Posts in Chick Picks
Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

I love steampunk!  The incredible inventions requiring cogs and steam valves, the fashion, the goggles, the explosions!  Airships galore! Steampunk is so much fun to read and I was very excited to come across a steampunk inspired story for middle grade readers.  

Cogheart introduces us to Lily Grantham, a young girl living at a horrible finishing school for young ladies learning all about how to be a respectable young lady and nothing about her dream job-becoming an airship captain and air-pirate. When she is told the horrible news of her inventor father’s disappearance after his airship crashes, Lily is sent home to live with her father’s housekeeper Madame Verdigris and the household staff that is almost entirely comprised of automatons.  But home is wasn’t she remembers. Many of the automatons have been run down and their maintenance neglected. The housekeeper is now in charge and has moved into her father’s rooms. Told she is now destitute due to her father’s poor management, Lily is devastated to learn all of her father’s automatons will be sold. While Madame Verdigris continues to search the house for valuables, Lilly learns her father had created a perpetual motion machine that would change the future of mechanicals and automatons.  Thinking she has found the secret, Lilly escapes her home and sets out to seek help from the only person she thinks she can trust, her godfather Professor Silverfish.

Along the way, Lilly finds an ally in Robert Townsend, the son of a clockmaker who discovers a mechanical fox being chased by ruthless gun-toting thugs.  After rescuing and repairing the fox, Peter discovers the fox belongs to John Hartman, father to Lily and that she is in great danger. Together, Lilly and Robert set out on a dangerous mission to find what really happened to Lilly’s father, save her family’s fortune and mechanicals, and find the mysterious device that has put them all in danger.

Packed full of action and adventure, Cogheart is a thrilling story of love, family, and the drive to protect those you care about.  There’s airship battles, evil mechanical men, and plenty of shady characters who cannot be trusted.  Lilly and Robert make a wonderful team and are both incredibly smart and brave. Lilly never saw the mechanicals as machines or servants, they were her friends and some, just like family. The relationship between Lilly and her mechanical friends really highlights the importance of being kind to everyone-especially those that are different from you.   

This was a really fun read and I highly recommend it for your favorite middle grade reader and steampunk lover in your life. It’s the first book in a trilogy and I’m excited to see what adventures Lilly and Robert have next!

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:

Full disclosure time:  I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley.  Thank you to Netgalley and Jolly Fish Press for the opportunity to read and review this title. All opinions are my own.





The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell

When the world starts to get a bit heavy, I love getting lost in a good fantasy novel.  Make-believe worlds, magical systems, and creatures of all shapes and sizes can take you away from the real world for a time and give your mind that much needed break.  When things began looking particularly dire, like the latest round of news cycles, I knew I needed something really fantastic and most importantly, fun.

Enter, Middle Grade Fantasy!  This genre is one of my new favorites and my latest adventure was The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell.  Reader friends, buckle up because this is one fun and wild ride!

When Suzy wakes up to strange noises in her house one night, she is shocked to find train tracks running through her home and her parents sound asleep on the couch.  The train tracks turn out to be for the Impossible Postal Express train that is owned and operated by trolls and delivers packages to all of the Impossible Places.

So what does Suzy do?  She jumps aboard of course! Thinking she will have an incredible adventure and be back home before her parents wake up, Suzy’s plans quickly head south when her first package begs her to be saved-yes, the package- from the evil witch.  Now in a race to save her mysterious package, her new friends, and the wondrous world of Impossible Places, Suzy must rely on her love of physics and wits to save the day. Along the way, Suzy will discover new friends, amazing new places, and help stop an evil mastermind who is meddling in the workings of other Impossible Places.  

Suzy is a wonderful character.  She’s smart, loves physics, is inquisitive and her bravery knows no end.  She is one of those really good kids that doesn’t come off as annoying or preachy-she just really seems to be a genuinely good kid and does her best to be a kind friend and fix her mistakes.  

I absolutely loved the descriptions of the Impossible Places!  All of the different worlds and the way the train tracks would adapt to each was really fun.  There are a few illustrations of the different worlds and the train that were wonderful-I wish they had been in color, but that’s just what I always prefer.  I really loved Suzy’s undersea adventure with the treasure hunters-super cute. The fact that a postal train will deliver a message in a bottle and gossip to sailor ghosts is just delightful.  

If you have an adventure loving reader who is looking for their next fantastical escapade, I would highly recommend this for independent readers-grades 4 & up. If you’re reading this aloud, it would be great for younger kids as well.  According to Amazon’s website, book 2 in the series should be available October 2019.


You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:


 

Full disclosure time:  I borrowed this copy from my local library. In fact, I ordered for my own Youth Department.  Always check your library first and if they don’t have it, recommend they buy a copy.  We really do like getting recommendations!


The Boy, The Bird & The Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods
Isn’t this a gorgeous cover?

Isn’t this a gorgeous cover?

I’m pretty sure I heard about this book from one of the dozen book-related podcasts I listen to but for the life of me, I can’t remember which one. The title was catchy and I remember some raving about wonderful writing but I couldn’t recall what the book was actually about. It came as part of a huge stack of Library holds and I was worried I wouldn’t get a chance to get around to it. Luckily, the Hubs had a meeting and The Kid was occupied and the chicken needed some time to roast which left just enough time to devour this little book about love, family, and believing in something bigger than yourself.

The Boy, The Bird & The Coffin Maker is about those three things-a little boy who needs a home, a loyal bird, and an old man who needs a family. When sickness hits the small magical village of Allora, where the fish literally jump out of the sea and into your arms, few are spared. Alberto, who used to be the furniture maker, becomes the coffin maker when his wife and three children die alongside many others in the village including the original coffin maker. Now all alone, Alberto devotes his time to ensuring the villagers all have a coffin and a funeral when they pass. After the death of a local woman, Alberto begins to notice food missing from his kitchen. When he finally catches the thief he is surprised by how young the culprit is and can’t figure out where the boy had come from. Could the recently deceased woman had a child? How did no one ever know? It turns out, Tito and his mother had been on the run for years trying to stay ahead of his cruel father. With Tito is a mysterious bird who won’t leave Tito’s side. But Tito won’t need to be alone if he can just learn to trust Alberto and start a new life as a coffin maker’s apprentice. When Tito’s father comes to Allora looking for his son, Alberto has to do all he can to keep Tito safe.

With this being such a slim, little book, I don’t want to give too much more away. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and I really loved this story. Alberto is a genuinely kind and compassionate person who wants what’s best for TIto. Opening up his home to Tito allowed him to finish grieving for his lost family and to find a purpose to continue on with his life. The mayor of the town is a wonderfully rich buffoon who hires Alberto to make him a the grandest and most expensive coffin. Their interactions were very funny and I loved how Alberto was always able to semi-politely run him off.

The character of Fia, Tito’s mysterious bird, was very interesting. Alberto has no idea what type of bird she is and after injuring her wings, she doesn’t fly as well as she should. At the beginning of the story, Fia fits inside Tito’s shirt pocket. Throughout the story she steadily grows larger and larger until at the end, she becomes so large her wings span half the room. It’s with her discovery of a ruby flower that Alberto and Tito have a way to escape Tito’s father.

The writing was absolutely wonderful and I really enjoyed this story. While it’s a middle grade novel, don’t shy away from it if you completed middle school a few decades ago-it’s a great book.

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:


Matilda Woods has another book, The Girl Who Sailed the Stars, set to be published in June of 2019.

Full disclosure- I borrowed this copy from my local library.  Always check your library first and if they don’t have it, recommend they buy a copy.  We really do like getting recommendations!








Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian by Jacob Sager Weinstein

Happy 2019 everyone! While I’ve been away I’ve had the opportunity to read some amazing new books and started to dive into my backlist titles and I can’t wait to share them all with you. I’m very lucky to work in a Library that takes vacations seriously-we were closed for almost two weeks over the winter holiday so today has been a little crazy being back at work.

The best part of today has been going through the deliveries that came in while we were gone and one book in particular really caught my eye-Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian. Full disclosure: this is from my Junior Library Guild subscription for the Library and was not purchased by me. I just got really excited and wanted to share how cute this book is!

Lyric is here to save the day!

Lyric is here to save the day!

Isn’t that the most delightful title? I love it! It’s also illustrated by Vera Brosgol who wrote Be Prepared, one of my favorites graphic novels from last year. Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian is a very bright and colorful picture book that tells the story of the evil Doctor Glockenspiel and his devious plan to get one billion, trillion dollars or else he’ll set loose an army of moths to eat all the world’s books! When the world’s best superheroes are defeated by Doctor Glockenspiel there’s only person who can save the day-Lyric McKerrigan! She has just the right book at just the right time to distract guards, help the superheroes escape, and defeat the evil moths.

It’s so stinking cute friends. Books are definitely powerful weapons against evil and I love how well this book shows this. Locked behind bars? A book on picking locks can save the day! A picture book with a strong, intelligent female lead character? Yes, please!

Need a copy for someone in your life? Want to donate one to your local Library? You can get a copy, and help support this site, here:

Also, here’s a link for Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol.

I could have sworn I did post on this but I must have missed it. It’s absolutely delightful and I highly recommend it. The Kid devoured it in one sitting.


 
The Gulliver Giant by Thomas Kingsley Troupe

If you are looking for a great adventure book geared towards children’s chapter book readers-like 3rd-4th grade-this is a really fun series.  With simple yet descriptive language, enough illustrations to lend some interest without seeming like a picture book, the Midnight Library series is a page turning adventure through classic literature.  

Every Saturday at exactly 12:00, the inside of Sir Mitchell NIghtingale City Library transforms into a book from the shelves.  Time stands still and only the Librarian Javier and his pages Baru, Jordan, Kelly, and Cal are aware of the changes.

After staying up way too late playing video games, Jordan quickly falls asleep in the children’s section while shelving books and misses the clock chiming twelve o’clock.  When she wakes up, she is tied to the ground and surrounded by the Lilliputians from Gulliver’s Travels. Jordan will need the help of her friends to help save the little people from a giant monkey and get back to the Library without anyone getting hurt.  

This is a fun way to introduce the classics to kids.  The book has plenty of action to keep the story moving and the illustrations are great.  While it’s part of a series, it reads very well as a stand-alone. I loved how the kids know the Library is going to transform and the kids still go every Saturday.  Well, I would continue to go too. And I do-I think my Library is magical and this series is now on order so my little Patrons can fall in love with it too.


Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:


 
Tom Gates is Absolutely Fantastic (At Some Things) by L. Pichon

This is such a fun and engaging story with characters that every kid can relate to.

Tom Gates is your average kid doing kid things-just some things he does better than others. He doesn’t like getting up early for school, he can’t seem to remember his permission slips, but he’s great at art and writing stories. But that permission slip? It’s really important and he’s going to need to remember it if he’s going on the class trip. Luckily for Tom, his parents are in the loop and keep him from being the only one in class who doesn’t get to go. And he wouldn’t want to miss this one-his class trip is full of raft making, midnight snacks, rock climbing and fifth grade shenanigans.

This book is loaded with doodles, drawings, funny monsters, and other craziness. At the beginning, we’re told to watch for the extra monsters that are hidden throughout the story. It completely sucked in The Kid-even though it isn’t a colorful graphic novel-and he read the whole book in one sitting. I really liked how it wasn’t mean-spirited or mouthy. The kids are totally relatable and the storyline was very funny.

The drawings and doodles are such a fun addition to the story and really kept my son interested in the story. Tom is like so many other tween boys that I know and his struggles with school and organization were hilarious.  If you have a younger reader who is just starting out with chapter books or a reluctant reader, this would be a great option.

Thank you to Candlewick Press for the copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

It’s no secret that The Kid will only read graphic novels. They are what has gotten to love reading and lets him read widely. I really wish that I had something like this book years ago when it was struggle to get him to read. Reading Friends-this book is incredibly cute.

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri is an adorable introduction to graphic novels for younger children.  Tiger has a very special friend, a Monster who lives under her bed and scares away her nightmares.  They spend their evenings playing games and sharing Tiger’s dinner.  Tiger’s parents believe Monster is an imaginary friend, but Monster is much more.  When one nightmare becomes too big for Monster to fight off, Tiger and Monster must work together to keep Tiger’s dreams from becoming scary.

Beautifully illustrated and gently told, the story is both entertaining for little ones and teaches the lesson that sometimes you just need a friend’s help. 

Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has a safe and fun-filled day of tricks, treats, and spooky stories!

Need a last minute spooky story for a kid’s party or bedtime? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

This is a wonderful book for your shyest little ones who may need a little reassurance. From the Publisher: When Tomás and his family moved to a new house on a new street, he took it into his head that the new people might not like him. 
"Of course they'd like you," his mamá said. "Why wouldn't they? ¿Por qué no? "
But Tomás didn't answer.

Tomás's Mom encourages him to go out and meet the kids in his neighborhood, but Tomas is too shy. Instead, he sits on his stoop, watching the world go by. But on the night of Halloween, opportunity arrives in the form of a tiger costume, complete with a mask that hides his identity. He can go trick-or-treating without anyone knowing it's him. But Tomás will soon discover his costume doesn't hide him quite as well as he thinks...

This book is so cute! From the Publisher: Bonaparte is having a tough time. It’s hard for this young skeleton to just hang loose when he can’t keep hold of himself. 
 
When he plays catch, his throwing arm literally takes a flyer. Eating lunch can be a real jaw-dropping occasion. How can he start school when he has so many screws loose?

Luckily, Bonaparte hit the bone-anza when it came to his friends. Franky Stein, Black Widow, and Mummicula all have some boneheaded ideas to help pull him together. But will it be enough to boost his confidence and get him ready for the first day of school?

Not technically a Halloween book, but it’s wonderfully silly and creepy! From the Publisher: Jasper Rabbit is NOT a little bunny anymore. He’s not afraid of the dark, and he’s definitely not afraid of something as silly as underwear. But when the lights go out, suddenly his new big rabbit underwear glows in the dark. A ghoulish, greenish glow. If Jasper didn’t know any better he’d say his undies were a little, well, creepy. Jasper’s not scared obviously, he’s just done with creepy underwear. But after trying everything to get rid of them, they keep coming back!

Middle grade novel full of spooky ghosts and adventure. Best part-it takes place in Scotland. From the Publisher: Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn't like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they're about to get much stranger.

When Cass's parents start hosting a TV show about the world's most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her "gift," she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil -- and herself.

And she'll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

It’s Neil Gaiman. Enough said.

Ok. Nobody Owens, or Bod, is a normal human boy. But his life started off in tragedy and he’s now being raised by the ghosts of the graveyard.

Beautifully drawn and masterfully told-it’s a classic.

Go-To Baby Shower Gifts

I love to give books as gifts to children of all ages, but I especially love books as baby shower gifts. It has been said over and over again, but it’s worth mentioning, reading to children is one of the best ways to help them develop language, empathy, and a life-long love of learning. Whether you read to them before nap time, bedtime, snack time, play time, or take them to your favorite local library for Story Time, reading to children should be a part of their everyday schedule.

When they’re still infants, you can get away with any picture book that is bright, colorful, and tells any story that interests the parents. It’s not until they develop their little grabby hands that you need to switch over to durable board books, and luckily many picture books are offered in board book formats.

Many of my go-to authors write humorous stories that are just as much fun for adults as they are for children. Not going to lie, if a book has dinosaurs or vegetables in underpants, it’s an automatic buy for me. In fact, the board book Vegetables in Underpants is my most checked-out board book at the Library.

The Baby Loves Science! series from Ruth Spiro is fantastic. It covers topics like thermodynamics, gravity, green energy, and coding. Very bright illustrations and simple language introduce young children to the science around us.

From the Publisher: Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this book explores the basics of particle physics and chemistry – quarks, protons, neutrons, atoms and molecules – and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well!

With tongue firmly in cheek, the Baby Loves Science series introduces highly intellectual science concepts to the littlest learners.

Ame Dyckman writes hilarious children’s stories and Wolfie the Bunny is one of my favorites. Great illustrations and fast moving story make for enjoyable reading for everyone.

From the Publisher: The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can--and might--eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it's Wolfie who's threatened, can Dot save the day?

Mo Willems, author of the Pigeon books, Elephant and Piggie, and the Knufflebunny series is back with a new gang of characters-Squirrels! I Lost My Tooth! is brand new and hilarious. I just used this one for storytime and the kids loved it! The oldies-and-definitely-goodies Elephant and Piggie are also excellent choices for little ones. They’re silly but kind, funny but teach a great lesson on friendship.

Ryan T. Higgins has created one of my absolute favorite characters-Bruce. Bruce is grumpy, likes to be alone, and loves to cook. Unfortunately for his, his gourmet goose eggs hatched and he’s now the not-proud mother to 3 geese. A colorful cast of woodland creatures enter Bruce’s life and he deals with it all in the grumpiest way ever. The illustrations are incredible and the stories are fantastic. So far, there’s four picturebooks in the series and at least one board book.

I was lucky enough to hear Dan Santant speak at the Illinois Reading Council’s conference just this month. Not only is he super funny, he’s an extremely talented illustrator. He has a newer book out, Drawn Together, that I highly recommend for grade school age children. After the Fall is all about how Humpty Dumpty fell and then got back up again in the most amazing way. It’s just beautiful to look at and adults will love the new twist at the end.

Do you have any books that you love to share with children? Share your favorites in the comments!

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks

Born Scared is a gripping and heartbreaking look at childhood mental illness. Elliott was born scared. Born premature and a twin, he loses his sister within moments of their birth and begins his life in terror of everything around him. People, cars, animals, and even colors terrify Elliott. But his mother has created a safe environment for him in his home where he lives of most of his life in his bedroom, rarely venturing out. But a mix-up at the pharmacy leaves Elliott with the wrong prescription and fixing that mistake will lead Elliott and his mother on a series of devastating events.

Born Scared was absolutely heartbreaking but also very inspiring. I spent much of the book thinking of Elliott's mother-there isn't much written about her because the focus is on Elliott-and how she must cope with Elliott's fears. Elliott is literally scared of everything. Everything but the three people closest to him. But even through Elliott's fears, he is still able to gather the courage to leave the safety of his home to find out what has happened to his mother and aunt.

Excellent, excellent story.

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:

Thank you to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to read and review this book. All opinions are my own.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Med Medina

Growing up is full of complicated changes and Merci Suárez is learning how complicated life can get. Dealing with changing friendships, harder classes, and a changing family life is proving to be overwhelming. Merci is starting sixth grade at Seaward Pines Academy, a private school that she attends on a scholarship. Merci isn't showing up to school in a fancy SUV, she's showing up in her father's work van he uses for his painting business. Instead of expensive vacations at the beach, Merci spends her weekends working alongside her dad or babysitting her cousins. Also, no fancy houses for the Suárez family-they live in a group of three pink houses where are all family members come and go, regardless of who lives where. All of this is starting to make Merci frustrated about the things she doesn't have but when her grandfather's dementia becomes worse, Merci learns that her tight-knit family has everything they really need.

A wonderful story that shows the pressures children feel in school to be successful and how that pressure is amplified when you're constantly trying to prove that you belong. The author did an excellent job of depicting real childhood friendships and how popularity affects everyone. The Suárez family felt so real-the way they worked together, ate together, shared childcare, and how events in the story really impacted them. It was all written with such heart and feeling. Meg Medina created a thoroughly enjoyable read that I can't wait to add to the shelf.

Thank you to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to read and review this delightful book. 

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here: 

 
Lemons by Melissa Savage
Library copy of the incredibly touching,  Lemons  by Melissa Savage

Library copy of the incredibly touching, Lemons by Melissa Savage

Full disclosure:  I didn't mean to get this book.  I was hurriedly putting new graphic novels on hold for The Kid when this title popped up.  Someone had mislabeled it as a graphic novel and when I tried to hand it over to The Kid, he just handed it right back.  I thought the premise was too cute to not give it a quick read, and three hours and a box of tissues later, I finally put it down.  

It's incredible.

I also bought a copy for my Library. 

Things are not going as Lem would like.  But as her mama as always said, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  But now with her mama gone, how will Lemonade Liberty Witt ever be able to make lemons into lemonade again?  Instead of staying in San Francisco with her school and friends, she is sent to live with her grandfather, a man she has never met, in a tiny town in the woods.  Once there, Lem meets Tobin, the towns official Bigfoot investigator and CEO of Bigfoot Detectives Inc.  What begins as a temporary assignment as Tobin's assistant turns into an incredible adventure.  The two detectives spend their summer days investigating calls of Bigfoot sightings, ignoring the neighborhood bullies, and trying to keep the peace between Lem and her grandfather.  

When a particular Bigfoot sighting leads to actual evidence of a mysterious entity roaming the woods, the children discover something much bigger than they ever could have imagined. 

This story does such an amazing job of showing how childhood grief and loss can affect a child.  Lem has lost everything:  her mother, her home, her school and friends.  Now she's expected to just move in with a person she has never met and someone she knows her mother hasn't spoken to in years.  On top of her own grief, Lem's grandfather is also trying to deal with losing a daughter and now trying to raise a granddaughter he has never met.  Slowly, the two begin to find common ground.  Lem begins to notice her favorite snacks in the pantry and in turn, tries to be more patient with her grandfather.  Tobin is also dealing with his own trauma.  His father was captured during the Vietnam War and kept prisoner for several years.  But when he was finally recused and on his way back home, he suddenly went missing.  No one had seen or heard from him after his plane landed in the states.  The stress that Tobin was dealing with on a daily basis of not knowing where his father was or why he wouldn't come home must have been immense.  Whether the children really knew or not, it was their loss that bonded them together.  

These children are allowed a lot of freedom in the story and I think many children will find that very appealing.  They're only eleven but are left to roam around town and investigate Bigfoot sightings all their own.  Our two detectives even spend an entire night by themselves in the backyard of a neighbors house watching for a Bigfoot sighting.  There's also a lot of hot dog eating going on.  

This is a beautifully written story of love, loss, and finding family where you least expect it. 

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here: 

Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge
Library copy hanging out on my new library stools! 

Library copy hanging out on my new library stools! 

What would it be like to know you don't belong?  I mean, truly don't belong.  To know that you are a human amongst fay, or fay amongst humans?  To know that your family is not the one decided by birth, but rather by the whims of others?

Edmund knows that he doesn't belong with his parents and sister Alexis.  It's more than preteen angst-he isn't human.  He's able to start fires with his mind and change his appearance to look human.  But Edmund can't return home, a changeling is in his place.  The "Human Childe" is living with the royalty at Court to be shown off like a prized pet instead of a son.  

During a royal gathering, the King's sister Hawthorne returns to seek vengeance on her brother and his wife.  After watching his fay parents get turned into rats, he escapes with his page Wick, a golem, from the World Below to find the one person who can save them all-his changeling brother.  

The brothers set off to the World Below-a place that can be found below the subway tunnels. Once below, the boys realize that there is one more person who can help.  Edmund's sister Alexis followed the boys and won't let hem continue without her help.  Through a series of adventures, some which find them allies while others enemies, the boys work together to save the kingdom.  

The artwork is incredible-the World Below is very atmospheric and dark.  It took an embarrassingly long time to realize that the pages where outlined in white when the story was taking place up above and outlined in black when they were in the fay kingdom down below.  I know, I know.  The fay characters had a really unusual look to them.  The royalty were all long fingers, tall bodies, and sharp looking spiny growths on their arms and faces. There was a variety of other characters too-different animal inspired creatures with odd horns and floppy ears.  

Alexis was a really great character.  She was always understanding and supportive of both boys-she really did see both of them as being her brother.  I think that unwavering support will resonate with a lot of the kids that read this.  The human parents seemed completely oblivious.  They didn't catch on that a different kid was living with them.  There's a quick scene where a dragon-like creature is chasing the kids through a subway tunnel and little girl sees them but not her mother-she's too busy on her phone.  Parents are always oblivious.  

There's a ton of adventure going on in this book.  Hiding from scary guards, looking for secret maps, and trying to outrun dragons.  Between the magic, fighting, and dragons the story never slows down.  My son absolutely loved it and he's very picky about his books.  

Highly recommend this one-it was a really fun ride.  

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here: 

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

You would think having a ghost follow you wherever you go would be scary-especially if you’re only 12 years old.  Luckily for Cass, her ghost is just a nice guy named Jacob who isn’t just her best friend, but is the one who saved her life when she fell into a freezing river and died.  Well, died for a few moments. It’s that brush with death that allows Cass to see the ghosts around her and cross over into the Veil-the world of ghosts who are stuck in-between.

Cass’s parents are the co-authors of a book series The Inspecters, a collection of ghost stories that are both history and myth, with her father’s history research and her mother’s talented storytelling.  Having parents who make a living on ghost stories would seem perfect for Cass and her newfound abilities, but Cass keeps her secret from everyone around her.  Everyone except Jacob. When her parents are offered a television deal based on their books, the family heads to Edinburgh for filming. Edinburgh is the most haunted place on earth and where Cass discovers that she hasn’t begun to scratch the surface of her abilities or of the Veil.

Once in Edinburgh, Cass’s parents meet with the production crew and quickly begin their filming.  While Cass is not a part of the show, she does tag along to see the sights and watch production. It’s during filming that Cass discovers a new ghost, one that wears a bright red cloak and sings a terrifyingly alluring song.  Before Cass can get in over her head, she meets another occupant of their apartment building, a young girl about her age named Lara who has the same gift as Cass, but uses it in a much different way. Lara is able to help ghosts move on and even calls herself a ghost hunter.  When she learns that Cass and Jacob are friends, she’s horrified. Why isn’t Cass doing her job? Why is Jacob hanging around?

But it’s only with Jacob’s help that Cass will be able to survive ghosts that are stronger than anything she’s encountered.  

This is a middle grade novel so it’s target audience is about 8-12 years old.  I am very far away from 8 years old and absolutely loved it. It’s an amazing ghost story with the right balance of creepy and history.  Edinburgh was the perfect setting with it’s castles and haunted secret tunnels. I really like how the author pointed out several of the language differences as Cass and her family moved in to their temporary flat.  Lifts, chips, and the most funny, pants. Kids will love the quick discussion about trousers and pants. I did.

Cass is also a photographer and her camera plays an important part in the story.  Cass isn’t the type of annoying-young-girl-who-giggles type of character. She’s real, honest, and focused.  She cares about the ghosts and feels like it’s her responsibility to learn their story. There also isn’t any romantic feelings between Jacob and Cass.  They’re friends. End of story.

Her parents were also really well written.  They’re shown trying to balance their careers and time with Cass in a completely relatable way-Scotland provides more than a job, but also an adventure for Cass.  

I couldn’t find anywhere if this will continue on in a series.  There’s a satisfying ending to this story, but I hope we can find out more about Jacob and the Veil.  The parents were going to film in multiple locations so maybe there will be more books? I have my fingers crossed.  

Definitely check this one out, even if you’re a grown up.  

City of GHosts by Victoria Schwab is available now from wherever you buy books.  You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:

Gabi's If/Then Garden by Caroline Karanja
Gabi’s If/Then Garden by Caroline Karanja is available from Capstone on September 1, 2018.

Gabi’s If/Then Garden by Caroline Karanja is available from Capstone on September 1, 2018.

 

If you combine great characters and illustrations with child-friendly computer language, then you’ll have a great beginning coder book! Caroline Karanja has created an accessible and fun way for children to learn the basics of coding.  

Gabi and Adi spend an afternoon in the garden learning about if/then statements.  “If it doesn’t rain, then they water the plants.”  

The girls use those statements to change “Simon Says” to Computer and Programmer.  “If the Programmer does a jumping jack, then the Computer does a cartwheel.”

Using child-friendly language and experiences, the girls discover that coding concepts are all around them.  

Beautifully done book!

Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Saturday is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum

I'm a sucker for beautiful illustrations and I fell in love with Saturday is Swimming Day for that very reason.  But this book is more than some pretty drawings.  It's also a very sweet story about some things in life can be very scary, but with the right people and encouragement, we can do anything we set our minds to.  

A little girl has swimming lessons on Saturday but her stomach hurts so she really shouldn't go.  Her mom checks her over and doesn't find anything wrong so she gets her swimming suit packed and off to lessons they go.  Luckily, our little girl has a very understanding teacher and lets her sit by the pool while she waits for her stomach to feel better.  But it never feels better so she never gets in the pool.  

When the next Saturday comes around, our little girl has another stomach ache.  This time, her teacher offers to hold her so she can practice some swimming like the other kids.  With help and guidance, our little girl gains the confidence she needs to not be scared of the pool.  

With beautiful illustrations and simple text, this story will be very helpful to little ones who need some extra help feeling confident.  

Saturday is Swimming Day is available now from Candlewick Press.  You can get your copy, and help support the site, here: 

We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

I first fell in love with Higgins' writing with Mother Bruce, a story about a grumpy old bear who becomes a parent to three wild geese.  Well, he became their mother after they hatched while he was trying to cook their eggs, but you know, details.  The series is hilarious and I highly recommend them.  

We Don't Eat Our Classmates is a hilarious take on first day of school jitters.  Penelope Rex is very nervous about starting school.  Worried about friends and backpacks and lunches.  When she discovers that her entire class is made up of human children she panics and eats them.  Luckily her teacher is there to make her spit them back out.  Penelope spends the rest of her day trying to being a good friend but the children are now scared of her.  Much to Penelope's disappointment, making friends is hard and doesn't come easily.  It isn't until a run-in with the class pet that Penelope learns that it's really not nice to be eaten.  

Very funny and sweet, We Don't Eat Our Classmates is here just in time for the start of a new school year.  

 

You can get your copy, and help support the site here: 

Call of Doodie by Donald Lemke

Call of Doodie:  A Potty Training Book by Donald Lemke is available from Capstone August 1, 2018.

Who is ready to be a Poo-Tenent?  The silliest drill sergeant ever leads a diverse cast of underwear clad soldiers through the necessary missions to achieve potty training success!  Humorous, lighthearted, and full of great illustrations, this book gives children all the basics to complete a potty mission.

A super cute book that would make great gift for your favorite little Poo-Tenent.  

 

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:

Thank you to Netgalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read and review this book.