LEXIE THE WORD WRANGLER by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Jessie Hartland

August 25, 2017

Lexie the Word Wrangler by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Jessie Hartland

I’ve always had a soft spot for cowgirls.  Dressing up as one and pretending to ride my pony through the yard as a kid, and now that I live in the West, immersing myself in the history of the real-world tough cowgirls of my adopted state of Oregon.  So I was immediately drawn by the title to Lexie.  Turns out this great new picture book celebrates another love of mine as well:  words.  That’s right, instead of cattle, Lexie wrestles. . .words! Wordplay, puns, word chains, and other delightful word play are all integral parts of this off-beat and funny picture book.  I especially appreciate Lexie’s determination to serve justice when someone starts messing with her words.  Perfect for the Early Readers in your life.


A Trio of Board Books for New Parents

August 18, 2017

The perfect gift for new parents?  Books, of course!  Favorites from when you –or your kids–were babies or toddlers are a great place to start.  But every year, terrific new board books are published that you don’t need to wait for babies to grow into.  Here are three recently published books we recommend sharing  with parents, who can cuddle up with a book and their little ones right from Day One.

Lucha Libre:  Anatomy/Anatomia by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein

What a great way to learn body parts–and in both English and Spanish. Bright, colorful illustrations add to the fun.  And did we mention. . .wrestling? One word and one image per page helps introduce young children to concepts perfectly.  If you and your little reader enjoy this one, check out the other books in the Lil’ Libros baby board book series. Our other favorites:  Loteria:  First Words/Primeras Palabras and Zapata: Colors/Colores.


Welcome:  A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals by Mo Willems

If you are a fan of Mo Willems  (like we are! see our previous post) you will be thrilled to share this new book with parents. An amusing and delightfully illustrated read-aloud.  Not to mention heart warming. I’ve heard new parents say it is the best baby book they’ve received.  Read it and see why!


Who, What, Where? by Olivier Tallec

We love the work of Olivier Tallec, and gave copies of Who Done It? to friends and family. In the same format of each page asking the reader a question about the characters featured on the spread, Tallec draws on interacting with the book using insights and keen eyes.  Kids can certainly read the facial expressions of the characters, as well as the little details that point out “Who’s looking in the mirror?” or “Who left a jacket at home?” With his trademark sly humor and whimsical art. Tollec has created another winner of a lap book to share and enjoy.


Two More Recommended Graphic Novels for Tweens

August 12, 2017

A few weeks ago, we recommended a couple of terrific new graphic novels for tweens.  We’ve extended our fascination with the genre and can’t resist adding a couple more recommendations, guaranteed to keep you cool as you sip lemonade and seek shelter from the sun.

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

You don’t have to read more than a few pages to understand that Mighty Jack is based on the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. But in this contemporary retelling, the old tale takes a decidedly compelling twist.  First, there are the modern characters: Jack, who is dreading summer, since he has to care for his sister Maddie while his single Mom works; Maddie, who is autistic and never speaks–until she does one day!  At the flea market, she tells Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds.  Yikes!  Big mistake–or is it? What happens when the garden that he plants from the seeds runs amok? And when a dragon enters the scene? We love the cliff hanging elements throughout the book, and the thoughtful themes that make the adventures and humor even more compelling.  Great storytelling, wonderful artwork. . .this is the start of a not-to-miss series of books.  Watch for Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, due out this fall.


Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel

It’s particularly hard on Ely when his dog Tommy, his best friend is hit by a car.  A summer with his Grandpa is what Ely needs to have the space to grieve and recover. He spends hours exploring a local cave–and discovers a friendly, not to mention fully grown, Tyrannosaurus Rex!  As their friendship deepens, word of the dinosaur gets out and brings the mean-spirited mischief of  one of the local kids, Randy. Adventure, drama, and comedy abound in this fine graphic novel, and of course the full-color artwork is just right.  You may shed a tear or two, as there are some sad moments, but the sadness also includes themes of friendship and kindness.


August 4, 2017

The Inquisitor’s Tale:  Or, Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog By Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Do you–and the young readers in your life–like adventure?  Enjoy the Middle Ages for a setting? Love beautiful illustrations? Like to keep up with award-winning children’s books?  If the answer is yes, we have a recommendation for you!  Prepare for a fascinating tale of 3 children, set in the year 1242.  Not only are they held captive by knights, they travel across France, work with a king, and even save the land from a farting dragon! The trio of heros are three children:  William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. The dog of the title is  Jeanne’s loyal greyhound Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead.  We love the way the story is told in multiple voices, a bit like The Canterbury Tales.  There is plenty of action, humor, rich fantasy, and complex themes for the whole family.  A terrific read-aloud as well as a sure-fire hit for all.




July 28, 2017

Rudas:  Niños Horrendous Hermanitas by Yyu Morales

Remember Niño Wrestles the World, the 2014 winner of the Pura Belpre Illustration Award?  Love that book!  And so do kids I’ve shared it with–and who’ve shared it with me.  Well, Niño is back, and so are his sisters, Las Hermanitas! They are the Lucha Queens, with their amazing moves and tag team strategies.  No one can forget their Poopy Bomb Blowout or their Pampered Plunder Diversion.  But their brother Niño has some moves of his own.  What happens in this wild and crazy wrestling adventure?  You’ll have to read it to find out!


THE UNWANTEDS by Lisa McMann: Strong Recommendation for a Middle School Series

July 21, 2017

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

I’ve always been fascinated by the tween and teen dystopia novels.  Recently, of course, there have been The Hunger Games and Divergence. But before that, there was The Tripod Trilogy by John Christoper, the Matched series by Ally Condie, The Giver by Lois Lowrie, and more.  There’s something riveting about peering into these dysfunctional and frightening universes, and seeing the strengths of the heroes who fight to create better worlds.

My nieces Hazel and Charlotte are super-readers, and when they came to Portland to visit last month, they recommended reading The Unwanteds, which tells the tale of a world where 13-year-olds are sorted into Wanted, Necessary (who both get to stay in the Land of Quill), and for those unlucky ones deemed Unwanted, there is Elimination.  And the Unwanted are the ones who show any spark of originality or creativity.  Alex and Aaron are twins who face this uncertain future together, though both know the likely results.  It’s hard for Alex to leave his twin behind, but Aaron immediately sets his heart to forgetting his brother, as the people of Quill expect him to.  But instead of the “Death Farm” he expects, Alex discovers the magical and wonderful world of  Artimé, where he and his fellow Unwanteds nurture their creativity and learn to use magic to enhance their talents. The twins have a hand in bringing the two worlds together in a strange, terrifying, and wondrous way–and with surprising results.  The magic reminds me of Harry Potter at Hogwarts, and the world of Quill a bit of The Hunger Games.  I’ve only read the first, but look forward to the whole series (seven books so far).

I’ve just recommended the series to Molly and Jacob and I’m awaiting their reviews.  We’ll keep you posted!


July 14, 2017

Cleopatra in Space:  The Golden Lion by Mike Maihak

Make time in your summer reading for the fourth in the graphic novel series CLEOPATRA IN SPACE.  If you haven’t read the first three books, you might want to check out our reviews here and here.

Cleopatra is a unique and appealing character. And I especially love futuristic Egypt with its cool pyramid skyscrapers.  The adventures continue in this latest episode, with Cleopatra venturing to the icy planet Cada’duun to battle with a new enemy who has been instructed ti destroy the Golden Lion.  The Golden Lion, by the way, has been located on Cada’duun and Cleopatra has a difficult challenge, since the Lion itself is a star with immeasurable energy that could destroy them all if weaponized.  Cleo herself is such a great superhero, not to mention her friends as well as the villains.  The series just gets better and better!