Author Archives for Annamarie Carlson

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (11/16/2020-11/22/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Everything Else:

Rambling Thoughts: Some fun news this week–my name is on the 2023 Caldecott Ballot! What?!? It is an honor to just be on the ballot and a dream to someday be on a Caldecott committee. It feels weird to talk about on here, but it has been a bright spot in the last few months, and I can finally share with the world.

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Reading by the Numbers:

  • 27 Books Read This Week
    • 18 Books with Diverse Main Character (67%)
    • 13 Books by Diverse Authors (48%)
    • 12 Books by Own Voices Authors (44%) (to the best of my knowledge)

Favorites of the Week:

Michala’s Reading

Note: No updates this week!

Virtual Baby Storytime: Week 17

My last Baby Storytime for 2020! (Well, maybe, you never really know until the year is done.) Storytimes are a bright spot in my weeks as everything pandemic picks up here in Ohio (and around the United States and much of the world). This is a hard week. My library just reclosed to the public for browsing and computers, which takes a bit of the pressure off. Good luck to everyone out there–we all need it.

Links for More Storytime Content:

Find additional content at the links below:

Baby Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme
(Wake Up Toes and We Clap and Sing Hello)

Early Literacy Tip & Book: What Is Baby Going to Do? by Laura Knowles

Amazon.com: What is Baby Going to Do? (Flap Flap) (9780711250598): Knowles,  Laura, Perdomo, Juliana: Books

Early Literacy Tip: Looking for ways to keep your little one engaged? No need to purchase fancy toys—make great DIY activities from around the house objects. Check out our YouTube channel for ideas.

Song: Hands Together, Hands Apart by Rainbow Songs

Action Rhyme: Well Hello Little Baby

Bounce Rhyme: Hippity Hop

Find more Baby Bounce Rhymes. —

Bounce: Bouncing, Bouncing

Find more Baby Bounce Rhymes. —

Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs

Puppets: Do Sharks Bark? by Salina Yoon

Find more Book Retelling activities. —

Manipulative: What Shall We Do With The Sleeping Baby? by Rainbow Songs

Closing Song: Skinnamarink

Virtual Program: Weird But True Trivia

Does anyone know why all of the Weird But True books have been checked out with long holds lists since the pandemic started? I know Disney+ expanded the National Geographic TV show, and these books have always been popular, but our books have been checked out for months, and nearby larger systems also have very high circulation rates. If you have an idea why, let me know in those comments–otherwise, read on for everything Weird But True Trivia!

My live audience was small for this one, though it slipped past me that this event didn’t have a Facebook event or any advertisement beyond our website. My handful of players definitely spanned all ages, so this had a different kind of appeal than some of our past trivia events.

Discover More Trivia Fun:

Disney Trivia
Dog Man Trivia
Pokémon Trivia

Weird But True Trivia Content

I shared the questions via screensharing a PowerPoint on Facebook Live (details below under Logistics). Twenty questions, followed by going back through the twenty questions faster to review the answers.

As always, if you would like any editable files, please send us an email at bookcartqueens@gmail.com or comment below.

Watch the full video here:

View and Download the PowerPoint below. I used Century Gothic and Cartoonist fonts:

Download the full PowerPoint here.

More links:

Weird But True At Home Fun Printable Packet

Reserve Weird But True Books

Weird But True Printable Answer Sheet

Weird But True Trivia Certificate

Weird But True Trivia Logistics

Like many of our live school age programs, Weird But True Trivia took place on Facebook Live, though this could easily be translated to whatever platform your library is using for virtual events.

There are many great tools out there for trivia. Kahoot is a particularly popular tool that I’ve seen used frequently. That tool asks participants to play along on their phone or another device while watching the livestream, and the system times the questions and ranks participants. While I like that concept for an adult or maybe teen trivia, when there are no prizes involved, I don’t like that system for kids. Plus, it involves a second piece of technology, and for families playing along, it may be especially difficult to have each kid play individually.

I added the questions to PowerPoint, shared to Facebook using their livestreaming screenshare technology. Some detailed tips for those interested in trying a program this way:

  • Make your slides “widescreen” so they fill up the viewers full computer, phone, or TV screen. Do this by going to Design – Slide Size in Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • I don’t like the clunkiness of viewers seeing me open my powerpoint after going live. To always just have the powerpoint shared on your screen:
    • In PowerPoint, start the “Slide Show” mode, making your PowerPoint full screen.
    • Use the Windows key (not ESC) to exit the Slide Show presentation view. This key leaves the presentation open in the background.
    • Start your Facebook Livestream. Instead of sharing your entire screen, just share one application — the Slide Show view of PowerPoint.
    • Return to the Slide Show view to change slides for your participants. Always use the Windows key to exit. If you use the ESC key, you won’t be able to restart the slideshow without creating a new livestream.
  • Using the steps above, you cannot easily see the comments during the presentation without toggling back and forth (and creating the risk of you using the ESC key and having to start a new stream). I have my phone nearby with the livestream running, allowing me to see questions and comments as they come in. A coworker posts links and types responses to the comments, and I respond verbally as I can.

These are supposed to be 30 minutes, but I talk too much, and this, like previous similar programs was closer to 45 minutes. An easy way to shrink the length of the presentation would be to run through all of the answers immediately after the questions, instead of going back through them again later.

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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Always Anjali by Sheetal Sheth (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Anjali is so excited for her new bicycle. She immediately rides it to the carnival with her friends, and they are all excited to buy matching license plates with their names on them. But none of the premade plates have Anjali’s name. An older boy starts making fun of her name, and other kids join in. Anjali runs home determined that she wants to change her name for good, until her parents teach her that her name was chosen especially for her.

While I don’t have the cultural attachment to my name, this book hit home because I was also one of those kids who never had a nameplate or keychain or gift store item that had my name on it. A lovely story that will speak to kids from many backgrounds.

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Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford (biography)
Gr. 3-5. Henry Brown faced countless atrocities as a slave. After watching as his family was sold far away, Brown felt that nothing else was left for him. He looked for a way to escape, but instead of running from place to place on the Underground Railroad, he packed himself in a box and shipped himself to freedom.

Carole Boston Weatherford’s beautiful poetry frames this story. Each poem is just six lines–each line representing a side of a box. Brown’s words and writings are scattered throughout, allowing his voice to shine through. The story continues after Brown’s box is delivered to a free Northern state, following his journey abroad to escape the Fugitive Slave Act. Wood’s mixed media illustrations make the reader want to keep turning the pages.

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Dave the Unicorn: Team Spirit by Pip Bird
Gr. 2-4. Mira has finally gotten used to Dave, her rather unusual unicorn best friend forever. Now it is time to return to Unicorn School for Field Day! Mira isn’t convinced that Dave is the most athletic unicorn, but she is determined to help her team achieve victory so they can go on the Magical Rainbow Quest.

But from the very beginning of the day, everything goes wrong. None of her teammate’s alarm clocks go off. Their rainbow track suits go missing. Banana peels randomly appear on the field, and their equipment is swapped out for candy substitutes. The school staff seem to think Mira is just making excuses, but she is convinced that someone is sabotaging them.

Dave the Unicorn is a funny, lighthearted series that will appeal to kids who like the humor of Diary of a Wimpy Kid but might not be ready for middle school drama (or kids who are looking for a more text-heavy Dog Man readalike). When you think about the magical unicorn universe too much you are left with a lot of questions and some plot holes, but this series will be well loved by its intended audience.

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Dear Justyce by Nic Stone (teen)
Gr. 7+. Quan is in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. He isn’t too surprised he ended up there. After all, while he and his childhood friend, Justyce, weren’t that different, Justyce was always on a path to success at an Ivy League school while Quan was just doing whatever was needed to keep it together and take care of his mom and his siblings. Quan–feeling more than a little ridiculous–starts writing letters to Justyce, inspired by Justyce’s letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Just like Dear Martin, this is an outstanding book. It depicts the corrupt justice system, particularly in its treatment of black kids and teens. The story unravels through flashbacks and Quan’s letters to Justyce, as well as new scenes from Justyce’s point of view. Nic Stone’s reasoning for writing this story–after hearing from black teens about how Justyce’s story isn’t their story–makes this even more poignant.

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Finish the Fight! by Veronica Chambers (nonfiction)
Gr. 5-8. What names do you associate with women fighting for the right to vote? Susan B. Anthony? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? There were thousands of other women who often aren’t highlighted, but who fought, spoke up, marched, and led protests that led to women earning the right to vote.

Finish the Fight highlights the Haudenosaunee women who lived on the land of the Seneca Falls convention long before the town of Seneca was built–women who led a matrilineal society, who owned their own property, who led their clan. Finish the Fight shares the stories of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Elizabeth Piper Ensley, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Jovita Idar, and more women who were instrumental in helping women gain the right to vote in territories, states, and across the United States. Finish the Fight also talks about the women whose fight for the vote continued long after the 19th amendment was passed–women like Susette La Flesche Tibbles and Litikala-Sa, who continued to fight for Native American voting rights and more.

An excellent compilation, highlighting women who aren’t often mentioned in history textbooks. Filled with more names to research on your own and detailed backmatter, this book would be a wonderful classroom companion. It also feels particularly hopeful that the very last entry in the backmatter–a comparison of 1920 vs. 2020 of Women by the Numbers–is no longer accurate, just a few months after publication. While there were, and still are, zero women U.S. Presidents, that Vice President tally can finally be changed to 1.

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The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol by Arthur A. Levine (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. Meet Nate Gadol, a magical Hanukkah hero who brings luck and generosity to those in need. Nate can’t make something from nothing, but he can help things stretch. Have just one piece of chocolate for a whole family? Nate can make that piece stretch for everyone. Need a little oil to last eight days and nights? Nate is there to help.

Nate takes a particular interest in the Glaser family, new immigrants to the United States determined to help their neighbors, even if that means that their Hanukkah might be a bit meager. Nate manages to help a struggling Santa, stretching Christmas joy to keep a sled flying high, in exchange for some presents that might make Hanukkah seem a bit more magical for everyone.

A beautiful new folk tale that will be a wonderful addition to Hanukkah collections for years to come.

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The Magnificent Makers: Riding Sound Waves by Theanne Griffith (first chapter book)
Gr. 2-3. Best friends and classmates Violet and Pablo are on a field trip to the City Science Museum! They can’t wait to explore the new exhibit all about the senses. When they get to the museum, they are excited to be partnered with Henry, a quiet boy in their class who is a little different than other kids. Henry has a sensory processing disorder. He struggles with loud noises and sometimes has a hard time paying attention in class.

Just like at school, Violet and Pablo discover a riddle that leads them to the Maker Maze. This time, Henry joins them, and the three work against the clock to complete three challenges in 120 maker minutes–learning even more about their senses and making sure they can beat the clock so that they can return to the maze for more science fun in the future.

Another Maker Maze book! This series does an excellent job combining science and friendship. The addition of a main character with a sensory processing disorder is a welcome addition. The eardrum challenge is particularly fun, especially since readers could replicate it at home. Looking forward to more!

My Furry Foster Family by Debbi Michiko Florence (first chapter book)
Gr. 2-3. Another wonderful addition in the My Furry Foster Family series. I love the simplicity, appeal, and diversity of this series. All of our young readers want more animal books, and this is a great introduction to a variety of pets (and fostering animals!). The everyday diversity in Kaita and her family plus small details, like taking your shoes off in the house, make this even more of a winner for me. Will be recommending to many young readers, though the books are already flying off the shelves.

Kingston the Great Dane: The Takano house has a new (GIANT) foster pet: Great Dane Kingston! Kingston looks a bit more like a cow than a dog, and he definitely doesn’t realize how big he is. He loves to copy everything the family dachshund does–like crawl under kitchen chairs, jump onto Kaita’s bed, and sit on Dad’s lap. Will the Takano family be able to find the perfect home for such a large dog?

Murray the Ferret: The Takano house has a new foster pet: an adorable, cuddly ferret! Kaita has done a ton of research, so she knows that ferrets can be fast and sneaky, but Murray is just adorable, floppy, and very friendly. But when things around their house start to go missing, Kaita realizes all the missing items can’t be due to bad luck…

Roo the Rabbit: The Takano house has a new foster pet: their first rabbit! Roo is absolutely adorable with his fluffy, floppy ears and always curious personality. Kaita can’t wait to cuddle with her new bunny–but Roo is super shy, and he doesn’t like to be pet. Will Kaita be able to teach him how to trust people, so they can find him his own forever home?

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The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents by Kate Messner (nonfiction)
Gr. 3-5. We know the name of the current President of the United States. We might, if the timing is right, know the name of the next President. But we don’t often think too far past that point. Did you know that when George Washington became the first president, there were nine future presidents living their lives? Some of them may have already been thinking about becoming president themselves, but three of those future presidents were still kids. Of course, this trend continues through to today. When John F. Kennedy was sworn in as president, the next ten (eleven, as we now know) presidents were alive too. Some were in politics, another running a peanut farm, another was hosting television, a few were in their teens, and another was just born.

This book takes a fascinating approach to U.S. presidential history, always thinking towards the future. While we make general comments to kids that they could be anything they want when they grow up–even president!–the reality is that, most likely, at least ten future presidents are alive today, and at least three of them are kids. Those kids might be running for student government–but they might also be coding or dancing or reading this very book.

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Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
Gr. 4-6. Hanna has spent much of her life moving from place to place since her mom died. Wherever they go, no one looks like Hanna, and the townspeople eventually push Hanna and her father out of town. Hanna is half-Chinese, half-white. While everyone seems willing to accept her white father into their community, they are always weary of his Asian daughter. Hanna desperately wants to go to school and complete her education, become a dressmaker at her father’s clothing store, and make a friend. These dreams seem impossible as Hanna deals with the racism and prejudice in her new town in Dakota territory. Hanna starts school, but the rest of the townspeople pull their children from the classroom. Hanna’s father is adamant that he doesn’t want Hanna to work in his shop (and he doesn’t really want to sell dresses either). And every time Hanna almost makes a friend, their parents quickly whisk them out of Hanna’s life.

Hanna’s perseverance and endless strength make this book a winner. Author Linda Sue Park was inspired by the Little House books, and this is a great book to hand to readers who enjoy historical fiction and to families looking for those Laura Ingalls Wilder titles. It doesn’t hide the racism of the era, while also allowing readers to catch a glimpse of Native American people in a more natural and kind light than other books that take place in that time. I’m glad I read this one before awards season, as I think it will have a lot of stickers on the cover in just a few months.

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Score for Imagination by Jonathan Eig (nonfiction)
Gr. 2-3. Lola loves practicing soccer with her mom every Saturday. But Lola doesn’t just love the time with her mom–she also really wants to get better at soccer. She knows she isn’t very good, and the boys in her third grade class won’t let Lola and the other girls play. How can Lola convince everyone that playing as a team will make them all better?

A fun addition to the Lola Jones book series. Lola learns all about imagination, friendship, and teamwork in a sports-focused book that will appeal to young readers.

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Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong by A.J. Low
Gr. 3-4. Sherlock Sam loves Sherlock Holmes and solving mysteries around Singapore. Sherlock invents a robot to steal his favorite cookies from the top shelf. (The fact that the robot is named Watson was an accidental coincidence.) When Auntie Kim Lian’s family Peranakan recipe book disappears, Sam is determined to retrace her steps and find the family heirloom–after all, no cookbook means no more delicious ayam buah keluak! Soon he is leading his friends all across the city, from the bakery to the local antique shop, the library, a cooking studio, and a new restaurant.

A fun mystery series great for readers looking for something a little bit more advanced than first chapter books. This book was originally published in Singapore, and various Singaporean words and dishes are sprinkled throughout. While the volume of words in another language feels higher than in similar stories, since most of the new words are types of food, the story will still be easy for young non-Singaporean readers to follow. A glossary in the back helps introduce some of these terms to readers.

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This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges (biography)
Gr. 4-7. The words of a grown-up Ruby Bridges, the first black child integrated into an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. In a letter to today’s kids and teens, Bridges reflects on her childhood experiences and compares the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s to the Black Lives Matter protests happening today.

Bridges’ moving words are paired with equally moving black and white photographs, both from her childhood and from people protesting today. The juxtaposition is sometimes eerie, with the reader having to pay close attention to the captions to know the difference in date. An excellent, intimate reminder that the fight for racial equality is not new, and it is not over.

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While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Hedgehog and Tortoise are best friends who aren’t allowed to hug. But they still know ways to show their love for one another–from making silly faces and writing letters to dancing, painting, and just being near each other.

This book is particularly useful in COVID times, when hugging another person could make them sick, but I like that this book doesn’t particularly address the pandemic. There are kids with autoimmune diseases who haven’t been able to hug their friends, or sometimes even their family members, for a long time. Other kids (and grown ups) don’t like hugs. There is a lot of emphasis right now on the loss of human touch, but for some people, this isn’t new. I like that this book normalizes that without only focusing on the pandemic.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (11/9/2020-11/15/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

First Chapter Books:

Everything Else:

Note: I’m starting to write my favorites of 2020 posts. If you’ve ever spotted my recommendations on Storytime Underground’s Facebook page, you’ll notice that I sometimes struggle to limit these sorts of lists. (There will be multiple. Of course.) I’m thinking that they will go live on Sundays? We will see. I read so much this year, and there are still so many more books in my TBR piles.

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Stats for the Week:

  • 29 Books Read This Week
    • 20 Books with Diverse Main Character (69%)
    • 13 Books by Diverse Authors (45%)
    • 12 Books by Own Voices Authors (41%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

Note: It’s that time of year, can you sense a theme in my reads? Although all my Halloween picture books just came in so next week I might be listing a few stragglers that make the cut for good reads.

Virtual Baby Storytime: Week 16

I’m starting to miss seeing the baby’s reactions. I know many people have been saying that for months, but I genuinely don’t mind–and in some ways really enjoy–virtual storytime. My nerves come from people staring at me, and, even though I am being seen by the internet, I can’t see the people watching, so I’m not self-conscious. The lack of feedback is hard, and it makes it difficult to really know if any of my new rhymes or books or animal activities are successful with my intended age range, but I am more willing to try new things because I won’t receive an immediate negative reaction. Does that make sense? Or am I just rambling as my brain tries to rebuild after election week 2020?

Links for More Storytime Content:

Find additional content at the links below:

Baby Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme
(Wake Up Toes and We Clap and Sing Hello)

Early Literacy Tip & Book: Baby Loves Fall by Karen Katz

Amazon.com: Baby Loves Fall!: A Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap Book (Karen Katz  Lift-The-Flap Books) (9781442452091): Katz, Karen, Katz, Karen: Books

Early Literacy Tip: Babies love to take things in and out of larger containers. This helps build understanding of spatial concepts like in, out, behind, under, and over—all of which are important for brain development.

Song: She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain by Old Town School of Folk Music

Action Rhyme: These Little Fingers

Discover more Fingerplays. —

Bounce Rhyme: The Bouncing Song

Find more Baby Bounce Rhymes. —

Bounce: Dump Truck

Find more Baby Bounce Rhymes. —

Song: Wiggle It! by Patty Shuka

Puppets: Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort

Find more Book Retelling activities. —

Manipulative: Shaky Shaky by the Wiggles

Closing Song: Skinnamarink

Llama Llama Red Pajama Storytime

Another themed Saturday storytime special! So much Llama Llama Red Pajama fun! This outline has a lot of extra content because I couldn’t decide what to use in the storytime, so I filmed a bunch of videos and picked through more carefully closer to the program.

No preview video this time because it was Election Week 2020 and my productivity was focused on concrete tasks more than creative tasks. We still had a fairly strong audience (about 75) without the preview video, which makes me happy, especially with our lower numbers at regular virtual storytimes lately. I’m definitely missing our print event guides now that we are open to the public again, as 90% of the people who walk in the children’s department don’t have any idea that we are doing (or have been doing) any virtual programs.

To help continue the Llama Llama fun at home, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Download it here.

The general storytime layout–in order of what I presented–is below, with videos where applicable. All the extra videos I dropped from the program are below.

Llama Llama Storytime Outline

Backdrop Setup: Llama Llama pennant banners, book covers, and images. I’m happy to share these printable files if anyone is interested–just let me know in those comments or send us an email.

Intro Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs

Book: Llama Llama Red Pajama be Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Red Pajama: Dewdney, Anna, Dewdney, Anna: 9780451474575:  Amazon.com: Books

Song: The Monkey Dance by The Wiggles
Have you looked for llama songs for kids? I have. A lot. And they are all odd or annoying or emphasize “big fat mama llama” or things I don’t want to include in a storytime. So I used The Monkey Dance as our get-the-wiggles out song instead.

Fingerplay: Two Little Llamas

Song: L-L-A-M-A

Download your own LLAMA BINGO printable letters here:

Book: Llama Llama Learns to Share by Anna Dewdney

Amazon.com: Llama Llama Time to Share (9780670012336): Anna Dewdney, Anna  Dewdney: Books

Action Rhyme: Five in the Bed

Closing Song: Llama Llama Theme Song

Llama Llama Storytime Extra Videos

I made a lot of extra content that I was sure I was going to use until I was practicing. A lot of my materials were completely swapped around the day before the storytime when I practiced and didn’t like the storytime with the content below.

Is Your Mama a Llama? Book Retelling, Llama Llama Edition

Llama Llama Playing Hide and Seek

Here’s a Llama Fingerplay

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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Are You Afraid of the Light? by Richard Fairgray (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-5. Dash is bringing his best friend Lily along for his family’s summer vacation to the weird and creepy Black Sand Beach. There isn’t much to show off, however–the sand is black and magnetic, the house is a shack on stilts, and Dash’s relatives are very odd. Everything is strange, particularly the broken light house that occasionally flickers to life, calling to Dash. Soon, Dash and his friends discover ghosts haunting the lighthouse, mind-controlling zombie “cows”, and journals that make it seem like they have all done this before–even though they have no memory of being here for years.

So creepy! This series will appeal to young horror fans looking for something new. The characters are a bit two-dimensional, but the mystery will keep the reader engaged and constantly guessing what will happen next.

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Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Jessica Dee Humphreys (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-5. In 1993, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, five-year-old Michel stays late after school to play soccer with his friends. Michel sees a group of trucks stop near their field, but he doesn’t think anything of it–until the gunshots. Suddenly, Michel and his friends are forced into vehicles, drugged, and thrust into a terrifying world of violence as they are turned into child soldiers.

Michel’s story is horrifying, but a necessary read because of its truth. I appreciate that this was adapted into a graphic novel to make it more accessible for kids around the world. While Michel’s story ends up all right–or as okay as it can–it shows the stark horror of the lives of many kids who never return home to their families. Back matter provides more information about Michel, child soldiers around the world, and ways to help.

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Dave the Unicorn: Welcome to Unicorn School by Pip Bird
Gr. 2-4. Mira is SO EXCITED to start Unicorn School. Just like her mom and older sister, Mira will meet her unicorn best friend, go on magical quests, ride on her unicorn, and have a wonderful, magic-filled summer. All of her new classmates get paired with majestic, prancing unicorns with shimmering coats. Except Mira. Mira gets assigned to Dave.

Dave is the opposite of a majestic unicorn. He is physically small, so when Mira sits on him, her knees are by her chin. He absolutely loves donuts. He also loves to nap…a lot. All the time actually. Including in their classes. Even his poop isn’t dainty and glitter-filled like other unicorns–it looks like a pile of dog poop. And Dave poops (and farts) a lot. Dave keeps getting Mira in trouble, and soon they are both banned from the upcoming magical quest. Can Mira figure out why she and Dave are destined to be best friends? Or should she keep dreaming about a new unicorn?

Dave the Unicorn is a funny, lighthearted series that will appeal to kids who like the humor of Diary of a Wimpy Kid but might not be ready for middle school drama (or kids who are looking for a more text-heavy Dog Man readalike). When you think about the magical unicorn universe too much you are left with a lot of questions and some plot holes, but this series will be well loved by its intended audience.

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The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith (graphic novel)
Gr. 6+. A political coup that leaves their beloved grandfather murdered causes twins Hawke and Grayson to run for their lives. They hide among the new trainees in the Communion of Blue, taking on new identities as Hanna and Grayce. While they try to piece together what atrocities led to their home burning to the ground, the twins also learn more about themselves. Hawke longs to return to his old life, but Grayce realizes she wants to stay in this world that lets her be herself.

I love, love that this is a fantasy graphic novel with a transgender lead. While Grayce’s understanding of her gender is part of the plot, it isn’t the only or even central storyline–there is political unrest and a mystery to unravel. I do wish there was a bit more worldbuilding here. I wasn’t confused, but I didn’t really understand anyone’s motivations or the real power of the Communion of Blue. (Are they the only ones who can do magic? Why are some of them attached to the homes of nobles? Is their magic all encompassing?) I’m hoping for more stories that further explore this world.

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Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton (picture book)
Gr. PreS-1. Little Crab and Very Big Crab live in a tiny tide pool, but today they are going to explore the big ocean. Little Crab is excited until Little Crab sees the big waves. Suddenly the ocean seems very big, and little crab is very small. Little Crab is nervous about going any farther, but Very Big Crab convinces Little Crab the giant waves will be worth it.

This was really cute! A great story about conquering our fears and trying something new. A good choice for the beginning of the school year. The illustrations do a particularly amazing job highlighting the ocean with lots of layering and unique shapes. A fun storytime choice!

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Flamer by Mike Curato (graphic novel)
Gr. 7+. Aiden is just trying to survive another summer camp with his Boy Scout Troup. It’s the summer between middle school and high school, which is a particularly big jump for Aiden, because he decided to leave his Catholic middle school to attend public high school (his first time attending a public school). Aiden got picked on a lot at his old school and by his fellow Boy Scouts here at summer camp. They call him gay–among other terms–because his voice and behaviors often seem feminine. But Aiden is confident he isn’t gay because gay boys like other boys. Plus, gay boys get made fun of. Gay boys can’t serve mass in Catholic church. Aiden can’t be gay because being gay is unsafe.

This is a rough read, but it is a must read. While the book is based on author Mike Curato’s real experiences, including his childhood experiences at Boy Scout camp in the 1990s, these experiences still continue today, especially in rural areas (but really everywhere). The book directly shows how other people’s words and actions hurt Aiden, and the mental consequences that unfold as Aiden doesn’t see any way to move forward. A must read.

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The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. Melody is the youngest and smallest mermaid princess. She loves sneaking away from her princess duties to explore the ocean floor and catch glimpses of the world above. When she finally breaks the surface one day, she discovers a girl standing on the beach waving at her. Melody longs to become friends, but she returns home saddened that she can never walk on the beach. After a tempting offer from the sea witch, Melody agrees to give up her voice for a chance at legs and making a new friend. But after spending some time with her friend (and drawing out her story in the sand since she can’t talk), Melody realizes that the sea witch has used Melody’s voice to rise to power, and it’s up to Melody to save the day.

This is such a wonderful, amazing adaptation of The Little Mermaid story. In addition to Pinkney’s gorgeous illustrations, the story takes on its own life while essentially eliminating the plot holes of the original tale and also giving Melody a sense of identity and purpose not attached to a love story. Melody wants to explore, and her curiosity leads to her deal, not a desire for love with a stranger she has never met. A beautiful, diverse adaptation that, for me, stands above the original.

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Monster and Boy by Hannah Barnaby
Gr. 2-3. The monster under the bed loves the boy who lives in the world above. The monster listens when the boy plays, when his mom reads him bedtime stories, and when the boy softly snores while he sleeps. After the boy’s mother tells the boy that monsters aren’t real, the monster is determined to do something about it-so he reveals himself to the boy. The boy is understandably shocked and possibly about to scream…so the monster eats him.

The monster isn’t so sure about this outcome, as he really just wanted to be friends, but he isn’t sure how to get the boy back out now that the boy is in his monster tummy. The monster decides to sleep on it, rather liking the idea that the boy is with him always, but when the monster wakes up, he discovers the boy is no longer inside him. The monster starts to cry, and suddenly he coughs up the boy, who is now very, very small. Can they return him to his original size?

This is a charming, humor-filled story that took many unexpected turns. Told from the perspective of the monster under the bed, the book adds an extra level of humor by letting the narrator add their own commentary throughout (such as explaining why the monster and boy are never given names). Lots of fun, including little-sister antics and the budding friendship between the monster and the boy. This would be a great story to recommend a caregiver and child read together before bedtime.

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The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
Gr. 4-6. Alberta is used to being the only black girl in her grade in her small ocean town in California. Alberta loves her life–surfing most days, enjoying delicious breakfasts with her two dads, and eating ice cream with her best friend Laramie. But when the bed and breakfast across the street is bought by a black family with a daughter her age, Alberta is thrilled.

Alberta is sure that she will be best friends with Edie, but Edie misses Brooklyn and isn’t so sure about small town life. While their friendship isn’t as immediate as Alberta dreamed, they still bond, especially after discovering a box of journals in Edie’s attic. Who do they belong to? Why were they left behind?

The Only Black Girls in Town was a ton of fun with the perfect mix of small town life, friendship drama, questions about growing up, and mystery. While a lot happens to Alberta over the book, nothing ever felt rushed and each plot element wove together with the next (much like how life works). Will be book talking and recommending.

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Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali (picture book)
Gr. PreS-1. Musa’s kindergarten teacher, Ms. Gupta, proposes a yearlong show and tell, where each child shares with their classmates about their favorite day of the year. This way, the whole class will celebrate these important holidays all together. Four children present their favorite holidays throughout the rest of the book, emphasizing Eid Mubarak, Rosh Hashanah, Christmas (with some Latinx cultural elements), and Pi Day. Other holidays are shown in the back of the book.

I love this approach to celebrating holidays and important celebrations. Each student, and each student’s family, is different, and this activity celebrates those differences. Beautiful illustrations (and endpapers in particular) help each holiday jump off the page. Pi Day is a unique inclusion, but it is wonderful to see a non-religious holiday celebrated with the same level of excitement.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (11/2/2020-11/8/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Graphic Novels:

Everything Else:

Note: It was Election Week 2020 combined with a few work and personal deadlines, so reading was low. I downloaded a bunch of exciting picture book eBook ARCS, so maybe I will get to those next week? It depends how many holds came in over the last few days.

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Stats for the Week:

  • 16 Books Read This Week
    • 12 Books with Diverse Main Character (75%)
    • 8 Books by Diverse Authors (50%)
    • 7 Books by Own Voices Authors (44%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

No updates this week!

Virtual Baby Storytime: Week 15

More Baby Storytime fun in November! I am particularly happy with adapting Jane Cabrera’s Row Row Row Your Boat into an animal sounds puppet activity. I’ve been waiting to adapt that one for a while!

Links for More Storytime Content:

Find additional content at the links below:

Baby Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Early Literacy Tip & Book: Whose Nose and Toes? by John Butler

Early Literacy Tip: Hearing and making animal sounds helps your child hear different kinds of sounds in language.

Song: Clap Your Hands by Old Town School of Folk Music

Action Rhyme: Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands

Bounce Rhyme: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 I Caught a Fish Alive

Bounce: Here We Go Up, Up, Up

Song: Put Your Baby in the Air by Caspar Babypants

Puppets: Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera

Manipulative: Got the Wiggles by Bobs and Lolo

Closing Song: Skinnamarink

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