorable.

3 stars
We know Bear and Mole from Spring is Here, but we've never read any of the other books. I had seen All for a Dime! at BEA, and I finally got around to reserving it from the library.

In this story, Bear, Mole, and Skunk bring their favorite things - blueberries, worms, and perfume - to Market Day to sell. Bear makes a bunch of money, but the other two spend the same dime over and over again buying their own items. It's cute. It reminded me of Christopher and his lemonade stands.
3 stars

Rain School is a book I saw on The Deliberate Reader's book of African books. It's an interesting story about children in Chad who have to build their school of mud and straw at the start of the school year before they're able to attend class.

This story was over Christopher's head, but he was interested in the idea of continents vs. countries, so we spent some time looking at maps on Google on my phone after reading.
3 stars

I posted earlier this week about Grace for President. I read it again with Christopher on Tuesday night, and he enjoyed it again. He was most interested in looking at the pictures of all of the presidents on the first page, and I had to pull up the list of Google and read the names out to him in order.

We talked a little about Hillary Clinton running for president, and he doesn't want her to win although he couldn't articulate why. Haha. Probably all our negative talk from back when Bernie Sanders was running in the primary.
4 stars

What did you kids read this week? Do they have to read nightly for school?

On the blog last year...

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