‘Spin the Dawn’ by Elizabeth Lim is an engrossing fantasy about a young girl whose ambition proves world-changing

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In a fictional world reminiscent of ancient China, Elizabeth Lim creates “Spin the Dawn,” the story of Maia, daughter of a tailor who is as skilled as any tailor but who is barred from the profession because of her gender. Her father has lost his ambition since the death of Maia’s mother, and two of her brothers were killed in the Emperor’s war. Now, it’s just Maia supporting the family.

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‘Storm Blown’ by Nick Courage is a middle grade adventure during a terrible hurricane

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In “Storm Blown,” author Nick Courage writes about a fictional hurricane and two of the children whose lives are affected by that storm. He’s not writing about just any storm, though. This is a once-in-a-lifetime storm, a storm that is fickle and doesn’t behave as storm experts expect. Because the story is told from many perspectives, including that of a storm expert, readers get the benefit of learning about not only storms, but human behavior.

Alejo lives with his grandfather in Puerto Rico while his mother tries to earn enough money in the United States to bring him to live with her. He’s content on the island, though, and he helps his grandfather at the resort where his grandfather works. At the start of the story, his grandfather has gone home, leaving Alejo to watch the excitement at the resort as most guests check out while a few intrepid visitors decide to brave the storm. He’s watching the news reporters as they brave the wild surf to film the storm.

Emily lives with her parents and brother in New Orleans. Her brother has been very ill, and her mother worries so much about germs that Emily’s not allowed to visit with her brother Elliot in his room. So instead of hanging out with her brother and wandering the zoo and parks in New Orleans, Emily decides to go out alone. She ends up on a small island that is accessed by a shallow lake, and she befriends an injured Canada goose and a turtle. She has no idea that New Orleans is about to be hit with the huge storm, and her phone quickly loses its charge, so her family can’t get through to her.

Other points of view include that of Silas, Emily’s father, who works on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico; a petrel caught up in the storm; and Joy, who works at the National Climatic Research Center. It’s through Joy’s eyes that we learn about hurricanes and national disasters. Joy reports that there are at least ten natural disasters in the United States each year that cause over a billion dollars’ worth of damage. Those are called BDDs – Billion Dollar Disasters.

The points of view from diverse characters in diverse locations makes it impossible to predict how their lives will intersect, but with unpredictable storms and unpredictable children, anything is possible. Young readers will enjoy the edge-of-your-seat excitement, wondering what will happen during Hurricane Valerie. Older readers might remember Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes that caused terrific damage in lives and dollars. Everyone will enjoy the story.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Delacorte Press, for review purposes.

‘P is for Pterodactyl: The WORST Alphabet Book Ever (All the letters that misbehave and make words nearly impossible to pronounce’ is an EXTREMELY

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“P Is for Pterodactyl: The WORST Alphabet Book Ever (All the letters that misbehave and make words nearly impossible to pronounce)” is truly the BEST book ever! First of all, it’s brilliant — from the choice of alphabet words and for the text that explains what the words mean, and the words and text and illustrations combined make it really humorous, as well.

For example, “B is for Bdellium. We doubt that anyone knows what bdellium is, but it’s the only word dumb enough to begin with a silent B.

As is the case throughout the book, the authors use words containing the silent letter (or letter that is not pronounced “properly,” in the text that defines the alphabet word. So for the letter “B,” they use “doubt” and “dumb.” Certainly these authors are anything but “dumb.”

Other brilliant letters include “G is for Gnocchi. The gnome yells, “Waiter! There’s a bright white gnat nibbling on my gnocchi!”

And “F is not for Photo, phlegm, phooey, or phone. F is only for “foto” when you speak fluent Spanish at home.” The letter K was relatively simple with, “K is for Knight. The noble knight’s knife nicked the knave’s knee.”

The Glossary is touted as “And now… The Worst Glossary Ever!” It’s not.

This is definitely a fabulous choice for the home or school library and classroom. Teachers, pick a silent letter (or vowel with a different sound) and challenge the kids to find as many words as they can!

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, the publisher, for review purposes.

Five animal-themed picture books kids will love

 

Animals and kids go together like hot summer days and ice cream or long sunlit days with reading lots and lots of books to kids before bedtime. And there’s nothing most kids like better than books about animals. Whether it’s a silly book or a book filled with adventure, kids love reading about animal antics.

pinky got outKids will LOVE “Pinky Got Out!” by Michael Portis, about a group of school children visiting the zoo when a flamingo gets out of the flamingo enclosure. The kids keep seeing Pinky, the flamingo, everywhere they go. Kids will love trying to spot Pinky on each page, and they’ll love what happens at the end. They will also learn a few facts about animals while searching each page for sightings of the pink escapee. You can tell them that the real-life Pinky is named Flamingo 492 and escaped from a Wichita, Kansas zoo and ended up in Texas on the coast where, fourteen years later, the bird is living happily. (Crown Books for Young Readers)

“Big Cat” by Emma Lazell is another humorous picture book, this one about a mix-up between a big catdomestic cat and a large cat, in this case a tiger. The action begins on the page before the title page, which features newspapers with partial headings like “missing” and “Mystery sightings” and pictures of tigers. Grandma lost her glasses, and she and her granddaughter are looking for them in a yard filled with cats when the young narrator tells Grandma that she’s found a cat. Grandma goes through all the adorable names of their cats. “Is it Ruby? Gertrude? Twinklywhiskers?Hufflystink?” They take the stray cat to the neighbors to see if she belongs to them, but the neighbors all “were not cat people.” Kids will LOVE identifying all the pets the neighbors do have! Although their new cat does eat a lot of cat food, they love him, but when a couple looking for their missing son find Grandma’s glasses and return them, she realizes that the new cat is not a cat at all! Be assured that no humans are harmed in the reading of this book, and there is a delightful twist (of course) at the end. (Pavilion Books)

In “Nelly Takes New York: A Little Girl’s Adventure in the Big Apple,” authors Allison nelly takes nyPataki and Marya Myers feature an adorable duo as they search the New York determined to find the Big Apple. Nelly and her beagle, Bagel, stop for a bagel (of the edible variety) in West Village, then go to the farmers market at Union Square. Each time they mention their quest, they are sent to another place. New Yorkers will enjoy reading about all the sights to visit as will those planning a trip to NYC. For students reading the book, a great activity would be to have a map of New York City handy to have children plot Nelly and Bagel’s journey across the city. This book could be used as a travel brochure praising the different New York City tourist sites and the “friendly New Yorkers.” The illustrations by  Kristi Valiant are worthy of mention. They are bright and colorful, but Valiant manages to make Nelly the center of attention, with her bright red jacket and curly black hair. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

In “The Peculiar Pig” by Joy Steuerwald, a dachshund puppy somehow ends up in the pig peculiar pigpen one morning. Mama Pig, like most mothers, loves all her piglets the same, even the new, strange-looking, brown one. But when the other piglets push the little brown “piglet” away, she patiently waits her turn. The babies get bigger and bigger, only Penny, the dachshund, gets longer and longer. Mama Pig just tells her, “It doesn’t matter, Penny. I love all my little piglets the same.” More differences emerge when Penny barks instead of oinking. And while proper pigs dig with their snouts, Penny uses her paws. In spite of her diminutive size, Penny can outrun her piggy brothers and sisters. When danger threatens, though, Penny saves the day, proving that peculiar might just be perfect. Kids will love the idea that while someone might be very different from those around them, they might just be able to save the day sometime. (Nancy Paulsen Books)

one shoe two shoesIn a lovely take-off of Dr. Seuss, “One Shoe Two Shoes” by Caryl Hart is a simple but humorous book that kids will quickly memorize. They will love reciting the rhyming text along with the reader as the dog and the mice and the colorful shoes are enumerated and counted. While there are no cats (remember Thing One and Thing Two?), there is little mouse one and little mouse two. Like any self-respecting mouse, these also multiply. Between the shoes and the mice and the adorable dog, all illustrated by Edward Underwood in bright blocks of mostly primary colors, this one is definitely a treat for both the eye and the ear. (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.

Four picture books (2 fiction and 2 nonfiction) about animals and compassion — should not be missed

Summer is a wonderful time to spend outdoors with children, showing them the beauty of nature and the beauty of the animals in nature. It’s a wonderful time to play with dogs and visit forest preserves. At night, reading books about nature and about animals is an excellent way to drive home lessons about respecting nature and treating animals — whether pets or wild animals — with love and compassion.

Two of these books are new releases, and two are simply picture books that deserve to be shared and widely read. Two are about domestic animals, dogs, and the two nonfiction picture books are about wild animals and how two brave, resourceful people became determined to help them. All are fabulous choices for every home and school library.

Two nonfiction picture books that should become classics are “Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears” by Jill Robinson and Marc Bekoff and the semi-autobiographical “A Boy and a Jaguar” by Alan Rabinowitz. Both books are about brave people dedicating their lives to helping animals, and both are fascinating to children of all ages. I’ve read these books with first graders and fourth graders, and each child appreciated each book on a different level.

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‘Mr. Lemoncello’s All-Star Breakout Game’ by Chris Grabenstein is another wacky, wild contest filled with unpredictable action

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“Mr. Lemoncello’s All-Star Breakout Game” by Chris Grabenstein is the newest entry into the series that kids love to read. Kyle Keeley, the main character, is up against his arch enemy, Charles Chiltington, whose motto is: Chiltingtons never lose. Yet until this book, Charles has lost at all of Lemoncello’s games. When this new “All-Star Breakout” game is announced, he makes sure he won’t lose.

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‘Welcome to Wonderland: Beach Battle Blowout’ by Chris Grabenstein is much beloved in this student review

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“Welcome to Wonderland:  Beach Battle Blowout,” by Chris Grabenstein, will excite readers from the first page to the last. This funny and action-packed book is sure to make people laugh and gasp in suspense at the same time. Adding on to the series, New York Times bestselling author of “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” spins a story that, of course, has a beginning, a middle — and a twist.

P.T. Wilkie and his business-wiz friend Gloria Ortega make a really good team. As P.T. likes to say, Gloria is the “sizzle to his steak.” P.T.’s grandpa, who is the owner of the Wonderland Motel, finds out that all of the bigger attractions like Disney World are not going to be in this year’s Florida Fun in the Sun competition, so the smaller attractions have a chance to win the title of the hottest family attraction. The Wonderland Motel will have to get ready! Continue reading

‘Endling: The First’ is the second book in the heartwarming and thoughtful Endling series

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Don’t miss Katherine Applegate’s newest series, “Endling,” consisting of the first book, “Endling: The Last” and this book, “Endling: The First.” Applegate’s genius is her ability to write a book filled with adventure and endearing characters, and at the same time use the beliefs and lessons learned in the stories to teach readers about kindness, compassion, and above all, justice.

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